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Florida Passes Bill Allowing Trans Kids to Be Taken From Their Families

Florida Republicans have sent the kidnapping bill to Ron DeSantis to sign.

Florida Capitol building
Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images
Florida Capitol building

The Florida legislature passed a bill Thursday that will let the state take transgender minors away from their families if they are receiving gender-affirming care.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 26–13, mainly along party lines, and the House shortly after by a vote of 83–28, again along party lines. The measure now goes to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis, who has previously expressed support for it and will likely sign it into law.

If he signs it into law, the measure will allow the state to take custody of a child if they have been “subjected to or [are] threatened with being subjected to” gender-affirming care, which includes puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy. Florida courts could modify custody agreements from a different state if the minor is likely to receive gender-affirming care in that second state. The text refers to gender-affirming care as “sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures” and qualifies this care as a form of “physical harm.”

Medical facilities would have to give the state Department of Health a signed attestation that they neither provide gender-affirming care to any patients under the age of 18 nor refer people to providers that do. Their medical license renewal is contingent upon sending in this attestation.

But the bill also targets trans adults: Only physicians are allowed to offer gender-affirming care (not nurse practitioners). Anyone who violates the law could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Minors who have already begun transitioning will be allowed to continue to do so, but they are no longer allowed to receive care via telehealth, including for prescriptions. Their doctors have to tell them about the “risks” of gender-affirming care, and patients will have to sign an informed consent form, which the ACLU has pointed out often contains misinformation. Doctors who violate any of these new rules could be charged with a felony.

“This is not the body that practices medicine, although we love to believe that we can,” Representative Kelly Skidmore said during the debate. “This is the wrong thing to do.”

“This is a bad bill that interferes with parental rights, that interferes with health care rights, and it puts people in danger of not being able to get the care that they need.”

Republicans across the country have introduced bills targeting gender-affirming care, insisting that by doing so, they are protecting children. Instead, lawmakers are criminalizing LGBTQ people of all ages and putting them at risk of real harm.

Florida seems to be leading the charge. The measure passed Thursday is one of the cruelest yet. State Republicans have openly admitted they “hate” LGBTQ people and are comfortable with “erasing” the community from existence.

Dick Durbin Says Someone Should Do Something on Clarence Thomas (but Not Him)

The Senate Judiciary chair is acting like he can’t do anything about the Supreme Court.

Senator Dick Durbin
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Democrats won the Senate. That enabled them to chair important committees, like the Senate Judiciary Committee, which gives Dick Durbin the power to hold the Supreme Court accountable when its justices act corruptly, like say, Clarence Thomas. Yet somehow the Illinois senator has been hard set on maintaining the illusion that he has as much power to hold Thomas accountable as we do.

“I hope that Chief Justice Roberts reads this story this morning and understands something has to be done,” Durbin said Thursday of ProPublica’s report that billionaire and Republican megadonor Harlan Crow has paid the tuition for a child Thomas was raising “as a son.”

Durbin added that the massive and continually piling reports of Thomas’s shady relationship with Crow do not rise to the level of concern that would prompt a Department of Justice probe, according to CNN.

Instead, hope seems to be Durbin’s main course of action. “I hope that the Chief Justice understands that something must be done—the reputation and credibility of the Court is at stake,” he also said.

“Someone should do something,” says the someone with the power to do something.

Durbin is also using Senator Dianne Feinstein’s absence as an excuse for why he simply can’t do anything about ethics legislation.

“It’s difficult, particularly because the Republicans have basically taken the position that they are opposed to this,” he said Thursday.

Nevermind that Democrats can still introduce legislation and force Republicans to vote on it. Durbin and the Democrats can still pursue more formal inquiries into the justices’ misdealings.

As Senate Judiciary chair, Durbin has left much to be desired. Just over a week ago, Durbin said that since Thomas would likely refuse to testify in front of the Judiciary Committee, he decided not to call for his presence at all.

“I think I know what would happen to that invitation. It would be ignored,” he said, simply.

The shocking deference and abdication of responsibility has extended to the entire court, of which is rife with shady dealings.

For weeks, he has continued passing the buck to Chief Justice John Roberts to lead reform on ethics standards for the court. But Roberts himself has refused to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about court ethics. And how could we expect him to? After all, Roberts is implicated in ethical quandaries, as his wife has been revealed to have been paid more than $10 million by an array of high-class law firms—at least one of which has argued before her husband in the Supreme Court.

Given how much Democrats purport to care about protecting the integrity and sanctity of democracy, you’d hope that they’d jump at the five-foot-putt presented to them when a third of the Supreme Court is revealed in rapid succession to be wrapped up in varying degrees of ethical mishaps.

Sure, Durbin’s point that Republicans are the main source of blame here is good and fine. But how Democrats respond is what matters. Their job is to fix the issues in our society, not simply point them out. Every single Democrat should be rallying behind investigations into the court, using every mechanism of power at their disposal to force reform.

Republicans are already being obstructive—why not challenge them to be as obstructive in full view of the public? At worst, they continue their corrupt intransigence, and Democrats benefit electorally. At best, Democrats still benefit electorally, and actually change the course of America’s future. A simple request, Democrats: do your job.

Proud Boys Convicted of Seditious Conspiracy on January 6, While Trump Enjoys Golf Trip

Sounds about right.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images
A mob of Trump supporters stormed and breached the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Four members of the far-right Proud Boys were found guilty of seditious conspiracy Thursday for their role in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, while the man accused of encouraging them enjoyed a golf trip.

The Proud Boys are a far-right, neofascist one known for promoting chauvinist views. Group chairman Henry Tarrio, as well as Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, and Zachary Rehl were all found guilty of seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct Congress, and obstruction of Congress. A fifth defendant, Dominic Pezzola, was found guilty of obstruction of Congress, but the jury is deadlocked on whether he is also guilty of seditious conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct Congress. The judge has ordered them to keep deliberating on the last two charges.

Donald Trump notoriously told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during the September 2020 presidential debate, which prosecutors argued the extremist group took as a call to action. The former president has been on a tour of his golf courses in Scotland and Ireland, although he said he is cutting the trip short to appear at his rape trial in New York. Trump’s lawyer denied that he would appear.

The Justice Department cited hundreds of messages exchanged by Proud Boys in the days ahead of January 6. Group members pushed former President Donald Trump’s lie that the election was stolen from him.

Prosecutors said that Proud Boys led the mob into the Capitol, riling them up and gesturing to them to enter the building. Justice Department lawyers said Pezzola in particular stole a police riot shield and used it to break open a window, which rioters used to enter the Capitol.

Tarrio wasn’t in Washington for the attack because he had been arrested two days earlier in a separate case and ordered to leave the city. But he encouraged the mob on social media and in a Proud Boys group chat.

Tarrio is now the second leader of an extremist group who has been convicted of seditious conspiracy, a major win for the Justice Department. Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy in November for his role in the January 6 attack.

There have now been 14 convictions of seditious conspiracy on January 6—proof the attack on the Capitol was exactly what it looked like.

This story has been updated.

Clarence Thomas’s Friend Basically Confirms the Harlan Crow Tuition Story

Mark Paoletta seemed to be trying to defend the Supreme Court justice.

Clarence Thomas in 2020
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Another Clarence Thomas scandal, another terrible defense for it.

A ProPublica report released Thursday found that the Supreme Court justice sent his grandnephew, whom he was raising, to private boarding school, and Republican billionaire megadonor Harlan Crow paid the tuition. A bill showed Crow paid $6,000 for one month, and a school administrator told ProPublica that Crow paid for four years of tuition, including at another school. ProPublica estimated that the total cost could have been more than $150,000. Thomas disclosed none of it, of course.

Mark Paoletta, a lawyer who is also friends with Thomas and Crow (he was in that weird painting of Crow’s lodge), stepped in with what he probably thought was a slam-dunk of a defense: he essentially admitted the report was true, but insisted Thomas didn’t break any rules in the process.

Paoletta also represented Thomas’s wife, Ginni, before the January 6 committee last year.

Thomas is already under fire following two other ProPublica reports, the first one that revealed the extent of his relationship with Crow, and another that found Crow also bought Thomas’s childhood home, where his mother still lives, which similarly went unreported.

Democrats are demanding that Thomas resign, or at least be investigated, and that the Supreme Court implement a formal code of ethics. But so far, Republicans don’t seem all that interested in holding the court—or Thomas—accountable.

You Suspected the Clarence Thomas-Harlan Crow Story Wasn’t Over? You Were Right!

A new report reveals how the billionaire megadonor paid the tuition of the Supreme Court justice’s grandnephew.

Senator Mike Lee
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The hits keep coming on the rampantly crooked relationship between Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and megabillionaire GOP donor Harlan Crow. This time, ProPublica has revealed that the billionaire footed the bill for the private school tuition of a boy Thomas was raising “as a son.”

Spanning back to the ’90s, Thomas had been raising his grandnephew, Mark Martin; Thomas had taken legal custody of Martin when he was six years old. In 2008, Thomas sought to send him to Hidden Lake Academy, a private boarding school in northern Georgia.

ProPublica reporting revealed that Harlan Crow’s company paid for the private school’s over $6,000 per month tuition. ProPublica saw the bank statement of one month, though a school administrator said Crow paid for the entire school year.

Martin had also attended a separate boarding school, Randolph-Macon Academy in Virginia; Crow reportedly paid for tuition for that school as well. ProPublica estimates that if Crow paid for all four years Martin spent at the two schools, the cost may have been over $150,000. But not a penny of these tuition payment gifts were disclosed by Thomas.

What’s more is that Thomas had reported a $5,000 gift for Martin’s education from a non-billionaire friend—echoing Thomas’s tendency to report some gifts, but seldom ones from the likes of Crow. Thomas’s only defense of not doing so up to this point has been because he “was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable.” The contradiction continues however, as Thomas had reported a few gifts from Crow in the past, like a $19,000 Bible.

“Harlan Crow has long been passionate about the importance of quality education and giving back to those less fortunate, especially at-risk youth,” Crow’s office said in a statement. “It’s disappointing that those with partisan political interests would try to turn helping at-risk youth with tuition assistance into something nefarious or political.”

The farce of it all is that Thomas really did not need Crow to pay for the tuition. In 1991, when Thomas first joined the court, his salary would have been some $153,600. By 2008, that number was $208,100. That doesn’t even include other income. In 2007, ProPublica notes the Thomases hauled in over $850,000 in income. Thomas had brought in over $1 million in book advances by June 2008. He readily could have paid for the private school tuition for the child he was raising “as a son.”

The latest chapter in Supreme Court Justice Corruption follows a now too-big-to-close folder of shadiness. Supreme Court Chief Justice Chief John Roberts’s wife, Jane, has allegedly been paid more than $10 million by an array of high-class law firms—at least one of which has argued before her husband in the Supreme Court.

Justice Neil Gorsuch successfully sold a 40-acre property that he had been trying to sell for two years to an undisclosed buyer; the buyer of the nearly $2 million Colorado ranch was the CEO of a law firm that has since had 22 cases with business before the court.

And, of course, the Thomas tales continue to pile up. He has received secret and lavish gifts for decades from the Nazi memorabilia–collecting billionaire and GOP donor Crow, including luxurious island-hopping excursions on superyachts and even a secret deal in which Crow bought Thomas family property and proceeded to upgrade it while Thomas’s mother still lived in it. Martin, Thomas’s “son,” had joined on much of the exotic family adventures with Crow.

Mike Lee’s Defense of Clarence Thomas Will Make You Lose Your Mind

The Republican senator is trying to support the Supreme Court justice amid mounting financial scandals. And, well, words do this post no justice.

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Senator Mike Lee has come rushing to Clarence Thomas’s defense over the Supreme Court justice’s ignominious financial dealings, and his latest argument will blow your mind.

Thomas is under fire (again) thanks to another ProPublica report on his shady relationship with Republican billionaire megadonor Harlan Crow. This time, ProPublica found that Thomas sent his grandnephew, whom he was raising, to private boarding school, and Crow paid the tuition. A bill showed Crow paid $6,000 for one month, and a school administrator told ProPublica that Crow paid for four years of tuition, including at another school. ProPublica estimated that the total cost could have been more than $150,000. Thomas disclosed none of it, of course.

Democrats have already been demanding Thomas resign, or at the very least be investigated, following other ProPublica reports that the justice didn’t disclose two decades’ worth of luxury vacations paid for by Crow. Crow also bought Thomas’s childhood home, where his mother still lives, which similarly went unreported.

And Mike Lee is having none of it.

The Utah Republican is not alone in his full-throated but illogical defense of Thomas. The House Judiciary Committee also tweeted its support for the justice.

There’s no point in trying to analyze these weird statements. Republicans have been quick to argue that any condemnations of Thomas are either unfair judgment of a friendship or just plain racist.

In reality, it’s just a man flouting ethics and making a mockery of his workplace, the highest court in the country.

How North Carolina Republicans Rushed Through an Abortion Ban in the Dead of Night

Republicans quickly pushed through the ban after a Democrat switched parties.

Women protest about abortion. One sign reads "You can never ban abortion. You can only ban safe abortion." Another reads,"Defend womens right to choose."
Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill in the dead of night banning abortion after 12 weeks, rushing through a monster list of restrictions that will destroy access to the procedure in the southern United States.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled chamber close to midnight Wednesday by a vote of 71-46, along party lines. It goes to the Senate on Thursday, where it is also expected to pass since Senator Tricia Cotham switched her party affiliation to Republican a month ago. Her party change now gives the state GOP enough votes to override an expected veto from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.

The measure technically bans abortion after 12 weeks, but in reality, the window could be much shorter. People would also only be allowed to get a medication abortion until 10 weeks of pregnancy. In order to get a medication abortion, people would be required to go to three separate, in-person appointments. Those appointments would have to be 72 hours apart. That means people would have to sort out time off work, child care, and a host of other logistics for a nearly two-week period.

The bill mandates that the legislature would have to appoint a rules commission to overhaul abortion clinic regulations by October. New rules could potentially force clinics to undergo costly (and unnecessary) changes, temporarily or even permanently shutting them down if they are unable to comply. It would also require health care providers to care for infants “born alive”—which health experts agree rarely occurs and could negatively impact post-birth care—and could restrict access to abortion based on a patient’s reason for wanting one.

“This is a horrendous, monster abortion ban cloaked in medical misinformation, misdirection, and straight-up lies,” said Jillian Riley, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, in a statement. “Politicians are putting pregnant people at risk and stripping us of our rights to build our families and futures.”

Republicans are rushing the bill through the state legislature, with Democrats slamming them for trying to circumvent democracy. Rather than introduce a fresh bill, Republicans gutted an unrelated measure on child safety and then inserted 46 pages of abortion restrictions. They unveiled the text Wednesday night, giving lawmakers less than 11 hours to read it before it went to committee hearing. Instead of going through a traditional (lengthy) committee process, Republicans added the bill as a conference report, allowing them to go right to a vote.

“This bill should be the most deliberated of any of the bills that we do. This should have been something that went through a full committee process in both chambers instead of people scrambling to figure out what it does and does not do,” said House Minority Leader Robert Reives during the hearing earlier Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue stressed “medical experts should have weighed in on” the bill. “This is a poor showing of democracy,” he charged.

North Carolina currently allows abortion up to 21 weeks, which has made it a haven for the procedure in the southern U.S. If this bill becomes law, then it will have a devastating effect on reproductive rights in the South on its own.

Just a few weeks ago, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a hugely unpopular six-week abortion ban into law. Florida was another abortion haven. Taken in conjunction, these two abortion restrictions will destroy abortion access across the entire South.

Florida Republicans Pass New Bills Guaranteed to Destroy Academic Freedom

The legislation takes “Don’t Say Gay” to the next level.

Ron DeSantis
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

In Florida, soon eighth graders won’t be allowed to say gay, and teachers won’t be allowed to teach their own classes without Ron DeSantis’s approval.

On Wednesday, the state Senate voted to expand Desantis’s hallmark “Don’t Say Gay” bill and ban classroom material on gender identity and sexual orientation through the eighth grade. The legislation, House Bill 1069, also strengthens the ability for people to file complaints to ban books, expanding on a status quo that has already led to Florida districts banning books like the entire Court of Thorns and Roses book series, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.

The bill also holds “that it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond” to one’s sex at birth. Consequently, staff and students are not required to refer to someone using that person’s preferred pronoun, while school staff themselves are banned from providing their preferred pronouns to students if they differ from their “immutable” sex at birth.

Meanwhile, the state House gave final approval to Senate Bill 266, which will require the state Board of Education and state university system’s Board of Governors to create faculty committees that review general education courses. The committees are empowered to consider the “removal, alignment, realignment, or addition” of courses based on standards laid out in the bill.

“General education core courses may not distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics … or is based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities,” the bill reads.

Slavery, for instance, was foundational to the institutions of the United States; some might make the bold claim that that system of power was based in “systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege.” And if you are to make such a claim, well, you better hope you’re not teaching a university class in Florida.

The bill more broadly prevents colleges and universities from dedicating any financial resources toward diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The bill also opens up allowing Florida institutions and organizations to discriminate on the basis of gender, which was previously banned.

It also removes language related to Florida State University’s Institute for Governance and Civics. It scrubs language describing the institute’s mission to “provide the southeastern region of the United States with a world class, bipartisan, nationally renowned institute of politics.” It eliminates objectives of the institute, such as motivating students to become “aware of the significance of government and civic engagement at all levels and politics in general,” providing “students with an opportunity to be politically active and civically engaged,” and empowering students to “interact with experts from government, politics, policy, and journalism on a frequent basis.”

In other words, the bill explicitly calls to avoid encouraging young people to be civically engaged or to interact with experts and reporters who may have some news for them about the kind of state they are living in.

Both bills now head to Desantis’s desk, where he will complete his legislative session that has amounted to attacking and antagonizing millions of LGBTQ people, students, teachers, women, immigrants, people fearful of gun violence, Disney lovers, and fans of Dwyane Wade. If this all is what’s meant to be the runway toward his presidential launch, DeSantis might be taking the challenge of getting “tired of winning” too seriously.

Raphael Warnock Warns It’s Only a “Matter of Time” Before a Mass Shooting Affects You

The Georgia senator revealed that his own children were on lockdown amid the Atlanta shooting.

Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Senator Raphael Warnock on Wednesday decried the apparent complacency of the U.S. government when responding to mass shootings, warning it was “only a matter of time” before such an attack affects them personally.

There have been 190 mass shootings in the United States since the start of 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive. For comparison, there have been only 123 days in the year.

“We behave as if this is normal. It is not normal. It is not right for us to live in a nation where nobody’s safe no matter where they are,” Warnock said on the Senate floor. “I think there’s an unspoken assumption … that ‘this can’t happen to me.’”

“I shudder to say it, but the truth is, in a real sense, it’s only a matter of time that this kind of tragedy comes knocking on your door.”

Warnock also revealed that this tragedy nearly landed on his doorstep. His children’s schools in Atlanta were put on lockdown during the attack on a hospital Wednesday. He said he was praying that they were safe, but he was quick to add that prayer alone is not enough.

“As a pastor, I’m praying for those who are affected by this tragedy, but I hasten to say that thoughts and prayers are not enough,” he said. “In fact, it is a contradiction to say that you are thinking and praying and then do nothing. It is to make a mockery of prayer. It is to trivialize faith.”

Vivek Ramaswamy Paid Wikipedia Editors to Erase His Soros Fellowship and Covid Work

He announced his 2024 bid after making sure his Wikipedia page was edited.

Vivek Ramaswamy
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Vivek Ramaswamy is, like much of the Republican Party, so pathetically desperate.

The 2024 candidate, who joins other elite-educated Republicans in cosplaying as a truth-telling populist while offering no actual solutions to improve people’s material conditions, has reportedly used some of his millions of dollars to pay a Wikipedia editor to scrub his past.

Mediaite reports that Ramaswamy seems to have paid Wikipedia editor “Jhofferman,” to remove information from his page that he presumably thought would damage his candidacy in the Republican primary. A few days later, he announced his 2024 bid.

The editor scrubbed off information related to Ramaswamy receiving the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans in 2011, during his time as a Yale law student. Paul Soros is the older brother of billionaire democratic donor George Soros, who has been the subject of perennial antisemitic conspiracy theories peddled by the right. (The fellowship Ramaswamy received is dedicated to helping immigrants and children of immigrants pursue graduate school.)

Prominent right-wing figures like Jack Posobiec have directed attention toward Ramaswamy’s past fellowship, presumably in line with the aforementioned use of Soros as a catch-all for anything “suspicious.”

Also removed from Ramaswamy’s page was his work serving on Ohio’s Covid-19 Response Team. The editor claimed that Ramaswamy had explicitly asked to remove the mention of his work on the Covid team, while the editor himself deemed the fellowship to be “extraneous material.”

After some back-and-forth with other Wikipedia contributors, information noting Ramaswamy’s Soros fellowship was later added back to the page.

Ramaswamy had announced his bid for president less than two weeks after he seemingly commissioned an editor to modify his Wikipedia page.

To this day, Ramaswamy’s Wikipedia page begins with a disclaimer that the “article has multiple issues” and the “neutrality of this article is disputed.”

“This article contains paid contributions. It may require cleanup to comply with Wikipedia’s content policies, particularly neutral point of view,” Wikipedia warns.

The episode is just another in a long series of Republicans spinelessly refusing to stand by their past when facing Donald Trump, or to offer even a nugget of an argument as to why, hey, maybe it’s OK to care about problems like Covid.

Most remarkable is that any of the Republicans think their hungry embrace of conservatism’s furthest-right instincts will result in anything other than failure. Materially, their policies aren’t helping people. And politically, they’re all losing to Trump, who then proceeds to inspire losses for Republicans across the country.

But nary a Republican can imagine staking any claim or engaging in any imagined “battleground of ideas” they purport to glorify; instead, they’ll go to such lengths as coughing up cash to a random user online to clean up their Wikipedia pages, resulting in outcomes so clumsy that you begin to wonder how any of these people got as far as they did.