One hundred years.
More years than many of us may be so fortunate to have on earth, a place where every minute, every day we have can significantly impact the time others have on earth too.
One hundred years.
More years than many of us may be so fortunate to have on earth, a place where every minute, every day we have can significantly impact the time others have on earth too.
Almost half of Americans don’t know whether the abortion pill mifepristone is legal, a report released Friday found, a sign that Republican attacks on abortion access are succeeding.
Mifepristone, one of the medications used to induce an abortion, is still legal nationwide, but it has gone through a lot of legal back-and-forth over the last few months. In April, the Supreme Court temporarily halted lower court rulings that would have restricted access to the pill. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule on mifepristone soon. If someone hasn’t been following the case closely, it would be understandable if they didn’t know what was going on anymore.
As it turns out, that is exactly the case. A poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45 percent of all adults are “unsure” whether medication abortion is available in their state. If people live in a state that restricts or bans abortion, they are less likely to know what options are available to them.
For instance, in the 25 states and Washington, D.C., where abortion is legal, about 60 percent of people know current medication abortion laws. But in the 14 states where all abortion is banned, only one-third of people actually know this. More than half are unsure, and 13 percent believe medication abortion is still legal.
The confusion is the point: If people don’t know whether they can get an abortion or not, then they will be less likely to seek one out of fear of the legal repercussions. This will mean fewer abortions overall, the same result as banning mifepristone altogether. So even if the pill remains available, anti-abortion activists have already won by leaving health care providers and patients scrambling to try to figure out what options, if any, they actually have.
KFF surveyed nearly 1,700 adults between May 9 and 19, shortly after the Supreme Court kept mifepristone legal. The poll also followed a series of bombshell reports that Justice Clarence Thomas secretly accepted lavish gifts for decades from billionaire Republican megadonor and Nazi memorabilia collector Harlan Crow. These were soon followed by reports that Justice Neil Gorsuch sold property to the CEO of a law firm whose lawyers have argued about two dozen cases before the Supreme Court and that Chief Justice John Roberts’s wife was allegedly paid more than $10 million by law firms, at least one of which has argued before the Supreme Court.
The scandals have tanked public opinion of the nation’s highest court. The KFF poll found that 58 percent of Americans disapprove of how the Supreme Court does its job. This matches a poll conducted by NPR, PBS NewsHour, and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in late April that found that 62 percent of Americans say they have not very much confidence or no confidence at all in the Supreme Court. This is the lowest number since the NPR/PBS/Marist poll was first conducted in 2018, when almost twice as many people said they had confidence in the court.
The KFF poll went a step further and found that only 37 percent of Americans trust the court to decide on cases about reproductive and sexual health. Only about half of Americans trust the court to weigh in on cases about science and technology (55 percent), the role of the federal government (53 percent), and the Affordable Care Act (49 percent).
The Supreme Court has become increasingly politicized, from the appointment process to the justices themselves, and people are starting to see it. That politicization chips away at public trust in the institution. It’s no longer clear that the court will uphold people’s rights, as opposed to wielding its almost absolute authority to impose its personal beliefs on the country.
Right-wing commentator Matt Walsh is selling plush toys of himself donning a diaper “for your kids to play with.”
“I’ve been informed that as of today you can get your own, very own stuffed sweet baby by purchasing yours from the Swag Shack at daily wire dot com slash shop,” Walsh said on his program.
The $24.99 product—marketed on the “Swag Shack” as being perfect “for your kids to play with—can be bought at a special premium too! Just $44.99 for a pair of twins.”
“I never asked for this, but some of you have,” Walsh said.
Who is asking for this?
Walsh’s career at this point is mainly dedicated to whipping up vicious conspiracy theories about LGBTQ people. He’s so far deep that in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a Colorado gay nightclub last year, which left five people dead and another 25 injured, Walsh didn’t express much concern at all for the actual victims of the hate crime. He instead threw a fit about some fictitious liberal agenda to use the mass shooting to force people to accept the sexualization of children (the logic, supposedly: Being gay means sexualizing children).
Earlier this week, Walsh menacingly said he’s “excited” for Pride Month, saying, “We have big plans.”
The plush toy sale, and Walsh’s eagerness for Pride Month, comes as the far right has increased its attacks on LGBTQ people and culture. This week, its new target has been … Target, for selling clothes with rainbows on them. Its issue is that one specific brand also makes a shirt that says, “Satan respects pronouns”—something not sold in Target. Nevertheless, figures like Walsh, Benny Johnson, Ben Shapiro, and others have targeted Target (and their minimum-wage workers) anyhow.
All that to say, this toy is already kind of weird for Walsh to be selling. But one need not even imagine how violently Walsh would respond if, say, any gay person on the street were selling a contextless plush toy of them in a diaper “for your kids to play with.” There’s not some sort of educational benefit to the toy, nor any practical use. Just a stuffed “sweet baby” Matt Walsh. In a diaper. For your kids to play with.
Sure, Walsh is hypocritical; but more than anything else, he’s just downright weird.
A judge temporarily halted South Carolina’s new draconian abortion ban on Friday, allowing abortions to continue until the state Supreme Court can review the measure.
Republican Governor Henry McMaster signed the measure, which bans abortion after six weeks, into law on Thursday. He did so behind closed doors, with no warning to doctors who could be about to perform a newly illegal procedure. The law went into immediate effect, and Planned Parenthood’s action arm sued the same day.
Judge Clifton Newman issued his ruling about 24 hours later, meaning abortion is once again legal up to about 20 weeks in South Carolina. “The status quo should be maintained until the Supreme Court reviews its decision,” Newman said. “It’s going to end up there.”
After Roe v. Wade was overturned, South Carolina enacted a six-week trigger ban, which the state Supreme Court blocked in January. One of the justices, John Few, said in a separate opinion that he had sided with the majority because he felt the 2021 law was poorly written and lacked proof that six weeks is enough time for someone to know they are pregnant (spoiler alert: It isn’t).
State Republicans have since tried to push through a new law that will circumvent the ruling, with new language aimed at swaying Few to vote in favor of it should the measure go up before the high court.
A similar ban had died in the legislature in late April after all the female senators, who span the political spectrum, banded together to filibuster the measure. But McMaster called the lawmakers back for a special session to consider multiple measures, including a new abortion ban, which finally passed the legislature on Tuesday.
With Newman’s ruling, South Carolina is once again one of the last states in the South to hold the line on abortion access; the only other state that does not restrict the procedure is Virginia. Florida and North Carolina codified new abortion restrictions in quick succession in recent months, decimating abortion rights in the Southeast.
Jamaal Bowman is not impressed.
On Thursday, as Republicans continued their stall on allowing the government to increase the debt ceiling, the New York representative reiterated his urges to President Biden not to negotiate with “the economic terrorists here that are the Republican Party.”
“I’m very frustrated. I called on the president to invoke the Fourteenth Amendment and mint a coin, and do not negotiate with hostage-takers,” Bowman said to CNN’s Manu Raju. “I mean, we don’t negotiate with terrorists globally, why are we gonna negotiate with the economic terrorists here that are the Republican Party?”
Since then, the White House and Republicans have reportedly closed in on a deal that involves a two-year debt limit hike in exchange for maintaining the defense budget but cutting other spending, like $10 billion in IRS funding.
To Bowman’s point, Matt Gaetz outright admitted that the debt limit talks have just been about holding the government “hostage” (as if it was not already abundantly clear by Republicans’ actions). And while Republicans may not win every single one of the cuts they wanted—like instating work requirements on Medicaid and food stamps and repealing green energy programs—the cut in IRS funding is still worrisome. The additional funding Biden allocated to the agency has already led to massively faster support call times for Americans, and a cut of that size is expected to greatly limit the agency’s ability to audit wealthy tax cheats.
Most important is that none of these cuts had to happen, had the White House and Democrats put forth a stronger front earlier or even taken care of the debt ceiling before the new Congress was seated in January. Of course, it is Republicans’ fault for only now deciding to play hardball on doing something they happily did three times under twice-impeached, criminally indicted, and liable-for-sexual-abuse former President Donald Trump. But Democrats know this is how the Republicans behave. And as Bowman said, it didn’t have to be this way.
The Indiana doctor who made headlines last year for performing an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim has been punished for telling reporters about it.
Caitlin Bernard carried out the procedure in June, less than a week after Roe v. Wade was overturned. The 10-year-old had traveled to Indiana from neighboring Ohio, where a trigger law banned abortion after six weeks (the trigger law has since been temporarily blocked while it is challenged in court). Bernard told the story to the Indianapolis Star.
And Indiana’s Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita has waged a campaign against Bernard ever since. He first accused her of making the story up, but when that claim was debunked, he accused her of failing to report the case to authorities—she had already reported it—and of violating privacy laws by revealing too much information about the patient.
The state medical licensing board ruled late Thursday that Bernard had violated ethical standards and privacy laws, even though her employer, Indiana University Health, had determined she was not at fault. The board decided to fine Bernard $3,000 but allowed her to continue practicing medicine, in part because she is one of the only ob-gyns in Indiana who accepts Medicaid.
“I think that it’s incredibly important for people to understand the real-world impacts of the laws of this country, about abortion or otherwise,” Bernard said during the 14-hour hearing. “I think it’s important for people to know what patients will have to go through because of legislation that is being passed.”
Rokita’s team argued that Bernard was acting on a political agenda, and she faced pointed questions throughout the hearing to try to determine a political motivation. At one point, she was asked if she had a tattoo of a coat hanger that said, “Trust women.” Her lawyers objected to the question as being irrelevant.
The 10-year-old’s story was one of the first about the effects of abortion bans to come out after Roe was rolled back. While abortion rights advocates had pushed it as proof of how important abortion access is, Republicans have remained firm in opposing the procedure. Some even doubled down and argued that it wouldn’t have been so bad to force that child to carry the pregnancy to term. In April, Ohio Republicans held hearings for several anti-abortion bills. When asked about the 10-year-old, anti-abortion activist Laura Strietmann said, “While a pregnancy might have been difficult on a 10-year-old body, a woman’s body is designed to carry life.” (A 10-year-old is a child, not a woman.)
The Indiana board has 90 days to finalize its decision, after which Bernard has a month to file an appeal. The licensing board’s seven members are appointed by the governor, and two of the current members reportedly donated a total of $25,000 to Rokita’s campaigns.
Just a day after Elon Musk and David Sacks hosted Ron DeSantis on Twitter for an exclusive and disastrous presidential announcement, the Florida governor signed a bill shielding Musk’s SpaceX from liability if workers are killed after his rockets blow up (something that Musk is apparently very adept at making happen, from Tesla cars to rocketships, to presidential campaigns).
The Spaceflight Entity Liability Bill expands legal immunities that will shield private space companies, like Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, from legal responsibility when workers suffer injuries or even die. At its core, the bill broadens when these companies are exempted “from liability for injury to or death of a crew resulting from spaceflight activities.”
And Musk made sure his presence was known throughout the process of the bill. While the bill was advancing through both the state House and Senate, a SpaceX lobbyist, Jeffrey Sharkey, appeared at practically every single committee meeting related to it—lobbying members on at least five separate occasions, in five different state House committees. Other lobbyists from Boeing, Space Florida, and Florida Rising also made their presence known—but not to the extent SpaceX did.
While tycoons imagine a future of taxiing their fellow fat cats to space on a whim, these billionaire-plaything rockets keep exploding. The urge to make a business out of something that is not safe—nor, well, needed at the moment since we can’t even take care of the planet we’re on—helps explain the genesis of the bill. An analysis by the Florida state Senate admits it all quite plainly: “This bill has the potential to limit the cost of litigation to businesses engaging in spaceflight activities.”
The bill mandates “crew” and participants alike fill out a waiver that grants legal immunities to space companies in cases of injury or death.
Moreover, the bill expands the definition of “spaceflight entity” to include any entity authorized to conduct spaceflight activities, beyond ones solely associated with the United States Federal Aviation Administration, opening up which entities in the broader industry will qualify for the expanded immunity. The bill also cuts out language ascribing liability to spaceflight entities for damage caused from “inherent risks” of spaceflight activity; instead, the bill broadens the scope of liability immunity to include all spaceflight activities.
Finally, the bill also amends language that orders entities to be liable for injury if they had actual knowledge, or reasonably should have known, of risks. The new language only orders legal liability for “actual knowledge” of risks, meaning there is no longer any expectation for companies to be responsible for damages from risks they “reasonably should have known” about.
The bill comes after both DeSantis’s annoucement—where hand-picked guests spent more time hailing Musk like God than asking DeSantis questions—and DeSantis’s own campaign released a bizarre post-launch video that showcases Musk as much as (if not more than) DeSantis.
On its way to DeSantis’s desk, buttressed by the heavy lobbyist presence, the bill passed the state Senate 39–0 and state House 107–5. The wildly bipartisan effort to give special legal immunities to the richest people in the world’s pet projects is in part a result of how much money these companies have flooded into both parties.
Musk’s SpaceX has spent some $8 million in lobbying efforts since 2020 and donated another $1 million to members of both parties during the 2022 election cycle alone. Bezos’s Blue Origin has spent some $6.3 million in lobbying efforts since 2020, while sending just over half a million dollars to members of both parties during 2022.
This post has been updated.
On Thursday, Wisconsin Republican Representative Glenn Grothman used his time on the floor of America’s Capitol to complain that President Joe Biden has not nominated enough straight “white guys” as judges.
“Apparently in his first two years, President Biden had appointed 97 federal judges. Of the 97 federal judges, I was expecting maybe 25 or 30 were white guys, because I know President Biden wasn’t heavy on appointing more white guys,” Grothman started. “Five of the 97 judges were white guys,” he continued with a tinge of disgust. “Of those, two were gay. So, almost impossible for a white guy who’s not gay apparently to get appointed here.”
According to the American Constitution Society, over 68 percent of federal judges are white.
Still, it seems to Grothman that you can either be a straight white guy, or you’re everything else. And, well, he doesn’t seem to be a big fan of “everything else.”
In 2015, Grothman was one of 37 co-sponsors of a House resolution that defined marriage as “consisting only of the union of a man and woman.” The resolution prohibited either the Constitution or even states to be required to recognize marriages of “any other union.”
In 2012, Grothman said Kwanzaa is a fake holiday made up by a college professor and the libs. “Irresponsible public school districts such as Green Bay and Madison … try to tell a new generation that Blacks have a separate holiday than Christians.”
Grothman also has a tenuous relationship with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, arguing that public employees should be forced to work on the holiday. In 2018, at an event on the holiday itself, when asked about some of then-President Trump’s controversial comments—like ones about immigrants from African countries—Grothman offered a puzzling retort. “The past president brought Al Sharpton into the White House something like 80 times,” he told the college crowd. “That was kind of stunning to me, but nobody ever made a big ruckus out of it.”
The derangement goes beyond people’s social lives, into their economic ones.
In 2014, Grothman, then a state Senator, expressed disdain for a Wisconsin law that mandated businesses provide workers with “at least one period consisting of 24 consecutive hours of rest in each calendar week.”
“Right now in Wisconsin, you’re not supposed to work seven days in a row, which is a little ridiculous because all sorts of people want to work seven days a week,” he told HuffPost.
After he voted to repeal Wisconsin’s equal-pay protection law, Grothman said the wage gap wasn’t about workplace discrimination. “You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious,” he told The Daily Beast.
Calling for restrictions on food stamps (sound familiar?), Grothman has also encouraged citizens to spy on food stamp recipients’ shopping carts, lest any person be lying about their need for help to buy groceries. He has previously written that some recipients do not look “genuinely poor” enough to be obtaining such benefits.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Thursday for his role in inciting the violent attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Rhodes and four other members of the far-right paramilitary group were found guilty in November of various crimes relating to the January 6 insurrection. This is one of the first sentences to be handed down for seditious conspiracy in the attack, and the longest of any January 6 defendant to date.
“These defendants were prepared to fight. Not for their country, but against it,” assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler wrote in sentencing memos for the prosecution. “In their own words, they were ‘willing to die’ in a ‘guerrilla war’ to achieve their goal of halting the transfer of power after the 2020 Presidential Election.”
The Oath Keepers were part of the mob that swept into the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, trying to stop the certification of 2020 presidential election results. Prosecutors had argued Rhodes was a key figure in spreading falsehoods that the election had been rigged for Joe Biden, and they asked he be sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Rhodes and Oath Keepers member Kelly Meggs were both found guilty of seditious conspiracy in November. Three other members—Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Karrelson, and Thomas Caldwell—were found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting for their actions on January 6. Meggs and Watkins were also found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct.
Rhodes’s conviction and sentencing is one of the most significant yet to come out of the investigation into the January 6 riot, marking a major win for the Justice Department. Another came in early May when Proud Boys chairman Henry Tarrio was also convicted of seditious conspiracy.
Tarrio and three other members of the far-right, neofascist group were found guilty of seditious conspiracy, as well as conspiracy to obstruct Congress and obstruction of Congress. A fifth group member was also found guilty of obstruction of Congress but not the other charges. There have now been a total of 14 convictions of seditious conspiracy over the January 6 insurrection.
This post has been updated.
Perhaps the most lasting legacy of the Blue Dog coalition is Kyrsten Sinema and Henry Cuellar; a senator who spends more time with elite donors than her constituents and an A-rated NRA, anti-choice conservative. And in its nearly three-decade history, the caucus is at an all-time low. Nevertheless, two of its members are committed to bringing it back, by way of some of the worst, most characteristic P.R. possible: voting with Republicans to leave 43 million people under the weight of crippling student debt.
On Wednesday, Maine’s Jared Golden and Washington’s Marie Gluesenkamp Perez joined House Republicans and voted to repeal President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program and to terminate the freeze on federal student loan payments and interests.
The resolution, part of Republicans’ demands in order to agree to raise the debt ceiling, passed 218–203.
Shortly after, Perez took to Twitter to boast, alongside her two Blue Dog co-chairs, about getting “shit done.”
If voting with Republicans to leave the boot of debt on millions of people is a recruiting tool, at least it’s an honest encapsulation of how woefully inept and meager the Blue Dog coalition really is—and what kind of “shit” it has always aspired to get done.
“College costs too much,” Perez tweeted on her official congressional account Thursday morning, but she said there’s no way to reduce debt without also investing in “career & technical education.” It’s not clear why the millennial lawmaker seems unable to conceptualize alleviating the ridiculous student debt as part of the reconstruction plan for a system she admits is broken.
No less is the move disappointing given that Golden and Perez both have around 100,000 student debtors in their districts.
Republicans—some of whom are incredibly wealthy—have continued framing the student debt relief plan as a favor to the rich. But estimates show that 87 percent of the relief would go to individuals earning less than $75,000 a year, while none would go to those earning more than $125,000. Ninety-five percent of the total benefits would go to households making less than $150,000.
Facts and figures aside, as TNR has written previously:
There are millions of people in this country who are trying their best to bloom and live more whole and productive lives but are hindered by the burden of such soulless debt. In the short term, Republicans may frame their ideas as cost-saving, but in reality, such measures will increase medium- and long-term costs on society.
And by joining Republicans in the cynical measure to maintain the soul-splitting burden of debt on millions in this country, Golden and Perez show just how politically inept and practically unimaginative they are. Which, in reality, are prerequisites for being a member of the Blue Dog coalition.