The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Trump Relished 'Hang Mike Pence' Chants -- And Told His Staff So

Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson delivered bombshell testimony to the House Select Committee on Tuesday afternoon, confirming in graphic detail that Donald Trump was glad to hear his supporters chanting “Hang Mike Pence” as they attacked the U.S. Capitol.

In a video recording of an earlier interview with the committee, Hutchinson was shown describing her boss, then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, discussing the “Hang Mike Pence” chants of the Capitol insurrectionists with then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.

“I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, ‘Mark, we need to do something more, they’re literally calling for the vice president to be f’ing hung,’” Hutchinson said, “and Mark had responded something to the effect of, ‘You heard him, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it, he doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.’ To which Pat said something, ‘This is f’ing crazy, we need to be doing something more.’”

Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney segued out of that video, saying, “Let me pause here on this point. As the rioters chanted ‘Hang Mike Pence,’ the president of the United States, Donald Trump, said that, quote, ‘Mike deserves it,’ and that those rioters were not doing anything wrong.”

Cheney went on to air a clip of a Trump interview with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, in which he responded to a question specifically about the “Hang Mike Pence” chants by saying:

“Because it’s—it’s common sense, Jon, it’s common sense, that you’re supposed to protect. How can you—if you know a vote is fraudulent, right—how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?”

Trump’s pivot away from the chant to his anger at Pence showed that, yes, he supported those chants. As did his 2:24 PM tweet on Jan. 6, next flagged by Cheney:

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

But while both of these earlier public statements from Trump told anyone who was willing to hear it what they needed to know about his response, there were still people out there—prominent people—giving Trump the benefit of the doubt on his response to “Hang Mike Pence.” Hutchinson’s testimony has to pull some of those people off the fence of denial.

Donald Trump didn’t think the mob violently attacking the U.S. Capitol was doing anything wrong, even when they expressed a desire to murder his own second-in-command, a man who had spent more than four years lavishly tongue-bathing him, because on this one thing Pence had reluctantly concluded he had to follow the law rather than Trump’s wishes. Hutchinson’s account of the conversation between Meadows and Cipollone shows how explicit Trump’s reaction was—it might have been thinly veiled when he talked to Karl, but it wasn’t when he talked to his top aides in the moment—and the degree to which everyone around him knew it.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

House Select Committee Releases Riot Footage Never Seen Before (VIDEO)

The House Select Committee promised never-before-seen footage in its first public hearing Thursday night, and it delivered. In addition to interviews with members of Donald Trump’s inner circle (Hi, Ivanka!), the committee showed a powerful video that included not just footage of the mob breaking into the U.S. Capitol, but stitched together a narrative of January 6, 2021 that shows cause and effect.

The video demonstrates part of how Trump incited the attack, cutting from his rally speech that day to the mob following through on his extremely unsubtle encouragement. It shows a group of Proud Boys marching on the Capitol as he spoke, and the dawning realization on the part of the police of what they were facing. It shows those notorious chants of “Hang Mike Pence,” counterposed against Trump’s ranting against Pence.

It shows a stack of Oath Keepers making its way through the crowd into theThe Jan. 6 committee promised never-before-seen footage in its first public hearing Thursday night, and it delivered. In addition to interviews with members of Donald Trump’s inner circle (Hi, Ivanka!), the committee showed a powerful video that included not just footage of the mob breaking into the U.S. Capitol, but stitched together a narrative of the day that shows cause and effect.

The video demonstrates part of how Trump incited the attack, cutting from his rally speech that day to the mob following through on his extremely unsubtle encouragement. It shows a group of Proud Boys marching on the Capitol as he spoke, and the dawning realization on the part of the police of what they were facing. It shows those notorious chants of “Hang Mike Pence,” counterposed against Trump’s ranting against Pence. It shows a stack of Oath Keepers making its way through the crowd into the Capitol.

It’s a must-watch for understanding how the day played out.

New Poll: Overwhelming Support For Roe Is Moving Democratic Voters

Overturning Roe v. Wade is very unpopular, yet another poll confirms. Nearly two out of three people, or 64 percent, told the NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll that Roe should not be overturned, including 62 percent of independents. The poll also includes some good news for Democrats.

According to the poll, the prospect of the Supreme Court striking down Roe in the most extreme way is motivating Democratic voters more than Republicans: Sixty-six percent of Democrats say it makes them more likely to vote in November compared with 40 percent of Republicans. That echoes a recent NBC poll finding a larger rise in enthusiasm about voting among Democrats than Republicans.

The NPR/PBS/Marist poll has another piece of good news for Democrats: They got an eight-point boost on the generic House ballot. Last month, 47 percent of respondents said they planned to vote for a Republican, while 44 percent said they planned to vote for a Democrat. This month, Democrats have the lead, 47 percent to 42 percent. President Joe Biden’s approval rating, though, slipped to 39 percent.

Confidence in the Supreme Court also dropped to 40 percent — a 17-point plunge since the last time Marist asked that question in 2018.

While people don’t want to see Roe overturned, answers vary on what abortion laws they do think should exist. Some interesting points: 82 percent support abortion at any time during pregnancy to protect the life or health of the pregnant person, and 63 percent say the same about cases of rape or incest. When it comes to the various ways Republicans have been pushing to ban abortion, 80 percent don’t want to see private citizens allowed to sue abortion providers and other people who “aid or abet” abortions; 75 percent don’t want to see abortion criminalized, with fines or prison time for doctors; and 69 percent oppose six-week bans tied to fetal cardiac activity. A 63 percent majority do support states with legal abortion providing safe haven for people from states with bans.

The Supreme Court does not care what voters want, though, and within the current system, Democrats don’t have much recourse. Expanding the court, ensuring that the next several times new justices are appointed it’s by Democratic presidents (something the current court will make more difficult), and passing strong laws protecting and expanding abortion rights in states controlled by Democrats are about it, short of secession. And Democrats must fight hard to do those things, even if they will fail at first, even if it won’t be enough at first. Republicans worked relentlessly for a generation to achieve this result. Democrats may have to do the same to reverse it.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Susan Collins Calls Cops Over Polite Sidewalk Chalk Message

How thin can one person’s skin possibly be? Sen. Susan Collins tested the limits of that question with her response to a sidewalk chalk message asking her to vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act, codifying the abortion rights of Roe v. Wade into law.

“Susie, please, Mainers want WHPA —–> vote yes, clean up your mess,” the chalk message outside Collins’ home in Bangor, Maine, read. They said please, in a medium that causes no damage, and she called the police.

“The message was not overtly threatening,” a police spokesman said. You think?

That didn’t stop Collins from talking like she was bravely maintaining her composure in the face of a grave infringement, saying, “We are grateful to the Bangor police officers and the City public works employee who responded to the defacement of public property in front of our home.”

Lia Russell of the Bangor Daily News reports, deadpan, “The sidewalk message was not visible on Monday afternoon.” Because it was chalk.

Collins’ whole victim act is a blatant ploy to distract from the fact that she got us here. Collins was part of the Republican push to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing extremists, and now that the court is on the brink of officially striking down Roe v. Wade in the harshest and most extreme way while also teeing up the evisceration of a series of other rights and protections, she wants us to be talking not about the fact that she claimed to believe Brett Kavanaugh when he told her he wouldn’t overturn Roe but about the freaking sidewalk chalk outside her house.

It would be absurd if it weren’t such a clear illustration of how Collins has been fully complicit as the Republican Party has done its level best to destroy the government and the nation. She is right there with them 99 out of 100 steps of the way, and then the media uses that one step Collins didn’t take to paint her as some kind of principled moderate. People are going to suffer and die because of votes Collins took—and ones she didn’t—and she’s trying to play the victim over a chalk “please.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Poll: Most Parents Are Happy With Their Kids’ Schools, Despite GOP Culture War

Republicans are flogging a culture war focused on public schools, but it doesn’t seem to be landing with the parents of actual schoolchildren. A new NPR/Ipsos poll of parents of school-aged children finds people generally happy with their kids’ schools and teachers, and not foaming at the mouth over race and LGBTQ issues.

Education rated as the third-highest concern of parents in the poll, but 88 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “my child's teacher(s) have done the best they could, given the circumstances around the pandemic,” and 82 percent agreed that “my child's school has handled the pandemic well.” Republicans have largely moved on from trying to whip up rage about how schools have handled the pandemic, though, focusing more on demonizing marginalized groups and arguing that parents should be allowed to micromanage the curriculum. (Right-wing white parents, anyway.) But that’s not getting a lot of traction, either.

Three out of four of the parents polled agreed that “my child's school does a good job keeping me informed about the curriculum, including potentially controversial topics.” Small minorities said the ways their children’s schools taught about the issues being pushed by Republicans actually conflicted with their own family’s values: 18 percent for gender and sexuality, 19 percent for race and racism, and 14 percent for U.S. history.

And those numbers, small as they are, don’t mean that 19 percent of people think their kid’s school is too liberal on race and racism or 14 percent on U.S. history—the people who said the schools’ teachings clashed with their family’s values were as likely to be Democrats as Republicans. A Native American parent in Texas, for instance, told NPR, “It's more of a water-down effect ... [the teachers] kind of whitewash the way that history is taught to their kids.” That parent wants his kid taught more about the French and Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, and about slavery during the Revolutionary War, NPR reports. By contrast, a white parent in Wisconsin who thinks the schools are too liberal on these issues cited her son being asked to identify his pronouns and a teacher making “snarky comments about white privilege.” Equally valid and serious concerns about the quality of education, amiright?

If you listen to Christopher Rufo, one of the right wing’s major gurus on waging culture wars in the schools, critical race theory is a “two to one issue,” a surefire winner for Republicans. Go figure, though: The main poll he cites was conducted by the right-wing Manhattan Institute. But what about Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s victory in November after he campaigned against critical race theory? Well, recent data has suggested that Youngkin’s advantage came from senior citizens, not from the parents of school-aged children, and it’s not the first data undermining the narrative that enraged parents turned the election to Youngkin.

Demonizing LGBT people and foaming at the mouth that teaching about racism or the contributions of Black and brown people oppresses white kids by making them feel “humiliated” might energize the Republican base, but it’s not a majority message. Banning books because they have LGBT characters or depict slavery as the brutal system of kidnapping, torture, and rape that it was is not a majority message.

Republicans are attacking teachers. They’re attacking vulnerable kids. They’re trying to micromanage what all kids can learn according to their very specific values, to the active exclusion of all others. These things matter—they are actively harming people—and they’re also not the political winners Republicans are confidently portraying them to be. The media needs to internalize these things in shaping its coverage, rather than allowing the Republican operatives regularly billed as “concerned parents” in their Fox News appearances to define what the parents of schoolchildren look like or think. And equally, Democrats need to fight back, vigorously and boldly, because Republicans really are overstepping on this.

Printed with permission from DailyKos.

Biden Freed Reed From Russia — But Churlish McCarthy Won’t Say So

Wednesday brought news of a surprise prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia, with Russia releasing former Marine Trevor Reed as the U.S. released Konstantin Yaroshenko. The decision to make the exchange came amid the relentless advocacy of Reed’s parents and news of his deteriorating health, with President Joe Biden ultimately making the decision to trade Yaroshenko, who was convicted of drug trafficking in 2010.

Embattled House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy celebrated the news … with a noteworthy omission. “After being held captive by Russia's corrupt system since 2019, Marine Corps veteran Trevor Reed will finally be returned to U.S. soil,” McCarthy tweeted Wednesday. “Securing his freedom has been a years-long process—I am relieved for his family. I invite them all to my office to celebrate Trevor's freedom.”

Okay, Kevin. “Securing his freedom has been a years-long process,” huh? That makes it sound like you were intimately involved. But, uh, how did it ultimately happen?

Reed’s parents have answered that question: They credit Biden for saving their son’s life.

Biden has said he raised the issue with Russia “three months ago,” CNN reports, while an administration official described “months and months of hard, careful work across the U.S. government,” with outreach not only from U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan but Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Biden, and others, as well. The Richardson Center, headed by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, also served as an intermediary.

The decision to commute Yaroshenko’s sentence was Biden’s, with approval from the Department of Justice.

Biden’s focus on Reed’s case came after Reed’s parents, Joey and Paula, fought to get his attention, asking for a meeting when he visited Texas in early March and, when they were turned down, standing along his motorcade route with a sign. On a phone call afterward, Biden told them he had prayed the rosary for their son and “thinks of Trevor every day.” But when they didn’t see further action, they went and stood outside the White House with a sign about their son. By the end of the day, they were inside the White House meeting with Biden. That was March 30—before which Biden and others in his administration had talked to Russian officials about releasing Reed. He still had to make the decision to do a prisoner exchange, though.

Trevor Reed and Constantin Yaroshenko were returned to the custody of their respective countries in Turkey, and Reed arrived in the U.S. in the early hours of Thursday morning.

“We are grateful beyond words,” Paula Reed tweeted. “We actually said that we believe @POTUS saved @freetrevorreed's life by agreeing to this prisoner swap. We truly mean that!”

But Kevin McCarthy? He couldn’t unbend enough to give that tiny bit of credit for the months of work by the Biden administration. And no wonder. McCarthy has in recent days been busy groveling for Donald Trump’s forgiveness for recordings of McCarthy, in Jan. 2021, saying he was going to urge Trump to resign the presidency, and expressing what at moments sounded like real outrage at the Trump-supporting mob’s attack on the Capitol. McCarthy has gotten Trump to express public support, but praising Biden for anything, at all, however glancingly, would be the kind of tweak Trump’s ego cannot stand. So even if it was McCarthy’s instinct to acknowledge that Biden was responsible for Reed’s release—which it probably was not—there’s no way McCarthy’s current political position would allow him to do so. That’s today’s Republican Party: run by Donald Trump’s ego and the imperative to never, ever to give a Democrat credit for anything, however detached it might be from partisan policy battles.

Printed with permission from DailyKos.

GOP Members Furious With Leadership As McCarthy Recordings Emerge

The Kevin McCarthy tapes just keep coming, and the latest round have the far-far-right annoyed at not just McCarthy and Rep. Liz Cheney but other members of Republican leadership as well. All because in the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, McCarthy and other Republican leaders were a little bit honest, in private, about what had happened and the role of some Republican House members in inciting an insurrection.

New recordings released by The New York Times have McCarthy saying, of comments by Rep. Matt Gaetz about Cheney: “He’s putting people in jeopardy. And he doesn’t need to be doing this. We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else.”

“It’s potentially illegal what he’s doing,” Rep. Steve Scalise, the second-ranking House Republican, said of Gaetz.

In response to their comments about him, Gaetz released a statement saying that McCarthy and Scalise “held views about President Trump and me that they shared on sniveling calls with Liz Cheney, not us. This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders.”

Gaetz … has a point? McCarthy is sniveling and weak and not a leader—but his failure to lead comes in his failure to follow through on his comments in these recordings from January 2021. The collapse of any interest he had in penalizing people like Trump and Gaetz and Brooks for their actions. One interesting question is whether McCarthy did call Gaetz in January 2021 to tell him to “cut this shit out,” as he indicated in that recording he planned to do. But don’t look for McCarthy to rebut Gaetz by proving that he did call him to say that.

House Republican leaders also discussed Rep. Mo Brooks’ rally speech on Jan. 6, in which he said it was “the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”

”You think the president deserves to be impeached for his comments?” McCarthy responded to that line. “That’s almost something that goes further than what the president said.”

In response to hearing about deleted tweets by Rep. Barry Moore of Alabama—including one saying, “it was a Black police officer who shot the white female veteran”—McCarthy muttered, “Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?”

These and other comments in the recordings have McCarthy and other Republican leaders under fire from more than just Gaetz. Tucker Carlson is big mad. McCarthy “sounds like an MSNBC contributor,” Carlson said, warning that “unless conservatives get their act together right away, Kevin McCarthy or one of his highly liberal allies like Elise Stefanik is very likely to be speaker of the House in January. That would mean we will have a Republican Congress led by a puppet of the Democratic Party.”

Stefanik, mind you, replaced Cheney in Republican leadership because she managed to meet the Trump loyalty test. Apparently that’s no longer good enough.

“Heck, yeah,” he was concerned about McCarthy wanting Republicans kicked off Twitter, Rep. Andy Biggs told CNN. Taking away Twitter accounts is “not something I’m for,” said Rep. Scott Perry, head of the House Freedom Caucus.

The Republican Party is in disarray, but with the extremists and inciters of insurrection poised to come out on top, and McCarthy scrambling to appease them in any way he can, that’s not as much fun as it usually is. These recordings put into stark relief the utter collapse of any significant opposition by Republican leaders to a violent attempt to overturn an election. Less than 18 months after McCarthy was hoping for some of his members of be kicked off Twitter and claiming he was going to tell Gaetz to “cut this shit out” and urge Trump to resign, he has become entirely committed to sucking up to the far right to bolster his hopes of becoming speaker. Those hopes may have taken a hit, but that doesn’t mean anything good for the Republican Party’s support for democracy.

Printed with permission from DailyKos.

On Brink Of Twitter Takeover, Musk Shows Why That's A Bad Idea

Twitter’s board has approved a deal allowing Elon Musk to buy the company and take it private, in alarming news for anyone who doesn’t want a major social media platform controlled by an egomaniacal billionaire ranting about free speech while his signature company is being sued for racial discrimination.

Musk’s initial offer/threat to buy Twitter drew skepticism, but talks turned serious after he made progress in lining up financing, though it’s not yet a done deal and could—especially given who we’re talking about here—fall apart, perhaps in spectacular fashion. [EDITORIAL UPDATE: On Monday Twitter's board unanimously approved a $44 billion buyout by Musk.]

Musk has claimed he wants to turn Twitter into a “platform for free speech around the globe,” but basically every expert on social media and speech says he has no clue what he’s talking about. The major social media companies, including Twitter, have invested a lot of time and money into figuring out what works, and while no one’s saying they’ve perfected it, the likelihood that Elon Musk can manifest a better answer directly from his ego is low.

”What Musk seemingly fails to recognize is that to truly have free speech today, you need moderation,” Katie Harbath, a former Facebook executive, told The Washington Post. “Otherwise, just those who bully and harass will be left as they will drive others away.”

”A platform that allows people to spam misogynist and racist abuse is unsafe for pretty much anyone else and would lose advertisers, corporate partners and sponsors rapidly, leaving it a commercially unviable husk within months,” said the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate’s Imran Ahmed.

Speaking of racist abuse, Musk’s signature company, Tesla, lost one racism discrimination lawsuit, with an initial judgment of $137 million recently reduced to $15 million. Other Black employees describe a horrifyingly, overtly racist environment at Tesla’s California plant, spurring a major discrimination lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. That’s important context for Musk’s “free speech” talk. This is someone who presided over a company at which Black employees are assigned particularly difficult work in a section of the factory referred to as “the plantation,” a Black worker was fired after complaining that a supervisor called him and other Black workers “monkeys,” and use of the N-word was “the norm. It was Tesla’s tradition.”

Another interesting piece of context for Musk’s effort to buy Twitter is that in 2018, he had to step down as Tesla’s chair and paid $40 million in penalties ($20 million from himself and $20 million from Tesla) after—in a fascinating precursor to his current effort—he used tweets to claim he was taking Tesla private, causing “significant market disruption.”

Over the weekend, Musk continued to use his own high-profile Twitter account to show the kind of chaos he likes to bring to the platform, attacking Bill Gates with a crude, fat-shaming graphic, and suggesting that his hyperloop would work better than other forms of transportation because “Underground tunnels are immune to surface weather conditions (subways are a good example), so it wouldn’t matter to Hyperloop if a hurricane was raging on the surface. You wouldn’t even notice.” This howler drew a flood of responses with pictures of subway stations flooded after hurricanes or even just major rainstorms. The guy never lets not knowing what he’s talking about stop him from saying it through a huge megaphone.

Twitter may announce a deal with Musk as soon as Monday, though it could fall apart even after a public announcement.

Printed with permission from DailyKos.

Republicans Abruptly Kill Bill To Name U.S. Courthouse After Famed Black Judge

Even in the worst of times, Congress can usually get its act together to name federal buildings. It’s kind of a joke about Congress, actually. But House Republicans just got to the point of divisive extremism where they won’t even reliably do that.

Every member of Florida’s congressional delegation had co-sponsored a bill to name a federal courthouse after Justice Joseph W. Hatchett, the first Black man to serve on the Florida Supreme Court and the first Black judge on a federal appeals court in the Deep South. That means Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and 16 House Republicans, along with 11 House Democrats. The bill had passed the Senate.

But then, at the last minute, a majority of Republicans in the House, including co-sponsors, turned against the bill in a moment that resonated with the racist attacks some Senate Republicans leveled at Justice-designate Ketanji Brown Jackson in her Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia appears to have singlehandedly turned the vote from a routine vote to name a federal building after a trailblazing judge into a Republican purity test. Republican Clyde circulated a 1999 Associated Press article about one of Hatchett’s decisions relating to prayer in schools.

Never mind that Hatchett was following Supreme Court precedent when he ruled against student-approved prayers at graduation ceremonies. This single decision made him toxic among House Republicans, with 89 percent voting against naming the courthouse after him. Since the bill’s passage was seen as certain, it had come for a vote under a fast-tracked process that required a two-thirds majority, which meant that with Republicans suddenly opposed, it failed.

All this at the behest of Clyde, a lawmaker most famous for his insistence that the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was a “normal tourist visit.” Clyde also voted against the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act and against making Juneteenth a federal holiday, which, combined with his active organizing against naming a federal courthouse after a Black judge, kind of starts looking like a pattern.

Clyde did not bring years of credibility within the House to his objection. He’s a first-term representative. Republicans are now so beholden to extremism, so ready to jump at the first hint they might not be pure enough, that a first-termer who should be seen as an embarrassment is able to wield the power to shift a majority of Republican votes. Multiple representatives who had sponsored the bill voted no at the last minute, with one, Rep. Vern Buchanan, saying “I don’t know” why he had changed his mind.

The last-minute shift shows how undisciplined House Republicans now are by anything except the race to the right. But its echoes of Jackson’s confirmation hearing—in which senators like Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton used routine decisions of the sort made by judges all the time to paint her as a supporter of pedophiles and drug dealers—highlight how willing Republicans are to trash any Black person who is a candidate for an honor. Years of judicial decisions can always be cherrypicked to find something that sounds objectionable to someone, somewhere, but whose decisions are cherrypicked and to what end matters.

So Republicans tried to turn Jackson into a pedophile-supporter using a sentencing record that was in line with the averages and in fact similar to that of other judges for whom those same Republicans had voted. And they voted against honoring Hatchett with a courthouse name over a single decision that followed Supreme Court precedent.

As Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said after the vote, “If the standard that we use is one ruling out of thousands, then what else could we conclude but that they are not willing to name a courthouse after a Black person."

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Wave Of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bills Sweeping Across Red States

Republicans never let a terrible idea go to waste. If one Republican-controlled state passes a harmful law that will do violence to vulnerable people, it’s a virtual certainty that several other Republican-controlled states will follow suit. That’s how it’s been with the Texas abortion bounty hunter law, and it’s how it’s shaping up with Florida’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Ohio and Louisiana Republicans are already considering their own versions of the Florida legislation, which prohibits teachers from talking about gender identity or sexual orientation to students in kindergarten through third grade, and limits how those subjects can be discussed with older students. In Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he’ll make a similar bill a priority when the state legislature starts its next session in January. If he’s going to jump on board with every oppressive bill introduced in any state between now and January, the Texas legislature is going to have a lot to get done.

The thinking behind such bills “is that parents will be allowed to decide when they want their children to learn about LGBTQ+ issues instead of having the school talk about them at an age that may be too early or confusing,” Marissa Higgins explained about the Florida bill. “Mind you, there are undoubtedly LGBTQ+ children (and teachers, custodians, principals, parents, and so on) in every school in Florida right now. They might not be ‘out,’ they might not have the language yet, but they’re there. The only thing that comes from not talking about LGBTQ+ identity is that people lack knowledge, and down the road, may live with internalized queerphobia and feelings of confusion and self-hate. It doesn’t stop anyone from being queer to simply be silent about it.”

But silence—and the knowledge that you are seen as unacceptable or dirty that comes with enforced silence—is enough for Republicans.

A viral social media post exposed some gaps in the logic of the Florida law, enraging right-wing groups in the process:

Dear Florida parent/caretaker:
The Florida house of Representatives has recently ruled that “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
To be in accordance with this policy, I will no longer be referring to your student with gendered pronouns. All students will be referred to as “The” or “them.” I will no longer use a gendered title such as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or make any references to my husband/wife in the classroom. From now on I will be using the non-gendered title “Mx.”
Furthermore, I will be removing all books or instruction which refer to a person being a “mother,” “Father,” “husband” or “wife” as these are gender identities that also may allude to sexual orientation. Needless to say, all books which refer to a character as “he” or “She” will also be removed from the classroom. If you have any concerns about this policy, please feel free to contact your local congressperson.
Thank you, Mx. XXXXXXXXXX

“Man” and “woman” are gender identities, guys. Heterosexuality is a sexual orientation. Florida Republicans—perhaps soon to be followed by Ohio and Louisiana ones—technically did ban those identifications as well. Because it wouldn’t occur to Republicans that what they think of as normal and right could fall under the category of “gender identity” or “sexual orientation.” They expect that everyone will know what they mean and fall in line because the very vagueness and broadness of the law is itself a threat.

Relatedly, the Ohio bill also contains familiar bans on teaching about race and racism, or, as it calls them, “divisive or inherently racist concepts.” Again, by being extremely vague and broad, it may limit speech even more than carefully written, highly specific language would do.

”I think it's probably by design, that they just want to instill fear, that if you wonder if something may or may not be considered controversial or considered divisive or considered illegal under this legislation, the safest bet is to just not talk about it at all. And that's the real harm that's caused because that deprives our students of a complete and honest education,” Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro told CNN.

That harm comes whether the concepts being banned are “trans people exist” or “racism exists.” And Republicans are dedicated to harming as many kids as possible.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Mo Brooks Says Trump Urged Coup To Oust Biden After January 6

Hours after Donald Trump withdrew his endorsement from Rep. Mo Brooks’ Senate campaign in Alabama, the Republican congressman —who spoke (while wearing body armor) at the January 6 rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol and voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s victory—issued a statement that should have the House Select Committee and Attorney General Merrick Garland sitting up and taking notice.

Trump blamed Brooks’ statements about the need to move on from the 2020 elections for his decision to rescind the endorsement, saying Brooks “went ‘woke.’” But Brooks first said that last August, and the decision also comes as Brooks is trailing in Alabama Senate primary polls. So it may be a case of Trump trying to avoid the stench of loser as much as Trump being butt-hurt that Brooks no longer thinks the last election is the biggest thing in U.S. politics today. Now he’s turning his back on a guy who may have things to say that people want to hear.

In his response statement, Brooks first blamed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for having “manipulated” Trump. Brooks called himself “the only candidate who fought voter fraud and election theft when it counted, between November 3 and January 6.”

Brooks then went on to say, “I repeat what has prompted President Trump’s ire. The only legal way America can prevent 2020’s election debacle is for patriotic Americans to focus on and win the 2022 and 2024 elections so that we have the power to enact laws that give us honest and accurate elections.”

Brooks isn’t saying that he thinks President Joe Biden won the 2020 elections fair and square. He says there was voter fraud and election theft (this is a lie) and that he wants to change elections law to prevent it from happening again. But there’s an interesting word in there. “Legal.”

And that word is an important lead-in to the final paragraph of Brooks’ statement: “President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency. As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks. Period.”

Sen. Ron Johnson's Solution For Child Care Crisis Is Predictably Awful

Sen. Ron Johnson thinks he has a solution to the labor crisis in child care. Typically of Johnson, his proposed solution craps in equal measure on child care workers, women receiving public assistance, and Wisconsin state law.

“When you have mothers on different kinds of public assistance, to me, an elegant solution would be, why don’t we have them help staff child care for other mothers?” Johnson asked on a recent telephone town hall. “I think there’s an imaginative solution here.”

It’s not that imaginative. Women taking care of other people’s children, formally or informally, as a way to earn a little income while caring for their own children at the same time, is not a new idea or practice, and Wisconsin banned state subsidy payments from going to child care providers where employees’ children received care in 2009, because it’s not always a good idea. (Though it can be! It’s just complicated and there need to be guardrails.) Johnson even acknowledged some of the possible problems, saying, “I understand, you know, having a mother in charge of a bunch of kids plus her own kids, she may not provide the care to the other kids.” But he still wanted to be “imaginative” about a thing that’s been done basically every way you could imagine.

Beyond Johnson’s lack of imagination, there are big problems on both sides of the equation here. Children in daycare deserve better than people who have been forced into the job without training or motivation. Early childhood education is a job that involves knowledge and training and skill, and being a mother does not automatically equip a person to care for multiple children who are not your own. Unless Johnson is envisioning a major early childhood education training system to equip women on welfare to be skilled, high-quality caregivers for young children (he’s not), he’s suggesting the creation of really inadequate care environments.

On the other side, women on welfare deserve better than to be shoved into a demanding, low-paid profession simply because they are in need of that type of service for their own kids. Many are unemployed for very good reasons beyond having children. Work requirements more generally have been shown not to reduce poverty. And giving employers essentially a pool of semi-forced labor is going to make jobs worse for everyone.

A Johnson spokesperson insisted that he was just suggesting something that already kinda-sorta happens. “His suggestion was to look at Wisconsin’s law that prevents a child care provider from receiving funds if an employee’s child receives care,” Alexa Hennings said. “He said he understood why that law is in place but suggested we reevaluate it to see if there’s some way to create a win for children and parents. Why should child care centers be different than schools that allow teachers to teach at government-funded schools where their children attend?”

So many reasons. Most child care centers are much smaller than most K-12 schools, increasing the likelihood that a child will be cared for by its own mother. He is not talking about pushing anyone into K-12 teaching for the purposes of getting schooling for their children. Kids attend schools where their parents teach usually when their parents teach in the local school, rather than there being a system set up to put parents and children into the same schools or even classrooms. It’s a blisteringly stupid comparison.

Two of Johnson’s Democratic Senate challengers responded sharply to his idea. “We have a full-blown child care crisis and a record number of moms getting knocked out of the workforce,” said state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski. “There are common-sense solutions to these problems, but Ron Johnson’s ‘imaginative’ idea would punish moms and drag us back to the 1950s. I have news for this guy: We’re not going back.”

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said, “The pandemic has effectively set women’s participation in the workforce back a generation, and Ron Johnson’s solution to the child care crisis—on Equal Pay Day no less—is to add to their burden.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Kremlin Sanctions Hillary And US Officials, Triggering Psaki Bomb

There was devastation at the White House Tuesday morning as Russia announced its own set of sanctions, these against individuals including President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, and others. It must really be a bitter pill for them to swallow, having their Russian assets frozen and personal travel to the country banned.

Sanctions against Russian oligarchs have led to the seizure of multiple yachts and one Premier League football team in countries like Italy and the United Kingdom. Russia’s sanctions against Biden and other U.S. officials mean that … their property in Russia could be seized? That yacht Joe Biden was definitely keeping in Sochi? Seized. The dacha Psaki surely retreated to on vacation? Seized, and Psaki banned from entering Russia.

In addition to Biden, Blinken, and Psaki, the list includes Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, National Security Adviser Jacob Sullivan, CIA Director William Burns, Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economics Daleep Singh, United States Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, and Reta Jo Lewis, president and chairwoman of the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank.

Russia’s statement announcing the sanctions said that “we do not refuse to maintain official relations if they meet our national interests, and, if necessary, we will solve problems arising from the status of persons who appear on the 'black list' in order to organize high-level contacts,” so it’s not a total severing of relations with the highest-ranking U.S. officials.

Also on the list are Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden, both of whom are private citizens with no say in U.S. policy on Russia. At first it seems kind of silly for that reason, but then it gives the game away: This is a move aimed at right-wing conspiracy theorists in the U.S. and elsewhere who will take the sanctions on Clinton and the younger Biden as a sign that they do have relevant property and relevant influence.

Notably not on the list is Donald Trump, the guy who would—at some moments, at least—have us believe he was much tougher on Russia than Biden.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Kevin McCarthy Won’t Act Against ‘Appalling’ White Nationalists Greene And Gosar

A couple of House Republicans spoke at a white nationalist conference, and the top member of their party in Congress seems ready to just wait for it to blow over.

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar spoke at the far-far-right America First Political Action Conference, with Greene’s appearance following a “round of applause for Russia” led by conference organizer Nick Fuentes. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called Greene and Gosar’s participation in the event “appalling,” but that seems to be as far as he’s going.

McCarthy said he would have a talk with Gosar and Greene about it. He’s in no hurry, though. The far-right House Freedom Caucus “aired frustrations” with Gosar and Greene about their Fuentes association, sources told Politico, but McCarthy hasn’t gotten around to it yet, and some of his allies are defending him because he has so many more important things to deal with.

“Dealing with dumb, stupid things people do in Congress should probably go down — and go pretty far down — on the list when you’ve got peacekeeping tanks rolling into a country that was not in conflict, when you’ve got record inflation, when you’ve got all of these things,” Rep. Kelly Armstrong told Politico.

You know, actually, when you’re a leader of a party looking at two members of your conference having spoken at a white nationalist event, that should be high on the list of priorities. McCarthy is the minority leader in the House. It’s not like he’s out there singlehandedly dealing with Russia and inflation. He can carve out a little time to say “Let’s not tie our party to Nazis.”

Here’s Nick Fuentes: “We can’t play this game of, ‘We disavow white supremacy.’ Notice how the claws come out.”

Here’s Nick Fuentes again: “You can call us racists, white supremacists, Nazis, & bigots. You can disavow us on social media from your cushy Campus Reform job. But you will not replace us. The rootless transnational elite knows that a tidal wave of white identity is coming. And they know that once the word gets out, they will not be able to stop us. The fire rises!”

Separating the Republican Party from this could be a priority. Yet it’s not.

Some Republicans anonymously lamented to Politico that, since Democrats stripped Greene and Gosar of their committee assignments, McCarthy doesn’t have much left to threaten.

“I want them to shut up. Just stop it. What the hell is she thinking?” one said. “[But] there’s nothing else. What else can Kevin do officially through the conference?”

Note that “through the conference” part. McCarthy could back expelling Greene and Gosar from Congress—but that wouldn’t be through the Republican conference, it would involve the entire House. So even this person who wants them to “shut up” isn’t talking about the step that would decisively say that the Republican Party rejects lawmakers who associate with white nationalists. It requires a two-thirds vote to expel someone from the House, and McCarthy either doesn’t think he could get enough votes on top of the Democrats or he just plain doesn’t want to do it.

Some Republicans think McCarthy’s silence is a mistake.

“There is a strategy of, ‘If we don’t talk about it, it will go away, and it won’t get attention.’ And sometimes that works,” another anonymous Republican told Politico. “But in the long run, I’ve always found that backfires, so they’re playing with fire by doing that.”

It backfires the Republican Party ever closer to the white supremacists it doesn’t disavow. And at a certain point, you have to figure McCarthy knows that that’s what he’s doing.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Wasting Gas: How Right-Wing ‘Convoy’ Fell Apart In Beltway Traffic

Day one of the great Washington, D.C., trucker convoy went great … for everyone but the truckers (some of whom are actually SUV or minivan drivers). For them, it was kind of embarrassing. After a day of confusion on Saturday, the plan for Sunday was to circle the Beltway twice at 40 miles per hour, making a show of strength that would be a “huge pain” for regular traffic. At most, they managed to be a minor irritation, slowing traffic in some places in a region accustomed to traffic jams.

The convoy was unable to stay together basically as soon as it encountered normal Beltway traffic. Normal Sunday Beltway traffic. Some bailed after a single lap. And the whole group got so stretched out and broken up that, “We’re not even sure we can call it a convoy anymore because it’s so dispersed among routine traffic at this point,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

The convoy plans to return Monday for even more laps—an interesting ambition considering that some of them couldn’t hack it for two laps in light traffic, and Monday they’ll be encountering higher weekday traffic.

That said, nobody really knows what to expect from this unpredictable, nonsensical pack of assholes. They say they’re protesting until their demands are met, but they don't really have coherent demands. They say they’ve come to the nation’s capital, in some cases from across the country, to protest public health restrictions that were dropping well before they set out. Some of them are talking about high gas prices, while spending hundreds of dollars in gas to try to disrupt other people’s lives. Some flew Confederate battle flags, because of course they damn well did. There’s really no point here beyond the far right asserting its media-given right to attention.

Bear in mind if and when you see descriptions of the people involved in this as somehow representing the working class that these are people who can take weeks and spend thousands of dollars on something that doesn’t even have a real set of demands.

So far, convoy organizers are saying they won’t go into Washington, D.C., itself, staying on the Beltway that loops around it while being based in Hagerstown, Maryland. But other groups of truckers and associated vehicles are expected to join the group that’s already there, which could create significant hassle for residents of the region—people the convoy members are all too happy to create problems for, since they’re largely Democrats. A National Guard presence in the District of Columbia has been extended through Wednesday as things develop.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Polls Show Public Despises Book Bans, But Republicans Keep Doing Them

Banning books in schools is not popular. Banning books in schools is happening a lot these days.

On the one hand, new polling from Navigator Research shows across-the-board opposition to banning books, including from Republicans. On the other hand, state legislature after state legislature and school board after school board is doing just that, with the latest example coming out of Idaho, where a state legislator is moving to open librarians to criminal charges for allowing minors access to sexually explicit materials, and some parents are supporting that move in truly astonishing language.

About three out of five people have heard of efforts to ban books from schools, according to the polling, and 62 percent strongly oppose banning books like Maus and To Kill a Mockingbird, when the titles of such well-known books are offered. When people are asked how they feel about “a growing push to remove certain books from schools across the country that local groups deem too problematic because they include content about race, gender, or sexuality,” 65 percent oppose it, with 48 percent strong opposition. The opposition to banning books includes parents, however the question is worded.

People are particularly concerned about censoring history and preventing students from learning the nation’s history. But while the concern about book-banning that the most people disagreed with was that banning books about LGBTQ characters and experiences is homophobia, the poll still only found 30 percent of people saying that wasn’t a concern—70 percent of people were at least somewhat concerned about taking LGBTQ content out of schools.

Meanwhile, in Idaho, the push to take LGBTQ content out of libraries, including school libraries, is strong. Librarians are currently protected under a state law making it a crime to give children explicit materials—a category worded so broadly it could exclude a huge amount of the most famous art in the western world—and a state lawmaker is trying to remove that protection, saying “The increasingly frequent exposure of our children to obscene and pornographic materials in places that I as a parent assume are safe and free from these kinds of harmful materials is downright alarming.”

One parent testified at a state House hearing that her daughter had found—gasp!—a book featuring a relationship between a prince and a knight, and from there, “It escalates quickly to ‘Auntie Uncle: [Drag Queen Hero],’ middle-grade queer [books] and ‘Lawn Boy.’”

Another parent demanded the removal of Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, because, and I am not making this up, “The school does not need to teach our children how to do oral sex. That’s my job.”

In the midst of this comes a hero, librarian Erin Kennedy, to read a passage from the Bible making the point that you can make a lot of books sound problematic by taking passages out of context. Kennedy read from the Book of Ezekiel: “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like those of horses, so you longed for the lewdness of your youth when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.”

Unfortunately, widespread opposition to book-banning when people are telling pollsters what they think is not preventing state legislatures and local school boards from doing exactly what huge majorities of people say they don’t want. The Idaho House will soon vote on whether to make librarians criminally responsible if a kid gets ahold of a book filled with images of the paintings of Botticelli or Rubens or Modigliani, or a book letting them know that they’re not alone growing up LGBTQ, or Maus or Beloved, or, well, the Bible—at least if that kid’s parents then get upset that their child’s “innocence was violated."

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Three MAGA Republicans Vote No On Resolution Backing Ukraine

The United States House of Representatives passed a resolution of support for Ukraine, and three Republicans voted no. The three no votes came from Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Matt Rosendale of Montana. It’s been a big week for Massie, who was also one of the three no votes on the Emmett Till Antilynching Act.

The Ukraine support resolution “demands an immediate cease-fire and the full withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory” and “supports, unequivocally, Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” It also backs sanctions against Russia, defense assistance to Ukraine, promises aid to refugees, supports the right of Russians to protest, reaffirms the U.S. commitment to NATO, and highlights the importance of energy independence for both the U.S. and Europe.

Massie, who has a history of voting against sanctions on Russia and other Putin-friendly stances, tweeted out a long explanation of his vote on the Ukraine resolution. “The resolution contains an open ended call for additional and immediate ‘defensive security assistance.’ This term is so broad that it could include American boots on the ground or, as some of my colleagues have already requested, US enforcement of a no-fly zone,” Massie wrote. He also objected to the resolution’s condemnation of Belarus for its involvement in the invasion, and to the call to “fully isolate the Putin regime economically,” saying that such extreme sanctions would “hurt low-income US citizens who are already reeling from inflation. Innocent people in Russia, many of whom oppose Putin’s aggression, would suffer under crippling sanctions, possibly turning them against us.” Massie also suggested that hitting Putin too hard with sanctions might “incit[e] him to resort to drastic measures such as escalating the weapons employed or the people targeted.”

Gosar didn’t offer as lengthy an explanation of his vote, but he did tweet this non sequitur:

Rosendale has been silent, but in view of the Ukraine resolution’s lines about assisting refugees, it’s worth noting that he vocally opposed the resettlement of 75 Afghan refugees in Montana.

Maybe the only surprise here is that more Republicans didn’t vote against supporting Ukraine. After all, when the House voted to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the officers from the Capitol Police and the D.C. Metropolitan Police, Gosar, Massie, and Rosendale were just three of the 21 Republicans who voted against it. You might expect more of the other 18 to have joined them in opposing this resolution, particularly in light of how the immediate Republican response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was as much about attacking President Joe Biden as about condemning the invasion, and how several prominent Republicans have refused to condemn Donald Trump’s praise of Vladimir Putin.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos