• Matt Gaetz, Reportedly Investigated for a Sexual Relationship With a Minor, Implodes on Tucker Carlson

    Shortly after the New York Times reported that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is facing a Justice Department investigation over his alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, the Florida congressman responded to the bombshell report on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, alleging that he’s the victim of a $25 million extortion scheme. 

    But the strangest moments of Gaetz’s appearance, during which he also specifically labeled a 17-year-old a “woman,” might be when Gaetz seemingly tried to drag Carlson into his burgeoning scandal.

    “I’m not the only person on screen right now who has been falsely accused of a terrible sex act,” Gaetz said, apparently referring to claims made last year that Carlson had sexually harassed a former Fox News contributor. “You were accused of something that you did not do. So you know what this feels like.”

    Here, Carlson’s trademark confused facial expressions, typically reserved to express fake outrage, appeared legitimate. But the head-scratching only continued when Gaetz seemingly attempted to once more tie the two men together. “You and I went to dinner, about two years ago,” Gaetz said. “I brought a friend of mine. You’ll remember her. She was actually threatened by the FBI, told that if she wouldn’t cop to the fact that somehow I was involved in some pay-for-play scheme, she should be in trouble.”

    “I don’t remember the woman you are speaking of or the context at all, honestly,” Carlson responded, his confused face growing darker. That all comes amid Gaetz, unprompted, suggesting that allegations of him being photographed with child prostitutes may soon emerge. Later, Carlson called the exchange “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.” 

    As for Gaetz’s explosive claim that he’s the victim of an extortion plot, watch Times reporter Katie Benner effectively debunk that one.

  • Cops Wouldn’t Let an Off-Duty Firefighter Save George Floyd, a Witness Testifies

    Pool Video/Court TV/New York Times/Zuma

    Genevieve Hansen, a Minneapolis firefighter and EMT who was off-duty and a passerby at the scene where Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck, broke down recalling how police prevented her from administering medical care to the dying man.

    “The officers didn’t let me into the scene” even after she identified herself as a Minneapolis firefighter, Hansen said at Chauvin’s murder trial Tuesday. “In my memory, I offered to walk them through it, or told them, if he doesn’t have a pulse, you need to start compressions, and that wasn’t done either.”

    Hansen testified that another officer at the scene, Tou Thao, “said something along the lines of, ‘If you really are a Minneapolis firefight, you would know better than to get involved.”

    “There was a man being killed,” Hansen said later in her testimony. “Had I had access to a call similar to that, I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities, and this human was denied that right.”

  • Arkansas Just Banned Lifesaving Care for Trans Kids

    Thom Bridge/Independent Record/AP

    Monday was a complicated day for transgender rights. While South Dakota’s bill banning trans students from school sports fell apart after the governor’s veto, Arkansas passed a bill prohibiting gender-affirming health care for trans youth.

    The Arkansas bill puts doctors who provide or refer for transition-related care at risk of professional sanctions and prohibits the state’s Medicaid program from covering such care. After passing the Senate 28-7, the bill is now headed to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk. Just last week, Hutchinson signed the state’s own version of a trans athletics ban into law, as well as a bill that allows doctors to turn away patients if they have religious or moral objections to their care. 

    Arkansas is the first state to pass a trans health care ban, but more could be coming: At least 18 other states have considered similar proposals this year. 

    “This is the first year we’re seeing a number of these bills actually pass and get enacted into law,” says Chase Strangio, the ACLU’s deputy director for transgender justice. “And I don’t think we really even have a good sense of how catastrophic it will be.”

    Strangio and other advocates warn that these bills, if passed, will come with a body count. As I’ve previously reported:

    “It’s an attack on doctors and science, and a direct shot at trans youth—some of the most vulnerable folks who are trans,” says [Ivy] Hill from the Campaign for Southern Equality. “It worries me for them in terms of their actual access to care. But it also worries me for them when I think about trans youth suicide rates.” The evidence bears out Hill’s concerns: Trans Lifeline, America’s first helpline established specifically for transgender folks, for example, saw average daily calls double the week the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era protections allowing trans kids to use the bathroom of their choosing. A recent survey by the Trevor Project found that more than 90 percent of respondents (all LGBTQ youth) said that recent politics had negatively influenced their wellbeing.  

    The failure of South Dakota’s sports ban, meanwhile, was hardly a sign of state legislators’ support for trans kids. The bill sailed through both chambers of the state house, with cheerleading from Gov. Kristi Noem. Only once it reached her desk did she reconsider, refusing to sign the bill unless it was amended to, among other things, exclude college sports amid threats of an NCAA boycott. Noem was pilloried by conservatives who accused her of “caving to the NCAA,” which has vehemently opposed such bans. The legislature adjourned without making Noem’s suggested changes, effectively killing the bill because it wasn’t conservative enough. 

    “Let this be a lesson to governors considering anti-transgender legislation,” says Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “Anti-transgender bills are too much of a risk even for one of the country’s most extreme governors.” 

    Nonetheless, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have all enacted such laws in the past two weeks. Idaho codified a similar measure into law last year, though it has been held up in a lengthy court battle.

    “These kids have hopes and dreams, whether it’s to play sports or to just live their life and get health care,” Strangio says. “At its core, this is about young people hoping to find a path for themselves in the world, and the government using all of its resources and power to take that away.”

  • Dr. Deborah Birx Is Finally Opening Up About Trump’s “Very Uncomfortable” Treatment of Her

    President Donald Trump listens as Dr. Deborah Birx speaks about the coronavirus at the White House on April 22, 2020.Alex Brandon/AP

    Donald Trump did not appreciate it when, in August, then-White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told reporters that rural America was not protected from the virus. “That got horrible pushback,” Birx told CNN as part of a documentary airing on the network on Sunday night. “That was a very difficult time because everybody in the White House was upset with that interview and the clarity I brought about the epidemic.”

    In clips released prior to airing, Birx said she had a “very uncomfortable” conversation with Trump following the interview. “It was very direct and very difficult to hear.”

    During her CNN interview, Birx also said she believes the US’s COVID-19 death toll, which is just about to reach 550,000, could have been avoided if the Trump administration had taken aggressive measures to encourage mask-wearing and restrictions on gatherings. “I look at it this way: The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge,” Birx says. “All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”

    Birx’s most recent comments are just the latest in ongoing revelations regarding Trump’s adversarial relationship with his pandemic response team. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who served alongside Birx on Trump’s task force, said the former president had a “chilling” effect on scientists aiming to promote accurate information about COVID-19. “There was conflict at different levels with different people and different organizations and a lot of pressure being put on to do things that just are not compatible with the science,” Fauci said in January.

    Birx, a global health expert who’d drawn widespread acclaim for her work on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the ’80s and ’90s, had been tapped to help lead the Trump White House’s response to the pandemic in March 2020. She has drawn fierce criticism for not doing more to correct the former president’s baseless claims about the gravity of the pandemic or the severity of the disease. She sat on the sidelines, for example, when Trump suggested injecting disinfectant into the body as a plausible remedy for COVID-19. (Accidental poisonings resulting from Americans ingesting bleach and other household cleaners nearly doubled in the months after Trump’s comments.)

    COVID-19 cases in the US have fallen precipitously since President Joe Biden took office in late January, from an all-time high of roughly 200,000 cases per day to the current 60,000 per day average. The shift is due in large part to the Biden administration’s aggressive manufacturing and rollout of coronavirus vaccines, which received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration beginning in late 2020.

    Fauci’s more adversarial role against Trump’s positions was rewarded with a promotion when Biden took office: In addition to his NIAID role, Fauci now also serves as Biden’s chief medical adviser. Birx, meanwhile, was not offered a role in the new administration. She recently joined a Texas-based air purifier manufacturer as its chief scientific and medical officer. The company, ActivePure, claims its products eradicate COVID-19 from the air within minutes and surfaces within hours. California had previously banned some of ActivePure’s technologies due to their controversial use of ozone, a molecule linked to increased rates of asthma in its air cleaners.

  • Dr. Fauci Would Really Like You to Stay Home for Spring Break

    Dr. Anthony Fauci adjusts a face mask during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington on March 18, 2021.Susan Walsh/AP

    The United States is vaccinating more than three million Americans against COVID-19 each day, and the daily infection rate has fallen steadily since January. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, warned the number of daily cases has stopped going down. How well Americans adhere to spread-reducing guidelines, he said, will determine whether this shift signals a new surge or slowdown.

    “When you’re coming down from a big peak and you reach a point and start to plateau—once you stay at that plateau—you’re really in danger of a surge coming up,” Fauci said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation. “Unfortunately, that’s what we’re starting to see.”

    The country’s infection rate hovers around 60,000 new cases a day. That’s an increase from the 50,000 per day average the CDC recorded in the preceding two weeks, a low not seen since mid-October 2020. States where the virus had previously been under control, such as New York and Massachusetts, are seeing new spikes. Fauci indicated that when similar dynamics emerged in Europe, another surge in infections followed. “That’s why we say it really is almost a race between getting people vaccinated and having this peak,” Fauci explained.

    Fauci blamed the U.S.’s steady case rate on some states’ recent discontinuation of mask mandates and other spread-reducing measures, changes in public health policy that Fauci called “premature” given the state of the disease. He also faulted Americans who are traveling for spring break. “Even if on the planes people are wearing masks, when you get to the airport, the check-in lines, the food lines for restaurants, the boarding that you see, how people sometimes can be congregating together, Fauci explained. “Those are the kind of things that invariably increase the risk of getting infected.”

    New variants of COVID-19, Fauci said, “are playing a part” in the struggle to control the virus, but the relaxation of disease-mitigating measures is playing a bigger role.

    If the U.S. can quash another surge, Fauci said states and cities could see “an incremental relaxation of some of the restrictions” that have been in place to prevent big gatherings since the pandemic’s arrival in the country a year ago.

    “I would expect that as we get through the summer, late spring, early summer, there’s going to be a relaxation where you’re going to have more and more people who will be allowed into baseball parks, very likely separated with seating, very likely continuing to wear masks,” Fauci explained. “As we get a really, really low level of infection, you’re going to start seeing a pulling back on some of those restrictions, I hope.”

  • Watch: Sen. Lindsey Graham Admits Parts of Georgia’s Voter Restrictions Are Ludicrous

    Getty Images

    There isn’t much Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) finds disquieting in Georgia’s sweeping new voting restrictions. But even he admitted the law’s prohibitions on providing voters with food or water as they waited in long lines to cast ballots was a bit on the draconian side.

    “All I can say is that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” Graham told Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Sunday. Wallace had asked Graham “why on earth, if Americans are willing to wait hours to vote, would you make it a crime for people to come and give them a bottle of water?”

    A Republican majority in Georgia’s legislature passed the stringent new measures last week. It comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s victory in the state—the first time a Democrat has captured Georgia’s electoral votes in nearly three decades—and a pair of Democratic wins for the state’s senate seats. Georgia is just one of many Republican-controlled states that are considering or have passed voter suppression laws after the GOP’s losses in 2020.

    The provision that criminalizes providing food and water to voters has drawn particular fury from Democrats and voting rights activists. During the 2020 election, it was not uncommon for voters to wait several hours to cast their ballots in person—especially nonwhite voters, whose neighborhoods had seen a reduction in polling places as state officials shrunk the overall numbers statewide along racial lines. The new law also curbs the number of ballot drop boxes, implement strict voter ID requirements for absentee ballots, and cuts off early voting days to a time when many people are still at work.

    Graham took no issue with the rest of the restrictions during his Fox News appearance, even as Wallace confronted him on their specifics. The South Carolina senator, who reportedly tried to convince Georgia’s secretary of state to discount ballots during the 2020 election, instead pivoted to a tirade against congressional Democrats for painting the GOP as racist. Graham claimed the party was using that portrayal to push for their democracy reform bill, H.R. 1, which he slammed as “the biggest power grab in history.”

    “Any time a Republican does anything, you’re a racist, if you’re a white conservative, you’re a racist,” Graham said. “They use the racism card to advance the liberalism agenda. H.R. 1 is sick, not what they’re doing in Georgia.”

    Graham also criticized Biden’s recent comments that the filibuster is a relic of the Jim Crow era, something that former President Barack Obama also said during a eulogy for the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).  “You know what’s sick is that the president of the United States played the race card continuously in such a hypocritical way,” Graham scoffed.

    Graham and his GOP senate colleagues have been on the defensive about Georgia’s measures, dismissing the outrage that they’re trying to make it harder to vote. Speaking on Meet the Press on Sunday morning, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) claimed that Georgia’s new law won’t suppress votes. He raised the threat of ballot harvesting, a common and baseless GOP attack. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a hearing this week that “states are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever.”

  • Yep, the Mother Jones Staff Has a Bunch to Say About “The Snyder Cut” Too

    DC Entertainment/Entertainment Pictures/ZUMA

    The long-anticipated release of Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League almost broke the internet last week. Clocking in at just over four hours, the new version of the film brought Snyder back to the superhero universe he launched in 2013 with Man of Steel.

    It also raised interesting questions about authorship, toxic fandom, corporate greed, and whatever was going on with the Flash and that hot dog.

    To break down all things Snyder cut, we convened Mother Jones‘ resident Geek Squad: assistant digital producer Sam Van Pykeren, senior fellow Matt Cohen, and reporters Edwin Rios and Dan Spinelli.

    SVP: Well, fellas. What’d you think? Initial thoughts? Takeaways?

    MC: Let me start by saying it’s nothing short of incredible this movie exists!

    ER: It’s surreal when the director’s cut is actually better and more palatable than the original.

    DS: I was expecting to hate it. Zack Snyder’s aesthetic is not my cup of tea. I hated 300. Hated Man of Steel. Tolerated Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. And then, for some reason, this just captivated me from the start.

    MC: The fact that a studio gave in to fan demand and let a director not only finish a movie he had to leave for sad reasons but let him film additional scenes and turn it into a four-hour movie? Wild.

    SVP: I mean, the word “epic” just comes straight to my mind. Not in the cringe “bro, this is EPIC” but as in, old school, Odyssey-like, EPIC.

    DS: Yes! I had a friend call it “Superhero Ben-Hur,” and that kinda hits it.

    SVP: I loved Man of Steel, and I’m a huge fan of whenever a director has a specific visual style, but to see it expanded on in such a way…. it was fun.

    MC: It really was structured like a classical Greek epic. I think that’s the best way to describe it.

    DS: The chapter titles contributed to that effect too.

    SVP: I cannot say other 3 hour-plus movies strike me the same way.

    DS: Even a three-hour movie like Avengers: Endgame does not go about its business in as leisurely a way. There were scenes in this that just went on forever, and, normally, that would annoy me. But Zack leaned into the maximalism of his vision in all the best ways. Case in point: the Icelandic choir at the beginning. Why does that need to be in here? No one knows. But it works!

    MC: No indulgence went unfulfilled. Truly.

    ER: Thinking back, I legitimately do not remember where I was when I watched Joss Whedon’s original cut of Justice League. It was that forgettable. I was still bitter that Ben Affleck became Batman (Christian Bale/Heath Ledger/The Dark Knight series 4ever). But something felt different about the Snyder cut. It felt more like the chance directors yearn for when they are crafting films—time to let the full story unravel, space to show and tell it. I’m not a huge fan of Snyder’s style—slow motion for days like Juvenile—but I loved how artistic and visually stunning the experience was.

    SVP: I saw the Whedon cut in theaters at the ArcLight in Chicago. My friends and I left in a fit of laughter. It was so bad.

    MC: I’m just glad that Cyborg—and Ray Fisher—finally got, I’m sorry, justice.

    SVP: Ray Fisher acted circles around the rest of them. He held that film DOWN.

    MC: His character’s arc was by far the best thing in the Snyder cut, and the worst thing in the Whedon cut.

    DS: I can’t emphasize enough how unfunny the Whedon jokes were:
    —Ma Kent calling Lois Lane the “thirstiest” reporter.
    —The Flash is having an existential crisis about brunch.
    It was all so bad.

    MC: Actually, I take that back. The weird family that was caught in the middle of the final battle scene was the worst thing in the Whedon cut. But seriously, after knowing everything that Ray Fisher went through behind the scenes with Whedon and Warner Bros. executives, he is the hero of the Snyder cut. The emotional core of the film and his arc were so, so satisfying.

    ER: Yessss, Matt! Cyborg’s extended story gave me so much life and warmed my soul. To see a relegated character in the Whedon cut, a Black man whose father was absent but who also wanted to keep his son alive, be brought to the center just gave me the chills. 

    DS: It was an outstanding performance and—easily—the most emotionally moved I’ve been by anything in Snyder’s work.

    SVP: It is truly amazing how essentially different the films feel, from every detail in the redone CGI to thought-out storylines. It felt… finished?

    DS: Snyder has this unique way of looking at iconic characters from a sideways view that often doesn’t work. (Batman branding people? Superman killing Zod?) But this incarnation of Cyborg, however dissonant it is from the comic/cartoon version, felt true to how that character would actually be. Coming back to life as this man/machine hybrid would screw me up too!

    MC: How did y’all feel about the Flash in the Snyder cut? He didn’t get nearly as much of an arc as Cyborg but I found him FAR less annoying than in the Whedon cut. Though I will say the scene of him rescuing Iris West felt unnecessary and out of place, considering she’s a major character in the Flash’s backstory, and we literally never see her again. Also, the hot dog.

    ER: Yes, yes, yes! I was so confused in that moment.

    DS: It doesn’t completely work for me. I wish there was more of a nod to his origin, which makes clear that his Dad was framed.

    SVP: Right! And his coming to terms with the power he has with time, and his rules, etc.

    DS: Without that context, it wasn’t obvious why he felt so strongly about freeing his dad.

    ER: The Iris moment was Snyder’s wet dream of a scene sequence—slow motion, eyes locked, then cut, we’re clear, let’s never bring it up again. I still felt emotionally connected to the Flash’s relationship with his father, but it left me wanting so much more, which is bad in a four-hour epic. 

    MC: Hahaha, that’s such a good way to describe it.

    DS: I loved the rescue scene, even though a moody cover of “Song to the Siren” is maybe the worst kind of a needle-drop for an intentionally funny scene? I also judge any Barry/Iris scene on a curve because I love those characters so much. 

    MC: Even has a phallic object to drive it home!

    DC Entertainment/Entertainment Pictures/ZUMA

    SVP: Can we just talk about how he had Wonder Woman fight the whole first sequence in wedges? Wtf?

    DS: Also…Wonder Woman kills that terrorist guy, right? How did y’all feel about Aquaman and the Atlantis storyline?

    SVP: I’m an Aquaman stan. He is my hero 🥰

    MC: My man.

    SVP: God, that whole part benefitted SOOOO much by being expanded.

    ER: He’s the man. Gone is the lame-ass blonde Aquaman image from the comics.

    DS: Also, it should be a law that you are not allowed to cut any scene with Willem Dafoe.

    SVP: Amen. Ok also tho, what the hell was that accent Mera had?

    MC: ¯\()/¯

    SVP: Completely out of nowhere

    DS: In my head, I always imagined Arthur and Mera having regal accents, so I didn’t mind it, but yeah, definitely weird.

    SVP: It just…… was not what she sounded like in Aquaman? Anyway…

    DS: You are right—it was different 

    SVP: I can’t wait to get so much hate for this, but I love Amber Heard as Mera.

    MC: I think she’s perfectly fine!

    SVP: I really thought, especially in the epilogue, she honed the character perfectly.

    ER: Maybe this is a hot take, but I was left wanting more depth and complexity in Wonder Woman’s arc in the same way Cyborg and, to an extent, The Flash had—but she also had her own amazing films with that depth and complexity. Diana still blossomed. Her interactions with Alfred were among my favorite moments of subtlety. I wanted more of that consistency between how Wonder Woman is depicted in her solo flicks and in the Justice League. The Snyder cut offers Patty Jenkins a perfect opportunity to bring Wonder Woman back to Themyscira. Cue: The moment in the Snyder cut when Wonder Woman holds the arrow Hippolyta shot and gazes at the world before her. And maybe that’s another reason why the fact that there’s a Snyder cut and a Whedon cut forces the greater arc of the DC movie universe to fall short. There won’t be as close to the ease in translation between films as there is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

    SVP: Yes Eddie!! For sure. She feels like a completely different character in those films than in this and BvS.

    DS: Part of the problem with the Whedon cut was shoehorning in that arc about Diana moving on from her grief and embracing what it means to be a public-facing hero….which is pretty much the same conflict she had in Wonder Woman 1984. So, that doesn’t entirely check out.

    DC Entertainment/Entertainment PicturesDC Entertainment/Entertainment Pictures/ZUMA

    SVP: I am curious tho, what do we think the Snyder Cut does that the MCU can’t? Is there anything? Cause you bring up a great point Eddie, like there is a serious protection and consistency to the MCU we don’t see in the DCEU. And I think there are pros and cons to that.

    MC: As much as I enjoyed the Snyder cut, I am a much bigger MCU stan.

    DS: This level of visual majesty does not seem like something we’d ever see in the MCU. Maybe Chloé Zhao’s Eternals will prove me wrong.

    ER: I’ve gotta say this, for the record: The Whedon cut, to me, will forever be known as the Costco version of the Snyder cut. Maybe not Costco because I stan Costco. Maybe like Sam’s Club or Albertson’s lol

    MC: But yeah, stylistically, feel like we won’t see anything like this in MCU.

    SVP: I also just feel like we’d never get something as like…. scary?

    MC: Well, Doctor Strange 2 is supposedly something of a superhero horror film. But I can’t imagine any MCU movie getting as grim or dark as the Snyder cut.

    ER: oh, Thanos killing half the population with the finger snap isn’t grim or dark enough for ya, matt?  (I’m kidding. I agree.)

    DS: I imagine at some point the MCU will allow for some standalone projects that allow for the risks Snyder is taking here—maybe on one of the Disney+ shows

    SVP: That new Falcon and the Winter Soldier show is pretty scary from a propaganda standpoint, I do have to tell you. But I digress.

    DS: lol

    DC Entertainment/Entertainment Pictures/ZUMA

    SVP: How do we feel about the fact that this is it? The end of the trilogy? (“Trilogy”)

    DS: I want MORE. Snyder has pretty much given away the plot for his planned sequel, so I imagine we’ll never get it. But damn, I really want to see it!

    MC: Yeah, that epilogue was too good not to explore. I want to see the movie of Batman, Mera, Deathstroke, Cyborg, and Joker teaming up to fight Evil Superman.

    ER: The Snyder cut thrives off of how visually-gripping it is in ways that the MCU films were not. Yes, the MCU films were epic in scale. But the Snyder cut felt like it was concocted in That Talented Stoner Film Student’s Brain where they’re thinking: “What if I made the Justice League look like a Christopher Nolan movie?”

    MC: I mean, COME ON.

    SVP: God. I know. That’s what just breaks my heart! I love the DCEU and find their characters and expanded universe more thrilling and that it asks more interesting questions than Marvel. It felt like Zach wanted to home in on that in his ideas/plans. But now we’ll never get that.

    DS: It’s probably worth mentioning that “a post-apocalyptic Earth where a ragtag band of survivors has to fight Darkseid” is basically the plot of the most recent DC animated movie

    ER: I want so much more, you guys. I’m legitimately sad.

    ER: The epilogue gave a taste of what’s possible when you lean into the dark narratives in the DC universe. And that, arguably, is so much more compelling than the MCU universe. When I watched the Snyder cut, I kept thinking about Frank Miller’s Dark Knight series. Snyder’s vision is so close to Frank Miller’s insane post-apocalyptic, pseudo-political vision of what the underlying battle between Batman and Superman is really about. It’s about the battle between what’s familiar and what’s foreign. What’s foreign—Superman, in this case—can be seen as and can be shaped as threatening. What’s foreign can be perceived as normal and can be helpful if it isn’t corrupted by sheer greed and terror from Thanos’ analogue, Darkseid. That’s why the Knightmare is so damn terrifying—the potential for an all-powerful being to break bad could literally spell the end of the world. I find that so much more compelling, So when you tease it with the introduction of Martian Manhunter and the Joker talking about killing Robin in Batman’s face (lol), I’m so, so brought in. 

    SVP: I mean… spill Eddie

    MC: Man, well said Eddie. Yeah, I feel like Snyder had so much more of a vision than the MCU/Kevin Feige, who sort of just readjusted and adapted based on what worked/didn’t. And it sucks that the biggest hamstring for Snyder was the studio, who so obviously was trying to compete with MCU and immediately went into crisis mode when any of their films didn’t perform as well as they wanted to. I feel like if they just let Snyder be Snyder the whole way through, we’d have ended up with a truly special series of films.

    DS: It certainly would have been a coherent set of films. I wish studios would value that sense of continuity through a set of movies rather than rush to be reactive. What we saw with Disney’s Star Wars movies was a redux of this—movies reacting to each other rather than adhering to a common vision.

    SVP: Or the source material

    MC: I’m really curious how the future DC movies that stem out of the Snyder-Verse will function. Like, there’s the Flash, Aquaman 2, etc. That, like, can’t really ignore the events of Justice League, I guess.

    SVP: It’s what got them all together!

    DS: Will the characters be intersecting at all, though? Outside of Batfleck apparently showing up in the Flash movie..,

    SVP: Who tf knows! You can’t trust studio execs with anything these days.

    DS: I guess they’re just OK with all these projects existing in isolation. On TV, there’s Superman, played by Tyler Hoechlin. Then the Snyder-Verse has Henry Cavill, whose future is uncertain. And Ta-Nehisi Coates (!) is writing a Superman movie for…someone else?? Who knows. On another note, I was interested in how you all felt about the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement generally? And whether its toxic elements influenced your enjoyment of the film or general appraisal of it.

    MC: I feel the same way about it as I did with the narrative around Bernie Bros: A relatively small group of toxic fans who did some heinous internet shit, but who people maybe gave much more power to than they deserved by constantly acknowledging and feeding into their troll campaigns. The majority of people who made the Snyder cut happen are fans like us who wanted to see a guy who suffered an unimaginable tragedy—the suicide of his daughter—see his original vision come to life.

    ER: I have a hard time with the movement. On the one hand, it shows the power of organizing. It shows what happens when studios listen to the fans who want more. And in this case, I think it worked. The Snyder cut fulfilled a vision of fandom in which the conspiracy of a better film was actually true, although it has legitimate problems. Like, it could have been a three-hour epic, not four hours, fooooor sure. On the other hand, I totally see Matt’s point on it, too. The toxic part of the fanbase, like that of the Bernie Bro cabal, can do more harm than good for how the movement among fans is perceived.

    SVP: What I just loved about the Snyder cut (the film, not the movement)—it truly felt like a triumph of story, not money. As much as I absolutely love and adore so many hero films across the universes, I have a really hard time because at the core of it all is studios wanting to make gazillions of dollars. Sure, they can argue it’s about the characters and the vision all they want, but there’s such a monstrosity of ownership, corporate entity, greed, and competition that overshadows anything these films actually try and say. But the Snyder cut, well, it truly felt like it was about just telling the story of these characters. Not treating them as a commodity.

    DS: I could not agree more with what you said, Sam

    MC: Hear, hear.

    DS: This was a rare example of someone using these characters not to cash a check or refresh their IP but because they really care. Sure, that’s cheesy. But these characters matter to a ton of people, and it’s nice to see them used by a person who genuinely is invested.

    ER: The Snyder cut showed that superhero films can have the depth of story that other films do, that characters can have the depth of motivation and drive as in other “prestige” films. They don’t need to be campy for fans to appreciate them. The Whedon cut version felt like a boring version of the Avengers, and it felt like the studios were just looking to salvage a film for the sake of making that money.

    SVP: Nailed it, Eddie.

  • Georgia’s New Voter Suppression Law Is Hit With Its First Lawsuit

    Alyssa Pointer/ZUMA

    Shortly after Georgia enacted a sweeping voter suppression bill that could make it easier for Republicans to overturn election results, three groups on Thursday announced a lawsuit intended to block the measure. Calling the legislation an effort to impose “unconstitutional burdens on the right to vote”—particularly for Black voters—the plaintiffs accused Georgia Republicans of acting in direct response to former President Donald Trump’s stunning campaign to undo Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in the state.

    The voting law has attracted national attention, as well as fierce condemnation from Democrats. Georgia Republicans—much like Republicans in other states where brazen voting restrictions have been introduced—have characterized the law as an attempt to prevent illegal voting, despite longstanding evidence that voter fraud is a largely nonexistent problem.

    “None of the bill’s burdensome and discriminatory changes to Georgia’s election code will increase the public’s confidence in the state’s election administration or ensure election integrity,” the lawsuit, announced by Marc Elias, the prominent election lawyer, argues. “Rather, the grab bag of voting restrictions that populate SB 202 make clear that the Bill was animated by an impermissible goal of restricting voting.”

    The three groups—the New Georgia Project, which was founded by Stacey Abrams, the Black Voters Matter Fund, and Rise—objected to a wide range of provisions in the bill, including a ban on non-poll workers distributing water to voters waiting in line and restrictions on the use of absentee drop boxes. And as my colleague Ari Berman writes, the “major power grab” would give the state board of elections sweeping powers “to take over county election boards it views as underperforming, raising the possibility that elections officials appointed by and beholden to the heavily gerrymandered Republican legislature could take over election operations in Democratic strongholds like Atlanta’s Fulton County, where Trump and his allies spread conspiracy theories about ‘suitcases’ of ballots being counted by election officials in November after GOP poll monitors had left.”

    Biden, in his first White House news conference on Thursday, slammed Republican voter suppression efforts as “sick.” 

  • Georgia State Rep. Arrested While Protesting a Restrictive Voting Law, Video Shows

    Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP

    A sitting Democratic state representative from Georgia was detained by state troopers shortly after Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a restrictive voting rights bill into law, according to local news reports and videos circulating on social media.

    Video shows police handcuffing state Rep. Park Cannon after she knocked on the door of the chamber where Kemp was signing a law that restricts access to the polls and makes it easier to overturn lawful elections. Cannon was one of several people protesting outside the governor’s chamber.

    Georgia State Patrol’s public information director wrote in an email that officers arrested Cannon after warning her three times to stop knocking on the door to the governor’s ceremonial office. She was transported to Fulton County Jail and charged with obstruction of law enforcement and preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members.

     

    As my my colleague Ari Berman reported, the bill is “a major power grab” passed “on a party-line vote.” Stacey Abrams called the measure a part of a push to restrict voting that is “Jim Crow 2.0.”

    This article has been updated to include a statement from the Georgia State Patrol’s public information director.

  • Why Are We Still Doing These Big Tech Hearings?

    Activists placed a cardboard cutout of Mark Zuckerberg on the National Mall.Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call/AP Images

    On Thursday afternoon, the House Energy and Commerce Committee sat three executives of the most powerful companies in the world down and scolded them. 

    For roughly five hours, members of the House told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that their companies were up to no good. A few lawmakers got in a sick dunk or two. And then the legislators promised the tech lords would soon face the consequences. Again.

    If you pay attention to Congress a bit, you’ll know that these kinds of hearings happen kind of often now. Lawmakers pillory the CEOs in (decreasingly) viral clips in the hearing. They threaten to bring down the hammer. And then no one brings down the hammer.

    Today, hearing co-chair Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) promised impending legislation to regulate the companies. Committee chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said that “the time has come to hold online platforms accountable for their part in the rise of disinformation and extremism.” But no bills are expected to pass soon that would do anything like that, really.

    This isn’t exactly a big secret. Previous hearings have produced these headlines: “Two words describe the Senate’s latest Big Tech hearing: Worthless and petty,” (CNN); “How Congress missed another chance to hold big tech accountable” (The Verge); and the bluntest, “Why is Congress so dumb?” (a Washington Post opinion piece).

    In the beginning, it made sense. For years, tech companies weren’t called before Congress as they became increasingly powerful. In 2018, when Mark Zuckerberg was set to testify on Capitol Hill for the first time concerning Russian interference during the 2016 election, it was a massive deal. At the time, I had a bum foot and I asked my doctor about dates for surgery, with the hope that we could find a day that would still allow me to cover it. As I explained my plan for medical leave following the surgery and covering the hearing, my editor nodded knowingly. “This is the Super Bowl of your beat,” he said. I hobbled on crutches into a packed Senate room to cover it one day before my scheduled surgery. It felt like something big was about to happen and as a tech reporter, I felt like I couldn’t miss it. 

    It turns out I could have, because, for the next two and a half years, that same hearing happened, with some differences in personnel, with slightly different details, over and over. The formerly primetime event became a recurring daytime soap opera.

    Several months go by, something bad happens. Another hearing is announced. Sometimes legislation gets drafted. And it doesn’t go anywhere. Work is done, papers are pushed around, very little is achieved but everyone is very busy. It’s almost as if everyone involved is more interested in creating an illusion of progress more than achieving any actual progress.

    What worked in 2018, no longer seems to make any sense. Making tech companies feel pressured to make changes sounds nice, except they aren’t handling the supposedly pressing issues that their lawmaker antagonizers say that they must handle immediately: disinformation that’s damaging to public health, exacerbating violent extremism, and furthering voter suppression.

    The hearings, in theory, could be good for holding people to account without legislation. But, as of now, they almost seem like a stand-in for creating legislation, instead of a tool of accountability paired with meaningful bills. They even allow the CEOs to get away with misleading lawmakers if they want to, like when Zuckerberg gave Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) incorrect information about how Facebook picked the Daily Caller to be one of its fact-checking partners. Or, companies give belated answers to specific questions that executives couldn’t answer off the top of their heads.

    The hearings also just give some lawmakers a chance to publicly gripe about anti-conservative bias—an argument that they’re usually forced to give within the confines of the conservative media echo chamber, which is where it belongs until anyone can produce data suggesting that it is true, and not the product of sloppy moderation that also affects the left. 

    The farce is compounded by the fact that the lawmakers’ staffs will continue to leave for six-figure salary jobs on their government affairs (the dignified rebranded term for “lobbying”) teams, and use the connections they forged on Capitol Hill to help make that the status quo is preserved as much as possible. 

    It’s possible that with a Democratic majority in both chambers, and President Biden tapping high-profile technology critics, that something finally gives, but if they’re interested in doing something, policymakers and regulators can just go do it. Hold the hearings if you must. But it’s starting to feel like getting in the dunks is the only point unless you actually do something.

  • Biden Defends His Reversal of Trump Policies Amid Spike in Migration

    President Joe Biden speaks Thursday during a news conference in the East Room of the White House.Evan Vucci/AP

    Amid an increase in migration to the southern border, President Joe Biden refused to apologize Thursday for undoing some of his predecessor’s immigration policies, arguing that they “had an incredibly negative impact on the law, international law, as well as on human dignity.”

    In his first press conference as president, Biden, whose administration has sent messages and put up ads across Latin America discouraging migrants from coming to the border, also denied any responsibility for the increase in arrivals. “I guess I should be flattered that people are coming because I’m a nice guy,” he joked, before asking if anyone had blamed Donald Trump when there was a 31 percent jump in border apprehensions from January to February 2019—a bigger increase than the 28 percent rise in the same period this year. “It happens every single solitary year,” Biden said, in winter months when crossing the desert becomes less dangerous. Biden stated that the real reason people are fleeing is because of conditions in their home countries—hurricanes, gang violence, food shortages—and noted that he had entrusted Vice President Kamala Harris with leading the efforts to address the root causes of migration.

    The president further reinforced that most migrants are still being turned away at the border under a public health order issued under Trump amid COVID-19 concerns, which currently exempts unaccompanied minors. Biden said his administration is negotiating with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for Mexico to take in more families. “They should all be going back,” Biden said. “The only people we are not going to let sitting there on the other side of the Rio Grande with no help are children.” 

    Immigrant rights groups have long decried the unlawful practice of denying asylum seekers the opportunity to seek protection at the border. Following the press conference, a civil rights lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union indicated the group might pursue legal action against the Biden administration for continuing Trump’s public health order:

    The administration has also been criticized for not granting press access to Customs and Border Patrol facilities where unaccompanied minors are reportedly being held for longer than the mandated 72-hour limit. Asked about when reporters might gain access, Biden shied away from providing a timeframe but promised transparency. 

  • Republican Voter Suppression Efforts Are “Sick,” Biden Says

    Oliver Contreras/CNP/Zuma

    Responding to a question at a press conference on Thursday, President Joe Biden described restrictive voting laws, such as those being pushed by Georgia Republicans to undermine Democratic control of the House and Senate in 2022, as “sick.”

    “What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is,” he said. “Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote. Deciding that you’re gonna end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off work. Deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances.”

    Biden said he would work to get the For the People Act—the major voting rights legislation passed by the House earlier this month—approved by the Senate. But without the removal of the legislative filibuster, it’s highly unlikely the bill will garner the 10 Republican votes it needs to pass.

    Still, Biden pointed out that a majority of voters, including Republicans, support the legislation, which would enact nationwide automatic and Election Day voter registration, restrict voter-ID laws, and crack down on dark money in politics, among other reforms. “I’m convinced that we’ll be able to stop this,” he said, “because it is the most pernicious thing.”

    Watch the video below:

  • Virginia Just Abolished the Death Penalty

    Steve Helber/AP

    Virginia just became the first Southern state to repeal the death penalty. On Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation into law, bringing the total number of states to abolish capital punishment to 23. 

    “It is the moral thing to do to end the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Northam said at the signing ceremony.

    Virginia, the formal capital of the Confederacy, has carried out 1,390 executions since 1608, more than any other state. This extended well into the modern era. After the US Supreme Court ruled that executions were again constitutional in 1976, the state executed 113 people, the most of any state except Texas.

    The last person to be executed in Virginia was William Morva in 2017 for the murders of Eric Sutphin and Derrick McFarland. Morva’s lawyers had argued that his mental illness made him ineligible for execution. The two remaining people on Virginia’s death row will have their sentences automatically converted to life without the possibility of parole—a punishment that is beset with many of the same issues as capitol punishment. 

    Death penalty opponents have long pointed to capital punishment’s racial bias as reasons to abolish it. Even as its use has declined in recent years, those biases persist—or have gotten worse. And then there is the question of innocence. Since 1973, 185 people have been exonerated from death row. Studies show that at least 4 percent of people on death row are innocent of the crimes they’ve been convicted of. The death penalty is also expensive, costing some states millions of dollars

    Even as proponents of capital punishment have argued that executions are justice for the victims, the loved ones of those very victims have pushed back. “There are many of us, and we have continually spoken out,”  Rachel Sutphin, whose father was killed by Morva, told NPR. “This is not what we want.” Among the public, the death penalty’s popularity is waning. Today, 55 percent of Americans favor the death penalty, down from 80 percent in the 1990s. President Joe Biden, once a proponent of capital punishment, is now the first president to oppose the practice.

    Gov. Northam recognized the historic nature of the repeal by saying, “This is an important step forward in ensuring that our criminal justice system is fair and equitable to all.”

  • Senate Republicans Argue Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police Are to Blame for Gun Violence

    Tim Evans/Zuma

    A day after a gunman opened fire inside a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, killing 10 people, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to debate a series of proposals aimed at reducing gun violence. Though the hearing was scheduled weeks ago, it took on a new urgency in light of Monday’s shooting and another that occurred less than a week ago where a gunman went on a shooting spree at massage parlors in the Atlanta area, killing eight people

    Despite the recent massacres, Senate Republicans still delivered some of the familiar, debunked rebuttals against the common sense gun proposals, like that the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, or that criminals don’t follow the gun laws already in place. But at Tuesday’s hearing, Republican lawmakers introduced new, misleading talking points in their arguments against passing gun control legislation: That the Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police movements that arose last year led to a spate of violent crime and shootings in cities across the country, and that people need guns more than ever to defend themselves. 

    In his opening statement, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that Black Lives Matter protests and the “defund the police” movement may have lead to an “1,268 additional deaths” last year. Grassley did not cite where that number came from, but it matches one found in a recent report from the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice that found that the homicide rate rose nearly 30 percent in 2020 than the previous year and “that translates to an additional 1,268 homicides across the 34-city sample.” Nowhere in the report did it mention that Black Lives Matter protests were a cause for the rise in homicides.

    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) used the hearing as an opportunity to angrily rant against the political “theater” that he says Democrats engage in every time there’s a mass shooting. “Every time there’s a mass shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders,” Cruz said. Cruz also blasted Democrats who, in the past, have called out Republican lawmakers who in the past refused to support gun control measures in the wake of mass shootings, instead just offering the victims and their families warm wishes. “I don’t apologize for thoughts and prayers,” Cruz declared. “And I believe in the power of prayer and the contempt of Democrats for prayers is an odd sociological thing.” 

    Tuesday’s Senate hearing follows a pair of gun control bills that the House of Representatives recently passed that would strengthen the nation’s gun laws by, among other things, expanding the background checks for all gun sales and transfers. The legislation would also expand the review period for background checks from three days to 20 days—a measure that gun control advocates say would have prevented Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine people at a Historically Black church in Charleston, SC in 2015, from purchasing the gun he used in the shooting.

    But every Republican senator on the committee insisted, without any evidence, that the House bills would not reduce gun violence in any meaningful way. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) downplayed the gun violence problem by comparing it to drunk driving. “We have a lot of drunk drivers in America that kill a lot of people. We ought to try to combat that too,” he said. “But the answer is not to get rid of all sober drivers.” Kennedy failed to mention that alcohol-impaired driving laws, including sobriety checkpoints, have been proven to be effective in curbing drunk driving incidents. Gun control groups like Moms Demand Action have even modeled their advocacy efforts on the success of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, whose advocacy has led to policy changes that have reduced the rate of drunk driving-related deaths.

    Both Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) claimed that the rise of violent crime over the past year was a direct result of the protests over racist policing that occurred over the past year. “When you condemn the police…you shouldn’t be surprised that criminals take advantage,” Cotton said. “And that crime rises.” Cotton also blamed the rise in violent crime, which includes a massive spike in gun violence, on progressive “George Soros-funded prosecutors” who have won elections in recent years by campaigning on a platform of reforming the criminal justice system. 

    In his closing remarks, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, delivered a swift condemnation of Cruz’s “ridiculous theater” comment, saying that he didn’t “believe any part of it was ridiculous. It was dead serious.”

  • Biden Calls on Senate to Immediately Pass Gun Reform Laws in Wake of Mass Shootings

    Stefani Reynolds/ZUMA

    Biden called on lawmakers in the House and Senate to pass new gun reform measures in brief remarks Tuesday morning following a mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado Monday that claimed 10 lives. The shooting took place a week after a separate shooting in Atlanta killed 8 people.

    The president urged immediate action to pass bans on assault weapons and to tighten up background checks—specifically calling on the Senate to take immediate action.  “It should not be a partisan issue; this is an American issue. It will save lives. American lives. And we have to act,” he said.  

    Biden also referenced closing “loopholes” in background checks and urged support for the pair of gun reform bills the House approved in early March. Biden said he would avoid speculation about the shooting until he “had all the facts,” but pledged to use all the resources at his disposal to keep the American people safe.

    “I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act,” Biden said. “We can ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines in this country once again. I got that done when I was a senator. It passed. It was law for the longest time, and it brought down these mass killings. And we should do it again.”

  • 10 People Killed in Colorado Supermarket Mass Shooting

    David Zalubowski/AP

    Ten people, including one police officer, were killed when a gunman opened fire inside a King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, Monday afternoon, according to police.

    One male suspect is in custody, Boulder police department officials confirmed during a press conference Monday night. News footage from earlier in the day showed a shirtless, barefoot man with a bloodied leg being escorted in handcuffs from the supermarket by police. Officials have declined to say whether he was the alleged shooter.

    Officials later identified the slain police officer as Eric Talley, 51. Talley was the first officer to respond to reports of gunfire and a man carrying what police described as a “patrol rifle”.

    Boulder police had tweeted a warning about an active shooting situation shortly before 3 p.m. local time.

    Today’s violence is the latest in a string of mass shootings that have shaken Colorado in recent years, including the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting that killed 12. It’s also the country’s second mass shooting in the span of a week. Last week, a shooting spree claimed eight lives at two Atlanta-area spas. Six of the victims were Asian women.

    This breaking news story has been updated to reflect new information released by local authorities.

  • The 3 Worst Arguments That Republicans Made Against DC Statehood

    J. Scott Applewhite/AP

    With Joe Biden in the White House and a slim Democratic majority in Congress, residents of the District of Columbia are probably the closest they’ve ever been to finally gaining statehood. It’s a real moment for a movement that has long been at the bottom of the wishlist for the Democratic agenda; the bill that would grant statehood to DC—HR 51—was approved by the Democratic-led House last year but never made it to the floor of the GOP-controlled Senate. But now that Democrats have won control of the upper chamber, the fight has resumed. On Monday, the House held a hearing on DC statehood.

    The case against DC statehood is steeped in anti-Black racism, a fact that House Republicans worked hard to obfuscate during Monday’s hearing. Though the typical talking points against statehood were made ad infinitum—that it’s unconstitutional, and that it’s nothing more than a Democratic power grab—some participants found even more nonsensical reasons for why DC shouldn’t become a state. Here are the worst:

    DC shouldn’t become a state because it doesn’t have any car dealerships, landfills, or airports

    In his opening statement, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) made the bizarre argument that “DC wants the benefits of a state without actually having to operate like one.” It was a confusing statement made only more confusing when he elaborated on what that meant—that “DC would be the only state without an airport, without a car dealership, without a capital city, without a landfill.” 

    Apart from the fact that DC does, indeed, have numerous car dealerships, nowhere in the Constitution does it state that dealerships—or landfills and airports—are a requirement for statehood. 

    DC shouldn’t become a state because lawmakers already see political yard signs on their way to work

    The one GOP witness who testified against statehood at Monday’s hearing was Zack Smith, a Heritage Foundation fellow who has published a number of articles that make a constitutional case against the legislation. That’s exactly what he did throughout the hearing, but it was in his opening statement that he noted that the framers of the Constitution “wanted to avoid one state having undue influence over the national government.” He argued that DC residents “already impact the national debate” because of how politically engaged they are, visually speaking. “For the members here today, how many of you saw DC statehood yard signs, or bumper stickers, or banners on your way to this hearing today?” Smith said. “Where else in the nation could such simple actions reach so many members of Congress?”

    DC shouldn’t become a state because it lacks manufacturing

    Midway through the hearing, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) cited a good friend of his who argues that economic wealth comes from manufacturing, agriculture, or natural minerals, “and those are things that I think every state has to some degree.” He then asked the witnesses to fill him in on the number of manufacturing, agriculture, and mining jobs in DC, adding that “all three of which would have to be very tiny compared to what we get in a normal state.”

    When DC Mayor Muriel Bowser replied that the district “doesn’t have any mines” but does have heavy investments in the solar and hospitality sectors, Grothman cut her off to accuse her of not answering his question.

  • What People Are Spending Their Stimulus Checks On

    Getty

    The $1,400 checks from the American Rescue Plan have been hitting bank accounts across the country, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been curious about how people are spending their new infusions of cash. Here are just a few plans from a recent audience callout, as well as a friendly invitation to subscribe to our newsletter to join in on similar conversations, daily news hits, and much more. 

    A literal garden of hope

    My fiance and I will both be getting the full $1,400, for a total of $2,800 coming into the household coffers. We plan to use it for getting our organic vegetable garden/orchard going this year. We just purchased a new house in February, with a lovely huge garden area, complete with an established compost bin. Buying seeds and seed starter supplies, plus soil amendments will make the stimulus the gift that keeps on giving.  The rest will go right into savings. —Shannon

    Long overdue health check-ups and car maintenance

    When my next infusion of funds arrives, I hope to do what I’d planned for the first two: get my vision checked (my bifocal specs are waaayyyy out of date) and get my car fixed so it doesn’t overheat so easily…I’m on Social Security and have a part-time job that nets me $73 a week. Woohoo! If I can, I’d also like to pay off my credit card debt (it’s small) and maybe get ahead on utilities and phone accounts. That’s about as frivolous as I get these days. —Susan

    Focus on grad school

    I’m an older graduate student who went back to school after my kids grew up. I lost the job I used to pay tuition and fees because of COVID. My refund will help me not have to take time off.  That makes me overjoyed!!! —Jules

    Housing charity

    The last one went to the local food bank. The local food banks are doing ok at the moment, so it will go elsewhere, probably housing. The important thing is to put it somewhere it will be spent quickly instead of sitting in my savings account doing nothing. —Walt

    Furniture to finally welcome guests after a long year

    When I relocated from Westchester County, New York to Salem, Massachusetts in late January 2020, I expected visits from my grandchildren, as well as the family members I left behind in NY. After spending the entire month of February sick with a constant non-COVID cough, the shutdown went into effect, and so no guests could visit. For the first time in my life, I spent months without touching another living creature.

    I think I’ll buy some furniture so that my home can be ready to welcome my long-awaited guests this Summer (fingers crossed!). I haven’t felt any enthusiasm for setting up my home since I live alone, and it was too sad to be getting ready to see those I love most in the world until now. It will be fun to get out and get to know my new neighborhood.—Claudia

  • The Sunday News Shows Went All-In on the “Border Crisis,” and I Think It Gave Me Hives

    Meet the Press

    It was Border Crisis Day on the Sunday morning news shows, which meant that folks tuning in to ABC’s This Week were treated to the Powerhouse Roundtable panelists parked in front of a fence in El Paso, as if they were College GameDay hosts getting ready for a big Alabama-LSU game down in Death Valley.

     

    Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas made appearances on not one, not two, not three, not four, but five different morning shows to lay out the administration’s talking points about what he called earlier this week “historic and unprecedented challenges at our border”: that migrants (and particularly children) shouldn’t come to the United States now, that the Biden administration has to rebuild a system destroyed by the Trump administration while simultaneously caring for vulnerable kids, and that that process will take time—lots and lots of time. Here he is on This Week:

    Among his many stops, Mayorkas was a guest on Meet the Press, which is hosted by NBC’s Chuck Todd. Now, there are lots of ways to tease a broadcast about a situation in which, as the Los Angeles Times‘ Molly Hennessey-Fiske tweeted Saturday, more than 5,000 unaccompanied minors were in border agencies’ custody as of the weekend, with more than 600 of them being held for 10 days or more in poor conditions that they’re supposed to be transferred out of within 72 hours. But this uniquely vapid bit of framing—the politics are what matter the most!—ain’t it:

     

    You wouldn’t know it from Todd’s intro, but thanks to a series of asylum-killing rules implemented by the Trump administration, tens of thousands of people have been languishing in dangerous Mexican border towns, waiting for their opportunity to have their claims heard by US officials. And as BuzzFeed News‘ Hamed Aleaziz wrote in October, the Trump administration had turned away immigrant children from the border 13,000 times under a public health measure known as Title 42, which effectively sealed the border to asylum seekers starting in March 2020. (For more about the current border dynamic, check out my colleague Isabela Dias’ sharp interview with Jennifer Podkul, the vice president for policy and advocacy at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND).)

    But since Republicans—scrambling in a post-Trump, post-insurrection, post-stimulus, post-Dr. Seuss world—have pivoted to making the increase in unaccompanied minors at the border their 2022 wedge issue, we’re all about to be dragged along for the ride. (Like Todd says, Biden can’t control the news cycle!) After House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) went on Fox & Friends earlier in the week to slam the White House for what he called “more than just a crisis—this is a human tragedy,” hawk Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on Fox News Sunday that “the border is wide open” under Biden, despite the fact that the Title 42 border closure remains in place for everyone but unaccompanied migrant children.

    Cotton, it should be noted, is calling on Biden to shut the border on these kids. That was and would be another kind of crisis—just maybe not one that’d result in wall-to-wall coverage on the Sunday morning news shows.

  • Democrats Just Announced They’re Off to a Record-Setting Fundraising Start to 2021

    AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

    The Democratic National Committee said Saturday that it’s off to a record-setting year for fundraising, marking a dramatic turnaround from where Democrats were four years ago. According to filings it made with the Federal Election Commission, the DNC fundraised $8.5 million in February and $18.4 million since the beginning of the year, which is a blistering start for the Democrats in a non-presidential election year. That’s a good sign that donor enthusiasm, and in particular from the grassroots of the party, has carried through the opening days of President Joe Biden’s administration as his agenda begins to unfold.

    According to the DNC, 67 percent of the funds it raised came from small donors, meaning people who gave $200 or less. These types of donors are a huge prize for political fundraisers, not only because if they turn out in bulk they can quickly generate huge sums, but also because they represent a vote of support and a sign of active enthusiasm from the party’s base.

    That said, the Republican National Committee also had a strong February—in fact, the RNC out-raised the DNC for the month of February, pulling in $9.3 million, and had an even higher proportion of individual donations coming from small donors, about 72 percent. And the Republicans reported having nearly twice as much money on hand—$83.9 million—as the Democrats did.

    The GOP numbers were a bit of a turnaround, too: In the first two months of the year the RNC had only raised $16.5 million from donors, falling behind the Democrats. That kind of fundraising stumble is something, even if the Republicans still have an upper hand overall. For years, and particularly in the Trump era when the former president proved to be such a powerful fundraiser, the DNC has frequently trailed the RNC’s totals (the DNC was out-raised by the RNC by $400 million in 2020). And, four years ago, the DNC was anything but competitive with the RNC in terms of fundraising.

    In fact, at the beginning of March 2017, with Democrats still reeling from Trump’s inauguration and his administration moving quickly to shatter many of Washington’s norms on immigration, trade and ethics, the DNC reported having just $10.2 million in cash on hand and another $2.7 million in debt to pay down. Despite liberal outrage at Trump’s actions, the DNC had managed to raise just $5.5 million that February, about half of what the Republicans had pulled in. 

    Another key difference between the two parties—and another point of potential optimism for the Democrats—is that since the February fundraising period has ended, Trump has launched a turf war with the RNC over the use of his name and likeness for fundraising. Despite a nasty cease-and-desist letter, the party continued to use the former president’s name to raise money, and he will likely cooperate with at least some of the GOP’s fundraising priorities in coming months. But it’s going to be a much bumpier ride than Democrats will have with Biden as their party standard.