• NAACP Warns Black People From Traveling to Ron DeSantis’ Florida

    Rebecca Blackwell/AP

    The NAACP is the latest organization to warn Black people and members of marginalized communities against traveling to Florida amid the relentless right-wing bills signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The travel advisory, issued on Saturday, condemned Florida as “openly hostile towards African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+” people and urged people to fight the state’s attack on democratic institutions.

    “Under its current Governor, the State of Florida has engaged in an all-out attack on Black Americans, accurate Black history, voting rights, members of the LGBTQ+community, immigrants, women’s reproductive rights, and free speech, while simultaneously embracing a culture of fear, bullying, and intimidation by public officials,” the NAACP said in a statement.

    “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the State of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of and the challenges faced by African Americans and other minorities.”

    The announcement is a direct response to DeSantis’ war on so-called “anti-woke ideology,” which has seen the governor attacking diversity and equity efforts at seemingly every opportunity, including most recently, DEI initiatives at Florida’s state colleges and universities. In issuing its formal travel advisory, the NAACP joined other advocacy groups, including Equality Florida and The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), to warn against visiting the state. 

    In the past month alone, DeSantis, who’s expected to officially announce his presidential run this week, has signed off on a flurry of bills attacking everything from abortion rights to health care for trans people. As I’ve previously reported, DeSantis has made it no secret that he plans to make Florida his blueprint for America if he secures the presidency. Should he succeed, perhaps we’ll see more countries issuing travel advisories against the United States, as they did under Donald Trump and the scourge of mass shootings that continue to take place in the US. 

  • The “One Playing Guitar” for Nirvana Can’t Join Andrew Yang’s Party. He’s Dead.

    Jeff Kravitz/Getty

    This morning, Andrew Yang announced that Krist Novoselic of Nirvana joined Forward—his political party that is “not left,” “not right,” but “FORWARD” (and pretty hard to take seriously).

    Yang is famous for running unsuccessfully for president and for mayor of New York City. He has staked his claim on the technocratic, centrist dream that problems can be solved by, as his hat said, “Math.”

    Krist Novoselic is famous for being the bassist in Nirvana. (He also played with the band Flipper in the 2000s, an underrated no-wave rock outfit.) There are other things Novoselic has done—including political activism as an independent after breaking away from the Democrat party, and some not-great comments on “law and order”—but if you had to say one thing he’s known for, it’d be: That guy is the bassist in Nirvana.

    And yet, in the announcement, written by Yang (at least according to the byline), amid a lot of mentions that Novoselic is very tall, is this: “Krist co-founded Nirvana with Kurt Cobain—he’s the tall, good-looking one playing guitar near the back.” (My emphasis added.) Hmm. Guitar? I don’t think you get on a Discogs list of “The Great Rock Bassists of All Time” made by anavrin3 playing guitar. You do it by playing bass.

    Is this just an elision? Does Andrew Yang mean playing “bass guitar” in the back?

    Well, either way, I guess Yang’s claim that Krist Novoselic is the guy playing guitar is fitting in one way. It’s like his claim the Forward is a political party. Technically true. But also: “A denial, a denial, a denial.”

  • The Wall Street Journal Just Published a Revealing Story About Jeffrey Epstein and Bill Gates

    Global Investment Summit. Bill Gates speaks during the Global Investment Summit at the Science Museum, London. Picture date: Tuesday October 19, 2021. See PA story POLITICS Investment. Photo credit should read: Leon Neal/PA Wire URN:63159638 (Press Association via AP Images)Leon Neal/AP Images

    The specifics of Bill Gates’ relationship with Jeffrey Epstein have been an open question since details about their ties were revealed in 2019. In 2022, Gates’ ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, revealed that her then-husband’s relationship with the child predator financier even contributed to their divorce. 

    On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal shed new light on their dynamic, revealing that Epstein once threatened to reveal Gates’ affair with a Russian bridge player named ​​Mila Antonova.

    According to the report, Gates met Antonova in 2010. Three years later, Epstein paid for Antonova’s coding school tuition. Then, four years after that he emailed Gates asking for reimbursement for Antonova’s tuition after Gates declined to put money into a multibillion-dollar charitable fund that Epstein was trying to create at JP Morgan. The implication of the request for reimbursement was that if Gates didn’t maintain a relationship with Epstein, the registered sex offender would reveal the affair. 

    Antonova explained to the Journal that Epstein paid for her tuition after declining to invest in a bridge business that she was attempting to start. When she couldn’t raise enough money, she decided to go to a coding boot camp instead and reached out to people she knew to ask for loans. 

    “Epstein agreed to pay and he paid directly to the school. Nothing was exchanged. I don’t know why he did that,” she told the paper. “When I asked, he said something like, he was wealthy and wanted to help people when he could.”

    A Gates spokesperson told the Journal, “Mr. Gates met with Epstein solely for philanthropic purposes. Having failed repeatedly to draw Mr. Gates beyond these matters, Epstein tried unsuccessfully to leverage a past relationship to threaten Mr. Gates.”

    Read the entire Journal story here.

  • Ron DeSantis Doesn’t Want to Talk About Abortion, Even to Anti-Abortion Activists

    Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

    It sure seems like Ron DeSantis really doesn’t want to talk about abortion, despite his sterling record of restricting it. Just six weeks after passing one of the toughest bans in the country, DeSantis barely brought it up during a speech Saturday evening at the annual gala of the Florida Family Policy Council, an anti-abortion group. 

    “We believe that everybody counts, everybody’s special, and our Heartbeat Protection Act shows that we say what we mean and we mean what we say,” DeSantis said of his new abortion restrictions, before quickly returning to his usual talking points about his coronavirus and transphobic policies, according to the New York Times.

    Beyond the gala, DeSantis hasn’t spoken much about abortion publicly, only including it once in his regular 45-minute stump speech listing his accomplishments, according to the Times.

    As the Florida governor reportedly nears announcing his run for president, he may be caught between the hardened base of GOP supporters who want to end abortion and the public at large, which consistently and overwhelmingly supports abortion rights in public polling.

    After DeSantis introduced his latest restrictions, his would-be opponent, Donald Trump, attacked him on it, saying in an interview with The Messenger that “many people within the pro-life movement” think the Florida ban “was too harsh.”

  • Biden Believes He Has “the Authority” to Use 14th Amendment in Debt Ceiling Battle

    Kiyoshi Ota/AP

    After initially pooh-poohing progressives’ push to use the 14th Amendment to go past the debt ceiling, President Joe Biden said on Sunday that he believes he has “the authority” to use italthough he’s not sure the ensuing legal challenge would resolve itself before the United States defaulted on its debt. “The question is,” he told reporters at a press conference at the Group of 7 summit in Japan, “could it be done and invoked in time?”

    According to Treasury Department officials, it’s only a matter of weeks before the federal government can’t pay its bills on time, leading to a default. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Sunday that early June is the “hard deadline” for the debt ceiling—potentially as soon as June 1. As Republicans drew lines in the sand on things like cutting domestic public spending and adding work requirements for government assistance programs, frustrated progressives have tried to push Biden to consider using the 14th Amendment to avoid capitulating to the right’s demands and keep borrowing past the debt limit. 

    Work requirements frequently create gaps in government welfare programs by helping lock people into a cycle of poverty. People find themselves out of work and needing assistance, are unable to get it, and lack the stability they need to get their next job. Studies show that work requirements don’t increase employment either, suggesting that people don’t have jobs because they might not simply be available, not because they’re lazy. The added administrative work in any requirements adds practice hurdles for struggling people who are already short on time, which writer Annie Lowry has called the “time tax.” Poor children are often collateral damage in these requirements. 

    Many progressive lawmakers see the 14th Amendment as a way around these issues. Biden had signaled that he would be open to this but on Friday, Politico reported that the Biden administration had been communicating that it had deep reservations about pursuing the constitutional route. However, based on his comments in Japan, he may be warming to it again.

    “It’s time for Republicans to accept that there is no bipartisan deal to be made solely—solely—on their partisan terms,” Biden said in Hiroshima. “They have to move, as well.”

    The Washington Post reported that, when asked what would happen if the United States were to default on its national debt, the president shook his head and walked away.

  • Trump Wants Credit for All the Abortion Bans. He Also Doesn’t Have a Policy.


    As we were all reminded during an especially horrendous town hall last week, Donald Trump is not a shy man. His thoughts, much like his policies, tend to flow unvarnished, regardless of how misogynistic, delusional, and contradictory they might be.

    But there’s one topic the former president has never seemed to want to offer a real stance on: abortion. That sidestepping strategy carried him in 2016—and it appears as though Trump believes it will work once again, even as political observers and rivals push him to attach a number to his extremist views.

    Take a look at how the frontrunner of the Republican Party attempted to thread the needle on one of the most important issues of the presidential election over just the last week:

    May 10

    As my colleague Abigail Weinberg noted during CNN’s town hall featuring the former president last week, Trump repeatedly deflected questions on a national abortion ban. Even some in the audience seemed confused. “He didn’t actually answer me,” a registered nurse at the event said after asking Trump how he planned to appeal to women concerned after the fall of Roe. “Deals are being made,” Trump said instead. “Deals are going to be made.” 

    May 15

    A small level of specificity came days later while attacking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “If you look at what DeSantis did, a lot of people don’t even know if he knew what he was doing,” Trump told The Messenger. “But he signed six weeks, and many people within the pro-life movement feel that that was too harsh.”

    When asked how he personally felt about a six-week ban, however, Trump was characteristically noncommittal. The interview didn’t sit well with DeSantis, who quickly called out Trump for refusing to commit to the issue. “I signed the bill,” DeSantis hit back. “I was proud to do it. [Trump] won’t answer whether he would sign it or not.”

    May 17

    Perhaps sensing an emerging weakness, Trump let loose with the following:

    Many things can be evinced from these chaotic remarks: Trump is an idiot in the English language, and he still posts with abandon. But perhaps the most important point is that for Trump, an abortion debate doesn’t even exist. His policies, if you can call it that, have always been reactionary, designed in his brain to please whoever happens to be in the room. As Trump suggested this morning, he doesn’t care about the matter of “6 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks, or whatever.” He correctly asserts that he was a critical player in removing the constitutional right to an abortion—and that should speak for itself.

    You could be forgiven for hoping that Trump’s elusiveness the first time around was a sign that maybe he’d be somewhat of a moderate on the issue. But as later evidenced, ambiguity ultimately meant that Trump never cared, and still doesn’t care, about a woman’s right to an abortion. 

  • A Problem for DeSantis: Reports Say He Has No Rizz

    Brian Cahn/Zuma

    Former President Trump is a twice-impeached sexual abuser, who possesses a unique ability to make people laugh—unfortunately or fortunately, to use his verbiage. He made that clear at a CNN town hall last week, when he had an audience of mostly Republicans laughing hysterically over the charming subject of an alleged rape.

    However odious his behavior, Trump’s charisma—or, as the kids call it, “rizz”—is a boon to his presidential prospects. Rizz, like BDE, is not a learnable trait. Either you have it or you don’t. And Trump’s most formidable challenger for the Republican nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, certainly does not.*

    A new article in the New York Times analyzed DeSantis’ lackluster start to the presidential race. It said that the Florida governor is choosing to continue using his gubernatorial power to do bad shit rather than ignore his constituents and hit the campaign trail. How noble! But the subtext is that DeSantis is just not an agreeable or pleasant person to be around, and that’s going to hurt him.

    The article repeatedly mentions DeSantis’ difficulty making eye contact. We hear from a freshman Republican congressman from Florida who was “a bit insulted” by DeSantis’ failure to return his call. We are told that DeSantis spends donor events fiddling with his phone. He has reportedly responded to criticism and become much more engaged lately—but can it really be that easy to suddenly adopt basic interpersonal communication skills at 44 years of age?

    And even if DeSantis can overcome his awkwardness and learn to make small talk, it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to hide his general weirdness once he steps more clearly into the national spotlight. This is a man who reportedly eats pudding with his fingers. He was widely ridiculed for the white rubber boots he wore while surveying damage from Hurricane Ian, and while the pile-on was petty, it pointed to a dunkability and rizzlessness** that don’t lend themselves to a future president. But we’ll just have to wait and see.

    *Editor’s note: The etymology for rizz is here. You might as well go ahead and learn it—as it migrates from Twitch to social media writ large to a colleague using it and you going “oh Jesus.” It seems to involve mostly “seduction” but can be used more widely. I thought of the unfortunate slang of my generation: “swag.”

    **See above. If you’re old, and think this is a new word. Don’t worry. It’s just rizz again. In a new form.

  • Liberals Aren’t the Ones Canceling Motherhood

    Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, marching for workers' rights in Trinidad, Colorado, circa 1910.

    Our namesake, a mother, Mary Harris Jones.Zinn Education Project

    First, liberals canceled Christmas. Then, Thanksgiving. Now, they’re throwing Mother’s Day out with the trash.

    At least, that’s how Fox News sees it.

    In a recent article, the right-wing site accused “the left” of “trying to erase mothers.” Among the apparent culprits are trans people. “A mother is a woman who by birth or adoption lovingly devotes herself to her child or children,” the article declares. So far, fine—if a bit heavy on the notion that motherhood must involve unyielding devotion. Then, things go off the rails: “Talk about demeaning cultural appropriation, slurs like ‘chest feeders’ or ‘birthing person’ don’t create equality, they just erase unique contributions because no biological man can do what we women do, nurture life within ourselves and nurture life day in and day out in a way that is uniquely feminine.”

    It’s unclear to me what the use of gender-neutral language has to do with cultural appropriation. But I find the equation of womanhood with “nurturing life within ourselves” to be particularly offensive. By the writer’s own definition, a woman who adopts a child is a mother. But one sentence later, she suggests that motherhood boils down to our reproductive capabilities—leaving us to wonder where women who are biologically incapable of having children fall into this paradigm. I also reject the notion that nurturing life necessarily falls under any gendered umbrella.

    The writer takes particular offense with a “thuggish” Time article that has the audacity to suggest that, amid attacks on abortion rights, motherhood should be desired, not forced. Mother’s Day, according to this notion, is “a day designed to honor a choice for LIFE.” But the key word there isn’t the one in all-caps. It’s “choice.”

    Fox News doesn’t mention this on the author page, but the writer isn’t a journalist. It’s Kristi S. Hamrick, who does publicity work for the anti-abortion Students for Life, among other organizations. Previously, she worked for the Family Research Council, a group that promotes “family values” like being against gay marriage. (She hosted their show “Straight Talk with FRC,” she writes in her bio.)

    If we want to honor mothers, we might start by bolstering our safety nets for mothers and children. As my colleague Abby Vesoulis reported last year, states with strict anti-abortion laws also tend to have more food insecurity, lower child wellness, and less guaranteed parental leave than other states. “It’s like they want us to have [kids],” one single mother told Abby, “but they are not giving us anything to raise them.”

    Motherhood does not need to be predicated on suffering, despite what everything from Fox News to Genesis might have us believe. This Mother’s Day, consider a world where mothers get the help they need—from the family, the community, and, yes, the government—to make the job of childrearing a little bit easier. But that might be too great a stretch of the imagination for a publication that’s flabbergasted by the notion of making sure kids don’t go hungry at school.

  • Report: Man Risks Millions to Talk About Politics on Twitter

    This is the guy who is going to talk about politics on Twitter. His name is Tucker Carlson.Chip Somodevilla/Getty

    On Tuesday, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson announced that he would be sharing his political views on Twitter—just like the rest of us idiots.

    Carlson, who was let go by Fox News a few weeks ago, said he would relaunch his show “soon” on the social media website now run by Elon Musk. It has been reported that he’s violating his noncompete clause to do so, at a cost of $25 million. That’s a hefty fee to tweet. (Carlson also has a blue check, but it’s not clear whether he’s paying Musk’s monthly fee for it.) Axios reported Tucker’s lawyers will argue his contract was breached.

    Personally—just between this journalist and a guy who talks at the camera about journalists—I’d have kept the $25 million. In my experience, Twitter consists mostly of other journalists and anime avatars yelling at you about Marvel movies they think are cinema (read: 17-year-olds). It’s not a fun, or interesting, crowd.

    It is also not terribly user-friendly for Tucker’s usual demographic: old people. Unless there’s a New Deal–style program to teach the elderly to use the app, I don’t think his show will do as well as it did on Fox. Plus, he’s no longer vying for TV numbers, where a few million is great. Instead, he’s competing against a guy with more than 100 million subscribers whose thing is very nicely bribing people.

    Tucker is, as his platform demands, framing his move as a battle for speech. In a front-facing video with an odd aspect ratio, he says Twitter is the “only” big platform that still allows full expression. This is part of a larger dissertation on the gaze of the journalist. There’s not much to it:

    Tucker sort of fiddles around with lowercasing and capitalizing the word “Truth”—squeezing and stress testing it like an undergraduate wading his way, poorly, through Richard Rorty. I found this relatable. But also, you’re supposed to grow out of it. Every decent journalist knows there are shades and difficulties in conveying the facts. (Janet Malcolm said it stronger, and better, in the New Yorker decades ago.) The fact (sorry) is that most journalists try to say true things. It’s hard.

    And I guess the other rule is that you try not to sell out or suck up to powerful people. Maybe consider that, too.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis Restricts Chinese Citizens From Buying Land in Florida

    AP /Rebecca Blackwell

    On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) signed a bill banning Chinese nationals from buying land in Florida. He hopes the bill will go toward “counteracting” the “malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in Florida,” according to a recent press release.

    “Today, it’s clear that we don’t want CCP in the Sunshine State,” said DeSantis at a press conference on Monday. “We want to maintain this as a free state of Florida.” 

    SB 264 was among several bills signed by DeSantis targeting “communist China.” The new law will prohibit Chinese nationals from buying land unless they are American citizens or permanent residents. The bill also imposes certain restrictions for Chinese citizens—and others, including Russians and Venezuelans—with nontourist visas when it comes to buying land near a military base. 

    “We believe that national security is of paramount importance,” wrote the Florida Asian American Justice Alliance in a release after the House State Affairs committee passed the bill in April. “However, the legislative overreach…is both unconstitutional and deeply discriminatory to the AAPI community, equating all Chinese citizens without a Green Card to agents of the Chinese Community Party.” There is concern the law will further facilitate the discrimination of Chinese people and other immigrants, especially those seeking homeownership. 

    DeSantis also signed off on two other bills: one restricting government desktops or servers from downloading TikTok, an app owned by a Chinese company; and another prohibiting Florida colleges and universities from engaging in a partnership with schools overseas without governmental approval. These bills are set to go into effect on July 1.

  • New York Bans Gas Stoves in New Buildings

    Michael M. Santiago/Getty

    On Tuesday night, New York state became the first to ban natural gas in new construction.

    The state budget, which passed earlier this week, over a month late, will require all-electric heating and cooking in new buildings shorter than seven stories by 2026—and in 2029 for taller buildings.

    With 40,000 new buildings built each year in New York, the move is being widely celebrated by East Coast climate advocates who see this as a major step to reaching New York state’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in both New York City and New York state, where they are responsible for one-third of emissions collectively.

    As I reported in February, New York City passed a bill in December 2021 to phase out fossil fuels in new construction statewide starting in 2024, giving the rest of the state a preview of the complex battles involved in the process.

    The new statewide law will not affect current buildings with natural gas appliances. The NY HEAT Act—which looked to retrofit existing buildings and put a price cap of 6 percent of income on electricity bills for low- and middle-income families—did not make it into the budget. Advocates hope there’s still a chance to pass it in this upcoming legislative session.

  • Is Anyone Really Listening to E. Jean Carroll?

    Mother Jones; Luiz C. Ribeiro/NY Daily News/Getty

    Update, May 9: On Tuesday, a federal jury found Donald Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation in E. Jean Carroll’s civil lawsuit. The former president has been ordered to pay Carroll $5 million.

    Is Donald Trump a rapist?

    The question is at the center of E. Jean Carroll’s civil suit against the former president, in which the writer and former advice columnist accuses him of sexual assault and defamation. Carroll, who in 2019 came forward with allegations that Trump attacked her inside a dressing room in the 1990s, is seeking unspecified damages. 

    But is anyone actually paying attention? I can’t help but feel as though the concrete things said and done in the courtroom have failed to truly puncture the public consciousness.

    It makes sense, on some level. Though Carroll’s allegations are the most serious among the sexual assault claims that have been made against Trump, the public has endured years of similar stories pointing to his endless misdeeds—even these specific misdeeds. Still, I’ve still been taken aback by what has felt like a collective apathy toward the catastrophic description of a woman’s trauma. 

    It’s true that news outlets, including this magazine, have reported on the trial with dutiful rigor. But within the public discourse, there’s been far less chatter as the drama continues to unfold—as Carroll, deftly and movingly, testifies. Measure public awareness of E. Jean Carroll v. Donald Trump against the obsessive coverage of Trump’s four-mile hike downtown to get arrested last month, and sexual assault charges against the former president finally getting a day in court, feels strangely small. Put it up against the impeachment proceedings, and there’s no contest. Perhaps it’s because this isn’t a criminal trial; Trump, no matter the verdict, will not be a convicted rapist nor will he face real punishment beyond a potential monetary one. 

    Still, to pass over Carroll’s poignant testimony, along with Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina’s snarling cross-examination tactics, would be to miss several critical indictments far beyond the matter of Trump’s guilt.  Here’s one telling snapshot, from my colleague Russ Choma, in which Carroll pushes back against Tacopina as he browbeats her:

    When Tacopina tried to challenge Carroll about why she did not scream when Trump was allegedly raping her violently, Carroll ultimately delivered a strong rebuke.

    “I’m not a screamer, I was in too much of a panic, I was fighting,” she responded to his initial query.

    Tacopina pressed further—and Carroll pushed back. “You can’t beat up on me for not screaming,” she said, firmly.

    “I’m not beating you up!” Tacopina said, appearing flustered.

    “Women who don’t come forward—one of the reasons they don’t come forward is because they all get asked, ‘Why didn’t you scream?’” Carroll said, her voice rising. “Some women scream, some women don’t. It keeps them silent.”

    “You’d better have a good excuse as to why you didn’t scream; if you don’t scream, you weren’t raped,” Carroll continued, mocking his line of questioning. “I’m telling you, he raped me, whether I screamed or not!”

    At this point, Carroll began to cry.

    Tacopina asked whether she needed a moment. “No, you go on,” she said icily. “I don’t need an excuse for not screaming.”

    Such scenes, alternatingly maddening and captivating, feel ripped from a bygone era. Tacopina’s questions are shining examples of what not to ask a rape victim. That they are taking place in a high-profile civil suit only five years after #MeToo erupted into a global movement is perhaps the clearest evidence that accounts of sexual assault still are not taken seriously.

    That Carroll’s time on the stand hasn’t reached every inch of the public discourse reveals how we treat trauma when it fails to be about punishment. It has not enticed a weary audience that has become convinced that stories of Trump’s hideous behavior, relentless and overwhelming, don’t matter. Maybe they’re even boring now. It seems there is only one question people seem to care about: Is Trump finally going to jail? 

    In the case of Carroll’s trial, countless factors could have contributed to such nihilism. For one, there’s her age. At 79, she is long past the point when women say they begin to feel invisible and overlooked. (In a cruel twist, Carroll’s age, according to her skeptics, underscores how much time has passed since her alleged encounter with Trump, and is therefore suspicious.)

    And then there’s the lack of video or audio recordings from inside the courtroom, denying Carroll’s remarks the fuel to hit social media virality, which has become an unfortunate barometer of newsworthiness. So, we’re left to read in order to keep abreast of the trial, and reading Carroll’s description of profound suffering is no easy task; it’s somewhat understandable why one would skip over such difficult material. But then, what is lost when we fail to pay attention to those who are willing to come forward? The question is all the more urgent when allegations relate to Donald Trump, a man who, thus far, has escaped accountability for endless sins.

    “I regretted it about 100 times,” Carroll said on Wednesday when asked about her decision to go public, “but in the end being able to get my day in court…I’m crying, but I got to tell my story in court.” Carroll testified in another moment: “His hand, his finger went into my vagina, which was extremely painful. It was a horrible feeling. He put his hand inside me and curved his finger. As I sit here today, I can still feel it. Then he inserted his penis.”

    Imagine that those words emerged not today but in October 2016. Would they have carried the same electoral threat that the Access Hollywood tape did? There’s a reason Carroll’s lawyers fought to play the recording as evidence for jurors. But nearly seven years after unabating scandals and now a likely Biden-Trump rematch, it’s somewhat incredible to recall how much “grab them by the pussy” once shocked us. Trump and his henchmen no longer surprise us. But why aren’t we horrified?

  • I Don’t Think Someone “Ranting” on the Subway Means They Deserved to Die

    Paul Martinka/AP

    On Tuesday, a man boarded an uptown F train in Manhattan and started yelling.

    “He started screaming in an aggressive manner,” a witness told the New York Post. “He said he had no food, he had no drink, that he was tired and doesn’t care if he goes to jail.”

    That sounds to me like someone who needs help. A reasonable response to such a passenger might be to alert the conductor, or switch train cars, or simply look down at your phone and do nothing. Instead, a 24-year-old subway rider placed the man, identified as Jordan Neely, in a chokehold and held him there until he died.

    Police questioned the unidentified 24-year-old but have not charged him with a crime.

    A witness who recorded a video of the incident told the New York Times that Neely had not assaulted anyone. But that hasn’t stopped the Post from employing rhetorical gymnastics to suggest that Neely’s death is his own fault. The Post paints the 24-year-old as a hero, proclaiming, “Dramatic new video shows a straphanger taking matters into his own hands, pinning down an unhinged man in a deadly incident.” The key word, “deadly,” is tacked onto the sentence as an afterthought. The article refers to Neely as a “vagrant,” while his attacker is merely a “straphanger.” (The Post has long used the term as a way to describe the innocent subway rider harmed by a stranger.)

    The New York Times’ coverage is only slightly better. While the Times avoids words like “vagrant” and “unhinged,” it plays up fears of increased crime rates on the subway and suggests that an upped police presence—rather than a rise in ridership after the height of the pandemic—is responsible for bringing crime back down.

    It’s easy to blame Neely for causing a scene, and even easier to blame his attacker for placing him in the chokehold that apparently led to his death. But pointing out Neely’s lengthy arrest record, for example, is not the flex that the New York Daily News might think it is. New York’s mental health and criminal justice systems clearly failed Neely, who once made a living as a Michael Jackson impersonator and who testified in the murder trial of the man who killed his mother. And our culture failed the attacker, too, by creating the notion that unarmed homeless people—especially those who are mentally ill and Black—are inherently dangerous.

    After 30 years of life, Neely will forever be reduced to an aggressive, “unhinged vagrant” in the eyes of Post readers. He deserved better from everyone.

  • Rep. Zooey Zephyr Sues Over Removal From Montana State House Floor

    State Rep. Zooey Zephyr sits in a hallway outside the main chamber of the House, from which she has been barred for the rest of the session.Brittany Peterson/AP

    Last week, the Republican-controlled Montana House of Representatives voted to bar Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the state’s first transgender woman lawmaker, from the floor for the rest of the session. Her offense? Telling GOP lawmakers that they had “blood on their hands” for supporting a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors.

    Zephyr’s expulsion from the floor is the latest example of a Republican-run state legislature wielding its supermajority to silence democratically elected lawmakers under the guise of “decorum.”

    Montana Republicans say that Zephyr isn’t being exiled, because she will still be able to vote remotely. But the American Civil Liberties Union disagrees—and is helping Zephyr sue.

    The lawsuit aims to allow Zephyr to return to the House floor, arguing that the House leadership has denied Zephyr’s constituents their right to representation in state government.

    “The effort by House leadership to silence me and my constituents is a disturbing and terrifying affront to democracy itself,” Zephyr said in a statement. “The Montana State House is the people’s House, not Speaker Regier’s, and I’m determined to defend the right of the people to have their voices heard.”

  • Tucker Carlson Finally Broke His Silence. And It’s the Same Old Bullshit.

    Fox News/Mother Jones Illustration

    On Wednesday evening, Tucker Carlson broke his silence on his surprise firing from Fox News.

    After saying he’d taken a moment to step back, Carlson lamented that both political parties had cohered around a set ideology endorsed by cable news. But now, after his dismissal, he foretold an end. “This moment is too inherently ridiculous to continue,” Carlson said in a video he posted on Twitter. “The people in charge know this. That’s why they’re hysterical and aggressive…but it won’t work when honest people say what’s true.”

    That is funny to hear because I’ve spent the last few days poring over hours of Tucker Carlson videos from the archives, listening to what he has previously considered “true.” And, as you can see in five very clear chapters of footage, his truth has often involved promoting Nazi conspiracy theories; broadcasting racist and self-serving propaganda; spewing hate about trans people and children; and pushing the Big Lie. (You can read more about that last part here from our DC Bureau Chief David Corn.)

    It’s unclear what will happen next for Carlson. On Monday, when Fox News announced they would be parting ways with the host of Tucker Carlson Tonight—one of cable’s most popular programs—the reasons were unclear. Rumors swirled as speculation about the split began. One theory focused on the legal trouble: Fox News had settled to pay Dominion Voting Systems over $785 million in their defamation trial against the news network following their network-wide promotion of Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. One of the most popular perpetrators of promoting those pretenses was, of course, Tucker. Had he been ousted for hurting the bottom line? Or was it the content of his text messages, many redacted, that pushed Fox to act?

    Tucker’s announcement implied he would continue broadcasting in some form. “The undeniably big topics, the ones that will define our future, get virtually no discussion at all. War, civil liberties, emerging science, demographic change,” Carlson said in his Wednesday night rejoinder, in what looks like the studio he built in Maine, which residents voted to approve. “When was the last time you heard a legitimate debate about any of those issues?”

    And on that I can agree: There’s not much “legitimate debate” here at all.

  • House Republicans Are Playing Debt-Ceiling Russian Roulette

    House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks with reporters about the Republican debt-ceiling plan.Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/ZUMA

    Are House Republicans, if you’ll pardon the expression, peeing in their own Jacuzzi?

    I raise this question because some of the spending cuts the House GOP and its quasi-leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, are demanding in exchange for raising the debt ceiling—a deal the Democrats have vowed to reject—are destined to hit Republican-led states hardest.

    That’s likely true of the social programs such as food stamps that GOP members aim to further restrict. But it’s definitely the case for the host of clean-energy incentives (see page 2) of the Inflation Reduction Act Republicans just put on the chopping block. These federal perks have been flowing in spades to red states, notably Georgia, as Oliver Milman, a reporter for our Climate Desk partner the Guardian, pointed out in February. 

    “Once known for its peaches and peanuts,” Milman wrote, Georgia “is rapidly becoming a crucible of US clean energy technology,” drawing billions in new solar, electric vehicle, and battery manufacturing subsidies, putting it at “the forefront of a swathe of southern states that are becoming a so-called ‘battery belt’ in the economic transition away from fossil fuels.”

    Jack Conness, a transportation analyst at the University of Washington, helpfully put together a wonderful database depicting the jackpot that the IRA and the Chips and Science Act (CHIPS) represent for Republican-led local economies.

    By his tally, Tennessee, Nevada, North Carolina, and Oklahoma have attracted more than $4 billion apiece in IRA investments to date. Ohio has brought in more than $6 billion, Arizona more than $7 billion, South Carolina more than $9 billion, and Georgia more than $13 billion. (Sen. Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky, in thrall to the coal industry and dead last in national wind and solar development, has barely taken advantage.) Conness’ database includes a map with locations of the announced IRA investments.


    For the winners, these federal investments are reviving manufacturing and creating scads of good jobs—Arizona, the Carolinas, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, and the perennially purple states of Nevada and Michigan project thousands each. Nationwide, by Conness’ count, IRA and CHIPS have resulted in $213 billion in investment to date—and almost 76,000 new jobs.     

    House Republicans could—and should—be out there bragging about their economic revivals. Instead, they decided to lock themselves in a room with a bunch of bitter men and women, trying to figure out how best to shoot themselves and their constituents in the foot over a bill that is destined to go nowhere and might even lead to a economic crisis that hurts all Americans. It’s a bill that, much like this entire debt-ceiling circus, has been a colossal waste of America’s time when what we really need to do is electrify everything—fast.

    But hey, at least they’re owning the libs.

  • Peter Thiel Says Republicans Are Too Focused on Culture War. He Can Blame His Handpicked Candidates.

    2022 Arizona Senate Candidate and Peter Thiel protege Blake Masters. Brandon Bell/Getty

    This morning, Reuters reported that Peter Thiel plans to take a step back from politics in 2024 and will not “fund candidates.” The article cited several of the Silicon Valley billionaire’s close associates anonymously saying that in late 2022 Thiel came to believe that “Republicans are making a mistake in focusing on cultural flashpoints.”

    This is a bit baffling. In 2022, Thiel’s handpicked candidates—who also happened to be his former employees—famously combined those “cultural flashpoints” with a protectionist economic message to run on a distinct strain of right-wing populism. Chief among them was Blake Masters, who made a failed attempt at Senate in Arizona. As my colleague Noah Lanard reported, Masters was explicit about the “cultural flashpoints”:

    [Masters] called abortion “demonic.” He tweeted that “not everything has to be gay” after a bisexual Superman was announced. He plugged the Unabomber’s manifesto. More half-heartedly, he claimed Trump won the 2020 election.

    The Reuters article should be taken with a heavy grain of salt. We have anonymous sources saying a donor—always fickle—won’t invest in candidates in 2024. But this is still a bit hard to understand. The person who donated to Blake Masters thinks the party needs to stop talking about culture war?

    The 2022 midterms saw Thiel making the biggest political bets of his life thus far. He was the ninth largest political donor of the election cycle, according to Open Secrets. His donations to J.D. Vance in Ohio and Masters were among the largest individual contributions of last year.

    It seemed part of a larger movement and evolution. Thiel started as a Libertarian. He publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with democracy and sought to escape politics and government. He was the type to back longshot libertarian Ron Paul’s campaign in the Republican Presidential primary in 2012. But things changed in 2016.

    Thiel bucked Silicon Valley’s center-left political norms and enthusiastically endorsed Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Since the rise of Trump, there has been an effort on the right to reverse engineer a coherent political ideology that can outlast his specific personality cult. This has usually been labeled “National Conservatism.” And Thiel’s money has been central to it.

    NatCons, as they’re known, seek to revive American industrial policy and remake the Republican Party into the true home for working people. They combine this with more restrictive immigration policies and “pro-family” social conservatism. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, elected in 2018 with backing from Thiel, embodies this nascent movement.

    In 2022, a lot of Thiel’s money was focused on candidates who fit this mold: Vance and Masters. But maybe it is his return on his investment (the report says it was “late” in 2022 that he decided to, for now, stop funding) that gave Thiel pause. Both the candidates he backed hardest underperformed expectations. Masters lost to Mark Kelly by five points. He finished dead last among Arizona statewide candidates—including people like Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem, a member of the Oathkeeper militia. In Ohio, Vance was victorious over his Democratic opponent Tim Ryan, but Republican Governor Mike DeWine outperformed Vance by double digits. It was a closer race than many prognosticated. 

    Perhaps Thiel is saying he is done giving money to candidates for a culture war because he already did. It wasn’t exactly a high-yield bet.

  • Joe Manchin Threatens to Repeal the Legislation He Famously Negotiated

    Senator Joe Manchin speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill.Francis Chung/Politico/AP

    In an interview yesterday with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) threatened to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), President Joe Biden’s signature piece of legislation from his first term—the bill that Manchin himself was instrumental in negotiating.

    In Manchin’s telling, Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) broke a promise to him, and the American people, that the IRA was about “energy security.” Now, to the senator from West Virginia’s objection, the IRA has become solely about the “environment.” 

    “We have the gas. We have the oil. We have the coal,” Manchin insisted as he pushed for the United States to produce more fossil fuels. “We can do it better and cleaner than anywhere in the world.”

    Neither Hannity—who introduced Manchin’s appearance by saying “[Biden] went along with the climate alarmist cult”—nor Manchin mentioned the Willow Project, a massive arctic drilling project that Biden approved in Alaska.

    They somehow also did not discuss that the bill was extremely far away from the ambitious Build Back Better that Biden initially hoped to push through. The IRA was rightfully hailed as the most significant piece of climate policy passed in the country’s history, putting $370 billion into the clean energy transition. But it is hardly a leftist pipedream—in no small part because of Manchin.

    In December 2021, after months of negotiations on Build Back Better, Manchin announced he would oppose it. Then in July—after negotiating for a watered-down version of the bill—Manchin pulled out yet again. Pundits declared the death of Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. Ten days after nuking the legislation, Manchin agreed to support what we now call the Inflation Reduction Act. So, in this interview: Manchin is objecting to a bill that he spearheaded after watering down (many times) a previous version of the legislation.

    The specific fight this time is over tax credits. Manchin says his concern is that allowing electric vehicle makers to source materials from China furthers security concerns—and that the IRA’s requirements on supply chains must be followed, as E&E News reported

    But why, you might ask, is he doing a big interview on Fox News over tax credits and supply chains? Some have speculated that he fears losing his seat to West Virginia Republican Governor Jim Justice, who is anticipated to announce a run for Manchin’s seat in the coming days, and so he is moving to the right.

    I’d argue that Manchin’s strength is not moving to the right as much as making a big show of slightly changing his position. Saying he’d do something drastic, like repeal the IRA, makes the (more turgid) fight over tax credits seem like a testament to his centrist bonafide, instead of a pretty basic policy fight. In general, being the Democrat who will waffle in a 51-49 Senate ensures that Manchin has more gravity than most politicians in the country.

    In fact, there would usually be nothing newsworthy about a senator who has big oil donors from West Virginia telling Sean Hannity that the country needs to drill for more oil. The only difference is that Manchin, continually, says he’d blow everything up to make sure we’re always watching and seeing he is not a leftist. He votes for the IRA; he says he’ll repeal it. In the end, all eyes are on him—and he knows that gives him power.

  • Eric Adams Wants to Destroy the Only Thing Holding My Weekends Together

    Michael Noble Jr./AP

    Reams upon reams have been written on the enormous value of the public library, the rare public institution beloved across all demographics, from toddlers to retirees, from the working class to the well-heeled. But in the face of Eric Adams’ proposed cuts of more than $33 million in the next two years, a budget that could close weekend library service throughout New York City while boosting the coffers of the New York Police Department, I can’t help but panic for one specific group: young parents desperate for free, accessible community resources in a country sorely lacking them. 

    My silent screaming, the latest in regard to Adams’ disastrous policy proposals, is rooted in the personal. As a relatively new mother, I can almost smell the very specific anxiety that creeps in around 9 a.m. on a Saturday, already three hours into keeping a child fed, entertained, and alive, over how else to run the clock until bedtime arrives. Playgrounds are weather dependent and therefore unreliable. So too, are other families with young children, who like mine, are relentless virus magnets upending work schedules, vacations, any semblance of a plan. You could shell out $20 and drive to the nearest playspace. But if you don’t book in advance, the popular one near us frequently sells out. And not everyone can afford that price of entry, especially if you have multiple kids. Staying put at home seems like a good bet until it most certainly reveals itself to be the exact opposite: The seams are fraying. You and the child must escape. 

    What other physical space offers a designated safe spot for children, a judgment-free zone for exhausted parents in search of similar refuge, where wall-to-wall carpeting feels like instant relief? Name another place where communities genuinely gather and come away feeling life-affirmed and believing in our systems, even if momentarily. A place where you’re reacquainted with the same stories you adored as a kid, that helped your own parents survive similar days. Library hours are set, and therefore reliable unlike nearly everything else in modern parenting. It promotes quiet but not to the point of scolding. Perhaps most importantly for parents, you don’t need to sign up in advance or require an invitation. You can simply go to your local library. It is, by virtue, vibrant. 

    For kids, it’s likely one of the very first encounters with a public good, where glimpses of boundless knowledge and possibility are first witnessed. For young parents, the public library is a new gift every Saturday. Like you’ve struck gold when all you actually did was pay your taxes. The public library is a treasure that stands in radical opposition to a society that has privatized and monetized nearly every inch of childcare. What Adams seeks to cut, one of the few dependable resources that keep countless families afloat, should offend us all deeply. 

  • The GOP’s AI-Generated Biden Attack Ad Really Is a Warning About the Future


    Today President Biden announced his reelection bid. In response, the GOP announced its further descent into the uncanny valley, with a big assist from artificial intelligence.

    Presumably designed as a rebuke of Biden’s own relatively somber campaign video, the Republican offering—titled “Beat Biden”—foretells the dystopian future heralded by the incumbent’s imagined second win. It’s an all-but-unlivable hellscape of war, financial ruin, and crime. And it’s all, according to the YouTube description, rendered by artificial intelligence tools. Axios reports that “this is the first time the RNC has produced a video that is 100% AI, according to a spokesperson.”

    The video itself offers a clarification baked into a watermark in the top left corner: “Built entirely with AI imagery.”

    So not 100 percent. There’s music, bits of voice-over, and a ton of post-production effects (jitters and other “camera” movements, vignetting, animation, color-grading, sound effects, light flares, and more) happening in this video. But nonetheless, the production does appear to rely only on startlingly good AI imagery—replacing what would normally be general stock “b-roll,” the footage typically licensed from vast libraries to fill videos (and ads, and even works of our own MoJo journalism). One such AI image generator, Midjourney, rolled out its new model (version 5) in March, and it is capable of producing astonishingly realistic images, with a few stubborn “tells”: Despite some serious improvements, human hands are still a bit weird; extra limbs appear where they shouldn’t; and most prominently, words are rendered unreadable gobbledegook. You’ll recall the rash of stories about the fake Trump arrest photographs.

    The producers behind the GOP video have done a good job concealing the AI-ness of the images, by digitally degrading the pictures to make them look more like video. When Taipei is bombed 10 seconds in, lens effects have been added to make it look like the image has been ripped from a witness’ social media account. But mysteriously, the city’s famous Taipei 101 tower sticks up at a dangerously titled angle compared to the rest of the skyline. Is it meant to be an impossibly wide-angle lens? Unclear.

    AI’s Leaning Tower of Taipei.


    At 15 seconds, the AI imagines people presumably queuing to get their money out of a collapsed regional bank. Their faces are strange and potato-y. They are all white and old. The day appears to be both unusually sunny and very cold: They are bundled up, but there are simply too many people wearing sunglasses. My colleague reminds me that if you live in Denver, this is a common phenomenon. But look closer: The yellow cordon appears to pass straight through a woman’s purse.

    Fox News viewers queuing up to see what Tucker does next?

    At 24 seconds, another classic AI tell: The words on the shop signs don’t make any sense.

    No need to get your eyes checked. AI renders words illegible.

    I know I was meant to be scared when I saw the tattooed, smoking “criminal” at 26 seconds—but AI imagines this sinewing young man as very handsome and cool, despite his “MS 13” forehead ink. In my experience playing with Midjourney, this is also a common feature. It defaults to beauty norms when creating human faces.

    Smooth criminal

    Finally, what’s meant to be the clinching image of a distressed Biden behind the Resolute Desk contains a humorous flaw: He’s not actually leaning on the desk. Biden’s elbow is finding support, somehow, mid-air. Yet another sign of his future presidential failings?

    Definitely how a human sits.

    I will let others muse at length about the corroding impact of AI on elections and democracy at large. But let this summary act as a simple guide for the coming deluge. Study the images more closely: The magic tricks of video editing will obscure the most commonplace AI signatures, at least for now. And videos won’t always come with watermarks declaring themselves as robot-generated.

    As for the actual content of the ad, well, Republicans have never needed generative AI to help crank out human-crafted MS-13 ads, dripping in racism.