Remember when Republicans were all, “Oh, man, this inflation is just the worst thing ever. Better elect a bunch of us so we can get those egg prices down. All you gotta do is cede control of your own eggs—plus your uteri, genitalia, et. alia—to us! Don’t fret! We got you! Sure, 10-year-old rape victims are being forced to give birth
, but have you seen the price of diapers lately? Unwilling preteen mothers can’t afford to take care of their own kids! Thanks, Biden!”
Yeah, that didn’t last long. Indeed, Republicans are far more likely to back policies—like stifling immigration
and protecting the super-rich from paying their fair share in taxes
—that make inflation worse. What they’re great at, though, is crafting solutions in search of problems that only matter to people sitting at home whipping Werther’s Originals at their cathode ray tube TVs whenever Nancy Pelosi appears onscreen.
Like, did you know it’s vitally important to pass laws making it illegal to shoot porn on public school grounds? Well, now you do.
A Republican state senator is urging the Arizona governor to sign a bill that would end the “practice of filming pornography in K-12 schools,” something that is currently not allowed or encouraged at public schools in the state.
Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, put out a statement earlier this week asking Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs to sign his Senate Bill 1696
, which would make it illegal for sexually explicit acts to be filmed or facilitated on property owned, leased or managed by the state or any other government entity in Arizona.
But the bill also stops workers for any government agency in the state from referring minors to sexually explicit materials, which could stop public librarians from referring teens to some classic works of literature and even informative books about reproduction and puberty.
Oh, great. So anyone who votes against yet another pernicious book-banning bill will also need to vote against prohibiting elementary school porn shoots. What are the chances that will show up in a deeply dishonest series of 2024 political attack ads?
Of course, Sen. Hoffman didn’t just pull this idea out of the thin air inside his head. Someone actually did shoot a porno at a school in Arizona. Samantha Peer, a teacher at Thunderbolt Middle School in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, resigned in October after making an explicit video at her school and sharing it on her OnlyFans page
. Her husband, who worked at another school in the district and was also featured on the OnlyFans account, was let go shortly after Peer resigned. Sounds awful, yes. But the system worked, and she’s no longer employed in the school district. So legislating a solution is clearly a waste of time.
What really might have prevented this regrettable incident, of course, is a bump in teacher salaries. And that’s not just speculation. In fact, Peer explicitly cited her low salary as a motivation for launching her OnlyFans page. “It got to a point where our family was not able to survive on our two teachers’ income,” she said.
There you go. The simple solution to the rampant scourge of cloakroom porn has magically appeared in front of our noses. And just in time, too. The creamed corn budget on “Lunch Ladies Gone Wild LXIX” had gotten seriously out of hand.
Of course, the more problematic part of Hoffman’s bill is arguably its ban on government agencies referring minors to “sexually explicit” materials. That provision could be broadly interpreted to mean that sex education texts and numerous examples of classic literature should be prohibited as well, noted state Sen. Priya Sundareshan, a Democrat from Tucson.
Sundareshan, who’s given birth to two children in the past three years, cited a book she checked out of her local library that included useful information on pregnancy, including its origins. If this bill is passed, she says, it could prompt throngs of haughty hoo-hoo hunters and dogged dingus dowsers to besiege their local libraries in search of objectionable material. (I’m paraphrasing, of course.) “I benefited from public libraries having the ability to provide me with scientifically accurate information,” said Sundareshan, in reference to the pregnancy guide.
Of course, if this bill becomes law—it won’t, because Arizona’s governor is decidedly not Kari Lake
—many of us will be keen to flag the title that contains this titillating passage:
“She lusted after their lovers, whose flesh is like the flesh of donkeys and whose discharge is like the discharge of horses. So you longed for the outrageous sin of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your breasts because of the breasts of your youth.”
Yup, that’s from Ezekiel 23:20-21 in the—oh, fuck me, Mr. Green Jeans—International Children’s Bible
. Yeah, this dude in Utah had the right idea
. After all, even the legendary Roald Dahl was forced to remove all horse semen references from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” (And now you know what really happened to Augustus Gloop.)
At some point, voters will realize that Republicans are far more interested in outraging their constituents than helping them. That day better come soon, because civilization really may be falling apart—and it has nothing to do with Democratic priorities
Last month, California’s Temecula Valley Unified School Board voted 3-2 to reject a new elementary school social studies textbook because it included material about gay rights activist and elected California official Harvey Milk. Milk was one of the first openly gay
elected officials in the United States after winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Milk was assassinated by a former city supervisor 11 months into his tenure.
Temecula School Board President Dr. Joseph Komrosky slandered Milk by making the baseless claim that he was a “pedophile
” during the board meeting. Danny Gonzalez, one of the three members of the board who voted against the materials, also characterized Milk as a pedophile, while saying Milk’s “lifestyle choices”
were not appropriate. Jennifer Wiersma, who also voted against the textbook, argued the perfectly ignorant
, “I don’t want my 3rd grader studying an LGBTQ issue. I don’t want them going into gender ideology.” If you keep your kids in a cave, maybe they won’t “go into” being a person in the world, I guess?
The decision could leave more than 11,000 students without social studies textbooks next year. On Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom publicly excoriated the ruling, calling the board president “an ignorant person
,” and reminding the board that “This isn’t Texas or Florida. In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn.” Newsom added, “Stay tuned.”
ABC News reports
that many board members were vocal in their opposition to this bit of homophobia, including the president of the Temecula Valley Educator Association, Edgar Diaz, who said, “We’ve never experienced this before. I’ve never heard of a top performing district or any district say you know what we are going to withhold these materials.” The teachers union
is planning on holding rallies over the banned materials in the coming weeks.
Conflating pedophilia with homosexuality is pretty much the original (and most basic) version of anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry. The fact that some of these board members have the intellectual capacity of a homophobic tomato doesn’t change the offensiveness of their position. By their logic, we shouldn’t discuss anybody in American history, including:
This is not about making good decisions for children as much as it is about adults trying to create ignorant people who are as fearful of the world around them as they are. The unease of bigots around LGBTQ+ people, in general, is very apparent in how frequently banned books
happen to humanize transgender characters or celebrate advances in civil rights.
The result of these bans is the increasing psychological (and frequently physical) harm
it does to young LGBTQ+ Americans. People like Nikki Haley and her brand of “reasonable” Republicanism spew misinformation and hate
against gender-affirming programs. Their interests are entirely based on controlling children by making them ignorant about anyone who lives a life their parents’ petty and dogmatic worldview cannot explain away.
Countless progressive organizations seek to engage and mobilize voters, but coordinating those efforts is a mighty task. On this week’s episode of “The Downballot,” we’re joined by Sara Schreiber, the executive director of America Votes, which works with hundreds of partners at the national and state level to deploy the most effective means of urging voters to the polls. Schreiber walks us through how coalitions of like-minded groups are formed and how the work of direct voter contact is divvied up between them. A special focus is on “blue surge” voters—those who, in the Trump era, joined the rolls for the first time—and why ensuring they continue to participate in the political process is the key to progressive victories.
A few months back, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy spent a good, long time claiming that while access to U.S. Capitol security camera footage during the Jan. 6 insurrection might have been provided exclusively to now-departed Fox News conspiracy peddler Tucker Carlson, that was only the first supposed step
to more broadly releasing the footage to actual news networks or to the general public.
And that was the last we heard about any such “broader” release—until last week. On Wednesday, conspiracy crank and actual House Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene herself took to Twitter to announce that two more hard-right Republican propagandists would now also get full access to the footage
: disgraced once-reporter John Solomon, who acted to launder anti-Ukraine conspiracy theories crafted by Rudy Giuliani, and conspiracy promoter Julie Kelly, whose claims to fame include calling a police officer wounded during the insurrection a “crisis actor,” claiming the very real pipe bombs planted at the Democratic and Republican National Committee offices to be a “hoax,” and pronouncements that arrests of Jan. 6 insurrectionists prove Joe Biden to be a worse dictator than Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
Those two voices are considerably further along the paranoid conspiracy crank spectrum than Tucker Carlson could ever claim to be, and the fact that it was Marjorie Taylor Greene making the announcement strongly suggested that she was the one who pulled the strings to make sure these particular hoax promoters got access to the security footage even while McCarthy was blocking actual news outlets from getting the same access.
Now, however, we also know who will not be getting access to the footage, either now or ever: actual news outlets. Greene again took to Twitter and to conspiracyland
to explain why the broader public would never be allowed to see the same footage that Republican hoax promoters have been able to comb through.
Her reasoning? If those tapes are released more widely, Republican opponents could use them to find and report other criminal acts by insurrectionists that day.
“If we release all the J6 tapes widely for the public, we would endanger many Americans who were simply standing on the Capitol grounds, maybe never even walked through the Capitol or committed any crimes,” Greene tweeted. “Soros groups dox these people then give their information to the FBI.”
That’s a pretty straightforward explanation from Greene, even if it is attached to yet another antisemitic conspiracy theory. If the footage is released to anyone who is not a backer of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists, it may result in the criminal prosecution of even more of the rioters, and House Republicans don’t want that to happen.
Demands by legitimate journalists that they be allowed to look through the same security footage that House Republicans have now provided to at least three known pro-Republican propagandists, then, are likely to be stonewalled indefinitely. Any legitimate reporter would be looking at the footage in an attempt to identify violent acts that the public didn’t yet know about; it’s only pro-insurrection “news” programs that would intentionally bury that footage to highlight instead, as Carlson did, footage of rioters taking pictures or otherwise behaving as “tourists” after stepping over the blood of police officers and security officials to breach the building.
From the beginning, McCarthy was accused by critics of providing sensitive and secret Jan. 6 security camera recordings
to Tucker Carlson’s show as a means of promoting the sort of pro-insurrectionist conspiracy theories that Carlson so swiftly attempted to invent. Now the evidence is indisputable. Republicans are granting that sensitive access only to propagandists known for peddling hoaxes for the sake of blurring Republican-backed crimes and scandals, and will be blocking the rest of the public from seeing that same footage, because the footage shows even more criminal acts than the FBI has yet been able to prove.
Even two years later, House Republicans are pulling out all the stops to protect those who attacked the Capitol on Donald Trump’s behalf. They’ll hide whatever evidence they can hide, all while boosting those willing to lie about the crimes.
On Monday, the Ukrainian deputy minister of defense gave a statement translated here by Tim Mak
: “A defensive operation includes everything, including counteroffensive actions. Therefore, in some areas we are moving to offensive actions.”
Right now, what we know is that there are Ukrainian advances going on both north and south of Bakhmut, and possibly in the city itself. There are also a number of Ukrainian actions underway along the southern front west of Vuhledar. Finally, the Russian Volunteer Corps and Freedom for Russia Legion appear to be holding both Russian territory and Russian prisoners.
All this clearly represents a counteroffensive. But is it the counteroffensive? Is this the big push we’ve been anticipating since Ukrainian advances cooled down with the weather last fall, and talked about all through the stunted Russian winter offensive and months of mud? That’s unclear.
Right now, more reports are coming in from Russian sources than from Ukrainian, and those reports are all over the map. There’s one report that Russia “crushed” a Ukrainian force and destroyed over thirty vehicles. Another has Ukraine busting through Russian defensive lines and liberating a town in southern Ukraine. The only thing certain at this moment is that this pattern, where Ukrainian sources are mostly silent and Russian forces are chattering a mile a minute, is one that has been seen before. It happened with Kharkiv last fall. And with Kherson.
One thing that should be noted immediately: Because a lot of this information, even when reported through familiar names, is ultimately going back to reports on Russian Telegram channels, the level of trust in much of what’s coming out today should be low. Very low. The fact that Ukrainian sources are being quiet reflects well on Ukraine’s operational security, but secondhand info from Russian sources definitely deepens the fog of war.
However, based on everything that is coming down the mile-a-minute pipeline, there are at least five offensive operations underway by Ukraine.
That same deputy minister of defense that gave the “moving to offensive” quote also said that Bakhmut “remains at the center” of operations.
In the Bakhmut area, Ukrainian forces have reportedly liberated a portion of the town of Berkhivka, northwest of the city. Russia initially captured this area back in February as part of the semi-encirclement that allowed them to place pressure on Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut from three sides. One very important factor about Berkivka is that it sits just south of the M03 highway that runs northwest to Slovyansk. When Russia captured that location, it cut off one of the biggest routes of supply into Bakhmut, making the situation there much more difficult for Ukraine.
But if Ukraine is able to move through Berkhivka and reach the M03, it would put Russia in an even worse spot. Because several Russian units moved west along the highway, extending a salient 8 kilometers west to a point north of Orikhovo-Vasylivka. Russia has no other exit route for those forces, which are already pinned by Ukrainian forces on three sides. There’s a possibility that a large group of Russian forces could be completely cut off.
Of course, the primary source for all this is … not the best. Much of this information is coming from the mercenary Wagner Group CEO Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose relationship with the truth is barely nodding on his best day. Prigozhin could be overselling Ukraine’s advance in the area just to press his claims that only his Wagner forces are capable of holding positions around Bakhmut. However, Ukrainian forces had already made verified moves in this direction last week, and it seems reasonable that they should extend their gains.
Then there’s Bakhmut itself. As in the city. Even as Prigozhin was claiming that Wagner had finally taken the city, Ukraine was still claiming that it was holding onto that extreme southwest corner of Bakhmut—the area just west of the highway at the city’s southern entrance (if you enlarge the image above, you can see there’s a large appliance factory and several industrial buildings in this area). Now the Ukrainian general staff is reporting progress “in the city.” Does this mean they are recapturing blocks and taking back portions of Bakhmut? It’s entirely possible, especially since Prigozhin reported last week that Wagner forces had withdrawn from 99% of the city. However, at the moment there are no details.
South of Bakhmut, the town of Klishchiivka has been on the receiving end of shelling with a reported Ukrainian advance in the area. Again, much of this information is coming from Russian sources, and it’s hard to tell how much is real, how much is panic, and how much is false reports given out so they can claim to have “stopped the Ukrainians,” but there is a reported advance in this direction. The settlement is important because of heights overlooking its western border. If Ukraine occupies those, it both forces Russians out of Klishchiivka itself and territory farther east, and provides yet another high vantage point to fire on Russian forces inside Bakhmut itself.
The fighting in the south appears to be underway at several locations, but Velyka Novosilka is near the center of the action, so for now I’m hanging that name on this section of the front. Fighting in this area appears to have begun on Sunday, with Ukrainian attacks reported near Novodarivka, Neskuchne, and Novodonetske.
A tank battle took place east of Novodarivka on Sunday in which it appears that at least three tanks faced off. A Russian T-80 came out the loser, with the whole ammo supply cooking off seconds after the tank was hit. It’s unclear if Ukraine has continued to press the attack in this area.
The only footage I have seen so far from Novodarivka and it shows a Russian tank, T-80 type with cope cage coming from Russian-controlled south being hit, rolling a few meters but then cooking off. That Russian crew is ashes.#Ukraine#Zaporizhzhiapic.twitter.com/AcZnQCKTTH
Also on Sunday, Ukraine advanced several infantry fighting vehicles and MRAPS into the area south of Velyka Novosilka. This advance appears to have been stopped by Russian artillery, with Ukrainian forces apparently leaving damaged vehicles behind. At least one vehicle appears to have been hit over a kilometer to the north, reportedly by a Russian drone.
The Russian ministry of defense touted this incident on Monday morning, claiming that they had stopped a “major offensive” taking out “over thirty vehicles” and hundreds of troops. Russia seemed to be claiming the counteroffensive was over before it began—not to mention the Russian bloggers who claimed “all the Abrams tanks” had been destroyed in this thwarted attack.
It now looks as if Ukraine has resumed the attack in this direction and that Sunday’s effort was more of a “reconnaissance in force.” There are reports that Ukraine has liberated the area west of Storozheve and broken through Russian trenches at that location, but this (like everything else this afternoon) is unconfirmed.
The third prong of Ukraine’s attack in this area is southeast of Velyka Novosilka near Novodonetske. This town was formerly occupied by Russia, although the area around it had been in dispute and Russian trench lines are actually south of the town. On Sunday, Russia claimed to have stopped a Ukrainian advance in this area. On Monday, Russian sources are claiming that Ukraine has liberated Novodonetske, forcing them to retreat.
One notable item in addition to this advance: Several Russian sources in the area claimed that they had spotted the first Leopard tanks being used on the front lines. However, images suggest that the new gear in the area is actually the small, wheeled French AMX-10rc. That would fit with other reports that the attack involved Ukraine’s 37th Marine Brigade, as that brigade trained on NATO equipment, including the AMX.
There is a widely-circulating image that’s being reported as showing a Leopard 2 that has been destroyed. That image is a fake
. Russian Telegram channels are also circulating another image
claiming it’s an abandoned Leopard. It’s not a Leopard, but it may be an AMX-10rc lost as part of the recon south of Velyka Novosilka. However, the camo in the image suggests that the vehicle in question is painted in the tan, desert camo that the AMX-10rc typically wears for French operations in Africa and AMX in Ukrainian service were repainted months ago. So it may also be a fake. Or not. It’s very foggy. A second image reportedly shows two more AMX-10rc left behind, but those also look to be in the former desert tan color. Also foggy.
Despite multiple claims, it’s not clear that any actual Leopard I or Leopard 2 is yet on the front lines. It’s also not clear that Ukraine has put together the kind of large, combined arms assault that many expected. The scale of actions so far suggests they may still be “feeling out” operations, but they’ve apparently been pretty successful.
Even if Ukraine did begin attacks in this area as a minor part of the overall plan, or even if this was intended as a diversionary tactic for an attack to be launched elsewhere, Ukraine seems to be meeting with some success. if they have actually punched through Russian defenses in two locations moving more forces into this location might be a good idea—it’s only 85 kilometers to Mariupol.
Meanwhile, Ukraine-aligned Russian forces operating under the ”RDK” banner (the Russian initials for “Russian Volunteer Corps”), report that they continue to hold at least part of the Russian village of Novaya Tavolzhanka south of Belgorod. Over the weekend, they also took at least two Russian prisoners, who RDK leaders indicated would be used in prisoner exchanges with Russia.
suggest that the anti-Putin forces are actually holding onto a much larger portion of Belgorod oblast. At the moment, there’s no visual confirmation of anything outside the Novaya Tavolzhanka area. Even so, that RDK has been able to apparently remain in control of Russian territory for a period of days goes a long way to indicating that not only is Russia’s border extremely porous, its home defense forces are dysfunctional.
Former Vice President Mike Pence made it official
: He’s going to try to erase the memory of being routinely and completely humiliated for four years in the former guy’s administration, and run for president against the former guy. He filed papers Monday, and will make a public statement with a video and kickoff rally in Iowa on Wednesday.
Pence has to decide whether he’s going to really take on Donald Trump, who he insists on referring to as “my former running mate”
as opposed to the guy who tried to get him killed on Jan. 6. Pence is convinced that all those evangelicals who happily embraced Trump will abandon that ship this time around and will turn instead to “leadership that reflects more of the character of the American people.” His definition of leadership includes a national abortion ban, discrimination against trans people, and cutting Social Security and Medicare, so he has a fairly constricted reading of the character of the American people.
He’s joining an absolutely scintillating group of also-rans in the race, including the two newest entrants, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and current North Dakota Gov. Doug Burnam, who will also announce
on Wednesday because why not? Oh, you’ve never heard of Doug Burnam? He’s not worried about that. He’s a billionaire. He’s got to do something with all that money; might as well make it the biggest ego trip of them all.
Christie is jumping back in to focus on “mixing it up in the news cycle and engaging Trump.” He’s made it clear
that stopping a second Trump term is his primary goal: “You’re not going to beat someone by closing your eyes, clicking your heels together three times and saying, ‘There’s no place like home.’ That’s not going to work,” he said in an April event in New Hampshire. “In American politics you want to beat somebody? You have to go get them.” Christie is great at playing the bully; just ask Sen. Marco Rubio, who was Christie’s hapless victim in 2016
The three will join an already lackluster crowd that includes Asa Hutchinson
, a former governor of Arkansas. Hutchinson has tried to paint himself as the anti-Trump, saying he’s running to “appeal to the best of America and not simply appeal to our worst instincts” and that “the office is more important than any individual person.” All the same, he won’t say he wouldn’t vote for Trump
Yeah, if that’s the level of anti-Trump we can expect from the field, Christie is going to need to be on that debate stage.
The rest of the group includes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose campaign thus far has been hampered by … Ron DeSantis being the candidate
. There’s also Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, whose campaign so far seems to be about
being the lone Black Republican in the Senate and picking fights
about it (and don’t forget a national abortion ban).
Then there’s former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who also was governor of South Carolina. Her campaign thus far has been about representing a “new generation”
and flip-flopping over whether or not she supports Trump. Oh, and being a horrible anti-trans bigot
spewing hateful filth on national television about how transgender children are making teenage girls suicidal.
There are also a few other very rich guys
and/or cranks who apparently can’t think of anything better to spend their money on than a presidential run. Vivek Ramaswamy is one of those rich guys, a former pharmaceutical company executive and self-proclaimed
“nationalist.” Then there is Larry Elder
, a right-wing radio show crank who has a “long history of disparaging remarks
about women, and he has been accused of domestic violence and of brandishing a gun in 2015 by his then-fiancée and former employee Alexandra Datig
.” Finally, there’s Perry Johnson
, another rich guy who most recently tried to run for Michigan governor but failed to get on the ballot because thousands of the signatures on his filing petition were fraudulent.
There’s a handful of others
still in the speculative mix, dreaming of being the one to take down Trump. One of them, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, is out as of Monday. He’s doing it for the good of the party, he implies, saying
, “The stakes are too high for a crowded field to hand the nomination to a candidate who earns just 35 percent of the vote.” Read that as: “2028 might be a better year for me.”
I will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024. The stakes are too high for a crowded field to hand the nomination to a candidate who earns just 35 percent of the vote, and I will help to ensure this does not happen. Read my full op-ed:https://t.co/biZOzhV8K6
We have Rural Organizing’s Aftyn Behn. Markos and Aftyn talk about what has been happening in rural communities across the country and progressives’ efforts to engage those voters. Behn also gives the podcast a breakdown of which issues will make the difference in the coming elections.