Thursday, May 23, 2019

GTFO edition

What a couple of weeks, huh?
More and more abortion bans passing in GOP-controlled states.
Floods and deadly severe weather across the country.
The end of Game of Thrones.
But I guess we have the consolation of being this close to a long weekend … ?
Hey, it’s something, at least.
But before we GTFO of work or town or whatever, here’s an update on the other garbage happening around the nation.
GTFO of the Speakership: Two weeks ago, I wrote in this space about a bizarre and troubling saga coming out of the TennesseeHouse speaker’s office.
  • It all started when information came to light indicating that Republican Speaker Glen Casada’s office may have tried to frame a black activist for violating a no-contact order with the express purpose of getting him thrown in jail.
    • Justin Jones is a Vanderbilt divinity student who’s been pushing Tennessee GOP leadership for years on issues related to voting rights, as well as the removal of Confederate Gen. and KKK “grand wizard” Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust from the statehouse.
      • Former GOP House Speaker Beth Harwell routinely met with Jones and his fellow activists to hear their concerns.
      • No such meetings have happened under Casada’s leadership.
    • In late February, Jones was arrested after someone threw a cup into the speaker’s own personal elevator.
      • Jones was released on bond on the condition he have no contact with Casada.
        • He’s obeyed the order and hasn’t set foot in the capitol for the past few months.
  • But Casada’s then-chief of staff, Cade Cothren, seemed to really want to take away Jones’ freedom.
    • Why else would he have shared a copy of an email with the DA purporting to show that Jones sent this email to Cothren and copied Casada after he’d been released on bond, thus violating the no-contact order?
      • The thing is, Jones has a copy of his original email, and that email shows that it was sent before this arrest or the subsequent no-contact order.
      • Confronted with evidence of the doctored date on the email shared with the DA’s office, the speaker’s office claimed there was a lag in terms of when the email was delivered versus when it was sent due to “a security issue.”
        • Thankfully, the DA has stopped trying to throw Jones in jail over this.
Was this apparent malfeasance enough to take down a powerful speaker and his chief of staff?
  • But enter one “former acquaintance,” an unidentified person with whom Cothren and Casada had been exchanging text messages for years.
    • He (the nature of some of these messages makes it clear we’re talking about a dude here, so I’m gonna run with that pronoun) decided to share texts from Cothren with a Tennessee TV station, WTVF—texts that demonstrated Cothren’s outright racist sentiments, signaling that he’s totally the type of a-hole who’d lie to get a black man thrown in jail.
      • Cothren first tried to claim the texts had been fabricated.
      • Then, when WTVF confronted him with texts from that same acquaintance in which he bragged about snorting cocaine in his legislative offices, Cothren admitted they were real.
        • Casada stood by his man at this point, claiming that Cothren came to him about his personal struggles—including a drug problem—a few years ago and is working towards “redemption.”
  • But that “former acquaintance” apparently wasn’t done.
    • Still more incriminating texts surfaced.
    • And this batch was … bad. It was super bad.
    • In these texts, the speaker’s top aide:
      • Solicited nude photos and oral sex from an intern
      • Sought sex with a lobbyist
      • Referred to various women in demeaning or sexually explicit ways
      • And so forth, and so on.
        • And Speaker Casada—who was married at the time (gee, wonder why that didn’t last)—participated in some of these text exchanges, making gross comments about touching and intercourse with women.
    • After the article on these texts ran in The Tennessean, Cothren fell on his sword and resigned.
  • But pressure on Casada continued to build.
    • His own caucus began to turn on him, and Republican leaders demanded he resign the speakership.
    • Just this past Monday, GOP House members voted 45-24 (not even close—woof) that they no longer had confidence in his ability to lead the chamber.
  • On Tuesday, Casada announced he’d be resigning his post as speaker (but not his seat in the legislature).
GTFO of My Uterus: Unless you’ve been in a coma for the past few weeks, you’ve heard about at least one of the many abortion bans making their way through GOP-controlled statehouses.
  • Here’s a quick rundown of what is or is about to be shitty state law:
    • Alabama: Outright ban, signed into law, no exceptions for rape or incest.
    • Georgia: So-called “heartbeat” ban, which is just an outright ban with a stupid fucking bow on it to discourage people from calling it an outright ban.
      • The notion of a “fetal heartbeat” is itself a total (and deliberate) misnomer: At six weeks, when this law would apply—before many women even know they’re pregnant—a fetus doesn’t have anything resembling a heart but rather only a “a 4 mm thickening next to a yolk sac,” and the “beat” is only electrical activity.
      • Signed into law, exceptions for rape or incest.
    • Ohio: Same as Georgia, except no exceptions for rape or incest.
    • Kentucky: Same as Georgia, except no exceptions for rape or incest.
    • Mississippi: Same as Georgia, except no exceptions for rape or incest.
    • Louisiana: Not law yet, but it’s passed the legislature and Democratic (wtf bro) Gov. John Bel Edwards says he plans to sign it.
      • Same as Georgia, except no exceptions for rape or incest.
    • Missouri: Not law yet, but it’s passed the legislature and GOP Gov. Mike Parson says he plans to sign it.
But wait, there’s more!
  • Despite the fact that laws banning abortion at 20 weeks have been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts, Arkansas and Utah passed laws this year outlawing abortion at 18 weeks.
  • And Missouri didn’t come up with the idea for a “trigger” ban on its own:
    • ArkansasKentucky, and Tennessee have fresh laws on their books that will automatically outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
It’s cold comfort, but fwiw, none of these new or pending laws have taken effect or will take effect in the near future.
  • They’re pretty obviously unconstitutional, so they’re being blocked pending legal action—which will likely culminate in an eventual Supreme Court challenge to Roeitself.
  • But I think I speak for a whole heckuva lot of women when I say I don’t enjoy having a sword of Damocles hanging over my reproductive organs for the next few years.
One thing the states listed above have in common is that they’re all run by Republicans (with the lone exception of Louisiana—seriously, wtf dude).
  • States run by Democrats have been pushing reproductive healthcare rights in a different direction—specifically, a good one.
Read the rest of this week's edition here.
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