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People Are Dunking on Clarence Thomas After His B.S. Excuse for Not Disclosing His Billionaire-Funded Vacations

But they’re “close personal friends”!

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas thinks he doesn’t have to disclose his vacations funded by a billionaire Republican megadonor because the two of them are “close personal friends.”

The justice has spent decades secretly enjoying opulent getaways courtesy of Harlan Crow—and he disclosed none of them, in violation of a decades-old federal law, ProPublica revealed in a bombshell report Thursday.

But Thomas insisted in a weak statement Friday that he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. “Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable,” he said.

People were not having it.

“What a joke this person is supposed to sit in judgment of anyone else’s adherence to laws,” reporter Laura Rozen tweeted. “Could pick someone out of the phone book at random with more credibility.”

Lawyer Joyce Vance pointed out that “personal hospitality is a nice dinner or maybe a weekend visit at a close friend’s lake house. It’s not persistent travel where you rub shoulders with conservative folks with litigation interests before SCOTUS on an at-least-annual basis.”

Some people were shocked that Thomas’s main defense was essentially, “Oops!”

Thomas and his wife, Ginni, have come under increased scrutiny for their fuzzy ethics. Ginni Thomas was closely involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election. In January 2022, her husband was the only justice to vote against the release of communications that ultimately revealed her involvement.

Part of the problem is that the Supreme Court is largely self-policing, and some of them are doing a very bad job of it.

Read more about Thomas’s wrongdoing here.

Even Marjorie Taylor Greene Hates the Anti-Muslim Crank Whom Trump Wants to Hire

Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel.

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Just days after being arrested on criminal fraud charges and attacking the family of the Manhattan judge hearing his case, former President Donald Trump reportedly is now looking to hire far-right Islamophobe Laura Loomer.

The New York Times reports that Trump recently met with Loomer, a two-time loser for the U.S. House of Representatives, and told advisers to bring her onto his 2024 campaign. Loomer on Tuesday attended Trump’s post-arraignment speech at Mar-a-Lago.

“Out of respect for President Trump, I’m not going to comment on private conversations that I had with the president,” Loomer told the Times. “The president knows I have always been a Trump loyalist,” she continued, “and that I’m committed to helping him win re-election in 2024. He likes me very much.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene, who endorsed Loomer’s failed 2022 bid in Florida’s 11th congressional district, now has a different opinion of her:

Loomer, a self-proclaimed “#proudislamaphobe,” has described Islam as a “cancer” and has celebrated the deaths of Muslim refugees, hoping for “more.”

In 2018, Loomer was banned from Twitter after tweeting that Representative Ilhan Omar was “anti Jewish,” “pro-Sharia,” and part of a religion in which “homosexuals are oppressed” and “women are abused” and “forced to wear the hijab.” After Loomer’s banning, she handcuffed herself to the doors of Twitter in protest, but perhaps not in a very efficacious manner:

Loomer later called Omar a “bitch” and “despicable human being” and said, “Muslims should not be allowed to seek positions of political office in this country.” After Elon Musk bought Twitter, she was allowed back on the platform.

Loomer was also banned from using Uber and Lyft after she made anti-Muslim remarks: “Someone needs to create a non Islamic form of Uber or Lyft because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver.”

On a podcast called Nationalist Public Radio, Loomer explained why she is “pro–white nationalism,” saying that “immigration” and “diversity” are “starting to destroy this country.”

Fear not, Loomer’s actions are as loud as her words. In 2017, Loomer was arrested for disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing after disrupting a Shakespeare in the Park presentation of Julius Caesar in New York City. In 2019, she was arrested again after jumping over the wall of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s mansion while wearing a serape and sombrero.

The far-right malefactor has also said she doesn’t care about the mass murder of 51 people in the Christchurch, New Zealand, shooting and has spread conspiracy theories surrounding other shootings, including that those in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, were staged and that the shooter in the 2017 Las Vegas shootings was connected to ISIS.

Loomer herself told the Times that she is not “some kind of fringe person,” by virtue of having been supported by Trump in her previous failed congressional bids and because she worked for Project Veritas.

Perhaps Trump is all the more eager to hire her because she has accused Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his wife, Casey, who previously had breast cancer, of playing the “cancer survivor” card to avoid criticism.

The Two Black Democrats Expelled by Tennessee’s Republican Legislature Could Be Back in No Time

Justin Jones and Justin Pearson both have clear paths to quickly retake their seats.

Justin Jones and Justin Pearson
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Justin Jones (left) and Justin Pearson after their expulsion

Not a full day has passed since the Republican-led Tennessee House’s shameless expulsion of Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, and already it looks like the Democratic representatives have a path to regaining their seats.

Jones, Pearson, and their colleague Gloria Johnson were targeted by Republicans for disrupting House proceedings last week in solidarity with the thousands of children, teachers, and parents protesting against gun violence outside the Capitol. The protests erupted after a Nashville school shooting left three children and three adults dead.

The House charged the trio with breaking “decorum” and voted Thursday to expel Jones and Pearson, both of whom are Black and represent Nashville and Memphis, respectively. Johnson, who is white, survived expulsion by just one vote.

But now, at least 24 of 40 members of Nashville’s Metro Council have expressed their plan to reappoint Jones to the state House; only a simple majority is needed to do so. A special council was scheduled for Monday. Typically, electing an interim representative would take at least four weeks, but members of the council are looking to suspend the rules and hold a vote to nominate Jones. If events unfold accordingly, Jones could be back in the House before the sun sets on Monday.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper, a Democrat, echoed the calls.

Meanwhile, in Shelby County, home to Memphis, the County Commission is considering reappointing Pearson to his seat. Chairman Mickell Lowery had said last week that if Pearson were expelled, he would call a special meeting to vote on an interim representative and inquire whether Pearson could be legally reappointed. The county’s assistant attorney told The Commercial Appeal that she saw no reason why he couldn’t. The 13-person commission has a nine-member Democratic supermajority, and one Democrat, Britney Thornton, has already said she supports the move.

“As a fellow millennial elected to serve, I believe it’s crucial for my generation to be represented,” Thornton told The Commercial Appeal. “I stand with Representative Pearson and his fellow colleagues—all of whom are unfairly being mislabeled and othered. Wholeheartedly will I support his reappointment.”

California Is Not “Done” With Walgreens After All

Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan to stop doing business with the pharmacy chain has crashed into a legal wall.

California Governor Gavin Newsom
Mario Tama/Getty Images
California Governor Gavin Newsom

As it turns out, California cannot cut ties with pharmacy chain Walgreens.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced last month that his state would cease to do business with Walgreens because the pharmacy chain decided not to dispense abortion pills in nearly half of U.S. states following pressure from Republican attorneys general. Medication abortions make up more than half of all abortions in the United States and are considered a crucial tool in maintaining access to the procedure since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

But California legally has to maintain ties with Walgreens because of the state’s Medicaid program, Kaiser Health News reported Thursday, citing health law experts.

Medi-Cal provides health coverage for about 15 million people. Federal law states that patients can get their Medicaid-covered prescriptions at any approved pharmacy. Had California abruptly stopped covering Medi-Cal prescriptions filled at Walgreens locations, it would have broken federal law. This also would also have contradicted a key part of Newsom’s platform: to expand Medi-Cal as much as possible.

The Newsom administration said it will “continue to comply” with federal law by keeping its partnership with Walgreens. Gubernatorial spokesperson Anthony York said Newsom will not “take any action that hurts people who need access to care.”

Walgreens had said in January that it would offer mifepristone, one of the medications used to induce an abortion. The Food and Drug Administration changed its rules to allow pharmacies in states that still allow abortion to dispense the drug. Pharmacies would need to get certified to do so because the FDA currently classifies mifepristone as a high-risk drug, despite the fact that there is no data backing that decision up.

Walgreens and CVS, two of the biggest U.S. pharmacy chains, said they would seek certification. But in March, following intense pressure from Republican attorneys general in 20 states, Walgreens announced it wouldn’t dispense mifepristone in those states—and threw Kansas in there for good measure, too.

The chain has said it will dispense mifepristone “in any jurisdiction where it is legally permissible to do so.” Abortion is still legal in more than half of the states where Walgreens will no longer offer the drug, but the company said in a statement to TNR that some of those states don’t allow pharmacists to dispense mifepristone. “Failure to follow these state laws could result in individual pharmacists facing very real and serious legal risk, including criminal charges that could lead to jail time, steep fines and the loss of their license by state boards of pharmacy,” the company said.

In February, Newsom slammed Walgreens for its decision and said the chain “cowers to extremists and puts women’s lives at risk.” He said California was “done” with Walgreens but did not clarify what he meant. It now appears that was never an option.

This article has been updated to clarify Walgreens’ position.

North Dakota Senate Votes to Increase Its Own Meal Budget After Rejecting Free School Lunch Bill

Meanwhile, state Republicans are busy banning pretty much everything except hypocrisy.

Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald/Getty Images

Just over a week ago, North Dakota lawmakers voted to prevent giving free school lunches to low-income students. Then, on Thursday, they voted to increase the amount of money they get to spend on their own lunch.

On March 27, the Senate narrowly rejected a bill, which had passed the House, guaranteeing free school lunches to K-12 students in families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

On Thursday, the Senate voted 26–21 to pass a bill to raise per diem meal reimbursements for state employees traveling within the state, from $35 to $45.

Republican Assistant Majority Leader Jerry Klein told local outlet InForum that state employees should be getting a higher sum because inflation costs have made meals more expensive. Klein voted against giving students, whose parents are also being squeezed by inflation, free school lunch.

“I thought today’s vote was very self-serving,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Kathy Hogan told InForum. “How can we vote for ourselves when we can’t vote for children?”

The effort to give low-income students free school lunches for the next two years would have cost just some $6 million, a relatively small price to pay to ensure children don’t go hungry. While the Senate failed to pass the bill, the House is not giving up quite yet, reattaching the provision to a broader school funding bill.

Bills that target marginalized people, meanwhile, have been sailing through the North Dakota legislature. On Monday, the Senate passed bans on providing gender-affirming care to people under 18 and on transgender women’s participation in female sports in grade school and college.

The Senate also revived a push to prevent teachers and government employees from recognizing transgender students using their preferred pronouns—a bill that Republican Governor Doug Burgum had vetoed last month. While the House fell short of overriding his veto, Senate lawmakers put the language back into a separate bill that aims to restrict transgender students’ access to restrooms. Last month, Republican state Representative Lori VanWinkle likened respecting students’ preferred pronouns to murder.

Another Solid Jobs Report Quiets the Doomsayers

There was even some good news on Black unemployment.

John Smith/VIEWpress

The U.S. labor force held relatively steady in March, with unemployment sticking near a 50-year low, according to a report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Non-farm employers added 236,000 jobs in March, a slower pace than in recent months but almost precisely as expected, while the unemployment rate remained at 3.5 percent. The unemployment rate in February 2020—just before the pandemic kicked off in earnest in the United States—was also 3.5 percent. Unemployment for Black people fell to 5 percent, a record low.

The labor force participation rate, or the number of people in the labor force, was mostly unchanged, ticking up one-tenth of a percent to 62.6 percent. The leisure and hospitality sectors, which were some of the hardest-hit at the peak of the pandemic, added the most jobs in March as businesses begin to recover.

Crucially, hourly earnings also held fairly steady, with average wages increasing 0.3 percent in March, up just a little from an average of 0.2 percent in February. This is the lowest increase since the fourth quarter of 2019.

Harvard economics professor Jason Furman warned that “average hourly earnings are poorly measured and volatile,” but if the rate holds, it could be a sign that inflation is on its way out. Slower wage gains help keep businesses’ operating costs down, which means employers will be less likely to keep consumer prices high to offset in-house expenses.

Both the employment gains and the potential decrease in inflation are huge wins for President Joe Biden, who has been under fire since he took office for sky-high inflation and unemployment, due to first Covid-19 and then Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

People have been jumpy about the economy lately, particularly after a string of high-profile bank failures, including Silicon Valley Bank’s. Economists have been warning that a recession is on the horizon—some even claim that “a recession is underway now”—and the Federal Reserve has kept up its relentless campaign of interest rate hikes, although it has decreased by how much.

But Friday’s jobs report is a good sign that a soft landing, when inflation is brought down without tipping the economy into a recession, could still be possible.

Tennessee Republicans Expel Two Democrats From the Legislature for Protesting Gun Violence

The GOP-led House has a very twisted definition of “decorum.”

Democratic state Rep. Justin Jones of Nashville
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Democratic state Representative Justin Jones of Nashville during a vote on his expulsion from the state legislature on April 6

The Republican-led Tennessee House of Representatives voted Thursday to remove two Democratic lawmakers from office for breaking “decorum” by interrupting the chamber’s proceedings to draw attention to gun reform.

Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who are both Black, are now the first lawmakers in state history to be expelled by the opposing party, in nearly party-line votes. A third Democrat, Gloria Johnson—who is white—survived an expulsion vote. Asked about the discrepancy by a reporter, Johnson responded that “it might have to do with the color of our skin.”

The votes come amid protests by gun-control advocates against Tennessee lawmakers in the wake of the Covenant School shooting that left three children and three adults dead. Last week, as thousands of protesters outside the Capitol building demanded gun reform, the three Democrats walked up to the well of the House and began chanting “No action, no peace” through a bullhorn.

Republicans charged the trio with breaking “rules of decorum,” but the Democrats said they only walked up to the well after being repeatedly silenced by Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton. They say their mics were cut off throughout the week whenever they tried to speak about gun violence or about the thousands protesting right outside the building. On a Tennessee radio show last week, Sexton called the trio’s actions an “insurrection.” (One of Sexton’s former colleagues, then-Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, attended the actual January 6 insurrection but was not expelled from the legislature.)

On Monday, all three representatives were stripped of their committee assignments and had their membership IDs disabled.

During Thursday’s vote, Jones pointed out that numerous other members of the House have avoided expulsion while committing far more severe violations, including child molestation:

The tolerance for other violations seems to have continued even this week.

On Monday, Republican Representative Justin Lafferty—who once defended the three-fifths compromise—reportedly shoved Jones, who is Black, on the floor of the House. The assault occurred while protesters entered the chamber and chanted from the gallery. Lafferty and Jones were both recording the scene on their phones. Lafferty then turned toward Jones and appeared to shove him. A voice is heard in Jones’s video saying, “Hey, get your hands off me.” Lafferty has not been charged with any breaching of “decorum.”

Before Thursday’s votes, the Tennessee House did advance some “safety” and mental health–related bills; none dealt with gun regulation, and none confronted more systemic issues surrounding violence prevention. Back in 2020, Tennessee Republicans shut down a red flag law that in fact could have stopped the Covenant School shooter. The following year, Governor Bill Lee signed legislation allowing people 21 and older to openly carry handguns without permits. Since then, state Republicans have been looking to expand the right to people as young as 18—and for any firearm, not just handguns.

Biden Administration Tries to Have It Both Ways on Trans Student Athletes

Activists are calling a proposed Department of Education rule a “betrayal.”

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Biden administration proposed a rule Thursday to prevent schools from flat-out banning transgender students from playing on the sports team that matches their gender identity.

The move comes as attacks on trans rights are picking up nationwide, with particular emphasis on prohibiting trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams.

Under the proposal, public schools at all levels would not be allowed to “categorically” ban trans students from playing on the team that aligns with their gender. Instead, schools would have to develop “team eligibility criteria” that factor in the sport, the level of competition, and the grade or education level of the athletes.

But this means that schools could still bar trans athletes from elite sports.

The proposed rule … recognizes that in some instances, particularly in competitive high school and college athletic environments, some schools may adopt policies that limit transgender students’ participation,” the Department of Education said in a fact sheet. “The proposed rule would provide schools with a framework for developing eligibility criteria that protects students from being denied equal athletic opportunity, while giving schools the flexibility to develop their own participation policies.”

It specified that “these criteria could not be premised on disapproval of transgender students or a desire to harm a particular student.”

Trans rights activists slammed the proposal as a betrayal. Instead of actually addressing the issue, writer Erin Reed said, “it’s actually a roadmap to telling schools how to discriminate.”

Civil rights lawyer Alejandra Caraballo pointed out that this could divert resources away from more consequential fights.

The proposal was announced just hours after the Supreme Court ruled that a 12-year-old trans girl in West Virginia must be allowed to compete on her school’s girls’ cross country and track teams. West Virginia implemented a law banning trans girls from girls’ teams in 2021, but that law is being challenged in court. The Supreme Court said that the law cannot be enforced until the case is decided.

Biden’s proposed regulation is one of his administration’s first forays into the highly contentious arena of trans rights. Republican-led states have ramped up their attacks on LGBTQ rights, particularly for trans and nonbinary people. Twenty states, such as Florida, Texas, and Montana, have banned trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams. Most recently, on Wednesday, Kansas’s Republican-controlled legislature overrode Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of a bill banning trans girls from playing girls’ sports.

LGBTQ rights activists have slammed these laws as sexist and misinformed. The ACLU pointed out that by singling out trans girls, the laws reinforce the dangerous myth that trans women are sexual predators.

Pediatrician and geneticist Eric Vilain told NPR in 2021 that most laws about trans athletes are not based on science. Being trans doesn’t automatically give an athlete a physical advantage, he said. Instead, the laws—which primarily target elementary and high school students—create opportunities to degrade and humiliate girls by forcing them to prove their gender.

40 Migrants Died in Detention Center Fire Because They Couldn’t Afford to Bribe the Guards

The extortion scheme was revealed in a new report by Vice.

People set candles in memory of the migrants killed in a fire last month at an immigration detention center in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Juan Ortega/Getty Images
People set candles in memory of the migrants killed in a fire last month at an immigration detention center in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

Late last month, a disastrous fire at an immigration detention center near the U.S. border in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, left 40 people dead. And it turns out, the migrants were stuck there because they couldn’t pay a $200 bribe to guards to be released, according to Vice.

The revelations come after a video from the facility showed guards seeming to walk away from migrants burning to death behind bars.

Three survivors and two guards at the facility told Vice that the detention center was essentially an “extortion center,” where only migrants who could pay were released. Joan, a Venezuelan migrant who was locked up there, said he was released not long before the fire because his family back home sent money in time for the guards’ 7 p.m. deadline to pay a bribe or be deported. “I’m only alive because my family paid,” he told Vice.

Guards told Vice that the extortion payments (up to $500) were split among the guards and that they also sold cigarettes, lighters, and “drugs of all kinds” to the detained migrants. “We weren’t forced or anything like that to be part of the scheme, but if you said anything to the managers or didn’t go along with it, little by little they would push you out of a job,” said one guard. The guards admitted that the sales could have helped lead to the fire in the first place.

Vice reported that at least one migrant allegedly started the fire in protest of not being given food and water for some 10 hours. Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the fire began after migrants reportedly lit their mattress on fire in protest as they feared imminent deportation. Mexico’s chief public security secretary, Rosa Icela Rodríguez, said that the detention center would be closed and that its operator “will no longer provide services in the state of Chihuahua—where Ciudad Juárez sits.”

The tragedy came following a hard-right turn from the White House on immigration. Last month, President Biden announced a proposal to bar certain migrants from attaining U.S. asylum access and to expedite deportations of those migrants more quickly—without even giving them a chance to appear in front of an immigration judge. The Trump-like proposal violates U.S. law that grants the right to anyone physically present in the country to seek asylum, regardless of one’s status.

As Felipe De La Hoz wrote in TNR:

It may be a rehash of a Trump-era policy, but it is now a Biden-era policy. It has been drafted, issued, and will likely be defended in court fully at the direction of Joe Biden and his Cabinet. Not only that, it is a rehash of a policy that was rejected already by the courts, with the earlier transit ban having been struck down by a district court, a ruling reaffirmed by a three-judge appeals court panel, and then ultimately vacated.… In any case, now we know—finally and clearly—where Biden stands on the matter, and how that stance has ensured the lasting impact of Trump’s asylum machinations.

A Lot of Bearded Dudes Are Hilariously Mad Over Bud Light Ad Featuring Trans Activist

They’re expressing their outrage by dumping perfectly drinkable beer down the drain.

Kid Rock performing in 2016
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Kid Rock performing in 2016

People are so mad about Bud Light’s latest ad campaign with a transgender activist that they are throwing their money—and beer—away.

Trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney shared an Instagram post sponsored by Bud Light on Sunday to promote the beer’s March Madness campaign and to mark her one-year anniversary of transitioning.

Transphobic backlash picked up speed over the course of the week and by Thursday had gained two celebrity boycotters.

Musician Kid Rock posted a video of him shooting several cases of Bud Light with an automatic rifle, a move condemned in the wake of the Nashville school shooting. And country musician Travis Tritt announced he would no longer include any products made by Anheuser-Busch, Bud Light’s parent company (which, in turn, is owned by international conglomerate AB InBev), on his tour refreshment request lists. He also complained about Jack Daniels’s Pride Month campaignfrom 2021.

The internet is awash with videos of (primarily white, primarily male, primarily bearded) people expressing outrage over Bud Light’s campaign with Mulvaney by pouring perfectly fine—albeit watery and mass-produced—beer down the drain.

None of these boycotters appear to have ever heard of rainbow capitalism, which is when companies use LGBTQ branding to market products without actually doing anything to support LGBTQ causes. Bud Light hasn’t necessarily gone “woke”; the company just wants to reach a different sales demographic.

In fact, in 2021 it was the Stonewall Inn, the historic LGBTQ bar in New York City, that was pouring Bud Light down the drain—to protest Anheuser-Busch’s political contributions to anti-LGBTQ lawmakers.

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