While the fate of 43 million people’s financial lives are in limbo as President Biden’s student debt relief plan faces a challenge in the Supreme Court, Republicans are proceeding to add another direct challenge. On Monday, 39 Senate Republicans introduced a resolution to overturn Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.
The challenge comes after the Government Accountability Office deemed Biden’s relief plan a “rule” and therefore eligible to be overturned through a Congressional Review Act resolution.
“Where is the relief for the man who skipped college but is paying off his work truck, or the woman who paid off her loans and is now struggling to afford her mortgage?” Senator and resolution leader Bill Cassidy said, as if the 43 million people who would be helped by the policy are all somehow part of the 1 percent (read: This is mathematically impossible).
“This resolution prevents these Americans, whose debts look different from the favored group the Biden administration has selected, from picking up the bill for this irresponsible and unfair policy,” Cassidy continued, as if the government did not just throw a buoy to Silicon Valley Bank, which benefited from conservative deregulation.
Republican Representative Bob Good introduced a companion House resolution as well.
The Congressional Review Act opens a pathway to overturn agency rules through a simple majority; the act is not subject to a Senate filibuster. Republicans maintain their slim majority in the House while Democrats hold an ostensible 51–49 majority in the Senate (ostensible, given Kyrsten Sinema’s status as an independent, or really, aspiring Republican).
Even if the measure passes, Biden would be able to veto it, which would require a two-thirds congressional majority to override.
While Republicans continue to frame the student debt relief plan as a favor to the rich, the White House estimates that 87 percent of the relief would go to individuals earning less than $75,000 a year, while none would go to those earning more than $125,000. Ninety-five percent of the total benefits from the plan would go toward households making less than $150,000.
“Republicans are showing us just how callous and uncaring they can be to families trying to make ends meet,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted last week, as Republicans announced their plans to target the debt relief plan. “We will continue to fight this cruel Republican attempt to end student debt relief with everything we have.”
At least three children and three adults were killed, and several others wounded, after a shooter opened fire at a private Christian grade school in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday morning.
The shooting occurred at the Covenant School, a Presbyterian school that hosts about 200 students from preschool to sixth grade. The school had reportedly run an active shooter training program as recently as last year, according to local outlet WTVF.
“The shooter was engaged by M.N.P.D. and is dead,” the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said on Twitter. Police have since said the shooter was a 28-year-old Nashville woman armed with at least two assault rifles and a handgun. Police said she had entered the school through a side door, and was apprehended on the second floor.
Police also said they believe the woman was a former student of the school herself.
The attack marks the 129th mass shooting of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It’s the 86th day of 2023.
The conditions of other potential victims are not yet clear.
A reunification area has been established by the Nashville Fire Department at nearby Woodmont Baptist Church.
This post has been updated.
A Florida elementary school has banned the film Ruby Bridges after just one parent complained she didn’t like how it depicted race relations in 1960s America.
The 1998 Disney film is about the true story of Ruby Bridges, who at age 6 became the first Black student to integrate her elementary school in New Orleans. White opposition to her attending was so intense that federal marshals had to escort her in and out of the school every day.
The movie has been a staple in the Pinellas County Black History Month curriculum for years. But in a complaint from March 6, a mother at North Shore Elementary said she felt that “the use of racial slurs and scenes of white people threatening Ruby as she entered a school might result in students learning that white people hate Black people,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The school district responded by banning the film at North Shore Elementary “until a review committee can assess it.” Many advocates for the film pointed out that it seems ridiculous and dangerous that it only takes one parent complaining to get material banned. It’s also counterintuitive to ban a movie about race relations during a month dedicated to Black history.
“Many from historically marginalized communities are asking whether this so-called integrated education system in Pinellas County can even serve the diverse community fairly and equitably,” Ric Davis, president of the Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students, wrote in an open letter.
He pointed out, as the Tampa Bay Times said, “that the truth will not change because someone doesn’t like it.”
Davis argued that one person, no matter their race, should not prompt such a drastic reaction from district officials.
Florida is increasingly restricting what can be taught in schools at all levels. Governor Ron DeSantis has declared war on “wokeism” and has promised to defund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs on college campuses. He has backed the Stop Woke Act, which restricts teaching about race in colleges, and announced plans to mandate Western civilization courses. His administration was also in close contact with the College Board as it gutted the A.P. African American Studies course.
In public schools, one school district has banned 23 different books from school libraries. Teachers in other school districts have been told to hide their classroom book collections until all the books have been vetted and approved. But the vetting process is opaque, and there is no policy clarifying how long a complaint review process should take. As a result, books and films are withheld from students for months on end.
The Ruby Bridges fiasco comes about after Pinellas County school officials earlier this year banned high school students from reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison—again after just one parent complained.
Former St. Petersburg police chief and deputy mayor Goliath Davis condemned the film’s banning. “Black history, Native-American history and Hispanic history, though not always glamorous, are American history and cannot be denied. Additionally, it should not be discarded because a governor and his constituents allege its teaching adversely impacts white students,” he wrote in an op-ed in The Weekly Challenger.
“Why is it permissible to teach white scholars Black folks were enslaved but not permissible to teach them about African American contributions to America and the world and the struggles they encountered and continue to experience as citizens of the United States of America, where the creed is ‘liberty and justice for all’?”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is relenting, for now, on his planned judicial overhaul. After months of mass protest culminating in a general strike on Monday, the far-right plans to seize the nation’s judicial system will be tabled until the next legislative session. In an unlikely collaboration between big business and labor, Israel’s people have shown the power of protest—and the potential for what more they could accomplish, if they so chose to.
Hundreds of thousands of people had already been protesting for weeks against what has become an even more authoritarian Israeli government. The opposition has centered around Netanyahu’s push to give the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) more power over the judiciary. Such changes would grant the ruling party the power to influence how judges are appointed and even overturn court decisions. Netanyahu himself may be aiming to use such powers to weasel out of his own corruption charges. One poll suggests nearly 1.5 million people may have participated in the ongoing protests against Netanyahu’s attempts to seize and cripple the judiciary.
The tensions came to a new peak on Sunday, after Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who, one day earlier, called for the government to stop its plan to overhaul the judicial system. Gallant argued that the plan had begun to create rifts in society and within the Israel Defense Forces that could risk Israel’s stability and national security. He was the first member of Netanyahu’s Cabinet to oppose the judicial overhaul.
After his firing, the already active protests ballooned into one of the largest mass actions in Israel’s history. Massive, spontaneous protests took place throughout Tel Aviv on Sunday evening, with people blocking the main highway as well as several streets and bridges. And in unprecedented fashion, Israel’s unions, in accordance with the business community, launched a general strike on Monday. The strike was initiated by a massive umbrella group that represents over 700,000 workers in health care, transit, and banking. An array of universities—not just students but the schools themselves—joined the call as well.
Israeli embassies from Dublin to Washington, D.C., shuttered their doors on Monday in tandem with government workers protesting within Israel. Israel’s consul general in New York, Asaf Zamir, also resigned. Zamir called Netanyahu’s firing of Gallant a “dangerous decision” in his resignation letter, adding that he had “become increasingly concerned with the policies of the new government.”
The protests have become so ubiquitous that even Israeli President Isaac Herzog has called on Netanyahu to suspend the judicial overhaul. “The eyes of all the people of Israel are on you. The eyes of all the Jewish people are on you,” Herzog said in a Facebook post Monday. “The eyes of the whole world are on you. For the sake of the unity of Israelis, for the sake of committed responsibility I call on you to halt the legislative procedure immediately.”
Of course, as the snowballing protests are part of a larger movement that has stood for weeks and months against Netanyahu’s increasingly extremist governance, they also serve as a reminder that calls for “protecting democracy” have not been as loud when it has come to the occupation of Palestine. What’s unfortunate about this otherwise exciting popular rise against extremism is that the movement would do well to actively include Palestinian participation in standing against not just Netanyahu but the apartheid system that has led to such a moment. But some Israeli activists have not been allowed to bring even a Palestinian flag to demonstrations. Some officials involved in the increasingly large protest coalition have also refused to appear on stage alongside people sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
So while Israeli officials frame this mass protest as an effort to preserve Israel’s democracy, it would be prudent to note how short it still is from actually being one, even if the masses can stop Netanyahu; just as well, how readily they could become a true democracy, if they really want to.
Self-described “free speech absolutist” Elon Musk has been shown up by an internet user named FreeSpeechEnthusiast, who leaked some of Twitter’s closely guarded source code online.
Parts of Twitter’s source code, the computer code that runs the platform, had been leaked on the online software developer collaboration platform GitHub. It’s unclear how long the code was up, but The New York Times said it appeared to have been publicly available for at least several months. GitHub complied Friday with a request from Twitter to take the code down.
Musk appeared unbothered on Twitter as the leaked code debacle went down, alternating between sharing pseudo-intellectual musings and weird memes, and begging people to sign up for Twitter Blue, the platform’s paid subscription plan. But internally, he admitted there are serious issues. In an email sent to Twitter employees on Friday, Musk said the company is now worth $20 billion, less than half of what he paid for it in October.
Companies guard their source code jealously to prevent potential hackers or competitors from getting insight into how a platform operates. According to the Times, Twitter has begun investigating who might have leaked the code and suspect it was someone who left the company last year, citing two people familiar with the probe.
Even though the code has been removed from GitHub, it isn’t really gone. Remember when your parents told you that what you put on the internet stays there forever? Well, “once this is leaked, it cannot be put back in the bottle entirely,” cybersecurity researcher and consultant Lukasz Olejnik told The Washington Post, pointing out it’s impossible to know how many people accessed the code before it was taken down.
“Whether an exploitable vulnerability can be spotted and utilized is difficult to gauge immediately.”
The code was shared by a user named FreeSpeechEnthusiast, who joined GitHub on January 3. That same day, FreeSpeechEnthusiast made their only contribution to the platform (presumably Twitter’s code). Their username is an obvious and excellent troll of Musk, who has described himself as a “free speech absolutist”—which apparently means letting Nazis and the Taliban run rampant on Twitter.
Ironically, Musk had announced plans earlier this month to make parts of Twitter’s code public. The goal was to essentially make it open for peer review, so people could check for and report flaws. Clearly, FreeSpeechEnthusiast beat him to the punch.
Since taking the reins, Musk has embarked on a ruthless cost-cutting mission, firing almost 75 percent of Twitter’s staff, auctioning off everything in the company’s San Francisco headquarters, and just not paying rent. But with advertisers leaving the platform in droves due to his lax content moderation policies, it’s clearly not enough.
As thousands of workers went on strike this week, evidence continues to build that the labor movement is back on an upswing in America. But how we engage with the details of this development will determine whether the swing remains a momentary uptick, or becomes part of something larger.
Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the number of unionized workers in the United States increased by 200,000 from 2021 to 2022. And that growth came entirely from workers of color. There was an increase in 231,000 unionized workers of color last year, while white unionized workers actually decreased by 31,000. Further, of all racial and ethnic groups, Black workers have continued leading unionization rates, at 12.8 percent, higher than the figure of total unionized workers.
While the total share of workers represented by a union still floats at just above 11 percent—much less than where things stood decades ago—union election petitions last year increased by 53 percent, the highest amount since 2016.
According to BLS data, industries that saw the largest increases in unionization were state government; durable goods manufacturing; arts, entertainment, and recreation; and transportation and warehousing. And states with the largest increases in unionization? California, Texas, Ohio, Maryland, and Alabama.
All this to say, monolithic conventions on who constitutes the “working class” need a final upending.
Indeed, the diversity in the movement can be seen in the nature of labor action these past few months. This week, workers at over 100 Starbucks locations nationwide went on strike to protest the company’s alleged union-busting schemes. Another union representing 30,000 Los Angeles school staff workers—including custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, special education assistants, and more—conducted a three-day strike, and the 35,000-strong United Teachers Los Angeles union joined in solidarity. At the beginning of the year, 7,000 nurses went on strike in New York City, protesting poor pay and working conditions brought on by chronic understaffing. All this does not include the some 100,000 rail workers nationwide who almost went on strike last year, until the government itself imposed a contract upon them.
Conservatives—both Republican and Democrat alike—often opine on the need to focus on “kitchen table issues” instead of getting wrapped up in “social” ones. The latter, of course, being another way to say issues surrounding identity and race (much like the term “woke,” but perhaps less likely to incite outrage). But the union data reveals once more that issues of identity and workers’ rights are deeply intertwined. After all, unionization and labor struggles are direct mechanisms to better accomplish racial and social equality; the ability for people to afford to live happy and dignified lives is inherently tied to their ability to enjoy fundamental social and civil rights within those lives, too.
On moral grounds, every politician and journalist should recognize these facts. And for any politico concerned solely with electability, the good news is the results follow the morals anyhow.
In November, several Democrats who refused to pin the economic against the social, even in battleground states, went on to win. That includes people like Governor Josh Shapiro and Senator John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, Senator Raphael Warnock in Georgia, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan. And for examples of how these political successes turn to policy successes, look no further than the sacred and often pontificated on Midwest.
In 2018, Governor Whitmer promised to repeal the anti-worker “right-to-work” law. And after voters re-elected her with wide margins—and delivered her majorities in both state chambers for the first time in decades—she delivered on Friday, signing a bill to repeal the anti-union legislation. Just a week earlier, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed a bill that guaranteed free breakfast and lunch for all public school students, geared especially for food insecure families, many of whom are marginalized and people of color (perhaps a more direct connection between social and so-called “kitchen table” issues).
As more people become better acquainted with the contradictions of capitalism—from noxious train derailments, to immediately aided collapsing financial institutions (all of which is borne from corporate-bought deregulation)—we may be at another moment in the long history of labor for which a resurgence is possible. But such a moment will not be helped by a media and political apparatus that seeks to flatten the labor movement, rather than embrace it for the vast and diverse coalition it actually is.
Michigan is delivering on its first Democratic trifecta in decades. On Friday, it became the first state in 58 years to repeal anti-worker so-called “right-to-work” laws.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the legislation Friday after the legislature sent it to her desk earlier this week.
The bill marks a huge tide shift for the labor movement. Indiana was the last state to repeal such a law in 1965, only for it to be reinstated by Republicans in 2012. That same year was when Michigan passed its anti-union right-to-work law, and since then, the state has lost some 40,000 union members.
Michigan’s repeal comes amid a resurgence of the labor movement, as union membership is increasing across the country along with labor actions like strikes. That may bode well for organizers in other states looking to roll back the anti-worker law. Twenty-six other states have right-to-work laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Right-to-work laws erode union power by allowing workers to forgo paying dues for union membership while still reaping the benefits. The laws, backed heavily by Republicans and their corporate lobby friends, consequently weaken union membership, treasuries, and overall organizing capabilities. Conservatives often frame it as a pro-business argument: that companies will choose to go where the laws are enacted, which stimulates economic growth. Implicit in that calculation is why companies would do that: to be able to more easily exploit their workers at the behest of their bottom line.
“‘Right to work’ is a lie designed to weaken workers’ rights and lower wages,” said Sean M. O’Brien, the general president of Teamsters. “Today, Michigan’s elected officials honored their state’s proud labor history by rejecting this dangerous and deceptive anti-union legislation.”
Whitmer promised in 2018 to repeal the anti-worker law. And after voters reelected her with wide margins in November and gave her party majorities to match, she now delivers on the promise.
“Now that workers’ rights have been restored, Michigan is once again leading the way for the country in showing what is possible when working families are put first,” said Janella James, executive director of the Michigan Nurses Association. “We want to thank Governor Whitmer and the Legislature for listening to workers and setting our state on a better path. Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in Michigan’s history.”
Governor Andy Beshear on Friday vetoed a massive bill targeting transgender rights in Kentucky, one of the most extreme measures in the country.
The bill passed both the state House and Senate last week in a record sprint, mainly along party lines. The Senate voted 30–7 for the measure, a veto-proof majority, and so could override Beshear’s move as soon as next week.
If it becomes law, Senate Bill 150 would ban all gender-affirming care for trans minors in Kentucky and would force doctors to detransition any minors in their care. It would prohibit discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools at any level, prevent trans students from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, and would allow teachers to refuse to use a student’s preferred pronouns.
“Senate Bill 150 allows too much government interference in personal health care issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children,” Beshear said in a statement.
“I am also vetoing Senate Bill 150 because my faith teaches me that all children are children of God and Senate Bill 150 will endanger the children of Kentucky,” he continued, citing studies that showed a connection between receiving gender-affirming care and lowered levels of depression and suicidal thoughts in LGBTQ children. “Senate Bill 150 will cause an increase in suicide among Kentucky’s youth.”
The ACLU of Kentucky described the bill when it passed as “the worst anti-trans bill in the country.”
“This dangerous bill and others like it across the country are nothing more than a desperate attempt to score political points by targeting people who simply want to live their lives,” interim executive director Amber Duke said in a statement. “True democracy requires meaningful and informed debate and engagement from the public. The shameful process on display in the Kentucky House undermines the public trust in government.”
The bill was rushed through the House and Senate in a record daylong sprint. A different omnibus anti-trans measure had looked dead in the water last Wednesday night. But the next morning, Republicans resurrected and expanded the text, forcing it through despite long and often emotional arguments against it from Democrats and trans rights activists.
Kentucky is just the latest state to have lawmakers try to curtail LGBTQ rights. This week alone, Florida advanced an anti-trans bill so broad and extreme it could also prevent people from getting breast cancer treatment. Georgia, meanwhile, passed a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors and criminalizing medical workers who provide that care.
The Republican-led House on Friday passed its so-called “Parents Bill of Rights,” 213-208. Framed as a positive piece of legislation, the bill actually aims to police teachers and school staff and thus obstruct the independent flow of education for students.
The radical bill calls for school districts to post curriculum information and provide parents with lists of reading materials available in school libraries. Such practices have already been test-run in places like Florida. Teachers there have been forced to empty classroom libraries, cover them up, or even catalog each book into a central system to check for compliance with their districts’ restrictive standards.
The legislation also (incorrectly) implies that parents are never listened to in schools. It calls for school districts to consider community feedback when making decisions, allow parents to address school boards, and notify parents of violent activity happening on school grounds. By including already standard practices in the bill, Republicans are couching their more radical demands in what seems like a reasonable bill.
If anything, the bill’s nod toward school board meetings appears to be implicit approval of attacks school staff have already endured. School boards and teachers across the country have expressed concerns surrounding classroom freedom, and even for their own lives. Whipped up by Republican officials, a loud minority has targeted schools and protested everything from Covid-19 safety precautions to classroom material.
In 2021, the National School Boards Association sent a letter to the Biden administration asking for an investigation into violent threats against school board members. They described the threats as potentially “equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” After receiving the letter, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the Justice Department to carry out an inquiry. House Republicans have since aimed to discredit the letter and the inquiry.
It’s unlikely the “Parents Bill of Rights” will make it pass Biden’s desk, but by passing the radical legislation, House Republicans are escalating animus toward already overworked and underappreciated teachers. They moreover are further nationalizing the attack on academic freedom that has already been taking place from Florida and Texas to Michigan and South Carolina.
In the wee small hours of the morning, one Manhattan man found himself confronting the harsh realities of what it would mean for him to actually be arrested.
Early Friday, twice-impeached former President Donald Trump, who is the subject of numerous criminal inquiries, posted on Truth Social warning that “death & destruction” could come if he is charged for paying hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels—a scheme allegedly done in order to cover up the pair’s affair occurring just months after Trump’s wife Melania had given birth to their child, Barron.
“What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime …,” Trump began in his run-on rant, “when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & Also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country?”
“Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!”
Trump’s menacing posts follow an ongoing right-wing campaign to discredit the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, tasked with investigating Trump’s role in the hush-money payment. Even members as high up as Kevin McCarthy and Elise Stefanik spread antisemitic conspiracy theories, insinuating Bragg is a puppet of George Soros for pursuing the investigation. Now the attacks have escalated to Trump calling Bragg a “degenerate psychopath” and a “Soros backed animal.”
While earlier Trump-beckoned protests brought out just a paltry handful of loyalists, the latest calls from Trump display a concerningly desperate escalation, especially given his track record in inciting violence.