Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Last Call For Weathering The Storm

The AP's Adrian Sainz and Bruce Schreiner report on Eastern Kentucky's recovery from the devastating night of December tornadoes that claimed 81 lives, dozens in the town of Mayfield alone.
Audible evidence of rebuilding in Mayfield has been difficult to miss: the cracking and crashing of excavators breaking apart wood and glass, the beep-beep-beep of heavy machinery reversing, the popping of roofers’ nail guns.

In an AP interview, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said removing debris and finding temporary housing were early priorities after the tornado. More recently, attention has turned to keeping residents in Kentucky.

“These are towns that have almost been wiped off the map,” Beshear said. “We will continue to be concerned about getting people back on their feet and concerned about not losing the population of these towns.”

Some have moved to more permanent shelter, including travel trailers, the governor said. In Graves County, tiny homes were approved for displaced residents, and several larger homes are being built in Mayfield, emergency management Director Tracy Warner said.

“We really hold the future of Mayfield and Graves County in our hands,” Warner said. “And that is scary, yet exciting.”

Although there’s cause for optimism, progress remains slow in places. In Dawson Springs, where Bullock and her family now live in a camper, the 54-year-old registered nurse said she has seen just a few houses being rebuilt, and some friends say they won’t stay.

Bullock and her husband had paid off their home but didn’t have insurance. A disaster-response charity is helping them build a new house on their property, and Bullock hopes to see a day when their family gatherings resume.

“Sundays were fun days. ... I just want to have that again,” she said.

Beshear, a Democrat, said millions in housing assistance payments from a state relief fund are being distributed. About $64 million in federal assistance has been approved for storm victims in Kentucky, with some aid targeting temporary housing, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

Recovery will take “a couple of years, but it shouldn’t take any longer,” Beshear said. “There are days that it’s a little more frustrating, ... but we are going to get this done.”
The recovery effort in Eastern Kentucky has been arguably the one thing Kentucky Republicans haven't heavily politicized as a weapon against Beshear, mainly because the damage was so widespread in areas that are heavily rural and Republican.  But as Beshear said, the recovery will still take years to complete.

The bigger problem is that more nights like this are coming as climate change revs up storm fronts into tornado-spawning nightmare fuel across the country, with more damage, more devastation, and more deaths. It will only get worse in the months and years ahead.

The Buckeye Purge, Con't

As Joshua Douglas in Washington Monthly points out, the deliberate plot by the Ohio GOP to continue to put forth unconstitutional 2022 redistricting maps has now resulted in Trump federal judges declaring that Ohio is now out of time and that the state must be forced to accept an unconstitutional, highly gerrymandered map that will give Ohio Republicans 12 of 15 districts with 51 percent of the vote.

Since this redistricting cycle began, the commission has adopted maps on a party line vote no fewer than four times. And each time, the Ohio Supreme Court, on a 4–3 vote (with Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor joining three Democratic justices), has ruled the maps unlawful under the state constitution because of their partisan tilt. The maps, the court found, violated the simple command of the Ohio Constitution: “No general assembly district plan shall be drawn primarily to favor or disfavor a political party.” The remedy is for the commission to produce a map that does not enable the Republican Party to win more seats than its share of support in the state.

But instead of calling for the commission to do its job and create a lawful map, last week a federal court intervened to impose an extraordinary remedy: Unless the commission passes a new, legal map by May 28, the state must use one of the discarded maps for the 2022 election. Essentially, the federal court required the state to use an unconstitutional map.

The federal court’s 2–1 ruling—with two judges appointed by President Donald Trump in the majority—expressed concern that, if the redistricting dispute continued, the state would not hold a primary for state legislative races, depriving Ohio voters of their constitutional right to vote. To remedy that concern, the court said it was choosing the best option it could: a map that the state’s election machinery had begun to implement before the Ohio Supreme Court ruled it unlawful. The court decided that the commission’s third map was the best option, even though the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that one—and the subsequent fourth map—was in violation of the state constitution’s command to avoid excessive partisanship.

There was no reason for the federal court to step in here. The Ohio Supreme Court had ordered the commission to produce a new map by May 6, a deadline it could still meet. The idea that the Ohio Supreme Court or the commission would leave Ohio voters without a primary is pure speculation. The federal judges paid lip service to state’s rights, overreaching to impose a map that the state’s highest court determined violates the state constitution.

The federal court’s decision produces perverse incentives for the Republican members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission. They know that if they run out the clock, they can use a gerrymandered map they like. Why would they draw a lawful map now? This same cycle of judicial activism will likely repeat itself in 2024: Republicans will enact an illegal map, the Ohio Supreme Court will order them to produce a lawful one, and, eventually, a federal court can allow the state to use the unconstitutional map anyway.

The dissent, in this case, agreed that the federal court should step in but thought the court should require the state to implement a different map produced by redistricting experts that is consistent with the Ohio Constitution. But that solution still presumes that the federal court has a role in this case. At this stage—with no true threat of a fully canceled election—it simply doesn’t. Although the state already had to delay the primary for state legislative races until August because of this redistricting impasse, there is no evidence that further delays are imminent. The dissent also failed to recognize that the Ohio Supreme Court had already ordered the commission to produce a lawful map by May 6, which is enough time for the August primary.

The federal court’s decision is baffling on many levels. The concern that Ohio will not have a primary is based on conjecture, nothing more. And to fix that supposed problem, the court ordered the state to use an unlawful map. The decision defies the will of the voters, who passed a state constitutional amendment in 2015 to thwart gerrymandering and gamesmanship in redistricting—in the name of protecting the constitutional right to vote. But voters aren’t the ones protected here. Incumbent politicians are the actual beneficiaries of the federal courts’ overreach because they can run in districts that will help them win reelection.

The decision is appealable to the U.S. Supreme Court, but we know how that would likely go, given the current Court’s extreme deference to those in power. The federal courts in 2022 are no friends of everyday voters. Apparently, using an unconstitutional map is better than ordering the commission to produce a fair one or letting the state court manage this issue of state law. So much for federalism. For federal courts considering voting rights, once again, up is down.

The best case scenario is a new map that only gives Republican 11 of 15 House seats in the state. The worst case is an even more gerrymandered map that gives 12 or 13 of 15 of Ohio's US House seats to the GOP with 50% of the popular vote.

Democracies don't survive that, folks.

The Trans-Siberian Railroading

If you thought for a microsecond that Republicans would stop at criminalizing gender affirming healthcare for teens, I regret I have to inform you that the straights are going after trans adults now.
Missouri lawmakers this week while debating a bill seeking to restrict access to gender-affirming care for minors suggested access to medical interventions like hormones be withheld from transgender and nonbinary individuals until at least their 25th birthday.

During a public hearing Thursday for Missouri’s House Bill 2649, Laurie Haynes, a psychologist, testified that she believes young adults under the age of 25 are unable to fully comprehend the “dramatic and drastic and irreparable” changes their bodies will undergo if they receive gender-affirming medical treatments like puberty blockers or hormone therapies.

Haynes on Thursday also said she supported conversion therapy.

Medical research has suggested that the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for executive functions like decision making – is not fully developed until roughly the age of 25.

Currently, the bill, which is officially titled the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, only applies to individuals younger than 18 years old. Missouri physicians and health care providers under the bill would be prevented from providing or recommending gender-affirming care to patients who are minors.

On Thursday Rep. Nick Schroer (R) argued that the legislature had previously invoked brain maturity in deciding whether the state should raise the age for being charged as an adult in criminal cases from 17 to 18.

“The brains of especially males are still developing into their twenties and I don’t understand why that’s not part of the discussion here,” he said.

It’s an argument made by lawmakers and officials in other conservative states, and Florida’s Health Department this week said gender-affirming care in any form – including social transition – should not be made available to children younger than 18 years old, citing brain maturity.
At 18 you can vote, join the military and shoot people in the name of your country, but "brain maturity".
That's not the salient point though, first of all bringing in a conversion therapist to testify as an expert witness is abhorrent. Second of all, using that testimony to justify withholding healthcare from adults across the board is horrific. "You can't be trans until 25" will become 30, 35, never, and even 25 means trans kids will suffer for years, and that suffering will be codified into law.

Every one of these monsters deserves to be tossed out of office if not tossed into the sun.
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