Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Last Call For Equal Opportunity Offender

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ordered a list of all transgender Texans in the state in June. He never got it because the Texas Department of Public Safety wanted to know exactly why it was needed, but gosh, nobody seems to know exactly why a Republican AG in a state like Texas would want a list of all transgender folks in the state, least of all Ken Paxton's office.
Employees at the Texas Department of Public Safety in June received a sweeping request from Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office: to compile a list of individuals who had changed their gender on their Texas driver’s license and other department records during the past two years.

“Need total number of changes from male to female and female to male for the last 24 months, broken down by month,” the chief of the DPS’s driver license division emailed colleagues in the department on June 30, according to a copy of a message obtained by The Washington Post through a public records request. “We won’t need DL/ID numbers at first but may need to have them later if we are required to manually look up documents.”

After more than 16,000 such instances were identified, DPS officials determined that a manual search would be needed to determine the reason for the changes, DPS spokesman Travis Considine told The Post in response to questions.

“A verbal request was received,” he wrote in an email. “Ultimately, our team advised the AG’s office the data requested neither exists nor could be accurately produced. Thus, no data of any kind was provided.”

Asked who in Paxton’s office had requested the records, he replied: “I cannot say.”

The behind-the-scenes effort by Paxton’s office to obtain data on how many Texans had changed their gender on their license came as the attorney general, Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican leaders in the state have been publicly marshaling resources against transgender Texans.
Yep. It's a complete and total mystery. Bonus enigma points:

Paxton’s office bypassed the normal channels — DPS’s government relations and general counsel’s offices — and went straight to the driver license division staff in making the request, according to a state employee familiar with it, who said the staff was told that Paxton’s office wanted “numbers” and later would want “a list” of names, as well as “the number of people who had had a legal sex change.”
Surely small government, free speech, and civil liberties loving Texans like Paxton would never dream of using a list like that against citizens of the Lone Star State, especially targeting the people on that list as enemies of the Republic of Texas.


The Road To Gilead, Con't

Six months after Dobbs and the death of Roe v Wade, anti-abortion lunatics are furious that tens of thousands of women, medical staff, and abortion advocates and activists haven't been put in state prisons yet, and they are doing everything in their power to change that even as Republicans realize that abortion cost them dozens of races across the country last month.

The largest anti abortion organization in Texas has created a team of advocates assigned to investigate citizens who might be distributing abortion pills illegally.

Students for Life of America, a leading national antiabortion group, is making plans to systematically test the water Erin Brockovich-style in several large U.S. cities, searching for contaminants they say result from medication abortion.

And Republican lawmakers in Texas are preparing to introduce legislation that would require internet providers to block abortion pill websites in the same way they can censor child pornography.

Nearly six months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, triggering abortion bans in more than a dozen states, many antiabortion advocates fear that the growing availability of illegal abortion pills has undercut their landmark victory. Now they are grasping for new ways to crack down on those breaking the law.

Antiabortion advocates had hoped the June decision would significantly decrease the number of abortions in the United States. But abortion rights activists have ramped up efforts to funnel abortion pills — a two-step regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol that is widely regarded as safe — into states with strict new bans, working with rapidly expanding international suppliers as well as U.S.-based distributors to meet demand.

Now many conservatives are complaining that the abortion bans are not being sufficiently enforced, even though much of the illegal activity is happening in plain sight, as abortion rights advocates seek to reach women in need. Leaders interviewed on both sides of the debate had not heard of any examples of people charged for violating abortion bans since Roe fell, a crime punishable by at least several years in prison across much of the South and Midwest.

“Everyone who is trafficking these pills should be in jail for trafficking,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, who has started to speak with Republican governors about the prevalence of illegal abortion pill networks. “It hasn’t happened, but that doesn’t mean it won’t.”

Abortion bans include penalties only for people involved in facilitating illegal abortions, not for the pregnant women themselves.

The push on the right for enforcement reflects the extent to which both sides of the abortion battle are recalibrating after a tumultuous year that has challenged many long-held assumptions about the politics of the issue — and left the state of abortion access in the United States hard to assess. Interviews with more than 30 of the most influential advocacy group leaders, policymakers and litigators on the abortion issue found that far from settling the decades-old abortion question, the fall of Roe has triggered a major new phase of combat set to play out over the next few years in courtrooms, state capitals and the next presidential election.
The real issue is that at some point, any Republican 2024 hopeful is going to have to come out and say they are going to ban abortion medication nationwide, and that's going to get them destroyed in the general election.

The best example of the disconnect is here in Kentucky, where Rand Paul easily won reelection by smashing Charles Booker by 20+ points, but the state's constitutional amendment eliminating the right to an abortion lost by almost 5 points.

Republicans finally caught the car they were chasing, and they are getting dragged all over the road now. And don't believe them when they say they won't criminalize women getting abortions, because they are absolutely going to and they have lied about every other aspect of this.

New research released Wednesday adds to a growing body of evidence showing a link between more restrictive abortion policies and higher rates of maternal and infant mortality.

The analysis comes from the Commonwealth Fund, an independent research organization focused on health policy. It found that strict restrictions on abortion are associated with poorer access to health care for pregnant people and infants, which in turn raises the risk of negative outcomes such as mental health challenges and death.

According to the report, states that heavily restricted abortion access in 2020 had maternal death rates that were 62% higher than they were in states where abortion was more easily accessible.

The disparity may be aggravated by state-level changes after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, the report says
People of color, those who are uninsured and those who live on low incomes or in underserved areas already face additional risks that threaten their lives during pregnancy, such as difficulty accessing consistent pre- and post-natal care, said Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, the senior vice president for advancing health equity at the Commonwealth Fund.

"Then, on top of all that, you're adding this variation in abortion services, reproductive health services, by states," Zephyrin said. "We're just adding on to an already fractured system."
62% higher rates of infant and mother mortality, and that was before Dobbs. And of course, the people suffering the most are Black women.

The cruelty is the point.

Ron's Gone Wrong, Con't

Not content with his rapidly improving poll numbers over Donald Trump out this week, Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling for a state Supreme Court grand jury investigation into vaccine makers for "criminally misleading" Floridians into believe vaccines are safe, which is an amazing amount of fascist bullshit even for Ron DeSantis.
At a roundtable he convened of Covid vaccine skeptics and opponents — including his own surgeon general — he formally called on the state Supreme Court to impanel a grand jury to investigate whether pharmaceutical companies criminally misled Floridians about the side effects of vaccines, a position at odds with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

DeSantis was a major booster of the vaccines last year and once called them lifesaving, but he later turned against them, mirroring a shift in conservative Republican opinion. By January, he refused to say if he even got a booster, and that prompted Trump — whose Operation Warp Speed led to the rapid development of the vaccines — to take a thinly veiled shot at him, albeit not by name, for being “gutless.”

The decision by DeSantis to now investigate the vaccines was widely panned by those in Trump’s orbit.

“Prior to this, his position was identical to Trump’s, and he advocated the efficiency and safety of vaccines. That’s his record,” said Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Trump and an outspoken critic of DeSantis.

“This is a shot across the bow. We know exactly what Ron is up to,” said another Trump adviser who spoke more bluntly, but on the condition of anonymity to be able to speak freely.

“The fact is, we’ve seen this coming for a year, ever since Ron started to get anti-vax,” the Republican said, explaining the governor's opposition to the vaccine. “Yes, there’s a portion of our base that is anti-vax and some people could walk away from Trump over it. That’s why Ron is doing it. It’s so transparent.”

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump, said in a written statement that that “after China unleashed this deadly virus onto the rest of the world, President Trump’s administration worked tirelessly to secure medical equipment to save the lives of Americans who were infected."

"Operation Warp Speed was a once-in-a-lifetime initiative that gave people the option of utilizing therapeutics if they wished to do so," he added. "He also fought against any attempt to federalize the pandemic response by protecting every state’s right to ultimately decide what is best for their people because of the unique challenges each state faced.”

Those familiar with DeSantis’ thinking downplayed the political ramifications, pointing out that he was one of the first high-profile Republicans to challenge expert opinions and health care professionals when it came to the Covid response, from his decision to reopen the state and schools early to banning vaccine and mask mandates to hiring Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who has been criticized for questioning vaccines in far-right social media channels.

DeSantis was also an early public critic of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, during the pandemic who became anathema to conservatives in 2020, even as Trump resisted pressure to oust him (while still often criticizing him).

“This isn’t about 2024. This is about what DeSantis believes in,” said one Republican who was not authorized to speak publicly on his behalf.
Oh, by the way, not only are the Covid vaccines safe, they have saved 3.2 million lives so far

And yes, that last statement in the article there is an absolute lie, because if DeSantis's dog and pony show here is absolutely designed to tie Trump to Biden, Fauci, and the vaccine and use it to destroy him in 2024.

The Trumpies are already upset over this and calling DeSantis a hypocrite.

But if there's any group in America immune to charges of hypocrisy, it's Republican primary voters.
In any fair universe, this would be the end of DeSantis. Nothing, of course, is fair.  In fact, House Republicans and more than a few Democrats want the same kind of investigation into Covid's origins.

Bipartisan legislation to create a Sept. 11-style independent panel to investigate the pandemic response by both the Trump and Biden administrations appears stalled on Capitol Hill, despite a 20-to-2 vote in favor of the measure by the Senate health committee. Backers say their last hope for passage is to tack it onto an upcoming spending bill, the final major must-pass piece of legislation of the current Congress.

The commission would be created as part of a sprawling bill called the PREVENT Pandemics Act. The measure would also make the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a Senate-confirmed position and take other steps to improve pandemic preparedness, including increasing coordination among public health agencies and addressing supply chain deficiencies.

There has been no vocal opposition to the bill, but it has been in limbo since it passed the health committee in March — a victim of inertia and a lack of White House support.

There is no companion measure in the House, where Republicans are planning their own pandemic-related investigations once they take control of the chamber next month. More significantly, President Biden has not taken a public position on the bill, and the White House is privately resisting it, according to an official familiar with the measure, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss its status.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, who has focused his efforts on judicial nominations and the president’s agenda, has not brought the legislation up for a floor vote. The White House declined to comment.

So yeah, odds are they are going to get it. DeSantis is jumping on it first, so when House Republicans start their own probe, they will be "following his lead".

They should be following him to the dustbin of history.

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