And the Winner of the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard Trial Is…Men

Kevin Dietsch/Getty

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.In May 2016, when TMZ broke the news that a judge had granted actor Amber Heard a temporary restraining order against her then-husband, Johnny Depp, it took less than a day for the story to get picked up by USA Today, the Today Show, the Guardian, and countless celebrity outlets. The New York Post referred to Depp as a “drunken, paranoid, wine-bottle-flinging wife-beater” in its sensational summary of Heard’s claims as she filed for the protective order. The cover of People magazine showed Heard with bruises around her eyes and a cut lip. The magazine’s cover line promised to take readers “inside their toxic marriage.”
Two years later, after the MeToo movement took off, Heard published her own op-ed in the Washington Post. The article, ghostwritten by an ACLU staffer and timed to coincide with Heard’s new movie Aquaman, called for policy efforts like reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which funds responses to gender-based violence, and opposing new regulations around Title IX that lessened schools’ responsibility to respond to reports of sexual assault and harassment. Heard didn’t explicitly name Depp but referred to her personal experience of having become, in 2016, “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” She continued that she had seen “in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.” The Washington Post’s headline appeared in her tweet about the article: “Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence—and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
Now, those turns of phrase are at the heart of the six-week televised circus of a trial that has competed with news of mass shootings, the ongoing pandemic, and the war in Ukraine, while flooding social media with anti-Heard hate from Depp’s massive fanbase. He has demanded $50 million in damages for Heard’s statements; she’s filed a $100 million counterclaim alleging that Depp defamed her when his lawyer told the press that her claims of abuse were a “hoax” and an “ambush.” Notably, Depp has already lost a defamation case against the Sun in the UK, where libel laws are friendlier to plaintiffs, after a judge ruled that an article calling him a “wife-beater” was accurate, and that Depp had assaulted Heard on 12 occasions.
Despite common misperceptions, the seven jurors currently deliberating in a Fairfax, Virginia, court are not deciding whether Depp abused Heard, or Heard abused Depp, (or both), but whether her words in the op-ed amounted to “defamation.” Was it false for Heard to say she had become “a public figure representing domestic abuse,” two years after that People magazine cover? Did her language—not her original 2016 allegations, but the implications of her 2018 op-ed—damage Depp’s reputation? 
By centering on these questions, the Depp-Heard trial is about issues far deeper than which celebrity is in the wrong. It’s about whether survivors can talk about their experiences without being dragged to court and forced to prove their stories. And while the spectacle is reinforcing the fears of some survivors that coming forward means facing a raft of additional abuse—if not from a celebrity fanbase, then from friends and family—the public sympathy toward Depp is also freeing other survivors to speak: men who have been victims in violent relationships.
You don’t have to join team #IBelieveAmberHeard to recognize that Depp’s lawsuit is part of a trend. Since the MeToo movement five years ago, defamation lawsuits by men accused of sexual misconduct have become a tool of choice for countering allegations—and punishing those who make them. Artists Nelly and Drake, former Pittsburgh Steeler Antonio Brown, and former Tinder CEO Greg Blatt have all filed lawsuits similar to Depp’s. Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore recently lost his defamation lawsuit against Leigh Corfman, one of several women who said Moore had preyed on them when they were underage. (Corfman also lost a suit of her own arguing that Moore’s denials of her story were a kind of defamation.) The actor Evan Rachel Wood was sued for defamation in March by her ex-fiancé, Marilyn Manson—a pal of Johnny Depp’s—whom she says raped and abused her during their relationship.
The trend isn’t limited to celebrities or politicians. In a 2020 investigation, I found dozens of cases involving non-public figures—an airport maintenance chief, a massage therapist, an acroyoga instructor—who filed defamation lawsuits against people who had accused them of sexual misconduct or domestic abuse. One woman was sued after reporting an alleged rape to the police, another after filing a workplace sexual harassment complaint against her manager. As I reported two years ago: 
Attorneys confirm that these suits are becoming more common. The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which helps workplace harassment victims pay their legal bills, has assisted 33 accusers, including Lopez, who have been sued for defamation in the past two years—nearly 20 percent of its caseload. As the number of cases grows, so does the chilling effect: Defamation lawsuits are being used “more and more to try to silence people from coming forward,” says Sharyn Tejani, director of Time’s Up. “It was not something that we expected would take as much of our time and money as it has.”
Bruce Johnson, a Seattle lawyer who specializes in First Amendment cases, says that before fall 2017, he was contacted twice a year by women who were worried about being sued if they spoke out about sexual violence or harassment or who were threatened with legal retribution for doing so. Now it’s every two weeks, he says. Alexandra Tracy-Ramirez, a lawyer who represents both survivors and accused perpetrators in campus-related cases in Colorado and Arizona, has also noticed more accusers speaking out and facing the prospect of being sued.
Such suits are particularly common on college campuses, and even among high school students, says Maha Ibrahim, a senior attorney representing young survivors at civil rights litigation firm Equal Rights Advocates. “We represent the ordinary folks, and now they’re the ones getting threatened all the time,” Ibrahim says. “The minute you say you’re a survivor, there’s this concern about defamation.”
Sometimes the cases are only threatened, never filed. Other times, no threat is needed—the fear of legal blowback is enough to keep would-be whistleblowers silent. According to Ibrahim, Equal Rights Advocates has received calls from students as young as 15 who were afraid of being sued for defamation for reporting an assault to their school or going to a Take Back the Night rally. Those fears of legal blowback are rational, Ibrahim explains. Even if a survivor is sure to win a defamation lawsuit, she says, “it’s going to be so expensive and so traumatic to defend yourself, and it’s going to distract so much…that the tables are going to be completely turned. It’s not illogical for survivors to pause and say, ‘Is it worth it to come forward?’”
If lawyers and mainstream advocates were already concerned about the rise of MeToo defamation lawsuits, the extreme vitriol directed at Heard online has shown how powerful such suits can be in harnessing public opinion. On Thursday, Heard testified that she faces death threats every day. A few minutes on a popular YouTube stream of the trial reveals a torrent of gendered abuse in the comments—criticizing Heard for crying or not crying enough, calling her a “gold-digger” and “crazy lunatic woman,” speculating about the smell of her body. “Anybody who is sued by an ex is going to look to this case as what hell awaits them if the matter goes to trial,” says Carrie Goldberg, a victim rights attorney whose firm often defends survivors from defamation claims.
“I was begging Johnny to not make me prove what I’ve had to sit on the stand in front of all of you and prove,” Heard said on the stand last week, explaining a recording of a phone call in which she pleaded with him for a mutual gag order. “I was begging not to do this, not to sit where I’m sitting today. I didn’t want this. I don’t want to be here.”

Ruth Glenn, president and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, has warned that the online tempest surrounding the trial—which is being watched by millions—could have a “chilling effect” on victims of domestic violence as they consider seeking safety or help and weigh the risks of backlash from supporters or family. The takeaway for survivors, according to Glenn: “You will be ridiculed, mocked and further harassed if you come forward, if you say anything.”
That warning resonates with Nomi Abadi, a pianist and composer who told the Hollywood Reporter a few months ago that she’d survived sexual assault in her industry. Abadi, the founder of the Female Composer Safety League, has not revealed publicly who hurt her. “I actually consider it every day, watching this,” Abadi tells me. “Maybe I shouldn’t go public, because people are going to think of me the same way that they think of Amber Heard.”
Abadi says she’s far less interested in the actual court case between Depp and Heard than the public conversation around it. What factors make people more hostile or sympathetic to Heard’s story? “That’s what affects me,” she explains. “How am I supposed to come forward, as a victim who has not come forward yet? How am I supposed to come forward in a post-Amber Heard, Johnny Depp climate?”
Throughout the trial, Depp has maintained that he never assaulted Heard; rather, his legal team argues that she was the primary aggressor in the relationship, abusing him physically, verbally, and emotionally. The public sympathy for this version of the story has resonated powerfully for victims who identify with Depp. “I do think that male victims of domestic abuse are watching this very closely,” says Denise Hines, a George Mason University professor who studies the experiences of male domestic abuse victims. One man who told NBC News that he’d survived domestic and sexual abuse said that after watching Depp testify that Heard had abused him, he opened up about his own experiences to his friends for the first time. Another male victim said seeing a celebrity of Depp’s stature say he was abused made him feel less alone.
According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 7 men experiences severe physical violence by an intimate partner during his lifetime. Yet straight male victims don’t recognize their experiences as abuse, or aren’t aware that agencies that help female survivors also will offer them services, says Emily Douglas, chair of the Department of Social Work & Child Advocacy at Montclair State University. And when they do tell others what they’re going through, Hines says, they’re often met with laughter or asked what they did to deserve it.
So the overwhelmingly sympathetic public reaction to Depp “might open the gates for more sympathy and empathy for male victims,” Hines says. “Men who can relate to the story that Johnny Depp is telling might actually now be more likely to come forward and tell people in their lives what’s going on, or what happened in a previous relationship.”
It may be the only silver lining of a toxic trial that stands to harm many more people than the parties in the courtroom. “The whole trial, unfortunately, does disadvantage female victims because of the vitriol against Amber Heard,” Hines says. “If there’s a male abuser out there who’s watching this and thinks he can use the Johnny Depp trial to his advantage, and paint his girlfriend or wife out to be Amber Heard, the way this is all playing out in the media, he’s going to do it.” 

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Biden's Means-Tested, Try-to-Please-Everyone Student Debt Plan Will Please No One

The Washington Post reported on Friday morning that the Biden administration is finally considering a concrete policy of student debt cancellation, but not the one for which activists have been fighting for years. The Post reports that the White House is considering canceling just $10,000 per person in student debt, under a means-tested regime which would limit forgiveness to Americans who earned less than $150,000 in the previous year, or less than $300,000 for married couples filing jointly. Imagine if millions of people suffering under unpayable debt burdens woke up one day, checked the news, and found out that the thing that had been weighing on them since they were 18 years old had suddenly vanished, all thanks to the President.The Post outlines several obstacles to implementing means-testing, including that “the Education and Treasury departments cannot readily share borrowers’ tax information, and legislation easing the restriction won’t take effect for two years.” Additionally, means-testing student debt relief could exclude low-income borrowers who don’t file taxes; could require complex identity verification processes; and could take months to implement no matter what, again according to the Post. While an estimated 97% of debt holders’ income falls under the proposed thresholds, these serious bureaucratic challenges will likely exclude millions of the most vulnerable from attaining debt relief in practice.If this plan is implemented, then by trying to please everyone, Biden will likely please no one. What should be a slam-dunk opportunity to energize voters young and old, and especially voters of color, may instead become a bureaucratic mess that offers too little relief for too much complexity—which is exactly what student debt profiteers want from a loan forgiveness policy, if we are to have one at all.The political cross-pressures Biden faces on this issue are real, but they can be solved with strong, clear messaging and additional policy actions that are firmly within the executive’s power. Any student debt forgiveness policy will inevitably be distorted in attack ads from bad-faith corporate centrists and the right-wing propaganda machine into a false claim that this policy only helps educated elites. This is despite the fact that a college education has had little correlation with social mobility since at least the Great Recession. Indeed, much of the union organizing wave we’re seeing at low-wage jobs right now, which Biden rightly celebrates, is being driven by college-educated baristas and warehouse workers. But no matter what, the opponents of this policy—themselves educated, wealthy elites—will try to depict Biden as only aiding the privileged and leaving the non-college educated behind.The solution to that problem is to help student debtors and people who didn’t attend college by improving people’s lives all around with a broad slate of policies, not by making this policy inadequate. Biden has other executive authorities he can use to offer aid to constituencies including voters who never attended college. Biden can decriminalize cannabis, correct the federal poverty lines to bring millions into social safety net programs, march in on prescription drugs, and close longstanding loopholes in the tax code for corporations and ultrarich individuals.Using his executive authorities on any or all of these issues would show that the President cares about the suffering of ordinary people being plundered by the elite.Using his executive authorities on any or all of these issues would show that the President cares about the suffering of ordinary people being plundered by the elite. That’s what the political impact of student debt cancellation would be, too: imagine if millions of people suffering under unpayable debt burdens woke up one day, checked the news, and found out that the thing that had been weighing on them since they were 18 years old had suddenly vanished, all thanks to the President.That moment of hope will not materialize if it’s clouded by frustrating paperwork and time-consuming red tape, and artificially limited to only remove a small percentage of the burden. This will come down hardest on the most vulnerable: for 83% of Black borrowers, canceling only $10,000 of debt would still leave them with a balance higher than their original amount.Biden, by nature, believes in compromise. It’s how he’s survived as a politician for decades, and what he wants to revive in our political currents. Moreover, he is considering an executive policy rather than the legislative policy he prefers, which is likely already hard for a Senate institutionalist like Biden. But this proposed “compromise” is not something which everyone can live with—it is something which no one can tolerate. If Biden’s plan for energizing the indispensable youth vote is to make it too difficult to get insufficient aid, he will do himself—not to mention his constituents, his party, and his country—no favors.

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“It Was The Wrong Decision. Period.”

Wong Maye-E/AP

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.Plenty of questions remain over the Uvalde, Texas, school massacre. But three days into the investigation, one thing is now for certain: law enforcement officials catastrophically mismanaged their response as 19 children and two teachers were killed inside a single classroom.
“From the benefit of hindsight where I’m sitting now, of course it was the wrong decision—period,” Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Steven McCraw told reporters at a tense press conference on Friday. McCraw was referring to the call by the on-scene commander at the time of Tuesday’s attack to not enter the classroom where an 18-year-old gunman had been located for more than an hour. The damning assessment comes a day after officials confirmed that “numerous” officers had been stationed just outside the classroom—only to retreat and wait for a special tactical team to arrive.
“There’s no excuse for that,” McCraw continued, before appearing to offer exactly that: “Again, I wasn’t there.”

“How many kids could have been saved had they breached the room?”
“I don’t know.” pic.twitter.com/TDbElnY4mV
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 27, 2022

The press conference is sure to fuel public outrage as questions mount over the nearly 90-minute delay in police response—and what exactly transpired between the first 911 calls and when police eventually killed the 18-year-old gunman. In the wake of Tuesday’s massacre—the second deadliest school shooting in US history—law enforcement officials have repeatedly offered contradictory accounts of how they handled the shooting inside Robb Elementary School.

Texas DPS official refuses to say why officers didn’t breach the door of the classroom for the hour that the Uvalde shooter was in there shooting children. pic.twitter.com/br2fdYruty
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) May 26, 2022

“If I thought it would help, I would apologize,” McCraw said on Friday. For the family members of Tuesday’s massacre, it surely won’t.

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GOP Senator Ron Johnson Used Taxpayer Money for Vacation Travel Expenses

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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) has been using taxpayer dollars to pay for trips from his Florida vacation home to Washington D.C., spending thousands of dollars this year alone, a new report has revealed.
Johnson, whose net worth is estimated to be greater than $39 million, traveled at least nine times last year to a vacation home he and his family own in Fort Myers, Florida. A company owned by his family trust purchased the home for $1.6 million in 2013.
For his travels to the vacation home, Johnson has personally paid the bill. However, federal records show that the two-term Republican senator has had travel expenses reimbursed for flights from Florida back to the nation’s capital 19 times between 2013 and May 2021. Individual ticket costs for those travels ranged from $227 to $1,152, according to a report from The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
While it’s impossible to know the exact amount that Johnson has billed taxpayers, the Journal-Sentinel estimates that it’s between $5,418 and $18,781 this year alone.
Alexa Henning, a spokesperson for Johnson, claimed that he has “never been reimbursed for travel to visit family in Florida but is reimbursed for returning for official business to Washington, D.C.” Henning also said that Johnson’s actions fall in line with Senate Rules Committee guidelines.
Despite claiming last month that he was “for total transparency” and “the truth” when it comes to his personal government spending, Johnson has expressed outrage over the reporting. On Thursday, the senator described the reporting from the Journal Sentinel as “a fully coordinated attack by the [Democratic] Party and their allies in the media.”
“When the truth isn’t on their side, Dems and [mainstream] media lie, distort, and engage in the politics of personal destruction,” he said on Twitter.
Johnson is up for reelection this year. Although he previously promised not to run for more than two terms, he reneged on that pledge earlier this year, announcing that he would run for a third term in this year’s midterm election races.
The Wisconsin senator is considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans running for reelection, and for good reason — several scandals and damning misstatements from Johnson (including his anti-science stances on the climate crisis and the COVID pandemic) have rendered him unpopular in the state, with a recent poll showing that only 36 percent of residents in Wisconsin view him in a favorable light, versus 46 percent who view him unfavorably.
On Friday, Johnson falsely claimed that the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two adults were killed, was somehow related to schools discussing racism and the “teaching of wokeness.”

Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

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Saying His Name, Remembering His Life

His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice is a healing book about a truly terrible moment.

Written by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, two sharp reporters from The Washington Post, this social biography of George Floyd is a masterwork. Floyd is not rendered as a caricature or perfect martyr; instead, he is flawed, ordinary, and special. He made a lot of mistakes and yet also tried to live a good life. And in the end he was, by his own definition, a success.

“For as long as he could remember, George Perry Floyd Jr. had wanted the world to know his name,” says a passage early in the book, presaging his emergence as the face of the movement against police violence in the United States. This reminded me of the scene in Richard Wright’s Native Son when Bigger Thomas tells his friends, “Sometimes I feel like something awful is going to happen to me.”

Floyd’s heinous death on May 25, 2020, unleashed a global protest against police violence, even as the world was in the throes of a deadly pandemic. But his story, in this telling, is rooted in the history of chattel slavery in the United States. Floyd’s ancestors were imprisoned in that world and, as Ta-Nehisi Coates has said, “plundered.” They gained their freedom only to lose their sole lifeline to economic freedom after Reconstruction, when their land, like millions of Black Americans, was taken from them.   

George Floyd grew up poor and was offered barely a speck of opportunity. He and his family struggled to get by. His mother even moved to Houston to get away from the trappings of the family’s connections to slavery in North Carolina.

Samuels and Olorunnipa also explore the various players in Floyd’s backstory: the enslavers of Floyd’s ancestors, those who stole their land, and Derek Chauvin, the cop who took his life, whose family came to the United States from Europe in the nineteenth century but instantly jumped ahead of Floyd’s people in the U.S. racial caste system.

The chapter on Floyd’s killing is detailed and horrific. As someone who saw the video of his killing early in its circulation online, I found the book version to be even more painful. The inhumanity of the police officers is given a minute-by-minute analysis, revealing their actions—and, in some cases, inactions—to be even more depraved than I had previously thought.

While Floyd begged to live, the writers highlight, “Chauvin dug his knee into Floyd even more, a half-smirk on his face.” Meanwhile, off to the side, “the other officers continued to talk among themselves casually.”

As we know, the case had an atypical twist in that Chauvin was prosecuted and convicted of murder, while the three other cops on the scene were found guilty of federal civil rights violations and still face trial starting in mid-June on state charges. The book describes Ben Crump, the attorney who comes to represent the family; the Reverend Al Sharpton, a fixture in police brutality struggles for decades; and Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s attorney general, whose legal team brought Chauvin to justice.

But my favorite passages are about some of the ordinary people who played a big role in the case. People like Darnella Frazier, the young Black woman who somehow filmed the killing and then posted it online, exposing a cover-up in motion by the police. And Donald Williams II, another witness, who, because of his martial arts training, knew what he saw that evening was murder.

“Get off of his fucking neck, bro! Get off of his neck!” Williams cried out desperately as Floyd was being killed.

Sadly, we know that Williams’s demands were ignored. And sadly, we also know the killing of unarmed Black people by police has continued unabated.

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'Manchin of the House' Kurt Schrader Officially Defeated in Oregon Primary

Progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner was officially declared the winner Friday in the Democratic primary for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, ousting right-wing incumbent and Blue Dog Coalition member Rep. Kurt Schrader, a leading obstructionist in the U.S. House.In interviews throughout the primary campaign, McLeod-Skinner dubbed Schrader the “Joe Manchin of the House,” pointing to his initial vote against the American Rescue Plan and his opposition to congressional Democrats’ efforts to lower sky-high prescription drug prices.President Joe Biden endorsed Schrader in the race despite the right-wing Democrat’s role in thwarting elements of the Build Back Better package, which died in the U.S. Senate largely thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).Schrader, a close ally of the pharmaceutical industry, opposed his party’s widely popular effort to allow Medicare to negotiate prices directly with drug companies, a policy that McLeod-Skinner says she supports.”You have gone so far to the right that running to the left of you simply means I’m a Democrat,” McLeod-Skinner told Schrader during an April debate.In a social media post on Friday following confirmation of her victory—which was delayed due to barcode issues on ballots in Oregon’s third-largest county—McLeod-Skinner wrote that she is “honored to be elected as Oregon’s Democratic nominee for Congress in OR-5.””From Sellwood to Sunriver, Oregonians never stopped believing we can protect our families, our climate, and our civil rights,” added McLeod-Skinner, who was endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). “Oregonians—this is your victory.”McLeod-Skinner, who was declared the winner with a lead of 57% to 43%, will face Republican nominee Lori Chavez-DeRemer in November.Progressive advocacy groups hailed McLeod-Skinner’s victory as evidence that Democratic voters are increasingly fed up with lawmakers who prioritize their donors’ interests over those of their constituents.”This is a David and Goliath moment,” said Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, which backed McLeod-Skinner in the race. “This win proves that voters are hungry for leaders who will fight for working families, not billionaires and Big Pharma.”David Mitchell, a cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, said in a statement Friday that “drug price reform figured prominently in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District primary, where Rep. Kurt Schrader tried to reinvent himself as pro-patient and anti-Big Pharma when he in fact led the effort to weaken legislation allowing Medicare negotiation.””Voters saw through his lies, and for the first time in 42 years, an incumbent member of Congress lost his job in an Oregon primary,” Mitchell added. “The result sends a clear message to Democrats and Republicans alike: Americans want Congress to pass legislation to lower drug prices, and those who stand in the way or fail to deliver on their promises will be held accountable by voters at the ballot box. More talk won’t do. Fake solutions won’t do. No more excuses.”Schrader is the second member of the so-called “unbreakable nine”—a group of House Democrats that helped tank the Build Back Better Act—to be ousted in a primary this year.Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.), also a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, lost her primary race earlier this week to fellow Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.).”The Broken Nine,” People for Bernie mockingly tweeted Friday.

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Science Journal Editorial Says 'Minions' of NRA 'Must Be Defeated' to Save Nation

A new Science editorial calls on scientists to get up from “the sidelines” of the national gun control debate and debunks arguments frequently used by right-wing politicians and media personalities to reject tightening limits on firearm access.”A nation of children threatened by gun violence does not have a future,” it states.Authored by Science editor-in-chief Holden Thorp, the editorial was published online Thursday in the wake of a string of mass shootings—on May 14 at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, on May 15 at a church in Laguna Woods, California, and May 24 in Uvalde, Texas—and as the NRA is set to begin its annual meeting in Houston.”The common thread in all of the country’s revolting mass shootings is the absurdly easy access to guns,” Thorp wrote. “The science is clear: Restrictions work, and it’s likely that even more limitations would save thousands of lives.” Failure to impose tightened restrictions on that access, he wrote, ensures “living with more and more senseless carnage, courtesy of the National Rifle Association and their well-funded political lackeys.”Thorp refuted the suggestion that mass shootings in the U.S. can be blamed upon national rates of mental illness, noting that the levels “are similar to those in other countries where mass shootings rarely occur” and that previous research found that “less than a third of the people who commit mass shootings have a diagnosable mental disorder.”Assertions that gun restrictions are useless because a potential assailant could simply work around them also don’t hold water, he wrote. Citing 2017 research, Thorp noted that “extending criminal sentences for gun use in violent crime, prohibiting gun ownership by individuals convicted of domestic violence, and restricting the concealed carry of firearms lead to demonstrable reductions in gun violence.”The Second Amendment, Thorp continued, is also a flawed justification for not imposing stricter gun control laws. He pointed to “many times when the American people have concluded that rights granted at the nation’s founding could not be reconciled with modern conditions and knowledge,” citing slavery and women’s suffrage.As happened with those issues, he wrote that it must now “be decided that unfettered gun ownership by American citizens is not consistent with a flourishing country where people can worship, shop, and be educated without fear.”Thorp concluded with a direct appeal to fellow scientists, who can show “that gun restrictions make societies safer” and “that racism is measurable and leads to violence.””Make protest signs. Start marching. Push lawmakers to finally break the partisan gridlock that has made moments of silence a regular observance,” he wrote.The NRA “and its minions,” he added, “must be defeated.”

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In a Different World, Mark Meadows’s Evidence-Burning Would Be Shocking

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If I had any remaining faith whatsoever in the reach of the “justice” system as it pertains to the rich and powerful, I’d be halfway convinced Donald Trump and his pals are in impressively deep shit. In the immortal words of Ted “Theodore” Logan, “Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.”
Back in February, it was revealed that while in office, Donald Trump was in the habit of destroying official documents once he was finished looking at them (or not looking at them, as was usually the case). These papers, most of which were supposed to go to the National Archives at some point, wound up in pieces on the floor, and staffers would try to tape them back together. Other times, the shreds wound up in a toilet, after which I assume no tape salvage was attempted. Former White House aide Omarosa Newman tells a tale of Trump actually eating sensitive documents after meeting with his lawyer, Michael Cohen.
These revelations were greeted with a collective, “Oh, OK” from the people. I mean, come on, try harder, hit me where it hurts. After so many years filled with so many stories of Trump’s gross behavior, a report on him wrecking paperwork barely moves the needle. At this point, I’d be more impressed with a headline like, “Confirmed: Trump Is Mammal — Drinks Water, Breathes Air.” Yeah, right. Fake news.
Then along comes this little tidbit. It seems Trump was not the only member of the administration who made a practice of wrecking the documentary record: “Then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows burned papers in his office after meeting with a House Republican who was working to challenge the 2020 election,” reports Politico, “according to testimony the Jan. 6 select committee has heard from one of his former aides.”
The report continues:

Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked under Meadows when he was former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, told the panel investigating the Capitol attack that she saw Meadows incinerate documents after a meeting in his office with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.). A person familiar with the testimony described it on condition of anonymity. The Meadows-Perry meeting came in the weeks after Election Day 2020, as Trump and his allies searched for ways to reverse the election results.
It’s unclear whether Hutchinson told the committee which specific papers were burnt, and if federal records laws required the materials’ preservation. Meadows’ destruction of papers is a key focus for the select committee, and the person familiar with the testimony said investigators pressed Hutchinson for details about the issue for more than 90 minutes during a recent deposition.

Not to speak too broadly, but a general rule of thumb I adhere to is, “People in an innocent frame of mind don’t destroy evidence.” Oliver North may be one of the most arrogant skinbags ever to curse the Earth, but even he spent some quality time with Fawn Hall and the shredders when the Iran-Contra roof was about to cave in. You could amend the end of that sentence above to suit the circumstances — “People in an innocent frame of mind don’t light things on fire in the White House” — but it’s all the same laundry in the end.
What did Meadows and Perry talk about that inspired such pyrotechnics from the White House chief of staff? Did the aide know? Did she testify to same?
If this is the kind of stuff the January 6 committee has been dredging up in their investigation, the hearings slated for June are going to need a “Warning: Explosives” sign on the door. Meadows was worried enough about any investigation into the doings on January 6 that he torched those papers before the committee had really gotten started. Between him and Trump, I’m frankly amazed the committee actually got any documents at all. Ten bags of ashes and a middle finger would be more in line with the ethos of that administration.
People in an innocent frame of mind don’t destroy evidence.Another Trump satellite currently enduring The Fear is Rep. Jim “Gym” Jordan of Ohio, who has been slapped with a subpoena to appear before his colleagues and explain his role in the attempted overthrow of the government. While not yet in open defiance of the summons, Jordan has rolled out a list of demands to be met before he appears, like some half-assed bank robber who has taken himself hostage by mistake.
Among his requirements is a demand to see the evidence against him: “Jordan requested that the committee provide him with ‘all documents, videos, or other material … that you potentially anticipate using, introducing, or relying on during questioning,’” reports The Washington Post. “Only then could he ‘adequately further respond to [the] subpoena,’ Jordan wrote.”
Cute, that. It’s always nice to see the answers before the test.
The funkiest of the funk, however, comes to us courtesy of a four-judge panel in New York’s appellate division, which upheld Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron’s ruling that Trump and the Trumplings must provide sworn deposition testimony to New York Attorney General Letitia James. Trump’s legal team, in its seemingly eternal quest to bend the notion of incompetence into bold new shapes, took a novel approach toward trying to weasel their clients out of sitting down on the record.
“His lawyers argued that ordering the Trumps to testify violated their constitutional rights because their answers could be used in a parallel criminal investigation,” reports the Associated Press. Ha, ho, um, what now? If that is not the guiltiest line of argument in the history of jurisprudence, it has to be somewhere in the top five. Your Honor, if my client testifies about money laundering, they might ask him about the murders.
The appellate court masticated that ball of cud and spat it out with extreme prejudice. “The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude civil discovery of related facts, at which a party may exercise the privilege against self-incrimination,” they replied. In other words Donny, sit your arse down and practice saying, “On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer,” over and over and over again. Same goes for the Trumplings. That’s going to play real well on the news.
If this timeline continues to unspool as it has, one of these days we’re going to see a headline that reads, “Trump Tried to Eat Declaration of Independence in Front of Horrified National Archive Tourists; Aides Intervened With Big Mac”… and nobody will blink. We have spent so much time since 2016 repeating the incantation, “This is not normal, this is not normal” to try and stave off the normalization of brazen criminal behavior. Have we failed? Trump is eating the paperwork when not flushing it down toilets, his chief of staff is burning the notes of his meetings with known insurrectionists, and Jordan wants the answers to Jeopardy before the show. Our collective tolerance for mendacity has become intolerably high. Mission accomplished?

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Police Didn’t “Engage” Uvalde Shooter — But They Handcuffed Terrified Parents

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O’Rourke Crashes Abbott Press Conference, Blames GOP for Continued Gun Violence

Texas state police on Thursday walked back key claims they repeatedly made about the Uvalde school shooting after coming under scrutiny for failing to stop the gunman until 90 minutes after he arrived outside of the school.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and spokespeople at the state’s Department of Public Safety said since the attack that school police officers “engaged” the shooter before he entered the school, praising law enforcement’s “quick response.” But DPS regional director Victor Escalon acknowledged during a hectic news conference on Thursday that police did not engage the shooter and, in fact, there was no school police officer there at all before the gunman entered the school.
“He walked in unobstructed initially,” Escalon said. The official said the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, shot his grandmother and crashed her pickup truck before going to the school.
“He was not confronted by anybody,” Escalon said.
In fact, Ramos crashed his car at around 11:28 am but did not enter the school for about 12 minutes. The gunman got out of his truck and shot at two people across the street, Escalon said, before shooting multiple times at the school building. Ramos entered the school through an unlocked side door at around 11:40 am, according to Escalon.
The gunman walked into a classroom and fired more than 25 times, the official said. Officers arrived at the school at around 11:44 am and tried to engage the gunman but came under fire and backed off.
The suspect was in the classroom for about an hour as police gathered outside while worried parents begged officers to enter the building and stop the gunman. Escalon claimed police during this time were evacuating other parts of the school and at some point tried to negotiate with the suspect. Eventually, a Border Patrol tactical team arrived and breached the classroom, killing the suspect in a shootout, according to Escalon.
It’s unclear why it took so long for law enforcement to stop the gunman. Data shows that most “active shooter” attacks in the U.S. end within five minutes, according to FBI data, but the Uvalde attack lasted 20 times as long. CNN reported that there were about 100 federal agents and local police officers on the scene.
“They [didn’t] make entry immediately because of the gunfire they were receiving,” Escalon said while dodging questions from reporters.
Parents who lost their children in the attack slammed the police response and the cops’ narrative following the shooting.
“They said they rushed in and all that, we didn’t see that,” Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter Jacklyn was killed while he begged police outside to let him go into the school, told the New York Times. “There were plenty of men out there armed to the teeth that could have gone in faster. This could have been over in a couple minutes.”
The response came under criticism from law enforcement experts.
“If you’ve got somebody you think is actively engaged in harming people or attempting to harm people, your obligation as a police officer is to immediately stop that person and neutralize that threat,” Don Alwes, a former instructor for the National Tactical Officers Association, told NBC News. “We don’t expect police officers to commit suicide in doing it. But the expectation is that if someone is about to harm someone, especially children, you’ve got to take immediate action to make that stop.”
The stalled response may have cost lives.
“You can’t wait until patients go to a trauma center,” Dr. Ronald Stewart, the senior trauma surgeon at University Hospital in San Antonio, who coordinated treatment for multiple victims, told NBC. “You have to act quickly.”
Instead of entering the school, aw enforcement officers were seen doing crowd control as terrified parents gathered outside. Some officers apparently went inside the school to retrieve their own children, according to a DPS official. A video recorded outside the school shows law enforcement officers with long guns preventing parents from entering the school to do the same as they beg the cops do something.
“Shoot him or something!” a woman pleads in the video.
“They’re all just fucking parked outside, dude. They need to go in there,” a man is heard saying.
“The police were doing nothing,” Angeli Rose Gomez, whose children attend second and third grade at Robb Elementary, told The Wall Street Journal. “They were just standing outside the fence. They weren’t going in there or running anywhere.”
The response took so long that Gomez had time to drive 40 miles to the school after hearing about the shooting to plead with police to enter. Gomez and other parents urged law enforcement to go into the school before U.S. Marshals put her in handcuffs and told her she was being arrested for intervening in an active investigation, she said. Another father was tackled and thrown to the ground by police, she said, and another parent was pepper-sprayed.
Gomez said she convinced local police officers that she knew to persuade the marshals to free her. Once she was free, Gomez jumped the school fence and evacuated her children to safety.
A spokesman for the Marshals Service denied that anyone was handcuffed.
“Our deputy marshals maintained order and peace in the midst of the grief-stricken community that was gathering around the school,” he told the Journal.
Desirae Garza, whose niece Amerie Jo Garza was killed in the shooting, told The Times that her brother Angel was handcuffed by a local police officer as well while trying to run into the school.
“Nobody was telling him anything. He was trying to find out. He wanted to know where his daughter was,” Garza said.
After the shooting, Gomez said she saw police use a Taser on a father who approached a bus evacuating students to get his child.
“They didn’t do that to the shooter, but they did that to us. That’s how it felt,” she told the Journal.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, called out state officials for providing the public with “conflicting accounts of how the tragedy in Uvalde unfolded.”
Castro sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday calling for a federal investigation into the police response.
“I’m calling on the @FBI to use their maximum authority,” he tweeted, “to investigate and provide a full report on the timeline, the law enforcement response and how 21 Texans were killed.”

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It's Simple: If You Don't Support Gun Control, You Support School Massacres

I drove my daughter to school today.She thanked me for the ride, I wished her a good day, and she toddled off to the middle school doors.Her khaki pants needed ironing, her pony tail was coming loose and she hefted her backpack onto her shoulder like a sack of potatoes.The gun industry is making billions of dollars off this cycle of gun violence: mass shooting, fear of regulation, increase in sales.All I could do was smile wistfully.Parents and guardians know that feeling—a little piece of your heart walking away from you.I wonder if the parents of the two adults killed in the shooting gave a thought to their grown children during what may have seemed like just another busy day at the end of the academic year.We’re all so preoccupied. We tend to forget that every goodbye could be our last.It comes just 10 days after a shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., where 10 people were killed.There’s hardly enough time anymore to mourn one disaster before the next one hits.After all, they aren’t unpredictable. They aren’t inevitable. They’re man-made.There have been 119 school shootings since 2018, according to Education Week, a publication that has been tracking such events for the last four years.This only includes incidents that happen on K-12 school property or on a school bus or during a school sponsored event when classes are in session.If we broaden our definition, there is much more gun violence in our communities every day.According to The Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection organization, there have been 212 mass shootings so far this year.There were 693 mass shootings last year, 611 the year before and 417 the year before that.After 51 worshippers were killed in mass shootings at Christchurch and Canterbury in New Zealand in 2019, the government outlawed most military style semiautomatic weapons, assault rifles like AK15’s, and initiated a buyback program. There hasn’t been a mass shooting there sinceIn Australia, following a 1996 mass shooting in which 35 people were killed in Tasmania, Australian states and territories banned several types of firearms and bought back hundreds of thousands of banned weapons from their owners. Gun homicides, suicides, and mass shootings are now much less common in the country.This is not hard.The rest of the world has cracked the code. Just not us.Not the U.S.Guns are the leading cause of death for American children— 1 out of 10 people who die from guns in this country are 19 or younger.Firearm deaths are more than 5 times higher than drownings.But still we do nothing.There have been 2,032 school shootings in the US since 1970, and these incidents are increasing. We’ve had 948 school shootings since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.And those who were killed or physically injured aren’t the only young people affected by this. Since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, nearly 300,000 students have been on campus during a school shooting.Imagine what that does to a child.Imagine what it would do to an adult.Since Sandy Hook, the only change in policy has been to have lockdowns and school shooter drills in our classrooms. Children have been instructed to throw books at would-be-attackers and cause a distraction so some of them might have a greater chance of escaping.We’re told to buy bullet-proof backpacks, arm school teachers, and have gun-wielding police patrol our buildings—but our lawmakers refuse to do anything about the firearms, themselves.The gun industry is making billions of dollars off this cycle of gun violence: mass shooting, fear of regulation, increase in sales. Repeat ad infinitum.We’re told that gun control is useless because new laws will just be pieces of paper that criminals will ignore. However, by the same logic, why have any laws at all? Congress should just pack it in, the courts should close up. Criminals will do what they please.We may never be able to stop all gun violence, but we can take steps to make it more unlikely. We can at least make it more difficult for people to die by firearm. And this doesn’t have to mean getting rid of all guns. Just regulate them.According to the Pew Research Center, when you ask people about specific firearm regulations, the majority is in favor of most of them—both Republicans and Democrats.We don’t want the mentally ill to be able to buy guns. We don’t want suspected terrorists to be able to purchase guns. We don’t want convicted criminals to be able to buy guns. We want mandatory background checks for private sales at gun shows.Yet our lawmakers stand by helpless whenever these tragedies occur because they are at the mercy of their donors. The gun industry owns too many elected officials.In short, we need lawmakers willing to make laws. We need legislators who will represent the overwhelming majority of the public and take sensible action to protect the people of this country.What we need is real gun control legislation. We need an assault weapons ban. We need to close the gun show loophole. We need buyback programs to get the mountains of firearms off the streets and out of the arsenals of a handful of paranoid “survivalists.”We don’t need anyone’s thoughts and prayers. We need action. And we need it yesterday.At this point there is simply no excuse.If you don’t support gun control, you support school shootings.

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