An American Reichstag Fire?

From The American Prospect:  http://prospect.org/article/american-reichstag-fire

February 27 is the anniversary of the fire that destroyed the Reichstag and gave Hitler a pretext to seize total power. How strong are America’s firebreaks?

Peter Schrag
February 24, 2017

Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and the court system. 

                                  —Donald Trump, tweet, February 5

On the night of February 27, 1933, less than a month after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, fire gutted the central chamber of the Reichstag in Berlin, the nation’s parliament building. To this day, historians are still debating whether it was the work of a lone arsonist, the Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe, who was caught at the scene and soon confessed, or as journalist William L. Shirer later asserted in his classic Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, that there was “enough evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the Nazis who planned the arson and carried it out for their own political ends.”

But of one thing there was no doubt.

Within hours of the fire, hundreds of people were arrested and put in “protective custody” or sent to concentration camps, and the next morning (in the words of the Cambridge University historian Richard Evans), “the cabinet, which still had a non-Nazi majority, met to draw up an emergency decree that abrogated civil liberties across Germany. Signed by President Hindenburg the same day, it abolished freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom of the press, suspended the autonomy of federated states, such as Baden and Bavaria, and legalized phone-tapping, the interception of correspondence, and other intrusions.”

The decree was the first of two major measures that eliminated all institutional checks and gave Hitler absolute dictatorial powers. The second, passed a month later by the Reichstag, gave Hitler plenary power—the power to enact laws without any action by the parliament whatever. Quoting Evans again,

The Nazis used them to bludgeon their opponents into submission and their allies into compliance. By the summer of 1933 all opposition had been crushed, more than a hundred thousand Communists, Social Democrats, and other opponents of the Nazis had been sent to concentration camps, all independent political parties had been forced to dissolve themselves, and the Nazi dictatorship had been firmly established.

Could it happen here, as the historian Robert S. McElvaine of Millsaps College recently warned in the Huffington Post?  

The odds are that it could not—not in the same way and certainly not to the same extent, despite Donald Trump’s megalomaniacal rhetoric and the radicals in his entourage. Trump has no global agenda, clings fanatically to no ideology, has no Weltanschauung, as Hitler had; his highest priority appears to be himself.

Nor is America in 2017 like Germany in 1933. The two cultures are vastly different and the technology that enabled Trump to gain political power is just as accessible to his opposition. It’s also likely, judging by his appellate court opinions, that Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court, will, despite his conservative leanings on issues like abortion, be faithful to the Constitution’s protections of the press and free speech; he will not eviscerate them. Moreover, in the view of CUNY historian Benjamin Hett, whose 2014 book Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation Into The Third Reich’s Enduring Mystery makes a strong case that the fire was a Nazi plot,

The media environment of today [he wrote me in an email]—with 24-hour cable news, the internet, Twitter, Facebook, etc., etc.—is so much more intrusive than in 1933 (and the federal government is so full of people who would be happy to leak incriminating information, not least in the intelligence services) that the Trump administration would have no chance of getting away with a deliberate terrorist attack as a pretext for a coup d’état. … The other important difference is that Trump is dramatically less popular than Hitler was in 1933 and there is significantly more pushback from the population to the things he is trying to do. Not that I wouldn’t put it past Trump and [Stephen] Bannon to be thinking about this kind of thing.

But as a refugee from Hitler (Class of ’41), I’m too much aware of the extent to which the Nazis were underestimated as low-class clowns and thugs until it was too late. Similarly, in the past election, the media, the pollsters, the Democrats and millions of other Americans, and not just the left, also underestimated Trump. In that context, I’m reminded of Hannah Arendt’s post-war observation that “in 1933, indifference was no longer possible. It was no longer possible even before that.”

Continue reading at:  http://prospect.org/article/american-reichstag-fire

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Jon Stewart To The Media: It’s Time To Get Your Groove Back

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The Resistance Is the Majority of Americans — Not a New Tea Party

From Time Magazine:  http://time.com/4676825/democratic-resistance-tea-party/

Jesse Ferguson
Feb 21, 2017

On August 25, 2009, Democratic Congressman Bart Gordon held a town hall meeting in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. A local news report called it “a discussion about the nation’s health care” that “led to loud boos and heckling” from the crowd. On February 9, 2017, Republican Congresswoman Diane Black — elected to Gordon’s seat in the fall of 2010 — held a town hall meeting in the same city. A local news report headline proclaimed, “Diane Black, GOP lawmakers faced defenders of Obamacare at lively town hall.” Sounds similar, right?

The zeitgeist is quickly setting in: Republicans right now face a backlash akin to what Democrats faced from the Tea Party in 2009 and 2010. Some have gone so far as to call this resistance the Democratic Tea Party. It’s a convenient comparison: Democrats like it because the Republican Tea Party was successful in 2010, and the media appreciates it as a simple and straightforward story. I’ve been guilty of leaning on it myself.

But the Democratic resistance and the Tea Party actually differ in a number of important ways, each of which tells a different story about where our country is and where our politics may be headed.

For starters, the Tea Party was forged as an opposition to a societal reality in our country, while today’s resistance is opposed to a political reality. The Tea Party began before the election of President Obama, as a reaction to President Bush and the bank bailouts of 2008. Tea Partiers believed that society and the economy had all left them behind. The movement’s anger was stoked by the realization that the country had changed to the extent that it would elect someone like Barack Obama and support his “liberal” policies like the Economic Recovery Act (the so-called stimulus) and the Affordable Care Act (scornfully dubbed “Obamacare”). These members wanted the entire country to revert to a set of values that more closely resembled what they saw on Leave It to Beaver.

On the other hand, the current resistance isn’t based on a belief that our country has gone astray from some former golden age. It’s a political backlash, borne out of Donald Trump’s policies and his presidency. Its participants aren’t rejecting the social structures of American society. They are embracing and defending our evolving structures of diversity and inclusiveness. The people stepping forward to resist the Trump Administration are standing against an Administration that doesn’t respect the core values that this nation holds: that we are all equal and that we can all achieve our own dreams.

Second, these movements were forged in entirely different political situations. Members of the Tea Party believed they had been marginalized and had to fight back against this new oppression. They represented a minority, losing the 2008 elections by almost 200 electoral votes and 10 million people, while Democrats gained a more significant majority in the House and a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate. Headlines announced a permanent progressive majority. The Tea Party disapproved of their country going in this new direction, which bred their movement’s anger.

Continue reading at:  http://time.com/4676825/democratic-resistance-tea-party/

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Why We Must Beware Trump’s Willing Executioners

From The Forward:  http://forward.com/culture/363173/why-we-must-beware-trumps-willing-executioners/

It is a disgrace which gets worse with every day that passes,” one observer wrote of the deteriorating political scene we know all too well. “Politics everywhere and everywhere the terrorism of the Right…. It is astounding how easily everything collapses.” He added, “It is shocking how day after day naked acts of violence, breaches of law, barbaric opinions appear quite undisguised as official decree. Each new decree, he said, was “more shameful than the previous one….. The Liberals tremble.” And finally: “I for my part will never again have faith in Germany.” Thus wrote Victor Klemperer, a Jewish German scholar, in the first months of Hitler’s ascension. Historians have spent decades examining how Germany, an allegedly rational and highly cultured society, became unhinged. Future historians will no doubt be examining how America, the paragon of liberty, became unhinged. The simple answers are, respectively, Adolf Hitler and his acolytes, and Donald Trump and his parade of right-wing enablers, from the FBI to border patrol agents to white nationalists to plutocrats. But there are deeper answers, and they are far more frightening, with far-wider implications than the one-man theory.

They are answers that we Jews understand.

Of course, Jews don’t have to be told to be suspicious of analogies to Nazi Germany. We know they are usually facile, overwrought and wrong-headed, and that they can trivialize the greatest tragedy in the history of humankind. America is not Nazi Germany, Trump is not Hitler.

We are not headed for the genocide of refugees, only for their ban or deportation, to protect us, Trump says, from possible saboteurs, even if that echoes Hitler’s “indignant denial,” according to Klemperer, that he was accusing all Jews of threatening the state: “No harm will come to loyal Jews.” And however much the language of “round up” and “deportation” has a terrifyingly reminiscent ring for Jews, Trump has no real interest in political power or programs, only in personal adulation. He is our panderer-in-chief.

Still, one shouldn’t deny that there are situations in which historical antecedents can be instructive, not because, in this case, Trump is analogous to Hitler, but because the underlying political dynamics of Trumpism to those of Hitlerism may be so. Unfortunately, we Jews know an awful lot, too much, about unhinged societies.

We understand cause and effect, which is why Klemperer’s diaries, published as “I Will Bear Witness,” and Harvard scholar Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s now-famous analysis of grassroots Nazism, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners,” ought to be required reading in America now. Because whether or not Trumpism is a latter-day incarnation of Hitlerism, both are predicated on something similar, something we would rather not face, but something that is important to discuss, especially as Jews, as Trumpism barrels forward: Hitler and Trump are not the causes of a national movement of hatred; they are its beneficiaries.

So how did Germany become unhinged? According to Goldhagen’s analysis, it wasn’t all that “hinged” to begin with. If you think, he says, of political life as a national conversation, then one of the primary subjects of that conversation in Germany, hundreds of years before Hitler rose to power, was anti-Semitism. And just about every German participated in the dialogue. As one woman in the oral history, “What We Knew,” put it, “There was never any particular sympathy for the Jews,” which, of course, is putting it lightly. This was the sentiment that Hitler exploited.

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Editorial: Bullying the transgender community

From The Concord Monitor:  http://www.concordmonitor.com/Transgender-debate-proves-we-have-not-learned-how-to-care-for-one-another-8278652

Thursday, February 23, 2017

We were reminded this week of an old George Carlin quote that was printed on the Monitor’s Forum page not long ago: “Save the planet? We don’t even know how to take care of ourselves yet. We haven’t learned how to care for one another.” It’s true, especially that last part, and if you need evidence just ask a transgender person.

On Wednesday, Donald Trump withdrew federal protections for transgender students who want only to use the school bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. The move was driven by Trump’s evangelical base, which fallaciously argues that the Obama administration directive that granted those protections placed students in harm’s way. A spokesman for the conservative Family Research Council told the New York Times that “the federal government has absolutely no right to strip parents and local schools of their rights to provide a safe learning environment for children.” This is bigotry poorly disguised as states’ rights, and it’s disingenuous to claim otherwise. Even Trump’s handpicked education secretary, Betsy DeVos, seemed to recognize it as a civil rights, not states’ rights, issue – or at least she did until Trump gave her a choice between her own principles and his. Judging by the speed in which she returned to lockstep, it was an easy decision.

In New Hampshire, lawmakers are attempting to go in the opposite direction of Trump’s White House by proposing a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. As it stands, it is illegal in New Hampshire to discriminate based on age, sex, race, color, marital status, physical or mental disability, religious creed or national origin. “Gender identity” clearly belongs on the list, and passage of House Bill 478 should be a slam-dunk. But here is what those who want to protect the transgender community from bigotry are up against: One woman who testified against the bill said she would be “too frightened to use a public bathroom” if she “knew there could be a man in there.” That is a tired argument based on an irrational premise, yet somehow it is given legitimacy every time such a bill is debated. And then there was the therapist from Texas who testified that the bill attempts to “redefine what it means to be human.” We couldn’t disagree more. The bill represents the finest, most advanced traits of humanity: empathy, compassion, fairness and goodwill.

Day after day, Trump proves that as a society we haven’t learned to care for one another. State lawmakers have the opportunity to make that a little less true.

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Tennessee has declared war on same-sex families: Inside the legislation that would eradicate nearly all rights for LGBT couples

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2017/02/27/tennessee-has-declared-war-on-same-sex-families-inside-the-legislation-that-would-eradicate-nearly-all-rights-for-lgbt-couples/

A brace of bills in the Tennessee statehouse is aimed at rolling back gains made by during Obama administration


Monday, Feb 27, 2017

Heather MacKenzie bought her wedding ring at Wal-Mart. MacKenzie, now 38, proposed to her wife, Charitey, by driving to the top of Tiger Hill in Murfreesboro, a town located near the couple’s Tennessee home. The hill, a favorite spot for preteen sledders during the winter, looks over the entire town, as well as the vast expanse of the surrounding area. This was where the MacKenzies had their first date.

 The pair said “I do” in June 2015, just days after the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling legalized marriage between same-sex couples in their state. The MacKenzies were wed in Nashville in front of the courthouse under a magnolia tree.

Over a year later, the couple are expecting a child: Charitey is 12 weeks pregnant with a son. A trio of recently proposed laws, however, could jeopardize the future of their growing clan. This legislation seeks to erase any hint of legal recognition for LGBT couples in Tennessee, all but declaring war on the families of same-sex parents living in the state.

Filed by State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, House Bill 1406 would prevent a couple from listing on the birth certificate the second parent (the spouse not giving birth) after a woman becomes pregnant through artificial insemination. The legislation would nullify a provision of the Tennessee Code Annotated 68-3-306, which was issued as part of the Vital Records Act of 1977. The law states, “A child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband, is deemed to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.”

If Weaver’s bill passes, Heather would not be considered the legal guardian of the child on the way. In order to gain that status, she would have to file for a second-parent adoption, a process that’s both costly and time intensive. The couple is raising a daughter the two adopted four years ago and it cost $6,500 for Heather and Chariety to gain her custody.

“It’s a lot of money, especially after you’re preparing for a newborn,” said Heather, who works as a supervisor for an automotive distribution center in Smyrna. “And now you have to go adopt your own child. We know a lot of couples who have waited until their kids are in elementary school because they waited to save up to do the adoption. If something happens in between that time, it could be really harmful to your family.”

If Charitey were to be in a car wreck, for instance, Heather could make legal decisions for her but not for their expected child. The  newborn would have no rights to Heather’s inheritance or her insurance — an added complication for the couple. If HB 1406 were to be passed, it would go into effect on July 1, three months before Charitey is expected to give birth. Heather receives health care benefits through her workplace, but if the new baby would not be longer eligible for that coverage, who would pay for the hospital costs?

The legislation leaves a terrifying number of unanswered questions, few of which have been answered by HB 1406’s authors. Although Weaver claimed in a Facebook post that the legislation is not intended to target same-sex families, she didn’t address the fact that her bill does exactly that.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2017/02/27/tennessee-has-declared-war-on-same-sex-families-inside-the-legislation-that-would-eradicate-nearly-all-rights-for-lgbt-couples/

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Trump Intensifies His Attacks on Journalists and Condemns F.B.I. ‘Leakers’

From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/us/politics/white-house-sean-spicer-briefing.html

By and

WASHINGTON — President Trump turned the power of the White House against the news media on Friday, escalating his attacks on journalists as “the enemy of the people” and berating members of his own F.B.I. as “leakers” who he said were putting the nation at risk.

In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Trump criticized as “fake news” organizations that publish anonymously sourced reports that reflect poorly on him. And in a series of Twitter posts, he assailed the F.B.I. as a dangerously porous agency, condemning unauthorized revelations of classified information from within its ranks and calling for an immediate hunt for leakers.

Hours after the speech, as if to demonstrate Mr. Trump’s determination to punish reporters whose coverage he dislikes, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, barred journalists from The New York Times and several other news organizations from attending his daily briefing, a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps.

The moves underscored the degree to which Mr. Trump and members of his inner circle are eager to use the prerogatives of the presidency to undercut those who scrutinize him, dismissing negative stories as lies and confining press access at the White House to a few chosen news organizations considered friendly. The Trump White House has also vowed new efforts to punish leakers.

Mr. Trump’s attacks on the press came as the White House pushed back on a report by CNN on Thursday night that a White House official had asked the F.B.I. to rebut a New York Times article last week detailing contacts between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russian intelligence officials. The report asserted that a senior White House official had called top leaders at the F.B.I. to request that they contact reporters to dispute the Times’s account.

“The fake news doesn’t tell the truth,” Mr. Trump said to the delight of the conservatives packed into the main ballroom at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just south of Washington. “It doesn’t represent the people, it doesn’t and never will represent the people, and we’re going to do something about it.”

In the West Wing less than three hours later, the consequences were becoming clear. Mr. Spicer told a handpicked group of reporters in a briefing in his spacious office that the White House would relentlessly counter coverage it considered inaccurate.

Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/us/politics/white-house-sean-spicer-briefing.html

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Bannon makes stunning threat to media: We’re going to make it worse for you every day

From Daily Kos:  http://m.dailykos.com/stories/2017/2/23/1637159/-President-Bannon-threatens-media-We-re-going-to-make-it-worse-every-day-for-you

by Leslie Salzillo
Feb 23, 2017

On Thursday, during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon admitted Donald Trump’s goal (Bannon’s goal) in appointing new precarious cabinet members to head protective government agencies like the EPA — is to dismantle and “deconstruct” those organizations altogether. You can read that Daily Kos story by Dartagnan here.

On the same day, during a joint CPAC press conference with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Bannon threatened the media with a quote that is undeniably one of the most odious and perilous public statements made against the free press by a White House official, on record. Chris Cillizza with The Washington Post cites Bannon.

“It’s going to get worse every day for the media,” Bannon said, insisting that the “corporatist” media would continue to see Trump pursue exactly the sort of economic nationalism that journalism allegedly despises. Then he added this call to arms: “If you think they are giving you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.”

Cillizza says the message from Bannon was unmistakable: The enemy of Donald Trump and his team, is not really the Democratic Party, it’s the media. He adds that presidential administrations and the press have often experienced adversarial positions.

But what Bannon and, by extension, Trump are up to is something very different than simply an adversarial working relationship with the media. Bannon doesn’t want to change the media. He wants to totally dismantle the media. He wants to break its back and leave it for dead by the side of the road.

What is somewhat ironic, more than disturbing, and almost comical, is that Bannon is telling reputable reporters, including those at the Washington Post, that the White House plans to destroy them. And rather than stand up to him, reporters rush back to their laptops to write up the story, staying respectfully neutral, while indirectly serving as a right wing echo chamber.

Bannon and Trump are using the press to threaten and berate — the press. When will the press, in unity, tell Bannon and Trump, to respectfully go fuck themselves? It’s obvious Bannon and Trump desperately need the press to survive. The mobster-like headman incessantly use the press every day, and seem to forget that it was the media that held their hands throughout the 2016 campaign and essentially walked them into the Oval Office.

So why does most of the media accept the degradation, which has become constant? And why do they keep going back for more? Something has to give, because Trump and his cast of hate-filled, lying fear mongers, should not be allowed to use American media as a beacon for tyranny. What’s that thing Dr. Phil likes to say?

“We teach people how to treat us.”

Steve Bannon, the man who Time Magazine has labeled the “The Great Manipulator,” lives up to the title as he continues to feed, build, and control the growing far right extreme news rags like Breitbart. Most everything that goes out to Donald Trump’s base of fanatics is calculated, mostly false, insidious and dangerously hate-provoking.

Continue reading at:  http://m.dailykos.com/stories/2017/2/23/1637159/-President-Bannon-threatens-media-We-re-going-to-make-it-worse-every-day-for-you

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Exclusive: Senior Trump Aide Forged Key Ties To Anti-Semitic Groups In Hungary

From The Forward:  http://forward.com/news/national/364085/sebastian-gorka-trump-aide-forged-key-ties-to-anti-semitic-groups-in-hunga/

When photographs recently emerged showing Sebastian Gorka, President Donald Trump’s high-profile deputy assistant, wearing a medal associated with the Nazi collaborationist regime that ruled Hungary during World War II, the controversial security strategist was unapologetic.

“I’m a proud American now and I wear that medal now and again,” Gorka told Breitbart News. Gorka, 46, who was born in Britain to Hungarian parents and is now an American citizen, asked rhetorically, “Why? To remind myself of where I came from, what my parents suffered under both the Nazis and the Communists, and to help me in my work today.”

But an investigation by the Forward into Gorka’s activities from 2002 to 2007, while he was active in Hungarian politics and journalism, found that he had close ties then to Hungarian far-right circles, and has in the past chosen to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures.

Gorka’s involvement with the far right includes co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party with a well-known history of anti-Semitism; repeatedly publishing articles in a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and racist content; and attending events with some of Hungary’s most notorious extreme-right figures.

When Gorka was asked — in an email exchange with the Forward — about the anti-Semitic records of some of the groups and individuals he has worked with, he instead pivoted to talk about his family’s history.

“My parents, as children, lived through the nightmare of WWII and the horrors of the Nyilas puppet fascist regime,” he said, referring to the Arrow Cross regime that took over Hungary near the very end of World War II and murdered thousands of Jews.

 In the United States, Gorka, who was appointed deputy assistant to the president on January 20, is known as a television commentator, a professor and an “alt-right” writer who describes himself as a counterterrorism expert. A close associate of Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, Gorka is now part of Bannon’s key in-house White House think tank, the Strategic Initiatives Group.
The newly formed group consists of figures close to Trump and is seen by some as a rival to the National Security Council in formulating policies for the president.
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President Trump Breaks a Promise on Transgender Rights

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/opinion/president-trump-breaks-a-promise-on-transgender-rights.html?ref=opinion

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump broke with Republican Party orthodoxy by vowing to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans from violence and oppression. Soon after taking office, President Trump announced that he intended to continue enforcing an executive order his predecessor issued to protect L.G.B.T. people from workplace discrimination.

“President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the L.G.B.T.Q. community,” the White House said in a statement on Jan. 31. Then along came Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

During his first week in office, Mr. Sessions halted the Justice Department’s efforts to defend in court the legality of the Obama administration’s guidance to school districts on how to provide a safe and inclusive environment for transgender students. A key part of that guidance advised school officials to allow transgender students to use restrooms based on their gender identity.

This week, Mr. Sessions and the Department of Education rescinded the guidance entirely. His baffling rationale was that it added to the confusion around an issue that has prompted spirited debates and legal fights around the country.

In fact, it did the opposite. Next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who has been fighting his Virginia school district for the right to use the boys’ restroom on campus. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice took the position that existing federal law already confers that right. Mr. Sessions has reversed the government’s course.

Of all the matters of consequence before the new attorney general, it is curious that Mr. Sessions made repealing this guidance, and abandoning its defense, priorities. He clashed earlier in the week with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who reportedly felt uneasy about rescinding the guidelines, a move that will make students vulnerable. After the two made their case to the president, Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general.

This is unsurprising. Mr. Trump has demonstrated time and again that his stated personal convictions are malleable. A genuine champion of gay and transgender rights would have steered clear of politicians like Mr. Sessions and Vice President Mike Pence, who have gone to great lengths to vilify and oppress gay and transgender Americans.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/opinion/president-trump-breaks-a-promise-on-transgender-rights.html?ref=opinion

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Hey! Transgender Kids

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Liberal Redneck – Trump and Trans

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Yes, liberals are planning town hall protests. It’s called democracy

From  The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/23/town-hall-protests-donald-trump-angry-crowds

Donald Trump sneered at ‘angry crowds’ holding politicians to account. That’s exactly what we’re doing – and we’re only just getting started


Feb. 23, 2017

Americans are flooding into town halls across the country. Fearful that their country is being torn apart, they are turning out to protest their representatives in record numbers. Clearly, the furious crowds have gotten under Donald Trump’s skin. In a sneering tweet, the president dismissed the “so-called angry crowds” at town hall events as “planned by liberal activists.” We’ll take that as a compliment.

More than two dozen progressive activist groups are using ResistanceRecess.com, a site posted just last week by MoveOn.org, to search among more than 500 local congressional events around the country. Anyone can RSVP for an event and get a reminder email. So yes, that’s evidence of planning – apparently more planning than goes into a typical executive order issued by this White House.

But here’s the thing: the crowds are unmistakably real, and the anger runs deep.

Many of those showing up at town hall events have never done anything like that in their lives. Just like the participants in the millions-strong Women’s March and the spontaneous airport protests, the people filling these town hall events are acting with moral urgency – and with a deeply responsible sense of civic duty. Now it’s up to members of Congress to decide how to respond.

They can listen to their constituents, do their jobs and pull the country back from the precipice that Trump seems so determined to drive it off of. Or they can fail to heed the voices of their own voters – and face the consequences at the ballot box.

But one thing’s for sure: even after Congress returns from recess, the resistance isn’t going anywhere. We voters are watching.

The intensity at the town halls is so high that more than 200 elected officials have reportedly abandoned public forums in February entirely. But they’re in for the worst of it. Where politicians are cowering in fear of their constituents, citizens are forging ahead with town hall events of their own – with an empty seat at the front reserved for their member of Congress.

If their invited representatives don’t show up, the absence will speak volumes to the local news cameras and Facebook Live feeds streaming from their constituents’ mobile phones. And to make sure nobody forgets that their officials have gone AWOL, they’re buying local newspaper ads calling them out and plastering milk cartons with “MISSING” stickers in their local supermarkets.

Resistance Recess is blowing the Republicans’ momentum out to sea. But it’s not just Republicans facing energized crowds. In blue states and congressional districts, citizens are thronging to public events as well, demanding full-throated, no-fear resistance from Democratic lawmakers.

Their message: when fundamental principles, and our very constitution, is at stake, there is no room for compromise. Democrats who get the message and pledge to fight are greeted by cheers. Those who still haven’t realized that these aren’t normal times – and that their role now is to resist, not appease – are engulfed by fierce chanting: “Do your job!”

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/23/town-hall-protests-donald-trump-angry-crowds

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Trump Rescinds Rules on Bathrooms for Transgender Students

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/us/politics/devos-sessions-transgender-students-rights.html

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday rescinded protections for transgender students that had allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, overruling his own education secretary and placing his administration firmly in the middle of the culture wars that many Republicans have tried to leave behind.

In a joint letter, the top civil rights officials from the Justice Department and the Education Department rejected the Obama administration’s position that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.

That directive, they said, was improperly and arbitrarily devised, “without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”

The question of how to address the “bathroom debate,” as it has become known, opened a rift inside the Trump administration, pitting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Sessions, who had been expected to move quickly to roll back the civil rights expansions put in place under his Democratic predecessors, wanted to act decisively because of two pending court cases that could have upheld the protections and pushed the government into further litigation.

But Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off and told Mr. Trump that she was uncomfortable because of the potential harm that rescinding the protections could cause transgender students, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions.

Mr. Sessions, who has opposed expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, pushed Ms. DeVos to relent. After getting nowhere, he took his objections to the White House because he could not go forward without her consent. Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, the Republicans said, and told Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her opposition. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.

Ms. DeVos’s unease was evident in a strongly worded statement she released on Wednesday night, in which she said she considered it a “moral obligation” for every school in America to protect all students from discrimination, bullying and harassment.

She said she had directed the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate all claims of such treatment “against those who are most vulnerable in our schools,” but also argued that bathroom access was not a federal matter.

Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/us/politics/devos-sessions-transgender-students-rights.html

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Milo and the Moral Corruption of the Conservative Movement

From The American Prospect:  http://prospect.org/article/milo-and-moral-corruption-conservative-movement

He may not be an ideological conservative, but the movement created him. Now it must own him and the hatred he spews.

Since the early days of its ascendance in the Republican Party, the conservative movement’s leaders have advanced their cause on two major claims that have shaped conservatism’s identity: moral rectitude and love of the Constitution. As it turns out, that was quite a sell job.

The hatred espoused by Trump and the cretins he’s defended, such as Breitbart News phenomenon Milo Yiannopoulos, initially found its voice, often in more polite language, in the conservative movement. Milo and the Donald may not be ideological conservatives, but they are nonetheless creations of the conservative movement. As I’ve noted before, these are players savvy enough to understand that conservatism never was fueled by ideology; it was always fueled by contempt for everyone other than non-Jewish white men.

Take the recent flap over the scheduled appearance of Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos to keynote the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which will take place later this week at a resort near Washington, D.C. After consternation reached a fever pitch over a video, long available online, showing Yiannopoulos saying that sex between men and pubescent boys could be a good thing for the boys, CPAC rescinded its invitation to the right’s favorite bad boy.

But CPAC’s addition of Yiannopoulos to its schedule came the day after an appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, in which the self-styled flamboyant bomb-thrower revealed his hatred toward everybody but white men. It wasn’t until video went viral on Monday from an appearance last year on a radio show called The Drunken Peasants, in which Yiannopoulos made his now-infamous pedophilia endorsement—courtesy of a tweet from a right-wing outfit called the Reagan Batallion—that CPAC rescinded its invitation.

Responding via his personal account on Twitter, Brendan Karet of Media Matters for America, put it succinctly:

Continue reading at:  http://prospect.org/article/milo-and-moral-corruption-conservative-movement

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Even for a Bully Like Trump, Attacking Children Is a New Low

From Lambda Legal:  http://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20170221_ed-guidance-recision

Rachel B. Tiven, CEO
February 22, 2017

Today, the U.S. Department of Education rescinded the Obama administration’s 2016 Title IX guidance clarifying the rights of transgender students.

We all know that Donald Trump is a bully, but this attack on transgender children is a new low. Today’s move could endanger the well-being and safety of children across the country.

Trump’s actions do not change the law itself — transgender students remain protected by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 — but abandoning the guidance intentionally creates confusion about what federal law requires. The law bars discrimination — the new administration invites it.

Betsy DeVos became Education Secretary just one week ago. At her brief confirmation hearing, she publicly committed to protecting LGBT students — this harms them.

Over the past week, Donald Trump has attacked perhaps the two most vulnerable groups of children in America: transgender children and refugee children. While his Education Secretary was busy withdrawing protective guidance for trans kids, his Homeland Security Secretary signed memos that strip legal protections from children who arrive alone at our borders, seeking refuge.

Now Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary DeVos give us sickening echoes of the racially segregated schools era by claiming that enforcement of this federal civil rights law is a “states’ rights issue.” This is not just a bizarre misunderstanding. We recognize that language. This is a cynical rejection of the federal government’s responsibility to enforce federal law protections for vulnerable students.

While the Trump/Pence administration wages its War on Children, we at Lambda Legal will redouble our efforts to protect transgender and other vulnerable kids. We are already in court fighting for transgender students, and we are prepared to sue any school district that discriminates in the wake of the Trump administration’s actions today.

If you experience discrimination, contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk.

Read the press release.

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President Trump’s Laws Can’t Take Away Transgender Students’ Worth

From Teen Vogue:  http://www.teenvogue.com/story/sarah-mcbride-president-trump-cant-take-away-worth

Sarah McBride
Feb 23, 2017

In this op-ed, Sarah McBride — the national press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign, and first openly transgender person to speak at a major party convention — has a message to share with transgender students in the wake of Donald Trump revoking guidance that let transgender students to use the bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity at public schools.

To the trans students wondering about their place in this country: I know you may feel alone right now. There is no question — any rollback of transgender rights is a disgraceful setback. But I want you to know that whatever happens in Washington, you are loved and you matter. No presidency, no discriminatory action, no hateful bill can change those facts.

The rescinding of protective guidance for our nation’s schools on the inclusion of transgender students is a heartbreaking decision. And after hearing the news, you may be fearful of what the future will bring and questioning whether the heart of this country is big enough to love you, too. Many of you may be scared for your safety and concerned about the message this sends to bullies in classrooms, neighborhoods and, even, state legislatures. Those are understandable fears. And to be totally honest, as a transgender person myself, I’ve shared those fears at times, too. I know it’s hard to make sense of all of this. You are just trying to go to school and these politicians keep finding new ways to make your lives harder. But I want you to know that regardless of who is in the White House — and no matter what steps he takes to roll back our progress — millions of Americans stand with you.

And you know better than most people that treating trans students with dignity and respect doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. And while bullying and discrimination remain far too common, more and more friends, families, and faculty members are welcoming transgender young people with broad smiles and open hearts.

Despite the exceptions, schools across the country have been welcoming and affirming transgender young people for years, and in some cases decades. Many of you find yourselves in school districts in cities like Fort Worth, Texas, and Minneapolis, Minnesota — places that have already adopted inclusive school policies or in one of the 20 states plus Washington DC that have statewide non-discrimination protections for transgender people. Even without this guidance, those clear policies can and should continue. As will the court cases and rulings that have overwhelmingly found that trans people, including trans students, are protected under federal civil rights law. In fact, a young trans boy from Virginia named Gavin Grimm, who is facing discrimination from his local school board, is courageously leading this fight. His case comes before the Supreme Court this spring.

Unfortunately, like Gavin, some of you may live in districts that resist your rights and try to deny your dignity. Others may live in states that have passed or are considering passing vile, anti-transgender laws. This guidance was an important layer of security and support in navigating the frequently harsh environments encountered by transgender young people. The rescinding of that guidance is a cruel and mean-spirited attack, but it is far from the end of this fight.

It can all seem like so much. From bills like North Carolina’s HB2 to this most recent action by President Trump, it’s easy to get demoralized. It’s easy to think that as transgender people or as young people that your voice doesn’t matter. But it does.

Throughout our country, we’ve seen the power of one voice to change a school, a home, or a workplace. Through your example, you are opening hearts, changing minds and helping to build an alliance of allies that is ready to speak out and act up.

And the bullies, they see that. They see our power in living our truth and in changing the world through our authenticity. Make no mistake, you are powerful. We are powerful. And, together, we are unstoppable.

With love and solidarity, Sarah McBride

 

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When Trump Voters Say They “Suffered For 8 Years Under Obama,” Here’s The Perfect Response

From Occupy Democrats:  http://occupydemocrats.com/2017/02/22/trump-voters-say-suffered-8-years-obama-heres-perfect-response/

By

One of many, many infuriating parts of having Trump as the President is the insufferable smugness of conservatives. When they’re not telling you to “suck it up, snowflake” or trying to sell you fake news, they’re gloating: “We suffered for eight years under that tyrant Obummer. Now it’s your turn.”

One man, Scott Mednick had enough with his Republican acquaintances and penned this powerful response:

“I am surprised you would wish suffering upon me. That, of course, is your right, I suppose. I do not wish harm on anyone. Your statement seems to continue the ‘US v THEM’ mentality. The election is over. It is important to get past campaigning and campaign rhetoric and get down to what is uniting, not dividing and what is best for ALL Americans.

There will never be a President who does everything to everyone’s liking. There are things President Obama (and President Clinton) did that I do not like and conversely there are things I can point to that the Presidents Bush did that I agree with. So I am not 100% in lock step with the outgoing President but have supported him and the overall job he did.

And, if you recall, during the Presidential Campaign back in 2008 the campaign was halted because of the “historic crisis in our financial system.” Wall Street bailout negotiations intervened in the election process. The very sobering reality was that there likely could be a Depression and the world financial markets could collapse. The United States was losing 800,000 jobs a month and was poised to lose at least 10 million jobs the first year once the new President took office. We were in an economic freefall. So let us recall that ALL of America was suffering terribly at the beginning of Obama’s Presidency.

But I wanted to look back over the last 8 years and ask you a few questions. Since much of the rhetoric before Obama was elected was that he would impose Sharia Law, Take Away Your Guns, Create Death Panels, Destroy the Economy, Impose Socialism and, since you will agree that NONE of this came to pass, I was wondering: Why have you suffered so?

So let me ask: Gays and Lesbians can now marry and enjoy the benefits they had been deprived of. Has this caused your suffering?

When Obama took office, the Dow was 6,626. Now it is 19,875. Has this caused your suffering?

We had 82 straight months of private sector job growth – the longest streak in the history of the United States. Has this caused your suffering?

Especially considering where the economy was when he took over, an amazing 11.3 million new jobs were created under President Obama (far more than President Bush). Has this caused your suffering?

Obama has taken Unemployment from 10% down to 4.7%. Has this caused your suffering?

Homelessness among US Veterans has dropped by half. Has this caused your suffering?

Continue reading at:  http://occupydemocrats.com/2017/02/22/trump-voters-say-suffered-8-years-obama-heres-perfect-response/

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Trump administration rescinds Obama-era protections for transgender students

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/22/transgender-students-bathroom-trump-obama

US withdrew guidance stating federal law requires transgender students to have unfettered access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity

in Washington and in New York
Thursday 23 February

The Trump administration has withdrawn a piece of federal guidance requiring transgender students to have unfettered access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity, in a move that could embolden many schools to restrict trans rights.

In doing so, the administration has signaled that it does not necessarily interpret current federal civil rights protections as prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.

A joint letter released by the departments of justice and education on Wednesday cited the legal battle on this question as justification for rescinding the guidance, “in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved”.

“In addition, the Departments believe that … there must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing education policy,” the letter added.

The Obama administration issued the guidance in May 2016, in response to growing confusion and controversy over how schools should accommodate transgender students. The letter released on Wednesday left one major piece of that guidance intact: a recognition that schools bear some responsibility to prevent bullying and harassment of transgender students.

LGBT rights groups on Wednesday assailed the administration.

“This is a mean-spirited attack on hundreds of thousands of students who simply want to be their true selves and be treated with dignity while attending school,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “These young people already face incredible hurdles in their pursuit of education and acceptance. With a pen stroke, the Trump administration effectively sanctions the bullying, ostracizing, and isolation of these children, putting their very lives in danger.”

Opponents of such a change also argued that the impact of the announcement would be blunted by existing law. The administration, they argued, does not have the authority to revoke rights that have been recognised several times in the federal courts.

“Rescinding the guidance does not change the rights of students under Title IX [the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education and activities],” Chase Strangio, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote on Tuesday. “Trans students are protected from discrimination by federal law and the administration can’t change that.”

That argument is the subject of a forthcoming supreme court case. On 28 March, lawyers for Gavin Grimm, a Virginia high school student, will contend that federal laws against sex discrimination extend to bias against transgender people. Grimm claims his school is discriminating against him by refusing to allow him access to the boys’ bathroom.

Several federal appeals courts have already ruled that discriminating against transgender people based on their gender identity is a violation of federal law. In 2016, the fourth circuit court of appeals ruled in Grimm’s favor.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/22/transgender-students-bathroom-trump-obama

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HRC President Chad Griffin: We must #ProtectTransKids

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