Republicans Are Adopting the Proud Boys

From The Daily Beast:

Before and after the Manhattan brawl, GOP figures defended and promoted the far-right group. It’s a valuable and dangerous bridge between fascism and mainstream politics.

Kelly Weill, Will Sommer

Nine members of the far-right Proud Boys group and three protesters are facing riot and assault charges after a street brawl between them Friday night in New York.

The fight wasn’t a random clash, though: The Proud Boys were in Manhattan thanks to an invite from the Metropolitan Republican Club.

In a speech at the club, which was vandalized before the event, Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes waved a sword at anti-fascist protesters and celebrated the assassination of a socialist Japanese politician. McInnes, a Vice co-founder who left the company in 2008, dressed up as the Japanese assassin who killed the politician, complete with glasses that made his eyes into a racist caricature of a Japanese person’s eyes.

It was a bizarre event to host at the GOP’s Manhattan clubhouse, but the Metropolitan Republican Club defended McInnes and the Proud Boys after the fight. In a statement released Sunday, the club said McInnes’ speech “was certainly not inciting violence.”

The Republican club’s role hosting the event highlights how the Proud Boys have managed to insinuate themselves with mainstream Republicans, even as they increasingly make the news for their violence. But the New York Republicans aren’t alone—the Proud Boys have already managed to make their way into other mainstream GOP campaign events and conservative media.

Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Devin Nunes have posed for pictures with Proud Boys on the campaign trail. Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson posed in a Fox green room with two Proud Boys and Republican operative Roger Stone earlier this year.

Stone has himself taken steps to be initiated into the Proud Boys and made headlines in March, when he used the Proud Boys as a security force at the Dorchester Conference, a Republican event in Oregon. By then, the Proud Boys were already notorious in Oregon for a series of bloody Portland brawls. But Dorchester board member and former Oregon legislator Patrick Sheehan defended the Proud Boys’ attendance, telling Willamette Week that Stone “was worried about getting killed… He gets death threats constantly.”

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South Carolina Is Lobbying to Allow Discrimination Against Jewish Parents

From The Intercept:

October 19 2018

The Trump administration is considering whether to grant a South Carolina request that would effectively allow faith-based foster care agencies in the state the ability to deny Jewish parents from fostering children in its network. The argument, from the state and from the agency, is that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act should not force a Protestant group to work with Jewish people if it violates a tenet of their faith.

The case being made by South Carolina is an extension of the debate around RFRA, which is more commonly associated with discrimination against LGBTQ people, but by no means applies exclusively to that group.

If granted, the exemption would allow Miracle Hill Ministries, a Protestant social service agency working in the state’s northwest region, to continue receiving federal dollars while “recruiting Christian foster families,” which it has been doing since 1988, according to its website. That discrimination would apply not just to Jewish parents, but also to parents who are Muslim, Catholic, Unitarian, atheist, agnostic or other some other non-Protestant Christian denomination.

Miracle Hill covers Greenville, Pickens and Spartanburg counties, and its foster care services have becoming increasingly in demand as an opioid epidemic has torn through a generation of young parents. The fight over its policy has been written about in the local press and was first covered nationally by The Nation.

The request has been made to the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency has been quietly taken over by hardline evangelical activists, a perk for their unwavering support of Trump’s presidential bid and his administration.

Miracle Hill has told the local press that while they themselves will not place children with families who don’t meet their standards, they refer them to agencies that will. But as the provider with the region’s highest quality of service, making referrals means sending people to deal directly with the state Department of Social Services, or to agencies in other parts of the state that are several hours away by car.

Beth Lesser is a Jewish parent who was turned away by Miracle Hill. “Understand, in the upstate of South Carolina, if you want to be a foster parent or a mentor, there’s DSS, which is the government. And there’s Miracle Hill. There really isn’t anybody else,” Lesser told The Intercept.

When she still lived in Greenville, Lesser participated in a three-day training co-hosted by Miracle Hill and Fostering Great Ideas, another regional child welfare agency. On the third day, two officials running the training, David White of Fostering Great Ideas, as well as a Miracle Hill representative, told the group that non-Protestants wouldn’t be able to mentor with Miracle Hill, let alone foster a child.

“I’ve never felt that sort of discrimination before,” she said. “Once they get [the children] in one of their group homes, they don’t let non-Christian Protestants mentor them, foster them, or anything.” Lesser couldn’t recall the name of the Miracle Hill representative, but White confirmed the exchange to The Intercept, saying that they were explaining Miracle Hill’s policy, and that his agency, FGI, does not itself discriminate. Miracle Hill did not respond to a request for comment.

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‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration

From The New York Times:

By Erica L. Green, Katie Benner and Robert Pear
Oct. 21, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.

A series of decisions by the Obama administration loosened the legal concept of gender in federal programs, including in education and health care, recognizing gender largely as an individual’s choice and not determined by the sex assigned at birth. The policy prompted fights over bathrooms, dormitories, single-sex programs and other arenas where gender was once seen as a simple concept. Conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, were incensed.

Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.

“This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients — what people understand about themselves — is irrelevant because the government disagrees,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in the Obama administration and helped write transgender guidance that is being undone.

The move would be the most significant of a series of maneuvers, large and small, to exclude the population from civil rights protections and roll back the Obama administration’s more fluid recognition of gender identity. The Trump administration has sought to bar transgender people from serving in the military and has legally challenged civil rights protections for the group embedded in the nation’s health care law.

Several agencies have withdrawn Obama-era policies that recognized gender identity in schools, prisons and homeless shelters. The administration even tried to remove questions about gender identity from a 2020 census survey and a national survey of elderly citizens.

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Religious Extremists Got Their Justice. Now They’re Going To Strip LGBTQ Rights.

From Huffington Post:

Michelangelo Signorile

While much of the country was in an uproar over the nomination (and confirmation) of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-LGBTQ religious extremists in Texas filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Austin targeting its anti-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ people, claiming it infringes on their religious liberty. Two days later, another anti-LGBTQ group in Texas filed a second, separate and even broader lawsuit attacking the Austin ordinance in state court.

Like many municipalities and less than half of U.S. states, Austin protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people broadly from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. This has been the reality in many localities throughout the country going back several decades.

However, if the U.S. Supreme Court ― or individuals’ state Supreme Courts ― were to rule such laws in violation of “religious liberty,” hundreds of such laws protecting LGBTQ people across the United States could be wiped out.

The Supreme Court did, in fact, have a chance to do that earlier this year ― or to do the opposite and make it clear that LGBTQ people are constitutionally protected ― in its Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision. But it punted on either outcome. The court ruled for the baker on a technicality ― saying the particular baker’s religious beliefs weren’t respected, evidenced by comments made by two members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission when it deemed the baker in violation of the law. The court did not, however, address the underpinnings of Colorado’s statute protecting LGBTQ people.

And while Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that Colorado and ostensibly any other state or locality “can” protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, he and the court didn’t emphatically state that those protections are constitutionally guaranteed, leaving it for another case to decide the issue.

The optics of the case, however, were terrible ― seen as a victory for anti-LGBTQ extremists, no matter how narrow, and emboldening them moving forward.

With Kennedy gone, the Supreme Court could indeed clarify the issue when another case reaches it; and it could quite possibly be a very dark decision.

So on Oct. 6, as the Senate narrowly confirmed the hard-right Kavanaugh to replace Kennedy, the Houston-based U.S. Pastor’s Council, representing 25 churches, filed its lawsuit in federal court in Austin seeking to overturn the city’s employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, claiming they violate the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The following Monday, as the national controversy surrounding Kavanaugh’s confirmation continued, Texas Values (a conservative Christian group) filed a separate and much broader lawsuit in state district court, claiming that Austin’s housing and employment protections for LGBTQ people violated the Texas Religious Restoration Freedom Act.

“I firmly believe they waited to file until [Kavanaugh] was confirmed,” Meghan Stabler, a noted Austin LGBTQ activist and former board member of the Human Rights Campaign, told me. She thinks the groups had been working on their respective filings for some time and coordinated their efforts. It’s “a clear indication of what is to come with regards to the religious liberty issue” and the high court, Stabler said.

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Historian Christopher Browning on the Trump regime: We’re “close to the point of no return”

From Salon:

Scholar of the Nazi period explains why fake news may be a more powerful authoritarian tool than secret police

Chauncey DeVega
October 18, 2018

History can teach us many lessons about Donald Trump and his rise to power. As shown by his deeds, words and policies, Trump is an authoritarian and a demagogue who has, so far, been restrained by America’s weakened democratic institutions and norms. Trump has repeatedly shown contempt for America’s cosmopolitan, pluralistic multiracial democracy. He and his supporters would smash that order and a create a new one based upon white racial authoritarianism (as well as naked plutocracy) if, and when, they have the opportunity to do so.

Learning lessons from history about the present requires a keen appreciation of context. The model of authoritarianism that Donald Trump, the Republican Party, their allies and voters represent will fit the cultural and political norms and institutions of the United States. This usurpation of American democracy will be both similar to and different from what took place in other countries and at other times.

In all, history’s lessons must be learned carefully, and applied with even more care if we are to make better sense of the present and the rise of Donald Trump in the United States, as well as resurgent reactionary right-wing movements around the world.

What lessons do the fall of German democracy after World War I and the rise of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler hold for the United States in the age of Trump? What role does an assault on democratic norms and traditions play in the rise of fascist and authoritarian movements? In what ways are “traditional” Republican elites like Mitch McConnell responsible for an “outsider” such as Donald Trump taking power? Is dissent being criminalized in the United States by Trump and his followers? What is “illiberal democracy,” and how will it do the work of authoritarianism in the U.S. and elsewhere? Is Trump a fascist, or is he better described using another label?

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Christopher R. Browning. He is the Frank Porter Graham ­Professor of History Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an expert on the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. He is the author of several books, including the most recent “Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp.” Browning is also the author of the recent and widely-read essay “The Suffocation of Democracy,” which appeared both online and in the Oct. 25 edition of The New York Review of Books.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Authoritarian leaders like Donald Trump can cause widespread pain and confusion to the public. As a historian and expert on Nazi Germany, how are you feeling? What were your first reactions to Donald Trump’s rise to power?

The first reaction was frustration. We are caught in a situation where none of our previous political experiences as a country when democracy was functioning well, albeit far from perfectly, equipped us to deal with this situation. I sensed that it would be a tyranny of the majority which would create this type of crisis. This is why, of course, we have the Bill of Rights and other checks on power. But what we really have now with Donald Trump and the Republican Party is a tyranny of the minority, where gerrymandering, voter repression and the Electoral College give the minority of the population electoral victory even when they do not have a majority of the vote for the presidency or the House and Senate. Demographic shifts, geography and cultural divides are a perfect storm for minority rule by the Republicans in the United States.

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The Guardian view on the Gender Recognition Act: where rights collide Editorial or When Left Wing People Get Suckered into Thinking Nazi TERF Scum Actually Represent Feminism

I am appalled with the Guardian taking this position.  The TERFs are right wing Nazi Scum disguising themselves as feminists.

Protecting women means among other things protecting abortion access.  You never see TERF Nazi Scum standing up for actual women’s rights such as abortion access.  Instead they have focused on Trans people the exact same way Nazis focused on Jewish people and the KKK focused on Black people.

This crap is going on in Britain too, just as it is going on her in Trumpistan.

From The Guardian UK:

Wed 17 Oct 2018

It should be possible to advance trans equality without harming the interests of women. But a toxic debate has made it harder

Since 2004 trans people in the UK have been able to legally change their gender with a gender recognition certificate. The Gender Recognition Act became the first law in the world allowing someone to change gender without surgery. Since then countries including Ireland and Denmark have passed laws that allow people to “self-declare” their gender, rather than seeking approval from a panel of experts. Last year the Scottish government held a consultation with a view to following suit. This Friday the UK government’s consultation on the same issue comes to an end. The debate has become toxic, with trans rights activists and some feminist campaigners taking opposing sides.

The Guardian rejects the idea that one of these positions is the right one – and the other wrong. Important questions of personal identity are at stake, but also legal rights and protections. (The rights of trans men are far less controversial because they do not, while transitioning, gain access to spaces designed to protect a disadvantaged group.) While campaigners for trans rights are entitled to push for laws that they believe advance equality, feminists are entitled to question whether such changes could adversely affect other women. Neither group is a homogeneous bloc and there are more than two points of view.

UK law acknowledges circumstances where there is a conflict of interests between trans women and other women. The Equality Act allows for single-sex services to exclude trans people where this is “a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim”, such as in rape support services. While some trans activists have argued for these exemptions to be abolished, some feminists believe they should be strengthened. The Guardian supports trans equality and believes reform of the Gender Recognition Act could form part of this. Campaigners criticise the current process – whereby trans people must supply evidence of a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and of having lived in their “acquired gender” for two years – as humiliating and bureaucratic. Other countries have introduced self-declaration without obvious difficulties, though since the changes are recent it is right to be cautious. Ireland requires a statutory declaration witnessed by a lawyer; in Denmark there is a six-month pause before completion. Different countries apply the law in different ways. In Ireland, for example, transgender prisoners have been allocated according to natal sex. The UK has a far larger population than any European country with self-declaration; this nation has 20 times more people behind bars than Ireland. Any new law must not give violent or controlling male prisoners a new opportunity to dominate women by changing gender and transferring to a female prison.

Trans organisations say such fears are exaggerated and born of prejudice and hatred. Transphobia must be opposed. But misogyny too must be challenged. Gender identity does not cancel out sex. Women’s oppression by men has a physical basis, and to deny the relevance of biology when considering sexual inequality is a mistake. The struggle for women’s empowerment is ongoing. Reproductive freedoms are under threat and the #MeToo campaign faces a backlash. Women’s concerns about sharing dormitories or changing rooms with “male-bodied” people must be taken seriously. These are not just questions of safety but of dignity and fairness.

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Famed historian believes Trump is leading America to fascism

From Salon:

Doris Kearns Goodwin sat down with MSNBC’s Mika Brzenzinski to discuss the explosive president and more

October 19, 2018

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin agrees President Donald Trump is leading the United States down the road to fascism — but she doesn’t like to use that particular word.

The historian and author believes the word is too strong and loaded with negative associations to persuade Americans to reject Trump and his abuses, but MSNBC’s Mika Brzenzinski challenged her to call out what she see clearly sees.

“Does this look like United States presidential leadership or would you argue, like Madeleine Albright does, that we are leading down a very different path here,” Brzezinski said, “and all the pieces are fitting together towards someone that is trying to make this a dictatorship?”

Goodwin did not disagree, but she recoils at using such loaded terminology to describe a U.S. leader.

“The problem like using words like fascism or dictatorship is I think the pattern of behavior that we’re seeing may be leading in that direction, and you just want to be able to persuade other people to look at this president,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin laid out Trump’s weaknesses as a leader, and she said Americans should worry more about those than his apparent appetite for authoritarianism.

“My argument would be to look at whether he is a leader or not,” she said. “What does a leader normally do? A leader normally takes blame when things are wrong, a leader normally shares credit when things are right, a leader normally does a team that’s built with people who are strong-minded and can argue with him, and you get a purpose in that team.”

“He controls his negative emotions,” Goodwin continued. “A leader normally communicates honestly and with truth. If we can just show that he’s not necessarily a leader, that’s bad enough, rather than putting a label on him.”

However, she warned darkly that Trump could gather dictatorial powers by placing himself above special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — but she argued that Americans should just wait until then to push back.

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