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“Discrimination ‘R’ Us”: Texas Leads The Way In Transphobia, Yet Again

Texas is leading a pack of 11 states suing the Obama administration, to no one’s surprise, and this time the lawsuit comes on the back of the same ugly transphobia that has tainted the Lone Star state in recent years.

The lawsuit comes in response to a directive earlier this month by the Justice Department and the Department of Education that asks schools to allow students to use whichever bathroom matches their gender identities. Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Arizona, Tennessee, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, and Georgia joined Texas in the lawsuit.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a longtime, outspoken opponent of LGBT rights, praised the lawsuit in a statement this week, saying that President Obama “is more devoted to radical social engineering than to the democratic process and the separation of powers.” Cruz continued by saying that transgender equality will lead to the exploitation of girls at the hands of grown men, even though there are no known cases of transgender individuals taking advantage of bathroom access to commit a crime.

The effort to brainwash the good people in Texas isn’t new. Texas’s struggle against recognizing transgender rights began last year with a proposed non-discrimination ordinance in Houston, first passed by the city council and then subjected to a city-wide vote by the state’s supreme court.

HERO, or the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, included protections both gay and transgender residents and was championed by the city’s first lesbian mayor, Annise Parker.

In response to the effort, groups such as Campaign for Houston began a culture-wide propaganda campaign, enlisting the likes of former Houston Astros star Lance Berkman and pastor Ed Young. Conservatives in the state leaned heavily on the “men in girls’ bathrooms” narrative. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted before Houston voters took to the polls, urging residents to “Vote NO on City of Houston Proposition 1. No men in women’s bathrooms.”

HERO was soundly defeated by Houstonians in a referendum vote.

This transphobic hysteria was so profound that it made waves in other states such as North Carolina, which went all-out by passing House Bill 2, an ordinance that trumped any local anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, including protecting the transgender community’s right to use bathrooms based on gender identity. The state legislature’s bill was introduced, passed, and signed into law in a single day.

Texas’ latest transgender lawsuit follows a pattern by the state to challenge just about any move by the Obama administration that can be felt at the state level. Greg Abbott has spearheaded most of the lawsuits dating back to his time as Texas’ Attorney General, when he sued the federal government 31 times. His most prominent lawsuit came when he led 26 states in challenging Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

On the Democratic side, things are looking much different — as expected. Sen. Bernie Sanders took the lead this week by responding to a presidential questionnaire from the Trans United Fund. Sanders said he would utilize healthcare services and push for nondiscrimination policies.

“Too often, it seems as if the ‘T’ in LGBT is silent,” Sanders said. “In my administration, the T will not be silent.”

“It’s powerful that the Sanders campaign took the time to complete the survey and are unabashed in their support,” the Trans United Fund said, according to Buzzfeed. And although Hillary Clinton has vowed to stand with the transgender community, the group’s leaders said they felt “disappointed and perplexed” after the Democratic frontrunner failed to respond to the survey.

As Secretary of State, Clinton approved a policy allowing transgender people to change their gender identity on their passport as long as they obtain a doctor’s note certifying that they received “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.”

 

By: Matt Tracy, The National Memo, May 26, 2016

May 27, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, Greg Abbott, LGBT, Texas Legislature | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Voter Fraud Is Rampant”: This Week In Republican Political Lies

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas — last seen threatening the president of the United States with armed revolt — has turned his attention back to suppressing the vote in his home state.

On Monday, the governor took exception to comments President Obama made last week during an interview at the SXSW festival, to the effect that that Texas’s voter turnout is so abysmal in part because the state’s officials “aren’t interested in having more people participate” in elections. As an example, Mr. Obama pointed to Texas’s extremely strict voter-identification law, which lawmakers passed in 2011, but which was invalidated by a federal district judge in 2014.

Governor Abbott rejected Mr. Obama’s premise. “What I find is that leaders of the other party are against efforts to crack down on voter fraud,” he responded. “The fact is that voter fraud is rampant. In Texas, unlike some other states and unlike some other leaders, we are committed to cracking down on voter fraud.”

“Voter fraud is rampant” — it’s the hoariest claim of proponents of voter-ID laws, and the most untrue. As the evidence has shown over and over and over and over and over, there is no voter-impersonation fraud — the only type of fraud that such laws purport to combat.

In 2014, Justin Levitt, an election-law scholar at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, catalogued every instance of voter-impersonation fraud he could find in any election since 2000 — not just prosecutions, but even vaguely credible allegations. He found 31 — over a period in which Americans cast about 1 billion votes in federal, state and local elections.

Meanwhile, tens or hundreds of thousands of otherwise-eligible voters are either blocked from voting or deterred from trying because of these laws.

Back in 2007, a federal appeals court judge named Terence Evans saw this discrepancy plainly, calling voter-ID laws “a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic.” Noting the discrepancy between the alleged harm and the proposed solution, he asked, “Is it wise to use a sledgehammer to hit either a real or imaginary fly on a glass coffee table?”

Nine years later, the hammer still swings. On March 9, the full United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit voted to reconsider the district court’s decision striking down Texas’s voter-ID law.

Republican politicians, who appear more afraid every day of losing their tenuous grip on a changing electorate, could adjust their message to appeal to a broader swath of voters. Instead they are taking the path of least resistance and trying to silence those they’ve already written off.

 

By: Jesse Wegman, Editorial Pages, Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, March 17, 2016

March 21, 2016 Posted by | Greg Abbott, Voter Fraud, Voter Suppression | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Emotionally Abusive Relationship”: Tea Partyers Love The Constitution So Much — They Want To Blow It Up

Sometimes I think tea partyers are in an emotionally abusive relationship with the Constitution.

One day, they proclaim its inerrancy and say it must be loved, honored and obeyed in all its original perfection. The next day, they call for a constitutional convention, arguing that it’s broken, outdated and desperately in need of a facelift.

In other words: I love you, you’re perfect, now change.

This pure, pristine document is so fervently adored by people of the parchment that some carry it around with them at all times — sometimes in their breast pockets, close to their hearts, perhaps to protect them from a stray Second Amendment-protected bullet. They cite it as they might scripture (that is, often incorrectly, and for their own purposes).

They believe that anyone who questions the Constitution’s decrees must be verbally flogged or even impeached. The United States’ sacred scroll must be feared, fetishized and followed to the letter — down to the comma, even — in its original, strictly constructed form.

Indeed, above all other national concerns, this founding document must be preserved as is.

But now a line of thinking has emerged that the best way to preserve the Constitution is to revamp it completely.

Consider Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), a tea party darling, who wants to convene a constitutional convention to amend this precious political heirloom.

And not to push through just a single amendment, but nine.

These amendments include: allowing a two-thirds majority of the states to override a Supreme Court decision; prohibiting Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one state; and requiring a seven-justice supermajority for Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law. Abbott also demands a balanced-budget amendment, which almost certainly would have been opposed by Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who was the most prolific defender of the Constitution.

These are not minor copy edits.

In a 92-page document defending his proposals, Abbott laments widespread ignorance of the Constitution and argues that his plan is “not so much a vision to alter the Constitution as it is a call to restore the rule of our current one.”

The Constitution itself is not broken,” Abbott writes in italics. “What is broken is our Nation’s willingness to obey the Constitution and to hold our leaders accountable to it.”

In other words, the Constitution says what Abbott thinks it says, not what it actually says, or what the Supreme Court decides it says — so now we just need to rewrite it so that the text fits what’s in his head.

Abbott is not the only right-wing Constitution-thumper to call for reframing the Founding Fathers’ allegedly perfect handiwork.

Marco Rubio, apparently trying to capture more of his party’s fringe, recently announced that on his “first day in office” as commander in chief, he would “put the prestige and power of the presidency behind a constitutional convention of the states.” Its agenda would be to impose term limits on federal legislators and judges, as well as a balanced-budget amendment.

Rubio assured Americans that delegates to such a convention “won’t be able to touch our important constitutional rights.”

Who determines which parts of the Constitution are important and therefore untouchable, and which are unimportant and touchable? Rubio, apparently.

Then there’s Donald Trump, who, along with others, wants to roll back the 14th Amendment to quash birthright citizenship . (In the meantime, he’ll settle for casting aspersions on his political enemies’ birthplaces.)

And Ben Carson — author of a book subtitled “What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties” — has argued that U.S. law is not subject to judicial review from the Supreme Court, contra Marbury v. Madison. (Carson has also expressed other funny ideas about what’s in the Constitution and who wrote it.) Like Rubio, Carson has supported the idea of a constitutional convention, along with fellow Republican presidential candidates Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee and John Kasich.

Then there’s Ted Cruz, who devotes a whole section on his campaign website to his pledge to “defend the Constitution” and “restore the Constitution as our standard.”

Cruz, too, has decided that the best way to “restore” the Constitution is by altering it. He supports amendments to require a balanced budget, let state legislatures define marriage and subject Supreme Court justices to periodic retention elections.

These and “many more” unspecified amendments are needed, he told reporters, “because the federal government and the courts have gotten so far away from the original text and the original understanding of our Constitution.”

Because, obviously, the best way to honor that cherished, perfect, original text is by getting rid of it.

 

By: Catherine Rample, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 14, 2015

January 15, 2016 Posted by | Constitution, Constitutional Convention, Greg Abbott, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Angriest And Least Moral”: Republicans Going For Broke On The Angry 20-30%

Texas governor Greg Abbott had choice words for President Obama and his plan to use executive power to expand gun safety laws:

“Obama wants to impose more gun control. My response? COME & TAKE IT.”

Grover Norquist went farther, comparing Obama to Darth Vader. So what is the President planning to do, exactly, that makes him some combination of Persian Emperor and Sith Lord? Mostly, expand background checks and clarify a federal rule or two:

The Post said Obama would use executive authority in several areas, including expanding background-check requirements for buyers who purchase weapons from high-volume dealers…

Thousands of guns are sold yearly by dealers who fall between licensed dealers and occasional sellers who do not need a license. Clarification could define which sellers need to meet rules and do background checks. Alcorn said.

It’s worth remembering in this context that a full 88% of Americans support stronger background checks for gun purchases–including 79% of Republicans. This is not a contentious issue except to a very small percentage of Americans who consider owning unchecked and unregulated arsenals a sacred right (while insisting that access to healthcare is not.)

But this isn’t unusual. Seventy percent of Americans support comprehensive immigration reform, for example. That’s not particularly contentious, either, except to America’s most bigoted elements.

63% of Americans support raising taxes on the rich and on large corporations to reduce income inequality. Only 31% oppose, with the rest uncertain. Again, this isn’t a terribly problematic issue in a normal democracy where supermajorities rule the day.

Republicans, however, are increasingly trapping themselves into a strategy that doubles down on the angriest and least moral 20-30% of the population. They do have the advantage of knowing that demographic votes more reliably and consistently than the other 70-80% of the public. It’s true that many of these voters, especially the ones with the deadly arsenals, are incredibly passionate about their views and will not only vote but work hard to encourage others to vote their way as well.

But it’s also true that this particular demographic is declining in number. And in the long run a political party cannot succeed by continuing to court an ever slimmer set of out-of-touch voters, particularly in a high-turnout election.

Nothing in this analysis is new, of course. But it’s worth noting that this year is different in the degree to which the GOP has placed its bet on the rump 20-30%, the virulence with which it is doing so in its rhetoric, the obvious disadvantages it is working with in polling not just on the issues but also with candidate head-to-head matchups, and the rapid decline of the very voter base on which it is depending.

Yes, the GOP will probably do quite well in the House for the next few years. Yes, it will continue to control large numbers of mostly rural and Southern states.

But electoral gravity cannot be defied forever. Tipping points turn into breaking points. And it’s going to be very ugly when the worst fifth of America’s population realizes that it really isn’t the silent majority anymore, and just how few friends it has left.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 3, 2015

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Greg Abbott, Gun Control, Gun Dealers | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“So Many Choices”: Obama Picks His Favorite Conspiracy Theory

The right has come up with more than its share of conspiracy theories related to President Obama. In fact, some of the more nonsensical ideas – he wasn’t born in the United States; he’s secretly non-Christian – began before he was even elected.

Obama sat down with Bill Simmons recently for an interview published by GQ, and Simmons asked a question I’ve wondered about myself.

SIMMONS: What’s the most entertaining conspiracy theory you ever read about yourself?

OBAMA: That military exercises we were doing in Texas were designed to begin martial law so that I could usurp the Constitution and stay in power longer. Anybody who thinks I could get away with telling Michelle I’m going to be president any longer than eight years does not know my wife.

The president didn’t literally use the words “Jade Helm 15,” but I think it’s safe to say that’s what he was referring to.

In case anyone’s forgotten about this one, let’s recap. Earlier this year, the military organized some training exercises for about 1,200 people in areas spanning from Texas to California, which started in mid-July. Somehow, right-wing activists got it in their heads that the exercises, labeled “Jade Helm 15,” were part of an elaborate conspiracy theory involving the Obama administration, the U.S. military, Walmart, and some “secret underground tunnels.”

It all seemed terribly silly – because it was – but several Republican officials, including senators, governors, and House members, at least pretended to take it seriously for a short while. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) even felt the need to order the Texas Guard to “monitor” the military exercises – just in case.

The training exercises wrapped up in September without incident.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 20, 2015

November 22, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Greg Abbott, Jade Helm 15 | , , , , , | 4 Comments

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