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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

“Change Requires More Than Righteous Anger”: How Sanders Can Avoid Becoming The Ted Cruz Of The Left

As it becomes increasingly clear that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee, a lot of people are beginning to talk about what Bernie Sanders should do now. The more interesting question is: what happens to the “movement” he has inspired once this election is over. That is what Brian Beutler attempted to address. Here is a summary of his advice:

Sanders must keep the apparatus he’s built largely intact, but refocused on lobbying for progressive policies and promoting and financing progressive candidates—and making establishment Democrats fear the price of opposing both.

That sounds like good advice to me, with one caveat: don’t become the Ted Cruz of the left.

After the election in November, Bernie Sanders will go back to being the Senator from Vermont. Unless he wants to give up that seat – he will be working from inside the system. As Beutler goes on to point out, if Democrats win control of the Senate, Sanders will be in line to be chair of the Budget Committee. Using that position to advance his progressive agenda means playing the “establishment” game. Unless he wants to become a full-time activist working from outside the system (which would be a viable option), here are some things he could do:

  1. Develop a plan for universal health care coverage that is more than simply throwing numbers at a page that don’t add up. In other words, develop a plan that would actually work.
  2. Submit the Rebuild America Act to address this country’s infrastructure needs and create jobs.
  3. Work with Senate colleague Sherrod Brown to develop a serious proposal to break up the big banks.

I could go on with other things Sanders has advocated for in this primary, but perhaps you get my drift. As a candidate, Sanders has been good at naming and describing problems. Where he has been weak is in developing serious plans to address them. Energizing his movement to maintain the pressure for more progressive policies means providing the country with actual progressive policies. Sanders could then mobilize the army of his young supporters to take up the cause and fight for them. As President Obama said at Howard University:

You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy. I’ll repeat that. I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action. Not just hashtags, but votes.

You see, change requires more than righteous anger. It requires a program, and it requires organizing.

The alternative is to become the Ted Cruz of the left – always disrupting but never offering anything constructive that could actually change things.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 10, 2016

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Nominee, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Antagonistic Relationship To The Truth”: Donald Trump Is A New Kind Of Dissembler

Most partisans would probably tell you that while their own party’s leaders sometimes get a fact wrong here or there, the other side is a bunch of blatant liars, whose contempt for the truth leaves the public in a perpetual cloud of misinformation. We don’t have to settle who’s right on this question to acknowledge that in politics, there are ordinary tale-tellers and then there’s Donald Trump. As he has in so many ways, Trump has upended the usual operation of politics by refusing to play by its rules, written or not.

The presumption that politicians should at least try to speak the truth as often as they can is something most everyone shares, whether Democrats, Republicans, or the news media that cover them. It’s that presumption that establishes a basic set of behaviors for all concerned—for instance, that news media will call out lies from politicians when they notice them, that the politicians will try to avoid getting caught in lies, and that when they do, they’ll avoid repeating the lie lest they be tagged forevermore as dishonest.

So what do you do when a candidate makes it clear that not only does he not care about the truth, he doesn’t care whether everybody knows it? This is the dilemma of covering Donald Trump.

Trump is distinctive in more than one way. First, there’s the sheer breadth and character of his falsehoods. Absurd exaggerations, mischaracterizations of his own past, distortions about his opponents, descriptions of events that never occurred, inventions personal and political, foreign and domestic, Trump does it all (you can peruse Politifact’s Trump file if you doubt).

In this, he differs from other candidates, who usually have had one distinctive area of dishonesty that characterized them. Some hid things they were embarrassed about or thought would damage them politically, some deceived about their personal histories in order to paint a flattering picture of themselves, and others spun a web of falsehood to gain the public’s assent for policies they suspected might not otherwise gain public support. But there has simply never been a candidate who has lied as frequently, as blatantly, and as blithely as Trump.

Then there’s the fact that even when Trump gets caught lying, he keeps on repeating the lie. How often does he say that The Art of the Deal is “the number one best-selling business book of all time”? (It isn’t.) How many times did he claim that thousands of Muslim Americans gathered on rooftops in New Jersey to cheer the collapse of the World Trade Center, no matter how often he was told it never happened? He has said over and over that he was a vocal opponent of the Iraq War before it began, despite the fact that it’s utterly false. This is one of his most spectacular fabrications, because he even claims that “I was visited by people from the White House asking me to sort of, could I be silenced because I seem to get a disproportionate amount of publicity.” Although we know he got no publicity for his fictional opposition to the Iraq War because people have checked and he didn’t, I have to admit that I can’t prove definitively that the Bush administration never sent a delegation to plead with Trump to stop his nonexistent criticism of the war. But the idea is so preposterous that no sane person could believe it. And that was before he charged that Ted Cruz’s father was an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald and may have had something to do with the Kennedy assassination.

Unfortunately, as Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes, “Trump makes Four-Pinocchio statements over and over again, even though fact checkers have demonstrated them to be false. … But, astonishingly, television hosts rarely challenge Trump when he makes a claim that already has been found to be false.” Just yesterday on Meet the Press, Trump claimed that he wants to change the voting system so that undocumented immigrants will no longer be allowed to cast ballots; a visibly shocked Chuck Todd said, “Well, of course. That is the law as it stands already.” To which Trump replied, “No, it’s not. I mean, you have places where people just walk in and vote.” Todd moved on. Trump also said “We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world,” another falsehood he often repeats, and which Todd wasn’t quick enough to catch.

So does Trump’s antagonistic relationship with the truth matter? It depends what we mean when we ask the question. It certainly didn’t hurt him in the primaries. Perhaps that’s because of the overwhelming force of his personality, or perhaps it’s because Republican voters have been told for years that anything the news media tell them is by definition poisoned by liberal bias, so why bother listening to some fact-checker? Trump’s supporters may be particularly unconcerned about what’s true and what isn’t; they were more likely than supporters of Ted Cruz or John Kasich to believe in a wide range of conspiracy theories, among other things.

But like Trump’s support more broadly, what didn’t hurt him in the primaries did hurt him with the general electorate. Trump may have triumphed in the GOP contest, but along the way he acquired unfavorable ratings in the 60s, and one poll found only 27 percent of Americans rating him as honest and trustworthy.

But the electoral effects of Trump’s blizzard of baloney are only part of the story; we also have to ask what his untruthfulness tells us about the kind of president he’d be. Unfortunately, we in the media don’t always go about assessing honesty in ways that help voters understand its implications for the presidency. For instance, in 2000, George W. Bush was portrayed as a man who, though a bit dim, was positively brimming with homespun integrity. Only a few observers noted that Bush regularly dissembled about his record as governor of Texas and the content of his policy proposals, which suggested that even if he might be faithful to his wife, as president he might not be honest about matters of policy. And he wasn’t, with some rather serious consequences. His predecessor, on the other hand, saw all kinds of questions of honesty raised about him during the 1992 campaign. And it turned out that like Bush, Bill Clinton’s prior behavior provided a good preview of what he’d do in the White House: As a candidate he tried to cover up his extramarital affairs, and as a president he, guess what, tried to cover up an extramarital affair.

In Trump’s case, though, his whoppers are so wide-ranging that it’s almost impossible to find a topic area about which he wouldn’t dissemble. He lies to foment hatred against minority groups. He lies about the condition of the country. He lies about what his opponents have said or done. He lies about his own past. It’s hard to foresee that a President Trump would act any differently than candidate Trump does, and what would it mean if no one could trust anything the president tells them?

People who live in dictatorships with a captive press often assume that whatever the government says is bogus by definition. Needless to say, that kind of relationship between the government and the governed is not conducive to popular legitimacy or any kind of problem-solving that requires public involvement. With Donald Trump in the White House offering a daily delivery of fibs and fabrications, it isn’t hard to imagine that the public would conclude that the government is nothing more than a second-rate reality show, worthy of little attention or regard. Imagine what he could get away with then.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, May 8, 2016

May 10, 2016 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Donald Trump, Media | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Why Do Some People Respond To Trump? It’s Biology 101”: Conservatives Respond To Fear-Inducing Stimuli

As humans, we are first and foremost programmed to survive. Millions of years of evolution through natural selection have sculpted instincts and intellect aimed at staying alive. Fast, sudden movements instantly capture our attention, and unexpected noises cause us to jump back reflexively. It only takes common sense to see that survival requires a certain degree of sensitivity to threat. A desire to feel safe is part of our hardwiring, and as such, we tend to want people and rules in our lives that are going to help protect us from harm.

For some people, Donald Trump and his policies are seen as that protection. Afraid of the radical Islamic terrorists who are out there plotting attacks? Don’t worry—Donald Trump is going to ban every single Muslim from entering the country. Do you fear the Mexican immigrants coming across the border that you heard were “drug dealers, murderers, and rapists”? Fear not, President Trump is going to build a wall to keep out all the bad guys.

It is clear that those politicians who are best able to exploit our most basic biological traits, like our instinct to survive, are going to occupy a timeless niche in the political environment. The effectiveness of fear mongering in politics is no real secret to anyone anymore. But there were many GOP candidates who were great fear mongers, like Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, whose success flailed in comparison to Trump’s. That is because fear mongering alone isn’t enough.

After you succeed in making them afraid, you must also convince them that everything will be A-OK if they have you on their side. First you create the need for a hero, and then you pretend you are that hero. Donald Trump is the candidate who is offering the most extreme measures for protection. He’s strong and the other candidates are weak or “low energy.” It is only he who can save the day.

So an obvious question is, why does Trump’s tactic work on some people but not others? Don’t we all want to feel safe? Why is it that liberals and progressives feel like Trump is the actual danger and not the protector? Neuroscience and psychology research supports one clear explanation: Conservatives are hypersensitive to threat compared to liberals, and thus respond more fearfully.

For example, a 2008 study published in the journal Science found that conservatives have a heightened physiological response to threatening stimuli. Researchers tested this by showing participants threatening images—like spiders on faces or car crashes—while they measured skin electrical conductance, and presented loud bursts of white noise while they measured the strength of their eye blinks. The data showed that those who held conservative values startled more easily and had increased electrical skin conductance, which indicates a heightened state of arousal. Those with liberal views did not seem to be affected by the stimuli.

Additionally, an MRI study published in Current Biology in 2011 found that self-described conservatives had larger amygdalas than those who identified as liberals. The amygdala is the region of the brain that is involved in threat processing. Generally speaking, as the strength of the electrical response of the amygdala increases, so does the sense of fear we feel in response to a stimulus. As a result, stimuli that might seem neutral to most people, like Muslims or Mexicans, might appear threatening to conservatives.

Trump is popular amongst the right because he can tap into irrational fears and amplify them. Then, when threat seems imminent, he offers the most drastic solutions. And when danger is on the doorstep, there’s not much time for rational thinking.

One might be inclined to point out that not all Trump supporters appear to be fearful. In fact, at Trump rallies many of the attendees are angry and aggressive toward anti-Trump protesters. But hostility is a natural response when one feels threatened, and the anger that fuels their behavior stems from deep-rooted anxieties.

It is also important to remember that we aren’t just programmed to survive. We are also hardwired to flourish. It is in our nature to vigorously compete for success. In essence, we are constantly trying to win. It’s part of the mentality that drove so many civilizations to conquer others.

As such, we shouldn’t expect all Trump supporters to be fearful or irrational people. Some are just Americans who acknowledge that all of the countries in the world are contenders in one big game of power, and that most of them are not going to play by the book. Are nations like North Korea, Iran, and Russia always going to follow the rules and act according to what is fair? Absolutely not, and to some it would seem unwise and even flat out foolish for us to do so when everything is at stake.

Trump told a journalist what he’s constantly telling the world: “I always win. Knock on wood. I win. It’s what I do. I beat people. I win.” For many, Trump is a president who is going to do everything in his power to ensure that we get ahead as a nation. He will be tough. He will wheel and deal. And he will definitely play dirty when the situation calls for it. Whatever shady dealings Trump does, he is doing it for us, and we should be thankful to be on the winning team.

The rise of Trump has defied almost all logic. But he isn’t appealing to logic. He is appealing to our most basic survival instincts. Those include fear and the natural tendency to thrive and conquer. This presidential election will be an important test for our nation. We will see if we are evolved enough for our logic to overcome our instincts.

 

By: Bobby Azarian, The Daily Beast, May 6, 2016

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Fearmongering | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump Can’t Win Without Women”: Trump’s Crude Sexist Spiel Has Backfired

Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s freshly-minted presumptive nominee for president, has called his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton a weak candidate lacking in stamina whose only asset is the “woman’s card.”

“And the beauty of this is that women don’t even like her,” he claimed after he won the Indiana Republican primary.

Harsh words, but not totally surprising from an unrestrained rich guy who has called Rosie O’Donnell a “fat slob,” among other epithets, and suggested that Fox News host Megyn Kelly was menstruating when she asked him tough questions at the first GOP Debate. (“She had blood coming out of her whatever.”)

Clinton, however, is betting that Trump’s crude sexist spiel has backfired, igniting opposition to him from women across the political spectrum.

“The whole idea of ‘playing the woman card,’ which he charged I was doing, and by extension other women were doing, has just lit a fire under so many women across the country,” she said during an interview with the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times posted yesterday.

“And I think it’s because they see his attacks on me, or Megyn Kelly or Carly Fiorina or whoever else he’s attacking at the moment as really a much broader attack on them. I think we are going to be pushing back and drawing the contrast whenever he does that. Because it’s just absolutely beyond the pale. He’s not going to get away with it, at least going forward.”

About half of Republican women (some 47 percent) say they don’t like Trump.

And several prominent female politicians in the Party of Lincoln are openly antagonistic to the foul-mouthed real estate mogul and his immodest proposals — like banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants. Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, for one, has compared Trump and other GOP candidates to fascistic dicators like Hitler.

“Trump especially is employing the kind of hateful rhetoric and exploiting the insecurities of this nation, in much the same way that allowed Hitler and Mussolini to rise to power in the lead-up to World War II,” she wrote last December in Politico Magazine.

Whitman has also said she might vote for Hillary Clinton.

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and sole female in the GOP race for president before she dropped out, is no ideological sistah to Clinton. But she was quick to attack Trump for boasting about his endorsement in April from “tough” Mike Tyson, the former world heavyweight champion who has had seriously rocky relationships with women.

“Sorry, I don’t consider a convicted rapist a tough guy,” Fiorina told reporters in Indianapolis during her brief stint as Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s pick for vice president. She was alluding to how Tyson was convicted of raping a teenage beauty contestant in the same city in 1992. (He spent three years in prison.)

Fiorina, who antagonized Trump when she was still running for the GOP presidential nomination, noted: “And I think it says a lot about Donald Trump’s campaign and his character that he is standing up and cheering for an endorsement by Mike Tyson.”

Cruz made a similar point with far stronger language when he assailed Trump as a “serial philanderer” and “pathological liar” who supports rapists as voters headed to the polls in Indiana on Tuesday. After they handed the bloviating billionaire a big win, Cruz abruptly suspended his campaign.

He was furious with Trump for making the bizarre and unsubstantiated claim on Tuesday morning that Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Trump’s proof? He had seem a picture in the National Enquirer of a man who looked like Cruz’s Dad standing next to Lee Harvey Oswald. Cruz seemed astounded: “This is nuts. This is not a reasonable position This is kooky.”

Cruz’s has depicted Trump before as “utterly amoral,” in his apparent bid for the evangelical vote. Those words are among the sound bites that appear in a brutal anti-Trump ad released by the Clinton campaign earlier this week. Clinton lets Trump’s former Republican rivals on the campaign trail and other detractors do the talking. (“A con artist,” summed up Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who lost to Trump in his home state; “a race baiting xenophobic religious bigot,” stated Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who was among the first of 17 GOP candidates to drop out of the GOP contest).

Another Clinton ad shows Trump talking himself into further trouble with female voters, telling Chris Matthew’s of MSNBC’s “Hard Ball” that women should receive some sort of unspecified “punishment” for having abortions in the event the procedure becomes illegal. He’s also shown in an interview refusing to disavow an endorsement from KKK leader David Duke.

Trump’s popularity among GOP standard bearers is hardly whole hearted.

“There’s more enthusiasm for @realDonaldTrump among leaders of the KKK than leaders of the political party he now controls,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. wrote on Twitter. Warren, who has yet to endorse anyone, has become a one-woman scourge of Trump.

Meanwhile, a recent CNN/ORCA survey shows Clinton mopping up the floor with her fellow New Yorker, leading him by 54 to 41, a 13 point edge. That figure augurs well for the former two-term junior senator from the big blue state should she capture the Democratic Party’s nomination over Sen. Bernie Sanders in Philadelphia.

 

By: Mary Reinholz, Featured Post, The National Memo, May 6, 2016

May 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, War On Women | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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