Tag: politics

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

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 6.25.10 PMWASHINGTON — 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.

MORE ON THIS STORY: https://apple.news/AApI1C7vASruuUKqJyd5nEA

Donald Trump and the Black Athlete

So we have more evidence that a master of the dog whistle occupies the White House and that black athletes are a favorite target.

The president, Donald J. Trump, took out after LeBron James on Friday in a way that felt instinctive, as the hound dog pursues the hare. The N.B.A. star had criticized Trump, in measured tones, in an interview with CNN last week. When the anchor Don Lemon asked James what he would say if he were sitting across from Trump, James offered a thin smile.

LBJ

“I would never sit across from him,” he said.

At 11:37 Friday night, after the interview had been rebroadcast, Trump replied with one of those tweets that offer an X-ray of his ego, psyche and soul. “LeBron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made LeBron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”

There was a breathtaking quality to this attack, and not just because white men demeaning the intelligence of black people is one of the oldest and ugliest tropes in American history.

James had appeared on CNN not to criticize this thin-skinned and choleric president but to talk of growing up poor with a single mom and of trying to pay back those who helped him by underwriting a public, noncharter school for at-risk youth in his hometown, Akron, Ohio. His foundation also committed tens of millions of dollars to help provide college scholarships for Akron public school graduates.

James will give every child in this school a bike and a helmet. He is a biking enthusiast for reasons that extend beyond cardiovascular benefit: From James’s earliest childhood days, when he lived in a tiny apartment just up an embankment from Cuyahoga Valley railroad tracks, the bike stood as a symbol of freedom. It allowed him to pedal out of his down-at-the-heels neighborhood and explore a larger world.

The bike and sport gave him freedom, he told Lemon, and allowed him to meet and befriend white kids and to see a world laden with possibility. “I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them,” he said of white kids, “and they got an opportunity to learn about me, and we became very good friends.”

You wonder how Trump could listen to James saying all of this and take away nothing but offense and pique. Then again, it’s difficult to know where the line between genuine annoyance and political calculation stands for a man who so willfully stirs the coals of class and racial resentment.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/05/sports/trump-lebron-james.html

Trump’s stealth attack on Obama’s legacy

While many of us have been distracted by Rudy Giuliani’s latest legal theories — and President Trump’s latest tweets — the Trump administration is making two big moves that will get him closer to his goal of erasing President Obama’s biggest policies.

What’s happening: The administration is allowing the sale of health insurance plans that undermine some of the main rules of the Affordable Care Act. And today, it will freeze federal fuel efficiency standards, undermining Obama’s goal of making them progressively tougher.

obama

Why it matters: This is being done through rulemaking, which gets the attention of health care and environmental reporters, yet flies under the radar of the cable news networks. These moves have huge, long-term consequences — and they show how easily Trump can achieve his policy goals while the TV cameras are focused on the outrage of the day.

  • “The President’s daily feeding of the outrage machine allows us to get work done on the agency level that would invite much more scrutiny in a ‘normal’ administration,” a former senior Health and Human Services official tells Swan.
  • “Cable news anchors spend hours and hours of airtime dissecting the latest Trump tweet, yet they barely notice when we achieve long-sought conservative policy goals” — like adding work requirements to Medicaid and stripping federal funds from Planned Parenthood.

The details on the fuel rollback, from energy columnist Amy Harder:

  • The proposal includes a range of options, but the administration’s preferred one is the most aggressive: Freezing the standards at 35 miles per gallon in 2020 for six years, instead of rising to 50 mpg under Obama’s plan.
  • It would also revoke a federal waiver California has to issue tougher standards, which a dozen states also follow. The rollback goes further than most automakers have said they want.
  • Between the lines: Early in Trump’s administration, business urged him to slow down on deregulating, stressing that narrow regulation is better than none in a changing political climate. Today’s announcement is one of the starkest signs that Trump is throwing that advice out the window — and inviting lawsuits and regulatory uncertainty.

The details on the health care rule, from health care editor Sam Baker:

  • HHS finalized new rules yesterday that expand access to inexpensive, bare-bones insurance plans that don’t have to comply with the rest of the ACA’s rules. They’re technically “short-term” plans, but they can be renewed for up to three years.

This isn’t the only swipe the Trump administration has taken against Obama’s health care law since the repeal effort failed:

  • The administration has also expanded access to other forms of non-ACA coverage.
  • Plus, it has slashed the budgets for programs that promote enrollment.
  • Congressional Republicans nullified the law’s individual mandate, and now the Justice Department is using that move to try to knock out pre-existing condition protections.
  • None of those cuts are fatal in isolation. But they’re not happening that way: Each one will pull a few more healthy people out of the ACA’s insurance markets.

The bottom line: There’s a lot that the agencies can do to wipe out Obama’s legacy on their own — and they’re making full use of the space that Trump’s rhetorical battles are giving them.

Go deeper: What Trump’s latest changes mean for the ACA.

Why Won’t Donald Trump Speak for America?i

The president lays himself at Vladimir Putin’s feet.

bird

The last time President Trump claimed that “both sides” were responsible for bad behavior, it didn’t go well. That was nearly a year ago, after a march of neo-Nazis descended into violence and a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing a woman.

On Monday, Mr. Trump again engaged in immoral equivalence, this time during a gobsmacking news conference after his meeting in Helsinki, Finland, with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. A reporter referred to last week’s indictments of 12 Russian military officials for a coordinated cyberattack on the 2016 election and asked Mr. Trump if he held Russia responsible. “I hold both countries responsible,” Mr. Trump said. Even in a presidency replete with self-defeating moments for the United States, Mr. Trump’s comments on Monday, which were broadcast live around the world, stand out.

The spectacle was hard to fathom: Mr. Trump, standing just inches from an autocratic thug who steals territory and has his adversaries murdered, undermined the unanimous conclusion of his own intelligence and law enforcement agencies that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 election with the goal of helping Mr. Trump win.

“My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me, and some others, they said they think it’s Russia,” Mr. Trump said at one point, speaking of his director of national intelligence. “I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” (In a statement on Monday afternoon, Mr. Coats reiterated that, in fact, it was.)

Mr. Trump called the special counsel’s Russia investigation “a disaster for our country” and then performed a selection of his greatest solo hits: “Zero Collusion,” “Where Is the D.N.C.’s Server?” and finally the old chestnut, “I Won the Electoral College by a Lot.”

Even top Republicans felt moved to speak up.

“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Paul Ryan, the House speaker, said. “There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.”

READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/16/opinion/donald-trump-putin-russia.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

Trump’s Threat to Democracy

EYESTwo political scientists specializing in how democracies decay and die have compiled four warning signs to determine if a political leader is a dangerous authoritarian:

1. The leader shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules. 2. He or she denies the legitimacy of opponents. 3. He or she tolerates violence. 4. He or she shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.

“A politician who meets even one of these criteria is cause for concern,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, both professors at Harvard, write in their important new book, “How Democracies Die,” which will be released next week.

“With the exception of Richard Nixon, no major-party presidential candidate met even one of these four criteria over the last century,” they say, which sounds reassuring. Unfortunately, they have one update: “Donald Trump met them all.”

A survey that year found that the Venezuelan public overwhelmingly believed that “democracy is always the best form of government,” with only one-quarter saying that authoritarianism is sometimes preferable. Yet against their will, Venezuelans slid into autocracy.

“This is how democracies now die,” Levitsky and Ziblatt write. “Democratic backsliding today begins at the ballot box.”

We tend to assume that the threat to democracies comes from coups or violent revolutions, but the authors say that in modern times, democracies are more likely to wither at the hands of insiders who gain power initially through elections. That’s what happened, to one degree or another, in Russia, the Philippines, Turkey, Venezuela, Ecuador, Hungary, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Poland and Peru.

Venezuela was a relatively prosperous democracy, for example, when the populist demagogue Hugo Chávez tapped the frustrations of ordinary citizens to be elected president in 1998.

Likewise, the authors say, no more than 2 percent of Germans or Italians joined the Nazi or Fascist Parties before they gained power, and early on there doesn’t seem to have been clear majority support for authoritarianism in either Germany or Italy. But both Hitler and Mussolini were shrewd demagogues who benefited from the blindness of political insiders who accommodated them.

Let me say right here that I don’t for a moment think the United States will follow the path of Venezuela, Germany or Italy. Yes, I do see in Trump these authoritarian tendencies — plus a troubling fondness for other authoritarians, like Vladimir Putin in Russia and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines — but I’m confident our institutions are stronger than Trump.

It’s true that he has tried to undermine institutions and referees of our political system: judges, the Justice Department, law enforcement agencies like the F.B.I., the intelligence community, the news media, the opposition party and Congress. But to his great frustration, American institutions have mostly passed the stress test with flying colors.

“President Trump followed the electoral authoritarian script during his first year,” Levitsky and Ziblatt conclude. “He made efforts to capture the referees, sideline the key players who might halt him, and tilt the playing field. But the president has talked more than he has acted, and his most notorious threats have not been realized. … Little actual backsliding occurred in 2017.”

That seems right to me: The system worked.

And yet.

For all my confidence that our institutions will trump Trump, the chipping away at the integrity of our institutions and norms does worry me. Levitsky and Ziblatt warn of the unraveling of democratic norms — norms such as treating the other side as rivals rather than as enemies, condemning violence and bigotry, and so on. This unraveling was underway long before Trump (Newt Gingrich nudged it along in the 1990s), but Trump accelerated it.

The Trump Administration to Restaurants: Take the Tips!

Most Americans assume that when they leave a tip for waiters and bcapital-one-credit-cardartenders, those workers pocket the money. That could become wishful thinking under a Trump administration proposal that would give restaurants and other businesses complete control over the tips earned by their employees.

The Department of Labor recently proposed allowing employers to pool tips and use them as they see fit as long as all of their workers are paid at least the minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour nationally and higher in some states and cities. Officials argue that this will free restaurants to use some of the tip money to reward lowly dishwashers, line cooks and other workers who toil in the less glamorous quarters and presumably make less than servers who get tips. Using tips to compensate all employees sounds like a worthy cause, but a simple reading of the government’s proposal makes clear that business owners would have no obligation to use the money in this way. They would be free to pocket some or all of that cash, spend it to spiff up the dining room or use it to underwrite $2 margaritas at happy hour. And that’s what makes this proposal so disturbing.

The 3.2 million Americans who work as waiters, waitresses and bartenders include some of the lowest-compensated working people in the country. The median hourly wage for waiters and waitresses was $9.61 an hour last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Further, there is a sordid history of restaurant owners who steal tips, and of settlements in which they have agreed to repay workers millions of dollars.

Sweeping Plan Would Overturn Equal Access to the Internet

lightbulbThe Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday that it planned to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for companies to charge more and block access to some websites. The proposal, put forward by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration. The rules prohibited high-speed internet service providers from blocking or slowing down the delivery of websites, or charging extra fees for the best quality of streaming and other internet services for their subscribers. Those limits are central to the concept called net neutrality.

The action immediately reignited a loud and furious fight over free speech and the control of the internet, pitting telecom giants like AT&T against internet giants like Google and Amazon, who warn against powerful telecom gatekeepers. Both sides are expected to lobby hard in Washington to push their agendas, as they did when the existing rules were adopted. “Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Mr. Pai said in a statement. “Instead, the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

The proposal from Mr. Pai, a Republican, is widely expected to be approved during a Dec. 14 meeting in a 3-to-2 party line vote from the agency’s five commissioners. But some companies will probably put up a legal fight, or actions by lawmakers, to prevent it from taking hold.

The clear winners from the move would be the giant companies that provide internet access to phones and computers, which have fought for years against broadband regulations. A repeal of the rules would allow the companies to exert more control over the online experiences of American consumers.

Big online companies like Amazon say that the telecom companies would be able to show favoritism to certain web services, by charging for accessing some sites but not others, or by slowing the connection speed to some sites. Small online companies say the proposal would hurt innovation. Only the largest companies, they say, would be able to afford the expense of making sure their sites received preferred treatment.

And consumers, the online companies say, may see their costs go up to get quality access to popular websites like Netflix. The action “represents the end of net neutrality as we know it and defies the will of millions of Americans,” said Michael Beckerman, chief executive of the Internet Association, a lobbying group that represent Google, Facebook, Amazon and other tech firms.

But Mr. Pai said the internet rules were adopted to stop only theoretical harms. He said the old rules limited consumer choice and stifled investment in network expansion and upgrades. He has also argued that the existing internet rules stop internet service companies from experimenting with new business models that could help them compete with online businesses like Netflix, Google and Facebook.

The plan to repeal the existing rules, passed in 2015, also reverses a hallmark decision by the agency to declare broadband as a service as essential as phones and electricity. That move created the legal foundation for the current rules and underscored the importance of high-speed internet service to the nation. It was put in place by Tom Wheeler, an F.C.C. chairman under President Obama. Mr. Pai signaled his intention to dismantle the existing rules in April. The action on Tuesday by Mr. Pai, who was appointed chairman by President Trump, is the centerpiece of a deregulatory agenda that has also stripped television broadcasters, newspapers and telecom companies of a broad range of regulations meant to protect the public interest.

The telecom companies on Tuesday cheered Mr. Pai’s proposal. “The removal of antiquated, restrictive regulations will pave the way for broadband network investment, expansion and upgrades,” said Jonathan Spalter, the chief executive of USTelecom, an industry lobbying group. But consumer advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers said the move would harm consumers and internet businesses that have relied on the rules to ensure all content is equally available, and to make sure that speech is not stifled by broadband companies putting up barriers to certain internet sites.

Consumer groups say broadband companies have been incredibly profitable under the net neutrality rules and have expanded their networks into new communities and with faster speeds, despite complaints the rules hamper their businesses. “Your internet service provider will be free to make online fast lanes and favor the content of its choice,” said Gigi Sohn, a former senior adviser to Mr. Wheeler at the F.C.C. “That it will take away your control of your internet experience and give it to Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.”