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Thursday, July 27, 2017
  • Bill Kristol: Irresponsible Transgender Tweet Shows Trump 'Thinks It's A Dictatorship'
    by John Amato on July 27, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Bill Kristol, founder of The Weekly Standard told MSNBC that Trump thinks he's running a dictatorship after irresponsibly dismissing every transgender soldier in the military. This morning, with no advance notice, Trump tweeted these out. After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow...... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017 ....Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming..... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017 MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace opined that Trump seems more "off the rails" than normal after saying he'll be more presidential than Abraham Lincoln. read mor […]

  • Rep. Jordan Tries To Claim Obama's Support For Hillary Is Just Like Russian Meddling
    by Red Painter on July 27, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Rep. Jim Jordan took a giant, insane, totally bat shit crazy leap from Russia election meddling to Obama on Trump's favorite "news show" this morning, Fox and Friends. He tries (and fails) to somehow make it sound like Obama did something horrific to try to change the outcome of the election. Just listen and be ready to facepalm really hard. Jordan said: "The Obama administration tried to influence the election. His Attorney General told his FBI Director go tell the American People in the midst of an election something that is false and why did they do it? What was their motive? Because they wanted Hillary Clinton to be the next President of the United States That is not supposed to happen in a great country like ours." Hmm...but it's totally ok that Russia directly impacted our election through bots, fake news and possible hacking? Oh. I see. He continued: "Talk about collusion? Think about this...think about what James Comey did after he was fired. He leaks a memo through a friend to the New York Times and for the stated objective, he was under oath, for the stated objective of creating momentum for Special Counsel." Fox and Friends host "mmmm hmmmmmmmmm" Jordan continues: "And not just any Special Counsel, but his good friend, his predecessor, his mentor, Bob Mueller. Holy cow. This double standard."read mor […]

  • Unhinged Lewandowski Rants About How Trump Can Fire Anyone He Wants
    by Red Painter on July 27, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Donald Trump's former campaign manager went on the offensive today when he joined George Stephanopoulos on GMA. Serving as the dutiful foot soldier, Lewandowski squinted, unblinking, asserting complete fealty to the very man who fired him. Corey says that he is pretty sure that Trump is going to have a "private conversation with Sessions" in the next few days. Yeah, if he can squeeze it in between golf and angry subtweeting AT Sessions. I mean, it isn't like he has much to do these days. If he just stopped tweeting for 10 minutes, he can probably squeeze in a quick chat with his best friend and first official GOP backer. Right? Trying to explain away Trump's 5 days spree of juvenile, bullying subtweets, Lewandowski said: "I don't think he's humiliating Jeff Sessions." He didn't say whether he thinks Trump will actually fire him (or shame him into quitting) but he did say "I think the president is going to have that conversation with Senator Sessions. I know the president is thankful for the work that Jeff has done." And we all know how much Trump appreciates loyalty (spoiler: he doesn't, see Chris Christie).read mor […]

  • Open Thread - Shark Week, Starring...A Corgi?
    by Frances Langum on July 27, 2017 at 3:30 am

    Happy Shark Week! h/t Tastefully Offensive, and you can follow Zero on Twitter or Instagram at @corgi_zero Open thread below.. […]

  • C&L's Late Night Music Club With The Rolling Stones
    by Dale Merrill on July 27, 2017 at 3:00 am

    Mick Jagger turned 74 today. Here's a song from when he was 29. What are you listening to tonight? […]

  • Shep Smith Fumes Over Trump's 'False Claims' About Jeff Sessions
    by John Amato on July 27, 2017 at 12:00 am

    Fox News' Shepard Smith hammered Trump's attacks on Jeff Sessions today while the AG was at the White House, calling Trump's timeline and claims "demonstrably false." Smith read off Trump's "false" tweets: Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got.... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017 ...big dollars ($700,000) for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017 After reading the tweets, Smith told viewers, "This is a false claim. Demonstrably false."read mor […]

  • Repeal And Delay Defeated 45-55
    by Karoli Kuns on July 26, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Rand Paul's "Repeal-and-Delay" boondoggle of a bill failed in the Senate, going down in flames 45-55. Senators Collins, Capito, Murkowski, Alexander, McCain, Portman and Heller voted against it. All other Republicans voted for the bill, which would have ripped health insurance away from 32 million people and cut Medicaid by $800 billion immediately while putting lots of big bucks in the pockets of billionaire donors. Right after that bill failed, there was a motion to send the bill to committee to remove the Medicaid provisions. That, too, failed on a party line vote. I wasn't a fan of the amendment to send it to committee for that reason alone, but let's be honest. It would have been a step toward regular order, that thing John McCain was mourning yesterday. Today he had an opportunity to send it in that direction, but that proposal was also defeated on a straight 48-52 party line vote. So much for Maverick McMavericky. Now we move on to the "skinny repeal," which will not go anywhere in the House. We may (and I never ever count this as absolute) -- MAY -- be at a stalemate. […]

  • GOP Rep. On The Senate: Someone Needs To 'Snatch A Knot In Their Ass'
    by Karoli Kuns on July 26, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Georgia Representative Buddy Carter had some words for the Senate in general and Lisa Murkowski specifically. Rep. Carter is very frustrated that the Senate is not bowing before the Great and Mighty House of Representatives and is instead thinking about the nation as a whole. When asked by Ali Velshi what he thought about Trump going after Lisa Murkowski on Twitter... Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017 Rep. Carter replied colorfully, "I think it's perfectly fair. Let me tell you, somebody needs to go over into that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass." Snatching "a knot in someone's ass" means hitting them or getting retribution in some physical way. So that's special. It is unclear whether Carter was referring to Murkowski specifically or the Senate in general, but he was clearly frustrated that the Senate was having great difficulty pulling the horse over the finish line. […]

  • Newt Gingrich: Greatest Wingnut Welfare Queen Of Them All
    by driftglass on July 26, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    The Definer of Civilization has another shitty book out. It is called "Understanding Trump". It has a forward by Eric Trump. It has a breathlessly excited blurb by Sean Hannity. It has a glowing write-up in Breitbart the official house organ of GOP's General Directorate for the Moral Hygiene of Party Members: Newt Gingrich: Donald Trump One of the Smartest Presidents Ever Discussing his new book, Understanding Trump, with Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow on Monday, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich explained why he believes Donald Trump is one of the smartest people ever to have served as President of the United States. “What always surprises members of the elite is I believe he is one of three or four smartest people ever to be president,” Gingrich said, adding: I think he’s in the same league as someone like Lincoln or Theodore Roosevelt … I also think he’s one of the most energetic since Roosevelt, which is why you get these tweets at five in the morning, when he wakes up he has too much energy. I think also he has an instinct for disruption comparable to Andrew Jackson… He is constantly looking for ways to fix things, to change things, to breakthrough. So why is The Offal That Walks Like a Man being interviewed by the once-venerable NPR as if he were a serious thinker?read mor […]

  • Trump: 'I Can Be More Presidential Than Any President That’s Ever Held This Office'
    by John Amato on July 26, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    On Tuesday, President Donald Trump told his rallygoers in Youngstown, Ohio, that he "can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office." Trump took a lot of criticism over his uber-partisan and highly inappropriate speech to the Boy Scouts jamboree, but apparently that held no substance to Trump at all. MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell opened her show by playing a brief clip from Trump's speech. Mitchell said, "Reversing history, President Trump announces on Twitter he is canceling the Obama administration's acceptance of transgender people into the military, even as he now predicts --he will be one of the greatest president's ever." [Cut to video clip] Trump said, "With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office. That I can tell you." [end video clip] The 3,500 members of the American Psychoanalytic Association are now allowed to defy what is known as the “Goldwater Rule” and can now comment on President Donald Trump’s mental state, STAT News reports.read mor […]

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  • Trump administration threatens Alaska's energy industry over Murkowski's Trumpcare vote
    by rss@dailykos.com (Joan McCarter) on July 27, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Sen. Lisa Murksowski (R-AK) is getting extra special attention for her decision to look out for her state's citizens and vote against the motion to proceed to the Affordable Care Act repeal fiasco. When a Wednesday morning Twitter attack from popular vote loser Donald Trump left the senator completely unfazed, Trump and team realized they'd have to up the threat level. By threatening both of Alaska's senators that her opposition could have repercussions for the state. [Wednesday] afternoon, each of Alaska's two Republican senators had received a phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke letting them know the vote had put Alaska's future with the administration in jeopardy. […] Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said the call from Zinke heralded a "troubling message." "I'm not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop," Sullivan said. […] Sullivan said the Interior secretary was clear that his message was in response to the no vote Murkowski cast Tuesday on the motion to proceed with debate on the House-passed health care legislation. Murkowski, as head of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate, is arguably a more powerful player for her state on energy issues than Trump could be. She also won reelection on a write-in vote, after teaching Alaskans how to spell her name properly for their votes to count. Murkowski has no reason to fear for her job. And Trump just made an enemy of one more senator—Sullivan. Republican senators are already pissed at his ongoing war on one of their former own—Jeff Sessions. This attack isn't going to help the short-fingered vulgarian much in winning new friends there. […]

  • Scaramucci brings the Trump team the unified message they've been seeking: We're all morons
    by rss@dailykos.com (Mark Sumner) on July 27, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    On Wednesday evening, Politico produced financial records showing that White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci was still involved with investment firm SkyBridge Capital. The document showed Scaramucci is still collecting fat checks from the firm even though it was sold to a Chinese investment group in January, a sale that’s currently under regulatory review. In the best, most professional way, Scaramucci reacted by both calling the release “a felony” and tweeting out an accusation at White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Scaramucci was then reminded that the document Politico was citing was his financial disclosure form. And that maybe, just maybe,  the word “disclosure” in that title might suggest that citing the form was not exactly a felony. Mr. Scaramucci filed the disclosure form in connection with his previous, short-lived job with the Trump administration at the Export-Import Bank. Under federal law, anyone can request such a report on a government website 30 days after its receipt. Mr. Scaramucci’s report says it was filed on June 23, which means it could be publicly released by the bank on July 23, or last Sunday.  Which makes the four-alarm fire, all hands on deck, call the FBI, Reince did it post from Scaramucci seem … idiotic.  And then, the Mooch went back, deleted the original tweet, denied that he had been accusing Priebus, and said all was good … except for not-so veiled complaints he lumped into a pair of interviews. And overall it was the most professional messaging operation ever. […]

  • Cheers and Jeers: Thursday
    by rss@dailykos.com (Bill in Portland Maine) on July 27, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE… > > > 2 < < <  Weeks 'til Netroots Nation Atlanta Two weeks from today, Kossacks and other lefties from a who's who of progressive organizations will descend on Atlanta for the annual activism party that is the Netroots Nation convention. The grapevine tells me that the official hotel is near full up and Georgia Democrats are ready to welcome one and all with open arms and peach-flavored beer. A few recent newsy bits from Nolan, Mary, Eric and the grapevine: ► Current VIP list includes: Senator Elizabeth Warren, 2000 popular vote winner Al Gore, Paul Ryan challenger “IronStache” Randy Bryce, a special training session with the Indivisible team, U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee, Keith Ellison, Mark Pocan, Raul Grijalva and Jan Schakowsky, Georgia House Minority Leader and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, David Nir and the Daily Kos Election All-Stars, Jon Ossoff, The Agenda Project's Erica Payne, Center for American Progress's Tom Perriello, Chris Reeves, Eclectablog's Chris Savage, Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw, and too many more to list here. For updates on future speakers and events, sign up here. ► Eats! Drinks! Attractions! Travel tips! Cafes! Your official Local's Guide to Atlanta is right here. Vicki with her boyfriend at NN 2015 in Detroit.► Kossack and board-certified goddess Vicki is out with her annual world-famous Netroots Nation spreadsheet, with all the panels, workshops, screenings and extra-curricular events. Click here to see it in all its spreadsheetalicious glory. And for detailed info on the panels and panelists, click here. ►Members of the Great Orange Satan community are invited to the Daily Kos caucus in the Piedmont Room on Thursday, August 10th at 2:30. Remember: you can't spell Piedmont without pie. ► Yes, Virginia, there will be a #NN17 pub quiz, on Friday, with devious questions cooked up by Adam B that would make Alex Trebek break down in tears. A brief history: After our first Pub Quiz in 2007, the New York Times’ Katherine Q. Seelye apologetically had to explain to her readers that our participants were not booing Mother Theresa herself; only the fact that almost no one had correctly identified her as the answer to a question. “Burma!”This year, expect more of the same, only louder. We’ll supply the refreshments, prizes, and a lot of good trivia; you bring the teams of 8-10 and the chanting, but please, for the love of God, leave the vuvuzelas at home. (Don’t have a team yet? No problem: they’ll form on-site as well.) ► By gum, our little hootenanny done made the Atlanta Journal Constitution's society pages. ► Public transportation (aka MARTA) info is here. ► Sign up for volunteer discounts and the scholarship program here. ► Official hotel room info is here. ► Follow Netroots Nation via Facebook here and Twitter here. Off to powder my wigs. Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!! […]

  • Morning Digest: Mo Brooks complains that Trump has 'publicly waterboarded' Jeff Sessions
    by rss@dailykos.com (Daily Kos Elections) on July 27, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Leading Off Campaign Action ● AL-Sen: With less than a month to go before the Aug. 15 GOP Senate primary, we finally have a proper poll. Cygnal, on behalf of several unnamed "businesses and associations," gives appointed Sen. Luther Strange the lead with 33 percent, while Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, beats Rep. Mo Brooks 26-16 for second. In the likely event that no one takes a majority, there will be a primary runoff in September. Aside from rumored tidbits, this is the first and only complete poll we've ever seen here, so we don't have anything to compare it to. However, Strange and his allies at the Senate Leadership Fund, a well-funded super PAC close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have been spending aggressively while Brooks and Moore have little outside support, so it's not unreasonable to see the senator ahead. At least one of those seekrit polls, though, indicated that the real battle was between Brooks and Strange for the second runoff spot, which explains why Team Strange has been training its fire on Brooks while ignoring Moore. That assault has come in the form of running ad after ad featuring footage of the congressman dissing Donald Trump during last year's presidential primary. The commercials have even argued that Brooks, who was backing Ted Cruz, sided with Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren over Trump. Brooks seems to have finally decided that there's no way he can win a "who loves Donald the mostest" contest, so he's switched tactics and instead come to the defense of former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump's "beleaguered" attorney general—with some truly remarkable rhetoric: "I support President Trump's policies, but this public waterboarding of one of the greatest people Alabama has ever produced is inappropriate and insulting to the people of Alabama who know Jeff Sessions so well and elected him so often by overwhelming margins." […]

  • Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 AM ET!
    by rss@dailykos.com (David Waldman) on July 27, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Zombie Treasoncare walks the Earth for another day. And nobody knows where it’s going. We’re perhaps well’ beyond the point where it makes any difference to say things like, “Imagine the outrage if Democrats had done things this way,” but, well, imagine it. In my vision of things, Republicans are tearing the stuffing out of chairs in the Senate with their teeth, and a significant portion of the chamber is literally engulfed in flames. But, both sides. Right? Like it or not, we’re here for it. Listen right here at 9:00 AM ET! Where else can you get live, unvarnished news, commentary and opinion from Daily Kos editors David Waldman, Greg Dworkin, Joan McCarter, and even Armando? Well, sure, you could get that at Daily Kos. And this is Daily Kos. But that doesn’t count, because reasons. Besides, reading is overrated! Except for what you’re reading right now, that is. Especially this part: Help make the media you want, with a monthly, sustaining donation to our Patreon account! Or choose your own schedule with our Square Cash account. How can you be sure it’s worth your support? How about I let you check out our last show, for FREE: x YouTube Video YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Keep us on the air! Donate via Patreon or Square Cash Joan McCarter is bussssy today, and David Waldman isn’t just not going to do a show and let you all down. So, that makes it Esoteric Smorgasbord Wednesday on KITM! The Straight Talk-like Express pulled back into DC, bringing with it the status quo. Repeal and replace was rejected however, with the goal to just get the bill away from them and back to the House. What can Donald Trump do to Jeff Sessions to get him to leave? Other than firing him, of course. Russian comedians choose the perfect dope to dupe. Cosplayer won’t play a governor. Canadian Identitarians identify as Italian, on a ship identified as Mongolian in an effort to prevent Muslims as identifying as Europeans. Speaking of young, beautiful girls—16… 15… (Thanks again to Scott Anderson for the show summary!) Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold. […]

  • Abbreviated pundit roundup: Transgender ban not a distraction, but a transaction; McCain fumbles
    by rss@dailykos.com (Meteor Blades) on July 27, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Lucia Graves at The Guardian writes—John McCain had the chance to do the right thing on healthcare. He failed: Had McCain simply voted no to the question of whether the Senate should begin debate on a repeal or replacement of Obamacare, which squeaked by in the Senate with a vote of 51-50, the chamber’s leader Mitch McConnell might well have been forced to do the very thing McCain claimed to want: restore the chamber to order. Instead, McCain, who was recently and tragically diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, and who returned to DC explicitly to help save the GOP healthcare bill, voted yes.[...] The grim reality is that health insurance is of the utmost importance when it comes to surviving cancer, the second leading killer in America after heart disease. Put simply, the uninsured are much more likely to die than those with insurance – and sooner. [...] The only question is whether it’s a matter of 22, 32 or “just” 15 million people who will lose access. What we can say with confidence is whatever version moves forward, McCain’s lost more than his good health – he’s lost his decency. […]

  • Open thread for night owls. Reviewer: Too much Al Gore in 'An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power'
    by rss@dailykos.com (Meteor Blades) on July 27, 2017 at 3:01 am

    Jordan Reife reviews Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” at TruthDig: While George W. Bush was mired in the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, former Vice President Al Gore was on his way to becoming the most successful also-ran in history. His climate change documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was a surprise hit in 2006, racking up $50 million worldwide and an Oscar. In 2007, Gore won a Nobel Peace Prize for “efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” The movie’s follow-up, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” to be released Friday, follows Gore, now 69, as he delivers his famous PowerPoint presentation to disquieted civilians and the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, 10,000 concerned citizens from 135 countries who are bent on saving the planet. [...] A visit with glaciologist Konrad Steffen in Greenland illustrates how such epic transformations begin with a trickle of melting ice that morphs into a torrent emptying into the North Atlantic. It might be the very water Gore wrings out of his socks in a later scene after he trudges through the flooded streets of Miami to deliver yet another lecture. While Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., compared “An Inconvenient Truth” to “Mein Kampf”and called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” Gore finds common ground with Trump supporter Dale Ross, the mayor of Georgetown, Texas, which is 100 percent reliant on renewable energy. Ross might appear to be an outlier among conservatives, but it’s not just liberals who have been behind the 275 percent growth in renewables from 2002 to 2012. [...] Where the first film is firmly focused on climate issues, the sequel is half climate change update, half celebration of all things Gore. • An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance Events • Indivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES QUOTATION “Seemingly every culture before our own has had a single acceptable way to raise a baby. These cultures wouldn't have cared about the new scientific findings: they already knew how babies worked. Their answers were all very different, mind you, but they had this in common: all the other answers were wrong.”                    ~Nicholas Day, Baby Meets World: Suck, Smile, Touch, Toddle: A Journey Through Infancy (2013) TWEET OF THE DAY xMazie Hirono has stage 4 cancer. She's been at rallies trying to protect our care. She voted no. She didn't get a standing ovation.— Kimya Forouzan (@kimyaf) July 25, 2017 BLAST FROM THE PAST At Daily Kos on this date in 2009—The System At Work:  The GOP goal is to kill healthcare reform outright; their strategists are saying as much. Not to kill single payer or a public option, but to kill the whole notion of reform. The legislators tasked with coming up with alternative plans  declared, this last week, that none were needed; Senator Inhofe muses out loud about how much his party might be helped if they can manage to stop reform outright. I suppose it is worth pondering the how and the why of such things.  Do they earnestly believe that there's absolutely nothing that needs to be done about health care in this country?  Are they so transparently in the pockets of the lobbyists that they are willing make a bold stand on "everything is fine", when a mere look out the window says it's not? It's puzzling that such a stance could even be remotely effective. Everybody in America seems to hate their insurance provider, at least everyone who has ever had to use it because they actually got sick. Everybody knows how bad getting actual healthcare has become in this country; everybody has stories of being screwed roundly by their insurance, or not being able to get insurance in the first place, or knows someone else who has had worse experiences. On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, Zombie Treasoncare voting is on, which costs us our visit with Joan. But we give you TMI on procedure, anyway. McCain does the McCain thing, and is lionized for it. Racist weirdos on a MF-ing boat. Rick Perry is Teh Dum. Donald Trump: American PsychOTUS. x Embedded Content YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Keep us on the air! Donate via Patreon or Square Cash LINK TO THE STORE […]

  • Sessions' Justice Department says gays aren't protected from discrimination under federal law
    by rss@dailykos.com (Kerry Eleveld) on July 27, 2017 at 2:17 am

    Despite their recent rift, Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are in sync on one thing: it's a perfect time to declare open season on LGBTQ Americans. After Trump declared a ban on transgender military service Wednesday morning, Sessions' DOJ followed up that evening by filing a 23-page brief in a Second Circuit appellate case, Zarda v. Altitude Express Inc., arguing that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not covered by the prohibition on "sex" discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Washington Blade's Chris Johnson writes of the brief: “The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect,” the brief says. “Moreover, whatever this Court would say about the question were it writing on a blank slate, Congress has made clear through its actions and inactions in this area that Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination does not encompass sexual orientation discrimination. Other statutes and rules may prohibit such discrimination, but Title VII does not do so as a matter of law, and whether it should do so as a matter of policy remains a question for Congress to decide.” The brief is signed by Chad Readler, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Division; Tom Wheeler, acting assistant attorney general for civil rights; Deputy Assistant Attorney General Hashim Mooppan; and Justice Department attorneys Charles Scarborough and Stephanie Marcus. Interestingly, the brief skipped over the topic of discrimination based on gender identity, rather than arguing that it too is not protected under the rubric of "sex" discrimination. Some observers had expected the Justice Department brief would also address that legal argument. The brief is an articulation of the administration’s view and it runs in conflict with a growing body of rulings from both federal courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that anti-gay discrimination is prohibited under Title VII.  The government was not a party to the case and typically wouldn’t have filed an amicus brief but apparently went out of its way to weigh in. […]

  • Schumer calls Trumpcare process a 'sham,' says Democrats won't be a part of it
    by rss@dailykos.com (Joan McCarter) on July 27, 2017 at 12:24 am

    Campaign Action Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has declared the Trumpcare process in the Senate a "sham" and says that Democrats will not participate in it by offering any more amendments until "the majority leader shows his hand, reveals what his bill will actually be," at which time, "Democrats will use the opportunity to try and amend the bill." We know the Republicans are not going to take a final vote on the underlying house bill, which is still the pending legislation. And now the Republican leadership team has been telling the press about a yet to be disclosed final bill. If the reports are true, the Republicans will offer a skinny repeal plan. […] If the reporting is accurate and skinny repeal is their plan, it makes premiums far higher than they are today. We don't know if skinny repeal is going to be their final bill. But if it is, the CBO Says it would cause costs to go up and millions to lose insurance. Now in the meantime, madam president, Democrats are not going to continue to try and amend the house plan that is already dead. Certainly while we're not going to do that while there's some secret legislation—skinny repeal it's reported—waiting to emerge from the leader's office. The Republican leader has said that this is a robust amendment process. No, it isn't. Far from it. We don't even know what bill to direct our amendments to. Certainly a process that bypassed the committees and public hearings was never an open and transparent process. It was never a robust amendment process to this bill. But now it's gotten even worse. Since the beginning of this debate, we've just been taking votes on amendments to a piece of dead legislation. What kind of process is this? Then he gave a little dig at Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)  and his colleagues for playing along, saying "Anyone who listened to that speech should blush at this sham of an amendment process thus far." By the way, what he's talking about with the CBO is some fast work they did on behalf of Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Patty Murray (D-WA) on what "skinny repeal" could mean. One outcome: 42 million losing insurance next year. Schumer is showing what a farce this whole process is, and if Republicans were capable of feeling shame, they would. However, Democrats are losing an opportunity to get Republicans on the record on some really politically damaging things already. It is stopping Democrats from dragging this process out, but there were real limits to how long they could keep the Senate from moving. At any point, McConnell could have called an end to the amendment process, so their were limits on that protest as well. And maybe they figure a Republican taking a vote to raise premiums astronomically and kick 42 million people off of insurance in one year (an election year) is embarrassing and politically damaging enough. Make your Republican senator feel the heat. Call their office EVERY DAY at (202) 224-3121 to demand that they say NO to repealing Obamacare and ripping health care away from millions of Americans. (After you call, please tell us how it went.) […]

  • Failed Gov. Sam Brownback to flee Kansas for a job as a Trump 'ambassador at large'
    by rss@dailykos.com (Hunter) on July 27, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Having driven the Kansas budget into a ditch by taking all of the Republican trickle-down nonsense conservative think tanks have long been demanding and stupidly putting it into practice, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is getting the hell out of Dodge—well, Topeka—and the $1 billion budget shortfall his policies created. After being reelected last November despite all of that, he’ll be quitting the job early and fleeing the state in the only getaway car he or Trump could come up with. I mean, this is just sad. President Donald Trump announced Brownback’s appointment as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom Wednesday evening. Brownback had long been expected to be named to the post. So, not even an ambassadorship to an actual country, but an ambassador-at-large position for the abstract concept of "religious freedom", Republican-style. Sam Brownback, hapless destroyer of conservative economic propaganda, is now going off to stump for a new version of “religious freedom” that, no doubt, conspicuously leaves out every other world religion but his own. But really, this is just pathetic. It's long been known that the now-despised Brownback was trying to get out of Kansas and his governorship, but to go from a governorship to this? That’s embarrassing even in the context of wingnut welfare. Donald Trump has hundreds of administration positions to fill, and this is the best anyone was willing to do for the Kansas Destroyer? While instinct suggests that this is the last we will be hearing from the terrible Sam Brownback for a while—the position is, shall we say, not exactly high-profile—we should have faith in the man. There's absolutely no way he can manage to get through a tenure as a "religious freedom" ambassador without fucking it up entirely, this time on the world stage instead of within the confines of a single state, and so will no doubt be back in the news sooner than any of us expect. […]

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  • The “Skinny Repeal” Ruse
    by Jim Newell on July 26, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    The Senate on Tuesday finally voted down its comprehensive plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, by a vote of 57 to 43.* But that is not the end of that. Republican leaders now plan to pass a different, narrower repeal-only bill—which they have dubbed “skinny repeal”—and then allow something similar to their repeal-and-replace plan to re-emerge at the next step in the process, a conference committee between the House and Senate. Republicans could, effectively, advance the BCRA to the next step in the process without ever having passed it. […]

  • Trump’s Transgender Ban Will Weaken the Military
    by Phillip Carter on July 26, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    In an unexpected move Wednesday morning, on the 69th anniversary of President Harry Truman’s order to desegregate the armed forces, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had decided to bar transgender Americans from serving in uniform. […]

  • The Donald Trump Election Brag Tracker
    by Grace Ballenger on July 26, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    When Donald Trump chatted with three Reuters reporters in April, he handed each of them a map memorializing his win over Hillary Clinton. “It’s pretty good, right?” the president asked before adding, “The red is obviously us.” This was not an outlier. Trump also bragged about his election victory at a Republican Party retreat in Philadelphia days after the inauguration, during an appearance with the president of Romania, and in response to a question about anti-Semitism. […]

  • How McConnell Did It
    by Reihan Salam on July 25, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    A few days ago, it looked as though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t even be able to secure enough votes to begin a formal debate on the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, let alone corral enough GOP senators to pass the ever-evolving Better Care Reconciliation Act. To the surprise of many, McConnell managed to pass his “motion to proceed,” with an assist from Vice President Mike Pence, thus bringing repeal and replace back to life. How did he do it? And does this mean that Republicans in the Senate will be able to pass BCRA or something like it? […]

  • Hate in America
    by Slate Staff on July 25, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    Since the election of President Donald Trump, news outlets and social media accounts have swelled with reports of swastikas at schools, racist taunts, and other hate-fueled attacks and acts of intimidation. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has aggregated media reports and gathered submissions from its website, catalogued 1064 such incidents, 13 of which were later debunked as false reports, in the first month after Trump won the presidency. (Twenty-six of those incidents were perpetrated against Trump supporters.) The SPLC has presented that data in aggregate, creating an invaluable record of the scope of post-election hate crimes. […]

  • Jared Kushner’s Deafening Silence
    by William Saletan on July 25, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    On Monday, after telling the Senate Intelligence Committee about his meetings with Russians, Jared Kushner walked out of the White House to assure the world of his candor and humility. “I have not sought the spotlight,” he told reporters. “I have always focused on setting and achieving goals and have left it to others to work on media and public perception. Since the first questions were raised in March, I have been consistent in saying that I was eager to share any information I have with the investigating bodies.&rdquo […]

  • How the GOP Can Do the Right Thing
    by Jamelle Bouie on July 25, 2017 at 12:54 am

    The fear of a constitutional crisis has reached a fever, and for good reason. Observers looking for signs that President Trump would never seriously consider pardoning himself in connection with the Russia collusion investigation had little comfort over the weekend. On Saturday, the president publicly asserted his right to pardon on Twitter, while also suggesting that it’s unnecessary at this stage. “While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” he wrote. “FAKE NEWS.&rdquo […]

  • The See-Through Presidency
    by Katy Waldman on July 24, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    What does transparency mean to the president and his entourage? The word has been getting a workout lately, most recently in Jared Kushner’s statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees on his role in the alleged Kremlin–Trump rendezvous. “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner said. “I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector. I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of the SF-86 [security clearance] form, above and beyond what is required.&rdquo […]

  • The Nicest Thing You Can Say About Sean Spicer Is That He Was a Bad Liar
    by Will Oremus on July 22, 2017 at 2:58 am

    Shakespeare’s Marc Antony posited that people are remembered for their evil acts, while the good ones are forgotten. In American public life, it is sometimes the opposite: We see their flaws while they’re in power, their virtues only in retrospect. […]

  • “They Believe the Government Is Now on Their Side”
    by Michelle Goldberg on July 21, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    On May 13, members of the anti-abortion group Operation Save America walked solemnly to the entrance of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the last abortion clinic in Louisville, Kentucky. They sat down with their backs to the door and, as other protesters prayed nearby, refused to move. Eleven people, including Operation Save America’s director, Rusty Thomas, were arrested. It was the first such coordinated clinic blockade in 13 years and a sign that the militant wing of the anti-abortion movement feels newly energized in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. “We’re expecting some major breakthroughs in the coming weeks and months,” Thomas told me recently. He is hopeful that Kentucky, now one of seven states with only one abortion provider, could soon become the first state with none. […]

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  • Trump’s political decision to ban transgender military members is already backfiring
    by E.A. Crunden on July 27, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Reportedly over border wall funding and electoral politics, the move confirms Trump’s stance on the issue — which could cost him.Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., center, shakes hands with an 11-year-old transgender girl who goes by the name Blue, whose parent is an airman at Ramstein Air Base, after Blue and her mother Jess Girven, left, attended Kennedy’s event in support of transgender members of the military, Wednesday, July 26, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn MartinPresident Donald Trump’s move to bar transgender military members from serving appears to have been a political decision, part of a larger effort to target Democrats and secure funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But it could backfire significantly among Americans who aren’t eager to see politicians crack down on transgender people.Hours after the president tweeted on Wednesday that transgender military members were no longer welcome, an administration official told Axios reporter Jonathan Swan that the move was viewed as politically beneficial.“This forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, to take complete ownership of this issue,” the official said. How will the blue collar voters in these states respond when senators up for re-election in 2018 like [Democratic Michigan Senator] Debbie Stabenow are forced to make their opposition to this a key plank of their campaigns?”Later that day, Politico broke the news that the announcement was due to infighting over funding for Trump’s border wall. With hardliners reportedly insisting on a ban targeting Pentagon-funded gender affirmation surgeries, House GOP members worried they lacked the votes for a spending bill. Upon being consulted, Trump decided to ban transgender service members altogether, declaring on Twitter that the U.S. government would not “accept or allow [t]ransgender individuals to serve in any capacity” in the military.After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow...... — @realDonaldTrumpTransgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming..... — @realDonaldTrumpvictory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you — @realDonaldTrumpSources indicated the president has long planned to roll back policies introduced under former President Barack Obama that expanded military service to transgender individuals and approved military-funded medical treatment. But with the border wall in peril, along with many of his other campaign promises, Trump moved more quickly — using the transgender community as a means to an end.Trump’s approach is indicative of a wider anti-LGBTQ sentiment within his administration. Prior to Trump’s Twitter announcement, Vice President Mike Pence had reportedly been working to reverse the Department of Defense’s year-old policy embracing transgender service members. Pence, who has a lengthy history of supporting anti-LGBTQ policies, opposed Obama’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and pushed for legislation targeting the queer community while serving as governor of Indiana.Other members of the administration have also shown an unwillingness to embrace trans-inclusive policies, including White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced in June that military chiefs would be given another six months to assess the impact transgender recruits would have on the institution before admitting them.“After consulting with the service chiefs and secretaries, I have determined that it is necessary to defer the start of accessions for six months,” Mattis said at the time. “We will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality.”While the president’s announcement on Wednesday wasn’t entirely expected, one administration official told Politico it was “not the worst thing in the world to have this fight.”Steven McCarty, right, and others, attends an event in support of transgender members of the military, Wednesday, July 26, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn MartinRepublicans in multiple states have embraced legislation targeting the transgender community. Perhaps most notoriously, North Carolina and Texas have both seen prominent efforts to restrict transgender residents from using bathrooms correlating to their genders. Texas itself is in the midst of a special session seemingly called by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in order to pass legislation including a “bathroom bill” — one that opponents say is designed to boost Abbott’s popularity with his base.Since Trump’s election, a number of Democratic lawmakers have argued the party should focus on economic issues, rather than social concerns — including defending the transgender community from attacks. If Trump succeeds in making this dispute over transgender military recruits campaign fodder, some within the administration hope Democrats in precarious positions will pay the price.But administration officials hoping for voters in the Rust Belt and other traditionally conservative regions to embrace trans-exclusionary policies may be in for a surprise. Even in Texas, which overwhelmingly leans Republican, 53 percent of voters oppose “bathroom bills” — an indicator that support for anti-trans legislation might not be as popular as some politicians believe. Another telling sign was the defeat of former North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who lost in November in large part because of backlash to his efforts to target the transgender community.In the Midwest, sentiments are similar — in 2016, Pence’s hometown of Columbus, Indiana unanimously passed LGBTQ protections in response to the then-governor’s apparent efforts to crack down on the community.“Republicans don’t speak with one voice on this issue,” said Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop at the time. “In a small town, you really do live with the laws that you create. It makes it all a little bit more real that we see some people — we actually know them — who might be affected.”Trump’s decision on transgender troops seems to be sparking a similar reaction. A number of GOP members, including Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Joni Ernst (R-IA), a former Army Reserve commander, have all criticized the ban.“You ought to treat everybody fairly and give everybody a chance to serve,” said Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with considerable power over the Pentagon’s budget.Perhaps in an effort to mitigate this type of backlash, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued that Trump’s decision on Wednesday was one made without political calculation.“It’s a military decision,” Sanders told reporters during a briefing following the president’s tweets. “It’s not meant to be anything more than that.”President Trump himself, however, seems prepared to embrace the culture wars. In a tweet posted three hours following his announcement on transgender military members, the president appeared to pivot further toward religious conservatives.“IN AMERICA WE DON’T WORSHIP GOVERNMENT,” Trump wrote. “WE WORSHIP GOD.”IN AMERICA WE DON'T WORSHIP GOVERNMENT - WE WORSHIP GOD!🎥https://t.co/jIejSgVnnA — @realDonaldTrumpTrump’s morning announcement wasn’t the only blow to the LGBTQ community on Wednesday. As if to underscore that the administration’s approach to queer people would be wide-ranging in its scope, the Justice Department also released a brief in the evening arguing against workplace protections for LGBTQ employees.Trump’s political decision to ban transgender military members is already backfiring was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. […]

  • White House threatens to retaliate against Alaska if their senator votes against Trumpcare
    by Aaron Rupar on July 27, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Bully tactics.CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaOn Wednesday morning, President Trump criticized Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on Twitter, accusing her of letting “Republicans, and our country, down” by voting against a motion to proceed on health care discussion the day before.But that wasn’t all. According to a report in Alaska Dispatch News, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Murkowski and the junior senator from Alaska, Dan Sullivan (R), to inform them that Murkowski’s vote “had put Alaska’s future with the administration in jeopardy.”Sullivan told the Dispatch News that Zinke’s Wednesday call sent a “troubling message.”“I’m not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Sullivan said. “I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans… We’re facing some difficult times and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear.”Murkowski didn’t comment to the Dispatch News, but during an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday morning, she said she and other senators are “here to represent the people who sent us here, and so every day shouldn’t be about campaigning.” (Murkowski was just reelected last year.)Murkowski on Trump's Twitter attack: "How about just doing a little bit of governing around here? That's what I'm here for." @NBCNightlyNews https://t.co/77mM3Urtuq — @kylegriffin1Zinke’s communications with Sullivan and Murkowski represent a continuation of the tactics Trump has used to prod Republican senators vote for health care legislation, despite the devastating impact the legislation would have on their constituents.During remarks to reporters following a Republican health care luncheon at the White House last week, President Trump threatened to end Sen. Dean Heller’s (R-NV) tenure in the U.S. Senate if he didn’t vote in favor of Trumpcare.With cameras rolling, Trump tries to bully Republican senator into supporting TrumpcareWith Heller sitting directly next to him, Trump gestured in his direction and said, “He wants to remain a Senator, doesn’t he? Okay.”Heller, who is up for reelection next year, let out a groan.TRUMP to HELLER: "Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn't he?" https://t.co/LFiwuEY693 — @RiegerReportSome of these hardball tactics appear to be working. Heller voted in favor of the motion to proceed on Tuesday, despite the fact that more than 276,000 of his constituents have health care coverage due to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which most versions of Trumpcare would phase out. (Alaska also took advantage of the Medicaid expansion.)The White House wasn’t the only source of threats issued Wednesday against Murkowski and the other Republican senator who voted against the motion to proceed, Susan Collins (ME). During an MSNBC interview, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) expressed frustration with Republicans who voted against Trumpcare like Murkowski and Collins, and — without naming names — said that “somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass.”Republican congressman says Senate opponents of Trumpcare should be beaten“I’m telling you, it has gotten to the point where — how can you say I voted for this last year but I’m not gonna vote for it this year,” Carter added. “This is extremely frustrating for those of us who have put so much into this effort.”Carter’s comment came days after Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) told a Corpus Christi radio station that he finds it “absolutely repugnant” that “the Senate does not have the courage to do some of the things that every Republican in the Senate promised to do.” Farenthold singled out female senators in particular and suggested he’d like to resolve things with a gunfight.“Some of the people that are opposed to this [i.e., repealing Obamacare] — there are some female senators from the northeast,” Farenthold said. “If it was a guy from south Texas I might ask them to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”White House threatens to retaliate against Alaska if their senator votes against Trumpcare was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. […]

  • Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s new communications director, just called into CNN and had a meltdown
    by Judd Legum on July 27, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Scaramucci declares war on the White House Chief of Staff.CREDIT: ScreenshotAnthony Scaramucci was named White House Communications Director six days ago. This morning, he called into Chris Cuomo’s CNN show and completely melted down.The situation started last night when Scaramucci became enraged that his financial disclosure form, which is a public document, was “leaked” to Politico. He tweeted that he would contact the FBI because the disclosure of the form was “a felony.” (It’s not.)Notably, Scaramucci’s tweet included the Twitter handle of White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus, which appeared to blame Preibus for the “leak.”New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza then confirmed that Scaramucci was, in fact, calling for an FBI investigation of the White House Chief of Staff.In case there's any ambiguity in his tweet I can confirm that Scaramucci wants the FBI to investigate Reince for leaking. — @RyanLizzaLizza called into CNN this morning to discuss his reporting. In a bizarre turn of events, in the middle of Lizza’s interview, Scaramucci also called into the show.Scaramucci said that he and Trump had a message to deliver. That message was “we have a very, very good idea of who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House.” He described some of the leaks as “so treasonous that 150 years ago people would have been hung.”He described the leak of his dinner last night with Sean Hannity as “totally reprehensible.” (He had called Lizza last night to try to get him to reveal the leaker of his dinner date. Lizza refused.)It soon became clear that Scaramucci was, in fact, pinning the blame on Reince Preibus. “The fish stinks from the head,” Scaramucci said, “If Reince wants to explain he’s not a leaker, let him do that.”https://medium.com/media/6817ea4b4e27a5839c23bb2e68c9d33c/hrefScaramucci previously described Preibus as “his brother.” On CNN, he clarified that they were brothers like “Cain and Abel.” Cain murdered Abel.“I don’t know if the relationship with Reince is reparable…that’s up to the President,” Scaramucci said.Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s new communications director, just called into CNN and had a meltdown was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. […]

  • Obamacare Repeal Tracker: CBO scores the non-existent GOP ‘skinny repeal’ bill
    by Amanda Michelle Gomez on July 27, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    What is happening with Obamacare now?CREDIT: C-SPAN 2As the Senate wraps up debate on numerous measures related to a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is still no public bill for what is likely to be voted on. Late Wednesday, Senate Democrats asked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to score speculations of an ACA-repeal only bill. This score was based only on information given to Capitol Hill reporters, but the CBO still estimated that 16 million more people would be uninsured people by 2026 under the so-called “skinny repeal.”No one knows how this week will end, including those running the repeal efforts. The only guarantee is that there will be stumbles. The Senate is looking to pass a health care bill, allegedly by Friday, using reconciliation. This means the final bill needs to adhere to budget rules to pass with a simple majority. The Senate also needs to adhere to a strict schedule.Here are the next steps:CREDIT: Diana Ofosu/ThinkProgressThursday, July 27: The Senate will soon finish its 20 hours of debate over repealing the ACA.Once the debate is over, the Senate will begin voting on a series of amendments introduced by both parties in the so-called “vote-a-rama.” This could start late Thursday. The process is meant to be exhaustive, so ThinkProgress will only update this piece with the most important votes as the day continues.Wednesday, July 26: The Senate’s efforts to partially repeal the ACA fail.The Senate voted first on the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA), with an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that would ban federal funding of abortion. This failed. This is a proxy vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood. Both live to see another day.4:11 p.m. tally: 45 to 55, with seven Republicans and all of the Democrats opposing.The Senate voted on a provision proposed by Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN). The Donnelly motion looked to send the House-passed bill back to committee and report back without the Medicaid coverage provisions. This failed.4:30 p.m. tally: 48 to 52The Senate voted on a motion to send the bill back to committee to review how the House-passed bill affects people with disabilities; this motion to commit was proposed by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). The Americans with Disabilities Act celebrates its 27th anniversary Wednesday, July 26. This failed.6:38 p.m. tally: 48 to 51The Senate voted on an amendment offered by Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) that “advocates” for the Medicaid expansion. The showboat amendment is dubbed the “Sense of the Senate.” This failed.7:13 p.m. tally: 10 to 907:15 p.m. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Democrats will offer no more amendments until Republicans show them the contents of the “skinny” repeal bill. (View our glossary below to learn more about the skinny repeal.)Tuesday, July 25: The ACA repeal and replace bill fails.The Senate voted against a version of the Better Care Reconciliation Bill (BCRA), which included a revised amendment by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). The procedural vote was technically on whether the amendment complies with the budget act. The failed vote means that the Senate cannot pass BCRA as is, with a simple majority. Repeal and replace is not dead, but it’s definitely on life support.The tally: 43 to 57, with nine Republicans and all of the Democrats opposing.Bills, Bills, BillsThe Senate will be voting on a ton of bills that will amend the House health care bill this week. It’s important to keep in mind that if something passes on Friday, it will likely be one of three proposals:1. ACA Repeal and ReplaceThere have been several iterations of the BCRA. All BCRA versions drastically change the ACA marketplace and Medicaid program. All versions also change benchmark plans offered, so that insurance companies pay less out-of-pocket costs. This means costlier copays and deductibles for the average American than under current law. States have the option to waive market regulations, which means people who buy insurance will buy plans that cover the bare minimum. Lastly, all versions cut Medicaid expansion and gut federal spending to the program overall.The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not scored every version of BCRA. It is working to score the version of BCRA that includes the Cruz amendment. Under two versions the CBO has scored, 49 million would be uninsured in 2026, 22 million more than under current law. People on Medicaid insurance will be the largest group affected.This bill also has many reconciliation problems. As of now, the revised bill cannot pass with simple majority because it breaks a lot of Byrd rules.2. ACA Repeal-onlyThere is only one public version of the Obamacare Repeal and Reconciliation Act (ORRA). This bill partially repeals provisions of the ACA like the insurance mandate, Medicaid expansion, and ACA marketplace premium subsidies. It keeps marketplace patient protections.The CBO estimated that 32 million people would lose insurance under ORRA, the most of any of the Republican proposals.3. ACA “Skinny” RepealThere is no language for this bill, yet. There are rumors circulating on Capitol Hill that this is the only bill that could pass Friday. It’s the only one that complies with budget rules, and the allegedly has enough support. The bill would eliminate the least popular provision of the ACA: the individual and employer mandate. The bill would purportedly rescind a tax on medial devices. Everything else in the ACA will remain untouched.Democrats apparently asked the CBO to score a speculations of this bill, because there is no bill. CBO estimates that 16 million would be uninsured by 2026. Additionally, some health experts say the ACA marketplace will take a hit under this bill. Insurance companies will likely raise premiums, up to 20 percent. Some people may drop coverage because they no longer are required to have insurance or because it’s too costly. With no mandate, insurance companies could pull out of the marketplace, leaving people with limited or no options.The bill may break budget rules according to CBO estimates. Republicans have told reporters that CBO score is inaccurate because it’s based on Democrat speculation.This is a developing news story and will be updated periodically.Obamacare Repeal Tracker: CBO scores the non-existent GOP ‘skinny repeal’ bill was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. […]

  • As United States cracks down on refugee resettlement, the ‘Ellis Island of the South’ keeps open…
    by Kira Lerner on July 27, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    As United States cracks down on refugee resettlement, the ‘Ellis Island of the South’ keeps open armsThe Clarkston, Georgia area accepts 1,500 refugees a year, but Trump’s anti-immigration agenda threatens the town’s inclusiveness.Clarkston area residents hold signs reading “GA loves refugees” while posing for a drone photo. CREDIT: Kira LernerCLARKSTON, GEORGIA — When 44-year-old Leon Shombana moved to the Atlanta area in 2012 as a refugee, almost a decade after he fled a violent civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he found a job in a poultry processing plant.The job was hard and the conditions were difficult. So when he learned that a coffee truck in the the small town of Clarkston, Georgia was willing to hire and train refugees and help teach them English, he jumped at the opportunity.A little over a year later, Shombana is a manager at Refuge Coffee Co. in Clarkston, a town that’s often referred to as the “Ellis Island of the South.” In recent decades, the Clarkston area has accepted roughly 1,500 refugees each year, making the town the most diverse 1.4 square miles in the United States. Clarkston is now home to people from more than 40 countries speaking more than 60 languages.On a hot and humid Saturday morning in June, Shombana took a break from manning the truck’s espresso machine, even as the line for coffee snaked around the parking lot. Standing behind a podium, smiling wide, and speaking in his now-fluent English, Shombana told more than a hundred neighbors how happy he was to celebrate World Refugee Day in a town that has accepted him and allowed him to start a new life.Leon Shombola works as a manager at Refuge Coffee. CREDIT: Refuge Coffee“When I start here, I was asking myself, am I going to find the people who speak the same language with me? Am I going to find the people from different places?” he said. “I realized that Clarkston is the place to be… Each kind of person you want to see in the world, you can find them in Clarkston. Clarkston is a good place for us. This is a place of refugees.”Shombana recognizes how lucky he is. The world right now is experiencing the largest forced migration crisis in recorded history, with more than 21.3 million refugees worldwide. And opportunities, especially in the United States, are quickly disappearing. President Trump campaigned for the presidency with a staunchly anti-immigrant, anti-refugee message, and in his five months in office, his administration has followed through with actions that have terrified the residents here.In recent months, refugees in Clarkston have reported being verbally harassed and assaulted while walking their children to school or pumping gas. Cab drivers say they fear for their safety. And undocumented immigrants who don’t have the protection of a refugee status, including ten Somalis who were detained in April, worry that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could stop them without cause and send them away from this multicultural haven.“I’m an American and I don’t feel good for the first time,” said Omar Shekhey, director of the Somali American Community Center, which works with roughly 7,000 Somali refugees and immigrants in the area. “We are in a daily survival mode almost. It was hard before. Now its like 20 times worse.”In the shadows of the KKK’s Stone MountainTrump’s presidency has brought a level of racism and xenophobia to Clarkston that has roots in its more troubled past. The town was once 90 percent white and was used as a meeting ground for Ku Klux Klan rallies. Longtime residents remember when the white supremacist group would light cars and crosses on fire atop nearby Stone Mountain and then throw them off the cliffs.That began to change in the 1980s, when the federal government was looking to add structure to refugee settlement in the United States. After a search of the country, Clarkston was designated a resettlement area because of its proximity to Atlanta, walkability, and availability of public transportation and affordable housing.Over the next few decades, a coalition of resettlement organizations helped more than 1,000 refugees come to the Clarkston area each year, reshaping the racial, ethnic, and cultural makeup of the town.The Ku Klux Klan burns a huge cross atop Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, Ga. on July 23, 1948, while initiating 700 new members. CREDIT: AP PhotoBy 1990, whites had become a minority. The transition was not always easy — many older white residents claimed refugees were threatening the way of life here, but largely they have moved elsewhere, according to community leaders. Today, reminders of the town’s white supremacist past are rare.Instead, the main streets are dotted with community centers and immigrant and refugee-owned businesses, including Asian grocery stores, halal restaurants, and African handicraft shops. Nearby Stone Mountain, once a KKK stronghold, is now an amusement park.Clarkston’s success with resettling agencies has been used as a model for other American cities and even other countries. Though the unemployment rate here is more than twice the national average and the poverty rate is high, resettlement agencies tout the fact that 90 percent of Clarkston refugees are independent within 180 days.“Refugees who are resettled in Clarkston have a higher self-sufficiency rate than almost anywhere else in the country,” said Jim Neal, director of Clarkston-based Friends of Refugees.Clarkston’s 34-year-old mayor, Ted Terry, who was elected in 2013, told ThinkProgress that many of the misconceptions about refugees — that they will bring crime or terrorism — are flat out wrong. In fact, when the town increased the number of refugees it took in under President Obama, the crime rate when down, he said.“Refugees are some of the safest, most peaceful and law-abiding residents that any mayor would want to have in their city,” he said.The refugee ban presidentTo immigrant and refugee communities across the country, Trump’s election was a shocking and traumatic event. In Clarkston, the residents took it especially hard.“The mood here was very somber after Election Day because we were dealing with folks who we care about who were afraid,” Neal said.Just a week after his inauguration, Trump issued his executive order banning people from six Muslim-majority countries and refugees from all over the world from coming to the United States. The order immediately affected resettlement in Clarkston. “It really slowed to a trickle,” Terry said.Residents worried about friends, family members, and other people from their countries of origin who were in the process of planning their resettlement, or who have been trying to seek refugee status. The slowdown in new arrivals also hurt local businesses, who rely on refugee customers.“We had one of our grocery stores tell me that his receipts were down like 30 percent from this time last year, and it was because there was basically a pause in February and March because no refugees were coming in,” Terry said.In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to Trump’s ban, but also lifted a stay lower courts had imposed on the 120-day ban on refugees who cannot show a “bona fide relationship” with someone in the United States. Though the court ruled in July that grandparents and relatives of American residents must be permitted while the court considers the challenge, many refugees are still in limbo waiting for a final word from the country’s highest court.The five resettlement agencies that work with the U.S. State Department to place people in Clarkston are highly dependent on federal funding. “The attempted travel ban and the slowing of the refugee process has meant they have had to make cuts,” Neal said. Some agencies, like World Relief, have had to close offices and lay off employees around the country.“No one here has closed offices, but there have been some layoffs,” Neal said. “What we’re starting to see is that they just don’t have the bandwidth to do that continuing casework in some ways. That’s a real impact.”Omar Shekhey, director of the Somali American Community Center. CREDIT: Kira LernerWhile the slowdown in resettlement was the most prominent effect of the ban, its impacts were felt more widely. Clarkston residents from places like Sudan worried about traveling home to see family and then not being let back in to the United States.“Families are concerned they’re not going to be reunited, or united in the first place,” J.D McCrary, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta, told ThinkProgress.“It raised a lot of fears and a lot of questions and concerns,” Neal said.The fears extend to the greater community. Not every immigrant in Clarkston has a refugee status, so the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants is hurting another population in Clarkston.“We had never had any concerns about ICE in the refugee community until just the past couple of months,” McCrary said.In April, ICE detained ten Somali immigrants and is preparing to send them back to Somalia, a country suffering from a drought so intense that aid workers predict more than 60,000 people will die.“Their only crime is that they need to get their paperwork in order and get another day in court,” Terry said. “They came to America legally but now have become undocumented because of the patchwork of immigration laws. Now, more than ever, we need comprehensive immigration reform.”In May, ICE officials and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who represents Clarkston, hosted an event. There, Naima Musse, whose husband Abdusalam Hussein was detained, said that if her husband goes back to Somalia, he will face constant danger from extremist group al-Shabaab.“Who will take care of them there? The pirates? The extremists?” she asked, holding back tears.ICE agents arrested Hussein at his home, immediately after he dropped his five kids off at school. “Some of them didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to their family,” Shekhey said about the ten detainees.“It’s really sad that we’re breaking up families, and it’s really affecting Clarkston,” Terry said.Libertian refugee Monica Sherriff, and Congolese refugee and Leon Shombana speak at the World Refugee Day celebration. CREDIT: Kira LernerAt recent town meetings, children have told Terry that their parents are sending them out to get groceries because they fear being stopped by ICE agents and “they don’t even want to go outside anymore.”“It’s really creating this shadow over the whole community where we’re pushing people to the periphery or underground,” he said.The fear is impacting Clarkston law enforcement’s ability to do its job. “If a large portion of the population refuses to interact with police, go out into the public, or call 911, then it’s harder to solve crimes and some won’t go reported,” Terry said. “We’re going to have a less safe community.”In early May, Clarkston’s city council unanimously voted to became the first city in Georgia to adopt a “non-detainer policy,” saying it the town would not cooperate with ICE officials in detaining undocumented immigrants. “We let our people know, to the extent that we’re allowed by federal and state law, that our officers are not going to be doing double duty as immigration cops,” Terry said.The vote was important, yet largely symbolic because Clarkston doesn’t have a jail, so it has little ability to control who can be held by police.Supreme Court’s Muslim ban decision sparks anger from refugee advocatesThe move was applauded by immigration advocates, including Johnson.“Donald Trump is causing terror within the refugee and immigrant communities of America,” Johnson told ThinkProgress. “Until he stops with his harsh and divisive rhetoric, then the terror will continue.”Keeping the town’s doors openNeal said the refugees he works with in Clarkston are prepared to resist the Trump administration’s agenda.For one thing, they know that elections don’t always have favorable consequences, he said. Many came to the United States because of the result of an election. “Refugees come from places where an election isn’t necessarily a good thing,” he said. “Or it has the potential and often does have really bad outcomes.”As they fight back, they’re not going it alone. Rep. Johnson said he has been working since Trump’s inauguration to make sure all of his constituents know that they are welcome in Georgia.Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) speaks to constituents in Clarkston. CREDIT: Kira Lerner“What we have done here in Clarkston since January is to make sure that our immigrant community understands that we know the stress that they feel, we understand how terror works, and we’re trying to calm the waters to let them know that all the people of Clarkston and many of the people in the fourth district are with them,” he said.Friends of Refugees and other organizations have been leading workshops and seminars, explaining what refugees and immigrants should do if they are approached by federal officials.“There was a lot of conversation about, here’s what to do if ICE comes to your apartment door,” Neal said. “They did role plays and went through the various scenarios… Folks were asking: ‘Are we still welcome here? Do people want us? What’s going to happen?””Information was provided to the population at the events in multiple languages, including papers saying “The police are there to help you.”Neal said one particular handout struck him. “There were various bullet points and the last bullet was: ‘You have a right to practice your religion,’” he said. “I just found myself thinking, this is February 2017 and we’re in the United States.”The education campaign has also extended to others in the community, encouraging people to support their refugee neighbors.“We have tried to talk about the fact-based, positive benefits of refugees to our community, the importance they have to our economy, their success and value and character as citizens,” Neal said.“It doesn’t just make good humanitarian sense; it makes good economic sense to welcome refugees and immigrants,” McCrary said. “Making sure that people understand that is going to make the big difference.”Volunteer applications to Friends of Refugees are up 400 percent from last year, Neal said, proving that other community members also recognize the value of treating refugees like they belong in Clarkston. “That’s people rising up and looking for what they can do,” he said.Clarkston area residents at the World Refugee Day celebration. CREDIT: Kira Lerner“The one thing that’s going to make a difference is the upswelling of community voices and community support,” McCrary added.At the World Refugee Day event in June, more 100 people drank cappuccinos and lattes from Refuge Coffee and listened to refugees share their personal experiences coming to Clarkston. Kids and adults decorated welcome home signs for refugees who have yet to arrive in the area, and wrote postcards to their lawmakers encouraging them to look at Clarkston as an example of the positive benefits refugees can have on this country.“The future is going to look more diverse, more ethnically complex,” Terry said. “If we can make that work in Clarkston, then it gives me hope for the rest of the world.”As United States cracks down on refugee resettlement, the ‘Ellis Island of the South’ keeps open… was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. […]

  • The White House has no idea how to proceed in Afghanistan
    by D. Parvaz on July 27, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    While Afghans suffer horrific casualties, President Trump can’t seem to decide between a modest troop surge or sending in more private contractors.Suicide bombings have become a regular occurrence in Kabul — government offices and even Shia mosques are attacked, as are police cars, which are frequently targeted with “sticky” magnetic bombs CREDIT: AP Photos/Massoud HossainiSnippets of news coming out of the White House in recent weeks indicate that the Trump administration is at an impasse in choosing a strategy for Afghanistan.Indecision in battle is never good, and Afghanistan is being pummeled: The number of civilian deaths continues to rise, attacks in the capital, Kabul, are growing increasingly deadly, and the Taliban now holds more territory than any time since the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001.Most of these daily battles don’t even make it into the U.S. news cycle, but to read Afghan news sources, such as TOLOnews, is to witness a bloody tick-tock of districts and provinces lost and reclaimed in an almost endless cycle of battles between the Taliban and Afghan security forces. On top of that, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) has established a presence in Afghanistan.Much — if not all of this — has been attributed to the U.S. troop draw-down under former President Barack Obama, leaving security gaps and vulnerabilities in a country rife with armed players.So, what’s the plan?While there are conflicting reports on the precise number, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is said to have pushed for a plan that included sending around 4,000 additional troops on the ground. There are currently around 9,000 U.S. troops there. But when asked by ThinkProgress if any decision had been made, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump responded, “Nope.”“No decision has been made,” said Stump, who would neither confirm nor deny the content McMaster’s proposal — or if it even exists.The White House did not respond to questions on whether Trump has decided between additional troops or more private contractors or if he indeed has a timeline for making such decisions.Far less vague that any plan McMaster may or may not have made is the alacrity with which private contractors have shown interest in the possibility of more lucrative military contracts.The New York Times recently reported that Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon and his senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are courting advice from two giants in the world of military contractors: Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater (now owner of Frontier Services Group) and Stephen Feinberg, owner of DynCorp International.Military contractors have a bad reputation in most quarters. The most infamous incident might be the Nisour Square incident in 2007, when Blackwater contractors shot and killed 14 unarmed civilians in Iraq. But the scandals involving these contractors are many and inversely proportional to their accountability.White House looks to replace U.S. troops in Afghanistan with mercenariesMichael O’Hanlon, senior foreign policy fellow specializing in U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan at the Brookings Institute, told ThinkProgress that while he’s sure Defense Secretary James Mattis is “focused on winning,” Mattis has to take his time in advising the president on any decision as “it might buy him credibility with Trump, who isn’t wild about the mission.”He said that “there are certain circumstances where it can be more economical to use private military contractors.”“This is the case where the mission is more of a temporary spike…and when the contractors are foreign,” said O’Hanlon. “But in this case, it strikes me that we’re potentially talking about a longish mission.”He also said that what Afghan units primarily need now is training and assisting in combat environments and that these are not good fits for contractors.But it’s a given that Prince and Feinberg will push for more private contractors to be used in Afghanistan — both men have made billions of dollars off overseas military contracts. Indeed, Prince is working to build momentum for the idea, with an editorial in the Wall Street Journal and multiple interviews on public radio.When pressed in a an NPR interview on Monday, Prince said his new outfit, Frontier Services Group, would “absolutely” bid for any available contract.Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer for former President George W. Bush, said seeking advice from those with such clear interest in profit is “an awful idea.”He said that it’s not entirely unethical. “But there are lots of ethical problems once you get into military contractors. Blackwater was a complete disaster,” Painter added.“That’s part of what you get when you vote these guys in — they’ve got their buddies in the defense contracting business. And these types of outfits all what to feed at the trough there,” said Painter, adding that just because it’s a bad idea, it doesn’t mean it’s an ethics violation.“I’m sure these guys put a lot into the till [in campaign and party contributions] to get their little quid-pro-quo here,” said Painter.Both Feinberg and Prince have donated significant sums to the Trump campaign, superPACs supporting Trump as well as the Republican party. Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s education secretary, and, as the Washington Post reported, Prince even sat in on a January meeting that served to set up a “back-channel” between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.But what would a profitable quid-pro-quo for Prince and Feinberg mean for Afghanistan, where local security forces continue to suffer heavy casualties?Davood Moradian, director of the Kabul-based Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies told ThinkProgress that the use of private contractors has been part of the reason why the United States has failed in its mission in Afghanistan.“Private sectors are fundamentally incompatible with the US objective in Afghanistan, which is winning the war,” said Moradian. “If they’re looking for a new strategy, then the new strategy should further constrain the role of the private sector in US efforts in Afghanistan rather than expand them.”“There is sufficient manpower in Afghanistan, both for the military and civilian purpose — so this notion that Afghanistan needs manpower does not reflect the reality,” Moradian added.The priority, he said, should be to train and empower Afghans to “defend their country and contribute to the construction of their country.”“There’s no need for private contractors to come here and do what the US military does not want to do,” he said. “Afghans see private contractors as “mercenaries who don’t have any regard for Afghan laws and customs, and, for that matter, are not constrained by U.S. military warfare regulation. They are endowed with unprecedented impunity … that will further exacerbate U.S.-Afghan relations.”There’s another prong to the U.S. strategy there: to lean on Pakistan for security in Afghanistan. The State Department has blocked $350 million in aid funding to Pakistan in order to pressure the Afghan neighbor into cracking down on armed groups such as the Haqqani network.“We’ve been hoping for 15 years that that kind of behavior would illicit a response, but it hasn’t,” said O’Hanlon. “It doesn’t play well with the Pakistanis — they’re going to be offended that we think they can be bought for $350 million a year,” said, adding that Pakistan sees the US as largely responsible for the instability in Afghanistan.Moradian agrees. “That is another strategic blunder by Washington, to expect Pakistan to be a party to its strategy in Afghanistan…but unfortunately, the US has excluded its potential regional partners [such as India and Iran] and put all of its eggs in its enemy’s basket,” he said.“I hope any new strategy will reflect reality rather than the wishful thinking of the previous administration.”The White House has no idea how to proceed in Afghanistan was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. […]

  • Justice Department brief argues against protections for LGBTQ workers
    by Casey Quinlan on July 26, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    LGBTQ workplace rights are at stake.Attorney General Jeff Sessions accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, left, speaks at the Department of Justice, July 20, 2017. CREDIT: AP/Andrew HarnikOn Wednesday evening, the Department of Justice moved to undermine rights for LGBTQ people to ensure they are treated fairly in the workplace. The department filed a brief arguing that prohibition of sex discrimination under federal law does not include the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.The federal law in question is Title VII, which is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.The case before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Zarda v. Altitude Express, centers on a now deceased skydiver. In 2010, Zarda said he was fired because of his sexual orientation. In April, the Second Circuit decided that it would not accept the argument that discrimination on sexual orientation isn’t permitted under Title VII. However, Lambda Legal requested that the ruling be reconsidered, which is why the Justice Department planned to file its amicus brief.The power of the federal government to influence LGBTQ workplace rights can’t be underestimated, said Sharita Gruberg, associate director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed in the Center for American Progress Action Fund.“It is the Justice Department of the U.S. It’s not just anyone, so it’s definitely going to have a lot of weight because it is the position of the U.S. government, so it will be interesting to see how Second Circuit takes those arguments,” Gruberg said.The role of Title VII in protecting lesbian, bisexual, and gay people against discrimination has been fuzzier than the issue of whether it can protect transgender people from discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognized that Title VII protects transgender people from discrimination in 2012. In 2015, the agency also held that Title VII covers claims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But court decisions on sexual orientation protections have been mixed.The strongest decision for the recognition of sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII was in Hively v. Ivy Community College, in which the Seventh Circuit held that sexual orientation was covered under sex discrimination in Title VII for three reasons. In that ruling, Chief Judge Diane Wood referenced Price Waterhouse V. Hopkins, a case that is commonly used to support sexual orientation as protected through Title VII by arguing that says sex discrimination includes sex stereotyping. If a stereotypical woman is considered to be heterosexual, then dating women is a failure to conform. Looking at it another way, if a woman were a man dating a woman she would not face discrimination; therefore she is facing discrimination because she is a woman. And yet another way to consider discrimination would to look at the matter of association. The Loving v. Virginia case found that discrimination based on association with someone of a different race is discrimination on the basis of race. In the case of sexual orientation, Wood used this “associational theory” to say that a refusal to promote someone based on their association with someone of the same sex qualifies as sex discrimination.Gruberg said that with conflicting decisions from the courts, including a March 11th Circuit ruling that Title VII does not cover sexual orientation, and statements from judges such as Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is likely covered under Title VII, the issue could come before the U.S. Supreme Court.“There has been an indication last time they considered this, where Chief Katzmann noted that this is still a developing issue in courts and he felt that court should reexamine whether sex orientation discrimination is covered under Title VII, so it has been mixed,” Gruberg said. “We’re already at a circuit split so it’s something I am convinced is going to be in front of the Supreme Court soon.”In the brief, the Justice Department noted in Hively, Judge Diane Sykes said sex as “common, ordinary usage in 1964” means “biologically male or female.” Gruberg, who commented before the brief was released, said it would not make sense for the department to address gender identity, given the courts’ past rulings.“Courts have been much more willing to see that gender identity discrimination is straight up sex discrimination. That has not really been a question. Sexual orientation is a little bit [of a question], so it is shocking that DOJ would bring that [gender identity] up,” Gruberg said. “That is not as contested in federal courts and yet they are bringing it up as an assault on the idea that trans people have civil rights protections.”Gruberg said that the department will likely take the most prevalent argument against including sexual orientation and say that the statute doesn’t explicitly mention sexual orientation.“But it doesn’t say sex stereotyping either, and the courts ruled on that, and it doesn’t mention sexual harassment but we now see harassment as covered,” Gruberg said. “What it means under Title VII has been understood as far more broad than what Congress in 60s believed it meant… It is a willful disregard of the evolving definition of sex discrimination.”]Justice Department brief argues against protections for LGBTQ workers was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. […]

  • Republican congressman says Senate opponents of Trumpcare should be beaten
    by Aaron Rupar on July 26, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Stay classy.CREDIT: MSNBC screengrabDuring an MSNBC interview on Wednesday, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) was asked about President Trump’s Twitter attack on Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad! — @realDonaldTrumpMurkowski and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) were the only two Republican senators to vote against a motion to proceed on health care discussion on Tuesday. (The motion passed 51–50, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.)Carter characterized Trump’s attack as “perfectly fair,” before suggesting that Murkowski and Collins deserve a beating.“Lemme tell you, somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass,” he continued. “I’m telling you, it has gotten to the point where — how can you say I voted for this last year but I’m not gonna vote for it this year. This is extremely frustrating for those of us who have put so much into this effort.”Here it is: GOP Rep. Carter, asked about Murkowski: "Somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass." @MSNBC https://t.co/1CVcENn9Kq — @kylegriffin1While it’s unclear exactly what kind of violence Carter was alluding to, it certainly doesn’t sound pleasant. And his comment represents the second time in a week that a male House Republican has suggested they’d like to commit acts of violence against female Republican senators who oppose Trumpcare.GOP congressman blames health care struggles on ‘repugnant’ Republican ‘female senators’Last Friday, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) told a Corpus Christi radio station that he finds it “absolutely repugnant” that “the Senate does not have the courage to do some of the things that every Republican in the Senate promised to do,” singling out female senators in particular.He went on to suggest that if they were men, he’d ask them to settle things with a gunfight.“Some of the people that are opposed to this [i.e., repealing Obamacare] — there are some female senators from the northeast,” Farenthold said. “If it was a guy from south Texas I might ask them to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”The Senate Republican working group that developed that chamber’s version of Trumpcare was comprised of 13 men.Republican congressman says Senate opponents of Trumpcare should be beaten was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. […]

  • American Muslims love their country but have no faith in their president
    by Lauren C. Williams on July 26, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Despite increased violence against their community, Muslim Americans still believe in the American dream, Pew Research found.Enas Almadhwahi, an immigration outreach organizer for the Arab American Association of New York, stands for a photo along Fifth Avenue in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, in New York. CREDIT: AP Photo/Julie JacobsonNearly three in four Muslim Americans believe President Donald Trump is “unfriendly toward Muslims,” according to a new Pew Research survey released Wednesday.The survey captured a significant drop in Muslim Americans’ satisfaction with the nation’s direction over the last few years and two presidencies. In 2011 under former President Barack Obama, only 38 percent of Muslims said were dissatisfied with the country’s direction compared to 64 percent under Trump.Additionally, 68 percent said Trump caused them feel generally worried, with another 45 percent reporting that he makes them feel angry. Only 26 percent said the president made them feel hopeful, with 17 percent saying he made them happy.In the third iteration of the survey, Pew evaluated responses from 1,001 Muslim adults living the in U.S., the vast majority of whom are citizens (82 percent) and represent 75 countries.Despite concern over the president’s policies, Muslim Americans are overwhelmingly proud of their nationality and are optimistic about their lives. According to Pew, 92 percent are “proud to be an American,” while 70 percent believe they can grab hold of the American dream and “get ahead with hard work.” Muslim women were more concerned with their place in American society than men.Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society kneels in prayer at the group’s mosque in Hoover, Ala. Following the election of Donald Trump, Taufique said some members are worried because of his campaign rhetoric concerning Muslims. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jay ReevesSentiments are more tepid, however, in terms of how supported and accepted Muslims feel in American society. Only 49 percent said someone has “expressed support” because of their Muslim identity. Just 55 percent feel Americans are “generally friendly” toward Muslims.Pew’s survey also confirmed the findings of other studies which show Muslims are just as concerned with Islamic extremism as Americans overall. Regarding extremism worldwide, 82 percent of Muslims are at least somewhat concerned, compared to 83 percent of the general public. That number drops 11 and 12 points respectively for concerns of U.S.-based extremism.Muslims in the U.S. have increasingly experienced acts and threats of violence since September 11. But incidents picked up following the Paris attacks in 2015 and continued after the 2016 presidential election. According to a Pew survey last year, assaults on Muslims reached post-9/11 levels leading up to the election.Governments worldwide have also adopted more expansive policies which target Muslim communities and countries. The Trump administration has defended its travel ban on immigrants entering the country from several predominantly Muslim nations, and increased airport security as a matter of national security. Japan and China have approved surveillance of their Muslim populations. European countries, such as France, have also passed surveillance laws following terrorist attacks that expand police abilities to search, arrest, and seize the property of Muslims. Following the London Bridge attack earlier this year, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said she would target Muslim communities and online “safe spaces” that breed extremism.Muslims are the fastest growing religious population in the world. They are woven into the fabric of nearly every nation. In a recent survey, Pew found that one in ten Europeans will be Muslim by 2020. But with that rise, there will likely come increased discrimination.In Wednesday’s survey, Pew found that nearly half (48 percent) of American Muslims reported experiencing some form of religious discrimination in the past year, including being treated as suspicious, singled out by law enforcement or airport security, called offensive names, or physically threatened or attacked.But the vast majority of Muslims in America emphasize two things: they are proud to be Muslim, and to be an American.American Muslims love their country but have no faith in their president was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. […]

  • Transgender servicemember has no idea if he’s about to lose his job
    by Zack Ford on July 26, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    “All I know is it’s just a tweet.”Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann with his parents. CREDIT: Facebook/Blake DremannPresident Trump’s sudden, jarring announcement Wednesday that transgender people will be barred from serving in the military “in any capacity” has created chaos for the estimated 15,000 active servicemembers who identify as transgender.Navy Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann is one of them. “I’m in a bit of shock and surprise,” he told ThinkProgress over the phone. “Am I going to have a job? Will I be able to continue on this path?”The abrupt policy change is particularly nefarious given that last year, the military gave transgender personnel who were already serving the green light to be open about their identity without fear of being discharged. After that, many who were previously serving in silence came out and some even began medical treatment. But now, because they’ve been open about being transgender, they will be easily identified to be kicked out.Dremann said that he spoke to several of his trans colleagues Wednesday and they’re “scared” just like he is. “They’re worried their careers are now over,” he said. Moreover, “they’re concerned with how this will affect their ability to continue to get the treatment they’ve already been receiving from the military, as with any servicemember with a medical issue.”For example, the Twitter user @spookperson described his friend Eli, a medaled airman who began transitioning while serving and who has been taking testosterone for almost a year. Eli stands to lose his job and the medical coverage that provides his hormone replacement therapy.I want to tell you about my friend Eli — @spookpersonBased on details that have come out Wednesday afternoon, Trump appeared to have made the decision unilaterally, reportedly telling Secretary of Defense James Mattis — who is on vacation — only immediately after it was made. It also seems Trump may have been trying to appease conservative House Republicans in exchange for funding for his border wall.According to Dremann, there hasn’t been any communication from inside the armed services about how this new policy will be implemented. “All I know is it’s just a tweet,” Dremann said.Retired Army Colonel Sheri Swokoski, who spent 34 years in the military and continued to work as a senior analyst for the Pentagon after transitioning, told ThinkProgress on Wednesday that she’s “surprised the leader of our military would think trans servicemembers are not worthy of or capable of serving their country.”“It seems to me we’ve been doing that since the 1700s,” she said.Dremann, who was the first ever openly trans officer to receive a military promotion, serves on the board of directors for SPART*A, an organization working to support transgender people in the military. He urged his fellow trans servicemembers to keep calm and “continue to do what you’ve been doing in serving with honor and dignity — show everyone we can rise above the adversity of this.” He promised that they’d fight this “tooth and nail.”While @realDonaldTrump decided to attack our troops today, Staff Sergeant Logan Ireland is busy doing his job. #OpenTransService — @TransMilitarySwokoski agrees. She thinks the Trump administration has an uphill fight ahead of it to implement this ban. “The military has taught us to fight. This administration shouldn’t be surprised when we do.”Dremann emphasized that after a year of allowing trans people to serve openly, including in significant positions, there has been no impact whatsoever to military readiness or unit cohesion — despite the White House’s unsupported claims to the contrary.“We will continue to do so until the military tells us to hang up our boots,” he said.Transgender servicemember has no idea if he’s about to lose his job was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. […]

  • I was a cop in Australia. We don't shoot the people we're sworn to protect.
    by Terry Goldsworthy on July 27, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    “AMERICAN NIGHTMARE,” read the cover of the Australian newspaper the Daily Telegraph in response to news that an Australian woman, Justine Damond, had been shot and killed by police in Minneapolis. As a former police officer living in Australia, I was shocked at the news. Twenty-eight years in law enforcement in Queensland has given me some insight into how and when police need to use lethal force. In this case, the shooting just didn’t make sense. This incident has again placed the use of lethal force by police in the United States in the spotlight. Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau stated what many observers were thinking: "Justine didn't have to die. … I believe the actions in question go against who we are as a department, how we train and the expectations we have for our officers." What made Damond’s shooting stand out even more to me was its atypical nature further underlined by the Black Lives Matter movement. Black men are disproportionately affected by police violence in the United States, yet in this case, the victim was a white woman shot by a black police officer. Harteau has now been forced to resign, and the mayor is coming under increasing pressure to address the culture of policing in the city. In my current job as a criminologist at Bond University in Queensland, I study the effects of policing and gun laws on crime and homicide rates. The Australian police shooting rate is considerably lower than in the US — our country has an average of five deaths per year in police-related incidents. The US average is around 400 according to the FBI, with estimates that the number is actually much higher, potentially twice as much, due to poor data. When accounting for population differences, that comes down to roughly six times more deaths by police shootings in the US than in Australia. And that’s when using the likely lowball estimate on the US side. What accounts for this difference? I believe the answer comes down to two things: gun culture and laws and the culture of policing in the United States. Justine Damond’s death is a needless tragedy. But I can’t help but question if it would have occurred if Damond had been in Australia as opposed to the US when she made that police call. It’s time to look at what can and should be done to prevent such shootings — both here in my own country and in America, where the problem is more severe. My experience with police shootings During my time as a police officer, I was involved in one shooting of a suspect and the investigation of fatal and non-fatal shootings by police. It occurred during a raid on an officer of an outlaw motorcycle gang — a high-level threat. Upon entry, the suspect appeared from a doorway appearing to hold a long-arm weapon. We later learned it was an underwater spear gun, a tool used for recreational fishing. Nonetheless, in that split second, one of the police on our team judged the situation to be life-threatening and shot the suspect, wounding him. The shooting was justified by a later investigation as self-defense. It’s a moment I look back on with regret. Still, I realize that in situations like this, instinct takes over for police in threatening situations. It made me realize the importance of adequate, realistic training in dealing with potentially life-threatening situations. As a police officer, your reactions must be second nature and should be based on appropriate training responses. Australian police follow national guidelines on the use of lethal force that underpin police training methods. This include use of firearms only in the case of self-defense or defense of others against imminent threat, to prevent a serious crime with grave threat to life, and only as a last resort in all of these cases. But in the United States, lethal force laws vary from state to state and in some areas are more relaxed — an Amnesty International report found that some state laws allow lethal force to "suppress opposition to an arrest" or to arrest someone for a "suspected felony.” Standards of training need to be universally enforced We’re not perfect in Australia. We have our own police shooting fatalities. I don’t think there’s any police officer out there who wants to kill another human being. But compared with the US, our situation is considerably better. To see the differences in American versus Australian policing, it’s worth looking at several big factors. The first is training standards. In Australia, there are highly centralized large policing services in each state that all share a common standard of training and protocols. And in Queensland in 2014, when there was a series of fatal police shootings, the commissioner ordered a review of police training and concluded “...changes would be made to how police officers were trained to emphasize using minimal force to de-escalate situations.” That’s not the case in the United States, where police services are often small municipal departments that lack both resources and a standard of training. Take the police in Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was shot in 2014: Among its scant 72 personnel, 18 are civilian support staff for a city with a population of nearly 21,000. With limited resources and numbers, small police services don’t have the same wide pool of experience and expertise to help train responses to encounters. In the case of Justine Damond, the former Minneapolis police chief has already identified training and a failure to follow protocols — specifically, the failure to use body cameras — as issues in her death. Just the presence of a body camera can provide a level of awareness that discourages shooting. And even in the event of the shooting despite use of the camera, evidence of what happened can help provide justification or otherwise for the officer’s actions — and assist in future prevention tactics. There’s also the fact that the officer fired from inside a car, across his partner. What was the threat that the officer reacted to? They were not responding to an armed offender. They had been tasked to assist a woman possibly being sexually assaulted. But will this result in any top-down changes? The influence of American gun culture is a major difference American gun culture, I believe, affects the approach of police in their interactions with the community. In Australia, police simply do not expect members of the community to be armed threats. In the US, it seems the opposite is true. When my police team shot an unarmed suspect in that raid, it was because we were convinced that he was armed. Just look at the rate of gun ownership and gun-related homicides. A 2016 US study estimated that more than a third of households had guns. In Australia in 2005, the rate was just 6 percent, and this had been steadily declining since 1998. While US gun ownership is also declining, the rate of ownership remains high when compared with Australia. In Australia the murder rate has now dropped to an all-time low of 1.8 per 100,000 people in 2013-’14. By comparison, in 2012 the murder rate in the US was 4.7 per 100,000. You could dismiss this as having nothing to do with guns. But the data says otherwise. In Australia, restrictive gun ownership laws were introduced after the Port Arthur massacre, in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded by a lone gunman using automatic weapons. Since that time, the number of firearm-related homicides has decreased—they now make up only 14 percent of homicides in Australia. While the number of firearm-related homicides has gone up since 2005, they remain at historically low levels. There has been some debate as to the effect these restrictive laws have had on the homicide rate, but generally it is accepted that the laws, while not the only factor, have had a strong influence in driving down these homicides. In the US, firearm-related homicides have also gone down since the early ’90s. But firearms account for most of the deaths in this country — in 2014, 68 percent of the murders in the US were by gun. So while the number is going down, guns are still the weapon of choice for murder in the US. This high level of gun ownership within the community creates a threat environment that is simply not present in Australia. When police do a traffic stop in Australia, there is no reliance on firearms as a method to force people to comply. It could be argued that this is not the case in the US, and this in turn leads to the high level of police shootings. It helps explain why although police deaths and firearm-related homicides are down, police shootings don’t seem to be declining. The warrior cop: the move toward militarization of the police The question as to the use of weaponry is not just limited to criminals. The rise of the “warrior cop” also a concerning trend. Such a culture lends itself to an “us versus them” approach to policing. The blurring of the line between the military and the police, especially in the US, is now on the political agenda. Walter Olson, of the libertarian American think tank the Cato Institute, criticized the rising militarization of law enforcement as illustrated in Ferguson: Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? Olson was not alone in his criticism of the heavy-handed response of law enforcement in Ferguson. Politicians from left to right as well as activist groups such as Black Lives Matter criticized the overuse of police force. Republican Sen. Rand Paul used the Ferguson case to argue for a reversal of the current US trend of supplying military hardware for law enforcement purposes. Author Radley Balko has catalogued the rise of the warrior cop and the increasing convergence of military and policing operational doctrines. He illustrates how SWAT teams have proliferated since the mid-1970s in the US: “The country’s first official SWAT team started in the late 1960s in Los Angeles. By 1975, there were approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands.” SWAT teams deployed in police raids in the US increased from 3,000 per year in the 1980s to approximately 45,000 by 2007. Firepower has overtaken the role of community engagement. In Australia, specialist teams are only used in high-threat situations. The use of military type weapons is not available for general policing. The shooting of Justine Damond is indicative of many policing problems, not just in Minneapolis but across the US. There appears to be a level of preparedness to use lethal force in many situations that in Australia would not elevate the police response to that level. Part of that, I believe, comes down to a heavily armed population. Part of it is lack of standardized training. And part of it is a shifting culture in the US police force — one full of SWAT teams and camo. Damond’s family is entitled to answers to the numerous questions that surround her death. They are also entitled to justice if there is wrongdoing on behalf of the police response. That alone will cause society to reflect on how improvements could be made to our law enforcement responses. Australian police aren’t perfect. But Justine Damond’s presence in the US put her in heightened danger for no reason. We’ve all got to do better. Terry Goldsworthy is an assistant professor of criminology at Bond University. He was a detective inspector with the Queensland Police Service and has 28 years of policing experience. He is an avid commentator in all forms of media in relation to criminal justice issues. First Person is Vox's home for compelling, provocative narrative essays. Do you have a story to share? Read our submission guidelines, and pitch us at firstperson@vox.com. […]

  • Watch: Jimmy Fallon invited a trans comedian to comment on Trump’s military ban
    by Caroline Framke on July 27, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Every late-night comedian who aired a new episode on July 26 expressed their shock and even horror at Donald Trump announcing via Twitter that he wants to ban trans people from the military — but only one invited a trans person on his show to comment. Jimmy Fallon is usually late-night’s most determinedly apolitical host. But on Wednesday night, he made a point of highlighting the trans ban announcement by taking a break during his monologue to hand over the mic to Patti Harrison, a comedian and transwoman who had some things to say. After expressing her total lack of shock that Trump would pull such a move at the expense of trans people, Harrison laid out why a military ban on trans servicemembers is so alarming. “Now, I don’t necessarily want to serve in the military, but I want the right to serve,” she said. “It’s like, I don’t want to go to your baby shower, but I want the invite.” “But you know,” Harrison continued with a tone so dry it practically crackles off the screen, “I don’t even think Trump knows what ‘transgender’ means. He probably thinks transgender people are those cars that turn into robots.” Finally, Harrison addressed Trump’s cavalier statement that trans servicemembers are a “disruption.” “I get it,” she said. “If you constantly draw attention to yourself, spend all day distracting everyone, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars, the perfect job for you isn’t the military: It’s President of the United States.&rdquo […]

  • Trump promised to be a uniquely pro-LGBTQ Republican. It was total bullshit.
    by German Lopez on July 27, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    President Donald Trump said he would be different — the first Republican president to embrace LGBTQ people. He said the key acronym (“L, G, B, T … Q”) at the 2016 Republican convention. He held up a pride flag at a campaign event. He initially defended the right of Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender woman, to use the bathroom that aligns with her gender identity. He tweeted, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.” And hey, Trump is from liberal New York — so how anti-LGBTQ can he be, really? Yet six months into his administration, Trump has repeatedly proven his LGBTQ-friendly attitude was a farce. While Trump is arguably a small step up from past Republicans, he is still very much against even basic LGBTQ rights. On Wednesday, Trump announced he will reinstate a ban on trans military service. On that same day, his Department of Justice also filed a legal brief at a federal appeals court arguing that anti-gay discrimination is legal under federal law. Before that, his administration pulled back an Obama-era guidance that protected trans kids from discrimination in public schools, he appointed a Supreme Court justice who opposes LGBTQ rights, and he even failed to recognize Pride Month. All of this comes at a pivotal time for LGBTQ rights. While the US has made enormous strides over the past few years toward LGBTQ equality, there are many issues LGBTQ Americans still face — from basic rights in the workplace to which bathrooms trans people are allowed to use. That’s why many advocates have emphasized that, while the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and legalization of same-sex marriage were big wins, they were supposed to be the beginning of a new era in equal rights. Trump poses a threat to that new era. While LGBTQ rights haven’t been a big focus of his administration, what he has done has by and large pulled back the gains of the past several years — and he’s poised to do much more in the years to come. Trump is a straight loss for LGBTQ rights so far Let’s get the one bit of good news out of the way first: Trump did make one LGBTQ-friendly move early on in his administration when he decided to maintain workplace protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for federal employees and contractors. (Though it would have been unprecedented to pull back these protections — even President George W. Bush, a major opponent of LGBTQ rights, maintained President Bill Clinton’s executive order that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal workforce.) Besides that, though, Trump has only provided loss after loss for LGBTQ rights. For one, the administration is largely made up of politicians who have been staunchly anti-LGBTQ for their whole public careers, like Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Pence in particular is an unquestionable opponent of LGBTQ rights. In Congress, Pence rejected workplace protections for LGBTQ people and opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In 2006, he said that being gay is a choice, that preventing same-sex marriage is “God’s idea,” and that same-sex couples signaled a “societal collapse [that] was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.” And in 2015, he triggered a big battle over whether businesses should be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ people when, as governor of Indiana, he signed a “religious freedom” law that critics feared could be used to justify discrimination. In terms of policy, Trump and his administration have now taken several steps to pull back LGBTQ rights. Here are a few examples: The Trump administration rescinded transgender protections for kids in federally funded schools. Last year, the Obama administration signed a guidance that asked publicly funded K-12 schools to respect and protect trans students’ rights, including their ability to use the bathroom and locker room that align with their gender identity. The Trump administration quickly rescinded the guidance once in office, leaving trans students effectively unprotected by the federal government. Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, who has already ruled against LGBTQ rights. Although Gorsuch had a vague record on LGBTQ rights when he was nominated, civil rights advocates argued that, based on some of his past writings on marriage equality and religious issues, Gorsuch could be a big opponent for LGBTQ equality. In just a few months on the bench, Gorsuch has proven advocates right: For one, he dissented against a Supreme Court ruling that requires states to list same-sex parents on birth certificates. Trump said he would reinstate a ban on transgender military service. Trump tweeted that he would ban trans military service because “[o]ur military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” (Still, the Department of Defense has not confirmed how this will be implemented.) There is no basis for Trump’s claim; the research, based largely on the experience of countries like Israel and Canada that allow trans military service, shows that allowing trans people to serve openly has little to no effect on military readiness or costs. Trump’s Justice Department says that anti-gay discrimination is totally legal. The Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans sex discrimination, doesn’t also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. This rebukes the argument of another federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and could leave gay and bisexual workers unprotected by federal law — and most state laws — if an employer fires them due to their sexual orientation. This doesn’t include some of the smaller issues, such as Trump’s refusal to acknowledge June as Pride Month (although he did acknowledge it as National Homeowners Month). Trump also seems ready to go even further. He has said, for example, that he would support the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow discrimination against LGBTQ people on a religious basis. And there have long been rumors — although they have yet to be substantiated — that Trump will sign a “religious freedom” order that will allow anti-LGBTQ discrimination. When you put it all together, it’s clear where the administration truly stands on this issue. Although it didn’t regress on some fronts (protections for the federal workforce), it overall represents a huge step back on LGBTQ rights from the Obama administration. There is still a lot of work to do on LGBTQ issues It may be easy to see the massive progress of the past few years — particularly the momentous victory of same-sex marriage — and wonder what is left to be done when it comes to LGBTQ rights. But there are still a lot of issues left to address. Consider: We are just a little more than a year removed from the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida — not only the deadliest shooting in US history, but also one that explicitly targeted LGBTQ people. And if the shooting had happened just a few hundred miles north in Alabama or Georgia, it would not have been recognized as a hate crime under state law. It’d be recognized as a hate crime under federal law, but states maintain different laws to direct their own law enforcement agencies — and 20 don’t have such protections for any LGBTQ people. We see this kind of patchwork at the state level with other laws relevant to LGBTQ people. For example, the federal government and most state laws explicitly prohibit discrimination in the workplace, housing, public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, and other places that serve the public), and schools based on race, sex (except public accommodations at the federal level), and other protected groups. But sexual orientation and gender identity aren’t explicitly included in federal or most state laws. So in most states, it’s legal under local and state law to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace, housing, public accommodations, and schools. That means an employer can legally fire someone because he’s gay, a landlord can legally evict someone because she’s lesbian, and a hotel manager can legally deny service to someone who’s transgender — for no reason other than the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. In recent years, the battle over nondiscrimination protections has been held back by the bathroom myth. The argument, in short, is that if trans people are allowed to use the bathroom for their gender identity, either trans women or men who pose as trans women will sexually assault or harass women in bathrooms. There is zero evidence for this, as I have repeatedly explained. But the myth has been used to bar trans people from using the bathroom for their gender identity, with several states passing laws or considering bills to that effect. Gavin Grimm, a trans teenager who’s sued his school for access to the right bathroom, best captured why these anti-trans policies are a problem: “This wasn’t just about bathrooms. It was about the right to exist in public spaces for trans people,” he told me, quoting trans actress Laverne Cox. “Without the access to appropriate bathrooms, there’s so much that you’re limited in doing. If you try to imagine what your day would be like if you had absolutely no restrooms to use other than the home, it would take planning. You would probably find yourself avoiding liquids, probably avoiding eating, maybe [avoiding] going out in public for too long at a time.” This covers just a few of the many lingering issues in LGBTQ rights. There are also the unique challenges LGBTQ people face in the criminal justice system, LGBTQ youth homelessness, health issues like HIV/AIDS, and the extreme threat of deportation for undocumented immigrants fleeing anti-LGBTQ persecution. Simply put, there is a lot to be done — and Trump doesn’t seem interested in doing it. Trump is a reminder that rights gained can still be lost Trump poses a threat to LGBTQ rights not just by stalling any potential gains on all of these fronts, but also by taking his own actions to pulling back LGBTQ rights. That has offered activists a powerful reminder that, despite the progress of the past few years, nothing should be taken for granted — it only takes one bad election to threaten it. After all, the impact Trump will have on LGBTQ rights can only grow from here. Will he appoint another Supreme Court justice who won’t uphold LGBTQ rights — right as the court may soon consider whether workplace protections are covered by federal law? Will he encourage Congress to pass religious freedom measures that effectively allow discrimination against LGBTQ people? Will other actions he takes, such as an increase in deportations, disproportionately hurt LGBTQ people — by, for example, sending immigrants back to countries where they are persecuted for their identities? Trump suggested it wouldn’t be this way, painting himself as a uniquely friendly figure to LGBTQ people on the campaign trail. That is proving to be false. But more than just showing Trump’s dishonesty, this potentially threatens the rights of millions of LGBTQ Americans just trying to get through their lives. […]

  • It’s not only the military. Trump’s administration just took another big anti-LGBTQ step.
    by German Lopez on July 27, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    In most of the US, it isn’t explicitly illegal under federal law for an employer to fire someone just because he’s gay or bisexual. And President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice is working to keep it that way. On Wednesday, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 doesn’t prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Justice Department’s filing contradicts the stance of another federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which argues that the Civil Rights Act does protect gay and bisexual workers. Previously, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit also supported the pro-LGBTQ argument. “The theories advanced by the EEOC and the Seventh Circuit lack merit,” the Justice Department’s brief said. “These theories are inconsistent with Congress’s clear ratification of the overwhelming judicial consensus that Title VII does not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination.” The lawsuit behind the case was filed by Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor who says an employer, Altitude Express, fired him due to his sexual orientation. It’s not unusual for other parties to chime into cases like this. The argument goes into an ongoing legal battle over the 53-year-old Civil Rights Act. LGBTQ advocates argue that Title VII, which bans sex discrimination in the workplace, also bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, because such discrimination is rooted in the expectations of how a person of a certain sex should act or identify. Since federal law doesn’t explicitly ban discrimination against LGBTQ people, this would effectively amount to an expansion of whom federal nondiscrimination law protects. The Obama administration supported this argument for gender identity, arguing that the Civil Rights Act protects transgender people. It never embraced the argument for sexual orientation, but at least during the past year, it hadn’t taken an explicit stance against such legal cases. Under Trump and Sessions, the Justice Department is now actively working against these arguments. If the agency prevails, it will perpetuate a status quo in which gay and bisexual people can be fired solely because an employer doesn’t approve of their sexual orientation. And it could try to apply the same stance on gender identity, letting employers discriminate against trans people. The Justice Department’s brief is also the latest example of the Trump administration actively working against LGBTQ rights, from rescinding protections for trans students in public schools to banning trans people from the military. Although it contradicts some of Trump’s campaign promises, anti-LGBTQ policy now seems like a major part of the president’s agenda. Most states don’t explicitly ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination Under federal and most states’ laws, LGBTQ people aren’t explicitly protected from discrimination in the workplace, housing, or public accommodations (such as restaurants, hotels, and other places that serve the public). This means that someone can be fired from a job, evicted from a home, or kicked out of a business just because an employer, landlord, or business owner doesn’t approve of the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. But federal and state laws do ban discrimination based on race, religion, nationality, and sex in the workplace, schools, and other settings. This is what the Civil Rights Act and other federal and state civil rights laws that followed were about. Civil rights advocates claim, however, that federal law should already shield LGBTQ people from discrimination, because, they say, bans on sex discrimination also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. According to advocates, discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is fundamentally rooted in prohibited sex-based expectations. For example, if someone discriminates against a gay man, that’s largely based on the expectation that a man should only love or have sex with a woman — a belief built on the idea of what a person of a certain sex should be like. Similarly, if someone discriminates against a trans woman, that’s largely based on the expectation that a person designated male at birth should identify as a man — again, a belief built on the idea of what a person of a certain sex assigned at birth should be like. On the other side, opponents argue that LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections aren’t included in existing federal civil rights laws, because the authors of federal civil rights laws never believed or intended that bans on sex discrimination also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ advocates, citing legal precedent, say that what the original laws’ authors believe or intended is irrelevant. Joshua Block, an attorney with the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project, cited a 1998 Supreme Court case, Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services Inc., in which the Court unanimously agreed that bans on sex discrimination prohibit same-sex sexual harassment. Same-sex sexual harassment was not something the authors of federal civil rights laws considered, but it’s something, the Supreme Court said, that a plain reading of the law protects. “Oncale says that’s irrelevant whether [Congress] contemplated it,” Block previously told me. “This is literal sex discrimination. Whether or not that’s what Congress was focused on doesn’t make it any less a type of discrimination covered by the statute.” One catch: Even if courts conclude that statutory bans on sex discrimination do prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, under federal law that would only create explicit protections in the workplace, housing, and schools — but not public accommodations. That’s because federal civil rights laws don’t ban sex discrimination in public accommodations, leaving a hole in nondiscrimination laws at the federal level for LGBTQ rights. Although the Seventh Circuit Court and EEOC agree with this argument, the Justice Department doesn’t — and its stance is just another way the Trump administration is working against LGBTQ rights. Trump keeps letting down LGBTQ people On the campaign trail, Trump said he would be different — the first Republican president to embrace LGBTQ people. He said the key acronym (“L, G, B, T … Q”) at the 2016 Republican convention. He held up a Pride flag at a campaign event. He initially defended the right of Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender woman, to use the bathroom that aligns with her gender identity. He tweeted, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.” Yet while he decided to maintain workplace protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for federal employees and contractors, the rest of his personnel and policy actions have signaled an anti-LGBTQ approach. For one, the administration is largely made up of politicians who have been staunchly anti-LGBTQ for their whole public careers, like Vice President Mike Pence and Sessions. Both men have long histories in Congress of opposing civil rights measures for LGBTQ people, including workplace protections and hate crime laws — yet they have major roles in shaping the administration’s agenda. Earlier this year, the Trump administration also rescinded transgender protections for kids in federally funded schools. That reversed a guidance from the Obama administration that asked publicly funded K-12 schools to respect and protect trans students’ rights, including their ability to use the bathroom and locker room that align with their gender identity. And on Wednesday, Trump said he would reinstate a ban on transgender military service. He tweeted that he would ban trans military service because “[o]ur military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” (Still, the Department of Defense has not confirmed how this will be implemented.) There is no basis for Trump’s claim; the research, based largely on the experience of countries like Israel and Canada that allow trans military service, shows that allowing trans people to serve openly has little to no effect on military readiness or costs. Trump also seems ready to go even further. He has said, for example, that he would support the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow discrimination against LGBTQ people on a religious basis. And there have long been rumors — although they have yet to be substantiated — that Trump will sign a “religious freedom” order that will allow anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Altogether, this paints a very different picture of Trump than we saw on the campaign trail. And more than just showing Trump’s dishonesty, the shift threatens the rights of millions of LGBTQ Americans — from those just trying to keep their jobs to those who are willing to sacrifice their lives in service of their country. […]

  • The real reason the Trump administration has such a leak problem
    by Dara Lind on July 27, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    The leaks won’t stop. The Trump administration can sure try. It can make a renewed effort to identify and punish leakers in intelligence agencies — something Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to do in the coming days. It might prevail on FBI director nominee Christopher Wray to entertain the possibility his predecessor James Comey reportedly balked at: throwing reporters in jail for leaked information. It can even turn against itself: On Wednesday night, White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci accused White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus of leaking Scaramucci’s financial disclosure forms, and threatened to call the FBI to have Priebus investigated. It won’t work. This isn’t just because the president himself is allegedly cavalier with classified info, like the details he reportedly told Russian emissaries in May that could lead to the identification of Israel’s best source on ISIS, or his tweet in July that confirmed a covert program in Syria (in the course of insulting a Washington Post story about it). It’s because of the way the president runs his government. Donald Trump and his advisers have created an administration in which there is no way to get the president’s attention, or to resolve problems, through normal channels. The only way to make sure an issue will get any attention whatsoever — much less have a prayer of actually getting fixed — is to leak. Trump doesn’t read memos. But he watches Fox & Friends. Imagine you’re a somewhat senior government official — one who doesn’t get a lot of face time with the president, but who has access to pretty important information — and you need to send a message to President Donald Trump. You can try to write him a memo, or get the message into a briefing paper his staff is preparing. But the staff is trying to squeeze a ton of information into the incredibly narrow aperture of “what the president is actually going to read.” Your message had better be less than a page (ideally a lot less, so that it can fit on a page with all the other messages all the other officials like you are trying to send). It had better include a visual aid — a map is good. If you can find some way, however gratuitous, to mention the president’s name in the text, that’s great — unless he’s already stopped reading before he even gets to what you’re trying to say because someone else didn’t jam his name into a paragraph. You’d better not need the president to actually make a choice between multiple options. You should be able to tell him the pros and cons of how something will play in the press — which doesn’t give you a lot of options if you’re trying to get him to deal with something that shouldn’t be publicly known. And whatever you do, don’t tell him he can’t do something: That’s reportedly “the quickest way to get him” to do just that. Or you can go the easier route: You can just leak the information to someone so that it ends up on Fox & Friends. You know the president watches Fox News’s morning show, because everyone knows the president watches Fox News’s morning show. His early-bird tweetstorms are timed to the topics of their segments. He even favorably tweets about articles about how much he loves Fox & Friends. Advertisers, including lobbyists, are paying a premium to air on shows Trump is known to watch. Why should lobbyists outside the government have a more reliable way of reaching the president than people inside it? You go where the president is likely to see you. This isn’t a product of the federal government. It’s a product of organizations Trump runs. His campaign was famously leaky. His transition team was so leaky that pretty much every major Cabinet appointee was known in advance. His White House is hardly in a position to lecture executive branch agencies about leaking, given how liable they are to dish about their boss and each other to any of several reporters. It’s perfectly understandable. They, too, are simply giving themselves the best chance of reaching the president’s ear. If you refuse to take bad news the easy way, you force yourself to deal with it the hard way The information flow could, in theory, be fixed — if Trump wanted to. But to want to fix it — to be willing to slog through detailed memos and limit his screen time — he’d have to confront a deeper problem: The most powerful man in the free world is simply unwilling to hear bad news. This is one of the biggest reasons the information he gets from staff is so limited — reports indicate that to keep him in a good mood, staffers deliberately pad packets of press clips with positive coverage. But even dissent that manages to get through to him might go unheard or rejected — it could even ruin his mood and cloud his decision-making for the rest of the day. That defeats the whole purpose of telling the president bad news in confidence. It makes leaking the obvious choice. Erick Erickson wrote about this back in May, when discussing a friend who witnessed the meeting in which Trump divulged classified information to the Russian officials: The President will not take any internal criticism, no matter how politely it is given. He does not want advice, cannot be corrected, and is too insecure to see any constructive feedback as anything other than an attack. So some of the sources are left with no other option but to go to the media, leak the story, and hope that the intense blowback gives the President a swift kick in the butt. Perhaps then he will recognize he screwed up. The President cares vastly more about what the press says than what his advisers say. This is a feature of Trump’s personality, but it isn’t confined to Trump. You can see it throughout his administration — in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s distance from staff, in Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly’s insistence that any criticism of his agents is a direct attack on morale. Trump appointees can’t be trusted to be objective when dealing with internal issues because the president appears to feel no compunction about attacking people for disloyalty — as his sustained attack on Attorney General Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government has made painfully clear. Obama appointees run the risk of getting shoved out at any time if they cause any problems. And then there are all the positions in government sitting empty, simply preventing conflicts from being resolved because there’s no one senior enough to resolve them. The Trump administration, to all appearances, has only one way to deal with bad news: shoot the messenger. If the messenger stands up and identifies himself in a private meeting or a memo or a recusal, they know where to shoot. If the messenger leaks to a reporter, they don’t — and besides, they might, just might, realize it was their problem to begin with. Bad news doesn’t simply go away if you don’t want to hear about it. The Trump administration has created an environment in which leaks are fulfilling the function of basic executive processes, like resolving internal disputes, correcting course, and simply giving the president an accurate sense of what’s going on. If the Trump administration really wanted to stop the leaks, it would change to make leaking unnecessary. But that would require the president to shut up and listen to people he’s already decided are part of the “deep state” out to get him. It would require him to acknowledge that he can’t drain the swamp without getting drowned in leaks. […]

  • Scaramucci blames Reince Priebus for White House leaks as Trump chaos escalates
    by Matthew Yglesias on July 27, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci is vowing a renewed war on leakers, some of whose actions he says “are so treasonous that people would have been hung” for them 150 years ago. And perhaps most shockingly, he’s publicly pointing the finger for some of the leaks directly at White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who in a normal administration would be his boss. This current caper kicked off Wednesday night, when Scaramucci fired off a since-deleted tweet at 10:41 that read, “In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept. #swamp @Reince45.” This tweet was based on a misconception. There was no leak of Scaramucci’s financial disclosures — information came from his public financial disclosure for his job at the Export-Import Bank. But it also kicked off a wild 12-hours of internal feuding that reflects the general chaos and mismanagement of the Trump White House. The inclusion of Priebus’s handle in the tweet looked like Scaramucci pointing the finger at him, and subsequent reporting confirms that was indeed his intention, even if he subsequently deleted the tweet. Things escalated rapidly Thursday morning when CNN’s New Day, hosted by Chris Cuomo, aired a segment featuring Lizza as a guest reporting on the White House drama. Scaramucci unexpectedly called in to the program, to confirm that “we have a very, very good idea who the leakers are, the senior leakers in the White House." He also said, “I don’t know if the relationship with Reince is reparable,” and that it will be “up to the president.” At one point, he appeared to compare himself and Priebus to Cain and Abel. The comments about treason and hanging people, however, came in the context of a mini pivot away from the Priebus drama. According to Scaramucci, “the White House leakers are small potatoes," and what he and the president are really concerned with are leaks from inside the national security establishment: people who “think it is their job to save America from” the Trump administration. The Trump White House is a wild leakfest Personal tension between Scaramucci and Priebus appear to be largely an extension of the tensions that led to former White House press secretary Sean Spicer quitting when Trump insisted on promoting Scaramucci. Priebus was the one who brought Spicer into the White House in the first place (he’d previously been the RNC spokesperson while Priebus was the chair), and Scaramucci’s rise parallels their falling star. There’s been talk all week that Trump’s intention is to groom Scaramucci to replace Priebus as chief of staff. Scaramucci is wildly unqualified for the chief of staff job, but then again, so is Priebus, so this is as plausible as anything. Whether or not Priebus specifically leaked the documents in question, it’s almost certainly the case that he has leaked some information to the press, simply because everyone in the Trump White House leaks. They leak because the White House is catastrophically mismanaged, with nobody controlling access to the president or running a disciplined policymaking process. The best way for administration officials to draw the president’s attention to something is to have it reported on cable news or in a major newspaper, so people leak constantly — almost certainly including the president’s own untouchable family members. Trump’s mercurial nature and tendency to do things like publicly assailing his own attorney general further incentivize leaking. Key officials at all levels of government know that they need allies who can help them get out their version of the story if things go bad. The semi-fake war on national security leaks All administrations wrestle with leaks of classified information, and all agencies with the ability to classify information to some extent abuse that authority by classifying things that are merely embarrassing. The Trump administration adds two things to this mix: One is that the president’s close associates, in a highly unusual manner, appear to have long been the targets of a counterintelligence investigation looking into their ties to the Russian government. At crucial moments, leaks — for example, of the fact that the Trump White House was apprised that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was lying to the public about his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — have embarrassed the administration while also pushing the investigations forward. Another is that the Trump administration lies freely and frequently, and likes to use hazy allegations of illegal leaking to try to stifle merely inconvenient information about the Russia investigation. Trump himself, for example, keeps pretending that former FBI Director James Comey broke some kind of law by conveying his recollection of private meetings with Trump to the media. At the nexus of these two trends is an administration that at times seems to be prosecuting a war against fake national security leaks. The Obama administration pioneered the most aggressive legal war on national security leakers that America has seen since Watergate, but it typically focused on actual leaks that had taken place. On July 22, for example, Trump castigated the New York Times for foiling an effort to kill the leader of ISIS. This tweet, as the president’s missives often are, appeared to be based on a Fox & Friends segment that was completely erroneous. The information the Times allegedly revealed had, in fact, been publicly disclosed by the Pentagon weeks earlier. In a follow-up to that imbroglio, the White House social media director accused Times columnist Bret Stephens of leaking the name of a covert CIA operative, when in fact the person Stephens named was Phil Agee, who very publicly left the CIA, denounced the agency, and died in 2008. This is not normal To state the obvious, none of this is remotely normal. Neither the persecution of leaks that didn’t take place nor the constant internal chaos nor the highly public internecine feuding is remotely normal. Also not normal is the prospect that the embarrassing, highly public airing of internal dirty laundry could be construed as beneficial to the Trump administration since it detracts attention from a piece of health care legislation that is so hideously unpopular that any story about any other subject arguably serves their interests. Update: Here is the full Scaramucci phone call, uploaded to Youtube by Yashar Ali, a contributing writer at New York Magazine, Mother Jones, and Huffington Post. Transcript of Scaramucci’s remarks on Priebus I want to reset at zero, but I want you to know I spent about 15 minutes on the phone talking with the president of the United States, who has given me his full support and full blessing. And I'm going to read you something, Chris, and you bear with me. And the president also told me, if you're nice to me in this segment, he'll let me come back on the show. Is that cool? So why don't you let me talk for a little bit and then you can ask me questions. But this is super, super important to the country. Now, whether you agree with the president or disagree with the president, you have to love the institution of the presidency. You have to love the office and love our country. What is going on right now, I've done a major amount of work over the last five days. I've interviewed most of the assistants to the president. I've interviewed most of the people in the communications team and the White House. And what the president and I would like to tell everybody: We have a very, very good idea who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House. We'll get to that in a second. What I also want to say is that we are working together, the president and myself and other members of his team and law enforcement, to undercut and undercover — or out, if you will — the leakers in the entire country. As the president would say in his own words, the White House leakers are small potatoes. I'll talk to you about a few leaks that happened last night that I find reprehensible, but the White House leaks are small potatoes relative to things that are going on with leaking things about Syria or North Korea or leaking things about Iraq. Those are the types of leaks that are so treasonous, 150 years ago people would be put to death. Chris, you're from New York, I'm from New York, the president is from New York; we had dinner last night; I sat next to the first lady. I love the president. I've said that. I know the press wants to ridicule me for saying it six times on the podium, but we started out as friends. I am not a politician. I'm an American businessman and entrepreneur that has built two businesses. And I try to play it straight with people. The president is trying to play it straight with people, which is why he has 140 or 125 social media followers, because they want to hear it straight from the president. And I said to the president this morning, I can't afford to be a sycophant, sir, I have to talk to you as a friend so I can help you with this problem. So what I want to say to you is I understand the law. I know there was a public disclosure mechanism in my financial forms. What I'm upset about is the process and the junk pool, the dirty pool, Chris, in terms of the way this stuff is being done, and the leaking won't stop. I can't have a couple of friends up from Fox & Friends and Sean Hannity, who's one of my closest friends, to dinner with the president and his first lady without it being leaked in seven minutes. It's absolutely, completely and totally reprehensible. And as you know from the Italian expression, the fish stinks from the head down. But I can tell you two fish that don't stink, and that's me and the president. I don't like the activity that's going on in the White House. I don't like what they're doing to my friend. I don't like what they're doing to the president of the United States or their fellow colleagues in the West Wing. Now, if you want to talk about the staff, we have had odds, we have had differences. When I said we are brothers from the podium, that's because we're rough — some brothers are like Cain and Abel; other brothers can fight with each other and get along. The president is the chief of staff. He's responsible for understanding and uncovering and helping me do that inside the White House, Chris, which is why I put that tweet out last night. When the journalists who actually know who the leakers are, like Ryan Lizza, they know the leakers, they know, I respect them for not telling me because I understand and respect journalistic integrity. However, when I put out a tweet and I put Reince's name in the tweet, they're all making the assumption that it's him because journalists know who the leakers are. So if Reince wants to explain that he's not a leaker, let him do that. But let me tell you something about myself: I am a straight shooter. I'll go right to the heart of the matter. So I'm done talking. You can ask me questions. But be nice on the segment, Chris, because this is a very serious matter of interest to all of America. […]

  • There's no evidence that immigrants hurt any American workers
    by Michael Clemens on July 27, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Do immigrants from poor countries hurt native workers? It’s a perpetual question for policymakers and politicians. That the answer is a resounding “Yes!” was a central assertion of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. When a study by an economist at Harvard University recently found that a famous influx of Cuban immigrants into Miami dramatically reduced the wages of native workers, immigration critics argued that the debate was settled. The study, by Harvard’s George Borjas, first circulated as a draft in 2015, and was finally published in 2017. It drew attention from the Atlantic, National Review, New Yorker, and others. Advocates of restricting immigration declared that the study was a “BFD” that had “nuked” their opponents’ views. The work underpinning the paper became a centerpiece of Borjas’s mass-market book on immigration, We Wanted Workers, which has been cited approvingly by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions as proving the economic harms of immigration. But there’s a problem. The study is controversial, and its finding — that the Cuban refugees caused a large, statistically unmistakable fall in Miami wages — may be simply spurious. This matters because what happened in Miami is the one historical event that has most shaped how economists view immigration. In his article, Borjas claimed to debunk an earlier study by another eminent economist, David Card, of UC Berkeley, analyzing the arrival of the Cubans in Miami. The episode offers a textbook case of how different economists can reach sharply conflicting conclusions from exactly the same data. Yet this is not an “on the one hand, on the other” story: My own analysis suggests that Borjas has not proved his case. Spend a few minutes digging into the data with me, and it will become apparent that the data simply does not allow us to conclude that those Cubans caused a fall in Miami wages, even for low-skill workers. The Mariel boatlift offered economists a remarkable opportunity to study the effect of immigration For an economist, there’s a straightforward way to study how low-skill immigration affects native workers: Find a large, sudden wave of low-skill immigrants arriving in one city only. Watch what happens to wages and employment for native workers in that city, and compare that to other cities where the immigrants didn’t go. An ideal “natural experiment” like this actually happened in Miami in 1980. Over just a few months, 125,000 mostly low-skill immigrants arrived from Mariel Bay, Cuba. This vast seaborne exodus — Fidel Castro briefly lifted Cuba’s ban on emigration -— is known as the Mariel boatlift. Over the next few months, the workforce of Miami rose by 8 percent. By comparison, normal immigration to the US increases the nationwide workforce by about 0.3 percent per year. So if immigrants compete with native workers, Miami in the 1980s is exactly where you should see natives’ wages drop. Berkeley’s Card examined the effects of the Cuban immigrants on the labor market in a massively influential study in 1990. In fact, that paper became one of the most cited in immigration economics. The design of the study was elegant and transparent. But even more than that, what made the study memorable was what Card found. In a word: nothing. The Card study found no difference in wage or employment trends between Miami — which had just been flooded with new low-skill workers — and other cities. This was true for workers even at the bottom of the skills ladder. Card concluded that “the Mariel immigration had essentially no effect on the wages or employment outcomes of non-Cuban workers in the Miami labor market.” You can see Card’s striking result in the graph below: There’s just no sign of a dip in low-skill Miami wages after the huge arrival of low-skill Cubans in 1980. The red line is the average wage, in each year, for workers in Miami, ages 19 to 65, whose education doesn’t go beyond high school. The dotted red lines show the interval of statistical confidence, so the true average wage could fall anywhere between the dotted lines. These estimates come from a slice of a nationwide survey, in which small groups of individuals are chosen to represent the broader population. (It’s known as the March Supplement of the Current Population Survey, or CPS). Carving out low-skill workers in Miami alone, that leaves an average of 185 observations of workers per year, during the crucial years. The gray dashed line shows what the wage would be if the pre-1980 trend had simply continued after 1980. As you can see, there is no dip in wages after those Cubans greatly increased the low-skill labor supply in 1980. If anything, wages rose relative to their previous trend in Miami. The same is true relative to wage trends in other, similar cities. Current Population Survey, Clemens Economists ever since have tried to explain this remarkable result. Was it that the US workers who might have suffered a wage drop had simply moved away? Had low-skill Cubans made native Miamians more productive by specializing in different tasks, thus stimulating the local economy? Was it that the Cubans’ own demand for goods and services had generated as many jobs in Miami as they filled? Or perhaps was it that Miami employers shifted to production technologies that used more low-skill labor, absorbing the new labor supply? Regardless, there was no dip in wages to explain. The real-life economy was evidently more complex than an “Econ 101” model would predict. Such a model would require wages to fall when the supply of labor, through immigration, goes up. Slicing up the data — all too finely This is where two new studies came in, decades after Card’s — in 2015. One, by Borjas, claims that Card’s analysis had obscured a large fall in the wages of native workers by using too broad a definition of “low-skill worker.” Card’s study had looked at the wages of US workers whose education extended only to high school or less. That was a natural choice, since about half of the newly-arrived Cubans had a high school degree, and half didn’t. Borjas, instead, focuses on workers who did not finish high school — and claimed that the Boatlift caused the wages of those workers, those truly at the bottom of the ladder, to collapse. The other new study (ungated here), by economists Giovanni Peri and Vasil Yasenov, of the UC Davis and UC Berkeley, reconfirms Card’s original result: It cannot detect an effect of the boatlift on Miami wages, even among workers who did not finish high school. In short, different well-qualified economists arrive at opposite conclusions about the effects of immigration, looking at the same data about the same incident, with identical modern analytical tools at their disposal. How that happened has a lot to teach about why the economics of immigration remains so controversial. The fact that the Borjas study’s result requires dropping Hispanics from the sample is particularly troubling Suppose we are concerned that the graph above, covering all low-skill workers in Miami, is too aggregated — meaning it combines too many different kinds of workers. We would not want to miss the effects on certain subgroups that may have competed more directly with the newly-arrived Cubans. For example, the Mariel migrants were mostly men. They were Hispanic. Many of them were prime-age workers (age 25 to 59). So we should look separately at what happened to wages for each of those groups of low-skill workers who might compete with the immigrants more directly: men only, non-Cuban Hispanics only, prime-age workers only. Here’s what wages look like for those slices of the same data: Current Population Survey, Clemens Here again, if anything, wages rose for each of these groups of low-skill workers after 1980, relative to their previous trend. There isn’t any dip in wages to explain. And, again, the same is true if you compare wage trends in Miami to trends in other, similar cities. Peri and Yasenov showed that there is still no dip in wages even when you divide up low-skill workers by whether or not they finished high school. About half of the Mariel migrants had finished high school, and the other half hadn’t. So you might expect negative wage effects on both groups of workers in Miami. Here is what the wage trends look like for those two groups. Current Population Survey, Clemens The wages of Miami workers with high school degrees (and no more than that) jump up right after the Mariel boatlift, relative to prior trends. The wages of those with less than a high school education appear to dip slightly, for a couple of years, although this is barely distinguishable amid the statistical noise. And these same inflation-adjusted wages were also falling in many other cities that didn’t receive a wave of immigrants, so it’s not possible to say with statistical confidence whether that brief dip on the right is real. It might have been — but economists can’t be sure. The rise on the left, in contrast, is certainly statistically significant, even relative to corresponding wage trends in other cities. Here is how the Borjas study reaches exactly the opposite conclusion. The Borjas study slices up the data much more finely than even Peri and Yasenov do. It’s not every worker with less than high school that he looks at. Borjas starts with the full sample of workers of high school or less — then removes women, and Hispanics, and workers who aren’t prime age (that is, he tosses out those who are 19 to 24, and 60 to 65). And then he removes workers who have a high school degree. In all, that means throwing out the data for 91 percent of low-skill workers in Miami in the years where Borjas finds the largest wage effect. It leaves a tiny sample, just 17 workers per year. When you do that, the average wages for the remaining workers look like this: Current Population Survey, Clemens For these observations picked out of the broader dataset, average wages collapse by at least 40 percent after the boatlift. Wages fall way below their previous trend, as well as way below similar trends in other cities, and the fall is highly statistically significant. How to explain the divergent conclusions? There are two ways to interpret these findings. The first way would be to conclude that the wage trend seen in the subgroup that Borjas focuses on — non-Hispanic prime-age men with less than a high school degree — is the “real” effect of the boatlift. The second way would be to conclude, as Peri and Yasenov do, that slicing up small data samples like this generates a great deal of statistical noise. If you do enough slicing along those lines, you can find groups for which wages rose after the Boatlift, and others for which it fell. In any dataset with a lot of noise, the results for very small groups will vary widely. Researchers can and do disagree about which conclusion to draw. But there are many reasons to favor the view that there is no compelling basis to revise Card’s original finding. There is not sufficient evidence to show that Cuban immigrants reduced any low-skill workers’ wages in Miami, even small minorities of them, and there isn’t much more that can be learned about the Mariel boatlift with the data we have. Here are three reasons why Card’s canonical finding stands. Borjas’s theory doesn’t fit the evidence The first reason is economic theory. The simple theory underlying all of this analysis is that when the supply of labor rises, wages have to fall. But if we interpret the wage drop in Borjas’s subgroup as an effect of the Boatlift, we need to interpret the upward jumps in the other graphs above, too, as effects of the Boatlift. That is, we would need to interpret the sharp post-Boatlift rise in wages for low-skill Miami Hispanics, regardless of whether they had a high school degree, as another effect of the influx of workers. But wait. The theory of supply and demand cannot explain how a massive infusion of low-skill Cuban Hispanics would cause wages to rise for other Hispanics, who would obviously compete with them. For the same reason, we would need to conclude that the boatlift caused a large rise in the wages of Miami workers with high school degrees only, both Hispanic and non-Hispanic — who constitute the large majority of low-skill workers in Miami. And so on. Economic theory doesn’t offer a reason why such a big benefit should happen. So we should be suspicious of jumping to the rosy conclusion that the Mariel boatlift caused big wage increases for the other 91 percent of low-skill workers in Miami. One could reach that conclusion by the same method Borjas used, if one sought such a result. But we should hesitate to make strong conclusions — one way or another — from any handpicked subset of the data. Hundreds of Cuban refugees who came to the United States during the Mariel boat lift apply for permanent resident status, under a new program in 1984.Bettman / Getty The study states that this was done because, among other reasons, the arrival of non-Cuban Hispanics in some of the other cities that Miami is being compared to — including Anaheim and Rochester — may have driven down wages in those places. But the graphs shown here are just for Miami, unaffected by that hypothetical concern. As you can see above, the wages of low-skill Hispanics as a whole jumped upward in Miami in the years after the boatlift. Dropping the data on groups that experienced wage increases, without a sound theoretical reason to do so, ensures by construction that wages fall in the small group that remains. The method determines the result. There’s too much noise in the data to conclude native workers were hurt The second reason the data backs Peri and Yasenov’s interpretation is statistical noise caused by small subsamples. Because there is a great deal of noise in the data, if we’re willing to take low-skill workers in Miami and hand-pick small subsets of them, we can always find small groups of workers whose wages rose during a particular period, and other groups whose wages fell. But at some point we’re learning more about statistical artifacts than about real-world events. Remember the key Borjas sample in each year — the one that experienced a large drop in wages — was just 17 men. By picking various small subsets of the data, a researcher could hypothetically get any positive or negative “effect” of the boatlift. Race made a difference here Yet another reason to believe the Card study remains solid has to do with something very different from statistical noise. Average wages in tiny slices of the data can change sharply because of small but systematic changes in who is getting interviewed. And it turns out that the CPS sample includes vastly more black workers in the data used for the Borjas study after the boatlift than before it. Because black men earned less than others, this change would necessarily have the effect of exaggerating the wage decline measured by Borjas. The change in the black fraction of the sample is too big and long-lasting to be explained by random error. (This is my own contribution to the debate. I explore this problem in a new research paper that I co-authored with Jennifer Hunt, a professor of economics at Rutgers University.) Around 1980, the same time as the Boatlift, two things happened that would bring a lot more low-wage black men into the survey samples. First, there was a simultaneous arrival of large numbers of very low-income immigrants from Haiti without high school degrees: that is, non-Hispanic black men who earn much less than US black workers but cannot be distinguished from US black workers in the survey data. Nearly all hadn’t finished high school. That meant not just that Miami suddenly had far more black men with less than high school after 1980, but also that those black men had much lower earnings. Second, the Census Bureau, which ran the CPS surveys, improved its survey methods around 1980 to cover more low-skill black men due to political pressure after research revealed that many low-income black men simply weren’t being counted. You can see what happened in the graph below, which has a point for each year’s group of non-Hispanic men with less than high school, in the data used by Borjas (ages 25 to 59). The horizontal axis is the fraction of the men in the sample who are black. The vertical axis is the average wage in the sample. Because black men in Miami at this skill level earned much less than non-blacks, it’s no surprise that the more black men are covered by each year’s sample, the lower the average wage. Current Population Survey, Clemens But here’s the critical problem: The fraction of black workers in this sample increased dramatically between the years just before the boatlift (in red) and the years just after the boatlift (in blue). That demographic shift would make the average wage in this group appear to fall right after the boatlift, even if no one’s wages actually changed in any subpopulation. What changed was who was included in the sample. Why hadn’t this problem affected Card’s earlier results? Because there wasn’t any shift like this for workers who had finished high school only (as opposed to less than high school). Here is the same graph for those workers (again, non-Hispanic males 25 to 59): Current Population Survey, Clemens Here, too, you can see that in the years where the survey covered more black men, the average wage is lower. But for this group, there wasn’t any increase in the relative number of blacks surveyed after 1980. If anything, black fraction of the sample is a little lower right after 1980. So the average wage in the post-boatlift years (blue) isn’t any lower than the average wage in the pre-boatlift years (red). About two-thirds of Card’s sample was these workers, where the shift in the fraction of black workers did not happen. When the statistical results in the Borjas study are adjusted to allow for changing black composition of the sample in each city, the result becomes fragile. In the dataset Borjas focuses on, the result suddenly depends on which set of cities one chooses to compare Miami to. And in the other, larger CPS dataset that covers the same period, there is no longer a statistically significant dip in wages at all. You might think that there’s an easy solution: Just test for the effects of the boatlift on workers who aren’t black. But this is really pushing the data further than it can go. By the time you’ve discarded women, and Hispanics, and workers under 25, and workers over 59, and anyone who finished high school— and blacks, you’ve thrown away 98 percent of the data on low-skill workers in Miami. There are only four people left in each year’s survey, on average, during the years that the Borjas study finds the largest effect. The average wage in that minuscule slice of the data looks like this: Current Population Survey, Clemens With samples that small, the statistical confidence interval (represented by the dotted lines) is huge, meaning we can’t infer anything general from the results. We can’t distinguish large declines in wages from large rises in wages — at least until several years after the boatlift happened, and those can’t be plausibly attributed to the boatlift. Taking just four workers at a time from the larger dataset, a researcher could achieve practically any result whatsoever. There may have been a wage decline in this group, or a rise, but there just isn’t sufficient evidence to know. David Card’s canonical conclusion stands In sum, the evidence from the Mariel boatlift continues to support the conclusion of David Card’s seminal research: There is no clear evidence that wages fell (or that unemployment rose) among the least-skilled workers in Miami, even after a sudden refugee wave sharply raised the size of that workforce. This does not by any means imply that large waves of low-skill immigration could not displace any native workers, especially in the short term, in other times and places. But politicians’ pronouncements that immigrants necessarily do harm native workers must grapple with the evidence from real-world experiences to the contrary. Michael Clemens is an economist at the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC, and the IZA Institute of Labor Economics in Bonn, Germany. His book The Walls of Nations is forthcoming from Columbia University Press. The Big Idea is Vox’s home for smart discussion of the most important issues and ideas in politics, science, and culture — typically by outside contributors. If you have an idea for a piece, pitch us at thebigidea@vox.com. […]

  • Senate Republicans’ approach to health care is bizarre and appalling
    by Matthew Yglesias on July 27, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Nobody can tell exactly what Senate Republicans are doing with Americans’ health care, largely because they keep lying about it. Five days ago, John McCain called on senators to pay more heed to governors’ words of caution about steep Medicaid cuts. Then he made a dramatic return to the Senate floor, denounced the entire process through which the Senate health care bill had been assembled, and then voted with leadership to continue the process. Nonetheless, he insisted that he opposed the underlying Better Care Reconciliation Act. But then when the BCRA came up for a vote, he voted for it, offering the excuse that the vote was procedural. But if denouncing both the process by which a bill has been assembled and the substantive ideas it contains doesn’t lead you to vote against leadership on procedural matters, then what do your words even mean? McCain is often an outlier among Republican senators. But in this instance, he’s being incredibly typical. Mitch McConnell is operating with a narrow Senate majority and basically zero margin for error ever since Susan Collins got off the BCRA bus. Objections to his approach are flying from virtually every direction of the caucus. Yet the health bill keeps shambling forward, since Republicans seem comfortable lying to the American people about essentially all aspects of the process, up to and including their own position on it. That is the story of the health care process that has consumed the past several months in Congress: the almost unceasing parade of lies. Republicans can’t keep their story straight The saga of the “skinny” repeal concept that emerged suddenly Tuesday morning with no hearings, stakeholder discussions, or public debate makes the point. This is legislation that could be intended to do one of two entirely different things. In one interpretation, Republicans are now prepared to radically lower their horizons relative to what McConnell’s BCRA or Paul Ryan’s AHCA would have done. Rather than enact an enormous tax cut paid for with a gigantic Medicaid cut, skinny repeal would modestly cut taxes and blow up the exchanges while leaving Medicaid intact. In another interpretation, skinny repeal is the opposite. The idea is basically just to have the Senate pass a skinny bill as a placeholder and then go to a conference committee process, at which hardline House conservatives will write a more robust Obamacare repeal bill. Then Senate Republicans will be faced with an up-or-down, no-joke binary choice between the hardline bill and no repeal at all, at which point they will presumably swallow the hardline bill. There are two critical points about this. One is that even as the Senate GOP caucus appears to be coalescing around the skinny repeal strategy, its members cannot agree as to which version of the strategy they are pursuing. The other is that neither interpretation accords at all with Senate Republicans’ stated public commitments. A critical mass of Republican moderates has stated clear and unequivocal objections to BCRA-style steep Medicaid cuts. That, if we take them seriously, would rule out the second version of the skinny strategy. At the same time, all Republicans complain that Obamacare’s exchanges are too unstable. That, if we take them seriously, would rule out the first version. And yet ahead they go. Republicans’ path to repeal is littered with broken promises The ultimate irony is that at every step along the way, the argument that appears to propel Republicans forward is the notion that they have an obligation to fulfill their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. In reality, everything they have done in pursuit of repeal is breaking promises. As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to protect Medicaid, lower premiums and deductibles, and cover everyone. Every single version of repeal that Republicans have considered does the opposite on every front. Meanwhile, along the way, key senators have made up new tests to violate. Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy spent several weeks touting the “Jimmy Kimmel test” for legislation and then voted “yes” on a bill (ORRA) that the CBO says would cost 32 million Americans their health insurance coverage. Dean Heller did a joint press conference with his state’s Republican governor in which they promised to protect Medicaid expansion, and then he voted yes on the key procedural vote that has kept Medicaid at risk. Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia, likewise, flip-flopped on the BCRA after changes were made that were totally irrelevant to her stated concerns. It’s not unusual for politicians (or, frankly, human beings of any kind) to shade the truth on something or other. But this kind of up-is-down behavior where stated preferences are unrelated to underlying behavior is bizarre. After all, if Capito ends up eliminating West Virginia’s Medicaid expansion after promising not to, she isn’t going to be able to trick people into thinking it hasn’t been ended. Why pretend she was opposed to ending it if she actually wasn’t? The self-immolation of congressional Republicans Trump and his administration have engaged in their fair share of nonsense throughout this process. But it’s striking how much the heaping piles of bullshit that surround the health care debate have nothing in particular to do with Trump. McConnell and his staff spent all of 2016 looking reporters in the eye and touting his commitment to “regular order” as a legislative approach. He sent a senior staffer to the Vox office who very seriously attributed 2015’s relatively productive legislative session to a return of regular order and promised that regular order would continue no matter who won the presidential election. McConnell and Paul Ryan then, entirely of their own volition, with no evident input from Trump, proceeded to enact the most fantastically irregular legislative process anyone has ever seen. And dozens of Republican senators proceeded to repeatedly bemoan the slipshod process even while continually voting to continue the process. Now they daily — hourly, even — express intense anxiety about the pressure they are under and profound eagerness to see their way clear of this mess. But at every turn, they resist the obvious alternative — a bipartisan process aimed at a bipartisan bill that would actually stabilize exchanges and fulfill both parties’ commitment to improve Americans’ health care. And since nobody involved can be trusted to keep a promise for even a full afternoon, nobody knows what they’re really thinking or what they’re genuinely trying to do. Millions of lives are at stake, and the best Republicans can do to explain what’s happening is to congratulate themselves on distracting some people with a piece of petty bigotry. It’s bizarre and, frankly, appalling. […]