Showing posts with label Opinion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Opinion. Show all posts

April 10, 2020

Duckling To Swan and No More Ducklings! This is Become Toxic in The Gay Community

Often masked as promoting 'wellness', ugly duckling-to-swan narratives are wreaking havoc on the self-esteem of young gay men today.

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Culture has long been fixated on the before and the after -- on extreme beast-turned-beauty makeovers and radical duckling-to-swan transformations. Between the F45 '8 Week Challenge' testimonialsFacebook's 10-year challenge, 'feel old yet?' memes and American television's near 20 seasons of The Biggest Loser, ours is a world obsessed with achieving our ultimate form. When it comes to beauty, no narrative appears to quite satisfy us like the emergence of a buried charm; a conventionally attractive aesthetic lurking underneath a supposedly base and ugly original form, just waiting to be discovered. In other words, we fucking love the glo-up.

The glo-up has ignited the imagination of popular culture for time immemorial. You only need to look to giants of Western canon such as Pygmalion and Princess Diaries -- the latter with its now-unforgettable reveal: "Only Paolo can take this and this and give you… a princess!"Hidden amid an 80s-style backcombed mane, overgrown eyebrows and nerdy glasses, was Princess Mia's 'true' and 'beautiful' self. Mean Girls inverts this trope when Janis Ian, via clever and nefarious means, wages war on high school bully and queen of teen society Regina George's "technically good physique" -- aka her "hot body" -- and all which is constellated around it. The sum total of which was an incredibly valuable social capital she wielded to rule those shallow, hallowed hierarchical halls.
It comes as no surprise then that gay men are so invested in the cocooning phenomenon of the glo-up. Between early years of a society-mandated closet, school bullying, and a position at the bottom of the high school food chain -- the best revenge would be the acculturation of hotness and social capital. There's a reason why so many glo-up anecdotes inevitably reference school bullies
The glo-up is sneakily insidious. Why? Because it frames our shallow fixation with aesthetics -- and extreme aesthetic transformation -- as wellness. In many ways, glo-up culture has co-opted the tropes of the body positivity and fat-acceptance movements, with its toxic philosophy often cloaked in the language of taking action to 'love the skin you're in!' But the reality is that glo-up is the most shallow kind of wellbeing phenomenon. It does nothing to disrupt existing hegemonies of beauty -- ones that are fuelled by and propped up by racism and ableism -- nor does it dismantle the system that rewards conformity.  
Our unhealthy, all-consuming gay-male veneration of aesthetic hypermasculinity -- of impossibly rippling torsos and sub 10% body fat composition -- has been the subject of much investigation and theory. The rise in muscle-gay aesthetic is often understood as a collectively traumatic response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, a body -- and a body politic -- developed as evidence of health, as a rage against the literal waning of a community. Now it exists as a pervasive cultural artefact. Not simple adherence to vanity, but a complex, hypervigilant relation to image and masculinity, from a community who were so often picked apart for failing to successfully conform to both. But whatever its origins, our cultural fixation on the perfect body continues to endure and impact our collective psyche in a number of harmful ways. The science tells us what many of us anecdotally and instinctively already know to be true. As summarised in this paragraph from a recent psychology paper, "research [indicates] that gay men are at greater risk than heterosexual men for developing eating disorders and have a higher incidence of drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, and body image related anxiety." 
"The reality is that glo-up is the most shallow kind of wellbeing phenomenon. It does nothing to disrupt existing hegemonies of beauty – ones that are fuelled by and propped up by racism and ableism – nor does it dismantle the system that rewards conformity."  
David, a gay academic in his late 20s, had always had a difficult relationship with his body pre muscle glo-up. He describes a childhood where he was "bullied for being ugly and camp and girly", and the subsequent disordered eating and body shame that continued into his adult life. "When I overcame my disordered eating, which took a long time, I started to hate my body even more. I just felt I had lost control over it and I felt wrong. I fell into a depression over it," he says. "It got very bad. If I was out in public and I saw men with bodies I wanted -- which were always muscular, toned, big, everything I had never allowed myself to be when I had spent years making myself thin and tiny -- I would become horribly sad."
When I speak to Kush, a 27-year-old musician and employee of a boutique fitness studio, he offers up this perspective on the gay male glo-up: "I find it intriguing that for a community where we constantly say we celebrate being different, we have slowly all moulded in to the same [person].' For Kush, the predominant images and aesthetic values of gay culture have weighed heavily on his self-esteem. 'Being a brown boy it’s been engraved in me that I will always come second to a blond twink or a muscly Clapham gay stereotype.”
Brandon is a 23-year-old London gay man who has spent the last couple of years relentlessly and methodically transforming his body from twink physique into muscular temple. His journey began as a result of criticism he received from a casual hookup, who said when he took his top off for sex that "[he] just thought [he'd] be more toned.” The resulting anguish set Brandon on a near-obsessive gym craze. "Part of me wanted to smack that guy into the next decade but the other half of me wanted to cry. And at the time I was 18 and thought I was hot shit so it felt like a smack in the face. After that I went on a huge revenge body vendetta because I wanted to make this guy so jealous that I was now muscular," he says. 
Perhaps nowhere is the new found thirst bestowed by a glo-up more stark and pronounced than in the case of reigning YouTube twink Tyler Oakley's metamorphosis into mini muscle daddy. 
Responses ranged from the truly chaotic--"tyler im sorry i said you were so annoying please.... im 18 im free on tuesday are u free on tuesday please text me and let me know if you want to hang out on thursday when i am free" to "tyler CHOKE-ME OAKLEY!!!!" Essentially offering him a lifetime’s supply of the standard hypersexual thirst his image had largely denied him in previous years.
These transformations are rewarded like clockwork. Most who come up against the culture and its impossible standards are strong-armed into conforming. Both Brandon and David acknowledge what is perhaps an obvious point -- evidenced so clearly here with Tyler Oakley: that for them changing musculature corresponded with radically shifted status and greater sexual capital and visibility within the gay community. The implicit message broadcast being that it isn't the standard that is broken, but rather the individual who fails it. This might seem like a shallow game with little real world consequence, but the simple fact is that, much like being “straight-passing”, respect, safety, success and a myriad other prizes and resources, are often apportioned according to these very hierarchies both in the LGBT+ community and beyond. The message relentlessly sent is that what waits for you on the other side of your glo-up is worth it and no cost is too high to pay. Fad dieting, steroid use and plastic surgery are all encouraged. 
But the glo-up is not just a newfound hotness. More than simply a finished product, the glo-up is hotness with provenance. The likes and comments and shares it engenders come not just simply from the hotness, but from the contrast. The first image --literal or otherwise-- serves as a kind of foil, to heighten the perceived success of the transformation. No matter claims to the contrary, the glo-up does not accept a continuum of beauty. So at the heart of the problem with the glo-up, is that it posits the untransformed body and the person attached to it as ugly, unappealing, unfinished -- take your pick -- and the transformed body as living their very best life. They are now worthy of your praise, fame, engagement, free underwear subscriptions, and a world of endless accolade and possibility, despite being the exact same person beneath the surface. 
The sinister belief that seems to underlie this and every 90s/00s romcom transformation, is that love is just around the corner, should we make that bold leap to become beautiful. The 'before' is as, if not more important, than the 'after'. The glo-up is the American dream writ across the human body: an ideology that says one can rise from the rags of their 'unattractive' birth to the riches of beauty -- if only by drastic reinvention. As with these films, and real life, unconventional looks and imperfection is permissible, as long as they are temporary -- a bridge between ugly duckling and Instagram selfie-swan. This pressure creates a positive feedback loop that sustains this endlessly dysmorphic culture. A culture that maintains at its core that there is only one kind of external fitness magazine 'beauty' worth having and striving for, and encourages us to take the most extreme lengths to achieve it.  
Transformation always exacts a cost, and those metamorphoses mandated by dominant paradigms of beauty, motivated by a desire to be sexy by the standards of gay media and community, often demand the highest. I ask Kush what would have to change to quash his desire to conform, for him to be happy to live in his body the way that it is. “For more people of different sizes cast as leading men,” he says, and for social media's renewed emphasis to be less about vanity and more about creation. “I want us to see people of all shapes and types being the desired ones in our media.” This is not intended to be moralising, nor place the onus on individual action; people are entitled to take whatever steps in their personal lives, meaningful or banal, that make them feel beautiful. But gay glo-up culture sells a toxic fantasy, underpinned by the belief that we are not enough until we are perfected adonises. A narrative that traps some people in a vicious, unrelenting and often dangerous pursuit of the perfect body. I want a kinder culture, to be freed from the draconian pageantry. No crowns, no runners-up. Don't you want that too?

March 8, 2020

How Much Should Religious Orgs Get Paid By The Government to Convert You?

Many Americans know by now that when Christian nationalists talk about “religious freedom” they are really asking for the privilege to impose their religion on other people. What Americans may not yet understand is that they are also demanding money from taxpayers to do so.

Long before Donald Trump hitched his political fortunes to the Christian right, previous Republican administrations had primed the pumps that would send public money flowing toward religious organizations.

In 2002, the George W. Bush administration increased the flow of federal money to faith-based organizations providing services on behalf of the government. Mr. Bush himself insisted that these organizations would not be permitted to discriminate. But in fact the new method of faith-based funding invited the risk of discrimination and the erosion of church-state separation.

The Obama administration, responding to these concerns, put in place provisions to ensure that members of the public were not subject to discrimination on the basis of religious belief or unwanted proselytizing. The provisions also required that users of church-sponsored social programs be made aware of nonsectarian options. 

The Trump administration is now proposing to eliminate these Obama-era safeguards. And true to form, they did so earlier this year, on the increasingly Orwellian-sounding annual Religious Freedom Day in January.

One purpose of the new proposed regulations is to make sure that organizations receiving taxpayer money are exempt from the kinds of anti-discrimination law by which nonreligious organizations must abide. If that sounds like a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, that’s because it is — or at least it should be.

Under the proposed regulations, faith-based aid organizations that receive public money are free to hire and fire their workers and subcontractors on account of their religion, sexual orientation, or any other behavior or characteristic that the organization finds religiously appealing or objectionable. Aid-providing organizations will no longer have any obligation to let members of the public receiving their services know if there are available nonsectarian options. Organizations that receive their money through vouchers and other forms of indirect aid can now proselytize, require that recipients participate in religious activities or ask that recipients pledge their loyalty to Jesus. And the government itself is no longer required to offer a nonsectarian option for those whose beliefs or conscience make it impossible for them to accept aid on these terms.

“The proposed rules would strip away religious freedom protections from people, often the most vulnerable and marginalized, and even allow faith-based organizations to discriminate in government-funded programs,” Rachel Laser, president and chief executive of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told me. She added that this puts the interests of these organizations “ahead of the needs of the people seeking critical services.”

Why is the Trump administration so determined to tear down the wall of separation between church and state? The long game is clear: because that’s the way you “take back America” and make it a Christian nation. 

But the short game is more relevant now. There is a pile of public money on the other side of the wall that separates church and state, and Christian nationalists are determined to grab it (and to hold on to what they have already grabbed).

These kinds of pro-discrimination rules are bound to cause harm. There may be a woman who loses her job at a faith-based service provider because she is “living in sin” with her partner. There may be people seeking counseling services who will forgo the help they need because it is offered only in conservative Christian health care settings and is staffed with Christian-only providers, all of whom claim to be living in conformity with a “Bible lifestyle.”

There will be some minority-religion providers — a Jewish soup kitchen here, a Muslim job-training initiative there — that will defend the new rules and claim to benefit from them. But they will serve, in effect, as strategic cover, lending the appearance of diversity to a movement that ties the idea of America to specific conservative religious and cultural identities.

Legitimizing these forms of discrimination is itself a grotesque violation of whatever it is that we actually mean by religious freedom. But that’s the point, as far as Mr. Trump and his Christian nationalist allies are concerned. The religious rights of the larger American public are collateral damage in a war of conquest aimed squarely at the public coffers.

To grasp the motivation for the Trump administration in promulgating “religious freedom,” it helps to review a little Supreme Court history. In 2017, the Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Mo., brought a case in which the church claimed that it had an equal claim to government grants for purchasing materials to upgrade its playground.

At the time, many commentators raised a concern that the case was really just a device for eliminating Establishment Clause concerns from decisions affecting the public funding of religious institutions and activities. Lawyers from conservative Christian legal organizations, including the Alliance Defending Freedom, argued that refusing to allocate public money to religious institutions amounted to discrimination against religion. This theory, if it takes hold in law, significantly weakens the Establishment Clause. If withholding taxpayer money from religious institutions amounts to discrimination, then the taxpayer has no choice but to fund religion.

Some important things to know about today’s Christian nationalist movement: It doesn’t believe in the First Amendment as we usually understand it and as our founders intended it. It doesn’t believe that the government should make no law respecting an establishment of religion. It also takes a dim view of government assistance — unless the money passes through churches first. Politically connected religious leaders like Ralph Drollinger of Capitol Ministries, whose White House Bible study has been attended by at least 10 current and former members of Mr. Trump’s cabinet, maintains that social welfare programs have no basis in scripture. “The responsibility to meet the needs of the poor lies first with the husband in a marriage, secondly with the family (if the husband is absent), and thirdly with the church,” Mr. Drollinger has written. “Again, nowhere does God command the institutions of government or commerce to fully support those with genuine needs.” 

These ideas are shared by David Barton, a historical revisionist who sits on the boards of an array of Christian nationalist legislative and data initiatives, pastoral networks and other influential groups. Mr. Barton has argued that the Bible and God himself oppose progressive income taxes, capital gains taxes and minimum wage laws. “Since sinful man tends to live in bondage, different forms of slavery have replaced the more obvious system of past centuries,” according to an essay posted to Mr. Barton’s WallBuilders website titled “The Bible, Slavery and America’s Founders.” “The state has assumed the role of master for many, providing aid and assistance, and with it more and more control, to those unable to provide for themselves. The only solution to slavery is the liberty of the Gospel.”

While these activists rail against direct government aid to the poor, they are eager to increase the flow of government handouts to churches and religious groups who may then provide the aid themselves, but without adherence to nondiscrimination law. As a further bonus, when the money gets funneled to religious organizations, some of it then can then be pumped back into the right-wing political machine through religious organizations and the policy groups they support, which act as de facto partisan political cells.

In order to understand the game that Christian nationalists are playing, it’s important to remember that the First Amendment has two clauses concerning religion: one that guarantees the freedom to exercise religion and one that prohibits the government from establishing any religion. What the framers understood is that these two come as a pair; they are necessarily connected. We are free to exercise religion precisely because the government refrains from establishing religion.

At present, the Christian nationalist movement has substantial sources of support in the form of access to wealthy donors and robust donor-advised charities. It also has a large base of supporters who make large numbers of small contributions. But leaders of the movement know that their bread will have a lot more butter if it comes from the government. They already receive significant funding indirectly from taxpayers in the form of deductions and exemptions. They are determined to secure these extra funds, and they are immensely fearful of losing them, especially if a pluralistic society decides to do something about the fact that its tax dollars are being used to fund groups that actively promote discrimination against many citizens and support radical political agendas.

In the future, if the Trump administration has its way, the current flow of taxpayer money to religious organizations may well look like the trickle before the flood. Religious nationalists dream of a time when most or all social welfare services pass through the hands of religious entities. They imagine a future in which a young woman seeking advice on reproductive health care will have nowhere to turn but a state-funded, church-operated network of “counseling” centers that will tell her she will go to hell if she doesn’t have the baby.

The discrimination against individuals and the misuse of public money that the Trump administration’s proposed regulations would allow is bad enough. But these are far from the worst consequences of this kind of assault on the separation of church and state. The most profound danger here is to the deep structure of American society and politics.

In 1786, when Thomas Jefferson and James Madison pushed through the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom that Religious Freedom Day commemorates, the issue that motivated them and that brought evangelical Christians at the time over to their side was a detested tax imposed on all Virginians to pay for the church services demanded by the established church. “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical,” Jefferson wrote. “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.” 

It is ironic, then, that the Trump administration’s religious freedom initiative seeks to fund religious organizations with taxpayer money. But what makes this particularly dangerous is that the same money in many cases goes to churches and religious organizations that are increasingly and aggressively asserting themselves in partisan politics, and that happen to support Mr. Trump. As Jefferson and Madison understood, the destruction of the wall that separates church and state corrupts politics just as surely as it corrupts religion.


Katherine Stewart (@kathsstewart) is the author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.”

March 5, 2020

Was Pete Butigieg Hated by The Very Liberal Left?

 Pete and His husband Chasten

Below is the opinion of a columnist from  The Guardian. In his piece he asks, Why Pete Buttigieg was hated by the left? I don't know if he was hated by the left but he was by the ultra left. I make a difference between the two because my experience is that not every liberal is liberal on everything, so you have a couple of levels below Progresive. But I was surprised to see people picking Bern and Elizabeth over him and the reason I believe was because they did not see him as gay enough.
In the gay community you have to be known as gay, not by announcing it but by doing some gay things ie: get togethers in gay bars or gay events and be accepted like it was a club otherwise you will be by yourself. For an outgoing people is not a problem but not eveyone has that type of personality. What people in general are learning is that gays do not fit inside one decription but I wonder if some gays realize that. 

From the begining very left wing gays were not seeing Pete as a regular gay perhabs not understanding that there isn't such a thing. I can understand envy or regret that he was accomplished but even that is not a reason to hate him because they are accomplished gays that would rather vote for Trump than for a gay progresive. He was not a rich man, yet he was accomplished in the way he went doing things in his life starting at an age in which straight and gay guys are interested in doing other things.

One thing that amazes me is how well adjusted lots of gays are for the dark roads we had to travel.
If you were born in 1990 and below you know what truly hatred is for the sake of hatred because they saw someone different. Some of us got the worse treatment from our own families, like is happening in many parts of the world. As a community we still need to grow and learn how to treat other gays the way they wish to be treated by everyone.    Adam Gonzalez

The day after Pete Buttigieg won Iowa, the writer Mark Harris, who is married to the playwright Tony Kushner, tweeted: “Even if you support someone else, as I do, the fact that a gay man can win a state caucus for President is a welcome milestone.”
Iowa has long been something of an outlier – in 2004 it was among the few Republican controlled states that rejected a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage – but the idea that an openly gay man could win the Democratic caucus there took most Americans by surprise. That it was a milestone, as Harris pointed out, was clear – or should have been. The fact that it needed stating said everything about this strange, emotional, deeply divided campaign.
Like me, Harris is a Gen Xer who can remember the Reagan-Thatcher years, and who witnessed a new identity politics emerge from the devastation of Aids. Many of those people saw friends cut down in the prime of life. They went to paupers’ funerals for colleagues long abandoned by their parents. They witnessed a criminal and deadly silence from Washington, compounded by snarky jokes about a “gay plague”. In the UK, when I was at college, gay men were still being arrested for kissing in public. We had to wait until we were five years older than our straight counterparts to have sex.
For those among us who can recall a not-too-distant time when going into a gay bar still felt dangerous, watching a gay presidential candidate get so far while being mercilessly pilloried has been a disorienting experience. It was as if our own community was clipping our wings at the very moment we were learning to fly. 
Buttigieg did not deserve unconditional support – no one does – and in debates he had to stand on his record, as all candidates must. Allegations that he’d sided with white police officers over the firing of South Bend’s first black police chief, and that the city’s economic growth had bypassed black communities, stuck hard. When he abandoned the race on Sunday it was a tacit recognition that in spite of his ambitious Douglass Plan, a manifesto for black empowerment, he had not swayed minds. His lack of traction with black voters, though in the end about the same as for Elizabeth Warren, remained his achilles heel to the end. 

January 28, 2020

South Korea is Our Ally, Defacto Part of NATO Yet The Homophobia There Is Equal to Ours in 1960

Image result for south korea is very anti gay
 Being LGBT in South Korea can make for a difficult life. CNN's Kathy Novak tells the story of one gay couple living in Seoul and the challenges they face.
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On a brightly lit stage, two male K-pop stars with glowing skin and perfectly coiffed hair are nibbling either end of the same long, chocolate stick. 
As the stick gets smaller and smaller, they get closer and closer -- and eventually, a fellow K-pop idol pulls them into a kiss
In South Korea's glitzy, highly manufactured music industry, these kinds of scenes are not uncommon. As long as it's only for show, that is.
Homophobia is still rife in South Korea, where very few mainstream music stars have come out as gay. The country has no comprehensive anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ South Koreans and compared to nearby democracies like Japan and Taiwan, the country is less accepting of same-sex couples. (CNN)

In Seoul, many people enjoy the annual Queer Culture Festival, regardless of their sexual orientation. Started with only 50 people in 2000, nearly 150,000 people enjoyed the festival last year, which marked its 20th anniversary. During the festival, participants urge the government to improve LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights.
While many people hold rainbow flags during the festival, some Christian groups stage anti-LGBT demonstrations. They hang banners declaring that homosexuality is sin, same-sex unions would spread AIDS across the country, and gay unions would create chaos in Korean society. Christians, however, are not the only people who oppose the LGBT community in South Korea. A recent controversy over a transgender soldier suggests that many Koreans are still hostile to gender minorities.
Last week, Byun Hui-su, a transgender tank driver, drew public attention after she was discharged from the Republic of Korea Army after undergoing sex-reassignment surgery. While South Korea bans transgenders from joining the army, it doesn’t have any rule about soldiers who had a sex-reassignment operation while already serving. And until the Byun case, no one in the military had ever changed his or her sex while serving, so this case was unprecedented, and it became headline news. 
Byun said she wanted to serve as a female soldier, but army officials ignored her plea. The army explained that it decided to discharge Byun because of her “mental and physical disabilities.” An army official claimed that the sex-reassignment operation itself didn’t affect the decision. 
At a press conference, Byun said she wanted to prove that anyone can be a great soldier regardless of gender identity. She also charged that the South Korean army still lacks respect for sexual minorities. And she sued the army for discharging her.
Lim Tae-hoon, leader of the Center for Military Human Rights, announced that he supported Byun, opining that the army’s decision to discharge the tank driver was a violation of human rights. “The National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea has to warn against the human-rights abuses, including Byun’s case. And all transgenders should be allowed to serve in the army without discrimination,” Lim said.
But on the Internet, netizens have denounced Byun: The army is right to discharge Byun; the tank driver is selfish and stupid to make a plea to the army, one of the most conservative organizations in Korea, to accept her as a female soldier; other female soldiers won’t want to serve in the army alongside transgenders.
Before Byun’s case was reported, some political powerhouses, right-wingers in particular, provoked controversy by making crass comments against the LGBT community. Last May, Hwang Kyo-ahn, leader of the conservative Liberty Korea Party, said he hated homosexuality. “I was shocked by queer festivals in Korea. I hate the LGBT community. I think Korean society has to oppose homosexuality,” Hwang said. Keum Tae-sup, a politician with the ruling Democratic Party, criticized Hwang’s provocative remarks, saying his homophobic remarks sounded ridiculous.
In November, lawmakers in the Liberty Korea Party, including Ahn Sang-soo, proposed an amendment that would remove sexual minorities from those who are protected from discrimination under the National Human Rights Act. Ahn underscored his view with  controversial remarks: While the world witnesses a surge of AIDS infections, few people can criticize homosexuality because of the National Human Rights Act; it’s unfair to regard criticism against homosexuality as discrimination. Many condemned the proposed amendment and Ahn’s comments as justifying discrimination against LGBT people. 
Last year, for the first time in Asia, Taiwan legalized gay marriage. When the legislature started to debate the motion, politician Jason Hsu said Taiwan was 10 years behind in respect to the LGBT rights. But Byun’s case and some Korean politicians’ comments against homosexuality indicate that South Korea is not just behind but is going backward.

December 18, 2019

The Cards Speaker Pelosi Still Carries to Dissolve The GOP Bluff on Impeachment

Image result for impeachment
 Trump will be married to the man he loves Pres. Bill Clinton for all eternity while there is the US

In the weeks since the House impeachment hearings started, Republicans have flitted from one argument to the next to try to convince Americans that the process lacks validity. One point they have made repeatedly is that the evidence is largely hearsay, and therefore invalid.

I teach federal evidence law, and that argument doesn’t hold water. Much of the testimony in the record wouldn’t be hearsay at all under federal court rules, and other statements would be admissible under one or another hearsay exception. Moreover, as Senate Republicans have made obvious with their recent proclamations about how the Senate should proceed, an impeachment trial isn’t a federal court proceeding.

It’s an absurd situation. Republicans say the evidence isn’t up to snuff. Yet the very man under investigation, President Trump, is the one who has blocked the testimony of witnesses who might strengthen the case.

The time has come for congressional Democrats to call the Republicans’ bluff: They should go to court to compel testimony from key members of Trump’s inner circle who have firsthand knowledge of the president’s dealings with Ukraine, including former national security advisor John Bolton and White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. These witnesses should tell the House what they know, under oath, even if that means delaying a vote on the articles of impeachment.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s plain from the evidence already in the record that Trump should be impeached and removed for abusing his powers in badgering Ukraine’s newly minted president to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.

But on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear that he plans to serve as the president’s advocate in any Senate trial. And, as McConnell told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, he already believes there is “no chance” the president will be removed based on the current articles of impeachment and evidence. Other Republican senators made clear over the weekend that they will join McConnell, and not a single member of the majority leader’s party has spoken publicly against his plan.

It’s true that testimony from witnesses like Mulvaney, Bolton and former White House Counsel Donald McGahn isn’t necessary to the already strong case for removal. But it is important not to set a precedent that rewards the president for ordering administration officials to defy the House as it exercises its impeachment powers, and McConnell will try to do just that by ending the trial without testimony from these and other witnesses.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York has now proposed that Democrats be allowed to call the president’s recalcitrant witnesses to the stand at the impeachment trial. If that’s permitted, then the House should move forward promptly with an impeachment vote. 

But if McConnell and his band of Trump defenders in the Senate make clear they will suppress the very testimony that would answer their claims of weak evidence, then it’s time for Plan B.

What can House members do instead of walking into a rubber-stamp acquittal in the Senate?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could announce that the articles of impeachment voted by the House Judiciary Committee last week will be brought to the floor at a future appropriate, but unspecified, time.

The speaker could then hold a news conference announcing that — to address House Republicans’ evidentiary demands — the House will seek testimony from additional firsthand witnesses. It will do so by using every subpoena-defying witness in federal court, seeking court orders that these officials appear and testify under oath. Then the House should subpoena any others whose testimony could supplement the record.

True, it will take months to adjudicate these cases, which is why Democrats have decided up to now not to sue. But that decision was made back when some thought GOP senators might actually consider with an open mind the available evidence, including the president’s obstruction of lawful subpoenas. If the Senate GOP will allow only a whitewash, then Democrats’ calculus should be different.

At worst, a months-long pause will delay the inevitable. But in the meantime, the president’s abuses will stay in the news, and that might constrain Trump from further abusing his power, since adding additional articles of impeachment would be easier for the House before a Senate acquittal than after.

House Democrats should resist McConnell’s plan to produce only the barest mockery of a trial. They are standard-bearers of a coequal branch of government, and now the last line of defense for the rule of law.

Speaker Pelosi still has cards to play. She should use them to call the Republicans’ bluff.

Jonah B. Gelbach is a professor of law at UC Berkeley. He teaches evidence law and civil procedure.

October 10, 2019

Supreme Court To Decide If Puerto Rico Can Still Govern Itself


Mr. Bowie is an assistant professor at Harvard Law School.

In 1947, Congress passed and President Harry Truman signed a law giving the people of Puerto Rico the right to elect their own governor. Until then, all territories of the United States, including Puerto Rico, had been governed by men appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Most governors had been known more for their relationships to the president than, say, for their ability to speak Spanish. But after that 1947 law, Puerto Rican voters elected Luis Muñoz Marín to begin what would become a transformative governorship.

Even as more recent governors have resigned in disgrace, democratic self-government in Puerto Rico has remained. But that could change. Next week, the Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a case that could radically undermine the ability of over four million American citizens — in Puerto Rico, other territories and even the District of Columbia — to elect their own chief executives.

The court is being asked to decide whether a constitutional provision that ordinarily limits Congress applies when Congress legislates for a territory. That provision, the appointments clause, requires all “officers of the United States” to be appointed by a specified procedure, typically by the president with Senate confirmation. Because of this clause, it would be unconstitutional for Congress to allow voters to elect the attorney general or secretary of state; those officers must be appointed and confirmed. But on the assumption that the appointments clause doesn’t apply to territories or the District of Columbia, Congress allowed for the election of Puerto Rico’s governor in 1947 and the district’s mayor in 1973.

Congress’s grant of self-determination was, paradoxically, justified by a series of Supreme Court decisions that were grounded in imperialism and white supremacy. Those decisions held that constitutional provisions that normally limit Congress’s powers don’t apply in the capital district or territories. But over the years, those rulings also led to laws that have allowed for the dignity of self-rule in those places. 

In 1820, for example, the court held that the needs of “the American empire” allowed Congress to tax district and territorial residents without also giving them voting representatives in Congress. “Representation is not made the foundation of taxation,” Chief Justice John Marshall explained without irony, despite having fought in a revolution premised on that issue.

And in the infamous Insular Cases of the early 20th century, the court allowed Congress to disregard the Bill of Rights when legislating for the territories of Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The court maintained that “the uncivilized parts” of those territories “were wholly unfitted to exercise” these rights, and Congress needed the discretion to decide when the islanders were ready.

But the one silver lining of Congress’s relatively unrestricted discretion to act in the District of Columbia and territories has been that Congress has had the same unrestricted discretion to establish democratic governments there.

For example, the Constitution normally prohibits Congress from delegating its lawmaking powers to a local government. Congress couldn’t allow the Cleveland City Council to enact new federal laws. But the Supreme Court has held that this “nondelegation doctrine” doesn’t apply in the territories or the District of Columbia. Accordingly, Congress approved a constitution for Puerto Rico in 1952 and home rule for the capital district in 1973, delegating to both local governments the power to pass laws for which Congress otherwise would be responsible.

Nevertheless, Congress hasn’t always been consistent about respecting this home rule — as next week’s Supreme Court case illustrates. 

The case will review a 2016 law known as PROMESA, in which Congress created an unelected oversight board to restructure Puerto Rico’s multibillion-dollar debt. Describing the board as an agency of the Puerto Rican government, Congress even gave it the power to revise the territory’s laws. This return to colonial supervision angered not only many Puerto Ricans, but also some creditors. The creditors went to court, asserting that the board’s members were appointed in violation of the appointments clause.

A Federal District Court judge rejected the creditors’ argument on the ground that the appointments clause doesn’t apply in the territories. But in February, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed that ruling, holding that Congress is bound by the appointments clause everywhere.

The First Circuit considered the unwelcome possibility that if the appointments clause applies to Puerto Rico, it might also require the appointment, not election, of Puerto Rico’s governor or the District of Columbia’s mayor. But it distinguished these officers on the ground that the appointments clause applies only to “officers of the United States.” The court maintained that the governor of Puerto Rico, by contrast, is an officer “of the territory,” suggesting that her authority comes from the Puerto Rican constitution and not federal law.

But only three years ago, in another case involving Puerto Rico, the Supreme Court emphasized that the Puerto Rican Constitution is United States law: Congress approved that Constitution and can amend it, which Congress effectively did with PROMESA. Territorial officers thus are officers of the United States in the same way that William Barr, as attorney general, is both an officer of the Department of Justice and of the United States.

Moreover, the First Circuit’s distinction between territorial law and the United States law wouldn’t save the Washington mayor, whose authority undoubtedly comes from federal law. So if the Supreme Court upholds the First Circuit’s application of the appointments clause to Puerto Rico without offering a new explanation of why the clause shouldn’t also apply to its governor, it could doom territorial — and district — home rule.

The court could, of course, overturn its noxious territorial precedent, giving district and territorial residents the same constitutional rights as other Americans to representation in Congress and everything else. Failing this wholesale revision, the court should explicitly preserve Congress’s power to create the conditions for local self-government in the territories and the District of Columbia. Otherwise, in the name of freeing Puerto Rico from unconstitutional oversight by an unelected board, the court might make Washington and the territories even more constitutionally anomalous and less democratic than they are now.

The promise of 1947 would, decades later, be broken.

Nikolas Bowie is an assistant professor at Harvard Law School, where he teaches constitutional and local government law.

October 6, 2019

White Evangelicals Love Trump and They Know Why, Race and Political Power


By Anthea Butler

Liberals have a tendency to wring their hands at the strong support President Donald Trump — he of the three wives and multiple affairs, and a tendency to engage in exceedingly un-Christian-like behavior at the slightest provocation — continues to receive from the white evangelical community. White evangelical support for Donald Trump is still at 73 percent, and more than 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for him in 2016.
But focusing on the disconnect between Trump's personal actions and the moral aspects of their faith misses the issue that keeps their support firm: racism. Modern evangelicals' support for this president cannot be separated from the history of evangelicals' participation in and support for racist structures in America.
Evangelicals, in religious terminology, believe that Jesus Christ is the savior of humanity. They have a long history in America and include a number of different groups, including Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists and nondenominational churches. After the schism among the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians in the 1850s over slavery, conservative denominations like the Southern Baptists — who defended slavery through their readings of scripture — came into being. And because the primary schisms between northern and southern denominations was over the issues of slavery, in the pre- and post-Civil War years, African American Protestants formed their own denominations. 
Evangelical denominations formed from these splits in the South were usually comprised of people who had made money from slavery or supported it. After the Civil War, many were more likely to have supported the Ku Klux Klan and approved of (or participated in) lynching. The burning cross of the KKK, for instance, was a symbol of white Christian supremacy, designed both to put fear into the hearts of African Americans and to highlight the supposed Christian righteousness of the terrorist act.
During the civil rights movement, many white evangelicals either outright opposed Martin Luther King Jr. or, like Billy Graham, believed that racial harmony would only come about when the nation turned to God. in the 1970s, evangelicalism became synonymous with being "born again" and also against abortion and, with the rise of the Moral Majority in the late 1970s, they began to seek not only moral, but political power.
Ronald Reagan, who also counted evangelicals among his most vociferous supporters, started his presidential campaign on the platform of states’ rights from Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman were murdered by several Klansmen with the participation of local law enforcement in 1964, while attempting to register African Americans to vote. Decades later, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the evangelical leader, opposed sanctions on South Africa's apartheid regime and insultedBishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Prize Peace winner, as a "phony." 
After 9/11, many evangelicals vilified Islam and created cottage industries and ministries promoting Islamophobia. And when Barack Obama was elected president, they regrouped, bought guns and became Tea Partiers who promoted fiscal responsibility and indulged in birtherism, promoted by no less than the son of Billy Graham, Franklin.
Still, evangelicals have worked to make a good show of repenting for racism. From the racial reconciliation meetings of the 1990s to today, they have dutifully declared racism a sin, and Southern Baptists have apologized again for their role in American slavery — most recently in 2018 via a document outlining their role
But statements are not enough. Proving how disconnected they are from their statements about atoning for the sin of racism, the 2019 Annual Convention of the Southern Baptists was opened with a gavel owned by John A. Broadus, a slaveholder, white supremacist and the founder of their seminary. In the meantime, the most visible Southern Baptist pastor, Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas, recently said of Trump that “he does not judge people by the color of their skin, but whether or not they support him,” calling that "the definition of colorblind." (Jeffress is such a supporter of Trump that he regularly extols him on Fox News, and even wrote a special song for Trump’s Campaign, "Make America Great Again.")
So it's not surprising that white evangelicals supported the Muslim ban, are the least likely to accept refugees into the country (according to the Pew Foundation) and, though a slim majority oppose it, are the denomination most likely to support Trump's child separation policy. White evangelicals certainly are not concerned with white supremacy, because they are often white supremacists.
And Trump appeals to these evangelicals because of his focus on declension, decline, and destruction, which fits into evangelical beliefs about the end times. When Trump used the term “American carnage” in his inaugural address, evangelicals listened; they too, believed America is in decline. Their imagined powerlessness and the need for a strong authoritarian leader to protect them is at the root of their racial and social animus. Their persecution complex is a heady mix of their fear of “socialists,” Muslims, independent women, LGBT people, and immigration. Their feelings of fragility, despite positions of power, make them vote for people like Donald Trump — and morally suspect candidates like Roy Moore. Rhetoric, not morality, drives their voting habits. 
All of this has made a mockery of white evangelical protestations about morality and the family. Moral issues once drove white evangelical votes but, first when Obama was elected and then when the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriage in June of 2015, what remained was their fear. Trump promised justices and a return to a time when they felt less fear, and he delivered, at least on the former. White evangelical fealty to him is firm. Evangelicals in America are not simply a religious group; they are a political group inexorably linked to the Republican Party.
Trump delivered evangelicals from the shame of losing, and they will back him again in 2020 to avoid losing again. So perhaps we should take evangelicals at their word that they will support Trump come hell or high water, rather than twisting ourselves into knots trying to figure out why.

August 4, 2019

Trump Obamare Changes Goes After The Health of Gay, Transgender in The US

LGBTQ rights have come a long way in the U.S. But the community still faces threats in the form of legalization, discrimination and even violence. Just the FAQs, USA TODAY

Trump's proposal would put LGBTQ lives at risk. The right to health cannot be obfuscated by the political or social beliefs of others. 

Katherine Archuleta , Opinion contributor

As a former director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management under President Barack Obama, I oversaw the federal government’s 2-million-strong civilian workforce on everything from human resource policy to retirement benefits to health care. This included implementation of all regulations outlined in the Affordable Care Act, including Section 1557 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in certain health programs or activities.
This section covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity, but the Trump-Pence White House has needlessly proposed a new regulation that would cruelly strip the ACA of specific protections for LGBTQ patients, specifically transgender people. This proposed regulation callously puts lives at risk, and it’s imperative the American people make their voices heard on why this it is dangerous and unacceptable.
On June 14, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a proposed regulation based on a court's outrageous claim that the ACA's protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity is “likely unlawful.”  This initiated a 60-day public comment period that runs through Aug. 12. In a press release sent out by HHS, Roger Severino, the Director of the department's Office of Civil Rights, offered this ratonale: “When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform.”

Denying care over personal beliefs 

This is a bad faith and incorrect view of “sex discrimination,” but it’s unsurprising coming from Mr. Severino. His long history of attacking the civil rights of LGBTQ people and women includes calling same-sex marriage part of a “radical” agenda, defending the abusive practice of so-called “conversion therapy, and espousing anti-choice opinions, even at the expense of an individual’s health care. He has said that being LGBTQ is “against your biology” and stated that sexual orientation, when compared to race, is an issue of “character.” 
This is not a person who prioritizes the health and safety of all Americans but, rather, consistently seeks to push his personal beliefs on the citizens who look to him for quality and safety in our their health care system.
Over the past two decades, federal courts have made it clear that sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers LGBTQ people due to discrimination based on sex stereotyping. Numerous federal agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, have reaffirmed this interpretation and incorporated it into their policies.
Simply put, there is longstanding precedent for ensuring LGBTQ people, particularly transgender people, are free from discrimination in health care spaces, which makes this administration’s attacks on the medical access of LGBTQ people all the more heinous.

Don't inflict harm on LGBTQ people

All medical access for all LGBTQ people and their loved ones is affected by this proposed regulation and the blanket "religious freedom" exemptions it would offer: a gay man who goes into the emergency room with a broken arm, a lesbian with cancer, a bisexual person with diabetes, a trans child getting immunizations prior to the start of the school year. This regulation goes against everything medical science has fought to make clear: that the right to health cannot be obfuscated by the political or social beliefs of others.
In a 2009 survey echoed in later studies, Lambda Legal found that 56% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people and 70% of transgender and gender non-conforming people reported experiencing discrimination by health care providers — including refusal of care, harsh language and physical roughness because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a free society that places human rights and life above personal beliefs and petty differences, that is unacceptable.
It is imperative the public submit comments urging the Trump-Pence White House and HHS to abandon this reckless proposed regulation that would inflict cruel and unnecessary harm on marginalized communities.
Katherine Archuleta is a founding partner at Dimension Strategies and was the director of the Office of Personnel Management under President Barack Obama. Follow her on Twitter: @Archuleta2012
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