Saturday, January 21, 2017

News Tidbits

Washington Post: ‘God is not against building walls!’ The sermon Trump heard from Robert Jeffress before his inauguration.

Newsworks: Pennsylvania, Philly take steps to ban 'conversion therapy'

Sante Fe New Mexican: Bill would ban ‘conversion therapy’ for minors in New Mexico

Washington Blade: Anti-gay protesters picket gay-owned D.C. restaurant 

Pink News: UK: Tory MP suggests LGBT equality is making Christians ‘second-class citizens’

Commentary Tidbits

Wall of Separation: Here’s A Look At Trump’s Inaugural Prayer Team

Media Matters for America: "My Shirts Aren't Going To Iron Themselves": Conservatives Launch Attacks On Women’s March

Religion News Service: At the women’s march, the religious left resists Trump

Political Research Associates: What time is it?: Why we can’t ignore the momentum of the Right

Religious Right Figures Are Still Bitter About the Women's March (UPDATED)

I've been watching an ABC News livestream of the Women's March on Washington, and it's exhilarating. Hundreds of thousands of women and men have gathered in Washington D.C. to affirm that women's rights are human rights. Rally speakers have been electrifying, reminding the world of the struggles and victories of LGBTQ women, African American women, immigrant women, sexual assault survivors, and more.

Predictably, the Religious Right is bitter about the march. Already, Religious Right figures are posting acidic tweets on Twitter.

Let the right-wingers wallow in their bitterness. This is a historic day. Women are making their voices heard, and it's beautiful.

Anti-Abortion Activists Look Askance at Women's March

The Women's March on Washington is scheduled for Saturday, January 21st in Washington D.C. A rally featuring Angela Davis, Cecile Richards, Judith LeBlanc, Gloria Steinem, and others will begin at 10:00 a.m. between 3rd and 4th Streets southwest on Independence Avenue, followed by a march at 1:15 p.m. Over 600 sister marches at home and abroad have also taken place or will take place.

The Women's March website describes the gathering as an opportunity to affirm women's rights and human rights in the wake of the 2016 election.
"The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us - immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault - and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us."
Planned Parenthood and the National Resource Defense Council serve as the march's premier partners, with hundreds of other organizations listed as march partners as well.

Planned Parenthood's involvement in the march has provoked the ire of anti-abortion activists, as has the march's pro-choice stance. For example, writing for Life News, Steven Ertelt claimed that Womens March organizers "have already admitted that it is not designed to support women but rather to support abortion and the Planned Parenthood abortion business." Other anti-abortion figures took to social media to express their disapproval.

However, some anti-abortion activists have taken a different approach, arguing that anti-abortion sentiments and feminism are compatible, and anti-abortion people should have a place in the Women's March.

Members of this camp were galvanized by the march's exclusion of an anti-abortion group. According to the Atlantic, an anti-abortion group called New Wave Feminists was granted partnership in the march on January 13. Several days later, Women's March organizers removed New Wave Feminists from their list of partners. The Women's March released a statement on January 16th affirming its pro-choice stance.
"The Women's March platform is pro-choice and that has been our stance from day one. We want to assure all of our partners, as well as participants, that we are pro-choice as clearly stated in our Unity Principles. We look forward to marching on behalf of individuals who share the view that women deserve the right to make their own reproductive decisions.

The anti-choice organization in question is not a partner of the Women's March on Washington. We apologize for this error."
Anti-abortion activists have criticized the march for excluding them, insisting that feminism should include them under its tent. For example, Aimee Murphy, founder of Life Matters Journal, penned a commentary piece for the Washington Post in which she insisted that, "Planned Parenthood does not own women's rights." Murphy argued that anti-abortion activists have a place in the women's march, claiming that "It is possible to be both pro-life and a feminist ... and opposed to President-elect Donald Trump."

Carol Crossed and Eric Anthony also penned a commentary piece for the Washington Post. Crossed and Anthony argued that the Women's March should honor suffragettes such as Susan B. Anthony by welcoming anti-abortion participants. In a January 17th commentary piece at the Daily Signal, Katrina Trinko slammed "liberal feminists who constantly demand pro-life women be excluded" and claimed that "the pro-choice position of the “Women’s March” is excluding a lot of American women". In a Life News piece, Micaiah Bilger accused the march of "contradicting its self-described mission of inclusiveness" by keeping anti-abortion groups at arm's length.

I find these complaints less than compelling. Feminism is, among other things, the notion that women should be empowered to make their own decisions. Anti-abortion activists seek to prevent women from making choices about when and if they bear children, thereby disempowering them. Furthermore, reproductive rights are inseparable from other aspects of women's lives. If women cannot control when and if they have children, their educational attainment, employment, civic participation, and health all suffer. If we as a society want women to thrive, we must protect women's right to reproductive autonomy. We must strive for safe, affordable abortion access.

Groups that seek to curtail women's reproductive rights are a bad fit with a march championing women's rights. The Women's March has made a prudent decision to avoid partnerships with those who oppose women's reproductive self-determination.

Best Wishes to Everyone at the Women's March!

Safe travels to everyone heading to the Women's March in Washington D.C.!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Will Important Federal Programs Be On the Chopping Block?

On January 19th, the Hill reported that two members of Trump's transition team, Russ Vought and John Gray, were discussing budget cuts with the White House budget office. The proposed budget cuts, which would reportedly reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years, are alarming.

The proposed budget cuts listed in the Hill article include:

  • Privatization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

  • Elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities

  • Major funding reductions for the Department of Energy and the Department of Commerce.

  • Funding cuts and program eliminations for the Departments of Justice, State, and Transportation

It gets worse. Vought and Gray previously worked for the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, according to the Hill. The proposed budget changes strongly resemble those described in a budget "blueprint" published last year by the Heritage Foundation*, the Hill reports. In The Budget Book: 106 Ways to Reduce the Size & Scope of Government, the Heritage Foundation proposed even more horrifying budget cuts, including:

  • Elimination of all Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grants

  • Elimination of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

  • Elimination of grants within the Office of Justice Programs

  • Elimination of Titles II, VI, and VIII of the Higher Education Act

  • Phasing out Head Start

  • Elimination of the Renewable Fuel Standard, regional EPA programs, the EPA's environmental justice programs, and multiple EPA climate programs
After the inauguration, Americans must keep a close eye on the Trump administration's budget proposals. If the administration's proposed budget conforms to the Heritage Foundation's budget blueprint, vital crime victim services, educational programs, environmental programs, and stewards of the arts would be on the chopping block. Free expression, media, public safety, and the educational attainment of the next generation would all suffer greatly. This outcome is unacceptable.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Chicago Tribune: Cutting the NEA is first move to eliminate a free, open public realm

Media Matters for America: Corporation For Public Broadcasting: Reported Trump Privatization Plan Would Be “Devastating” To Public Media

The Hill: Arts groups gear up for fight over NEA

* Blueprint for a Balanced Budget 2.0, written by the Republican Study Committee, also warrants attention.

News Tidbits

New York Times: Inauguration Protests Held at a Trump Hotel and Elsewhere

The Hill: Police, protestors clash outside Press Club building in DC

Buzzfeed: Lawyers Are Descending On Washington To Help Protesters

Reuters: Head of Austrian far right to visit Washington at time of Trump inauguration

Pink News: Trump Education Secretary blames ‘clerical error’ for 13 years of ties to anti-LGBT groups

Gay Star News: Rick Santorum joins CNN as Senior Political Commentator

Commentary Tidbits

Salon: Donald Trump will adopt Heritage Foundation’s “skinny budget”

Washington Post: Here’s what we know about Trump Inauguration Day protests

The Salt Collective: The Evangelical Social Construction of Virginity

Huffington Post: Right Wing Media Blast Manning Sentence News With Outrageous Transphobia

Right Wing Watch: Trump Taps Anti-Gay, Anti-Catholic, Anti-Mormon Pastor Robert Jeffress For Prayer Service 

Right Wing Watch: Oath Keepers Coming To DC For ‘Covert’ Inauguration Protection Mission

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Obama's Commutation of Manning's Sentence Triggers Anger from the Right

Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Army intelligence analyst who was imprisoned for leaking military and diplomatic information to WikiLeaks, will be free this spring. According to the New York Times, President Obama commuted all but four months of Manning's 35-year prison sentence. Huffington Post reports that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange agreed to accept extradition to the U.S. if Manning received clemency, but only time will tell if he keeps his promise.

Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) announced that she was transgender in 2013 shortly after her sentencing, and her struggles while transitioning at the Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas have been well-documented. LGBTQ equality organizations such as Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality expressed relief at her commuted sentence. Unfortunately, Manning's struggles are not over. USA Today reports that Manning will lose her military health care benefits (including access to gender transition care at military medical facilities) under the terms of her dishonorable discharge.

Conservative commentators have criticized President Obama's clemency decision, and unfortunately, several have made no attempt to hide their transphobia. For example, National Review columnists David French and Andrew McCarthy, Charisma News writer Bob Eschliman, and American Conservative commentator Rod Dreher dead-named Manning and referred to her with masculine pronouns. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) repeatedly referred to Manning as "Mr. Manning" and "he" in a January 18th appearance on Family Research Council's Washington Watch. Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio did so as well in a January 17th Tweet, adding later that, "Bradley Manning will be a he until the day he dies. Ask any geneticist."

Other commentators used the Manning decision to belittle the LGBTQ rights movement. In a January 18th commentary piece, Family Research Council staff repeatedly used masculine pronouns in reference to Manning and claimed that her transgender status was a factor in President Obama's decision. The piece accused President Obama of pandering to "trans-activists" while neglecting national security.
"And anyone who suggests that Manning's sexuality had nothing to do with the decision hasn't been paying attention. If it didn't, the president would have commuted the sentences of others. After all, there's Robert Hannsen, who's serving 15 life terms without the possibility of parole for selling secrets to the Soviets. So is Aldrich Ames. And what about Jonathan Pollard, who served 28 years for giving helpful information to Israel, a U.S. ally? Maybe if they suffered from gender confusion, their sentences would have been commuted too! In the end, this is nothing but Barack Obama solidifying his legacy as the most LGBT-obsessed administration in U.S. history. Even halfway out the door, he's determined to give trans-activists another victory at the expense of American credibility and security."
Writing at Breitbart, Neil Munro claimed that President Obama's clemency decision and other "disastrous pro-transgender policies" was due to "the influence of gay-advocacy groups"  who have undertaken "social-engineering tasks". Commuting Manning's sentence was a way for President Obama to "cement his alliance with wealthy gays" for little political cost, Munro insisted.

During a conversation with Alex Marlow on the January 18th edition of Breitbart News Daily, Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council used the Manning commutation to bemoan women and transgender persons in combat. At the 1:47 mark, Boykin whined that "social experiments" like integration of women and transgender people force soldiers to endure horrors such as sitting in classrooms.
MARLOW: And you attribute this to political correctness toward the social justice warrior mentality that has really dominated the left-wing agenda of the Democratic party in recent years. You think it's purely to pander to that crowd of people?

BOYKIN: I think it is. I think it is absolutely associated with that. I think that the social experiments that we have seen forced on our military which have in all cases have degraded readiness, and they've degraded readiness because of all the training that goes with these things. When you, for example, put women in infantry units, you know, those warriors that are supposed to be training to win wars are forced to sit in hours and hours of classrooms on a repetitive basis, going through things like tolerance, integration of women, integration of transgenders, white privilege, and all of those kinds of things which just take away precious training time, when our young men and women should be preparing for war.
I will not speculate here on whether Manning's incarceration was just, nor will I discuss the merits of President Obama's decision. I will, however, condemn these commentators for their bigotry. Using Chelsea Manning's situation to promote transphobia is hateful and tasteless. Manning's incarceration, and all the suffering that came with it, sparked a national conversation about the plight of transgender people in detention facilities. Her struggle reminds us that transgender prisoners face unique struggles behind bars and are entitled to dignity and humane treatment. Using her commutation to mock transgender people and LGBTQ activists is disgraceful.

News Tidbits

Reuters: Trump election prompts U.S. mothers to warn children about assault: poll

CNN: Controversial megachurch pastor Eddie Long dies at 63 

LGBTQ Nation: Al Franken confronts Trump nominee over conversion therapy donations

The Advocate: Ben Carson: LGBT People Don't Deserve "Extra Rights"

Washington Blade: Activists plan queer dance party outside Mike Pence’s house