Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Last Call For The Real Bathroom Fight

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch's statement on Monday about transgender rights as the government sued North Carolina over HB2 is a major change from previous administrations and even a massive about face for this administration.  For the first time the federal government's stated position on transgender rights is that the administration not only acknowledges that those rights inherently exist, but that the DoJ will fight for them as vigorously as any other instances of civil rights.

At the heart of the showdown is whether the bill’s bathroom provision -- which prohibits trans people from using the bathrooms in government buildings and public schools that match their gender identity -- is a violation of civil rights laws that bar discrimination based on one’s sex. 
The dueling lawsuits could prove to be a history-making moment. Since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the next frontier in LGBT law is the rights of transgender people, and the North Carolina ruling sets the stage for what could be a landmark ruling. 
The Justice Department is suing the state in its capacity as an employer, alleging that implementing HB2 will discriminate against transgender state employees. The Justice Department specifically targeted the University of North Carolina and the state Department of Public Safety. Its continued threats to withhold federal funding from the university and law enforcement suggest the Obama administration is pulling no punches when it comes to blocking the law. 
In press conference Monday announcing the DOJ lawsuit, Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the legislation "state-sponsored discrimination against transgender individuals, who simply seek to engage in the most private of functions in a place of safety and security – a right taken for granted by most of us." 
“We see you. We stand with you. We will do everything we can to protect you going forward,” Lynch vowed in her press conference, speaking directly to transgender Americans. 
HB2 was rushed through the North Carolina state house in March as other state legislatures mulled and ultimately abandoned similar bills, for fears of legal sanctions and/or public relations nightmare. At the time, it was called one of the most anti-LGBT laws passed by a state legislature, and the feds have now made clear they don't intend to sit on the sidelines. 
So long as there’s a Democrat in the White House, you can expect this case to continue on until there’s a final ruling on the merits, likely by the court of the appeals, possibly by even the Supreme Court,” Winkler said.

And that raises yet another difference between Clinton/Sanders and Trump this November, one that is vital to remember.

It's outstanding to see the Obama administration finally stop treating open trans discrimination like it's merely a workplace disagreement or something that needs a paragraph from HR in the employee handbook, and start regarding it for what it truly is: a fundamental curtailing of civil rights that requires the full resources of the Justice Department to remedy, complete with significant punitive damages for states that do not comply.

The billions at stake in federal funding is definitely the hammer the government is using here to get North Carolina to drop the law, and as far as I'm concerned, AG Lynch and her team needs to swing away until NC Republicans are bloodied and bowed. Remember, NC Republicans are arguing that they not only believe transgender folks are not a "protected class" but that the state should be able to legally discriminate against anyone who isn't specifically a member of a "protected class".

That's abhorrently stupid and depressing on a number of levels, and it can't be allowed to stand.

The Hill In The Mountains

EJ Dionne notes that Hillary Clinton understands where she's hurting vote-wise, and that's in Rust Belt counties that went for Dubya, McCain, and Romney.  She thinks she can win them back to the blue side, and given how awful Trump is, maybe she has a shot.

The first rule in elections is: Go for the votes you can get. By that measure, Hillary Clinton is right to try to put the old Obama coalition on steroids. 
Donald Trump will expand the Democrats’ opportunities among nonwhite Americans and produce Clinton landslides among Latinos. These groups have good reason to fear and despise the man who has demeaned them. 
And watch Republicans for Clinton become a major force in American politics, an alliance of mostly well-off, well-educated voters — plus women of all classes. The members of the party of Lincoln who support Clinton will see that against Trump she is the safe and even, by the non-ideological definition of the term, conservative choice. 
But Clinton also has to challenge Trump for at least a share among angry and struggling white, working-class voters with real economic grievances. Their votes matter if she wants to keep Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania in the Democratic column
Clinton’s visit to Appalachia last week reflected this realism, but it was about more than electoral calculation, because she is highly unlikely to carry either West Virginia (most Democrats think she’ll lose its primary on Tuesday to Bernie Sanders) or Kentucky this fall. Believe it or not, there are moral obligations in electoral politics. This is why her Appalachian outreach represented one of the admirable moments of her campaign. A progressivism that writes off the white working class is not worthy of being called progressive.

Technically that's right.  But if President Obama has taught the Democrats one thing, it's that the white working class is no longer necessary for a Democrat to win the White House, either.  On the other hand, if the Democrats want to break the GOP grip on these states at the local and state level, the white working class votes in these states are needed, and besides as Dionne says, it's a moral obligation as well.

It's a good long-term strategy unless you think it's a good idea for Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and WV to be under or near total Republican control.  And as someone living in Kentucky, having Democrats at a national level pay attention to Democrats at the state level here instead of the usual condescending "why the hell don't you just move to a blue state already since you're surrounded by hicks and racists" is a good idea.

There are people who can be won over by the Democrats again, and unlike Republicans trying to "win over" black and Latino voters, Democrats are honest about trying to do so.

Brazil Nuts

OK, things just got seriously complicated in the ongoing impeachment trial of Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, as the new acting Speaker of Brazil's House has suddenly trashed last month's impeachment vote as invalid.

The acting speaker of the lower house of Brazil's Congress annulled the impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff on Monday and called for a new vote in the chamber. 
Waldir Maranhao, who took over as acting speaker last week, said there were procedural flaws in the April 17 vote in the chamber that accepted impeachment charges against Rousseff. 
After last month's lower house vote, the impeachment process was passed to the Senate, where a Senate committee recommended on Friday that the leftist president be put on trial by the full chamber for breaking budget laws. 
In a news release, Maranhao said the impeachment process should be returned by the Senate so that the lower house can vote again. 
It remained unclear whether his decision could be overruled by the Supreme Court, the Senate or a majority in the house. 
Brazilian markets fell sharply after the surprising decision was announced. 
Rousseff, who denies wrongdoing, has been fighting for her political survival for several months as opposition congressmen push aggressively for her ouster.

The full Senate had been expected to vote to put Rousseff on trial on Wednesday, which would immediately suspend her for the duration of a trial that could last six months. During that period, Vice President Michel Temer would replace her as acting president.

Umm...so...this is kinda looking like a "major constitutional crisis" brewing here, or am I overreacting here to what would be another vote that would still end up with impeachment and a Senate trial?

But that was yesterday.  Today is a different story.

The drive to oust President Dilma Rousseff is back on track after the head of the lower house reversed a decision that had earlier threatened to throw the entire impeachment process into chaos. 
Lawmaker Waldir Maranhao released a statement in the dead of night revoking his own call to annul impeachment sessions in the lower house. That puts the Senate back in the spotlight, with a vote on whether to put the unpopular president on trial still slated for Wednesday. If successful, it would temporarily remove her from office. Rousseff is charged with illegally using state banks to plug a hole in the budget. 
Yesterday’s wrangling jolted investors and underscored the intensity of a power struggle that is sure to heat up even further in coming days. Since proceedings began in Congress late last year, legislators have engaged in shoving matches over procedural debates and Rousseff has accused her vice president of plotting a coup against her. The Supreme Court has also been forced to step in on several occasions to clarify legal questions and further involvement by the highest court can’t be ruled out.

TV footage showed anti-impeachment protesters burning tires to stop the traffic in some of Sao Paulo’s main roads, including that leading to the international airport. Government supporters have scheduled more protests for the next few days. 
"Even the best laws aren’t good enough for the scale of this battle," said Carlos Pio, a professor of politics at the University of Brasilia. "The impeachment process will continue and with it the noise, challenges and uncertainty that we’ve been seeing."

I don't know enough about Brazilian politics to know the answer to what's going on here, but I want to.  Things are getting crazy in Brazil and the Rio Summer Games are just weeks away.  Hell, the country may not have a government by then.

We'll see.


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