Q&A: Impact of Supreme Court decision on transgender troops
By JESSICA GRESKO
Wednesday, January 23
WASHINGTON (AP) — A sharply divided Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to go ahead with its plan to restrict military service by transgender men and women while court challenges continue.
The high court split 5-4 on Tuesday in issuing orders allowing the plan to take effect for now, with the court’s five conservatives greenlighting it and its four liberal members saying they wouldn’t have.
Some questions and answers about what the high court did:
Q: What’s the impact on transgender men and women currently serving in the military?
A: That depends on the individual’s circumstances. In short, though, the justices cleared the way for the Trump administration to require that transgender troops serve as members of their biological gender unless they began a gender transition under less restrictive Obama administration rules.
Until a few years ago service members could be discharged from the military for being transgender. That changed in 2016 when the Obama administration began allowing transgender men and women already serving in the military to undergo gender transition if they were diagnosed with gender dysphoria, distress associated with their biological gender.
The military has said more than 900 men and women have received that diagnosis. They can continue to serve after transitioning.
The Trump administration’s policy would essentially freeze that number, however. Once the policy takes effect, currently serving transgender troops who didn’t previously step forward and obtain a gender dysphoria diagnosis will have to serve in their biological gender. A 2016 survey estimated that about 1 percent of active-duty service members, about 9,000 men and women, identify as transgender.
Q: What’s the impact on transgender men and women not yet in the military but who want to join?
A: Individuals who have transitioned from their biological gender won’t be allowed to enlist under the Trump administration’s policy. That’s a shift. Under previous court orders, transgender individuals had been allowed to enlist in the military since Jan. 1, 2018. Still, advocacy groups had said that process was slow, with only a handful of individuals thought to have completed the process.
Q: What did the Supreme Court say in allowing the Trump administration’s policy to take effect for now?
A: Not much. The order from the court was brief and procedural, with no elaboration from the justices.
Q: What happens next?
A: That’s up to the Trump administration and courts. While the Trump administration has the go-ahead to implement its policy for now, it’s unclear how quickly that will happen. Court challenges will continue, and the cases could eventually get back to the Supreme Court on the merits of the case, whether the Trump administration policy is legal. It’s very unlikely, however, that would happen before the Supreme Court recesses for the summer in late June.
Q: Does the Supreme Court’s action reflect anything about its current makeup?
A: Not necessarily. When Justice Anthony Kennedy retired last year and was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the assumption was that the court would move to the right and become more conservative. But Kennedy biographer Frank Colucci said he doesn’t think Tuesday’s outcome would necessarily have been any different if Kennedy had remained on the court.
Kennedy was deferential to the authority of the president, particularly in the military context, Colucci said. As an appeals court judge in 1980 Kennedy wrote a decision upholding Navy regulations that resulted in the discharge of gay and lesbian sailors. Kennedy wrote that finding the regulations constitutional was “distinct from a statement that they are wise.”
Not much is known about Kennedy’s views on transgender issues. As a Supreme Court justice, he sided in 2016 with more conservative colleagues in agreeing to put on hold a ruling in favor of a transgender high school student challenging his school board’s bathroom policy. But the court never reached a decision in the case after the Trump administration pulled back federal guidance advising schools to let transgender students use the bathroom of their chosen gender.
Week 5: Shutdown votes set up political test for Senate
By ALAN FRAM and ANDREW TAYLOR
Wednesday, January 23
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate leaders agreed to hold votes this week on dueling proposals to reopen shuttered federal agencies, forcing a political reckoning for senators grappling with the longest shutdown in U.S. history: Side with President Donald Trump or vote to temporarily end the shutdown and keep negotiating.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., set up the two showdown votes for Thursday, a day before some 800,000 federal workers are due to miss a second paycheck.
One vote will be on his own measure, which reflects Trump’s offer to trade border wall funding for temporary protections for some immigrants. It was quickly rejected by Democrats. The second vote is set for a bill approved by the Democratic-controlled House reopening government through Feb. 8, with no wall money, to give bargainers time to talk.
In the Democratic-controlled House, Wednesday will bring more votes on legislation to reopen the government in line with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s demand to end the shutdown before negotiations begin. Pelosi has shown no sign of yielding and Democrats hold the upper hand in public opinion — polls show Trump gets most of the blame for the shutdown.
McConnell has rejected the House missives so far. And both Senate measures are expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to pass, leaving little hope they represent the clear path out of the mess. But the plan represents the first test of Senate Republicans’ resolve behind Trump’s insistence that agencies remain closed until Congress approves $5.7 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. For Democrats, the votes will show whether there are any cracks in the so-far unified rejection of Trump’s demand.
Democrats on Tuesday ridiculed McConnell’s bill, which included temporarily extended protections for “Dreamer” immigrants but also harsh new curbs on Central Americans seeking safe haven in the U.S.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the GOP plan’s immigration proposals were “even more radical” than their past positions.
“The president’s proposal is just wrapping paper on the same partisan package and hostage taking tactics,” offering to temporarily restore programs Trump himself tried to end in exchange for wall funding, Schumer said.
McConnell accused Democrats of preferring “political combat with the president” to resolving the partial federal shutdown, which stretched into its 33rd day Wednesday. He said Democrats were prepared to abandon federal workers, migrants and all Americans “just to extend this run of political theater so they can look like champions of the so-called resistance” against Trump.
The confrontational tone underscored that there remained no clear end in sight to the closure.
The upcoming vote on the Democratic plan marked a departure for McConnell, who had vowed to allow no votes on shutdown measures unless Trump would sign them.
The White House views its latest offer as a test of whether Democratic leaders can hold their members together in opposition, said a person familiar with White House thinking who was not authorized to speak publicly. The administration also wants to show they are willing to negotiate, hoping it will push more blame onto Democrats, who are opposing negotiations until the government reopens. Public polls show Trump is taking the brunt of the blame from voters so far.
“How long are they going to continue to be obstructionists and not solve the problem and not reopen the government?” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of Democrats.
One freshman, Democrat Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia, a state that’s home to many federal workers, was circulating a draft letter Tuesday urging Pelosi to propose a deal that would reopen the government and then consider border security legislation — including holding votes on Trump’s demand for wall money — by the end of February. A similar effort was underway last week by a bipartisan group of senators.
McConnell’s bill largely reflects the proposal Trump described to the nation in a brief address Saturday. It would reopen federal agencies, revamp immigration laws and provide $5.7 billion to start building his prized border wall with Mexico — a project Democrats consider an ineffective, wasteful monument to a ridiculous Trump campaign promise.
The measure would provide a three-year extension of protections against deportation for 700,000 people covered by the Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Democrats want far more to be protected — in negotiations last year Trump proposed extending the safeguards to 1.8 million people, including many who’d not yet applied — and want the program’s coverage for so-called “Dreamers” to be permanent.
Trump initially tried terminating the Obama-era DACA program, which shields people brought to the U.S. illegally as children but has been blocked by federal judges.
The GOP bill would revive, for three years, protections for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua who fled natural disasters or violence in their countries. Trump has ended that Temporary Protected Status program for those and several other countries.
Republicans estimated the proposal would let 325,000 people remain in the U.S. But the GOP proposal contains new curbs, providing those protections only to those who are already in the U.S. legally and who earn at least 125 percent of the federal poverty limit.
The bill would also, for the first time, require minors seeking asylum from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to process their applications at facilities the State Department is to establish in several Central American countries. Other new conditions include a limit of 15,000 of these minors who could be granted asylum. Currently, many asylum seekers apply as they’re entering the U.S. and can remain here as judges decide their request, which can take several years.
As a sweetener, the Republican measure also contains $12.7 billion for regions hit by hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters. The Democratic bill also includes the disaster aid.
One White House official said Trump was open to counter-offers from Democrats. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said Trump was also willing to use his proposed temporary extensions for “Dreamers” as a way to seek long-term deal.
The official said Trump would be willing to seek at least permanent legal status for “Dreamers,” but probably not a path to citizenship.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Jill Colvin, Catherine Lucey, Kevin Freking, Matthew Daly and Laurie Kellman contributed.
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. government shutdown: https://apnews.com/GovernmentShutdown
How to show gratitude to TSA workers
January 23, 2019
Author: Jeremy David Engels, Sherwin Early Career Professor in the Rock Ethics Institute, and Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences, Pennsylvania State University
Disclosure statement: Jeremy David Engels does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Pennsylvania State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
TSA workers are usually among the least-liked government employees. But these days many travelers passing through airports are taking a moment to express their gratitude to the furloughed workers putting in their hours without pay as the partial government shutdown continues.
In my research as a scholar of communication, as I outline in my book, “The Art of Gratitude.” I can tell you that gratitude matters. The words we use to describe our emotions are important, as they influence how we and others feel.
Here are my three rules for how to practice gratitude.
1. Practice gratitude every day
Two recent books – historian Diana Butler Bass’ “Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks” and journalist A.J. Jacobs’ “Thanks A Thousand: A Gratitude Journey” – share details of the personal, social and health benefits of gratitude.
These books recount how gratitude can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and make people feel happier and more at home in the world. In general, research shows that the practice of gratitude reduces suffering and promotes individual well-being.
So the practice of gratitude each day is important – but it also requires the right philosophy.
2. Avoid the language of debt
Many of us regularly say “I owe you one,” “I owe you a debt of gratitude,” or some other phrase that means basically the same thing.
In doing so, gratitude becomes a kind of a debt incurred during daily life.
The field of positive psychology studies what makes life most worth living. According to the positive psychologist Robert Emmons, to be grateful “is to feel indebted.” Paraphrasing Emmons, when someone does me a favor or gives me a gift, the emotion of gratitude encourages me to think of it as a debt that I need to repay.
The trouble with the language of debt is that it transforms how we talk about gratitude into a transaction. Gratitude becomes a daily practice of counting and keeping score. People then get good at seeing their lives as a series of debts that must be repaid. But life is not a debt or a series of debts.
According to Aristotle in his “Nicomachean Ethics,” it is natural for people to despise feeling indebted to others. And so, he contends, it is also natural for people to turn away from relationships with others if those relationships serve to create additional debts.
3. Recognize interconnectedness
In addition to being a scholar, I am a yoga teacher. My academic research is influenced profoundly by yoga philosophy. Yoga is a practice that aims to reduce suffering. According to the yoga scholar Michael Stone, “the term ‘yoga’ connotes the basic unity and interconnectedness of all of life.”
In America, it is common to speak of self-reliance. But no person succeeds alone. Everyone is supported. The yogic practice of gratitude, or “santosha,” encourages practitioners to acknowledge and give thanks for the many forms of support that allow them to live their lives.
To breathe is to take in the same air that others breathe; to stand is to stand on the same earth that others stand on. Without the air, or the earth, shared by all, we wouldn’t be here. The practice of yogic gratitude encourages people to recognize that they are part of the world, not separate from it.
It also teaches people to recognize that to reduce their suffering they must also work to reduce the suffering of those around them. Often people don’t see it this way, but there is no injustice that affects someone else that does not also in some way affect each one of us too.
Ultimately, it is heart-warming to see Americans giving thanks, collecting donations, and providing food to government workers affected by the shutdown.
But, true gratitude is a practice of recognizing our interconnectedness – that we are all in this together. If people practice the three rules of gratitude, perhaps they can also recognize the unfairness of asking people to work without pay and pledge to fight this injustice together.
TrumPutin: Who’s tired of winning now?
by Tom H. Hastings
One of the most brutal dictators on Earth, Vladimir Putin, is a happy despot these days. His boy Trump has been performing even better than commanded. Yes, we know from past pondering that Putin was getting some of the joy he ordered up, but consider how his smirk is now an uncontrollable grin as he reflects on our Trump-inflicted nation, his enemy:
· Longest shutdown of the US government in history. Putin’s wish is Trump’s command.
· Trump, it turns out, made several shady backdoor attempts to get the US out of NATO, Trump’s Ultimate Wishlist Premier Item.
· Trump’s tariff trade wars are enhancing the negative economic impacts of the government shutdown that contributes to a generalized and worsening US global economic position, thus strengthening Russia’s position.
· While the media are focused on the big items, Trump’s minions are weakening environmental laws, lowering educational standards, wrecking agricultural markets, harming national health care, and attacking our time-honored free press. In short, the best of what the Founders tried to write into our Constitution is now being actively degraded at virtually every turn, another big win for any foreign power trying to become a regional or even global hegemony, Putin’s dream, certainly.
· Iran’s stock is now rising as it appears to be the reasonable partner to the EU and all the other signatories to the Iran nuclear deal that Trump pulled out of, and of course the other despot client of Putin’s in the Middle East—Basher al-Assad—is sitting pretty with Trump’s stumble-wobble in Syria. Putin wins again, completely due to Trump. The list goes on.
A growing number of analysts are noting that Putin is going to get tired of winning (remember Trump’s moronic campaign claim that “you”—that is, his base supporters at his 2016 rallies—will win so much you’ll get “tired of winning”?).
Does Trump really answer to Putin competently or is he just so incompetent that he just happens to be achieving everything that a hostile foreign power could want? Does it really make a difference? How much more of Trump’s “winning” can Americans take? Washington Post analyst James Hohmann sums up the view on Russian hacking and attacking the American electorate in 2016:
We don’t know exactly how much Moscow spent supporting influence operations to impact the U.K. and U.S. elections in 2016, but it seems hard to overstate how good the Kremlin’s return has been on what Western intelligence agencies believe was a relatively modest investment.
So, we must ask ourselves and each other—and our federal elected officials and the judicial branch—what are we going to do about it? When? Do we come to a red line soon? What should it be?
One such line for me is the Mueller report. If it’s not released to the public, I’m ready to offer some nonviolent resistance. I hope to learn what others regard as a red line, beyond which Putin’s boy in the White House cannot go without evoking a nonviolent people power uprising. It may turn out to be the ultimate answer to such a massive failure by government.
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.