Transgender Military Service Ban Declared by Trump!

 

July 26.  The president sent three tweets on his Donald J. Trump Twitter account. “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…..  …..Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…. ….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.  Thank you.

Background:  The Obama administration had established the policy for transgender individuals to serve openly in the military in 2016 after a year of study and review.  The Pentagon commissioned the Rand Corporation to study possible effects of transgender service openly in the military.  They found. “it would have minimal impact on unit cohesion and  readiness . And health care costs would increase  an “infinitesimal 0.04-0.13 percent. There are between 2,000 to 11,000 active- duty  transgender troops serving among the 1.3 million active-duty military.

In June, 2017, Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, told president Trump he and military leaders would consider the 2016 policy for incoming transgender recruits  over the next six months.   Mattis and the Pentagon leaders appeared to have accepted that those already serving in the military would remain. Mattis was on vacation when Trump sent his three tweets. He and the Pentagon had not been told in advance of Trump’s decision.  It was leaked that Mattis “was appalled”  that active transgender troops, many overseas, learned from “tweets that  they were suddenly no longer welcome.”

President Trump and Republican lawmakers in Congress had been pressured by Tony Perkins , the president of the Family Research Council,  a leading Christian conservative group that had backed Trump during the campaign.  Perkins lobbied Trump and the lawmakers to oppose health costs for transgender military members.  The Coucil published daily prayers; “Grant repentance to President Trump and Secretary Mattis for even considering to keep this wicked policy in place.”

Another important issue for the president was the security spending measure that had a $1.6 billion price tag for The Wall,  one of his most important promises during the campaign. He was concerned transgender medical costs would be a distraction.

Reactions to the Transgender Ban:  If Trump sent his tweets to change the subject from the Russia investigation, he was very successful.  His tweets were the story of the day, resulting in coverage by all cable TV stations and major newspapers across the county and the world.  Typical headline: “Trump Surprises Military With a Transgender Ban. (New York Times.)   Trump drew condemnation from Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.  Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and Chairman  of the Foreign Services Committee, said, “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train and deploy to leave the military —regardless of their gender identity.” He added that Mr. Trump’s move was “yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made on Twitter.”  Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, and the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, noted the irony of the day of the announcement. He said, “President Trump is choosing to retreat in the march toward equality.”   “He sent the ban on the anniversary of President  Harry Truman’s order to  desegregate the United States Military in l947.”  Truman had served in the Army as a decorated officer in World War I.  Trump with multiple deferments  for a spur on his heel, never served in the U.S. military.

Civil rights protesters marched in New York City carrying RESIST signs in Times Square.  Panels on TV talk shows debated whether Trump had betrayed his campaign speeches when he called himself an ally of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.  General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at his confirmation hearing in late July, “ I am an advocate of every qualified person who can meet the physical standards to serve in our uniformed services to do so.”   OutServe, a non-profit group that represents, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the military vowed to sue immediately after they heard Trump’s tweets.  The executive director of OutServe, Matthew Thorn, said in an interview, “We have transgender individuals who serve in elite SEAL teams, who are working in a time of war to defend our country, and now you’re going to kick them out?”

Epilogue:  On Thursday, July 27, General Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the  Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a letter to the military service chiefs.  He said that the policy on who is allowed to serve would not change until the White House sends the Defense Department  new rules and the secretary of defense issues new guidelines. “In the meantime, we will continue to treat all our personnel with respect.”

…………………………………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Taking A Stand!

 

 

Ever since the War between Hamas and Israel erupted in early July, 2014, anti-Semitism has flared up in many European countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, and England.  At pro- Palestinian rallies in Berlin, Paris and London over the 20114 summer, protestors chanted, “Death to the Jews” and “Gas the Jews”. Israel was their enemy, but the slogans were aimed at all Jews.  In France with 500,000 Jewish citizens, eight synagogues were attacked in July; the one in Sarcelles, a suburb of Paris was fire-bombed by a mob of 400 chanting, “Death to Jews!”

 

On Sunday, September 14, 2014, The Central Council of Jews in Germany organized a rally against anti-Semitism at Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate.  Five thousand Germans, many wrapped in Israeli flags, came from all over the country to hear Chancellor Angela Merkel , President Joachim Gauck and leaders of both of Germany’s main Christian churches  pledge to fight a resurgence of anti-Semitism that was a terrible part of their Nazi past . Chancellor Merkel told the crowd, “That far more than 100,000 Jews are now living in Germany is something of a miracle. It’s a gift and it fills me with a deepest gratitude. That people in Germany are threatened and abused because of their Jewish appearance or their support for Israel is an outrageous scandal that we won’t accept.  It’s our national and civic duty to fight anti-Semitism.”

 

Angela Merkel spoke with the power and weight of Germany’s long history when she declared, “Jewish life is part of our identity and culture. Let us be unequivocally clear:  Whoever discriminates and ostracizes has me, all of us, and the majority of the people in Germany against them.”  Merkel took a stand against those Germans who were rekindling the hatred of Jews that had led to the Nazi extermination of six million Jewish men, women and children during the Holocaust.

 

Her clarion call brought to my mind the ringing words of Deborah E. Lipstadt, Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, when she took a stand against the writings of David Irving, a British Holocaust denier. Lipstadt had described Irving in one of her books as “a Holocaust denier” , and he then sued  her and her publisher, Penguin Books, in the British courts for libel.  Lipstadt  invested five years of her life in the complex legal struggle, saying, “I could not run from evil.”  Her determined and hard fought battle resulted in total victory on April 11, 2000. The charges of libel brought against her by Irving were completely thrown out by the British high court . The court not only rejected his entire argument, but also went on to call him a “racist” and “an anti-Semite.”  Irving’s reputation as a historian lay in shreds.

 

The story was front page news in papers around the world. I felt a great surge of joy at the time when I read the details of the court decision.  Lipstadt did share that her first reaction to Holocaust deniers had been incredulity and laughter at such a ridiculous assertion.  Then she found the deadliness of their purpose and its effects demanded that she take a stand against them. She did this with enormous resolve and brilliance in a five year struggle. To deny the Holocaust is a crime in Germany and certain other countries. It is not a crime in the United States where one sees Holocaust deniers listed as speakers on well known college campuses. Lipstadt has refused to debate the subject in these arenas or on news or talk shows. She firmly believes that “appearing with a denier gives the notion that there are two sides to this issue.”

 

The Lipstadt victory and her powerful words, “I could not run from evil” stirred memories of other times and other acts of taking a stand. Acts of courage and words of truth to power. In Amsterdam, in a quiet small park, there stands a colossal statue of a Dutch dock worker. His legs are planted astride and his great muscular arms are bent upwards as he clenches his fists in strength and defiance. The statue was erected after World War II by the small community of Jews who survived. They remembered the valiant dock workers who called a strike when the Nazis decreed that all Jews were to be rounded up and handed over. They stood in a phalanx across a nearby bridge to block the German advance. And the German tanks ran right over them. Their refusal to comply with the Nazi order is not forgotten. It is etched forever in the Dockworker, in his stance and in his face. They did not run from evil.

 

And I remember Pastor Martin Niemoller, a German Protestant minister, whose words are as true today as they were when he spoke them during the Nazi era. “First, they came for the Jews and I did not speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics and I did not speak up because I was not a Catholic. Then they came for the Communists and the trade unionists and I was not a member. So I did not speak up. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up.” Niemoller became a vociferous resistor of the Nazi regime and was imprisoned and sent to Dachau. He learned in the harshest possible way of the danger of remaining silent when evil was all around him.

 

When I was teaching at Atlantic Community College, Pastor Neimoller’s statement hung on my office door. Often, students asked me to tell them more about him and the times he lived in. In the late 60’s and throughout the 70’s, I would use his statement to heighten their awareness of the times they were living in. The Civil Rights Movement. The Women’s Movement. The War in Viet Nam. I would ask them, “How do you feel about prejudice and discrimination?”  “Does it affect you?”  “Are you involved in doing something about the issues you care about?” “Are you waiting until they “come for you” to make your voices heard?”

 

The words of Edmund Burke, the 18th century British statesman, limn the difference between those who speak out and those who do not. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  Chancellor Merkel’s challenge to the German people, and Deborah Lipstadt’s victory over Holocaust denial serve as high points in the ongoing struggle against the evil of lies and distortions of history… and current life.

 

We read a swirl of news coverage by the free press and cable news that covers what is happening in the White House and the Congress. Today’s top stories are headlined:  “Donald Trump Jr.s Meeting” and “Senate Health Care Bill in Trouble”. There are changes and contradictions daily from different sources.  The president continues to use Twitter as his main method of communication.  He has held only one formal press conference during his six months in office. Press briefings have been cancelled. Reporters use sources to build their stories.  Within The White House, many people leak contrasting points of view. Steve Bannon’s team versus Jared Kushner’s team… Reince Priebus, beleaguered chief of staff. … Vice President Pence. .. a succession of lawyers.  The fundamental question appears to be: “Is there anyone there who has the courage to speak Truth to Power?”

…………………………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

How To Stop Cyberattacks From Russia Before 2018 Midterm Elections

 

Prologue:  The first meeting of President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia took place at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany in early July. Putin had met with three American presidents over the years:  Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama before the much anticipated in-person opportunity to meet face to face with Trump. Putin has pursued a singular goal with all former presidents — to rebuild Russia to its former superpower status held by the Soviet Union.  George W. Bush said that he “looked deeply into Putin’s eyes and saw his soul.”  Barack Obama told Putin  to “Cut out meddling in our election!” as the tumultuous 2016 campaign unfolded.

The Trump-Putin meeting, planned for 30 minutes, lasted for two and a half hours.  It was restricted to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson , Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and two interpreters.  The six men sat in a semi-circle of armchairs with the presidents at the center, separated by a small low table.  A dramatic picture shows Trump speaking and Putin leaning toward him, with a warm, seductive  smile.  Later Tillerson said he had urged the president to hit Putin hard on the meddling issue. Yet,  he was stunned that Trump began abruptly, saying to Putin, “I’m going to get this out of the way. Did you do this?”  Putin replied “No. I did not.”

Later, a senior White House official ,who had been briefed by Tillerson, said Trump had pressed Putin on the issue for 40 minutes, with the exchange heated at times.  Sergey Lavrov, gave a very different account, that “U.S. President Trump heard firm assertions from Russian President Putin that it is not true and  Russian authorities have not meddled in the elections.”  He added, “Mr. Trump says he accepts these assertions – and that’s it.”  In rebuttal, the White House rejected Lavrov’s  account.

To further complicate the matter, it was well known that Trump had said during his first stop in Poland that he was not convinced that the Russians had cyberhacked our election.  He did not agree with the sixteen Intelligence Agencies of the United States whose leaders had testified that had occurred.  He referred back to the Intelligence reports before the Iraq War that erroneously charged Saddam Hussein with having Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Congressional Investigations: The Senate and House Intelligence Committees have been holding investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election for many months.  Republican Chairs and Democratic ranking members have worked together in open and closed hearings to lead interviews of former Director of Intelligence and other authorities under oath. James Comey, former F.B.I. Director and Sally Yates,  former Deputy U.S. Attorney General, testified in open hearings about investigations of Russian interference.  Comey also testified about his meetings with President Trump in a blockbuster media event.

After the president fired James Comey,   Robert Mueller, highly respected former F.B. I. director was chosen by the deputy attorney general , Rod Rosenstein, as special counsel to investigate  Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.  Trump insisted he personally was not being investigated and called it “a witch hunt”.  Although the F.B.I. work continues in complete secrecy,  it appears that  possible “obstruction of justice”  by the president  in his conversations with Comey could be considered.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has also been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.  On June 14, it was reported that the Senate had voted new sanctions against Russia to punish them for their meddling.  By  June 21, it was reported that the administration had imposed a new set of sanctions on Russia. The sanctions were placed on more than three dozen individuals and organizations that had taken part in Russia’s incursion into Urkaine.

Brennan Center for Justice New Study:  The best source for Election Research  identified the two critical pieces of election infrastructure —aging voting machines and voter registration databases relying on outdated software —that are targets for hackers.  They emphasize that updating both can be done at reasonable cost.  Brennan researchers concluded that Russian hackers tried to break into databases in at least 39 states, aiming to alter or delete voter data. In addition, they tried to take control of the computers of more than 100 local election officials before election day. Brennan did NOT find that they were successful in gaining control of the U.S. computers.  However, they report that they were successful in other countries and its only a matter of time before they try to do it again here.   James Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director wrote in an intro to the Brennan Center report, “ I am confident the Russians will be back, and they will take what they have learned last year to attempt to inflictFirst more damage in future elections.”

Three immediate steps states and localities can take:  First, conduct regular threat assessments of voter registration systems and upgrade, if necessary. 42 states use systems at least a decade old that rely on outdated software very susceptible to hackers. The annual cost of doing these assessments across the country would be $1 to $5 million;upgrades extra.  Second, Replace old electronic voting machines that lack a paper trail. 14 states still use these machines. New machines would cost between $130 -$400 million.   Third, Audit the votes. Compare a random sample of paper records to voting machine records. Look for differences.

Role of Congress and The federal Election Assistance Commission: New York Times editorial, “Congress needs to allocate more money now to help states upgrade their equipment and computer systems, and to perform threat assessments.”   The Election Assistance Commission was set up after the 2000 presidential standoff between Bush and Gore. It has a small staff and budget, but it is the right government agency to spearhead this proposal to Congress.

Voting in the United States was decentralized deliberately.  States and localities run elections in 8,000 jurisdictions and about 100,000 polling places.  This makes it unlikely that any single cyberattack can do much harm. That’s the good news. The bad news is that voting machine systems and machines are rarely a priority in budgets. However, Russian hacking in the 2016 election has heightened the public’s attention and angered our representatives and governors of states.  Hopefully, they are ready to make changes in their budgets to prevent this from happening again in the 2018 Midterms and the 2020 Presidential Election.

……………………………………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

“A Republic, If You Can Keep It.”

During the long hot summer of 1787, the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia were conducted in secrecy.  When the proceedings finally ended, anxious citizens waited outside the doors.  A famous interchange occurred when Benjamin Franklin emerged, and was asked by one of the women, Mrs. Powell, “Well, Doctor, what have we got?  A republic or a democracy?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” He did not say,  “a democracy.”

What’s the difference between a republic and a democracy?  And why does this issue matter today —over two hundred years later? The difference between a republic and a democracy is fundamental, not just a matter of semantics. The word ‘republic’ comes from Latin, “res publica” – which means the ‘public things’ or ‘the laws’.  The word ‘democracy’ comes from two Greek words, ‘demos’ and ‘kratein’ translating into ‘the people rule’  or  ‘majority rule’.  James Madison, known as the father of The Constitution,  insisted in The Federalist, No. Ten,  that the new Constitution had established a republic  not a democracy.  He emphasized that “a Republican “ form of government protected the people from the dangers of the tyranny of the majority.

At the heart of a democracy is the concept of majority rule.  In a republic, the power of the majority is subordinated to the rule of law and the protection of minority rights. The founders set up a system of government with separation of powers, and checks and balances to prevent the majority from imposing its will without restraints. It is important to note that Article One is the Legislative branch.  It is the longest and most complete. Article Two is the executive branch.  And Article Three is the Judiciary.  They also approved the Bill of Rights in 1791 – the first Ten Amendments – to protect citizens against the powers of their government.  The freedoms of religion, speech, the press and the right to assemble to petition for grievance are all in the First Amendment.  They guarantee minorities and all the people against majority rule.

It is now July 4, 2017 and the American people are witnessing huge dramatic changes in our federal government.  The legislative and executive branches are controlled by the Republican Party.  Paul Ryan, The Speaker of the House of Representatives is a Republican.  Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, is a Republican. President Donald J. Trump is a Republican.  The judicial branch of nine justices has a five/four split between Conservative and Liberal opinions with Justice Kennedy seen as the “swing vote”.

The level of bitter bi-partisanship reached its apex when Senator McConnell would not allow President Barack Obama’s nominee for the open seat on the Supreme Court to have the confirmation hearing and vote that was the right of the president under the Constitution.  Thus, Judge Merrick Garland, highly qualified and respected chief of the Second Circuit of Appeals never was given that opportunity. As informed citizens, we witnessed the “tyranny of the majority” in action.

Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote, “ Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.”  Alexander Hamilton warned at the Convention, “We are a Republican government. Real liberty is never found in  despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.” Finally, John Marshall, who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835, and created the principle of judicial review, wrote, “Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.

Although we “pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and the republic for which it stands”, many people today think of  our country as a democracy rather than a republic. This 20th century emphasis on a democracy can be traced to Woodrow Wilson’s famous 1916 appeal to the nation on entering World War I that “we would make the world safe for democracy.” And Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 with his insistence that “ America must be the great arsenal of democracy” to rush aid to England during the Nazi Blitz of the British Isles in World War II.

Historians agree that Donald  J. Trump is very different from any previous president in American history.  He is the only man without any military or government experience or service.  He prides himself on being a very successful business man with a vast worldwide real estate empire.  His home was The Trump Tower in New York City before he  won the  November 2016 presidential election, passing 270 votes in the Electoral College.  His opponent, Hillary Clinton, won the popular tally with over 3.5 million more votes.  Trump has introduced Twitter as his means of communication to his base of supporters and the world at large.  He is the first president to use the mass media and makes sure he is the cable TV story of the day from early a.m. hours.  Trump held a very negative opinion of reporters during the campaign that has worsened since his inauguration.  He calls the press, “the enemy of the American people. They give fake news every day.”

Since his inauguration on January 20, 2017,  there has been a growing resistance movement, starting with The Women’s March on January 21.  Millions of women, men and children gathered in cities and towns across the nation to protest Donald Trump’s election – the largest marches in the nation’s history.  Successive Saturdays have seen protest marches continue.  First, against Trump’s Travel Bans against Muslims from six countries with dominant Muslim populations.   Then, in fierce opposition to the Congress and  president’s plans to  repeal and replace Obamacare.  Crowds carry signs ACA (Affordable Care Act)  as they march in the streets and outside offices of representatives, senators and the White House.  Town meetings of members of Congress have resulted in large angry crowds shouting and  telling stories of how the ACA saved lives in their families.

Other forms of resistance to Donald Trump and his policies include the Sanctuary Cities across the country who have refused to cooperate with Federal agents of ICE who come to round up undocumented immigrants for deportation.  These cities found alternate funding to federal monies that would be denied to them. Other resisters are The Indivisibles, groups of people nationwide that oppose Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  They support  clean energy like wind and solar versus the E.P.A. policies under Secretary Pruitt  overturning Obama’s  regulations that promoted clean air, water and safe working conditions.  They go to Congressional home offices to protest and present their views.  They also travel to offices in D.C. where a  disabled group in wheel chairs, carrying ACA posters were arrested in the hallways several weeks ago.

There is a struggle going on across the United States where people are asserting their belief in the words of  The Preamble to The Constitution,  “We the people of the United States….”  And the First Amendment giving them “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

What is happening today is proof that the United States is indeed a republic —based on laws protecting the people from the tyranny of the majority.  We have a president who is just learning that the executive can be checked in his powers by the Courts and the Congress.  The people are asserting their rights and opinions to the representatives they elected.  The free press is doing their job questioning and holding elected officials to their responsibilities under the law.  It is now up to our elected president, senators and representatives to be true to the oaths of office they each swore to uphold.

………………………………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson