Friday Night Fun and Culture: The Yardbirds

The Yardbirds like John Mayal and the Blues Breakers were seminal British 1960s bands that gave us Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.  They were before Cream, and before Led Zeppelin.

A distorted brand of evangelical Christianity created our political crisis, and it’s time for revival

From   https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/11/14/distorted-brand-evangelical-christianity-created-political-crisis-time-revival

Don Golden
Nov. 14, 2018

America is in the throes of a political and social crisis at the heart of which is a powerful but distorted brand of evangelical Christianity.

The crisis is personified, of course, in a patently unwholesome president who, according to a Washington Post fact checker, has told 6,420 lies since he was inaugurated. The most dangerous lies are those President Donald Trump tells against immigrants and refugees. Having launched his political career with a birther conspiracy and campaigned with attacks on immigrants, Trump is using nativism to consolidate his political base of support.

How else do we interpret his threats against the 14th Amendment that corrected the Dred Scot decision and secured the right of citizenship for every person born in this country? What does it mean that Trump has reduced the U.S. refugee quota from the norm, ranging between 80,000 and 100,000 refugees welcomed each year, to a historic low of 30,000? How should America interpret Trump’s desperate midterm turnout strategy, mobilizing the U.S. military to the southern border to keep America safe from a caravan of poor and desperate migrants?

Tragically, some evangelical leaders like Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas have been all too willing to baptize this nativism as a new brand of Christian nationalism. Regardless of political affiliation, this should concern all Americans.

It clearly concerns President Emmanuel Macron of France. This week on the world stage, at the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, President Macron played the prophet’s role when he schooled Donald Trump about the difference between patriotism and the kind of nationalism that Trump promotes that twice destroyed Europe:

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying ‘our interests first, who cares about the others,’ we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is essential: its moral values. I know there are old demons which are coming back to the surface. They are ready to wreak chaos and death. History sometimes threatens to take its sinister course once again.”

The real crisis is not Trump. It is our collective inability to censor him, a Congress unable to check him, a politic base so easily seduced by him and, especially, an evangelical religion so co-opted by Trump that it can offer no prophetic witness to challenge him.

Continue reading at:  https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/11/14/distorted-brand-evangelical-christianity-created-political-crisis-time-revival

Be Afraid of Economic ‘Bigness.’ Be Very Afraid.

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/10/opinion/sunday/fascism-economy-monopoly.html

In the 1930s it contributed to the rise of fascism. Alarmingly, we are experimenting again with a monopolized economy.

By Tim Wu
Nov. 10, 2018

In the aftermath of the Second World War, an urgent question presented itself: How can we prevent the rise of fascism from happening again? If over the years that question became one of mostly historical interest, it has again become pressing, with the growing success of populist, nationalist and even neofascist movements all around the world.

Common answers to the question stress the importance of a free press, the rule of law, stable government, robust civic institutions and common decency. But as undoubtedly important as these factors are, we too often overlook something else: the threat to democracy posed by monopoly and excessive corporate concentration — what the Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis called the “curse of bigness.” We must not forget the economic origins of fascism, lest we risk repeating the most calamitous error of the 20th century.

Postwar observers like Senator Harley M. Kilgore of West Virginia argued that the German economic structure, which was dominated by monopolies and cartels, was essential to Hitler’s consolidation of power. Germany at the time, Mr. Kilgore explained, “built up a great series of industrial monopolies in steel, rubber, coal and other materials. The monopolies soon got control of Germany, brought Hitler to power and forced virtually the whole world into war.”

To suggest that any one cause accounted for the rise of fascism goes too far, for the Great Depression, anti-Semitism, the fear of communism and weak political institutions were also to blame. But as writers like Diarmuid Jeffreys and Daniel Crane have detailed, extreme economic concentration does create conditions ripe for dictatorship.

It is a story that should sound uncomfortably familiar: An economic crisis yields widespread economic suffering, feeding an appetite for a nationalistic and extremist leader. The leader rides to power promising a return to national greatness, deliverance from economic suffering and the defeat of enemies foreign and domestic (including big business). Yet in reality, the leader seeks alliances with large enterprises and the great monopolies, so long as they obey him, for each has something the other wants: He gets their loyalty, and they avoid democratic accountability.

There are many differences between the situation in 1930s and our predicament today. But given what we know, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we are conducting a dangerous economic and political experiment: We have chosen to weaken the laws — the antitrust laws — that are meant to resist the concentration of economic power in the United States and around the world.

From a political perspective, we have recklessly chosen to tolerate global monopolies and oligopolies in finance, media, airlines, telecommunications and elsewhere, to say nothing of the growing size and power of the major technology platforms. In doing so, we have cast aside the safeguards that were supposed to protect democracy against a dangerous marriage of private and public power.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/10/opinion/sunday/fascism-economy-monopoly.html

This troll is playing the media with a trans-baiting age-change ploy

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/13/troll-media-trans-emile-ratelband-lgbt

Emile Ratelband is following a sad tradition of men pulling presposterous stunts to undermine the LGBT community. He should not be humoured


Tue 13 Nov 2018

Last week, Stonewall published a report that found that more than one in 10 trans people have attempted to take their own lives in the past year, and nearly half of all trans people have considered it. This indicates a mental health crisis that is at epidemic levels within the trans community, so I’d say it’s a good thing that many countries have decided to take small measures to make it a little easier for trans people to be true to their gender identities.

And yet, as the stage invasion during Britain’s performance at this year’s Eurovision demonstrates: when something nice happens, there’s always some bore determined to ruin it. In May, the bore in question was David Lewis – a man who claimed to be “a woman on Wednesdays, and who tried to become a Labour women’s officer to object to the party’s trans-inclusive policies. This month, that role of bore has been taken up by one Emile Ratelband, a Dutch man who has petitioned the courts to allow him to identify as 20 years younger than his age of 69, on the grounds – among other things – that it would yield him more matches on Tinder. Ratelband told the Washington Post: “We can make our own decisions if we want to change our name, or if we want to change our gender. So I want to change my age.” Thus suggesting that gender is a matter of choice.

These cases are but two in a rather sad tradition of men pursuing frivolous lawsuits that undermine LGBT rights: in March of this year, the anti-LGBT activist Chris Sevier attempted to marry his laptop in protest against the introduction of equal marriage in Utah (the case was dismissed on the grounds that the laptop was not legally old enough). That the phenomenon of the male egomaniac remains a fact of life is unfortunate. And one of the downsides of attempting to maintain a free society is that preposterous stunts such as these must occasionally be indulged in public courts. And yet it is frustrating that the British media has leapt upon Ratelband’s shenanigans as though they are newsworthy, describing him straightforwardly as a “pensioner”, taking his justifications at face value.

Instead, the hot take machine has been duly cranked up, and producers have been soliciting pundits to appear on the airwaves to debate whether changing one’s age is in fact the same as changing one’s gender. Even a cursory Googling reveals that one premise of Ratelband’s decision is nonsense: people are already able to conceal their ages on Tinder simply by upgrading to a paid version – a much cheaper and more discreet solution than a lawsuit that makes international headlines. But, of course, worldwide brouhaha was the entire point of this silly exercise, as Ratelband is in fact one of the Netherlands’ most notorious trolls – as Dutch social media users have desperately been trying to tell anyone who will listen.

Years ago, Ratelband was rebuffed by Dutch courts after attempting to name his twins Rolls and Royce. In 2003, he attempted to found a political movement named The Ratelband List, which failed to win a single seat. Little is available online about this wee venture, although he attended the unveiling of a statue in honour of the late far-right politician Pim Fortuyn. Unsurprising, then, that Ratelband also used his Washington Post interview as an opportunity to praise Donald Trump, observing: “Trump is the first one who is honest. He shows his emotion on Twitter, saying to everyone, ‘Shut up.’ He’s a new kind of person.” At the time of writing, more than 51,000 Twitter users follow Ratelband’s account, which describes him as a “motivational speaker” and is littered with wellbeing quackery and faux-spiritual absurdities.

Continue reading at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/13/troll-media-trans-emile-ratelband-lgbt

Activists take aim at anti-LGBTQ ‘hate group,’ Alliance Defending Freedom

From Newsweek:  https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/activists-takes-aim-anti-lgbtq-hate-group-alliance-defending-freedom-n936391

No Gays Allowed, a provocative new campaign, is shining a spotlight on the conservative legal group, which it says is waging “war” on LGBTQ people.

By Julie Compton
Nov. 14, 2018

Surrounded by the skyscrapers that tower over Times Square, a new billboard went up this week that in large black letters reads: “NO GAYS ALLOWED.” Just below, a smaller message states: “STOP Alliance Defending Freedom. Learn more at NoGays.org.”

The billboard is part of a new campaign that aims to draw attention to the conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, which has been labeled an anti-LGBTQ “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a designation the group disputes. Since its founding nearly 25 years ago, ADF has been linked to efforts seeking to criminalize homosexuality, restrict transgender people’s access to sex-segregated facilities and permit businesses to deny service to LGBTQ people.

Caleb Cade, a spokesman for Citizens for Transparency, the advocacy group behind the campaign, said the powerful nonprofit law group has fought for years to undermine lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights, often behind the scenes.

“We want to remind people that there are still really insidious forces at work against our community,” Cade told NBC News. “ADF has been leading that war for a long time, with tens of millions of dollars to do it.”

The Times Square billboard, which went up Tuesday and is expected to remain through February, directs viewers to the campaign’s website, which provides information about ADF’s past works and links to news articles about its efforts to “make LGBT people second-class citizens.”

In response to the newly launched campaign, ADF’s senior counsel, Jeremy Tedesco, shot back at Citizens for Transparency, calling it “an anonymous group that simply copies and pastes false claims” of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“ADF is one the nation’s most respected and successful Supreme Court advocates, working to preserve our fundamental freedoms of speech, religion and conscience,” Tedesco wrote in an email to NBC News. “ADF is not litigating any cases, pursuing any legislation, nor supporting the passage of any laws domestically or internationally that criminalize sodomy.”

Continue reading at: https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/activists-takes-aim-anti-lgbtq-hate-group-alliance-defending-freedom-n936391

Sarah On Prom Nazis

Can a Fired Transgender Worker Sue for Job Discrimination?

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/us/politics/transgender-job-discrimination.html

By Adam Liptak
Nov. 12, 2018

WASHINGTON — In 2013, a funeral director who had been known as Anthony Stephens wrote to colleagues at a Michigan funeral home, asking for patience and support.

“What I must tell you is very difficult for me and is taking all the courage I can muster,” the letter said. “I have felt imprisoned in a body that does not match my mind, and this has caused me great despair and loneliness.”

“I will return to work as my true self, Aimee Australia Stephens, in appropriate business attire,” she wrote. “I hope we can continue my work at R. G. and G. R. Harris Funeral Homes doing what I always have, which is my best!”

Ms. Stephens had worked there for six years. Her colleagues testified that she was able and compassionate.

“He was a very good embalmer,” one said. “He was very, very thorough. Had obviously had a lot of practice prior to coming to the Harris Funeral Home. Families seemed very pleased with his work. He did a good job.”

Two weeks after receiving the letter, though, the home’s owner, Thomas Rost, fired Ms. Stephens. Asked for the “specific reason that you terminated Stephens,” Mr. Rost said: “Well, because he was no longer going to represent himself as a man. He wanted to dress as a woman.”

Mr. Rost also said he did not want to address Ms. Stephens as Aimee. “I’m uncomfortable with the name,” Mr. Rost said, “because he’s a man.”

The case went to court, and Ms. Stephens won in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati. Discrimination against transgender people, the court ruled, was barred by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex.

“It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex,” the court said. “Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/us/politics/transgender-job-discrimination.html