The Uncanny, Frightening Ways That Trump’s America Mirrors Hitler’s Germany

From Alternet:

Even the usually restrained Barack Obama warns Americans we’re slipping dangerously close to authoritarianism.

By Thom Hartmann
December 11, 2017

President Obama has come right out and said it: “You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we’ve seen societies where that happens.”

Yes, he invoked Nazi Germany, adding, “Now, presumably, there was a ballroom in Vienna in the late 1920s or ’30s that looked and seemed as if it ― filled with the music and art and literature and the science that was emerging ― would continue into perpetuity. And then 60 million people died. And the entire world was plunged into chaos.”

It was a shocking reminder of Milton Mayer and his seminal work, They Thought They Were Free, first published back in 1955 by the University of Chicago Press.

Shortly after World War II, Mayer, an American journalist and college instructor, went to Germany and befriended a small group of 10 “ordinary Germans” who had lived and worked through the war, and interviewed them in depth.

Mayer’s burning question was, “How does something like Nazi Germany happen?”

What he learned was every bit as shocking as President Obama drawing the same parallels. He wrote, presciently, “Now I see a little better how Nazism overcame Germany – not by attack from without or by subversion from within, but with a whoop and a holler. It was what most Germans wanted – or, under pressure of combined reality and illusion, came to want. They wanted it; they got it; and they liked it.

“I came home a little bit afraid for my country, afraid of what it might want, and get, and like, under combined pressure of reality and illusion. I felt – and feel – that it was not German Man that I met, but Man. He happened to be in Germany under certain conditions. He might be here under certain conditions. He might, under certain conditions, be I.

“If I – and my countrymen – ever succumbed to that concatenation of conditions, no Constitution, no laws, no police, and certainly no army would be able to protect us from harm.”

Mayer tells the story largely through the words of the Germans he got to know during his year in Germany after the war.  One, a college professor, told him:

“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security….

“This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

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27% of California adolescents say they are viewed as gender nonconforming, study finds

But what does that mean?  I was around during the period of time when the Cockettes to Andy Warhol Superstars and David Bowie as well as the New York Dolls were messing with the trappings of corporate gender.  Hair Bands in semi gender fuck drag.  Is this what they are talking about when they say “gender nonconforming”?  Clothes are clothes.  Make-up is make-up?  Just because one is labeled for men and one for women is pretty fucking meaningless.

Or are they talking about the internal sense of self?

In a world of bloviating academics who coin words left and right one would think someone could come up with more specific terms for the various aspects that are currently called “gender” than what we presently have.

For example 50 years ago we differentiated between “Core Gender Identity” for that sense of self and “gender roles” for the social.  We also felt freer to use the word sex as in “transsexual”.

From UCLA Newsroom:

The survey measures youths’ perceptions of how they are seen by their student peers

Rachel Dowd
December 13, 2017

A new UCLA study finds that 27 percent, or 796,000, of California’s youth, ages 12 to 17, report they are viewed by others as gender nonconforming at school.

The study also assessed differences in mental health among gender nonconforming youth and gender conforming youth in the state, and found no significant difference in the rates of lifetime suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts between gender nonconforming youth and their gender conforming peers. However, gender nonconforming youth were more than twice as likely to have experienced psychological distress in the past year.

“The data show that more than one in four California youth express their gender in ways that go against the dominant stereotypes,” said lead author Bianca D.M. Wilson, the Rabbi Barbara Zacky Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “However, the heightened psychological distress we see among gender nonconforming youth indicates that we must continue to educate parents, schools and communities on the mental health needs of these young people and reduce known risk factors, such as bullying and bias.”

The study, released by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, analyzed data collected from nearly 1,600 California households in the 2015-2016 California Health Interview Survey. It is the first time this survey has included questions about gender expression among teens.

Gender nonconforming refers to people whose behaviors and appearance defy the dominant cultural and societal stereotypes of their gender. The health interview survey measured gender expression by asking adolescents how they thought people at school viewed their physical expressions of femininity and masculinity. Youth who reported that people at school saw them as equally masculine and feminine were categorized as “androgynous.” Girls who thought they were seen as mostly or very masculine and boys who thought they were seen as mostly or very feminine were categorized as “highly gender nonconforming.”

Key findings of the study include:

  • 27 percent, or 796,000, of California’s youth, ages 12 to 17, report they are viewed by others as gender nonconforming at school, including 6.2 percent who are highly gender nonconforming and 20.8 percent who are androgynous.
  • Highly gender nonconforming, androgynous and gender conforming youth do not statistically differ in rates of lifetime suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
  • As a group, both highly gender nonconforming and androgynous youth reported higher levels of psychological distress compared to their gender-conforming peers.

The finding that gender nonconforming youth in California do not have higher rates of suicide differs from the findings of some previous research. The study co-authors suggest that the variation in findings may be due to sample-size limitations of this study or possibly to the state’s supportive policies for gender nonconforming people. California is one of several states that expressly prohibit bullying and discrimination against gender nonconforming people in schools and public accommodations, among other arenas.

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Creation Festival Founder Arrested for Alleged Child Molestation

From Christianity Today:

Pastor Harry Thomas, leader of America’s largest Christian music fest, suspended by church over eight criminal charges.

Kate Shellnutt
December 08, 2017

The man who launched America’s largest and longest-running Christian music festival has been “indefinitely suspended” from the ministry and his church following his arrest Wednesday on charges of child molestation.

Harry L. Thomas, founder of the Creation Festival and senior pastor of Come Alive New Testament Church in Medford, New Jersey, has been accused of sexually assaulting four children over a 16-year period between 1999 and 2015.

The church stated that the alleged misconduct was “unrelated” to his leadership.

Thomas, 74, has been charged with one count of aggravated sexual assault, three counts of sexual assault, and four counts of endangering the welfare of children, according to the prosecutor’s office in Burlington County, New Jersey, where Thomas lives and where his church is located.

Authorities have refrained from releasing further details in order to protect the identity of the victims.

“All persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” stated the prosecutor’s office. It noted that Thomas was “being treated at a medical facility” while a case was prepared for “possible indictment” by a grand jury.

“It is with deep regret and saddened hearts that the Elders and Trustees of Come Alive New Testament Church have indefinitely suspended Pastor Harry Thomas from all leadership positions with the church, festival, and all associated ministries,” the ministry said in a statement to media Thursday.

“While the allegations are unrelated to his roles in these ministries, leadership has determined this to be the proper course of action at this time until there can be a full investigation,” stated church leaders. “It is requested that all pray for the parties involved and refrain from speculation regarding the circumstances.”

Following the arrest, the staff and history pages of Come Alive’s website, which chronicled Thomas’s involvement in the church since its founding in 1983, were no longer accesssible.

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A trans review of 2017: the year of transgender moral panic

From The Conversation:

December 27, 2017

Three years ago, 2014 was hailed as “the transgender tipping point” – a year when trans people became more visible and better understood. Sadly, looking back on 2017, it seems it was the year of a transgender moral panic.

In the first half of the year, every few weeks seemed to bring another news story invoking public concern about trans issues. A documentary about the treatment of trans and gender questioning kids in Canada kicked off public debates which continued all year. Legal tussles over transgender bathroom rights in the US prompted anxiety and a return to stereotypes of trans people as perpetrators of violence, rather than more commonly victims of it.

In August,the US president, Donald Trump, attempted to ban trans people from serving in the US military – though the move was blocked by a federal judge in October. In the UK, there was furore over trans women’s identities, gender-neutral children’s clothing, the existence of non-binary people, and more. Campaign groups such as Trans Media Watch and All About Trans were constantly fire-fighting the latest wave of media myths and misinformation.

It became an even tougher time to be trans in the final few months of 2017. Since October, an anti-trans article has appeared in the UK press virtually every day – two or three on some days. Several commentators have documented this media onslaught.

In a recent gender training session for an LGBT charity, I asked attendees to come up with all the news stories about trans they could remember from the past month or so. They filled an entire sheet of flipchart paper in minutes, and still came up with more, virtually all of them negative.

Moral panic

A moral panic is the process of arousing social concern over an issue. Moral panics often involve scapegoating a particular group as the “evil” responsible for a range of societal ills.

The current storm around trans people bears all the hallmarks of a moral panic. Trans people are blamed for a number of – often contradictory – harms. In 2017, these included corrupting children, changing the English language and threatening free speech, violence against women and seeking to both dismantle and reinforce problematic gender norms.

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Evangelical Christianity Is Facing a Political Crisis: It Will Need More Than a Makeover

From Alternet:

The Christian faith was the real loser in the Roy Moore campaign.

By Valerie Tarico
December 29, 2017

Ok, evangelicals do have a brand problem—but they also have a major product problem.

Bible-believing born-again Christians, aka evangelicals, have had a brand problem since Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority sold the born-again movement to the Republican party in exchange for political power a generation ago, forging the religious right.

The Republican party has been using Christianity’s good name to cover bad deeds ever since, all the while tapping evangelical media empires and churches as communications and organizing platforms to bring ordinary believers along with the merger. Having become true-believers themselves, Evangelical leaders have offered themselves up as trusted messengers for this New-and-Improved political gospel project.

And it has worked.

Born-again Christians haven’t given up their core beliefs: that the Bible is the literally perfect word of God, Jesus died for their sins, and folks who don’t accept this gift will burn forever in Hell. Rather, most white evangelicals (and a number of blacks and Hispanics) have appended parts of the Republican policy agenda and the underlying conceptual framework to this list. Religious beliefs and political beliefs have become, for many evangelicals, indistinguishable objects of devotion, beyond question. Political tribe and religious tribe now have the same boundaries.

When I outlined evangelicalism’s brand problem in early 2016, few of us had any idea how bad it could get. Now the world associates the term Evangelical with the Trump election—over 80 percent of evangelicals gave him their vote—and with the candidacy of theocrat, Roy Moore, who despite credible allegations that he pursued and pawed young teens while an assistant district attorney, received comparable support from white Alabama evangelicals.

In the aftermath of Moore’s campaign and (merciful) defeat, the minority of Evangelical Christians who found him horrifying are doing some public soul searching—well, except not really. Many recognize only the brand problem and are, more than anything, simply scrambling to get away from the term evangelical itself. “After Trump and Moore, some evangelicals are finding their own label too toxic to use,” reports the Washington Post.  “The term feels irreversibly tainted,” agrees evangelical author Jen Hatmaker.

Jemar Tisby is president of a faith-based media company catering to black evangelicals, but he says that “It’s counterproductive to identify as evangelical. . . . What’s happened with evangelicalism is, it has become so conflated with Republican politics, that you can’t tell where Christianity ends and partisanship begins.”

At Wheaton College, my old alma mater, the executive director of the Billy Graham Center, Ed Stetzer, said, “I don’t want ‘evangelical’ to mean people who supported candidates with significant and credible accusations against them. If evangelical means that, it has serious ramifications for the work of Christians and churches.”

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No Wonder Millennials Hate Capitalism

From The New York Times:

Dec. 4, 2017

On a Friday night last month, I moderated a debate in Manhattan about whether we should scrap capitalism. It was organized by the socialist magazine Jacobin; defending capitalism were editors from the libertarian publication Reason. Tickets for all available 450 seats sold out in a day. So Jacobin moved it to a venue that holds around twice as many. The extra tickets sold out in eight hours.

When I arrived, people were lined up for blocks; walking to the door, I felt like I was on the guest list at an underground nightclub. Most attendees appeared to be in their 20s and 30s, part of a generation that is uniquely suspicious of capitalism, a system most of their elders take for granted.

The anti-Communist Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation was alarmed to find in a recent survey that 44 percent of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist country, compared with 42 percent who want to live under capitalism. For older Americans, the collapse of Communism made it seem as though there was no possible alternative to capitalism. But given the increasingly oligarchic nature of our economy, it’s not surprising that for many young people, capitalism looks like the god that failed.

Nowhere is that clearer than in the wretched tax bill passed by the Senate in the early hours of Saturday morning, which would make the rich richer and the poor poorer. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the bill directs the largest tax cuts as a share of income to the top 5 percent of taxpayers. By 2027, taxes on the lowest earners would go up.

Millennials, a generation maligned as entitled whiners, would be particularly hard hit. As Ronald Brownstein argued in The Atlantic, the rich people who would benefit from the measures passed by the House and the Senate tend to be older (and whiter) than the population at large. Younger people would foot the bill, either through higher taxes, diminished public services or both. They stand to inherit an even more stratified society than the one they were born into.

Here’s one example. The Senate bill offers a tax break for parents whose children attend private school. But it cuts deductions for state and local taxes, which could make it harder to fund the public schools where the vast majority of millennials will send their kids.

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Former Facebook executive criticizes social network for “destroying how society works”

From Salon:

Chamath Palihapitiya warned that the social-media platform is “ripping apart the social fabric”

Matthew Rozsad

A second former Facebook executive is claiming that the social-media platform presents a threat to its users and society.

Chamath Palihapitiya, who served as the vice president for user growth at the company, described feeling “tremendous guilt” for his legacy at the company during a talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business according to CNBC.

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” Palihapitiya commented, identifying the problem as online interactions being fueled by shallow instant gratifications suchs receiving likes, hearts and thumbs-up icons.

Palihapitiya added, “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.” He noted that he has minimized his use of Facebook and his children “aren’t allowed to use that s**t.”

Drawing a line under what he feels are the potential threats presented by Facebook and social media in general, he drew focus to an incident in India where false reports spread over WhatsApp led to the lynching death of seven people. “That’s what we’re dealing with,” he said. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.”

After Facebook, Palihapitiya launched into a successful career as a venture capitalist in the tech sector. As well as funding multiple companies, he has commissioned studies about and led initiatives against various problems within and caused by Silicon Valley’s startup community including the resulting shortage of affordable housing in the Bay Area and the industry’s general moral failings and “anarchist cheerleading.”

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