Friday Night Fun and Culture: Melanie Safka

Remember her from the late 1960 and early 1970s.  Like many hard working musicians not favored by the Music opinion makers she has kept on touring and making music.


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I Used to Work for Google. I Am a Conscientious Objector.

From The New York Times:

American companies continue to build surveillance tools that are used to violate human rights. Workers who refuse to comply deserve protections.

By Jack Poulson
Mr. Poulson is a former research scientist at Google.
April 23, 2019

“We can forgive your politics and focus on your technical contributions as long as you don’t do something unforgivable, like speaking to the press.”

This was the parting advice given to me during my exit interview from Google after spending a month internally arguing, resignation letter in hand, for the company to clarify its ethical red lines around Project Dragonfly, the effort to modify Search to meet the censorship and surveillance demands of the Chinese Communist Party.

When a prototype circulated internally of a system that would ostensibly allow the Chinese government to surveil Chinese users’ queries by their phone numbers, Google executives argued that it was within existing norms. Governments, after all, make law enforcement demands of the company all the time. Where, they asked their employees, was the demonstrable harm?

But the time has passed when tech companies can simply build tools, write algorithms and amass data without regard to who uses the technology and for what purpose.

Complaints from a single rank-and-file engineer aren’t going to lead a company to act against its significant financial interests. But history shows that dissenters — aided by courts or the court of public opinion — can sometimes make a difference. Even if that difference is just alerting the public to what these companies are up to.

Nearly a decade ago, Cisco Systems was sued in federal court on behalf of 11 members of the Falun Gong organization, who claimed that the company built a nationwide video surveillance and “forced conversion” profilingClose X system for the Chinese government that was tailored to help Beijing crack down on the group. According to Cisco’s own marketing materials, the video analyzer — which would now be marketed as artificial intelligenceClose X — was the “only product capable of recognizing over 90 percent of Falun Gong pictorial information.”

Despite the court’s acknowledgment that Cisco built “individual features customized and designed specifically to find, track and suppress Falun Gong,” several early rulings went against the plaintiffs. And the case is still pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The failure to punish Cisco set a precedent for American companies to build artificial intelligence for foreign governments to use for political oppression. This year, an investigation by The Times found that an American company, Thermo Fisher, sold DNA analyzers to aid in the current large-scale domestic surveillance and internment of hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, in the region of Xinjiang. After the story broke, the company said it would no longer sell equipment in Xinjiang.

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America’s Elderly Are Twice as Likely to Work Now Than in 1985

From Bloomberg:

Twenty percent of those age 65 and up haven’t retired. Many can’t afford to.

April 22, 2019

Just as single-income families began to vanish in the last century, many of America’s elderly are now forgoing retirement for the same reason: They don’t have enough money. Rickety social safety nets, inadequate retirement savings plans and sky high health-care costs are all conspiring to make the concept of leaving the workforce something to be more feared than desired.

For the first time in 57 years, the participation rate in the labor force of retirement-age workers has cracked the 20 percent mark, according to a new report from money manager United Income (PDF).

As of February, the ranks of people age 65 or older who are working or seeking paid work doubled from a low of 10 percent back in early 1985. The biggest spike in employment has gone to college-educated older workers; the share of all employees age 65 or older with at least an undergraduate degree is now 53 percent, up from 25 percent in 1985.

relates to America’s Elderly Are Twice as Likely to Work Now Than in 1985
Source: United Income; Current Population Survey

This rise of college-educated older workers has pushed the demographic’s inflation-adjusted income up to an average of $78,000, 63 percent higher than the $48,000 older folks brought home in 1985. By comparison, American workers below the age of 65 saw their average income rise by only 38 percent over the same period, to an average of $55,000. United Income’s calculations draw on recently released data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

There’s a mismatch between older workers who need the income the most and those who are able to work and working, said Elizabeth Kelly, senior vice president of operations for United Income and a former special assistant to the president at the White House National Economic Council during the Obama administration.

“These are the more educated, wealthier individuals in better health who are continuing to work, but it’s probably their less-educated, working-class counterparts who need to work the most,” Kelly said.

The BLS expects the big wave of aging baby boomers to represent the strongest growth in the labor force participation rate through at least 2024. “By 2024, baby boomers will have reached ages 60 to 78,” a BLS report noted. “And some of them are expected to continue working even after they qualify for Social Security benefits.”

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Anti-Semitism Is Back, From the Left, Right and Islamist Extremes. Why?

From The New York Times:

By Patrick Kingsley
April 4, 2019

BERLIN — Swastikas daubed on a Jewish cemetery in France. An anti-Semitic political campaign by Hungary’s far-right government. Labour lawmakers in Britain quitting their party and citing ingrained anti-Semitism. A Belgian carnival float caricaturing Orthodox Jews sitting on bags of money.

And that was just the past few months.

The accumulated incidents in Europe and the United States have highlighted how an ancient prejudice is surging in the 21st century in both familiar and mutant ways, fusing ideologies that otherwise would have little overlap.

The spike is taking place in a context of rising global economic uncertainty, an emphasis on race and national identity, and a deepening polarization between the political left and right in Europe and the United States over the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

“There’s an ideological pattern that is common,” said Günther Jikeli, an expert on European anti-Semitism at Indiana University. “The world is seen as in a bad shape, and what hinders it becoming a better place are the Jews.”

Anti-Semitism has become a section of today’s political Venn diagram where the far right can intersect with parts of the far left, Europe’s radical Islamist fringe, and even politicians from America’s two main parties.

That confluence is new, experts say, as is the emergence of an Israeli government that has sidled up to far-right allies who praise Israel even as they peddle anti-Semitic prejudice at home.

“It creates a landscape that is very confusing and where things are more blurry than in the past,” said Samuel Ghiles-Meilhac, an expert on Jewish history at the Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent, a government-funded research group in France.

Polling suggests that anti-Semitic attitudes may be no more widespread than in the past, particularly in Western Europe, where Holocaust remembrance has become a ritual for most governments.

Despite this, bigots have seemingly become more brazen, creating a climate that has made anti-Semitism far more permissible and dangerous.

In recent decades, Western anti-Semitism has tended to trace the contours of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, spiking and ebbing in correlation with spasms of violence between the two sides. But since the 2014 war in Gaza, researchers say, anti-Semitic incidents have remained at high levels.

“And that’s kind of worrying because it means it has become normal to act in anti-Semitic ways,” Mr. Jikeli said.

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For Trans Jews, ‘A Community Of Our Own’

This is what I am talking about, building communities that are there for all ages and that go beyond “activism” or for that matter support groups.  Loneliness is a major problem along with being disconnected from the social institutions straight folks find sources of support.

From New York Jewish Week:

CBST conference — ‘a holy gathering’ — marks new sense of belonging.

By Shira Hanau
April 16, 2019

When Jillian Weiss first joined Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in 1998, she was one of the few transgender members of the LGBTQ synagogue.

Late last month, she was one of over 100 transgender and non-binary Jews filling CBST’s sanctuary on Shabbat as part of the synagogue’s first-ever Trans Jews Are Here Convening.

Weiss was a co-chair of the convening and is a board member at CBST.

“There were really no other out transgender people there,” she said of the synagogue circa 1998. “Now that it’s clear that transgender Jews are here, the vast majority of transgender Jews who are still thinking that they should stay away need to reconsider that because the world is changing.”

Weiss was a co-chair of the convening and is a board member at CBST.

“There were really no other out transgender people there,” she said of the synagogue circa 1998. “Now that it’s clear that transgender Jews are here, the vast majority of transgender Jews who are still thinking that they should stay away need to reconsider that because the world is changing.”

“One of the defining characteristics of being transgender in the United States and at this time is really being alone and being ostracized by communities of all types,” said Weiss. “So creating a community of our own is essential.”

“There’s so many of us who have wanted this for a long time,” said Rafi Daugherty, the convening director, who called the event “magical.”

Between Shabbat services and meals, attendees chose from workshops on topics such as trans rituals, queer readings of midrash and trans Jewish storytelling. The program, most of which was closed to the press due to the sensitive nature so the discussions, included special programming for trans and non-binary children.

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Joni Mitchell




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Are LGBTQ seniors dying of loneliness? It’s possible, research says

I’ve long noted how the LGBTQ Community is a community of young people.  That there is little or no place for elders.

Part of that was due to how much the post-Stonewall Gay Liberation Movement was focused on sex.

Those LGBT folks in the faith communities sought to build institutions that paralleled straight religious communities.

For a time in the 1970s lesbians seemed to be doing the same.

The Internet is good at creating virtual aka illusionary  communities but isn’t a replacement for face to face contact.

Political activism isn’t the same as a community.  Pride Day comes closer but that is on a mega scale and only one weekend a year.

Some of us who are married find we aren’t that different from straight couples our age with whom we share common interests.

I’m back in contact with my brother and his family.  My cousins too.  My brother lives in a small town and maybe it is easier to have that sort of intimacy in smaller towns, things like community dinners and other events.

I don’t know.  But I do know there are many LGBT elders who live lives of crushing loneliness.

From The Seattle Times:

April 11, 2019

“At least someone knows I’m alive.”

Karen Fredriksen Goldsen read that line on a survey form and knew she was onto something. For the past 10 years, the University of Washington professor of social work and researcher has been conducting the first, national longitudinal study of aging members of the LGBTQ community called Aging with Pride.

Two years ago, survey data showed that older, married LGBTQ adults were happier and healthier than their single peers.

Fredriksen Goldsen’s survey showed that more than one-third of respondents were single and isolating themselves — so much so that their lives might be in danger.

“Social isolation is a public health issue,” said Fredriksen Goldsen, who is also director of the Healthy Generations Hartford Center of Excellence at the UW. Research has shown that social isolation puts people at a greater risk of heart disease, dementia and memory loss, and premature mortality. She compared it to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Last month, Fredriksen Goldsen announced plans for an April 25 lecture at the Frye Museum Auditorium called “Linking Lives: Disrupting the Cycle of Social Isolation.” It sold out in a day, which she takes to mean that loneliness isn’t just an LGBTQ problem.

“What we learn from this population is similar to all other adults,” Fredriksen Goldsen said. “And I’m glad people are interested because learning about these things can be the first step to making change.”

The problem of social isolation is intensified for marginalized populations like the LGBTQ community, whose older members have experienced social exclusion in less tolerant times and places; couldn’t get married until several years ago; may have been discouraged from parenting, and couldn’t always speak freely about their relationships.

Life has prepared them to keep to themselves.

All seniors are at risk for isolation and loneliness, but it is worse for LGBTQ people, especially as they age. Perhaps they have to move to a retirement or assisted-living community, Fredriksen Goldsen said. Rather than expose who they are, some slip back into the closet and close the door behind them.

This may make them self-reliant, she said. “But that also makes you vulnerable. It’s a barrier to asking for help.”

For the past decade, Fredriksen Goldsen has surveyed 2,450 LGBTQ people between the ages of 50 and 102 on an every-other-year basis.

“They want to share their life experience in order to improve aging and lifestyle in this community,” she said.

That’s how she discovered that older, married LGBTQ adults experience better physical and mental health, more social support and greater financial resources than those who were single. Her findings made international news.

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