My First High Holy Days

In August I started a course called “Introduction to Judaism”.

This year will mark my first celebration of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

I have my highly coveted tickets to services.

Along with the process of converting comes the social anxiety of the cultural.  What to wear, what to cook. Remembering the few words of Hebrew I have learned so far that mark the start of various blessings and prayers..  Hopefully our teachers will be there as well as other class members.

Ahh. At 72 after trying on so many ideas, studying various religions I found a place where I feel comfortable in Reform Judaism…

Shanah Tova

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The White Power Movement From Reagan to Trump

From The Nation:

Kathleen Belew explains the links among “lone wolf” white supremacist attacks like those in Charleston, Christchurch, and El Paso.

By Jon Wiener
September 4, 2019

Jon Wiener: El Paso, Charleston, Charlottesville: All the attackers we’re talking about have been described as loners. You say they are all connected. How?

Kathleen Belew: We’re talking here about the White Power movement, a coalition that includes Klan groups, neo-Nazi groups, skinheads, and other activists. They came together in a movement in the late 1970s in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. One of their key tactics was a thing called leaderless resistance—a few people work in a cell without direct communication with other cells and without direct orders from leadership. This strategy was implemented to stymie infiltration efforts and prosecution. But there’s been a much larger and more damaging legacy of the strategy of leaderless resistance: It has effectively erased this entire movement as a movement, so what we see instead are a series of stories about lone wolf attackers, acts of violence that are inexplicable and unrelated to each other. We get narratives about mental illness or personal animus, and we miss the very political, very deliberate meaning of this violence, which comes from understanding it as interconnected.

JW: What is the larger goal of all the attackers in these terrorist incidents?

KB: Within this movement the end goal is not the act of mass violence itself. The violence is intended to awaken other white people to the cause and bring them into the movement. The goal is to incite a broader race war.

JW: But aren’t these people, the most recent ones at least, isolated loners? Dylann Roof, for example, the Charleston killer, didn’t go to meetings, as far as we know was not a member of an organization. As far as we know, neither did the accused El Paso killer.

KB: Yes—Dylann Roof didn’t have real-life connections with other activists. Nevertheless, he did have connections that meant a great deal to him in his earlier history of White Power activism. The thing that I always think of is the photograph of Roof wearing a Rhodesian flag patch. Rhodesia was a ruled by a white minority until 1979, when a revolution created the black-ruled Zimbabwe. This all happened before Dylann Roof was born. This has huge meaning within the White Power movement, and the fact that he chooses Rhodesia as an identifier when there have been so many other more recent flashpoints is a clear indicator that he is in communication with other activists and that he sees himself as part of this longer trajectory of action.

JW: These individuals are called white nationalists, but you say that the nation at the heart of white nationalism is not the United States. What is it?

KB: It’s the Aryan Nation. It’s important to call this the White Power Movement because “white nationalism” makes people think of something much less radical, some sort of overzealous patriotism or shoring up whiteness within the body politic of the United States. The Aryan Nation is an inherently radical and violent project that is fundamentally opposed to the United States.

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GOP Accuses Danica Roem of Bribing Voters With Earnest, Responsive Constituent Service

From The Peedmont:

by The Peedmont Staff
Sept. 3, 2019

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — In a scathing rebuke against “an alarming pattern of corruption and official misconduct,” the Prince William County Republican Committee has accused Del. Danica Roem, D-13th, of attempting to obtain votes “through the provision of earnest, responsive service to her constituency regarding the issues that concern them in a material fashion.”

“This is typical Democrat chicanery,” PWC Republican Committee Chairman Bill Card said. “For an elected representative to spend hours—whole work days, even—talking to voters, connecting them with state services, requesting information or a status report about specific matters on their behalf, and generally just creating a dialogue between the people and their government so that they’ll vote to keep them in office is, well…it’s wrong.”

“You’d certainly never see any Republican doing that,” Card added.

Roem has claimed she was unaware of Card’s accusations until recently, citing a busy schedule, but insisted she wasn’t ignoring him. “I take Mr. Card’s accusations very seriously,” Roem said while giving free guitar lessons at a local Boys & Girls Club, “and I will respond just as soon as I’ve finished eliminating school lunch debt, reconfiguring the I-66/Route 28 interchange, getting a 5% raise for public school teachers, enacting ‘red flag’ laws to prevent dangerous individuals from acquiring or possessing a firearm if they are deemed a threat to themselves or others, and ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment.”

In response to Roem’s comments, the PWC Republican Committee issued the following statement: “Obviously, Ms. Roem has made up her mind about what kind of representative she wants to be for the people of the 13th District. She’s determined to waste taxpayer dollars on ridiculous, irresponsible pet projects like road maintenance, healthcare, and public education, while altogether ignoring the laments of our burdened wealthy citizens suffering under the yoke of a usury 5.75% income tax rate.”

While a Republican candidate has yet to be nominated to challenge Roem in the upcoming 2019 general election, the Committee has vetted multiple individuals in search of “literally anyone but Corey goddamn Stewart.”

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Trans Conversion Therapy is Widespread, Study Says

From Gay City News:

Researchers say the dangerous practice is seen in every US state

BY Matt Tracy
August 20, 2019

A whopping 13.5 percent of transgender Americans spanning every US state have been subjected to so-called conversion therapy in their lifetime, according to a new study published by the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers at the Fenway Institute, citing data from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Williams Institute of UCLA, concluded that the dangerous practice of trying to change a person’s gender identity has been attempted on an estimated 187,923 trans individuals. Conversion therapy focused on attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation is also prevalent, but was not considered for this study.

The data revealed especially disturbing realities of the widespread nature of the practice in the United States. Trans individuals have suffered from conversion therapy in certain states more than others: 9.4 percent of trans respondents in South Carolina, for example, said they were exposed to attempts to change their gender identity during their lifetime compared to 25 percent in Wyoming. Meanwhile, in the window of time between 2010 and 2015, 1.2 percent of trans Alaskans said they were exposed to it compared to 25 percent of Wyoming residents. Notably, trans people in the upper mountain region have been particularly exposed to conversion therapy, according to the study.

The research underscores the depth of a practice that has been increasingly curtailed across the nation: More than a dozen states and municipalities have banned the practice from being used on children. The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and numerous other professional groups oppose attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Dr. Jack Turban, who is one of the study’s authors and serves as a resident physician in psychiatry at The Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital, told Gay City News that the findings are “extremely concerning.”

“We hope that these findings will encourage state lawmakers to move forward with legislation that bans gender identity change efforts,” Turban said. “Some state legislators have argued that this practice does not occur in their states. Our findings show that this is false; gender identity change efforts have happened in every state in the US.”

Legal hurdles that have largely limited states to banning conversion therapy on minors is problematic, according to the study’s authors, who are stressing that the negative impact of the practice on adults should not be understated.

“We believe that gender identity change efforts are dangerous for people of all ages,” Turban stated. “The practice promotes shame and subsequent mental health problems. Ideal legislative efforts would ban all gender identity change efforts.”

Still, the authors recommend that future studies should focus on conversion therapy among youths because previous research has indicated that there are stronger links between adverse mental health outcomes among adults who have been exposed to the practice when they were young.

“Given this exposure’s association with adverse mental health outcomes, the frequency of practice warrants public health attention,” the study noted.

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Does Silicon Valley Have a Transphobia Problem?

From New Now Next:

Tech companies like Google and Mozilla have policies to protect transgender employees. Enforcing those policies may be another story.


The tech industry likes to portray itself as pro-LGBTQ, but many transgender employees question just how true this is.

Dell is currently being sued by two former employees who say they were discriminated against because of their gender identities. Cecilia Gilbert, a trans woman, was fired during her transition and told by co-workers that she shouldn’t tell people she’s trans. Helen Harris, who is gender nonconforming, claims to have experienced discrimination on a regular basis during the three years they worked for the tech giant. This isn’t the first time the company has faced a lawsuit over alleged anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

And Dell is not alone. A trans woman and her husband sued Amazon in 2017, claiming they were verbally abused while working at one of its warehouses (they considered some of the slurs tossed at them transphobic). Meanwhile, a transgender man and former Google employee, Tim Chevalier, sued Google last year, alleging that he was fired for speaking out against racism and discrimination within the company while cisgender employees were not fired for speaking out politically.

Chevalier claimed in the lawsuit that the company’s “internal social networking platforms were widely used to belittle and harass women, people of color, LGBTQ employees, and other underrepresented groups.” After responding to certain comments made on these platforms, he says human resources criticized him for labeling the people who did this “white guys,” even though he is a white man. Multiple Google employees told Wired last year that white males have “weaponized” HR by targeting LGBTQ individuals with their complaints.

“I was being scrutinized for my political statements while people who were cis were being just as political,” Chevalier tells NewNowNext. “They were saying things that were offensive about minority groups, and they were not disciplined for it. I think trans people are hyper-scrutinized and are held to different standards of behavior.”

Chevalier thnks that anti-trans discrimination is common in Silicon Valley, the home base for many tech companies. He says that when he was working at Mozilla he was harassed for speaking out against homophobia in the workplace. “What had happened was that a very homophobic person who worked there had used company resources to make a post that was opposing same-sex marriage,” Chevalier said. “When my colleague and I complained, we were basically targeted by a harassment campaign.” He claims one employee anonymously left threats on the blog of the other person who complained.

A representative from Google tells NewNowNext: “All employees acknowledge our code of conduct and other workplace policies, under which promoting harmful stereotypes based on race or gender is prohibited… But when an employee does not, it is something we must take seriously, and we take appropriate action. We always make our decision without any regard to the employee’s political views or identity.”

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Robert Reich: The 5 Biggest Corporate Lies About Unions

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Miscellaneous Music That Shaped Me

Earlier this week I was playing a variety of music that shaped me and Tina suggested I post some of it tonight.

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Kai Shappley: A Trans Girl Growing Up In Texas | Emmy Nominated Documentary | them.

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This Teenager Is Speaking Out Against President Trump’s Proposed Repeal Of Transgender Protections

From Forbes:

Dawn Ennis
Aug 13, 2019

The comment period for sweeping changes in federal health care policy, proposed by the Trump Administration, has ended, but advocates on each side are still making their case.

At 11:59 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, the portal at stopped accepting comments about the administration’s plan to repeal and replace an Obama-era regulation prohibiting health care providers from discriminating against transgender people.

The new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rule would eliminate the currently accepted expanded definition of sex, which recognizes gender identity in cases involving sex discrimination. The Affordable Care Act forbids discrimination based on race, national origin, disability, age or sex in health-related programs that receive federal funding. The language includes gender identity as an aspect of sex.

One longstanding opponent to transgender rights and proponent of religious freedom laws favored by the administration addressed the issue Saturday during a Republican breakfast in Fort Payne, Ala. Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, now a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, called transgender identity “dumb,” reported the conservative blog, Yellowhammer News. He also said it’s “not Biblical.”

“You know LGBT rights aren’t given to us by God. They’re created by man,” Moore said. “I don’t see a right in our Constitution for a man to be a woman. If it was there, why wouldn’t it come up earlier? I don’t see a right.”

Advocates on the other side gathered on August 6 in Hartford, Conn. Connecticut is the latest state to join a multi-state alliance that objects to the change, and federal and state lawmakers joined local LGBTQ activists in the capital to denounce the proposal.

“This would mean that I would not have blockers or hormones,” 13 year old Eva Gold. “This is important to me because these services and medications make me my whole self.”

Before she transitioned, Gold said she considered killing herself because of how others treated her.

“I felt out of place. I was made fun of daily and discriminated against so I tried to take my life because my body did not match who I am,” Gold said. “How would you feel if your loved one took their own life because they couldn’t get the emotional or medical support they needed to live their best life as their authentic self?”

One of Gold’s mentors, trans man, author and advocate Tony Ferraiolo, delivered a grim message at the news conference.

“Eliminating the general prohibition on discrimination based on gender identity, as well as specific health insurance coverage protections for transgender individuals will literally kill members of the transgender and non-binary communities,” Ferraiolo said. “We can’t go back to the days when health care providers and first responders could stand around a trans person and watch them die.”

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A brutal culture war may be Trump’s only path to re-election

From LGBTQ Nation:

A desperate Trump will pull out all the stops – including homophobia – if that’s what he thinks he needs to hold onto the White House.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Polls have never been Donald Trump’s friend. Unlike any of his predecessors, Trump has never won the approval of even 50 percent of Americans. Trump’s divisiveness, coarseness, and dreadful policies have combined to make him the least popular president of modern times.

That’s why Trump plays so hard to his core supporters. Without their enthusiasm, he has no chance of re-election.

But Trump has had one thing going for him that traditionally counts for a lot when a president is seeking re-election: a strong economy. Indeed, that’s the one area where the public is willing to give Trump credit. A Washington Post-ABC News poll from last May found that the economy is the single issue where a (slim) majority of Americans think Trump has done an okay job.

Which makes the market’s wooziness over the past week a major threat to Trump’s re-election efforts. If the economy goes south, as some indicators are suggesting, then Trump’s support will erode even more. That’s why Trump is fulminating against the Federal Reserve, Europe, and virtually anyone else he can blame, without having to take responsibility for the trade war jitters that he unleashed. 

If the economy slides into a recession, Trump is going to have to work even harder to convince his base of supporters to turn out in force at the polls. There’s really only one strategy available to him: double down on the culture wars.

You can see that already in Trump’s racist rants. He’s appealing to his supporters’ sense of aggrievement that America’s changing demographics means that a Great Replacement is taking place, at the expense of whites. Racial resentment was the single biggest predictor of support for Trump in 2016, so Trump will try to repeat that winning (and disgusting) formula.

But it’s not just race. You can bet that attacking LGBTQ rights will also be part of the strategy. It’s hardly a coincidence that in the midst of bad economic news and Trump’s disastrous response to two mass shootings that his administration announced it was rolling back anti-discrimination protections that federal contractors had to follow. That was a blunt reminder to his base – especially whtie evangelicals – that he was delivering on their wish list.

Already the Trump campaign is going out of its way to make the culture wars the focus of Trump’s re-election effort. As a thumb in the eye to environmentalists, the Trump campaign is selling plastic straws emblazoned with the president’s name.

“It’s part and parcel of his long-running effort to energize his base at the expense of those who were not for him before and who are not for him today,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, told the Washington Post. “Part of his appeal to his base is that he is famously and proudly not politically correct.”

Of course, decrying LGBTQ rights as a form of political correctness has long been a conservative theme. In the Trump era, it’s been taken to extremes not seen in a quarter century, with Straight Pride parades and special rights for religious conservatives.

The prospect of losing is the one Trump fears the most, so he will pull out all the stops in his effort to get re-elected. Racism, homophobia, xenophobia – sure, the president has exhibited those in unprecedented volume.

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White Terrorism Shows ‘Stunning’ Parallels to Islamic State’s Rise

From The New York Times:

By Max Fisher
Aug. 5, 2019

Many scholars of terrorism see worrying similarities between the rise of the Islamic State and that of white nationalist terrorism, seen most recently in the carnage in El Paso, Tex.

“The parallels are stunning,” said Will McCants, a prominent expert in the field.

And they are growing more notable with each new attack.

Experts say that the similarities are far from a coincidence. White nationalist terrorism is following a progression eerily similar to that of jihadism under the leadership of the Islamic State, in ways that do much to explain why the attacks have suddenly grown so frequent and deadly.

In both, there is the apocalyptic ideology that predicts — and promises to hasten — a civilizational conflict that will consume the world. There is theatrical, indiscriminate violence that will supposedly bring about this final battle, but often does little more than grant the killer a brief flash of empowerment and win attention for the cause.

There are self-starter recruits who, gathering in social media’s dark corners, drive their own radicalization. And for these recruits, the official ideology may serve simply as an outlet for existing tendencies toward hatred and violence.

Differences between white nationalists and the Islamic State remain vast. While Islamic State leaders leveraged their followers’ zeal into a short-lived government, the new white nationalism has no formal leadership at all.

“I think a lot of people working on online extremism saw this coming,” said J.M. Berger, author of the book “Extremism,” and a fellow with VOX-Pol, a group that studies online extremism, referring to the similarities between white nationalism and the Islamic State.

In retrospect, it is not hard to see why.

The world-shaking infamy of the Islamic State has made it a natural model even — perhaps especially — for extremists who see Muslims as enemies.

A set of global changes, particularly the rise of social media, has made it easy for any decentralized terrorist cause to drift toward ever-grander, and evermore nonsensical, violence.

“Structurally, it didn’t matter whether those extremists were jihadists or white nationalists,” Mr. Berger said.

White nationalism in all forms has been on the rise for some years. Its violent fringe was all but certain to rise as well.

The feedback loop of radicalization and violence, once triggered, can take on a terrible momentum all its own, with each attack boosting the online radicalization and doomsday ideology that, in turn, drive more attacks.

The lessons are concerning. It is nearly impossible to eradicate a movement animated by ideas and decentralized social networks. Nor is it easy to prevent attacks when the perpetrators’ ideology makes nearly any target as good as the next, and requires little more training or guidance than opening a web forum.

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