Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. My feed has had a number of posts on it reminding me of the plight of the Native Americans.
Lincoln made Thanksgiving Day a national holiday during the Civil War.
As I have grown older the Native American and Pilgrim narrative has become meaningless in my celebration of Thanksgiving.
What has become far more important is it being a day on which I give thanks for having made it through another year. Tina is 80 and I am 72. Life was never easy for either of us. Sometimes we made it harder for ourselves and sometimes life has just been hard and mean.
Yet I am thankful for having found the strength to hold true to my values, for not having lost sight of the importance of doing what I can to make the world a better place.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
November 14, 2019
In thousands of evangelical elementary schools across the United States, children begin each day by reciting three pledges — one to the American flag, another to the Christian flag, and a third to the Bible. The latter two might come as a shock to people who are unfamiliar with white Christian fundamentalist subculture, but they are standard practice in these schools, approximately 2,000 of which are subsidized by taxpayer funds.
The version of the pledge to the Christian flag typically recited in fundamentalist and evangelical schools, which usually self-identify simply as Christian schools, ends with “one Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty for all who believe.” This is hardly a pluralistic sentiment. One wall in the elementary building of the K-12 Christian school I attended in the 1980s and ‘90s was emblazoned with part of Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” We schoolchildren knew exactly what those words meant. We were raised to be the generation that would take back America for Christ, “saving” the country from the godless liberals who, we were told (explicitly and often), killed babies and were destroying the institution of the family, and whose preferred policies, we were told, would bring divine punishment on our nation.
Eighty percent of white, born-again Christians — that is, white evangelicals and fundamentalists — voted for Donald Trump in 2016. More than 90 percent of them object to his impeachment, and polls consistently show him at over 70 percent in their favorability rating. If you want an answer to the question of where President Trump’s white evangelical base was radicalized, it’s right here. And while this demographic is down to 16 percent of the population, it remained 25 percent of the electorate in the 2018 midterms and is advantaged by gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the Electoral College.
Ex-evangelicals (or “exvies”) like myself have been trying to draw attention to the problem of evangelical authoritarianism in recent years, bringing the insights that come with lived experience to the table. Using hashtag campaigns like #EmptyThePews, #ChurchToo, #ChristianAltFacts, and #ExposeChristianSchools to achieve collective visibility we have, in conjunction with the efforts of researchers who have been monitoring the Christian Right for decades, made some progress in changing the national conversation around evangelicalism. A change in the discourse is essential if we are to shift the Overton window back from the extremes to which the Right has taken it over the last few decades.
For too many pundits, commentators, and gatekeepers, the answer to “where were they radicalized” is found in taboo territory. Christianity as it is practiced by millions is not always a social good — indeed, it is sometimes downright harmful to both individuals and society. But the Americans who most need to have that conversation are often unable to engage with the idea that the Christianity they view as “authentic” is anything less than perfect. And so we continue to see hand wringing, pearl clutching, and an increasingly desperate barrage of unhelpful think pieces about the “crisis” of young people leaving the church and about evangelical hypocrisy.
Repeating that the “coastal elites’” reading of the Bible is “correct” and “heartland evangelicals’” reading of the Bible is wrong will not, despite the former’s best intentions, convince evangelicals to withdraw their allegiance from Trump. The vast majority of white evangelicals are not going to listen to mainline Protestant, liberal Catholic, moderate to liberal evangelical, or Jewish commentators who quote Bible verses exhorting readers to treat foreigners with kindness. And fellow conservative evangelicals like Michael Gerson, a George W. Bush administration alum who helped create the monster of which Trump is a symptom — but who now sees Trump as a liability — are not going to rein them in. And none of this does anything to reverse the normalization of Christian extremism that now dominates the American public sphere.
Hashtags like #EmptyThePews can harness the democratic potential of social media — which still exists, despite the anti-democratic forces that exploit it for nefarious purposes — to break through these barriers. Indeed, hashtags may prove critical in the fight for human rights and democracy, the greatest threat to which, in the United States, is undoubtedly represented by the Christian Right and the Christian nationalist ideology to which its members adhere.
In August 2017, I launched #EmptyThePews out of frustration with the response from conservative white evangelical leaders to the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, at which protestor Heather Heyer was killed. Prominent Christian Right voices either remained silent on Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” comments, or even went so far as to assert on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network that there was “not a racist bone” in Trump’s body. Opining on how, as authoritarians, white evangelicals typically refuse to listen to any criticism, I observed that the only things they’re really afraid of are declining church attendance numbers and losing the youth. We should, therefore, throw their alienation of young Americans and their loss of members in their faces.
Shaun Walker in Budapest and Flora Garamvolgyi
Wed 27 Nov 2019
Hungary will not participate in next year’s Eurovision song contest, amid speculation the decision was taken because the competition is “too gay” for the taste of the country’s far-right government and public media bosses.
While no official reason has been given for the withdrawal, the move comes amid an increase in homophobic rhetoric in Hungary, where the anti-migration prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has launched a “family first” policy aimed at helping traditional families and boosting birth rates.
Earlier this year, the speaker of the Hungarian parliament compared same-sex adoption to paedophilia, while a pro-government television commentator referred to Eurovision as “a homosexual flotilla” and said not participating would benefit the nation’s mental health.
A source inside the Hungarian public broadcaster, MTVA, told the Guardian that while no reason was communicated internally for the decision to withdraw from the contest, the assumption among employees was that Eurovision’s association with LGBTQ+ culture was behind the move.
“I was not surprised. It comes from the organisational culture of MTVA,” said the source, adding that positive coverage of LGBT rights at the media holding was discouraged, save for annual coverage of Budapest Pride.
Public media in Hungary is closely linked to the government and has been instrumental in spreading its messages around migration and other issues. Earlier, the Hungarian website index.hu quoted unnamed sources inside public media speculating that the reason for the withdrawal was likely to be that Eurovision was deemed “too gay”.
Orbán’s spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, described the index.hu story as “fake news” on Twitter, but did not specify any other reason for Hungary’s non-participation.
In an emailed statement to the Guardian, MTVA said: “Instead of taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2020, we will support the valuable productions created by the talents of Hungarian pop music directly.”
In previous years, the winner of a series called The Song would go on to become Hungary’s Eurovision entry. This year the programme will continue but the prize will be a chance to appear on various domestic media outlets and at festivals.
MTVA did not respond to a question on the reasons for the decision.
From The Rivard Report: https://therivardreport.com/transgender-texans-deserve-a-seat-at-the-table/
November 20, 2019
In 2019, we have lost at least 22 trans sisters across this country to violence and hate. These women have been gunned down, strangled, beaten, and murdered simply for living their truths. I think about their families and friends and what they had to endure after losing their loved ones so horrifically. I think about my own family and friends and their concern for my safety. I know they fear that one day I’ll be next, that one day they will be mourning my death.
As terrifying as that thought is, their fears are warranted. Texas leads the nation in transgender murders, with more transgender people killed in Texas in the last five years than in any other state. On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, I want us to remember those who have lost their lives in Texas this year. Muhlaysia Booker, Chynal Lindsey, Tracy Single, and Itali Marlowe were beautiful souls who left us too soon.
Without state laws protecting transgender rights, there’s no telling how many more in our community we will lose. That’s why I’ve dedicated the past 24 years of my life to working in Texas politics. I’ve worked on over 50 campaigns and ballot initiatives in local, state, and national elections. My work has included fighting to pass the Non-Discrimination Ordinance in San Antonio and marching, protesting, and speaking with elected officials to fight the passage of House Bill 2, known as the bathroom bill. I continue to use my voice at every opportunity to ensure that trans Texans are not discriminated against.
After so many years fighting this fight, I started to think about the phrase “a seat at the table” and realized that I had been wrong about its meaning. I realized that the trans community was longing for more than just a seat at the political table. What we really want is a seat at the table of life – to feel loved, appreciated and respected for our contributions, skills, and achievements. We want to dream and set goals for the future in a safe and productive environment without discrimination.
The question then becomes, when will people stop fearing what they don’t understand and ask questions to advance a dialogue? I, personally, never felt the need to be accepted for living my truth. I never asked for anyone to accept me, as I had already accepted myself. I do, however, ask for respect – the respect that each and every one of us deserves.
As I look at the 2020 election, and all that is at stake, I can’t help but feel compelled to do more. Our community has suffered enough at the hands of extremists who feel the need to silence our voices and our truths, and I will not sit idly by and watch this happen. Loving the skin that I’m in, I will challenge the status quo. I will continue to fight for a seat at the table. If I find that all the seats are full, I will just bring my own chair.
Samuel J. Abrams
November 4, 2019
Another Election Day is upon us, which means that countless American Jews are heading to voting booths across the country — to vote for Democrats. It’s certainly not news that Jews are a politically liberal group with deep concerns about social justice. Hundreds of books, columns, polls, and surveys have firmly established that American Jews have long been an ideologically left of center group on the American scene, not to mention politically active supporters of Democrats.
What is newsworthy, though, is that the Trump Presidency, during which the American embassy was moved to Jerusalem, has coincided with American Jews drifting leftward — indeed, the furthest left they have positioned themselves in recent history.
The American Jewish Committee has been regularly measuring the ideological leanings of the American Jewish community since 1997. The data shows that liberal identifiers — those who lean to the left all the way to avowed liberals — have always been the plurality over the past two decades. 45% of the Jewish community identifies as being “left” on average, 32% identify as moderate, and the remaining 23% identify as conservative to some degree.
While the data shows American Jews are left of center in general, it is important to remember that for the bulk of the past two decades, only a plurality — and not a majority — of American Jews have historically identified as liberal.
By 2019, however, a majority of American Jews identified as liberal, and the general ideological trend has moved dramatically.
Looking at the past two decades, the proportion of conservative Jews has moved a few points up and down in the mid-20 percentile range but essentially remained stable for the past 22 years. Moderates and liberals were also fairly stable with moderates hovering around the low 30% range and liberals around the mid 40% range from 1997 through 2015.
By 2016, the trends abruptly changed. The percentage of moderates dropped 12 points and the figure has remained in the low 20s since. Concurrently, the percentage of liberals shot up sharply and has remained significantly higher such that in 2015, 45% of American Jews identified as being on the left and by 2019, that figure was 56% — an 11 point increase.
The only other time a majority of Jews identified as so overwhelmingly liberal was briefly in 2008 when President Barack Obama was running for President — but that was only a blip.
Today, a majority of Jews are consistently identifying as liberal. They have done so since 2016 and they have moved from the moderate camp into the liberal camp.
From The Orange County Register: https://www.ocregister.com/2019/11/18/2-subjects-discuss-trauma-as-kids-involved-in-uclas-now-defunct-gender-identity-study/
By Susan Christian Goulding
November 18, 2019
Karl Bryant had no idea he was the main character in someone else’s book. He discovered his biography in the late 1980s while poking around a San Francisco bookstore.
Jarringly, the tome was titled, “The ‘Sissy Boy Syndrome’ and the Development of Homosexuality.” But it was the author’s name that caught Bryant’s attention: Richard Green, a psychiatrist who evaluated him for 15 years at UCLA’s Gender Identity Research Clinic.
“Sure enough, there I was,” Bryant said.
A UC Irvine seminar held Nov. 12 brought together Bryant and another subject of the clinic’s three-decade study. Sé Shay Sullivan and Bryant knew about each other but had never met in person.
Both call themselves “survivors” of what they consider harmful research that left them feeling shame and humiliation with each session.
Bryant, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at SUNY New Paltz University in New York, identifies as gay. Sullivan, a carpenter who teaches in the sociology department at Gavilan College in Gilroy, identifies as gender fluid. Both are now 57.
Eight years ago, Sullivan, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, requested files on their case from UCLA. Sullivan received a 68-page transcript of doctor-patient interviews that now seem misguided and insensitive.
Sullivan created a multimedia art exhibit of their time under a microscope, and this year began taking the show on the road – so far, to half a dozen colleges around California.
UCI students filed through a room to view the transcript, each page clipped to a long clothesline. “Dr. N” stands for Larry Newman, a psychiatrist who trained at UCLA from 1964 to 1969.
In the background, a slideshow flipped through photos of Sullivan as a child. An audio reading of the transcript, recorded by Sullivan and two friends, runs throughout.
Sullivan comes across as defiant, precocious, bored, defensive and, at times, resigned and conciliatory.
“How does it get decided who’s going to be a boy and who’s going to be a girl?” Newman asks.
“Well, we just want to be what we want to be,” the child responds.
But in other instances, Sullivan assures him that despite longing to be a boy, “When I grow up, I’ll change my mind.”
After the presentation, Bryant and Sullivan took questions from an audience of more than 100 in a standing-room-only lecture hall. Jeanne Scheper, associate professor of gender and sexuality studies, monitored the Q&A.
The symposium would give the guest speakers an opportunity to “turn the lens of critical analysis on the doctors who studied them, labeled their gender as pathology, and subjected them to forms of what we would now call reparative therapy,” Scheper said in her introduction.
Bryant said that as a boy he “exhibited behavior my parents were concerned about.”
“Somehow, they got hooked up with a young psychiatrist named Dr. Green,” he said. “I was about five. All I knew was that I started going to UCLA every other week.”
From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/30/opinion/ethics-moderation-politics.html
By Jamie Aroosi
Oct. 30, 2019
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” was written as a response to a group of “white moderate” clergy members who claimed to be supportive of the civil rights movement — but who had also called Dr. King’s activism both “unwise and untimely.” For these moderates, civil rights activists were not courageous adversaries of a horribly unjust society, but lawless “outside agitators” threatening the tranquillity of the status quo. And so, rather than commending these activists, they condemned them and blamed the outbreak of violence on their resistance to Jim Crow rather than on Jim Crow itself.
In his response to their calls for slow and incremental change, Dr. King made a provocative claim: He argued that these white moderates were a potentially greater threat than the members of the Ku Klux Klan. Whereas the “ill will” of the rabid segregationist was out in the open and could therefore be combated, the “shallow understanding from people of good will” threatened to enervate the civil rights movement into acceptance of an intolerable status quo. For King, moderation in the face of injustice might have been a worse problem than injustice itself.
A half-century later we find ourselves, domestically and globally, in a similar crisis, arguably more divided than ever. Those fighting against inequality, sexism, racism and xenophobia face an entrenched and increasingly emboldened reactionary opposition. In between them lies our current equivalent of Dr. King’s “white moderate.” And these moderates, with their outsized political power and their nostalgia for a lost status quo, similarly represent a greater threat to progress than do the reactionaries.
As in the past, today’s moderate is generally not the victim of contemporary injustices. While many moderates acknowledge the existence of these injustices, their relative comfort allows them the luxury of denying their severity. In the United States, a spate of policies and movements that promise to help alleviate these problems have emerged — Medicare for All, the cancellation of student debt, the elimination of ICE and the Green New Deal, and Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement. But as in Dr. King’s time, today’s moderate only pays lip service to the general goals of these policies and movements while also condemning their stridency. For them, this stridency, in its potential upending of their comfortable status quo, seems a greater threat than the injustice it means to address.
As Dr. King understood, the problem he was facing — and that we now face again — is the problem of moral imagination. Moderates might have the “good will” that leads them to acknowledge injustice, but their very moderation is indicative of a “shallow understanding” that is emptied of the pain of those who currently suffer. For these moderates, injustice is a foreign affair, an abstract problem to be solved. Their response then lacks the urgency that a true understanding would bring. Learning how to expand their moral universe — learning how to turn opponents into allies — is just as pressing a problem as ever.
Almost two centuries ago, Søren Kierkegaard addressed this very issue. In his work “Fear and Trembling,” he went to great lengths to praise the biblical Abraham for his apparent willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. And while Kierkegaard’s praise of Abraham has led to no small number of misinterpretations, given how horrific it appears to be, Kierkegaard was not suggesting that we too should be willing to commit such an obviously terrible act. Instead, as Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” helps reveal, Kierkegaard used this story to demonstrate how, to those with a more limited moral imagination, actions which are deeply ethical can often appear as the greatest of crimes — as if we were willing to sacrifice that which is most dear.
Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/30/opinion/ethics-moderation-politics.html
Mon 28 Oct 2019
The actors’ union Equity has called for more casting directors to consider hiring transgender performers to play non-trans characters.
In guidance for entertainment professionals working with LGBT+ performers, published on Monday, the union said some trans actors were better suited to playing characters who were cisgender – meaning their gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth.
“The fact that [a performer] is trans may be completely invisible in the role or production, but it powerfully represents diversity in the industry,” it said. “This ‘invisible’ diversity is just as important as more physically recognisable forms of diversity.”
It added: “It is hard for trans actors to build a career out of the very small amount of trans-specific roles if these are the only roles for which they are actively sought.”
At a launch event for the guidance at the National Theatre, Tigger Blaize, the vice-chair of Equity’s LGBT+ committee, said the advice was designed to “help you to help us”. “We don’t want to bash anyone,” he said. “This is a new area to many and it’s OK to make mistakes.”
The union’s guidance says it should be standard industry practice for people to introduce themselves with both their name and preferred pronoun. It advises asking performers what pronouns they prefer, rather than assuming. “If you make a mistake, apologise, correct and move on. No dramas,” it reads.
Last year two films made headlines for casting trans actors to play cisgender characters. Rebecca Root played Mayfield in The Sisters Brothers, and Jake Graf played Gaston Arman de Caillavet in the film Colette, starring Keira Knightley.
Harrison Knights, a trans actor and activist, said he sometimes struggled to get parts playing transgender characters. “I’ve got a beard and a low voice, which they’re not expecting,” he said. Playing cis roles was “the holy grail” for him, he said, because there were more of them and they were more diverse.
Knights said cis roles were “the assumed default”. “An unnamed drug addict on Casualty, we assume he’s cis. A trainee barrister on Silk, we assume she’s cis. In fact, we assume everyone is cis unless told otherwise.”
He added: “It is not until [trans actors] are being cast in major cis roles because we are the best actors for the role, rather than because we tick a box, that we will have truly arrived.”
Knights said 48% of trans young people had attempted suicide, and having more visible trans role models would help this situation.
“This may be [achieved] through trans storylines – and these have given good exposure on TV shows – but more sustainably, and somewhat more bravely, it should come through reading for the good visible cis parts that are often out of our reach,” he said.
Blaize, who in more than 15 years of being an actor has played cis female and male characters, said he hoped the guidance would be empowering. “We are in the middle of a really horrible media storm of misinformation about us,” he said. “There are horrible stories coming out from hate groups and we need some positive representation.”
Queer Jewish leaders are less willing to choose between their faith and their identity. Their communities are starting to listen.
By Molly Sprayrege
October 24, 2019
Last month, over 100 students from the premier Orthodox Jewish institution Yeshiva University marched to demand more LGBTQ+ inclusivity at the school. The demonstrators pushed for increased resources for queer students, the right to form a Gay-Straight Alliance, and inclusivity training for university employees. “We, too, are YU,” they chanted as they marched.
A few months earlier, 27-year-old Daniel Atwood became the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi to be ordained in Jerusalem. After his own rabbinical school refused to ordain him, Atwood spoke publicly about the rejection and caught the attention of Rabbi Daniel Landes, who founded the “post-denominational” and more progressive ordination program Yashrut. Landes invited Atwood to Israel and ordained him alongside seven other students.
Orthodox Jewish law is often interpreted as being intolerant of homosexuality. Two verses in Leviticus condemn men who lie with other men “as he would with a woman,” which some read as a rejection of all forms of homosexuality. Others, however, see the text as far less black and white, believing for example that it only refers to specific sex acts, or that to read condemnation is a gross misinterpretation. Regardless, queer Orthodox Jews not only exist but are coming out younger and more often — and demanding louder than ever the right to live dignified lives.
According to Rabbi Atwood, the Orthodox community has come a long way on acknowledging the existence of the queer community. Now, he says, queer Orthodox jews want more, and the community is starting to listen.
“I think this is a situation where the average people are ten steps ahead of the leaders,” Rabbi Atwood says. “The synagogue I was raised in did not recognize my marriage, did not wish me congratulations on an official level. But when I was there for the holidays, so many of my parents’ friends congratulated me and were excited.”
According to Miryam Kabakov, executive director of ten-year-old Orthodox LGBTQ+ organization Eshel, the Orthodox community has become exceedingly more open over the past decade.
“When we started,” she says, “Orthodox communities were not really addressing LGBTQ inclusion as something they needed to do.” Now, Eshel’s Welcoming Shuls project reports that over 140 Orthodox synagogues across North America are willing to engage in dialogue with the organization about how to be more inclusive and to work toward adhering to their Principles of Inclusion.
Continue reading at: https://www.them.us/story/queer-orthodox-jews-want-more-than-tolerance
By Kashmira Gander
Trans children who live as the gender they identify with act and develop similarly to their cisgender counterparts, according to a new study.
In the largest ever study of transgender children, scientists recruited 317 3 to 12-year-old transgender children, 189 of their siblings, and 316 cisgender kids who acted as controls. The transgender participants had socially transitioned, meaning they were living as the gender they identify with rather than what they were assigned at birth. For instance, a child with a penis assigned a boy at birth who has come out as and is living as a girl.
To conduct the study, the researchers met families across North America, study co-author Selin Gülgöz, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington, told Newsweek. They spoke to children and parents about the former’s gender identity. That included showing kids toys and asking which ones they preferred, and quizzing them on how similar they felt to boys or girls. The cisgender control group followed the same steps.
“The most surprising finding is, overall, just how similar transgender and cisgender kids looked,” Gülgöz told Newsweek. “What this means is that, if I saw the data of any random participant, I would not be able to tell if that child is transgender or cisgender.”
“Within both transgender and cisgender children, we find a wide range in the strength of their identity and preferences. For example, we had some ‘tomboy’ transgender girls in the study, just as we had ‘tomboy’ cisgender girls.”
As the trans rights movement has gained mainstream attention in the past half decade or so, some have debated the legitimacy of the marginalized group’s experiences. Some have controversially argued that teaching children about trans issues is confusing, that children shouldn’t be allowed to transition, or that doing so perpetuates damaging gender stereotypes, for instance that girls wear pink or are submissive.
Gülgöz said the study can’t answer whether children should be allowed to socially transition due to its design. But the findings “show that the time a child spends living as transgender does not appear to change their gender identity, or make their preferences in gender-stereotypical clothes or toys more prominent, which lends support to previous research suggesting that early social transitions are not likely to be the cause of transgender children’s gender identities.”
“This study does show that in fact not all trans girls (or cis girls) want to wear frilly pink dresses or play with dolls. We in fact see plenty of trans kids violating these stereotypes, just as we see cis kids do so,” said Gülgöz.
“Other work in our lab has shown that trans kids either endorse gender stereotypes at equal rates or less than cis kids so the idea that trans kids are perpetuating stereotypes does not appear to hold up.”
According to her team’s findings, Gülgöz said it’s not possible to speculate why children—both cis and trans—appear to be drawn towards different interests, styles of clothing, and whether this is due to socialization, biology, or something else entirely.
Gülgöz acknowledged the study was limited because all of the children had socially transitioned, and the participants were studied in one moment in time. The cohort was also skewed in favor of children from higher-income homes with educated parents. It’s unclear if the same patterns would be found in other samples, she said.
The team plans to revisit the families and chart the participants’ development every three years.
From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/14/opinion/college-israel-anti-semitism.html
I am a young, gay, left-wing Jew. Yet I am called an “apartheid-enabler,” a “baby killer” and a “colonial apologist.”
Nov. 14, 2019
I have never done 23-and-me, nor have I “ancestry.com’d” myself. It’s never felt necessary. My family’s Eastern European Jewish heritage was something we lived to honor, including in our politics.
Like so many others, my family came to this country escaping discrimination in the Old Country and facing injustice in the New: abusive labor conditions; university quotas; social exclusion when we tried to climb the ladder of the American dream. Given our history in this country — and our involvement in so many social justice movements — it shouldn’t be a surprise that so many young Jews, myself included, can’t imagine being anything other than political progressives. As a gay abortion rights advocate and environmentalist, my place in such circles has always been welcomed and accepted.
Well, until now.
As a sophomore at George Washington University, whose student government last year passed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions proposal, I now find myself pushed to the fringes of a movement I thought I was at the heart of, marginalized as someone suspicious at best and oppressive at worst. This is because I am a Zionist. It is because I, like 95 percent of American Jews, support Israel.
Before I arrived on campus, I could proudly say that I was both a strong progressive and a Zionist. I didn’t think there was a conflict between those two ideas. In fact, I understood them as being in sync, given that progressives have long championed the liberation movements of downtrodden minorities. I viewed — and still view — the establishment of the state of Israel as a fundamentally just cause: the most persecuted people in human history finally gaining the right of self-determination after centuries of displacement, intimidation, violence and genocide. For me, this remains true even as I oppose the occupation of the West Bank. It is my Zionism that informs my view that the Palestinian people also have the right to their own state.
But my view is not at all shared by the progressive activist crowd I encountered on campus. They have made it abundantly clear to me and other Jews on campus that any form of Zionism — even my own liberal variant, which criticizes various policies of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and seeks a just two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — is a political nonstarter. For this group at my school, and similar groups on campuses and cities around the country, Zionism itself is, to parrot the Soviet propaganda of several decades ago, racist. And anybody who so dares to utter the words “right to exist” is undeniably a proponent of racism.
Given that almost all American Jews identify as “pro-Israel,” even as the majority of us are also critical of Israeli government policy, this intolerance affects huge numbers of young American Jews. I am one of them.
At many American universities, mine included, it is now normal for student organizations to freely call Israel an imperialist power and an outpost of white colonialism with little pushback or discussion — never mind that more than half of Israel’s population consists of Israeli Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, and that the country boasts a 20 percent Arab minority. The word “apartheid” is thrown around without hesitation. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is repeatedly dragged into discussions ranging anywhere from L.G.B.T.Q. equality (where to mention Israel’s vastly better record on gay rights compared with that of any other country in the Middle East is branded “pinkwashing”), to health care to criminal justice reform.
Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/14/opinion/college-israel-anti-semitism.html
By Matt Baume
October 31 2019
If a Georgia state representative has her way, doctors who help minors with gender transitions could be charged with a felony.
State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart is currently drafting a bill that would criminalize treatments related to gender transition for youth, including surgery and puberty blockers. “We’re talking about children that can’t get a tattoo or smoke a cigar or a cigarette in the state of Georgia but can be castrated and get sterilized,” she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Specifically, Ehrhart’s proposed bill would ban “mastectomy, vasectomy, castration and other forms of genital mutilization [sic]” for the purpose of gender transition. Doctors could also be jailed for prescribing “puberty-blocking drugs to stop or delay normal puberty and cross-sex hormone therapy.”
Ehrhart’s characterization of treatments isn’t backed up by science. Puberty-blocking medication delays puberty, but doesn’t cause any permanent change. Gender-affirming surgery for minors is very rare and only occurs when doctors deem that it’s medically necessary.
A review of current research in the June 2019 edition of The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology supports medical treatments for youth.
“Several preliminary studies have shown benefits of gender-affirming surgery in adolescents, particularly regarding bilateral mastectomy in transgender adolescent males,” reports the study.
And a paper published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in April 2017 indicates that it may actually be beneficial to perform surgery before minors leave home.
“Younger patients who have the support of their families, support of their parents, and can have the operation while they are still at home, as opposed to being alone at school or at work, anecdotally tend to do much better than someone who is alone and doesn’t have appropriate support,” that study said.
“This legislation would criminalize decisions that are made carefully within families in consultation with medical professionals and mental health professionals,” Jeff Graham, executive director of the LGBTQ+ rights organization Georgia Equality, told the Journal-Constitution. “Supporting children in recognizing their gender identity is not only
humane, it saves lives and strengthens families.”
Ginny Ehrhart’s husband, Earl Ehrhart, served in the same seat for the previous 30 years, and exhibited similar transphobia. In 2016, he tried to block the passage of civil rights legislation, objecting to terminology that he said would protect transgender citizens.
Ginny Ehrhart’s opponent in last year’s election was Democrat Jen Slipakoff, who is the parent of a transgender daughter.
When announcing her proposed bill, Ginny Ehrhart issued a press release that quoted Dr. Quentin Van Meter, president of an organization calling itself “The American College of Pediatricians,” not to be confused by the The American Academy of Pediatrics, which supports gender-affirming care.
Despite the similar names, The American College of Pediatricians is not a respected medical organization. It was founded to oppose adoption rights for same-sex parents, and is estimated to have just a few dozen members, compared with 64,000 members of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Tue 5 Nov 2019
At the end of the cold war, the political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote a celebrated essay called The End of History? Communism’s collapse, he argued, would clear the last obstacle separating the entire world from its destiny of liberal democracy and market economies. Many people agreed.
Today, as we face a retreat from the rules-based, liberal global order, with autocratic rulers and demagogues leading countries that contain well over half the world’s population, Fukuyama’s idea seems quaint and naive. But it reinforced the neoliberal economic doctrine that has prevailed for the last 40 years.
The credibility of neoliberalism’s faith in unfettered markets as the surest road to shared prosperity is on life-support these days. And well it should be. The simultaneous waning of confidence in neoliberalism and in democracy is no coincidence or mere correlation. Neoliberalism has undermined democracy for 40 years.
The form of globalisation prescribed by neoliberalism left individuals and entire societies unable to control an important part of their own destiny, as Dani Rodrik of Harvard University has explained so clearly, and as I argue in my recent books Globalization and Its Discontents Revisited and People, Power, and Profits. The effects of capital-market liberalisation were particularly odious: if a leading presidential candidate in an emerging market lost favour with Wall Street, the banks would pull their money out of the country. Voters then faced a stark choice: give in to Wall Street or face a severe financial crisis. It was as if Wall Street had more political power than the country’s citizens.
Even in rich countries, ordinary citizens were told: “You can’t pursue the policies you want” – whether adequate social protection, decent wages, progressive taxation, or a well-regulated financial system – “because the country will lose competitiveness, jobs will disappear, and you will suffer”.
In rich and poor countries alike, elites promised that neoliberal policies would lead to faster economic growth and that the benefits would trickle down so that everyone, including the poorest, would be better off. To get there, though, workers would have to accept lower wages, and all citizens would have to accept cutbacks in important government programmes.
The elites claimed that their promises were based on scientific economic models and “evidence-based research”. Well, after 40 years, the numbers are in: growth has slowed and the fruits of that growth went overwhelmingly to a very few at the top. As wages stagnated and the stock market soared, income and wealth flowed up, rather than trickling down.
How can wage restraint – to attain or maintain competitiveness – and reduced government programmes possibly add up to higher standards of living? Ordinary citizens felt like they had been sold a bill of goods. They were right to feel conned.
We are now experiencing the political consequences of this grand deception: distrust of the elites, of the economic “science” on which neoliberalism was based and of the money-corrupted political system that made it all possible.
From Robert Reich: https://robertreich.org/post/188985940802
Monday, November 11, 2019
Billionaires are wailing that Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’s wealth tax proposals are attacks on free market capitalism.
Warren “vilifies successful people,” says Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase.
Rubbish. There are basically only five ways to accumulate a billion dollars, and none of them has to do with being successful in free market capitalism.
The first way is to exploit a monopoly.
Jamie Dimon is worth $1.6 billion. That’s not because he succeeded in the free market. In 2008 the government bailed out JPMorgan and four other giant Wall Street banks because it considered them “too big to fail.”
That bailout is a hidden insurance policy, still in effect, with an estimated value to the big banks of $83 billion a year. If JPMorgan weren’t so big and was therefore allowed to fail, Dimon would be worth far less than $1.6 billion.
What about America’s much-vaulted entrepreneurs, such as Jeff Bezos, now worth $110 billion? You might say Bezos deserves this because he founded and built Amazon.
But Amazon is a monopolist with nearly 50 percent of all e-commerce retail sales in America, and e-commerce is one of the biggest sectors of retail sales. In addition, Amazon’s business is protected by a slew of patents granted by the U.S. government.
If the government enforced anti-monopoly laws, and didn’t give Amazon such broad patents,Bezos would be worth far less than $110 billion.
A second way to make a billion is to get insider information unavailable to other investors.
Hedge-fund maven Steven A. Cohen, worth $12.8 billion, headed up a hedge fund firm in which, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Justice Department, insider trading was “substantial, pervasive, and on a scale without known precedent in the hedge fund industry.” Nine of Cohen’s present or former employees pleaded guilty or were convicted. Cohen got off with a fine, changed the name of his firm, and apparently is back at the game.
Insider trading is endemic in C-suites, too. SEC researchers have found that corporate executives are twice as likely to sell their stock on the days following their own stock buyback announcements as they are in the days leading up to the announcements.
Continue reading at: https://robertreich.org/post/188985940802