Friday, February 16, 2018

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Of Course the Christian Right Supports Trump

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/26/opinion/trump-christian-right-values.html


Jan. 26, 2018


In 1958, the Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell, who would go on to found the Moral Majority, gave a sermon titled “Segregation or Integration: Which?” He inveighed against the Supreme Court’s anti-segregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education, arguing that facilities for blacks and whites should remain separate.

“When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line,” he wrote, warning that integration “will destroy our race eventually.” In 1967, Falwell founded the Lynchburg Christian Academy — later Liberty Christian Academy — as a private school for white students.
The Lynchburg Christian Academy, in Virginia, was one of many so-called seg academies created throughout the South to circumvent desegregation. In the 1970s, these discriminatory schools lost their tax-exempt status. Feeling under siege as a result, conservative Christians started organizing politically. This was the origin of the modern religious right, and it helps explain why a movement publicly devoted to piety has stood so faithfully by Donald Trump.

In his 2014 biography of Jimmy Carter, the Dartmouth historian Randall Balmer quotes the conservative activist Paul Weyrich: “What caused the movement to surface was the federal government’s moves against Christian schools. This absolutely shattered the Christian community’s notions that Christians could isolate themselves inside their own institutions and teach what they please.” (This should sound familiar to anyone who has heard Christian conservative outrage over being forced to accommodate gay marriage.)

In 1980, the nascent religious right overwhelmingly supported Ronald Reagan, a former movie star who would become America’s first divorced president, over the evangelical Carter. In doing so, it helped destigmatize divorce. “Up until 1980, anybody who was divorced, let alone divorced and remarried, very likely would have been kicked out of evangelical congregations,” Balmer, who was raised evangelical and is now a scholar of evangelicalism, told me.

Given this history, it is not surprising that the contemporary leaders of the religious right are blasé about reports that Trump cheated on his third wife with a porn star shortly after the birth of his youngest child, then paid her to be quiet. Despite his louche personal life, Trump, the racist patriarch promising cultural revenge, doesn’t threaten the religious right’s traditional values. He embodies them.

This week, Tony Perkins, leader of the Family Research Council, told Politico that Trump gets a “mulligan,” or do-over, on his past moral transgressions, because he’s willing to stand up to the religious right’s enemies. Evangelicals, Perkins said, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/26/opinion/trump-christian-right-values.html

How a Holocaust-Era Yiddish Song Became a Women’s March Slogan

From Tablet Magazine:  http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/254304/how-a-holocaust-era-yiddish-song-became-a-womens-march-slogan

The strange and inspiring history of “Mir Velen Zei Iberleben,” or “We Will Outlive Them”

By Avi Shafran
 January 30, 2018

At the recent second Women’s March, New York participants saw a banner held aloft with a hand-lettered Yiddish message, helpfully transliterated and translated into English. The transliteration read “Mir Velen Zei Iberleben”; and the translation, “We Will Outlive Them.”

The banner didn’t specify who the intended “them” might be (not men, I hope–though, of course, women do tend to live longer than those of us burdened with Y chromosomes). As to the legend on the banner, well, therein lies a tale, and it is a moving one.

It begins with a love song penned by Latvian-born cantor and composer Solomon Rosowsky, who received a degree in law from the University of Kiev but then opted to study music at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. (One of his teachers was Rimsky-Korsakov).

The song, with its lively gypsy-style melody and a favorite of klezmer groups, is in the voice of one half of a couple begging the other half to reconsider some unelaborated-upon spat.
Its clever lyrics match its catchy tune, rhyming fenster (“window”–from the Latin fenestra; “fenester” was in fact a common English word for window until well into the 16th century; and see: “defenestrate”) with shenster (“most beautiful”); and pomerantzen (“oranges,” from the Latin pommom, “fruit” and Italian arancia, “orange”) with tantzen (dance).

The song’s title and refrain is “Lomr Zich Iberbetn”–or, rendered colloquially, “Let’s Make Up.”
Iber means “over” or “above.” Its German cognate, Über, is familiar to those who have read Nietzsche or requested a ride service (the philosopher’s Übermensch is a “superhuman”; and the recently resigned CEO Travis Kalanick’s choice of company name was intended to herald a “super” form of transportation).

And betn means to “request” or “plead.” So iberbetn might be understood as a plea for forgiveness, a “getting over” a quarrel, a reconciliation

What the song has to do with perseverance or overcoming something or someone lies in an account told to the Holocaust researcher Moshe Prager by an eyewitness, one Dr. Warman.

Complete article at:  http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/254304/how-a-holocaust-era-yiddish-song-became-a-womens-march-slogan

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

My Questions About the #MeToo Moment

From Huffington Post:  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/my-questions-about-the-metoo-moment_us_5a4f9ef3e4b0cd114bdb3280

By Phyllis Chesler 01/05/2018

I am glad so many women are speaking out—and I hope that this leads to some enduring changes; I would be delighted if this moment becomes a movement which leads to legislation that is both funded and enforced. Good faith and hard-won victories such as The Violence Against Women Act and the William Wilberforce Act Against Human Trafficking were passed, under-funded and therefore, could not fulfill their missions.

I am glad that women-workers-as-prey are each publicly confirming the details of their working lives—but I worry about our blurring all distinctions. An unwanted and forcible kiss is not legally the same as being forcibly touched, sexually assaulted. or kidnapped, beaten, and gang-raped.

The New York State Penal Law distinguishes between Sexual misconduct, Forcible touching, Sexual abuse, Aggravated Sexual Abuse, Rape, Criminal Sexual Act, Facilitated Sex Offense with a Controlled Substance, and Predatory Sexual Assault. Each violation is described differently and is subject to different penalties. We must remain aware of these distinctions.

However, I am concerned about something that is not even part of this Penal Law. Can we reduce to a single penalty the reality of an ongoing sexually hostile and coercive work environment, one filled with leers, sexualized comments, demeaning pats, humiliating exposures to pornography, street corner-like wolf calls and low whistles, repeated discussions of how women “look,” non-stop invitations to go out drinking, to a strip club—or to a hotel ? What do we call having to endure a brothel-like atmosphere at work?

I also worry when a mere accusation is equivalent to a conviction. Most entertainers and Talking Heads are employees at will and, as such, are not entitled to due process. They can be hired and fired and will. Those employees with union protection are entitled to inside hearings which may take years and in which the woman who has made the allegation will be fired, or eventually paid off with a pittance. This, too, is worrisome.

I am glad that Hollywood celebrities have crafted a very good ad and launched a fund for lawsuits about on-the-job sexual harassment and abuse. Yet, however noble this statement may be, I wonder whether such “virtue signaling” will be able to change the working conditions of farm and factory workers? More important, how will we be able to monitor and intervene in the daily work lives of female agricultural workers, waitresses, secretaries, housekeepers, bar tenders, miners, students, soldiers and prostituted women?

Yes, I am concerned with prostituted women who are paid to be treated with contempt: groped, grabbed, cursed, slapped, beaten, and sexually assaulted. I now wonder whether their working lives will become harder, harsher, if powerful men lose their sexual perks in the office and have to pay to treat women badly.

Still, I am glad the #MeToo Moment is happening. One hopes that women will be less afraid of exposing work-related sexual harassment and rape. But will they? Will lawyers agree to represent these women? Will juries find the perpetrators guilty when they really are?

Continue reading at:  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/my-questions-about-the-metoo-moment_us_5a4f9ef3e4b0cd114bdb3280

More people aging alone as ‘elder orphans’

From The Olympian:  http://www.theolympian.com/news/local/article192820524.html

By Anna Schlecht January 03, 2018

With luck and good genetics, you might be able to live on your own terms until the end of your days. But chances are, if you live long enough, you’ll eventually need help with things like cooking, cleaning and personal care. And independence becomes harder given the growing number of people who are aging alone as “elder orphans.”

According to AARP, more than 20 percent or 8.6 million people older than 65 are now, or are at risk of becoming, an elder orphan — a senior citizen who does not have a spouse, significant other or children

With luck and good genetics, you might be able to live on your own terms until the end of your days. But chances are, if you live long enough, you’ll eventually need help with things like cooking, cleaning and personal care. And independence becomes harder given the growing number of people who are aging alone as “elder orphans.”

According to AARP, more than 20 percent or 8.6 million people older than 65 are now, or are at risk of becoming, an elder orphan — a senior citizen who does not have a spouse, significant other or children to help care for them as they age. A far greater percentage have adult children who, for whatever reason, are unable or unwilling to help care for them.

This number will increase steadily until it doubles by the year 2050. That’s a lot of people who will need help to age in place.

Aging alone is tough given that the vast majority of elder care is provided by families through “informal caregiver” networks. These are networks of relatives who are pressed into service by need without specialized training. They are the people who cook, clean, and assist elderly people with basic personal care needs. According to a 2010 report, “The Evolving Balance of Formal and Informal, Institutional and non-Institutional Long-Term Care for Older Americans: a Thirty-Year Perspective,” two-thirds of older people who need assistance received all of their home-based care from a family caregiver, usually wives and daughters. Of this group of family caregivers, almost a third are themselves 65 or older. Approximately a quarter of elders received both informal care and some paid caregivers. Less than 10 percent relied solely upon on paid caregivers.

The Family Caregiver Alliance’s National Center on Caregiving reports that in 2015 there were nearly 66 million informal family and friend caregivers who cared for older adults who were unable to manage their “activities of daily living,” or ADLs, such as bathing, dressing or eating. This statistic includes a “live-in” category of offspring who move in with parents or grandparents to help them with unskilled care. It also includes a “drop-in” category of care from informal family networks of adult children or family friends who are visiting caregivers. Typically, they share the duties of elder care, with some providing food, others providing transportation or other assistance.

As a result of the growing need for elder care and the reduced numbers of family members willing or able to provide it, the Home Care Provider industry has grown rapidly to accommodate older people without family caregivers. As one of the fastest growing health care sectors, home care is a more affordable alternative than assisted living facilities, which cost as much as $9,000 per month, or skilled nursing, which can cost more than $3,000 per day. In comparison, home care costs average about $50 per day, clearly the most affordable option.

What does this all mean? It’s not an issue for my parents’ generation of 90-somethings, who are happily out-numbered by their numerous children who are eager to provide care. But for my generation of 60-somethings, the outlook isn’t so rosy. Many baby boomers, including me, are positioned to become elder orphans.

 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Patriarchs Are Falling. The Patriarchy Is Stronger Than Ever.

From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/opinion/sunday/patriarchy-feminism-metoo.html

It would be easy to end 2017 with the impression that, whatever its afflictions, it was at least a game-changing year for feminism.

“The Female Revolution Is Here” and could “Smash Patriarchy at Its Core,” social and mainstream media headlines declared. “We are blowing the whistle on the prime directive of the master/slave relationship between women and men.” “This is the end of patriarchy” — this from Forbes! — “the male domination of humanity.” Twitter, the newsstand and the street concur: This year witnessed a transformational moment in American sexual politics.

Surely the results of the #MeToo phenomenon are worthy. It’s a seriously good thing Harvey Weinstein is gone and that the potential Harvey Weinsteins will think twice or thrice or a thousand times before harassing women whose fortunes they control. But “the end of patriarchy”? Look around.

This month, President Trump signed into law a tax bill that throws a bomb at women. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act systematically guts benefits that support women who need support the most: It means an end to personal and dependent exemptions (a disaster for minimum-wage workers, nearly two-thirds of whom are women). An expiration date for child-care tax credits and a denial of such credits for immigrant children without Social Security cards. An end to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. And, barely avoided, thanks to Democrats’ objections: an enshrinement of “fetal personhood” in the form of college savings accounts for unborn children, a sly grenade lobbed at legal abortion.

Not to mention that Republican congressmen plan to pay down the enormous federal deficit the bill will incur by slashing entitlements that, again, are critical to women: Medicaid (covering nearly half the births in the nation and 75 percent of family planning), Medicare (more than half of beneficiaries 65 and older — and two-thirds of those 85 and older — are women) and so on.

And that’s on top of all the other Trump administration insults: reviving the global gag rule on abortion, suspending tracking of the gender wage gap, deep-sixing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order and much more.

Which leads me to wonder, if we get rid of a handful of Harveys while losing essential rights and protections for millions of women, are we really winning this thing? How is this female calamity happening in the midst of the Female Revolution? An answer may lie in a schism that has haunted women’s protest for 150 years.

American women’s activism has historically taken two forms. One is an expression of direct anger at the ways individual men use and abuse us. It’s righteous outrage against the unambiguous enemy with a visible face, the male predator who feeds on our vulnerability and relishes our humiliation. Mr. Weinstein’s face is the devil’s face du jour, and the #MeToo campaign fits squarely in this camp. The other form is less spectacular but as essential: It’s fighting the ways the world is structurally engineered against women. Tied to that fight is the difficult and ambiguous labor of building an equitable system within which women have the wherewithal and power to lead full lives.

The clarion cry against individual male predation and the push for broader gender equality may seem part and parcel, especially now. When Donald Trump is the titular head of the machine, it’s tempting to imagine that the machine itself has orange hair — and that to defeat Harvey Weinstein is to win. But the patriarchy is bigger than the patriarch.

Monday, January 29, 2018

'End Times' Beliefs Are Extreme, and Extremely Influential

From Psychology Today:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201712/end-times-beliefs-are-extreme-and-extremely-influential

Apocalyptic views are shaping policy at the highest levels.

David Niose Dec 12, 2017

To those who don't circulate in fundamentalist religious crowds, apocalyptic thinking—the belief that the world will soon be coming to an end, fulfilling biblical prophecy—might seem strangely fringe and hardly worth serious attention. Perhaps for this reason, the topic rarely gets much consideration in mainstream press. But it would be a mistake to be dismissive of “End Times” beliefs, because their influence in American policymaking is far from marginal.

A case in point is the recent declaration by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Though it was reported in the media that this move was intended to appease Trump’s conservative Christian base, few news accounts explained in any detail why the religious right considers the issue so important. Their motivation is not any desire to promote peace in the turbulent region, but in fact, the exact opposite: they sincerely believe the move will hasten the end of the world.

Robert Jeffress, a high-profile evangelical leader, praised Trump's decision, calling Jerusalem “the touchstone of prophecy.” The "prophecy" in question is the New Testament’s Book of Revelation, which depicts Jesus returning and an epic battle with forces of evil. Florida legislator Doug Broxson, while introducing Trump at a rally last week, couldn't contain his excitement over the policy change and its biblical implications: “I don’t know about you, but when I heard about Jerusalem – where the King of Kings [applause], where our soon-coming King is coming back to Jerusalem – it is because President Trump declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel.”

“Evangelicals are ecstatic” about the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital “for Israel to us is a sacred place,” explained pastor Paula White, who led the invocation at Trump’s inauguration. The restoration of Israel, along with various events incidental thereto, is seen as a necessary condition for the End Times.

Israel may be a Jewish state, but many fundamentalist Christians clearly feel they have their own theological skin in the game. Scriptural interpretations vary, but the End Times are generally understood by believers as the culmination of all of history, the climactic point where God’s promises are fulfilled, where the righteous are rewarded and God’s wrath is delivered to unrepentant sinners. And the role of Israel in all of this Christian prophecy is central.

This perceived importance is reflected in poll numbers comparing the views of white evangelicals and American Jews on the question of whether they believe God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people: evangelicals hold the belief at a rate more than doubling that of Jews, 82 to 40 percent.

Complete article at:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201712/end-times-beliefs-are-extreme-and-extremely-influential

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Patriarchs Are Falling. The Patriarchy Is Stronger Than Ever.

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/opinion/sunday/patriarchy-feminism-metoo.html

It would be easy to end 2017 with the impression that, whatever its afflictions, it was at least a game-changing year for feminism.

“The Female Revolution Is Here” and could “Smash Patriarchy at Its Core,” social and mainstream media headlines declared. “We are blowing the whistle on the prime directive of the master/slave relationship between women and men.” “This is the end of patriarchy” — this from Forbes! — “the male domination of humanity.” Twitter, the newsstand and the street concur: This year witnessed a transformational moment in American sexual politics.

Surely the results of the #MeToo phenomenon are worthy. It’s a seriously good thing Harvey Weinstein is gone and that the potential Harvey Weinsteins will think twice or thrice or a thousand times before harassing women whose fortunes they control. But “the end of patriarchy”? Look around.

This month, President Trump signed into law a tax bill that throws a bomb at women. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act systematically guts benefits that support women who need support the most: It means an end to personal and dependent exemptions (a disaster for minimum-wage workers, nearly two-thirds of whom are women). An expiration date for child-care tax credits and a denial of such credits for immigrant children without Social Security cards. An end to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. And, barely avoided, thanks to Democrats’ objections: an enshrinement of “fetal personhood” in the form of college savings accounts for unborn children, a sly grenade lobbed at legal abortion.

Not to mention that Republican congressmen plan to pay down the enormous federal deficit the bill will incur by slashing entitlements that, again, are critical to women: Medicaid (covering nearly half the births in the nation and 75 percent of family planning), Medicare (more than half of beneficiaries 65 and older — and two-thirds of those 85 and older — are women) and so on.

And that’s on top of all the other Trump administration insults: reviving the global gag rule on abortion, suspending tracking of the gender wage gap, deep-sixing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order and much more.

Which leads me to wonder, if we get rid of a handful of Harveys while losing essential rights and protections for millions of women, are we really winning this thing? How is this female calamity happening in the midst of the Female Revolution? An answer may lie in a schism that has haunted women’s protest for 150 years.

American women’s activism has historically taken two forms. One is an expression of direct anger at the ways individual men use and abuse us. It’s righteous outrage against the unambiguous enemy with a visible face, the male predator who feeds on our vulnerability and relishes our humiliation. Mr. Weinstein’s face is the devil’s face du jour, and the #MeToo campaign fits squarely in this camp. The other form is less spectacular but as essential: It’s fighting the ways the world is structurally engineered against women. Tied to that fight is the difficult and ambiguous labor of building an equitable system within which women have the wherewithal and power to lead full lives.

The clarion cry against individual male predation and the push for broader gender equality may seem part and parcel, especially now. When Donald Trump is the titular head of the machine, it’s tempting to imagine that the machine itself has orange hair — and that to defeat Harvey Weinstein is to win. But the patriarchy is bigger than the patriarch.

Guns and the left

From The Outline:  https://theoutline.com/post/2399/guns-and-the-left?zd=

Some leftists are rejecting the Democratic Party’s stance on firearm regulation.

Gaby Del Valle Oct.16, 2017

When anti-racist protesters held a demonstration against the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August, their protest was protected by an informal militia of 20 rifle-toting leftists who surrounded the perimeter of Justice Park. “It’s a deterrent,” Kevin Smith, a member of a leftist gun club who was part of the informal security detail, told the Colorado Springs Independent. “There were people there who wanted to come over and start [fights] with people, but they saw us and stayed across the street.”
As Democrats and Republicans debate gun control in the wake of last week’s shooting in Las Vegas, which left 59 dead and more than 500 injured, some socialists and other leftists are rejecting the Democratic Party’s call for stricter regulation of firearms. The result has been a fraught intra-leftist gun debate that raises questions about the efficacy of gun control, as well as the roles racial and economic justice should play in curbing gun violence.

“I would describe myself as a pro-gun socialist,” Courtney Caldwell, told The Outline. Caldwell, an active member of the Denton, Texas chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, doesn’t quite fit the profile of the average gun owner: white, male, high-income, and over the age of 55, according to a 2015 Columbia University study published in the journal Injury Prevention. For her, gun ownership is a fundamental part of her leftist identity. “Guns are a necessary form of self-defense so long as there is an oppressive, racist state that exists to uphold white supremacy,” Caldwell said. This doesn’t just mean self-defense in the traditional sense — defending one’s body from harm — but also the collective defense of marginalized communities.

Several leftist pro-gun organizations are committed to doing just that. There’s Redneck Revolt, a self-described anti-racist, anti-capitalist grassroots organization that seeks to build solidarity between the white working class and people of color. Founded in 2016, the organization has more than 40 chapters across the country. In addition to providing security at protests, Redneck Revolt relies on counter-recruitment — reclaiming gun culture from white conservatives as a way of reaching out to working-class gun owners who feel alienated from mainstream liberal politics. The Dallas-based Huey P. Newton Gun Club, established in 2013 and named after the founder of the Black Panther Party, was formed in response to right-wing gun advocacy groups in the region. In 2015, the group’s founder Charles Goodson told Vice magazine he wanted his organization to become the “black alternative to the NRA.” But Goodson’s gun club focuses on more than just individual gun ownership. That same year, the club staged its first openly-armed patrol in a predominately black Dallas neighborhood where police killed a young black man in 2012. “No longer will we let the pigs slaughter our brothers and sisters and not say a damn thing about it! Black power! Black power! Black power!” the rally’s leader shouted.

Joe Prince, a law student and black leftist living in Washington D.C., defined his community’s relationship connection to guns as “complex.”

“The relationship is not a loving one, to say the least,” Prince told The Outline. He isn’t a gun-owner himself — “I think guns are terrible. I never want to own a gun,” he said — but understands the appeal gun-ownership has for people of color, and for leftists of color in particular. “Martin Luther King, Jr. owned guns,” Prince said. “He spoke frequently about how much he didn’t like guns, about how nonviolence is the way forward for civil rights, but at the same time he had people with shotguns protecting him so he would be able to live to make those speeches.”

Continue reading at:  https://theoutline.com/post/2399/guns-and-the-left?zd=

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

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

From Alternet:  https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/how-democracy-dies

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.

Creation Festival Founder Arrested for Alleged Child Molestation

From Christianity Today:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/december/creation-festival-founder-arrested-for-child-molestation.html

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.

Continue reading at:   http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/december/creation-festival-founder-arrested-for-child-molestation.html

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

From Alternet:  https://www.alternet.org/belief/evangelical-christianity-facing-political-crisis-it-will-need-more-makeover

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.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.alternet.org/belief/evangelical-christianity-facing-political-crisis-it-will-need-more-makeover

No Wonder Millennials Hate Capitalism

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/04/opinion/millennials-hate-capitalism.html


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.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/04/opinion/millennials-hate-capitalism.html
From Salon: https://www.salon.com/2017/12/11/chamath-palihapitiya-facebook/

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

Matthew Rozsad
12.11.2017

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."

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Crisis Ahead: The U.S. Is No Country for Older Men and Women

From Alternet:  https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/us-no-country-older-men-and-women

Millions can no longer afford to retire, and may never be able when the GOP passes its tax bill.

By Alex Henderson< December 12, 2017

The news is not good for millions of aging Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in the United States who are moving closer to retirement age. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual report on retirement preparedness for 2017, only 18 percent of U.S.-based workers feel “very confident” about their ability to retire comfortably; Craig Copeland, senior research associate for EBRI and the report’s co-author, cited “debt, lack of a retirement plan at work, and low savings” as “key factors” in workers’ retirement-related anxiety. The Insured Retirement Institute finds a mere 23 percent of Baby Boomers and 24 percent of Gen Xers are confident that their savings will last in retirement. To make matters worse, more than 40 percent of Boomers and over 30 percent of Gen Xers report having no retirement savings whatsoever.

The U.S. has a retirement crisis on its hands, and with the far right controlling the executive branch and both houses of Congress, as well as dozens of state governments, things promise to grow immeasurably worse.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Past progressive presidents, notably Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, took important steps to make life more comfortable for aging Americans. FDR signed the Social Security Act of 1935 into law as part of his New Deal, and when LBJ passed Medicare in 1965, he established a universal health care program for those 65 and older. But the country has embraced a neoliberal economic model since the election of Ronald Reagan, and all too often, older Americans have been quick to vote for far-right Republicans antagonistic to the social safety net.

In the 2016 presidential election, 55 percent of voters 50 and older cast their ballots for Donald Trump against just 44 percent for Hillary Clinton. (This was especially true of older white voters; 90 percent of black voters 45 and older, as well as 67 percent of Latino voters in the same age range voted Democratic.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) economic proposals may have been wildly popular with millennials, but no demographic has a greater incentive to vote progressive than Americans facing retirement. According to research conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons, the three greatest concerns of Americans 50 and older are Social Security, health care costs and caregiving for loved ones—all areas that have been targeted by Republicans.

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a devotee of social Darwinist Ayn Rand, has made no secret of his desire to privatize Social Security and replace traditional Medicare with a voucher program. Had George W. Bush had his way and turned Social Security over to Wall Street, the economic crash of September 2008 might have left millions of senior citizens homeless.

Since then, Ryan has doubled down on his delusion that the banking sector can manage Social Security and Medicare more effectively than the federal government. Republican attacks on Medicare have become a growing concern: according to EBRI, only 38 percent of workers are confident the program will continue to provide the level of benefits it currently does.

Continue reading at: https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/us-no-country-older-men-and-women