Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Warren Blumenfeld

Over 60,000 people in New York's Central Park and millions more around our planet were treated to the eclectic sounds of world-class performers at the third Global Citizens Festival on Saturday, September 27. Performers included Jay Z, Beyoncé, Carrie Underwood, The Roots, Tiesto, No Doubt, Sting, and Alicia Keys.

The organization Global Citizen, whose goal is to eliminate extreme poverty worldwide by 2030, sponsored the event to shed light on poverty, which continues to affect an estimated 1.2 billion people, and to empower individuals and the world community to take concrete actions to end this scourge. Specifically, Global Citizen urges people to contact world leaders to focus on issues of providing vaccines, education, and sanitation to all the world's citizens.

Internationally, more people have mobile phones than have clean potable water and sanitation facilities. An estimated 3.4 million people die each year of diseases caused by lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation infrastructures. This shortage kills people around the world every four hours. This lack of clean water and vaccinations significantly lowers a person's chances for quality education, keeping them in extreme poverty. The vicious cycle continues.

Part of the Global Citizen Manifesto reads:

"I believe that 1 BILLION PEOPLE continuing to live extreme poverty is an affront to our COMMON HUMANITY AND DIGNITY. That it is unfair, unjust and unnecessary."

These words, "unfair," "unjust," and "unnecessary" have particular resonance for me as I learned that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes recently refused to prevent city officials in Detroit, Michigan from shutting off water to customers who cannot afford to pay the skyrocketing costs of services, which have increased rapidly since the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy last year. Monthly charges for water and sewer services in Detroit average $70.67 per household. In his ruling, Rhodes asserted that people do not have a fundamental right to water services. Since the shutoffs over the summer, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets.

In the wealthy suburbs circling Detroit, though, residents fill their enormous residential and country club swimming pools and artificial lakes around their pristine golf courses, as people in the inner city desperately lack water for drinking or bathing. And the tremendous income gaps ever expand within the U.S. and internationally.

Unfair

While city officials have negotiated long-term payment schedules for some customersthey rated "delinquent" on past payments, a number of residents, often through no fault of their own, simply do not have the funds necessary to pay for water. They regularly have to choose between putting food on the table for their children or paying for clean water. No one should have to make this choice!

Unjust

By shutting off the valves, city officials have consigned residents to increased rates of disease, dehydration, and lowered chances of escaping poverty. When children and adults are deprived of the basics to sustain life, their health suffers, which greatly impacts their educational and overall life opportunities.

Unnecessary

Our nation must redirect its priorities directly to serve its people through infrastructure improvements so cities like Detroit do not have to solve these problems in isolation resulting in forced terminations of clean and potable water. President Obama has urged Congress since he entered office to release the funding to upgrade our crumbling sewer systems, roads, bridges, and power grids, which as they currently exist, have put our nation at increased risk. Unfortunately, Congress seems unwilling to get to work, which stands in stark contrast to the vast number of our residents who live below the poverty line, and who often work multiple jobs, yet still barely getting by.

I personally abide by the entire Global Citizen Manifesto, especially this section:

"THE WORLD'S POOR ARE LEADING THIS PROGRESS FOR THEMSELVES, but they can't finish the job without the rest of us. I am committed to changing the systems and policies that keep people poor."

We all can and must end this worldwide unfair, unjust, and unnecessary travesty of extreme poverty. This reminds me of a TV commercial I watched last night for pistachios when Steven Colbert, seated beside an American Bald Eagle perched above, declares: "The pistachio: it's just like our politics. When the two sides are divided, that's when the nuts come out!"

On issues of poverty and for the sake of humanity, we all must work on the same side.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren's Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails  or visit us online. You can also like Tikkun on Facebook  and follow us on Twitter.

Income inequality is killing the economy. Retailers, bankers and Democrats agree on that. Really.

It’s only Republicans who continue to insist that income inequality is great, so no one, least of all them, should make any effort to constrict the abyss between America’s struggling 99 percent and Americans who indulge themselves in $475,000 bottles of House of Creed Bespoke perfume.

Now that Wall Street and Main Street have endorsed Democratic economic principals to reduce inequality for the sake of the economy, voting Nov. 4 is easy. Vote Democrat. That’s the party both bankers and retailers say has the solution to economic revival. 

Admittedly, this is all a little hard to believe after Republicans have diligently depicted themselves as business and bank huggers for so long.

Turns out, though, that’s a sad, one-sided relationship. Bankers and retailers aren’t returning the love when it comes to economic policy. They’ve recognized the enemy to their bottom lines, and it is the rising costs and stagnant wages borne by workers since the dawn of the recession.

And both bankers and retailers want action. They want incomes, consumer confidence and purchases all to rise, triggering business profits to do the same. They’ve discovered that extra personal jets, mega yachts and $475,000 perfume purchased by the 1 percent have failed to stimulate the economy.

What’s essential to revival is more buying by the hulking mass of everybody else. That’s what Wall Street firms have said in recent reports. And that’s what the Center for American Progress, a think tank that supports middle-out economics, found in an analysis of the financial statements of 65 of the nation’s top retailers.

Here, for example, is what Morgan Stanley economists had to say last month in their report Inequality and Consumption:

“So, despite the roughly $25 trillion increase in wealth since the recovery from the financial crisis began, consumer spending remains anemic. Top income earners have benefited from wealth increases but middle and low income consumers continue to face structural liquidity constraints and unimpressive wage growth. To lift all boats, further increases in residential wealth and accelerating wage growth are needed.”

In other words, the prescription to cure consumer spending anemia is raises for workers. Remember, it is Republicans who have blocked raising the federal minimum wage from its poverty-level $7.25 an hour, with some party darlings, such as Michele Bachmann, a former candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, contending that the minimum wage should be abolished because no wage is too low.

Then there’s the August report from rating agency Standard & Poor’s titled: How Increasing Income Inequality Is Dampening U.S. Economic Growth, And Possible Ways To Change The Tide. It says:

“The challenge now is to find a path toward more sustainable growth, an essential part of which, in our view, is pulling more Americans out of poverty and bolstering the purchasing power of the middle class. A rising tide lifts all boats…but a lifeboat carrying a few, surrounded by many treading water, risks capsizing.”

Apparently, Wall Street economists love boat metaphors.

To haul the many out of the water and into a more stable economic ship, S&P suggests this:

“That said, some degree of rebalancing – along with spending in the areas of education, health care, and infrastructure, for example – could help bring under control an income gap that, at its current level, threatens the stability of an economy still struggling to recover.”

Remember, it is Republicans across the country that have cut spending on education and refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

It is Republicans in Congress who have repeatedly stomped on attempts by Democrats to stimulate the economy by spending on desperately needed repairs to infrastructure – that is facilities such as roads, bridges, public buildings and sewers. Numerous economists have pointed out that the cost of borrowing for these job-creating projects is so low right now that the loans are virtually free.

Wall Street and Main Street have had their disputes since the Great Recession. But they agree that for the good of the country’s economy, incomes must rise for the majority. In a report issued earlier this month, the Center for American Progress (CAP) documented retailers’ belief that stagnant wages are damaging business. It’s called Retailer Revelations: Why America’s Struggling Middle Class has Businesses Scared.

CAP tabulated the risks to business stability that the nation’s top retailers reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission. CAP found that 88 percent said weak consumer spending imperils stock prices, and 68 percent said consumers’ flat or falling incomes threaten business profits.

The CAP report lists large retailer (Kohl’s and Sears) after large retailer (Best Buy and J.C. Penney) suffering faltering sales. It quotes Container Store CEO Kip Tindell saying, “Consistent with so many of our fellow retailers, we are experiencing a retail funk.”

CAP explains the funk, “The fortunes of the retail sector and the middle class are inherently linked – when family incomes fail to rise, when the cost of living increases, or when workers cannot find jobs, retailers’ sales decline.”

Some retailers have taken action themselves. Earlier this year, for example, Gap Inc. and IKEA announced plans to raise their workers’ wages to at least $10 an hour. Costco increased wages by $1.50 an hour during the recession, so workers start at $11.50 an hour.

CEO Craig Jelinek explained: “I just think people need to make a living wage with health benefits. It also puts more money back into the economy and creates a healthier country. It’s really that simple.” Costco’s stock prices have tripled since 2009.

Still, not every retailer is going to raise wages voluntarily. The world’s largest, Walmart, for example, just cut its workers’ health benefits. That’s where government steps in. For the good of struggling Americans and the ailing economy, government can order employers to pay a living wage. To create jobs and stimulate the economy, government can invest in infrastructure. As during the Great Depression, a government of the people, by the people, for the people can act for the benefit of the majority of the people.

Republicans oppose that. They prefer the failed trickle-down economics that sunk the middle class. So on Nov. 4, vote to ship them home.  Retailers, bankers and workers across America will thank you.

 

 

 

One out of four people has a "mental illness." You hear the statistic all the time. People who were once "nervous" or "high strung" now have "general anxiety disorder." People who have the "blues" from real life issues like job, relationship and family problems now have "major depressive disorder." People who are "up and down," again from real life issues, are now "bipolar." Adults who can't focus on the work at hand, either because they didn't get enough sleep or because the work at hand is boring--hello?--have adult ADHD. All need to be on drugs indefinitely, perhaps for the rest of their life. And notably, all suffer from diseases that are medical "judgment calls" that can't be verified on blood or other diagnostic tests. Ka-ching.

 

Less than thirty years ago, depression was not considered a lifelong illness but a self-limiting condition that would "go away." Before SSRI antidepressants like Prozac, anxiety was a transient condition requiring a tranquillizer as needed. Key words "as needed." Once SSRIs became available, anxiety became a chronic condition requiring chronic medication. Suddenly people who had anxious moments were treated for moments they were fine with drugs that changed their entire blood chemistry and were very difficult to quit. Some of the drugs actually made people worse as the high rate of suicide among soldiers on drugs who have never deployed attests.

 

And there are other examples of the "enlarging" of mental illness diagnoses. Once, only children had ADHD but now adults can join the club. Once only adults had depression and schizophrenia; now Big Pharma markets the conditions in children. What?

 

There are several sociological factors behind the "psychiatrizing" of America.  Direct-to-consumer advertising works and doesn't just convince people they are "depressed," it convinces them they have GERD, insomnia and restless legs. Some postulate the ghastly list of risks with drug ads---coma, death, trouble swallowing--perversely "sell" the drug in the way images of skulls and the word "death" were said to sell consumer products in the advertising expose Hidden Persuaders. Also, commensurate with the idea of "lifestyle" medications, many who feel OK or fine right now think they could or should feel better. Even grief, from the death of a loved one, is now a treatable psychiatric disease. Why should you feel bad just because your spouse died? Go on, be happy.

 

But the main engine behind growing "mental illness" is Big Pharma and Wall Street. Under the pretense of better care, Big Pharma has aggregated and sometimes co-opted patients into lobbying groups for high-priced drugs. While the groups say they fight the "stigma" of mental illness, they spend their time fighting lawmakers and insurers for payment of high-priced drugs. "When insurers balk at reimbursing patients for new prescription medications," says the Los Angeles Times, these groups "typically swing into action, rallying sufferers to appear before public and consumer panels [and] contact lawmakers."

 

How much are the drugs in question? One hundred middle dose pills of the depression drug Abilify can cost $1,644 and Invega, a drug used for bipolar conditions, $1,789. That is more than most people's rent or mortgage payment.

 

The patient front groups include the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, which gets half its funding from Pharma according to the Los Angeles Times and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which received $23 million in just two years from Pharma, according to the Wall Street Journal. In the 1990's, Eli Lilly was NAMI's biggest donor, reported Mother Jones. Related groups have embedded themselves on college campuses where they conduct high-budget campaigns and marches to help students avoid "stigma" and get on drugs. Right.

 

Earlier this year, NAMI was successful in defeating a White House proposal to limit Medicare coverage of Wellbutrin, Paxil, Prozac, Abilify, Seroquel and other expensive drug classes. "The proposal undermines a key protection for some of the sickest, most vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries,” said Andrew Sperling, a NAMI lobbyist using the image of elderly victims to give Pharma billions of our taxpayer dollars.

 

Recently, NAMI tried to "raise awareness" about mental illness within faith communities. Now NAMI has turned its eye to the rock world. "To help raise awareness about mental health" the New York City NAMI has enlisted five New York bands and the advertising giant JWT New York, reports the New York Times to "help combat mental illness."

 

Many top musicians have killed themselves, notes the Times, forgetting that most were philosophically against using music and slick ad agencies to sell products and enrich Wall Street.

 

"When you look at social change, people that really participate and get social change movements going are young people, and they really need to be involved to change the landscape about mental illness stigma," said Wendy Brennan, executive director of the New York City Metro chapter of NAMI. You'd think NAMI were working for some grassroots, social cause. But a woman I interviewed who wants to remain anonymous for medical privacy says she was told by the Chicago NAMI they could not help her with a borderline condition because there was no "drug" for it.

 

 

 

 

White supremacy structures how the news media frames and reports events in the United States (and elsewhere). There are so many examples of this fact that the difficulty is not one of finding them, rather, the challenge involves which examples of white racial framing to discuss and detail.

Saturday's riot by white college students at Keene State College's annual Pumpkinfest is a priceless example of white privilege and white racism as a type of social practice and habit.

It was high comedy. Twitter had great fun with mocking and calling out the foolishness of the white pumpkin rioters.

It was also deadly serious. Fires were set, cars destroyed, bottles and other dangerous objects were thrown at random people, and the police were attacked by the white students at Keene's pumpkin festival.

In a stark and clear manner, white privilege and white supremacy color how the obnoxious and violent behavior of the white rioters at Pumpkinfest is described by the media.

Black folks who are protesting with righteous rage and anger in response to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson have been called "thugs", "animals", and cited by the Right-wing media as examples of the "bad culture" and "cultural pathologies" supposedly common to the African-American community.

Privileged white college students who riot at a pumpkin festival are "spirited partiers", "unruly", or "rowdy".

Right-wing propaganda sites such as the Drudge Report pander black beast rapist negrophobia to their racist audience with grotesque images of "black crime" and "black criminality" as a standard theme. By contrast, the violent behavior of white college students is met with relative silence save for a description of the events in Keene, New Hampshire as "extreme partying".

And of course, the race of the rioting students is not mentioned by Drudge and/or the mainstream news media because Whiteness has no stigma or connection to criminality and violence as seen through the White Gaze.

The racial innocence of Whiteness is one of America's greatest lies as white folks, here demonstrated by acts such as racial genocide against First Nations peoples and racial pogroms against blacks, are the most violent and destructive group of people in the history of the United States.

White college students riot over pumpkins, but are mute and show no equivalent expenditure of upsetness or energy over the murder of Michael Brown and the many other black and brown people killed by the police and white identified vigilantes every 28 hours in the United States.

Hmm...I wonder why?

As a gay African-American, I've heard the argument about how "you can't compare the gay civil rights movement to the African-American civil rights movement" more times than I care to count.

The constant so-called moral outrage of some African-American heterosexuals when the topic is mentioned has gotten me to the point where my mind automatically tunes out the monotonous drones of how supposed sinful homosexuals are "high jacking" the civil rights movement or how gays "can't compare their sin with black skin."

As such, I almost missed the epiphany which occurred over two weeks ago.

I was vaguely scanning comments on a conservative site by an anonymous African-American female as she went on and on about how gays were never subjected to slavery, segregation or declared three fifths a person. While the logical side of my mind was gathering up the customary argument of how wrong it was for disadvantaged people of any stripe to play the "Oppression Olympics," the emotional side of my mind struck immediately.

"This is the most ignorant crap I've ever heard," I thought. "Just where in the hell does she think gay black people were during slavery and segregation? On a spaceship orbiting the Earth? "

I was instantly struck by oddity of what I had thought. Not that my outrage wasn't coming from a place of truth, mind you, but how the simple fact never entered my mind that yes, gay people were subjected to slavery, segregation and racism because of our skin. Just as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people of color exist now, we existed back then. Then it suddenly struck me again that I've never recalled any acknowledgement of this fact during the myriad of discussions, I've read, listened to or seen regarding comparisons between the gay and civil rights movements.

And why is that?

There have been numerous debates, articles, columns, movies and documentaries about how the legacy of racism has had a negative effect on so many aspects of African-American community, from our families to the way we interact with each other. It stands to reason that the legacy of racism didn't leave LGBT people of color unscathed. But information about what LGBT people of color did during those awful times in our history or what effect it has had on us is practically nonexistent.

It is a subject hardly ever mentioned. No one talks about it in the black community and that includes leaders, intellectuals, journalists, authors or any other person with some type of platform.

And this leaves me feeling as if the events of black history, which are supposed to be a part of my heritage, are nothing more than hand-me-downs donated to me out of charity because there are very few, if any, events which are specific to me as an LGBT person of color.

Or at least that's what I am led to believe by the black community at large.

 It's all part and parcel of being an LGBT person of color. Generally in both the LGBT and African-American communities, LGBT people of color tend to always find ourselves in the background while someone else is doing the talking and planning. Apparently we are only good enough as faces but without voices or opinions regarding strategies or leadership. And our issues are not considered important, but examples of "identity politics" gone too far.

It is slowly (and I mean very slowly) changing in the LGBT community, but it is in the black community where LGBT people of color run up against a massive brick wall. There is a pattern of erasure which strips our presence from the majority of black history. And this pattern of erasure bleeds into day-to-day treatment and interactions. Personal biases and prejudices prevent us from being considered as genuine members of the black community and many heterosexual African-Americans conveniently ignore issues and concerns indigenous to us as LGBT people.

When African-American civic organizations talk about "the state of Black America," we are omitted. We are talked about as examples of how tolerant the black community is becoming rather than conversed with as African-Americans who just happen to be gay but with a genuine stake in the survival of the community. In the rare moment that we are able to interact with other members of the black community in discussions about our lives, we barely get a word in edgewise while they seem to always monopolize the conversation.

To some African-American heterosexuals, we are mere sidebars or addendums. We are objects they hurl Biblical scripture at to cover up their own religious shortcomings or soulless reservoirs of salacious gossip holding court in places like beauty parlors.

Supposedly righteous church ladies or upstanding church men smile in our faces but then hypocritically say rude things behind our backs because we seem "too butch" to be a "real woman" or "too swishy" to be a "real man." And while they do this, they are totally oblivious to the fact that we are hip to their behavior but will disguise our hurt as a show of respect.

Being an LGBT person is not considered an identity by some in the black community, but rather a condition placed upon you by an unfortunate occurrence or mishap. And for the benefit of those who know what I am talking about, no one "turned me out." I was born this way.

Some LGBT people of color condition ourselves to accept these roles and disrespect because we fear rejection and isolation. This behavior is often mistaken as a reason for the problem rather than a result.

The sad fact is that some in the black community at large simply refuse to see LGBT people of color in the same light as they would see each other. And the erasure of our voices and faces from black history is proof of this because it is an example of how they deny us our heritage and our place at the table on our own terms rather than the terms of their fearful and misguided perceptions.

And that simply has to change.

Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by David Harris-Gershon

On Saturday night, I looked out upon a standing-room-only audience, people fidgeting and giddy, barely able to conceal the significance of what was about to occur. I was on stage, the hall at Harvard University electric and buzzing, flanked by three distinguished professors – Judith Butler, Steven Cohen and Shaul Magid – the four of us representing various streams of Zionist, post-Zionist and anti-Zionist thought.

At first, I was awed by the company I had been asked to join, thinking, What on earth am I doing here? That thought was quickly replaced by another as the room erupted with boisterous cheers when a student organizer stepped to the microphone: this is a historic moment, a thought I Tweeted when the feeling came over me, a thought five days removed I still deeply believe.

So what occurred which was so historic? This: on Saturday night, a grassroots-led and student-driven movement called Open Hillel launched a three-day conference, determined to create what Jewish institutions have largely refused to permit: dynamic spaces where both Zionists and anti-Zionists can come together and discuss Israel as equals, with equally valuable perspectives as respected members of the American Jewish community.

The Open Hillel conference certainly succeeded in creating such spaces, where for three days rooms were packed to hear Jews and Palestinians discuss Israel openly and honestly. However, the conference also ended up creating something even more powerful than just spaces: a representative community of 350 committed, questioning Jews who demonstrated not just how out of step institutional Jewish organizations have become by exiling critical and post-Zionist voices, but how those organizations are going to have to change to remain viable, whether they like it or not.

Right now, these organizations are refusing to change, refusing to acknowledge that Jews who fervently critique Israel’s policies, who consider themselves post-Zionists or support BDS, are not anti-Semites, but valuable members in a growing segment of the American Jewish community. Hillel International is one such organization, and the one around which the Open Hillel movement is organized. Hillel is the world’s largest umbrella organization for Jewish life on college campuses, supporting over 550 student centers on campuses in North America and beyond. It purports to be a pluralistic organization, with a tent large enough to house every Jew and every perspective imaginable. Unfortunately, for Hillel, one’s Israel politics trumps its pluralistic ideals, for it has established Israel Guidelines which direct student centers to refuse partnership or cooperation with any student, speaker or organization which, among other things, apply a “double standard” to Israel, support BDS, or have post-Zionist political leanings.

It’s why students from Jewish Voice for Peace, which embraces both anti-Zionist and Zionist students who wish to dialogue openly about Israel, and happens to be the one of the fastest growing Jewish organizations in America, have been barred from Hillel. It’s why Jewish scholars have had book events cancelled at museums and Jewish musicians barred from JCC events. It’s why even someone like myself, a Jewish studies teacher and two-state Jew who supports Palestinians’ right to boycott Israel, has had book events cancelled on multiple occasions.

This isn’t new. For over 40 years, Jewish institutions have attempted to define one’s Jewishness and value to a community based solely on one’s Israel politics. In 1974, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) published The New Anti-Semitism, which attempted to redefine anti-Semitism as criticism of Israel rather than the vile hatred which has led to so many horrors visited upon my people, including the Holocaust, which took half of my family. The goal of this redefining was to shield Israel from critique by designating Israel as the “Jew among the nations,” conflating all Jews with the country and turning anti-Israel critiques into anti-Semitic sentiments.

What’s interesting is this: in 1974, supporting a two-state solution would have earned the charge of anti-Semitism and blacklisting. Today, the two-state solution is considered a dogma in the American Jewish community, with shifting politics propelling ‘new anti-Semitism’ proponents to smear those who empathize with Gaza, support Palestinian human rights or question Zionism as anti-Semitic.

But anyone who was at the Open Hillel conference knows that such charges are false. Indeed, this is precisely what Peter Beinart noted after speaking there on Sunday:

The young American Jews at Open Hillel who are flirting with anti-Zionism are not anti-Semites. (Although, of course, some anti-Zionists are). They are merely doing what young people always do: Challenging settled assumptions based on a different life experience. They don’t need the American Jewish establishment’s legitimization; that establishment is illegitimate to them. What they need, in the best Jewish tradition, is to be argued with.

But I’m not sure the American Jewish establishment knows how. For years, mainstream American Jewish groups have short-circuited discussions about Zionism by accusing its critics of anti-Semitism. They’ve grown so dependent on that rhetorical crutch that they rarely publicly grapple with how Zionism – a movement that privileges one ethnic and religious group – can be reconciled with the pledge in Israel’s declaration of independence to offer “complete equality of social and political rights irrespective of race, religion or sex.”

Indeed, many of those who were at the Open Hillel conference this past weekend are among the most committed Jews in America. And they bristle (as do I) when someone charges them with anti-Semitism for questioning institutional assumptions about Israel and Zionism. What’s different about what happened this past weekend, and what made it such a historic moment, is that student activists coalesced for the first time in memory to explicitly and directly challenge the American Jewish community from within, as opposed to from without.

These Jewish Americans, who represent significantly growing numbers, symbolically knocked on the door of institutional Jewish organizations and yelled, We are the Jewish community, and you will either embrace us or embrace a fear of dialogue – the least Jewish of things – and the shrinking numbers such a fear will bring.

Why does this matter? From a political perspective it matters because, as Professor Steven Cohen said from the stage on Saturday night, American Jewish opinions on Israel deeply affect American policy, which in turn affect Israeli policy, something I have been trumpeting for years. From a communal perspective, it matters because the face of the American Jewish community is changing. Jewish institutions have demanded, for decades, that Israel be placed at the center of Jewish life, and at the center of one’s Jewish value to a community. Today, at a time in which Israel’s policies, from the continued occupation to settlement expansions, are generating increasing critiques from American Jews, Israel has become just that – the center of Jewish life for many. Only, not in the way the ADL envisioned in 1974. Instead, Israel is being placed at the center by those who do not support its misdeeds, and who demand a change for the sake of both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians.

Jewish institutions have gotten what they asked for: Israel as the communal fulcrum point. But the balance is shifting. And the Open Hillel conference signaled that such shifting isn’t just reactive, but coordinated and communal.

People are shifting together with intentionality.

David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.

Detailed in the new Twocare.org/Center Against Religious Extremism report U.S. Pro-Coup Evangelicals Ally With Putin Inner Circle, influential hard-right evangelical leaders - one who has openly called for a "military takeover" and "martial law" - have forged close ties with a Russian inner-circle leader considered by some to be Vladimir Putin's closest political ally. That American evangelical leader, Rick Joyner, is part of the New Apostolic Reformation movement which gave us Sarah Palin and helped create the Tea Party. Joyner has allied with former Undersecretary of Defense Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William "Jerry" Boykin, whose impressive list of positions has included command of U.S. Special Forces. Joyner's ties also include Lt. Col. (Ret.) Oliver North, of Iran-Contra fame - a man noted for his role in a secret operation that funneled profits from arms sale to Iraq to a covert operation to undermine the government of Nicaragua, and James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, whose claims on an alleged tie between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America helped propel the United States towards the disastrous invasion of Iraq. Here is the executive summary:
Executive Summary: Cutting against growing tensions between the United States and Russia, influential and politically well-connected, Tea Party-aligned American evangelical leaders - including one who has called for a "military takeover" - who hold dominionist or even theocratic political leanings and are tied to former high-level U.S. military and intelligence community members, have over the past decade allied with one of Russian president Vladimir Putin's closest political allies, Vladimir Yakunin. This investigation, by the Center Against Religious Extremism (CARE), demonstrates an extensive pattern tying evangelist Rick Joyner and his Oak Initiative political organizing front, and leaders affiliated with Joyner who have pledged their lives to implement biblical law in all sectors of society, to Vladimir Putin's inner-circle ally Vladimir Yakunin. Last year, a September 30, 2013 a call for a "military takeover" of the U.S. government and imposition of "martial law" from well-connected South Carolina evangelist Rick Joyner - who boasts close ties to former high-level U.S. military and intelligence community leaders, earned significant media coverage and also strong words from Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder and head Michael "Mikey" Weinstein, who estimated that a significant fraction of officers and NCOs might be sympathetic to such an exhortation, a form of "sedition" that crossed a "red line" according to Weinstein. MRFF defends the rights of U.S. armed forces members who have been victims of coercive evangelizing that, according to Weinstein's organization, is being inflicted mainly by dominionist "bible believing" Christian superior officers upon members of the military who are Christian but are deemed to hold incorrect versions of the faith (MRFF's work has been featured in numerous mainstream media venues including The Economist, Newsweek, and perhaps most thoroughly and vividly in journalist Jeff Sharlet's 2009 Harpers magazine story Jesus Killed Mohammed: The Crusade For a Christian Military.) Joyner's call for a "military takeover" and "martial law" did not lead major religious right "family values" (and ostensibly patriotic) organizations such as the Family Research Council (FRC), the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), or the American Family Association (AFA) to ostracize Joyner or distance themselves from his Oak Initiative organization. Rather, these groups signed onto a coalition that opposes Weinstein's MRFF and whose membership includes the Oak Initiative, whose president Rick Joyner in late 2013 stated, amidst substantial critical media scrutiny, that he "will stand by" his apparent call for a military coup. The Oak Initiative - whose board is dominated by apostles from the radical New Apostolic Reformation movement - boasts organizational ties both to the Republican Party and also to leaders who have helped create the anti-government American militia movement. Through its partnership with national hard-right, anti-gay groups such as FRC, ADF, and AFA, as well as Oak Initiative member Lt. General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin's role as Family Research Council Executive Vice President, Joyner's Oak Initiative has institutional links both to the elite group of hard-right, anti-LGBT rights billionaire evangelical funders associated with the annual event known as The Gathering, and to its parent organization The Fellowship (or "The Family"), which hosts the National Prayer Breakfast and whose longtime head Douglas Coe has expressed admiration for the ability of a small band of violent Bolshevik revolutionaries to take over Russia, in 1917. Joyner's Oak Initiative itself promotes a style of factually-challenged anti-government conspiracy theories that have been deployed, since the 1980s by far-right evangelical operatives with former military and intelligence backgrounds, to undermine confidence in the U.S. federal government and stoke anti-government fear and paranoia among millions of American citizens. Joyner has repeatedly claimed that the Obama Administration plans mass imprisonment of American citizens. But Joyner has also enthused over the coming of a Christian authoritarian regime that will seem "like totalitarianism" and will forcibly re-educate Americans. On September 16, 2014, Rick Joyner issued a "prophetic" statement that envisioned a massive state level revolt against the federal government led by militias which, speculated Joyner, might ally with U.S. county sheriffs. In Joyner's dream, that anti-government militia revolt led to violence and anarchy which, in turn, triggered the military takeover and imposition of martial law that Joyner had called for a year earlier, in October 2013. Behind Joyner's carefully calibrated "prophetic" forecasts lie an elaborate strategy and infrastructure application of Fourth Generation Warfare theory, by the American Christian right, in a nonlinear approach to delegitimizing and destabilizing the federal government - a strategy that relies both on force of arms (at the local level), infiltration, and sophisticated information warfare techniques. Joyner's dire predictions resemble those from Russian former KGB analyst Igor Panarin, whose forecasts of an impending breakup of the United States into six or more pieces have been promoted by the Putin regime. Since 2008, Panarin has repeatedly predicted the imminent breakup of the United States amidst economic chaos and societal decay. In 2012 Panarin announced,”There’s a 55-45% chance right now that disintegration will occur.”
read the rest of the Twocare.org Center Against Religious Extremism report, U.S. Pro-Coup Evangelicals Ally With Putin Inner Circle

Republicans have adopted a Halloween-themed campaign strategy that they hope will incite voters to run screaming from Democrats.

The GOP message: Americans should be very, very afraid because the homeland is under attack from ghouls and goblins manifest as Ebola and ISIS. Republicans even threaten boogeymen in the form of ISIS suicide agents strapping themselves with Ebola virus vests and sneaking across the southern U.S. border.

This embrace of Halloween tricks is not surprising from the party pushing voter suppression while masquerading as a democracy-loving founding father.  The GOP is warning Americans that they should be scared witless of impending government disintegration because a guy with a knife got into the White House. This “caution” comes from the political party that favors government disintegration. Republicans have, after all, repeatedly shut down government and announced their intention to drown it in a bathtub. Republicans want America to summon the GOP to save the day, like it’s the political version of Ghostbusters. Most Americans, though, see right through the GOP, like it’s a gooey glob of ectoplasm.

Halloween, with its blood and gore, witches and werewolves, is a children’s holiday because its horrors are fictional. Republicans have picked up on that theme for their Halloween fear-mongering. Fabricating characters and events to induce terror is just part of the GOP-Halloween scheme.

There is, for example, the scary story concocted by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. He told Fox News last week that border agents apprehended 10 Islamic State fighters in Texas. The Department of Homeland Security described this as “categorically false.” You know, like the one about border agents apprehending 10 vampires in Texas.

Unlike Hunter’s flashlight-in-the-face, camp-tent tales, ISIS and Ebola are real. ISIS has beheaded several Westerners overseas and Ebola has killed one person in the United States – a man who contracted the disease in West Africa.

Both can elicit fear. But more immediately frightening and more justifiably alarming to most Americans are other threats that Republicans have refused to help resolve.

For example, sickening, paralyzing and even killing children across America is Enterovirus D-68. It has been diagnosed in more than 600 people in 45 states and the District of Columbia, virtually all children. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes it may have killed five patients, and confirmed last week it caused the death of a 4-year-old New Jersey boy last month. Unlike Ebola, which is transmitted through body fluids, Enterovirus D-68 is vastly more contagious, spread through the air like common cold germs.

The “sequester” and other budget cuts demanded by Republicans reduced the CDC budget by more than $1 billion in 2013, including hundreds of millions slashed from programs intended to intervene in situations like Enterovirus D-68. Republicans aren’t offering to restore that money to help save children from paralysis and death. The parents of that New Jersey 4-year-old are living with the very real nightmare of losing him. 

Similarly, the lack of health insurance threatens the lives of thousands of Americans. Millions still don’t have coverage, partly because Republican governors and legislators have refused to expand Medicaid under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. A study by Harvard and the City University of New York found that each year between 7,115 and 17,104 people will die because their states denied them health insurance through Medicaid. That is a real horror. And it is one created by Republicans.

To distract Americans from that reality, Republicans are running around screaming, “ISIS is coming! ISIS is coming!” GOP candidates are broadcasting chilling ads warning of imminent attacks by terrorists and exploiting footage provided by ISIS of beheadings.

Even so, Americans know the GOP won’t protect them. Americans recall quite clearly that it was during the administration of Republican George W. Bush that the 9/11 attacks occurred. They know that same GOP president lied about weapons of mass destruction to terrify Americans into an unprovoked war with Iraq. And they remember that for all of Bush’s bravado about hunting down Osama bin Laden, he failed. It was Democrat Barack Obama who actually did it.

The other problem for Republicans is that Americans aren’t seeking a red elephant to cower behind. Americans aren’t a bunch of faint-hearted Chicken Littles. They’re a take charge John Wayne bunch. They’d rather solve problems themselves than rely on a bunch of Republicans costumed as superheroes.

As he took office in the depth of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt told the American people, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”

Republicans are urging Americans to devolve into helpless cowards fearing fear itself. While barely acceptable as a Halloween prank, it’s offensive as a national strategy. 

Thanks to comments from obnoxiously vile news personality Erick Erickson, we were treated to what's wrong with both American journalism and Christianity.

From Salon:
 
Conservative pundit Erick Erickson knows just who’s to blame for the dearth of research funds devoted to combating Ebola: “fat lesbians.”
In a post for his RedState.com blog this morning, Erickson assails a new ad highlighting the GOP’s support for budget cuts that crippled the agencies charged with leading the response to Ebola. Over the weekend, National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins told the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein that 10 years of stagnant spending on the agency has “slowed down” critical research. As Stein reports, the NIH’s budget in fiscal year 2004 was $28.03 billion. In 2013, it was just $29.31 billion — “barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation,” Stein notes. A Democratic bill to boost the NIH’s budget to $46 billion by 2021 isn’t likely to advance anytime soon.
But Erickson pooh-poohs the budget cuts to agencies like the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control. All the evidence you need that the agencies have plenty of cash, he argues, is in some of the research items they’ve funded.

 Erickson’s post, titled “Fat Lesbians Got All the Ebola Dollars, But Blame the GOP,” cites an NIH-funded study examining why lesbians confront higher rates of obesity; the research is in line with other demographic studies examining public health challenges, but Erickson seized on the study to wage a demagogic attack on the agency for frivolously “studying the propensity of lesbians to be fat.” He also attacked CDC research on gun violence and smoking cessation.


No doubt some folks will be attempting to pick "sense" out of nonsense and accuse me of not focusing on the content of Erickson's argument instead of the words he uses.  I'm not going to argue the content of an argument fueled by nasty words and neither should anyone else. An intelligent debate doesn't begin with slurs.

But more to the point, where is the accountability here? I don't mean Erickson's employer, Fox News. If that den of propaganda began showing any accountability, Erickson would have to get in line when it comes to employees who should be reprimanded for ugly slurs.

I'm talking about from other journalists. Where is the outrage from folks who do care about this business and what image it presents?  There is none. Erickson will probably continue to be cited, quoted, and respected in some quarters as a legitimate journalist.

And even more than that, Erickson has on more than on occasion attacked the lgbt community on the belief that we are sinning against God.  He even spoke at the 2014 Values Voter Summit, the annual event put on by the Family Research Council, a group which claims to stand for Christian values. Naturally FRC, as well as other so-called morality Christian groups, are conveniently silent about Erickson's anti-lesbian slur.

In case the irony escapes you, that means Erickson believes homosexuality to be a sin, but slurring lgbts is cool with God.

All in all, any journalist or Christian who cares about integrity and credibility would be embarrassed to be associated with someone with no taste, no class, no dignity, and absolutely no sense of how hypocritical he is. One would think that they would bend over backwards to disassociate themselves from a  sexist, homophobic "never was" who should thank God that he has more chances in the journalism business than the proverbial cat has lives.

But sadly, such aspirations of virtue are only a dream in many quarters of American journalism and Christianity.

Privilege is the ability to deny reality by creating a bubble of willful ignorance around oneself.

This is true of white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, and all of the other ways that the dominant and the in-group benefit materially and psychologically from a culture that is designed to bend the world in the service of their will.

The mainstream media has, for the most part, moved on from the murder of Michael Brown and the gross violations of the black community's human rights by the police in Ferguson, Missouri. The twenty-four hour news cycle has a limited attention span; the corporate news media does not serve the public interest as it is first and foremost beholden to profits over people and truth-telling.

I will continue to write about and discuss the events in Ferguson because what has and is transpiring there is emblematic of America's national problem and sickness that is white supremacy. Ferguson is a petty fiefdom of meanness, cruelty, and racism; there are many Fergusons in the United States.

Yesterday, the Washington Post and the website Mediaite featured two news items about Ferguson that together constitute a textbook and ideal typical example of white racism in the post civil rights era.

Of course, the comment sections on both stories feature white racists publicly masturbating with their own political feces as is their preferred habit.

Nonetheless, both pieces are very revealing.

The Washington Post's story,"For some Ferguson whites, racial fault lines exposed by shooting come as a surprise", focuses on the ignorance and faux racial innocence that typifies Whiteness as a political and racial ideology.

"For some Ferguson whites, racial fault lines exposed by shooting come as a surprise" is also a clinic in aversive and symbolic racism.

But since the death of an unarmed black teenager at the hands of a white police officer, some African Americans are calling it segregated and racist. Now Singen has found herself talking in terms of “us” and “them,” “we” and “they.”

“I didn’t have any problems with anybody or any color, and all of a sudden it feels like we are being held responsible for something that’s not our fault,” Singen, 70, said as she left Faraci Pizza, a 46-year-old Ferguson business that has become a focal point of racial tension. “I don’t get it.”

That sense of shock is common here among Ferguson whites in the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown’s death and the explosive protests in the days that followed.

Hart has lived here most of his 47 years. He was class president at McCluer High School. More than a third of the students were minorities then, and he said he could not recall a racist incident. He believes in building communities and the good of people — which made it possible to think that his town’s troubles could be helped, if not solved, by a slice of pizza.

White privilege and colorblind racism nurture a sense of white victimology and racial grievance mongering towards black Americans. White privilege also flattens history by presenting complicated matters of institutional racism and white supremacy as "simple" problems to be "solved" (here with pizza) by individual behavior as opposed to a serious and rigorous examination of inter-group power relationships.

The Washington Post continued:

“My biggest gripe is that no one is giving the justice system a chance to work out,” Hart said. “We don’t know all the facts, but there is an investigation and a process. This is America.”

Protests and arrests have continued in Ferguson and across the St. Louis area, though things have been less volatile than in the summer. On Saturday, black and white demonstrators bought tickets to a St. Louis Symphony performance and at intermission stood and sang “A Requiem for Mike Brown,” with mixed reaction from a stunned audience.

America is a society structured around maintaining white privilege and white supremacy. One of the ways that this is accomplished is by socializing the white public to believe that America is a meritocracy whose social and political institutions treat all people the same way--regardless of skin color. In turn, a belief in this lie nurtures resentment, hostility, and anger towards people of color because the latter's lived experiences battling white supremacy are translated by the White Gaze into complaining, belly aching, "reverse racism", and not being "patriotic" towards the "greatest country on Earth".

When institutional racism is exposed--only the willfully ignorant and those who have cultivated their own stupidity are surprised by these glaring inequalities--there is a hostile reaction by many white folks because they are wedded to the lies of American meritocracy and "colorblindness".

Moreover, the premise that white people have received unearned advantages means their dominant group position/individual success may not have been earned, but rather received unjustly at the expense of others. This is often too much for White America's collective and individual psyche(s), to process.

In contrast to the polite and restrained white racism of the Washington Post's story, Mediaite featured a video and accompanying story which shows the racial bigotry that hides in the the "backstage" of American life moved to the "frontstage" for all to see.

Mediaite reported how:

At the top of the video, an older gentleman looks directly at the camera and shouts about how if these (all-black) protestors had been working (at night?) “we wouldn’t have this problem!”

The crowd soon begins chanting “Let’s go Cardinals!” to drown out the protestors’ chant about “shutting the shit down” if they aren’t given justice for slain 18-year-old Michael Brown. That Cards chant quickly changed into “Let’s go Darren!” referring to Officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson cop who killed the young man.

Things continue to get uglier as the video progresses.

One Cardinals fan calls a protestor a “crackhead,” while another fan presumably made eye contact with one protestor and began questioning his “tough guy” status, telling the unseen protestor that “if you ever saw me in the street, you’d look at the ground, that’s what you’d do.”

While one protestor waves an upside-down American flag (symbolic of “country in distress”), a blonde lady enters, telling the crowd: “We’re the ones who fuckin’ gave all y’all the freedoms that you have!” Another lady takes it upon herself to question the cameraman’s background, suggesting she doesn’t believe he’s an ex-Marine, while asking incoherent questions about his rank. All fun times.

Peppered throughout the rest of the video are “USA! USA!” chants from the Cards fans, along with one woman getting real clever and shouting at the protestors: “Africa! Africa!” There were also more calls for the protestors to get jobs, pick up their pants, and remove their caps.

I prefer honest white supremacists. Their behavior is refreshing.

The white fans at the Cardinals game, shouting their support for a police officer who killed an unarmed black person who was surrendering, hands raised, in cold blood, are racial contrarians.

 It is also important to note how their chants and screeds against the defenders of Michael Brown's right to life and our shared civil liberties reflect the standard racist talking-points of the Right-wing media and the Republican Party in the post civil era.

In all, the supporters of Darren Wilson are engaging in a type of idolization of their hero because they too would like to earn their bounty by killing a black person.

Homicidal idealization and symbolic racism have reduced the killing of Michael Brown by a cowardly white thug cop named Darren Wilson into a set of dueling chants at a sporting event.

The moral rot of the white fans at the Cardinals game who heckled and harassed the supporters of justice for Michael Brown are reminders of Mark Twain's wisdom in the classic book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn where he wrote:

I didn't rightly know what to say, because I didn't know whether the boat would be coming up the river or down. But I go a good deal on instinct; and my instinct said she would be coming up -- from down towards Orleans. That didn't help me much, though; for I didn't know the names of bars down that way. I see I'd got to invent a bar, or forget the name of the one we got aground on -- or -- Now I struck an idea, and fetched it out:

"It warn't the grounding -- that didn't keep us back but a little. We blowed out a cylinder-head."
"Good gracious! anybody hurt?"
"No'm. Killed a nigger."
"Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt.

Twain wrote that scathing observation of how white supremacy damages white people's ethics and morality in the year 1885. It is now 2014. Twain's insights remain painfully valid.

America's public discourse is obsessed with the cultural "problems" and supposed pathologies of black people. "What does it feel like to be a problem?" is the birthright slogan penned with existential ink on the minds and bodies of black Americans.

The events in Ferguson--as well as others such as mass shootings, right-wing domestic terrorism, breaking the economy--are a reminder of America's real problem: the United States has many cultural pathologies rooted in Whiteness and white privilege.

Instead of demanding that black folks fix their "bad" culture and demanding "where are the black leaders?", White America needs to exercise some of the "personal responsibility" it is quick to throw in the face of others by getting its own house in order. White America also needs to challenge its own "leaders" to do better and to act more responsibly.

Ferguson needs a better class of racists. America does as well.

Once more, and as Ethiop asked, what shall we do with the white people?