There are many, many areas the United States trails behind other nations when it comes to taking care of its people; issues concerning menstruation are certainly up there. There have been countless reports, for example, about the tax on menstrual products, like tampons and pads, as well as the unfairness of not having free options available in public restrooms. While some folks argue that people who menstruate should simply always carry extra products with them, that isn’t feasible for all people. For example, low-income folks, students, people with medical conditions that impact their cycle, pregnant folks, and unhoused people who menstruate may have a difficult time both planning ahead and purchasing the needed products. It’s also, to put it lightly, a gamble to realize you’ve begun to menstruate while in public and then scurry off to a store to buy supplies.

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom just signed a bill (called the Menstrual Equity for All Act) into law that will hopefully encourage other states to follow suit, as reported by The Washington Post. According to the bill, public colleges and schools in the state must provide free menstrual products in their bathrooms. This will apply to bathrooms for sixth grade to 12th grade as well as state colleges, universities, and community colleges. While it does not require private colleges to do the same, it does encourage them to.

Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who introduced the legislation, stressed in a statement that “our biology” doesn’t always give us a warning for when we’re about to menstruate, and compared menstrual products to items like toilet paper and paper towels. Garcia sponsored the bill after Scotland made international headlines for becoming the first nation in the world to give free period products, as reported by The Week.

Garcia has championed access to menstrual products for years before this, too. For example, it was legislation she introduced in 2017 that resulted in free period products being available in low-income schools in the state. Garcia is also behind the elimination of taxes on menstrual products in California.

In the big picture, period products should be available for free in all schools, homeless shelters, prisons, and related areas. There should not be a “luxury” tax on menstrual products, either. Some cities, like Chicago, have already eliminated taxes on period products. Washington State and Illinois have passed similar bills to Newsom’s, requiring public schools to provide free menstrual products. But there’s still an enormous amount of work to do. 

California’s law goes into effect in the 2022-2023 school year.

If you’re wondering why this article doesn’t refer to, for example, “women’s products” or “menstruating women,” it’s because not all people who have periods are women. For example, a nonbinary person or trans man may menstruate, just like a cisgender woman might not.

Some argue that these distinctions are a matter of semantics, but using broader, more gender-inclusive speech is a reminder that reproductive health is not only about women, but all folks who might need access to things like period products, abortion, wellness exams, and so on. And remember, being inclusive isn’t only about not offending someone or hurting someone’s feelings, but about being factually accurate—women aren’t the only people who appreciate free period products, so they shouldn’t be the only group referenced when the topic comes up. 

Read More

My yard is a mess. Admittedly it is my own fault, for being lazy and not keeping on top of things the way I should, so yesterday I was determined to get on my hands and knees and remove the millions of dandelions choking out my lawn. I’m not one for chemicals, because I worry about the dogs out on walks in the area, along with my own. So manual labor and a removal tool was the order of the day.

You would think I would just hire someone to weed and/or cut the grass, but I’m cheap at times, and there is a  certain zen to doing the work. I often see lawn care services in my Pennsylvania neighborhood, doing people’s yards or just driving by, and have occasionally thought about contacting one, but I never have. Yesterday, a young man approached me to talk about what I was doing and possibly offering his services.  

The whole experience left me rattled and angry at the end, and I am still not sure how to process it.

I was in my own headspace, kneeling face to the ground, when I heard him say “Excuse me, sir. Hi there.” I looked up and standing about eight to 10 feet away was a smiling young man in his mid-20s. He greeted me and asked what I was doing. I explained that I was fighting a losing battle against the dandelions in my lawn; we both laughed and acknowledged the frustration I was experiencing. The ice now broken, the young man moved a bit closer and began to explain that he had recently started a lawn care service; he was trying to differentiate himself from others in the area by using all-electric equipment and natural weed control methods.  

I was struck by two things: the eco-conscious approach he was taking, and the fact that after all these years of lawn care services driving by as I did the yard myself, not one ever stopped to ask for my business. This young man was the first; how could I not be impressed? As a business owner myself, I could really appreciate his initiative.

We really dove into the weeds, metaphorically speaking, for about 15 minutes, discussing his efforts and setbacks with his fledgling business thus far. I was offering what I hoped was helpful advice when not one, but two cop cars came from different directions and rolled to a stop in front of us.  

Down went the window of the one closest to me. “Good afternoon sir, everything ok here?” the white officer asked. Not grasping the point of his question at first, I looked over to the young man; his head was down and body language was now stiff. I looked back to the cop, who was staring at him. That’s when the ridiculously obvious smacked me over the head: I’m an older white man in a fairly affluent white neighborhood, speaking to a young Black man standing over me while I’m on the ground.    

Almost as soon as I put it all together, there was a rush of feelings. Feelings about, and for, the obvious discomfort this young Black man was experiencing, feelings about my own naïveté and this brutal reminder of my privilege as a white man, and feelings about an ingrained system that reinforces that privilege by seemingly running to my rescue when there was a perception I was under threat.

I watched that young Black man assume a position of fear, uncertainty, and deference right in front of me, despite having done NOTHING wrong at all. It’s a position baked into the day-to-day reality many people of color assume when whites in positions of authority appear to consciously (and subconsciously) project their power. Their power to shape the direction things can go, good or bad, that we as white folk take for granted, but people of color know is dangerous. In this case, the fact that one thing said by this young Black man, or the projection of body language deemed “wrong” by the officer could set off a whole chain of events that could end in disaster for him—hence his suddenly stiff body language and the soulless expression.

White people need to speak up.That I held the power, as a white man, to completely diffuse the situation by simply reassuring the officer everything was okay is power I never thought about until this incident. It’s power I should not have and have not asked for. It’s power given to me by a system I live in and have responsibility to dismantle, but admittedly had been living in a cloud of delusion about—until this moment.

And so I used my own power to put an end to the situation—by telling the officer that everything was not only fine, but that I was doing business with the young man, and hiring him to do my lawn care. The officer made some small talk about yard work and we exchanged smiles, then he rolled up his window, and both cars slowly drove off.  

Only then did the young man begin to relax. Crisis averted was the unspoken vibe from him, and all because two white folks took care of what he was powerless to change. I could cry writing that last sentence. It still gives me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, but the knots in that young man’s had to be so much more spirit-crushing than I will ever know or understand.

***

I truly believe overt racism is what sparked this whole situation—likely a call from a neighbor or passerby who felt the need to “protect my whiteness.” I also noticed that the cop was exceedingly polite to me, and once the air was cleared to his satisfaction he went on his merry way, but the subtle (not so subtle?) racism on display during it was an eye-opener.  

The entire exchange lasted just a few minutes, and the chance to offer some witty comment calling out the officer was lost in my sudden awareness, and my desire to end the interaction. But I could, and I should, have done more. I wish I had asked the cop why? Why are you in front of my house? Why do you think you needed to make certain I was ok? Why didn’t your dispatcher recognize the inherent racism in the initial call, if that is how you ended up on my doorstep?  

And why did you act like that young man was invisible during it all, with the exception of that initial look at him which was designed to signal why you were there?

Because we all knew why he was there, despite the polite dancing around it he probably learned at “sensitivity training” and the like. None of us were blind to the unspoken reality, a reality that plays out not just in my town, but in towns all across the country. A more covert and unspoken reality that happens every day but doesn’t make the news, and one that white folks don’t address—either out of blindness or ignorance to that reality.

This is the first time I found myself in the middle of such a situation, and while I did get the cop to leave, I failed to call out the bigotry that caused him to be there in the first place. But these subtle instances of racism need to be talked about. It’s the only way they’ll ever be addressed and stopped.

RELATED: Daily Kos’ resources on antiracism

***

Once the cops were gone, I told the landscaper that I really wanted to hire him to do my yard, and that I was genuinely sorry and frankly embarrassed about the whole thing. Truthfully, I was mortified and wanted to talk more about what had just happened with him, but I sensed that he didn’t want to “go there,” which I respected.

I do intend to talk more to him, and to do what I can to help him grow his business. I want him to succeed for a multitude of reasons, some of which are not fully articulated even to myself.

Editor’s Note: This story has been lightly edited for style and clarity.

Read More

It appears that American workers are, at long last, weighing in on the asymmetric relationship between labor and capital in this country. Nearly 3% of the American workforce quit their jobs in August, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The rise in the number of Americans abandoning their jobs can be attributed to two factors: the continued spread of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus in August and its impact on employers, and the increasing opportunities available to workers for better pay and working conditions in other jobs.

As reported by Eli Rosenberg, writing for The Washington Post:

The number of people quitting their jobs has surged to record highs, pushed by a combination of factors that include Americans sensing ample opportunity and better pay elsewhere.

Some 4.3 million people quit jobs in August, according to the monthly survey — about 2.9 percent of the workforce, according to new data released Tuesday from the Department of Labor. Those numbers are up from the previous records set in April and nearly matched in July, of about 4 million people quitting.

As Rosenberg reports, this unprecedented exodus is occurring in retail and service industries, health care, and traditionally low-paying fields, as well as “professional business services,” which, roughly translated, means lesser-paying secretarial, “managerial,” and clerical occupations. More fulsomely interpreted, it includes significant numbers of folks whose low-paid labor previously allowed those in charge of such businesses to luxuriate in a secure and often bountiful wealth.

It appears that one small silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic was the rare opportunity it provided for people to reflect on their current employers’ generosity … and weigh that generosity against their personal life situations. Now with businesses everywhere clamoring for employees—many boldly and loudly advertising their attractive hiring wages in the process—many American workers have adopted their own economic calculus, forsaking employers who continue to pay peasant wages for those who have sensibly concluded that their businesses’ future prospects demand they pay their workers better.

As reported by CBS News, The delta variant of the COVID-19 virus also appears to have influenced the departure of workers from those businesses where close customer contact is required, such as leisure and hospitality.

“The August JOLTS report shows employers and workers were anxious about the rising Delta COVID-19 wave two months ago,” Robert Frick, corporate economist at the Navy Federal Credit Union said in a note. “Workers quit, especially in retail, at a record rate to avoid exposure to possible infection. Job openings dropped, especially in leisure and hospitality, as travel dropped markedly due to Delta,” Frick said.

The Post’s Rosenberg quotes an economist at the Indeed job search hub, Nick Bunker, who emphasizes the newfound bargaining power of workers.

“This really elevated rate of people quitting their job is a sign that workers have lots of confidence and they have relatively stronger bargaining positions then they’ve had in the past,” Bunker said. “There’s lots of demand, and people are seizing that opportunity and quitting their job.

Before unemployment benefits for workers—provided by Democrats in their COVID-19 relief legislation—began to expire, Republican governors had eagerly and with stunning unanimity adopted a cynical and vicious strategy designed to force these same employees back into their low-paying positions, by cutting off benefits to their own state’s workers. This was done in response to howls of dismay by their donor base of corporate CEOs and business people, who saw their profit margins narrowing or disappearing altogether as the nation endured lockdowns and social distancing measures to contain the pandemic’s spread. Unsurprisingly, most of these Republican governors also adopted anti-masking policies, which virtually guaranteed the continued spread of the virus and its variants in their own states.

The result of this perverse Republican strategy of collective punishment of workers is now becoming apparent. As Rosenberg points out, “Republican officials in many states sought to address the issue by curtailing federal unemployment benefits this summer, but those cuts seem to have done little to resolve the issue.” Rather than being herded back into their dismal jobs, many workers may have instead elected to seek out safer or better paying new opportunities offered by more generous employers. Meanwhile, it doesn’t appear to have dawned on these same Republican governors that their strategy was inherently self-defeating, and could lead to the very results we see now. One thing seems fairly intuitive: This was probably not the result that those donors sought.

It is hardly surprising that workers have at long last chosen to quit their old jobs, rather than return to workplaces where their health and lives are at risk, particularly when new jobs beckon, with better pay and at least nominally safer conditions. Yet what’s particularly telling is that higher pay alone is not always a solution for many companies. There are signs that the pandemic has caused many workers to reevaluate their jobs in terms of pay and their quality of life. As Ian Thomas for CNBC reports, employers are finding out that further incentives, such as tuition reimbursement and other incentives, such as skills training, are needed to retain employees—another sign of workers’ newly increased leverage.

Just increasing pay alone won’t be enough for businesses to compete for workers in this challenging environment, according to a panel of senior HR executives who spoke during a CNBC Workforce Executive Council LinkedIn livestream that focused on recruiting, retaining and returning to the workplace.

“It’s a pretty dynamic time in the marketplace right now, and you’re seeing some pretty big trends and changes so you need to start with ensuring you are offering competitive wages,” said DJ Casto, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Synchrony. “But you also have got to create the right kind of ecosystem to support your employees.”

Employers need to wrap around their heads the fact that there will be no return to “business as usual” after this pandemic. Hitting American workers over the head with a stick and providing crumbs as incentives won’t cut it anymore. Those companies and leaders who recognize that fact will be the ones who succeed and thrive in this environment. 

Those who don’t will suffer the consequences. That’s just the law of the jungle.

Read More

Facebook is a menace. COVID-19 is a menace. Conservatism is a cesspool. Together, those three ingredients have created a toxic stew of malevolent death and devastation. We can talk about all those things in the abstract, look at the numbers and statistics, and catch the occasional whiff of seditionist right-wing rhetoric. But I hadn’t really fully understood just how horrifying that combination of right-wing extremism, Facebook, and a killer virus was until I became a regular at the Herman Cain Awards subreddit. This series will document some of those stories, so we are aware of what the other side is doing to our country.

Let’s call today’s cautionary tale “Red.”

Red followed Tex Gov. Greg Abbott. Whatever happens from here on out, it’s on him. 

Okay, Abbott can share credit with Tucker Carlson. It’s quite the deadly one-two punch. 

Science adapts to new information and data. Only fools deal in absolutes. 

So yes, at the start of the pandemic the word was don’t use face masks, in large part to protect the needed supply for health care workers. It was a deadly decision that likely cost tens of thousands their lives. But new information came out, and we adapted. Rates went down. 

Then science offered up vaccines. Even better! Early data was good. Then billions of people took it, and the data was still good! Better than anyone dreamed of, actually. 

Science is wonderful, in part, because it’s always being tested, refined, and perfected. 

When did In-N-Out get dragged into the culture wars? But regardless, you know what? California managed the pandemic responsibly, shutting down when it needed to be shut down. And the result? 

Deaths per 1 million

California: 1,792 (ranked 35th in the nation) 

Texas: 2,386 (ranked 17th in the nation)

Another way to look at it: Texas has 29 million people. California has 40 million. Yet as of right now, 70,799 Californians died of COVID-19, while 69,814 have died in Texas. Given current death rates (with lots more Texans dying because of Abbott’s stupidity), Texas will soon overtake much-larger California in absolute deaths.  

So yeah, be glad that In-N-Out and everything else was aggressively shut down. 

Pfizer got full FDA approval for its vaccine a week later. So did that change Red’s bullshit about the “experimental shot”? Of course not. It was never about experimental status. If they suddenly got cancer, not a single anti-vaxxer would ask “does that drug have full FDA approval? And also, I need to know ‘what’s in it.’” 

The entire medical establishment can’t be trusted. But this ONE Ph.D. who validates my belief structure is totally credible. Because she has a Ph.D. If you want an exhaustive fact check of Lindsay’s claims, check this out. Suffice to say, she’s a crank.  

Oh shit, never slap fate in the face like this! 

Just two weeks later, Red was likely infected with COVID-19. Three weeks later, she was hospitalized. 

Odds are good that COVID-19 didn’t care that Red had “a bite.” 

Red blessed Texas because Abbott outlawed mask mandates. She was happy to “go about her business” because she wasn’t “concerned or scared.” She was too selfish to consider what might happen if she got sick, given she has children at home. Now, she’s lonely, cold, and struggling to breathe. It’s one of the worst experiences of her life. Was all of that worth refusing the vaccine and masks? Even if she were to survive at this point, was it all still worth it?

Also, who’s the sick fuck that reacted with the laughing emoji?

COVID-19 is horrible. 

I keep saying it, but I never knew just how horrid it was until I started reading these stories. I don’t know what I would’ve done had I known this pre-vaccine. I would’ve never left the house! 

“Both of my daughters are a mess.” What?

Three kids. Red left three kids behind.

She listened to Abbott and Tucker Carlson, and now there’s one less Republican voter for next year’s elections. Chances are excellent it’ll be a real close one. They are literally killing their own supporters for 2024 presidential primary advantage. It’s beyond sick and twisted. It should be criminal. 

But whatever. Republicans have been doing a good job of making themselves demographically extinct for a while. The new census showed the number of white-only Americans dropped by about 1% every year. Entire rural regions are hollowing out. Their smart youth have moved to the cities. Those left behind are dying of opiates and old age. Why not add yet another way to thin themselves out from utter misery? 

But the three kids she left behind … that’s the part that gets me. Yet another set of kids growing up without at least one of their parents. Another family that’s going to face devastating medical expenses and reduced family income. 

Red didn’t want to “water herself down” to be more digestible to others. She’d rather everyone else “choke.” 

As a result, she destroyed her family.

Read More

Most of us are old enough to remember when Republicans eager to court the evangelical Christian vote would recoil in (not entirely genuine) horror at any hint of antisemitism in any political candidate, particularly on a GOP slate. But for the new post-insurrection Trumpian Republican Party, it seems not only to be no problem, it’s practically an asset.

Case in point: Dave Reilly, an unrepentant antisemite who believes “Judaism is the religion of anti-Christ” is running for the local school board in Post Falls, Idaho, with the wholehearted endorsement of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee (KCRCC). When pressed about their candidate, the GOP chair doubled down, insisting that the press reports about his bigoted views—based on Reilly’s own published tweets and articles—were “false,” and that Reilly’s story was “a remarkable one of salvation and is an inspiration to those struggling with life’s challenges.”

“I believe Dave is a good man who will make an excellent Trustee and will resist the Progressive/Marxist indoctrination of our children,” retorted KCRCC chair Brent Regan on Facebook. “I encourage you to ignore the false accusations and continue your support of ALL of our recommended candidates.”

When establishment Republicans have called Regan out for supporting Reilly, he has claimed they were making “accusations without complete information,” and claimed that the information in the Daily Beast article by Kelly Weill that kicked off the controversy in early October did so “with quotes either fabricated or taken out of context.”

As Weill and the blog Angry White Men documented, Reilly’s history of posting antisemitic and white nationalist talking points on social media is extensive. His views first attracted attention in 2017, when he avidly promoted the deadly “Unite the Right” white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, while ostensibly covering the event for WHLM-AM radio in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, a station owned by his father.

“Good morning. The #AltRight slept tight and #Antifa is still sleeping. Probably hungover or dope-sick. See yall at Lee Park. #Unite the Right,” one of his preevent tweets read. Reilly then resigned while putting out a statement denouncing “Nazism, the KKK, Racism, White Supremacism, and political violence,” adding: “The accusations that I am a White Supremacist, Nazi, Racist or anything of this kind is pure slander.”

Over the ensuing years, Reilly then embarked on a career of rubbing shoulders with racists, notably the white nationalist “Groyper” movement led by Nicholas Fuentes and embraced by pundit Michelle Malkin, who has endorsed Reilly’s candidacy in Post Falls as well. Reilly attended one of their conferences. He also made multiple appearances on the white nationalist YouTube channel “Red Ice.”

He tweeted that “Judaism is the religion of anti-Christ,” that “all Jews are dangerous,” and opined more Americans should believe antisemitic stereotypes.

On Twitter, Reilly’s antisemitism was rampant. “Jews pretend to be white when it’s expedient for them,” he tweeted last January, which is why “white privilege is a thing.” Later that month, he shared an article claiming 61% of Americans agreed with at least one antisemitic stereotype. “Good news! Let’s get those numbers up!” he tweeted.

As Weill documented:

When Poland announced its withdrawal from a Holocaust event in January 2020, Reilly expressed his approval (“Poland FTW”), and when he was questioned again about his attendance at Unite The Right, he claimed that criticizing his presence alongside white supremacists was inherently Jewish behavior (“the idea that one can be contaminated by association is Jewish,” he wrote).

Reilly also tweeted two pictures of billboards, which had been doctored to read “when Jews hold power they abuse it” and “all Jews are dangerous,” and promoted conspiracy theories about “Jewish subversion.” “Judaism is the religion of anti-Christ,” he tweeted at one point in February 2020.

The targets of Reilly’s bigotry include women and the LGBTQ community. He tweeted that women’s suffrage was “a mistake” and that “women should not be allowed on social media.” He also accused Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg of “dabbling in human trafficking” for adopting a child with his husband Chasten Buttigieg.

After leaving WHLM, Reilly worked as an editor for E. Michael Jones, the leader of an antisemitic “traditionalist Catholic” group based in Indiana and the publisher of Culture Wars magazine, which is noted for running such articles as “Judaizing: Then and Now,” “John Huss and the Jews,” “The Converso Problem: Then and Now,” “The Judaism of Hitler,” “Shylock Comes to Notre Dame.” In 2019, a Reilly piece for the magazine titled “Generation Identity Crisis” claimed that “Jewish sociologists” had used “Marxist social engineering” to ignite a “mass movement of left wing agitation and sexual liberation … [leading to an] almost complete breakdown of social norms.” He also wrote that “the Catholic Church has been infiltrated by homosexuals, Jews, and bad leadership.”

Michelle Lippert, a retired professor of philosophy at North Idaho College and current school board member, told KXLY-TV that Reilly’s candidacy is worrisome. “I’ve read pieces he’s written. I’ve seen his tweets. I’ve listened to podcasts that he’s participated in and it’s clear that he’s very anti-Semitic he is misogynistic, homophobic, and he has an appreciation of white supremacy,” Lippert said.

For his part, Reilly—who only moved to Post Falls in 2020—has mainly claimed martyrdom at the hands of the media and liberals. He told The Coeur d’ Alene Press that he has “been subjected to incredible financial, social and personal hardships because he was a public supporter of Donald Trump.”

“As a result of these attacks on me and my family by radical left-wing activists, I have been able to more closely imitate Jesus Christ, who was mocked, scourged, put on a show trial, spat upon and ultimately killed,” Reilly said. “I’m extremely blessed to be able to participate in that suffering for Christ’s sake.”

His primary rebuttal to the accurate characterization of his worldview as antisemitic is the same as Regan’s: holding up his endorsement by a local man of Jewish descent named Alan Golub, who they both describe as “the son of a Holocaust survivor.” What they omit from their description is that Golub, a wealthy Bitcoin promoter, does not appear to be a practicing member of the traditional Jewish faith; rather, he is listed as the primary agent for Aman Ministries, a nonprofit group with a website devoted to a mishmash of Hebraic and Christian fundamentalism, in the manner of Jews for Jesus.

In the meantime, both Reilly and Regan have come under sharp criticism from the pro-Israel group StandWithUs Northwest, which attempted to open a dialogue with both men and was rebuffed. On Facebook, the group noted: “If you look at our statement,  you will see that our ‘allegations’ are actually screen shots of tweets that Reilly himself posted.

Reilly continued lying about StandWithUs, alleging numerous untrue things about us, in an attempt to deflect from his own antisemitic writings.”

This doubling-down approach by Trumpian Republicans on efforts to call out the GOP’s embrace of far-right extremism was reflected Jan. 6, when Reilly was a speaker at a rally in Coeur d’Alene organized to protest Trump’s defeat in the election. He told the crowd that the November elections were fraudulent.

“This election was rigged and it was stolen from us, the American people,” he said. “There’s more votes in Pennsylvania than registered voters.”

Before the mob in Washington began its assault on the Capitol, the Idaho crowd heard Reilly denounce police officers and the FBI for lacking integrity; called Democrats pedophiles; and claimed the CIA has been smuggling drugs, children, and money. He also attacked then-Vice President Mike Pence.

“Mike Pence just released a letter saying he’s not going to do what he’s supposed to do,” he told the audience, which booed loudly, with shouts of “traitor”. The event’s emcee then took the microphone and announced: “Supposedly they’re taking the Capitol and taking out Pence.”

The crowd cheered.

Read More

As Daily Kos has continued to cover the seemingly endless onslaught against trans folks—and especially trans youth—by Republicans who are eager to spew hate if it means removing focus from their failures amid the pandemic, we’ve stressed that not only is hateful, discriminatory legislation wrong, period, but it’s especially sickening and harmful given that trans people face higher rates of discrimination, abuse, and violence as it is. Sadly, youth are no exception to this.

According to a recent report from the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ nonprofit, bullying can have a deeply serious impact on LGBTQ+ youth as early as middle school, as reported by Healthline.

The data includes survey responses from more than 34,000 LGBTQ+ people between the ages of 13 and 24, between October and December of 2020. The survey included both open-ended questions and multiple-choice options on a number of topics, ranging from how COVID-19 impacted their lives, to electronic and in-person bullying, to suicidal ideation, with the overall focus on bullying and suicide attempts.

More than 50% of LGBTQ+ middle and high school students said they’d been bullied either through a virtual method (like texting, or social media sites like Facebook and Instagram) or in-person during the past year. About 40% said the bullying had occurred online, while about 33% said the bullying happened in person. About 60% of trans and nonbinary students reported bullying, while about 45% of cisgender queer students did.

Just over 50% of white students reported bullying, similar to about 54% of multiracial students. 40% of Black students, 41% of AAPI students, and 47% of Latinx students also reported bullying. The greatest percentage came from Native and Indigenous students, however, where 70% reported being bullied. 

One out of four high schoolers who said they were bullied attempted suicide, and just under 30% of middle schoolers reported the same. About 14% of trans and nonbinary students who were not bullied attempted suicide, while more than 30% of those who were bullied also did. 

Respondents who described their school as LGBTQ+ affirming had 30% lower odds of being bullied in both middle and school. This finding was also consistent for both trans and nonbinary youth and cisgender youth.

As I’ve covered previously at The Atlantic, LGBTQ+ students being bullied at school is sadly far from new. That said, it’s deeply concerning that in recent months alone, we’ve seen a number of debates and conflicts break out over teachers simply hanging the Pride flag in their classroom or talking about identifying as LGBTQ+ themselves. We’ve seen reports of LGBTQ+ teachers who say they were fired or forced to resign from positions because of their sexual orientation. We’ve seen students advocate on behalf of their LGBTQ+ peers when they’ve felt ignored or punished by the administration. That’s great and inspiring, of course, but no young people should have to experience the trauma of discrimination and exclusion.

And in the background of all of this, of course, Republicans are still pushing heinous anti-trans bills that give fresh credibility to anti-trans hate speech and backward ideas. If you want to support LGBTQ+ folks in your life, consider reading up on how to use gender-neutral pronouns and some starting points on how to show up for trans friends and family members.

Sign the petition: Demand the Senate pass the Equality Act and protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination.

Read More

by Nicole Froio

This story was originally published at Prism.

Katrina* spent years attempting to have her mental health accurately assessed, and for years found herself frustrated by repeated misdiagnoses: Doctors wrongly told her she had depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Eventually she was diagnosed with ADHD, but only after spending over a year trying to find a medical professional who would take her suspicions about being neurodivergent seriously. Katrina is Asian American, and she believes the intersection of her race, gender, and age prolonged her journey toward a diagnosis and caused her significant emotional stress. Unfortunately, she’s not alone.

Misconceptions and misdiagnoses of mental health conditions for Black, Indigenous, and other women of color (BIWOC) are common occurrences, reflected in Katrina’s struggle to get an accurate diagnosis. Underdiagnosis of people of color with ADHD is an ongoing problem: A 2013 study that looked at more than 17,000 children determined that Black children were 69% less likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than their white counterparts, and Latinx children were 50% less likely.

“I believe being a female adult, and then being Asian, made it harder to prove the symptoms weren’t just my own personal quirks or misfortunes,” Katrina said. “I don’t think I would have received a positive diagnosis for ADHD if I didn’t have a total meltdown from interpersonal issues right before my first appointment, and also lost my phone between my two appointments.”

Dr. Bisma Anwar, whose work centers around normalizing mental health care for people of color, says this particular kind of misdiagnosis can be due to lack of cultural sensitivity training that results in the easy misdiagnosis of BIWOC’s mental distress. ADHD is just one example, often attributed more to boys and men, especially those who are white.

“If the mental health practitioner isn’t getting a full picture, it’s very easy to assign someone that anxiety or depression diagnosis, rather than actually finding out whether it’s ADHD, because then that also requires a visit to a neurologist,” Anwar said. “That’s where these women probably fall through the cracks.”

Medical racism and misdiagnoses

Getting an accurate mental health assessment is often stressful, and the extra steps to getting a diagnosis for neurodivergence-related conditions like autism spectrum disorder and ADHD add even more complications. They can also be cost prohibitive or involve confusing health insurance bureaucracy that can be difficult to navigate. But the biggest issue is by far the history of racism in the field of mental health.

“Unfortunately, there is a history of misdiagnosing women of color in the overall healthcare system, which includes the area of mental health,” said Shontel Cargill, assistant clinic director at Thriveworks in Cumming, Georgia.

Cargill cited several reasons why BIWOC are often misdiagnosed, including systemic racism and discrimination in the mental health field, implicit bias, lack of cultural competency and responsiveness, lack of awareness of how trauma impacts communities of color, lack of quality care, and training. Further, it’s not uncommon for doctors and other medical specialists to react dismissively or undermine BIWOC when they share concerns, thoughts, and feelings about their health. The resulting barriers and mistrust prevent many BIWOC from finding support and solutions tailored to their unique needs.

For Katrina, the ADHD diagnosis explained a lot about her life, and the medication she is taking has really helped her feel more stable. However, she believes she wouldn’t have gotten the help she needed if she hadn’t insisted on a diagnosis. After reading more about the frequency of women with ADHD being misdiagnosed as bipolar, Katrina is convinced her diagnosis in 2013 should have been for ADHD.

“I had several people say, ‘They don’t think it’s ADHD,’ including three people working in psychiatry and therapy,” she said. “This is why I think if I hadn’t had the meltdown to get the diagnosis, I would have masked the issue better.”

Misogynoir in mental health

Dr. Nadia Richardson, PhD, a Black woman who lives with bipolar II disorder, wasn’t diagnosed until she reached her 40s. Though she doesn’t believe she was officially misdiagnosed because she is high-functioning and doesn’t experience long periods of mood changes, she was told by mental health professionals that much of her mental distress over the period of her life was due to transitional periods, depression, and anxiety.

It was only when Richardson consistently saw a team of mental health professionals after struggling at work that she was given a bipolar II diagnosis. Richardson’s journey inspired her to create No More Martyrs, a mental health awareness campaign committed to building a community of support for Black women with mental health concerns. One of Richardson’s primary concerns is how the misdiagnoses of Black women specifically can result in criminalization and lack of mental health care.

“[Misdiagnosis] happens depending on the type of practitioner [who] is doing the evaluation,” she said. “If someone who is not culturally responsive enough to understand how certain forms of mental distress might manifest in Black women and girls, then it can be demonized and criminalized or dismissed as either a personality flaw or anger.”

According to Richardson, some misdiagnoses of Black women seeking mental health care are due to implicit bias and racist stereotypes of the “angry Black woman.” For example, depression in Black women can be misconstrued as hyperirritability, a perception that can dangerously skew a medical practitioner’s diagnosis.

“The perception of hyper irritability in Black people is related to the stereotype of Black people with attitude, or the [stereotype of the] angry Black woman,” Richardson said. “But if you stop at the manifestation of the irritation, without asking more questions, then you’ll never really know what the real issue is.”

Reading Black women who are in mental distress as “angry” or “aggressive” might also result in police violence. According to a study by the Treatment Advocacy Center, untreated severe mental illnesses are involved in at least one in four and as many as half of all fatal police shootings. Consequently, for Black women, a racist misreading of their emotional distress could be a matter of life and death.

Sometimes, Richardson says, the “hyperirritability” identified in Black women by mental health practitioners is simply a response to the frustration of trying to access services and not being able to get the care they need. Having to navigate Medicare, Medicaid, or a lack of insurance can be complicated and incredibly stressful, even moreso for someone trying to manage their mental health.

“It’s difficult, even if you’re mentally well, to go through your insurance and try to figure out how much your medication costs, and if it’s the right medication,” she said.

Black people being misdiagnosed—or not diagnosed at all—by medical professionals has a long history even beyond the mental health field. Black men who experience cultural mistrust or “healthy paranoia” tend to be overdiagnosed with schizophrenia, while Black and low-income mothers are several times more likely to suffer from postpartum depression but much less likely to get the treatment they need. Cargill noted there have also been many cases of underdiagnosing or lack of diagnosing of Black women, leading to untreated mental health conditions carrying risks of dangerous outcomes such as suicidal ideation or decline in their overall health.

“Black women tend to be overdiagnosed with more severe diagnoses due to implicit bias, lack of cultural awareness, and lack of trauma-informed care needed to treat generational and acute trauma that impacts Black women every day,” Cargill said. “This is particularly problematic when placing Black women on medications based on their overdiagnosis.”

Getting a diagnosis during COVID-19

For Katrina, the pandemic was a mixed bag. On the one hand, the onset of COVID-19 and lockdown heightened her level of sensitivity and struggle with feelings of failure, but she didn’t experience paralysis due to fear like most people did in the first few months of the pandemic.

“Even before the diagnosis, I was managing to catch up with my PhD writing, while most others experienced stagnation in their lives in the pandemic,” Katrina said.

The additional mental and emotional strain of the pandemic and the way it affected her may have made it easier for Katrina to get the diagnosis she needed. That doesn’t change the fact that the amount of distress she experienced in confirming what she suspected about her own mental health might have been avoided with culturally sensitive mental health practitioners.

As with other areas of health care, the pandemic only magnified racial disparities faced by BIWOC in seeking comprehensive mental health treatment. In these conditions it’s even more essential to accurately assess and diagnose BIWOC’s mental health conditions both prior to and during the pandemic. Unable to wait for institutions to fill the gaps, some individuals and organizations have been developing mental health resources tailored to their communities’ needs, from understanding the trauma of Southeast Asian refugees to the religious and cultural concerns of Muslims and the struggles of Black immigrants. While these efforts are laudable, Cargill stressed that the effects of the pandemic mean that there’s an even greater industry-wide need for more trauma-informed care to help BIWOC manage their mental health.

“Women of color are more susceptible and at risk for psychological effects and physical symptoms of COVID-19,” Cargill said. “Due to the traumatic nature of the pandemic, culturally trauma-informed care is needed to assist women of color with navigating through compounded trauma they may be experiencing during these difficult, uncertain times.”

Seeking a specific diagnosis is daunting in itself, but during a global pandemic it can be even more challenging. Richardson says peer support among women managing mental health issues can be a powerful tool to navigate these difficult processes. Though mental health apps have been useful for some BIPOC who struggle to access traditional mental health care, these apps can also reproduce hierarchies of oppression.

In the end, however, ensuring providers are given training in cultural responsiveness and advocating for revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will make an even greater positive impact on mental health care for BIWOC. In addition to preexisting stressors that BIWOC navigate daily, the pressures created by the pandemic, extreme weather disasters, and white supremacist violence are taking a considerable toll on BIWOC’s mental health. It’s more vital than ever to prevent misdiagnosis of mental illnesses in the intersection of gender and race.

* Not her real name

Nicole Froio is a writer and researcher currently based in Florida. She is working on a PhD on masculinity, sexual violence, and the media.

Prism is a BIPOC-led non-profit news outlet that centers the people, places, and issues currently underreported by national media. We’re committed to producing the kind of journalism that treats Black, Indigenous, and people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and other invisibilized groups as the experts on our own lived experiences, our resilience, and our fights for justice. Sign up for our email list to get our stories in your inbox, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Read More

A man who was swept up by federal immigration officials and jailed in solitary confinement for more than a year has sued, stating in his complaint that the private prison where he was detained subjected him to “unlawful conditions” that “amounted to torture,” advocacy groups representing the man said. Carlos Murillo, who was detained for 14 months beginning in December 2019, is the first person to sue under California law that allows victims to pursue legal action against private prison companies for failing to adhere to standards of care. 

“This isn’t just my story, this is the story of thousands of people who have suffered and continue to suffer in immigration detention,” Murrillo said in a statement from Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, among the advocates seeking justice for the man. “I’m speaking out today because I want to make sure that what I lived through doesn’t happen to anyone else. And if it does, I want to make sure that those causing the suffering are held responsible for it.”

“Murillo was incarcerated in solitary confinement for 14 months beginning on December 13, 2019, at the Imperial Regional Detention Facility, where he spent 23 hours a day alone—a form of torture that was devastating to both his physical and psychological wellbeing,” the statement said. “The United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, deemed that prolonged solitary confinement is a form of torture, and the UN’s Mandela Rules dictate that it should never be used with youth and those with mental or physical disability or illness, or for anyone for more than 15 days,” Vox reported in 2019.

“Here, Mr. Murillo was held for over a year,” the lawsuit said—and his detention in solitary began through trickery by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), the private prison profiteer running Imperial.

“Upon Mr. Murillo’s arrival at Imperial, an MTC employee gave Mr. Murillo a choice regarding where he wanted to be housed: general population or protective custody,” the lawsuit stated. “The MTC employee told Mr. Murillo that general population was dangerous and that he would be safer in protective custody.” The lawsuit states that Murrillo is a U.S. citizen though his military veteran dad, but had been unable to produce documents proving it. “Mr. Murillo, grateful for the advice and confident that his citizenship status would soon be sorted out, accepted the offer of protection. He was completely unprepared for what this ‘protection’ entailed.”

“What followed was a Kafkaesque nightmare of isolation, abuse, and callous disregard for Mr. Murillo’s physical and mental health,” Braun Hagey & Borden LLP, UCLA School of Law’s Human Rights Litigation Clinic, the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area continued. “Detainees in administrative segregation spend twenty-three hours a day alone in a cell. Their access to the yard, the library, other detainees, and even the showers is severely limited or nonexistent. Mr. Murillo was not informed of these restrictive conditions before he agreed to ‘protective custody.’”

Murillo is now suing MTC under AB 3228, a first-of-its-kind bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year that went into effect this past January. “California is home to five civil detention facilities used to detain immigrants. As it stands the total number of individuals detained in this state is set to expand to 7,200 this year,” Immigrant Defense Advocates said last year. “Four out of five of these facilities are operated by private for-profit corporations, holding an estimated 90% of the detained population. These facilities lack transparency, accountability and a system to enforce uniform detention standards.”

And, unfortunately, not shrinking in use by the federal government. While the president’s criminal justice reform platform pledged his administration would “make clear that the federal government should not use private facilities for any detention, including detention of undocumented immigrants,” a former Bureau of Prisons jail in Pennsylvania is set to reopen as a private immigration detention facility. 

”There are many people inside detention that don’t speak English and are consistently taken advantage of because of this,” Murrillo continued. “I saw it with my own eyes. If my rights were violated, even as an English speaker, imagine what happens to those who don’t speak English: coercion, retaliation, bullying, you name it. It shouldn’t take being harmed by incarceration for us to care. We must have compassion and empathy for others and know that we should not stand by and watch these corporations make millions of dollars by violating a person’s human rights.”

Read More

On Twitter a few weeks ago, I encountered one of the ubiquitous musical artist preference polls demanding that people choose between Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry. I didn’t bother to respond. Those who read #BlackMusicSunday on a regular basis know I’ve already explored the foundational Black roots of rock ‘n’ roll, including Little Richard, women like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and the role that racism has played in the business of the music industry—including white artists who rip off Black songs. 

Yet I’ve never featured Chuck Berry, though he’s mentioned frequently throughout this series. Serendipitously, Oct. 18 is his birthday, so this week’s spotlight is right on time.   

Though Berry passed on in March 2017 at the age of 90, we can celebrate what would have been his 95th birthday. His music, after all, is one of the key foundation stones of rock ‘n’ roll and will live on forever.  

Quite a few folks share the sentiment expressed in this tweet below, but I’m not gonna fuss about titles. I simply know what my ears tell me. I never owned an Elvis Presley record, and I never will.  

The real King of Rock and Roll was Chuck Berry, not Elvis. pic.twitter.com/mYV1fR714x— TomsAmps (@TomsAmpsDetroit) July 5, 2020

Charles Edward Anderson Berry was born in St. Louis, Missouri. The official Chuck Berry website offers this bio:

Born in St. Louis on October 18, 1926, Berry had many influences on his life that shaped his musical style. He emulated the smooth vocal clarity of his idol, Nat King Cole, while playing blues songs from bands like Muddy Waters. For his first stage performance, Berry chose to sing a Jay McShann song called “Confessin’ the Blues.” It was at his high school’s student musical performance, when the blues was well-liked but not considered appropriate for such an event. He got a thunderous applause for his daring choice, and from then on, Berry had to be onstage.

Berry took up the guitar after that, inspired by his partner in the school production. He found that if he learned rhythm changes and blues chords, he could play most of the popular songs on the radio at the time. His friend, Ira Harris, showed him techniques on the guitar that would become the foundation of Berry’s original sound. Then in 1952, he began playing guitar and singing in a club band whose song list ranged from blues to ballads to calypso to country. Berry was becoming an accomplished showman, incorporating gestures and facial expressions to go with the lyrics. It was in 1953 that Chuck Berry joined the Sir John’s Trio (eventually renamed the Chuck Berry Combo), which played the popular Cosmopolitan Club in St. Louis. Country-western music was big at the time, so Berry decided to use some of the riffs and create his own unique hillbilly sound. The black audience thought he was crazy at first, but couldn’t resist trying to dance along with it. Since country was popular with white people, they began to come to the shows, and the audience was at some points almost 40 percent white. Berry’s stage show antics were getting attention, but the other band members did their parts as well. In his own words: “I would slur my strings to make a passage that Johnnie (Johnson) could not produce with piano keys but the answer would be so close that he would get a tremendous ovation. His answer would sound similar to some that Jerry Lee Lewis’s fingers later began to flay.”

In 1955, Berry auditioned for and was signed by Leonard Chess to Chess Records. His first song with Chess was “Maybellene,” which would reach #5 on the pop charts and soar to #1 on the R&B charts.

Here’s that first Chess Records hit:

YouTube Video

Berry almost immediately had a big follow-up hit with “Roll Over Beethoven” in 1956. I love this live performance of it from a Universal Studios television show in Waterloo Belgium, taped on Feb 6, 1965.

I always grin when he introduces the tune by saying that “This is a song about a man who had a lot to do with music.”

YouTube Video

Lyrics

Well I’m-a write a little letter
I’m gonna mail it to my local D.J.
Yeah and it’s a jumpin’ little record
I want my jockey to play

Roll over Beethoven
I gotta hear it again today

You know my temperature’s risin’
The jukebox’s blowin’ a fuse
My heart beatin’ rhythm
And my soul keep-a singing the blues

Roll over Beethoven
And tell Tchaikovsky the news

I got the rockin’ pneumonia
I need a shot of rhythm and blues
I caught the rollin’ arthritis
Sittin’ down at a rhythm revue

Roll over Beethoven
They rockin’ in two by two

Berry was very handsome, and although he was Black, was a hit with white teenage audiences.

Rock and roll musician Chuck Berry poses for a portrait session in circa 1958, in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images pic.twitter.com/apinrdhG33— bluesharp (@bluezharp) October 9, 2021

Michael Gallant-Gardner discusses that popularity, and the emergence of the teenager as a distinct audience, in “Chuck Berry and Teenage Culture in the 1950s.”

Teenagers were a new species at the beginning of the 1950’s. Before then, adolescents in America had traditionally gone to work to support their family or to start their own family as soon as they were old enough. However, the years of post-war prosperity and the expansion of suburbia provided teenagers (who were too young to remember the scarcities of the Depression and the war effort) with plenty of leisure time. At the same time, advances in technology made vinyl 45’s cheap and easily accessible to both artists and listeners. White teenagers bought up pop hits coming off the Billboard 100, although many who were listening to black radio stations preferred rhythm and blues tunes which were always played by black performers. In fact rhythm and blues was pretty much used as a synonym for black music. Chuck Berry was one of the first  black musicians to do well with a white audience. Because of his middle class background, his energetic performing style, and his youth-associated lyrics, Chuck Berry broke through the race barrier and became one of the first “rock stars.”

Berry became a representative of the teenage generation, even though he recorded his first single at the age of 29. His experience growing up, though he was almost 15 years older than many of his fans, was similar enough to the suburban experience that he could easily identify with the restless attitude of white middle class teens. Berry was “a city kid from St. Louis . . . not rooted in the rural past as were the country blues artists at Chess.” (DeWitt, 140) The joys of fast cars, young love, and a rockin’ beat that Berry prized as a teenager did not diminish with his age.          

Berry grew up around East St. Louis. Like other middle class families of the 1950’s, the Berrys were upwardly mobile, moving from rented apartments to owned homes as the family grew. His father worked long enough hours that Chuck did not need to help provide for the family. The savings he made from jobs helping his dad with carpentry and bagging groceries all went to a down payment on a car. Berry purchased a ’34 V-8 Ford from a fellow churchgoer, and he quickly discovered that automobiles would be a life long love. The car enabled him to travel in style to the USO dances where he could satisfy his other teenage cravings with plenty of records to spin and girls to dance with.

Gallant-Gardner notes that while Berry’s career almost came to an end before it got started—he was arrested for auto theft at age 17 and didn’t get out of prison until he was 21—he persisted.

If you have never seen this clip from the 1987 concert documentary film Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll,  you are in for a treat. It’s a conversation between a former member of The Band, Robbie Robertson, and Berry, as the latter goes through his scrapbook. As he turns the pages, you get a glimpse into Berry’s early years and the development of both his family life and his growing fame.

Berry talks about poetry and his father, who was a deacon in the church and didn’t want him to play music. Check out the early photos of Berry playing sax in his school band, and pictures of him with the love of his life, his wife Themetta Suggs, as well as his first (and last!) manager—who cheated him—and his days playing in Alan Freed shows.

Notably, Robertson seems a bit taken aback by Berry’s assertion that he never, ever did any drugs.

YouTube Video

Berry was not only in the first group of musicians enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he also has a special place at the Smithsonian.

Berry spoke about youth culture with humor & insight. He paved the way for the outrageous moves of Elvis Presley & Jimi Hendrix. And, his solos & intro helped to establish the structure of guitar-driven rock music. Chuck Berry’s sound helped define a generation. #SmithsonianMusic pic.twitter.com/7MnMzfz4Bg— Smithsonian NMAAHC (@NMAAHC) June 11, 2019

Any tribute to Berry wouldn’t be complete without one of his beloved cars.

Took this picture of Chuck Berry’s Cadillac at the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History & Culture last fall #JohnnyBGoode #RIP pic.twitter.com/IsYffZGgFW— Sarah Lawrence (@SarahA_Lawrence) March 19, 2017

Berry is also immortalized with an eight-foot statue in his St. Louis hometown, where he lived until his death.

Fans left flowers and more at the monument after Berry’s death in 2017

Award-winning British filmmaker Jon Brewer’s 2018 documentary, The Original King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, is a must-see for Berry fans. Steve Ramm reviewed the film for Black Grooves.

Back in 1987, while the legendary rock and roll icon Chuck Berry was still alive and performing, the documentary Chuck Berry – Hail! Hail! Rock N’ Roll was released in celebration of the musician’s 60th birthday, but the primary focus was on two 1986 concerts. Director Jon Brewer (also responsible for great documentaries on B.B. King and Nat King Cole) uses some of that footage for this wonderful new 97-minute film, The Original King of Rock ‘N’ Roll, including clips with Berry’s contemporaries, Little Richard and Bo Diddley. This is the first feature-length documentary on the life and music of Berry, taking us on a journey from his early years right up to the present day.

The film utilizes colorized black and white re-creations to depict early episodes in Berry’s life; you can see samples of that approach in the trailer.

YouTube Video

This episode of the Factual America podcast, released in November 2020, is a very long, wide-ranging, and absorbing conversation about Berry, as well as the making Jon Brewer’s documentary. Brewer emphasizes is that there are actually two people captured in his lens: Chuck Berry, the stage and on-the-road persona, and Charles Edward Anderson Berry, the family man, grandpa, and canny, wealthy, real estate developer.

YouTube Video

Okay, enough talk. There are so many live performances from Chuck Berry that are available online, so it was hard to pick just one—but I did! Here are 80 minutes of Berry, live at the BBC Theatre in London, in 1972.

Find the setlist here.

YouTube Video

I’ve got lots more Berry for you—including duets with other greats, and legends like Jimi Hendrix paying tribute to him. Join me in the comments, and be sure to post your faves as well.

Roll over, Beethoven, Chuck Berry lives on!

Read More

Let’s dive right in!

Michael D’Antonio, writing for CNN, reminds us that when it comes to election pronouncements (and other areas), Donald Trump is usually a Big Loser, as well as a master of self-sabatoge.

At the start of 2021, Trump had the job of aiding two Georgia Republicans in runoffs for US Senate seats. In one race, GOP incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler faced Democrat Raphael Warnock. In the other, Republican Sen. David Perdue was competing against Democrat Jon Ossoff. Biden’s victory in the state had shown the independents who could decide the winner were not with Trump. He campaigned there anyway, stressing a voter fraud claim that apparently rubbed Georgians the wrong way. Loeffler and Perdue both lost, which meant the GOP also lost control of the US Senate.

The Perdue/Loeffler debacles echoed Trump’s destructive meddling in Alabama in 2017. There he campaigned hard for Roy Moore, even after he had been publicly accused of sexual misconduct, which he denied. While the accusations appeared to dampen Republican enthusiasm for their man, Trump’s presence electrified Democrats and anti-Trump independents who turned out in big numbers. Democrat Doug Jones won in an historic upset.

Other examples of Trump snatching defeat from the jaws of victory are easy to find. As president, he denied the severity of the Covid-19 threat and embraced a host of anti-scientific ideas about the virus and the pandemic. At the same time, he failed to adequately tout his Warp Speed project to accelerate vaccine development. These two blunders meant that instead of being seen as a warrior against a terrible threat he came across to many as a bumbling crank.

Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager, and Amy Gardner of The Washington Post write that voting rights advocates would like President Joe Biden to act with an increased sense of urgency when it comes to the right to vote.

In the nine months since Biden took office, GOP officials throughout the country have baselessly challenged the 2020 results, conducting elaborate and clumsy audits. States have restricted voting, often in ways activists say will hurt disadvantaged communities, and have changed their procedures to allow political influence over future elections.

Trump, meanwhile, frequently proclaims — with much fury but no evidence — that the last election was stolen, and some Republicans routinely assert that upcoming votes will be rigged as well. Many in Trump’s camp have taken to lauding the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which was aimed at violently overturning the last election, as a heroic act.

Activists want Biden to provide a loud, clear voice against these moves, from prime-time speeches to regular denunciations of especially egregious actions. Beyond that, they say he should throw himself into passing voting rights legislation and more aggressively go after states that are politicizing their election systems.

Gaby Goldstein, also of The Post, cautions Democratic voters in Virginia about an enthusiam gap …

Looking to 2022, we know that midterm performance is a reflection of the out-party’s enthusiasm and motivation. And generally, the out-party is more motivated and more enthusiastic than the president’s party. That is why the out-party tends to do better in midterm elections. Next year, Democrats will need to out-motivate and out-enthusiasm the GOP to buck the historical trend, hold the House and Senate, and make appreciable gains in state legislatures.

Throughout the Trump years, Virginia’s elections served as important partisan barometers. The 2017 gubernatorial and House of Delegates races were seen as an early and emphatic referendum on Trump. Democrat Ralph Northam won the governorship by 9 percentage points, and Democrats picked up a colossal 15 seats in the House of Delegates. The next year, three Democratic women flipped U.S. House seats. In 2019, Democrats flipped both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in a generation, completing a blue trifecta. And in 2020, Biden carried the state by 10 percentage points. But any assumption that Virginia is now solidly blue would be very wrong.

Importantly, Virginia voters tend to elect governors from the presidential out-party, and Democratic voters tend to turn out less than Republicans in odd-year elections. As with congressional midterms next year, it would take historic levels of Democratic engagement this year to buck the trend. Some signs are positive: Legislative Democrats are fundraising well. But many Democrats feel a lack of urgency and complacency. On the Republican side, there is strong investment in campaign and field operations up and down the ballot and a lot of enthusiasm.

… but Julian Zellzer of CNN doesn’t think that the off-year gubernatorial and legislative elections in Virginia will be particularly indicative of potential national trends for 2022.

… news reports are already calling the Virginia race a warning sign for Democrats. Regardless of what happens, however, it is important to remember that the outcome will only give us a limited window into the political state of play. Off-year and special elections are not always the best way to predict how elections will play out elsewhere in the country.

Even if McAuliffe were to lose, it is highly likely that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy — who has supported the national Democrats on most issues and stood by controversial Covid mandates — will defeat Republican Jack Ciattareli in the Garden State’s gubernatorial contest on November 2. It would therefore be a mistake to read too much into the results and what they mean for the 2022 midterm elections.

[…]

History shows that off-year and special elections don’t necessarily reflect the state of national politics. When McAuliffe won Virginia’s gubernatorial race in 2013, for instance, that win was not indicative of the wreckage Democrats would suffer in the 2014 midterm election and the 2016 general election. It is dangerous to take the results of a gubernatorial or congressional election and draw conclusions about the country at large.

Will Bunch of The Philadelphia Inquirer wonders if the “white and educated” composition of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests ultimately resulted in little change in policing and public-safety legislation.

To be sure, some cities — including Philadelphia — enacted some of the lower-hanging fruit of policing reforms, such as banning chokeholds or indiscriminate use of tear gas on protesters, and there are promising pilot programs aimed replacing armed cops with civilians responded to traffic violations or mental-health crises.

But the sweeping public-safety changes sought by activist leaders of the protests seem just as elusive as they were the day before Floyd was murdered. In Washington, a modest yet significant package of federal police reforms — which would have curbed the “qualified immunity” that shields officers from the consequences of brutality — collapsed as the din of the protest marches faded. And in cities across the nation, as the New York Times reported last week in a piece headlined “A Year After ‘Defund,’ Police Departments Get Their Money Back,” budgets for traditional policing are actually increasing — the opposite of what most marchers sought.

It’s too early in the struggle to say the Black Lives Matter protests inspired by Floyd’s murder were a flop. But the results so far stand in contrast to the civil rights victories of the 1960s — most notably, the 1965 Selma marches that led directly to the landmark federal Voting Rights Act — and this begs the question: Was the size and diversity of the 2020 marches more of a bug than a feature? Were the protests 3,000 miles wide, but only an inch deep?

Meanwhile April Ryan’s exclusive reporting at TheGrio indicates that the Biden administration may be preparing to use executive orders to push through some changes in policing.

The White House is trying to pick up the broken pieces of the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which failed in negotiations on Capitol Hill, by exploring ways President Joe Biden can mend together some type of police reform through presidential executive orders.

TheGrio has exclusively learned that White House officials this week, including senior-level Black members of the administration Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and the head of public engagement Cedric Richmond, met with civil rights attorneys and families of Black men and women killed by police. Those represented on the call were the families of George Floyd, Atatiana Jefferson, Ronald Green and Ahmaud [Arbery].

[…]

Sources on this week’s initial police reform call contend the civil rights lawyers had submitted to the Biden transition team a list of executive actions that could be taken on Biden’s first day and or first week in office. The families and leaders resubmitted the paper during the impromptu virtual meeting. The submission included increased funding for the civil rights division of the Justice Department, and federal review for police-involved deadly and violent incidents.

Renée Graham of The Boston Globe emphatically states that trans lives should matter a lot more than comedian Dave Chappelle’s notions of “cancel culture.”

In a just nation, trans lives would be more than some rich comedian’s ugly punchline. They would matter.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, which tracks anti-LGBTQ violence, Kartier is at least the fifth trans woman murdered in Texas this year and one of at least 38 transgender or gender nonconforming people killed in the United States and Puerto Rico so far in 2021. At that alarming pace, the total is expected to surpass last year’s 44 deaths. And like Kartier, most of the victims were Black trans women, including Tierramarie Lewis and Diamond Kyree Sanders, who lived in Ohio, Chappelle’s home state.

[…]

More than 100 bills restricting trans rights have been introduced this year. As LGBTQ Pride Month began in June, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a law banning trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams in schools. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas has compared gender-affirming surgery for trans youth to “child abuse.” Arkansas tried to stop gender-affirming health care for trans children until a judge issued a temporary ban on the law’s implementation.

When laws are specifically enacted to deprive people of their civil rights, it’s easier to dehumanize them. They are deemed unworthy of respect or empathy, making them more susceptible to harsh and ruthless treatment. That’s also true of hate speech whether it’s delivered in a politician’s soundbite or a comedian’s stand-up routine.

Over at The Atlantic, Derek Thompson has no problem with “The Great Resignation.”

“Quits,” as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls them, are rising in almost every industry. For those in leisure and hospitality, especially, the workplace must feel like one giant revolving door. Nearly 7 percent of employees in the “accommodations and food services” sector left their job in August. That means one in 14 hotel clerks, restaurant servers, and barbacks said sayonara in a single month. Thanks to several pandemic-relief checks, a rent moratorium, and student-loan forgiveness, everybody, particularly if they are young and have a low income, has more freedom to quit jobs they hate and hop to something else.

As I wrote in the spring, quitting is a concept typically associated with losers and loafers. But this level of quitting is really an expression of optimism that says, We can do better. You may have heard the story that in the golden age of American labor, 20th-century workers stayed in one job for 40 years and retired with a gold watch. But that’s a total myth. The truth is people in the 1960s and ’70s quit their jobs more often than they have in the past 20 years, and the economy was better off for it. Since the 1980s, Americans have quit less, and many have clung to crappy jobs for fear that the safety net wouldn’t support them while they looked for a new one. But Americans seem to be done with sticking it out. And they’re being rewarded for their lack of patience: Wages for low-income workers are rising at their fastest rate since the Great Recession. The Great Resignation is, literally, great.

Paul Krugman of The New York Times doesn’t have much of a problem with The Great Resignation, either.

Given these realities, it’s not surprising that many workers are either quitting or reluctant to return to their old jobs. The harder question is, why now? Many Americans hated their jobs two years ago, but they didn’t act on those feelings as much as they are now. What changed?

Well, it’s only speculation, but it seems quite possible that the pandemic, by upending many Americans’ lives, also caused some of them to reconsider their life choices. Not everyone can afford to quit a hated job, but a significant number of workers seem ready to accept the risk of trying something different — retiring earlier despite the monetary cost, looking for a less unpleasant job in a different industry, and so on.

And while this new choosiness by workers who feel empowered is making consumers’ and business owners’ lives more difficult, let’s be clear: Overall, it’s a good thing. American workers are insisting on a better deal, and it’s in the nation’s interest that they get it.

Sarah Jones of New York magazine looks at why it seems that ‘tis the season for unions to strike.

Why so many strikes at once? Let’s explore the meaning of the season. Strikes don’t happen overnight. A successful strike requires years of groundwork by organizers and activist workers alike. That’s because strikes demand much of workers: Although a union’s strike fund is there to help workers keep their lights on while they’re off the job, it typically doesn’t replace their full pay. On the picket line, workers often have to endure hostile conditions, such as rain or snow, or confrontations with scabs. Workers strike because they have exhausted all other options and when the hardships of striking are overshadowed by the hardships of working.

Examine the demands made by workers in each current or pending strike and certain common themes emerge across industries. At Kellogg’s, workers represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International (which represented strikers at a Kansas Frito-Lay factory this summer) are protesting the proposed expansion of a two-tier wage and benefit system that, as Alex Press recently explained in Jacobin magazine, “created a ‘transitional’ class of employees with lower pay and benefits.” John Deere workers want wages that reflect the company’s profit margin — and to achieve this, they rejected the first contract the United Auto Workers put to them for a vote. At Kaiser, nurses and others represented by the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals cite staffing shortages their employer has done little to remedy, along with another two-tier wage and benefit system that would disadvantage a class of workers. (The authorization vote doesn’t necessarily mean Kaiser workers will eventually go on strike, but it’s a strong sign they’re prepared to walk if Kaiser doesn’t come to the table with an acceptable contract.) The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees is ready to strike and bring huge swaths of the entertainment industry to a standstill for enhanced rest periods and better wages and benefits.

Urban studies professor Pascale Joassart-Marcelli writes for The Conversation, noting that low-income neighborhoods that develop more food options are a magnet for developers and, ultimately, gentrification.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city’s low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided. […]

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can’t easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They’ve become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn’t just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, New York’s Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because “ethnic,” “authentic” and “exotic” foods are seen as cultural assets, they’ve become magnets for development.

Sara Luterman reports for The 19th News that many LGBTQ+ seniors in New York state fear “re-closeting” in order to access resources such as senior housing and long-term care.

It is difficult to know exactly how widespread the problem is. According to a new report from AARP New York and SAGE, a third of LGBTQ+ seniors in New York worry they will have to re-closet themselves to access senior housing and long-term care. This was a particular concern among transgender and gender-nonconforming seniors. Over half reported fear of having to reenter the closet when they seek new housing settings. The issue may be more severe in parts of the country more conservative than New York.

SAGE has been working on multiple fronts to address danger to LGBTQ+ seniors as they enter long-term care.

[…]

Re-closeting is an issue in both home care and residential settings. Adams expressed particular concern about care agencies and facilities operated by faith traditions hostile to LGBTQ+ people. But secular elder care agencies and facilities still carry risks. “Most agencies have no training and no policies regarding fair, non-discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ elders. So basically, employees are left to their own devices about how they interact with [LGBTQ] elder folk… And the results aren’t pretty.”

The New York Times defines “The Blob” as “members of the mainstream foreign-policy establishment—government officials, academics, Council on Foreign Relations panelists, television talking heads and the like—who share a collective belief in the obligation of the United States to pursue an aggressive, interventionist policy in the post-9/11 world.” Nick Danforth writes for Foreign Policy that the American public is as complicit in the failures of American foreign policy as The Blob.

U.S. voters have always been clear about what they want from foreign policy: to have their cake and eat it too. They want maximum power, prestige, and protection at minimal cost. The Blob, to its dubious credit, is committed to realizing this understandable but impossible dream. Rather than blaming the Blob for it, Americans should confront the paradox they—we—are all complicit in.

When Americans want a war, they want a military that can fight it and win it. When they don’t want a war, they want a military that can end it without losing it. When they’re angry about an attack on the nation or its values, they want to hit back—they just don’t want that to lead to a fight that goes on too long or hurts too much. Ideally, they’d just like other countries to do what America wants without having to be told twice. After all, they don’t want to be the world’s policeman.

I’ve said before that one of the wild cards if China militarily intervenes in Taiwan will be Japan. Mirna Galic writes for the War on the Rocks blog about Japan’s possible options in the event of Chinese military action against Taiwan.

Article 9 of Japan’s constitution renounces war and the use or threat of force to settle international disputes. The use of force in self-defense is permitted in response to an armed attack against Japan (we’ll place an asterisk here and come back to it), but only if an armed attack is initiated, not merely if there is a likelihood or threat of attack. If a Chinese attack on Taiwan involved any attack on Japanese territory, from individual islands to U.S. bases, Japan could respond with force in self-defense using a spectrum of military operations. However, Japan’s use of force would be permitted only in the absence of other “appropriate means” and to the “minimum necessary extent.”

Absent a direct attack on Japan, Japanese action can take various forms, depending on the circumstances. Perhaps most pertinently, Japan would have the option to allow the United States to use U.S. bases in Japan for a military response to a Taiwan attack, based on prior consultation requirements relating to “the use of facilities and areas in Japan as bases for military combat operations to be undertaken from Japan.” Historically, Japan has maintained public ambiguity about its willingness to provide acquiescence for such a request in relation to Taiwan.

Japan can also respond to an important influence situation, which comprises contingencies short of armed attack on Japan that, if left unaddressed, could develop to threaten Japan’s peace and security. In such a situation, Japan can provide support for U.S. and other forces responding to the contingency. Japanese support may include search and rescue activities, ship inspections, and logistics support, with the last encompassing such elements as use of facilities, supply chains, transportation, communication, and repair and maintenance.

Finally today, I see Danté Stewart, author of Shoutin’ in the Fire: An American Epistle, all over the place.The New York Times adapted Stewart’s guest essay from his new book.

It started in college at Clemson University, where I played on the nationally ranked football team. Many young Black athletes like me left home and quickly found ourselves around white Christians because they were the ones who had greatest access to us. Between Bible studies and church outings, our worlds became white, our Jesus became a blond-haired and blue-eyed savior. This Jesus cared about touchdowns and Bible verses written in white letters underneath our eyes over the black paint.

As the weeks and months and years went by, I found myself closer and closer to white people. After graduating from college, I joined a white evangelical church and entered seminary in the hopes of becoming a pastor there. In my pursuit to be a better person and a better athlete and a better Christian, I viewed Black sermons and Black songs and Black buildings and Black shouting and Black loving with skepticism, and white sermons and white songs and white buildings and white clapping with sacredness.

But before long, images of Black people dying started appearing all over our televisions and newspapers and newsfeeds. And too many of the nice white people around me just didn’t seem to care. And I knew: I had to find a way to get free and survive.

Stewart was also interviewed by Josiah R. Daniels of Soujourners.

You can’t really change how people read your book, but you can try as best you can to write a certain way. And I didn’t want my book to fit neatly within the genre of “anti-racism.” I wanted my book to be Black literature. I didn’t want my book to be centered on white people. I wanted my book to help you explore and imagine the possibilities for the beauty of what we know of ourselves — the beauty of Blackness.

What is the world that you have inherited? And how can you explore that world? Don’t just set out to prove your humanity to white people or assimilate to whiteness, set out to love yourself deeply and embrace your humanity. Because I believe as the Bible teaches us that our humanity is our gift, and that God wants us to embrace and explore it.

Everyone have a great day!

Read More