The Widdershins

Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

A few weeks ago Dump’s chief cheerleader Kellyanne Conjob said that journalists’ Twitter feeds “are a hot mess.” The obvious irony of her remark can’t be avoided, of Silence-Deafens1course. But like a broken clock, for a person who talks as much as she does, she’s bound to say something true and that might have been her one true statement. Journalists’ Twiter feeds are a hot fucking mess. I’ve been following a few, and see many more re-tweeted. And the problem with legitimate reporters having Twitter feeds is that their commentary turns them into pundits. Maggie Haberman (everything is Clinton’s fault all the time), Katy Tur (after SOTU Dump became President with Capital P) and Jake Tapper (everything is Clinton’s fault) constantly engage commenters, defending their own opinions. I don’t particularly care that they have anti-Clinton opinions, but any opinion they so openly express and defend makes them no different than Jeffrey Lord. Of course we can’t expect reporters not to have opinions. But airing them as they all do brings into question their reporting. Bill O’Reilly mixes news and opinion into one telecast. Is it really so different when Maggie Haberman files a Clinton story in the NY Times and then writes on Twitter that Clinton is obviously at fault for not pushing Trump/Russia story harder during the election? The line between Haberman and O’Reilly blurs.

The latest onslaught of Hillary bashing comes from publication of a new book called “Clusterfuck” by Fuckface Fucktard and Fuckity Fuckass. I might have gotten the name of the book wrong and misspelled the names of the authors. But it’s something like that. The book is the first in what will surely be many years of autopsies of Clinton’s campaign. The gist of it is that it’s all Clinton’s fault, and mostly Robby Mook’s fault. (Nobody was allowed to speak to Hillary except via Huma and Mook is a “professional political assassin”.) The sources are, of course, largely anonymous. And the content isn’t really surprising.

What is also not surprising are the reviews. I know a graph I posted last week showed that Washington Post’s anti-Hillary coverage was only second to Fox’s, but somehow New York Times’ has always carried much more weight. (And I wonder if Chris Cillizza’s Clinton Derangement Syndrome skewed WaPo coverage overall. He is truly demented and has transferred his psychosis to his new job at CNN. More on Cillizza below.)

Michiko Kakutani reviewed the book in New York Times:

“Shattered” underscores Clinton’s difficulty in articulating a rationale for her campaign (other than that she was not Donald Trump.) And it suggests that a tendency to value loyalty over competence resulted in a lumbering, bureaucratic operation in which staff members were reluctant to speak truth to power, and competing tribes sowed “confusion, angst and infighting.”

Kakutani has a long history of reviewing both Clintons’ books and it’s not a good history. Compare to Steven Ginsberg review in Washington Post:

Does it really matter who was pissy at whom in Brooklyn when we still don’t know what role the Russians played in the election or why FBI Director James Comey publicly announced a reopening of the e-mail investigation in late October? Those questions are largely left unexplored here, other than as targets of Clinton’s post-election ire.

I also liked this paragraph from Ginsberg:

Much of the post-election analysis has criticized Clinton and her campaign for focusing on “reach” states such as North Carolina instead of putting more resources in the upper Midwest. That view is both echoed and called into question in “Shattered,” which depicts a vexing Goldilocks-style problem for Clinton across the region.

In Wisconsin, she didn’t show up enough. In Michigan, local organizers thought it was best that she stayed away. In Pennsylvania, she campaigned as aggressively as anywhere in the nation. In all three, she lost by less than 1 percent of the vote. So what should she have done?

Charles Pierce wrote a great takedown of New York Times’ Clinton problem. It’s worth reading in its entirety. Pierce reaches back to William Safire and Whitewater, the source of Times’ Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

Several other reporters and writers also pointed to the nonsense of the book’s premise and the subsequent flogging of Clinton.

Dave Weigel of WaPo tweeted: “Obviously Clinton screwed up by forcing every cable channel to play Trump speeches live for a year.”

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo: “Remember: Every losing campaign was run by idiots. Every winning campaign by geniuses. Rinse, repeat.”

Greg Sargent of The Plum Line: “Weird how people who cite Nate Silver constantly suddenly don’t ever cite his conclusion about Comey impact.”

And, of course, Paul Krugman: “When journos who hyped e-mail pseudo-scandal pile on over HRC campaign errors, it’s partly CYA over their own role n Trump disaster.”

I do wish Krugman would walk over to Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush and smack them.

A note about Cillizza. His Clinton hate is truly one of the most rabid among the media. I try to think of someone who might match it at the moment and really, I can’t think of anyone who’s not, say, Rush Limbaugh. After his latest “It’s all Hillary’s fault” article from today, an Unworthy writer Parker Malloy put together a collage of some of Cillizza’s articles from WaPo on Clinton. (The handle in the images reads CillizzaCNN, but that’s because he’s changed it to his current job; the old username from WaPo days was not archived separately.)

 

If you want to know what real, fearless journalism looks like, read the story of Elena

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Elena Milashina

Milashina from Novaya Gazeta.  Milashina is the reporter who told the world about the kidnapping and torture of gay men in Chechnya, reports that put her life in danger. Novaya Gazeta is the same newspaper Anna Politkovskaya worked for. Politkovskaya reported a lot on Putin’s actions in Chechnya. She was murdered.

Another example of courageous reporting, also from Russia, is in this Jim Rutenberg report.

It’s important American journalists pay attention to these stories. Because Trump wants to be like Putin. And if Trump becomes Putin, he’ll go after journalists first.

 

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On Monday night the Politico reporter Gabriel Debenedetti tweeted: “We’ve got Biden, Clinton & Kasich already. Any other 2x presidential candidates planning to make a return to the political scene this month?” Then a few hours later: “The answer to this question, apparently, was Mitt Romney.” I responded: “It’s funny because only Clinton has been told repeatedly to shut up.”

In fact, after months of taunting “So where is Hillary?” and “Why isn’t Hillary doing something?” as soon as Clinton did emerge to deliver a couple of  speeches – the same people descended on her yelling “Shut up!” From Bill Maher to Donald Trump to Matthew Yglesias to Shaun King to every Bernie Bro on the planet, they declared that Hillary Clinton must shut up. Clinton Derangement Syndrome transcends party loyalty, race, age and even gender.

Hillary isn’t the only Clinton to inspire the chants of “Shut up!” Chelsea Clinton has also been told repeatedly, by many of the same people, to stop tweeting and expressing opinions and writing children’s books. Alyssa Rosenberg of Washington Post wrote an entire column telling Chelsea that it’s in her own best interests “to disappear.” Thank you so much Alyssa for your concern.

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Susan Bordo of University of Kentucky, is publishing a book titled: “The destruction of Hillary Clinton: sexism, Sanders and the millennial feminists.” The Guardian published an excerpt from the book. It is powerful and painful to read:

As I watched Sanders enchant the crowds, it was something of a deja vu experience to see a charismatic male politician on stage telling women which issues are and aren’t progressive. Cultural histories of the 60s rarely acknowledge what a sexist decade it was. We imagine that breaking through the suburban 50s fantasy meant that old-fashioned gender roles and attitudes had been discarded. Far from it.

In fact, in many ways the decade was more male-centric than the 50s; it just privileged a different sort of male. Those men loved having us as uninhibited sexual partners and helpers in their political protests, but they never let us forget who was in charge of creating the platforms or who belonged in the political spotlight.

[…]

[The media and pundits] described [Sanders] as “heart” and [Clinton] as “head” – a bitter irony for those of us familiar with the long history of philosophical, religious, and medical diatribes disqualifying women from leadership positions on the basis of our less-disciplined emotions. He was seen as authentic in his progressivism while she was pushed to the left by political expediency – as though a lifetime of fighting for equality and children’s rights meant nothing. He was the champion of the working class (conveniently ignoring that black and white women were members, and that their issues were also working class issues), but her longstanding commitments to universal health care, child care, paid sick leave, racial justice, the repeal of the Hyde amendment, and narrowing the wage gap between working men and women apparently evaporated because she’d accepted well-paid invitations to speak at Goldman Sachs.

It was a week in which Joseph Biden once again declared that Clinton was a weak candidate and that he would have won if he chose to run. Bernie Sanders continued his Democrat-and-Hillary-bashing tour (now in its 2nd year), declaring that Trump voters aren’t racist and misogynistic and not deplorable. And he would have won too. Biden, of course, is two time Presidential nominee who dropped out of races early in the primaries because nobody took him seriously. He has also always been a gaffe machine, saying unseemly things which somehow became endearing when he was VP, but calling Obama “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” nearly sank his 2008 campaign before he even started it. Biden also wrote the much maligned Crime Bill that Hillary gets excoriated for. (No, she didn’t call black people “super predators.” She was specifically talking about drug dealers only.) And Bernie Sanders voted for the crime bill. But, of course, Hillary has always been seen as the problematic candidate.

Bill Maher’s comments to Clinton on April 31st were not the only astounding moments on that episode. Guest Neera Tanden, President of Center for American Progress who was an informal advisor to Clinton’s campaign, complained about Bill O’Reilly’s racist 27-neera-tanden-clinton.w710.h473.2xcomments about Maxine Waters and Sean Spicer telling April Ryan not to shake her head. Maher and Rich Santorum angrily told Tanden that she needs to get over it, there is nothing racist or sexist in those comments, and the Democratic party lost the election because Liberals are humorless and get offended at the most insane things. Santorum declared he never gets offended by anything, which Maher agreed with. There are many things wrong with these words. But let’s just discuss the preposterous idea that conservatives don’t get worked up over bullshit. Even if we just stick with the subject of hair, something serial rapist O’Reilly thinks is funny on black women, both Maher and Santorum conveniently forgot that just a few weeks ago Samantha Bee had to apologize to some asshole with Nazi hair at C-PAC because, it turns out, he has cancer. Of course cancer has never been known to cause Nazi hair, and when his diagnosis was brought to Bee’s attention, the show apologized, edited the young Nazi out of their piece and donated money to his cancer treatment. After all this Fox News still had the young Nazi on the air to tell everyone that none of these things Bee’s show had done for him were enough.

After Tanden’s painful appearance on Real Time, where Conservative and whatever Maher considers himself, white men lectured a woman of color that racism and sexism were just in her head, Tanden tweeted:

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As can be very clearly seen, Tanden was specifically addressing a poll that 86% of current anti-Trump activists are female.

Her tweet prompted the following response:

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Harry Shearer isn’t just a twitter troll. Shearer is the creator of “The Simpsons.” He also co-wrote and co-starred in “This Is Spinal Tap” and used to write for Saturday Night Live. This is a liberal, educated, Hollywood elite man. And his response is galling. When countless people jumped in to explain that a) Tanden said nothing about race and b) majority of women voted for Clinton, Shearer proceeded to argue for many tweets that women weren’t actually as upset as Tanden thinks. Countless peopled tried to make him understand the racism and misogyny of his response, but Shearer persisted with snark. Tanden later remarked: “In the course of 24 hours, I’ve had a few famous liberal men explain women’s legit feelings to me. Interesting times.”

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Update: on Wednesday night Carl Reiner tweeted the following 2 messages:

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I leave you with this heartbreaking portrait of Hillary Clinton by Ruby Cramer of Buzzfeed from January 2016. “In the early days of her husband’s administration, Hillary Clinton tried to start a national conversation about basic human decency, only to be mocked.”

But no, heartbreak and sadness we can fight. Let’s turn it into anger and action. The message Hillary and Hillary supporters should be sending out:  to anyone who tells her – or us – to shut up comes courtesy of, who else, the woman who has been pissing off multiple Popes and Marie Le Pen for decades. It can only be  Madonna. In this live performance in 2015 she’s joined by a drag queen who was featured on Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

“You might say that I’m an unapologetic bitch.

But sometimes, you know, I gotta call it like it is.”

You know, you never really knew how much your selfish bullshit cost me.
Well fuck you!”

 

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Over the weekend I edited a short fundraising video for organizations that help victims of human trafficking. These are all religious institutions and the women interviewed were all nuns. One from NYC, one from London, and one from Mombasa, Kenya.

Human trafficking is the 2nd largest crime industry in the world, only behind drug trafficking. It generates hundreds of billions of dollars in profit – at the expense of human lives. And it is also the fastest growing “industry” in the world today. In 2012 it was estimated that as many as 20.9 million people around the world were victims of human trafficking. Imagine what those numbers are in 2017. Human trafficking includes sexual exploitation (including sexual slavery), forced labor, organ harvesting. The International Labour Organization (a United Nations agency) last compiled their statistics in 2012. Some excerpts:

90% are forced to labor for private economies or corporations

22% are in forced sexual exploitation

55% are women and girls & 45% are men and boys

26% are under the age of 18

Sister Jane Kimathi, from Mombasa, speaks of victims as young as 4 years old, forced into prostitution. Many, she says, come to their safe houses unable to speak because of the trauma. Some stay with the Sisters for as long as two years, as they try to rehabilitate them and find new homes. While their order is Catholic, they welcome all victims and their prayer room is nondenominational. She mentioned that Mombasa is a popular tourist destination. But the “tourist destination” designation is people who come there specifically searching for young children to abuse. Because of the many conflicts in Africa, the number of refugees spikes the numbers of slaves. They are people looking for ways to support their families. Nobody is looking for glamour or prestige in the sex trade, Sister Kimathi says. “It’s poverty and desperation.” Some of the children were sold by their parents into slavery. Some are orphans and some are runaways who were promised happiness by relatives, who then exploited them.

It’s a story the Sister from New York, Joan Dawber, picks up on. Sister Joan runs safe houses in Queens. She described one woman’s story: She came to New York to be a student, sponsored byp1562069350-3 an extended family. When she arrived, the family forced her to become their slave. She never attended school. She was forced to take care of the family, including raising their young children. She was forced to eat off the floor. Not just having her plate on the floor, she didn’t have a plate. Whatever food she was allowed to eat was put on the floor. If she was hungry and snuck any food out of the fridge, she was punished. She was her family’s slave in Queens, NY for five years. Her salvation came in the form of a neighbor who suspected something odd based on the young woman’s behavior in public. She tried to speak to her repeatedly, ask her how she is, only to have the young woman run away. Eventually the neighbor gave the woman a cell phone with pre-programmed numbers for the police and safe shelters. The young woman finally found courage to escape, using the cell phone to call for help. She has since finished school and lives in New York.

Sister Dawber points out that human trafficking exists in every state of the USA. It is not an issue that only happens out there somewhere. It exists all around us. It could be the waitress in a restaurant, or a manicurist at the nail salon. They could be of any age and any race. It can be almost impossible to know that this person ringing up our groceries is indentured to someone.

Sister Lynda Dearlove runs a safe house in London. Their organization primarily helps prostitutes. The interesting thing is that their mission isn’t strictly to “rescue” the women from prostitution. It is to offer them a safe home and counseling when in need. Many only come to sister-lynda-dearlovespend the night, take a shower and eat. Some then return to the streets. The Sisters there never force anyone to stay. Many women have been coming to them for years for a night or two of peace. The Sisters hope that by offering women a shelter and offering them counseling they can help them enable themselves. Sister Dearlove passionately says that the can not force anyone to do anything. The best they can do is show the women that there is hope and they need to find it for themselves. Maybe not today, but possibly tomorrow. “They are valued and they are loved, and if anything happens to them we want them to know that we will miss them.” She says that people blame women for becoming prostitutes and that it is one of the biggest challenges we as a society face: The need to understand that if any of these women choose prostitution it is only because they are fleeing abuse, or drugs, or so many other possible traumas. Many are trying to support families and stay alive. They must never be judged or condemned, she says. They must be offered hope.

Note: Sister Dearlove was appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire in 2010.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind fellow Widdershins?

Cunning Con

Posted on: March 15, 2017

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There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, through their—certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. So we know that that is just a fact of modern life.

It’s not. But so said Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s senior advisor with an office on the 2nd floor of the White House (because he doesn’t like stairs), and the first woman to run a winning Presidential campaign. She is also the person who invented the phrase “alternative facts” and the Bowling Green Massacre. (Also fun fact: Conway’s husband, George T. Conway III, is a litigation partner at law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, whose previous notable alumni include Glenn Greenwald.)

Conway’s rise to power and fame has been long and steady. She first gained prominence as a right-wing blond pundit in the 1990s, along with Laura Ingraham and Barbara Olson. Over the years she has worked for Newt Gingrich and Todd “Legitimate Rape” Aikin. In 2016 she endorsed Ted Cruz for President and campaigned for him and against Donald Trump. Her numerous media appearances blasting Trump blasted her into election year stratosphere, so much so that when Cruz folded his wings, Conway was brought to the Trump campaign by the very scary Mercer family. (Mercers are just like the Kochs, but 100% more evil. They own Breitbart, among many other notable acts of devilry.) Once at the helm of Trump’s campaign, Conway really began to shine. Her dizzying feats of triangulation, circular talk and topic avoidance, became an Olympic sport. And it’s really not too crazy to say that she is a yuge reason Trump managed to “win.” She helped humanize him. Somehow, for a very long time, people managed to see Conway as a human herself, even SNL (where she is played by Kate McKinnon) always portrayed her as a good person stuck in an impossible situation working for an awful man, but not knowing how to stop him. (Same fantasies still exist about Ivanka Trump and Melania, contrary to all existing evidence.) That is patent nonsense, of course. Conway knew exactly what she was doing and helped give the world Trump. She is not a victim.

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But everything that goes up must come down. And Conway is on her way down. Her TV appearances have dwindled because nobody wants to book her. She was temporary banned from CNN. She has been permanently (?) banned from Morning Schmoe. Shep Smith on Fox openly mocks her. (“…senior adviser Kellyanne Conway — who we don’t quote much anymore because, well, history”). Each time she gives a major interview she invents a crazy story (Bowling Green Massacre and spying microwaves are most notable over the past few weeks.) She also got a fair amount of… shall we call it “alternative feedback” to a photo of her sitting on the couch in the Oval Office with her feet up while surrounded by a large group of black men. Granted, she was prepping to take a photograph and that was one way to do it. (One way, not the only way). But when you combine all the nonsense, Conway really does seem to be coming undone and unhinged.

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In a February piece in the New York Times, Erin Gloria Ryan, summarized her growing dislike for Conway, which to her centers on Conway’s faux feminism.

Once she took the reins of Donald Trump’s campaign, though, she went from smooth to slippery. She’d hammer Hillary Clinton for talking too much about gender and duck behind her femininity in the face of legitimate criticism. If she succeeded, it was because she was Kellyanne. If she failed, it was because she was a woman.

As Kellyanne’s once-forceful cable news denials have disintegrated into whimpers, I can’t say I feel anything for her at all. I don’t mind when people point out how tired she looks. I simply cannot dredge up any sympathy for a person who has acknowledged the structural problems most women face only when she is personally facing them, or used them as derailing tactics when she’s losing an argument. I can’t mourn the downfall of a fair-weather feminist, a woman who has used her power to hurt other women.

Ms. Conway made her bed. And now it’s time for her to get some sleep.

 

In different, lighter and more empowering news: it took 188 years for Fanny Mendelssohn to get some recognition she deserves, but better late than never. Fanny was the older sister of Felix Mendelssohn, one of the great Romantic composers, who – among many great works of music – gave us the Wedding March. In 1829 he is said to have written a piano sonata. The manuscript, which was discovered in the 20th century, was autographed “F Mendelssohn” and the assumption was that it was Felix’s. But in 2010 a Duke graduate student proved that “F” was Fanny, not Felix, and last week the work was finally performed with Fanny’s name attached as composer. We actually know that Fanny composed over 460 pieces of music. It was unusual for women to openly composer and publish, so Felix arranged to have a handful of her works published under his name. In 1842, when visiting Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace, the Queen told Felix that she intended to sing one of his songs for him. Felix confessed that the song was actually composed by his sister. Fanny died in 1847 and is buried in Berlin.

 

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It seems that every week I say something about how difficult it is to keep up with the news. And gosh darn it, I’m gonna do it again. I wrote a post on Sunday that by Monday afternoon was no longer entirely relevant. So here I am re-writing it on Tuesday night. It may or may not be up to date on Wednesday morning.

The big news development of the last 48 hours has been the very very rapid downfall of Conservative hero Milo Yiannopoulos. Why does anyone care about this degenerate and why are we taking pleasure in his unraveling? Though he was an active asshole before, Milo became famous in 2014 as a result of GamerGate. For those who may not know this travesty, here’s a brief synopsis: Several prominent female video game developers becamemilo the target of harassment and death threats on the internet, especially Twitter, because they were accused of colluding (having sex with) journalists for flattering coverage. Yiannopoulos published articles about it for Breitbart and led many attacks on the women. And so his right-wing, misogynistic public persona was born. He became a hero of the right, he hated political correctness, and his attacks on women, Jews, African-Americans, immigrants, transgender people, etc., made him a Conservative super star. His college campus tours brought out protestors, which fed his fame among Conservatives/neo-Nazis/white supremacists. It was a curious thing because Yiannopoulos is gay (and British. He also fetishizes black men. He only has sex with black men, which he insists is what makes him not racist. He doesn’t realize it actually is one of the most racist things about him.)

Earlier this year his fame extended after he led on-line attacks on actress Leslie Jones, SNL cast member and one of the stars of the “Ghostbusters” reboot. Yiannopoulos led racist Twitter leslie-jones-87255f4e-af77-4da8-9ec3-bfa8abb1a20cassaults on Jones. Around the same time these people published private photos stolen from Jones’ phone. (If you think you can stomach it, see some of the racist Twitter attacks here. The overwhelming assaults briefly led Jones to leave her social media accounts. Protests against Yiannopoulos finally led Twitter to ban him. (But he did get a $250,000 book deal with Simon and Schuster.) These things made him a hero of the Right/Conservatives who claimed he – and the Conservative point of view – were being censored by the corrupt Libtard media. Ultimately Milo’s behavior – and the keynote address speaking slot he was given at CPAC this year – have revealed that modern day Conservatism is morally and intellectually bankrupt. The young leaders of Conservatism, like Yiannopoulos and bobble-head Tomi Lahren, are proudly anti-intellectual. The days of someone like Bill Kristol – a man you may disagree with, but you can’t argue he’s probably read a book or two in his life – are long gone for Conservatives. They exist solely to offend. Even many Conservatives recognize it.

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On Friday night Yiannopoulos (wearing a pearl necklace) appeared on Bill Maher’s Real Time. Maher has been consistent on his support of free speech – and he has hosted many deplorable guests over the years. But his interview with Milo was the equivalent of Jimmy Fallon tossling Trump’s hair on the maher-miloTonight Show. An embarrassingly soft fluff piece, in both its official on-air interview and on the internet only Overtime segment. And Maher’s attacks on liberals who protest Milo are preposterous. I actually think over time Maher might become radicalized to the far Right. There is a very thin line between Far Right and Far Left. Maher’s long-standing Islamophobia and support for people like Yiannopoulis, could turn him into a Right-wing crusader.

But, back to the degenerate Yiannopoulos. He was still riding high through the weekend after his triumphant appearance on Real Time, when on Sunday an anonymous Republican Twitter group, Reagan Battalion, published previously public but unknown interviews with Yiannopoulos, in which he waxed rhapsodic about sex with 13 year old boys. And all hell broke loose. Though the Breitbart crowd fiercely defended him (including Michael Flynn Jr.), slowly establishment Republicans turned on him. Pressure was put on CPAC to cancel his appearance. It took over 24 hours for CPAC to withdraw their invitation. Simon and Schuster cancelled his book. And word came out that Breitbart employees revolted, demanding that he be fired. Eventually Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart (where he was an editor) before they could fire him. In his sorry/not-sorry resignation, he said he was sorry for his choice of words but really, everybody knows sex with 13 year olds is good and everyone is overreacting and blah blah blah. Where this horrible human being goes from here is anyone’s guess. Pundit on Fox? I have no doubt he will be back.

white-houseA few of random thoughts for the week, my fellow Widdershins.

This weekend I attended a friend’s wedding in Washington DC. My friend, Mike, served for 5 years in the Army, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and worked his way to Captain before leaving service. He came out of the closet to his friends in the army shortly before leaving and before DADT was repealed.  (His husband used to work in a publicity firm in DC that serves politicians. Because everybody needs good PR.) They took Trump’s election very personally, especially as a gay couple. But it was encouraging to have the military chaplain, who presided over the ceremony, acknowledge how difficult life for gay men and women is in the military and how much he hopes things get better.

I was seated at the table with some of my friend’s former military brothers and sisters, all straight. My direct neighbor was one very Southern redneck from Texas.  I, the East coast elite, looked at him with suspicion at first. But as he cheered the grooms’ first dance I was reminded of a story another friend once told me about Spike Lee. That friend was a manager of a movie theater in Harlem and they held premieres of several Spike Lee movies. At one premiere a fight broke out in the audience. Lee came up to my friend afterwards and apologized for the fight, though he had nothing to do with it. My friend responded: “Oh it’s fine, we were expecting it so we were prepared.” Lee responded: “You shouldn’t have expected it and it shouldn’t have happened. I’m sorry it happened.” Lessons learned about assumptions, so I shouldn’t have made any about this large Southern military man and what he thinks about gay people and their marriages.

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Speaking of gay, Madonna was just named Billboard Magazine’s woman of the year. I love Madonna, not just in that back-handed “Well she’s proved her mettle for 30 years and she’s got a few big hits” sort of way. I genuinely love her music, she’s written some of the most infectious and important pop songs of the last 30 years.  She’s charted more No. 1 hits than any other artist in Billboard’s history. Her tours have earned $1.3 billion, the most of any female artist.  So it’s not just shock values, she has proven her musical chops for 30 years.  I also admire her determination. This is one woman who refused to bake cookies.  One may not like her music or respect her approach to fame, but it’s hard to argue she’s more famous than Jesus’s mother at this point.  That’s quite the feat.  She’s paved the way for many women in the entertainment industry. Now, as a 58 year old, she’s still pushing boundaries. About a year ago she posted a photo to Instragram with hairy armpits. Internet broke. People were very upset. Mind you, she caused controversy with hairy armpits in the 1980’s too and maybe the fact that people were still angry about it is why it was important for her post the photo. The Billboard interview that accompanies the Woman of the Year headline, by the actress Elizabeth Banks, touches on a few interesting topics. Madonna hosted a rally for Hillary Clinton in Washington Square Park in NYC the night before the election. She says since the election she’s felt like “someone died.” And she was disappointed by how many women voted for Trump.

Women’s nature is not to support other women. It’s really sad. Men protect each other, and women protect their men and children. Women turn inward and men are more external. A lot of it has do with jealousy and some sort of tribal inability to accept that one of their kind could lead a nation. Other people just didn’t bother to vote because they didn’t like either candidate, or they didn’t think Trump had a chance in the world. They took their hands off the wheel and then the car crashed.

Madonna is also asked about ageism in the entertainment industry and America. One thing people constantly tell Madonna now is she should stop flaunting her boobs or hairy armpits because she’s an old woman. One way to dismiss her is to call her “irrelevant.” Nobody says that about Mick Jagger. And they were telling Madonna to not flaunt her boobs when she was in her 20’s too.

Age is only brought up with regard to women. It’s connected to sexism, chauvinism and misogyny. When Leonardo [DiCaprio] is 60 years old, no one is going to talk about his relevance. Am I relevant as a female in this society that hates women? Well, to people who are educated and are not chauvinists or misogynists, yes.

 feminism-quote

lincoln-memorialAnd speaking of Washington DC, above is a photo we took at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday.

And one of the places we visited was the Holocaust Museum. The subject of the Holocaust is one I’ve read about a fair amount in the past. Nazi atrocities have always fascinated me so I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the subject because I keep trying to understand how ordinary people could such awful things. I highly recommend Richard Rhodes’ “Masters of Death,” for example, about the Einsatzgruppen, an elite group of SS soldiers who followed the German army into Eastern Europe and exterminated, virtually by hand, about 1.5 million people as the German Army advanced into the Soviet Union in 1941.  It was the first step of Hitler’s Final Solution. So the images and the stories at the museum are something I have been reading about and studying for some time. But having everything assembled in one place and in such a thorough fashion is very heavy. Two places at the exhibit were particularly haunting. At the end of the Final Solution section the hundreds of shoes in a pile are hair-raising. But the most emotional moment, unexpectedly so, was walking through a train car used to deport Jews to Dachau. You walk in, you stop for a moment inside – and it just takes your breath away. You can hear the voices still echoing inside the walls.

In the first part of the exhibit, about Hitler’s rise to power, it’s really difficult to not see the ascendancy of Trump and its parallels to Hitler. I know, you’re not supposed to compare people to Hitler. But sometimes you can and you should. Hitler rose in power in part because nobody believed he would do any of the horrible things he said he would do. His ideas and philosophies were not new to anyone. He articulated them in his book and he spoke about them at length as he rose to power, before he was appointed to be the Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg. Hitler challenged Hindenburg for Presidency in 1932. The vote was close and they had to have a run-off, one week of campaigning. Hindenburg delivered one radio address. Hitler rented a plane from Lufthansa and spent the week flying around Germany, holding rallies in 22 cities in one week. The public was electrified, he made headlines of every newspaper. Hindenburg, a very well-known figure, won the run-off. But Hitler, the master rally-holder, became a big enough thorn in Hindenburg’s side that he appointed Hitler to be Chancellor of Germany. Hindenburg’s allies convinced the aging President that Hitler could be controlled from the inside and that appointing him would be harmless. We know the rest.

history-cartoon

As Germany’s Left shattered because nobody could agree on a common adversary, and a certain wing of the Left didn’t think everyone else was pure enough to support – Hitler, who promised the frustrated Germans that he would make Germany relevant again – quickly consolidated his power. He then did exactly what he said he would do. In one documentary shown at the museum, a female reporter returning from Germany held a press-conference on a boat. (Sadly I did not jot down her name and have not been successful at locating this press-conference online. I couldn’t even narrow down the name of the reporter.) But she said explicitly that she observed that the Nazis had started doing in Germany exactly what they all along said they were going to do, so maybe America and the world should start taking them seriously.

I’m not saying Trump is Hitler. I’m just saying…

One thing I really liked in the exhibit is that the final section is dedicated to many individuals who fought against the Nazis and helped Jews during the Holocaust.  There are many names and photographs, and brief summaries of how they helped.  None of them are as famous as Oscar Schindler.  But how amazing that someone remembers their individual stories, ordinary men and women of different ages, backgrounds, professions and religions, who risked their own lives to save others.

I kept checking for their death dates and was glad to see that many of them did survive the war and lived long lives.  Though not all.

white-rose

Hans and Sophie Scholl with Christoph Probst in summer 1942

A few college students formed a small group The White Rose. Consisting of students from University of Munich that included siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst,  Alex Schmorell, another Scholl sibling Inge and a philosophy professor Kurt Huber.  The students were in their early 20’s.  Between June 1942 and February 1943 they distributed leaflets denouncing the Nazis and their mass murders of Jews, some of which the members of The White Rose hand witnessed first-hand at home and at the front.  Soon they were all arrested and executed.  Hans Scholl’s final words were: “Long live Freedom!”

Prior to their deaths, several members of the White Rose believed that their execution would stir university students and other anti-war citizens into a rallying activism against Hitler and the war. Accounts suggest, however, that university students continued their studies as usual, citizens mentioned nothing, many regarding the movement as anti-national. Their actions were mostly dismissed, until after the war when their efforts were eventually praised by the German consciousness.

 

 

What’s on your mind folks? This is an open thread.

 

GooooOOOOOOoooood Monday, all! Life has kept me from posting during this extremely fraught few weeks. It’s amazing to think back on all the things that have happened, but to summarize, the Orange Creamsicle has melted down.

I like to remind people that before the infamous Access Hollywood tape was leaked, revealing Drumpf as an self-described sexual predator, Hillary’s first debate performance had already started to cause the Donald’s precarious cool to dissolve into hot Tasmanian rage, and his poll numbers to tank. A dizzying and devastating tumble of bad news, including leaked tax returns, terrible 3 am tweets, 2 more awful debates, 11 women (so far) coming forward and stating that he did, in fact, molest them as he described in that tape, and unpatriotic whining about the election being “rigged,” applied so much heat he could no longer stand. “What a world, what a world, and what a nasty woman!” he cried from a puddle of man-tan, as he feebly swore to sue everyone and everything that had been mean to him. Yes, just like he sued the New York Times for “illegally” obtaining his tax return from 1995! Oh, wait….

So now that the inevitable Drumpf implosion has happened, leaving Our Girl up 6 points in the national average (and an unprecedented 12 points in one new poll), I think it’s safe to start imagining the possibilities of the Titanium Pantsuit attaining the office of the President of the United States, in a historic win as the first woman president ever.

A preview from 2008….

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