The Widdershins

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Upstairs Lounge3

N O T E:

In conjunction with Pride Month I thought I would repost this piece I did sometime back.  I’m doing it after reading this article on nola.com

Note:  some of the links from the original piece may not still work

 

Monday marked the 40th anniversary of a terrible tragedy in New Orleans; the arson fire at the Upstairs Lounge in the French Quarter.  Twenty-eight men died at the scene of the fire, one died on the way to the hospital and three died later from their wounds so a total of 32 people died as a result of this arson.  All but one were men.

This post is going to have a lot of quotes pasted in so I hope you don’t mind that.  But the story needs to be told outside of nola and some of you might consider it a history lesson, while some of us lived through the times.

Essentially, here’s the story.  The Upstairs Lounge was a gay bar in the French Quarter.  This was 1973.  A lot of people (hell most people) were not out back then.  The French Quarter itself was different back then.  If you’ve been there, it wasn’t the elegant (Royal Street and its antique stores) touristy area it is now.  Rather, think in terms of what you saw if you saw the movie A Streetcar Named Desire.  It was a rundown area, filled with, as one person said, “thieves and queers”.  Many times, gay men carried fake i.d.s to the bars, not so much to prove they were over the age of 18 (the drinking age in La at the time), but in case there was a bust at the gay bar, so their real names would not be printed in the paper.

According to Frank Perez, a writer for Ambush magazine in New Orleans,

“The way things were at the time was really pretty bad. Raids of gay bars were very high and discrimination was profound,” Perez said.

A description of the Upstairs Lounge was given this way:

In 1973, the gay and lesbian scene in New Orleans was still largely underground, and patrons remember the UpStairs Lounge as not just any bar, but as a gay community hangout where locals could gather without fear of social persecution.

Songs were sung around a piano, “nellydramas” were performed with the help of local playwrights, and couples competed in tricycle races, according to former 9th Ward resident Johnny Townsend, the author of “Let the Faggots Burn: The UpStairs Lounge Fire,” a comprehensive retelling of the events of that night in 1973.

The walls of the French Quarter watering hole were covered with flocked wallpaper, adorned with memorabilia including an iconic Cosmopolitan magazine spread of Burt Reynolds lying naked on a bearskin rug.

To get into the bar, you had to ring a buzzer at the entrance on the ground level and then after you were let in, you went upstairs to the bar.  The gist of the story of the arson is this:  A local hustler and regular Rodger Nunez, had been thrown out of the bar and it was said that he remarked, “I’m gonna burn y’all out.”.  (Note: Nunez committed suicide the next year and an acquaintance of his said that when he was drunk he confessed to setting the fire but denied it when he sobered up)  The fire was determined to be arson but no one was ever arrested or convicted of the crime.

That night:

about 60 people held court at the French Quarter bar. A weekly “beer bust” had just ended, a jukebox was blaring near the entrance and people were gathered around the bar’s piano, where two men took turns banging away on the keys, as patrons joined in and sang along to “United We Stand”.

An incessant buzzing at the bar’s door, however, got the attention of bartender Buddy Rasmussen, who eventually asked 47-year-old Luther Boggs to go answer it. The buzzer was located at the street level where another door entered onto Iberville Street. Upon pushing open the lounge door, Boggs was met with a wall of fire that had been building in the stairway, causing flames to explode into the bar, instantly setting the whole place ablaze.

Rasmussen, an Air Force veteran, was able to lead about 20 people to safety through a rear door near the stage, which led out onto the roof of the building.

Read the rest of this entry »

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When SCOTUS handed down their ruling in “The Baker” case on June 4, it was argued by apologists that the ruling was not intended to be viewed broadly as a referendum on gay rights. Perhaps some of the justices (Kagan voted with the majority) intended their ruling to be applied narrowly, specific to the Masterpiece Bakery case only and not to any other business and not to LGBTQ+ rights broadly. But if they truly believed that their decision would be viewed as narrowly as they claim they intended it – I’d like to sell Justice Kagan a bridge.

On June 5 a CrossFit gym in Indianapolis called CrossFit Infiltrate cancelled a previously planned special workout in honor of Pride Month. As a member of the CrossFit community for close to 6 years this case interested me greatly. This special workout in honor of Pride Month isn’t especially special. Every CrossFit affiliate hosts these sort of workouts for any occasion they decide on. At my CrossFit we occasionally do them for departing long-time members, big holidays (like Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, New Year), fundraiser workouts like breast cancer or bone marrow donor drives. The most famous CrossFit workout is done on Memorial Day when all US based CrossFits do the Murph, a grueling workout named after a fallen Navy Seal Michael Murphy. (Subject of the movie “Lone Survivor.”) So on memorial day everybody runs 1 mile, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats, run 1 mile to honor Murphy and all others who have served in the armed forces. If you really want to do this right you are supposed to wear a 20 lbs vest through the ordeal (the weight of the backpacks Marines wear.) And yes, many CrossFits will do special workouts for Pride because it’s a good reason to play an hour of Madonna and ABBA, and wear colorful outfits. But truly, it really isn’t that special because these things can be done for many occasions and often are just an excuse to go out drinking afterwards.

So when coaching staff and members of CrossFit Infiltrate scheduled a Pride workout they couldn’t have expected controversy. But controversy arrived on June 5 (the day after SCOTUS’ Masterpiece Bakery decision): the owners of the gym wrote in a letter:

Our underlying goal for the staff and members at CrossFit Infiltrate and our other gyms CrossFit White River and University Ave CrossFit, is total health and well-being for the individual and the community. Total health involves the body, the emotions, relationships, and the spirit. At the foundational detractor from health, as we believe God sets the parameters for, is pride. We believe that true health forever can only be found within humility, not pride. Humility is seeing oneself as they truly are, and as God truly defines them to be. As a business we will choose to deploy our resources towards those efforts and causes that line up with our own values and beliefs.

Do you think the SCOTUS decision the day before had something to do with it? I think so, yes. What followed was a social media nuclear explosion. It led to the coaching staff to quit and many members to cancel their memberships in protest. The owners announced they would close the gym.

But it wasn’t over. On June 6 a name familiar to all CrossFitters came to Infiltrate’s defense. Russell Berger is an owner of a CrossFit gym in Huntsville, Alabama. He works for CrossFit headquarters as its spokesman and attack dog. He is notorious for going after and verbally attacking and humiliating anyone who dares to criticize CrossFit. He has a talent for vicious insults. Naturally, he is a deeply religious Orthodox Christian and pastor in a church, as well as a former Marine. Berger decided to wade into the controversy by tweeting in support of Infiltrate.

As someone who personally believes celebrating ‘pride’ is a sin, I’d like to personally encourage #CrossFitInfiltrate for standing by their convictions and refusing to host an @indypride workout. The intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology toward any alternative views is mind-blowing.

I tweeted back at him almost immediately, asking if his statement was the official position of CrossFit headquarters and founder and CEO Greg Glassman. I also tagged about a dozen well-known CrossFit athletes to get their take. Berger responded to me, accusing me of being a bully and an authoritarian by silencing his differing beliefs. “The tactics of some in the LGBTQ movement toward dissent is an existential threat to freedom of expression.”

This is the most common right-wing trope these days: they call for discrimination and attack a group of people, and when people fight back they accuse this group of being bullies and silencing the poor, suffering white heterosexual Christians. Berger and I went back and forth a few times. Others dove in as well. Berger dug in and reiterated his opposition to the sinful lifestyle and that anyone arguing with him was a fascist.

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Through it all many members of the CrossFit community waited for a response from HQ and founder/CEO Greg Glassman personally. Finally HQ tweeted that Berger’s statements do not reflect the values of the company and they have placed him on unpaid leave while they investigate and Glassman released a statement: “I am crazy proud of the gay community in CrossFit.” Glassman also told Buzzfeed that he was appalled by Berger’s comments and:

“He needs to take a big dose of ‘shut the fuck up’ and hide out for awhile. It’s sad,” Glassman said in an interview. “We do so much good work with such pure hearts — to have some zealot in his off-time do something this stupid, we’re all upset. The whole company is upset. This changes his standing with us. What that looks like, I don’t know. It’s so unfortunate.”

Berger’s tweets were deleted. But soon HQ announced that Berger was fired. Eric Erickson – who does not CrossFit, but who did attend seminary school with Berger – came to Berger’s defense and attacked homosexuals and liberals in general. I told Erickson to “eat a bag of rat assholes.”

But don’t feel too bad for Berger. I have no doubt he will become a pariah and will go on a speaking tour to talk about how badly he was treated by those horrible, mean, prideful, sinning homosexuals.

“It became way too difficult to discern between me making statements of personal opinion, and me speaking as a voice for CrossFit,” he said.

He said that he should have anticipated that his comments would be interpreted as him speaking on behalf of CrossFit. “I should have realized that, and I didn’t until it was too late,” he said. “I do regret it.”

But, he added, he stands by his original sentiment: “My actual point I was making, I still affirm it.”

I am glad to say as the controversy broke the owner of my CrossFit Hell’s Kitchen posted on instagram:

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A few years ago we had a float in New York’s Pride March. It really was an extraordinary afternoon; one of the most memorable days of my life. That’s our heterosexual owner on the left looking at the camera. Allies are important.

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Happy Pride Month! This is an open thread.

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Breaking news out of Washington is something that’s been discussed before the election  (like HRC during a debate, and Harry Reid in a letter he wrote to Comey asking him to explain if there are ties between Trump and Putin.) But with the exception of David Korn and Kurt Eichenwald nobody paid attention. Until now. Why now? Who knows. Maybe Trump just pissed off the CIA too much and they leaked more than is normal. Or maybe CNN wanted to crawl to number 1 spot by publishing the story first, unleashing the flood of what Trump would call “yellow journalism” from everyone else. Now it’s everywhere, the media is treating it like watergate. Twitter is the best though because you don’t need more than 140 characters to discuss the PEEOTUS’ sexual fetishes. Trump and his team have been astonishingly quiet about this. Trump did tweet somethings about FALSE NEWS (capitals not mine). Of course it’s a trap he’s boxed himself into with years of “People say so there must be something to it” mongering. Whether it’s Obama’s birtherism or HRC’s supposed Alzheimer’s. “People say…” His followers have said we live in a world that no longer has such a thing as facts. WikiLeaks takes on a whole new meaning (Assange has already stepped out to defend Trump) and Glenn Greenwald made his name publishing things without sourcing, so here we are. You live by fake news, you die by fake news. I’ve heard people say somewhere on the internet that Greenwald is a pedophile. I don’t have this info myself, it’s just something people say. But besides Trump’s salacious sex stuff, there are issues of greater concern, of course. However, it’s the sexual stuff that will keep the story in the news. Too bad the CIA didn’t e-mail these documents to HRC or John Podesta. Then maybe we would have been reading it about November 8th. But now it’s too late.

We are slouching towards Bethlehem. January 20th approaches and who knows what will come after that. We know Trump is basically a Russian spy and the US has lost the Cold War. But some people are still trying to tar and feather HRC for losing the electoral college. Chief among them is Bernie Sanders. Many are still feeling the bern. I’ve always been told that if a bern lasts more than 4 hours to contact a medical professional. But there is no cure for their rash. Instead of looking towards the Trump/Putin/Pence Presidency, Sanders has been taking a victory lap since November 9th trying to convince everyone that he would have won against Trump.

First, to quote someone famous, at this point what difference does it make? Second, Sanders’ claims are strictly anecdotal anyway. Unless someone has a time machine stashed away and we try the election over again with Sanders, the hypothesis is completely rhetorical. But if we must speculate, in my humble opinion, Sanders would have lost and lost bigly. He would have split the angry white men vote in the rust belt with Trump. (These white supremacists would have voted for a self-described Socialist Jew from Vermont? Are you nuts???) And Sanders would not have brought out the rest of the non-white coalition HRC was able to bring to the polls and win the popular vote by almost

3,000,000. He didn’t bring them out in the primaries and he wouldn’t have brought them out in the general. This is why Bernie’s unending “All White Men In The Rust Belt Matter and Democrats Should Love Them More” tour is so tiresome and unecessary. And as the berniewhite Independent Senator from the white state of Vermont continues to slam Democrats for not loving white people enough, I wonder what the non-white Democrats who voted for HRC think about being considered chopped liver, because once again they are told that they are not enough and that white people matter more. I think Democrats will face disaster if they follow Sanders’ line of thinking. Not only will they not get those white people from the rust belt to vote for them later, but they will lose a good number of non-whites who support them and HRC in 2016. Democrats’ solution to the 2016 disaster and the loss of a small football stadium worth of white voters in a few states should be surgical, not a nuke at the entire strategy because HRC’s strategy actually worked. She won by 3,000,000 votes across the nation and I fear that by appointing Sanders as their white people outreach ambassador – an ambassador who insists on using his bully pulpit to continue fighting the 2016 Democratic primaries – they will alienate the strong coalition of non-whites HRC built in 2016.

Speaking of Sanders still fighting the 2016 primary battle – like the South continues to fight the Civil War after all these years – why does Sanders refuse to acknowledge that HRC won the popular vote by almost 3,000,000 souls? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him state this fact. It’s kind an important one. Sanders’ refusal to acknowledge it is similar to his refusal to discuss how terrible caucuses are when he bashes closed primaries for the Democratic nomination. It’s just so convenient for his self-aggrandizing narrative to ignore the popular vote vs. electoral college problem, just as it is inconvenient for him to discuss how terribly undemocratic caucuses are – because he won the caucuses. Sanders is intellectually dishonest. As Drumpf is about to be sworn in as President, Sanders and his Bros continue to wage war against Democrats, not Drumpf. It’s almost as if they don’t know who their actual enemy is…

Speaking of enemies – on Sunday January 8th I attended a “What Do We Do About Drumpf?” meeting in NYC organized by NYC Councilman Corey Johnson. Johnson is something of a hero to the LGBTQ community corey-johnsonin NYC because he’s a young, openly gay politician. His life story includes being a popular captain of his high school football team when he came out of the closet in 2000; the story made it as far as the New York Times. His teammates didn’t kick him off the team. Since November 8 he has been organizing these monthly meetings for members of the community to meet and discuss what we are going to do about Drumpf. Last month he had NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio as speaker. On Sunday he had NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. So he’s getting heavy hitters involved, though at this point nobody has any idea about what to do about anything.

 

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Eric Schneiderman

Schneiderman’s presentation was fascinating. He discussed the fact that Republicans have managed to take over the country at the local levels because for many years Democrats just didn’t think local elections were that important.

 

 

The GOP now controls 69 of 99 legislative chambers across America. They hold nearly two-thirds of the governors’ mansions. And, in 25 states, they have complete control of the government, including both executive and legislative branches. This gives Republicans control of the rules that govern voting and the reapportionment of legislative and congressional districts.

The big takeaway from 2016 is that, despite the public supporting many Democratic positions on policy, Republicans are now reaping the benefits of their 30-year organizing strategy, supported by dozens of mega-wealthy donors. As someone who has recruited and fundraised for state candidates, I know that while Democrats have been great at raising money for presidential candidates, Republicans have an overwhelming advantage as you move down-ballot.

Schneiderman spoke of his own experience trying to raise money for local Senators and Representatives and being dismissed by donors. Result after 30 years of neglect is that Republicans have a whole lot of privileges, which includes gerrymandering. If we thought (and I thought so too) that gerrymandering is something that only happens in red states – we were all a bit stunned to see these maps:

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Republican Marty Golden’s 22nd District in Brooklyn

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Democrat/Republican’s Simcha Felder’s 17th District of Brooklyn

I mean….What In The Actual Fuck?! This is New York City folks.

Big problem New York state faces is that even though Democrats won majority of the votes – a handful of Democrats have chosen to back Republicans to run the NY Senate. They call themselves the Independent Democratic Conference and they have put Republicans in charge. What do they get out of it? Well, they get leadership positions as payment! Yay, Democracy. (Tony Avella of the 11th District, for example, chairs the – I kid you not – Ethics Committee). One wonderful fella, Simcha Felder of District 17 of Brooklyn (with a largely Hasidic and Russian Jewish population), actually ran as both a Democrat and a Republican. He explicitly said he’ll caucus with whomever gives him the better deal. I marisol-alcantarasuppose we should at least praise him for being honest about his lack of principles. Another wonderful Democrat, Marisol Alcantara, of District 31, was a Bernie Sanders delegate. People swear she’s super nice and liberal. But after the Democratic state party didn’t back her candidacy in the primaries she threw her lot with the Independent Democratic Conference, which gave her cash for her campaign, which she won by about 1% over a Democratic challenger, and now she backs Republicans to control NY Senate. Isn’t she wonderful? One woman at the meeting on Sunday stood up to defend her. She said she knows Alcantara personally and Ms. Alcantara is a “magnificent human being” who didn’t get money from the Democrats and “she really wanted to win” so “she did what she had to.” And there ladies and gentlemen, is all we need to know about Ms. Alcantara. “She wanted to win” and “did what she had to.”

The suggestion on what to do about people like Felder and Alcantara (the Independent Democratic Conference has 7 Democrats who caucus with Republicans), is that we need to get in touch with them and make them – shame them to – do what we need them to do. People also noted that we need to be constantly keeping Chuck Schumer in check to make sure he does the right thing. One gentleman said he and about 100 other people protested outside of Schumer’s apartment earlier in the day. He was home but refused to come out and meet them. And this reminded me of the moment in one of the Presidential debates when HRC discussed how Drumpf was bringing cheap steel from China to build his hotels, instead of getting American steel. And Drumpf responded: “Make me stop; pass laws to make me stop.” So this is what we have come to. We shudder at Drumpf saying “make me do the right thing,” but let’s get honest about this: Democrats insist on the same thing. We are supposed to make Schumer and Alcantara do the right thing. Aren’t they supposed to be on our side? Why don’t they just, you know, do the right thing? Corey Johnson pointed out at the meeting on Sunday that when the redistricting in NY was done – Democrats signed off on it. If they had rejected it, courts would have drawn the district lines. But Democrats worked out deals with Republicans to allow these travesties. Just like Obama knew about Drumpf’s ties to Russia – and just let it all slide, along with Mitch McConnell and the rest of them. How is it that members of our own party sell their souls to the devil and then look at us and say: “Make me do the right thing?” The answer might lie with the nice lady at the meeting who said: “She really wanted to win and she did what she had to do.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Of course I’m referring to “Professor” Harold Hill from the musical The Music Man, and his supposed hometown of Gary Indiana and him having graduated from the Gary Conservatory, Gold-Medal Class of ’05, the inside joke being that the town wasn’t founded until 1906!  I am not saying ole Harold was gay because we know he was busy chasing down Marian the Librarian!  But I don’t think Harold would want to claim citizenship in a state that feels it has to legislate its hatred of “others” by passing a “religious freedom” (referred to Religious Freedom Restoration Act) law.

Folks have said the law that Indiana passed is no different than laws passed by another 19 or so states, and some of those same folks have said it’s just like the bill passed in Congress and signed by President Clinton, but the Indiana law is different.

There are several differences between the Indiana law (I’m just going to type Indy from here on out) and the others that have been passed.  Judd Legum over at ThinkProgress says one of the big ones lies in Section 9 of the law.

Under that section, a “person” (which under the law includes not only an individual but also any organization, partnership, LLC, corporation, company, firm, church, religious society, or other entity) whose “exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened” can use the law as “a claim or defense… regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.”

Every other Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to disputes between a person or entity and a government. Indiana’s is the only law that explicitly applies to disputes between private citizens. This means it could be used as a cudgel by corporations to justify discrimination against individuals that might otherwise be protected under law.  (bolding/italics mine)

Matt Anderson, an Indy trial lawyer said that difference ” opens up ‘the path of least resistance among its species to have a court adjudicate it in a manner that could ultimately be used to discriminate…’.”  Pardon my language but that’s some scary shit!

As the piece goes on to say, Arizona has a similar law but when the lege there tried to expand the law to purely private disputes, Jan Brewer the governor had enough sense to veto it.  I don’t believe her veto was over any great love of the LGBT community, but rather from the probably earful she was getting from the Arizona business community and its leaders.  It would have been a serious hit to Arizona’s tourism industry as well as its ability to attract newer and more forward-thinking companies.  The same will now apply to Indy.  Also, as Legum says “When the federal law was signed in 1993, it was thought “to be about benign and relatively uncontroversial matters, such as allowing Muslim jail inmates to wear closely trimmed beards, or assuring that churches could feed homeless people in public parks.” .

But that’s not the case now.  Writing for The American Constitution Society, Steve Sanders of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law wrote:

Setting aside the problem that some religious business owners will now think they have a green light to discriminate, the real problem with Indiana’s RIFRA has been less about its substance than its politics – specifically, the motivations of some of its most ardent proponents.

[snip]

… RIFRAs like Indiana’s are being impelled by the politics of anti-gay backlash.  Their most ardent supporters come from an increasingly angry, marginalized, and shrill subset of Christian conservative activists.  These activists want to stick a symbolic thumb in the eye of judges who struck down anti-gay marriage laws, along with the elected officials, business and cultural leaders, and ordinary citizens who have produced breathtakingly rapid change on the questions of marriage rights and LGBT equality generally.  Indeed, one sign of this progress, even in Indiana, has been the mainstreaming of outrage (from the NCAA to Angie’s List) against the very idea of anti-gay discrimination.

Now Indy is one of the states that does not have a law on the books that says you cannot discriminate against LGBT folks, so some will say that businesses and individuals were already free to discriminate against LGBT people if they wished to.  And this law gives them even more of a legal defense to fall back upon.

And speaking of those economic issues that might arise from this bill’s passage…well here’s a partial list of companies and groups who have gone on the record about how unhappy they are with this and who knows how many may have communicated privately to the Governor, members of the legislature and of the Indiana business community.

Read the rest of this entry »

Good Monday, Widdershins.   Glad tidings from the Vatican today for all who claim humanity, but especially so for all of our Rainbow Widdershins.

After much soul-searching, an enclave of bishops has published a document outlining the need to find a place within the Church for gays and same-sex couples.  This is a tall order for an institution which asserts that sex is solely for procreation, but on the bright side, neither birth control nor abortion will be an issue.

The Huffington Post notes that the document did not relax the basic RC attitudes, the author called its language “less judgemental” and “more compassionate”.

The document will be the basis for discussion for the second and final week of the assembly, known as a synod, which was called by Pope Francis and focuses on the theme of the family.

It will also serve for further reflection among Catholics around the world ahead of another, definitive synod next year.

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home,” said the document, known by its Latin name “relatio”.

“Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?” it asked.

And this:

It said that the 1.2 billion-member Church should see the development of its position on homosexuals as “an important educational challenge” for the global institution.

While the Church continued to affirm that gay unions “cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman”, it should recognize that there could be positive aspects to relationships in same-sex couples.

“Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners,” the document said.

Pope Francis has said the Church must be more compassionate with homosexuals, saying last year: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge.”

The Church teaches that while homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are.

The document also showed considerable opening to heterosexual couples who were married only in civil services or who were living together, mentioning “positive aspects” of such unions, especially if the couple saw them as a prelude to marriage in the Church.

No doubt, this represents a sea change in the Holy See.  Whether it is an actual invitation to the gay community or just part of  the time-honored “hate the sin, love the sinner” principle remains to be seen.

This is an open thread.

 

dog-days-summer-doxie

A good Wednesday to you Widdershins. Indeed as the picture says it’s the dog days of summer and I thew in a little “dawg” thingie in the title for our chat.  I also could not believe I was able to find this picture of a cute little doxie enjoying some beach time.

I just have a couple of things to share today…perhaps it is indeed those dog days that are affecting me?  Anyway they are variations on familiar themes and they do so prove  the phrase “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” does still ring true.

There’ a group called the World Congress of Families that was going to hold some type of shindig in Australia. It’s just about what you would think it is and among their tenets are:

affirm and defend the natural family as the fundamental unit of civilizations, thus renewing a stable and free society.  The WCF is a practical effort to lead the international pro-family movement and build greater understanding and encourage new networks and initiatives among natural family advocates at the national and international levels.

The “natural family” is the fundamental social unit, inscribed in human nature, and centered around the voluntary union of a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant of marriage

They have a website but I’m not linking to it.  You’d have to pour bleach into your eyes after having gone there and I won’t be responsible for that.

So anyway the WCF was going to have this convention or something in Australia and the funniest thing happened:  No venue would allow them to hold their little gathering; four of them have backed out.

The controversial World Congress of Families conservative Christian conference is in chaos only days before its scheduled start, after four Melbourne venues backed out of hosting the event.

High profile speakers have agreed to speak at the congress on Saturday, including the anti-abortion campaigner and Victorian upper house Liberal member Bernie Finn, and the federal government social services minister, Kevin Andrews.

The line-up of anti-euthanasia, anti-divorce and anti-gay speakers from around the world has drawn condemnation from civil rights groups.

“It’s a mess,” Margaret Butts, one of the organisers told Guardian Australia. “We have no venue at the moment – the police are telling us it’s a safety risk because of planned protests and demonstrations.

“We are frantic at the moment trying to organise something else, we’ve had four venue cancellations. I can’t talk to you because we are just too busy right now.”

Well as they say:  too bad, so sad.  These folks are apparently so clueless that they had not even bothered to arrange for security or even obtain any type of liability insurance.  This, despite the fact that they were going to have speakers who would almost guarantee protesters being present.

The Human Rights Campaign has issued a report which called the WCF: “one of the most influential groups in America promoting and coordinating the exportation of anti-LGBT bigotry, ideology, and legislation abroad…”

One of the speakers scheduled to appear at their shindig was good ole Mike Huckabee.  Huckabee is supposedly being considered a candidate for Prez in 2016.  Good luck with that governor and I guess I can remove The Hill as a reading source since they also had an article explaining why Bobby Jindal would be a good veep choice in 2016.  Bleh!

 

Lookout ladies: the insurance companies are
after your contraception methods now

Does it ever end?  First it was the companies and their “closely held” religious beliefs and other such claptrap and now it’s the damned insurance companies who don’t want to pay for your preferred method of contraception.  From Melissa McEwan at Shakesville:

Despite the Hobby Lobby decision that created an exemption for religious private employers, most employers and insurers are still required to cover contraceptives. But Kaiser Health News has found there are still all sorts of attempts to deny coverage of certain types of contraception or deny coverage of contraception altogether

As an example:

In one of those messages recently, a woman said her insurer denied free coverage for the NuvaRing. This small plastic device, which is inserted into the vagina, works for three weeks at a time by releasing hormones similar to those used by birth control pills. She said her insurer told her she would be responsible for her contraceptive expenses unless she chooses an oral generic birth control pill. The NuvaRing costs between $15 and $80 a month, according to Planned Parenthood.

But-but-but:  as a Kaiser Health News article stated:

Under the health law, health plans have to cover the full range of FDA-approved birth control methods without any cost sharing by women, unless the plan falls into a limited number of categories that are excluded, either because it’s grandfathered under the law or it’s for is a religious employer or house of worship.  Following the recent Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case, some private employers that have religious objections to providing birth control coverage as a free preventive benefit will also be excused from the requirement.

As for the NuvaRing, even though they may use the same hormones, the pill and the ring are different methods of birth control. As an official from the federal Department of Health and Human Services said in an email, “The pill, the ring and the patch are different types of hormonal methods … It is not permissible to cover only the pill, but not the ring or the patch.

Guidance from the federal government clearly states that the full range of FDA-approved methods of birth control must be covered as a preventive benefit without cost sharing. That includes birth control pills, the ring or patch, intrauterine devices and sterilization, among others.

Now I don’t have to worry about this so I haven’t checked anything out regarding this.  I can say that with my insurance if there is a generic for a medication, in most cases I have a choice and get the brand but will pay a much higher cost for that medicine.  And a policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute said:  “we’ve seen this happen, plenty,”…“Clearly insurance companies think things are ambiguous enough that they can get away with it.”  And Sonfield went on to say:

If you are denied coverage, your defense is to appeal the decision, and get your state insurance department involved.

“The state has the right and responsibility to enforce this law,” says Sonfield.

And as Melissa rather acidly added:

And throughout the duration of that process, you get to pay for your own birth control out of pocket, if you can afford to. And if you can’t, too bad. And if you get pregnant, well, hope you live within distance of an accessible abortion clinic, and can afford an abortion.

So lady Widdershins:  If you, your daughter or granddaughter, niece or whomever you may know is using contraception and the insurance company gives you or them the runaround, keep these links and notes handy; you may need them.

It’s an open thread on this dog day so feel free to discuss whatever you wish below.

 


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Kellyanne Conway’s new job

Take the kids to work? NO!

That moment when *your* pussy gets grabbed

You go gurl! h/t Adam Joseph

“The” Book

Nice picture of our gal

Time till the Grifter in Chief is Gone

Hopefully soonerJanuary 21st, 2021
2.1 years to go.

Mueller Time!

Wise Words from Paul Ryan

B-I-N-G-O!

Only the *best* politicans bought by the NRA

Marching for their lives

Perfect Picture

Rudy: oh shit the pee tape IS real!

Need Reminders?

Never too early to shop for Christmas

“Look this way”

Manafort’s Jail Photo

Indeed who?

Trump spam

IOW Dumb = Happy?

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