Category Archives: LGBTQ & Gender

Russell Moore on Current U. S. Church splits, and their wider implications

An Excerpt From, “What Church Splits Can Teach Us About a Dividing America,”

Russell Moore, in Christianity Today:

“I asked a pastor of a large Methodist congregation what took the churches in the denomination so long to figure out that they must go in different directions.

He responded, “You are looking at this wrong, and a lot of people do. People think there are conservative churches and progressive churches and we just put the one group in one denomination and the other in another and then we’re all happy. You’re wrong.”

“Most congregations are not ‘blue’ or ‘red,’ if you want to use the partisan political analogy,” he said. “Most of the conservative congregations are 30 percent progressive, and most of the progressive congregations are 30 percent conservative. We’re not talking about a dividing line going down the middle of a denomination but a dividing line going down the middle of almost every individual church.”

After that conversation, I started asking different questions of my Methodist friends. I asked one group of pastors, “When the Methodist Church splits, where is your congregation going?” One answered, “Thirty percent of my church wants to stay put, 30 percent wants to leave, and 30 percent just want everybody to get along. [And] Ten percent don’t know that anything’s going on.” Many others nodded.

I then asked, “So what are y’all going to do?” One of the pastors quipped, “Take early retirement,” and the others laughed and said “Amen!” I’m not sure they were joking.

Yet their situation tracks with the state of the country—perhaps not in the reason for the division but in how it is playing out. “ . . .

Russell Moore leads the Public Theology Project at Christianity Today. He previously served as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as dean of the School of Theology, senior vice president for academic administration, and as professor of theology and ethics. In August 2022 he was appointed as incoming Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today.

More illuminating (& sobering) background on the earlier church splits are in these two resources:

1) Broken Churches, Broken Nation, by the late scholar C. C. Goen, recounts the major schisms over slavery in three large American denominations prior to the Civil War. (More on that here.)

2) A wave of similar Quaker schisms, over newer social issues but older theological ones, fractured five U. S. Yearly Meetings (thus far) in the 21st century. These are recounted and analyzed in the three-volume study, The Separation Generation.

U. S. Methodist Church Splitting Over LGBTQs & Gay Marriage

Schisms over slavery, women and now, sexuality: A history of fractures among Methodists

Raleigh NC News & Observer

Un-united Methodists

The church has long delayed an anticipated split over LGBTQ issues — until now. It’s not going to be easy. As some in North Carolina look to disaffiliate from UMC for more conservative theology, others must grapple with their own stance on how to move forward.

The clash United Methodists face today over gay weddings and ordination is not the first time the denomination has fractured. The original Methodist church was founded out of a split from the Church of England. Methodism has evolved over the centuries in a series of fractures and mergers.

“It’s not the first time we’ve split. It’s not the first time we’ve reunited,” said the Rev. Jennifer Copeland, executive director of the North Carolina Council of Churches and a United Methodist minister.

HISTORY OF SCHISMS

Methodism was founded in the 18th century as a movement by John Wesley to reform the Church of England from within, according to the UMC. The Methodist Episcopal Church split off and established itself as an autonomous church in 1784. Continue reading U. S. Methodist Church Splitting Over LGBTQs & Gay Marriage

DeSantis vs. Drag: Putting On An Act?

NBC NEWS—

In 1947, Florida shut down a popular drag club. The state has resurrected the case to do it again.

Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis filed a complaint against R House, citing a 1947 state Supreme Court decision that shut down a popular female impersonator club.
Image: A drag performer at the Drag Brunch at R House Wynwood during Wynwood Pride on June 20, 2021 in Miami, Fla.

A drag performer at the Drag Brunch at R House Wynwood during Wynwood Pride in Miami on June 20, 2021.Jason Koerner / Getty 

In March 1947, a Florida court ordered the Ha Ha Club — a nightclub famous for its “female impersonators,” as they were called at the time — to close after declaring it a public nuisance.

The order came just a month after Frank Tuppen, a juvenile probation officer with political ambitions, filed a complaint against the venue. He argued that the club’s performers were “sexual perverts” who had embedded “in the minds of the youngsters” who lived in the area “things immoral” and were “breaking down their character.”

The owner of the club, Charles “Babe” Baker, appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, but in October 1947, it affirmed the lower court’s decision that the club was a public nuisance. “Men impersonating women” in performances that are “nasty, suggestive and indecent” injure the “manners and morals of the people,” the court ruled.

Image: Andrea Kinig at the Ha Ha Club in New York City.
Andrea Kinig at the Ha Ha Club in New York City. Herb Breuer / NY Daily News via Getty Images

Last month, nearly 75 later, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is widely thought to be eyeing a 2024 presidential run, cited the case that shut down Ha Ha Club in a complaint against Miami restaurant R House over its drag performances.

The 2022 complaint, filed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, threatened to revoke R House’s liquor license, arguing that the establishment violated a state public nuisance law by becoming “manifestly injurious to the morals or manners of the people.”

Historians say the parallels between the R House and the Ha Ha Club complaints, and the fact that DeSantis’ administration cited a 75-year-old court decision, reveal how conservatives are resurfacing a decades-old moral panic about LGBTQ people to target queer spaces.

‘Seeding America with queer consciousness’

Baker first opened the Ha Ha Club in April 1933 in New York City’s Midtown Manhattan neighborhood, where it became “Broadway’s favorite hangout spot,” said Michail Takach, who researched the Ha Ha Club for a book he co-authored, “A History of Milwaukee Drag: Seven Generations of Glamour.”

Later that year, Baker traveled south and opened the club in Hallandale, Florida, about 13 miles north of R House, which is in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. He opened the club toward the end of the so-called Pansy Craze, which was a time period when drag surged in popularity, particularly in cities, Takach said.

Same-sex sexual relations were illegal at the time in most states, and cross-dressing was criminalized in many cities, though Miami never officially had an anti-cross-dressing law on the books. As a result, Takach said clubs like the Ha Ha Club catered primarily to seemingly straight, cisgender audiences, because drag drew attention and could be a liability to club owners.

Image:
Dozens of men dressed as women were locked up on charges of masquerading and indecent exposure at the National Variety Artists’ Exotic Carnival and Ball at the Manhattan Center in 1962. Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

However, Takach wrote in his book that female impersonator clubs offered gay and gender-nonconforming men that performed at these venues “a safe sanctuary where they could not only embrace their identities but make a name for themselves.”

In Baker’s court testimony, he described how he stood at the club’s door every night and greeted all of the guests. The club held three shows from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., with more than 40 performers who sang, danced and told jokes, according to court documents.

Baker featured some of the most famous female impersonators, including Jackie Maye, whose wardrobe was estimated at the time to have been worth $50,000, Takach said, which would be worth over $1 million in today’s dollars.

His production was also a traveling show, called the Ha Ha Revue, which was inspired by the Jewel Box Revue, a famous touring company of female impersonators — and the first racially integrated drag revue in the country — that operated from 1937 to about 1960, according to Takach’s drag history book.

The traveling version of the Ha Ha Club’s show and the Jewel Box Revue “really did a solid job of seeding America with queer consciousness,” Takach said. “And you have to wonder how much of that played into the gay liberation era — how many children that went to these shows, how many adults that watched these shows, were later part of the gay liberation scene.”

The shows brought queer representation to many cities across the U.S. at a time when gay people were being criminalized and also at a time when drag had fallen “violently out of favor,” Takach said.

“They brought it back in a big way and created a mid-century drag craze in the 1950s that, in some ways, is a parallel and a rival to the RuPaul drag craze of this decade,” he said.

‘A home of perverts, queers, phonies’

On Feb. 2, 1947, after operating his club in Hallandale for 14 years, Baker tried to stop a fight between two customers at the club and called the police. Both he and a customer were arrested for assault and battery, though Baker was never charged, according to court documents.

Just three days later, on Feb. 5, Tuppen — who was running for sheriff of Broward County in an upcoming election — filed his complaint against the club. He claimed multiple men he had arrested for having same-sex sexual relations said they frequented the Ha Ha Club.

James Lathero, the lawyer for the state, asked Tuppen what the general reputation of the Ha Ha Club is, and Tuppen said, “General knowledge, it is nothing but a home of perverts, queers, phonies.” Tuppen’s complaint also alleged that the venue had contributed to “juvenile delinquency” in the county that was “injurious to the manners and morals of the people” residing there.

Baker’s lawyers called more than half a dozen locals who testified that they enjoyed the club’s shows. Baker also testified that his cast had performed for a church and the Kiwanis Club and that it had raised money for the March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that supports mothers and babies. He also denied that his club was associated with homosexuals and said there was no evidence of “crimes of perversion” at the club.

But the Broward County Circuit Court ultimately declared the Ha Ha Club a public nuisance and ordered  it to close in the spring of 1947.

Baker appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, and one of his lawyer’s, Robert Lane, wrote in the appeal that there were no complaints against Baker’s club during its 14 years in business “until an aspirant for a political office decided to complain,” referring to Tuppen and his run for sheriff.

Lane also argued that “there are different views as to what may injure the manners and morals of the public.”

Despite Baker’s efforts, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision in October 1947.

“The lawful evidence presents a dirty picture; the Ha Ha Club looks as if it were a cross between a ‘honky tonk’ and a ‘speak easy,’” wrote Justice William Terrell, who later went on to defend segregation after the Supreme Court struck it down in Brown v. Board of Education. He added that the lower court determined that the Ha Ha Club’s “major connotations were evil, that it was exerting a corrupting influence and that the time had arrived to abate it.”

The case against the Ha Ha Club happened at a time when public support for drag had waned, because law enforcement and media nationwide claimed that gay people were a danger to women and children, Takach said.

“There was a very strong reaction to the liberation that people had felt, and the visibility that gay and lesbian people and gender-nonconforming people had earned during the Pansy Craze,” he said. “It led to many cities creating drag bans, shutting down drag clubs, banning female impersonation completely — silencing the queer nightlife and the queer representation that had really flourished during the Pansy Craze in the early parts of the 1930s.”

‘A cultural panic moment’

Last month, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation alleged in its complaint against R House that a “nearly nude dancer was filmed parading a young girl through the audience” on or about July 3 and that the video ignited public outrage.

Inquired about it during a news conference, DeSantis said the video prompted the department to investigate further, “and what they found was not only were there minors there — and these are sexually explicit drag shows — the bar had a children’s menu. And you think to yourself: ‘Give me a break, what’s going on?’”

Image: People wait in line to check into their reservations for a Drag Brunch at R House Wynwood on April 9, 2022 in Miami, Fla.
People wait in line for a Drag Brunch at R House Wynwood in Miami on April 9. Daniel A. Varela / Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The complaint threatened to revoke R House’s liquor license and cited the Ha Ha Club case, noting that the Florida Supreme Court recognized that “men impersonating women” in the context of “suggestive and indecent” performances can constitute a public nuisance.

R House’s ownership said in an emailed statement last month that it is aware of the complaint and that it is working with the department through its attorney to “rectify the situation.”

“We are an inclusive establishment and welcome all people to visit our restaurant,” the email said. “We are hopeful that Governor DeSantis, a vociferous supporter and champion of Florida’s hospitality industry and small businesses, will see this as what it is, a misunderstanding, and that the matter will be resolved positively and promptly.” Ownership has not returned an additional request for comment.

There are multiple parallels between the Ha Ha Club case and DeSantis’ complaint against R House, historians said, revealing a cultural cycle.

Just as there was a public backlash to increasing queer visibility after the Pansy Craze, historians said conservatives are now pushing back against LGBTQ people winning major rights such as same-sex marriage.

But unlike in decades past, those who oppose LGBTQ equality cannot “attack gay people per se, so the people they attack are actually trans people or trans youth or drag queens, and then only in connection with children,” said Michael Bronski, a professor of women and gender studies at Harvard University and author of “A Queer History of the United States for Young People.”

Conservatives have increasingly criticized drag brunch performances, like those at R House, and Drag Queen Story Hour events as threatening to children. Some have even gone so far as to call them “grooming” and to call drag performers and other LGBTQ people and their allies “perverts” and “pedophiles,” resurfacing decades-old tropes and language that Tuppen used against the Ha Ha Club in 1947.

Bronski called the backlash against drag today part of a “cultural panic moment,” and Takach said it’s happened throughout history in the U.S.

“People get drawn in by the glamor, and it’s a novelty,” he said of drag, “and then something happens, and the entire community turns on it.”

Maxx Fenning, the president and founder of Prism, a nonprofit that works to expand access to LGBTQ-inclusive education in South Florida, said the complaint against R House, like the one filed against the Ha Ha Club 75 years ago, shows how laws related to “public morals” can be used to disproportionately censor LGBTQ people and topics.

“This Florida Supreme Court case noted that men impersonating women is not in and of itself a verifiable offense, but it’s doing it in an indecent fashion,” he said. “You see very often this use of vague and subjective language to be able to create laws and rulings that seem common sense, but have just enough vagueness to be applied in ways that unnecessarily silence the queer community.”

As for the Ha Ha Club, Babe Baker didn’t shut down his performance after the club was forced to close. In fact, he moved it to about a mile away, to a club called Leon & Eddie’s, a nightclub first opened in New York City by Leon Enker and Eddie Davis and later moved to Miami.

He also started advertising in a “curious” fashion, Takach said. He placed ads in the Miami Herald that prominently featured the word “gay” in phrases like “gay laughs,” “gay surprises,” “gay faces,” “gay music” and “gay dancing.” Even though gay wasn’t widely used at the time to refer to queer people, Takach said Baker chose the word intentionally.

Prior to opening the Ha Ha Club in New York, Baker worked at the Howdy Club, which Takach described as “an unapologetic lesbian bar” and one of the first places in Manhattan to hire lesbians as entertainers and allow women to gather and drink without male company. Takach said it was raided by police regularly, and that the word “howdy” became synonymous code for queer.

The word “gay” similarly became a code in Baker’s newspaper ads, and the Miami Daily News caught on in 1952, Takach said. The paper criticized the Miami Herald, its competitor, for running ads for clubs like Baker’s on one page and then condemning the clubs in the Herald’s editorials. “The words ‘gay,’ ‘ha ha’ and ‘howdy’ have become beacons pointing to the hands of the perverts,” the Miami Daily News wrote, according to Takach.

Baker’s cast performed four times a night at Leon & Eddie’s, and they also went on tour across the country, selling out weeks of shows in cities including Milwaukee; Detroit; Dayton, Ohio; Minneapolis; and Spokane, Washington, Takach said.

“You could say that Broward County won the battle, but Babe Baker won the war.”

Our Work Cut Out For Us – A Preview of 2024 Governor’s Race in NC

WRAL TV News — State @NCCapitol Politifact

In memoir, NC Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson mulls 2024 run, calls for taking science, history out of elementary schools

Updated August 23, 2022

By Bryan Anderson, WRAL state government reporter

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is dropping more hints about a potential run for governor in 2024. And, if elected, he says he’d work to keep science and history out of some elementary school classrooms. He says he’d also seek to eliminate the State Board of Education, end abortion and work to prevent transgender people from serving in the military.

In a forthcoming memoir, Robinson explains how he drew his views from a wide range of life experiences, beginning with a troubled upbringing and a violent father. Little did he know that a fiery 2018 speech about gun rights at a Greensboro City Council meeting would set him on a journey to become the state’s top Republican executive office holder and first Black lieutenant governor.

WRAL News obtained an advance copy of the book,“We Are the Majority: The Life and Passions of a Patriot,” which is scheduled to be released Sept. 13. Here are seven takeaways: Continue reading Our Work Cut Out For Us – A Preview of 2024 Governor’s Race in NC

Monkeypox — New Virus In Need of a Response & A New Name

Monkey pox is a reminder — we need to prepare for emergent diseases

World Health Organization director may come under fire for declaring monkey pox a global health emergency, Gwynne Dyer writes.

“COVID-19 is broadly viewed as being a ‘once in a lifetime’ or ‘once in a century’ pandemic. Modelling work based on historical data shows that this is not necessarily the case,” reported the epidemiological startup Metabiota last year. That’s because “the frequency of ‘spillover’ infectious diseases like COVID is steadily increasing.”

It’s increasing because quick-killer pandemic diseases only started thriving in human societies when we began living together in large numbers. Lethal viruses and bacteria probably always “spilled over” into human populations from time to time, but if they infected little hunter-gatherer groups of 50 or 100 people they just died out along with the victims.

The natural home of those diseases were birds and animals that lived in big flocks and herds: lots of potential victims to sustain the transmission. But when human beings started living in big civilizations and domesticated some of those animals, the pandemic diseases happily transferred across and thrived among us, too.

For most of the history of civilization, successful transfers didn’t happen all that often: big new killer pandemics only came along every 500 years or so. However, now that there are eight billion people and millions criss-cross the planet every day, the disease vectors have more opportunities to spread and they move much faster.

At the moment, according to Metabiota’s calculations, it’s even odds that we will have another new pandemic on the scale of COVID-19 in the next 25 years. More precisely, they estimate the probability of another global pandemic as deadly as COVID to be between 2.5-3.3 per cent each year. It could even arrive next year.

Monkey pox is not that disease. Despite its rapid spread to so many countries, the majority of cases are men who reported intimate sexual contact with other men. There is an existing, fully effective vaccine for it (the same one that eradicated smallpox, which no longer exists in the wild). And hardly anybody dies from it.

So WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had some explaining to do when he broke a stalemate at his “emergency committee” and decreed that monkey pox is a global emergency.

He explained that it was to speed up research on “the new modes of transmission that have allowed it to spread,” and to press countries to use vaccines and other measures to limit the numbers infected. These are all sensible things to do, but they really don’t justify declaring a global health emergency.

What he carefully avoided saying is that he really intends it as a reminder of our peril and a spur to action.

Ghebreyesus is manipulating the system in a well-meant attempt to persuade the world to build better systems for containing dangerous emergent diseases in general, and he may come under serious fire for doing so.

But you can see his point, because we haven’t learned enough from our harrowing experience with COVID.

Just spending one-hundredth of what the world spent on fighting COVID to improve global readiness for dealing with the next pandemic — building local vaccine production facilities, regional labs with good analytical capabilities, and stronger reporting networks — could spare us another two years of the misery and loss we had with this pandemic.

If that’s Ghebreyesus’s real goal with this monkey pox business, it’s all right with me.

New York joins calls for the WHO to rename monkeypox over its ‘painful and racist history’

By Euronews and AFP — 27/07/2022

Image from Stanford Medicine

City authorities in New York on Tuesday called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to rename the monkeypox virus, a name that is seen as stigmatising and may cause patients to isolate themselves rather than seek care.

“We have a growing concern for the potentially devastating and stigmatizing effects that the messaging around the ‘monkeypox’ virus can have on these already vulnerable communities,” New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan wrote in a letter to WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The latter had already mentioned this possible change in mid-June when Tedros said the WHO was “working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of the monkeypox virus, its clades and the disease it causes”.

While the WHO said at the time that an announcement on the name change would be made “as soon as possible,” there have been no new developments in the month since.

On Saturday, the global body declared an international health emergency over the outbreak, calling it “extraordinary”.

According to the city’s Health Commissioner, concerns have been raised about “the painful and racist history within which terminology like this is rooted for communities of colour”.

In his letter, Vasan recalled the negative effects of misinformation during the outbreak of the AIDS virus (HIV) or the racism suffered by Asian communities after the COVID-19 pandemic, which then US president Donald Trump referred to as the “China virus”.

“Continuing to use the term ‘monkeypox’ to describe the current outbreak may reignite these traumatic feelings of racism and stigma — particularly for Black people and other people of colour, as well as members of the LGBTQIA+ communities, and it is possible that they may avoid engaging in vital health care services because of it,” Vasan added.

Anyone can get monkeypox, but since its emergence in Europe and the United States, the virus has been spread overwhelmingly among men who have sex with men.

New York is the most affected city in the US in terms of the number of current cases, with 1,092 infections detected since the beginning of the epidemic.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 19,188 reported cases globally in 76 countries as of Monday.

Of those cases, 18,861 infections were noted in countries that have not historically been affected by the virus.

Quotes for Tuesday: supreme hypocrisy, hanging on too long, Gas & (as usual) Guns . . .

New York Times: In its joint dissent [from the supreme court decision to overthrow Roe] in Dobbs, the court’s three-member liberal wing wrote, “Either the mass of the majority’s opinion is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are under threat. It is one or the other.”
Actually, it’s worse than that. It’s both.

— Harry Litman, Harry Litman, UCLA law professor, former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general

Michelle Goldberg: As a recent New York Times/Siena College poll found, 64 percent of Democrats want a different presidential nominee in 2024. Those Democrats cite Biden’s age more than any other factor, though job performance is close behind. Their concern isn’t surprising. . . .
There’s a problem here that goes beyond a shortage of presidential speeches and media appearances, or even Biden himself. We are ruled by a gerontocracy. Biden is 79. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is 82. The House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, is 83. The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, is 71. Often, it’s not clear if they grasp how broken this country is.

They built their careers in institutions that worked, more or less, and they seem to expect them to start working again. They give every impression of seeing this moment, when the gears of government have seized and one party openly schemes against democracy, as an interregnum rather than a tipping point. . . .

If there’s one consolation in Biden’s age, it’s that he can step aside without conceding failure. There’s no shame in not running for president in your 80s. He emerged from semiretirement to save the country from a second Trump term, and for that we all owe him a great debt. But now we need someone who can stand up to the still-roiling forces of Trumpism.

There are plenty of possibilities: . . . Biden said, during the 2020 campaign, that he wanted to be a “bridge” to a new generation of Democrats. Soon it will be time to cross it.
—- Michelle Goldberg, New York Times

Bloomberg: A year into Russia manipulating European gas supplies, the market is finally convinced that Moscow will continue to do so, and perhaps with greater intensity.

The first test comes in the next two weeks. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the most important gas link between Russia and the European Union, undergoes annual maintenance from July 11 to July 21. Berlin fears that Moscow will find an excuse to keep it closed for good, cutting gas supplies to Germany completely. After all that Moscow has done, the German government is right to be concerned.

Yet, Russia may want to keep some gas flowing to preserve its long-term leverage. From a game-theory point of view, that makes sense. Once Russia stops shipments completely, it can no longer apply pressure. Tactically, Moscow is likely to keep some gas moving, retaining the option of cutting or slowing flows whenever it chooses.

The Guardian: The US president was delivering a speech on the South Lawn on Monday when he was interrupted by Manuel Oliver, whose 17-year-old son, Joaquin, was among 14 students and three staff members killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

“We have to do more than that!” Oliver shouted, among other remarks, while standing up and wearing dark sunglasses, grey beard and purple jacket.

At first Biden told him, “Sit down, you’ll hear what I have to say,” but then the president relented and said, “Let him talk, let him talk, OK?”

By then, however, security had already stepped in to take Oliver away.

Earlier on Monday, Oliver had made clear that he objected to the event being billed as a celebration in the aftermath of a mass shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on 24 May.

He wrote on Twitter: “The word CELEBRATION has no space in a society that saw 19 kids massacred just a month ago.”

The confrontation underlined simmering frustration with Biden, accused of failing to meet the moment not only on guns but abortion, climate and other issues. . . .

The White House gave Biden an opportunity to respond to the critics by showcasing the first major federal gun safety bill in three decades, which he signed into law last month. He was joined in bright summer sunshine by survivors and family members of those slain during mass shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Santa Fe, Uvalde, Buffalo, Highland Park and others. . . .

man in sunglasses points finger
Manuel Oliver interrupts Biden on the White House’s South Lawn. Photograph: Shawn Thew/UPI/Rex/Shutterstock

But the scale of the challenge was laid bare when, just 16 days after the law took effect, a gunman in Highland Park, Illinois, killed seven people and wounded more than 30 others at an Independence Day parade, fueling the discontent of Oliver and other activists who want to see Biden move faster and further.

Biden hailed the law as “real progress” and said “lives will be saved today and tomorrow because of this” but acknowledged that “more has to be done”. He said: “It matters, it matters, but it’s not enough and we all know that.”. . . .

“We are living in a country awash in weapons of war,” Biden said with palpable anger. “Guns are the number one killer of children in the United States, more than car accidents, more than cancer.”

He earned applause as he insisted that the second amendment to the federal constitution, which protects the right to bear arms, should not supersede others.

Among the hundreds of guests on the south lawn were a bipartisan group of senators who crafted and supported the legislation, as well as local-level officials including the Illinois governor, JB Pritzker, and Highland Park mayor, Nancy Rotering.

But the director of the campaign group Guns Down America, Igor Volsky, wasn’t wholly impressed by the White House’s framing of the gathering.

Volsky told the Associated Press news agency: “There’s simply not much to celebrate here. It’s historic, but it’s also the very bare minimum of what Congress should do.

“And as we were reminded by the shooting on July fourth, and there’s so many other gun deaths that have occurred since then. The crisis of gun violence is just far more urgent.”

Democracy In Peril: Progressive Billionaires to the Rescue?? (Well, Maybe . . .)

“Money,” truthfully spake the legendary California pol Jesse Unruh, “is the mother’s milk of politics.”

And if money, rather than love, is All You Need (as spake, or crooned, the legendary Beatles), Democrats & their worried (“terrified” is more accurate) and beleaguered progressives ought to be breathing easier today, despite the fate of Roe.

The morning papers bring news that, busting through the encircling hordes of vote suppressors, election stealers and insurrectionists, the cavalry is coming. They’ve been sent by a pentagon of the biggest Dem billionaire campaign donors, and bear saddlebags stuffed with cash (and bitcoin?) to help the Dems fend off the MAGA assault:

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, one of the nation’s top political donors, gathered more than a dozen billionaires or their representatives over Zoom Friday to sound an alarm about the coming elections.


“MAGA leaders intend to use 2022 midterm wins to install Trump in 2024 regardless of the vote,” read a slide of the PowerPoint Hoffman presented to the group, which was obtained by The Washington Post.


He was pitching some of the nation’s wealthiest people on a doomsday idea that has become a growing obsession among the liberal donor community. Another slide, titled “How MAGA midterms can install Trump,” laid out a step-by-step hypothetical scenario: Republicans win statewide offices in key battleground states in 2022 and then change state laws in 2023 to give legislatures control over presidential electors. After the next presidential election, they declare votes from urban centers “tainted” and overrule the popular vote by sending their own slate of electors to Washington.



The goal [here] . . . was to raise tens of millions of dollars for groups that the PowerPoint described as being able to increase Democratic turnout, persuade swing voters to vote Democratic and “dissuade” Republican voters from going to the polls.


You get the idea. The plot to use 2022 as the stepping stone to a Trump or successor MAGA coronation will be familiar to most of us who can read, listen, or remember their nightmares. I for one am not a doubter.  The MAGA-orange drive is as real as Covid; and stopping it, if that can be done, will cost beaucoup bucks.

However. Continue reading Democracy In Peril: Progressive Billionaires to the Rescue?? (Well, Maybe . . .)

Drag Queen – MAGA Smackdown In Arizona

 

AP News: Drag queen blasts GOP candidate for Arizona governor

PHOENIX (AP) — Kari Lake, the frontrunner in the Republican primary for Arizona governor, condemned the growing cultural clout of drag queens, jumping into the latest social grievance taking hold on the right.

But her comments were quickly criticized over the weekend by one of the most popular drag performers in Phoenix, who says Lake is a hypocrite who frequented his performances.

Barbra Seville

Richard Stevens, who performs as Barbra Seville, said Lake, a former television news anchor, regularly attended drag shows and even hired him to dress as Marilyn Monroe at a private party and brought her young daughter. He posted photos on his social media accounts of Lake posing with drag queens and screenshots of his conversations with her.

The dispute between the gubernatorial frontrunner and the prominent drag queen drew national attention and put Lake on the defensive two weeks before early voting begins ahead of Arizonas Aug. 2 primary. It also fuels a persistent criticism of Lakes conversion from Barack Obama donor to Donald Trump conservative.

“They kicked God out of schools and welcomed the Drag Queens,” Lake tweeted on Friday night. “They took down our Flag and replaced it with a rainbow. They seek to disarm Americans and militarize our Enemies. Let’s bring back the basics: God, Guns & Glory.”
Unlikely duo: Pennsylvania Democrats aim for united front
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Stevens responded on social media the next morning: “I’ve performed for her. I’ve performed for her family. I’ve met her kids. I’ve been in her home, and I have her private phone number and her private Facebook account.”

He told The Associated Press on Monday that he stayed in touch with Lake and privately defended her even as she ran a farright campaign that he disagreed with. But when she came after drag queens, he said, “this hypocrisy really bothered me.”

“I was just personally offended by that tweet, Stevens said.

Stevens said he first met Lake in the late 1990s, when he performed regularly at a gay bar near the KSAZ studios, where Lake was an evening anchor. He said Lake and her coworkers would sometimes stop by the bar’s weekly drag show after the broadcast, and he recognized her from watching the news. They eventually struck up a friendship, he said. She would ask him for sources to discuss issues affecting the LGBTQ community, and he occasionally appeared on Fox 10 broadcasts.

Lake once hired him to perform as Marilyn Monroe at a coworkers baby shower about a decade ago, and there he met her daughter, whom he remembers being around 9 or 10 years old.

As Stevens post quickly gained traction on social media Saturday, Lakes campaign initially responded by drawing a distinction between a drag performer and a man impersonating a female celebrity.

The campaign published a statement Sunday condemning the media for covering the controversy and threatening to sue Stevens for defamation.

“Like most sane people, Kari Lake is very much opposed to grown men or women dancing provocatively for children, especially at the expense of the taxpayer,” the statement said. “Why would anyone be opposed to this?”

The statement called Stevens a talented comedian and performer that Kari Lake covered during her TV career and pointed to his support for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

A spokesman for Lake, Russ Trumble, declined to comment further Monday, saying “it’s a legal matter now.”

Lake jumped quickly into the frontrunners position after launching a campaign that energized the GOP base and earned Trumps endorsement. She has aggressively promoted false claims that the 2020 election was marred by fraud. But she faces a challenge from businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson, whos family fortune has allowed her to vastly outspend Lake on television ads, and from former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon.

Drag shows feature men dressing in flamboyant womens clothing while dancing and singing or lipsyncing. Once a relatively obscure subculture, theyve have exploded into the mainstream with the popularity of the television hit “RuPauls Drag Race. Some performances, particularly lightnight events at bars, can be risque. Others are promoted as family friendly affairs, such as drag queen story hour.

Lakes drag queen tweet latched onto an issue that caught fire this month with conservatives around the country who say drag shows are sexualizing children.

Lawmakers in several states have introduced legislation attempting to ban children from drag shows, and GOP leaders of the Arizona Senate say they have plans for a similar bill.

“The fact is, drag has existed forever,” Stevens said. “I’ve been doing drag longer than Kari has been a Republican. But if you want to outlaw drag in front of kids, you better free up your calendar because it’s ingrained in our culture. The first drag queen I saw was Bugs Bunny.”

Chelsea Manning: Survivor

NOTE: A long interview with the archetypal Iraq War era whistleblower, who served seven-plus years in prison (most in solitary) for lifting the lid on much of the u.S. torture program and other atrocities. Recently back from a week of volunteer relief work on the Ukrainian border, she’s working to put down roots and find stability in, of all places, Brooklyn. (Well, why not?)

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In February of 2019, just four months after undergoing bottom surgery, Chelsea Manning received a grand jury subpoena demanding she testify in the U.S. government’s case against WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. Her brave refusal to participate in the witch-hunt landed her $256,000 in fines and a year behind bars, which a top U.N. official determined had “all the constitutive elements of torture.”

On March 11, 2020, she attempted to take her own life once more in prison and was released back to her adopted home of Brooklyn, New York, the following day—only to then find herself at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, Manning has been trying to reclaim ownership over her life. Though only 34, the former Army intelligence analyst has spent nearly a quarter of her years behind bars, much of it in solitary confinement—persecuted by the U.S. government for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks that exposed a number of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the extent of U.S. spying on those at the U.N., among other things. She announced that she is female in 2013, transitioning into “the next phase” of her life whilst still imprisoned.

“Where is home now?” she asks herself. “I’m 34 years old, and I’ve lived outside the U.S. before where it’s felt not like home. And this is home. I’m so glad I have a relatively normal life now. I’m grateful for that. I just ride my scooter around town and do errands.”

She’s also been busy with speaking engagements, producing a film about the precariousness of crypto, doing consulting for the privacy startup Nym, and putting the finishing touches on her memoir, a “coming-of-age story” that’s scheduled to be released in October. Manning recently learned how to cook and has been known to cameo at the occasional Brooklyn rave—though she often finds herself getting recognized, even in a mask.

Last month, I sat down with Manning outside a Brooklyn coffee shop for a wide-ranging discussion on everything from her upcoming memoir and rise of the far-right to her public split from one-time confidant Glenn Greenwald back in September.

DB [Daily Beast]: I heard that you got COVID in September. Have you had any lingering effects?

CM [Chelsea Manning]:  I did have some lingering effects. I didn’t have anything nearly as serious as some of my friends—just lethargy, exhaustion, fatigue, those lingering things. By around December, I got the booster, and everything went away. Immediately afterward, no more symptoms. I got it again in March, but it was negligible.

DB: That’s great.

CM: In the springtime, I’ve tried to be more active. I’ve been traveling a lot. I don’t like traveling. I’m not a big fan.

DB: Do you have issues with being screened at the airport?

CM: Oh no, I’ve never had issues at the airport. I’m a normal traveler—I just can’t get TSA Pre, although TSA Pre is a scam anyway. But I’ve been in Europe quite a bit. One of the companies I work for [Nym] is based in Switzerland, and I’ve been to Paris, spent time in Berlin, and because the invasion of Ukraine popped off, I was at the border and did some volunteer work out there in March, so pretty early on. Continue reading Chelsea Manning: Survivor

“Say Gay” Is Still On at Disney World

From the New York Times:

ORLANDO, Fla. — Last Friday evening, about 6,000 people — almost all of them gay men — poured into a Walt Disney World water park near Orlando, Fla. Each had spent $100 or more on tickets for a private, adults-only Pride bacchanal called Riptide. “For one night, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park becomes entirely yours for the party of the year,” online ads had promised. “Be part of the magic!”

An actual rainbow arched over the park’s thunder-shower-soaked parking lot as the sun set, prompting several attendees to joke that Disney had outdone itself with Pride theming this year. But the party was not a Disney-orchestrated event, not by a long shot. A few ticket holders turned up in wrestling singlets, while others had outfitted themselves in bondage-scene chest harnesses. Later, a squadron of go-go boys ceded the stage to the drag queen Trinity the Tuck.

I stood among the revelers wearing a black Polo shirt and khaki shorts, which led to an impromptu intervention from a stranger, Jose Rodriguez, 27. “What’s with your outfit?” he asked. “You look like an uptight soccer dad, and it’s not a good vibe. Go take off some of those clothes!”

Gulp.

Mr. Rodriguez was right in sizing me up as an interloper: I had not come to Typhoon Lagoon to dance (thump, thump, thump) or flaunt my muscles (hah!) or flirt with tipsy abandon in the colossal wave pool. I was there on a fact-finding mission. . . .

Disney has never endorsed Gay Days, a version of which takes place in the fall at Disneyland in California. Nor has it tried to rein it in. There isn’t much the company could do anyway: For red shirt days, attendees buy tickets like anyone else. The planning is handled by private companies like One Magical Weekend, Gay Days Inc., and the lesbian-focused Girls in Wonderland.

I had long heard stories about Gay Days, but I was confused about what it was. The goings-on are not sanctioned by Disney but take place, in part, on Disney property? Adult attendees spend much of their time spinning in teacups and waving at Winnie the Pooh like everyone else … and then go carousing at private events that make Grindr look tame? I’m admittedly the uptight-soccer-dad variety of gay man, but the components did not seem to fit together.

This year, another question arose: Would the anti-L.G.B.T.Q. vitriol that has surrounded Disney in recent months spill over to Gay Days?

. . . But the longer I hung out at the Magic Kingdom among the revelers, the more I was struck by the routine nature of the day. There were no protesters. There were no cautionary signs. The only tension I saw came from a gay man who was cranky that a Disney manager had told him that his shirt could be viewed as inappropriate. It featured Pluto in leather gear and the phrase “I like it wruff.”

There were loads of people in red shirts who were not at Disney World for Gay Days — and none seemed to care when they learned of the color’s significance on this day. “Maybe my daughter will think I’m cool now,” one guy said with a grin, declining to give his name and heading toward the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride.

For Mr. Mathison and his husband, Frank McKeown, 47, the blasé attitude represents a significant change from how things used to be.

“About 10 years ago at Gay Days, we were all in line in our red shirts at Big Thunder Mountain,” Mr. Mathison said, referring to Disney’s Frontierland roller coaster. “It was a sea of red. And this little girl came running up to her dad in a panic. ‘Dad! Dad! Take off your shirt. If you’re wearing red, it means you’re gay!’”

Mr. McKeown picked up the story. “This guy was very, very good looking,” he said. “And so we all started chanting, ‘Take it off! Take it off!’”

They broke into laughter. “Ahh, those were the days,” Mr. McKeown said. . . .