648 posts categorized "History"

April 24, 2016

Happy belated deathday, Will!

I duly observed the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death yesterday by reading some Shakespeare, but I wasn't in a blogging mood. This piece is interesting. More from the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library here.

April 21, 2016

Is the Mona Lisa actually based on Leonardo Da Vinci's gay lover?

Get over it, Mona.

April 20, 2016

"Don’t Go Away Mad, Just Go?"

My Blade column this week looks at the upcoming British referendum on exiting the European Union, and finds lessons for the Colonies.

April 18, 2016

Trailer: The Birth of a Nation (new film on Nat Turner rebellion)

Can't wait to see this.

April 17, 2016

Head of British spying agency apologizes for its treatment of gays

April 10, 2016

Having gay and HIV-positive Greg Louganis on Wheaties box makes 'powerful statement'

April 09, 2016

All the President's Men at 40

Michael Cavna reports for WaPo:

CARL BERNSTEIN has a favorite shot — a powerful, wordless visual within a film rippling with verbiage. It is the moment when everything elevates as metaphor.

It is, Bernstein says, “the Library of Congress shot.”

The film is “All the President’s Men,” Alan J. Pakula’s classic journalism procedural, which today celebrates the 40th anniversary of its release. And the shot in question begins with a tight overhead of The Washington Post’s Watergate reporters, Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford), as they painstakingly thumb through thousands of the library’s circulation file cards.

The vantage point “progresses from floor/desk-level to the rotunda of the library,” Bernstein tells me. “The shot, and the scene itself, as the overwhelming number of card-files are brought to the reporters — they got a bit more than they bargained for in all their cleverness — brilliantly illustrates both the monumental and granular challenges of real reporting, as well as the context of what is going on at the time in our own [Woodward and Bernstein’s] situation at that juncture.”

Below, the matchless Jason Robards as WaPo editor Ben Bradlee.

March 22, 2016

The choice for Commander-in-Chief: a stateswoman or a narcissist?

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My thoughts while comparing foreign policy remarks by an experienced stateswoman versus a bullshitting narcissist:

The most vital presidential traits are not about public ceremonies and photo ops. They are summoned during grim, tense hours in the Situation Room. In a moment of crisis, do you really want a posturing amateur? No. You want someone who's been there, someone with experience--including vivid memories of when things went terribly wrong.

In the dark, fraught hours, when you watch and wait from oceans away as our nation's finest warriors must summon all their training amid grave danger, there are no illusions about your job being some slow, grand march to glory. It is humbling and sobering to know how many lives are implicated in every decision. Will you be meeting their coffins in a hangar at Dover AFB, comforting their loved ones?

This is a sacred trust. You cannot be glib about this. The job calls for someone who has been there, who knows the stakes, who has the relationships with foreign leaders to make the difficult calls at midnight to keep a confrontation from boiling over, or to summon and facilitate a global response to a tragedy. You need someone with the seasoning of hard experience. You need a survivor. You need someone who's ready. Hillary for President.

March 13, 2016

Rewriting the origins of the gay choral movement

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The Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus posted this yesterday with the following explanation:

Yesterday, the Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus was fortunate enough to perform for the students of The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush. After the concert, our very own Marcus Saitschenko shared some beautiful words about the origin of the gay choral movement, words made more poignant by recent current events. Thank you, Marcus. #philagmc #WhyWeSing #ItGetsBetter #ShareOurHistory

That statement is very nice, but it is not exactly true. The gay choral movement was started before AIDS hit. SFGMC's first public performance, for example, was the night Moscone and Milk were killed.

I was a co-founder of one of the groups inspired by the San Francisco chorus's national tour, which roughly coincided with the first news reports of AIDS but was planned beforehand and took place before the reality of the disease had sunk in for most of us. I remember our early discussions in the summer of 1981. We were motivated by pride and memories of our college glee clubs.

The DC gay community did not feel under siege at the time; we were recognized as a voting bloc and were pursuing our goal of equality. We still had much to do, but were already included in the DC Human Rights Act. Of course in the years that followed, the gay choral movement rose to the challenge of the epidemic and created powerful music that chronicled our experience and helped galvanize us. I remember how moved I was later in the decade by SFGMC's beautiful contribution to the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Rising to the struggle helped give our music new meaning. But the origins of the choral movement preceded that.

Hillary Clinton: A note on the fight against HIV and AIDS—and the people who really started the conversation

Thanks to Secretary Clinton for this statement.

We should all be embarrassed by our community's overreaction to Hillary's gaffe about Nancy Reagan on Friday. It was as if her entire record were reduced to one statement at a funeral. That was not true. Here is one example from her tenure as Secretary of State. She is a proven ally and we need to get serious. Too much is at stake in this election for us to be on a hair trigger, looking for excuses to be outraged.

The likelihood is that our next president will either be this woman or the Republican frontrunner, who never admits he was wrong much less apologizes or uses a gaffe as a teachable moment. This thoughtful, capable, and seasoned stateswoman, or an utterly self-absorbed, bullying goon. Let's help our country move forward, not be accessories in tearing it apart. So very much is at stake.

March 03, 2016

#TBT - Six years ago today, marriage equality became law in DC.

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(Photo from NYT, 3/3/2010: Jonathan Howard, left, and Gregory Jones applied for a marriage license on Wednesday in Washington. Credit Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Here's an item for Throwback Thursday: Six years ago today, marriage equality became law in DC. Here's something I posted that day here at GLAA Forum:

The beautiful sight outside Room 4485

February 24, 2016

Nearly 20 percent of Trump’s supporters disapprove of Lincoln freeing the slaves

Wow.

February 12, 2016

Drew Lewis, former U.S. transportation secretary, dies at 84

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(Transportation Sec. Drew Lewis, upper right, with President Reagan
and Attorney General William French Smith in 1981. Associated Press)

Philly.com Reports.

I was in college and Gerald Ford was president when I met Drew Lewis. He was a prominent Pennsylvania Republican, and was the featured speaker at the Villanova Political Union where I was in the Liberal Party. In those days, cooperation across party lines was still possible; Senators Dole and McGovern, for example, worked on bills together. After our college debates were over, the student debaters repaired to a nearby tavern and insulted one another according to Robert's Rules of Order. I remember thinking how clever the upperclassmen were.

The seriousness of the radical right became clear a few years later when Ronald Reagan, with Lewis as his transportation secretary, fired air traffic controllers. I thought it was reckless, but conservatives insisted it showed the Soviets that Reagan meant business. Nowadays, courteous and dignified conservatives like Lewis get primaried out of their seats. Perhaps they were too courteous and got rolled over. Perhaps the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of his generation will restore responsible conservatism from the wreckage of those who scorn all restraint.

My old sparring partners are now grandparents. Change takes a long time, and ours is running short. R.I.P. Drew Lewis.

February 10, 2016

Results, not revolution

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My latest Blade column takes a historical view of how public policy is changed. We must honor the struggle, not avoid the work by indulging in magical thinking. Here's an excerpt:

Chez Pazienza of The Daily Banter put it well: "If You're Liberal and You Think Hillary Clinton Is Corrupt and Untrustworthy, You're Rewarding 25 Years of GOP Smears." Bernie Sanders has yet to face the brutal assaults of the GOP war machine in the way Secretary Clinton has for decades. Indeed, the Republicans want Sanders to get the nomination.

Brett Arends of MarketWatch compiled a list of the terrible things Hillary is accused of doing. My favorites are #12, "Unnamed and unverifiable sources have told Peggy Noonan things about the Clintons that are simply too terrible to repeat," and #44, "She's really ambitious and calculating, unlike all the other people running for president." Bob Woodward says Hillary is too loud. Really? Has he heard Senator Sanders? Susan Sarandon slams Hillary for not endorsing marriage equality until 2013. Is Sarandon aware of the global LGBT rights initiative Hillary launched in December 2011?

Sanders opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 on states' rights grounds. He endorsed marriage equality in 2009; but in 1982 he described marriage as "a lifelong commitment between husband and wife." Granted, that was typical for the time. Few gay activists then focused on marriage. In 1981, AIDS had hit American cities, and D.C.'s first attempt to repeal its sodomy law was blocked by Congress. That was the year I came out to my family. I didn't have my first argument with a politician on same-sex marriage until 1994, fifteen years before D.C. enacted marriage equality.

D.C.'s marriage equality victory resulted not from revolution but from strategizing, researching, organizing, drafting, negotiating, messaging, and electioneering. It required careful preparation, coalition building, and long-cultivated relationships with public officials. It ripened via sustained work that began long before the final bill was written.

Those seeking change must honor the struggle, not just the result.

Read the whole thing here.

February 07, 2016

"Lost in the Stars" comes to Washington National Opera

On Sunday evening I watched the tech rehearsal of the first act of Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson's "Lost in the Stars," based on Alan Paton's "Cry, the Beloved Country." The opera was presented at the Glimmerglass Festival in 2012. As then, the Washington National Opera production features Eric Owens as Stephen Kumalo, and the same creative team.

This opera only runs from Feb. 12 through Feb. 20. The singing and staging of this powerful work about South Africa under Apartheid are first rate.

January 27, 2016

Five years later, Uganda's LGBT groups on David Kato’s murder

January 26 was the fifth anniversary of the brutal murder of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato. His colleagues have carried on with great courage and remarkable grace. Below is video from Kato's funeral in 2011, where his friends carried his coffin themselves.

January 19, 2016

LGBT contingent marches in D.C.’s MLK parade

GLAA VP for Political Affairs Charles Butler is quoted in this story.

January 18, 2016

A hazardous challenge at the heart of eloquence

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Republicans praise him even as they work relentlessly to dismantle the social safety net. Their Martin is just a source of noble sentiments, safely emasculated and safely dead. But he did not get a national holiday and a national monument by being safe. He had to connect, yes, and his brilliance as an orator was evident the moment he stepped into the pulpit of Holt Street Baptist Church for a mass meeting of the Montgomery Improvement Association on Dec. 5, 1955 to launch a bus boycott.

But key to his power and greatness was his challenge to the nation, evident in these words from that speech, which many in power took as a threat worth killing over. Only by taking up that challenge do we properly honor him.

My friends, I want it to be known that we're going to work with grim and bold determination to gain justice on the buses in this city.

And we are not wrong; we are not wrong in what we are doing. If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to Earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning. And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Imagine being that brilliant at age 26. It never ceases to provoke awe.

January 17, 2016

Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry, Sam Smith and others pay tribute to Alan Rickman

January 15, 2016

A voice still with us

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Happy 87th birthday, Dr. King. We still hear your challenging voice.

Trump defends New York values

A rare moment of humanity was seen from Donald Trump last night in response to a jab at "New York values" by Ted Cruz.

What Pope Benedict Knew About Abuse in the Catholic Church

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Photo by Vincenzo Pinto / AFP / Getty)

As The New Yorker reports, the Church sexual abuse scandal got as close as to Benedict XVI's brother Georg Ratzinger, who was director of the Regensburg Choir when more than two hundred children were victimized there. But possibly the most damning case was that of Father Maciel:

Most cases of abuse were handled (or not handled) by local bishops and archbishops, but some were adjudicated by Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The most prominent of these cases was that of Father Marcial Maciel, a favorite of Pope John Paul II and the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, a powerful Mexican religious order that, at its pinnacle, included eight hundred priests, fifteen universities, and a hundred and fifty prep schools, as well as a lay movement with a reported seventy thousand followers.

In the seventies and eighties, former members of the Legionaries reported that, as young boys, they had been sexually abused by Maciel. As the Church later acknowledged, the complainants were highly credible and had no ulterior motives: they were not seeking monetary compensation or notoriety. They followed Church procedures by filing formal charges through ecclesiastical courts in Rome, but nothing was done. In fact, Pope John Paul II called on Maciel to accompany him on papal visits to Mexico in 1979, 1990, and 1993.

When one of the former Legionaries expressed his frustration, in the lawsuit, about the Church’s inaction, Berry and Renner reported in their book, the Legionaries’ own canon lawyer, Martha Wegan, who made no secret that her first loyalty was to the Church, replied, “It is better for eight innocent men to suffer than for millions to lose their faith.”

(Hat tip: Craig Howell)

January 13, 2016

Who's Doing the Planting

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My Blade column this week looks at the struggle to connect amid turmoil. Here's an excerpt:

Public discussions these days seem to dredge up the nastiest extrusions of our national psyche in a destructive competition. Withdrawing from the melee would only make matters worse by conceding the field to mischief-makers. So how do we gracefully stand our ground in a contentious environment?

We cannot spend all our time with the like-minded. At some point we have to leave our echo chambers and uphold our positions. There is no perfectly safe way to be true to ourselves.

Twitter is a place of fluid boundaries, so I was not surprised that one source of light on gun control is actor Jeffrey Wright (Angels in America, Boardwalk Empire, The Hunger Games). He posted a meme on January 7 quoting former Chief Justice Warren Burger: "The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies - the militia - would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires."

One of Wright's trolls replied, "Fuck you, Buckwheat, & this clueless, liberal judge legislating from the bench!" Wright calmly noted that he was quoting a Republican appointee, and added, "I associate more with Stymie," another black Little Rascals character. With wit and poise, he kept the upper hand. It might have been time-wasting had it been a private message, but he shared the exchange with his 80,000 followers. There is a point of diminishing returns, of course, for which the "block" button is handy.

Each of us strikes a different balance between comfort from comrades and abuse from adversaries. Some of us enjoy arguing more than others. The key consideration for the reality-based is persuasion. Mere insults appeal only to those already persuaded.

Read the whole thing here.

Queensland to expunge historical convictions for gay sex

December 29, 2015

2015: Year of the Arsonist

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Reichstag fire, 1933 (Photo public domain; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

My year-in-review column went online today at the Blade. My summary blurb is "Historic progress met the usual backlash." Here's an excerpt:

"Set the motherfucker on fire!" That recent call by a Donald Trump rally goer concerning a black protester, with another attendee yelling "Sieg heil," illustrates the viciousness fueling Trump's presidential campaign. If you take this lightly, Google "lynching." It is not just that what happened in Europe in the last century could happen here; what happened here could happen again. Trump's incitements, and those of his rivals, do not just pander to intolerance, they spray gasoline on the fire.

Hate-spewing demagogues were not the year's only newsmakers, but they produced its most dangerous legacy. The demons they unleashed cannot easily be tamed. But the haters cannot win the general election unless the rest of us allow it. Before we head back into battle, let us review some positive developments of 2015, though with cautionary notes.

The landmark victory for nationwide marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, which President Obama celebrated by lighting the White House north front in rainbow colors, inspired opponents to switch tactics by pushing "religious freedom" laws (better dubbed "religious supremacy") to continue their anti-gay attacks. The Equality Act represented a new approach to LGBT anti-discrimination legislation, but stood no chance in a Republican-controlled Congress. Openly gay Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson and several colleagues launched the smart, well-designed Campaign Zero policy website.

Read the whole thing here.

December 28, 2015

Respecting other people's holidays

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(Photo by Craig Herndon/The Washington Post)

The lovely Jonathan Capehart reposted this item from last year and mentioned that he was enraged for hours once when a well-meaning white friend sent him a Kwanzaa card. Really? Someone this morning wished me a happy Boxing Day, a British occasion that's irrelevant to me, and I reacted with amusement and moved on. There are lots of things like that in life. I stopped being Christian in 1970, but I enjoy Christmas music, and I sang "Christmas is coming, goose is getting fat" which I learned fifty years ago from Harry Belafonte's Christmas album. Jonathan disdains Kwanzaa as a "made-up black holiday," but every holiday was made up by somebody. Thanksgiving was made up, but is celebrated by millions. I should note that Capehart only brought up the subject to criticize a Republican bomb-thrower who portrayed Kwanzaa as a big leftist conspiracy.

Granted, Kwanzaa is full of Marxist claptrap (imho), but most black people don't celebrate it according to surveys (maybe they are just spent from Christmas), and it's probably promoted more by white people trying to be inclusive. So if you don't have a kinara, don't remember the Nguzo Saba, and don't have cool African clothes to wear, then have some eggnog and Christmas cookies and relax.

Nonetheless, I learned from Maulana Karenga years ago that tonight's principal is Ujima, or collective work and responsibility. Swahili is a lovely language, about a third of its words from Arabic. Our own word "seven" is from the Arabic "Saba," which derives from Akkadian, a reminder that all cultures are influenced by others. In many cases, blood was shed, treasure and people were stolen, and missionaries covered it by converting people to the conqueror's religion. None of us has clean hands. But regardless of Christmas boycotts and different cultural observances, we are all bound up in the same economy. Whatever we call it and however we got here, most of us can agree that helping our neighbors is a good thing. Most of us, I suspect, also agree that Ann Coulter, who is far nastier than sweet Jonathan could ever be, can shove it up her ouya. Pardon my vulgarity, and happy whatever it is you are celebrating.

December 21, 2015

Is this a dagger I see before me?

Betcha never saw this: Paul Lynde and Elizabeth Montgomery as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, from 1966.

December 09, 2015

George Takei on Donald Trump

Actor George Takei, who as a child during WWII was interned with his family in an American concentration camp, takes on Donald Trump. Below are clips from his new show about the internment camps, Allegiance.

December 06, 2015

60th anniversary of Montgomery Bus Boycott

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"If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong."
- Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., launching the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Holt Street Baptist Church, Dec. 5, 1955.

December 02, 2015

Domestic Terror and GOP Denial

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‘El sueño de la razon produce monstruos / The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters’ by Francisco Goya y Lucientes (Image public domain)

My new Blade column takes on several Republican candidates and their inflammatory and irrational statements. I don't normally suggest illustrations to my editor, but I did this time, and he used it--a 1799 etching by Francisco Goya, from the same decade that saw the adoption of the Bill of Rights. (Thanks, Kevin Naff.) Our Founders' Enlightenment values are under assault. Stay woke!

Here's an excerpt:

If America is really as fragile as the fear mongers among us claim, then we are dead already.

Not being dead, you and I can push back against the Trumps, Cruzes, Fiorinas, and Rubios. There is an angry minority in this country that supports white supremacy and running everyone else's lives while touting small-government conservatism. They are louder of late not due to greater numbers, but because opportunists dredged them up from the bottom of the pond--and because their smartphones give them greater reach than their fathers. They are entitled to their ugly opinions, but not to endanger the public safety.

Statements by Republican presidential candidates read like entries from a psychiatrist's log in Bedlam. Donald Trump doubles down on his lie about thousands of Arabs in Jersey City celebrating the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He touts bogus racist crime stats. He mocks a reporter's disability, then says he doesn't know the guy, despite having known him for years. Marco Rubio says to ignore SCOTUS on marriage because "God's rules always win." How does his God get to overrule mine?

Carly Fiorina denies any link between her inflammatory lies about Planned Parenthood and the Black Friday killings in Colorado. She draws a false equivalence between Black Lives Matter protesters and people who bomb abortion clinics. Ted Cruz deflects a reporter's question about clinic shooter Robert Lewis Dear's cry, "No more baby parts!" (which echoes David Daleiden's fraudulent infanticide video), by seizing on a dubious claim from the right-wing blogosphere that Dear was a "transgendered [sic] leftist activist." The same fever swamp yielded the claim that Michelle Obama is really a man.

Read the whole thing here.

CNN: 'Adolph Hitler, when he first rose to power, was elected'

New documentary reveals Reagan administration's indifference to AIDS

A chronicle of a grim time.

In February of this year, Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed reported on documents unearthed by Mattachine Society of Washington researchers showing that Nancy Reagan turned down a request by her friend Rock Hudson for help nine weeks before his death. It was a simple request for help in transferring to another hospital.

December 01, 2015

Images that span three decades of activism in the fight against AIDS

Marco Rubio: 9/11 Was God's Plan (Video)

On the other hand, it appears less and less likely that Sen. Rubio becoming president is part of God's plan.

How history got the Rosa Parks story wrong

November 29, 2015

Trumbo tells story of the Hollywood blacklist

Just saw this. Fine film. All too timely.

November 25, 2015

President Obama Awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Sondheim, Spielberg, Streisand were among this year's honorees. It was good to see William Ruckelshaus honored; he resigned as Deputy Attorney General rather than obey President Nixon's order to fire the Watergate Special Prosecutor, on Saturday, October 20, 1973. Attorney General Elliot Richardson had resigned before him. That was called the Saturday Night Massacre, and was the beginning of the end for Nixon. Among many other posts, Ruckelshaus also helmed the Environmental Protection Agency. Yesterday's honor was a reminder of a time when public servants could put their country before their party.

November 24, 2015

The truth about Marion Barry

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Former DC Mayor Marion Barry's hagiographers were at it again yesterday on the anniversary of his death, and I am calling them on their bullshit.

When Marion was still with us I always maintained cordial dealings with him, because he was still an elected official. No good would have been served by burning that bridge, though he himself burned many. But that is behind us. We are strong enough, all of us, to confront the truth.

Marion was a smart and politically gifted man. But his utter lack of personal discipline brought discredit to the District and gave comfort to those bent on denying us self-determination. He saddled us with the Financial Control Board. He made racist statements about Asian shop owners. He so abused earmarks to reward his friends that the Council abolished them. He was the most piggish womanizer. He led an anti-gay chant at a rally organized by Bishop Harry Jackson. Just 28 months ago, this was the headline: "Marion Barry Fined And Censured By D.C.'s Ethics Board Over Gifts From Contractors."

He set himself up for a fourth "comeback" term as mayor by running against his most loyal ally on the Council, Mrs. Rolark. After his years as Ward 8 councilmember, it remains the poorest ward; but not a tiny shred of that is ever put on him by his hagiographers. That was his way--treating every bit of every failure as entirely other people's fault. If that is true, what did he keep running for? He used people.

He has been gone a year. Yet some people cling to fantasy nonsense about his greatness, largely based on things he did in the late 1970s and early 1980s and refusing to confront how he went off the rails. The denial is pathological. The pandering by others is pathetic. It is time to stop this nonsense. Marion did some good things. But the Mayor-for-Life glorification requires a highly selective memory. Who is helped by this? Nobody, certainly not his troubled son who was exploited by people who wanted to create a Barry dynasty. It is time to move on for the sake of all of the city, including and especially its most downtrodden.

November 20, 2015

France's long history in Mali

November 15, 2015

'We will not walk in fear'

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"We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our own history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men."
- Edward R. Murrow, 1954