The German sex trade’s leading lobbyists, unmasked

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Johanna Weber and Fabienne Freymadl, two leading “spokespersons” for the recently-assembled German “sex workers’ movement”. Who are they, and what lies behind them? EMMA investigated, and found the following:

In the middle of the summer, BILD.de came out with the provocative headline: “These Whores are Government Advisors”. And then readers who were so inclined found out that the “whores”, Johanna Weber (46) and Fabienne Freymadl (35) were regarded as “specialists” in conjunction with a proposed change to prostitution laws in the capital city. They took part in “several informative background talks”, “met various political specialists from the CDU/CSU, SPD, Green and Left parties, and telephone regularly with them” (BILD). Apparently they have a particularly good connection with Eva Högl (SPD party representative), Ulrike Bahr (SPD family policy specialist), and the Greens, Volker Beck and Hans-Christian Ströbele.

Johanna Weber, the political spokeswoman of the so-called “Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen e.V.” [Trade Union of Erotic and Sexual Services, Inc.], also advised the federal family ministry at their prostitution hearing on June 12, 2014. “The politicians often come to us with supposedly good ideas, but those mostly don’t fit with the realities of the branch,” she reveals. She apparently knows what fits.

But does she fit? Let’s start with the fact that Johanna Weber’s real name is Verena Johannsen. Her specialties as a dominatrix are “Schweinereien” [literally "piggeries"]: “Natursekt” (“natural champagne”, or “golden showers” — urinating on men), “Caviar” (defecating on men, sometimes directly in the mouth), or “Facefarting”.

This sort of job is actually new for Weber/Johannsen herself. The front-woman of the “union” for “sex workers”, founded just last year, has been, by her own account, on the job for just four years. Before that, the professional distance runner taught sports, was an active sports marketer, and organized women’s runs, for example at the Lesbian Beach Festival. Politically, too, the dominatrix seems to be engaged in women’s and leftist causes. By her own account she donates five percent of her income, mostly to “sex worker” organizations like Hydra, but also to ATTAC or Terre des Femmes.

The positions Weber/Johannsen subscribes to regarding prostitution law sound correspondingly politically and movement-experienced. Not from below the belt, but stepping high. Like the 23-page “Position Paper on the ‘Regulation of Prostitution’” for the federal family ministry. The introduction reads:

“We apologize that we did not submit our position paper on the expected deadline date of June 2, 2014. June 2, the International Whores’ Day, is a day of remembrance for the whores’ movement. On that day in 1975, French sex workers went on strike and occupied a church in Lyon, in order to defend themselves against police brutality and lingering discrimination. This event is the watershed of the worldwide whores’ movement. We hereby dedicate our position paper to these brave colleagues.”

Colleagues? The in fact very brave prostitutes of Lyon, unfortunately, can’t defend themselves. Because they don’t know Johanna Weber, and have no idea what is being done in their name. If they knew, they would surely not allow it.

Starting with the label “whore”. “Nous ne sommes pas des putes!” goes their slogan, with which they took to the street at the time, shoulder to shoulder with feminists who had travelled from Paris to accompany and support their protest. “We are not whores!”, but persons. The women of Lyon fought then for their rights — and not those of pimps and brothel owners.

That’s what Weber and her colleagues are doing with their “union”, founded on October 13, 2013. But who are they really?

In a wobbly photo taken at the founding, there are some thirty women, many of them covered in filth, plus one man. Since then, the same half-dozen people keep popping up on talk shows and at events, saying what fun it is to prostitute oneself, and making the case for the recognition of prostitution as a “profession like any other”.

These women have names like Undine, Amber or Fabienne, and are often current or former dominatrices in the BDSM field. Some are now running BDSM “studios”, in which they work together or have other women working for them.

Across from them are an estimated 400,000 women who work as prostitutes. Some 70 percent (estimated by the pro-prostitution front) to 98 percent (police estimate) are migrants, and as a rule come from the poorest Eastern European countries. The dommes from the “union”, therefore, speak for maybe two percent of German prostitutes. But even among these, many see it differently than these politically-correct “sex workers” do. All the same, this atypical, vanishingly small minority has been the front-row conversation partner of politics, and apparently the only voice for the prostitutes.

But these “specialists” don’t represent in any way the interests of the prostituted, but rather those of pimps and brothel owners — even those of the human traffickers, in that they minimize or cover up their roles in the prostitution industry.

One can read as much in the 23-page position paper for the women’s ministry from June 12, too. It reads like the work of experienced jurists. Here, the legalistic argumentation speaks not of the interests of women in prostitution, but that of the sex industry, which has long been hand-in-glove with organized crime.

The position paper pushes the “decriminalization of sex work”. But for whom? Women and men in prostitution have not been punished in Germany for years. The only ones who are still punishable are those who trade women as wares: the pimps and brothel owners. And the position paper of the “sex workers” contains almost nothing but demands to decriminalize these woman-traders. They speak out against raising the legal prostitution age to 21, against mandatory health checks, and against mandatory condom use. They also demand that the punitive laws against pimping be struck without replacement, as well as those on exploitation of prostitutes, and youth-endangering prostitution. The “sex workers” want the police to stay out of the business altogether. That would be a “disruption of business”. So, free rein for the pimps and human traffickers.

The “union” is calling for state-sponsored “entry counselling” for prostitution, and “development”. What kinds of practices are involved in that “development”, can be seen on the “union” website: The “sex workers” are against abolishing flat-rate prostitution and “gang bangs” (simulated gang rape). It couldn’t get any more cynical.

The “union” is also working toward total deregulation of prostitution in Germany, as well as furthering its spread. So, the lady “sex workers” are, plainly and simply, lobbyists for the prostitution industry. And they are no longer even taking the trouble to hide it.

On June 30, 2014, Johanna Weber wrote in the name of the union to “Dear Madame Minister Schwesig”. In her letter, she congratulated the minister responsible for prostitution on her “political and juristic separation of the subjects of human trafficking and prostitution”, as well as her “participative efforts to include sex workers”.

All of that was already more than enough. But Weber didn’t sign the letter alone. A fellow signatory is Holger Rettig, a representative of the very un-transparent “Unternehmerverbandes Erotikgewerbe Deutschland e.V.” [Erotic Enterprises Chamber of Commerce of Germany, Inc.]. The organization was founded in 2007, and according to Rettig, a former boxing trainer, it has 170 members. But other than himself, none of them has appeared publicly. The brothel-owners’ association and the prostitutes’ “union” are lobbying shoulder-to-shoulder for a convenient law. That would be as if a business association and a workers’ union were to band together. The concept of a “union” label, then, is a pure lie.

At the end of September, these two organizations, along with the BuFAS (Bündnis für Sexarbeiterinnen und Sexarbeiter; in English, “Union for Sex Workers”), will be holding a sex-work congress in Berlin, titled “Sex Work in Movement Times”. The three-day get-together is organized by Johanna Weber, front woman of the “union”, member of the “whores’ project” Hydra, and advisor to BuFAS. According to announcement, at the congress will discuss “concrete measures to improve working conditions” and “the future viability of the field”. Goal: “A basis for political decisions”.

On the first day, one of the model dommes, Undine de Rivière, will take the podium at Humboldt University alongside female politicians of all parties. Says Rivière: “I’ve been a sex worker for 20 years, but I don’t know a single victim.”

The keynote speaker will be Henny Engels, from the German Women’s Ministry, the umbrella organization of all established women’s organizations (from political parties, churches, professional organizations, etc.). To the amazement of all other European umbrella organizations, in December 2012 the German Women’s Ministry was the only women’s organization that did not sign the “Brussels Call” for abolition of prostitution.

And BuFAS? Alice Schwarzer’s book, Prostitution: A German Scandal has analyzed in which measure these state-financed “whores’ projects”, such as Hydra, Madonna and Kassandra, which head up BuFAS, have become lobbyists for the sex trade. The “whores’ projects” campaign overwhelmingly for entry into prostitution, instead of for exit. And this, although some of them are receiving money from the federal women’s ministry’s model project for exit. A look at their websites tells the story. For example, Kassandra’s website is headed with the slogan: “Prostitution was, is and always will be part of our sexual culture.”

Prostitution and human trafficking bring in a lot of money. A whole lot. Not only millions in state monies, but billions of euros change hands; in Germany in 2013 alone, according th the federal statistics agency, some 14.6 billion euros. And the profit rates are up to 1,000 percent. Drug and weapons traffickers can only dream of that.

So the lobbyists are not lacking in power or money for fancy websites, juristically savvy position papers, and congresses. In contrast, there are hundred-thousands of nameless, bitterly poor prostitutes, whose earnings lie below minimum wage and who, in most cases, can’t even speak German.

But oh yes, who is Fabienne Freymadl, the second “whore” advising women politicians in Berlin? The 35-year-old coms from arch-Catholic Freising [a suburb of München, in Bayern], where even the German Pope has long seemed blessed, and is, according to her own statements, a “sadist out of passion”, which often comes up in those circles. Freymadl performs as “Firelilly” at parties, including “burlesque dancing” or “children’s face-painting”. Or she plays the golden angel on stilts at Christmas markets. Cute, eh?

As a domme, the multi-faceted Freymadl is stricter, though. She specializes in pain-infliction (“Your suffering makes my eyes sparkle.”). Her specialty is a “dungeon with authentic atmosphere”. There, her clients can submit to “dungeon rules”, be interrogated, chained up and tortured, sometimes for twelve hours or even longer. Perhaps some ladies and gentlemen politicians from the capital should take a tour there sometime?

Sure, some women might really enjoy torturing men. Usually, something like that is just called man-hating. That these man-haters gladly let men pay them for that is understandable. But that they offer themselves as political lobbyists for the sex trade at the expense of hundred-thousands of women — that goes too far. Someone should put a stop to that. And soon!

Translation mine.

Aside from the “man-hating” bit, which is editorializing on the part of the author (and may or may not in fact be true), the most egregiously humiliating linguistic slams here come from the oh-so-politically-correct “sex workers’ union” leaders themselves. (You’ll notice I put that in quotation marks; there is a reason for that, and if the EMMA article doesn’t article make clear why, then just keep reading.) “Whores”, they “proudly” call themselves? Well, so much for those who claim that prudish feminists are the ones perpetuating the hurtful old “whore stigma” — here, it is none other than the so-called “sex workers” themselves! The prostitutes of Lyon, supported by feminists from Paris, made it clear in their protests that they are NOT “whores”, they are PEOPLE, and deserving of dignified treatment. The ongoing use of that false word (oddly, alongside the vague and whitewashy term, “sex work”), in an ahistoric denial of what the Lyon uprising stood for, is a gross insult to any woman in prostitution who has ever stood up for her own humanity. And it gets grosser.

In the economically depressed lands of Eastern Europe, where most of the women and girls in the brothels were trucked in from, that word is the most humiliating in the entire, extensive vocabulary of misogyny. In Moldova, a leading source point for trafficked prostitutes, poverty is so bad, and patriarchy so deeply entrenched, that the first pimps the girls get are their own male relatives. “Whore, go out and make money!” is the thing they hear when, upon turning a certain age (generally given as 15 or 16), they are turned out to work. Work, that is, in foreign countries, where they are taken by mafiosi with tentacles all over Europe, to German mega-bordellos where clients pay a flat rate for unlimited “sex” (note the quotes; obviously, enthusiastic consent is NOT on the menu). And where the management looks the other way, not only when it comes to the shadowy origins of their supply chain, but also when it comes to the use of condoms, state-mandated health checks, etc. Numerous mega-brothels have been shuttered due to violations of the health and safety code. Which, in Germany, is enforced from time to time, but not nearly often enough to be meaningful to the women who must work the brothels night and day, for what amounts to sub-minimum wages once their room fees and other “expenses” are subtracted. The brothel owners have set up a tidy profit-making enterprise for themselves, so it stands to reason that they will do anything, not only to keep it going, but to make it even more profitable.

And that’s where the hastily-clapped-up “sex workers’ union” comes in.

Now, an actual prostitutes’ union would, one should think, fight the bosses tooth and nail for better working conditions for the employees. It would be headed by those actually working in the field, instead of arcane “specialists” in the decidedly minority ranks of the BDSM dommes. Nobody elected these women, “Johanna Weber” and “Fabienne Freymadl” (the latter’s pseudonymous surname means “free girl” in the Bavarian dialect, and most girls in prostitution are anything but free.) And since nobody elected them, they represent nobody’s interests, as far as the 400,000 prostitutes in Germany are concerned. The “union” leaders are not only not fighting for the “workers”, they are actively sweeping their concerns under the rug, minimizing and whitewashing all the day-to-day horrors and miseries the women and girls must suffer.

And worse, these “whore” lobbyists are all working to abolish even the minimal, inadequate workplace protections the prostitutes receive, in order to protect — whom? Well, considering who they really work for, that’s obvious: the traffickers. Because who else could possibly benefit from prostitutes being completely without protection by the state, the health authorities, and the police? And who else would be so keen to mount such a massive whitewashing campaign?

The johns are already protected by law and social convention, after all. The worst thing they might come away from the brothels with, aside from a vague, nagging sensation of emptiness (and not so much about the wallet, either; remember, those joints are flat-rate, and the rates are dirt cheap), is a dose of some sexually-transmitted disease or other. German society is all too happy to shrug and look the other way; some non-prostituted women even express “relief” that “those women” exist, because then their husbands and boyfriends and bosses won’t pester THEM with sexual demands they can’t or don’t want to fulfill. And there is also the unspoken “relief” that the “whores” act as a kind of “escape valve” for the imaginary “pent-up head of steam” that would otherwise turn a “sexually frustrated” man into a rapist.

All of this is implicit in the idea of the “whores’ project”, that odiously named bit of legalistic chicanery that, quite conveniently, benefits not a single one of the estimated 400,000 women, most of them Eastern European, in Armutsprostitution — that wonderful German word meaning “poverty prostitution”. There are no “Happy Hookers” there; nobody makes that kind of money. What little is left after the brothels extort their “room rent”, most of it goes back to the old country, to support relatives (mostly male) who are out of work thanks to the fall of the socialist bloc. The benefit to the woman is almost nil, and the German economy on the whole sees little of it, either. The tax collectors, like the police, tend to look the other way as long as all the papers are in order and the cheques are sent in on time. The lion’s share of the profits goes to those who run the brothels — and the trafficking networks that supply the “sex workers”.

I’ve long thought that what some call “sex work” should rightly be called SEX CAPITALISM, because in fact, that’s what it is. And these few “specialists”, like the two in the picture above, who speak for far fewer than 1% of women in the sex industry as a whole, should quit calling themselves “workers”, because their “unions” are literally and figuratively in bed with the bosses. (They should call themselves the Point-Zero-Zero-One-Percenters, really.) The only analogous situation that comes to my mind is that of Venezuela just before and during the coup of ’02, when the country’s corrupt trade-union congress, the CTV, actively got in bed with FEDECAMARAS, the umbrella organization of the Venezuelan chambers of commerce, to try to topple a democratically elected president. Real union workers, who were overwhelmingly pro-Chávez, got so upset with the CTV that they ended up ditching it and forming a new organization, the UNT, whose leadership was free of unelected toadies like Carlos Ortega, and which actually represented the workers’ concerns before the state. (Not surprisingly, the crooked CTV was heavily aligned with the interests of another big bunch of shadow-dwelling pimps: USAID, and the CIA.)

I don’t know if Germany’s prostitutes (most of whom are not German, and barely even speak the language) will ever get to doing what the Venezuelan trade unionists did — namely, kick out these corrupt “spokespeople” who speak for no one. Somehow, I doubt they will ever gain the power to do that; their non-citizen status and economic vulnerability keep them in chains. But the German state can do something about it, and as the EMMA article points out, it is high time that they should. Starting, of course, with a purging of “pro-business” elements across the board from the halls of power. Lobbying, after all, is the legalized form of corruption.

The German model for “regulating” prostitution is clearly failing the very women it was ostensibly designed to protect. And if the pimp lobby gets its way, there will soon be no regulations left at all. It is time to replace that defective model with something else that works.

Right next door to Germany, the Dutch are having a lot of second thoughts about their liberal prostitution laws, and this due to precisely the same conditions that prevail in Germany: organized crime running the whole show. What was once the free domain of independent women just making a living, is now the Mafia’s game. And the response is the last thing the liberalization advocates expected: Amsterdam shuttered hundreds of its famous red-light district “windows”, where prostitutes used to sit in their scanty lingerie, waiting for clients, in 2007. The city has also raised its legal age for first-time prostitutes to 21. All this and more because the Dutch are being inundated with cheap, disposable female flesh from Eastern Europe, the very sort of thing that used to plague Sweden. That is, until someone there decided to consult with actual Swedish prostitutes, to find out what they thought and felt. The result of that extensive consultation? The Swedish “sex purchase” law, which has since been adopted also in Norway, Finland and Iceland, making it truly a Nordic model. Now the Dutch, too, are tentatively looking into it. The Europarliament has approved it. And even France has adopted something similar. Why is that model so popular? Because it works. It reduces harm for women in the sex trade. And it enables them to exit at their own chosen moment, too.

What? A prostitution law written, if not literally by prostitutes, then certainly FOR them? By those who actually listened to them, and heard their concerns, and consulted them every step of the way? Police that protect the women, not the pimps, traffickers and johns? Social welfare agencies helping women get out of prostitution, and not into it, as the pimp lobby — oh sorry, “sex workers’ unions” — of Germany would have them do?

Heresy!

ISIS is a Goddess; ISIL is shit. Literally.

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Aliaa Elmahdy and a Swedish friend show ISIL what they really think of their world-domination plans. Story from EMMA:

For this symbolic protest, they risk their lives: An Egyptian and a Swede menstruate and shit on the flag of the IS-terrorists. The key player is Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, who joined FEMEN in 2012 and outraged the Arab world with her nude photos. Today, she lives in exile in Sweden.

The provocation could not be greater. Or the courage. Aliaa knows her brothers. She knows that nothing could humiliate them more than to stage something like this, which she did with the help of her fellow FEMEN in the network. She (apparently) menstruates with legs apart on the Islamist flag — because nothing is uncleaner to them than menstrual blood.

And the half-veiled woman beside her shits, literally and figuratively, on the flag. And she also holds the stink-finger up (just for that, a woman practically deserves the death penalty, in the eyes of these Islamists). On her naked backside she has drawn the FEMEN symbol: two breasts. Right and left, Kalashnikovs lie at the ready.

The provocation is making the rounds of the western virtual world. In the Arab world, no one dares to distribute the photo of the demonstration. It could, so it’s said, “injure religious feelings”. But even in the west, the demonstration is often only published in censored form: with vagina covered and a black bar over the breasts. Or cropped, as in the otherwise unscrupulous magazine, VICE. Pre-emptive obedience.

Aliaa herself is not available to journalists at the moment; the danger is too great for her. But Inna Shevchenko, one of the leading FEMEN members from Ukraine, now in exile in Paris, gladly gave Paris Match an explanation. She finds the “religious feelings” argument “hypocritical”. “The IS terrorizes the whole world with its photos and videos of executions,” says Inna. “We, however, don’t really kill [anyone]. We only kill through ridicule. We show [them]: ‘We shit on your ideas!’”

Aliaa Elmahdy has long been in danger, but she would surely not survive this demonstration in an Islamically-ruled land. She has been living since 2012 in exile in Sweden. Until now, she has only been able to survive in hiding. Asked if she regrets her actions, she once said: “I won’t change my opinion in the face of death threats. On the contrary!” Today, she would surely say the same.

Translation mine.

Yes, I realize there might be some danger for me in republishing this uncensored photo. Which even VICE, funnily enough, didn’t have the nerve to do; corporatism makes cowards of us all. And in translating the story from German to English, so it can easily be read by anyone anywhere in the world. Well, so what? I’m in a lot less danger than Aliaa, who has already been in mortal peril for two years and counting. I’m just some little blogger. I’m under the radar. I guess I can afford to do this, and to share my thoughts about it.

Whether you agree with the general tactics of FEMEN or not (and I myself am ambivalent; I think their strip-down demos work best when they are protesting prostitution, not religion), a fragmentary or censored message is as bad as none at all. A pulled punch has no impact. I think it’s more important that people be able to see this and consider it for themselves.

Looking at this, I began to wonder if this was even real. It could be, certainly. Then again, that could just as easily be fake blood dribbling in artistic filigree between Aliaa’s thighs. And that turd, so small and neat and perfectly round — does it even stink? Or is it a shellacked prop? Are the guns real AK-47s, or plastic replicas?

At least there is no doubt about the authenticity of the fuck-finger, and no ambiguity about its message.

And whether the image is real or not, the danger Aliaa faces is always the same. Hanged for a sheep or for a lamb, either way you hang. She’s in exile already. She’s been in hiding for two years. And who knows how many fatwas have been issued against her for the rather mild act of being photographed nude?

Inna Shevchenko makes the very good point that beheading-porn ought to be considered far more obscene, by any sensible person, than merely stripping off, shedding a few drops of blood, and pooping on a flag. And it is. I would be far more reluctant to republish that; hell, I’m reluctant to even look at it. And I am not a squeamish little thing. Even worse than all that gore-porn is what lies behind the beheading — of James Foley, and of anyone else ISIL has gotten its grubby hooks into.

And worst of all, it’s all for nought, because the Muslim world itself doesn’t want an “Islamic State”, much less one ruled by some jumped-up schmuck with a fancy watch. ISIL is not Islam, and that dude at the helm is not the Prophet Mohammed. However devout, most Muslims prefer democracy, and have no problem abiding by secular law; as long as they are not asked to renounce their religion, or violate their own values, they are content and at peace with modernity. And more than capable of fitting comfortably into society wherever they are. Muslim women don’t need to have their veils torn off any more than they need to be forced to wear them in the first place. More important to them than re-establishing some mythical caliphate of the distant past are the priorities of the present: food, water, health, education, social welfare, and infrastructure. You know, the same basic things that we westerners also consider non-negotiable. Surprise, we all need the same things! And woe betide any leader, elected or not, who can’t give us those things — or the means to obtain them for ourselves.

ISIL is bound to come to a bad end; it’s only a question of where, when and how. One doesn’t have to be a FEMEN member to see that the ISIL goons, and everything they are trying to establish, are shit already.

It behooves us all to consider what these women have to say. And it behooves us all to remember that half the world menstruates. And everybody shits. And if ISIL’s ideology is so easily injured by harmless biological realities like that, then it isn’t worth killing for, dying for, or submitting to.

Lebensborn, Israeli style?

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Nazi officers overseeing the baptism of a baby of the Lebensborn program. Germany, 1936. Photographer unknown. Source: German Bundesarchiv, via Wikimedia Commons.

That not-so-fine line between “Never Again” and “It’s not fascism when WE do it!” just got blurred yet again. This time, it’s by Israeli sperm-bank users, who are unconsciously copying a particularly dark chapter in German history:

Whereas the norm for women has usually been to find an intelligent Israeli male who’s also, as our love columnist Andria Kaplan would say, “tall, dark and handsome,” an Israeli sperm bank has noted that the new trend is for sperm donated by Israeli combat soldiers, former or present.

While having been active in the IDF seems to be the requisite, you get bonus points if you’ve served in a combat unit.

Ynet reported the news Sunday, after Rambam Medical Center noted the increase in requests for samples from IDF soldiers from women seeking insemination treatment.

“Women build for themselves an ideal profile and picture of who the future father of their children will be,” said Dina Amnipour, Director at the Ramban sperm bank laboratory.

That’s courtesy of the totally-not-ironically named Shalom Life (shalom means peace in Hebrew, remember?), which also celebrates the IDF’s totally-not-indiscriminate killing of Gaza’s Palestinian civilians, fully a quarter of them children. (I’ve totally not got my tongue planted firmly in cheek, here.)

Now, from the Jewish Virtual Library, a reality check, and a reminder of what this all reminds ME of:

“Lebensborn” translates to “wellspring of life” or “fountain or life.” The Lebensborn project was one of most secret and terrifying Nazi projects. Heinrich Himmler founded the Lebensborn project on December 12, 1935, the same year the Nuremberg Laws outlawed intermarriage with Jews and others who were deemed inferior. For decades, Germany’s birthrate was decreasing. Himmler’s goal was to reverse the decline and increase the Germanic/Nordic population of Germany to 120 million. Himmler encouraged SS and Wermacht officers to have children with Aryan women. He believed Lebensborn children would grow up to lead a Nazi-Aryan nation.

The purpose of this society (Registered Society Lebensborn – Lebensborn Eingetragener Verein) was to offer to young girls who were deemed “racially pure” the possibility to give birth to a child in secret. The child was then given to the SS organization which took charge in the child’s education and adoption. Both mother and father needed to pass a “racial purity” test. Blond hair and blue eyes were preferred, and family lineage had to be traced back at least three generations. Of all the women who applied, only 40 percent passed the racial purity test and were granted admission to the Lebensborn program. The majority of mothers were unmarried, 57.6 percent until 1939, and about 70 percent by 1940.

In the beginning, the Lebensborn were taken to SS nurseries. But in order to create a “super-race,” the SS transformed these nurseries into “meeting places” for “racially pure” German women who wanted to meet and have children with SS officers. The children born in the Lebensborn nurseries were then taken by the SS. Lebensborn provided support for expectant mothers, we or unwed, by providing a home and the means to have their children in safety and comfort.

It’s worth noting that this hush-hush program was condemned, and that it ultimately failed, on the grounds of immorality. Not because eugenics was in and of itself immoral (it would take a few more decades for THAT unsavory truth to finally dawn on the world), but because this program overtly encouraged unmarried women to have sex, typically with married men. The men in question were all selected from the ranks of the Nazi military hierarchy; fanaticism and “correct” physical traits were the selection criteria. The result was a spate of illicit affairs that created embarrassment for the men’s existing families, while leaving the other women and their children in poverty and disgrace, with no place else to turn, when the war ended.

Anni-Frid Lyngstad, better known as Frida of ABBA fame, was one of the unhappy children of that program. Her mother became pregnant by a married German army officer in Norway during the dying days of the war. Frida and her mother faced years of shame, and finally had to move to Sweden, as a result of all the cruel gossip and post-war revanchism. (It’s also worth noting that Frida, with her beautiful dark auburn hair, does NOT fit the Nazi ideal of an “Aryan” Nordic blonde. Nor, for that matter, do most Germans, including myself.)

Sperm banks were not yet a thing in the 1930s, if only because the technology to run them had yet to be developed. But if they had been, then the “immorality” question could have been skirted with ease, all in the interests of developing a super-race of super-soldiers for the Thousand-Year Reich. It probably wouldn’t even have mattered if the mothers were complete virgins. In fact, knowing how purity-obsessed the Nazi ideologues were, those prospective Blessed Virgins would likely have been the most highly prized breeders of all.

Just one more thing to think about when you blindly praise the morality of The Most Moral Army in the World™.

A few random thoughts on mental illness and suicide

Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges in The Fisher King. Parry (Williams), who is homeless and mentally ill, retells the story of the Fisher King and the Holy Grail.

In light of all the ignorant and shitty things being said in the wake of Robin Williams’s incredibly sad passing, I want to say a few things of my own to offset all the ignorance and bullshit. This may be rough and disjointed, but here goes:

Suicide is not an act of cowardice. One of the weird paradoxes of clinical depression is that it tends to cause thoughts of suicide, but also tends to inhibit the depressed person from acting out those thoughts by leaving that person exhausted and devoid of will. Just being alive under those circumstances is an incredible act of courage, so wanting out isn’t “cowardly”, but rather quite understandable. At the same time, it can also be grisly and horrifying just to contemplate…yes, even under those circumstances.

When I was depressed, I was constantly exhausted, yet constantly filled with anxiety, with a sensation of burning in my veins. I had panic attacks, which made me want to flee whatever place I was in, but sapped my physical strength so that I could hardly move. This painful paradox led to a lot of suicidal ideation for me. When my boyfriend took me to Niagara Falls, I couldn’t cross a high bridge without thinking of how much easier it would all be if I only found the courage to step over the railing and let myself fall through the cool air into the waters of the drainage canal, 70 metres below. Yes, I measured the drop…by tossing a stone and timing the splash, then calculating the distance based on acceleration due to gravity. And whenever I passed a railroad track and saw a freight train coming, I felt an almost magnetic pull toward it, and a horrific urge to lay my burning neck down on the nice, cool rail. It was like the world’s most perverse physics class.

These thoughts of suicide brought me no relief; on the contrary, they contributed to the horror and exhaustion of an already gruesome battle. I did not want to die. I only wanted the pain to end. The fact that my illness was suggesting its own “cure” in such a dire manner was a terrifying experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, not even my worst enemy.

I wasn’t being weak when I had suicidal thoughts. It took great strength to resist them, but it would have taken even greater strength to act them out!

The reason why some people on antidepressants commit suicide? Disinhibition. Prozac is legendary for giving depressed people back the energy the disease has sapped from them. It is also notorious for giving them the energy to take their own lives, where the depression had taken that away. This is why some people who are apparently recovering well on antidepressants “unexpectedly” take their own lives. Before prescribing any drug, a psychiatrist must ask them: Have you ever thought of suicide, or tried to commit it? If the answer is yes, any disinhibiting antidepressant is contraindicated.

I had suicidal ideations. I was so paralyzed by my illness that I couldn’t ask for help even though I needed it desperately. I should have seen a psychiatrist, should have gone on medication. Interestingly, one of the books I kept reading and rereading obsessively at the time was Colette Dowling’s You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way?, which was about how antidepressants help treat the chemical imbalances of the brain that cause depression. But I never found the inner wherewithal to call my doctor or ask for a psychiatric referral. I never went on medication. I ended up toughing the illness out, and eventually the grey fog lifted. But when I later learned how many meds are tied to suicide in patients who appeared to be getting better, I wondered if I hadn’t somehow dodged a bullet. After all, Prozac was very much in fashion back then…

No, going on medication isn’t a sign of weakness either. Nor does it have anything to do with a conspiracy to “dope” us all into submission. The right medication(s) can save sanity and lives. The problem lies not with antidepressants, but rather with careless prescribing. And since a lot of doctors here in Ontario are overstressed and overextended themselves, with patient demand outstripping the physician supply, it’s all too easy for prescribing mistakes to happen. Especially if Big Pharma companies aggressively promote the latest drugs to doctors in an effort to boost sales.

And, give me a fucking break, Lionel Fucking Tiger, psychiatric meds are also NOT about “feminizing” boys. Antidepressants are not made of estrogen! A kid who can’t sit still in class, listening and learning, is not a boy being a boy, but a troubled youngster in need of help. If a girl acted that way, everybody would see that there was something wrong with her; sex changes NOTHING. Nobody can succeed in life by simply being left to run amuck. Anyone who thinks medication can’t make a positive difference to troubled kids has never been one, seen one, or had to deal with one. So please, spare me the pop-psych bullshit about the “need” to “bring back masculinity” by avoiding “emasculating” drugs like antidepressants or Ritalin. Masculinity never even left the building, and to equate it with madness is an insult to men, just as equating femininity with tameness is an insult to women.

No, genius and madness do not go hand in hand, either. Being exceptionally bright doesn’t make you crazy. Neither does being crazy mean that you are automatically gifted with rare and incredible insights. Yes, sometimes the two coincide in the same person. But to claim that this correlation somehow equals causation is like saying that having brown hair causes you to also have blue eyes, or vice versa. Plenty of people have the one, but not the other. And the fact that some people have both simply means that mental illness can happen to anyone, even the best of us.

When I was depressed, my normally high intelligence felt remote, like it had abandoned me. My usual creativity was dead and gone. I had trouble carrying out a lot of mental tasks that would ordinarily have been easy for me. I felt guilty and stupid all the time. Later, when the fog lifted, I got those faculties back. But when I was in the fog, even just walking to work or school took all the strength I had. By day’s end, I barely had the energy to lift a fork. It was like my brain had died and gone to hell. I was definitely no genius when I was sick.

Normality is not boring; it is a blessing. My only fear is that it will desert me without warning again, as it has repeatedly done in the past. I have been healthy for twenty years now. It is work, but it isn’t half as effortful as simply trying to survive while in the grip of a major depression.

And finally: No, mentally ill people are NOT in need of a good pep talk. You can’t jolly them out of it. Believe me, my former boyfriend tried. All it did was make me feel worse. And the trip to Niagara Falls, which was meant to cheer me up? It only fueled my depression and anxiety. That city is the worst place in the world to take a depressed person who also gets panic attacks. Especially if, like me, you are already afraid of heights even when you’re perfectly well. And the fact that I found no cheer in the tawdry, tacky tourist attractions made me feel like a total wet blanket on my boyfriend and his buddies, who were determined to have a good time even if I couldn’t.

Don’t try to talk a mentally ill person out of being ill. You can’t do that. All you can do, at the end of the day, is listen. Offering to do just that is often enough. And yet, too many people can’t even do that. It’s because they can’t fathom how badly a depressed friend needs someone else who is willing to hear it. If you’ve never been depressed, how on Earth would you know? So don’t presume to know anything. Don’t try to tell your sick friend anything. Ask.

You have no idea how much your friend is dying to tell.

It was 100 years ago today…

Canada’s part in World War I began at the same time as Britain’s: on August 4, 1914, when the latter declared war on Germany after what was considered an “insufficient” response by Germany to a British order not to violate Belgium’s neutrality by passing through it en route to France, against whom Germany had declared war just the previous day.

Contrary to Sir Robert Borden’s claims that it was a war “not for lust of conquest, not for greed of possessions”, it was very much a clash of imperial interests. One has only to look at how many of the key players in the whole ungodly mess were emperors, and how many of them had recently annexed territory that wasn’t theirs (Austria-Hungary), or were claiming to “defend” the same, with an eye to annexing it themselves (Romanov Russia). And one has only to look at how many key players lost their emperors around the war’s end to realize that imperialism-disguised-as-honor was a load of bullshit that the common folk of those lands were no longer buying.

And Canada? Well, we’re still wrestling with that one. We’re no longer “Children of Empire”, a phrase that fell out of fashion after the end of the second world war — a war made inevitable by the unsettled animosities of the first, and especially by the ruinous conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. But back then, according to official accounts, “our boys” were all gung-ho for king and (distant, overseas) country. There was the usual clichéd appeal to honor and glory on this side of the Atlantic, and Anglo-Canadian enlistees were quick to sign on. (Non-Anglo immigrants and their sons, not so much. Especially not those who happened to be German. Perhaps because theirs was a kind of third-class citizenship to begin with, and because on top of this bigotry, they faced a lot of persecution from snobby twits with English names, and so felt, with justification, that the glorious British imperial cause was not worth dying for? Oh, probably.)

And speaking of clichéd appeals, if you were to have a drinking game based on the use of the word “gallant” (often in conjunction with “little Serbia”) in news and propaganda of the day, you’d have died of alcohol poisoning. The British Empire actually couldn’t have cared less about “gallant little” Serbia back in 1908, when it was first annexed by Kaiser Franz Josef. It was just some barbarous little backwater in the Balkans, its annexation largely ignored for a full five years. And it quickly fell by the wayside in the clash of imperialists, aside from its usefulness as a propagandist’s talking point. After all, you couldn’t sell imperial wars as a “noble cause” if you didn’t have a gallant little thing to squabble over, now, could you?

When I was 18 and obsessively devouring Rilla of Ingleside, a sequel to the Anne of Green Gables books (Rilla being the youngest daughter of Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe), I was blown away by all the noble turns of phrase in the passages describing the war. Those phrases, I now know, were not actually the author’s own, but were simply passed along without analysis or criticism. Although L.M. Montgomery was supportive of the war effort in her capacity as a dutiful Presbyterian minister’s wife, she privately agonized and suffered many doubts. Knowing where those howlers come from might not lessen my enjoyment of the overall story (which is, after all, just that of a teenage girl at home, looking on in helpless frustration and fear as her brothers, school chums and boyfriend get caught up in all this imperial background noise), but it kills my willingness to believe that there was anything at all noble about the war. The hearts of the boys and young men who went, yes, they were noble. As were the hearts of the families, friends and girls they left behind. But the emperor-kings and the countries they squabbled over, with no regard whatsoever for the millions of lives their imperialism would cost? Ugh. The wartime saying “lions led by donkeys” is most applicable here.

And frankly, the sheer brutality of the trenches, the barbed wire, the machine guns and the gas-shells is the very opposite of nobility and gallantry, and the destroyer of both. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) got its first official mentions in those days, when it was known as “shell shock” — a bit of a misnomer, since there was a lot more than just shelling to demoralize and destroy the minds of soldiers and civilian casualties alike.

Propaganda initiatives also played a devastating role in the barbarity, ushering in the modern era of psychological warfare. One of the most ignoble of these was the White Feather campaign, in which the “manhood” of those reluctant to enlist and fight was impugned, and women were brainwashed (by a British admiral, no less) into doing the impugning. (The irony of a big, brave man of the elites sending women to do his warmongering work of calling frightened lower-class boys sissies should not be lost on anyone. Neither should that of upper-class suffragists being man-talked into abandoning their work of campaigning for the vote in order to promote a most undemocratic, sexist and classist imperial war!)

While World War I may have given Canada an opportunity to prove its collective mettle (especially at Vimy Ridge, where Canadians notably triumphed after British and French forces both failed), I tend now to regard it as an opportunity largely lost. This country could have gone the same way as Germany and Russia in throwing off the yoke of royalty and empire, and it still has not. And we have been dragged into every bloody mess our “commonwealth” overlords have made ever since. In that sense, the real fight hasn’t ended yet…even now, 100 years after the first time we got dragooned into one of Britain’s imperial disasters. Our democracy and institutions are poorer for it.

Where our collective mettle has done much more for us, it has tended to be in peacetime, at home, and with challenges to the human-rights abuses of our colonial elites. The patriation of our constitution in 1982, along with the attachment of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, was the real marker of our coming of age. And yet our so-called government will not honor or even recognize it, preferring instead to point back to the myth of Vimy Ridge while trampling human rights here and now. We still have so much work to do on this front, and it won’t be glamorous. No bugles will call us to this battle from “sad shires”, only the increasingly atomized and isolated voices of the powerless. And I fear that they will not be heard.

I am bracing myself for a fresh onslaught of “patriotic” tripe about how we “came into our own” 100 years ago when we answered a distant foreign call to war in the affirmative, instead of standing up in opposition to it, like a country that has truly come of age. Once I used to believe the noble lie; no longer. And I’m not holding my breath for much in the way of serious analysis. If there is one thing that “noble” and “gallant” propaganda does very well, it is to drown out all criticism of empires and the twits who run them.

Sad meme of the day

brazil-germany-meme.jpg

Sadly, I was doing this, too…and I’m German! I only caught the tail end of the match, which I half-watched on the little kitchen TV while I prepared some snow peas from my garden for the freezer. I did NOT feel like celebrating when I saw the final score, either. I was really, sincerely embarrassed by what reeked of overkill. And my heart ached for the Brazilian fans, too. They were too sad to riot, and I honestly think the police could have done without all the light-flashing paddywagons outside the stadium. (Really. Do they think their own people are uncivilized? Ugh. Arrest some foreign hooligans already, you guys.)

But you know what else embarrasses me as a German? THIS.

Ray Whelan, confidant of Sepp Blatter and director of the company with the exclusive right to sell packages of World Cup tickets, spent last night in a police station, accused of heading an illegal ticket sales ring.

The director of Match Hospitality was arrested at the Copacabana Palace hotel in Rio de Janeiro, the same where all the FIFA heads are staying. This as part of a police investigation in which 11 other persons have already been detained. After paying a fine and surrendering his passport, he was let go.

Whelan, who is not an employee of FIFA, acted as the visible head of Match, a company based in Switzerland and controlled by the Mexican brothers, Jaime and Enrique Byrom. In 2007, Match paid 240 million euros to FIFA for the exclusive right to sell World Cup tickets and travel packages for the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, many of them for VIP clients.

According to police spokesman Fabio Barucke, the investigation took place without the recognition or the co-operation of FIFA. Days ago, also as part of Operation Jules Rimet, Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, executive director of Atlanta Sportif, a business which had signed an agreement with Match for the World Cup, was arrested. It appears that the Algerian businessman is one of the key players in this illegal trafficking network.

It bears recalling that in 2012, Match admitted that the sale of local concessions had already permitted it to recoup its 240 million euro investment, and that from then on, a profit margin was guaranteed. A few weeks later, FIFA renewed its contract with the Byrom brothers, who will also administrate the tickets sales for Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

The ties between FIFA and the Byroms date back to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, even though it was not until eight years later that they began to collaborate as an official agency. One of the principal investors of Match Hospitality is Infront Sports and MEdia, whose executive director is Philippe Blatter, nephew of the FIFA president.

FIFA spokesperson Delia Fischer lamented what had happened, and assured that “anyone who commits a crime will be sanctioned, no matter who it may be.”

Her declaration came at a time when it became known that Philippe Blatter is owner of a business with a minority stake in Match Hospitality.

Several days ago, the Rio de Janeiro police arrested 39 people for illegal buying and selling of tickets around Maracaná stadium during the the quarter-final match between France and Germany.

Translation mine.

Sepp Blatter, of course, is German, as is his nephew. FIFA’s corruption is much talked about in general, and his blunders in particular. And this latest disgrace, though unrelated to today’s bloodletting on the pitch, is just terribly painful. It’s things like this that make me ashamed of even that tiny common thread I hold. The lovely, warm-hearted Brazilians deserve better than this from FIFA, after all the millions and billions of dollars that they themselves invested in the hosting of the event…and all the blood they’ve shed in making it happen.

No, of COURSE misogyny is not a problem anymore. Silly ladies!

misogyny-hamster.jpg

Awwww. Isn’t that a cute widdle hammy-wamster? It sure is. A pity that what it stands for isn’t nearly so adorable.

Yes, folks, I’m talking about misogyny today. The M-word. The one that half the population fears, and the other half doesn’t seem to know exists.

The half of the population that fears it isn’t all women. Some lucky ladies are so privileged that they can’t even see misogyny, much less how it affects them, how narrowly it circumscribes every aspect of their lives. The half that fears it is a mixed bag of genders, but what we have that the other half doesn’t is the wits to recognize the monster behind that cute widdle fuzzy golden face. And to dread it, knowing that we are up for one helluva fight.

What must it be like to live on the other side? The privileged side, the one that doesn’t even see the problem? The side that is mostly, but not all, male? The side that has internalized misogyny so the boys will like them better?

Well, here are some clues.

How about the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, who don’t seem to see a problem if a religious doctor privileges private “conscience” over a woman’s basic human right to complete medical care? Ontario is a big province, and not all of us live in cities where, if one doctor refuses to treat us, we can simply flip through the vast phone book until we find another who will. In rural and northern areas, women often have to travel many miles just to see a doctor at all. What happens if that doctor is one of those who say “Nope, I don’t do abortions or birth control, because God won’t love me if I do”? Where else do you go, when you have to get on a small airplane and fly hundreds of miles south just to see THAT useless halfwit?

Why, you just go home, to your kitchen, like a good little lady. Stay barefoot and pregnant and out of sight. That’s where you go.

But wait, that’s how it is for the half of us with the wits to know and fear misogyny. We’re still trying to figure out how that other half lives. The kind that says we belong in concentration camps and that only a few of us should be kept alive, in semi-starvation, for breeding purposes. Can’t forget about them, can we? After all, they dominate our world, whether we realize it or not.

Oh yeah…about that concentration-camps thing. Did you know Elliot Rodger’s grandfather was among the first to photograph the victims of Bergen-Belsen? I only found that out today, while looking for links to insert in the above paragraph. But wow, that’s one helluva clue. I can see through this that to live on the other side is to be possessed of a very twisted and minimal sense of human decency…and no sense of irony whatsofuckingEVER.

And for those who think there’s no connection between a young suicidal megalomaniac, Nazi death camps, and doctors who refuse to treat women as fully adult, autonomous human beings, capable of making their own medical decisions and with a right to expect doctors to abide by them, let me remind you here and now that the Nazis didn’t believe in abortion either. And that they rewarded women for bearing lots of children, Quiverfull-style.

My own paternal grandmother got a Mother’s Cross for having four children — and the irony of that hit home when my grandpa dared to complain about how Germany had gone to shit since the Nazis were in power. He got called up on the carpet by the Gestapo, and the first words out of the officer’s mouth were “Sie haben vier Kinder…” (“You have four children…”)

It was a straight-up death threat. The Gestapo man was saying, in not so many words, that if my grandpa wanted his four acceptably-German children to live, he’d better shut the fuck up about the Nazis. If he’d made good on that threat, my dad would not be here today, and neither would I.

And, mind you, these were the same Nazis who set up “life camps” for unwed mothers to spawn the next generation of “pure”, “Aryan” denizens of the “Thousand-Year Reich”.

I’m sorry, I’m not doing a very good job at all of getting how these misogynists think, am I? It’s all hurting my poor widdle lady-brain. And so early in the morning, too.

Guess I’d better toddle off to my kitchen and start cooking lunch, now.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Tania the Immortal

tania-in-havana

Tamara “Tania” Bunke (circled, and in inset, above) was a many-faceted, multi-talented young woman. Fluent in at least three languages, she worked as a translator/interpreter in pre-unification East Germany, Cuba, and Argentina. She was also an intelligence agent and a dedicated Communist…and in the end, a guerrilla who died fighting the CIA-backed Barrientos dictatorship in Bolivia. Her remains were initially buried in Vallegrande, Bolivia, but were later repatriated to Cuba, where they lie in the same Santa Clara mausoleum as those of her famous comrade, Che Guevara, also in the picture. Her memory, however, remains very much alive everywhere she went, both in Cuba and in present-day Germany:

Hans Modrow, honorary president of the German party, Die Linke (The Left), presented the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) yesterday with several belongings of Tamara Bunke Bider (a.k.a. Tania the Guerrilla), who fought alongside Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Bolivia.

Among the possessions are a uniform shirt and pants, a note pad, a school notebook, photographs and letters. Modrow made the presentation in representation of Cubasí, a German organization in solidarity with the island, which kept the objects until now.

Nadia Bunke, Tania’s mother, treasured the belongings until her death. Later, they were given to Cubasí.

“We will work to keep Tania’s memory alive,” said Modrow. He added that she left her mark in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), through her work in various leftist organizations.

Carolina Aguilar, an Argentine member of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), recounted moments from Tania’s life, from her birth in Argentina on November 19, 1937, until her murder in Bolivia on August 31, 1967, emphasizing her time in Cuba when both women were members of the Institute of Argentine-Cuban Friendship, which offered aid to the nascent revolution directed by Fidel Castro.

Aguilar said that Tania became a heroine and an example to young Latin American and Caribbean women.

Kenia Serrano, president of ICAP, announced the creation of the Tamara Bunke Bider Club of Voluntary Translators, in honor of this woman who worked as an interpreter of languages such as Russian, German and Spanish at various world events.

Later, Serrano presented Modrow with a portrait of Tamara by the Cuban painters Dausel Valdés Piñeiro and Abel Morejón Gala.

Translation mine.

Honor and dignity to the memory of Tania the Guerrilla!

Carina Vogt’s twofold victory

So, women can’t ski-jump, eh? Tell that to this awesome German, who’s as good as any man…and proved it yesterday:

Insanity! For the first time in Olympic history, women were allowed to ski-jump. And then a German police officer candidate won the gold! 22-year-old Carina Vogt of Schwäbisch-Gmünd wasn’t even a favorite. She was even happier after her two jumps, of 97 and 103 metres.

Nobody could grasp it. Carina Vogt landed the best jump, with 103 metres, on her first run. Even commentator Dieter Thoma forgot himself: “Lick me!” hollered the former ski-jumping champ into the microphone, and from there on in, couldn’t stop grinning. He didn’t have to, either, because after the strong-nerved policewoman’s second jump, the leaderboard showed what no one had expected: Gold for Germany!

Even the winner was in a state of shock. As the first reporters stuck their microphones under Carina Vogt’s nose, she could only cry. It was a big, surprising win, and that in more ways than one.

“This is a great moment for equal rights,” said ARD sports host Gerhard Delling of the first ladies’ ski-jumping event in Olympic history. Then a short report showed how hard the women had fought to be there on the jumping-ramp. In 2009 they had even sued the International Olympic Committee for discrimination, because the men’s federation didn’t want to let the women jump at the 2010 Olympic winter games in Vancouver.

In Sochi, things were finally ready. The only sad notes: Those who had fought against the IOC four years ago for women’s ski-jumping, landed in last place. World champion Sarah Hendrickson of the USA was battling a torn knee ligament; her countrywoman Lindsey Van had bad luck with the wind. And the German, Ulrike Gässler, who also took part in the protest, was weakened by the flu.

Carina Vogt knows how much she owes these pioneers: “Before me, two generations of female ski-jumpers brought the sport to where it is today.” Yesterday, she did them all proud.

Translation mine.

Meanwhile, even as history was being made in his own country, some Russian backwardnik was saying this. Guess he never heard that women’s uteri don’t dislodge that easily.

And that a good pair of ovaries can take you more than a tenth of a kilometre through the air.

Music for a Sunday: Polyushko Polye, three ways

Today, we ride a troika. First off, the Red Army choir doing a killer rendition of my favorite old Soviet tune:

And now, the late, great Ivan Rebroff…

…who, despite his stage name, was actually a German (and won medals for distinguished conduct, not in the Red Army or as a Cossack, but in the Bundeswehr). He had me fooled for the longest time, since he sang in both languages quite fluently. He’s so good that he can even accompany himself with the clip-clop of the horses (which the Red Army choir needed a drummer to do). And, interestingly, he never married. Rumor had it he was gay. He never came out, so we’ll just have to draw our own conclusions.

Meanwhile, there’s no doubt about this Brit:

…who sings his own interpretation of the same song over a chorus of Russian navy sailors.