Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Un-Civil Political War in Washington DC

Norm Ornstein and Thomas E Mann conclude in this essay in the WaPo that the stalemate in Congress is not just due to policy differences or ideological conflict.  Reason has nothing to do with any of it.  The stalemate is just downright tribal passions.  Americans plain hate each other.

To Syria or Not

James Fallows in The Atlantic provides some needed perspective as we ponder yet another military adventure in the Middle East.
The perspective is not so much his as that of exhausted members of the US Military who are not at all enthusiastic about a strike on Syria.  We hear from one military wife in particular who seems to speak for many.
As an actively serving officer’s wife, I would like to offer a short explanation/response/defense for the frustrated officer (presumably NOT my husband!)[JF note: correct, NOT]  that Mr. Russo responded to.I think that the frustration the officer expressed about the clueless “We don’t know war” stems from a general “last straw” feeling in the military community.  Undeniably, any sort of military option in Syria exponentionally increases the risk that we are going to have  a prolonged or extended military action/presence there. The current administration (and Congress, to fairly share the blame) treats service members like disposable minions.

We are all disposable minions these days, which probably explains the powerlessness people feel as officialdom once again gives us the August 1914 excuse:  "It's gonna happen because it's gonna happen."

Gassing over 1400 people with sarin is indeed a war crime; but, so is the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians that has been going on for 2 years without us so much as raising a peep of protest.  The only real way to stop these kinds of war crimes is to somehow stop the civil war.  Diplomacy has largely failed, not least because of so many other countries playing regional politics and using the combatants in Syria as proxies.  A military action risks involving us in a tangled snake pit of a conflict with no end in sight.  I'm not sure that there is much we can do or should do, other than evacuate the people who want to get out.

Besides, after Iraq, our credibility in these matters is zero.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Homophobia is Bad

... but opposition to same sex marriage is not.


 The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is saying as much, and he did so before a very gay-hostile crowd of British evangelicals. During the ceremonial opening of a new HQ for the Evangelical Alliance, the Archbishop made this striking admission:
 ... the Church has not been good at dealing with homophobia ... in fact we have, at times, as God’s people, in various places, really implicitly or even explicitly supported it.“And we have to be really, really repentant about that because it is utterly and totally wrong.”
 And he followed that up with an even more striking statement:
“And we have seen changes in the idea about sexuality, sexual behaviour, which quite simply [mean that] we have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 think not only that what we are saying is incomprehensible but also think that we are plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice."  
Is this the beginning of a thaw in relations to LGBT people by Christian hierarchs?

The sympathetic tone (though not the substance) of recent remarks by the new Pope about gay priests leads some to believe that we are on the brink of some kind of break in the ice.
I remain very skeptical.
 The Pope's tone might be a departure from his predecessors (OMG! He said "gay!"), but the basic substance remains the same; gays remain a freak of nature, an aberration in natural law, "intrinsically disordered" pathological beings worthy of our pity (the polite form of contempt).

What about Canterbury? He hasn't changed his mind about his opposition to the marriage equality bill. He made a real effort in Parliament, speaking personally against the bill in the House of Lords. The hierarchy of the Church of England suffered a bitter defeat in Parliament (and by implication, a stinging rebuke from British voters).   Like the Pope's remarks, I think these statements by Canterbury are more form than substance. I think they are less a real change of mind than an attempt to do damage control. As Andrew Brown recently pointed out in The Guardian, the Church hierarchy is now forced to admit that opinion in the pews is very deeply divided over same-sexuality, especially along generational lines, even among evangelicals. Opinion on the subject among the laity is actually much closer to secular views than those of their religious leaders. The religiously sanctioned homophobia (which Canterbury now admits) continues to offend and alienate the larger population, especially among those under 35.

 Perhaps the Archbishop feels a little more independent than his predecessor, Rowan Williams. Central Africa's deeply homophobic churches continue to descend to ever more violent and draconian excesses. The Russian Orthodox Church explicitly blesses the current anti-LGBT pogrom by the Russian government and silently condones the brutal murders of young gay men, provoking a reaction of shocked revulsion in Western public opinion.
 Justin Welby may not feel quite so bound to appease these churches as did his predecessor Rowan Williams.

 That may be, but there is no evidence of any warming of feelings by Lambeth Palace toward the Episcopal Church USA. Canterbury may not understand Episcopal polity, and he probably doesn't care. Welby may want to put some distance between himself and those other homophobic churches, not because he opposes them, but because being associated with them looks bad.

 Once again, Christopher Seitz dominates the comment thread on this topic on Thinking Anglicans. Here is his opening salvo that starts another long comment thread:
Incoherent? Why would it be incoherent to condemn homophobia and vote against 'marriage' between people of the same gender? Wasn't this the same view held by his predecessor, and Christians of wide scope worldwide? People can condemn +Welby and +RDW for holding this position, but incoherent it isn't. 
 For once, I actually agree with Seitz (pace JCF), but not for the reasons he thinks. I think Welby, like the Pope, hasn't changed his mind on anything. He's just changing his publicity tactics.

 As usual in these comment threads, Seitz (who starts these ruckuses) complains about being ganged up upon:
"That's right, Pat, we support miscegenation laws and are homophobic bigots -- that's what concluding the BCP understanding of Christian marriage, as faithful Christian belief and practice, now amounts to..." 
yadda, yadda, yadda.

 It never ceases to amaze me how thin-skinned right wing Christians can be. Make them a little uncomfortable and they start writing a new chapter for themselves in Fox's Book of Martyrs. The USA and Britain are hardly Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood. No mobs are coming to burn their churches. None of them have to pay any penalty tax for being Christians. None of them are denied housing, employment, or public accommodation for being Christian. No neighborhoods, schools, or professions are denied to them. They can walk the streets and ride the buses in relative safety. No one in the West gets beaten up for being Christian.

On the other hand, you are in danger of being beaten up on the street for being gay, and in 29 states in the USA, you can be denied employment, housing, and public services.

 Gay folk like me, and our friends, have to listen to stuff like this constantly, and this guy is not all that exceptional (of course Thinking Anglicans would NEVER run anything like this; yes it's rude, but this is how a lot of -- maybe most -- Americans experience Christianity these days):

Hat tip to Joe Jervis at JoeMyGod who collects this stuff. The religious right in this country regularly provides Jervis with an embarrassment of riches.


A dissenting opinion from the great Erika Baker followed by dissents to her dissent from the comment thread on Thinking Anglicans (no sarc-remarks from Dr Seitz, I promise):

Interested Observer,
what do you want from him?
Damned if he changes, damned if he doesn't?
From the beginning he has criticised homophobia in the church. He's the first one to tackle the evangelicals head on.
But he's in this half way place where people genuinely believe that they can object to the extremes of anti gay sentiment while maintaining an equal but different outlook. And yes, he made a terrible mistake when he voted for the fatal amendment.
It cannot be done.
He will discover this.
I’m always surprised that when previously staunchly anti gay people change their mind, one half of the liberal part of church lays into them for not having changed their mind earlier, for ever having held different opinions, for changing their mind too little too late, for not atoning enough – I understand the emotions but it’s deeply counterproductive.
If we really want change we have to encourage and welcome it wherever it start to appear.
I’m no friend of Justin Welby’s, the House of Lords vote put him in a very very low place as far as I’m concerned.
But I do applaud what he is doing now and I want to do what I can to encourage him along on his path.
Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 30 August 2013 at 5:06pm BST

Erika, I would be happy to see Welby change his mind, if there was any evidence that he had changed his mind.
He's reaffirmed his belief that voting against SSM was the right thing, ie that although he accepts it's going to happen, he still things SSM is wrong. He's also recently reaffirmed his position that sex should only take place in marriage, marriage he thinks should be denied to gays. How is he not homophobic if his position is that all homosexuals should be celibate? And if that isn't his position, how does he square his positions with regard to SSM (against) and sex outside marriage (against)?
So I don't believe Welby's position has moved. He opposed, and opposes, same-sex adoption and same-sex marriage, and thinks that couple of the same sex shouldn't have sex. If that's the new, anti-homophobic Welby, I'd hate to see the other one.
Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 31 August 2013 at 3:25am BST

And there we have it 'Interested Observer'. It is all about sex, and particularly the shiboleth of no sex outside marriage. The ABC has got himself into the catch 22 position. No sex outside marriage, gays can't marry, gays can't have sex because they can't marry.
The poor man is terribly conflicted yet doesn't yet seem to recognise those conflcts. One has to give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that he is trying to understand the world as it is. He also seems to be beginning to see the sheer nastiness of much of the church's respose to gltb people and how out of touch it is with the vast majority of the popuation. But until he and conservative Christians resolve this issue in the end their words remain hollow pieties.
Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 31 August 2013 at 8:54am BST 

"He also seems to be beginning to see the sheer nastiness of much of the church's respose to gltb people " 
But he sees that as a PR problem, not a problem of decency and principle. So far as I can tell, Welby's personal position is that homosexuality is wrong, homosexuals should repent and stop doing those things that they do, and ideally should stop being homosexual. Adoption, marriage and other institutions of the state should be closed to them, and although they shouldn't be actively punished for their sin, it should be made clear to them that they are wrong in their thought and deed.
But he realises that saying that in public is bad PR, and makes the CofE look vile. So he's trying to frame a position which says that homosexuality is in fact OK, so long as homosexuals don't do anything associated with being homosexual, and build themselves nice Ikea closets to live in.
He's not moving the CofE's doctrine, or his own thinking, a millimetre. What he's trying to do is rebrand bigotry as a sort of regrettable foible that we should excuse because he's just so loveable, while to the faithful of his evangelical flock he maintains the same message of exclusion, distaste and segregation. His position is, at root, dishonest: he wants people to believe he's a thinking man, when in fact there isn't an inch of daylight between his position now and the position of the most staunch anti-gay evangelical. No marriage. No adoption. No sex. No acceptance.
Welby will be remembered as a man who continued to be a bigot while all around him society was becoming decent. The CofE, in choosing him as ABC, has opted to fight a culture war that in the UK has essentially no troops, and has rendered the CofE politically impotent.
Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 31 August 2013 at 12:41pm BST

McJob Creation

The average age of minimum wage workers is now 35 with 88% of them over age 20.

More than 25% of all fast food workers are raising children.

I remember being paid $7.25 an hour working as a bookstore clerk ... 16 years ago.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50 Years Ago Today

Photo Art by Nikkolas Smith

Voting, a right or a privilege?

Poll tax receipt from Miller County, Arkansas

Poll tax receipt from San Francisco

Poll tax receipt from Bowie County, Texas

Literacy Test from Louisiana


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The March on Washinton 1963

The 50th Anniversary of the March will be next Wednesday, August 28.  That will also be my first day of classes, and I expect to be too busy and too pre-occupied to commemorate the March that day.  So, I'll do it now.

We remember the 1963 March on Washington now for Dr. Martin Luther King's most famous speech that day, 'I Have A Dream'.  But, the March itself was a major watershed moment in American politics and the first such march of its kind, a mass protest march on the capital city.  Such marches are commonplace spectacles now, but they were completely new and unknown in 1963.  The Washington DC police and the National Park Service now view these marches as matters of routine complete with protocols and procedures.  There were no such protocols in 1963.  Washington DC was filled with anxiety in the days leading up to the March.  One editor in Life magazine said that Washington had not experienced such 'invasion' jitters since the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861.  Local authorities feared rioting.  Bars and liquor stores were closed for the day.  All of the police force was assigned duty that day plus firefighters who were deputized.  National Guard units and all the military bases in the area were put on alert.  The last thing the Kennedy White House wanted was a repeat of the violence in Birmingham, Alabama in the nation's capital.
The days leading up to the March were filled with threats and dire warnings.  The sound system at the Lincoln Memorial was vandalized the night before the March.  The Army Signal Corps repaired it only after hours of phone calls from March organizers.  People arriving by bus and by train to participate in the March did not know what to expect and were afraid.

And arrive they did by the tens of thousands.

A chartered bus from the University of Wisconsin arrives.

And another one from Queens College in New York

Buses left from Boston to Little Rock carrying people to the March; 450 charter buses left from Harlem full of Marchers.  Most buses traveled through the night to get to Washington.

What strikes me when I see pictures of the Marchers, and read and hear their memories is not only how serious the occasion was, but how happy people were to be there.  Some remember the March as one of the happiest experiences of their lives.

Having been to 2 such marches in Washington myself, I remember the experience.  I remember the happiness.  I especially remember that the 1993 March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights had that quality of joy, from the bus ride down to the bus ride back.  I met new friends at the 1993 March and ran into old friends there.  I remember the exhilaration I felt seeing the crowds get larger and denser as we walked from the buses to the Mall, and I will never forget the spectacle of subway stations and stairways packed with marchers.  I can only imagine what the Marchers in 1963 must have felt, especially those many who went through so much to get there.

The 1963 March was the culmination of 9 months of planning and negotiations by A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin.  Randolph envisioned a march for economic justice and civil rights from the beginning.  Organized Labor was divided over the March.  The Amalgamated Clothing Workers played an integral role in planning the March.  Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers enthusiastically supported the March and joined it.  George Meaney of the AFL-CIO wanted nothing to do with it.
We forget how central a role issues of economic justice played in the Civil Rights movement.  Martin Luther King to the end insisted that there is no freedom in poverty, that the freedom to starve is no freedom at all.  The participation of so much organized labor in the March created an opportunity for racist demagogues (like Strom Thurmond) to declare that the March was communist and subversive.

Dr. Martin Luther King was the featured speaker at the March, but it was not his idea and he did not organize it.  The March was the culmination of a vision of A. Phillip Randolph that dated back to the 1940s, to the Second World War when he first proposed a march on Washington to demand fair pay for war workers and soldiers.  He called off the march when Franklin Roosevelt ordered an end to pay discrimination in the war effort.  The Civil Rights movement which began in the 1950s brought that idea back and expanded it further.  Bayard Rustin did the actual organizing and the negotiating with regional civil rights leaders, labor leaders, political leaders, church leaders, the Washington DC police, and the Kennedy administration to make the March happen.  For all his hard work, he was rewarded with scorn and obscurity.  Rustin was openly gay, a pacifist, and a former communist.  Strom Thurmond and J. Edgar Hoover tried to make Rustin a lightning rod and use him to scuttle the whole March.  There were a lot of people in the leadership of the March who were hostile to Rustin.  Indeed, later Black radicals vilified Rustin and made him an object of homophobic scorn and hatred.  Rustin largely stayed behind the scenes, but Life magazine's cover on the March featured him together with Randolph.

It is only now, 50 years later, that Rustin will be posthumously recognized for his work on the March and awarded the Medal of Freedom.


Amazingly, all three major networks broadcast the March on teevee.  That kind of coverage would be unimaginable now (the only exception I can think of now would be Fox News covering Tea Party rallies in Washington).


There are a number of things about this photo of Dr. Martin Luther King making his famous speech that I find striking.  Everyone is dressed for church.  Women wear hats and dresses and most of the men wear coat and tie, and on a hot day in August.  On the one hand, it looks painfully uncomfortable, and on the other, the Sunday clothes give the event a kind of seriousness and sense of momentous occasion.  And yet for all the formality of dress, how informally people appear to be crowded here.  People sitting so close to the speaker and on the Memorial steps would be unimaginable in a much more 'managed' and security conscious age as ours (his only security was a lone park ranger which you can see behind him).  I like these photos of Dr. King embedded in the crowd best.  He considered himself part of this event, and the thousands of people there did their part as much as he did his.

That's the thing I always find to be so remarkable about politics, especially in a democracy; just showing up really matters.  Freedom and Dignity mattered to enough people in August of 1963 to show up in numbers estimated at 200,000 to 300,000, the largest rally ever seen in Washington up to that time.  Of those hundreds of thousands, an estimated 60,000 were white or not Black.  That huge turnout by everyone mattered, creating the critical mass to push the Civil Rights movement to the next level and to create the momentum to pass the Civil Rights Act in the following year, and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.  What's more, the March on Washington in 1963 was one of those very rare and fleeting moments when the USA (or at least a part of it) really did become a living embodiment of Freedom, Justice, and Equality, where Dr. King's vision of the Beloved Community came to pass if only for an instant in that one place.

A very striking photograph of the March from the Lincoln Memorial by James KW Atherton

An almost forgotten highlight of the 1963 March, Mahalia Jackson:


A group from Brooklyn, members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) walked the whole way from Brooklyn to Washington DC.  It took them 13 days walking down US 1.

Here are the memories of one of those marchers, Lawrence Cumberbatch, who was 16 at the time.

Lawrence Cumberbatch is 4th from the right wearing a white hat in this photo of the Brooklyn marchers.


Here is an excellent article by Harold Meyerson on the circle of socialists around Bayard Rustin and A. Phillip Randolph, and the central role labor movements played in the conception and organization of the 1963 March on Washington.  A forgotten centerpiece of the March and the whole Civil Rights movement is economic justice.
From Meyerson's essay:

King’s speech, of course, was the part of the rally that immediately became history, and rightly so. But neither he nor the other speakers focused exclusively on the kind of racial discrimination that Kennedy’s bill would outlaw. A look at the signs that the marchers carried, or a reading of the speeches they heard, makes clear that the need to create a more just economy was a central theme as well. “Yes, we want public accommodations open to all citizens,” Randolph proclaimed in the speech that opened the rally, “but those accommodations will mean little to those who cannot afford to use them.” Two days later, he made this argument even more pointedly at a post-march conference convened by the Socialist Party. “The white sharecroppers of the South have full civil rights,” he said, “but live in the bleakest poverty.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Visions and Revisions in My Studio

I've been very busy in my studio while the weather has been pleasant here.  The heat returns this week, and I have to get ready for the coming semester, so I won't be spending quite so much time there.
I'm doing one new painting (a canvas is stretched and ready for another new one), and revisiting a couple of older paintings, one from earlier this year.

I substantially repainted a lot of a painting from this spring called David's Dad, a painting about David Wojnarowicz's childhood, about his violent alcoholic monster of a father, and David finding refuge in the critters of small creeks and ponds.

These are all my photos.  The lighting conditions were not ideal, so I apologize for the quality.

Here is the current version:

Here is the painting in its former state this last spring:

As you can see, a lot has changed.  I completely repainted the figure of young David.  I just sanded out the old one and started over again.  I drastically repainted the middle ground getting rid of the cattails, pushing back the shoreline, and adding more illegal dumping.  I also repainted the trees in the background.  I repainted much of the foreground, mostly adding some critters and repainting others.

Some details from the painting in its current state:

David is holding a rough green snake.  He had a special fondness for green snakes.  They're very beautiful, and though common, are hard to find.  I made the snake look more like a snake and less like a worm in this version.

Here is the new painting, Hustled, about the occasions in David Wojnarowicz's younger years of hustling when he was drugged, beaten, raped and almost killed about 3 times.  He describes these episodes in Seven Miles A Second, his comic book autobiography, and especially in The Waterfront Journals where he tells about these events happening to someone else (though they really happened to him).  This painting is not quite finished and I expect that it will also go through some revisions.

Here are some details:

I did a little work on Krazy Kat Landscape, mostly trying to get the moon right.  That turned out to be more of a task than I anticipated, and I'm still not completely happy with it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bloody Russia

As far as I am concerned, this ...

is the identical twin to this ...

When it comes to this kind of shit, the only difference between Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists is a shave... and in Russia with its bearded priests there is not even that.
Singling out gays is another version of the anti-semitic campaigns of the 19th and 20th centuries, a way of rallying the suckers around the flag by vilifying a vulnerable and despised population.  Like extreme Islamists, Russian nationalists associate gays with Western decadence and aggression.

The American right wing homophobes cheerleading Russia's pogrom like Bryan Fischer and Scott Lively should take a good look at the work of their champions.

Recently, there was an outstanding article on Daily Kos by a blogger identifying himself as Pico, someone who speaks Russian and has clearly had a lot of first hand experience with Russia.  He points out Russia's current spasm of homophobia is rooted in Russia's peculiar brand of nationalism, which in some ways is strikingly similar to American versions of nationalism, and in other ways is very different.
Pico points out that while the Russian Orthodox Church is growing in power and influence, it is not growing in membership.  Less than half of all Russians identify themselves as Orthodox Christians, and only a small fraction of those are regular church goers.  The Russian Orthodox Church is less an object of religious belief than of nationalist identity.  It was the Church that promoted the idea of Holy Russia with a messianic mission to the world for centuries.  That sense of messianic exceptionalism survived the 1917 Revolution and became central to the visions of Lenin and Stalin.  Since the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, Russia always saw itself as under threat and surrounded by enemies, a conception that sadly was not entirely mistaken.  Russia suffered all kinds of foreign aggression from the Teutonic Knights, Sweden, Napoleon, British and American interventions in the civil war that followed the 1917 Revolution, and culminating in Hitler's catastrophic invasion in World War II.  The word "survival" appears in a lot of Russian nationalist rhetoric.
Pico points out that since the early 19th century, there was a particularly anti-Western aspect to Russian nationalism:

The most pernicious aspect of this national movement was its rejection of what its founders considered the centerpiece of Western thought: Rationalism. If Catherine the Great's francophilia a century earlier had been bound up in Enlightenment thought, the 19th century Slavophiles would cast themselves as the anti-Enlightenment, focused instead on an intuitive, communal link between God, the community, and the natural world (sobornost'). It was the national antidote to the West's radical individualism. As one of the most well-known and oft-quoted lines of Russian poetry admonishes us, you can't understand Russia with your (rational) mind. (If you've read your Dostoevsky, you've heard this spiel before.) Instead of playing catch-up to Europe, what Russia needs to do is find its own "special path" [osobyi put'] (though as one sympathetic commenter put it, it appears to be a path to nowhere.) The "special path" is one of the most pervasive linchpins of contemporary political discourse in Russia, and Putin has wielded it effectively. Incidentally you'll recognize the word "path" [put'] in the root of a certain head-of-state's name [Putin]. The man has national self-identity built into his name!
Russian nationalists see same-sexuality as but more Western decadence, and a kind of Western plot to lower ethnic Russians' already very low birthrate.  Western racist movements vilify homosexuality for similar reasons, as a threat to racial survival.
Exceptionalism and messianism are not exactly unknown in American nationalism.  In an age of dramatic demographic change, American right wing nationalism certainly sees itself in a similar "survival" mode.

Pico points out that the complexity of this history should not paralyze us, that the worst would be to do nothing about Russia's homophobic pogroms.  I think we should take our lead from the very courageous Russian LGBT activists in Russia who are not calling for boycotts.

Pico also points out that Russia once had a large and extravagant gay culture, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Russia's LGBT activists remind their fellow citizens of that history in a series of striking posters and campaigns.

We all know about Tchaikovsky, but how about these others?

The great poet Marina Tsvetaeva who had passionate love affairs with men and women.

The great film director Sergei Eisenstein

Impresario of the Ballets Russe Sergei Diaghilev 
with the Ukrainian dancer and choreographer Serge Lifar

Rudolph Nureyev

And a painter from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that would make Paul Cadmus blush, Konstantin Somov who began his career in Russia and ended his days in Paris.


It turns out that gays and lesbians played a disproportionately large role in Russian literature in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Here are a few examples:

Mikhail Kuzmin who wrote Wings, a novel about a homosexual love affair with a happy ending, the first such in Russia.  This is Somov's portrait of Kuzmin.

The poet and translator Valery Pereleshin who lived most of his life in exile in Brazil.

Yevgeny Kharitonov was a writer and poet who wrote candidly about the gay subculture of the Soviet Union.  He was also a pioneering and influential literary modernist.  Most of his work went unpublished during his lifetime.  He died of a heart attack on the streets of Moscow in 1981.

  There are all sorts of gay rumors about one of the greatest of all Russian literary figures, Nikolai Gogol, but I can't confirm any of those.


Bloody Egypt

Egypt today is on the brink of civil war.  The revolution that began 2 years ago with so much hope now ends in horror.

The Egyptian regime admits to over 600 deaths nationwide in a brutal crackdown on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Muslim Brotherhood activists claim that number is around 2000.  The truth is probably somewhere between those 2 numbers.  In either case there was a catastrophic loss of life.  This bloodshed almost certainly puts an end to any hope of a negotiated settlement.  Once blood is spilled, passions of fury and vengeance are unleashed and all bets are off.

Egypt's Coptic Christians find themselves in the middle with angry mobs setting fire to churches, monasteries, and schools in cities throughout Egypt.

None of the main factions in this struggle could be described as liberal or democratic.  The Egyptian military is determined to cling to the privileged status it has enjoyed since the days of Nasser.  It will do nothing to loosen its hold on Egypt's government, and is determined to remain the final arbiter in all political matters.  The Muslim Brotherhood wants to transform Egypt into a theocratic state, not a liberal or democratic one.  It will use democratic means, if necessary, to achieve anti-democratic ends.  Their loyalty is less to Egypt in particular and more to a kind of pan-Islamic nationalism, to Sayid Qutb's vision of a restored universal caliphate.

Egypt's liberals, in their struggles with the Muslim Brotherhood's Islamism and former president Mohammed Morsi's increasingly autocratic rule threw in their lot with the Egyptian military.  Mohammed El Baradei's resignation from the vice presidency in the wake of Wednesday's massacre indicates a lot of second thoughts and some remorse over expecting something so undemocratic as the military to champion democratic and liberal causes.

Now, Egypt is going through a paroxysm of bloodshed that may well end in some worse kind of autocratic rule, either in another military dictatorship or an Islamist theocratic state.