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    Ann Rostow: Complacent Toady in the Crosshairs

    By Ann Rostow–

    Complacent Toady in the Crosshairs

    I have turned against Brett Kavanaugh, not because of his bad behavior in high school, but because of his sanctimonious posture during the hearings, during which he appeared to lie, he evaded straightforward answers for no reason and he sat smugly confident in his inevitable rise to America’s top court. I began to dislike him so much that I no longer cared that he might likely be “better” than any other Trump nominee. 

    He has a nasty little mouth, which is probably not his fault. But it’s something I would not have noticed had he behaved like a human being at the Senate. 

    Even so, I was initially fair-minded enough to dismiss allegations from high school. High school hijinks should stay in high school, otherwise who among us dare cast the first stone? But then came the details. And the biggest detail to me was the one about the hand over the mouth to stop her protests. Boys will be boys, but that’s not a boy thing. That’s the sort of simmering brutality that transcends high school. That’s like torturing animals; you can’t dismiss it.

    Despite the gravity of the offense, I would have still thought we should move on had Kavanaugh said something like this: “Look, I wasn’t exactly a mature kid in high school. I don’t recall this, but I won’t say it didn’t happen and I feel terrible to think that I caused emotional damage that lasted for years. I have called X and apologized … ” etc. etc.

    But to flatly lie? To say unequivocally that nothing like this ever happened? After the woman has taken a lie detector test and discussed the incident with her husband and (note taking) therapist? That should put more than a few nails in his coffin. 

    I recently read another article about Kavanaugh seeming to lie when asked about his relationship with former Ninth Circuit chief judge Alex Kozinski. Kozinski was famous for his ribald sense of humor, joked constantly about sex and often sent dirty jokes around to his email list. Anyone and everyone who came in contact with the man was aware of this aspect of his personality, and indeed, the judge was eventually forced off the bench on harassment charges.

    Yet when asked about Kozinski, Kavanaugh, who clerked for the man, told the Senate: “I do not remember receiving inappropriate emails of a sexual nature from Judge Kozinski.” When asked again in a different way, Kavanaugh repeated his pat answer word for word: “I do not remember receiving inappropriate emails of a sexual nature from Judge Kozinski.” Not only is this improbable, but Kavanaugh would have risked nothing by saying that, of course, he received risqué jokes from Kozinski, just like everyone else who came in contact with the man. Instead, falsehood seems to be Kavanaugh’s instinctive default position. Check out Slate for the original article, written by one of Kozinski’s female clerks.

    But first, check one of the few non-obscene jokes from Alex Kozinski’s repertoire: 

    “A man is driving down a road. A woman is driving down the same road in the opposite direction.

    As they pass each other, the woman leans out the window and yells, ‘Pig!’

    The man immediately leans out his window and yells out the ‘b’ word.

    They each continue on their way, and as the man rounds the next corner, he crashes into a pig in the middle of the road.”

    (Cue: Drumroll/cymbal)

    And Another Thing …

    Before I continue, I just heard that Kavanaugh now claims he wasn’t even at this party, which is odd considering Professor Ford herself barely recalls the exact date of the get-together. I’m assuming that the judge and his handlers have recognized that his flat-out denial is unconvincing. Why would a woman put herself through the ringer with a made-up story for no reason? And why add a witness?

    On the other hand (the schemers figure) perhaps we can say that this is all a big misunderstanding! Yes, she was assaulted. But that was some other guy! Not our Brett. Maybe it was Bert! Bert, um, K-something. It was so long ago. And everyone had had a few. 

    That’s going to be their scenario, and it will remain to be seen how well our heroine can convince the Senate and the country that she knew perfectly well whom she was dealing with that afternoon.

    Oh, and get a load of the witness, Mark Judge, who turns out to be a piece of work. Judge quickly deleted his social media, but not before several outlets grabbed screen shots of the sexist, misogynistic craziness he put online. That, in addition to the book he wrote about how drunk he was all through high school, does little to burnish his credentials as a reliable observer.

    Moving along, it’s been a long time since we complained about TV commercials in this column. One of my current annoyances is the repetitive airing of the one about the shampoo bottle that wants to be recycled and become a plastic comb. Over and over and over and over again. The annoying song. The stupid script about how the bottle wants to be a hero. The monotonous cadence of the mind-numbing video; seconds feel like minutes, a minute stretches on interminably. The ad itself isn’t particularly offensive. But it has to die. 

    Sometimes it appears twice in the same commercial break; sometimes it plays twice in a row. And what are we supposed to do in response? Recycle? We all recycle! That’s like putting on a commercial for washing the dishes or paying the electric bill. Make it stop!

    Something Good Happened

    I was casting about for a gay news item that wouldn’t oblige us to think too deeply. Nothing too complicated. Nothing too depressing. And then I stumbled upon our old friend Kim Davis, the erstwhile Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk, who popped up in Romania, where the powers that be are campaigning for an October public resolution defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman. In this context, Davis has been paraded around as an example of the distressing impact marriage equality may have on, um, narrow-minded religious extremists who want everyone in the world to operate on their terms. 

    Not to be catty, but her looks have not changed for the better since her fifteen minutes of fame back in 2015 when she ignored the High Court by refusing to issue a marriage license to a couple of gay men. (Meow!) For the record, Davis seems to be traveling with the Liberty Counsel, a 30-year-old far right outfit founded by Matt Staver of anti-abortion fame.

    Meanwhile, chief among the topics deemed too exhausting for coverage this week is the decision by the Indian Supreme Court to overturn the nation’s sodomy law. Hey, I think we all agree that the kind of moralistic and tyrannical government that would outlaw consensual sex imposes an unacceptable degree of oppression on its people. 

    That said, this is the same high court that ruled gay men and woman were protected by a right to privacy in a decision last year, ergo the recent opinion on the sodomy law could be characterized as symbolic. Even so, the country’s gay community erupted in triumph, while the world’s news services trumpeted the news hither and yon to the extent that I felt I couldn’t ignore the story. 

    I wanted to. It’s been a long time since an American audience got excited over legalizing sex between consenting adults, and as I’ve often admitted, I’m a parochial news analyst, usually confining myself from sea to shining sea. But I felt obligated and so there you have it—a report on India’s gay rights decision.

    Irrelevant Rant

    When and how did I get so cynical, dear Readers? I think it has something to do with the world we live in. I just saw Al Gore on TV looking old and I could not help but wonder what the last 18 years would have looked like had he been installed in the White House. Assuming 9/11 was not preventable, how would he have reacted? Not by invading Iraq, which had nothing to do with the attack.

    The sheer amount of money saved by not going to war and not cutting everyone’s taxes is probably a tremendous amount. The progress towards fighting global warming that would have begun in a Gore administration is significant. Those two Bush justices on the High Court? Scratch Roberts and Alito, substitute young liberal candidates’ numbers one and two and call it the Ginsberg Court. 

    Of course, we can’t know what would have transpired in 2008. Would another Democrat have been elected? Indeed, would Gore even have won two terms to begin with? But still, just imagine if we had avoided stomping a deep American footprint into the midst of Mesopotamia. How different things would be.

    As a Democrat, I’m aggrieved that two of our exceptional candidates have lost the presidency while winning the popular vote in less than two decades. Particularly since the lucky losers who went on to govern were at best inept, at worst demented. How can our whole country not rise up in outrage? Perhaps we will.

    Ladies and Germs

    Here’s a question for you. An Advocate headline asks: “Why is an LGBTQ Organization Taking Money from Fox News?” The organization in question is the National LGBTQ Journalists Association, which seems to answer the query. Why shouldn’t they take money from Fox News?

    Why shouldn’t the group founded to improve the lives of gay journalists in the mainstream media and elsewhere take money from the most watched cable news channel in the country? Do we imagine Fox has no gay employees? Would we rather that Fox boycott the gay journalists’ association? It’s not as if the Association is a political campaign. It’s not as if the Association is giving money to Fox. It’s getting money. What the hell is wrong with that?

    The piece goes on to take issue with the NLJA, which suffered a scandale the other day that I haven’t delved into. Normally, professional standards suggest I should either research the incident or steer clear of it, but long gone are the days when I myself was a card-carrying member of the NLJA and even used to attend their (kind of fun) conventions. 

    So, here goes. As I recall, a longtime NLJA veteran with no previous blemish on his report card began a speech at the (Fox sponsored) convention closing event with the line: “Ladies and Gentlemen, Things and Its.” The intro, which was supposed to be funny, was not taken that way and the guy, a gay TV weatherman from Columbus, returned to the stage to apologize profusely. Later, amidst continuing condemnation, he resigned his membership.

    First, I see no connection between this incident and the Fox sponsorship. Second, the guy said the anti-trans implications had not occurred to him and he was just trying to amuse the crowd. I can’t tell whether this was an overreaction by the attendees, or an illustration of impermissible boorishness. I guess I have a tendency to give credit for sincere apologies and—pardon the stereotype—believe that midwestern meteorologists might not be schooled in the importance of language. I can also see that the expression is almost like welcoming darkies to the NAACP convention. But circling back to the original question, I say let’s take as much money from Fox News as we possibly can. 

    Truth in Advertising?

    Finally, I have only a teeny tiny bit of space left and the only legal news I have is some tricky document demand by the lawyers in one of our four transgender cases that has been rebuffed by the Ninth Circuit, maybe (I’m not sure), so I think I will complain about one more TV commercial instead. 

    Have you seen the one where some hikers are looking for the mysterious “peninsula trail” and the old blind man with the white beard says you can’t find it on any map, but offers himself as a guide? And then they proceed to drive down some regular old coast road, which hardly qualifies as a secret pathway known only to wilderness guides. It’s an asphalt coast road! At one point, the gang goes into the woods to listen to an owl, and the girl trips over a root into the blind man’s arms in order to make a not so subtle point about vision. But then they’re back on what looks to me like Highway One just south of Pacifica. C’mon guys. Peninsula trail? Pulease. 

    arostow@aol.com