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    Ann Rostow: Disgusted

    By Ann Rostow–


    I was just watching Paul Manafort’s lawyer sputtering and posturing in front of TV cameras, a pompous white middle-aged chinless conservative with a surprised look on his fat face—Whaaa? What about the Clinton administration? No collusion! 

    Have another ribeye, buddy. Have another pile of pancakes, another glass of single malt, another cigar, pack another piece of pie into that paunch and tell us what’s what, why dontcha? Odd that the man talked more about Trump than he did about his own client, a greed machine who never thought authorities would bother to unravel his various financial machinations. Tell us, Paulie, how much did you need to make yourself “whole?” Did you get it?

    Oh, I detest the whole bunch of them with their incompetent heads full of unearned power, the self-dealers, the toadies, the players—as the old metaphor goes—who were born on third and thought they hit a triple. There’s a clip of Trump at some event looking down from the stage and announcing that there are so many winners in the audience, people he knew, people he had hired, people who worked for him, winners all. And we have to assume they are winners by virtue of their bank accounts. Never mind that most of them were given their cash or fell into it, much as Trump himself inherited and borrowed millions from his shady father at a fairly young age.

    Winners indeed! Winners at what, you might ask? Can you believe these bozos are running our country?

    Saved by the Judiciary

    We should be talking about the federal judge who seems to have saved us from Trump’s spur of the moment ban on transgender service members. In a 76-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly totally demolished Trump’s spontaneous late July decision, ruling that Trump had no legitimate rationale for his attack on transgender troops and that his gratuitous trans bashing would not likely survive court scrutiny. 

    The government had not really come up with a defense for the lawsuit, which was brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders. Instead, the Justice Department tried to argue that the plaintiffs had nothing to complain about because the Trump policy had yet to go into effect, but the judge wasn’t buying it. In theory, Trump could appeal, but smart lawyers would tell him not to bother. The D.C. appellate court is not about to overturn Judge Kollar-Kotelly.

    Hey, it’s a victory, but it’s a victory in a war we shouldn’t even be obliged to fight. I suppose it’s the looming one-year anniversary of that dreadful election night that’s making me both mad and depressed, but I can’t shake the mood. I’m pleased that Trump is getting into trouble, but really. This is my country dropping the ball in foreign affairs, my country turning into a world class klutz, my Supreme Court turning to the right, my government scheming to cut Medicare and undermine our nation’s health insurance systems. This is my country being run by a lumbering oaf and a bunch of sycophantic dimwits.

    I was just reminded of the origami animals on the VOYA commercials, for some reason. Mel and I had a whole argument of sorts about whether the VOYA animals were rabbits or squirrels. I had been sure they were squirrels, but we had the commercial in front of us and they were clearly rabbits, so I had to admit I was wrong. And then days later I saw another VOYA advertisement with squirrels, so I had been right! 

    And yes, it gave me some satisfaction, but I then had to wonder why VOYA would confuse the television audience by contriving two separate spokes-animals. Wouldn’t it be cleaner to pick one? In the future, will we be seeing kittens or birds? I’ll never keep them straight!

    Do We Protest Too Much?

    So, what do you make of Kevin Spacey? Everyone is pissed at him for coming out of the closet in what appears to be an attempt to distract from allegations of sexual harassment. Actor Anthony Rapp revealed that Spacey came on to him at a party over 30 years ago when he, Rapp, was 14 and Spacey was 26. After the other guests had left, Rapp said Spacey lifted him in his arms, put him down on a bed and lay on top of him. Rapp then pushed him off and left the apartment.

    Spacey said he didn’t remember the incident and apologized to Rapp, using the occasion to announce his gay sexual orientation, at which point the social media universe screamed foul. As for me, I’m waiting to see a pattern before I condemn Mr. Spacey. Many men may have unbecoming episodes in their past. Very few of them have a running tally of victims like Cosby and Weinstein. I’m not excusing a sexual advance on a teenager, but it serves no purpose to throw every aggressive man into the same category. Surely on a scale of one to ten, where one is Ward Cleaver and ten is Bill Cosby, we can find a place for Kevin Spacey somewhere in between. 

    I say this only because Netflix immediately canceled House of Cards as if Spacey’s offense was on par with the serial offenders. Hey, maybe we’ll soon learn of other Spacey attacks, but until then it seems like an overreaction.

    Friend Requests

    October 30 was the deadline for friend of the court briefs in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case now pending before the Supreme Court. I just counted over thirty briefs on our side, although I have to say there are just as many briefs filed on behalf of Colorado baker, Jack Phillips. Phillips, as you probably know, feels that he should be able to ignore Colorado state anti-discrimination law based on his faith and his right to express himself. I think I should be able to ignore traffic regulations based on my constitutionally protected need for speed.

    Oh, my analogy is pretty close. Jack Phillips is making some ridiculous claims before the justices, including the argument that selling a cake to a gay couple would be tantamount to making a public statement in favor of same-sex marriage. Since speech may not be compelled by the government under the First Amendment, Phillips insists that Colorado cannot force him to sell a wedding cake to two men. Um, except for the small fact that selling someone a cake is not “speech,” and the fact that the cake might wind up at a wedding does not mean that the cake baker is “participating” in said wedding! Handsome civil rights law professor Dale Carpenter joined his colleague Eugene Volokh (from WaPo’s Volokh Conspiracy) in making this point in one of the aforementioned friend of the court briefs. 

    Interestingly, Carpenter took the opposite view in the earlier case of a New Mexico wedding photographer, arguing that a photographer does, in fact, have an expressive right to refuse a gay wedding gig. I’m not sure I agree, although I do think a wedding singer can decline to perform at a wedding he or she does not support. But then again, many civil rights laws exclude individual actors and freelancers, don’t they? So, unless you’re working for an agency, your professional assignments are up to you regardless of anti-discrimination law.

    The justices will hear oral arguments December 5 and we’re still waiting to see if the Court will accept any of the other gay-related petitions on their conference sheet. 

    Catholic Tastes

    Oh, and what the Hell is wrong with John Kelly? I’m not sure why I thought he might be sort of okay, a thoughtful check on presidential craziness. But the man is straight out of the 19th Century. First, his rambling talk about a time when “women were sacred.” Then, the attack on Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. After that, his inability to apologize to Wilson after telling an anecdote that was completely disproven by video evidence. And now he’s telling the press that the Civil War had good people on both sides and resulted from an inability to compromise. Say what? 

    This is sick stuff. I don’t know how else to put it. The guy is a dinosaur. He also had high praise for Robert E. Lee. Really? What next? Slavery was not all bad? Some of the slaves had a pretty good life? Anyway, I’m not sure why I had a vaguely positive impression of this guy, but I’m sure over it now. 

    Meanwhile, some Catholic mucky muck in Madison, Wisconsin, has just issued guidelines for how to handle a funeral service for someone in a homosexual or “notorious” relationship. Among the considerations: “Was the deceased or the ‘partner’ a promoter of the ‘gay’ lifestyle?  What is the attitude of the deceased’s family members, especially towards the Church? Did the deceased give some signs of repentance before death?”

    To “minimize scandal,” the directive continues, “should there merely be a short scripture service at the funeral home? Or maybe merely a graveside service? Maybe a later ‘Mass for the Dead’ with or without explicit mention of the name of the deceased or ‘partner’ could alternatively or in addition be offered at the parish or even at another parish (to avoid scandal), with or without family members present.”

    Finally, “any surviving ‘partner’ should not have any public or prominent role at any ecclesiastical funeral rite or service,” and “there should be no mention of the ‘partner’ either by name or by other reference (nor reference to the unnatural union) in any liturgical booklet, prayer card, homily, sermon, talk by the priest, deacon, etc.”

    The cruel presentation came compliments of the Vicar General of the diocese, one James Bartylla. Thanks for that, James. You dog! I see that I have harsh words for everyone in my orbit this afternoon, save Kevin Spacey, for whatever reason. I did a search for something else, by the way, and stumbled on another dozen Bad Spacey headlines—a shot of peer pressure that almost made me rethink my generous position. 

    I’m just not in a good mood, folks. You know what I’d like? A little laudanum. I want a blue glass bottle of it on my bedside table, and I’d like a big tablespoon sitting next to it. Then I could get under the covers and drift away, far from Trump and Kelly and Manafort and Manafort’s lawyer. 

    Free Hillary

    Australians must fill out their non-binding marriage equality postal ballots by November 7, so we will soon know—well, we’ll know something. Folks, this is why I’ve vowed not to cover the insanity that is Australia’s circular non-progress on marriage equality. Despite my pledge, I’m sort of obliged by circumstance to deliver an update now and then, when push comes to shove. So, this is my update. 

    In theory, assuming Australians vote in favor of same-sex marriage, the Australian parliament will go ahead and pass a law to make it legal. That said, lawmakers don’t have to do a damn thing, so we’ll see what happens. Among the possibilities, parliament could pass a marriage equality bill that contains all sorts of religious exemptions and discriminatory loopholes.

    I’m not holding my breath. Damned Aussies. Didn’t they throw a bunch of gay men over a cliff a few decades back? Where’s my laudanum? It’s time for my next spoonful.  

    Before I go, I’d like to make one more expression of annoyance, this time targeting the mainstream media, who constantly make casual references to Hillary Clinton’s “emails” without ever clarifying some important facts:

    Clinton released tens of thousands of emails, of which none were embarrassing. Zillions of emails from Podesta and the DNC were released. None were embarrassing. The emails that Clinton “destroyed” were personal emails. Is there any reason why she should have been obliged to make those public? Are we allowed to see personal emails from members of the Trump administration? Have any of them “destroyed” any of their emails? What exactly do people think is a) wrong, b) illegal, c) damaging about any of Hillary Clinton’s emails? And finally, even given that it might have been sloppy to use a non-governmental email server, the misstep is irrelevant given that no classified information was ever shared on this system. Why do we still hear references to Clinton emails as if they hide a scandal?