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    Ann Rostow: It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To

    By Ann Rostow–

    It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To

    I write to you on the morning of the New Hampshire primary having decided to vote for Mike Bloomberg on Super Tuesday. I’m sorry. As my family toggles between Warren and Sanders, I have gone rogue. I want the billion-dollar ad campaign, the several thousand staffers around the country, the strategic intelligence of his top advisors, the massive get out the vote, and the parallel effort to win the senate. I am encouraged by Bloomberg’s increasing support from the African American electorate. I like his anti-Trump attacks. I don’t care about his health care plans; indeed I don’t even know what they are. Not only do I think he can win, but I think he is best positioned to reverse Trumpism with fast and efficient action once in office. 

    All I care about is winning in November. And yes, sure there’s a chance that Bernie or Pete could beat Trump. But I don’t simply want a chance. I want the best chance. It’s like facing a life or death medical decision. Do you want the operation that has the 52 percent survival rate? No! You want the 65 percent survival rate even if you might lose the use of your big toe. Hell, I’d give up my thumb and an ear if necessary because we cannot survive another four years of this world-shattering disaster.

    Finally, I am tired of incompetence. That s–t show in Iowa? It was apparently worse than we thought. Arrogant state Democratic Party leaders combined with the indifferent crew at the national level and hapless tech contractors to screw up every aspect of the caucus procedure. Instead of the months of hard work and tedious preparation that was required to pull this off, self-important officials preened on TV shows, hobnobbed at dinners, and left the details to others, who dropped the balls in turn. 

    Once the lightly tested technology failed, local captains were told to call results into a secure center, but the volunteers in that room could not access the system either because it required the user to input a PIN code that was sent to their smartphones. Their smartphones, however, were not allowed in the room for security reasons. Someone “solved” this problem by passing around an iPad, but, of course, once people entered the program they encountered errors and other unforeseen problems.

    And don’t blame the old folks at the caucus locations. For God’s sake, you had to jump through ten hoops to even download the app, let alone deploy it. At some point, the state party gave up on the modern world and told everyone to email photos of results to headquarters. But apparently, those emails were allowed to pile up into the hundreds. Later in the week, Democratic Party lawyers announced that math errors and other blatant inaccuracies on the precinct sheets could not be corrected because the original documents were part of the official record. or something like that. It was Kafka-esque.

    Don’t Get Me Started

    Did I mention that Troy Price, the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, was previously in charge of the GLBT state organization One Iowa? 

    “Just know this,” Price told a dinner audience in August, pointing his finger at the crowd. “On February 3 of 2020, caucuses will take place in this state. We will be first. And they will be, without a doubt, the most successful caucuses in our party’s history.” According to The New York Times, Price spent the eve of the caucus chatting with MSNBC, posing with Donna Brazile, and going to a Super Bowl party with Amy Klobuchar. Meanwhile, the looming technical problems had been evident all week. 

    As the Iowa caucus devolved Monday night, I googled “Iowa Democratic Party leaders,” and I know it’s absurd, but my first thought was: “Why did it have to be a gay guy?” Just as Pete makes me proud of my community, Troy makes me wince with embarrassment. And before I finish my tirade, let me add that Pete Buttigieg is a damned incredible candidate and his performance on the hustings has been nothing short of amazing. He has singlehandedly given the country a lesson in the diversity of the GLBT community. We are activists and artists. But we are also the nice young man next door who goes out of his way to mow the lawn for your Nana, goes to church every Sunday, volunteers for active duty in a combat zone, and wins a Rhodes scholarship.

    That said, I still want us to survive our surgery this November. I’ll vote for Pete next time after he has eight more years of public service under his belt.

    Blocker Blockers Blocked in South Dakota

    I was done with this subject until my wife sent me an op-ed by longtime progressive activist Steve Villano, informing me as well that her candidate toggle now includes Bloomberg and maybe even leans that way. Google “Steve Villano” for the commentary titled: “Why This Progressive Likes Mike.” Note that while Villano refers to “500 staffers,” a Politico article reports that Bloomberg now has over 1,000 on payroll and is still hiring. Now I’m done.

    Moving along, I was pleased to see that the anti-transgender bill that passed the South Dakota House just got shelved and killed in the state senate. This was one of several state legislative proposals around the country that would ban puberty blockers for transgender kids. As we discussed last issue, these blockers are used all the time on kids who start puberty early, and they are reversible. 

    Again, for kids questioning their gender identity, it’s profoundly difficult to go through puberty and should they move forward with a transition as young adults, their path becomes far more difficult. We are not talking about surgery or hormones. We’re talking about postponing the onset of potentially damaging physical changes at a time of life when transgender kids contemplate suicide and face harassment at far higher rates than others.

    In other trans news, we are still slogging along in our four challenges to Trump’s ban on transgender troops. I say “slogging” because Trump and company’s legal strategy is to delay, drag out, appeal, and file motion after motion in order to stall the litigation. For a time, the federal courts had prevented the ban from being enforced during the court challenges. But once General Mattis issued an official policy, the Supreme Court lifted these injunctions and we have been fighting uphill ever since.

    In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the appellate judges have ruled that the government has the burden of proof to provide a compelling reason for the transgender ban. That sounds good, but the Trump administration is refusing to provide the documents that will (presumably) expose the paltry underpinnings of the Mattis policy. On February 7, Judge Marsha Pechman, who oversees one of two cases within the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction, ordered the government to cough up the documents by February 14. I’m not clear on what happens if they miss this deadline. We’ll see.

    Shark Eyes, Sad Dogs, and Bent Penises

    One of the cryptic notes on my list of column ideas reads: “I want to rewind reality.” This phrase has kind of haunted me for months. Every time I see it, I wonder what the heck it actually meant. Did I read it somewhere? Did someone say that? Is it simply a metaphysical emotion? Needless to say, it hardly qualifies as a GLBT news suggestion, but I dared not delete it for reasons unclear. 

    This week, I finally recalled the impulse that made me write it down. Something happened. Someone said something or did something and for one fleeting nanosecond I was going to rewind and replay whatever it was because I missed it. This was not an action I simply mused about. It was identical to the thought process that I use when I prepare to replay a nifty transition play while watching basketball. Of course, I quickly forgot about the entire incident and could not summon up this freaky mental quirk even with my reminder note. In fact, it’s hard to describe how odd it felt. 

    Rereading this, I am tempted to delete this entire story, but I won’t. First because of my Omar Khayyam column writing policy. (“The moving finger writes and having writ, moves on: Nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line.”) Second, because I want it off the list. Third, because there’s something to it. I’m not sure what.

    While I’m editing old list items, I am also getting rid of some other unused topics. These rejected subjects include: the observation that Devin Nunes has dead eyes like sharks, my dislike of the commercial with sad dogs, the phenomenon of men with bent penises, and “Pink!” whatever that means. See? I do have some standards. I think I’ll just make these into a sub-headline.

    Off the Fence in Switzerland

    So, Switzerland is on my list this week because citizens of the Neutral Ski Country voted two to one to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and to outlaw hate speech against our community. The referendum was forced by conservatives who objected to the legislature’s efforts to protect gays and lesbians back in 2018.  

    Normally, I’d use this news as a springboard to defend our country’s First Amendment, which protects even the vilest speech against government censorship. Here in America, I would write proudly, hate speech is overcome at the marketplace of ideas, where civility and respect for all defeats ignorance and cruelty. I’ve written similar pronouncements many times, usually after authorities in Canada, England, or France nail some homophobic ranter for violating one of these “un-American” rules and regulations. I always have to google and remind everyone of the proposed Nazi parade in Skokie when the ACLU went to bat for the Nazi’s constitutional right to march in the streets. And I usually pontificate about the obvious notion that the right to Free Speech means little if it only protects commonly accepted ideas. 

    So, I was kind of stunned this time when my inner self second-guessed my usual self and wondered whether or not hate speech isn’t turning into a form of violence. I wondered whether the “marketplace of ideas” is still operating on a level playing field. Swiss proponents argued that the national courts have a track record of using a high bar to punish hate speech, which made me wonder whether or not our policy of “no bar at all” is misplaced.

    After all this wondering, I still come down in favor of the First Amendment and the free flow of hateful ideas and the proverbial marketplace as judge and jury. But I’ve never had to think about it in the past. What say you, dear readers?

    Last and Least

    And what else is new, you ask? 

    Well, how about the two dads who hired an Uber to take them and their infant son to their hotel in San Diego? Shortly after they settled in, the police arrived to question whether or not they were legitimate fathers or perhaps baby smugglers. It seemed the Uber driver had called the cops because there was no mother in sight. Luckily, the men had the baby’s passport and the police were polite and left, but can you imagine? Check out the twitter thread of James Moed for the details. 

    Then we have the news that seven facilities in England have refused or cancelled bookings by Franklin Graham due to his antigay diatribes, or what the council chief in Sheffield called his “repellent” views on the GLBT community. Graham is planning a summer tour this June, but as far as I can gather, no one is allowing him to reserve an arena. I must add that Great Britain’s ban on antigay hate speech might contribute to his status as persona non grata

    Finally, there’s a justice of the peace in Texas, Dianne Hensley, who is suing the state authorities for the right to refuse to marry gay couples. The sick thing about this story is that the state attorney general, Ken Paxton, refuses to defend the State Commission on Judicial Conduct because he agrees with Hensley. Hensley operates out of Waco, and so far has defied the law by marrying straight couples but not gay men or lesbians. In Texas, officials are allowed to opt out of marrying anyone. But they can’t pick and choose. 

    Okay everyone. I am now off to turn on MSNBC and bury myself in Democratic primary politics. Bartender!

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on February 13, 2020