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    Ann Rostow: Sharkando

    1-Ann-RostowBy Ann Rostow

    Sharknado!

    Before we start, I think I may have mentioned in the past that one of our three weather channel anchors here in Austin, Texas, likes to scare the hell out of his viewers rather than let them know what’s actually happening in an emergency. I was stuck home alone one evening last year when this maniac had me convinced that a giant tornado was half an hour from my house. It was only when I desperately switched channels after two hours of Mr. Maniac, that I learned that the threat was nonexistent!

    Apparently this was not a one-off incident. Over Memorial Day weekend, Central Texas was beset with heavy thunderstorms and floods. Several people were killed and riverside houses were washed out. That would have been bad enough, but the Crazoid on the NBC affiliate went blathering off about invisible tornados that could be cloaked in rain and all sorts of apocalyptic possibilities. Having learned from my earlier experience, Mel and I went back and forth from the normal weather people to the hysterical nutcase, but I’m telling you, if I had stayed on NBC and didn’t know better I would have spent the night wrapped in quilts in an inner hallway listening for the eerie sound of a freight train.

    I bring this up because news coverage in this day and age, whatever the medium, is torn between the urge to grab your attention and hold it and the duty to report as near the truth as possible. An antigay bill that has zero chance of passage should be explained as such, not trumpeted as an imminent threat to civil rights. A single diagnosis of someone with Scary Disease should be relayed in context, not described as a contagious outbreak. Instead, we often see the worst-case scenario discussed at times when such a scenario is not remotely possible. This, my friends, is not journalism.

    Erin Go Bragh

    So, how about those Irish? I don’t know about you, but when I heard the Irish national vote on same-sex marriage was going to be a toss-up, my first thought was the infamous Bradley effect, the phenomenon in which bigoted people tell pollsters what they believe to be a politically correct response, but go ahead and vote their prejudices when they get behind the curtain. The effect was named for Tom Bradley, the African American candidate who lost the California governor’s race in 1982 despite being favored on the eve of Election Day.

    Gay rights votes have historically polled higher than their eventual results by a couple of points, most famously when Prop 8 pulled out a five point win after most expected it to lose. Were people afraid to sound antigay when Gallop called? Who knows, but let’s just say that the prediction that a gay vote is going to be close has historically boded ill.

    But not this time. Indeed, the “yes” on marriage equality side won a solid 62 percent majority, helped by a powerful campaign that reportedly even led many pro-gay expatriates to return home to cast ballots. It was noteworthy that the “no” side generously congratulated the marriage activists on their victory and vowed to move forward. I heard little talk of the decline of civilization, the need to protect the wedding industry from forced servitude to gay couples or the desperate dilemma of the parish priest.

    Ireland, population about four and a half million, has now become the first country to legalize marriage by popular vote, and many commentators noted that the predominantly Catholic country could be considered conservative. Well, yes and no. European conservatives would be laughed out of the American tea party, and sidelined at the CPAC convention. Still, the results were heartening, and can’t help but add to the growing conviction that marriage equality in the U.S. is a fait accompli.

    Bad Analyst. No Caf Pow

    Speaking of gay rights campaigns, I’m not sure if I bothered to report the results of a scientific study that showed gay door-to-door canvassers have a greater positive impact on voter attitudes towards our community than gay-friendly straight canvassers. If I skipped the story that’s fine, because we’ve just learned that the entire study was a bunch of baloney, complete with fake data and b.s. protocols. I don’t even feel like looking up the name of the dishonest scholar, who got a ton of publicity for his scam paper when it was published in the well-respected journal Science.

    To me, it’s not really a gay story; it’s just another example of ambition gone wild, along with all the other incidents of plagiarism and lies and unethical shortcuts deployed in the interest of self-aggrandizement. Even the purported results are kind of screwy. Why would a gay person automatically make a better impression than a straight person, assuming they both believe in the cause? Indeed, one could imagine times when a fellow heterosexual would be more convincing to a fence-sitting voter. Either way, who cares? Not me, which is why I skipped it to begin with (I think).

    Say It Ain’t So!

    What else shall we discuss? I see there’s news that a presumed gay basher who attacked two gay men at a New York restaurant a few weeks back is himself gay. If he called his victims “faggots” (which he allegedly did) can you call it a hate crime? It’s an interesting conundrum, but I say no. A hate crime reflects disdain for an entire group. I’m guessing that this guy reserves his hostility for certain men. That said, he broke a chair over their heads, which wasn’t exactly a friendly gesture. But while all assaults contain rage, not all are hate crimes. I suppose I could be convinced to go the other way, but who has time?

    And I’m pleased to report that we have three, count them, three cases of middle-aged right wing conservative men caught with their pants down and not a female in sight. First up, from Raw Story, is the intriguing compound headline: “Pastor caught having gay sex in van, spent stolen church money on farmer dating website.”

    Boyd Holder Jr., 44, is charged with lifting about a hundred grand from the coffers of the Victory Apostolic Church in Kingsport, Tennessee. According to the local press, Holder was picked up six months ago for having sex with some guy in a van, but the police let him off with a warning. Now, we learn that Boyd ripped off his church and used the cash to look for dates on “Online Buddies” and “Farmers Only.” There’s no way of knowing whether he was successful, but the photo on Raw Story suggests that if the good pastor wanted a hookup, he needed all the help he could get.

    Then we have Queerty to thank for outing the Michigan pastor, Matthew Makela, a fount of antigay sentiments who was caught looking for action on Grindr, and forced to resign. Makela, a married father of two, told the Grindr guys he loved to cuddle and make out naked.” What? No walks on the beach? His boss, senior pastor Daniel Kempin, said Makela: “acknowledged that there was sin and repentance, and I have testified that there is indeed forgiveness through the same Lord who forgives all our sins.”

    Finally, how about North Dakota Republican Congressman Randy Boehning, a 12-year veteran of the Bismark assembly who has consistently voted against gay rights, most recently voting nay on a bill to add sexual orientation to state anti-discrimination law. In late April, the 52-year-old bachelor sent a Grindr prick pic to a 21-year-old who recognized him and called the press. “How can you discriminate against the person you’re trying to pick up?” asked the irritated young man. Boehning was obliged to admit he was gay, but I’m not seeing any further fallout. As yet.

    Oh, and it’s not gay gossip, but we can’t leave the scandal pages without broaching the topic of Josh Duggar, one of the older sons in the wacky reality TV family that has 19 kids. Josh was forced to resign his post as Executive Director of the Family Research Council when the world learned that he molested a few of his sisters back in the day. You’ll be pleased to hear that Josh now “deeply regrets” his 14-year-old antics, and that GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (a family friend) said that while the incestuous fondling was “inexcusable,” it was not “unforgivable.” Say what?!

    The Duggar show has since been cancelled, but for a couple of days it wasn’t clear how the mandarins at TLC would react. Previously, TLC had cancelled “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” after the show’s matriarch was spotted hanging around with a child molester. Prior to the decision to cancel the Duggars, the Honey Boo Boo woman threatened to sue TLC for a million dollars if they didn’t immediately put her family back on the air. The premise of her lawsuit was that if the Duggars were allowed to remain on TV with an actual pedophile in the cast, then she should not have been punished for merely being friends with a sex offender. I’m also guessing that she felt there was some interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause that governed the right to star in a reality TV show on an equal basis as similarly situated trashy narcissists.

    Fun fact: Perhaps some of you recall that Honey Boo Boo, the six-year-old eponymous star of the above mentioned show, had an uncle who was gay named Uncle Poodle.

    You Can Go to Texas, I’ll Go to Hell

    I’ve been avoiding the hard stuff so far in this column. I refer, for example, to the machinations in the Texas legislature, where bad things have been about to happen for weeks, but where nothing bad has actually transpired thanks to the stalling tactics of our few but stalwart Democrats. I think the session is just about over, but I am still getting the occasional dire email from local activists.

    As for Alabama, the federal judge in the Race Card State’s marriage case ruled definitively that her decisions are binding on the entire state. She then put a hold on her ruling until the High Court settles the marriage question in a few weeks, a pragmatic, if somewhat disappointing, move.

    Did you hear, speaking of Texas, that our new governor reassured conspiracy theorists that he would be keeping an eye out for irregularities during military exercises in Texas in July? Oh, you must have read about “Jade Helm 15,” a complicated war game taking place in seven states for eight weeks this summer. By “war game,” I mean United States military training exercise. These are American soldiers getting in some practice for whatever else may come their way. But, for some Texans, there might be something fishy going on. Could be that these Jade Helm 15 folks are coming to take over Texas! Don’t know exactly. Can’t trust that United States of America!

    Actor Chuck Norris is ready to defend the Lone Star. They call it “just” a “training exercise,” he scoffed. “But I’m not sure the term ‘just’ has any reference to reality when the government uses it.” I myself am not sure “reference to reality” has any reference to reality when Chuck Norris uses it. But I digress. Governor Greg Abbot then ordered the Commander of the Texas State Guard to monitor the war games in order to ensure, in his words, that “Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.” That’s right. The Texas State Guard (whatever that is) is going to be watching American military troops to make sure that they don’t kill us or steal our stuff. And our elected governor was concerned enough about the prospect of U.S. takeover that he commanded para-military troops to “monitor” the situation. Has the world gone mad? Or is it just Texas?

    arostow@aol.com