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    Ann Rostow: To the Hustings!

    By Ann Rostow–

    To the Hustings!

    I just glanced at a headline the other day, and thought I read that people thirty and under had become less supportive of GLBT civil rights over the last decade. What the hell, I panicked! Why? 

    Relax everyone. It’s Republicans aged 30 and under who have turned sour, which of course leads to the obvious question: what person under 30 in this day and age would choose to be a Republican? Indeed, upon further examination, it appears that the entire young Republican cohort is shrinking by the hour, which would be nice if people under 30 actually bothered to go to the damned polls. To their credit, I guess, about a third of the under 30 gang voted in the midterms; even better, two thirds of them voted for Democrats, so I can’t complain too much.

    All we need is to raise the voting rate for the irresponsible younger crowd and lower the Republican percentage of the dutiful seniors and the rest will take care of itself. 

    I guess we also need a candidate. I think ten more obscure white men from somewhere like Colorado jumped into the race last week, most of them looking like the type of guy who stared at himself in the bathroom mirror when he was 25 and saw a President of the United States staring back. Sorry, bro. That was so last century. 

    Meanwhile, our number one geezer turns out to be “handsy,” just one tier down from being a Him Too. It’s ironic that my party will be creeped out by Joe Biden taking a big sniff of a woman’s hair and kissing the top of her head, while the other side has elected an avowed pussy grabber. But it’s true. I also recognize that Grandpa Joe is a product of his generation, but it’s not a good look and his generation is not just over the hill; they’re in the next valley. 

    Finally, I take exception to anyone who criticizes Our Gay Candidate, Mayor Pete, because I love him so much. Some commentators on the left suggest he should be categorized with all of the other white men, due to the fact that he doesn’t seem particularly queer and he has enjoyed white male privilege, etc., etc. Others point out that Mayor Pete’s reputation for intelligence is a sexist trope because candidates like Warren and Harris are clearly just as intelligent but don’t get the same credit. I say leave the man alone. He’s obviously not going to win the nomination, but he elevates our community with his strong campaign, disarmingly forthright style and (dare I say it?) his intelligence. Also, it’s not that hard to pronounce Buttigieg. The translation should be “boot a judge,” not “boot edge edge,” because “boot edge edge” itself is impossible to pronounce. 

    Peace Out

    In gay travel news, we can cross Brunei off our lists thanks to their new policy of stoning gays to death. The South Asian kingdom is officially known as “The Nation of Brunei, The Abode of Peace,” (Wikipedia tells me) and it’s one of the richest little countries in the world. Various celebrities, including George Clooney and Elton John, have called on us to boycott a number of hotels owned by the powers that be over there, so steer clear of the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Bel-Air in LA, the Dorchester in London and the Hotel Meurice in Paris among others. 

    Personally, I already boycott the Meurice because it was used as a Nazi headquarters during the war. Also, because it costs over $1,000 a night. 

    We might also avoid the Italian city of Verona, of Romeo and Juliet fame, which has become a bastion of far-right nationalism. Verona has lately been playing host to a convention organized by the World Congress of Families, a nasty group of homophobic, women-hating immigrant bashers now led by none other than our old friend from the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown. 

    Standard Bearers

    What do you think of the apartment complex owner in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, who ordered long-term tenants Kevin Kollman and Merle Malterer to lower their rainbow American flag from their patio, claiming the flag violates a clause in their lease? The clause says tenants may not “display anything which substantially affects the exterior of the premises or the property of which it is part” without permission. The men, who have lived at the Country Oaks Apartments for six years, say they will fight the landlords based on First Amendment rights, although I must note that the First Amendment applies to government restrictions on speech, not private contracts.

    I’m sympathetic, although the men were previously informed that they could not hang a Green Bay Packers flag during football season, because it made it seem that the apartment owners were advertising for the team. Really? No Packers flag allowed at a Wisconsin apartment building? That sounds to me as if this company is perhaps not antigay, but just really really strict about their flag policy. The NBC News article I read says that several tenants fly the stars and stripes, including Kollman and Malterer, who flew the non-gay American flag without incident last summer. 

    The rainbow American flag is just like the regular flag, except with rainbow stripes instead of red and white ones. The owners say they hope to work something out with the two men and don’t want to evict them. I should hope not!

    Grist for Our Grindr

    Let’s see now. In cyberspace news, Google has finally dropped an app run by the Living Hope Ministries that facilitated access to some kind of conversion therapy. That’s nice, but the question of content liability for big internet companies continues. For example, the Second Circuit just ruled that Grindr cannot be sued by a New York man who was relentlessly harassed after his pissed off ex-boyfriend created a number of fake profiles that sent an array of horny admirers his way. 

    And in barely related news, the Chinese lesbian app, Rela, exposed information of over five million users through a server that was not password protected. Ooops. That’s a lot of lesbians looking for love. Ladies, shall we put China in our travel plans?

    Finally, and speaking of Grindr, the Committee for Foreign Investment in the U.S. has ordered Grindr’s Chinese owners, Beijing Kunlun Tech Company, to sell the gay dating company based on concerns that the users could be identified and blackmailed. Really? I wasn’t aware that our government had the power to simply order foreign companies to follow our advice on such matters, but there you have it. 

    This committee, which I’ve never heard of, is part of the Treasury Department and seems to have control over certain transactions involving national security. Last year, CBS News reports, the committee intervened in an attempt by a different Chinese company to buy the American company, MoneyGram. But that seems more straightforward. In this case, Beijing Kunlun Tech already owns Grindr. It bought a majority in 2016, and acquired “full control” last year, whatever that means. (Because I would have thought a majority stake already translates to “full control.”) Somehow, the aforementioned committee is in a position to step in and try to reverse the situation. 

    I was attracted to the story, in part, because of the archaic connection between gayness and blackmail. Many courts have already determined, for example, that calling someone gay is not grounds for defamation or libel action per se. If being gay is no longer a shameful cross to bear, why would someone’s name on a gay dating app still be considered grounds for extortion in the year 2019? Also, is there any evidence that this Chinese company planned to data-mine Grindr on behalf of the Chinese intelligence services? Does Grindr have to be American-owned? Couldn’t bad actors hack into Grindr regardless of who owns the company? Readers, I just want things to make sense. Is that too much to ask?

    Cat Out of the Bag

    Did you read about the bits and pieces of Garfield the cat telephones that have been washing up on the coast of Brittany for the last 30 odd years? The orange plastic flotsam has drifted ashore continually since the mid-1980s, mystifying local beachcombers. Sometimes whole phones appear, sometimes just eyes or cords or dials. Often the debris was in pretty good condition. Last year, at least 200 Garfield phone parts were recovered on the Breton coast, and that was average.

    Now, at long last, an old container has been discovered trapped in a cave that is mostly underwater depending on the tides. The container is now almost empty, but it’s clear that it once held a shipment of Garfield phones that gradually escaped the box, churned out to sea and returned to litter the rocky shores. Mystery solved! 

    The story reminds me of the dismembered human feet, encased in shoes or sneakers, that keep appearing on the coast of Canada. What’s that about? Over the last ten or 12 years, some 20 human feet have been discovered around Vancouver Island and British Columbia, and many of them have been identified. Apparently, a lot of people drown. Their remains are eaten or whatever, but their feet survive because of the shoes. The shoes, with feet enclosed, then surf around the jet stream or whatever current is frothing around up there, and they wind up on the beach. I know, I know. Not relevant to our community subject matter. But nonetheless interesting, don’t you think?

    Time to Exit Brexit

    By the way, I could argue that there’s something inherently gay about Garfield the cat telephones, but I won’t go there. Instead, speaking of strange doings in the English Channel, have any of you figured out what’s going on with Brexit? My wife and I barely understood the “backstop” issue. Yes, it was clear that the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland would be a problem. But what exactly was meant by the term “backstop?” It had something to do with the fear that Britain would be tied indefinitely to the European customs union unless there was some certainty about what would happen to the internal Irish borders. Or something.

    Then there was the separation between the withdrawal proposal and the future relationship with Europe. Then there are these odd new deadlines, April 12 is now the deadline if Parliament agrees to the Prime Minister’s deal, but if not, the deadline is sometime in May and Britain will be forced to participate in European elections. But meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s deal has failed over and over again, so what the hell? And the Parliament itself can’t find a majority for anything, while six million citizens have petitioned for a new vote, and yet that’s been voted down by Parliament as well. 

    And I read somewhere that millions of lambs might be slaughtered and destroyed. Say it ain’t so! 

    Then there’s the overarching question of why anyone thought Britain would be better off acting on its own, a small island nation where the sun indeed sets every night around seven or eight Greenwich time unless you count Bermuda. What great bilateral trade deals are they going to get? Oh, none, although the EU will continue to get great trade deals because they’re a gigantic united trading bloc. And how about all of the money the Brits will save after the international corporations and manufacturers depart and the European businesses move over to Amsterdam? 

    What idiocy, and it’s all thanks to nationalism, populism, sentimental, uneducated right-wing senior citizens and a fake news barrage compliments of Putin and company. Please, Britain. Hold another referendum. Cancel Brexit and we’ll unseat Trump and the Western Alliance will live happily ever after. 

    This little tirade has used up the rest of my energies and left no room for a discussion of Chick-fil-A (back in our black books), marriage equality on the Cayman Islands (cue sound of old fashioned jackpot), Tim Hardaway (can we forgive him for something mean he said back in 2007?), and the anti-trans ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (enough said).