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    Ann Rostow: Say Cheese

    By Ann Rostow–

    Say Cheese

    Thinking of Trump Arraignment Day, I must say I’ve had just about enough of the pointless nonstop cable news coverage. Hour after hour, we were presented with empty shots of lower Manhattan, featuring live reporters, for no reason. I suppose the assignment editors were anticipating big protests, but since happily that did not seem to be the case, we were left with nothing—like the category four hurricane that turns into a tropical storm, leaving a lonely newsman wandering the beach, staring hopefully towards the horizon.  

    Well, Ann, you might ask, have you tried turning off the TV? And yes, thank you very much, Prissy Missy, I have tried that. But I’m afraid I’ll miss something, like when a crowd formed in a park a block or so outside the courthouse. Perhaps I wrote too soon!

    Meanwhile, for weeks and months, we have all been glancing at headlines that tell us that the most important election of the year is about to come down in Wisconsin and that our nation’s future as a Democracy hangs in the balance. If you’re like me, you gave the stories a quick scan, learned it was something about judges and it wasn’t until April, so you moved on to the article about whether Prince Harry is going to his father’s coronation, followed by the one about ChatGPT causing the end of mankind. Now, however, the time has come and I have obediently read several accounts of the Wisconsin supreme court election, as well as the special election for a state senate seat.

    But since these election results won’t be finalized until after I finish writing this column, you will likely know more than I do. If you haven’t followed the news, please do check and see whether or not Janet Protasiewicz beat Daniel Kelly to swing the court our way as we so fervently hope is the case (Editor’s Note: Protasiewicz won!). At stake are reproductive rights in the Cheese State, the future of partisan redistricting, and the legality of a range of ultra conservative statutes emerging from the far-right legislature. Wisconsin Republicans have had a super majority in the Senate since the 2022 election, but a special election will determine whether or not they keep it going forward. Let’s hope that Sinykin beat Knodl.

    By George!

    Before we go on, what do you think of serial liar George Santos, who just introduced a bill to halt U.S. aid to foreign countries that discriminate against gays or women? Hey, I like it, George! The bill seems unlikely to pass, given the complexity of why America provides foreign aid to various places, but still, it’s a nice idea. According to the State Department website, for example, we give nearly a billion bucks a year to Uganda, where lawmakers just outlawed homosexuality as well as “attempted homosexuality.” I’m not clear on this latter offense, but as my BritBox characters would say, I’ve got “form.”

    That said, it seems as if Congress now operates as a reality TV show, where members produce simplistic “bills,” with no chance of passage and not even a chance of evolving into actual legislation. There is no work, no research, no negotiation, no collaboration, no public input, no careful legal drafts. It’s just PR pablum for the politician’s image, like Mr. Santos’ effort discussed above. 

    Fighting Back

    But moving on, I was drawn to two seemingly unrelated stories, both of which concern clever tactics that have turned the tables on conservative actors. The first item is datelined Maine, where you may recall that the state offers tuition grants to parents in rural areas that are not served by public schools. The grants may only be used for secular schools, or at least that was the law until some parents sued the state in a case that rose to the Supreme Court. 

    Last year, the 6–3 Court ruled that Maine’s regulation violated the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, and that tuition assistance could not be limited to non-sectarian schools. But, anticipating the Court’s decision, the state legislature rewrote the law, requiring schools that accept these public funds to abide by the state’s civil rights laws, which coincidentally protect against GLBT discrimination.

    Now, the church schools that indirectly won the previous case are suing again, insisting that the state legislature is just playing games. “Maine lost at the U.S. Supreme Court just last year but is not getting the message that religious discrimination is illegal,” huffed one of the lawyers. But we are no longer parsing the language of a state benefit, we are now asking whether the simple enforcement of GLBT-inclusive civil rights laws is inherently unconstitutional. Surely that can’t be the case, right? This is the core yes-or-no question that the High Court continues to sidestep. 

    Our other case comes from Florida, where you remember Governor DeSantis has been messing around with the Disney crowd ever since the company criticized the Don’t Say Gay bill last year. Last month, I went into excessive detail on DeSantis’ attempt to take over a special tax district that encompasses Disney World and the rest of the Disney facilities in the state. Eventually, DeSantis had to scale back his plans, but he still managed to replace the Disney-controlled board with five anti-gay conservative cronies, who were hoping to have some say over Disney content and activities. 

    But in the weeks that led up to the replacement of these board members, the original Disney guys revised the board’s powers, requiring it to get approval from the Disney Company for most of its decisions. The original board went through all the proper procedures, including making its moves in public, but DeSantis and company simply didn’t notice what they were up to.

    “All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law,” Disney said in a CNN report. The details of the critical meeting in early February were also published in The Orlando Sentinel

    According to CNN, the new board is hopping mad and considering legal action, although it’s not clear to me what they can do. No, I do not have the qualifications to speculate on the legal structures that govern Florida special tax districts, but why should that stop me? 

    “This essentially makes Disney the government,” said a particularly odious new board member, Ron Peri. “This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintaining the roads and maintaining basic infrastructure.” 

    Cry me a river!

    Law And Order

    I’ve just taken a break to hate-watch more boring cable news and am now looking at an overhead shot of Trump’s car driving down some NYC street. They seem to have stopped all other vehicles, which I suppose makes sense even though it’s galling to see him treated with such deference and annoying to be reminded that he was actually President of the United States for a time. I don’t see the park protest, so maybe that wasn’t a thing after all. I guess that demonstration had no more than a few dozen Trumpsters, but was overwhelmed with media. 

    This coverage reminds me of the commercial where a girl pushes her desk into an intersection in the middle of Manhattan and gets everyone else to bring their furniture up as well and clog up traffic in order to promote some software product or computer system or something. I don’t even know what she’s selling, but I’m not buying!

    And speaking of commercials in Manhattan, how about the one for the Apple ear thingies that show a woman crossing streets and breezing around the city with no awareness of the outside world whatsoever. She takes them off to order a hot dog and we hear the sounds of the city all around her. But then she puts them back in and wanders into traffic on the wings of her music with not a care in the world. What the hell, Lady? You’re going to get yourself run over and the rest of New York is going to step right over your twitching remains. 

    Over the Rainbow

    Returning to Wisconsin, there was a story out of Waukesha, where the first graders at Heyer Elementary School were all set to sing “Rainbowland” at their concert. “Rainbowland” is a duet by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus, with innocuous lyrics about being free to be who you are and so forth. Back in 2017, Parton told an interviewer that the song “is really about if we could love one another a little better or be a little kinder, be a little sweeter, we could live in rainbow land. It’s really just about dreaming and hoping that we could all do better. It’s a good song for the times right now.”

    A couple of parents complained to school authorities, and the song was taken off the play list for being “controversial.” At first I thought the problem was simply the word “rainbow” in the title. But the concert organizers replaced the song with the Muppet fave “Rainbow Connection,” which is also filled with happy friendly lyrics about being free to be you and me. So, what’s the deal? I’m guessing that the parents didn’t like the association with Miley Cyrus, with her bad gurl rep and polyamorous identity. 

    Whatever the reason, aren’t you sick of these people imposing their Puritanical sensibilities on the rest of society? No drag shows, no books about gay people, girls must wear skirts, Maine taxpayers have to send kids to Bible school, Disney can’t show a lesbian character, trans-girls can’t play sixth grade basketball, trans-boys can’t use any of the regular bathrooms. And, of course, it doesn’t end with our community. Ask pregnant women or ask the women who would prefer not to be pregnant. I’ll stop there.

    Did you know Wisconsinites are called “Sconnies?” My wife doesn’t believe me, but I have done the research.

    That’s All, Folks!

    We love to make fun of the One Million Moms falling on their fainting couches in horror at some commercial for M&Ms or Gillette razors. But they’re not always targeting gay and lesbian images. This week, they have their sights set on the carrot ads aimed at men with bent penises. According to the Moms, these are too graphic and they’re on too early in the evening when kids might be watching. “Imagine what goes through the mind of a child viewing this ad,” the Moms wonder, aghast. “Parents should not have to discuss PD while sitting at home enjoying family time.” 

    “PD” as we all know from watching these same ads, stands for “Peyronie’s Disease,” the formal title for the bent penis phenomenon. Doesn’t this discussion make you ask yourself, “Who was Peyronie? And how did he get to be the namesake for the bent penis disease?” Well, I just looked it all up for you!

    According to Wikipedia, François Gigot de la Peyronie was an 18th Century barber-surgeon from Montpellier who “became fascinated with phalluses, which later developed into a lifelong obsession.” (I have several close friends who share his interest.)

    I wonder if he ever could have imagined that, 280 years later, his name would be known far and wide throughout the North American continent via a system of broadcasting sound and images into people’s homes, and that a particular male deformity would bear his name and be known as an official disease! 

    I mean, it’s as if in 2300, half a billion people live on Antarctica and, thanks to telepathic mind communication, they are all aware of “Rostow’s Syndrome” that involves the use of pointless verbosity in an attempt to round out the word count of assignments on the cusp of a deadline. Interestingly, “gigot” means leg of lamb, so, by my analysis, his name means “leg of lamb of the little stone.” M. Gigot de la Peyronie described what was later called “Peyronie’s disease” in 1743 in a book on ejaculation dysfunction, which sounds like a provocative read indeed.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on April 6, 2023