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    Ann Rostow: The Truth is Out There

    1-Ann-RostowBy Ann Rostow

    The Truth is Out There

    I’ve started and stopped this column twice already, pissed off at all kinds of developments around the country—police killings of innocent Black men, lunatics who kill gays and cops or whoever crosses their path, regular people with guns who traipse around oblivious to the frightening effect they have on everyone else, media coverage of fools who are treated like reasonable people when they should be publicly brought to heel by the news anchors. The list goes on and it doesn’t even include nearly a hundred people mowed down by a truck in Nice, or an attempted coup in Turkey. Our country is bad enough.

    But one thing that underlies my feelings as the political convention season takes off is deep frustration at the death of facts in the high tech 21st Century. This is not an original observation. But facts have become incidental.

    Crime is way down. Police killings are down. Mass shooters, terrifying as they may be, are responsible for very few deaths in this country. We are not revisiting the 1960s when tens of thousands of American men were dying in Vietnam, when Los Angeles burned for days and when three iconic leaders were assassinated. Race relations are, in fact, improving. Our economy is in half decent shape. Unemployment is low.

    Immigration is stable, not increasing. Indeed, there is a net outflow of Mexicans across our southern border. Further, not only do immigrants pay taxes and help our economy—whether documented or not—we are now relying on new immigrants to keep our population at replacement levels. Populations are on the decline throughout Europe and Japan, a phenomenon that will eventually bankrupt social services for the elderly. In the U.S., however, higher birthrates from Hispanic communities are making up for lower white births. These are facts. We need to welcome immigrants and nationalize undocumented Americans, period.

    Our infrastructure is a mess, but it’s nothing a little cash won’t solve, and make no mistake, we can afford to invest in fixing bridges and hiring TSA agents and the like. Our grandchildren are not going to be “stuck” with our national debt any more than we were “stuck” with the cost of building the Interstate highways. Like us, they will issue thirty-year treasury bonds and continue to pay them off, and the notion that we have to “pay off our debt” this instant is as simplistic as the notion that your average family has to “pay off” the house and the car in a year.

    As for trade deficits, they’re too complicated for me, frankly, but they have nothing to do with our country losing money to someone else as Trump implies. We’re a huge marketplace, so it’s normal that we buy more gadgets from Country X than they spend on American products. That doesn’t mean Country X is “screwing us.”

    Finally, we do indeed have a crisis in income and wealth inequality and stagnant wages. Part of this is a hangover from the recession, but part of this is a result of fifteen years of do-nothing legislators and corporate devotion to share prices. Let’s see what a $15 per hour wage will do, or even $12.

    Not only do we dismiss facts as partisan talking points, leaving our country with no common baseline from which to debate policies, but we have become incapable of looking more than two or four years ahead, much as your average publicly traded company can’t see beyond the next quarterly press conference. Yes, we have task forces, but no one seems to pay them the slightest mind. Can you imagine what we could do if we could launch a ten or twenty-year plan to revamp health care costs, improve mass transit, rethink the criminal justice system, and develop new energy sources? I know. Think about it. And recognize that right now, it is simply not possible.

    Hup Holland!

    I’m writing from Amsterdam, where I’ve been forced to take a break from American cable news. Yes, I see that Trump has picked Mike Pence as a running mate, and my email is full of GLBT sources reminding us that Pence is a lifelong hard right conservative who hates women and scientists and who signed one of the most draconian anti-gay bills into law a year or so ago.

    But you know what? Trump and the GOP platform committee are bad enough. It’s not as if the addition of Pence shocks our community into having second thoughts about whether or not to vote Republican, right?

    I also have dozens of emails informing me that the GOP platform is as anti-gay as it’s been in years, complete with—I don’t know—calls for all of us to sew pink triangles on our clothes and sign up for internment camps. Well, something like that. Again, is this supposed to be a surprise? Did any of us think the Republican Party had been poised to move to the center lately? I know Trump defies the categories of left and right by living in his own bizarre political world. But his indifference to party platform details has left the door open for the most reactionary activists to take pen in hand and draft a set of policy goals from Hell. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t vote for Trump if he campaigned with Elizabeth Warren and let Evan Wolfson write his platform, so these developments are nothing to me.

    Oh, but they apparently came as a shock to the Log Cabin Republicans, who sent out a semi-hysterical email asking devotees to send money in order to help take their party back. You know what, guys? This is a lost cause.

    Meanwhile, it disturbs me greatly that Clinton isn’t ahead by double digits at this point.

    Hello FADA

    Here’s a little irrelevant anecdote from yesterday afternoon. Mel and I found a free luggage cart and were headed to the baggage claim in Amsterdam when we hit a staircase. Determined to keep our cart, we hopped into the nearby elevator even though it was marked “staff only,” and found ourselves trapped in a glass alcove that required a staff card to exit. We tried to take the elevator back up, but it wouldn’t work in the reverse direction without a staff card. Then Mel hit the “do not enter” door bar and started a loud alarm, so I hit a red button on another door, which opened and started another alarm. Then we ran to the baggage claim area and hid with everyone else while the shrieking sirens continued in the alcove.

    Sure enough, after ten minutes we were surrounded by uniformed officials and obliged to explain exactly why we had trespassed into that area, violating no less than three “do not do this” signs and triggering two major alarms. I guess a camera had caught us flailing around and it had not been hard to identify us lurking among our fellow passengers. Everyone stared as we handed over our passports and underwent extensive questioning, but all was well in the end. Under the circumstances in Europe, I guess the authorities don’t appreciate passengers who play fast and loose with airport regulations to further their own convenience. Lucky for us we were not swarthy bearded men with suspicious origins. We’d still be there.

    So I gather Congress held some hearings on FADA, the “First Amendment Defense Act,” which would allow everyone and his brother to discriminate against married gay people (plus adulterers and fornicators!) based on religious faith. Everyone and his brother includes private businesses, so you can kiss your wedding cake goodbye if you happen to live in a right- wing one-bakery town.

    Oddly, FADA has been amended to allow people who believe heterosexual marriage is wrong to discriminate as well. In other words, it now “protects” your opinion regardless of sexual orientation in a way. It’s true that we can’t think of a religion that might oppose heterosexual marriage as an article of faith, but that doesn’t matter. If gay people want to open a business and unfairly target their straight customers, FADA will give them cover. One hopes that this bill will fail on the basis of sheer ridiculousness, but you never know.

    I noticed, by the way, that a bakery in Toledo, Ohio, recently declined to make a birthday cake for a lesbian customer. I guess her wife ordered one from “Take the Cake,” but received a smarmy text message after the mean baker somehow deduced that the cake was headed to a lesbian party. I think this is a first, since previous bakery bigots claimed to object—not to gays—but to gay marriages. No such excuse was necessary for Take the Cake, who hates us in general, not just on our wedding days. The business immediately began taking online flak from our community and our allies making the point that discrimination does not pay. And while Ohio does not protect us against bias, Toledo, Ohio, has some sort of gay rights ordinance in place, so we’ll see if anything happens to these flour heads.

    Fourth Circuit Still Has Our Back

    You’ll be pleased to hear that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit declined to let the Gloucester school district in Virginia impose its bathroom ban on a transgender male student as litigation continues in this key case. The 2–1 appellate panel ruled in favor of the boy some months ago, and subsequently refused to reconsider that decision. The school district has asked the Supreme Court to hear that case, and had also asked the appellate court to waive its previous opinion while legal proceedings snake forward. Answer: no.

    Meanwhile, I read that the North Carolina legislature might go into a special session this fall in order to reexamine the nefarious HB2 anti-trans law that has caused turmoil for Tarheels since March. It’s a little odd, since the legislature already came back into session a few weeks back and failed to do anything about the law. But apparently some lawmakers are worried that the NBA will move the all-star game out of the state unless the law is repealed.

    The all-star game? I can see why the guys might worry about a Superbowl, but is this really such a big deal? Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad if it’s so, and I appreciate the strong support of the NBA and other sports associations like the NCAA.

    I also noticed that Albany will not be playing basketball at Duke at some tournament on November 12 thanks to Governor Cuomo’s ban on non-essential state-sponsored travel to North Carolina. The repercussions continue to pile up.

    Cleveland Beckons

    Everyone’s chuckling over this grotesque billboard in Cleveland that shows Donald Trump and Ted Cruz leaning in for a same-sex kiss under the headline “Love Trumps Hate.” The ad, arranged by the same people who bought and decorated the “Rainbow House” across from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, makes a cute point. But still. The idea of Trump and Cruz sharing spit carries the Ick Factor to a new level for me.

    And speaking of Cleveland, the city council approved a measure protecting transgender rights on the eve of the convention, guaranteeing a certain amount of protection for all those transgender delegates who will be filling the hall in support of Trump and company.

    Actually, there will be one transgender celebrity in town for the Trumpathon, namely Caitlyn Jenner, who plans to hang out in Cleveland and speak at a gay republican event of some sort during the festivities. As you may have guessed, I have little sympathy for our GLBT brothers and sisters who profess allegiance to the grand old party. (Except for handsome law professor Dale Carpenter.) I mean, why? National security issues? Tax breaks for the top one percent? An end to regulations protecting air and water? If any of you are reading this, please explain. I’d really love to know.