Selective Memory

By most accounts, George H.W. Bush seems to have been a very nice man who cared about his family.  He was able to leave differences with political enemies behind (Note:  The personal letter he left at the Oval Office for Bill Clinton, whose election famously denied him a second term, is a classic).  He even sporadically brought along his most famous imitator – Saturday Night Live’s Dana Carvey – with him to sporadic speaking engagements.

Can you imagine Alec Baldwin being brought along by ….

Only if it were in lock-up…

Okay, let’s not go there.  Yet.

Still, it is important to remember that no one is perfect and no president EVER is even close to being so.

In the case of George Herbert Walker Bush, a president I lived through as an adult, I felt nothing but relief when his reign finally came to a screeching, humiliating end.

Oh yes, I’m going there.

From a 1991 ACT UP protest in Washington DC #neverforget

We keep hearing this weekend about the wisdom of the first Iraq War, his adept handling of a crumbling Russia and the personal inclusiveness of the extended Bush family to so many friends and foes in the political world.

Let’s not debate the first two issues because it will become an endless quagmire of left vs. center (Note: Though I do hope one or two conservatives do read this).  Instead, let’s speak to the issue of inclusiveness.

Nothing about the Bush Sr.’s felt inclusive to so many millions of us during their reign.  In fact, it was one of the reasons he lost his re-election.  There was that famous moment where he looked at his watch during a presidential debate because he seemingly had somewhere more important to be.

And then another during the campaign where he seemed flummoxed at the sight of a supermarket scanner.

I need a price check for my EYEROLL

There was also his using racism and racial politics with a TV ad that wrongly linked his 1988 Democratic challenger, Michael Dukakis, to a darkly Black convicted murderer, Willie Horton, raping a woman during one brief prison furlough.   If you need any more historical references to contemporary white racist dog whistles, here’s one not to miss.

Still, that was merely a postscript for me.  From the moment Bush, Sr. was elected to office during the height of the AIDS crisis, it became crystal clear to me that he would NEVER address the hundreds of LGBT friends and acquaintances I saw dying around me at the time, some in the streets.

Complicit

With negligible funding increases in relation to the lethal, and at that time, quickly spreading pandemic, he began to be forever linked in my mind with his predecessor Ronald Reagan as the passively indifferent executioner of thousands who deserved better from a government they in part paid for with their tax dollars – a government they so very much needed in their moment of unimaginable emergency.

First Lady Barbara Bush eventually took a tentative step and hugged a baby with AIDS.  But where was the massive hug for my community?  It was never to come.

1989 #thetruth

Each year this is put into context on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.  Now that there are drugs to ensure AIDS can more than likely be a chronic rather than immediately lethal condition in the developed world of the US (Note: That is if one can afford the drugs), it is easy to forget our recent past and knowingly cruel inaction of US executive leadership, particularly from the Republican side of the aisle.

An AIDS Prevention ad from 1987. Read the fine print.

Combine insatiable ambition and timidity at losing power with inbred prejudice against a niche group of people you don’t know and will provide you no upside in electoral matters, and you have a perfect storm of faulty decision-making in the eighties.  Add to that some real fear and lack of education (and interest) on medical matters and, well, you can read up and fill in the rest with statistics and facts.

This might all somehow remain in the horrible, regrettable past if for the last two years on World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) the US government did not advance its chief homophobe, Vice President Mike Pence, to speechify on the subject.

Several days ago Pence purposely failed to mention the LGBTQ community in his very public remarks even though this community is the primary group affected in the US (Note: 70% of cases).  This says nothing of the many tens of thousands who perished over the decades, remain infected and continue to contract the disease.

Needless to say, there was no mention the prior year either.

What Pence did do this year in his remarks was say the word faith 27 TIMES and significantly credit faith-based organizations with leading the fight against AIDS.  One needn’t be a historian to understand that through the eighties and nineties there were countless Christian institutions and religious families who not only didn’t lead but turned their backs on dying gay men, often allowing them to perish alone or, if they were extremely lucky, be comforted by the mercy of strangers. Here’s one story of an incredible woman from Arkansas you might take time to read. There are countless more stories, though most do not involve the type of ultra-Conservative Christian churches to which the vice-president belongs and/or refers to.

American hero, Ruth Coker Burks #thankyou

In fact, here’s another inconvenient FACT of history.  In a 2000 campaign speech while running for Congress, Pence once again made no mention of AIDS and the LGBT community.  What he did do was advocate a stop of federal funding to ANY organization that would celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.

He even topped himself at the time by adding: Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.

In other words, conversion therapy.

I know I’ve used this gif before, but it feels right to use it again. #SOEFFINGMAD

If I were a certain kind of journalist/blogger I might relate here that there has long been talk that Pence himself has undergone conversion therapy, was said to have once collected muscle magazines in college that a roommate wrote were quickly gone after Pence returned from a long summer break engaged to his present wife, Karen, and, as a young adolescent was referred to as Bubbles, a nickname given to him by members of his immediate family.  Some say it might have even been his own Dad.

Well, these days I’m not sure what kind of journalist/blogger I am or how I feel about bitchy, idol gossip.  I only know when it comes to AIDS I have a memory like a selective elephant and am unafraid to fling dung in honor of the people I greatly loved and lost, none of whom even lived half as long as 94 years.

RIP #41.  And say hi to my friends.

Bruce Springsteen – “Streets of Philadelphia”

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Porn, The Mafia, and Me: A True Story

When the leader of the free world does nothing after an American journalist is killed it emboldens the rest of the world’s leaders to do the same or much worse.  That’s what the publisher of the NY Times said (according to Michael Schmidt, a top NY Times reporter) to the people who write and report for him this week.

In normal times of international protest and government-sponsored murder, all done amid a constant vigilance to maintain some sort of modicum of balance in the free world, this would go without saying.

But these are not normal times.

Uh, yeah, Dan, that’s an understatement.

When I was fresh out of journalism grad school in the late seventies I was a reporter at Daily Variety’s Chicago bureau.  No, it wasn’t the Times or the Washington Post but we covered lots of hard news.  Not to mention, I was thrilled to have the job – actually, any job.

In that way, the times, then AND now, are still normal.

This made me recall a particular dicey situation back then when I was covering the local porn industry.  Um yeah, the seventies were rife with porn.  Though not as rife as we are today when it’s so accessible and so…free.

No disrespect, Stormy. #horseface? #isHeSerious?

These were the days when downtown movie theatres showing porn were de rigueur in every big city and ran day and night.  These theatres, depending on what they were offering, attracted all types of people – straight and gay, couples and singles, professionals and civil servants.  Especially cops.  Loads of cops would drop into the local porn palace during the day for a quick fix.

I know this is true because I, too, was there.

Well now I’m intrigued…

Relax.  It was on a professional basis.  As a still closeted gay guy I had no interest in what was being offered by the porn being shown in downtown Chicago.  Though suffice it to say if I were a straight cop doing that beat I might have occasionally dropped in to see what’s up.

So no judgments here.

No, I was there because I had to report the weekly Chicago movie box-office grosses and this huge old movie porn palace, once the home of vaudeville shows, smoky band singers and chorus girls, was on my list and made a lot of money.  Or so it was reporting.  The problem is, my local film exhibition sources told me they were not making anywhere near the money I was reporting.

In other words, I was being lied to.

Well now i’m ANGRY.  #channelingmyinnermoviejournalist

Not only that, but common knowledge was that the Chicago porn industry was controlled by the local Mafia.  This meant that the running of the theatres, the money to make and advertise the films, all of it, was filtered through some guys.

My assignment was to go to the theatre, try to get some real numbers and, if I wanted, see if I could find out anything about the guys.

When I looked slightly nauseous at the prospect of this assignment, our bureau chief, who had his feet up on the desk and no intention of going out in the field on this or pretty much any other story at that point in his life, sort of smiled.  And said:

Don’t worry.  They don’t kill reporters.

SO COMFORTING

It was sort of a joke but sort of not.   When I pressed him on this, because at heart I’m (a bit of) a coward, he tried to reassure me.  One of those assurances was that the amount of publicity the Mob or any big time organization would get by killing a journalist from a prominent news organization wouldn’t be worth it.  It would shine a light on what they do and put their entire operation in jeopardy.

He framed it as your basic risk-reward scenario where it was not wise or worth the time for the mob do go after our profession.  Threats, perhaps.  Intimidation maybe.  But death?  Not so much.

Me, accepting the assignment

This could only seem logical to a young reporter in the late seventies because, indeed, it was.  If Nixon didn’t have Woodward and Bernstein or any of their family members murdered, and who was more connected than him and his minions, I figured I was safe.  Hell, Mario Puzo was still walking around after WRITING The Godfather and exposing some of the Mob’s darkest secrets.

Not to mention, there was so much money on the mainstream crossover table that the last thing murderous men wanted to appear to be was murderous.  That just wouldn’t sit well with the legitimate public you were seeking to continue to buy the goods you were selling them.

Mob Logic #alsocomforting

With the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by a gang of envoys of Saudi Arabia’s government in Turkey three weeks ago, this is no longer the case.  Especially since the very public refusal of sitting Electoral College Pres. Donald Trump to believe some guys who brought knives, guns, a bone saw and a CORONER to meet an American journalist at a foreign embassy could possibly have engaged in pre-mediated murder.

The official denial by the MOB Michael Corelone  I mean, youngish Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, convinced him, we are told.  They were involved in a quarrel and fighting by hand, which led to his (Khashoggi’s) death.    In fact, our Electoral College POTUS went on to say that with a multi-billion dollar arms deal at stake that could cost us a lot of new jobs this is no time to jeopardize our relations with this particular foreign country.

Is it 2020 yet? #MuellerHURRY

And to think there was a time when the Mob was worried that the murder of an American journalist in pursuit of the truth might actually hurt their bank accounts and turn the American public against them.

Well, this is no longer the late seventies.  We now are officially under Mob Rule – 2018 style.

Frank Sinatra – “Strangers in the Night”

Channeling the Rage

Here’s what I will remember about the day that all pretense of the US Supreme Court being an impartial arbiter of justice died:

Female voices screaming SHAME! while Mike Pence methodically tapped his tiny white mini-cup/gavel from a raised podia/desk, stoically demanding::

The Sergeant at Arms will restore order in the gallery.

Of course, there is no order of any kind that will be restored as long as Pence is Vice President and Donald J Trump continues as the Electoral College POTUS.

everyday is a nightmare

Everyone knows it and yet there is a pretense that somehow this can all be worked out because Americans all are part of one big great family.

Let’s be plain, if you are a member of a family with an extremely abusive, rage-a-holic FATHER and a second-in-command mother who goes along with all that he says and does, it NEVER works out.

Though, it could probably make a good script.

One or two sessions with a good therapist will make it clear that the only way to survive is to take the power away from the abuser and recognize YOU have the power.

YOU can choose whether to continue the status quo and remain a victim of abuse or to fight back in any way you see fit.

Contrary to popular belief, there are many ways to fight back in families.  These are the top 2:

  1. Cease contact and remove the abuser from your life
  2. Join forces with allies and remove the abuser from power

In the case of the American family the first option is admittedly a limited one.

Considering this shack in the woods? #nottheunibomber

Sure, you can choose NOT to watch Electoral College POTUS preen and insult his enemies-of-the-day list at Third Reich-style nativist rallies held solely in red states.

But you cannot fully remove yourself from the wrath of his power i.e. the laws he enacts, unless you renounce your citizenship and move elsewhere.

Once a person turns 18 or 21 in a small, abusive nuclear family moving out and asserting independence is a more than practical and advisable option.  However, it is NOT an option for anyone under age.

I mean… unless you are a boy wizard.

So at this time in the extended American family we can all consider ourselves minors – or at least a general population with all the rights of minors. Therefore, we are left with option #2.

What this means is to stop wasting time engaging in debate about our abuser and instead conspire to go around him and his minions.

In plainer talk it means removing HIM and THEM from power.

The young people will win.

There is no point trying to reason with a rage-a-holic liar.   Even when you win, you lose because as long as they sit at the top they can weaponize the system any way they like.

You might succeed in making your case but they withhold funds.

You can reach an agreed compromise but they might back out at any moment and pull the rug out from under you.

You could get everyone who matters to agree that this is the law of your land but because they control the government and all means of production, they might instead choose NOT to ENFORCE the rules you previously both agreed to and fought for.

OK Chairy, this is starting to feel more real. #holdme #underhiseye

Brett Kavanaugh proved to be exactly this type of rage-a-holic liar at his confirmation hearings to the U.S. Supreme Court, under oath and before a judicial committee of senators, as well as the world.

Fearing his ascendance to his lifelong aspiration of being a Supreme Court judge was over after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified in great detail of his teenage attempt to rape her while drunk, he sputtered to the Senate and the world:

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

Yeah, calm down Bart. #ilovebeer

He then added fuel to his raging fire against liberals by following it with:

…And as we all know in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around comes around.

Luckily my husband and I got married when Obama was president.  Still, I’d gladly burn the license in front of the Capital building in exchange for Kavanaugh’s removal from the Court in light of those statements.

.. and then we we get remarried I will be registered at West Elm.

The reason is not merely the above.  It is also the continual and convincing rolling proof that he is indeed a first class liar of epic proportions.

Even if one does not believe Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegations (Note:  Though I have yet to find anyone outright say SHE is lying), there is PHONE TEXT proof that he lied to the committee as to his knowledge of those and other accusations.

Numerous Yale classmates came forward to state that Kavanaugh and his team texted back and forth with fellow Yalies at least FIVE DAYS prior to the New Yorker piece exposing the drinking and sexual abuse/attempted rape charges against him that he claimed to know NOTHING about.  In those texts and talked about phone calls, both he and his team asked his old friends and classmates for their support in discrediting the charges/accusations/allegations, et. al.  In effect, they were seeking to marshal support behind him before anything he swore under oath to know nothing about came to light.

I can literally only imagine this…

Whether he faces charges or not, and for however long he remains a Supreme Court Justice, what we do now know FOR SURE is that Brett Kavanaugh is both a liar AND a rage-a-holic.

We should consider him exactly like the president who nominated him and deal with him in exactly the same way.  Then, and only then, will the American family truly be restored.

#DEMONSTRATE  #DONATE  #RESIST  #VOTE

Madonna – “American Pie”

I Like Meghan McCain?

It was the sneer that finally won me over.

I’d like to say it was Pres. Obama’s lofty message of inclusion or George W. Bush poking fun at himself and finally seeming to mean it.

But it wasn’t.

Even the lost, help me looks on the faces of Ivanka and Jared as they desperately searched the room for allies, or even a safe place that would never materialize, couldn’t match it.

but like.. WHY ARE YOU THERE?!

That was because this was a simple rebuke to everything they now stand or perhaps sit for, as they were forced to do on this day.

Yup, the words that preceded it made it better.  But many of the words in Meghan McCain’s 17-minute eulogy of her father, Sen. John McCain, at the National Cathedral on Saturday were powerful.  Though none more so than:

The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great….

Those words, clever though they may be, might have hung in the air as yet another slogan of pure patriotic psychobabble were it not for – that sneer.  That two

seconds of unbridled emotion that encapsulates everything the majority of the country now feels each and every day.

You can’t plan that look, it just happens when you’re in the moment and feeling it.

Okay, perhaps Meryl Streep could mete it out but who among us has that kind of technique???  There are 21 Oscar nominations to answer you back – NO ONE.

Well, yes, but only because I’m dead.

Still, words are words, slogans are slogans and who among the now 60% of the country that stand against Trump haven’t at one time or another thought, said or heard variations.

Certainly Ms. McCain’s aren’t much better than any of the ones we’ve encountered and will ourselves utter in the not so distant future (Note: Nee tomorrow).

But that spontaneous look of disdain the minute those words sputtered out.  Heck, that was some rare, unvarnished truth on display on the national stage.

Say what you will, but this was REAL

Anyone who has lost a parent will tell you that nothing you feel is phony.  You might know Mom or Dad is terminally ill, play out the moment endlessly, but still, when it occurs, and for an unforeseeable time afterwards, you are in a jagged whirl of gut-wrenching reality.

Not everything you SAY, especially the polite and nice stuff, is true but every emotion your face SHOWS is real…and raw.   Every moment of anger, of disdain, of acidic retribution (especially the non-verbal kind) are as dependable as the fact that for the rest of your life you will be either motherless or fatherless.  It doesn’t matter what is later countered, massaged or full out denied.  Trust what a mourner is showing you, if you dare.   They are the most honest moments any of you, or us, will ever see from them.

I’ve never been a Meghan McCain fan or hater.  She’s one of those people – and they are rare – that I’ve never had much of an opinion about because she’s had so little effect on my world.

That’s all changed.  You can count me now always on the side of fan.

wait… what?

It takes a lot to get up before a large group of people at your parent’s funeral and in so many non-words, tell one of his enemies to go F—K himself.  Now think of what it takes to actually have the nerve to say it in words, feel it on your face, and do it before an international audience, where it will be preserved in perpetuity, to the President of the United States.

Okay, the Electoral College President of the United States.

As far as we know.

For now.

Srsly. When is he gone??? #AREWETHEREYET?!?!

I’d like to think I could do that, gladly, but I’m not entirely sure.  It’s one thing to tell DJT to bugger off on Twitter, or in your living room to your TV set – as I’ve roared countless times – but it’s a whole other ball of wax to muster it publicly and withstand, as Kathy Griffin calls, it, the Trump Woodchipper.

You won’t read here what the Trumpsters are saying about her but go online to the platform of your choice if you need confirmation.  Though it doesn’t take much imagination.  They’re not known, for the most part, to be original with the insults.  Pick up any rock pre-1962 and something might crawl out akin to what you might read.  Or hear.

Yep, logic no longer exists. #theend

I’d like to be able to take a lesson from the words said by Pres. Obama at the service.  To really hear him and act accordingly when he says:

So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse seems small and mean and petty.  Trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage.  It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born of fear.  John called on us to be bigger than that, he called on us to be better than that.

Well, I believe I am doing that by in some small way by writing about the death of a person with whom I never agreed with politically (Note: Actually, I loathed his views on pretty much everything and will never forgive him for creating Sarah Palin) and really seeing him, his family and those he surrounded himself with merely as people who today I could not only learn something from and admire but…actually…could like.

But to accept as valid or do anything but repudiate what Sen. McCain’s former campaign manager Steve Schmidt on Saturday called….

…the vileness, the corruption, the self-centeredness, the selfishness and the cruelty that we see emanate from the White House in the form of President Donald Trump everyday….

It’s s a bridge too far for me.

… and yet here I am quoting a man who ran the McCain-Palin campaign #miraclescanhappen

And that goes for anyone who works for him, votes for him or in any way supports him.

For me, it only starts with a sneer.    I have no idea where it will all end.

Unless we all VOTE.

“Danny Boy” – Renee Fleming

Same Old Song?

Turner Classic Movies had Judy Garland Day last week and, being a gay man of a certain age, I couldn’t resist tuning in at one point to this 24-hour Judy film fest.

Don’t judge me.

But of all of the choices available who knew that it would be a 1961 dour melodrama about four German judges being tried before a postwar military tribunal for their collaboration with Hitler and the Third Reich, Judgment at Nuremberg, that would hit me like a ton of bricks.

I can think of at least five other Judy films that would have been more enjoyable. (Note: Okay — A Star Is Born, The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me In St. Louis, Easter Parade and I Could Go On Singing). Though none that could be more timely.

Realistically, this is how I wish I felt about today’s political climate.

In hindsight I should have predicted it. Like the currently much lauded, breakthrough post apocalyptic Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale (which is about to once again become a multi Emmy winner for its superb second season), you can’t go wrong in 2018 watching a story about a country of people who enable a rabid white nationalist political regime to persecute, maim and/or kill anyone they deem to be a subversive OTHER.

Unless all you want to do is escape and put your _____ in the sand.   In which case, you are not only wrong but veering towards the same sheep-like behavior portrayed by some of your fellow countrymen in that movie, that series and no doubt countless other ____________s about to come out on other platforms that will be, at least thematically, very much like them.

Whether we call it the Nazis, the power brokers of Gilead or simply Trumpism – it’s all the same thing. A regime that wants to demonize anyone outside of a select group of people they don’t judge ‘ideal’ – whether they be Jews, the non-religious or Mexican/Middle Eastern immigrants – in order to rouse a base of loyal voters whose lives they promise to improve and whose country they vow to protect and/or rebuild.

I’m gonna go ahead and add “Crippling Insecurity” to the YES column #tinyhands

This strategy is always advanced with promises to put the people of said country FIRST, declarations that said country is GREAT and proclamations that the rest of the world is NO BETTER morally than they are and usually quite INFERIOR.

Yeah, I don’t like comparing any regime, especially America’s current regime, to the Nazis. But the argument being advanced is not how successful the regime is at achieving their goals or to what ends they will get to go in order to achieve them. Instead, it’s the philosophy and the strategy.

The degree to how far they get to go – well, this is up to their subjects… er….citizenry. In other words – THIS IS UP TO US.

BRB

Again, the comparison seemed a bit reach-y. Until too many lines from Judy’s Nazi film, for which she was nominated as Oscar’s best supporting actress that year along with several other cast members in their own categories, began to ring a bell.

— It started when Marlene Dietrich’s upper crust German woman says of Hitler:

He was in awe of nobility but he hated it.

— Then it continued when Montgomery Clift’s ordinary German man recalled the times he was MOCKED by LEADERS of the power class for speaking in a way that seemed slow even when he demonstrated the ability to understand logic.

I’m with Meryl — this still makes my blood boil

— It continued when Judy’s youngish German woman recalled how her best friend, a 65 year old Jewish man, was laughed at and held up to mockery by the PUBLIC at his trial simply because he was A JEW. The charges were violating the new law outlawing A JEW having sex with A GERMAN ARYAN (Judy), a charge he was found guilty of and put to death for even though, as it turned out, it never happened.

–Then there was Marlene’s defense of herself and the German people over Americans condemning her after the war:

Listen to me, there are things that happenedon BOTH SIDES.

ummmm… WHAT?

— Which all finally led to one of the four judges on trial, eloquently played by Burt Lancaster, exposing the lies he and his fellow Germans told themselves about Hitler and the Third Reich:

We say – what difference does it make – our country is at stake – Hitler (He) will be gone after a while. Things denied to US as a democracy are open to us now…. And then one day we looked around and saw what was going to be a passing phase had become a way of life.

Yes, all of these lines were indeed written – by the great screenwriter Abby Mann – but they were based on actual transcripts and stories he culled from the real Nuremberg trials right after the end of WWII.

.. and with a cast like this to make it come to life.

They were not his thoughts he put into his characters’ mouths so much as a distillation of real sentences and opinions and ideas of the time.

Though perhaps knowing there would be a portion of their audience that still might think they were being too polemic or had gone a bit too far, the filmmakers’ “movie trial” included 5-10 minutes of REAL NEWSREEL FOOTAGE of thousands of actual naked Jewish corpses – as well as others barely alive and starving – to back up their words.

This along with clips and still photos of the real crematoriums, featuring close ups of the popular German oven manufacturer that built them. In addition to historical maps indicating the dozens of specific towns with concentration camps hidden among a significant percentage of German citizenry who either supported Hitler because he was doing some good things or because it was easier to turn a blind eye to the whole ugly mess just because.

It’s difficult to face the truths, or potential truths, of any world, especially our own, but in the end it’s far uglier not to.

or you know, truth becomes relative. #stillcantbelievethishappened

As Spencer Tracy’s presiding American judge lets us know at the end of Judgment at Nuremberg in a way only a presiding American judge played by Spencer Tracy could truly make work:

A country is what it stands for – when it’s the most difficult. We stand for justice, truth and the value of a single human being.

Or to put it in 2018 parlance: There’s a reason why Sen. John McCain, who died on Saturday, chose Barack Obama and George W. Bush, a former Democratic president and a former Republican president, to deliver the eulogies at his Capitol Hill memorial service this week rather than the current sitting President of Trumpism.

 

The First

I love Kathy Griffin and loathe Donald Trump. I like Rosie O’Donnell and am fed up with Rosanne Barr, who I would probably loathe if I didn’t believe she was in the grip of a severe mental health crisis.

Of course, I believe that Trump has severe mental health issues too and I still loathe him.

Maybe it’s because he occupies the office of what used to be the Leader of the Free World and can actually change the course of history, not to mention end the entire world as we know it.

All Roseanne can do is hate tweet, post ranting videos and be on a sitcom I wouldn’t watch.

This all bubbled up on Thursday night after seeing Kathy Griffin do a hilarious, dishy, touching and sometimes sad three-hour solo comedy show at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

The sad part wasn’t so much about the comic as it was about us and the cesspool of faux outraged, social media manipulated, human rights curtailing, conspiracy-based citizenry we have become.

I’m taking bids now

Many of us falsely believed that the social upheaval of the 1960s gave birth to a new time where we left McCarthyism behind and people could feel free to express their politics in any way they saw fit as long as they didn’t physically hurt anyone.

I, for one, can recall the late 1970s when, as a Jewish kid in grad school in Chicago, I heard the Nazis had chosen, of all places, to hold a big rally in the nearby heavily Jewish neighborhood of Skokie.

How could I be studying journalism in the U.S. and deny that these Hitler acolytes had the legal right to march right down the streets of that neighborhood? I couldn’t if I believed in freedom of speech, of religion, of the press and of peaceful assembly.

I mean, sure – I could will them to eat shit and die but I couldn’t actually poison it myself or let anyone else do it. I could show up in a counter demonstration where I sang Barbra Streisand songs or played the score of Fiddler on the Roof from my boom box but back in 1977 I’m not sure anyone would have gotten it.

sing it with me now: PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPPPPLLLEEEE….

There was always the option of hurling rocks at them and starting a brawl but at 20 years old I was not ready to betray anything I believed in…quite yet.   And even if I could, I’d never be able to throw straight.   At that point I was having a hell of a time even being straight.

The above all refers to rights enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which reads as follows:

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

In the last 40 years we have evolved on many issues.   Gay people have the right to be married; public schools are integrated, as are most private institutions. Women can work and get closer to equal pay (well, 80 cents on the dollar) and, as of this weekend anyway, they still have the right to choose.

Very win-win, right?

Not feeling super confident on all of these points, Chairy.

But what we are beginning to fail at miserably is holding up the very basic tenants of the first amendment.

We now have elected (sort of) a president who ran his campaign on, and is actively trying to, ban Muslims and any other number of non-whites from entering the country in the name of national security; defends the point of view of white nationalists and foreign dictators as good people and strong leaders; and attacks the mainstream, fact-based press daily by calling its multi-sourced, fully vetted stories fake news and its reporters very bad people.

This, of course, has nothing directly to do with the cost of health care, whether or not we’ll make more money at the end of the year or if we can even get employment next year.

Until it does.

I need a nap

When you strip us right down to the studs (Note: And these days, who’d NOT want to), the core attraction of America is our FIRST amendment. Theoretically everyone here has the same rights and can say whatever the hell they want under the law. Even if it doesn’t always work out perfectly, from the top on down we have always strived for that ideal. Or, at least, pretended to.

Now the president is proposing that football players get suspended for taking a knee during the National Anthem and fired if they do it more than once. This is a far more stringent punishment than any of the Nazis got who marched in Charlottesville last year and actually killed an innocent woman.

Which brings us back to Kathy Griffin.

Spilling the T

The job of comedians is to make us laugh by being — provocateurs. They share their lens of the world by telling stories and jokes, pushing boundaries in the ways they see fit. It is their very point of view, mixed with some truth telling, that makes them unique and, in essence, defines their talent.

Last year, in response to Trump’s bull-in-the-china shop approach to tearing down the norms of government and insulting anyone who disagreed with him in a shockingly offensive manner by using coded graphic words and actions (and, behind-the-scenes, pornographic ones), Kathy decided to use her comic chops in a photo shoot that would shock us all to attention as to just what this man was doing not only to the country, but to the world.

So she had someone buy a $12 rubber Trump mask, doused it all over with ketchup, held it up as if it was his severed head, and then took a picture…which she then posted on social media.

I, for one, thought it was a hilarious, outrageous and very necessary political statement/response to the times we were and still are living in. In fact, I still do. So, in solidarity, here it is again:

blood coming out of his.. wherever

But because Trump is technically our Electoral College POTUS and has a lot of power, as well as a large following (Note: Though not as large as Hillary’s) here is what she got in return for 6-12 months and counting:

1- Her name on the no-fly list

2- Her name on Interpol (an international criminal police organization)

3- Daily death threats

4- The cancellation of all of her bookings in the U.S., often because venues were afraid of bomb threats.

5- Daily character assassinations on Fox News and TMZ, both of whose owners are rabid Trump supporters.

6- Marginalization by all the major network powers-that-be, who were terrified of offending potential sponsors (nee corporate $$) and the new Trump power base.

7- An international P.R. campaign, spurred on by Fox, that convinced millions of conservative viewers that she had become an actual member of ISIS.

8 – A relentless social media Russian bot patrol attack.

9 – Investigation by the Secret Service, the FBI and others about her plotting to actually assassinate our Electoral College POTUS.

10 – A Trump supporting next-door neighbor who cursed at her and verbally harassed her so consistently that she eventually had to sell her house and move.

She explains it much more thoroughly and with a great deal more humor in her current LAUGH YOUR HEAD OFF (Note: Yeah, that’s right) tour.

In addition, there are also GREAT and unexpected stories about Ellen, Stevie Nicks, Kim Kardashian, Jim Carrey, Jamie Fox, Billy Bush and even Stormy Daniels if you’re as much of a star/media f-cker as I am.

We’re with you KG

But what stood out the most to me leaving the show is that political protest has swung back about a century here except for the use of technology and social media by the powers-that-be doing the oppressing.

When Roseanne sends out an offensive racist tweet comparing a non-white person not elected to office and no longer in the zeitgeist to an ape for no other reason than she felt like it, it is hard to see what she is satirizing other than herself with a bad one-liner.

Nevertheless, she is covered by the first amendment and is free to do so. Much in the same way the corporations that employ her are legally able to fire her.

The same applies to Kathy and those also choosing not to work with her.

The difference is – Roseanne was NOT put on the no-fly list, NOT listed on Interpol, NOT checked out by law enforcement officials for a crime, and NEVER victimized by Russian bots.

my version of hell at least

However, she WAS publicly supported and tweet cheered by THE ONE PERSON person who is still the de facto Leader of the Free World – our current sitting Electoral College POTUS. With all the power that HE is allowed.

Think about that the next time you sit down for dinner with Trump supporting friends and relatives or find yourself in an impromptu political discussion with those who say you’re being too sensitive, paranoid or reactionary.

But don’t laugh your head off quite yet. You will need it – and A LOT more – in the coming months. COMRADE.

Little Anthony & The Imperials – “Goin’ Out of My Head”

What Price?

It’s been said many times that everyone has a price.

What this means is that people will do anything if they are paid enough money or given what they want.

So the question we all need to seriously ask ourselves during these very turbulent times is:

What is YOUR price?

Is it safety from real or imagined enemies, foreign or domestic?

That is to say, doing whatever it takes to bar morally unknowable immigrants (Note: nee…all of them?) from entering our country? Or is it prohibiting any morally questionable person in support of such a policy from dining in your restaurant, not to mention, continuing as president?

Perspective

What is YOUR price?

Is it about ensuring our country thrives financially, as well as ethically?

That is to say, making sure you have a president whose first priority is cutting taxes, creating old-fashioned jobs for the long ignored and appointing Supreme Court justices who will once it again make it difficult or illegal for women to get an abortion? Or is it ceasing communication with family and now former friends who believe in all of the above, while screaming at the top of your lungs in their faces, or from the rooftops or on our airwaves, to counter their selling out our most precious American ideals of freedom, equality and democracy for all?

What is YOUR price?

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

You see where this is going. I had planned on continuing but the list and the metaphors could be – and are – endless as we approach July 4, 2018 – the 242nd anniversary of American independence.

Several days ago I watched What Price Hollywood a 1932 film directed by George Cukor about a spunky waitress who serves drinks to a charming, drunken Hollywood director that gives her a bit part in his movie, guides her to stardom and then dissipates into a state of alcoholic disrepair as her life blossoms.

The plot has since been appropriated by numerous movies, including the many versions of A Star Is Born (Note: The new Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga one opens Oct. 5, and yes, I’m counting the days). Still, this does not mean it is any less ironic or timely.

Click for the OFFICIAL countdown (to the minute) #really #REALLY

There is no reality where you can get everything you want without it costing you something. It wasn’t the waitress’ fault the director became a hopeless alcoholic and ruined his life but because he was such a great mentor and friend it breaks her heart. That is the way the drama works because that is the way the world is – we achieve things and the norms and/or people we counted on and loved quite suddenly, at least to us, fall by the wayside.

A more contemporary comparison might be Indecent Proposal, a 1993 film where billionaire Robert Redford offers happily married Demi Moore a flat $1,000,000 to spend the night with him, no strings attached. After discussing it with her high school sweetheart husband, the financially strapped Woody Harrelson, and reassuring him of their forever love, the couple agrees to the Faustian bargain and… well… it goes as Faustian bargains go if not for test marketing and a somewhat tacked on Hollywood ending.

Girl how did you think this was going to pan out? #dowagergetsreal

Meaning, if someone is going to pay you $1,000,000 suffice it to say it IS going to cost YOU – a lot – and it may not be measurable by mere currency.

It certainly seems like US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, has the right to retire from the bench anytime he wants. Yet when I read this week that he was not so subtly reassured of his legacy beforehand by the White House, and that his eldest son worked for years with Trump on real estate deals at Deutsche Bank, the institution that loaned Trump a BILLION dollars, I couldn’t help but cynically and rhetorically ask the justice, and myself, – what price?

Me… all week

Of course I will never know if a price was exacted or if this justice – the Republican who was actually the swing vote in making gay marriage the law of the land – was swayed by any of it, or by them.

So it’s instead easier for me to stew over the millions of Americans (Note: And perhaps a handful of Russian bots) who voted for and still support a president who consistently calls the press the enemy of the American people or very bad people on the very day that five journalists were gunned down in their Maryland newsroom by a crazed shooter with a vendetta against their paper. Did Trump’s words contribute to egging the guy on in that particular moment? Again, we’ll never know. But for any of his supporters who still get joy from and continue to revel in how he’s characterized one of the foundations of our democracy – the free press – again I ask – what price?

And then – well, there are the immigrant kids in those cages. Mostly brown. Many fleeing violence in their home country – the way my grandparents and friends’ relatives did when they escaped the Nazis and came here in the 1930s and early forties. Or the way my internist’s family did when he was smuggled out of war torn southeast Asia in the 1970s. Or how my dental hygienist managed it when her family ran for their lives from Iran in the 1980s.

Today in America

None of them were forcibly separated from their parents by the US government when they arrived at our borders seeking asylum (Note: The latter a legal right of ANYONE arriving at our shores. Asylum, that is).

So for those currently chuckling with satisfaction at or apoplectically angered by those of us marching in the streets who are outraged that non-English speaking three year olds are being forced to appear ALONE in court at a hearing where they are responsible for telling their own immigration story THEMSELVES before an adult in a big BLACK ROBE who towers above them, I ask – to every last one – again – what price?

And to consider if what they’re losing is worth what they’re getting in return. Financially, morally or, really, even in practical terms.

Broadway United – “We Are The World”