Mother of all Choices

I don’t know about you, but I like to have choices.  This is one reason I tend to overpack when I travel, even for a weekend.  

I can barely decide on what I am going to wear each day, much less the day after tomorrow in a different city.  Given global warming and the toxicity of our environments, a forecast of 78 degrees FOR a Tuesday can mean 46 degrees ON that Tuesday.

If this reads like a flippant way to get into the #1 news story in American life, it is.

You knew where I was going…

How else can we right now treat the leaked draft of a new Supreme Court ruling that will overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case and rescind a woman’s choice on whether to terminate HER pregnancy, even in the case of rape or incest, if a state so chooses?

Yes, we ALL need to demonstrate, fight, scream and, most importantly VOTE for pro-choice candidates if this draft becomes law once this ruling, or some variation of it, gets released in its final version next month.

Not now, not ever

But for right now the sheer hubris, audacity and basic on-the-record manipulative lies being perpetrated on the American public with this edict – basically because of three far right Trump appointed, judicial conservatives rammed onto the Supreme Court in order to purposely create this very majority opinion – should not to be treated with respect.

In fact, it should be treated for exactly what it is.  

That’s all.

A mountain of cleverly worded intellectual pretzel logic law horse traded by an orange-faced, aspiring dictator who still couldn’t win his re-election campaign.

A diarrhea of paragraphs meant to perpetrate a dogmatic, oppressive, religious agenda on a heretofore secular country. 

A betrayal by a small group of the most powerful judges in the land, the three most recent of whom committed moral perjury in their confirmation hearings so they could gain a seat to do exactly this – roll back our rights to those of half a century ago for the first time in American history rather than moving them forward.

The ultimate offensive, cynical stupidity of this move will haunt both the Court and the Republican Party for decades.

Please vote in November!

According to a recent Pew Research poll, 61% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.  Support for abortion with restrictions would score far higher.

And the Guttmacher Institute, a respected organization that studies sexual health and reproductive rights, recently estimated that a whopping 24% of ALL U.S. WOMEN will have an abortion before the age of 45.

What this means is that the anti-choice Handmaid’s Tale movement is outnumbered, and by A LOT.  As a gay person it reminds me of the similar approval numbers right before the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality – aka the passage of same sex marriage – seven years ago.

Did I mention VOTE IN NOVEMBER?

Of course, the difference is the equality ruling reflected where the vast majority of the country stood on civil liberties while this 2022 curtailment (Note: Or whatever you want to call it) of Roe v. Wade favors minority rule and taking away our long established freedom of choice.

I don’t usually read or promote the conservative leading Wall Street Journal, but this short opinion piece claiming that somehow these conservative justices didn’t lie in their confirmation hearings is a prime example of the level of hypocrisy the American public is being asked to absorb whole, and unlubricated.

Again, for the seats in the back!

Dodging questions that could expose them as anti-choice, the Trump judges all admitted that 1973’s Roe v. Wade fell into the legal category of stare decisis, a legal term which translated literally means to stand by things decided.

In fact, Justice Kavanaugh, that bastion of women’s rights, testified the issue of Roe had been reaffirmed many times, specifically noting legal precedent is critically important when it comes to judicial rulings.

But heavily implying you’re not touching that precedent and changing your mind about the case  is not the same as saying you absolutely won’t touch the case and change your mind!!

Who could have seen this coming??

That is the argument used by the WSJ editorial board, which is similar to the argument Lucy gave Charlie Brown before she moved the football.  Or the one that one grade school bully posed to me before he grabbed my tuna sandwich and left me with his hot lunch of rancid meatloaf, lukewarm beets and a teeny, tiny mini-carton of sour milk. (Note: Yes, this was the sixties.  And we shouldn’t go back).

Of course, all this wordplay does nothing for all the anger I have on behalf of young people – particularly women – who will now have to deal with this needless crap for the next, numerous decades.  The money spent, the energy expended on sheer dictatorial nonsense is enough for me to wish I could make every season of Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale required viewing in each classroom and courthouse in red state America.

Their new favorite superhero

Not that the majority of them wouldn’t side with the Gilead powers-that-be or send out a posse led by a Ginny Thomas clone  (Note: Our real life Aunt Lydia) to land me on the WALL.

The salacious, infuriating side story in all this mess is the one President Pancake Makeup told to Howard Stern in 2004 when he found out his then girlfriend, Marla Maples, was pregnant with the unborn fetus that would eventually become his youngest daughter, Tiffany Trump.

As he tells it, his exact quote was, Excuse me, what happened?, followed by a sarcastic, Oh great, and the proclamation, Well, what are we GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS?

UGH

As a fellow guy who grew up in his hometown of Queens let me translate that for you.  It means, and I paraphrase, how soon can you get an abortion and okay, I guess I have to pay for it.  See Allen Weisselberg, give him the receipt and he’ll reimburse you on your way out.

Something like that likely would have happened if Ms. Maples didn’t speak up and say to him,  Are you serious?  It’s the most beautiful day of our lives.

To which Trump once again replied, Oh, great, either sarcastically or in a serious but placating manner.   I will leave it up to you to CHOOSE the line reading that makes the most sense.

But however you interpret it, this much is clear.   Those at higher income levels will always have the right to choose

Either way. 

I, for one, fully respect whatever choice a woman makes.  What I don’t respect, and reject, are a bag full or hypocrites in robes being propped up by a party full of foaming at the mouth conspiracy theorists, would-be dictators and immorally bankrupt, power hungry just–for-the-sake-of-it stooges.

Luckily, we have the numbers on this. 

And come June they can kiss our collective asses. 

Hairspray – “You Can’t Stop the Beat”

Move Over, Gramps

I’m barely hanging on to middle age and by some measures I might have passed it.  So I can say this without impunity.

Old people that cling to power and long to bring us back to their glory days with quick or violent or exclusionary wars or “fixes” are doomed to failure.

We see it in 70-year-old Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s crazy train, unprovoked invasion of his Democratic neighbor, Ukraine, this week.  A last-ditch attempt to topple a free country and force it to unwillingly abdicate its freedoms in order to become a part of his planned Old/New Soviet Union.

Here we go…

We feel it in 66-year-old Sen. Lindsey Graham’s hysterical mid-week tweet proclaiming the nomination of the first Black female to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, a woman he enthusiastically voted into a federal judgeship two years ago, now means the radical left has won.

And we can even notice it in the decision of the Motion Picture Academy and ABC to suddenly cut EIGHT Academy award categories (Note: A full one-third) from being handed out live during its Oscar telecast, an anxious Hail Mary pass to somehow reclaim the big money, outsized ratings and audience of its pre-streaming, pre-pandemic past.

None of it will work or ultimately change anything in their favor.

You got that right

Because nothing can bring something old to heel like the massive power unleashed by a series of unfavorable tweets, videos and interconnected social commitments calling out all the unjust, desperate wrong-headed moves by the old-guard powers-that-be.

Recent history has shown us this with everything from the Vietnam anti-War movement of the sixties, to the fall of the Berlin Wall in the eighties and, now, to the current Black Lives Matter movement.

The supercharged comingling of actions and thought that technology and social media has wrought has especially helped most recently.  A young person actually filmed George Floyd being murdered and that one horrifying post gave birth to thousands of others until the break towards justice became inevitable, if still all too slowly undeniable.

Remember this when it feels long

See, it’s not that our ancestors didn’t organize well back in the olden days.  It’s more that they didn’t have the means to begin to topple their oppressors using their virtual powers in the name of justice with such dizzying speed.

And no, the revolution has nowhere near concluded.   In so many ways that we right now can’t possibly see, it’s only just beginning.

As the world closes in on Russia, freezing its assets and access, Putin thus far remains seemingly steadfast in leveling to the ground the very country he is trying to take over.

He may have sent in 150,000 troops (approximately one-third of Russia’s heavily armed forces) but he didn’t count on the massive resistance of a young country of approximately 44 million led by a feisty leader almost half his age who used to be an actor – and a really good one (Note: As opposed to an aging real life Bond super villain).

Won’t back down

Meaning, it’s really hard to convince the world you’re trying to topple a neo-Nazi regime when that much younger than you president is Jewish, handsome and posts daily videos from his war-torn streets proclaiming he and his cabinet will never surrender or leave and that every Ukrainian who wants a gun will be given a government supplied military style weapon to defend themselves.

Certainly you can wipe out thousands of Ukrainian soldiers in traditional warfare, but what do you do when millions more citizens keep springing up from all sides armed from not only their country but the growing majority of countries left in the global community? 

The horrific story that stood out most to me this week on social media was the one about the 13 Ukrainian border guards stationed on the country’s 40 mile Snake Island, who died defending it and will now all be awarded the country’s highest military honor, Hero Of Ukraine, by Pres. Zelensky.

As an invading Russian vessel approached that tranquil island, a voice bellowed:

This is a Russian warship.  I ask you to lay down your arms and surrender to avoid bloodshed and unnecessary deaths.  Otherwise you will be bombed.

To which the Ukrainian soldiers responded, after a brief pause:

!!!

It’s not that I know for sure the thousands and thousands of young people, old people, middle aged people and very elderly people I have since seen on Twitter and Instagram pointing, holding and aiming military style government supplied weapons are all a direct result of this now viral story.

It’s that I’m not even barely convinced, not one scintilla, that it is NOT related.  Or that it isn’t indicative of something a lot larger.

The whole world is watching

When educated young people especially are forced into hiding below ground on subway platforms and in bomb shelters, watching pregnant women give birth and premature neo-natal care units trying to revive infants struggling to breathe with makeshift respirators to the intermittent sounds of bombs, the actions of one short, withering 70 year old billionaire madman isn’t quite the deterrent he believes it is.

As a college professor I remind myself weekly, and can reliably tell you, that when you’re in your twenties you don’t have logic.  What you have is passion.  And anger.  The energy to act no matter what may happen with the belief it will only happen your way.  #UkraineLives

Meanwhile, here in the United States we sit as the majority of Republicans in Congress have predetermined they will not vote for the first female Black nominee to the US Supreme Court. 

We needn’t go through Justice Jackson’s decades old, top drawer resume – from former Supreme Court clerk to the Justice she’s replacing – Stephen Breyer – to prestigious legal defender of the downtrodden – to esteemed judge on the state and federal court level.

What much of their current objections really come down to is the fact that a little over two years ago this woman, then merely in her late forties, had the temerity to rule against seventy something Pres. Donald Trump and his legal team in their plea to ignore multiple subpoenas from Congress to answer the more than many questionable goings-on in his White House.

In a 188-page ruling that agreed with every previous court opinion on the subject, Justice Jackson noted that Presidents aren’t kings, and that this one’s closest advisors had no right to ignore the concerns of another co-equal branch of government under our Constitution under the guise of executive privilege.

Yes!

Though, well,  it also didn’t help that this judge was Black.  And female. 

Nevertheless, it’s not hard to imagine the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg smiling from the Great Beyond when this new Justice is sworn in some months from now.  When asked after her own confirmation at what point there would be enough women on the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ginsberg simply and famously replied:

When there are nine.

Which brings us, in quite a strange way, to the Oscars.

Chair takin’ us on a roller coaster ride today!

Here’s the thing. 

Do you know how many people tuned in to see the finale of the TV series M*A*S*H in pre-streaming, pre-cable 1983?

105.9 million.

That’s a huge number that nothing can reach these days.  Not even the 2021 Super Bowl, which topped that year’s ratings at 92.8 million.  And not the AFC Championship game, the #2 show that year at 42.5 million.

But do you know what show didn’t even make the list of the top 100 TV broadcasts in 2021? 

The OSCARS. 

Yep, we all know it

Its ratings cratered and didn’t even come close, at 9.85 million.  That was a gigantic drop-off from the 23.6 million that tuned in the year before. Forget about the 48 million who watched the Oscars in 1983 AND may or may not have watched the M*A*S*H finale..

Nevertheless, cutting the live presentation of awards for best editor, production design, short films, makeup and hairstyling, musical score and sound from live TV in favor of god knows what kind of comedy sketch, song and dance, or flat, feeble attempt at an Insta/TikTok moment of relevance from a bunch of people over fifty or sixty or beyond, won’t bring this year’s 94th Oscars back to 1983, or even 2020 levels.

That’s what the kids say… right?

The fact is, 2021’s best picture winner, Nomadland, was about half as exciting as the 2020 winner, Parasite.  And this year’s battle between The Power of the Dog and Drive My Car, will probably be that much less, well….spellbinding.

Yet when Black Panther was in the running in 2019, 29.6 million people were miraculously watching. 

Hmmmmmm.

Though QUESTION: Can anyone think of perhaps ONE other reason for all that viewership in 2019 (and further back) aside from Black Panther?  ANSWER:

……….THERE WAS NO GLOBAL PANDEMIC AND WE WERE ALL ACTUALLY GOING OUT…TO SEE MOST MOVIES…IN MOVIE THEATRES………..

Oh right… that

What the Oscar producers and ABC fail to see is that time has marched on.  They might not like the facts of this pandemic, of movies debuting on streaming platforms or even the subject matter of the many nominated films, but that is what 2022 has wrought.

So instead of penalizing that young or middle aged person who has worked like hell and actually gotten even a short film off the ground that could speak to an international audience, perhaps they could figure out a way to get….creative…and given them a moment or a shot?

Embrace the unplanned, the glamour, the irony, the history and the reality of these filmmaking times. 

Nope… this is better

Because nothing turns off younger people more than older people or organizations trying to pretend they’re hip and young.

This is why in a classroom of college students I never attempt to act like I truly understand how to navigate our widescreen television from HDM1 to a streaming platform to DVD (Note: The latter a giveaway) and back again without severe anxiety.

Instead, I simply embrace the obvious, make jokes about myself while I’m struggling before them and then, very likely, grovel and beg for their help.

How to admit you’re old without having to say you’re old

They appreciate anything and anyone older than them admitting they don’t know everything and are not necessarily superior simply because they have lived longer and are less supple.

Moreover, they really like it when those in command willingly give in some to generational change instead of turning away or silencing the voices of those less powerful and far more…taut.

Sheryl Crow – “A Change Would Do You Good”