The case of the gay wedding cake

December 9, 2017

Suppose you’re a portrait artist. It’s your profession. And the local Nazi asks you to paint him. “Get lost,” you say, “I don’t paint Nazis.”

“That’s discriminatory!” he thunders. “I have rights! You shall hear from my lawyer!”

Does he have a case?

I support gay marriage. And the principle of nondiscrimination. But does that mean baker Jack Phillips should be forced to supply a cake for a wedding he deems against his religion? This case is now before the Supreme Court.

I’m no fan of religion, too. I consider barbaric a Bible that condemns gay sex while applauding slavery, genocide, and children torn apart by bears as punishment for mocking an old man’s baldness. (Yes, God did that. What a guy.)

It’s also true that freedom of religion does not protect actions otherwise unlawful. If your religion teaches human sacrifice, sorry, no dice.

But cake refusal is not on a par with human sacrifice. It may be discriminatory, yet doesn’t actually deny important rights. When Kentucky official Kim Davis refused to issue gay marriage licenses, citing her religion, that denied couples’ rights to marry. Baker Phillips is not denying the gay couple’s right to marry. He’s only denying them a cake. And not even that; surely they could get one elsewhere.

As often, this is not a case of right against wrong, but right against right. The gay couple has rights — but so does the baker.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act established the principle that providers of public accommodations cannot discriminate and refuse service arbitrarily. Read Isabel Wilkerson’s book, The Warmth of Other Suns, about the black Alabama doctor who relocated to California, his trip an endurance ordeal because nowhere could he get a meal or a room. It was reasonable for society to decide that in balancing his rights against those of hoteliers and restaurateurs, the latter should give way.

Applying the same idea to a cake goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. We don’t need the federal government cracking down on bakers.

I can sympathize with the gay couple made to feel bad when the baker refused them. But their literally making a federal case of it vitiates my sympathy. We seem to have developed a strange civic notion that everybody has a right never to experience anything disagreeable. With the government as enforcer. My sympathy actually shifts toward the baker, with government power called down upon his head like a ton of bricks, just because he didn’t want to bake a cake. Talk about a disagreeable experience. He has rights too.

Gays have won the battle for marriage rights, and it’s a good thing. But, having won it, must they grind their opponents’ faces in the dust, shoving their rights down their throats? Liberals always used to bleat about “tolerance.” But actually they have no tolerance for anything they don’t agree with. This issue goes even beyond forcing people to bake cakes against their religious scruples. I’ve written about Brendan Eich, forced out as head of a major company, for the “crime” of supporting a California referendum against gay marriage (which passed). Isn’t that precisely the “McCarthyism” lefties beat their breasts about?

Perhaps, instead of seeking to browbeat and coerce resistors, gay marriage advocates would do better to emulate Abraham Lincoln’s “with malice toward none, with charity for all.” A virtuously victorious gay rights movement might be magnanimous in recognizing that Jack Phillips has a right to his stupid religion.

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Inequality, wage stagnation, and free stuff

December 6, 2017

Recent years have seen much agitation about inequality, and the seeming fact that middle-income earnings have risen very little, if at all, in recent decades. Some see this as the rich “hogging” all the societal wealth gains.

Inequality is a real concern. Society is ever more bifurcated between the well educated and the less educated.

However, there are a number of reasons why that ostensible wage stagnation is not what it seems. First, wage comparisons over time must factor in inflation. But most economists know that government inflation indices are themselves inflated, overstating the true fall in the dollar’s value. Compounded over decades, this significantly understates the current worth of today’s pay.

Also, such wage numbers generally omit fringe benefits, which are increasingly important. The biggest one is health benefits which have risen greatly in both cost and value over decades. When that too is factored in, today’s workers are again seen to be earning more.

A further factor was highlighted by a recent piece in The Economist, which really made me sit up and take notice. It’s the value people get out of the internet. This adds to living standards and the quality of life one has with a given income level. And it’s more significant than you might guess.

The Economist reports how some researchers made estimates of the value of web goodies based on how much money people would demand, when asked, to give them up. These are necessarily crude estimates, yet they are eye-popping.

It’s $900 a year for YouTube and other video; $2800 for maps; $750 for Facebook; and a whopping $16,600 for search engines. (The Facebook estimate seems very low to me in comparison to the others; it may reflect that many people have a love-hate relationship with Facebook, considering it a sinkhole of time). Anyhow, this again gives at least some idea of the value of these services, to the average American.

We get these goodies essentially free. Of course, we do “pay” by giving web businesses data they use to target ads at us. But it’s a very one-sided deal. The Economist notes that, as against the $750 estimated value of Facebook to an average user, Facebook eked just $4.65 in ad revenue.

True, this has still made Mark Zuckerberg very rich. But it points up the fundamental fallacy of the rich getting their wealth at the expense of the rest. Zuckerberg provides users with value over a hundred times what he gets. That indeed is the essence of commerce: businesses profit by selling things for less than their value to buyers. That’s how the whole world gets richer.

New depths of depravity

December 3, 2017

“Believe me,” he says, “believe me.”

A constant verbal tic. As if his subconscious knows he won’t be believed. You might think a man widely called a liar might try to avoid lies. But au contraire. He shoves his thumb in our eye.

“Believe me,” he said, regarding the tax bill, “This is going to cost me a fortune. This is not good for me. Believe me.” He said the “wealthy and well connected” aren’t benefiting and are actually mad at him because the bill is ending a lot of their loopholes. “I don’t care,” he said.

All huge lies. Does he think people are fools? Well, his supporters, yes.

Or does he delude himself that having concealed his tax returns he can now deny the nevertheless obvious fact that this legislation will benefit him personally, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars? What mental disorder is this?

But the big lie is claiming to help the middle class. In reality (yes, reality still does exist) middle class people will get crumbs at best, many will actually pay higher taxes, while the wealthiest, and corporations, make out like bandits. Moreover, while the latter give-aways are permanent, the benefits for the less wealthy expire in five years, so most of them will be paying more. This will happen, conveniently, in the next administration. Do they imagine the next president will get the blame?

It’s also a brazen political hit, targeted against wealthier states like New York, California and Massachusetts, which happen to have higher state and local taxes — and happened to vote against Trump.

And the idea that the tax cuts will trickle down to the less wealthy because businesses will hire more and pay more is another big lie. American businesses are already sitting atop piles of excess cash. And meantime, whatever stimulatory effect these tax cuts might have will be cancelled out by their blowing up deficits and national debt, which will ultimately wreck our economy.*

Then Trump re-tweeted stupid phony videos disseminated by an extreme right-wing British hate group to smear Muslims. Talk about fake news! A disgusting witless act by the President of the United States. Almost the entire British nation (including even Nigel Farage!) came together in shock to condemn it. (In response Trump tweeted an insult at Britain’s prime minister.)

The irony is that if he’d wanted to show Muslim atrocities, instead of this fake garbage he could have used pictures of children tortured by the Syrian regime; or James Foley’s head sawed off; or the Jordanian pilot burned alive; or, for that matter, 9/11; and the New Jersey Muslims celebrating it. (Oops, that was another Trump lie.)

Even more disturbing is that, despite everything, Trump’s approval rating still holds in the high thirties. In any other country, or in our own past, a leader behaving so egregiously would have forfeited all support. But today’s America is afflicted by extreme partisan tribalism.

Fools will say I should just shut up already, give it up, suck it up (and what about Hillary). Sorry, this is not normal politics. My beloved country is being defiled, and it breaks my heart.

* Only one Republican senator, Bob Corker, had the sense and integrity to vote no — literally the last man standing.

My chicken poem

December 3, 2017

The latest issue of the local poetry anthology, Up the River, includes one of mine. Click here to see it. (And note my bio!)

Sexual harassment: revolution, or witch hunt?

December 1, 2017

I had thought we were done here, the rules made clear 25 years ago with Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. But apparently a lot of guys still didn’t get the memo. Well, they’ve gotten it now.

A recent Michael Gerson column talks about this as a national moral renewal. A social revolution can be a long time in coming; things may seem frozen; then all at once the ice breaks apart. Those who insist nothing ever changes are repeatedly proven wrong. But Gerson notes here a spectacular incongruity. The president is often seen as setting the nation’s moral tone. Yet this revolution against sexual harassment is happening even while the president himself is a disgusting transgressor. In fact, by electing him America had seemed to go the other way, throwing its former ethical standards down the toilet. Thus it’s really a surprise to see those standards resurge with a vengeance. Not a top-down phenomenon, but bottom-up — the nation rising to a new moral consensus despite its president.

As Gerson notes too, America’s most vocal moral posturers are missing in action here: the “family values” religious fundamentalists. He quotes James Dobson, founder of “Focus on the Family,” defending Roy Moore. This Gerson calls “beyond hypocrisy . . . the ideology of white male dominance dressed up as religion.” But (as I’ve written) in today’s America politics trumps everything.

The comeuppance of guys like Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, and Matt Lauer, is a good thing. It is indeed a moral lurch forward. Al Franken did wrong too, but not remotely in their class. And he showed a lot of class in the humble and sincere way he has responded. Here again is White House Filth Apologist Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the President hasn’t. I think that’s a very clear distinction.” Indeed.

And now Garrison Keillor; the revolution transmogrified into a witch hunt. The other day, conversing with my wife about this stuff, she opined that in the workplace men can no longer touch women at all. I disagreed, saying there’s a difference between a pat on the back and one on the behind. Well, my wife was right (as usual). Keillor apparently patted a woman on the back — a gesture of sympathy after she spoke of unhappiness. He touched bare skin. Horrors! He’s toast. Fired by Minnesota Public Radio. Off the air. A scheduled public performance abruptly cancelled. A distinguished career of half a century ended in ugliness.

This has now gone way overboard. We’ve lost our minds.

What ever happened to the idea of due process? Of innocent-until-proven-guilty? Don’t any of these guys even get a hearing, to answer charges? Nope. Punishment upon accusation is instantaneous. And call me a benighted troglodyte, but even if the accusation against Keillor is completely true, it’s still a mile short of a firing offense. A minor momentary lapse of decorum. If this is now the required standard of behavior, there’s not a human being on the planet — not even the Dalai Lama — who can meet it.

Like the French Revolution, this one too now has proceeded to the next stage: a Reign of Terror and daily spectacle of guillotining.

The Soul of the First Amendment

November 27, 2017

How far should free speech go?

Floyd Abrams is the country’s leading First Amendment lawyer. I bought his book, The Soul of the First Amendment, at the recent symposium on the post-truth culture (mainly for the opportunity to shake his hand).

The book’s introduction discusses my favorite painting: Norman Rockwell’s Freedom of Speech (in his “Four Freedoms” series). If not an artistic masterpiece, it’s a gem of conveying an idea that’s very dear to me. Abrams explains that it illustrates an actual event Rockwell witnessed, at a Vermont town meeting. The speaker was a lone dissenter against a popular proposal. He’s an ordinary working class Joe. A telling detail is the paper protruding from his pocket. It suggests he’s not talking through his hat, but has gathered some information — a point of particular resonance today. And even more so is the painting’s other key feature — the respectful listening by the man’s fellow citizens. For me this painting captures America — and civilization — at its best.

Freedom of speech in America is enshrined by the First Amendment — “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech or of the press . . . .” (The Fourteenth Amendment made it applicable against state governments too.) A key point of the book is how unique this actually is, not only in history, but in today’s world. In fact, no other country so exalts the inviolability of free speech. All others subject it to varying restrictions. And mostly they involve what are basically political concerns — the very sphere wherein freedom of expression is actually the most consequential.

People have been jailed in Europe for the crime of Holocaust denial. That is, advocating a certain interpretation of history. Europe also has many laws against “hate speech,” quite broadly (if vaguely) defined. Abrams cites a Belgian member of parliament prosecuted for distributing leaflets calling for a “Belgians and European First” policy, sending asylum seekers home, and opposing “Islamification.” His sentence included a ten year disqualification from holding office. It was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights! And such a case is not unusual in Europe. Actress Brigitte Bardot was fined 15,000 Euros for writing a letter objecting to how French Muslims ritually slaughter sheep.

America is a free speech paradise in comparison not only to such other places, but to our own past. The First Amendment actually played almost no role in our law and culture until around the mid-20th century. Abrams cites a 1907 Colorado episode. A lame-duck governor, defeated for re-election, exploited a newly passed law to pack the state supreme court with judges who thereupon ruled that he’d actually won the election. A newspaper published an editorial criticizing this ruling. The Colorado court held the editor in contempt. And that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion written by the famed Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The idea underlying all these cases is that rights are never absolute, being always subject to a balancing against the public interest. I myself have written that the Second Amendment’s “right to keep and bear arms” does not mean you can possess howitzers or nuclear weapons. And freedom of religion doesn’t cover human sacrifice. So it’s similarly argued that freedom of speech and press must be balanced against other public goods, and may sometimes be required to give way.

Abrams argues, however, that the First Amendment’s language, absolute on its face, reflects its authors having already performed such a balancing. The benefits to society, to the kind of polity they aspired to create, of unfettered freedom of expression were balanced against what public good might otherwise be promoted. And in that balancing, freedom of expression won out, being found the weightier. It’s more important to have a society with such freedom than, for example, one where religious sensibilities are protected from insult — or where judges are shielded from editorial criticism. That’s why we have the First Amendment, and why it actually does not permit the kind of balancing underlying that 1907 Colorado case. Justice Holmes himself came to repent his decision there, dissenting in similar future cases, and eventually the Court overturned its Colorado ruling.*

As Abrams stresses, the issues raised by the Belgian and Colorado cases go to the heart of the matter: free expression with regard to issues of public concern. This is crucial for meaningful democracy, which requires open debate and dissemination of information, with contesting advocates each subjecting the other’s views to critical scrutiny. Without that, voting itself is meaningless.

The exact same considerations were central to a case Abrams argued before the Supreme Court, which he discusses. He there contended that the government, because of the First Amendment, may not criminalize distribution of a film critical of a presidential candidate. (I quoted Abrams about it on this blog.) He won the case. And given our common understanding of free speech in America, that might seem a no-brainer.

The case was Citizens United, where the movie in question had corporate funding. Abrams is unrepentant and defends the Court’s decision, which has been ferociously assailed for affirming that businesses have the same rights to free speech and public advocacy that individual citizens have, and for allowing them to spend money in such endeavors. Abrams rejects the effort to make a distinction between money and speech, arguing that no right can be meaningful without the concomitant right to spend your money in its exercise. And he insists that businesses, being part of society, must have the right to participate in public debate.

Abrams cites here a case in which Nike was accused of corporate misdeeds and sought to rebut the charges with press releases and publications. For that, the company was sued in California state court under a consumer protection law barring false advertising and the like. The real issue was whether the First Amendment protects Nike’s freedom of speech. When the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, the New York Times submitted a brief which Abrams quotes: “businesses and their representatives have just as much a right to speak out on any public issue as do interest groups and politicians . . . .” And because issues concerning businesses “are increasingly fundamental to the world’s social and political landscape, the withdrawal of corporate voices on those issues from the media would deprive the public of vital information.” Abrams deems the newspaper’s stance there starkly at odds with the position it later took on Citizens United, where the issue was really the same. Issue advocacy, and backing candidates for office, stand on identical ground as far as the First Amendment is concerned.

For me personally, all this is not abstract, but essential to my being. Abrams discusses the landmark case of Times v. Sullivan, which particularly protects criticism of public officials. That saved my butt in 1973 when I was sued for millions by guys whose misconduct I mentioned in a book on local politics. I love the freedom to express myself like that, and in this blog. I’ve been called fearless but the fact is, in America, there’s nothing to fear. In most other places blogging like mine requires a courage I probably don’t have. People literally risk their lives, and some have been killed.

Abrams notes Europe’s “right to be forgotten,” with search engines being required to erase true information about people when requested, such as reports on criminal convictions. I blogged about this in 2009 (again quoting Abrams), when two convicted German murderers, Wolfgang Werle and Manfred Lauber, sued to erase their names from Wikipedia. In defiance of that affront to freedom of information, I made a point of putting their names in my blog post, and do so again here. God bless America and the First Amendment!

* Yet even this right isn’t actually absolute. The First Amendment doesn’t protect libel or slander, child pornography, or shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater (as the same Justice Holmes famously explained).

What’s so bad about infidelity?

November 26, 2017

We have loosened up tremendously in matters sexual. Just letting people pick their own partners was a huge liberalization. Now we can not only pick them, but divorce them. They can be the same sex. We can even have sex, and children, without marriage. Today, it seems, anything goes.

Except infidelity. That remains very much unacceptable. Given all the liberalization mentioned, this might seem a quaint anachronism.

I read an article recently about sex/marriage counselor Esther Perel whose book, Mating in Captivity, argues that it’s unreasonable to insist on 100% fidelity in a couple. That demands, she says, a standard of human perfection which people aren’t generally capable of. Perel doesn’t think marriages should break up over a little thing like adultery.

Many are shocked by this, insisting adultery is a Big Thing indeed — a fundamental breach of the marriage contract. And there is some biology behind this, with marriage as a pact between two people to raise children on the basis that they’re in fact their biological offspring. The female gives the male that pledge so he’ll stick around and help raise the kids. He wouldn’t necessarily make that investment without some confidence the kids really are his. And the woman doesn’t want his energies diverted to some other gal’s brats. All this is straightforward “selfish gene” biology — behavior manipulated by a set of genes to promote that set’s replication into the next generation (because children raised by two devoted parents are likelier to survive and reproduce themselves). This is why sexual jealousy is so powerful — it’s part of this system to maximize gene replication.

And all this psychology being part of our biology, we cannot simply shuck it off. But Perel has a point in suggesting, in effect, that we step back and look at matters from the standpoint of our true personal interests — which may not actually align with that genetic programming. We don’t have to want what our genes want. Moreover, especially with modern birth control, the parentage concern is really a non-issue in most adulteries.

So, does it really make sense for romantic partners to insist on perfect sexual exclusivity? Or might it make better sense to recognize that a partner may have psychological reasons for seeking a sexual experience outside the relationship that do not actually constitute a betrayal of it? Confirmation of one’s attractiveness to others is an ego boost. It may simply be nothing deeper than novelty, fun, exciting, enlivening. So is bungee jumping, and nobody thinks bungee jumping violates a marriage bond.

That might sound too coolly rational. But, again, Perel is on to something in trying to get couples to see things that way, when they’re working through the aftermath of infidelity. After all, while sex is something very important in human life, it certainly is not everything, and it normally isn’t even the chief element in a long-term romantic relationship. There is just so much else going on in how two people relate to each other and what they give each other. It does seem kind of crazy to throw out that baby with the bathwater of mere sexual infidelity.

Yet such is nevertheless still a powerful social norm, even in this age of tolerance and permissiveness. Indeed, given that reality, pragmatist that I am I’m often baffled at people risking a relationship central to their lives in order to obtain what seem to me such limited and fleeting rewards. And, we’ve lately been seeing, risking careers too for a moment’s sexual frisson.

But perhaps I come by that olympian perspective from a standpoint wherein the temptation doesn’t figure. Women have never thrown themselves at me. It was hard enough trying to seduce them while single that attempting it while married was never conceivable. (Likewise finding one as attractive as my wife.)

Trump’s depraved disregard for truth undermines democracy

November 23, 2017

Mary McCarthy famously said of Lillian Hellman, Every word she writes is a lie, including “and” and “the.”

Tuesday Trump said, about Alabama Senate candidate Doug Jones, “I’ve looked at his record. It’s terrible on crime. It’s terrible on the border. It’s terrible on the military.”

“I’ve looked at his record.” Every word in that sentence is a lie. Trump never looks at any records. He only looks at TV.

“Terrible on crime?” Jones was a federal prosecutor. He prosecuted crimes. Roy Moore, Trump’s candidate, commits them.

Doug Jones prosecuted perpetrators of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, which killed four young girls. That redeemed rule of law in Alabama. Roy Moore defied rule of law, resulting in his removal from the bench, twice. He has molested underage girls (based on credible testimony of more than a few victims).

Yet it’s Jones who’s “terrible on crime?” I want to throw up.

And “terrible on the border?” And “terrible on the military?” How, exactly? Trump doesn’t say. Because he can’t. There’s nothing there. He just flings out these slippery, slimy accusations. The loathsome creep spewed exactly the same pus at Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. (And he’s never retracted his idiotic lie that President Obama wiretapped him.)

“All politicians lie,” is a common refrain. It isn’t true, though some bend and shade the truth. But none, in American history, has ever shown such depraved disregard for truth as Trump. He simply could not care less whether anything he says corresponds to reality. Recently he deemed it “disgusting” that the press can say whatever it wants. Yet mainstream press is very careful about reporting truthfully. It’s Trump himself saying whatever he wants, truth be damned. That’s disgusting.

I may sound like a broken record, but this is so important that every fresh travesty compels my bearing witness. This — like a computer program that’s corrupted and scrambles information — corrupts the public discourse and debate vital to democracy. They fundamentally depend upon a concept of what a fact is. Upon words themselves having meaning. In Trump’s mouth they do not; the concept of “fact” has no meaning.

And the words “president of the United States” used to carry a certain dignity. Now they convey the howl of the madhouse; the stench of the sewer.

Khizr Khan — what America means

November 21, 2017

There’s a lot of flag waving these days. Often with no clue what it really means.

Khizr Khan knows what it means. He got it as a law student in Pakistan, in a course on comparative constitutions. There he read America’s, and the Declaration of Independence, and was blown away. He read them as manifestoes of human dignity, a concept alien to his native Pakistan (and many other places).

And human dignity was foremost in Khizr Khan’s mind at that sublime moment when, finally, he stepped into a court room and took the oath as an American citizen.

WAMC radio’s Joe Donahue interviewed him about his book, An American Family. Hearing the interview was deeply moving and inspiring.

What Khizr Khan also considers central to America is human caring. Such ideals were instilled in his son, Humayun; Khan told of Humayun’s standing up for a bullying victim in grade school; assuring safety for female college classmates; and finally sacrificing his life in Iraq to protect fellow soldiers.

When Khizr Khan, his wife beside him, spoke at the Democratic convention about Humayun’s heroism, he offered to share his cherished personal copy of the constitution with Donald Trump. Instead, Trump badmouthed Khan and his family.

That piece of filth is not fit to lick Khizr Khan’s shoes.

Khizr Khan is a great American. He’s also a Muslim and an immigrant — both categories many “Americans” today demonize. But his story testifies to why now, more than ever, America needs immigrants. It’s because, much unlike flag-waving “America Firsters,” immigrants like Khizr Khan have a true appreciation for the ideals and values that made America great. Without a population that understands, and lives, those ideals and values, no amount of flag waving will make it great again.

Moore, Franken, Trump, sex, and power

November 18, 2017

Harvey Weinstein. Bill Cosby. Bill O’Reilly. Bill Clinton. Kevin Spacey. Louis C.K. Michael Oreskes. Roy Moore. Donald J. Trump.

Abusing power to get sexual jollies is as old as humanity. After all, what is power for​?

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” How much Roy Moore smoke must choke Alabama before it sets off a fire alarm?

Of course, this is politics, and as I’ve recently written, for many Americans today, politics trumps everything. And so we come to this: Alabama Republicans sticking behind a sexual predator and molester of underage girls, because it’s their team, their side. They can’t vote for the other guy. Can’t give the other side a win.

One Alabaman I heard interviewed said he believed Moore because Moore has always been an upright man of God. But how does he know that? Well, Moore has always postured as a man of God. I’m reminded of the old Soviet joke: “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.” Moore pretends to be godly, and Alabama Republicans pretend to believe him.

And now Al Franken. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the photo. It’s obvious he thought he was just being funny (he was a professional comic); not taking sexual advantage, but mocking that. It was stupid and juvenile, but that’s all it was. (There was also a kiss — while rehearsing a script that included a kiss.) Franken has acknowledged behaving badly, and has apologized.

President Trump — while refusing to condemn Moore — tweeted: “The Al Frankenstein picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?”

Really bad? Did Trump forget this little bagatelle: “I moved on her like a bitch. I couldn’t get there and she was married. Then all-of-a-sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything . . . I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything . . . grab them by the pussy.”

(Trump said that was just talk, he’d never actually done it. The number of women saying otherwise has reached 16. Only seven have accused Roy Moore, so far.)

“People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The pot calling the kettle black.” Trump’s attacking Franken for sexual misbehavior shows, yet again, that he suffers from a severe psychological defect. Self-perception divorced from reality.

Some have seen the Weinstein story as triggering a witch-hunt. Well, some real evil has been exposed, including Roy Moore’s, but when Al Franken gets sucked in, with what is really a very trivial transgression, then it does start to look like a witch-hunt. But meantime, with all the men who have lately been punished and made pariahs for their sexual misdeeds, why not Trump? Former “family values” Republicans continue supporting him. Politics trumps everything.

There is no comparison between Franken’s behavior and Trump’s own. Asked about it, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made this remarkable statement: “Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the President hasn’t. I think that’s a very clear distinction.”

I agree with her.

This is the world we live in.