Friday, September 29, 2006

Falling gas prices won't bail out GOP

Letter Published in the Baltimore Sun--September 29, 2006

Columnist Victor Davis Hanson gleefully opines that the slight bump in President Bush's approval ratings, which is mainly tied to the reduction in the price of gasoline, will allow the Republican Party to sneak out wins in November as the Democrats stand pat ("The Republican tortoise is gaining on the Democratic hares," Opinion • Commentary, Sept. 22). He's whistling in the graveyard.

Unfortunately for Mr. Hanson and similar GOP optimists, this polling uptick, which is very minor, is not a trend.

When gas prices spiked, of course there was widespread discontent among the American people.
Anger was initially directed toward those in power - who are mostly Republican.

However, people grudgingly made adjustments and got used to the $3-plus-per-gallon prices, and the animosity dissipated to an extent.

The same thing will happen with the lower prices: early euphoria, to be sure, but, again, the initial "shock" will wear off.

And the gas price problem was only one of many concerns for the American people.
It was not the driving cause for the disaffection with the Republican-controlled White House, Congress and courts.

The issue that is in the forefront of people's minds now is one Mr. Hanson glossed over like it was no big deal: Iraq.

The voters will continue to see the war in Iraq as an abject failure - from its unjustified inception to the incompetent planning and execution in winning the peace.

The blame for this colossal travesty will be directed to the Republican president, vice president, secretary of defense and all the Republican leaders in the House of Representatives and the Senate for their support of this boondoggle, which has cost us thousands of lost and broken lives, depleted our treasury, created more enemies, diminished our standing in the world and left us weaker in the war on terror.

The few bucks a tankful the voters will save until the election will not make them forget about the war.

Steve Charing

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

An Open Letter to Clay Aiken

By Steve Charing

Dear Clay,

I want you to know that I am a fan of yours. I rooted like crazy for you on American Idol, voted for you numerous times, and felt you were screwed by the ultimate voting snafus. I thought your single "Invisible" was one of the best releases of the year.

You’re talented singer and a sweet guy. So what I’m about to tell you is, I believe, for your own good, improve your chances at happiness, and will help you in your future career.

Clay, come out of the closet already!

Your defensive denials and evasion especially during your interview with and Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America made you look like you were squirming and, therefore, dishonest. Saying that coming out "doesn’t make sense" is wrong. It makes perfectly good sense, as I will explain.

Until you come out, you have to expect questions by media folks to whom you agreed to talk as you ostensibly promote your new album, "A Thousand Different Ways." Your reticence smacked of Ricky Martin when confronted with the same questions. Have you noticed which direction his career has gone?

Give your fans some credit. Do you truly believe that girls fantasize about marrying you and that’s the only reason they buy your CD’s and concert tickets?

People are far more accepting nowadays than when Liberace built his lucrative career by luring middle-aged women to his shows. Back then he could not come out and maintain his popularity, although most suspected his feminine antics were tied to being a homosexual. And Luther Vandross didn’t want to divulge his being gay lest he, too, lose his female fan base.

On the other hand, Elton John punched the rumors square in the mouth when he came out and proudly at that, although his initial claim of being bisexual was plain silly. He continued his fabulous run, on the path to superstardom without a hitch. He’s totally liberated by his self-acceptance and is still prancing down the yellow brick road, laughing all the way to the bank. And Melissa, Ellen and Rosie are also doing quite well since coming out.

As you know, Lance Bass came out only after being outed by "Page 6" of the New York Post. He was sighted in a very public, well-known gay bar in Provincetown. He basically had no choice but to admit it. Nonetheless, he seems so relaxed with himself. He also had a large female fan base and doesn’t seem concerned about it. Lance says he’s received a ton of support and has projects lined up for a busy year and beyond.

People appreciate honesty, so I will be honest with you. I hate stereotypes as much as anyone does, but you are not exactly "straight-acting"—another term I loathe. So many already believe you’re gay. Disclosures about you on the Net abound. You even have been dubbed "Gayken" all over the blogosphere. Clay, you need to come to terms with this and not duck the issue.

Sure, it’s no one’s right to invade your privacy. I think it’s odious, too. But remember you’re a public celebrity. The rules change for the likes of you. The public pays you to perform; you have to accept the attendant scrutiny. It’s not perfect, but it’s a fact of life. You can’t eliminate it with your incredulous denials and evasive banter.

What’s your downside for coming out? You lose a few teenage girls among your "Claymates" who still have delusional fantasies about you? So what? You don’t have much of a male fan base either. Mothers and grandmothers already adore you and will. Fans—young and old—will respect you more for your candor. How will they love you if you don’t love yourself?

I understand how you believe that your coming out would hurt your Mom. If she needs any comforting by others who have children who are gay, I’m sure there is a PFLAG chapter near her home. You should check out to find that chapter. You’re still the same son she loves so much. Nothing has changed except the shackles from your self-imprisonment will have been cut off.

Over time your coming out will all be forgotten—a thing of the past. You still have talent and charm. That’s your key to success. You can widen your appeal by doing good things for the lgbt community. You can be an activist and a role model—unlike Lance.

Helping fundraising efforts for lgbt causes would be a good first step. Assist on voter registration drives. Be a Grand Marshall in a gay pride parade. Lend your hand to HIV/AIDS awareness. Help kids come to terms with their sexuality.

Come out in time for National Coming Out Day October 11. What a great message that would send! Be visible—not "invisible."

You’d be aiding a segment of the population who is oppressed by straight society—the same oppression and homophobia that is compelling you to hide behind a tortured facade which makes you reluctant to admit your true being. Do it for all of us who have to watch you painfully skirt the questions. But most importantly, do it for you.

Next letter, I will talk to you about your new "do."

Keep in touch.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On to November

Though few Democrats outwardly support marriage equality, they give the lgbt community the best chance for progress

By Steve Charing
Senior Political Analyst

Now that the primaries are over, which locally was highlighted by the defeat of William Donald Schaefer for Comptroller and the mixed results for the openly lgbt candidates, we must look towards November.

On the national front, the stage is now set for at least a partial recovery for our nation from the incompetence, arrogance and greed of the Republican Party. The Democrats are seeing their best opportunity in 12 years of regaining control of the House of Representatives and even a slim shot at re-taking the Senate.

President Bush’s considerable unpopularity, the war in Iraq, Katrina, energy and utility prices, the sluggish economy, deficits, wage stagnation, health care concerns, ethics violations, international standing, and a myriad other shortcomings, one might think the election would be a "gimmee" for the Dems.

The GOP will also cling to its proven mantra that they are better equipped to handle terrorism and national security. But lest we forget, the attacks on 9/11 occurred on Bush’s watch after disregarding high-level warnings about terrorists who are planning to use planes in their next operation.

Our irrational folly in Iraq has stretched our armed forces and budget so thin that we cannot deal with the real threats of Iran and North Korea. Moreover, the administration has failed to implement several key recommendations from the 9/11 Commission report. So how are we more secure?

But don’t overlook the GOP fear and smear machine that will spew venomous negative ads intended to pick apart and pulverize each Democratic candidate while exploiting, as you have seen, the tragedy of 9/11 for political gain.

For the gay community, the general elections on November 7 will be of most importance. Although lgbt-related issues are not high on the list of voters’ priorities, it is vital that we elect gay-friendly candidates. Yes, Democrats have not always been reliable and outspoken on pro-lgbt issues, but the GOP has been a major impediment to progress.

And that’s putting it mildly.

During the 2004 election cycle, gay-hater-in-charge, Karl Rove fueled anti-gay sentiment among the numerous bigots who align themselves with the Republican Party in scaring the public about the threat of "gay marriage" to society. He and his troops used this combustible issue to mobilize anti-gay religious conservatives to ensure passage of nearly a dozen state constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. And it worked.

When the Federal Marriage Amendment backed by President Bush came before both houses in Congress the past two years, most Republicans supported it. Although it was killed before it came to a vote, that’s not encouraging; the GOP lawmakers are clearly not on our side.

A Democratic-controlled House and/or Senate could produce some pro-lgbt legislation, such as repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and enacting the Federal Employment Discrimination Act, even if they are long shots. With the GOP in power, there is zero chance of passage. Therefore, it is in the best interests of the lgbt community to consider voting for Democrats in Congressional races in November. A small chance is better than none.

Locally, we expect a no-holds-barred slugfest for U.S. Senate and Governor. Both are expected to be closely contested.

In the Ben Cardin vs. Michael Steele duel, it is essential that Maryland retains its Democratic seat in the Senate for the reasons stated above. Ben Cardin, while not a classic advocate of gay rights, still maintained a 77 rating out of 100 from the Human Rights Campaign during the last Congress. He is not supportive of same-sex marriage, but favors civil unions.

However, Steele is anti-gay, among other deficiencies, and would thwart any potential pro-lgbt legislation in Congress. He participated in a rally against same-sex marriage and made other derogatory anti-gay statements. We must not let him win.

The race for governor will be even more rough and ugly, and it has been brewing for four years.
Mayor O’Malley is not an proponent of same-sex marriage but would oppose an effort to pass a constitutional amendment that would ban it. He has been fully supportive of lgbt causes since his days on the city council and as mayor, and he favored the addition of transgendered individuals to the city’s anti-discrimination law. Furthermore, he has become a regular speaker at Pride, where except for one appearance by Kurt Schmoke, no other Baltimore mayor had. He also was a guest speaker at last fall’s Equality Maryland’s Jazz Brunch.

Governor Ehrlich has always tilted towards anti-gay ever since his terms in the House of Delegates and in Congress. He considers advancements in gay rights as "special rights," though there were some gay members in his inner circle. As far as I know, he has never met with the Log Cabin Republicans on an official basis.

Ehrlich strongly opposes "gay marriage" and would not allow it on his "watch." Ehrlich vetoed the Medical-Decision-making Act in 2005 but went along with a revised version this past legislative session.

On the other hand, Ehrlich signed into law hate crimes legislation to help protect gays and lesbians, fired a transportation board appointee for making anti-gay remarks on a radio station, and appointed an openly gay judge. I believe these last two actions were done to burnish his moderate credentials as he entered his re-election phase of his seemingly ongoing campaign.

This upcoming election in Maryland is critical for gays as a potential backlash from the Appeals Court ruling on the marriage lawsuit could come down this winter. We will need friends in the Governor’s mansion as well as the legislature to prevent a constitutional amendment.

Nationally Democrats should be motivated to try to take back the government and change the direction of America. Republicans will also be motivated to prevent the Democrats from recapturing the government and relinquishing the power they thrive on. That’s the battle come November.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Homophobia, bigotry motivate same-sex marriage opponents

Letter Published in the Washington Blade--September 8, 2006

Sadly, I agree with Jeff Gannon's conclusion that same-sex marriage will not come to fruition for many years to come ("Gay marriage is a lost cause," September 1). However, he blithely dismissed the homophobia among religious conservatives and their allies as a reason for its demise.

Religious extremists always pointed to the Bible as a sanctuary to support their bigotry, whether it be directed against blacks, women or gays. They cheerily highlight scripture in Leviticus but conveniently dismiss the myriad other "sins" contained therein.

These homophobes insist that marriage is all about procreation but have not pushed to invalidate the marriage licenses of older couples who cannot bear children or other couples who do not want them.

They maintain the one-man, one woman model existed since the beginning of time but ignore the fact that in the Old Testament, Abraham and others typically had five wives.

They insist on making the debate about religion when same-sex marriage advocates were merely seeking civil recognition and the legal benefits, rights and responsibilities that would accrue.

The failure of this effort is more attributable to allowing the religious right to frame the debate on their terms, the intimidation of judges by the extremists, and the squeamishness of elected officials than to the rise of a conservative ideology.

Steve Charing