Sunday, December 30, 2018

OUTspoken’s Top Blog Posts for 2018



T
The end of the year means another list somewhere, and this blog is no exception. Since Steve Charing OUTspoken is a mix of LGBT, Politics and the Arts, the top 5 posts for 2018 according to page views are listed within the categories below. You may click on the title of each to access the full post.



LGBTQ

1.     The Pride of Howard County (October)  
A survey taken of Howard County candidates on their perspectives on LGBTQ issues.

The official kickoff event to publicize the first ever Pride celebration in Howard County.


Then County Executive Allan H. Kittleman appointed Andrew Howard to be the county’s first ever LGBTQ liaison.

Nearly two thousand Pride celebrants attended to first team-sanctioned Pride Night.

Chicago Cubs newly acquired second baseman was dismissive of accusations of his homophobic comments a few years ago setting off another round of controversy.



Politics

Adam Rippon, the first openly gay athlete to compete for the U.S.in the Winter Olympics, was right to snub Vice President Mike Pence’s alleged request for a meeting during the competition in Pyeongchang.

A tongue-in-cheek open letter to President Trump urging him to be interviewed by the Special Counsel.

3.    
When it Comes tothe Military, Trump is AWOL (November) 
Trump’s avoidance of military service plus his numerous displays of disrespect to service members is unprecedented.

4.     




Democrats were urged to associate Republicans with the unpopular Trump as often as they can in the upcoming elections.

5.     There He Goes Again (July) 
Trump once again found a distraction from his horrendous performance in Helsinki by reverting back to the NFL on players kneeling during the national anthem.

Arts

Received most page views for any theatre review on this blog. Popular show being brought back this season.  “… the polished, colorfully costumed, well-staged production at Toby’s is flawless with a high-spirited, talented cast performing their hearts out.”

“[Young Frankenstein is]a comedy about a monster but it’s also a monster comedy.”


All male dance revue. “[Ten Hairy Legs] combines athleticism, emotion, energy, technical mastery, ingenuity and range in a power-packed one-hour performance.

“Leave your worries at home for a few hours and enjoy a talented cast giving their all in this wild adventure in New York, New York, a helluva town.”

“The joy and warmth exhibited by these performers tell the audience they are truly having a great time onstage.”


Blasts from the Past

In addition to those popular posts from 2018 (above), below are several posts from previous years still garnering many views in 2018.








Sunday, December 23, 2018

Action vs. Distraction: A Message from Beto O’Rourke



Image: Grist
The government of the greatest country the world has ever known, the wealthiest, most powerful nation on the planet: closed until further notice.

This shutdown – hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans working without pay during the holidays, basic government functions no longer available to the taxpayers who fund them – didn’t have to happen. The Senate passed a compromise government funding bill two days ago, 100–0. The men and women who can’t agree on what to name a post office were able to unite and unanimously agree on how to fund the entire government.

But maybe it was intended to happen.

Maybe in the face of an investigation that seeks the facts surrounding allegations of collusion with a foreign government and obstruction of justice within our own government… as one aide after another pleads guilty… as the stock market tumbles… as men and women intent on keeping their dignity and their conscience flee his administration… perhaps the President calculates that by adding to the blizzard of bizarre behavior over the last two years and shutting down the government at Christmas, while his own party still controls each branch of it, the institutions that we need for our democracy to function (and to ensure no man is above the law) will be overwhelmed.

From a President who promised action, we got distraction.

But my concern for the country goes beyond the immediate pain and dysfunction that this shutdown will cause. Beyond even ensuring that this President is held accountable. What’s happening now is part of a larger threat to us all.

If our institutions no longer work, if we no longer have faith in them, if there’s no way to count on government even functioning (three shutdowns this year alone), then perhaps ultimately we become open to something else. Whatever we choose to call it, whether we openly acknowledge it at all, my fear is that we will choose certainty, strength and predictability over this constant dysfunction, even if it comes at the price of our democracy (the press; the ballot box; the courts; congress and representative government).

If there were ever a man to exploit this precarious moment for our country and our form of government, it’s Trump. Sending 5,400 troops to U.S. border communities during the midterm elections. Organizing Border Patrol “crowd control” exercises in El Paso on election day.

Defying our laws by taking children from their parents, keeping kids in tent camps, turning back refugees at our ports. Calling the press “the enemy of the people” and celebrating violence against members of the media. Pitting Americans against each other based on race and religion and immigration status. Inviting us to hate openly, to call Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, to call asylum seekers animals, to describe Klansmen and neo-Nazis as very fine people. Seeking to disenfranchise fellow Americans with made up fears of voter fraud. Isolating us from the other great democracies as he cozies up to dictators and thugs. Lying again and again. Making a mockery of the United States – once the indispensable nation, the hope of mankind.

Image: The Guardian
So we can engage in the immediate fights about blame for this latest shutdown… fall into his arguments about a wall, or steel slats, at a time of record border security and in the face of asylum seekers – our neighbors – fleeing the deadliest countries in the world… we can respond to his name-calling and grotesque, bizarre behavior… or we can pull up, look back at this moment from the future and see exactly what is happening to our country.

We are at risk of losing those things that make us special, unique, exceptional, those things that make us the destination for people the world over, looking for a better life and fleeing countries who lack our institutions, our rule of law, our stability.

If ever there was a time to put country over party it is now. This is not about a wall, it’s not about border security, it’s not about Democrats and Republicans. It’s about the future of our country – whether our children and grandchildren will thank us or blame us. Whether we will lose what was fought for, made more perfect, by the men and women who risked and lost their lives at Antietam, on Omaha beach, in Jackson, Mississippi… whether we will be defined by greatness and ambition or pettiness and fear. Whether we will continue to live in the world’s greatest democracy, or something else.

In the short term – let’s pass the funding bill that was agreed to by the Senate 100–0 just a few days ago. Send it to the President with the confidence that we represent the people of this country and that we are willing to override his veto if he cannot respect their will. Show that government can work, that we can see past our immediate differences to serve the greater good. To put country over party. To put country over one man. To do what we were sent here to do.

In the longer term – we must strengthen all of our institutions at the very moment they are called into question. Some clear opportunities for Congress: Ensure that our representatives in government reject PAC money, corporate and special interest influence. Demand that they hold town halls in our communities, listen to and respond to their constituents. Show America that they are working for us and for no one else.

Take action on the most urgent issues of our day: climate change, healthcare, endless war, income inequality, immigration, the vibrancy of rural communities and inner cities, education and criminal justice reform. Define the goal in each area, build the coalition to achieve it, find the common ground (between parties, between branches of government), and move forward.

Prove that our system of government – whatever its problems – is still the best thing under the sun.
It’s action vs. distraction. One will save our democracy, the other will lead to its end.

- Beto

Monday, December 17, 2018

Why Dems Will Not Face Trump in 2020


Potential Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 have been dipping their toes in the political waters to determine if they will indeed make a run. From the familiar Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden to the lesser known Julian Castro and Mitch Landrieu, with well over a dozen in between including Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, these individuals are exploring whether or not they can raise sufficient money for a presidential bid, if they are viable to survive the grueling primary system, and to see if the voters think they are tough enough to stand up to Donald Trump in 2020. 

The latter point is interesting as these candidates will attempt to out-Trump Trump in an effort to corral the Democratic base behind them.  It should be noted, however, that Hillary Clinton has always been considered tough yet she couldn’t topple Trump for a bevy of reasons irrespective of her toughness. 

Nonetheless, voters, especially Democratic voters, will be applying ideological litmus tests to these candidates as well as determining their electability against an opponent who has yet to approach, much less crack 50 percent job approval.

With all the hand wringing that will take place in order to figure out an effective way to “stand up to Trump,” it may be a moot point.   I may be in a small minority but I truly believe that Donald Trump will not be their opponent in 2020.

The President’s legal woes haven’t even scratched the surface and already he’s in trouble. For the first time, Federal prosecutors directly implicated Trump for federal crimes involving illegal campaign contributions resulting from payments made to Trump’s alleged mistresses in an effort to defraud the U.S. by paying hush money to these women so their stories remained hidden from the voters during the 2016 campaign.

Those offenses alone supported by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s statement as well as corroborating evidence and testimony that are in the possession of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) and Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III would amount to, in the opinion of many legal scholars, an impeachable offense.

Yet, that is just the tip of the iceberg.  According to NBC News, the following are other investigations underway:

. The Mueller probe looking at Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and whether there was cooperation/coordination/assistance from the Trump campaign;

. New York prosecutors looking at the inaugural committee;

. New York’s attorney general examining the Trump Foundation and Trump’s business dealings;

. the lawsuits looking at whether Trump is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause through his business dealings; and

. the defamation lawsuit by Summer Zervos, who alleges that Trump defamed her after she claimed she was sexually assaulted by the president in 2007.

In addition, there is Mr. Mueller’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice on the part of the President (think: Comey and Sessions firings, Trump’s public comments to Lester Holt and, of course, his tweets).

And let’s not forget the myriad investigations the Democratic-controlled House will launch in 2019.  Any organization Trump had led over the past decade is currently or will be under investigation. Follow the money because with Trump, it’s all about money.

A full listing of ALL the investigations that involve Trump and Russia can be seen here.

That is one big basket of deplorable legal perils. 

My gut tells me that the meticulous, professional and extremely competent Mr. Mueller will present
Image: The Daily Beast
(if allowed to complete his work) a convincingly damning case against Mr. Trump in the areas of his purview. Moreover, the relentless U.S. Attorney’s office in the SDNY as well as an incoming New York State Attorney General will probably clobber Mr. Trump and members of his family for other crimes.

So, what does all this mean with respect to 2020?  There will likely be Articles of Impeachment drawn by the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives after reviewing the reports and/or indictments that will undoubtedly be forthcoming. But even if impeachment is voted by the House, the fate of Mr. Trump’s removal from office rests in the hands of the Senate.

When President Nixon was about to be impeached, key Republicans approached him to tell him his time was up.  Rather than face a difficult and divisive trial, Nixon chose to resign.

 Most people that I know believe a defiant Donald Trump would never cave like Nixon did.  He will fight back with all his might and try to rally what will remain of his loyal base to “revolt,” as he suggested, pressuring Senate Republicans from convicting.

Whether those Senators will succumb to such pressure will be determined by how the public reacts to the Special Counsel’s report and indictments and from what the SDNY brings to the table.

If the evidence is so overwhelming and his support erodes significantly, I suspect Mr. Trump will choose not to fight any impeachment attempt and may resign and return to his gilded lifestyle that was partially interrupted by winning the presidency. Even his wife feels the stress is too much for his health.  

More likely though, he will not seek a second term and will blame the media, the Democrats, President Obama, “Crooked Hillary” and everybody else but himself.

Either way, Democratic presidential candidates will not be facing Mr. Trump in 2020.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

The Walls Are Closing In


How will a volatile Trump react to the Mueller findings?

During the run-up to the 2016 election, Donald Trump was already discounting the results if he lost saying it is a “rigged system.” This accusation was offered without any evidence.

However, we are learning that the election was, in fact, rigged but in Trump's favor as interference on the part of the Russian government has been documented by the findings from a number of U S. Intel organizations.  Then after Trump stunned the world by defeating Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College, he claimed, again without evidence, that he lost the popular vote because of voter fraud.

You see, Donald Trump cannot accept losing. He would be portrayed as weak and that's his biggest fear other than losing money.

As the legal walls continue to close in on Trump with likely charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice facing him as a result of the work of Special Counsel Robert F. Mueller III and his formidable team, the shit is about to hit the fan .

If anyone believes Trump will take these citations calmly and with reverence to the probe, I have seaside property in Kansas to sell them.

Rather, we should anticipate an explosion the likes of which this country has not seen in modern history. I’m not suggesting his fire-breathing supporters will automatically take to the streets with their beloved weapons pointed and shooting everyone.  Nor will there be a civil war of sort as conspiracy theorist Alex Jones suggested .

But we could be entering dangerous territory here. I wouldn’t rule out an increase in attacks against minorities and immigrants even if they’re sporadic as a reaction to their cult leader finding himself in hot water.  Sharp spikes in hate crimes have already occurred since the election so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.  Trump would say or do nothing to quell an uprising regardless of the degree. He has been anticipating such an outcome ever since the “Russia Thing” got underway.

And he seems to be pushing for one.

His rallies with his base have been aimed at whipping up support for himself and defiance towards the Mueller probe while denigrating the “fake news” media and urging action to lock up his opponents.


Moreover, his off-the-rails tweets, which at times have further placed the president in legal peril, are not simply rants that occur often in the wee hours of the morning during an insomnia-induced brain dump. They are also messages to his rabid base to point out how unfairly he’s being treated by his enemies--mostly angry Democrats--who cannot accept a defeat in an election they were supposed to win.

These tweets and incendiary rallies are intended to send signals to his base that anything coming out of the Mueller probe cannot be taken as legitimate. The angry mobs Trump may actually see will not be Democrats (as he predicted following the Democratic takeover of the House) but his own fire-breathing supporters who will deny the inevitable outcome of a serious investigation that is a threat to the Trump’s presidency as well has his family.

A similar view is presented here.