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Monday, December 29, 2008

The OUTIES: Best (or Worst) of 2008

Happy New Year, readers!

In keeping with the year-end tradition of columnists’ picking the best, worse and whatever, I am introducing OUTspoken’s list of the Best (or Worst) of 2008, or the OUTIES. It’ s an unapologetic, biased, subjective, slanted list of the best (or worst in some cases) of politics, culture, the city, the state and the scene. Some selections call for a brief explanation; others clearly do not.

In no particular order, welcome to the 2008 OUTIES:

Best Date of the Year—November 4, 2008.

Best Campaign Slogan—"Yes We Can"

Most Inaccurate Campaign Slogan—"Putting Country First"

Best Political Decision—Barack Obama’s eschewing public financing to raise private contributions instead

Worst Political Decision— You betcha! John McCain’s picking Sarah Palin as his running mate. (See Most Inaccurate Campaign Slogan above)

Most Disappointing Outreach Effort—Obama’s selecting Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the inauguration’s invocation

Gutsiest Political Decision—Obama’s choosing Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State

Most Nauseating Character in the Campaign—"Joe the Plumber"

Most Nauseating Word in the Campaign—"Maverick"

Most Influential Entertainer During the Campaign—Tina Fey

Most Ironic Disclosure—Turns out that daughter of social conservative Sarah Palin isn’t so big on abstinence only

Best Court Decision—California’s Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage should be legal

Worst Election Result—California passing Proposition 8, which negated the court decision above

Best Hollywood Straight LGBT Ally—Brad Pitt, for his substantial contributions to defeat Prop 8.

Best Hollywood LGBT Person—(Tie) Neil Patrick Harris and Ellen Degeneres

Worst Hollywood LGBT Person—Elton John, for his problem with the word "marriage" during the Prop 8 debate

Most Supportive Straight TV Commentator—Keith Olbermann

Best Lesbian TV Commentator—Rachel Maddow

Best Local Elected Official on Marriage Equality—Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, for his public support at a legislative committee hearing

Most Disappointing Local Elected Official on Marriage Equality—Gov. Martin O’Malley

Most LGBT-Supportive Baltimore City Elected Official—Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

Most Vile Democrat in Maryland—Sen. President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller for standing in the way of transgender protections and marriage equality

Most Vile Republican in Maryland—Too many to mention

Best LGBT OrganizationPFLAG-Columbia/Howard County, for not only offering year-round support to the parents of LGBT children, welcoming all LGBT folks and allies to the organization and providing a safe space for LGBT youth and their friends, but also producing on a shoe-string budget the splendid multi-media "Someone You Love is Gay" ad campaign that has been praised by PR pros. In addition, the chapter formed the largest contingent at Equality Maryland’s Lobby Day and its advocacy work has been a prototype for other PFLAG chapters.

Best Political Event—Join the Impact on November 15, which through the use of the Internet and a zero budget, on just 5 days notice managed to muster about a thousand (half of them straight) to a protest Prop 8 rally outside City Hall.

Best Non-political Event—Baltimore Pride, for its colorful, well-run parade, block party and festival

Best Gay BarPW’s Sports Bar in N. Laurel, for its friendly staff and crowd and its wide range of events and community involvement

Best Karaoke Gay Bar—Hippo with Steve Smith as the emcee and The Drinkery as runner-up

Best Happy Hour—The Quest

Best LGBT Bartender—David from the Hippo’s Karaoke room

Best Hair Studio and Day Spa—Neal’s on Park and Read

Best Piano Bar—Jay’s on Read

Best Change in Bars and Restaurants—Ban on smoking. Our lungs get to survive another year.

Best Baltimore Drag Act—Dimitria

Comeback of the Year—Britney Spears

Best Departing Hero—Dan Furmansky of Equality Maryland

Saddest Departing Hero—H.E.R.O.

Best Newcomers—Joe King and Makemie Taylor, for organizing the Join the Impact rally. It was a model for grassroots organizing.

Gay Bar Owner of the Year—John Cook, owner of PW’s who generously allows worthy LGBT organizations as well as community groups to hold fundraisers at PW’s

Best Conscience for People of Color—Rev. Meredith Moise. She speaks her mind and does it so well.

Best Jack-of-all Trades—Skip Koritzer

Best ‘T’ in LGBT—Drew Saine who does a fabulous job with the OUTloud website and Mara Drummond, a beautiful person through and through and who is active on LGBT issues. I love them both.

Best Baltimore LGBT Friendly TheaterSpotlighters

Best LGBT Movie—"Milk." Will the homophobes in Hollywood keep it from winning Oscars?

Best in Mining for Gold—Michael Phelps (not too shabby in a Speedo either)

Best Baltimore Sports Team—The Ravens who also wear our fave color purple, and Todd Heap is still a great Tight End

Best Orioles Off-Season Move—Finally getting "Baltimore" written across the road jerseys for 2009.

Worst Team in 2008 (and All-Time)—Bush-Cheney

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama's New Pastor Problem

Just when we thought the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was behind us, President-elect Barack Obama has a new pastor problem. In selecting Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the Inaugural on Jan. 20, Obama stuck a finger into the eye of every LGBT person in America.

You would think by now that he would be a tad more sensitive to this group of Americans who worked their asses off for him, helped raise and donated millions of dollars to his campaign and where 70 percent voted for him despite his opposition to same-sex marriage.

We overwhelmingly trusted this man to deliver the change we need and have long sought. But there were earlier warnings that, after some protests from gay activists, were generally forgotten as the dramatic campaign moved forward. Obama's controversial choice of gospel singer Donnie McLurkin--an anti-gay, ex-gay--to join him during the South Carolina primary campaign was not a good sign. But Obama at least acknowledged the mistake.

Now he chooses Rick Warren of the Saddleback mega-Church to have a prominat role in a high profile historic event. The gay community is not the only sector of the progressive wing who is upset. Besides his anti-gay marriage stance, Rev. Warren is anti-choice and anti-stem cell research.

Rick Warren, although he has been a friend of Obama, should not have been chosen. The decision is angering gays and lesbians all over the country. Warren was very vocal in support of Prop. 8. [See video clip below.] We understand Obama's desire to govern the entire nation, but really, did the GOP ever bring in lefty preachers to officiate major events?

Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign has written a letter to Obama asking him to reconsider. Here's an excerpt:

"...We feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination. Only when Rev. Warren and others support basic legislative protections for LGBT Americans can we believe their claim that they are not four-square against our rights and dignity. In that light, we urge you to reconsider this announcement."

That about sums it up. Another pastor problem for Obama. Another headache for him and for all of us. I do feel he owes us now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Targeting the Persuadable Middle

By Steve Charing

The bitter reaction to the Proposition 8 fiasco last month has sparked a debate among gay activists as to the correct course of action we should pursue in our quest for equality. Some favor confrontation with opponents; others seek a more measured approach.

But which would be the most effective? The general lgbt strategy ought to be constructed with an eye towards gathering as much support as possible as opposed to simply fighting our enemies.

As I see it, our country is divided into three groups when it comes to LGBT rights. You have on one side of the spectrum most, but not all, of us. This segment also covers straight allies and supporters and otherwise progressive-minded citizens. They are in our camp. All we need to do is "activate" them more, especially those all-too-many gays and lesbians who are politically apathetic.

On the other end, there are religious people who see homosexuality as a sin. Added to this group are those who have no overwhelming interest in religion but despise, fear or are ignorant of gay people anyway. They are the homophobes; it is unlikely that we can change their minds. Some may come around especially if they discover a lgbt member of their family. But otherwise, their bigotry is entrenched and intractable.

Nonetheless, many gay activists have concluded that fighting for our rights—whether it represents same-sex marriage, non-discrimination in employment or the ability to serve openly in the Armed Forces—should be waged in the churches, synagogues and mosques throughout the country. Churches, and in particular the Mormon Church, have recently been the targets of protests, demonstrations and commentary on the blogosphere following the passage of Prop 8.

To be sure, the religious arguments against homosexuality are open to interpretation and are, at the very least, outdated. As such, the cited chapters and verses in the Bible have been cherry-picked to promote discrimination for eons. Other condemnations in Scripture are ignored while the infamous one in Leviticus pertaining to homosexuality is offered up ad nauseum.

Going to war with religious institutions and their flocks, however, is a losing proposition. This is decidedly true if one is arguing directly with the zealots who push Scripture as the basis for anti-gay thinking. We are not likely to be successful in puncturing their homosexuality-is-a-sin mantra.

Do we abandon the religious segment entirely? Not at all. We should maintain a channel of communication with clergy of all denominations. There is a small chance that some will at least understand the human rights element involved in discrimination and its effect on families and perhaps some may soften their hard line opposition to a degree. So it is worth it to engage religious leaders and establish a respectful dialogue.

But the preponderance of our energy and effort should be directed to the third group—the larger group—which I refer to as the persuadable middle. These folks are not committed to any one position on lgbt rights.

The subject may not interest them. They may be uncertain as to whether granting rights to gays and lesbians would have any consequences. They may have concerns with homosexuality but resent government interference in private lives. Or they may be turned off by religious dogma. This group is generally softer on the issue and, therefore, persuadable. We must educate them as well as our elected officials on our issues.

Fred Phelps and his Westboro, Kansas clan of "God Hates Fags" extremists (see photo) ironically help our cause. Not only does this group hate gays, but they also hate America. They have thanked God for the tragedy of September 11, dragged the American flag along the ground, and defiled military funerals.

This image of insane extremism turns off the moderate middle, thereby providing an opportunity to make the case for equality.

While arguing point-by-point Biblical references to homosexuality with religious citizens usually leads to a dead-end, it is legitimate to debunk some of the biblical inconsistencies when discussing our plight with the middle segment of society. And there is plenty of fodder to choose from, especially in terms of what is a sin. (See this excellent piece by Cenk Uygur on the Huffington Post.)

Moreover, we can make our case in terms of fairness and the impact of discrimination on the tens of thousands of LGBT families. That would help penetrate any resistance on the part of persuadable middle.

Evidence proves that this moderate approach is a winner. Recent polling indicates that we are gaining in all areas pertaining to LGBT rights. It explains why more and more corporations and localities are implementing non-discrimination and/or domestic partnership policies. These shifts are coming from winning over the middle, not from converting the religious right or the homophobes.

The positive trend is attributable to the middle’s feeling more comfortable with gays. Increased tolerance among the youth is a big factor. And as more people come out of the closet, it enhances the probability that someone will actually know a gay person on a personal level and would tend to be supportive.

Accordingly, we should continue to use our energy and resources to target the persuadable middle where the potential payoff is greatest. Let the bigots defeat themselves.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Huckabee Loses Again

Would be Pastor-in-Chief Mike Huckabee got undressed by The Daily Show's Jon Stewart on the issue of same-sex marriage. Huckabee failed to apply logic, common sense, fairness and history in making his case that gays should not be allowed to marry. Rather, he gloated as to how the majority asserted their will on the minority in statewide ballot initiatives.

Stewart was unflinchingly strong in his arguments; the best one being: "Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality. And the protections that we have, for religion -- we protect religion -- and talk about a lifestyle choice! That is absolutely a choice. Gay people don't choose to be gay."

When asked by Stewart at what age Huckabee chose not to be gay, he had no answer. Hmm.
Stewart also could have also questioned procreation as the justification for heterosexual marriage. Should the marriage licenses of couples be revoked if they choose not to or cannot have children?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Keeping Our Cool

Radical reactions to defeats will not bring about the changes we need.

By Steve Charing

Believe it or not, I agreed with Bill O’Reilly’s recent assessment that the actions taken by a group of radical gay activists in a Lansing, Michigan church would hurt our cause. Of course, O’Reilly’s looking out for us warrants suspicion, but his point is well taken.

We have just experienced one of the most gut-wrenching defeats in our struggle for equality when the nefarious Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriages in California was approved by voters by a relatively narrow margin on the same night we decisively elected Barack Obama president.

The consequences of Prop. 8 were stunning and tragic. A coalition of religious organizations and social conservatives managed to scare enough voters to restrict marriage to a man and a woman.
Tempting as it may have been to vent frustration and anger, the results do not give license to irate LGBT folks and supporters to act out their impulses by defacing religious buildings or other targets, as was widely reported. And it is no excuse for a radical queer group, Bash Back!, to disrespectfully disrupt services at Mount Hope Church in Michigan.

According to reports, about 30 gay activists in pink and black garb from the Lansing chapter began shouting during a service on November 9, throwing fliers at the congregation and making out with one another. They allegedly yelled, "It’s OK to be gay" and "Jesus was a homo" among other slogans.

From the Bash Back! website:

It received some media coverage, especially from a delighted FOX News, to heighten Bash Back!’s visibility—a stated goal on its website.

And with other Bash Back! chapters in such places as Chicago, Memphis, Milwaukee, Denver, Olympia, Philadelphia, Upstate New York and Washington, DC, we can expect similar outbursts around the country. This doesn’t help win friends and influence people, as the saying goes.

Barring any surprise legal victory in the California Supreme Court, our defeat on Prop 8 will clearly delay the ultimate goal of full marriage equality for those who aren’t fortunate to live in Massachusetts and Connecticut. It’s back to the drawing board where our efforts must be directed towards educating the public as well as clergy of all denominations that gay people marrying will not infringe upon their religious beliefs nor will it destroy the institution of marriage.

We must continue to tell our stories to elected officials so that they can see the human side of discrimination. We must explain how continuing to be treated as second-class citizens hurts families.

We must also point out that in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal for over four years, the institution of marriage has not been undermined as the State’s divorce rate remains among the lowest in the nation.

This approach does work if the politician has an open mind.

One of the positive outcomes of the Prop 8 travesty was the nationwide mobilization of a movement called Join the Impact. In just a few short days of grass roots organizing and effective use of the Internet’s social networking sites, the campaign on November 15 mustered sign-waving crowds in the hundreds of thousands across the country from D.C. to Seattle to peacefully and resolutely demonstrate in support of our goal of marriage equality.

In Baltimore, for example, a thousand attended a rally outside City Hall last month to hear speakers tell their stories to a diverse crowd of gays and straights, old and young, blacks and whites.

"Our mission is to encourage our community to engage our opposition in a conversation about full equality and to do this with respect, dignity, and an attitude of outreach and education," says the JoinTheImpact mission statement on Facebook.

JoinTheImpact in Baltimore is quickly amassing hundred of supporters on Facebook, which validates its principles of educating the public and elected officials.

The tactics used by Bash Back!, on the other hand, will only serve to alienate moderate citizens and embolden right wing conservatives to continue their attacks on us as out of the mainstream and to generate fear of gays.

Our ultimate victory, whenever that will be, will be won at the ballot box and in the legislatures. Elected officials will vote according to the wishes of their constituents. We need to make our case and convince them respectfully. Allowing Bill O’Reilly and others to whip up anger against us because of radicalism will stop us cold.

PW’s: Howard County’s Friendly Gay Bar

By Steve Charing

There are several characteristics that would describe a successful neighborhood gay bar: diverse crowds, high energy, entertainment, friendly bartenders and staff, tasty affordable food, ample off-street parking, and giving back to the community. It’s clear that PW’s Sports Bar and Grill—situated in a strip mall at Route 1 and Whiskey Bottom Road in North Laurel—fits all of these. Yup, put a check next to each one.

It also happens to be the only gay bar in Howard County. By dint of its centralized location, PW’s is the social center between the bar scenes of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The ownership takes that role seriously and is involved in a variety of activities that have advanced the visibility of the lgbt community as well as the viability of important lgbt organizations.

"The community has been good to PW’s, and we have tried our best to be good to the community," says John Cook, who is the owner of PW’s.

The bar is divided into two sections. The drinks are made and served in the saloon area. It has several TV’s going usually with a sporting event going on. The other larger rectangular multi-purpose room is a combination dining area, poolroom, cabaret and bingo parlor.

It was in this room that the bar recently held a successful fundraiser for Equality Maryland, the state’s principal lgbt advocacy organization. The place was filled to capacity as "Drag Bingo" was played. Each participant purchased a set of cards for $20, which coincidentally is the prize should you win a game of Postage Stamp, Big O or even Straight Bingo. The numbers were called by "Trixie," the colorful drag star of the evening.

Gay men and women from Baltimore, DC, Glen Burnie, all over Howard County, Bowie and all points in between descended upon PW’s to take part in the evening’s festivities. "I like bingo—it's the only gambling I do—and this was for a good cause," says Ron Hube of Baltimore. "[Trixie] did a great job. And it was fun to watch her get more and more drunk as the evening went on."

While everyone had fun playing the various bingo games and enjoying the campy hostess, the biggest winner was Equality Maryland, which netted $1,100.

PW’s is proud to host fundraisers for other LGBT organizations as well as worthy organizations in the Laurel and Baltimore areas. "We like the idea that members of the community look out for each other like an extended family," says Cook.

In the past 18 months PW’s held fundraisers for Equality Maryland, Breast Cancer Research, The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS foundation, LARS (Laurel Advocacy Resource Services, which assists families during time of need), and is planning a fundraiser in the spring for the Howard County chapter of PFLAG –Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

"Our chapter is the only LGBT organization in Howard County, and PW’s is the county’s only gay bar," says Colette Roberts, the chapter's chairperson. "It makes good sense that we partner together for the benefit of both entities."

PW’s had also sponsored runners in the AIDS Marathon, and donated money to the "No on Prop 8" campaign in California.

The bar has scheduled another fundraiser that will be a combination of raising money for Equality Maryland and taking donations for the ‘Toys for Tots’ program. "We would love to see everybody here on December 20 starting at 8 p.m.," says Cook.

PW’s is active in the LGBT Chesapeake and Potomac softball league by sponsoring two teams. They also field a bowling team in The Capital Area Rainbowlers Association in Laurel. And they sponsor a women’s volleyball team and have donated to a local basketball team –all burnishing the bar’s sports cred and generosity.

If that isn’t enough, PW’s hosts the regular parking lot show by the Straight Eights—a popular antique car club for members of the lgbt community. They meet on the third Sunday each month.

Drag shows are a regular feature at PW’s as they occur on the 2nd Friday of the month. "This is an attraction that brings in lots of straight people from the area," says Scott Gould, who is partnered with John Cook. They feature Miss Gay DC, Miss Gay East Coast, Miss Gay Keystone, as well as others.

Other attractions include Free Pool Play on Wednesdays and Karaoke on Thursdays and Saturdays. And if you are a football enthusiast, Sundays and Monday nights are for you. Each night there is a special drink special going on.

PW’s boasts a diverse, tasty and reasonably priced food menu that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. It offers healthy choices as well as old time favorites. PW's opens at 6 a.m. How many gay bars can make that claim?

If you are interested in finding out what the latest fundraiser or event is at the bar or which current food or alcohol specials are running, visit their website .

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Prop 8 Blame Game in Black and White

By Steve Charing

When compared to previous ballot initiatives in the U.S. that amended state constitutions by limiting marriages to a man and a woman, Proposition 8 was a squeaker. With a relatively thin margin of 4 % California turned back the clock on their Supreme Court’s edict and banned same-sex marriage.

Yes, it was close compared to the blowouts in the other states where gay marriage was put to a vote, and California’s passage is arguably the most disheartening to gay activists and their allies. Since the California Supreme Court ruled in May that gays and lesbians cannot be denied the right to marry based on the state’s Constitution, some 18,000 couples tied the knot. The legal status of their marriages are unclear at this point.

The recent vote sparked angry but largely peaceful demonstrations particularly in Southern California. Gays, lesbians and allies marched in the streets and protested the role of the Mormon (hardly the vanguards of traditional marriage) and Catholic churches for their oversized monetary contributions to fund anti-gay marriage advertising, often using scare tactics to win votes. Some protesters turned their anger on various Mormon Church buildings.

As the demonstrators marched, the blame game began in earnest. Gay activists not only targeted the aforementioned religious organizations and their followers, but also African-Americans for voting "Yes" on Prop 8 by the margin they did.

Blacks blamed the "No on Prop 8" leadership for failing to adequately market their message to people of color.

Southern California gays accused San Francisco gays for not turning out to the polls in higher numbers.

Even Elton John was blamed for arguing the term "marriage" in the context of same-sex couples was a turn-off to voters.

Yes, there has been more finger pointing than a Three Stooges film festival.

There is sufficient blame to go around. With the election of Barack Obama as the backdrop, African-Americans in California voted for Prop 8, i.e. for the ban on same-sex marriage, by the widest margin of any group: 70%-30% (Hispanics supported the measure by 53%-47% and Asians and Caucasians opposed it by 51%-49%). That plus the higher turnout of blacks voting for the African-American candidate was seen by some as the reason for the measure’s passage.

But according to Nate Silver, the proprietor of the exceptional political numbers-crunching website fivethirtyeight.com, the black vote did not swing the results of Prop 8 one way or the other. "At the end of the day, Prop 8’s passage was more a generational matter than a racial one," wrote Silver. "If nobody over the age of 65 had voted, Prop 8 would have failed by a point or two." Blacks accounted for only 13% of the total vote.

One can argue that the 2-point plurality by white voters against Prop 8 was too narrow to overcome conservative ethnic groups, and that allowed it to pass. It is interesting that in the aftermath of the election a group called "Join the Impact" was formed in a matter of days. It organized the recent nationwide protest of the Prop 8 debacle. This protest covered some 300 cities around the country and garnered some one million demonstrators.

Imagine if such a visible nationwide show of unity was formed prior to the election. Call it "United for Equality." Think of the impression that would have been made on the general population as well as California voters by hundreds of thousands of gays, lesbians and supporters of all stripes peacefully waving placards.

The speeches by activists, politicians, couples and clergy would have helped make the case and could have influenced those who were on the fence. Even if such an event was held just in California before the election, how things may have turned out differently.

This is all Monday morning quarterbacking to be sure. What we don’t need is to blame the failure to achieve marriage equality in California on race.

But we should address the race issues that have been embedded in the gay community for too long. African-Americans have rightly pointed to examples of racism on the part of white gays and lesbians.

White gays are correct to assail the homophobia emanating from the pulpits of conservative black churches. Consequently, the weakest link within the Democratic Party when it comes to equality for gays and lesbians are that many African-American elected officials are not on board with our cause based on their religious beliefs, which stifles progress.

This is an incredibly complex and delicate problem, and it’s not just religion-based. While many socially liberal African-Americans may be otherwise supportive of our goals, they often resent the comparison of our quest for equality to the civil rights movement. And black gays and lesbians must endure the dual cultural experiences of both homophobia and racism.

What is needed is a dialogue to find common ground and try to end the divide. That won’t be easy, but it’s worth a shot. Blacks and whites need to reach out and come together.

The spirit of Obama’s election should help. Hope is great but action is better. And it’s better than simply pointing fingers.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gay Activists Flock to City Hall to Protest Prop 8

By Steve Charing

As the clouds were building on a mild Saturday afternoon of November 15, so were the crowds. People arrived from all directions as they assembled at War Memorial Plaza outside Baltimore’s City Hall. Young, old, gay, straight, black, white, couples with children, urban, suburban, you name it, all came with a common message: Equal Rights for All.

Many of the protesters at the plaza hoisted colorful hand-made signs. Among them read: "Is my civil rights getting in the way of your Bigotry," "Divorce Kills Marriage—Not Us," and "Did We Vote on Your Marriage?"

Roughly a third of the crowd was straight and half were college age underscoring the hope that momentum will swing favorably towards equality as the younger generation moves into adulthood.

These folks gathered to be part of a speedily planned event called "Join the Impact" to protest the passage of Proposition 8 in California—the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage. Similar rallies were held that day outside public buildings in 300 cities across the United States (including three in Maryland) which attracted around a million people as part of a national day of protest.

"Prop 8 creates a state law to single out one group of Californians to be treated differently," said Joseph King, who was one of the principal organizers of the Baltimore rally. "This is not what America is about. It’s wrong." In addition, King received invaluable assistance from Makemie Taylor, Steve Haddad and other activists.

Sean McGovern, who is planning a wedding next year with his partner Stefan Freed, was the emcee of the rally and continually stoked the sometimes-raucous crowd, reminding them that the passage of Prop 8 told us we are second class citizens and we should fight back.

In only five days time and despite an ominous weather forecast that proved to be accurate an hour and a half into the rally, the organizers were able to draw nearly a thousand protesters. King and Taylor used a variety of social networking sites on the Internet, e-mailed local activists, and urged a number of volunteers to trudge through the streets of Baltimore, Towson and other locales armed with fliers and posters to get the word out. Press coverage was ample, with crowd shots and interviews appearing on local TV news stations.

The event received support in the form of statements by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and State Delegate Victor Ramirez. Some speakers—mostly members of couples—excited the crowd by spontaneously approaching the microphone to share their personal perspectives.

Other speakers included Meredith Curtis of the ACLU; Vanessa Bowling who is president of Rainbow Soul, a Gay Straight Alliance at Morgan State University; College Park City Council member Patrick Wojahn who just returned from San Diego as part of the "No on 8" campaign; PFLAG mom Joyce Kipp; and the principal plaintiffs in the Maryland lawsuit seeking marriage equality, Lisa Polyak and Gita Deane.

While Polyak and Deane were in the midst of their speech, the clouds emptied on the rally-goers with potent fury and forcing them to disperse. Undaunted, groups of protesters later assembled on nearby street corners waving their signs as passing motorists honked in support.

"Now if we can just keep the rallies and the work going," said Sean McGovern following the rally. "No one can say that Baltimore didn't do its part!"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Discharged Soldier Discusses ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ with PFLAG Chapter

By Steve Charing

Outfitted in a sharply pressed dark suit and flashing a megawatt smile that illuminated his square jaw, former Sergeant Darren Manzella spoke before nearly 70 people at the Veterans Day meeting of Columbia/Howard County Chapter of PFLAG—Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Darren Manzella, 31, helped mark the event by sharing his personal story and discussing the impact of the travesty known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT)—the military’s policy that prohibits openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the Armed Forces.

Manzella is a Policy Advocate and Major Gifts Officer for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, of which he had been a client for two years. His moving soft-spoken presentation was at times somber, but it was also sprinkled with a few humorous asides and anecdotes.

“I enlisted the U.S. Army in 2002 following the attacks of 9/11 when there was a nationwide wave of patriotism,” he told the audience. Manzella, a medic, eventually deployed to Iraq in 2004 where he provided medical coverage, emergency treatment and evacuation during more than one hundred 12-hour duties on the streets of Baghdad.

While under fire, he gave medical care to his fellow soldiers, Iraqi National Guardsmen and Iraqi civilians. His care during an attack in Iraq earned him the Combat Medical Badge, and he is also the recipient of several other awards recognizing his courage and duty to service in the war zone.
It was while Manzella was serving in the Army that he realized he was gay. Sgt. Manzella had come out first to his roommate, then his other friends, and finally to his parents. Eventually his fellow soldiers and superiors knew, and their reaction ranged largely from indifference to fully supportive.

But there were exceptions. Following threats of outing and a DADT investigation by his command, Sgt. Manzella wrote in a letter that, “I don't think most people can understand how hard it is to have to hide their true self; to have to pretend to be someone that they are not; to be scared that you'll be ostracized for being different; to be told that you're wrong if you live a certain life . . . that concerns no one else but yourself. . . . I am proud of myself and of the accomplishments I have achieved in my life.”

To his surprise, the investigation into his personal life was closed, and the Army deployed Sgt. Manzella later that year for a second tour of duty in the Middle East - again in Baghdad and then Kuwait.

After receiving word that Leslie Stahl of CBS News 60 Minutes wanted to interview him in Kuwait with regards to DADT, Sgt. Manzella was conflicted. He knew that telling his story on such a public stage would likely end the career he loved.

On the other hand, this was an opportunity to help other gay and lesbian service members by publicizing the discriminatory nature of the policy in an effort to gain public support for its repeal. He decided to go through with it; the interviewed aired in December 2007.

In March of 2008 his commander at Fort Hood, Texas informed Manzella, that he was being recommended for discharge under DADT. A copy of the 60 Minutes transcript was attached to the discharge recommendation. On June 10, 2008, Iraq War Veteran and Army Sergeant Darren Manzella was separated from the military with an Honorable Discharge.

The repugnant DADT policy is responsible for the discharges of 12,000 able service members since its inception in 1993. At a time when the military is actively recruiting those with sub-standard intelligence as well as felony records to meet enlistment quotas and beef up troop levels, fully competent patriotic gays and lesbians continue to be shown the door, which impacts our efforts in the war on terrorism. Nearly 800 specialists with critical skills, for example, have been fired from the military under DADT, including several linguists who speak Arabic.

And the costs of the policy are staggering. U.S. taxpayers have paid $250 million to investigate and root out patriotic servicemen and women under DADT and as much as $1.2 billion in lost recruiting and training costs.

But the issue will always be about discrimination. “DADT impacts all families who have gay children,” said PFLAG-Columbia/Howard County chapter chair Colette Roberts. “It's horrible being told your son or daughter who is trying to serve in the military is being treated like a second class citizen, hiding who they truly are.”

Darren Manzella, who now resides in Washington, D.C. working with SLDN to continue the fight for the repeal of DADT, is optimistic that an Obama Administration will take a serious look at the policy and try to gain consensus among the military’s brass. “Polls are showing greater acceptance of gays and lesbians openly serving in the military,” he pointed out. “It is the older generation in the military who is resistant to the change.”

Indeed, more than two-thirds of civilians support allowing gays to serve openly in the military. And despite the fear-mongering about unit morale, nearly 3 in 4 troops say they are personally comfortable serving side-by-side with gays and lesbians.

Those in the packed meeting room, which included some from the chapter’s Rainbow Youth Alliance, were captivated by the compelling personal journey traveled by Darren Manzella.

“Darren's story about a small town boy who joined the military to see the world only to become a man was truly inspirational,” said Sean McGovern, a member of the PFLAG chapter’s Advocacy Committee. “It struck me funny that the one institution that discriminated against him helped him realize who he truly was and that his fellow soldiers had become honorable men of tolerance with him.”

Nothing would vindicate Darren Manzella’s sacrifice more than the repeal of the ban and the liberation of his fellow gay brothers and sisters.

To contribute to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, click

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Obama’s majestic triumph tempered by heartbreaking Election Day setbacks to gays and lesbians

By Steve Charing
Senior Political Analyst

November 4, 2008 marked a transformational day in American history. With the election of the first African-American as president of the United States, the world, all of a sudden, became closer and a bit more unified. People were rejoicing in five continents. Although supporters of John McCain and Sarah Palin understandably may not have felt euphoric when the networks declared Barack Obama president at 11:00 p.m. EDT, I sure did.

But my elation was doused not that long afterwards, as three gay marriage bans and one anti-gay adoption initiative all apparently succeeded, reminding me that the country still has not taken that next big step.

For Obama, this was a contest that will keep political scientists and book publishers busy for decades. Barack Obama, a relative neophyte with a foreign-sounding name, rose from virtual obscurity and defeated a powerful Clinton machine to emerge as the Democratic Party’s nominee. Then he took on John McCain with his vaunted military and congressional experience, the embedded racism in the country, as well as the Republican Party’s fear and smear operation to win in an Electoral College landslide. In the process, Obama turned several red states blue with surgical precision.

There was as much good luck involved as there was skill. A perfect storm of events and personalities produced raindrops filled with smiles. He mainly benefited from the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush with whom he linked to his opponent, John McCain, with relentless regularity.

McCain incomprehensibly selected Sarah Palin—the butt of numerous jokes from her obvious lack of national and international knowledge—to be his running mate. The McCain campaign failed to effectively utilize the candidate’s strengths and instead defaulted to what the Republicans seem to do best: attack. And there were no significant international crises that affected the U.S., which would have highlighted McCain’s perceived strength on national security.

Then came the financial meltdown in September that accentuated the incompetence of the Bush presidency and McCain’s bumbling response to it. Added to that, notable endorsements from Colin Powell and a series of other Republican conservatives, the full-throated support from his chief Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton and her husband, and the die was cast.

But oh that skill! Obama’s campaign, led by David Plouffe and David Axelrod, crafted a blueprint on how 21st century presidential campaigns should operate. Always disciplined, always on message, always consistent, Obama successfully presented himself as the "change" candidate at a time the country was thirsty for change.

The campaign eschewed public financing and using the Internet primarily, managed to raise almost three quarters of a billion dollars to launch what was nearly a 50-state campaign. This forced McCain, who accepted public financing, to spend his more limited resources defending his own turf. That was crucial in states, such as Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado and North Carolina.

In the end, the better campaign prevailed. And that is good news for the LGBT community.

Because now there is a much better chance for achieving non-discrimination legislation in the workplace, a Federal hate crimes bill and the repeal of the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy.

Expect to see openly gay and lesbian members in Obama’s administration; he kept reminding voters down the stretch that the country should not be split according to "gay" and "straight" among the other dividing lines in society. No other major presidential candidate ever used such rhetoric, and he repeated it to traditionally conservative gatherings in Middle America.

But those defeats on the ballot initiatives stung like nothing else has ever before. Just as national polls were indicating a gradual positive trend towards acceptance of same-sex marriage, November 4 proved to be a startling wake-up call that so much work remains. Ballot measures in Arizona and Florida resoundingly banned "gay marriage" in those states adding to the stockpile that has swollen since 2004. Arkansas voters sadly banned adoptions by gay couples. The ones suffering most from that decision are children.

But the biggest heartbreaker appears to be the results of Proposition 8 in California. While the votes have not been fully tallied at press time, the measure that would roll back a court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the state, apparently is heading for passage.

Proponents of Prop 8 benefited from a major influx of funding from the Mormons, the Catholic Church and other religious entities to scare voters about the idea of two men or two women marrying. Tony Perkins, president of the virulently anti-gay Family Research Council, symbolized the religious support of the measure.

Characterizing Prop 8 as more important than the presidential election, Perkins said, "We have survived bad presidents. But many, many are convinced we will not survive this redefinition of marriage."

If Prop 8 survives the counting of absentee ballots, it will mark a staggering defeat to gays and lesbians since it was the first time rights that have been won were actually taken away. While it remains unclear if the existing same-sex marriages in California will be permitted to stand, the effects of such a setback will reverberate throughout the country.

And it mars the glistening victory of hope over fear in the election of Barack Obama.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Joe the Plumber Needs to be Flushed Already

During this campaign, I never thought I'd find anyone as obnoxious as John McCain. Then came $150,000 you-betcha Barbie with her Joe Sixpack and other overdone comic strip characters. But they were BOTH topped by this goofball Joe the Plumber, er Samuel Wurzelbacher. Ick!

This is the guy McCain calls his "role model"--an unlicensed plumber who lies through his teeth and owes back taxes--who McCain would take to Washington should he prevail. That's telling. He might as well be McCain's running mate or at least replace Phil Gramm as his economic advisor using distortions from a conversation this guy had with Barack Obama. He fits in with Palin nicely. What a team!

This average Joe already has a PR agent, seeking a book deal, country music record deal and a political career. But I see him as an a-hole. He introduced McCain as a REAL American, implying Obama wasn't.

Enough of this loser. He needs to be flushed down the toilet so a licensed plumber can extricate him--or not.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Biden Time

As Joe Biden loves to say about John McCain, "God love him, but...." I say the say the same thing about Joe the VP Candidate. I love him to pieces. I jumped for joy when Barack Obama picked him to be his running mate. But as is well documented, Joe's mouth can be a loose cannon, which could violate the main axiom of a VP choice: do no harm.

When all is said and done after November 4, Joe will not have harmed the ticket at all. Certainly nowhere near the apocalyptic effect Sarah Palin has had on the McCain candidacy. Except for the extreme right wing elements in the Republican Party, Palin has alienated the more thoughtful moderate sector of the GOP, as well as independent women, and we figure to see at least 10 percent of the party faithful jumping to the Obama side, mainly because of Palin.

But Joe Biden had to be reigned in, and thankfully he was. He didn't learn the lesson offered by Obama that even at a private setting like a fundraiser, your words are not safe. Obama discovered it first in San Francisco when out came the "bitter" remarks. It almost did him in.

Biden made the same error in Seattle by predicting the new president will be confronted by a contrived international crisis to "test his mettle." While that may be a likely prospect, those leaked comments nearly and unnecessarily derailed the Obama locomotive that had been gaining so much momentum down the track. Since then, Biden has been relegated to a scripted message and instructed to avoid press conferences in mainly smaller media markets.

Without question, Biden was a superb choice--Obama's first real presidential decision. Biden offers the foreign policy bona fides that many charge that Obama lacks. His vast experience in the Senate will also help sheperd Obama's agenda should he be elected. And as it turned out, he is far more superior and ready to step in as president than Sarah Palin.

More to the point, it also contrasted the judgement of Obama with McCain's. So yes, God love him.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Freedom of Speech?

Fivethirtyeight.com reported today that two pro-Obama men were surrounded by a mob of McCain supporters after they chanted "Obama" while wearing Obama tee-shirts and carrying an Obama sign at a McCain rally in Miami, FL. Police had to rescue the men from the crowd for their protection.

"People were screaming, 'Terrorist!' 'Communist!' 'Socialist!'"one of the two men told the reporter from fivethirtyeight.com. "I had a guy tell me he was gonna kill me."

Nice. If these pro-McCain folks would revere the Constitution's First Amendment as much as they do the Second Amendment, perhaps the USA will be a better place. That's not likely while dissent continues to be squashed by intimidation.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

McCain's Last Missed Opportunity

On Meet the Press, John McCain could have taken the high road on race relations, but failed.

There are no more big play opportunities left for John McCain. The debates and the conventions are over. He will default to the the normal GOP tactic of "fear and smear" during the final days of the campaign.
His last remaining hope was a performance on Oct. 26's Meet the Press, which commands a sizeable viewership. This could have been the one opportunity to change the trajectory of the campaign. It was there for him to grab, to seize the opportunity. But as always, McCain, the non-maverick, stuck to talking points rather than breaking the mold.

When moderator Tom Brokaw showed the clip of Rush Limbaugh's explanation of Gen. Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama where he shouted, "it's all about race," McCain's response was disappointing if not predictable.

When asked if Powell's endorsement was about race, McCain weakly said no but quickly pivoted to the five Secretaries of State (he had trouble reeling them off) and the number of admirals and generals of whom he was proud to have their support.

Here's what John McCain SHOULD have said, which I believe would have grabbed the headlines and MAYBE peel off some of the independent voters who have been flocking to Obama:

"I am, of course, disappointed with Gen. Powell's endorsement. But as Gen. Powell said on your show, race was not a significant factor, and I take this friend and honorable public servant at his word. I know I will be offending some of Rush Limbaugh's listeners, but I fully condemn Rush's explanation that it was all about race.

"We are at a critical time in our country's history. We are deeply mired in a major financial crisis that is affecting most Americans. We have enemies abroad who would want to harm us. We have energy and climate change challenges that need to be addressed. We do not need divisive and inflammatory comments from people on the air waves. We should not separate our country according to race or by any other category. If anything, we need to rally all citizens of the United States to forge a common effort to face these crises together."

Alas, McCain didn't want to upset his base by attempting to nullify race in this election. It remains his wild card. But in sidestepping this golden opportunity, McCain missed the chance to demonstrate a characteristic that has been sorely lacking in his campaign--statesmanship.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Candidates Onstage

Letter published in the Nov. 2, 2008 issue of TIME magazine

Joe Klein would like Obama to tell the truth to the American people regarding the sacrifices they will need to make during this economic free fall [Oct. 20]. But it is clear that such truth-telling is not what the American people want to hear, nor does such directness help the candidate during an election campaign. In August, in the midst of the oil-price surge, Obama tried to suggest to Americans that maintaining inflated tires could conserve fuel. The suggestion, backed by experts, was mocked by the McCain campaign. Clearly Obama learned the lesson of Walter Mondale's attempt to tell the truth in 1984 about the need to raise taxes.

Steve Charing,


Friday, October 24, 2008

GOP's Brad Blakeman is an Idiot

The Republican strategist Brad Blakeman provided another glimpse of the "heart" of the McCain campaign and by extension his party with this gem criticizing Obama's trip to visit his ailing grandmother. It's as low as it can get. I'm surprised he beat the racist Rush Limbaugh to the punch.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Coming Out Week: Just the First Step

From my friend David Burgy, a junior at Swarthmore College. Read his excellent essay here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Election Day Nov. 4: The Urgency of Now

By Steve Charing

During every presidential election cycle we’re told that the current one is the most important election in our lifetime. And the fact is, it’s usually true—especially the past few elections. But without the hyperbole, I really believe that November 4 will be not only pivotal for our country, but also to the LGBT community.

The Obama-McCain contest is surely critical. For our nation, an Obama victory will mark a dramatic shift from the atrocious economic, social, environmental, and foreign policies of the past eight years. And with an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress, Obama’s progressive and common sense agenda will find an easier path to success.

The contrast between Obama and McCain on issues that are important to the lgbt community couldn’t be more stark. While Barack Obama does not favor same-sex marriage, it must be noted that no other major candidate for president ever has to this point. But both Obama and his vice-presidential running mate, Joe Biden, oppose California’s Proposition 8 (more on that later).
Obama does openly support some form of civil union or domestic partnership arrangement whereby hospital visitation and economic benefits could be extended to same-sex couples. For his part, John McCain flatly opposes domestic partnerships, same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

Both candidates do not favor a Federal Marriage Amendment though McCain’s stance is rooted in the proper use of the Constitution rather than any inclination towards fairness. Nonetheless, VP candidate Sarah Palin supports a constitutional amendment that would enshrine discrimination into the law of the land.

The two disagree on ENDA, the Federal Employment Discrimination Act, which has been languishing in Congress for decades that would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace. Obama supports it; McCain does not. The same scenario would apply to hate crimes legislation: Obama favors it; McCain opposes it.

The military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy is also an area where both candidates dissent. Obama favors repealing the vile law based on fairness and the fact it does not work. McCain would rely on the commanders on the ground for advice on that matter, and you know where it would go at that point—nowhere.

John McCain likes to call himself a "maverick" for the frequent times he crossed up his own party to sign onto bipartisan legislation. The current version of John McCain, however, is so firmly tied to the far right wing of the GOP that if he is elected, any chances for lgbt progress will evaporate. And Sarah Palin is even more socially conservative.

Besides the presidential race we must look carefully at what’s going on in California. Following that state’s Supreme Court’s ruling that paved the way for same-sex marriage, anti-gay opponents succeeded in placing the definition of marriage on the ballot in November that would define marriage as between one man and one woman. That referendum is called Proposition 8.

Even though this battle is taking place on the other side of the country, it should very much matter to us. "Maryland is still one of a handful of states that can achieve marriage equality in the United States in the near future," says Equality Maryland’s Executive Director Dan Furmansky. "But the outcome of the vote on Prop. 8 in California will directly impact our timeline here. If legislators see that the tide has truly turned on this issue, they will be more willing to put themselves on the line for what we all know is truly equality for same-sex couples."

Indeed this is crucial. Being outraised by nearly two to one, equality activists who oppose Prop. 8 are seeing their support in the polls slip as the proponents have used TV ads to scare the voters.

And that should matter to us. Furmansky points out, "An electoral loss in California would no doubt negatively impact our efforts to achieve marriage equality in Maryland, to what extent, we can't fully be sure. But it would make us more reliant on legislative wins in states like New York and New Jersey to convince legislators that the time has come for our state as well."

A loss would also embolden opponents of same-sex marriage in Maryland to push harder to have the matter put to a popular vote. That’s a slippery slope with uncertain consequences. If voters in a state like California can roll back the clock, that is not a good sign for Maryland.

To help level the playing field, money, as always, is the best way to defeat Prop. 8. Please visit here to learn how you can help and now!

With a favorable election outcome, both nationally and in California, LGBT Marylanders may finally see the light at the end of a tunnel. If not, the tunnel gets longer and darker.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Candidates must do more to stifle supporters' vitriol

Letter published in the
Oct. 15, 2008 Howard County Times

Once again we are reading that political signs are being vandalized or removed from private property as we head into the climax of the election season. These acts, regardless of the source, are childish and dumb and are carried out as if such intimidation will actually influence voting choices.

I deplore this behavior whether it be from kids or adults and regardless of political party. I have had signs taken from my property and bumper stickers torn off my car. And recently someone took a key to the body of my car most likely because of the bumper sticker that was displayed. Besides the obvious destruction of property and the violation of the Constitution, it is aggravating and pointless.

Fueling this behavior is the fact that the current presidential campaign has taken an ugly, frightening turn. That is more likely to create deeper divisions and motivate vandals to act accordingly.

When campaign rallies are inflamed by hate-filled vitriol inciting some to shout, "Terrorist" or "Kill him," it is clearly the responsibility of the candidates or speakers to dial down the heat, or something more serious than a vandalized lawn sign will occur. And unfortuantely such rhetoric drives the other side to anger, adding more combustibility.

More to the point, with all this hostility, the biggest loser is democracy.

Steve Charing

Monday, October 13, 2008

Trail Mix

BRADLEY EFFECT? Nah. At this point in time during a national election it makes absolutely no sense for a McCain supporter to lie to pollsters and say that he/she is voting for Obama lest the interviewee will be viewed as a racist. All that does is inflate Obama's poll numbers and deflates team McCain's morale. There are many legitimate reasons to oppose Obama on experience and issues, and any opposition to him would be explained in those terms.

Without question race will be an issue, but I believe that has already been embedded in existing poll results; folks don't need to shy away from their actual voting intentions. The Bradley Effect MAY have been a factor in the NH primary when Obama was matched up against Hillary Clinton--a member of the same party--where he was leading the day before in the polls only to lose. But it should not rear its polls-twisting head on November 4 like it did in California back in 1982, and even if there actually were such an effect is under dispute.

LEVI STRESS. Out of the shadows of the McCain cocoon emerged Levi Johnston, the father-to-be of Sarah Palin's abstinence-averse daughter Bristol's child. He disclosed in an interview that he dropped out of high school to work in Alaska's oil fields presumably to help support the child if and when he gets hitched to Bristol.

What a shame! Here are the Palins--a million dollars in assets (oh how taxpayer-funded per diem when not traveling can add up!)--who couldn't give a little financial aid to at least allow the hockey stud dude to graduate from high school?

A million bucks they have. Doesn't sound like "Joe 6-pack" types to me. Palin's daughter may marry a high school dropout who didn't practice safe sex. A fine example they're setting for America's youth. Imagine if they were black how the stereotyping and insults would have been hurled at them.

GOTTA LOVE THE HATERS. As Palin and not as much recently, McCain, incited the crowds with fiery, hateful (and totally untrue) rhetoric about Obama's alleged "palling around" with terrorists. you can feel the vitriol just oozing from the yahoos present in the mob. Might as well get out the pitchforks and torches and chase Obama to a windmill. "Kill him." "Terrorist." "Off with his head." These are the so-called patriots who do not believe in a two-party system and would kill a fellow American because they disagree with them. Included among them is that idiot woman in Minnesota who told McCain that she read Obama was Arab. I wonder who may have given her that impression.

A number of those in the mobs--not all--are bigots and haters. The ones who are and are exorcised at Palin speeches hate Democrats, liberals, government, blacks, gays, Jews, immigrants, feminists, pro-choice folks, the media, etc. etc. etc. No, these people aren't patriots. They are white supremacists or sympathizers and many are hoping that an Obama victory would produce a huge backlash and help their cause. Tone it down extremists. Iran would welcome you.

Monday, October 06, 2008

You Betcha! The McAttack will NOT Work!

Less than a month to go to the election and John McCain is throwing caution to the wind and is beginning an all-out assault on the "character" of Barack Obama. Wanting to "turn the page" on the economy--even as the stock market is in full-throttle tank mode--McCain seems to be out of viable options.

Sarah Palin, having survived the debate and rising to the level of student council president with her winks and doggone-its, committed a huge political blunder by charging that Obama is "palling around with terrorists."

Rule No. 1 in politics: don't shoot arrows at your opponent without knowing how much he has in his own quiver.

The slimy, nefarious attempt to link Obama to William Ayres, a 60's era radical, woke up the sleeping beast in the Obama campaign. For months, the faithful like myself has been waiting for Obama to go at least somewhat negative to soften John McCain .

Palin's comments, as well as those leaked from the McCain campaign that they will go on an aggressive attack, resurrected the Keating 5 scandal that tarnished John McCain out of the Obama quiver.

Worse for McCain is that the scandal reinforces his dubious associations with those in the financial community which becomes a perfect overlay to the current Wall Street crisis.

Moreover, Obama is sharpening his attacks on McCain in other areas, such as dubbing McCain's health plan as "radical" and characterizing McCain's response to the financial meltdown as "erratic."

Obama wisely and pre-emptively criticized McCain's tactics and warned the electorate that McCain has no solutions to the economic crisis, wants to turn the page, and instead seeks to launch into Swift Boat style messaging. So when McCain fires off these so-called character missles at Obama, he will be playing right into Obama's hands. And at the same time, Obama will be demonstrating that the best defense is a strong offense.

McCain, Palin--betcha by golly wow--your strategy will not work.