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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Whatever Happened to the Trump Resistance?

I recently saw the most excellent film Star Wars: The Last Jedi in which I heard the term Resistance mentioned at least a couple of dozen times in reference to the Resistance against the New Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke.

Back to reality, back to 2017 in the galaxy of our own country, we are witnessing the conclusion of the first year of our own version of the Supreme Leader’s term—a period for a consistent solid majority of Americans whose emotions had fluctuated somewhere between disheartening to disdain.  During Star Wars: The Last Jedi I mused what happened to the Resistance against President Donald Trump that had debuted with the incredible Women’s March a mere day after the inauguration.

This majority of Americans see Trump’s election as illegitimate.  All U.S. intelligence services concluded that Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s emails and found a way to strategically release the contents with the sole goal of helping Trump win the election while disparaging candidate Hillary Clinton.  That Russia, a foreign adversary, sought to meddle in our election process and most likely succeeded in installing the candidate of that government’s preference, has been accepted as fact by everyone but curiously Trump and his hard core supporters.

Whether the Trump campaign aided that effort is an open question and is the subject of investigations by House and Senate committees as well as the probe headed by Special Counsel Robert S, Mueller III.

Despite Trump’s denials, most Americans saw this election as tainted, and cries of “Resistance” were echoed throughout social media.  Following the Women’s March whereby stunningly several millions of people participated in Washington, D.C. and in any one of over 600 satellite demonstrations around the country to protest Trump’s presidency, there was unexpected momentum to the Resistance. 

To be sure, Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with #Resistance, but what actually transpired?

There were sporadic demonstrations following the ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim nations, the pullout from the Paris Climate agreement, the rescinding of protections for the children of undocumented immigrants among other actions.

Then the protests seemed to quiet down though resistance manifested itself in several special elections where opposition to Trump was apparent in the level of turnout and enthusiasm highlighted by the upset win by Doug Jones in Alabama.  The opposition to Trump at the ballot box by dint of energy and enthusiasm is a strong indicator that Democrats will experience a successful mid-term election in November 2018.

Clearly, the street demonstrations, which harness the energy of the opposition, seemed to wane a bit.  This has been surprising given the unpopularity of the president and the dispiriting actions he has taken in his first term.  I thought there would be protests nearly every weekend to, if nothing else, prove to the narcissistic president that he is not adored and worshipped as he would love everyone to believe.

However, according to a report in the Washington Post things may change if Trump derails the Mueller investigation.

Opponents of the president have been hoping upon hope that the findings from the probe will ultimately lead to the impeachment of the president. While collusion with the Russians may be a more daunting task to prove, obstruction of justice—the crime that eventually brought down President Richard M. Nixon—appears more cut and dry to the resistors.  They are banking on the Mueller investigation as means to truncate Trump’s term and rid the nation of the stain he has imposed on the country and around the globe.

The Post states that tens of thousands of protesters will be storming the streets within hours should the president fire Mueller.

Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast
More than two dozen progressive organizations, say the Post,  have spent the past several weeks lining up what they vow would be an immediate response that would be hard to ignore.

“Using an online portal that links the various groups and their contact lists, more than 140,000 people have registered to begin protesting within hours of Trump's decision, at predetermined locations in more than 600 cities.

The protests are designed to harness what organizers predict would be a wave of nationwide outrage that would follow Trump's action, which Democrats in Congress warn could trigger a constitutional crisis.”

The Los Angeles Times reported  that if Trump fires Mueller before 2 p.m., the demonstrations would begin at 5 p.m. that day. They would begin at noon the following day if Trump were to act after 2 p.m. Organizers in New York already have stockpiled bullhorns in apartments near Times Square, the would-be location of the New York City demonstration.

It is unclear if President Trump will take the political risk of stifling the investigation. Right wing media including Trump-TV (Fox News) have been cajoling him to do so citing flimsy evidence of partisanship among the Mueller team.

Regardless, activists are taking no chances and preparing to unleash the fury should Trump interfere.  It is questionable if Republican members of Congress who insisted early on that the “red line” of stopping the investigation cannot be crossed, will put country over party.  I’m taking bets.

We will wait and see what transpires.  As in the case of  the Resistance to the New Order in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the action here in the U.S. could make for an interesting sequel. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sweet Home Alabama: The Jones-Moore Election

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you…

Since Tuesday night, Democrats all over the country are celebrating the results in Alabama’s special election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  The victory by Doug Jones over Roy Moore was satisfying on so many fronts, and it’s easy to see why the Dems are giddy and emboldened at his moment in history.  Decency and dignity prevailed in the Yellowhammer State.

Democrats nabbed a crucial Senate seat in crimson red Alabama when no one ever thought it would be possible.  This result will facilitate regaining control over the Senate in 2018, but it is still a daunting task given that many Democrats have to defend their seats in states that went to Donald Trump in 2016.

The effect of the #MeToo movement was evident in the election as women, notably African-American women, put a stamp on this election and repudiated Roy Moore and his alleged sexual misconduct from earlier in his life—a point he steadfastly denies.

The Get Out the Vote (GOTV) effort by the Jones campaign in urban and suburban areas in particular was instrumental.  This should reinforce the criticality of getting the voters enthused enough to vote because no matter what district, there are always Democrats residing in it.  Democratic voters need to be motivated by a quality candidate and an articulate, persuadable message to be delivered by said candidate.

African-Americans, a vital component of the Democratic electorate, came through in this election bigly and carried Jones, a pro-choice candidate, over the finish line. This should have been a no-brainer given Moore’s racism and his nostalgia for the time that families were united when slavery existed.

Add that to the fact that Jones successfully prosecuted two of the Klansmen involved in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, nearly 40 years after the crime.

Nonetheless, Democratic candidates must deliver a message to African-Americans that resonate. Never take this voting bloc for granted. And they need to bolster GOTV efforts with that community.

Many Dems are also rejoicing because it brought Trump’s record in Alabama in 2017 elections to 0-2 and depriving him of a “huge win.”  Trump defied advice and got involved in this race by endorsing Moore.  By doing so, it brought back to the surface his own problems concerning sexual misconduct as several women reiterated their accusations.  It was a terrible political miscue.

The upset also smeared egg on the smearable face of Steve Bannon who thought that he is a big-shot powerbroker. He could still be a force to reckon with in 2018, but clearly his stock tanked.
However, before Democrats take their foot off the gas pedal and believe that they can glide into 2018 on a “blue wave,” there are some sobering realities as a result of this election. 

Roy Moore was beyond flawed as a candidate. Even prior to the sexual misconduct allegations including molesting a minor while he was in his 30’s, he was unpopular.  Besides the slavery comment, he had demonstrated his virulent bigotry toward LGBT people and Muslims. Yet, as his wife pointed out, we should not consider his to be anti-Semitic since one of his attorneys is “a Jew.”

Moore’s denials of the sexual misconduct allegations were so unconvincing (similar to Trump’s) that mainstream Republicans scattered to the hills including the state’s senior Senator Richard Shelby.

Moore ducked every opportunity to debate Jones and seldomly discussed specific issues facing the state and the nation without invoking God.

Yet, despite Moore’s deficiencies still nearly half the state’s voters supported him. The sun apparently doesn’t shine everywhere in Alabama as too many preferred a child molester to a Democrat.

But with the historic victory in Alabama on December 12, Democrats should feel elated and confident but should also be mindful there is much work to do.  Good candidates, effective messaging and flawed opponents who receive help from Trump-Bannon will help us take back America.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Trump’s Jerusalem Gambit: Why Now?

One would think President Donald J. Trump would have other things on his mind. From Alabama to North Korea, the president has been immersed with these developments. But he also has been preoccupied by the Mueller investigation on possible collusion with Russia to meddle and manipulate the 2016 presidential election.

If his staff had the gall to show him the data, Trump could see now that he has the lowest approval ratings than any other in modern history at this point in his term.  In addition, the sexual misconduct accusations on men across the private and public sector raises once again questions about the president’s own accusers of sexual assault and impropriety, which number at about 15 to date.

This would normally keep a president pretty much tethered to these matters when he is not playing golf or watching cable news.  However, out of left field, it seems, President Trump found still another way to spark controversy, and as has become the norm lately, anger our allies when on December 6, he formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. 

The move reversed nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and put in place a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the ferociously contested Holy City.  Rather than being the bargaining chip it once was as a key component of peace talks (now stalled), recognition of Jerusalem is now off the table, and this order brought no concessions from Israel in return.  The U.S. is no longer seen (if it ever were) as an impartial broker of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.  Trump’s action confirms it.

While the Embassy is not actually moving to Jerusalem in the next few years, the decision was condemned both at home and abroad with violent flare-ups taking place in the Palestinian territories that threaten to spread elsewhere in the Middle East.  Why would Trump do this at this time?  I have a few theories—cynical as they may be.  #hocopolitics

►To Distract.  As the Mueller probe moves closer and closer inside the White House and with former U.S. National Security Advisor Gen. Michael Flynn probably already having turned state’s evidence against the president and/or his family as part of a plea deal, things are getting pretty dicey for Mr. Trump.  When the news is not favorable, he finds things to dominate the next news cycle and Jerusalem seemed to have been pulled out of his bag of distracting tricks.

►To reinforce his call for a Muslim ban. As a candidate, Trump infamously announced a “total and complete shutdown” of the entry of Muslims to the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”  He has found a way to impugn the reputation of entire religion based on the actions of a radical fringe.  Trump was fully aware that the controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would fuel unrest in the Palestinian territories, and the footage of burning U.S. and Israeli flags promulgated by the not-so-fake news would lather up his anti-Muslim base to provide additional adrenaline to his travel ban from select predominant Muslim countries, which is still being legally challenged.

►Religious fulfillment. The recognition of Jerusalem was a campaign promise from Trump and a pledge to evangelical Christians. As a matter of fact, the White House explained that this was the motive for the announcement.  With the devout Vice President Mike Pence heading over there, there is some credence to that motive.

►Drill baby drill! This may be somewhat far-fetched but not entirely out of the question. The recognition of Jerusalem could lead to a Mideast oil embargo against the U.S. Already there is some chatter that economic sanctions be put in place against us so this is a possibility.  Should such an action occur, unlikely as it may be,, Trump could use that as an excuse to destroy even more public lands for the purpose of oil drilling.

All, any or none of these reasons may explain why this action took place at this time. But if you have other possibilities, please share them as comments on this post.

Friday, December 01, 2017

My Top 20 Local LGBT Stories of 2017

Below is a subjective ranking (in reverse order) of my top 20 Baltimore & Maryland LGBT stories for 2017.  

These stories were written for the Washington Blade and/or this blogThe full article is linked to each headline.  

A big win for a trans candidate in Virginia provided a spark for Baltimore’s Transgender March of Resilience.
Victorious Danica Roem

Beloved East Baltimore teacher, LGBT ally and GLSEN board member was feted at The Ellen Show—much to his surprise.
Wyatt Oroke with Ellen DeGeneres

Baltimore activist Brian Dolbow for the second year organized a Pride-related event that helped feed the homeless.

On July 6-9 the western Maryland city of Cumberland became the latest jurisdiction to celebrate LGBTQ Pride.

Baltimore Police have not found the motorist who fired a BB gun at a trans woman in Station North.

Leon’s, Baltimore’s oldest active gay bar, celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Some 600 attendees including volunteers participated in the annual AIDS Walk & Run Baltimore on May 7 raising nearly $100,000 to support Chase Brexton Health Care’s HIV/AIDS outreach and infectious disease and case management services.
AIDS Walk Baltimore, gay news, Washington Blade
Volunteers at the 2017 AIDS Walk & Run Baltimore (Photo: Aaron Cahall)

A number of LGBT organizations and leaders blasted President Trump’s ban on transgender service members.
Image: TheDailyBeast.com

Roland Park Elementary/Middle School recognized for the work being done by the diverse student-run Gay-Straight Alliance. 

A lawsuit threatening to roll back Trans protections in the Frederick County school system was met with broad resistance.

Fred Allen, longtime owner of The Drinkery, died on August 7 at the age of 86.

The Maryland LGBT Chamber of Commerce, bringing together LGBT and allied businesses, professionals and individuals throughout the state of Maryland, debuted on June 14. 

Baltimore Pride’s longest parade marched into Station North where the block party took place for the first time.

Less than 6 months after it opened G•A•Y Lounge closed its doors due to a problem with the contract from the previous owner of the building but the current owners vowed to return at a different venue.

Mark A. Procopio became the executive director of FreeState Justice and Jennifer L. Kent was appointed managing attorney replacing the departing Patrick Paschall and Jer Welter, respectively.
New FreeState Justice Executive Director
Mark A. Procopio

5. Suspect Acquitted in Murder of Baltimore Trans Woman    Shawn Oliver, 46, was acquitted of all charges on Jan. 12 in the murder of Mia Henderson that took place in 2014.
Shawn Oliver was acquitted of all charges in the murder of Mia Henderson.

Following a meeting between transgender rights advocates and Baltimore’s Board of School Commissioners on Feb. 28, a statement pledging support for transgender students was issued in response to Trump administration’s rescinding guidelines issued by the Obama administration in 2016 that prohibited discrimination against transgender students.  
Demonstrators outside Board of Education headquarters.
(Photo by Evan Lori Mahone)

3. Grand Central in Baltimore is Up for Sale

 Grand Central nightclub, a fixture in Mount Vernon for over a quarter century has been put on the market by owner Don Davis.

After a 4-year hiatus, the reconstructed Baltimore Eagle opened.
Photo: JoeMyGod.com

Police are still searching for the suspect in connection with the murder of trans woman Alphonza Watson, 38, who died of a gunshot wound on March 22.  
Alphonza Watson