Friday, September 06, 2019

Trump is Not as ‘Sharpie’ as He Thinks

Why ‘Sharpie-gate’ could be devastating Trump’s re-election hopes

There’s a lot opponents can say about President Trump heading into the 2020 election. You have the Mueller Report, which laid out at least ten examples where the president obstructed justice. He was named as a co-conspirator in the indictment of his personal attorney who is now serving time in prison. 

You can point out his enriching his businesses and himself while being president. His policies have allowed children to be locked in cages living in their own filth.  #hocopolitics

There are his embarrassing moments on the world stage including his coddling of autocratic tyrants and belittling allies. More recently is the nonsensical trade war with China that, if continued, will put our economy in peril.  And, of course, you have the endless lies, blatant hypocrisy and narcissism.

None of this seemed to have moved the needle. Where he should be sitting at 12 percent approval mainly from the KKK wing of his base, he is still in the mid-40’s range.  It’s a real head-scratcher to be sure.  What would it take? #hocopolitics 

Hurricane Dorian and in particular “Sharpie-gate” might be the answer.

Trump incorrectly announced that sweet home Alabama would be in the path of Dorian.  As the hurricane moved along its wobbly track it became more apparent that it will hit along the Florida coast and head north. Alabama would be spared. 

But Trump did not back off and reiterated his prediction necessitating a rare rebuke from the National Weather Service (NWS).

Unwilling or unable to admit what seemed to have been an honest mistake, Trump continued to maintain he was right all along.  So at the Oval office on September 4, he pulled out a chart showing the track of Dorian but it was doctored by the markings of a black sharpie that extended the cone of uncertainty to Alabama.
On Twitter Trump continued to defend his prediction fully five days after his initial statement. Somehow he managed to get Rear Adm. Peter Brown, a Homeland Security and counterterrorism adviser, who said he briefed Trump multiple times about Dorian as well as models that showed the potential path of the eye of the storm to defend him in a rather lengthy statement.

The backlash was severe and unrelenting.

This all became fodder for jokes by late night comedians and political commentators—print and TV—a well as creative memes that spread all over social media displaying doctored photos with a black marker to increase the size of Trump’s hands or his height to show he is taller than Obama as examples.

But for the Trump campaign, this was no laughing matter.  While the actions, performance and character of the president have been insufficient to this point to shake his base, “Sharpie-gate” might.  This is a much easier concept to digest than the 440-page Mueller Report and Attorney General William Barr’s deliberate attempt to muddy the waters.  People saw this in very simplistic terms; many of Trump’s foibles rose to the surface with this one episode.  

On September 5, The Washington Post put up a brief story on Instagram  about the sharpie modifications on the chart.  It received over 14,000 “Likes” so far.

The most popular comment (over 1,700 Likes) came from Paulsarkisphoto who posted, “Trump’s head is a cone of uncertainty.”

Another comment came from gt69 who said, “I can not [sic] believe this man is president. I live in Alabama and heard this. People need to wake up and vote!!! Let’s elect someone that’s competent!!!

Why this reaction should be a red flag for Trump and his team is the fact that there were very few people willing to defend him. Usually a WAPO story on Trump has a pretty decent number of people going to bat for the president. With this one, however, they hunkered down.

That's not a good sign for Trump.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

With ‘Cabaret’ at Olney, Even the Orchestra is Beautiful

Mason Alexander Park as the Emcee surrounded by the Kit Kat Girls
Photo: Stan Barouh

Over the past few years, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and hate-motivated crimes in the U.S. and around the world have been on the uptick.  Little has been done so far to stem the tide, which is disturbing if not frightening as we view this phenomenon through the lens of the rise of Nazi Germany in the early 1930’s.  The population at the time, unknowing of the horror that would eventually take hold, stood by and watched it happen. When it reached its pinnacle in the early 1940’s it was already too late.  #hocoarts

Today’s virulent partisan divide in our nation is allowing this ever-growing movement to fester. The question on many people’s minds is, could history repeat itself? 

With the superlative, near flawless production of Cabaret kicking off the Olney Theatre Center’s 2019-2020 season, we take a glimpse into that ghastly period in history where the darkness of evil seeped through the escapist veneer of frolicking decadence and burlesque.  

Under the astute direction of Alan Paul, making his Olney Theatre Center debut, the musical starts off sunny enough with lightheartedness, clever retorts and high camp.  Gradually the clouds metaphorically thicken, and by the end, the skies have blackened with the gloom from the inevitable Nazi takeover.  The final moments of the show are downright chilling. 

Says Mr. Paul, “It is about complicity, and what happens when citizens of 1930’s Berlin turn a blind eye to the rise of the Nazis. It has huge political overtones now as we think about what it means to be a citizen in this incredibly partisan and political moment.”

The plot that encompasses several sets of relationships among disparate individuals takes place with stirring drama.  The Kit Kat Klub, a decadent nightclub in 1931 Berlin, provides the escape, albeit temporarily, from the inescapable reality: the ominous political changes which are engulfing Germany. 

“Leave your troubles outside, exclaims the naughty Emcee in the opening number “Willkommen.” “So, life is disappointing? Forget it!  In here, life is beautiful... The girls are beautiful... Even the orchestra is beautiful.”  

Outside?  Not so much. 

Cabaret, a multiple Tony Award winner in 1967 including Best Musical, spawned many revivals on Broadway and London in addition to numerous tours and the popular 1972 movie.  With music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, Cabaret, which was ultimately adapted from the book Goodbye to Berlin (1939) by Christopher Isherwood, is distinguished by its stylistically diverse catalogue of music. 

Well-known songs, such as the aforementioned “Willkommen” along with “Maybe This Time,” “Money,”  “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” and, of course, the title song, have made the show endearing, and with Mr. Paul at the helm, the production at Olney is no exception.  It excels in an intricately staged, brilliantly costumed spectacle that showcases an abundance of outstanding performances by the leads and the ensemble. 

Bravo to Musical Director and Conductor Christopher Youstra and the talented musicians for their outstanding renditions of Kander’s score and to Katie Spelman for her creative choreography.

Wilson Chin designed an ornate set depicting the Kit Kat Klub that serves as the hub for all the action. Six large sparkling chandeliers adorn the stage with a large pentagon-shaped mirror reflecting Colin K.  Bills’ first-rate lighting effects affixed to a stage-wide crimson curtain the upstage. In front of it but still upstage, the aforementioned “beautiful” tuxedo-clad 11-piece orchestra is seated in a formal bandstand mode reminiscent of the swing and jazz bands of Benny Goodman and the Dorsey Brothers.

Downstage there is a series of lit steps that effectively expands the performing area and adds depth to the action.  Scene changes through the use of moveable set pieces are accomplished seamlessly.  Several members of the audience sit at tables right on the stage to simulate the nightclub.
Gregory Maheu as Clifford Bradshaw
and Alexandre Silber as Sally Bowles
Photo: Stan Barouh
(I was told by a member of the production team that the set was designed in this manner after extensive research took place on how the typical Berlin nightclub of that era appeared to foster authenticity.)

The leads and ensemble are called upon to don countless period costumes in a vast array of styles—from ordinary house dresses to suits to pastel gowns to suggestive and gaudy burlesque costumes to Nazi uniforms. The Emcee alone wears at least a dozen creative pieces.  Costume Designer Kendra Rai was more than up to the task and should receive formal recognition for her exceptional work.

Aside from the eye-pleasing aesthetics and solid sound design by Matt Rowe, the entire cast makes this production soar with their acting and vocal talents. The show’s lead is Mason Alexander Park as the puckish Emcee of the Kit Kat Klub. Wearing macabre makeup and flamboyant and at times revealing costumes, the Emcee, the personification of unfettered sexual freedom, is inserted in multiple scenes to offer his take on events mainly through song. And it is clear that the mood of this commentary gets progressively darker over time to coincide with the plot.

Mr. Park possesses an excellent singing voice and shines in the opening number “Willkommen,” the hilarious “Two Ladies,” the lively standard “Money,” and the melancholy “I Don’t Care Much.”  He does a wonderful job in this role though I believe he can take the character even a little further over the top. 

" intricately staged, brilliantly costumed spectacle..."

Another lead is Alexandra Silber as Sally Bowles as the headlining British singer at the Kit Kat Klub.  Despite her singing adroitness, Sally seems to hold a job only if she sleeps with someone.  Sally meets an American writer Clifford Bradshaw who was traveling to Berlin and then fall in love, it but doesn’t end well.

Ms. Silber performs two iconic solos, “Maybe This Time” and “Cabaret” with a resoundingly sweet voice.

Perfectly cast in the role of Clifford, Gregory Maheu, fresh off of his sterling performance in Once at Olney, is convincing both in his acting and singing as he commands the stage with his voice and movements.  Mr. Maheu’s singing prowess comes to the fore in the duet with Ms. Silber in “Perfectly Marvelous.”

Another love affair takes place between Fräulein Schneider, played by Donna Migliaccio, an elderly owner of the boarding house where Clifford resides and Herr Schultz (Mitchell Hébert), an elderly optimistic fruit shop owner.  Things go adoringly well until Fräulein Schneider learns that her beau is Jewish and the conditions in Germany are too dangerous to consider marriage.  A brick thrown through his store’s window was the last straw and sadly, she breaks off the engagement. 

They play their roles with sensitivity and charm, and their performance of “Married” is done tenderly. Ms. Migliaccio is an outstanding vocalist and is one of the show’s highlights. Her renditions of “So What,” “It Couldn’t Please Me More” and “What Would You Do?” are emotionally performed with superb range.

For comic relief there is Fräulein Kost (Jessica Lauren Ball), a prostitute who rents from Fräulein Schneider where no member of the German Navy is safe from her lure. Ms. Ball does a fine job in portraying the character with the right touch of humor.

Tom Story as Ernst Ludwig, a man who had met Clifford on a train to Berlin and recommended him to the boarding house, is very effective in his role. He is later revealed as a Nazi and who warns Fräulein Schneider to drop her marriage plans. Mr. Story had turned in a wonderful performance in Olney’s recent production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical.

Then there are the gender-bending Kit Kat Girls (Katy Tabb, Jessica Bennett, Lina Lee, Bridget Riley, Jessica Lauren Ball, and Louisa Tringali) and Kit Kat Boys (Connor James Reilly, Andre Hinds, Ben Gunderson, and Rick Westerkamp) who playfully sing and dance throughout, play other roles, and ably contribute visible energy to the show. 
Photo: Stan Barouh
While there isn’t an abundance of dancing in this musical with most of the work carried out by the Kit Kat Girls and Boys, the number “Mein Herr” with Ms. Silber and the Kit Kat Girls is a standout.

Surprisingly, this was the first time the Olney Theatre Center presented Cabaret considering the theatre’s 82-year existence and the popularity of the musical. It is an enjoyable musical on many levels that presents exceptional performances by the well-directed talented cast and ably supported by the technical and design teams.

Do come to the Cabaret, old chum, and leave your problems outside at least for a while. But please do not turn a blind eye to those problems looming outside lest history will indeed repeat itself.

Running time: Two hours and 30 minutes with an intermission.

Cabaret runs through October 6 at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832. Tickets may be purchased by calling 301-924-3400 or by visiting online.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Rooting for a Recession???

The desperate GOP accuses Dems, media for craving an economic downturn.

You have to hand it to the Republicans for their ability to create excuses when things aren’t going their way.  President Trump, seeing his re-election prospects dimming by the findings from a FOX News poll,  has started to re-launch one of his favorite B.S. excuses: voter fraud.  It is a metaphysical certainty that should Trump go down to defeat in 2020, he will state without equivocation and without evidence that voter fraud turned the election against him. And Lord knows what else he might do or say.

Following the recent gargantuan stock market drop that included a striking 800-plus loss from the Dow, talk of the R-word (recession), started to surface.  The prospect of a recession in the not-too-distant future emanated from numerous well-respected economists. But because the media covered these alarm signals, the media as well as Democrats and other opponents of Donald Trump are being targeted by Trump supporters for as they see it, rooting for this to happen.  Why? A recession would hurt the chances for Trump’s reelection.  #hocopolitics

Simply put, a recession is an economic phenomenon when there is negative economic growth for two consecutive quarters.  Consumer confidence is down; consumer spending, which is the principal driver of the economy, is sharply reduced; the stock market heads south; the national debt heads north; and businesses tend to lay off workers . 

Coincidence or not, according to MarketWatch, every Republican president since Teddy Roosevelt has had to deal with a recession in his first term.  These are cyclical events that follow years of robust economic expansion. 

A recession or a significant downturn in the economy would eliminate the main rationale for Trump’s re-election. He has prided himself and has taken all the credit for what has been up to now--a strong economy.  Yet, as the New York Times explains,  Trump’s on again, off again trade war with China has exacerbated the uncertainty among business leaders and that has sparked the talk of a slow-down.

Knowing that, his supporters are accusing Democrats with the help of the liberal media of creating a fertile environment for a recession by rooting for it to happen. Here’s a sampling from Twitter:

To be fair, anti-Trump comedian Bill Maher has indicated on several occasions that he is rooting for a recession to hurt Trump in his re-election bid. But Maher is in the minority and he is unlikely to be severely impacted financially from such an outcome.

However, millions of other Americans will suffer.  A recession is not something to long for even if makes you feel better politically. It’s like hoping to catch the flu to avoid school or work. Recessions are caused by myriad domestic and global factors but cheering them on is not one of them.

The point is, the GOP strategy is to preemptively pin the blame of a possible recession on the Dems and the media to mitigate the political damage it would cause the president in his reelection chances.  For his part,  Trump has primarily pointed his fingers at the Chairman of the Federal Reserve for his monetary policies as the cause of a potential recession. 

From Trump's corruption, to incompetence, to racism, to whiplash reversals of policy statements through tweets, the Democrats have seemingly unlimited ways to make the case against Trump.  They shouldn't need a faltering economy to win in 2020, and they are certainly not wishing for one. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Art Exhibit in Columbia Attempts to Combat Hate

Recent tragic mass shootings have pushed the topic of hate to the forefront of our conversations. Data  indicate that in the past few years, there has been a discernible rise in hate crimes and hate bias incidents throughout the U.S. against various minority populations including those perpetrated against the LGBTQ community.

For five years, a project called Erase Hate Through Art has attempted to bring awareness to hate in general but particularly towards those actions directed against the LGBTQ community through an art exhibition in Columbia.

The sixth annual Erase Hate Through Art (EHTA) exhibition will take place on Sunday, October 6 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Columbia Art Center, 6100 Foreland Garth, Columbia, MD 21045. Admission is Free.

According to the event’s planners, “The exhibition will feature the artworks of artists exploring various themes associated with bullying and hate crimes as a means of prevention. EHTA was born of a desire to raise awareness of hate crimes and bullying against the LGTBQ community. Today the exhibition explores the impact of these crimes against all segments of society.

“Contributing artists work in all mediums to study the crimes and the impact they have on the victims and their loved ones. Net proceeds of sales are donated to The Matthew Shepard Erase Hate Campaign.”

I had reviewed the debut exhibit five years ago for the Washington Blade.  At that exhibit, there were 10 artists displaying multiple pieces that represent a wide swath of art depicting for the most part images of victims of hate and bullying. The works included multi-media art, sculpture, photography, stained glass and paintings.  

For further information, you may find Erase Hate Through Art on Facebook.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Call It What It Is: White Nationalist Domestic Terrorism

Remember how President Barack Obama was incessantly berated for refusing to utter the phrase, “Radical Islamic Terrorism.” For virtually his entire two terms, right wing radio, cable TV propagandists and conservative newspapers as well as Republican politicians jumped on the bandwagon that Obama must be a secret Muslim if he can’t spit out those words.

In fact, then candidate Donald Trump in 2016 told Fox and Friends, “People cannot—they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the ways he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable.”

Later, the horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, an establishment primarily frequented by gay people whereby 49 innocent souls were slaughtered, led Trump to reference the incident in his speech accepting the nomination for President.

“Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted our LGBT community. As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”

The identity politics reporter Eugene Scott for The Fix pointed out in an op-ed in the Washington Post, “Cynics noted that it was [shooter Omar] Mateen’s loyalty to the Islamist terrorist group [ISIL] that led the then-nominee to address the mass murder more than his concern for the safety of gay Americans.”

The distinction is not lost on many in our country and around the world. An ISIL sympathizer murders people and is labeled a foreign terrorist.  However, in a span of 6 days, three mass shootings have occurred and very few on the GOP side of the aisle including Trump—largely the same ones who relentlessly accused Obama of not using the phrase “radical Islamist terrorists”—have called out these murders as domestic terrorism.

As people debate the reasons why Trump is not condemning white nationalist domestic terrorism with the same vehemence as he slams African-American lawmakers, majority black cities and Hispanic immigrants, it is well documented  that since Trump took office there has been a significant rise of hate crimes in the U.S. and hate bias incidents and in particular, where Trump has held rallies.

Moreover, mass shootings or other attempts to terrorize communities that are rooted in white nationalism are becoming too routine now. They have been met with no response from Senate Republicans and so far, no action has been taken on a House-passed bi-partisan sensible gun bill though they offer a plethora of thoughts and prayers and well-deserved praise for first responders.

Republicans who are aligned with Trump (just about all of them) see these incidents as mental health-related outbursts.  But not all of these perpetrators are linked with mental health problems. To kill anyone other than self-defense, to me, is a mental health problem.  Some are self-professed white nationals, virulently opposed to persons of color and yes, supporters of Trump.

It is obvious the reason Trump has yet to demonstrate any leadership on this growing problem or acknowledge that white nationalism is becoming an epidemic is that these individuals constitute a portion of his passionate and loyal base. You know how the president values loyalty; he is loath to throw them under the bus.  He is all about his base and the 2020 election.

While Trump should not be accused of directly inciting the violence we are witnessing with all-too-common frequency in the form of mass shootings, his divisive and incendiary racist rhetoric in the form of tweets, comments at press gaggles and speeches at campaign rallies, he has wittingly created an atmosphere whereby some of his ardent supporters have picked up signals and have acted upon it.

“He empowers hateful and potentially violent individuals with his divisive rhetoric and his unwillingness to unequivocally denounce white supremacy,” writes Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant F.B.I. director for counterintelligence and a national security analyst for NBC News, in an op-ed  in the New York Times.

“Mr. Trump may be understandably worried about the course of congressional inquiries, but his aggressive and race-baiting responses have been beyond the pale. He has chosen a re-election strategy based on appealing to the kinds of hatred, fear and ignorance that can lead to violence.”

In Trump’s recent racist tweets and his combustible campaign rally in North Carolina where the unimpeded “send her back” chants reverberated among the foaming-at-the-mouth Trump cultists, white nationalists or those close sympathizers of the cause have applauded him even if they were not in the arena itself.   ADL, a leading anti-hate organization, documents  the validation by these folks resulting from Trump’s communications.

For his part, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney disputes Trump’s role in the violence. On the August 4 edition of Meet the Press, he argued that the blame lies squarely on the “sick” people who “pulled the trigger.”

“I get the fact that some people don’t approve of the verbiage the president uses, I get that,” Mulvaney said. “But even if they did … people are going to hear what they want to hear.”

As we navigate through another tragic carnage-filled crime scene, we desperately continue to seek answers. The loved ones of the innocent victims are faced with these horrific losses and no amount of thoughts and no amount of prayers will mitigate their grief.

Gun restrictions will not stop many of these incidents though background checks are the right way to go for starters. And still, I cannot fathom why semi-automatic assault weapons and high capacity magazines should be obtained so readily. 

But we also need to hear from our leaders to confirm that much of the recent atrocities have been committed by white nationalist bigots.  Dialing back the divisive rhetoric would be a good first step.

Calling these crimes white nationalist domestic terrorism is what is needed, and efforts by law enforcement should be undertaken with the same zeal as they attempt to check foreign terrorism. 

Note that foreign terrorism is a federal crime. Domestic terrorism is not.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Howard Co. High School Students to Hold First Rainbow Conference

In June Howard County successfully held its first ever LGBTQ+ Pride whereby an estimated 10,000 people joined in the celebration. In 2020, the first ever Rainbow Conference for LGBTQIA+ students, parents, Howard County Public School System staff, community members and allies is scheduled for May 15 at Hammond High School.

According to the event’s website , “The Rainbow Conference came about as…an idea that arose from a need to connect with others who share a similar story, similar values, and a similar struggle. It is our hope that this first Rainbow Conference is the first of many conferences of its kind in our school system.”  This idea ostensibly originated from students and staff at Hammond H.S.

The conference will take place from Noon to 4 p.m. on May 15 and will include three concurrent workshop sessions. While some presenters have already been lined up, there is an opportunity for others to lead a concurrent session. Broadly, the topics may include literary focus, self-awareness, creative expression, activism, health curriculum and instruction and others. Those who may be interested in being a presenter should visit the Contact link of the website and complete the form.  

Planners are also seeking sponsors to cover the costs of the conference. If interested, please complete the Rainbow Conference Donation Form.

To request a table at the Exhibition Hall, the form to complete is here

Openly gay Mikah Meyer has already been selected as the Keynote Speaker.  He traveled on a record-breaking 3-year road trip to all 419 National Park Service sites making him the first to experience all those parks in a single journey.  For good measure, he took photos with the Pride flag at each of the sites.

In addition, there will be a literary component of the conference called Rainbow Vision 2020. Students who are currently attending a Howard County high school are encouraged to submit original art, poetry, essay or story on such matters as being an LGBTQIA+ teen or ally.  Selected submissions will be part of a countywide literary magazine, which will be distributed at the conference. The rules and methods for making a submission are included here

“The HoCo Rainbow Conference is going to be a great opportunity for members of the LGBTQ community in Howard County schools to come together to share experiences, show their unity, and continue to advocate for inclusive, accepting, and supportive school environment for all,” says PFLAG-Columbia Howard County President Max Crownover. “Our chapter is excited to be able to support the efforts of the conference’s planners.”

Adds local librarian Sarah Cooke, who is a scheduled presenter at the conference on the topic of LGBTQ+ authors and/or characters in a variety of genres:  “Having this conference in HoCo is significant on so many levels. First and foremost it shows our LGBTQ+ students that we see them, we love them and we support them.  Representation and visibility is so important, as is more education of our history and the celebration and respect for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Indeed, bringing high school students together to learn about issues that affect them and network with others is a positive and needed step.  LGBTQIA+ teens nationally continue to be bullied and harassed in schools and online. 

According to GLSEN’s 2018 National Schools Climate Survey  the environment for such students has not improved. In one key finding, the vast majority of LGBTQ students (87.3%) in 2017 experienced harassment or assault based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation, gender expression, gender, religion, race and ethnicity, and disability. Seven in ten LGBTQ students (70.1%) experienced verbal harassment at school based on sexual orientation, more than half based on gender expression (59.1%) or gender (53.2%).
“This report should serve as an alarm bell for advocates and a call to action for anyone who cares about students’ wellbeing,” said Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director. 

“Fortunately, the evidence continues to show that key interventions are working to improve students’ lives. We must continue to push to see them implemented in more schools, and support students who are organizing to improve their communities. LGBTQ-affirming supports in our schools reduce violence, improve academic achievement, and help save lives. Who wouldn’t want LGBTQ youth to feel safe and do better in schools?”

The upcoming Rainbow Conference is akin to the recent “B’More Proud” series of conferences at the collegiate level involving Baltimore area colleges and universities. This inaugural conference of high school students in Howard County is similarly on the right path to success.

As additional information about the Rainbow Conference becomes available, I will provide updates. You can also email or follow the Rainbow Conference on Instagram @hcpss_pride. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Should Trump Feel Optimistic About 2020?

The president is banking on a lot to break his way to overcome his unpopularity.

We’re more than 16 months away from the presidential election and the Democratic field of challengers exceeds 20. Therefore, so much can happen in that time span that could alter the political landscape one way or the other. 

I make no predictions as to who the eventual Democratic nominee will be nor do I speculate on whether or not Trump will ultimately be impeached. (It’s not because I don’t want to, it’s because I simply can’t.) These are all fluid developments. The one constant has been Donald Trump’s job approval ratings, which have ranged from the low- to mid- 40’s throughout his presidency. 

Despite what has been characterized as a good economy, his numbers do not portend success in the election as he has shown to be president of his base only and not the country as a whole. The failure to expand upon his base is his likely undoing, but after 2016, who knows?  He won the Electoral College with some 46 percent of the vote. 

Accordingly, Trump is banking on a number of conditions to exist up to the election to overcome his being the most unpopular president in a more than a generation.  Some of these are legit but others are far-fetched.  I handicap each of these with “diamond” ratings—one diamond being next to impossible and five being a slam-dunk certainty—in no particular order.

The Economy. Most any incumbent president would see their reelection chances soar if the economy is good (“It’s the economy, stupid.”). However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While certain statistics like growth, unemployment and the stock market appear to be favorable, not everyone in the country is benefitting directly. Wages are stagnant necessitating people to work multiple jobs to keep up with rising prescription drug prices among other expenses.  Factory jobs continue to be lost, and the Trump-created trade war has hurt many farmers.

As for the stock market, most people in the know understand that the law of gravity is king here.  The markets are due for a correction and could tank at any time between now and November 2020.  A recession is certainly possible as well, according to some economists..

So, will the economy remain favorable to Trump as election nears?  ♦ ♦

Democratic Infighting. Make no mistake there is considerable tension among Democrats regarding priorities.  Is it more important to defeat Trump or push for policies that bend leftward?  Is a single payer for health insurance and scrapping private insurers preferable to massaging Obamacare?  What bold policies are desirable versus what can actually be accomplished?  Should Congress impeach the president based on evidence contained in the Mueller Report or should it assume such an action would benefit Trump in the general election? And, of course, the conflict between Speaker Pelosi and four freshman women of color still festers.  These are just a few of the issues that divide Democrats at this time.

Nonetheless, I believe 2016 is fresh in the minds of Democrats.  We saw what happened when the party was not unified.  Dems now understand the inherent hazards of Trump being re-elected, and they will likely get behind the eventual nominee. But you never know what the Dems are capable of when it comes to elections.

Should Trump bank on a Democratic circular firing squad?   ♦ ♦ ♦

The Socialist Label. Trump is a master of messaging and name-calling, and it helps to keep his supporters in line.  More precisely, Republicans in Congress are so terrified of Trump and the power of his tweets that they have sold their souls to him.

There is no secret Trump plans to roll out the “Socialist” brand on Democrats regardless of the nominee.  Radical, left, socialist Democrats will be the mantra.  Even Trump lapdog Lindsey Graham referred to the four women of color involved in the Pelosi controversy as “Communists” underscores how low they will go.

Though popular programs such as Medicare and Social Security can be considered socialist by some definitions, the moniker is treated now as a weapon.  To be clear, the term socialist was used against Barack Obama in 2008 without success.

Can this scare tactic be successful? ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Image: American Prospect
 Us Against Them: Donald Trump’s continuation of his long-held racist and xenophobic beliefs is a winning strategy, according to people in Trump’s orbit.  

Immigration will likely be a major issue in the general as Trump stokes fear, resentment and division.  But images are more powerful than anything Trump can tweet, and the footage showing inhumanely overcrowded cages on the border and children separated from their families are devastating.   

His tweet that that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Talib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” is yet another manifestation of Trump’s ignorance and desire to divide Americans.  Believing that incendiary tweets like this will firm up the bigoted elements of his base is safe to assume. 

However, Trump did not expect the blowback to be so harsh (though hardly a peep from the Trump-intimidated GOP Representatives and Senators) from the media, Democrats and independents that it seemed to have backfired and caused feuding Democrats to close ranks in unity against the profound racism emanating from Trump.

Remember Trump claimed that U.S.-born Judge Curiel could not be fair in presiding over a case involving Trump University because of his Mexican heritage. Then there are these:  “Mexicans are rapists”, the Gold Star Khan family, Charlottesville comments, the attack on some African-American celebrities as “low IQ”, "shithole countries",  etc.  Nevermind his examples of racism prior to his running for president. The racism and xenophobia are palpable and ongoing.  Yes, his bigoted base will be motivated to vote, and this serves to keep them enthused.  But will it work in the general election? ♦ ♦

Russia, Russia Russia! In my view, Trump doesn’t become president if Russia hadn’t interfered by particularly shaping and reaffirming people’s attitudes against Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump.  Robert Mueller was very clear about that after the multi-year investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump had the audacity to side with Putin’s version of events over that of our intelligence community (some patriot!). He doesn’t take the interference seriously because he knew it helped him and other Republicans as well. Even worse, he has done next to nothing to prevent a similar attempt by Russia to plant doubts in the minds of Americans regarding the reliability of the election results.

Can Trump count on Russia to help him win again? ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Friday, June 21, 2019

Straight Pride: Another Way to Mock LGBTQ Folks

Photo: Boston Globe/Boston Globe Via Getty Images
With each year, the annual ritual of holding LGBTQ Pride festivals and parades all over the world is gaining more media coverage and popularity.  These celebrations have been taking place for 50 years since the first one in New York City marked the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall uprising where patrons in the Greenwich Village underground bar fought back against yet another police raid.

Pride, as it is simply called, has had different meanings to different people. To me it is acknowledging the adversity LGBTQ people have had to endure throughout their lives, and that we are proud that we have survived though sadly, not everyone has.

To some straight folks who are not allied with the LGBTQ community, there has been a growing distaste for this traditional event and have mocked us with calling for or establishing “straight pride” parades to counter it. One, for instance, is being planned in Boston.  

Even merchants see a profit in this development and are selling straight pride t-shirts and similar merchandise online. They are the opposite of the familiar rainbow colors; they’re black, white and (perhaps 50) shades of gray.

The notion that straight folks need to demonstrate their pride is ludicrous, and that’s being mild.  LGBTQ Pride, as I indicated, is a celebration of enduring the myriad manifestations of hatred directed towards our community.  Straight people have not had to grapple with being straight in our society. Consider:

• No straight person has been fired from their job or not hired for being straight.

• No straight person has been kicked out of an apartment or disapproved of a lease because he or she is straight.

• No straight person has been assaulted or killed for being straight.

• No straight person has to hide their sexuality from  family members, classmates, clergy, co-workers, bosses, friends and neighbors.

• No straight athlete has been harassed in the locker room or denied an endorsement deal because he or she is straight.

There are more contained below in this popular meme.

People took to social media to voice their displeasure at the proposed straight pride parade in Boston.

“Straight” pride is culturally irrelevant. It means nothing, except as an insult and degradation of LGBTQ+ people. Such a statement isn’t about equality, but is an exclamation of continued superiority. It screams: Look at me! I’m insecure as hell!”

Says another, “Holy f***ing shit balls! Have you ever BEEN to pride??? This isn't even about ‘well I think I should support the LGBT’s, this is about FUN!  Just think for three seconds…how much fun do you think these ‘straight pride’ idiots are going to be having? Stomping around in their white golf shirts and Dockers khakis chanting slogans?”

And from one who is straight, “They have the right to assemble just like everyone else, but to call it a 'Straight Pride' parade is really a misnomer. They should just say what they mean, and say we are Anti-Gay Pride. Everyone knows what they are about, and trying to call it something that they think will be more politically correct doesn’t replace their underlying theme. I certainly won’t be participating no matter what they call it. It is going to be a bunch of narrow minded people who are intimidated by the idea that being gay is acceptable and that LGBTQ people should have the same rights and recognition of their relationships that heterosexuals enjoy.”

There are a number of reasons why straight folks support this.  I believe that many would like to push LGBTQ folks back in the closet.  They don’t like us out and proud.  The Pride celebrations don’t conform to their beliefs that we are inferior, different, and an abomination. Thus, there is resentment.

As we approach Howard County’s first ever Pride festival (HoCo Pride) on June 29 at Centennial Park, marking the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, opponents, I would say haters, have taken to social media to voice their displeasure. They have posted memes like this one

or comments like this one.

They can mock all they want. The LGBTQ community and its growing number of allies need to ignore the taunts by a noisy few and enjoy our special day.  As the theme for HoCo Pride states, our community and supporters should Remember, Resist and Rejoice.  

We expect a large representation of straight allies attending the festivities and to them, there is no need to have a separate, silly straight pride.  This one will be far more fun and far more meaningful.

For more information about HoCo Pride, visit the website.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Trump’s Cheatin’ Heart Could Beat on Him

Last month I argued that the Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls ignore the pundits and handlers and start going after President Donald Trump. Go on the offense, I implored. Why cede the offense to Trump?

One of the ways to do that is to fight on “his” turf and resort to nicknames as Trump does routinely.  It’s been a successful tactic for Trump because labeling and branding are key components of the modern election campaign.  If he does it, so should his opponents. Remember how “Crooked Hillary” stuck on her like a stain.  Now it’s “Pocahontas,” “Sleepy Joe,” “Crazy Bernie” or whoever becomes the eventual nominee.

Yes, I know it’s childish. Why stoop to the level of a pre-teen?  Well, with so much at stake—our democracy, the rule of law, our standing and leadership in the world, and fighting for the middle class, climate change, and gun violence— winning back power is crucial.  If the media, who made Trump, continues to cover his inane tweets and rallies, then his opponents must get on the stage and battle him.  We can’t afford to give this lawless, corrupt and profoundly incompetent narcissist a second term with no accountability.

Let’s give him a nickname that will surely get under his skin. My suggestion: Cheatin’ Trump.  We have seen similar monikers employed on social media like “Don the Con” but that’s on social media. 

Candidates themselves must use two words and make it stick and ignore the sanctimonious objections by those who feel we must maintain decency.  It’s a different ballgame now, and like it or not, I assure you this election will be all about Trump and not Wall Street and other pet issues.
Cheatin’ Trump. That’s the message. There is so much to back it up.

► He has cheated on his 3 wives.

► His cheating is so obvious he had to pay adult film stars to keep quiet about it.

► He has cheated employees and contractors out of their payments.

► He cheated military service by concocting a fake bone spurs condition.

► He undoubtedly cheated on his taxes, which is probably one of several reasons he is fighting tooth and nail to keep his returns from the public.

► He cheated the unsuspecting with his joke Trump University.

► He cheated to win the election in 2016 by seeking and accepting help from a foreign adversary to persuade voters.

► He cheats the taxpayers as he violates the Emoluments clause in the Constitution by raking in millions from private properties while sitting in the White House.

► He cheats in golf “at the highest level” as sportswriter Rick Reilly pens in his book, The Commander-in-Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump.

There are potentially many more examples as his foundation and charities are under investigation.
Cheatin’ Trump would be a good name for him; it’s certainly accurate.  He can’t defend against it. He can only go on the offense.  Dems should, too.

Image by Murdo McCleod, The Guardian