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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

A look back at my work with the LGBTQ community. I first became active in the gay rights movement in 1980 when I launched my LGBTQ jo...

Thursday, December 31, 2020

There Used to be a Gayborhood in Mt. Vernon

As soon as the Hippo announced its closing in 2015, members of Baltimore’s LGBTQ community began seeing the handwriting on the wall regarding the “gayborhood” in the Mount Vernon area. The state’s largest dance bar and night club closed its doors several months later with the edifice being converted to a CVS store. That was the first piece to fall.

Two years later, as first reported here Don Davis, the owner of the second largest gay club in town, Grand Central, indicated. the establishment would be put up for sale. Fast forward to 2020, under new ownership, Grand Central closed its doors this past summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and a new office complex would reside where the club once stood.

On its website, the Grand Central Management team wrote:

After over 30 years of serving the community, Grand Central sadly has shut its doors. Given the overwhelming challenges created by the pandemic and our beverage-only driven business, the operations were not sustainable as we prepare for the next chapter. We appreciate all of our customers and supporters and thank them for their long-time loyalty; we look forward to celebrating the institution’s legacy in the future development. We strongly believe in the Mt. Vernon community and will always drive to be stewards of quality, growth and retention to ensure the neighborhood’s character stays true to form.

The gut-punch reality of this latest occurrence was jarring with the 30 year-old Grand Central building succumbing to the business end of a wrecking ball. But the memories of this place did not vanish in the rubble of what was once a proud and glorious safe space for the LGBTQ community.

The pulsating beats on the often crowded dance floor were high tempo, driving energy levels sky-high. The needlessly loud music in the saloon area on the weekends, however, rendered attempts at conversation a monumental task.

The famous red, white and black parties where imaginative patrons dressed up in dazzling, clever attire to fit the theme were experiences to savor.

There were fundraisers and other events

for the benefit of the community. Ravens watch parties took place on Sundays. Karaoke, drag shows, go-go dancers, you name it, were part of Grand Central’s grand entertainment. On two occasions piano bar set-ups were tried to create an alternative vibe but those was short-lived.


The upstairs loft in the adjacent but attached building was set aside for lesbians to congregate and socialize, and when the original Eagle closed, that area was inhabited by the leather community.

Who can forget that out-of-control pickup truck that careened into the outside tables and building entrance and splashing a river of white paint on the sidewalk and walls of the bar? And, of course, there were the ongoing public grievances the owner had with a string of mangers that were laid bare on social media.

Grand Central with all its quirkiness and merriment had been a good compliment to the Hippo when they both competed for the attention of our diverse community. But now they are gone.

The smoking ban, the advent of online dating and hookup apps, the increasingly difficult parking situation and a greater willingness of the younger generation to patronize “straight” bars took its financial toll on both the Hippo and Grand Central—the bulwarks of the gayborhood.

However, other developments impacted of the gayborhood.

Years ago, we lost the iconic LGBTQ Lambda Rising bookstore—another casualty of the internet. The Community Center left its Mount Vernon birthplace and headed to Station North/Old Goucher slightly less than a mile away from the gayborhood in order to provide targeted services to low-income and people of color not prevalent in Mount Vernon. Along with it went the Pride parade and block party, where every year thousands used to pack the intersection of Charles and Eager Streets and surrounding streets to eat, drink and be merry while live entertainment added to the high-energy atmosphere.

Other establishments closed as well. Flavor, a lesbian-owned bar on nearby Centre Street known for its community-oriented fundraisers, dancing and good eating, is no more. After 25 years of operation the City Café, a gay-owned, popular restaurant, which was situated a block away from the Hippo, closed for good in the Spring.  While many LGBTQ folks made a habit of enjoying lunches and dinner there, patrons from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, a few blocks away, also partook. With the Symphony closing during the pandemic and the closings of the nearby bars, the impact on the City Café had to be devastating.

We also lost a favorite of mine, the Mount Vernon Stable on Charles Street, another nice, gay-friendly restaurant, which closed its doors after many years.

Remaining are the two oldest gay bars in the gayborhood, The Drinkery and Leon’s, with their own claim to memories over the years. Both are closed now because of the pandemic. It remains to be seen if and when they will re-open.

On the bright side, the gay owners of the chic new LGBTQ-friendly Manor Restaurant and Ultralounge that inhabits the old Brass Elephant restaurant opened a month before COVID hit. Undaunted, they plan to re-open as soon as they are permitted.

Over five years ago on a typical Saturday night, the gayborhood was alive and teeming with crowds ready to party or dine or both. People sat outside of the City Café enjoying their meals. Folks meandered to any combination of the four bars in the immediate vicinity. Lines snaked outside the Hippo; Grand Central was hopping.

Halloweens and New Year’s Eves were incredibly festive.  Pride was absolutely insane—colorful, creative, loud, hot, sassy, messy.

Yes, there used to be a gayborhood in Mount Vernon but no longer. The pile of rubble and debris on the Grand Central site symbolizes the gayborhood’s sad demise.

________

[Photo of Grand Central demolition by Justin Johnson. Other photos by Bob Ford]

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

OUTSpoken's Top 10 Posts of 2020


The end of the year means another list somewhere, and this blog is no exception. The Covid-19 pandemic and its resulting closures of theaters has effectively eliminated my theatre reviews typically contained in this blog over the years. Accordingly, most of the posts during the year focused on politics with particular attention to the presidential race.  

The Top 10 posts are listed in reverse order according to the amount of page views. You may click on the title of each to access the full post.

A review of my Top 10 posts from 2019 is shown here and 2018 here

10. A Biden-Abrams Ticket Sounds Like a Winner  (April 2020). I tried to make the case that Stacey Abrams and the excitement she would bring to the ticket should be considered for Joe Biden’s running mate to help stoke African American voters in the upcoming election.

9. Trump's Handling of the Pandemic: Negligent Homicide  (October 2020). First it was Trump’s denial of the pandemic by calling it a hoax. Then he admitted to playing it down so it would not frighten the people. Then he eschewed the wearing of face masks. And throughout, there was no national testing plan and blamed Democratic governors and media. People died on Trump’s watch unnecessarily because he politicized the pandemic.

8. Why Pete's Nomination Should Sail Through  (December 2020).  President-elect Joe Biden nominated Pete Buttigieg to head the Department of Transportation. If the nomination is successful, he would be the first confirmed openly LGBTQ person to serve on the cabinet. Despite some bigots in the Senate, I explained why he it should be an easy confirmation.

New LGBTQ-Friendly Establishment Opens in Mount Vernon  (February 2020). In the wake of prominent gay bars closing and before there was Covid, a chic new establishment called The Manor Restaurant and Ultralounge opened its doors in the old Brass Elephant building in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon gayborhood.

6. ‘Stand Back and Stand By’: What is Trump Up To?  (September 2020). During his final debate with Joe Biden, Donald Trump failed to denounce white nationalism and told the right wing extremist violent Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” claiming he never heard of the group. In the post I speculated about the dangers of Trump’s losing the election.

5. Ticked-off Trump Threatens Tallies  (November 2020). I used an alliterative device to tell of Trump’s tempestuous temper tantrums to a tee following his loss in the election.

4. A Dress Rehearsal for November?  (May 2020). In the midst of the COVID pandemic, Trump urged his followers to liberate the starts. In Michigan a group of armed protesters entered the capital building. This level of intimidation and inciting violence gave Americans reason to fear the aftermath of an election that did not go Trump’s way.

3. Why is This Race Even Close?  (September 2020). From his mismanagement of the pandemic to calling military personnel “losers and suckers” to knee-capping the post office system, Trump had so many miscues it was impossible to enumerate them all. Yet, he remained within striking distance according to most polls. I offered up some explanations.

2.There Used to be a Gayborhood in Mt. Vernon (12/2020). The demolition of the building in which the gay bar Grand Central once occupied for 30 years is a symbolic reminder of how 'gay' has been scooped out of the Gayborhood in this midtown Baltimore area.


1. No Rainbow Over the Kingdom  (August 2020). A departure from the political scene, this post was by far the most viewed during 2020. The three- season series that is streaming on Netflix presents the conflicts and bonding of families with the gritty world of mixed martial arts in the background. The post explores the treatment and portrayal of the one gay character in the series, his internal battles climaxing with his dramatic and consequential coming out. A prominently displayed spoiler alert is provided for those in the process of watching the series.

 


Besides those above popular posts from 2020, below are several posts from previous years still garnering many views in 2020 (in no particular order):

‘Boys Will be Boys’ on Sizzling Atlantis Cruise (February 2009) 

‘Everwood’s’ Coming Out Scene Hits the Mark (April 2006)

Why Trump’s Purple Heart Comment is the Most Disqualifying (August 2016) 

The Man Who Would be King  (October 2019)


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Why Pete's Nomination Should Sail Through


On December 16, 2020, history was made as the first open LGBTQ person was nominated for a cabinet position. President-elect Joe Biden announced that Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, IN, has been selected to be the Secretary of Transportation in the new Biden-Harris administration. 

Mr. Buttigieg's remarks following the announcement are shown here.

The Senate would have to confirm this nomination for this historic breakthrough to be official. And they will.

Yes, Mitch McConnell is a serial obstructionist and a spiteful one at that. And he could cause mischief with Biden’s cabinet nominees assuming his party retains control of the Senate and that is certainly an open question. And yes, Republican senators still under the thumb of sore loser Trump may resist anything Joe Biden tries to put forward. But in Mayor Pete‘s case, they will confirm.

For one thing, the Department of Transportation, important as it will be in a potential infrastructure deal as well as energy and climate considerations, is not part of the top tier cabinet positions. Those include State, Defense, Treasury and Justice. Therefore, the nomination should not be one in which Republicans will find ideological differences to contest.

Secondly, Mr. Buttigieg is a centrist and not a “left wing radical,” the type that Republicans loath. During his campaign he promised to work across the aisle so that will bode well for him during the Senate confirmation process.

Mr. Buttigieg’s personal story is compelling. A Rhodes Scholar, a military veteran, an ability to speak some seven languages fluently, and the first gay presidential candidate from a major political party to win delegates during a primary are qualities that endeared him to many in the public and media after he burst onto the scene two years ago. 


The historic nature of this selection will not be lost on the Senate. When McConnell grudgingly acknowledged Biden’s victory the day before, he proudly announced that Kamala Harris will be the first female vice president. If nothing else, the Senate reveres history.

If they block the nomination, the media and the public writ large will assume it was due to homophobia and not on the merits. That is a possibility for sure given that the Senate contains a fair number of bigots.

But it would be politically damaging to the Republicans if that perception gains traction. It’s not a good way to expand their “tent” if suburban women see this rejection for what it is. If this election proved anything, you cannot win a national race with just the base.

Moreover, there are a number of gay Republicans who are big donors. The GOP should keep that in mind.

The only reason I can fathom in which the Senate would reject this nomination is that they don’t want to bolster Mr. Buttigieg’s resume. He is an enormous political talent as evidenced by his brief remarks following Mr. Biden's introduction, and at age 38, a future presidential run is likely. The experience he will garner at the federal/cabinet level will put the kabash on his lack of resume. He will pose an enormous threat to Republicans in a potential presidential bid should he capture the Democratic nomination.

Nonetheless, the Senate Republicans will be eyeing the near term and should have no ostensible reason to reject this nomination with more significant battles looming. Mayor Pete should sail through without a hitch, and we will be calling him Secretary Pete in a few months.






Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Another Historic Breakthrough

Joe Biden broke new ground when he selected Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate for vice president. Now that she and Biden have been elected, Ms. Harris will be the first female vice president in our country’s history and the first of African American and South Asian descent.

Now the president-elect has broken additional ground in naming former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg to serve on his cabinet as Secretary of Transportation as reported by numerous major news outlets. If confirmed by the Senate, Buttigieg would be the first open LGBTQ person to receive Senate confirmation for a cabinet position.

Buttigieg burst on the national scene in April 2019 when the mayor announced his long shot candidacy for President. He was such a refreshing contrast to President Trump that I opined the day after the announcement that he would make a viable run and possibly even succeed.

A bodacious fundraiser, Mayor Pete as he was affectionately called, impressed many voters with his intelligence, political talent, military record and life story, but his lack of experience other than leading a smallish city gave voters pause.  His record as South Bend mayor, particularly when a Black man was shot by a white police officer, created friction with many in the African American community. As a result, failed to garner support from this critical voting bloc.

Nonetheless, Pete’s narrow win in the Iowa caucuses enabled him to claim that he was the first openly gay candidate from a major political party to receive delegates from a primary contest. Any momentum that should have accrued to him was stifled by the technical glitches surrounding the tallying of votes in Iowa. Regardless, he finished second in New Hampshire but his campaign fizzled as he entered states with a larger minority population than Iowa and New Hampshire.

Immediately following the South Carolina primary, Buttigieg suspended his campaign and joined other rivals in endorsing Joe Biden. For his part, the president-elect views Buttigieg very positively. Biden had compared the former mayor to his son, Beau, saying it’s “the highest compliment I can give any man or woman.”  

Buttigieg campaigned for Biden, raised money, represented the ticket on FOX News, and served on his transition team. His selection to a prominent position in a Biden Administration was expected by many Washington insiders and beyond.

According to Politico, “If confirmed, Buttigieg will head to Washington to take responsibility for nearly 55,000 employees, an $87 billion budget and more than a dozen agencies, overseeing the nation’s airspace, highway system, pipeline safety and much more.

On the campaign trail, Buttigieg introduced out a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that prioritized upgrading the country’s crumbling infrastructure and expanding broadband internet access through payment to state and local governments.

If confirmed, Buttigieg will be in a position to gain experience at the federal level and boost his qualifications for a future run for president.

But his appointment will be an inspiring message to members of the LGBTQ community. The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, said the nomination would be “a reminder to LGBTQ people everywhere that any opportunity is possible.”

In response Buttigieg  tweeted:

This is a moment of tremendous opportunity—to create jobs, meet the climate challenge, and enhance equity for all.

I'm honored that the President-elect has asked me to serve our nation as Secretary of Transportation.




Sunday, December 06, 2020

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

 The devil went down to Georgia. He was lookin’ for a soul to steal. He was in a bind ‘cause he was way behind. And he was willin’ to make a deal. –Charlie Daniels Band, 1979


On December 5, the most delusional, most undemocratic, most paranoid, most narcissistic, most incompetent and most corrupt president in my lifetime (and I go back to Van Buren) descended upon Valdosta, Georgia like a giant stink bomb. Donald Trump, the biggest sore loser in centuries, held his first post-election rally that was also yet another super-spreader event even while Covid cases continue to set daily records in hospitalizations and deaths. I suspect some of those attending the basically mask-less, ego-stroking rally will be leaving us in the not-too-distant future.

Ostensibly, Trump was there to motivate his troops to support the two Republican senatorial candidates in a crucial runoff election on January 5, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. But as predicted Trump echoed the same lies, the same misinformation and the same unsubstantiated garbage that somehow the election was stolen from him; it was rigged; and that only widespread fraud kept him from enjoying and enriching himself and his family in a second term.

“They cheated and rigged our presidential election but we’ll still win it. And they are going to try to rig this election too,” Trump told the cheering crowd.

During the month following the election in which he lost by around 7 million votes and by 74 in the electoral college, Trump attacked our democracy and the election process with his inflammatory and untrue rhetoric that included zeroing in on Georgia as the runoff to decide which party will control the Senate looms.

That surely isn’t helping to gin up support and turnout for the two flawed Republican incumbents. Former members of Trump’s hapless legal team, which is challenging the results in several swing states armed with no evidence of wrongdoing, urged Trump believers not to vote in the runoff because the system was rigged and rife with fraud, (Translation: Attempts at voter suppression failed; Black voters are voting.)

The GOP infighting, normally more common among the Dems, is the catalyst the Democratic candidates—Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff—will need to overcome the intrinsic electoral disadvantages in Georgia. Who would ever suspect that as recently as a month ago, Georgia Governor and Trump toady Brian Kemp, Trump’s supplicant Attorney General William Barr and Trump state TV’s FOX News, would be in the crosshairs of Trump and his cult-of-personality followers?

Though some in his flock have drifted—a whopping 27 Republicans in Congress out of the 249 seated actually acknowledged Joe Biden’s decisive victory—Trump has terrified Republican officeholders into toeing the mantra that the election was fraudulent or that Trump has the right to pursue all legal means to overturn the results in what has amounted to be the theatre of the absurd. He even demanded to know who those 27 are.

Nobody can get into Trump’s disturbed brain. But either he truly believes that he won the race for not the widespread fraud, which miraculously affected his totals but not the down ballot contests where Republicans did better, or that this is another con from the best conman this planet has ever known.

Since the election, Trump has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from his supporters to help pay for his election-related legal challenges. Except the fine print indicates that most of the money raised can be spent on other matters. I see Trump using this largess to pay off sizable loans that are coming due. But don’t tell that to the gullible Trump supporter.

As for Georgia, I am not convinced that despite Biden’s 12,000 vote margin of victory following multiple recounts, the Peach State has turned blue. Many Republicans decided that Trump was too much but returned to the fold down ballot. Ossoff, for example, amassed far fewer voters than Biden did. Republicans control all the levers of power in Georgia, and outside the Atlanta and Savannah metropolitan areas, by and large, it is a conservative state.

For the Democrats to sweep this critical doubleheader (and they must sweep for Dems to relegate Moscow Mitch McConnell to minority status), the two candidates will need another massive turnout both through absentee and in-person voting. The efforts by Stacey Abrams to register new, young and minority voters spearheaded Biden’s triumph there. Similar work will be essential.

Moreover, Trump’s continued assault on our democracy, his un-American refusal to accept defeat and move on to a smooth and peaceful transition of power, and his attacks via countless rage tweets against Republican officials including the dangerous violence-stoking rhetoric in Georgia may diminish turnout sufficiently for the Dems to squeeze by.

The devil went down to Georgia looking for a soul to steal, and for Democrats, that might prove to be the best holiday gift of all.




Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Most Impactful People of 2020

F
or 93 years TIME magazine has awarded some form of the “Person of the Year.” It started out as Man of the Year (Charles Limbergh) in 1927 and evolved over time to select women, groups, machines, ideas and other recipients. Its criteria have been “the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year.”  

For example, Adolf Hitler was chosen in 1938 having met TIME’s criteria.

While I am not making a selection for THE person of the year, I am offering some candidates who, in my view, deserve consideration, for better or worse, for having the most impact in an extremely impactful year. They are listed below in no particular ranking:

Joe Biden. The president-elect is Joe Biden, capping a long political career. Winning the presidency is consequential enough but in doing so, he rescued the United States from another four and likely dangerous years of a second Trump term.

Biden garnered a record 80 million votes and regained the crucial Democratic “blue wall” of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that were lost in 2016. Moreover, he flipped two perennial red states Georgia and Arizona. It was a decisive victory with 306 electoral votes amassed.

Biden exercised sound judgment by avoiding rallies and large crowds during the pandemic—something Trump irresponsibly engaged in. Trump and his cohorts considered Biden a lightweight though he got himself impeached for trying to find dirt on Biden and his son Hunter by bribing Ukraine. This attempt indicated that deep down Trump feared running against Biden.

They also tried to scare the voters into thinking Biden is suffering from dementia, but by allowing the bar to be so low, Biden easily overcame it.  He also committed very few of the gaffes he is famously known to spew during his past campaigns, which seemed to have nullified the Trump campaign's attacks.

As a refreshing elixir from the past four years, Biden will re-install honesty, competence, experience and humanity to the presidency. During the campaign Biden demonstrated a measure of responsibility that Trump lacked in his urging Americans to follow CDC's guidelines as they pertain to the coronavirus.

Kamala Harris. When inaugurated, Kamala Harris will become the first ever U.S. woman vice president and the first Black and Southeastern Asian to hold the position. Biden’s pick of Harris as his running mate was not unexpected as he had promised it would indeed be a woman. However, her election energized his campaign and led to the raising of millions of dollars to counter the Trump smear machine.

Kamala Harris’ most significant impact was galvanizing the African American vote, which was arguably the defining factor in the Biden-Harris win.

Donald Trump. Most, if not all, of Donald Trump’s weaknesses as a president and as a human being surfaced in a perfect storm during 2020. First and foremost was, and still is, his incompetence and narcissism in “managing” the coronavirus pandemic that has so far claimed some 265,000 lives in the U.S. and climbing at an alarming rate.

Not only did he deceive the American people when he learned of the deadly nature of the virus by downplaying it and predicting it would disappear on its own, he was instrumental in its spread when he politicized it. Trump could have spoken to the American people from the beginning about the seriousness of the virus and urged everybody to help mitigate its spread by wearing masks and maintain social distancing. Instead, he bungled everything about it by not putting a national plan in place to combat the pandemic.

Fearful that the pandemic, which he dubbed as the “China Virus,” would spook the stock market and hurt his re-election bid, Trump pressured governors to re-open businesses prematurely and mocked those who wore masks. Trump’s fervent supporters took his cue and refused to wear face coverings and to social distance as a bizarre sign of strength and to trigger liberals who were committed to stopping the spread. Selfishly he held numerous super-spreader rallies that led to a surge in cases.

In addition, Trump’s long history of racism became more evident in 2020 (see below). He could not bring himself to denounce white nationalism and racist vigilante groups like Proud Boys. During the campaign he tried to scare white suburban women with louder than normal dog whistles about how their neighborhoods will be threatened by you know who. He played to the racists among his base.

Over three weeks since he lost the election, Trump has refused to concede displaying his selfishness, narcissism, petulance and disconnect from reality. Only recently did he grudgingly allow the transition to proceed while taking baseless, almost comical, legal action to the courts by maintaining only widespread voter fraud defeated him. Somehow he conflates Black people voting with a fraudulent act.  Trump lost handily; in fact, Joe Biden’s Electoral College totals are the same as Trump’s in 2016 in which he declared a landslide then.

The impact of Trump’s refusal to accept reality has been an assault on our democracy that could produce long-lasting detrimental effects. America First? Not so much.

Rep. James Clyburn.  Civil Rights champion and highest ranking African American in Congress Rep. James Clyburn gave one of the most consequential endorsements in modern political history. Joe Biden had badly lost primaries/caucuses in Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire and seemed at the precipice of ending his long political career. Three days before the South Carolina primary, Clyburn endorsed Biden, which figured strongly in the former vice president’s landslide victory there.

An exit poll found that 47 percent of voters stated that Clyburn’s endorsement was significant in their decision while 24 percent indicated it was the most important factor.

“You brought me back,” Biden told Clyburn after he hugged him on the stage following the results. And so he did. Biden essentially ran the table in the remaining primaries with this newly found momentum he acquired out of South Carolina powered by the support from Black voters to easily win the nomination.

George Floyd. “I can’t breathe” may have been the most significant three words said during
2020. When George Floyd, an African American, was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis during an arrest this summer, his neck was under the knee of Derek Chauvin for nearly nine minutes as his life was agonizingly snuffed out while the heinous act was captured on video footage for the world to see.

This tragic incident set off protests not only throughout the U.S. that transcended racial lines but also in foreign countries. The killing reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement aimed at exposing systemic racism that exists in police departments and the disparate treatment Black people receive as opposed to whites when interacting with law enforcement. 

The killing of Floyd and the subsequent protests revealed the true belief systems of our presidential candidates. For President Trump, it uncovered his innate racism by siding with the police and labeling the protesters as rioters. For Joe Biden, it demonstrated his compassion by visiting with the Floyd family and denouncing racism while at the same time he condemned any violence that grew out of the protests.

The impact of Floyd’s death is a renewal of the conversation about race and policing in America. 

Front line health professionals, scientists and essential workersAs bad as the pandemic has been, it would have been exponentially worse had it not been for the dedicated work of the front line doctors, nurses and technicians who have risked and lost in many cases their own lives. Furthermore, scientists searching for therapeutics and a vaccine as well as essential workers like truck drivers, supermarket employees, police, teachers, fire fighters and others have kept the country moving throughout the ordeal. They have prevented a catastrophe beyond description, and their impact will be felt long into the future.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Long Division

Trump’s post-election antics will ensure a split country for years to come.


Image: US News & World Report

During President-elect Joe Biden’s acceptance speech on November 7, he made the unification of the country a central theme. “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States,” he said to a national and international audience.

It’s a worthy goal to be sure and a polar opposite of Donald Trump’s philosophy whereby he seemingly presided over red states only, but sadly, one which will not be realized in the short term and perhaps the longer term as well.

Trump continues to refuse to accept his defeat in an election in which he garnered 6 million fewer votes than Biden but also received the same 232 electoral votes as Hillary Clinton did in her losing bid in 2016—a landslide as characterized by Trump. Blitzing state and federal courthouses in battleground states with lawsuits in a futile attempt to overturn the results, Trump is prolonging the inevitable and shortening the time for a transition of power to be effective.

Recall how during the Mueller investigation, Trump repeated and tweeted ad nauseum the investigation was a “hoax,” a “witch hunt.” “There was no collusion, no obstruction.” Over and over, Trump’s response to the probe included those words. His base believed him. The Democrats had to answer and instead deferred to the eventual release of the Mueller Report, which was effectively, if not accurately emasculated by Attorney General William Barr. Trump won the message war.

As was the case in the Mueller investigation and later in impeachment (“perfect call”), all Trump needed to do is parrot over and over lies about the election like “widespread voter fraud,” “the election was rigged,” and “mail-in ballots are illegal and should not be counted.” Since much of his base chooses to access news that is limited to pro-Trump media outlets and websites and religiously follow his tweets, they swallow all of his false and unproven claims.

A recent Monmouth poll indicates that a startling 77 percent of Trump supporters believed Biden’s win was a result of fraud. Again, he is winning the message war—at least with his base.

Not only is his sore loser attitude damaging our country especially by sabotaging a smooth transition but it is also driving the wedge deeper into a divide that seems unbridgeable.  

Republican senators, congressmen and most GOP governors are loath to digress from the Trump messaging though privately they acknowledge Biden won, according to news reports.. Buoyed by the fact that hypocrisy does not lead to an electoral death sentence (think: Merrick Garland/Amy Coney Barrett), Republicans have mostly fallen in line publicly regarding the “legal options” Trump must explore before the election is settled. Never mind that in a much closer contested election in 2016, any hints of recount demands by Democrats were greeted with “sore loser” epithets.

Though he lost the election, Trump still amassed over 73 million votes, which is both vexing and galling considering a quarter million Americans perished while he mismanaged the coronavirus pandemic and his denigration of U.S. troops among other myriad faults. 

Trump has these folks in his hip pocket and will unleash them in 2024 should he decide to make another go at it. Even more important is the fact that they will move in whatever direction Trump chooses. For example, if Trump does not run again, his endorsement will be beyond potent in such a contest.

Regardless of what Trump decides assuming he has avoided prison time, you can bank on the fact he is not going away; his ego demands he must be relevant. He will Twitter-troll Biden at every opportunity as he did with Obama. Trump will keep his large base animated and engaged. He will do his utmost to keep the country divided. He is already incapacitating the transition and will probably take actions in his final two months to insure Biden’s job is that much harder.  

Despite Joe Biden’s best and most honorable intentions, unity will not be in the offing. Trump cannot allow it. This chaos would be Trump’s revenge against Biden, the man who defeated him, and should put a smile on the face of Putin.

Don’t ever say Trump believes in “America First.” Like everything else he spews, it’s a lie.


Saturday, November 14, 2020

Toby's is Back 'Home for the Holidays'

After eight months of being shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Toby’s the Dinner Theatre of Columbia is bringing back live theatre at just the right time when we all could use a little cheer. And they're doing so with an abundance of  caution.

The musical revue, Home for the Holidays, celebrates the season with classic and popular Christmas tunes—all of them it seems—with a Chanukah and Kwanzaa song in the mix for good measure in a festive and colorful setting. 

There are substantive changes to the in-the-round theater to deal with the coronavirus but the level of entertainment hasn’t missed a beat during the hiatus. Toby’s has adhered to state and county guidelines to assure the health and safety of their employees and patrons. The theatre will have a reduced capacity audience of 90 or less guests per performance with socially distanced table seating and mask requirements.

Patrons are screened as they enter the theater and hand sanitizers are available. The audience is required to continue to wear masks during the performance and exit the theater according to section. 

Toby’s famous buffet has been temporarily replaced with plated menu dinner service (the quality of the food and presentation remain high). Seating throughout the theater has been adjusted to allow for recommended distancing between tables, which will not be shared by other parties.  

To further protect the patrons, there is a no contact menu system whereby a QR code on each table is available to be scanned on a phone. The menu can also be viewed online

“It was a challenge but I made sure that the performers remain distanced from each other and the audience at all times,” said Helen Hayes Award winner Mark Minnick, who adroitly directed and choreographed Home for the Holidays. Each performer wears a plexiglass face shield to enhance safety.

View here for more details about the Covid-19 protocols employed by Toby’s.

The lively production is fast paced and joyful with so many familiar songs, you cannot help but sing along. “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells,” "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Oh Holy Night," "Angels We Have Heard on High," Up on the Housetop," "Toyland" and "Go Tell it on the Mountain" are just a few of the dozens of numbers sung with a little dancing to add to the delight.

Performing these songs with each showcasing their vocal prowess in both solos and group numbers are audience favorites from the Toby’s family including Heather Beck, MaryKate Brouillet, Crystal Freeman, David James, DeCarlo Raspberry, Jeffrey Shankle, Janine Sunday Russell Sunday, Taylor Washington and AJ Whittenberger.

David Hopkins’ designed set is festive with all sorts of clever Christmas decorations and props including Santa’s sleigh. A façade creatively covered by wrapped Christmas presents is a standout. The lighting, also designed by Mr. Hopkins, is imaginative and colorful adding mightily to the holiday atmosphere.

Costume Designer Janine Sunday fitted the ensemble cast with a wide array of costumes from chipmunks and elves, to Santas and novelty suits, 19th century attire for some of the classics to formal gowns for the ladies and suits for the gentlemen.  #hocoarts

Nathan Scavilla was at the keyboard and conducted the three-piece orchestra the night I attended this performance and did a sterling job especially given the rapid pace of the numbers.

The protocols that Toby’s implemented does not detract from the superb performances in any fashion. The holiday cheer and pure entertainment from Home for the Holidays provide a soothing respite from a tense and horrible year. Composer and lyricist Jerry Herman was prescient when he wrote, “We need a little Christmas…right this very minute!”

Seating is limited, so hurry to buy tickets as this show is perfect fun for the whole family.

Running time: One hour and 40 minutes with an intermission.

Home for the Holidays will play through January 3, 2021 at Toby’s, the Dinner Theatre of Columbia, 5900 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia, MD 21044.  Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 410-730-8311 or by visiting ticketmaster.com. The next show, Godspell, will open January 8. 

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Photos: Jeri Tidwell Photography 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

How Sore Loser Trump is Hurting our Country


Image: The Independent

Since 2016 our intelligence agencies determined that Russia has and will interfere in our elections to benefit Donald Trump. These findings were confirmed by the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III and his team. Despite all the drama stemming from this past election especially the unprecedented aftermath in which Trump has refused to concede, we have not heard much about Russia meddling despite warnings.

Even with Trump’s clear loss, however, Russia got what it wanted: chaos and discord in the United States.

Trump’s disgraced and incompetent lawyers are haphazardly filing lawsuits in several states without success to this point claiming without a shred of evidence widespread voter fraud and ballot counting irregularities. This myth led by Trump himself is allowing the country to deepen its already profound schisms. For his part, President-Elect Joe Biden is moving towards hitting the ground running as soon as his inauguration on January 20, 2021.

These legal maneuvers to overturn an election in which Biden won by over 5 million votes are akin to throwing darts towards a target wearing a blindfold after spinning around three times. It’s not going to hit the bull’s eye.

The effort to postpone the inevitable is being undertaken to satisfy one person, and we all know who that is.  Donald Trump is a sore loser to the nth degree. He cannot bring himself to accept losing especially to “Sleepy” Joe Biden. His rallies whereby tens of thousands of adoring followers risked their lives at these covid super-spreader events presented him with the false impression that the country loves him. Seventy-seven million voters thought otherwise.

Yet, more important than that, Trump actually deems there was widespread voter fraud. He could never lose the election unless it was rigged and fraudulent. He believes it at his core.

Trump also cannot accept the fact the Republicans’ efforts to suppress votes fell short, and (gasp!) African Americans wound up turning out to vote in high numbers. This was a significant factor in urban and suburban areas (yes, Mr. Trump, the suburbs are not only comprised of white housewives).

Trump’s toddler-like sore loser antics, temper tantrums, and made-up b.s. are disgusting and embarrassing to be sure. But it’s also harming our country. The head of the General Services Administration typically issues an “ascertainment” when the outcome of a presidential election is clear.

Without her “ascertainment,” which the AP says “green lights” the federal government to prepare for the transfer of power, Biden’s transition team doesn’t have access to government office space or government funding, which is usually made available for the president-elect. Moreover, without that determination, the Biden team does not have access to the Presidential Daily Briefing that highlights key national security matters.

Trump appointee Emily Murphy is the GSA Administrator, and she has not released this important ascertainment. The stalling could be damaging to our national security as well as the Biden effort to tackle the pandemic.

Image by @NICK_VENTURE
While Republican senators and members of Congress are too terrified of Trump to talk him down from his fishing expedition in the courts, some have gained a bit off spine by grudgingly agreeing that the Biden team be given access to the PDB while insisting Trump has the right to pursue all legal avenues.

Recall how in 2016 the GOP accused Democrats of being sore losers. Hillary Clinton conceded the day after the election and President Obama invited Trump to the White house two days after the election.

Some pundits believe that the stalling tactics are designed to keep Trump’s supporters activated and engaged sufficiently to help with the two Georgia Senate run-off elections on January 5. Should the Democrats fail to sweep the doubleheader, Moscow Mitch McConnell can remain the Senate Majority Leader so that he can sabotage Biden’s term setting up a resumption of power in 2024 either by Trump himself, his son Donnie, Pence, Nikki Haley, Marco or some other character.

Please don’t ever call these cowards patriots. They would sooner destroy our democracy and our country as a whole to satisfy their unquenchable thirst for power and greed. How better way to demonstrate patriotism and the love of our country than to accelerate its failure by destroying our economy, make us vulnerable to malign foreign actors, and allow the pandemic to annihilate hundreds of thousands of Americans? Oh, but they hug the flag. That’s all that matters to them.

For their part, the Democrats need to nationalize the Georgia races and use Trump’s sore loser behavior and the Republicans’ acquiescence as a central theme.

Sore loser Trump will never concede the election. He will never recognize Biden as the legitimate president. He won’t invite him to the White House.

Petty and petulant Trump won’t attend the inauguration. Instead, let Obama take that front row seat at the Capitol during the ceremony—the most recent honest, mature and competent president we had and the one with the largest inauguration crowd.  



                                                  

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Ticked-off Trump Threatens Tallies

 


Tin-pot tyrant Trump is in a tizzy trying to throw a time bomb onto a torrid election by telling non-truths about the totals.

Trump is telegraphing his turbid tries to torpedo the tallies by typifying his thunderous and tempestuous temper tantrums with his tiny thumbs on  the Twitter thingamajig and with his tongue and throat.  #hocopolitics

His tattered totals are thinner than Biden’s, and Trump seeks to topple them by traversing on the tricky terrain of lawsuits.

Trump’s typically theatric, toxic, tragic and tumultuous tenure is terminating, and the triumphant, tranquil, trustworthy, truthful and thoughtful Biden-Harris ticket will thankfully take over. 

Tick-tock.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Trump's Plan to Steal the Election Revealed


There was little doubt among Democrats that the rush to get Amy Coney Barrett confirmed and seated on the Supreme Court before the election had less to do with overturning the Affordable Care Act than to ensure the re-election of President Donald Trump. "Moscow Mitch" McConnell, the obedient leader of the Senate, carved out the path for this plan to succeed so that the court would have a whopping 6-3 majority. 

Trump's plan, if he could not win the election outright, would bring challenges to the validity of mail-in ballots in key battleground states and have these cases put before the Supreme Court--HIS court, just like HIS generals, HIS attorney general, etc.

Trump and his cabal of thieves have blatantly tried to curtail and suppress the votes. In addition, he ordered the postal system to be sabotaged to prevent mail-in ballots from arriving in time. In Harris County, TX, Republicans have asked an extremely partisan judge to throw out over 100,000--mostly Democratic--votes because of curbside voting though the Secretary of State approved that method.

Other voting barriers have been put in place around the country, and we see armed vigilantes intimidating Biden voters at precincts with little action to stop this tactic.  

For good measure, a belligerent caravan of Trump supporters in pick-up trucks complete with oversized Trump flags harassed and intimidated a Biden-Harris campaign bus 5hat was peacefully traveling along a highway in Texas. Expressing  disdain for such boorishness, Trump tweeted, "I LOVE TEXAS."

The major factor that is igniting this attack on our democracy center on Trump's desperation not to lose. If he goes down in defeat, not only his pathological, narcissistic ego would take a blow the likes of which he's never seen, but he stands to face criminal exposure  from the New York State Attorney General and the federal Southern District of New York on financial-related crimes including tax fraud and wire fraud among others.

Therefore, Trump has no choice but to remain in power. He and his family are raking in millions of dollars while in office, so the bunk that is spread among is supporters that he has donated his salary is pure garbage.

What we are witnessing is a direct assault on our democracy. Undisciplined as Trump is, he allowed himself to admit it.

See the clip below.

Daniel Dale, a fact-checker from CNN said the video was taken out of context. " Trump had just been (wrongly) blaming the Court decisions for us not having a winner on Election Night - in this line, he was sarcastically saying, like, thank you very much Supreme Court, we’ll now have to wait. Wasn’t saying Court would make him president," Dale said.

Nonetheless, I maintain that the plan is to throw the election to the Supreme Court so that the will of the people be overturned. 

Quote Tweet

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Trump Rallies for Biden


The best thing that happened to Joe Biden as we near the end of this presidential campaign is Donald Trump and his ubiquitous rallies. At these super-spreader events—several per day over the past few weeks—thousands of mask-less followers are packed shoulder-to-shoulder to witness Trump making the case for Biden in real time.  #hocopolitics

No, Trump isn’t praising Joe. He’s not telling those potential victims and spreaders of Covid-19 that Biden is the best man for the job. What Trump is accomplishing at these rallies is reinforcing what most of the world already knows: he has been the most incompetent, out-of-touch and out-of-his-mind president this country has ever endured.

Every time Trump continues to minimize the impact of the pandemic by repeating “Covid…Covid…Covid” in an exasperated tone, every time he says the pandemic is over contrary to reality, every time he says “we’re rounding the turn,” every time he mocks those who wear masks, every time he pushes to open businesses and schools safety be damned, every time he refers to Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts in the public health field as “idiots,” every time he says a vaccine will be available shortly, Trump hurls a 3-0 fastball down the middle of the plate so Joe can smack it out of the park.

To be sure, Biden has rightly focused his campaign on the coronavirus pandemic that is tragically heading towards the quarter million mark in U.S. deaths. The country has now hit spikes in cases that are higher than when the pandemic first spread in the country before stay-at-home mitigation efforts were underway. But Biden doesn’t need a prepared script at his events. All he has had to do is counter Trump’s inane assertions.

At his rallies Trump doesn’t express his vision for the next four years (mainly because he doesn’t have one). Instead, he echoes conspiracy theories and repeats his own personal grievances reflecting his paranoia and insecurities. He wastes everyone’s time re-litigating the 2016 election, pummeling our free press, makes false claims about the strong economy that the Obama administration handed him, and believes that running against Hunter Biden will gain him votes.

And then there’s the quest to attract suburban women voters. It’s been a disaster as he still sees women through the lens of the 1950’s. “Suburban women, please like me. I’ll get your husbands back to work.” If nothing else, he does provide a speck of comedy, unintentional as it may be.

Even the optics aren’t terrific. Scores of rally-goers in Omaha were literally left out in the cold with some hospitalized as the campaign failed to send buses to shuttle those folks back to their cars following the rally. Victims from the heat at a rally in Broward County, Florida, also needed medical care and hospitalization. So, when water was sprayed on the crowd to keep them cool, the perplexed Trump wondered out loud if those fire department personnel performing this task were “friend or foe.”

This embarrassing display for all to see is causing Trump to hemorrhage votes from suburban women and white college educated men. Moreover, the carelessness of his supporters by their not adhering to the Trump administration’s own health guidelines are likely adding to the surge in the coronavirus within their communities.

Donald Trump thrives on media coverage. That’s how he got elected in the first place. He has a pathological need to be the center of attention and command the daily news cycle. But Trump is no longer a novelty, a change from the ordinary politician. 

As he reflects upon his defeat, he may at some point wish his rallies during this campaign were never covered by the media and how they helped his opponent more than himself.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Trump's Handling of the Pandemic: Negligent Homicide

“Negligent homicide is the killing of another person through gross negligence or without malice…It is characterized as death caused by conduct that grossly deviated from ordinary care.” —USLegal

While the vast majority of negligent homicides are connected to the operation of motor vehicles, President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus appears to fit the definition.

From the outset, Trump has politicized the pandemic leading to U.S. deaths that have surpassed all other countries and recently set a U.S. record for new cases in one day with over 84,000.  

Hospitalizations are over 41,000 and deaths average nearly 800 per day. Sixteen states had record one-day increases in new cases on October 23 and 11 reported a record number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, according to Reuters.

Trump played the coronavirus down, promised its quick disappearance, minimized its effects, called it a new Democratic hoax, blamed Democratic governors and accused the media of exaggerating the severity.

How did we arrive at this point? Trump publicly eschewed face masks and his loyal base followed suit.  When common sense and scientific-based guidelines were handed down from the Trump’s administration’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged the use of face masks when social distancing was not practical, Trump and his base ignored the guidelines with misplaced bravado and machismo and a display of utter foolishness. #hocopolitics

In March, when the pandemic was in its nascent stages, I posted a piece, “Even the Coronavirus Can’t Avoid the Political Divide,”   recognizing how politicized the coronavirus had unnecessarily become.  Sadly, the divide has continued to this day with no relief in sight.

We later learned from audio clips of interviews that were used for journalist Bob Woodward’s new book Rage, Trump was aware of the severity of the virus back in January. He knew that it was transmissible through the air. He knew that children were at risk, too. But he never shared this knowledge with the American people because, in his words, he didn’t want the people to panic.

What he meant is that he didn’t want to rattle the markets as the country was about to embark on stay-at-home orders, lockdowns and business closures to prevent further spread of the virus that in effect, forced a deep recession. The stock market was his key metric in providing a rationale for reelection. This assessment was advanced by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in “How Many Will Die for the Dow?” 

Trump and his cronies saw the virus as a blue states issue with people of color being victims at a disproportionate rate. Knowing that, he simply didn’t care and refused to risk his reelection prospects for people who weren’t going to vote for him anyway. He offered up the possibility that injecting disinfectants would be an effective therapeutic. 

As we enter the 2nd and 3rd surge of the pandemic with the worst yet to come during the winter months, the spread has engulfed all the red states with some of those experiencing record-setting outbreaks. It’s a U.S. (and worldwide) problem, not just a blue state crisis as Trump and his Republican sycophants believed.

Accordingly, well over 220,000 died with an estimated 300,000 fatalities in the near future, and studies concluded that tens of thousands of deaths could have been avoided if the CDC safety measures were implemented two months earlier than they were. But Trump’s priority is clinging to power as he falsely claimed he himself saved over 2 million lives.


“We’re turning the corner.” “There’s light at the end of the tunnel.” “A vaccine is near.”  “It’s going away.” “I’m cured.” 

Though all of this could be a case for negligent homicide, what he has done since the Woodward revelations and his supposed contracting of Covid-19 solidifies the argument. Now with the election less than two weeks away, Trump is holding copious packed rallies with only those behind the podium wearing face coverings for the benefit of the TV cameras. The rest of the MAGA folks are not wearing them although 100,000 lives could be saved through February if 95 percent of Americans would wear masks in public, according to a new study

Most insidiously, Trump continues to mock the virus. “Covid, Covid, Covid,” he chants with exasperation at these rallies or what are likely to be super-spreader events. He is fatigued by the pandemic being the central issue of the election. Trump encourages his followers to be similarly annoyed as if the pandemic was unleashed upon him to thwart his reelection.

He gave up on dealing with the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that Trump hasn’t attended a coronavirus task force meeting in months. Instead, he obtains his guidance from a radiologist, a guest on Fox News who is pushing the concept of herd immunity.

Trump has no plan. By contrast, Joe Biden outlined a plan to reduce the spread and gradually open up the economy by listening to the science and experts.

Trump  maintains “We’re turning the corner.” “There’s light at the end of the tunnel.” “A vaccine is near.”  “It’s going away.” “I’m cured.” All of these are outright lies and more cases and deaths will ensue as his MAGA rally crowds will contract the virus and spread it around to their families and communities. It is completely selfish to hold such risky events during a pandemic.

Meanwhile, a Stamford University study found that Trump's rallies have led to 30,000 Covid cases and 700 deaths.

Trump lies and people die. And for that, he should be charged with negligent homicide. November 3 will serve as the day to hand down the indictment.