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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 fa├žade 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. 

______

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.