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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, June 17, 2021

Alphabet Mafia Showcase Promises to be Funny to the Letter

Jake Leizear   Photo Credit: Travis Marshal
Baltimore will once again be treated to live (that’s right, live!) entertainment as an eclectic group of young LGBTQ+ comedians from around the mid-Atlantic region will celebrate Pride by performing at The Crown on June 26

Alphabet Mafia is an LGBTQ+ standup comedy showcase that will be hosted by Baltimore comedian Jake Leizear (he/him).  The performers, says Leizear, include some of the region’s best queer comedians, with a lineup of Alejandro Morales (he/him, Phillidelphia), Andie Basto (they/them, Baltimore), T Moony (she/her, Baltimore), Kate Flaherty (she/her ,DC), and Anthony Oakes (he/him, DC), with special guest appearances from Tom Behler (he/him, Alexandria, VA), Alexa Sciuto (she/her, Baltimore), and Charlie Girard (he/him, DC).

Andie Basto  Photo credit: Hayley Nelson

“The lineup looks to represent not just Baltimore’s queer comedy scene, but also the greater mid-Atlantic, bringing in performers from Pennsylvania, DC, Virginia, and Maryland,” explains Leizear.  

“Comedy in the DMV is a multifaceted and diverse scene, as is the LGBTQ+ community, and this show works to provide opportunities to all kinds of comedians within the community.”

Because of the pandemic, entertainers had to perform on Zoom or other digital platforms.  Going live for this show pleases Leizear.  “We wanted to celebrate Pride with a laugh shared in person at a beloved venue that has always been a home to out and proud performers of all kinds,” he says.  

No stranger to comedy, Leizear is a show runner at The Lou Costello Room in Hampden and has performed at DC Pride, the Ellicott Silly Comedy Festival, and the Charm City Comedy Festival. With over a decade of theater and improv behind him, Leizear says his humor “focuses on his experiences as a queer millennial dealing with nerdom, anxiety, dating, and being a gay little fish in a big straight pond.”

Leizear is eagerly anticipating Alphabet Mafia performing at The Crown. “The whole lineup is beyond ready to get back out there to live comedy and is excited to do what we do best: make people laugh!”

____

The Alphabet Mafia LGBTQ+ Pride Comedy Showcase performs on June 26 from 8:00 p.m.to 9:30 p.m. at The Crown, 1910 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Tickets are $10 in advance by visiting Eventbrite or $12 at the door.




Tuesday, June 08, 2021

HoCo Executive Shines Light on LGBTQ Pride Month



June has traditionally been LGBTQ Pride Month (originally called Gay Pride) ever since the Stonewall uprising in June 1969 that most historians credit as the birth of the modern gay rights movement. In Howard County, Maryland, the tradition continues.

On the evening of June 7 County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball read an executive proclamation recognizing June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month in the county. The event was witnessed by nearly two dozen diverse members of the county’s LGBTQ+ community and supportive allies who gathered in front of the George Howard Building—the seat of the county government—for the ceremonial proclamation reading.

County Executive Calvin Ball

****

Whereas… The LGBTQ+ community in Howard County is vibrant and growing with a mission to create ongoing opportunities for open dialogue about sexual orientation and gender questioning for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer+; and

Whereas… Each resident deserves to be accepted with compassion, acknowledged for their contributions and inspired to celebrate life’s gifts within a safe and supportive community; and

Whereas… It is fitting for Howard County Government to recognize Pride Month as a way to support individual rights and reaffirm our commitment to inclusion, equality and justice for all.

Now therefore, I, … Calvin Ball, County Executive of Howard County, Maryland, do hereby proclaim

June 2021

Pride Month

In Howard County, Maryland

****

When the skies darkened following the ceremony, the Howard Building was alternately bathed in lights representing the colors of the rainbow, the familiar symbol of the LGBTQ+ community.

Howard County government has traditionally supported LGBTQ+ rights. In fact, it was the first jurisdiction in the state to pass a non-discrimination measure based on sexual orientation in 1973. And in 2011 it was among the first jurisdictions in the state to pass protections based on gender identity and expression.

In 2019, Howard County government co-sponsored the first ever LGBTQ+ Pride celebration in the county, which turned out to be a colossal success with some 10,000 attending. HoCo Pride will renew the festivities on October 9 after a year off because of the pandemic.

The significance of the proclamation presented by the County Executive was not lost on LGBTQ+ community leaders.

“This is a very important moment for the community,” says Jumel Howard, Chair of HoCo Pride, Vice President of PFLAG Howard County, and Regional Director of PFLAG Mid-Atlantic. “We are appreciative of the County Executive and his administration for being on the front lines in advocating for equity and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Alisha Tronetti, a student at University of Maryland and a member of the HoCo Pride Steering Committee, points out, “Events like these are extremely important. The LGBTQ community is small and need the public display of support from county government.”

Others see this as an opportunity for progress beyond the symbolism of this recognition.

 “I’m grateful our county government has recognized Pride Month,” says Byron Macfarlane, the county’s Register of Wills and the first openly LGBTQ elected official in Howard County. “It sends a message that Howard County embraces the LGBTQ+ community and that hate has no home here.”

He adds, “I hope that beyond today’s proclamation, we’ll continue to break down barriers and stand in solidarity for true and meaningful equality in every aspect of the daily lives of our LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors.”


A video of the proceedings produced by the Office of the County Executive is shown here.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Why We Need More Like Tim Ryan

Consider this: the Democrats control the Senate albeit by the margin of the vice president. Yet, who do we see more of on TV or read about—Majority Leader Chuck Schumer or Minority Leader Mitch McConnell?   

The Dems also control the House of Representatives by a shrinking margin, but who has dominated the recent news cycles—Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi?

The Democrats have their standard bearer in the White House in Joe Biden, but why is it the former president Donald Trump seems to get more notice, even without being on Twitter?

The media is still infatuated by everything Trump and how his acolytes obey his whims. Whether they want to or not, the Republicans continue to dominate the news, and the Democrats are having a tough time getting a message across much less news coverage. That changed for a news cycle on May 19 with Congressman Tim Ryan, a centrist pro-worker Democrat of Ohio.

The measure voted on by the House on May 19 that would establish a bipartisan commission to look into the run-up to and the ensuing events of January 6 was the backdrop.  While the FBI proceeds to nab hundreds of people who took part in the insurrection, a commission would be able to do a deep dive into the role Trump played in inciting the riots and as important, his slow-roll in stopping the violent mayhem. What was Trump doing as the riots unfolded? Why did it take him so long to tell his supporters to go home? What was the substance of the phone conversation between McCarthy and Trump?

As it turned out, only 35 Republicans in the House voted to establish the commission but it passed on the strength of unanimous Democratic support. Alas, it will die in the Senate because a commission would keep the story alive into the mid-terms and you know how McConnell can’t bear being in the minority yet again.

Prior to the vote, Rep. Tim Ryan who announced he will run for Ohio’s open Senate seat in 2022, laid into those Republicans who could not muster the courage to look into the fateful day when their workplace was attacked and rioters were looking to hang the vice president.

In a fiery speech, Mr. Ryan excoriated his Republican colleagues.

“To the other 90 percent of our friends on the other side of the aisle, holy cow! Incoherence! No idea what you’re talking about!” Ryan said. “Benghazi! You guys chased the former secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) all over the country. Spent millions of dollars! We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol Police with lead pipes across the head, and we can’t get bipartisanship?

“If we’re gonna take on China, if we’re gonna rebuild the country, if we’re gonna reverse climate change, we need two political parties in this country that are both living in reality, and you ain’t one of them!” Ryan concluded.

The video of his speech can be found here.

 It’s about time a Democrat rose up and brought the horrors of January 6 into focus. Too many stand on the sidelines and allow the GQP to seize the stage. Former Bill Clinton adviser and political pundit James Carville was right on point urging Democrats to use January 6 as a bludgeon against those Republicans who voted against impeachment of Trump and voted against conviction.

“They have to make the Republicans own that insurrection every day,” Carville told Vox last month in an interview. “They have to pound it. They have to call bookers on cable news shows. They have to get people to write op-eds. There will be all kinds of investigations and stories dripping out for god knows how long, and the Democrats should spend every day tying all of it to the Republican Party. They can’t sit back and wait for it to happen.”

McConnell saw the truth in that and included quotes from that interview in a message to his caucus urging them not to support a January 6 commission.

Clearly, the Dems must keep the pressure on.  Our democracy is at stake if the House turns over. Already 47 states are trying to make it harder to vote. And if the country simply moves on from January 6, it is sure to happen again.

Ryan’s outburst went viral with millions of views. Hopefully, he prodded other Democrats to be more aggressive in attacking the Republican stance on this issue. We need more like Tim Ryan. 
















Thursday, April 22, 2021

Please Leave a Message

 

Thank Goodness for Barack Obama’s “Hope and Change” slogan in 2008! Other than that, I cannot think of a consistent, punchy, winning message over the past few decades that Democrats came up with. Even Joe Biden’s “Restore the Soul of America” message was poetic, but I doubt it had any impact on the 2020 race.

To be clear, effective messaging doesn’t need to be limited to a slogan or bumper sticker.  But it seems that every time a slogan or a comment is put forth by a Democrat, Republicans pounce on it.

Look how “Defund the Police,” “Medicare for All,” and ‘Green New Deal” were used as weapons against congressional Democratic candidates in 2020. Data are inconclusive as to the impact they had on those races but anecdotally, some politicians claim they had an effect.

Look how the George Floyd murder protests, which were mostly peaceful, were allowed to be manipulated by Republicans to shift the message from needed police reform to the destruction of buildings and even cities. It was a classic case of “Whataboutism.”

The most recent example is Rep. Maxine Waters’ comments regarding the Derek Chauvin trial and what should happen (confrontation) if the verdict is not favorable. The GQP took it and ran with it, and a censure action by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had been organized though tabled.

Did the Democrats attempt to censure Marjorie Taylor Greene for her heinous comments or those Republican congressmen who have perpetuated Trump’s big lie on the 2020 election outcome? No. Or even those congressmen who spoke at Trump’s rally that incited the insurrection on January 6? Crickets.

It wasn’t that long ago when Republicans bludgeoned the Democrats for being soft on terrorism. In fact, the 2004 election cycle featured that mantra.  Is it asking a lot for Democrats to turn the tables on Republicans during the 2022 cycle by pointing out THEIR softness on domestic terrorism and white nationalism?

Even the establishment of a 9/11-style commission to look into the events surrounding January 6 can’t get any traction. Why aren’t Democrats beating the Republicans over the head with January 6? Yet, the Republicans Benghazi-ed the Democrats to death when they saw an opportunity.

We cannot ever forget what happened January 6, and we should not allow the Republicans to escape the linkage between the atrocities of that event, Donald Trump and those Republicans who voted to acquit the former president in the impeachment trial when he so clearly incited the attack.

The Democrats do not need a catchy slogan to inculcate this matter into the conversation during the 2022 cycle. Footage will do just nicely. Those horrific images of Trump flag-carrying thugs breaching our Capitol should be a staple in every Democratic ad against those Republicans who are apparently soft on insurrections. Pictures do speak louder than words.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Financial Transparency Deflection

Columbia (MD) Democratic Club Treasurer pushes back against non-transparency allegations and reveals what this is really all about

By Bob Ford

Treasurer, Columbia Democratic Club

I want to set the record straight about financial transparency. Despite the gas lighting, innuendos, and demonstrably false statements made by the CDC president Jake Burdett and the attacks by his acolytes on public platforms, I am not opposed to financial transparency.     

I emphatically believe that our financials should always be transparent to the executive board and the members so that all interested parties have an understanding of how we are doing financially. This especially applies to those dues-paying members who provide virtually all of the club’s income.

That information is conveyed by my traditional monthly treasurer’s reports, which I present to the executive board and at general meetings. They are an accurate reflection of our bank statements and financial activity.

In email communications from the president sent to the rest of the executive board, my integrity, honesty, and competence had been called into question. He characterized my performance as “incompetent,” “suspicious,” “not transparent,” “nefarious,” and “concerning” and more recently at a public executive board meeting, "shady."

These accusations are a desperate attempt to deflect from the true reasons for the CDC’s current dysfunction by searching for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Since so much manufactured suspicion was pushed out by the president and his allies, our club secretary and a past president were asked to review my financial processes, spreadsheet,  bank statements, and PayPal account onsite, and they saw the diligence I applied in keeping accurate records. They determined everything was in order. Any concern by the president was and continues to be unjustified.

“I can report back to anyone who is interested in the matter: Bob has a very good and consistent process,” wrote Past President Sean Ford (no relation) in a letter to Shahan Rizvi, chair of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee. “The club’s finances are in good hands with him.”

There was a wild conspiracy theory recently posted on Facebook by an ally of the president who infers that the county executive is somehow part of a financial cover-up with the CDC. It said, “Just how bad are the Club's finances and who else is implicated?" 

That fantasy should earn him a laminated QAnon membership card.

Keep in mind that our balance increased by 76% since March 2020 and more than doubled (120%) since  November. It is at the highest level in our club’s history. And since I became the club's treasurer 7 years ago, our balance has gone up over 1,550%. That’s how bad the club’s finances are.

Since March of last year and because of the pandemic, which prevented in-person meetings and our annual holiday party, I’ve had to write a total of just 7 checks. On the monthly treasurer’s reports I indicate the amount of the check, the payee and its purpose. Anyone receiving this report sees this; nothing is hidden.

Throughout my tenure as treasurer I have paid every bill and reimbursed members accurately and on time. Nobody has ever complained about late or incorrect payments.  It serves no club purpose to thrust impediments on an already efficient payment process. Note that any expenditure exceeding $100 must be approved by the membership, so it doesn't get more transparent than that. 

The PayPal account was created a few years ago as a convenience to our club members as a means of paying dues. Since the club does not have a Taxpayer Identification Number or an Employer Identification Number, I had to furnish my own Social Security Number in order for PayPal to establish the account. I regularly transfer the accumulated amounts in  PayPal  to our checking account. Again, this is clearly indicated on my treasurer's reports. Nothing is hidden

Each member’s transaction on PayPal, which the president constantly refers to as "receipts," are required by PayPal to include the name of the person, the home address, the email address and the telephone number, which is maintained for 2 years.  When a transaction is successfully made, the payer is sent an acknowledgement from PayPal. 

If a person mistakenly bills the club instead of making a payment, I immediately advise that person accordingly.

I have no intention of releasing members' phone numbers and home addresses to this president. It does nothing to make the membership list more accurate or improve the voting process, the purported rationale for the president's botched and potentially defamatory recall attempt. Nor do the bylaws require the president to have access to our financial accounts.

To prove this has been Mr. Burdett's goal, the very first charge on his recall notice included, in part, "Your long time refusal to provide...access to this PayPal account..." 

My refusal to grant him access to this account and any other financial account is based on one factor: I simply do not trust him to safeguard the members' phone numbers and home addresses or any other personal and private information. And I certainly don’t trust him with my Social Security number at his disposal.

The president’s track record does not alleviate my concerns.

According to Matthew Molyett, a former CDC vice president, former executive board member, and a candidate for Board of Education in 2020 for whom our current president was the campaign manager, “Jake Burdett failed to secure the campaign data when he created it. The file was originally seeded by exporting the Mail Chimp mailing list without prior discussion.”

It should be pointed out that this database was exposed to a breach where personal information was unprotected causing a major firestorm on social media. In my view, that failure contributed to Mr. Molyett’s defeat. To be clear, he is not saying that Mr. Burdett caused the breach but that he did not safeguard the data.

This red herring is not about transparency as characterized by the president and his allies. To me, the issue is really about security and privacy.

We witnessed the backlash to the April 8 Zoom meeting debacle whereby individuals’ email addresses were captured without their knowledge by an outside organization as a prerequisite to enter the meeting.

People want to protect their privacy as they should. I am quite certain that folks do not want their home address and telephone number floating around either.

Don’t believe me?  Here's how an ally of Mr. Burdett’s responded to a Facebook post on April 10:

“I know that there is a concerted effort by some irresponsible people in the party to attempt to intimidate me by disclosing where I live and threatening the safety of my family.”

"Disclosing where I live," he says. Isn't it likely that others may have similar fears and concerns and want to protect their private information?

I see myself as duty-bound to preserve the private information of our members, not to mention my own Social Security Number, which, as I stated before, is attached to our PayPal account.

In my opinion, Mr. Burdett's end game has been and continues to be to gain access to and ultimate control over our PayPal account and our club’s checking account under the guise of transparency. In fact, at a board meeting several months ago, he directly requested from me access to our PayPal account to include log-in code and password.

His demand (later withdrawn) that I provide my signature to him raised additional questions. I asked representatives from the financial, legal and law enforcement communities to determine if there is any legitimate justification for that request. None of these professionals was able to identify one. There is no way I would grant him possession of my signature.

The notion that this president could gain control over our financial accounts similar to his recent commandeering of our social media and communications platforms should send up red flags. To this day, the secretary does not have the full access to Mail Chimp and other communication tools, which are preventing her from fully doing her job. Undoubtedly, I’d be locked out, too, from our financial accounts--not a good place for a treasurer.

This financial transparency subterfuge is a deflection from the president's own divisive behavior that has led to chaos and acrimony within the club. It is weakening and splitting the party to the delight of Republican groups on social media whose members publicly cheer him on.  

I have been a member of the Columbia Democratic Club for 16 years, the last 13 of which I have been a member of the Executive Board for 7 different presidents. As stated previously, for the past 7 years I have served as the club’s Treasurer working with a variety of Executive Board compositions over that time period.

It’s an office I hadn't previously sought, but my esteemed predecessor recommended I do so as she prepared to step down.  I had been asked by the previous 6 presidents to work with them as treasurer and was proud to serve. It is clear that during this time I had the confidence of those presidents, the various executive boards and the general membership.

These folks entrusted me with this position, and I have done absolutely nothing that would give them pause. Furthermore, I coordinated several club elections and endorsement meetings without any candidates disputing the accuracy of the membership list. Overall, I’m not aware of any member losing sleep over the fact that I have been the club’s treasurer.

To that end, I can attest that our financial records are accurate, up-to-date and most importantly secure. My reports to the executive board and membership reflect that.  

As I indicated earlier, our club secretary and past president conducted a review of my records and found that they are in order. Notably, these individuals viewed the general transaction history on PayPal but only opened up their own transaction--not anyone else's-- so they can see what private information is contained in the "receipts."

Financial transparency is essential but not at the expense of security and privacy. The release of private information does not promote accurate membership lists or improve the voting process. It just invites abuse.

My fiduciary responsibilities as treasurer, as I see it, are to keep accurate records, safeguard the club’s assets and protect the private information of its members. And that’s what I intend to do.

 

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Why Trump is More Dangerous Than Ever

 

When Donald Trump was in office, many people thought he was dangerous. He only held his self-interests as a priority, had little knowledge of the workings of government, coddled international dictators and despots and helped give rise to white nationalism.    

As he became more unglued throughout his term, his potential to perform reckless and dangerous acts if his ego was damaged or he felt aggrieved increased. 

When Joe Biden won the election and Trump was either in denial or created a fantasy to keep his following in toe, even more people including past government officials and members of Congress were authentically worried Trump would do something risky, reckless and dangerous. They even wondered if the mercurial president should be allowed to possess the nuclear codes during the interregnum.

All of our fears were borne out when he incited an insurrection of our government on January 6—the 3rd Day of Infamy this country ever experienced. All of it was caused by the “Big Lie” in which Trump and his acolytes say the election had been stolen from him because it was rife with fraud. It simply was not true, but it served this narcissist to perpetuate such a lie to rile up his base. 

He exhorted his frothing cultists to “take back our country” and do it with “strength.”  Does anybody really believe those instructions were meant for the supporters to participate in a peaceful protest consisting of chants? If so, why didn’t Trump do anything to quell the violence?

Because he loved it.

Most of the House Republicans and 43 in the Senate didn’t think Trump incited the mob he invited weeks earlier or they did but they couldn’t acknowledge it publicly lest they incur the wrath of Trump.

No good decent public servant would tolerate such an egregious incitement to violence that killed 6 people. But more than a few of Trump’s enablers are spouting yet another lie that the rioters were antifa sympathizers posing as Trump supporters and not at all those angels who tried to run a Biden campaign bus off a highway.

Yes, Trump was dangrous while in office. He is more dangerous now.

While he has no official powers as an ex-president, he holds much power—too much, in fact.  The recent CPAC confab symbolized by the rolling out of a golden likeness of Trump shows that there is a dear leader the Republicans must cozy up to.  Trump commands the adoration of an overwhelming majority of Republicans. As insidious as January 6 was and as obvious Trump was the instigator of the violence and carnage, only 11 percent of Republicans found him responsible for it, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

“He may be down, but he is certainly not out of favor with the GOP,” says Tim Malloy, who conducted the poll for Quinnipiac University. “Twice impeached, vilified by Democrats in the trial, and virtually silenced by social media ... despite it all, Donald Trump keeps a solid foothold in the Republican Party.”

Furthermore, the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump at his impeachment trial have been censured by their local or state Republican parties or are facing blowback from voters back home.

This is why Trump is dangerous even today. He has the GQP wrapped around his finger as one leading Republican after another migrates to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring worn on that very finger.


These Republicans as well as right wing media continue to foster the big lie that Trump actually won. They are terrified to stray from that lie, which will provide them another opportunity in 2024 to try to de-legitimize the election should the Republican presidential nominee lose. Add that to the active voter suppression efforts in several states to screw Black citizens and you have a formula for the end of democracy as we know it. A toast to Vladimir Putin! 

All of this will happen with Trump cheerleading from the sidelines. Don’t worry, he won’t be the nominee. He teases the country but he will not make another run. Trump will raise oodles of cash for his PAC, which he could use any way he wants. In the meantime, as he executes this charade, he freezes out would be candidates and their ability to raise money almost certainly leading to another loss.

With all their adulation of Trump, Republicans should note that with him at the helm, they lost the House, the Senate and the White House. As a visible ex-president, that streak could continue over the next two cycles.

Then there is the legal exposure Trump faces on several fronts. I firmly believe there is a better than 50 percent chance he will be indicted for possible tax and bank fraud at a minimum in Manhattan. What happens to him after that remains to be seen.

But Trump controls the Proud Boys and all the other violent white nationalist militias. Imagine if an indictment (or more) is handed down how these domestic terrorists may react. Imagine Trump telling them that this was another witch hunt and we need to re-take our country. Imagine what they will do at court houses and other government buildings.

You know he won’t peacefully accept a prison sentence. It will make January 6 seem like a block party.

That is why the danger Trump poses now is even greater than what it was before.  

Sunday, February 14, 2021

We Don’t Know How to Quit Ya

 The GQP made what is likely to be a costly decision to let Trump off the hook.

The dust has settled on Donald Trump’s record breaking 2nd impeachment trial, and the Monday morning quarterbacking, recriminations and speculation about the political future for both parties expectedly began. 

For his part, the former president by a vote of 57-43 was found guilty of the impeachment charge of “inciting an insurrection” for the deadly January 6 assault on the Capitol and democracy, but because of the Constitution’s requirement that two-thirds of the Senate is needed to remove and disqualify, Trump wriggled off the hook.

Keep in mind, if you win or lose and election by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin, that would be considered a landslide by many. So Trump’s feeling so good about the result or believing he was exonerated is absurd. The failure to convict was largely accomplished based on a technicality that Republicans believed or they say they believed that a former president cannot be impeached and removed from office despite historical precedent. That was the off-ramp for 43 Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump issued a statement that said the impeachment was “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country” and that “no president has ever gone through anything like it.”

Trump is correct on the second part. No president has gone through anything like this because no president ever welcomed and accepted help from a foreign country to win an election (2016) and obstructed justice in the attempt to get to the bottom of it. No president ever pressured the leader of a foreign country in order to obtain dirt on his potential opponent, which happened in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

And no president ever incited a mob to breach, loot and defile the Capitol and to threaten the safety of the second and third people in the line of succession as well as other legislators and staff, and to kill one and injure over 140 police officers attempting to thwart the violent domestic terrorism that was unfolding. Moreover, Trump did nothing to stop the insurrection while it was underway and gleefully watched on TV as the rioters succeeded, at least temporarily, in halting the certification of Electoral College tallies.

The nine House Managers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland were spectacular, compelling and proficient in laying out the case in a clear precise manner. The evidence had been overwhelming as was the video footage of police officers being beaten to a pulp by the Trump insurrectionists. (What happened to Blue Lives Matter?)

It was a decisive victory of fact presentation and style over the G team – the 7th team of lawyers to defend Trump in this battle. This latest group mirrored Trump: incompetent, clownish and lying.

But the ever-shrinking GQP, a party that decidedly supports a congresswoman who ascribes to QAnon conspiracy theories, punishes competent representatives who vote their conscience and one that censures senators who vote according to facts and evidence, is still hitched to the Trump wagon.

Lindsey Graham, a senator who has lost all what remains of his credibility said after the Senate trial, “The Republican Party is alive and well.” Really?

Following the bloody insurrection, the attempted coup to overthrow our government by preventing the peaceful transfer of power—the hallmark of our democracy—the party lost tens of thousands of registered voters across the land. Unless you’re a hard core Trump loyalist, most people from both parties were sickened by the events of January 6—the third day of infamy for the U.S.

Yet, the Trump base is what Republican politicians must covet and fear to successfully ward off primary challenges as the base comprises the most reliable voters in primaries. McConnell doesn’t want any part of Trump but had to vote to acquit lest he lose his leadership position. His speech following the vote twisted him into a knot by condemning Trump in no uncertain terms for the January 6 coup attempt but used the escape hatch of “jurisdiction” as a means to justify his not guilty vote despite the Senate’s vote that rendered jurisdiction on a non-issue.

Always savvy and calculating, McConnell suggested that Trump is not out of the woods legally, which is true. But I think McConnell is trying to set a trap whereby the new Attorney General, most likely Merrick Garland, would be encouraged to investigate Trump for federal violations. If that were to occur, McConnell would cry “Democrat overreach” for investigating a former president and will fund raise and rally the GQP troops off of it.

Democrats must seize upon the Republicans’ failure to quit Trump even after the egregious January 6 event and the blatant lies Trump used over a period of months to whip his white nationalists, militia, QAnon and other components of his base into a frenzy. By no means, was the insurrection a surprise.

January 6 and Trump’s escape from any real punishment so far will not help expand the party and win over suburban and college educated voters. A break from Trump was needed by the party, but the lawmakers who supported Trump by choosing convenience over conscience will pay a steep price.

They didn’t know how to quit him, and they still don’t.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

We the Jury

The case for Trump's conviction must be directed more for the public than the Senate.


D
onald Trump spewed the biggest of all his many lies when he claimed he actually won the November 3 election by a landslide no less had not the Democrats stole it from him through fraudulent means. Trump’s loyal base of support that includes notably white supremacists, violent militia groups, QAnon conspiracy nuts and other far right extremists bought into that lie.

So when Trump tweeted that there will be a “wild” rally on January 6 to protest the “steal” and pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to violate the Constitution by overturning the election results that day, thousands of enraged, amped-up supporters—many of them armed—gathered at the Ellipse near the White House.

They listened to the likes of Donald Trump, Jr., Senator Ted Cruz and Rudy Giuliani who decried the stolen election and urged the angry mob to take action. Then they heard from President Trump himself.

“We’re going to walk down. Anyone you want, but I think right here, we’re going to walk down to the Capitol…Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong,” Trump said in the midst of a rambling speech dominated by lies about individual states’ voting results and other false grievances. The crowd had been whipped up to a state of frenzy and was frothing with a desire to take action.

As just about everyone in the world witnessed on that horrific January 6, the rabid mob attacked, desecrated and looted the Capitol. Five people lost their lives including a police officer who was bludgeoned to death. Members of Congress and Senate who were going through the process of putting their stamp of approval of the Electoral College results had to be escorted out of their respective chambers into a safe haven as their lives were in jeopardy. And for good measure, some of the mob were out to kill Mike Pence with a makeshift gallows erected outside.

From even before the election through January 6, Trump laid the foundation for the insurrection on our government by violent domestic terrorists with his false and ridiculous claim that the election was rigged against him. During the siege of the Capitol, Trump, his family as well as others watched the proceedings on TV (his major activity during any day of his presidency when he’s not out golfing) and yucked it up celebrating Trump banners replacing American flags and the numerous violent acts taking place during the riot. He also did nothing to stop it.

But here’s the sad upshot of this event: Trump will avoid conviction at his impeachment trial next week for inciting an insurrection because the overwhelming majority of Republican senators remain terrified of Trump and his supporters and the votes they represent.

The able Democratic House managers who will lead the impeachment trial against Trump will lay out all the evidence in great detail—Trump’s lies about the election results, his attempts to pressure state election officials to “find votes,” the footage from Trump’s inciting speech, the acts of violence perpetrated by the mob, and the on-camera comments from the rioters claiming Trump put them up to it. This damning evidence should not be directed towards the senators who will be serving as jurors, witnesses and victims. They have already made up their minds.

The case, in excruciating and dramatic detail, must be brought to the American citizens who witnessed in horror an attack on our Capitol—the people’s house—not seen since the War of 1812.

While Republicans argue dubiously that the trial itself is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president, they are merely seeking an off ramp so they don’t have to judge him on the merits of the case. They want to “move on” unlike the way these folks moved past Benghazi.

Let them cower to the inciter-in-chief. The American people—heck, most of the world—witnessed what happened and understand that the violence was stoked by Trump with his lies about the election. The American people will ultimately be the jury.

Every Republican congressman who objected to the election results even after the riot and every senator who votes to acquit Trump should be branded as supporting sedition. The images from this manifestation of domestic terrorism, already seared into the souls of most Americans, must be included in every campaign ad against these Republicans up for election in 2022. The Republican Sedition Party, I call it.

It’s been said that Democrats tend to bring a ladle to a gunfight. The events of January 6 should be a millstone around the necks of those seditionists. If they do not punish those Republicans who put the party of Trump before our country then it would be clear political malpractice.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Republicans' Idea of Unity

I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new.—President Joe Biden from his Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 2021

As a candidate Joe Biden made unity the centerpiece of his campaign to the chagrin of the left wing of the Democratic Party. It helped win over Trump-opposing Republicans, independents and suburban women in his quest to get elected. Though so many have been skeptical of the prospect of unifying such a divided country especially after the past four years, the concept of unity was the principal theme in Mr. Biden’s inaugural address.

Merely hours after the inaugural festivities, truncated as they were due to the pandemic and security concerns, Republicans across the board demonstrated they are not having any of it. A reporter from a right wing media outlet asked the new and refreshingly competent press secretary Jen Psaki if the Democrats are ready to extend an olive branch to the Republicans in the name of unity.The Democrats need to offer an olive branch to Republicans? What a joke!

Maybe if the overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives and a handful of senators would acknowledge that Joe Biden won the election fair and square (which he did), that would be a good first step in unifying the country. Recall how over 150 of these legislators objected to the certified election results in several states and that was AFTER the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6.

Let’s also look at sore loser Trump’s behavior following the election. Through the moment he fled to Florida on January 20 as a disgraced twice impeached president, he never publicly mentioned Joe Biden’s name, never acknowledged he lost to Biden, delayed the crucial transition period, failed to cooperate during the transition and in fact, created unnecessary barriers, didn’t welcome Biden in the White House to confer as has been a long standing tradition, and refused to attend the inauguration. What an example of sportsmanship Trump sets for our young people!

Then there’s that pesky matter of a Trump-incited insurrection on our government with the express intent to thwart the peaceful transfer of power and to harm or even kill the first and second persons in the succession. That’s called sedition.

This incitement by urging a frothing, violent, angry mob of white supremacists and other pro-Trump believers to “take back our country” whereby they stormed and ransacked the Capitol earned Trump his second impeachment. Now Republicans, such as Trump supplicant Lindsey Graham, are pleading for the Senate to not try Trump on this article of impeachment if the Democrats want to truly unify.

Yes, Democrats should look the other way and not hold Trump accountable for his attempt to overthrow the government. They should move on. Republicans who advocate this dereliction of duty should be reminded that 5 people lost their lives as a result of the riot.

That’s one more life lost than the Benghazi raid that killed 4 Americans in Libya. Republicans didn’t move on. They held some 10 hearings on the incident and dragged then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify at one of these for 11 hours. For years, obsessed Republicans screamed Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! over and over. But a violent attempted coup? Not so much. Let’s just move on.

We should never forget January 6. It should forever be memorialized as 9/11 has been. But this tragedy, this national disgrace, was perpetrated not by foreign jihadists but by misinformed and conspiracy theory-obsessed American citizens who were provoked by a deranged, lying and unpatriotic president, aided by his kooky attorney and two rogue overly ambitious senators and a number of equally seditious representatives.

Within hours of the inauguration, Republicans and their agents on right wing media mocked Biden’s call for unity. The hashtag #ImpeachBidenNow trended on Twitter. Mitch McConnell already began playing games to hold off on finalizing his minority leader status and jeopardizing COVID relief legislation. Unity appears to be an elusive goal especially if it is not in the political interests of Republicans.

It’s a no-brainer for an incoming president especially from a different political party who had previously occupied the White House to ask for unity. And like he said, it could be seen as a foolish fantasy.

A degree of unity could only work if both sides are willing to pull together. One would think that the pandemic that kills Americans regardless of political affiliation would finally bring us collectively to fight the disease as a matter of patriotism.

President Biden’s realistic idea of unity is at least lowering the temperature of the rhetoric. The Republican idea of unity, however, is for Democrats to capitulate to their whims and take no actions to offend that perennially angry Republican base, who for the most part see Mr. Biden as an illegitimate president.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The False Equivalence of 'Whataboutism'

On January 12, 2021, President Donald Trump was impeached for the second time in a year. On this occasion it was for inciting an insurrection. By becoming the only president to have been impeached twice, Trump has cemented his place in history as the worst president ever. Regardless of the outcome in the Senate, this action makes it official.

The capturing of 10 Republican votes in the House vote on the single article of impeachment renders it the most bi-partisan impeachment ever. But to listen to the other Republicans oppose the action, they were unable or unwilling to defend the president on the merits but offered an absurd dose of “whataboutism.”

Some Republicans used the Black Lives Matter marches and disturbances from this past summer as an equivalent of the violence Trump incited. Several days earlier Marco Rubio noted, “The events that we saw this week should sicken every single one of us ... Riots should be rejected by everyone, every single time,” he said. “Now, are the left hypocrites? Absolutely. I remember what they now are calling ‘insurrection,’ they were justifying just this summer.”  

Let’s look at some of the differences.

The BLM marches crossed racial lines and were a reaction to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. He held his knee on the throat of the unarmed Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds as the victim begged him to stop. At the time this was the most graphic incident of a police officer killing an unarmed Black person as footage later released provided the horrors of the act.

Similar incidents have occurred for decades around the country. The means to carry out the deaths may be different but not the results.

In cities all over the U.S. and countries around the world, people demonstrated peacefully by marching to demand police reform and justice. Yes, some criminal elements broke ranks and burned and looted property. But contrary to the assertions made by congressional Republicans during the impeachment debate, Democrats did condemn the violence associated with these marches, especially Joe Biden who did so emphatically on multiple occasions.

Unlike the domestic terrorists spurred on by Donald Trump, the protesters during the BLM marches did not attempt to illegally breach and destroy the Capitol building in Washington. They did not target lawmakers or any individuals during the demonstrations. They did not come armed to the teeth to include pipe bombs, guns of all types, poles, bats, pipes, hockey sticks, knives, zip ties and other weaponry.  They did not dress in military-style uniforms and head gear looking for combat. And if they had, I doubt the BLM would have been treated by police with the same deference as Trump’s mob.

Unlike the mostly white, anti-Semitic and racist insurrectionists, the BLM protesters did not try to overthrow the government by attempting to prevent the orderly and peaceful certification of -the Electoral College results. Unlike Trump’s frothing-at-the-mouth rabid followers, the BLM protesters did not go headhunting for Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi. They did not chant “Hang Mike Pence” and erect a gallows in front of the Capitol to finish the job.

Moreover, the BLM protesters did not bludgeon a policeman to death as was done by those who push the Blue Lives Matter mantra.

The biggest difference of all is that the BLM protesters were reacting to systemic racism present in our cities’ police forces while the Trump insurrectionists were acting on the big lie that the election was stolen. So remorseful was Trump that he was enjoying all the action at the Capitol with a smirk and satisfied that people were fighting for him.

Republicans are desperate not to leave the good graces of Trump and his cult-like followers to even try to compare these two events. Someone tell me how a seditious coup attempt that resulted in five deaths and much destruction to the citadel of democracy is equivalent to stealing a box of Pampers from a store.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

King Insane

Full disclosure: I am not a psychiatrist or a trained psychologist, but I did fairly well in my Psych courses in college. One of those was Abnormal Psychology, and I can pretty much say that had there been a President Donald Trump then, his case studies would have appeared on many of the pages of those text books.

We are all too familiar with his pathological lying, extreme narcissism and need to command attention. Yet, Trump’s problems go beyond these character disorders. To use New York parlance, this man is sick in da head. Or using the more medical  NY term, Meshuggeneh.

Throughout his life, whether he loses a lawsuit or an election, whatever it is, it must have been rigged. He was saying this ahead of the 2016 election and, of course, the recent 2020 election. When it became clear he had indeed lost in November and Joe Biden was deemed to be the President-elect, Trump’s nuttiness when into high gear.

Breaking with traditional norms, he refused to concede the election though Biden’s Electoral College votes matched Trump’s from 2016 and won the popular vote by 7 million. (If you’re a Trump supporter and do not believe 7 million is a significant total, start counting from 1 to 7 million and when you’re finished, you may resume reading this.)

Throughout these past two months, Trump refused to accept the reality that he lost. His claims of widespread voter fraud, irregularities, voting machines tampering, ballot shredding, ballot dumping, and dead people voting were baseless and without evidence. Undaunted, his crack legal team, headed by Rudy “Colludy” Giuliani, tried to litigate these false allegations and failed miserably to make the case in court some 60 times (including the Supreme Court twice) involving 90 judges with many having been appointed by Republicans and Trump himself.

The problem is Trump actually believed his delusional alternate reality. He has convinced himself that he actually won the election in a landslide (“Everybody knows it”), and it was stolen from him.

The past several days revealed how psychotic Trump is. Using the same unfounded claims, a recorded rambling phone call with Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger revealed that Trump most likely broke the law by threatening the Republican official to conjure up additional votes to overturn the state’s already certified tallies and call it a “recalculation.”

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state,” Trump said.  He was asking this official to come up with new totals to give him the edge and reminded him by not reporting the “voting irregularities” he was subjecting himself to criminal exposure.

Except the one who has criminal exposure for this election interference and tampering is Trump. It will be up to the District Attorney of Fulton County to pursue this.

If that wasn’t enough, Trump held a rally in D.C. on January 6 where he espoused the same falsehoods. This ego-satisfying event had been announced weeks before and he predicted it would be “wild.” Thousands listened to the likes of Trump, Rudy Colludy Giuliani, Donald, Jr. Ivanka and others as they worked the crowd up to a boiling point.

They received their marching orders. “We are going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, congressmen and women. And we are probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you will never take back our country with weakness.”

Frothing at the mouth from the Trump lies and his attacking his sycophant-in-chief VP Mike Pence for not breaking the law in his behalf, this mob of terrorists, illegally breached the U.S. Capitol, defaced and desecrated offices and statues, looted and forced the members of Congress and senators to shelter in place or be evacuated for hours until the late-arriving security squads cleaned out the buildings from these scumbags and the stain they left on America’s democracy and reputation.

What I personally found egregious was a Trump supporter replacing an American flag with a Trump flag on one of the balconies.  Taking down the American flag and replacing it with a Trump flag.  Let that sink in. These are the same people who went nuts when pro football players took a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest social injustice.  America First? Not so much in this case. Trump First instead. What a disgrace!

And look at the way these right-wing thugs were treated so deferentially by law enforcement compared to the way Black Lives Matter protesters were handled.

Seeing that the media coverage was not too favorable to Trump for his inciting the rioters and under pressure from advisors, the smirking psycho president released a video whereby he asked the terrorists to go home but reminded them that their actions were justified because the election was stolen. One Trump supporter had been killed by gunfire inside the Capitol while three others died from health-related matters. Therefore, this horrible incident was deadly as well as disgusting.

Trump eventually issued a statement that there will be a peaceful transfer of power after Congress finally finished tabulating the electoral votes. Take that with a good dose of skepticism. The next two weeks will keep us on edge wondering what this lunatic will do next.

Unhinged would not be a sufficient characterization of his mercurial behavior. I’ll go with deranged. And so would many others. A movement albeit delayed is underway to see Trump's removal from office via impeachment or the 25th Amendment. He is unfit to continue.