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A second open letter to Ivanka Trump

All sense of honesty and decency have escaped those at the White House

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Ivanka Trump, gay news, Washington Blade

The LGBT community’s pleas to Ivanka Trump to moderate her father’s views have fallen on deaf ears. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

On Nov. 15, 2016 with high hopes for what you could do I published an open letter to you. It began, “I believe we must always keep an open line of communication with those we don’t agree with and the person on your side of this election I would enjoy having a cup of coffee with is you. As a supporter of Hillary Clinton the election didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. This isn’t the first campaign where my hopes were dashed. But the fight for the things I believe in and care about goes on. Ivanka, it would be great to have the opportunity to share with you how I lived my life. It is my conviction you would understand where those like myself are coming from and as senior adviser to your father that could be important and helpful as you help mold the administration.”

At the time many of us hoped you might be a moderating influence on social and economic issues relating to women, immigrants and the LGBTQ+ community. You didn’t respond to the letter when it was published. Then I met Omarosa Manigault, the president’s Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, at a reception honoring the new Secretary of the Veterans Administration. We had a very pleasant conversation and I handed her a copy of the letter in an envelope addressed to you, which she promised to deliver.

I never heard from her or you again. Seeing what your father and his administration are now doing and saying, you are probably correct in thinking responding wasn’t worthwhile. Clearly you either agree with what your father is doing or have zero influence to do anything about it. Both scenarios are disappointing. This time I am not expecting a response.

Your father, the president, has become an embarrassment to the nation. He has been called all kinds of names by those who disagree with him and some may be over the top. But I can only conclude by his behavior and speeches he can fairly be described as a boorish pig. His conduct overseas including roughly pushing aside the prime minister of Montenegro to get to his place in a photo op and his remarks on the figure of the wife of French President Macron were offensive.

His statements on efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act leave one perplexed and with the clear impression he has no idea what he is talking about. Inviting members of the House of Representatives to the Rose Garden one day to celebrate passage of their bill, then calling it ‘mean’ days later. Yes it is mean. But then he supports an even meaner Senate bill finally begging them to do something no matter how hateful it is.  Thankfully three decent Republican senators and every Democrat agreed both the House version, the Senate version he first supported, and the ‘skinny’ version are all mean-spirited and wrong-headed and voted them down. Clearly your father has yet to figure out the ‘art of the political deal.’

Then your father went further in showing how boorish and totally clueless he is with his speech to the Boy Scouts at their Jamboree. I am a Scout. In 1960, along with nearly 60,000 other Scouts, I attended the National Jamboree in Colorado Springs celebrating 50 years of scouting. That year another president, Dwight David Eisenhower, spoke. Whatever his politics he was a man with a reputation for decency and a military hero. Though I was a Democrat even then, supporting John F. Kennedy for president, I was inspired by Eisenhower’s words when he talked about trustworthiness, honor, honesty, valor and the importance of service to the nation. There is not one scout who when they think back on your father’s meandering remarks will be inspired to service. His use of curse words, talking about cocktail parties and women in New York; bashing a former president and threatening to fire one of his cabinet secretaries if a bill didn’t pass Congress, (let’s see if he does that now that the bill has failed) were totally inappropriate. The Boy Scouts for the first time ever had to apologize for a president’s speech.  I can’t imagine even you weren’t embarrassed by that spectacle.

Your father has gone so far off track I find myself feeling sorry for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a man I have always considered a racist. Your father talked about loyalty to the Boy Scouts; clearly your father’s concept of loyalty is a one-way street. Threatening Sessions for upholding the ‘rule of law’ is the height of stupidity and as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, if your father fired him there would be ‘holy hell’ to pay.

In a random early morning tweet your father attacked the LGBTQ+ community and heroic transgender members of the military announcing trans people will no longer be welcome to serve and possibly die for the nation. Something he was never willing to do. His new press secretary trying to explain the tweet lied about it saying it was in concurrence with the Department of Defense. In reality the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense have said they knew nothing about the tweet and the secretary had just announced a six-month study of the issue. Clearly lying at the White House has reached epidemic proportions.

So, Ivanka, the hope you and your husband would have any ability or even desire to moderate some of you father’s behavior is long gone. Instead we have seen you and Jared hire lawyers to defend what seems indefensible. We have witnessed both you and his inability to honestly fill out government forms including financial disclosure forms and at least his SF-86 needed to get a security clearance. The excuse on finances from your husband seems to be he is so rich it’s natural he forgot to report on numerous holdings. As to the security form he now admits he forgot over 100 meetings with foreign agents and is on his third or fourth iteration of the form in what he says is an attempt to be honest and forthcoming.

My God, how can he do his job if he really has such a poor memory? Or was he simply displaying selective memory hoping he could get away with it? When he signed the original form he swore to its truth that could be enough to send him to jail.

In fact, it appears all sense of honesty and plain decency have escaped most of those at the White House. You are all being caught up in the sludge oozing out of that venerable building; the building often called the people’s house. If this keeps up decent people will not want any association with that beautiful building,  recently home to a family that represented what is best in America, until your father stops disgracing it and the country.

Many of us who harbored hope you would be a champion for decency now count the days until your father either leaves voluntarily or is thrown out. Only then will the American people once again be able to lift up our heads with pride when facing the world community.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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DeSantis doesn’t want racism, LGBTQ topics taught in schools

It’s horrifying to hear Fla. guv invoke Dr. King to push discrimination

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Photo by jctabb via Bigstock)

Sometimes, when the news comes on your screen, you think: this must be from Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update. Until, a few seconds in, you realize: this isn’t satire, it’s all too real.

That’s how I felt when I heard about the Stop W.O.K.E Act. I’m not making this up or satirizing the news. I wouldn’t even try to be like the fabulous Samantha Bee.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has introduced the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act (a.k.a. the Stop W.O.K.E Act) to the Florida Legislature.

DeSantis, like many Republican politicos nationwide, including Virginia’s new governor Glenn Youngkin, is a good culture warrior.

Months ago, Florida, like some other states, banned the teaching of critical race theory. Earlier this month, for instance, Virginia Gov. Youngkin in his first week in office issued an executive order prohibiting the teaching of “inherently divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory.”

Never mind that critical race theory hasn’t been taught in our country’s elementary, middle, or high schools. It’s a theory taught to graduate students. It says that historically laws and policies have created systemic racism.

But that wasn’t not good enough for DeSantis. The Stop W.O.K.E. Act would take things even further. If passed, the legislation, “will give businesses, employees, children and families tools to fight back against woke indoctrination,” said a DeSantis office press release.

“The Stop W.O.K.E. Act will be the strongest legislation of its kind in the nation,” the press release said, “and will take on both corporate wokeness and Critical Race Theory.”

DeSantis wants us to believe that he’s on the side of the angels – that he wants to make the world more just. To prove how righteous he is, DeSantis talked about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Washington Post reported. “You think about what MILK stood for,” he told an audience in Wildwood, Fla. “He said he didn’t want people judged on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character.”

“You listen to some of these people nowadays,” DeSantis said, “they don’t talk about that.”

It’s horrifying and enraging to hear DeSantis quote the words of King, a civil rights icon who inspired many to work for racial justice. DeSantis was using King’s work as part of a culture war against everything King stood for.

“I was right about ‘The Politics of the English Language,’” George Orwell, the author of “1984” who taught us about “Newspeak,” is saying to himself, “this is more Orwellian than even I would have imagined.”

Unfortunately, if passed, the Stop W.O.K.E. Act, would have even more draconian consequences than polluting the language. DeSantis has decided to follow the example of the Texas abortion law, which allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion.

If enacted into law, the Stop W.O.K.E. Act would give parents or other private citizens the right to sue if they think critical race theory is being taught in schools or workplaces.

This should set off alarm bells for everyone, Black, white, hetero, LGBTQ+ — from parents to teachers to authors to students.

It’s fine for parents to complain to teachers or school boards. Or for employees to seek redress from their supervisors or human resources departments.

But do we want private citizens to enforce the law? What would it be like to have to worry whether about your neighbor or co-worker would sue you if they felt you were espousing critical race theory?

If you’re LGBTQ, you should be especially concerned.

In plain, non-Orwellian English: Republican politicos know that some folks don’t want to learn about our country’s history of racism or about LGBTQ sexuality, gender identity, culture and history.

We can’t afford to throw up our hands on this.

Let’s do all we can to prevent the erasure of racism and LGBTQ culture from the teaching of our country’s history.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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A Revolution for Women in Baseball

Last week, they announced that Rachel Balkovec will become the first woman to manage a team in minor league baseball.

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Rachel Balkovec was hired as a hitting coach in the Yankees’ system in 2019. She will now manage the Class A Tampa Tarpons.Credit. Photo Courtesy of Rachel Balkovec/Instagram.

The Yankees were late on introducing an African-American player to their roster, adding Hall of Famer Elston Howard to the team in 1955, eight years after Jackie Robinson starred for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The Yankees seem determined not to repeat that bad history.  Last week, they announced that Rachel Balkovec will become the first woman to manage a team in minor league baseball when she takes the helm of the Tampa Tarpons this spring. 

It has been just over ten years since Justin Siegal threw batting practice to the Cleveland Guardians and five since she was the first woman to coach a MLB squad with the Oakland Athletics.  Two years ago, Kim Ng became the first female General Manager of any of the four major professional sports when the Marlins hired her to run their team.  In the two years since then, the dam has burst.  Women have been hired to important on-field positions with professional baseball at an impressive clip.  As baseball has lagged behind other professional sports in bringing women into the game, the current pace of hires indicates that baseball’s embrace of analytics and objective measures have finally penetrated the walls of one of the most enduring old boys clubs in the U.S. and given talented women opportunities they have long been denied.

Ten women will be coaching with major or minor league teams in 2022.  In 2021, Bianca Smith became the first African-American woman to coach in the minors when the Red Sox hired her. Alyssa Nakken became the first woman in uniform during a Major League Baseball game when she coached first base for the Giants in a July 2020 exhibition against the Oakland A’s.  Her jersey now belongs to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Cuban-American Veronica Alvarez is not only the coach of the U.S. Women’s National Baseball team, she also served as a spring training coach for the Oakland A’s.

The proliferation of women in baseball is not an accident.  More girls than ever are playing baseball.  Here, in the DC area, 160 girls participated with D.C. Girls Baseball in 2021.  Baseball for All, an organization that supports and promotes girls in baseball, held a tournament last summer that drew nearly 600 girls who play baseball.  There are more women than ever on collegiate baseball rosters.  Major League Baseball has also devoted significant resources to girls and women in baseball, running several development camps for girls in baseball.  Six of the women now coaching professional baseball participated in MLB’s Take the Field initiative, which is designed to help place women into baseball positions. To top it all off, the classic film about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, A League of Their Own, is getting a reboot on Amazon Prime this year.

The pace of hiring is exhilarating.  Unfortunately, every report of a woman being hired is followed by predictable hateful commentary on social media.  Many cannot imagine that a woman may be hired for a baseball position on merit and resort to making sexist and derogatory comments.  As women in baseball, the coaches are used to that vitriol and have developed thick skin and sophisticated defense mechanisms.  However, also reading are thousands of girls who are inspired by the achievements of these women and they are, sadly, learning that to achieve in baseball means enduring the sexist taunts, gross come-ons, and hurtful comments.

Baseball has a long way to go.  Other leagues have women officiating games, so it should be reasonable to expect that baseball will have women umpires in the near future.  The possibility of women playing professional baseball is tantalizingly close as 17 year old Genevieve Beacom made history last week as the first women to play Australian professional baseball, when she threw a scoreless inning against the Adelaide Giants.

We are watching a revolution in baseball unfold before our eyes. 

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Three choices: Work to elect Dems, vote GOP, or stay home

Let us not engage in a circular firing squad

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I write this column as a Democrat. One who’s afraid our democracy is at risk and believing the Republicans in Congress are taking us to the abyss and leading a retreat on all the progress we have made in the areas of civil and human rights over the last 50 years.

There are three choices American voters have in the 2022 mid-term elections. The first option is to work hard to elect Democrats up and down the ballot. The second is to vote for Republicans, and the third is to stay home. If you believe LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, civil rights, DACA, and voting rights are crucial issues to move forward, then choosing anything but the first option is like the old cliché about ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face.’

We are seeing a spate of attacks on the president from various interest groups saying “he didn’t do enough or speak out enough on my issues.” In the LGBTQ community it’s the cover of last week’s Washington Blade and James Finn’s column ‘Biden’s empty political theater on LGBTQ equality.’ He gives short shrift to all Biden has done through Executive Orders, regulation and the hiring of countless members of the LGBTQ community, all of which the Human Rights Campaign recently highlighted in praise of the president. 

Among the actions HRC mentions are: within the first week in office an executive order repealing the Trump-era ban on transgender military service; having the Department of Housing and Urban development withdraw a Trump-era proposal to gut the equal access rule; having the State Department make changes to passport gender markers to include intersex and non-binary people; have the administration form an interagency working group to focus on the safety, inclusion, and opportunities for transgender persons; appoint as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg who became the first Senate-confirmed gay member of a president’s Cabinet and had Dr. Rachel Levine, a transgender woman, confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS and then seeing her promoted to four-star admiral. 

In his column, Finn counters his own claim Biden speaking out more could have seen the Equality Act pass when he admits without a change in the Senate filibuster rule it won’t. He agrees Biden doesn’t control either Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) or Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) who along with every Republican won’t vote to change it. 

Then Finn tries to speak for the LGBTQ community and threatens, “We won’t vote for Biden again.” First, Joe Biden’s name is not on the ballot in 2022. Yes, he will have a clear impact on the elections and understands that. During his recent press conference he said he would be “on the road” talking about the positive things he and the Democratic Congress have accomplished and why voting for Democrats is so important to all he still wants to accomplish. It is my fervent hope Finn and others like him in various communities understand instead of attacking Biden at this time they should be out in the community at a minimum explaining to  Democrats and independent voters who support more progressive issues, including all those who understand how important it is to act now on climate change, “if you want to get anything on your issue done in the next two years of the Biden/Harris administration, you must get out and vote for Democrats up and down the ballot.”

It is important to recognize how we must view the Biden administration and this president. Since the day he was inaugurated, the country has been in the midst of a pandemic. So yes, the president was forced to spend an incredible amount of his time dealing with and speaking about COVID. He was right to do so as millions of our fellow citizens were, and still are, getting sick and dying. While he was doing this, President Biden moved Congress to pass legislation totaling over $3.1 trillion to help the American people. This included both the American Rescue Plan, which Democrats passed using reconciliation, and the infrastructure bill, which got passed with bipartisan support in the Senate. 

The American Rescue Plan’s goal was to give the American economy a boost, which it did. It included more than $569.5 billion in direct Economic Impact Payments for Americans in need. It also had $350 billion earmarked for emergency funding for state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The infrastructure bill “included among other things $312 billion for roads, bridges, public transit, airports, ports, waterways and other transportation-related needs and $266 billion for items including improvements to the power grid and developing broadband internet access for most Americans.”

In his recent press conference, Biden agreed that without a change in the filibuster rule some of his proposals will not be passed. He said he will continue to fight aggressively for all of them but at the same time will work with Congress to try to get some of his Build Back Better bill passed in smaller chunks. Even that won’t be easy. But he committed to continue to fight for what he believes in and what he ran on. Let us give him credit for an amazing first year, better than any president since Franklin Roosevelt.

Let’s focus on keeping the House of Representatives in Democratic hands and adding to Democratic numbers in the Senate. That will give Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) a better chance of passing legislation Biden supports. 

It is time to stop the attacks on President Biden and Democrats for not doing enough and changing tactics to focus on attacking Republicans who are doing nothing and worse are committed to taking us backwards on a host of issues including Roe v. Wade, voting rights, civil rights and LGBTQ rights. Let those of us committed to progress be unified in attacking Republicans instead of forming a circular firing squad attacking Democrats, and participating in our own defeat. 

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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