Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trump Nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch To U.S. Supreme Court

And the winner in the final "rose ceremony" in this season's SCOTUS nominee sweepstakes is...

Judge Neil Gorsuch has been nominated by President Trump to fill the vacancy left in the passing of Antonin Scalia.

From ABC News:

Gorsuch, 49, is currently a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote.

Gorsuch sided with Christian employers and religious organizations in the Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases. The plaintiffs argued for an exemption from the contraception mandate in President Obama's signature health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, due to religious beliefs.

In the Hobby Lobby case, Gorsuch wrote, "The ACA’s mandate requires them to violate their religious faith by forcing them to lend an impermissible degree of assistance to conduct their religion teaches to be gravely wrong.”

When it comes to criminal procedure, he dissented in the United States v. Carlos case, arguing that police officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they entered a home that had a "No Trespassing" sign posted.

If nominated, Gorsuch would be the youngest Supreme Court nominee in about 25 years.

At 49 years old, Gorsuch would be the youngest Supreme Court justice in about 25 years.

Executive Director Rea Carey of the National LGBTQ Task Force issued the following statement, via press release, regarding the nomination:

“Judge Neil Gorsuch’s record reveals a jurist who: believes that bosses should control their employees’ private health care decisions; supports the misuse of religion to legalize discrimination; and holds LGBTQ equality with disdain. He is also a darling of those who are vehemently opposed to marriage equality. He seems like someone who aligns perfectly with Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s view of the world, but is completely out of touch with the realities of most people’s lives."

Out Music: Summer Luk "Part Of Me"

Summer Luk, who describes herself as "a musician who's trans, not a trans musician,' shares a personal essay with The Advocate about her new music video, "Part of Me."

In the op-ed, Luk explains why she fought against the narrative that trans women should be limited to portrayals that are only "sad and painful."

Through music, I get to tell a different story about myself. Although my song “Part of Me” isn’t revolutionary or radical, it is a song that gives me permission to feel the feelings that I had to suppress as a youth in a conservative Christian household. This song, like all my other songs, was my way of learning to see myself through my own eyes and to acknowledge that while there’s a part of me that has experienced sadness, there are also parts of me that are silly, sassy, and even downright cheesy. I believe that only when I can acknowledge all these parts will I find the strength to move forward because I’m not leaving any part of me behind.

That is why I’ll always do what I’m not supposed to do as a musician who happens to be trans. That is why I will always write, perform, and exist not as a trans musician but as a musician who is trans.

Learn more about Summer Luk in this Refinery29 Q&A.

Check out the music video for "Part of Me" below. It's fun, light and pop-y.

Plus, she's got great taste in music video crushes.

News Round-Up: January 31, 2017

(image courtesy of Sundance)

Some news items you may have missed:

• After a splashy world premiere at Sundance Film Festival, BEACH RATS, a gritty coming-of-age tale about a Brooklyn teen’s struggles to come to grips with being gay, has been picked up by new indie label Neon.

• Trump son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may be feeling squeezed out of his power position in the White House.

• Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins aren't completely sold on billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. #TheresHope

• New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who forced "The Donald" to settle his Trump University lawsuits for $25 million, is joining the ACLU's lawsuit against Trump's travel ban.

• Awkward - in 2015, during now-fired acting Attorney General Sarah Yates' confirmation hearings, Sen. Jeff Sessions queried Yates about her responsibility to then-President Obama should he ask her to defend "unlawful" orders. Kinda like yesterday which led to her getting canned?

• Lead singer and chief songwriter for 80s band Asia, John Weston, passed away at the age of 67 of colon cancer. The band's debut single, "The Heat of the Moment," spent 6 weeks on top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in 1982. I thought the 10/8 meter of the verse was the coolest thing. Loved Asia.

Billionaire Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos Squeaks By Senate Committee On 12-11 Vote

Although it appears she was caught plagiarizing her answers in written responses to questions from Senators, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was approved out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee by a vote of 12-11.

From ABC News:

President Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos to be education secretary was sent today to the full U.S. Senate for confirmation on a tight 12-11 party line vote in committee after a fractious debate over her qualifications.

The vote on the nomination of DeVos, a controversial figure in Michigan politics and education, raised hackles among Democrats in the Senate, who argued throughout a contentious hearing two weeks ago and today’s debate that she knows too little about federal education policy and would undermine public schools.

Republicans, in the majority in both the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the full Senate, defended her as being committed to children even if she has been a key supporter of school choice and vouchers — though two GOP members signaled that their votes in the committee today did not necessarily guarantee support on the Senate floor.

White House Announces LGBT Executive Order Will Remain Intact

The White House issued this statement last night in regards to rumors that the Trump administration was circulating an executive order draft which would repeal President Obama's LGBT protections.

Office of the Press Secretary
January 31, 2017

President Donald J. Trump Will Continue to Enforce Executive Order Protecting the Rights of the LGBTQ Community in the Workplace

President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election. The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression. The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.

President Obama's 2014 executive order was the first ever to bar federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees. The EO was, in part, a response to the GOP-controlled Congress who clearly were never going to pass the dead-on-arrival Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Although this is good news, it does not mean President Trump may attempt to issue additional executive orders which may give some kind of "religious freedom" clause.

Given the past few days chaos over Trump's immigration EO, plus the fact I believe the sources who reported the draft of a repeal, I tend to believe Trump wasn't up for more protests.

This is just my gut, but I think the EO draft may have been the brain child of notoriously anti-LGBT Vice President Mike Pence in an attempt to appease social conservatives in the Republican party.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, issued a statement which read in part, “L.G.B.T.Q. refugees, immigrants, Muslims and women are scared today, and with good reason,” Mr. Griffin said. “Donald Trump has done nothing but undermine equality since he set foot in the White House.”

Monday, January 30, 2017

New Trailer For Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Gorgeous new trailer for live action Beauty and the Beast from Disney.

In theaters March 17.

Boy Scouts Of America Will Allow Transgender Scouts

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that, beginning immediately, the Boy Scouts of America will allow transgender youth who identify as boys to enroll in scouting programs:

The organization announced it had made the decision to begin basing enrollment in its boys-only programs on the gender a child or parent lists on the application to become a scout. The organization had previously held a policy that relied on the gender listed on a child's birth certificate for those programs.

Rebecca Rausch, a spokeswoman for the organization, emailed a statement Monday. She said the organization's leadership had considered a recent case in Secaucus, New Jersey, where an 8-year-old transgender child had been asked to leave his Scout troop after parents and leaders found out he is transgender, but the change was made because of the larger conversation about gender identity going on around the country.

"For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual's birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs," the statement said. "However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state."

Washington Post Confirms Draft Of Trump Executive Order On LGBT Issues

Many LGBTs across the country have feared, since the election of Donald Trump, that our rights and protections could come under fire with a Trump administration.

It appears that our concerns may be born out later this week.

This afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer dodged a direct question about a possible anti-LGBT executive order: “I’m not gonna get ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue. There’s a lot of executive orders, a lot of things that the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill. But we have nothing on that front right now.”

An hour later, Washington Post reporter Josh Rogin tweeted that there is, indeed, a draft of an executive order addressing LGBT issues.

Watch below (49:14 mark) as Spicer side-steps the question on a possible LGBT executive order:

Trump Executive Order Targeting LGBTs Could Come This Week

It's not all that surprising, when you consider that President Trump has promised to sign the so-called First Amendment Defense Act which would legalize anti-LGBT business discrimination nationwide, that sources are saying an executive order allowing discrimination against LGBTs is expected from the Trump White House.

The expectation is that the EO would affect areas of employment, social services, business, and adoption.

From LGBTQ Nation:

From what we’ve heard, the executive order could be far-reaching, and could include: making taxpayer funds available for discrimination against LGBTQ people in social services; allow federally funded adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ parents; eliminate non-discrimination protections in order to make it possible to fire federal employers and contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; and allow federal employees to refuse to serve people based on the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and that gender is an immutable characteristic set at birth, which would impact a broad range of federal benefits.

The order is expected to come in the packaging of so-called “religious freedom,” which argues that someone’s religious beliefs should be enough to prevent them from having to provide goods and services to members of the LGBTQ community if doing so would conflict with said beliefs.

The Human Rights Campaign's JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs, issued a statement which read in part:

“The rumors of an anti-LGBTQ executive action by President Trump are deeply troubling. We already know that he is willing to target and marginalize at-risk communities for his perceived political gain. As the President and his team plan their next steps, we want to make one thing clear: we won't give one inch when it comes to defending equality, whether it is a full-on frontal assault or an attack under the guise of religion. Mike Pence should know that better than anyone given his track record in Indiana.

“The Human Rights Campaign will stand with those who have already been targeted by this Administration and are prepared to fight tooth and nail against every effort to discriminate.”

When asked about the reports, White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to answer the question.

Cartoon Of The Day

White House: No Apology For Detaining 5 Year Old Due To Immigration Order

Earlier today, White House press secretary defended the detaining of a 5 year old Iranian boy over the weekend due to President Trump's immigration order by saying, "To assume that just because of someone’s age or gender or whatever that they don’t pose a threat would be misguided and wrong.”

Via RawStory:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday that the Trump administration would not apologize for detaining a 5-year-old Iranian boy because it was done to keep the country safe.

Video published by WJLA over the weekend showed the 5-year-old boy being reunited with his mother after he was detained at Washington Dulles International Airport for hours on Saturday.

“The president recognizes that it is his duty and obligation to keep this country safe,” Spicer explained. “And by instituting a process by which we look at these countries over a 90-day period and the process by which the people can come in out of this country to ensure the safety of each and every one of us, I think, is something that makes a heck of a lot of sense.”

“When you look at the 329,000 people [who traveled to the U.S. over the weekend], 109 were inconvenienced for the safety and security of us all,” the Trump spokesman said. “And to make sure that, if they are a 5 year old, that maybe they’re with their parents and they don’t pose a threat.”

“But to assume that just because of someone’s age or gender or whatever that they don’t pose a threat would be misguided and wrong.”

Watch below:

Daily Dance

President Obama: 'Fundamentally Disagrees' With Trump Immigration Order

President Obama has issued a statement regarding President Trump's controversial immigration executive order:

President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as President, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy -- not just during an election but every day.

Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.

With regard to comparisons to President Obama's foreign policy decisions, as we've heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.

While normally former presidents don't chime in on a new president's actions, in that the Trump administration has brought up Obama's name as "having done the same thing" regarding immigration bans in the past, I think it's fair game for Obama to issue a statement.

In the past 24 hours, Trump representatives have begun pointing to a ban of Iraq immigrants during Obama's time in the White House.

From CNN:

Trump's order temporarily banned immigration from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia and indefinitely stopped Syrian refugees from coming to the United States.

Though the current White House has compared Trump's action to what Obama did in 2011 when "he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months," Obama's move was much narrower in scope. It was crafted in response to two Iraqi refugees implicated in a bomb making scheme and while it did not outright ban refugees from coming to the United States, it did increase the amount of vetting each Iraqi refugee received.

It's a curious tactic, in my view, for Trump to campaign on a strong message of criticizing everything the Obama administration did, and then once in office and use an excuse of "Obama did it."


Vanessa Williams Honored As 2017 "Woman Of The Year" By Nevada Ballet Theatre

Me with Vanessa Williams, husband Jim Skrip and my hubby Michael Caprio
at pre-gala reception hosted by Fendi (all photos by Denise Truscello)

I had the distinct privilege of paying tribute to my longtime college pal and gorgeous superstar, Vanessa Williams, Saturday night as she was honored in Las Vegas by the Nevada Ballet Theatre as their 2017 "Woman of the Year."

Vanessa and I both entered Syracuse University as freshmen music theatre majors in the fall of 1981, and have remained close friends since then.

Nevada Ballet Theatre has a long history of honoring women of distinction at their annual gala event. Of the many luminaries honored in the past, several come from the world of Broadway including Chita Rivera, Carol Channing, Debbie Reynolds, Bette Midler and Debbie Allen (who served as Vanessa's Honorary Chair this year).

In addition to being a leading ballet company in the U.S., NBT provides premiere dance education to young people in Southern Nevada in order to groom the next generation of dance enthusiasts. NBT's Academy is regarded as one of the top ballet training centers in Las Vegas.

Plus, their many outreach programs take the art form of dance to students in underserved kids across Southern Nevada. Future Dance and its many initiatives provide scholarship opportunities to over 400 students a year and the program successfully reaches over 20,000 students annually.

Longtime friend David Weinreb, the CEO of the Howard Hughes Corporation which sponsored the evening, was the Dinner Chair and introduced Vanessa as she made her grand entrance into the ballroom at the Aria Hotel. One of the highlights of the night was a couple of swinging 'surprise duets' by Vanessa and Weinreb (“On a Clear Day” & “On the Sunny Side of the Street").

Before she took to the stage to accept the evening's honor, I was asked to pay tribute to Vanessa. Including the requisite list of awards and nominations that Vanessa has deservedly received over the years (from the Grammys to the Emmys to the NAACP Image Awards and more), I shared a personal anecdote from a few years ago when I had reached the end of my cancer journey in 2009.

While my chemotherapy treatments had done the trick, they had left me completely hairless and severely bloated making me almost unrecognizable. I looked like "Uncle Fester" from The Addams Family. I was very self-conscious to the point of being demoralized.

I was set to attend one of Vanessa's concerts here in Las Vegas during that time and worried about shocking her when I went backstage. But Vanessa, always so intuitive to her friends, handled the "reveal" perfectly.

As she rounded the corner and saw me, Vanessa didn’t break stride, she didn’t blink, she didn’t miss a beat as she hugged me exactly as she always does.

She then held me at arm’s length and said with that sassy Vanessa Williams tone said, “You look fab with your bald head.”

She followed that with some of the most beautiful words in the English language: “Do you want to hang backstage and have chardonnay and fried chicken?”

As I remembered that story, it occurred to me that “chardonnay and fried chicken” is actually a perfect metaphor for the Vanessa Williams who’s friendship I love so much.

Like chardonnay, she’s always elegant, light, bright and intoxicating. And like fried chicken, she is truly “Soul Food” - always making everyone around her feel comfortable, relaxed and at home.

Vanessa, glamorous as always, wearing a gown by Christian Siriano, took time during her acceptance speech to advocate for the arts,  saying in part, "They are essential for mankind.”

You can check out a few photos below, all by the fantastic Denise Truscello (click pics to enlarge).

"But us, old friend, what's to discuss, old friend?
Here's to us; who's like us?
Damn few..."

What an honor to introduce Vanessa Williams at the
Nevada Ballet Theatre's 2017 Black & White Ball 
Vanessa Williams accepting her honor from Nevada Ballet Theatre
as 2017 Woman of the Year

Vanessa Williams (C) with dancers from the Nevada Ballet Theatre & the NBT board

Jim, Michael, Vanessa and me at the table during the event.
It's The Black & White Ball, so there's got to be a b/w photo, right?

Michael, Vanessa, Jim and I on our way from pre-event reception to the gala
I think of this as our "Reservoir Dogs" shot :)

Funny (Not So Funny) Super-Cut Of Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos' "Defensive Smiling"

The Washington Post reports on the growing pushback on the nomination of billionaire Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

Over 300 lawmakers from all 50 states have announced they oppose DeVos for the position, in great part because she has no experience in education.

Labor unions, civil rights leaders and advocates for children with disabilities have all joined the growing chorus of naysayers.

In addition to her lack of experience as an educator, she has no training or degrees in the area of education. She's worked for years to undermine public schools in favor of a voucher system that would allow parents to take public school money and shift that to private, for-profit schools.

And, of course, we all know the millions she and her family have donated to anti-LGBT groups like the Family Research Council.

After her confirmation hearing, I noted that I found her disingenuous smile to be smug and grating. It looks like I wasn't the only one.

Check out this viral video (below) from Super Deluxe - "Betsy DeVos: Defensive Smiling"

(h/t JoeMyGod)

Best Moments From The 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards

My favorite moments from last night's Screen Actors Guild Awards:

Podcast: The Week In LGBT News - AGT's Brian Justin Crum; Recapping LGBT Legislation

My weekly podcast recaps the past week's most compelling pop culture, political and entertainment news of interest to the LGBT community.

On this week's show:

America's Got Talent's Brian Justin Crum drops his first single since the TV talent competition - "Show Me Love" featuring Toy Armada and DJ Grind. Find it here on iTunes.

• Conservative Wyoming legislators withdraw anti-LGBT legislation House Bill 135

• North Carolina's Republican state Senate Leader says his state's hateful "bathroom bill" - HB2 - isn't going away any time soon

• Woofy Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims introduced a bill that would outlaw so-called "conversion" or "ex-gay" therapy

• How would the repeal of the Affordable Care Act affect LGBTs?

• Republicans in Congress plan to re-introduce the "First Amendment Defense Act" which would allow anti-LGBT folks to discriminate same-sex couples

• President Trump has a bumpy week as his administration proposes a 20% tax on Mexican imports to pay for "The Wall," and his immigration plans cause protests across the country

You can click here to subscribe to The Randy Report podcast for free from iTunes.

Click below to listen to this week's show:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

News Round-Up: January 29, 2017

Some news items you may have missed:

• Ignacio Pérez Rey (above) says this is what a hangover looks like. Looks good to me #morewine #grrrr

• Sir Elton John and Paul Rudnick are working on a stage musical adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada.

• North Carolina state Senate Leader says anti-LGBT "bathroom bill" HB2 isn't going anywhere any time soon.

• Congressional Republicans will reintroduce the anti-LGBT legislation the First Amendment Defense Act. The bill, which President Trump has promised to sign into law, would allow anyone with "deeply held religious beliefs" to legally discriminate against LGBTs.

• In light of Uber's CEO willingness to work with President Trump, and ridesharing rival Lyft's announcement to donate $1 million to the ACLU, folks are dumping and deleting their Uber accounts in massive numbers.

• In case you haven't been paying attention, folks in the "pro-life" movement not only want to outlaw safe abortions, they think "the pill" and IUDs should be illegal as well.

President Trump's Immigration Policy Could Cause Whiplash

President Donald Trump
Today there are massive protests continuing across the U.S., including in front of the White House, against the president’s executive order regarding immigration which:

• suspends the entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days

• halts the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely

• bars entry for three months to residents from Muslim-majority countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen

It's understandable that folks have been confused about the reach of President Trump's immigration plan.

Not only does it affect refugees and residents from the countries listed above, it's been back and forth whether the decree includes those "green card" holders who are legal permanent residents of the United States.

Apparently, the policy was hammered out by the White House policy team, avoiding the usual interagency process that would normally assist in providing operational guidance.

On Friday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Department of Homeland Security leadership saw the final details just before the order was finalized, government officials said. Officials at DHS determined that the executive order's restrictions did not apply to green card holders.

On Saturday night, the Department of Homeland Security reversed, saying that the president’s order did apply to green card holders who were traveling to the United States from the seven countries affected.

Later, White House officials announced that green card holders from the seven countries would need a case-by-case waiver to return.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told NBC News' Meet The Press: “As far as green card holders, moving forward, it doesn’t affect them.” He later added: "If you're traveling back and forth you're going to be subjected to further screening."

Saturday afternoon in the Oval Office, when asked about the rollout, Trump said all governmental agencies were "totally prepared."

"It's working out very nicely," Trump told reporters. "You see it at the airports. You see it all over. It's working out very nicely and we're going to have a very, very strict ban, and we're going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years."


Nevada Leads The U.S. In Job Creation

Hey, hey, hey - my homestate of Nevada has moved from zero to hero in Gallup's Job Creation Index.

Nevada led the way as the U.S. showed strong job growth in 2016, scoring highest among all states in Gallup's 2016 Job Creation Index.

The rise to the top spot completed a six-year climb for Nevada, which ranked last among the states in both 2009 and 2010.

Moving in the other direction, Wyoming scored last among the states for 2016 -- eight years after topping Gallup's first Job Creation Index in 2008.

Each night in its Gallup Daily tracking survey, Gallup asks employed Americans to report on hiring activity at their place of work. Gallup's Job Creation Index is based on the percentage of workers saying their place of employment is increasing the size of its workforce, minus the percentage saying their place of employment is reducing the size of its workforce.

For the nation overall, the Job Creation Index score has grown each year since 2009, from -1 to +32 in 2016 (43% hiring, 11% letting go).

Trump Elevates Steve Bannon To National Security Council

Steve Bannon
This would have made bigger headlines yesterday were it not for the protests at airports over President Trump's executive order on immigration.

This is a big deal.

From Business Insider:

President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum Saturday that removed the nation's top military and intelligence advisers as regular attendees of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, the interagency forum that deals with policy issues affecting national security.

The executive measure established Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon as a regular attendee, whereas the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence will be allowed to participate only "where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed."

"The appointment of Mr. Bannon is something which is a radical departure from any National Security Council in history," Republican Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday.

"The one person who is indispensable would be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in my view," McCain added. "So it’s of concern, this 'reorganization.'"

John Bellinger, an adjunct senior fellow in International and National Security Law at the Council on Foreign Relations and former legal adviser to the National Security Council, wrote on Saturday that the change is "unusual."

"In the Bush administration, Karl Rove would not attend NSC meetings," Bellinger said. "According to former Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, President Bush did not want to appear, especially to the military, to insert domestic politics into national security decision-making."

With his permanent seat at the NSC meetings, Bannon has been elevated above the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, who was not offered an open invitation.

Remember that Steve Bannon has no experience in national security. He ran a white nationalist propaganda website until six months ago.

Hillary Clinton: "I Stand With The People"

In a rare public statement since the presidential election, Hillary Clinton expressed her support for those opposed to President Trump's ill-conceived executive order banning immigration from Muslim-majority nations.

"I stand with the people gathered across our country tonight defending our values & our Constitution. This is not who we are."

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Kellyanne Conway Gloats Over Immigrant Ban: "Get Used To It"

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway caused a stir on Twitter today as she crowed about the response to President Trump's executive order banning immigrants from 7 Muslim-majority nations.

"Get used to it. @POTUS is a man of action and impact. Promises made, promises kept. Shock to the system. And he's just getting started."

Backlash to the executive order has already begun as the Iranian foreign ministry that says Iran will resort to “counteraction” to Trump’s executive order.

“Iran, to defend the dignity of the great Iranian nation, will implement the principle of reciprocity until the removal of the insulting restriction against Iranian nationals," the statement reads. “It will apply corresponding legal, consular and political actions.”

Canadian Prime Minister welcomed refugees, including those now blocked from the US:

And then, there's the rest of the Twitterverse:

Legal US Residents Included In Trump Immigration Executive Order

Reuters has confirmed with the Trump administration that current green card holders (legal permanent U.S. residents) will be affected by President Trump's newly signed executive order banning folks from seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa:

People holding so-called green cards, making them legal permanent U.S. residents, are included in President Donald Trump’s executive action temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, a Department of Homeland security spokeswoman said on Saturday.

“It will bar green card holders,” Gillian Christensen, acting Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, said in an email.

Trump Signs Executive Order Banning Syrian Refugees Indefinitely

President Trump signed on Friday an executive order which bans citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East from entering the United States for 90 days, and puts in place an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.

From the New York Times:

The executive order suspends the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days and directs officials to determine additional screening ”to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States.”

The order also stops the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and bars entry into the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Announcing his “extreme vetting” plan, the president invoked the specter of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Most of the 19 hijackers on the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pa., were from Saudi Arabia. The rest were from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon. None of those countries are on Mr. Trump’s visa ban list.

Human rights activists roundly condemned Mr. Trump’s actions, describing them as officially sanctioned religious persecution dressed up to look like an effort to make the United States safer.

Just to recap:

Banned by Trump's executive order: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia & Yemen

Hijackers on 9/11 were from: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE & Lebanon

So, while Trump invokes the history of 9/11, we aren't banning folks from the countries our attackers came from...?

Hint: Bloomberg News notes that Donald Trump has business dealings in several of the non-banned countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE.

Remind me again how Trump doesn't have conflicts of interest.

It's worth noting that a study of terrorist attacks on US soil between 1975 and 2015 conducted by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute concluded foreign nationals from the seven countries listed in the president's executive order have killed zero Americans.

According to Reuters, even folks who have been granted "green cards," making them permanent legal U.S. residents, will be affected by the ban if they are originally from one of the seven countries listed. If currently traveling outside the U.S., those folks from the banned countries - even with green cards - will not be able to get back home now.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Matt Baume On How The Repeal Of Obamacare Would Affect LGBTs

From super-smart guy Matt Baume (via Huffington Post):

If the ACA is repealed, as Republicans are trying to do, not only would 32 million people lose health care, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but LGBTs would be disproportionately affected. And “disproportionately affected” is a phrase which here means “get sick and die.”

For example, HIV treatment can cost thousands of dollars per month. Insurance companies that don’t want to pay for that treatment could just refuse to cover all gay people on the basis that gay men are more likely to be HIV positive. Or they could raise monthly premiums just for gays. Or they could create a lifetime cap, so you pay into their system and then as soon as you need expensive treatment, they drop you. All this was legal until the ACA banned it.

Wyoming Lawmakers Withdraw "License To Discriminate" Bill

Last week, I reported on newly introduced legislation in Wyoming titled "The Government Non-discrimination Act" that would legalize the right to discriminate against LGBTs by anyone who declared a "deeply held religious belief."

At the time, the ACLU of Wyoming protested, issuing a statement which read in part, "The Government Discrimination Act’s effects would be significant and immediate. Laramie’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance would be unenforceable, and potentially even illegal. No other city would be allowed to enact non-discrimination protections. County clerks would be allowed to deny same-sex couples a marriage license, and would be able to do so without consequence."

Today, House Bill 135 was recalled by the bill's sponsors.

From The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle:

The action was in order to “give Wyoming citizens time for more thorough consideration,” the bill’s sponsors said in a statement emailed to media members Thursday afternoon. Supporters of House Bill 135 said it would protect the “free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions,” while critics said it would let people use those beliefs to discriminate against LGBT people.

“The intention of this bill has always been to hold Wyoming to the highest standard in terms of equal protection under the law,” Rep. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle [photo], said in a news release. “The religious freedoms guaranteed to each and every one of us are the bedrock on which our Constitution is founded. When these unalienable rights are threatened, so too is every other constitutional right we enjoy.”

“I’m overjoyed,” said Sara Burlingame of Wyoming Equality, a group that advocates for LGBT people. “The vast majority of folks saw this bill for what it was and rejected it outright.” Burlingame said the bill would have allowed people, including government officials, to refuse service to LGBT people based on religious beliefs. She said the bill would have also been an “economic disaster” for Wyoming.

Friday Funk: Urban Cone "Old School"

Swedish alt-pop band Urban Cone, recently signed to Interscope Records, drops their new single “Old School” today.

Via press release:
Lyrically “Old School,” calls out the lack of romance among young people in today’s society, says vocalist/bassist Emil Gustafsson.

“There are a lot of dating apps and it’s all about hooking up as quickly as possible. We wanted to make a song that said, ‘Let’s do it old school, like the old days.’

When you meet a girl you’re interested in, call her on the phone. Ask her for a date. Give her flowers. Take her on a drive; something more than just swiping on a screen. Technology makes it so simple that it cuts out the romantic feeling of getting to know someone.”
The single, flavored with body bouncing hip-hop beats and funky guitars, is now available for streaming and download via all digital outlets.

More info on Urban Cone at their official website. You check out "Old School" below:

Sen. Al Franken: All Senate Democrats Will Oppose Confirming DeVos As Education Secretary

During an appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show last night, Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota announced all of the Democrats on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will vote against confirming Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary, billionaire Betsy DeVos.

From ThinkProgress:

Unlike [Dr. Ben] Carson, who avoided disagreeing with senators during [his] confirmation, DeVos played it less safe and showed her lack of knowledge on education policy in a variety of areas. DeVos was not aware of a federal law protecting the rights of students with disabilities, did not appear to understand a question about measuring school quality, and suggested that schools needed guns to protect students from grizzly bears.

Her grizzly bear comment received the most attention, but DeVos also refused to say she would enforce 2011 guidance that uses a preponderance of evidence standard in investigations of campus sexual assault. This standard allows a disciplinary panel to make a decision based on which party’s evidence has greater weight rather than requiring clear and convincing evidence. Advocates for campus sexual assault survivors have long supported the guidance.

DeVos also avoided making detailed remarks about LGBTQ rights during the hearing. This week, DeVos said she supports same-sex marriage. In 1999, DeVos and her husband gave $275,000 to Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian non-profit organization which believes in gay conversion therapy, a harmful practice, but haven’t given money to the organization since. DeVos’ refusal to say she would support the 2011 guidance on campus rape — as well as her donations to a group that opposes the guidance— would seriously affect LGBTQ people. LGBTQ students are disproportionately the victims of campus sexual violence and harassment.

DeVos’ confirmation process is also different from Carson’s in the respect that well-organized national teachers unions fiercely oppose her. DeVos’ support of vouchers for private schools and for the expansion of charter schools has incensed public school teachers, who don’t want to see schools lose federal funding. During her hearing, DeVos dodged a question to vow that she wouldn’t take a cent from public schools. Last week, teachers and their allies protested against her nomination by gathering in front of schools in over 200 cities.

Bald & Buff "Mr. Clean" Has The Moves In New Super Bowl Commercial

Check out the new Super Bowl commercial for bald and buff "Mr. Clean," in a white tee and tight jeans. Clearly MC never skips squat day at the gym.

This should brighten your Friday :)

Documentary Trailer: "The Freedom To Marry"

The award winning LGBT documentary, The Freedom To Marry, gets a limited release in theaters with screenings in New York (March 3rd at the Village East) and in Los Angeles March 10th (at the Laemmle Monica).

The film follows the decades long work of true LGBT heroes Evan Wolfson (Founder/President, Freedom to Marry), Mary Bonauto (Civil Rights Attorney, GLAD) and Marc Solomon (National Campaign Director, Freedom to Marry).

Via press release:

One of the most surprising things about the same sex marriage movement is that it was carefully planned and orchestrated over decades. THE FREEDOM TO MARRY is an intimate and epic documentary that goes behind-the-scenes to reveal the inner workings and key players of this historic civil rights battle. This is a riveting ride alongside Evan Wolfson, the man known as architect of the movement, civil rights attorney Mary Bonauto, and their colleagues as they wage their climactic battle before the United States Supreme Court.

THE FREEDOM TO MARRY offers perspective not just on one movement's history - but on how regular people can only fight back, even against incredible odds. This is a unique and timely story of how beleaguered underdogs actually can win.

More info about the film at the official website here, and you can watch the trailer below:

'Voter Fraud' Conspiracy Theorist Believes But Can't Prove "Illegal" Voting Scandal

As President Trump continues to push his "voter fraud" conspiracy theory on the American people, CNN's New Day interviewed Votestand founder Gregg Phillips, one of the men who believes that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton somehow received over 3 million "illegal" votes.

Phillips actually made his claims of "voter fraud" via Twitter long before the certified results of the election were made public.

This is the tweet that caught Donald Trump's attention three days after the election.

And while confident of his theory, he tells CNN's Chris Cuomo he doesn't currently have the evidence to prove it.

From Rawstory:

“You say you can prove it,” Cuomo said of Phillips’s voter fraud claims. “I say, ‘OK, I trust you, you can prove it.’ Show me.”

“We believe it will take probably another few months to get this done,” Phillips said of when his team will be ready to publicly offer proof that he insists is ironclad.

“Even though you can’t prove it, you think you know?” a confused Cuomo asked.

“The numbers are actually bigger!” Phillips replied, apparently implying that Hillary Clinton actually received more than 3 million illegal votes.

Cuomo again pressed Phillips for how he could claim to know for certain that Clinton received millions of illegal votes without currently having the proper evidence to back up such a conclusion.

“You can reach a conclusion, and then still verify it,” Phillips responded.

Elsewhere in the segment, Cuomo questioned Phillips’s purported methods for finding voter fraud were at all precise, and he responded by saying, “We are as precise as we need to be.”

No sane person believes that 3 million people somehow fraudulently worked in a concerted effort to elect Hillary Clinton president. IF such an undertaking took place, why would the focus be on California and New York where Hillary was certain to win anyway, and not in swing states like Florida or Pennsylvania?

Watch the CNN interview below:

Thursday, January 26, 2017

GQ Gives President Trump A Make-Over "Because Somebody Has To"

"The Problems"

Since we don't have Queer Eye for the Straight Guy to help him out, GQ Magazine gives President Trump a make-over "because somebody had to."

You've got to admit it's an improvement.

But even GQ admits they can't make-over his policies.

The result

News Round-Up: January 26, 2017

Some news items you may have missed:

• Zac Efron (above via Instagram) is getting impatient about the release of the Baywatch movie on May 26.

• Organizers are working towards a "National Pride March" scheduled to take place on June 11th in Washington, D.C.

• Kelly Schneider, a 23 year old man from Idaho, has pled guilty to luring a gay man to a face to face meeting where Schneider savagely beat the man and left him to die.

• LGBTs stage "Queer Rage" dance party singing and dancing in the streets on the night before Republican lawmakers' retreat in Philadelphia.

• President Trump took to Twitter (where else?) to denounce the upcoming release of document leaker Chelsea Manning.

• The night of Donald Trump's inauguration, former Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine spent the evening officiating the wedding of Dea Jones and Sharon McLeod.

• Netflix announces a reboot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Good idea or no?

White House Strategist Steve Bannon: The Press Should "Keep Its Mouth Shut"

Steve Bannon
In a rare interview with mainstream media, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon lashed out at press outlets saying they should "keep its mouth shut."

From the New York Times:

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Mr. Bannon said during a telephone call.

“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

The scathing assessment — delivered by one of Mr. Trump’s most trusted and influential advisers, in the first days of his presidency — comes at a moment of high tension between the news media and the administration, with skirmishes over the size of Mr. Trump’s inaugural crowd and the president’s false claims that millions of illegal votes by undocumented immigrants swayed the popular vote against him.

Mr. Bannon, who rarely grants interviews to journalists outside of Breitbart News, the provocative right-wing website he ran until last August, was echoing comments by Mr. Trump this weekend, when the president said he was in “a running war” with the media and called journalists “among the most dishonest people on earth.”

“The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong,” Mr. Bannon said of the election, calling it “a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there.”

“The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign,” Mr. Bannon said. “Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: they were outright activists of the Clinton campaign.” (He did not name specific reporters or editors.)

“That’s why you have no power,” Mr. Bannon added. “You were humiliated.”

The NY Times added that during the phone call/interview, Bannon jokingly referred to himself as "Darth Vader," and Trump voters as “the working class hobbits and deplorables.”

Trump To Implement 20% Tax On All Imports From Mexico To Pay For Border Wall

President Trump (L), Mexican President Pena Nieto (R)

Now we know how President Trump plans to pay for the border wall he campaigned on so strenuously.

The New York Times reports:

President Trump plans to make Mexico pay for his border wall by imposing a 20 percent tax on all imports into the United States from Mexico, raising billions of dollars that would cover the cost of the new barrier.

The proposal, which Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said the president discussed privately with congressional Republicans before giving remarks at a party retreat here, would be a major new economic proposal that could have far-reaching implications for consumers, manufacturers and relations between the two governments.

Mr. Spicer said the 20 percent tax on annual Mexican imports would raise $10 billion a year and would easily pay for a border wall that is estimated to cost between $8 billion and $20 billion. The value of imported goods from Mexico in 2015 was $296 billion. Mr. Spicer said taxing imports is something that 160 other countries already do.

The new tax would be imposed on Mexico as part of a tax overhaul that Mr. Trump intends to pursue with the Republican Congress. Mr. Spicer said the tax initially would apply only to Mexico, but that the president supports imposing a 20 percent tax on all imports.

It seems to me that if this plan goes forward, it's the American people who will be paying for "the wall" buy having to pay 20% more for imported goods from Mexico.

The Times goes on to say new legislation would have to be crafted to implement such an import tax.

As earlier reported, a planned meeting of the two presidents scheduled for January 31 was cancelled today by the Mexican president. See tweet below from the Mexican president:

UPDATE - The White House is walking running this back now:

Bad Lip Reading: "Inauguration Day"

The funny folks at Bad Lip Reading knock it out of the park with their version of "Inauguration Day."

Over 10 million views in one day.

Multiple Polls Show Trump's First Days In Office Viewed Negatively

A new poll conducted by Quinnipiac University shows President Trump's first few days in office are not resonating with the American people.

From the survey:

• Trump begins with 36% of Americans disapproving vs. 44% job approving

• The results are worse when you look at the opinions of women polled - 33% approve while 50% disapprove

• No surprise that Trump enjoys healthy numbers from Republicans (81% vs. 3%), while Democrats disapprove (77% vs. 4%). Independent voters disapprove 45% vs. 35% approve

Additionally, there's slightly better news from Public Policy Polling, who have just released their latest survey which indicates the American people evenly split 44% approve/44% disapprove of Trump's first week in office.

Also from the PPP survey:

• Only 34% of voters want to build a wall with Mexico if American taxpayers have to pay up front for it, compared to 53% who are opposed to doing that

• Only 30% of voters think the best approach to healthcare in the US is to repeal the Affordable Care Act and start over, while 61% would prefer Congress to keep the Affordable Care Act and fix parts that aren't working

• 59% of voters think Trump needs to release his tax returns versus 32% who don't think it's necessary for him to

• 54% of voters would support a law requiring candidates for President to release 5 years of tax returns in order to appear on the ballot

The poll goes on to indicate that Americans feel Trump will be a worse president that Richard Nixon.