Started writing at 10:28 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 30, while sitting in my home office in Washington, D.C.
It’s always a struggle to categorize a particular year in one word, but monumental seems an appropriate adjective to describe 2011.
This year’s datelines included Santiago de Chile, Budapest, Fire Island, Philadelphia, Puerto Vallarta and Boston. My beautiful nephew Liam was born on March 26. Andrés and I celebrated our first anniversary in September. And I officially moved to the District of Columbia on Oct. 1.
I finally cut my hair in March. The 30th anniversary of the first cases of what became known as AIDS on June 5 provided a somber reminder that the epidemic is far from over. I was a proud New Yorker when the state Senate passed a marriage equality bill in a 33-29 vote on June 24. I turned 30 on Aug. 16. Hurricane Irene prompted a mandatory evacuation of Fire Island on Aug. 26, three days after an earthquake shook the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. President Barack Obama’s rose garden press conference on former Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s death on Oct. 20 coincided with a previously scheduled event for which I had been credentialed. I wore a sari for the first time. I quickly learned that many elected officials in the District of Columbia are utterly shameless. And machas a la parmesana are really, really delicious.
To a happy, healthy and just 2012!
Friday, December 30, 2011
Started writing at 10:28 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 30, while sitting in my home office in Washington, D.C.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Downtown Manchester was largely quiet on this post-Christmas Monday, but Republican presidential candidates’ staffers and volunteers were hard at work 15 days before the first-in-the-nation GOP primary.
Two volunteers with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s campaign stressed that presidential candidates should stay out of the ongoing debate over a bill that would repeal the state’s marriage equality law. A vote on the proposal could potentially coincide with the Jan. 10 primary, but a University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll in October found that 62 percent of likely voters oppose efforts to repeal the law that took effect in Jan. 2010.
Less than a mile south on Elm Street, staffers and volunteers were busy in former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign office. (An ad that features Romney talking about fiscal responsibility and another from Texas Congressman Ron Paul that specifically attacks the former Massachusetts governor, President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi just aired on WMUR. Another spot touted former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman as a “true conservative” compared to Gingrich and Romney. A fourth ad that features three Republicans and one Democrat who oppose the marriage equality repeal bill also ran towards the end of WMUR's 6 p.m. newscast.)
Less than two miles away, volunteers with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman were busy bringing signs and other supplies into the campaign’s Elm Street office. Signs for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry also lined the street. Others for Paul greeted drivers at the intersection of Queen City Avenue and South Willow Street.
Hordes of shoppers who descended upon the Mall of New Hampshire seemed oblivious to the upcoming vote.
On Elm Street.
Outside the Romney campaign's New Hampshire headquarters on Elm Street.
Gingrich touts his "21st Century Contract with America" in downtown Manchester.
Huntsman's campaign headquarters on Elm Street.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
A kiss can certainly speak volumes!
Two Navy officers on Tuesday, Dec. 20, became the first women to share a “first kiss” after Petty Officer Second Class Marissa Gaeta descended from the USS Oak Hill in Virginia Beach, Va. She and her partner, Petty Officer Third Class Citlalic Snell, shared a quick kiss in the rain on the dock.
President Barack Obama on Dec. 22, 2010, signed a bill that repealed the military's ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers. 'Don't ask, don't tell' officially ended on Sept. 20, but gay and lesbian servicemembers still face challenges.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Chadbourne and Parke filed a lawsuit in federal court in October on behalf of six gay and lesbian servicemembers and two veterans who allege the federal Defense of Marriage Act forces the military to deny them spouses benefits. Transgender servicemembers remain unable to serve openly. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and other Republican presidential candidates have said they would reinstate the Clinton-era policy if elected president.
"What a difference a year makes," said SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis in a press release that acknowledges the first anniversary of the president signing the DADT repeal bill into law. "But when it comes to achieving full equality in America's military for every qualified patriot who serves--regardless of sexual orientation--we are not there yet."
A group that opposes a bill that would repeal New Hampshire’s marriage equality law on Wednesday, Dec. 21, unveiled a new ad that urges lawmakers to vote against the measure.
Standing Up for New Hampshire Families said in a press release that the ad, which features Republicans Maxine Morse and Craig and Berta Stowell and Democrat Dan Calegari, will run in heavy rotation on WMUR next week.
“Politicians should let our neighbors live their lives and leave them alone,” said Morse, a long-time GOP activist from Portsmouth.
A House vote on the marriage equality repeal bill could coincide with the Jan. 10 presidential primary. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have both backed efforts to repeal the law. Standing Up for New Hampshire Families pointed out that more than 1,000 same-sex couples have married in the Granite State since the statute took effect in Jan. 2010.
Sixty-two percent of respondents who participated in a University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll in October said they oppose efforts to repeal the law. Eighty-one percent of them said marriage equality for gays and lesbians has not impacted their life.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Gallup reported on Monday, Dec. 19, that Congress ends the year with a historically low 11 percent approval rating. The congressional approval rating averaged only 17 percent in 2011, which is the lowest in Gallup's history.
A previous Gallup poll found that 64 percent of Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of members of Congress as either "low" or "very low."
Sunday, December 18, 2011
New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez endorsed marriage for same-sex couples in an op-ed that ran in the Star-Ledger on Sunday, Dec. 18.
“This comes down to an issue of fundamental fairness,” he wrote. “For me, this comes down to the principles I learned as the child of immigrants and that I cherish as an American: that we believe in equality for all people under the law.”
Menendez, who voted for the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, is the 32nd Senate sponsor of a bill that would repeal the Clinton-era law.
“Across our country, the attitudes of millions of Americans have changed on this issue and several states have acted to guarantee the freedom to marry to same-sex couples whose love for each other and life commitment to one another is no different from other couples,” he wrote. “These gay men and gay women defend our streets and our citizens as firefighters and police officers; they are small-business people who create jobs; they are teachers who prepare our children to compete in the future. And they are soldiers, Marines and sailors who have put their lives on the line for our country, fighting to protect our freedoms and to combat terrorists who threaten to attack us again.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee last month voted 10-8 to advance the DOMA repeal bill. A Human Rights Campaign and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll found that 51 percent of respondents oppose the Clinton-era law, but it remains unlikely that the DOMA repeal bill will pass during the current Congress.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney faced questions about pro-gay statements he made during his failed 1994 Senate campaign during the latest Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday, Dec. 15.
Fox News' Chris Wallace specifically asked Romney about a letter that he wrote to Log Cabin Republicans' Massachusetts chapter in Oct. 1994. Romney said that he would co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and pledged to work towards ending discrimination against gays and lesbians. He also suggested that he would prove a stronger advocate for gay and lesbian Americans than late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.
"I do not believe in discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation," Romney told Wallace in an increasingly tense exchange. "At the same time, I oppose same-sex marriage. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman."
Romney's comments come hours after a Log Cabin Republicans and the Human Rights Campaign criticized Romney for saying that he a three-tiered system that would allow same-sex couples who are legally married to maintain their status but prevent other gays and lesbians from following suit. A gay veteran challenged the former governor on his support of a bill that would repeal New Hampshire's marriage equality law during a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H., on Monday, Dec. 12.
Only one percent of those who took part in a Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll in February listed "stopping gay marriage" as a top priority going into the 2012 election cycle.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other American officials formally ended the war in Iraq earlier on Thursday, Dec. 15, with a ceremony in Baghdad.
"You will leave with great pride — lasting pride," Panetta told troops after American soldiers officially cased or retired the U.S. Forces Iraq flag at Baghdad International Airport, according to the Associated Press. "Secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to begin a new chapter in history."
The White House also marked the milestone with an interactive timeline on its website.
“American troops have served in Iraq with honor and distinction since March 19, 2003, but the cost to our nation has been great,” it wrote. “December 2011 marks the end of our mission in Iraq, and the fulfillment of a promise Barack Obama made to the American people even before he became president.”
The $800 billion conflict killed 4,434 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis. Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was toppled, but sectarian violence nearly tore the country apart. Iraq’s infrastructure remains in shambles after nearly nine years of conflict.
Will the end of the Iraq war amount to Obama’s mission accomplished moment?
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich a real conservative?
House Speaker John Boehner described Gingrich as such during Politico’s monthly Playbook Breakfast at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Dec. 14.
“It would be hard to describe Newt as not conservative,” Boehner told Politico reporter Mike Allen. “I’m not sure he’s as conservative as some people think he is, but Newt is a conservative.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continues to cast doubt on Gingrich’s conservative credentials ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3. The thrice-married Gingrich on Monday, Dec. 12, pledged to remain faithful to his wife Callista and defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act when he became the latest Republican presidential candidate to endorse the Family Leader’s so-called “marriage pledge.”
Is this enough to convince traditionally conservative Iowa caucusgoers?
A Public Policy Polling survey found that 22 percent of likely Iowa caucusgoers support Gingrich, compared 22 percent who back Texas Congressman Ron Paul and 16 percent who endorse Romney.
“We have a lot of good candidates out there,” said a non-committal Boehner when asked whether he would endorse Gingrich. “I’m sure the primary voters will select one of them. Whoever it is, I will be there to support.”
Monday, December 12, 2011
A gay Army veteran proved once again that New Hampshire voters can prove particularly problematic to presidential hopefuls who descend upon their state every four years.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney made small talk with Bob Garon during a campaign stop at Café Vachon in Manchester earlier on Monday, Dec. 12, before he sat next to him and his husband Bob Lemire. Garon asked Romney whether he supports efforts a bill that would repeal the Granite State’s marriage equality law.
“I support the repeal of the New Hampshire law,” said Romney. “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s my view.”
A University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll in October found that 81 percent of respondents said nuptials for gays and lesbians in New Hampshire have not impacted their life, but Romney continued to defend both the repeal bill and the federal Defense of Marriage Act in an increasingly tense and awkward exchange with Garon.
“I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” said Romney.
A new Gallup poll finds that a record 64 percent of Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of members of Congress as either “low” or “very low.”
In the same poll that was conducted between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1, 62 percent of respondents categorized the honesty and ethical standards of lobbyists as either “low” or “very low.” Eighty-four percent of respondents described the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as “very high” or “high.”
A Gallup poll last month found that only 13 percent of Americans approve of the way that Congress has handled its job. President Barack Obama’s approval rating averaged 43 percent during the last week of November.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño indicated to reporters on Friday, Dec. 9, that he supports the island’s current hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
The governor answered questions about the proposed changes to Puerto Rico’s penal code during a press conference at the Executive Mansion in San Juan.
“We hope he sticks to his word and uses his leadership to ensure those provisions remain in the penal code—and not only maintains those provisions, but orders his administration to enforce them,” said Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Singer Ricky Martin, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez are among those who have publicly spoken out against a proposed provision that the Puerto Rico Senate approved last month that would eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion and ethnicity from the island’s hate crimes law. More than 14,000 people have signed a petition that Jorge Sepulveda posted to Change.org earlier this week that urges Puerto Rican lawmakers to reject the measure.
The Puerto Rico House of Representatives is not expected to vote on the revised penal code during the special legislative session, but Fortuño said he hopes lawmakers will approve it sometime in early January.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The country's largest LGBT rights organization has once again blasted a proposed provision of Puerto Rico's new penal code that would eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and other categories from the island's hate crimes law.
“It would be unconscionable for Puerto Rico’s leaders to remove sexual orientation and gender identity from existing hate crime protections,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “This sends the dangerous message that it is acceptable to harass or harm LGBT people and would leave victims of hate crimes with no legal recourse. I urge Puerto Rico’s lawmakers not only to reject this homophobic legislation, but to push more aggressively to protect the well-being of LGBT Puerto Ricans.”
Singer Ricky Martin, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez are among those who have publicly spoken out against the proposed provision. Jorge Sepulveda posted a petition to Change.org late on Wednesday, Dec. 7, that urges Puerto Rican lawmakers to reject the measure.
"It is ironic that in the same week, we see President Obama and Hillary Clinton going to international groups and telling them to pass more laws to protect minorities, then in Puerto Rico you see the government doing the exact opposite," he told Boy in Bushwick earlier on Thursday, Dec. 8. "It’s shameful to see that."
Puerto Rico lawmakers are poised to debate the proposed provision when they consider the revised penal code during a special legislative session this week. Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz criticized House Judiciary Committee President Liza Fernández’s criticism of the proposed amended hate crimes law in an interview with Vocero on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Gutierrez urged Attorney General Eric Holder earlier on Thursday that he create a federal task force to investigate and prosecute hate crimes on the island. The U.S. Department of Justice cited the Puerto Rico Police Department's inadequate response to hate crimes as one of the PRPD's endemic deficiencies in a scathing report it issued in September. The Puerto Rico Department of Justice's own statistics indicate that prosecutors have not convicted anyone under the island's hate crimes law.
"If Puerto Rico doesn't want to protect its residents from attacks, violence and murder, then the federal authorities need to step in and ensure the most basic rights of life and liberty are protected," wrote Gutierrez.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Does Rick Perry think homophobia is a viable way to court voters ahead of the Iowa caucuses?
His latest campaign advertisement seems to suggest he is willing to throw LGBT Americans under the bus to bolster his languishing campaign ahead of the Jan. 3 caucuses.
"You don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know something's wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas and pray in school," said the Texas governor in a spot that appeared on his website earlier on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Log Cabin Republicans and other LGBT groups on Tuesday, Dec. 6, blasted Perry for assertion that taking a country's LGBT human rights record into account when considering the allocation of American foreign aid is a war on "traditional American values." Perry also sparked criticism in late October when he applauded efforts to repeal New Hampshire's marriage equality law.
The latest Des Moines Register poll found that only two percent of likely Iowa caucusgoers support Perry.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Speaking in Geneva on Tuesday, Dec. 6, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called upon countries to end human rights abuses against their LGBT citizens.
"Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights," she said.
Clinton's landmark speech coincided with the release of a presidential memo that directed government agencies that carry out American foreign policy to promote LGBT rights abroad. Clinton also briefly met with LGBT activists before she delivered her remarks in the Palais des Nations.
The White House announced on Tuesday, Dec. 6, that it has directed government agencies to take a country’s LGBT rights record into account when they consider the allocation of foreign aid.
In a memorandum; President Barack Obama directed the State Department, USAID and other agencies that carry out American diplomatic and foreign aid programs to promote and protect the human rights of LGBT people abroad. These include supporting efforts to decriminalize homosexuality, protecting LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, enhancing existing initiatives that advance non-discrimination bills and carrying out “swift and meaningful U.S. responses” to LGBT-specific human rights abuses abroad.
“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights,” wrote Obama, who further expressed his deep concern about anti-LGBT violence and discrimination around the world. “Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”
Obama issued his memo roughly six weeks after British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to cut foreign aid to Commonwealth countries that continue to criminalize homosexuality. This directive is the first time the United States government has specifically addressed LGBT human rights abuses abroad.
“As Americans, we understand that no one should be made a criminal or subject to violence or even death because of who they are, no matter where they live,” said Human Rights President Joe Solmonese. “Today’s actions by President Obama make clear that the United States will not turn a blind eye when governments commit or allow abuses to the human rights of LGBT people.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cited the memo in a landmark speech on LGBT equality that she delivered in Genera later on Tuesday, Dec. 6, to commemorate Human Rights Day.
"When one part of humanity is sidelined, the rest of us cannot remain on the sidelines," she said.
Puerto Rico House of Representatives President Jenniffer González announced on Monday, Dec. 5, that she would review a proposed provision to the penal code that would remove sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and ethnic ethnicity from the island’s hate crimes law.
“I have been very consistent about hate crimes,” she said, according to Primera Hora. “I have presented special laws against hate crimes that are there, so I am on the record about this topic.”
González’s announcement coincided with House Judiciary Committee President Liza Fernández’s criticism of the proposed amendment that the Puerto Rico Senate approved late last month.
“For me, it was an error to eliminate these factors from the code,” she said, as el Nuevo Día reported on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other activists and elected officials blasted the proposed provision. New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York City Councilmembers Melissa Mark-Viverito, Rosie Mendez, Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer urged lawmakers to reject the measure in a joint statement they issued late on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
“When we take into account the horrific hate crimes that have occurred in recent years, this decision is even more egregious and nonsensical," said Mark-Viverito, who was born in San Juan. "The Puerto Rican government is creating a dangerous environment for those who have been and potentially could be attacked or even killed solely on the basis of their identity without any additional penalties for the perpetrators. This strategy to de-classify hate violence directed against LGBT Puerto Ricans and ethnic groups as a separate crime cannot stand."
Nearly two dozen LGBT Puerto Ricans have been murdered on the island since gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado’s decapitated, dismembered and partially burned body was found along a remote roadside near Cayey in 2009. With more than 1,000 reported homicides so far this year, 2011 has already proven to be the deadliest year in Puerto Rico.
The U.S. Department of Justice noted the Puerto Rico Police Department’s inadequate response to hate crimes as among the PRPD’s endemic deficiencies in a damning report it released in September. A federal DOJ spokesperson on Monday declined to comment on the proposed hate crimes provision, but the Puerto Rico Department of Justice’s own statistics confirm that prosecutors have not convicted anyone under the island’s hate crimes law.
Singer Ricky Martin added his voice to the growing chorus of those who oppose the proposed provision.
“All citizens are equal under the law and have, without exception, the right to equal protection under the law,” he wrote on his website, citing the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The House is expected to vote on the revised penal code later this week during a special legislative session.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Puerto Rican lawmakers are poised to vote on a revised penal code this week that could eliminate LGBT-specific categories from the island’s hate crimes law.
The Puerto Rico Senate late last month approved a provision that would eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ethnicity and religion from the current statute—political status, age and disability would remain. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the amended penal code during a special legislative session.
Representative Héctor Ferrer, Sen. Eduardo Bhatia and LGBT and Dominican activists blasted the proposed provisions earlier on Sunday, Dec. 4.
“It’s an outrage and now we’re calling upon the House to restore this to where it should be,” said Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Nearly two dozen LGBT Puerto Ricans have been murdered on the island since gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado was stabbed to death before his decapitated, dismembered and partially burned body was found along a remote roadside near Cayey in Nov. 2009. The Justice Department noted a lack of prosecution under the island's hate crimes law in damning report on the Puerto Rico Police Department it issued in September.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain on Saturday, Dec. 3, suspended his campaign amid allegations that he carried on a 13-year affair with a Georgia businesswoman and sexually harassed several other women while head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
"I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distraction and hurt caused on me and my family," he said as his wife Gloria stood by his side.
Cain also criticized the media for promoting what he repeatedly described as false allegations that he said sidetracked his campaign. "The voice of the people is more powerful than the media," he said. "Message is more powerful than money."
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Speaking at a World AIDS Day candlelight vigil in Dupont Circle on Thursday, Dec. 1, District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray stressed his administration remains committed to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington.
Gray pointed out to the roughly 75 people who gathered in the circle that 122,000 HIV tests took place in the District last year. The city also distributed 5 million female and male condoms.
The mayor said the number of new HIV cases in the District dropped by 50 percent last year--60 percent among intravenous drug users in 2010. The city's prevalence rate, however, remains roughly 300 percent higher than the national average with 3 percent of Washingtonians living with HIV.
"We have made enormous strides over the years in fighting this epidemic, but we have a long ways to go," said Gray.
Gray also presented Whitman-Walker Health Executive Director Don Blanchon with a proclamation that proclaimed Dec 1, 2011, World AIDS Day in the District.
President Barack Obama used his World AIDS Day speech at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Dec. 1, to reaffirm his administration's commitment to fighting the domestic and global AIDS epidemic.
Obama announced an additional $50 million for HIV medical clinics and state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. He also unveiled new targets to further combat the spread of the global AIDS epidemic. These include providing anti-retroviral drugs to more than 1.5 million pregnant women with HIV over the next two years and an overall goal of getting six million people with the virus on these life-saving treatments.
An estimated 33 million people around the world currently live with HIV. 1.2 million Americans currently live with the virus.
President Barack Obama and former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are among those who will participate in a World AIDS Day forum at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., later on Thursday, Dec. 1.
ONE and (RED) will host a forum that will focus on "the beginning of the end of AIDS." Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete; CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; California Congresswoman Barbara Lee; Bono; Alicia Keys; Dr. Patricia Nkansah-Asamoah, director of the PMTCT Clinic at Tema Hospital in Accra, Ghana; Florence Ngobeni of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Kay Warren are also slated to participate.
More than three decades after the first cases of what became known as AIDS were reported, more than 33 million people around the world currently live with the virus.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told federal health officials and HIV/AIDS service providers during a speech at the National Institutes of Health on Nov. 8 that a so-called AIDS-free generation is possible. A Centers for Disease Control report earlier this week indicates that only 28 percent of the 1.2 million Americans with HIV have viral counts that are considered under control.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Gallup reported on Tuesday, Nov. 29, that President Barack Obama's job approval rating averaged 43 percent during the Thanksgiving week.
This figure has remained the same since the end of October, but Obama's standing among independents has continued to drop since the beginning of the year. Forty percent of self-identified pure independents approved of Obama in January, compared with only 30 percent whom Gallup surveyed between Nov. 21-27. Eighty-four percent of liberal Democrats backed the president in the same period.
Obama's job approval rating averaged a historically low 41 percent between July 20 and Oct. 19.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Here we go again!
An Atlanta television station on Monday, Nov. 28, aired portions of an interview with a Georgia woman who claims she had a 13 year affair with Herman Cain.
“It was pretty simple,” Ginger White told WAGA reporter Dale Russell in an interview that the television station said took place over Thanksgiving weekend. “It wasn't complicated. I was aware that he was married. And I was also aware I was involved in a very inappropriate situation, relationship.”
White went public with her claim less than a month after several women alleged that Cain sexually harassed them while he was the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. The former Godfathers Pizza CEO categorically denied the women's allegations, and lawyer Lin Wood issued a statement shortly after Cain himself told CNN that WAGA was about to broadcast its interview with White.
"This appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults - a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public," said Wood. "No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life. The public's right to know and the media's right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one's bedroom door."
Will this latest revelation mark the end of the Cain circus once and for all?
Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank announced on Monday, Nov. 28, that he will not seek re-election once his term ends in 2013.
Frank, who has represented Massachusetts' Fourth Congressional District since 1981, told reporters at a press conference at Newton (Mass.) Town Hall that redistricting essentially forced his decision.
"I'm not retiring from advocacy for public policy," he said, noting he would like to write, teach and lecture once he leaves Congress. "I was pretty good at being a legislator. I think I was pretty good at working within that framework of government. I look forward to being able to help change the system."
Frank, 71, has represented Massachusetts' Fourth Congressional District since 1981. He publicly came out of the closet in a 1987 interview with the Boston Globe. The House Ethics Committee in 1990 formally reprimanded Frank for using his congressional office to pay 33 parking tickets that a male escort who he had hired as an aide and personal driver had accrued.He appeared in two "It Gets Better" videos earlier this year. He also spoke at a memorial service for Dr. Frank Kameny on Capitol Hill on Nov. 15.
"God knows he's earned the rest," said Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andrew Tobias. "But, boy, will the House ever be the poorer for the loss of its smartest, funniest, most passionately progressive and pragmatic member."
President Barack Obama described Frank as a "fierce advocate for the people of Massachusetts and Americans everywhere who needed a voice."
"He has worked tirelessly on behalf of families and businesses and helped make housing more affordable," said Obama in a statement. "He has stood up for the rights of LGBT Americans and fought to end discrimination against them. And it is only thanks to his leadership that we were able to pass the most sweeping financial reform in history designed to protect consumers and prevent the kind of excessive risk-taking that led to the financial crisis from ever happening again."
Sunday, November 27, 2011
New Hampshire's largest newspaper on Sunday, Nov. 27, endorsed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing," wrote Union Leader Publisher Joseph W. McQuaid in an editorial that appeared on the newspaper's front page.
A pre-Thanksgiving University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll found that 42 percent of likely Republican primary voters would vote for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, compared to only 15 percent who said they would back Gingrich. A USA Today/Gallup poll released on Nov. 21 showed that Gingrich was within two percentage points of Romney.
"We don't back candidates based on popularity polls or big-shot backers," stressed McQuaid, who conceded that Gingrich is "by no means a perfect candidate." "We look for conservatives of courage and conviction who are independent-minded, grounded in their core beliefs about this nation and its people, and best equipped for the job."
While anything can happen between now and the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 10, this endorsement is an obvious shot in the arm to the insurgent Gingrich campaign.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
A new poll shows that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continues to gain more ground against his challengers in New Hampshire.
The poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, found that 42 percent of likely Republican primary voters would vote for Romney, compared to 15 percent who said they would back former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Texas Congressman Ron Paul received 12 percent, while 8 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they would vote for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Only four percent of likely Republican primary voters said they would support Herman Cain.
With less than two months until the primary, the poll also found that nearly 60 percent of New Hampshire voters remain undecided.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's first television ad proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that the primary season is in full swing.
As with anything, however, the truth is sometimes subjective -- and the fact that Romney used a clip of then-candidate Barack Obama mocking a quote from an adviser to Arizona Sen. John McCain on the economy during an Oct. 2008 campaign appearance in Londonderry, N.H. The Romney campaign defended the spot in a series of statements to WMUR, the Washington Post and other media outlets.
The Iowa caucuses are on Jan. 3 and the New Hampshire primary are on Jan. 10 for anyone who continues to keep track. This questionable ad, however, certainly proves that the former Massachusetts governor and his campaign can certainly grab people's attention.
Monday, November 21, 2011
A new USA Today/Gallup poll shows that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains the frontrunner among the Republican presidential candidates, but former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to gain momentum over his rivals.
Twenty percent of Republicans who responded to the poll between Nov. 13-17 said Romney is their first choice, while 19 percent said that they would choose Gingrich. Sixteen percent of GOP voters said they would vote for Herman Cain, while only eight percent named Texas Gov. Rick Perry as their top choice.
Is Romney the Nominee-in-Waiting?
Romney's campaign received a boost over the weekend when New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte endorsed the former Massachusetts governor. New Hampshire Congressman Charlie Bass will officially endorse Romney later on Monday, Nov. 21. It appears increasingly likely that Romney will become the Republican presidential nominee at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa in August, but the voters of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and other early caucus states will soon have their say and anything can happen between now and then.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
It's a typically balmy late night here in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, as I catch up on e-mails and listen to the surf below our suite's terrace.
I will post pictures of the trip in the coming days, but here is a video of our flight landing at Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport earlier on Wednesday, Nov. 16.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan on Tuesday, Nov. 15, became the first sitting cabinet member to attend a transgender-specific event when he delivered the keynote address at the National Center for Transgender Equality's annual awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Donovan highlighted HUD's work to ensure equal treatment of trans people in federally-funded housing and mortgage programs in his speech at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel. He also pointed out the Office of Personnel Management's ban on discrimination against trans federal employees, the addition of gender identity and expression to the federal hate crimes law and the directive that trans veterans receive equal access to health care as among the Obama administration's trans-specific accomplishments.
NCTE also honored Pride at Work Co-Chair Donna Cartwright and Brian Bond, former deputy director of the White House Office of the Public Liaison.
Monday, November 14, 2011
A new Gallup poll shows that Congress' approval rating remains at a historic low.
Only 13 percent of respondents said they approve of the way Congress has handled its job, the same rating that Gallup reported last month and in August. Congress' approval rating has averaged only 17 percent so far this year. This figure would mark the lowest annual approval rating since 1974 if trends continue to hold through the end of 2011.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday, Nov. 14, noted that nearly a fifth of all reported hate crime incidents in 2010 were motivated by sexual orientation.
Of the 6,624 hate crime incidents that the FBI documented in 2010, 19.3 percent of them were motivated by sexual orientation bias. Of the 7,690 single-bias offenses documented in the aforementioned incidents, 19.1 percent of them were motivated by sexual orientation.
The FBI’s report further documents that of the 1,470 hate crime offenses motivated by sexual orientation—57.9 percent were classified as “anti-male homosexual bias” and 27.4 percent were reported as “anti-homosexual bias.” Another 11.4 percent were prompted by “an anti-female homosexual bias,” and 1.9 percent were classified as “anti-bisexual bias.” 1.4 percent were prompted by “anti-heterosexual bias.”
The FBI reported 6,598 hate crime incidents in 2009—18.5 percent of those were motivated by sexual orientation. Of the 7,775 single-bias offenses documented in the aforementioned incidents, 18.5 percent of them were motivated by sexual-orientation.
The 2009 report further notes that 55.6 percent of the reported 1,436 offenses motivated by sexual orientation were prompted by “anti-male homosexual bias,” while another 26.2 percent resulted from “anti-homosexual bias.” “Anti-female homosexual bias” prompted 15 percent of these incidents, while another 1.5 percent resulted from “anti-heterosexual bias” and “anti-bisexual bias” motivated 1.7 percent of these crimes.
While the FBI’s report shows only a slight increase in the number anti-gay hate crimes in 2010; hate violence motivated by sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and HIV status remains a serious problem. A National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report documented 27 anti-LGBT murders in 2010—the second highest annual total that the coalition has recorded since 1996. Seventy percent of these victims were people of color and 44 percent of them were transgender women.
The NCAVP report further noted that trans people and people of color are twice as likely to experience violence or discrimination as non-trans white people. Trans people of color are nearly 2.5 times as likely to suffer discrimination as their white counterparts.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Today marks the second anniversary of Puerto Rican gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado’s brutal murder.
Juan José Martínez Matos stabbed Jorge Steven López Mercado to death on Nov. 13, 2009, before he decapitated, dismembered and partially burned his body. López’s remains were found dumped along a remote roadside near Cayey the next day.
López’s gruesome murder sent shockwaves across Puerto Rico and beyond—singers Ricky Martin, Olga Tañon and René Péréz of Calle 13 and former Miss Universe Denise Quiñones were among those who publicly spoke out against anti-LGBT violence on the island. Human Rights Foundation President Ada Conde Vidal, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York City Councilmembers Melissa Mark-Viverito and Rosie Mendez and Illinois state Sen. Iris Martínez are among those who repeatedly blasted Gov. Luís Fortuño for his failure to follow suit.
Has anything changed in Puerto Rico since López’s death?
Martínez received a 99-year prison sentence in May 2010 after he pleaded guilty to López’s murder, but nearly two dozen LGBT Puerto Ricans have been killed since the gay teenager’s gruesome death. The Justice Department noted the Puerto Rico Police Department's inadequate response to hate crimes as among the agencies' numerous failures in a damning report it released in September. Fortuño and other officials have yet to publicly speak out against these incidents.
The situation for LGBT Puerto Ricans remains dire two years after López’s death stunned the world. On this grim anniversary, however, it is appropriate to remember a grieving mother’s words that sought to comfort a community during one of its darkest hours: Love conquers hate.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Shots were fired between two cars that were speeding near the White House late on Friday, Nov. 11.
WJLA reported that two U.S. Park Police officers heard gunshots and saw two vehicles speeding down Constitution Avenue near the Ellipse and the Washington Monument around 9:30 p.m. One of the vehicles abandoned on Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street near the Roosevelt, while WJLA reported that witnesses said they saw the driver flee towards Virginia.
WJLA is further reporting that officers recovered an AK-47 assault rifle.
Constitution Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets was closed for several hours.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Speaking at a Capitol Hill ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 10, U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) praised Frank Mugisha for his activism on behalf of LGBT Ugandans who continue to suffer systematic discrimination, violence and even death.
Kerry delivered his remarks after Ethel and Kerry Kennedy presented Mugisha with the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 on Thursday, Nov. 10, to advance a bill that would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
"President Obama applauds today’s vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the Respect for Marriage Act, which would provide a legislative repeal of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act.” said a White House spokesperson. "The president has long believed that DOMA is discriminatory and has called for its repeal. We should all work towards taking this law off the books. The federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections afforded to straight couples."
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, also applauded the committee's vote.
“Today’s vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee puts us one step closer to ending federal marriage discrimination,” he said. “We thank the members of the Judiciary Committee who stood up for LGBT families and particularly thank Chairman Leahy and Senator Feinstein for their leadership in fighting this unjust law.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry would certainly like to push the reset button after he could not remember the name of the third federal agency he would cut during last night's Republican presidential candidate in Rochester, Mich.
Perry issued an early morning mea culpa of sorts to his supporters for his disastrous gaffe. The campaign asked them to donate $5 for "every agency you would like to forget." The only thing Perry should forget at this point is his presidential aspirations.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Gay and lesbian members of Congress discussed their coming out process and being out on Capitol Hill in an "It Gets Better" video they released on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
"Things are getting better because people are now being honest about who they are and they understand that sometimes comes with a price," said Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who first came to Washington, D.C., in 1971, to work as an aide to Congressman Michael Harrington.
Colorado Congressman Jared Polis, Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline also appeared in the video. Frank appeared in a separate "It Gets Better" video that the Massachusetts Congressional delegation released in late July. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) are among the U.S. senators who released a separate "It Gets Better" video in June.
"There's nothing wrong with you, you're not abnormal and I promise you you're not alone," said Cicilline.
Will economic recovery trump political extremism in 2012?
Mississippi voters on Tuesday, Nov. 8, rejected the so-called “Personhood Amendment” that would have declared that life in the Magnolia State begins at conception, while Ohio voters repealed a law that Republican Gov. John Kasich signed in March that severely curtailed collective bargaining rights for the state’s public workers by a 2-1 margin. Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, who spearheaded the passage of the state’s controversial Senate Bill 1070, is poised to lose his seat in a recall election.
The answer to the fore mentioned question is obviously in the eyes of the beholder—a social conservative could make the argument that President Barack Obama is an extremist because his administration no longer defends the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, while a liberal feminist may conclude that Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is an opportunistic misogynist because four women have accused him of sexual harassment while he headed the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. A Rasmussen poll last month showed that 84 percent of likely voters rank the economy as their top issue going into the 2012 election cycle, compared with only 52 percent who described immigration as a very important issue. The country’s unemployment rate remains at nine percent.
It’s the economy, stupid!
Monday, November 7, 2011
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday, Nov. 8, that repealing anti-gay laws is among the ways to curb the spread of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Clinton spoke at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., ahead of the U.S. Conference on AIDS that will take place in Chicago from Nov. 10-13 and World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. She used her NIH speech to announce that the White House has earmarked an additional $60 million to fight the epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. The State Department has also appointed Ellen DeGeneres as a special envoy to raise global awareness of AIDS.
A fourth woman has come forward to allege that Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain sexually harassed her.
Flanked by attorney Gloria Allred at a Manhattan press conference earlier on Monday, Nov. 7, Sharon Bialek alleges that Cain made an unwanted sexual advance against her after they had dinner in Washington, D.C., in July 1997. Bialek said she had contacted Cain, who was then head of the National Restaurant Association, in hopes that he could help her find a job.
"Instead of going into the offices he suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg, under my skirt toward my genitals," she said, as reported by the Associated Press. "He also pushed my head towards his crotch."
Three other women have accused Cain of sexual harassment and other inappropriate conduct while he headed the lobby group in the 1990s. Politico reported on Oct. 30 that two of the women accepted five-figure settlements from the lobbying group after they came forward with their allegations.
The former Godfather's Pizza CEO categorically denied Bialek's claims. Cain has also dismissed the three other women's allegations as fabricated.
A new Gallup analysis finds that Democrats tend to be more liberal and less white and religious than Republicans.
Thirty-seven percent of Democrats whom Gallup interviewed between June 1 and Aug. 30 described themselves as liberal, compared to only six percent of Republicans who were polled during the same period.
Thirty-six percent of Democrats were non-white—including 19 percent who were black and another 14 percent who were Latino. Twelve percent of Republicans were non-white—including 19 percent who were black and another 14 percent who were Latino. Another 52 percent of Democrats rarely or never go to church, compared to 40 percent of Republicans who attend religious services weekly.
These demographics are generally the same as those that Gallup found among prospective voters between Jan. 2 and March 31, 2008. The general election is slightly less than a year away, but Gallup predicts that it will show the same voting patterns that existed in the 2008 cycle.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
A new NY1/YNN-Marist Poll finds that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo remains popular among New York voters a year after he was elected.
Fifty-five percent of respondents said they think Cuomo has done either a good or excellent job in Albany, while 70 percent have a favorable impression of the governor. Another 75 percent of voters who responded to the poll described Cuomo as a good leader for New York. And 65 percent of respondents said they believe the governor has fulfilled the promises he made on the campaign trail.
Cuomo signed the state’s marriage equality bill into law on June 24. The governor’s $132.5 billion state budget for 2011-2012 that lawmakers approved in late March contained the first spending reduction from the previous year since 1995. Cuomo also signed an ethics reform bill into law in August designed to curb corruption that has long-tarnished state politics.
Sixty-three percent of respondents said that Cuomo is having a positive impact in Albany.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Doctor Jill Biden stressed the importance of family acceptance in a speech she delivered at the opening of the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National Convention in Alexandria, Va., on Friday, Nov. 4.
“Acceptance by those you love is the greatest acceptance of all,” she said, citing the mother who conceived PFLAG in 1972 after she marched with her gay son in the New York City Pride parade. “As a teacher and a mom, I know what Jeanne Manford knew—that there is a direct connection between acceptance and positive, healthy outcomes in every important area of life, including education, mental health, and physical health.”
Biden specifically referenced the spate of LGBT teenager suicides that have made headlines across the country since Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi jumped off New York City’s George Washington Bridge in Oct. 2010. She also cited the anti-bullying workshops that the White House and the Department of Education have hosted, the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the federal hate crimes law and the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' as demonstrative examples of the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to LGBT Americans.
“This progress is important, but there is still more to do,” said Biden. “At this critical time for education in our country, we need to ensure that our schools are producing the next generation of American leaders and heroes. We must insure that our classrooms are safer for all students to learn, grow, and thrive.”
She spoke about anti-LGBT bullying in the classroom at a Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network event in New York City in June 2009.
Is it time for the White House to worry?
A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds that President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are statistically tied among registered voters nationally and in 12 key swing states. Forty-seven percent of registered voters across the country said they would vote for Obama if he faced Romney in the general election, compared to 47 percent of respondents who said they would vote for Romney. Forty-seven percent of registered voters in so-called swing states—including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, said they would support Romney in general election, compared to 46 percent who said they would vote for Obama.
Obama appears slightly more competitive against other Republican presidential candidates. Forty-nine percent of voters in swing states said they would vote for Obama in the general election, compared with 44 percent who said they would vote for Perry if he were to become the Republican nominee. Forty-eight percent of swing state voters said they would vote for Obama, versus 45 percent who said they would back Cain if Republicans were to nominate him.
Obama’s job approval rating is 44 percent, while 49 percent of Americans said they disapprove of the president. The White House clearly has some work to do among recession weary Americans before Nov. 6, 2012.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a bill on Thursday, Nov. 3, that would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler introduced the measure in the House in March; while Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced a companion DOMA repeal measure in the Senate.
“Marriage is the true foundation for strong families," said Gillibrand. "Every loving, committed couple deserves the basic human right to get married, start a family, and have access to all the same rights and privileges that my husband and I enjoy. No politician should stand in the way of this fact."
The White House announced earlier this year that it will no longer defend DOMA in federal court. The committee held a hearing on the Clinton-era law in July, but the mark-up comes a week after eight current and retired gay servicemembers filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DOMA in a federal court in Boston.
“Today is another step toward restoration of the traditional practice of having the federal government respect marriages lawfully celebrated by the states – and eliminating the gay exception that unfairly denies that equal treatment to loving and committed couples who have gotten legally married,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. “As the Senate Judiciary Committee considers this bill, we urge members to take into account the real harms families face because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and the burdens this departure from the usual way the federal government honors marriages imposes on businesses, employers, and others dealing with married couples.”
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
A New Hampshire lawmaker announced on Tuesday, Nov. 1, that he will not pursue a constitutional amendment that would ban marriage for same-sex couples.
State Rep. David Bates (R-Windham) told the Associated Press that he wants the Legislature to debate his bill that would repeal the state’s marriage equality law that took effect on Jan. 1, 2010. Three-fifths of both houses and two-thirds of voters would need to approve an amendment if it were to be adopted. Bates appeared to acknowledge this high threshold while stressing to the AP that he did not want to force his colleagues in Concord to choose between an amendment and the repeal measure.
"It would complicate the decision for legislators if there was another alternative out there," said Bates.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 11-6 on Oct. 25 to recommend repealing the state’s marriage equality statute that Gov. John Lynch signed into law in June 2009.
A recent University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll found that 62 percent of Granite State voters oppose efforts to repeal the state’s marriage equality law. Debate over the repeal measure could coincide with New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary that is expected to take place on Jan. 10.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry applauded efforts to repeal the marriage equality law during a speech he gave at Cornerstone Action’s annual banquet in Manchester on Oct. 28. Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, described Bates’ measure to Boy in Bushwick as “astonishing” after the House Judiciary Committee endorsed it.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
What does accountability look like?
This was one of the many complicated questions that came up at a panel discussion about the Occupy Wall Street movement that WNYC host Brian Lehrer moderated at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in lower Manhattan on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer; Crain’s New York Business contributor Greg David; Occupy Wall Street organizer Jesse LaGreca, who blogs at the Daily Kos and Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for New York City, who is deputy chair of the New York Federal Reserve’s Board of Directors, certainly offered a variety of opinions and insights into the grassroots movement that has increasingly captivated the country in recent weeks. The panelists agreed that economic inequality in this country is unacceptable, and they suggested to varying degrees that the so-called 99 percent are justifiably angry at corporate America and their surrogates on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill.
Democracy is not an neatly packed form of government as a stroll through the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park near Ground Zero earlier today literally proved—corporate money in American politics, war, unemployment and even civil rights were among the topics to which Occupiers drew attention. One can certainly argue that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. The question remains, however, whether organizers within the Occupy movement are able to offer tangible solutions to the country’s social, economic and political inequalities that can effectively hold the powers that be accountable.
The answer is as complicated as the form of government under which the Occupy movement is able to expand.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Will allegations of inappropriate conduct against two former female National Restaurant Association staffers derail Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s improbable campaign?
Politico reported late on Sunday, Oct. 30, that the women accepted five figure settlements from the lobbying group in the 1990s after they complained that Cain, who was then the head of the trade association, had demonstrated inappropriate behavior towards them. Sources whom Politico did not identify said the reported incidents included sexually suggestive conversations that took place at conferences, at association events and in the organization’s offices and inappropriate physical gestures that made the women uncomfortable.
Cain topped a new poll of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers that the Des Moines Register released on Saturday, Oct. 29. These reported allegations come on the heels of the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO’s controversial comments on immigration and the release of an unconventional campaign video that features his campaign manager smoking a cigarette.
“Fearing the message of Herman Cain who is shaking up the political landscape in Washington, Inside the Beltway media have begun to launch unsubstantiated personal attacks on Cain,” the Cain campaign told Politico in a statement. “Sadly, we’ve seen this movie played out before – a prominent conservative targeted by liberals simply because they disagree with his politics.”
Presidential campaigns are certainly not for the faint of heart, but will these reported allegations prove the straw that broke the Cain juggernaut’s back?
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Speaking at Cornerstone Action's annual banquet in Manchester, N.H., on Friday, Oct. 28, Texas Gov. Rick Perry applauded lawmakers who back the repeal of New Hampshire's marriage equality law.
"As conservatives we believe in the sanctity of life. We believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage," said Perry, as reported by the Concord Monitor. "I applaud those legislators in New Hampshire who are working to defend marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, realizing that children need to be raised in a loving home by a mother and a father."
Perry made the remarks three days after the House Judiciary Committee recommended repealing the state's marriage equality law. A recent University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll found the majority of New Hampshire voters oppose any effort to repeal the statute, but legislators are poised to debate the issue early next year--the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary is likely to take place on Jan. 10.
Only four percent of Republican primary voters would vote for Perry, according to a UNH Survey Center/WMUR poll conducted earlier this month.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Gillibrand Introduces Bill to Ban Discrimination Against Prospective LGBT Adoptive and Foster Parents
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday, Oct. 28, introduced a bill that would prevent any agency that receives federal funding from disqualifying prospective adoptive or foster parents solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
“New York is a leader on ensuring that any family can adopt children and sets a great example for the rest of the country,” said Gillibrand in a statement that announced the introduction of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. She pointed out that New York increased its pool of prospective foster parents by 128,000 when the state eliminated all LGBT-specific barriers.
"This legislation would open thousands of new foster and adoptive homes to children ensuring they are raised in loving families,” added Gillibrand.
Utah, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and Michigan currently bar same-sex couples from adopting children, while six others prohibit gay and lesbian parents from adopting their partner's children. Gillibrand points out that more than two dozen other states do not specifically address treatment of prospective LGBT foster and adoptive parents.
“We must support all qualified adults who are interested in providing a nurturing, adoptive home—regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation," said Linda Spears, vice president of policy and public affairs for the Child Welfare League of America. "Having a real life, caring parent is incredibly important for ensuring a child’s success. Sen. Gillibrand’s bill represents progress for these children whose goal is to simply be loved.”
It was quite a scene at the 25th annual High Heel Race in Dupont Circle on Tuesday, Oct. 25, when D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray yucked it up with the late Amy Winehouse.
Gray literally stopped in his tracks when he spotted the troubled British chanteuse—who was actually Queen Bambi—amid the throngs of people who had descended upon on 17th Street. Gray posed for pictures with Winehouse, who suddenly died in August from alcohol poisoning, as onlookers reveled in the spontaneous spectacle.
This chance encounter undoubtedly provided a welcome reprieve from the series of damaging revelations and headlines that continue to threaten to derail the Gray administration.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
A group of gay and lesbian servicemembers filed a lawsuit challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act in federal court in Boston on Thursday, Oct. 27.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Chadbourne and Parke held a press conference with the six active duty servicemembers and two veterans at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The plaintiffs argue that DOMA forces the military to deny their spouses access to bases, burial rights at national cemeteries and other benefits that heterosexual servicemembers' spouses automatically receive.
"The case we are bringing today is about one thing, plain and simple: It’s about justice for gay and lesbian servicemembers and their families," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "These couples are in long-term, committed and legally recognized marriages and the military shouldn’t be forced to turn their back on them because the federal government refuses to recognize their families."
The repeal of the Pentagon's ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers became official on Sept. 20.
The Obama administration announced earlier this year that it would no longer defend DOMA in federal court, but House Republicans continue to back the Clinton-era law. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin debate on a DOMA repeal bill on Nov. 3.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
It is undoubtedly campaign season when presidential candidates begin to offer fleece to anyone who supports their White House aspirations.
"As the sun begins to set earlier and the air has that wonderful autumn crisp in it, our campaign would like to offer you an exclusive way to show your support," wrote Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in a fundraising appeal that her campaign sent to supporters earlier today in which she blasts President Barack Obama over the country's sluggish economy. "We have designed a 'Bachmann for President' fleece jacket to offer you as special gift if you make a donation of $75 or more to my campaign today. This is an exclusive fleece you can wear throughout the fall to show you stand for constitutional conservative values and support our campaign for president."
Not to be outdone by the Tea Party firebrand, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign is offering "an official Romney 2012 fleece pullover" to anyone who donates $60 or more to the campaign.
"Support Mitt in style while you're out at campaign rallies, phone banks, or watching the debates," wrote Zac Moffatt, digital director of the Romney campaign, in a pitch to supporters earlier on Wednesday, Oct. 26. "Remember that all purchases from the store are also donations to the campaign. So not only can you wear your support on your sleeve, but you'll also help provide the much-needed resources to defeat Obama and his failed policies in 2012."
With snow expected to fall across most of New Hampshire on Thursday, Oct. 27, these pullovers and jackets could quite possibly prove more than a seasonal gimmick to pad campaign coffers. The first-in-the-nation presidential primary is less than three months away for anyone who's counting!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee voted 11-6 on Tuesday, Oct. 25, to recommend repealing the state's marriage equality law.
Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in the Granite State since Jan. 2010. State Rep. David Bates (R-Windham)'s bill would ban same-sex marriages in New Hampshire, but the measure would allow unmarried adults to enter into a civil union. A University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll conducted between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2 found that 62 percent of voters oppose efforts to repeal the state's marriage equality law. Eighty-one percent of respondents said nuptials for gays and lesbians in New Hampshire have not impacted their life.
"It is astounding that Republican legislators would repeal New Hampshire's marriage equality law when not only do 60 percent of New Hampshire voters oppose the repeal, likely Republican presidential primary voters oppose repeal as well," New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley told Boy in Bushwick after the committee's vote. "The out of state radical agenda of Speaker Bill O'Brien has already made this legislature the most unpopular in New Hampshire history, playing games with thousands of families in New Hampshire is certainly not a popular path to take."
Speaking at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 25, Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler predicted a marriage equality bill will pass in the state Legislature next year.
Gansler spoke at CAP after the think tank and other LGBT and progressive organizations released a report on the impact of social and legal inequalities on children with LGBT parents.
Friday, October 21, 2011
President Barack Obama announced on Friday, Oct. 21, that the last American combat troops in Iraq will leave the country by the end of the year.
"I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year," said Obama in the White House briefing room, as reported by the Associated Press. "After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over."
Obama in Aug. 2010 officially declared an end to U.S. combat in Iraq. More than 4,400 American servicemembers have lost their lives in the country since the war began in March 2003.
"I applaud President Obama for a promise kept," said California Sen. Barbara Boxer. "Today is a day to honor our troops and our military families who have sacrificed so much over the last nine years to give the Iraqi people a chance at a better future. It is now up to the Iraqis to secure their country and provide opportunity for all their people."
A new Gallup poll shows that President Barack Obama's approval rating has fallen to 41 percent.
This figure is the average approval rating from Gallup Daily tracking polls from July 20 through Oct. 19--Congress agreed to raise the country's debt ceiling in early August, while Standard and Poor's downgraded the United States' credit rating a few days later. Persistent high unemployment rates and ongoing wrangling over the economy and Obama's new jobs bill further polarized an already angry electorate going into the 2012 election cycle.
The only president since Dwight D. Eisenhower to have had a lower job approval rating at this point in his presidency was Jimmy Carter. His job approval rating averaged only 31.4 percent between July 20 and Oct. 19, 1979.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand describes Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as a “fighter who gets things done” in a fundraising pitch she sent on behalf of her close friend’s re-election campaign on Thursday, Oct. 20.
“Watching Gabby triumph over adversity has given me the strength and courage to keep up the fight in Washington,” said Gillibrand, referring to Giffords’ remarkable recovery after Jared Lee Loughner allegedly shot her in the head outside a Tucson supermarket in January. The massacre left six people dead and Giffords and 13 others wounded.
“We need Gabby in Congress, not only because she's a fighter who gets things done, but because she is a unique leader who can help bridge the divide that has fractured our nation for far too long,” added Gillibrand.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Long-shot Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger is threatening to boycott Florida orange juice if the state does not reschedule its GOP primary.
"Voters need time during the coming months to fully vet all eleven serious Republican Presidential candidates," said Karger in a letter he sent to Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Dean Cannon and Secretary of State Kurt Browning on Wednesday, Oct. 19.
Florida officials threw the Republican presidential nomination process into disarray earlier this month when they announced that they would hold the state's primary on Jan. 31. Nevada Republicans announced that they will hold their caucuses on Jan. 14, while New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said last week that he could not rule out a December primary.
"Florida would potentially rob American voters of two months of campaigning which only helps the frontrunner," said Karger, who described Florida's move as "ill-conceived" and "un-American." "As one of these candidates for president, I cannot sit idly by while the state of Florida threatens the entire selection process.
Gays and lesbians were among those who boycotted Florida orange juice after Anita Bryant successfully led an effort to repeal then-Dade County's anti-discrimination ordinance in 1977. "I was involved in the Anita Bryant inspired Florida Orange Juice Boycott in 1978, and am keenly aware of the economic pressure that boycotts wield," said Karger.
Karger said he will officially launch the boycott if Florida officials do not reschedule the primary by Nov. 1.