Friday, June 23, 2017

Nevada: Sen. Dean Heller Says "No" To Senate GOP Trumpcare Bill

Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada
Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada (my state) announced today he will not be voting for the newly unveiled Senate version of Trumpcare.

Heller is considered the most vulnerable Republican senator up for reelection in 2018 being from a very purple state that went for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.

Via Politico:

“This bill that’s currently in front of the United States Senate is not the answer. It’s simply not the answer,” said Heller, the most vulnerable Senate Republican in the 2018 midterm election. “It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes."

Heller is now the fifth Republican to go public with a threat to vote against the bill, which is the culmination of seven years of GOP campaign promises. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can lose only two of his 52 members for the bill to pass when he holds a vote in a week.

On Thursday, four conservatives — Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson — said they aren’t ready to support the draft bill because it preserves too many of Obamacare's regulations but said they’re open to negotiations.

Heller did leave the door open to supporting the bill if changes are made.

"Both Republicans and Democrats can agree the [Affordable Care Act] does need some fixes," the Nevada Republican said.

Heller said he is opposed to the rollback of the Medicaid expansion because it hurts Nevada.

"This is all about Medicaid expansion. ... You have to protect Medicaid expansion states,” Heller said, adding that he wouldn't support rolling back Medicaid unless payment rates for a state like Nevada are boosted.

Trust and believe I was one of the phone calls his office received over the past couple of days.

Heller becomes the fifth Senate Republican to say they won't be supporting the GOP Healthcare bill. Republicans only have a two vote majority, so with five saying "no," this bill has to be amended. The problem is the moves to get moderate Repubs on board will push far-right GOPs away, and vice-versa.

The answer to healthcare is for Republicans to work WITH Democrats to address fixes in Obamacare. Period.

News Round-Up: June 23, 2017

Weekend bound (via Instagram)
Some news stories you may have missed:

• Who's ready for the weekend? #Yahoooooo!

• Thanks to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the spire of One World Trade Center and the Kosciuszko Bridge to be lit with the colors of the transgender flag for Trans Day of Action today, June 23rd. The same landmarks will be illuminated in the colors of the Pride flag on Saturday and Sunday for NYC Pride celebrations.

• Also for NYC Pride - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared June 22nd officially "Laverne Cox Day" as the actress made an appearance at his official residence, Gracie Mansion.

Said Cox, “Can you believe that a black transgender woman from Mobile, Alabama, raised by a single mother has a day in New York City named after her?”

• July 1st was the date that qualified transgender people were supposed to be able to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces, but military heads are asking for a six month delay.

• California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced yesterday that four states are being added to the state-sponsored travel ban because of efforts to enshrine discrimination against LGBTQ people into law.

• Speaking of lights for Pride, the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago was lit up in rainbow colors, apparently in celebration of Chicago Pride this weekend. But the lights only lasted one night, and when asked the hotel responded with, “We’ve been told not to say anything until the PR person puts out a statement.” Of course, as we all know, President Trump ended the tradition of recognizing Pride Month after eight straight years of proclamations from President Obama.

New Music: Kirstin "Break A Little" (Madison Mars Remix)

As a member of the a cappella group Pentatonix Kirstin Maldonado has won 3 GRAMMY® Awards, and with her new EP - L O V E - moves into an exciting new chapter in her career, rebranding herself as kirstin and debuting the EP’s lead single, “Break a Little.”

The multi-platinum singer/songwriter's solo debut EP L O V E is available now for preorder and will be released on July 14th via RCA Records.

“I’m so proud of ‘Break A Little’,” Kirstin said in a statement. “I always wanted to write a sad song that sounds happy. I think everyone can relate to this emotion. It’s about longing for something. You’re attracted to a vice or person you know you shouldn’t come back to, but you can’t help it.”

Check out the Madison Mars remix of “Break a Little” below.

I think this remix actually serves the song better than the original ballad soundscape.

Indiana: Carrier A/C Plant Trump "Saved" To Layoff Over 700 Employees

President Trump

Back in December, President-elect Trump boasted as he toured the Carrier air conditioner plant in Indianapolis that he had "saved" more than 700 jobs at the plant.

It turns out the jobs weren't quite "saved."

From the New York Daily News:

Carrier was going to lay off 1,400 workers and open a new facility in Mexico where labor is cheaper.

Trump said that 1,100 jobs would stay in Indianapolis because of his actions.

As it turns out, Carrier did agree to employ at least 1,069 people at the Indianapolis plant for the next 10 years in exchange for the $7 million in incentives.

But the majority of the 1,069 positions are engineering and technical workers whose positions weren’t in jeopardy, CNBC said.

The manufacturers whose jobs were on the line in November are still at risk — and 730 of them will get the ax, CNBC reported.

Trump had also taken credit for getting a promise from United Technologies to invest $16 million into the Indianapolis plant.

But that money is actually going toward more automation — which will result in fewer jobs, CNBC noted.

RuPaul To Be Honored With Star On Hollywood Walk Of Fame

RuPaul is finally getting his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

"WOW! Just found out! Dream come true!"
"Sweet Cheeses! My heart is beating so fast right now! - RuPaul to Get Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame"

Also chosen this year by the Walk of Fame Selection Committee are Kirsten Dunst, Gina Lollobrigida, Linda Carter, Simon Cowell, Ryan Murphy, Taraji P Henson, Petula Clark, Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, Weird Al Yankovic, Minnie Mouse, Niecy Nash, Mary J Blige, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and posthumous stars to Steve Irwin and Bernie Mac.

It's not well known, but celebs chosen for the honor have two years to schedule their star ceremonies or they expire. Additionally, a sponsor is needed for each star as the cost for installation is $40,000.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is one of the top tourist attractions in Los Angeles.

It's been a big year for RuPaul what with winning the Emmy and MTV awards, landing on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, celebrating RuPaul's Drag Race's highest ratings ever, plus guest spots on Broad City and Girl Boss, and marrying longtime bf Georges.

Reminder: RuPaul's Drag Race airs it's season finale tonight at 8PM on VH1.

Washington Post: Intel Agencies Had Proof Putin Ordered Russian Interference

Bombshell reporting from the Washington Post this morning on the Russian interference in the 2016 elections, including the confirmation that U.S. intelligence officials captured Putin’s specific instructions to disrupt the elections.

It's a long read, but very worth it. The Post reporters chronicle each chapter of the Russian attack from the day President Obama was informed, to the very closed circle of high level officials who dealt with the issue, to how the public was finally informed.

The report consists of interviews with more than three dozen current and former U.S. officials in senior positions in government, including at the White House, the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments, and U.S. intelligence services.

Of particular note:

• Former administration officials admit that the sense of urgency was "contained" to some degree because a Clinton win was expected by virtually everyone. Obama continued to believe he would be handing over the Oval Office to Hillary. There was concern that coming forward with the details of Russian interference would further Trump's cries of a "rigged election."

• Obama ordered the planting of digital cyber-bombs in Russia's infrastructure to be used at a later date should frictions escalate. It was left to President Trump whether or not to ever use them.

Here's just an excerpt of the article:

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

The CIA breakthrough came at a stage of the presidential campaign when Trump had secured the GOP nomination but was still regarded as a distant long shot. Clinton held comfortable leads in major polls, and Obama expected that he would be transferring power to someone who had served in his Cabinet.


Obama’s approach often seemed reducible to a single imperative: Don’t make things worse. As brazen as the Russian attacks on the election seemed, Obama and his top advisers feared that things could get far worse.

They were concerned that any pre-election response could provoke an escalation from Putin. Moscow’s meddling to that point was seen as deeply concerning but unlikely to materially affect the outcome of the election. Far more worrisome to the Obama team was the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day.

They also worried that any action they took would be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign. By August, Trump was predicting that the election would be rigged. Obama officials feared providing fuel to such claims, playing into Russia’s efforts to discredit the outcome and potentially contaminating the expected Clinton triumph.

I haven't bought into actual collusion theories between the Trump campaign and Russia before, but this morning I do wonder: how did Trump happen to begin dropping the "rigged election" comments when he did? Was that the collusion? Did Russia tell the Trump campaign to get out ahead of the Obama administration with the "rigged" comments expecting it might silence the administration?

Daily Dance: "Maniac"

Friday be like...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

News Round-Up: June 22, 2017

Javier Baez

Some news stories you might have missed:

• Check this sneak peek from the upcoming ESPN Body 2017 issue featuring hottie Chicago Cub Javier Baez. The issue is on newsstands July 7.

• Cincinnati plans to name a street after marriage equality plaintiff/hero Jim Obergefell and his deceased husband, Jim Arthur.

• Trans activist Janet Mock says "very privileged" Caitlyn Jenner is NOT a spokesperson for the trans community.

• Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt is getting his own show on MSNBC even as liberal hosts Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell lead the network in ratings. The good news, though, is out news anchor Thomas Roberts will now host a two hour news block on Saturday evenings from 7-9PM.

• Two years after SCOTUS made same-sex marriage the law of the land, Gallup reports that 10.2% of LGBT adults in the U.S. are married to a same-sex spouse, up from 7.9% before the ruling. Additionally, Gallup estimates 61% of same-sex, cohabiting couples in the U.S. are now married, up from 38% before the Obergefell ruling.

• Crystal Griner, the Capitol Police officer who took down the shooter at a Republican baseball practice threw out the first pitch yesterday at the Congressional Women's softball game.

FTW - British Man Wears Shorts To Work During Heat Wave, Sent Home To Change He Returns In Pink Dress

I LOVE this guy.

Joey Barge, a call center worker in Buckinghamshire, England, attempted to wear a pair of “smart shorts” to his office paired with a black button down shirt due to a stifling heat wave.

But his supervisors sent him home saying the shorts were inappropriate for the office environment.

Noting how comfortable his female colleagues were, he returned in a black/hot pink dress.

Barge then decided he would wear a pink dress to work since women were allowed to wear dresses.

According to Joey's tweets, the company changed their dress-code policy in response to his act of resistance.

After announcing a change in policy, Barge’s bosses asked him to go home and change. Barge declined.

“I got sent home and told to change into appropriate clothing but it said females could wear dresses so hey ho!” Barge told the Daily Mail.

‘They said it was a bit too colourful and asked if I wanted to go home and change because they were letting us wear shorts because of my “protest” — but I said I was happy to stay.’

President Obama: "The Senate Bill Is Not A Health Care Bill"

In a rare statement addressing current policy-making in Congress, President Obama posted about the Republican-controlled Senate's Trumpcare bill on his Facebook.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else.

Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid?

What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again.

If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.
Pretty presidential I'd say. And refreshing.

Magnum Ice Cream Teams Up With GLAAD For Limited-Edition Pride Magnum Bar

In a collaboration with GLAAD for Pride Month, Magnum Ice Cream recently unveiled a rainbow covered ice cream bar with the slug line, "There is more pleasure in a diverse world #PleasureIsDiverse"

Via press release:

In support of diversity and inclusivity, MAGNUM and GLAAD are offering a limited-edition Pride MAGNUM bar, available through June at MAGNUM New York. MAGNUM is also making a donation to GLAAD to support its work across the country. The indulgent Pride bar is inspired by the MAGNUM brand's belief that there's more pleasure in a diverse world, and its commitment to stand up for everyone's right to find pleasure in being themselves.

Trump Admits "Tapes" Comment Was An Empty Bluff

President Trump finally admitted today that he was bluffing when he brought up the possibility that he had recorded conversations with former FBI Director James Comey.

As folks will recall, back in May, just days after Comey’s firing, Trump tweeted: “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

For weeks reporters have asked whether this was or was not true, and if true when would the President provide those "tapes" to the public?

Via Twitter today, Trump wrote, "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea... whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings."

Clearly, Trump was merely making stuff up in order to intimidate Comey. When scared, he bluffs.

During his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey welcomed the idea of such recordings saying, "Lordy, I hope there are tapes."

5th Circuit Court Of Appeals Gives Thumbs Up To Mississippi's Anti-LGBT Discrimination Law

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the ruling by a federal judge who found Mississippi's anti-LGBT discrimination law unconstitutional.

The law allows merchants and government employees to deny services to LGBTs based on religious beliefs.

Via Lambda Legal:

Today, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the injunction against Mississippi House Bill 1523, the discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation challenged in Barber v. Bryant, the federal lawsuit brought by Mississippi civil rights attorney Robert McDuff, the Mississippi Center for Justice and Lambda Legal. The advocates will continue to fight this discriminatory law.

Overruling the lower court decision, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit denied that LGBT Mississippians are subject to imminent discrimination by HB 1523 and ordered the block to the law lifted because the plaintiffs—a group of ministers, LGBT residents, community leaders and activists—lack standing since they cannot claim a specific harm caused by the law that has yet to go into effect.

“We had to put guards in front of our church after the bill initially passed because there was a truck with a swastika parked across the street and just this week the Christian Knights of the KKK distributed flyers throughout the Hattiesburg area. Today’s ruling leaves us more exposed, so we will have to be more vigilant than ever before to protect our church, our families and our dignity,” said Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear, Barber plaintiff.

More from Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade:

The law prohibits the state from taking action against religious organizations that decline employment, housing or services to same-sex couples; families who’ve adopted a foster child and wish to act in opposition to same-sex marriage; and individuals who offer wedding services and decline to facilitate a same-sex wedding.

Additionally, the bill allows individuals working in medical services to decline to afford a transgender person gender reassignment surgery. The bill also allows state government employees who facilitate marriages the option to opt out of issuing licenses to same-sex couples, but the person must issue prior written notice to the state government and a clerk’s office must not delay in the issuing of licenses.

Trump Distorts Former Homeland Security Secretary's Testimony

President Trump lied yet again in this early  morning tweet claiming "Former Homeland Security Advisor Jeh Johnson is latest top intelligence official to state there was no grand scheme between Trump & Russia."

First of all, Johnson was Homeland Security Secretary, not "Advisor."

Second, that's not at all what Johnson said in testimony yesterday. What Johnson told the House Intelligence Committee yesterday was:

“In 2016, the Russian government, at the direction of (President) Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election. That is a fact, plain and simple.”

At no time in his testimony did Johnson ever state that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Intel Chiefs: Trump "Suggested" We Announce There Was No Collusion With Russia

CNN reports that in separate, private meetings last week with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators, both Dan Coats (Director of National Intelligence) and Adm. Mike Rogers (National Security Agency Director) said President Trump "suggested" they publicly announce there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers described their interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable, but said they did not believe the President gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts. Sources say both men went further than they did in June 7 public hearings, when they provided little detail about the interactions.

The sources gave CNN the first glimpse of what the intelligence chiefs said to Mueller’s investigators when they did separate interviews last week. Both men told Mueller’s team they were surprised the President would suggest that they publicly declare he was not involved in collusion, sources said. Mueller’s team, which is in the early stages of its investigation, will ultimately decide whether the interactions are relevant to the inquiry.

It sounds like Trump is basically asking everyone he meets to announce there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.
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