Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WATCH: Trailer for Alan Turing Drama The Imitation Game Starring Benedict Cumberbatch


There's finally going to be a big Hollywood movie about gay icon Alan Turing released this year. It's called The Imitation Game and it stars Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC's Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness). The trailer is out now. The film will be released November 21, 2014.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rep. David Jolly (FL-13) Becomes 8th Republican To Endorse Marriage Equality

Congressman David Jolly, Republican of Florida, became just the 8th member of his party currently serving in Congress to endorse marriage equality today. Just like Congressman Charlie Den of Pennsylvania did this past May, Rep. Jolly announced his position in light of a recent ruling striking down his state's ban on marriage equality.

Last week, a state judge struck down Florida's state constitutional ban on marriage equality. (Since it was just a state judge, and only applied in one county, I didn't even cover the news here at MadProfessah.com). No same-sex couples were able to get married as a result of the decision.

However, the more interesting political fallout of last week's marriage ruling was that Rep. Jolly (who recently won a special election to be the newest member of Congress a few months ago) was asked about his position on marriage equality and answered thusly:
“As a matter of my Christian faith, I believe in traditional marriage," said Jolly in a statement to The Post. "But as a matter of Constitutional principle I believe in a form of limited government that protects personal liberty. To me, that means that the sanctity of one’s marriage should be defined by their faith and by their church, not by their state. Accordingly, I believe it is fully appropriate for a state to recognize both traditional marriage as well as same-sex marriage, and therefore I support the recent decision by a Monroe County Circuit Judge.”
Peculiarly, even though there are just 4 members of Congress who have endorsed marriage equality, half of them are in the Senate. Just a few weeks ago Senator Susan Collins announced she is in favor of marriage equality (which her state has had since 2012). Jolly joins his fellow Floridian Republican Congressmember Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in supporting marriage equality, which is significant since all the other House Republicans who support marriage equality represent states which already have marriage equality, something Florida does not. Yet.

President Obama Signs LGBT Executive Order!


President Barack Obama signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in employment by federal contractors at 10:47am EDT this morning.

Here's what he said:

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT SIGNING OF EXECUTIVE ORDER
ON LGBT WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION

East Room 

10:39 A.M. EDT
  
     THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House, everybody.  I know I'm a little late.  But that's okay because we've got some big business to do here.

Many of you have worked for a long time to see this day coming.  You organized, you spoke up, you signed petitions, you sent letters -- I know because I got a lot of them.  (Laughter.) And now, thanks to your passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government -- government of the people, by the people, and for the people -- will become just a little bit fairer.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It doesn’t make much sense, but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are --  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.  And that’s wrong.  We’re here to do what we can to make it right -- to bend that arc of justice just a little bit in a better direction.

In a few moments, I will sign an executive order that does two things.  First, the federal government already prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Once I sign this order, the same will be explicitly true for gender identity.  (Applause.) 

And second, we’re going to prohibit all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against their LGBT employees.  (Applause.)    America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people.

Now, this executive order is part of a long bipartisan tradition.  President Roosevelt signed an order prohibiting racial discrimination in the national defense industry.  President Eisenhower strengthened it.  President Johnson expanded it.  Today, I'm going to expand it again.

Currently, 18 states have already banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  And over 200 cities and localities have done the same.  Governor Terry McAuliffe is here; his first act as governor was to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  (Applause.)  Where did Terry go?  Right back here.

I’ve appointed a record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender public servants to positions across my administration.  They are ambassadors and federal judges, special assistants, senior advisors from the Pentagon to the Labor Department.  Every day, their talent is put to work on behalf of the American people.

Equality in the workplace is not only the right thing to do, it turns out to be good business.  That’s why a majority of Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies in place.  It is not just about doing the right thing -- it’s also about attracting and retaining the best talent.  And there are several business leaders who are here today who will attest to that.

And yet, despite all that, in too many states and in too many workplaces, simply being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can still be a fireable offense.  There are people here today who’ve lost their jobs for that reason.  This is not speculative, this is not a matter of political correctness -- people lose their jobs as a consequence of this.  Their livelihoods are threatened, their families are threatened.  In fact, more states now allow same-sex marriage than prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers.  So I firmly believe that it’s time to address this injustice for every American.

Now, Congress has spent 40 years -- four decades -- considering legislation that would help solve the problem.  That's a long time.  And yet they still haven’t gotten it done.  Senators Terry [Tammy] Baldwin and Jeff Merkley are here.  They have been champions of this issue for a long, long time.  We are very proud of them.  I know they will not stop fighting until fair treatment for all workers is the federal law of the land.  Everyone thanks them for that.  (Applause.) 

But I’m going to do what I can, with the authority I have, to act.  The rest of you, of course, need to keep putting pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation that resolves this problem once and for all.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen!

THE PRESIDENT:  Amen.  Amen.  (Applause.)  Got the “amen” corner here.  (Laughter.)  Well -- (sings) -- (laughter.)  You don't want to get me preaching, now.  (Laughter.)   

For more than two centuries, we have strived, often at great cost, to form “a more perfect union” -- to make sure that “we, the people” applies to all the people.  Many of us are only here because others fought to secure rights and opportunities for us. And we’ve got a responsibility to do the same for future generations.  We’ve got an obligation to make sure that the country we love remains a place where no matter who you are, or what you look like, or where you come from, or how you started out, or what your last name is, or who you love -- no matter what, you can make it in this country.

That’s the story of America.  That’s the story of this movement.  I want to thank all of you for doing your part.  We've got a long way to go, but I hope as everybody looks around this room, you are reminded of the extraordinary progress that we have made not just in our lifetimes, but in the last five years.  In the last two years.  (Applause.)  In the last one year.  (Applause.)  We're on the right side of history.

I’m going to sign this executive order.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

(The executive order is signed.)

EYE CANDY: Darius Williams (black and white)




Darius Williams has appeared as Eye Candy once before (February  24, 2014). I don't really have much information about Mr. Williams except that he appears (to me) to be African-American and that these pictures were taken by noted photographer Joseph Bleu.

Enjoy!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Obama Will Sign Executive Order Extending LGBT Discrimination Protections To Millions of Americans


President Barack Obama will sign an executive order that will effectively add LGBT workplace protections to some 28 million American workers on Monday. The President will issue an executive order that amends the executive order (11246) that extended discrimination protections to federal contractors, i.e. businesses that have contracts to do work with the federal government, to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This will protect all LGBT workers at federal contractors. The Williams Institute estimates that 11 million people will be protected from sexual orientation discrimination and another 14 million will be protected from gender identity discrimination. The AP estimates that the actions will impact 24,000 companies that do business with the federal government (and their 28 million employees).

The President will also amend an existing executive order (11478) that prohibits discrimination in the federal workplace on the basis of sexual orientation to include gender identity. As the Vice President would say, "this is a big ******* deal."

Chris Geidner has published the July 15th draft text of the order Obama will issue tomorrow:
EXECUTIVE ORDER
Further Amendments to Executive Order 11478, Equal Employment Opportunity in the Federal Government, and Executive Order 11246, Equal Employment Opportunity
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act, 40 U.S.C. 101 et seq., and in order to provide for a uniform policy for the Federal Government to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and take further steps to promote economy and efficiency in Federal Government procurement by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Amending Executive Order 11478.
Executive Order 11478, as amended, is hereby further amended as follows:
(a) The first sentence of section 1 is amended by substituting “sexual orientation, gender identity,” for “sexual orientation”.
(b) The first sentence of section 7 is amended by substituting “sexual orientation, gender identity,” for “sexual orientation”.
Sec. 2. Amending Executive Order 11246.
Executive Order 11246, as amended, is hereby further amended as follows:
(a) The first sentence of Section 202, paragraph (1) is amended by substituting “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin” for “sex, or national origin”.
(b) The second sentence of Section 202, paragraph (1) is amended by substituting “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin” for “sex, or national origin”.
( c ) The first sentence of Section 202, paragraph (2) is amended by substituting “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin” for “sex, or national origin”.
(d) The first sentence of Section 203, paragraph (d) is amended by substituting “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin” for “sex, or national origin”.
Section 3. General Provisions.
(a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an agency or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
Significantly, there are no extra codicils or exemptions based on religion included, which in light of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, became a focal point for religious entities who want to use their "professed religious belief" to trump the application of existing laws.

This is a good thing!

QUEER QUOTE: Attorney General Holder Declares DOJ Will Affirm Marriage Bans Are Unlawful


Attorney General Eric Holder has made news saying that if (really, at this point, the question is when, not if) the United States Supreme Court hears a case questioning whether a state ban on same-sex marriage violates the federal constitution, the Department of Justice will weigh in on  the side of marriage equality. This is important (and encouraging) news because the U.S. Supreme Court often wants to know what the position of the federal government is on questions of the U.S. constitution, even if a state law is under consideration.

This is what Holder said on a Sunday Talk show last week which is today's Queer Quote:
"When you have differentiations on the basis of sexual orientation they should be heightened scrutiny. That being the case, I think that a lot of these measures that will ultimately come before the Court will not survive a heightened scrutiny examination."
Holder also answered "Yes" when asked whether he thought it was unconstitutional to discriminate against same-sex couples in marriage.

I think there's really no doubt about whether marriage bans survive heightened scrutiny and there's less doubt that sexual orientation should receive heightened scrutiny. Several judges have ruled that marriage bans do not even survive rational basis review. If the Supreme Court (and the Department of Justice) took that position, that would basically end the marriage equality question once and for all.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

SATURDAY POLITICS: Pérez Ends Recount Effort, Concedes Defeat To Yee In State Controller Race


One of the closest electoral battles in California history ended Friday when John Pérez ended his bid for a recount and conceded that he had placed 3rd in the June 2014 primary, a mere 481 votes (out of more than 4 million balllots cast)  behind 2nd place finisher Democrat Betty Yee. Pérez continued insistence on a recount was roiling Democratic circles especially since he had failed to pick up many votes and since the Secretary of State had estimated that a full hand recount of all the votes could have taken until early 2015 (2 months after the general election is scheduled to occur!) The Chairman of the California Democratic Party started suggesting the 44-year-old, openly gay former Assembly Speaker was starting to damage his future political prospects.

Pérez sent an email to supporters, saying:
“Today I have made the decision to bring the recount process to an end, and pledge my full support to Betty Yee to be California’s next Controller.   
While I strongly believe that completing this process would result in me advancing to the General Election, it is clear that there are significant deficiencies in the process itself which make continuing the recount problematic. Even in the effort so far, we have found uncounted ballots, but there is simply not enough time to see this process through to the end, given the fact that counties must begin printing ballots in the next few weeks in order to ensure that overseas and military voters can receive their ballots in a timely manner.  
I began this process because every vote deserves to be counted fairly and accurately, and as the recount has made clear, California needs to rethink our approach and incorporate best practices from across the nation. This effort was not about the outcome of a particular election, but the integrity of every election, and the issues brought to the light over the last two weeks need to be addressed in a comprehensive and thoughtful manner. 
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in the Assembly these last six years, and to have led the Assembly at a time when we’ve turned multi-billion dollar deficits into multi-billion dollar reserves, expanded healthcare for more than three million Californians and made college affordable again by enacting the Middle Class Scholarship Act. I am grateful for the support my campaign has received from everyday Californians who have seen the work my colleagues and I have done in the Legislature, and embraced our vision of fiscally responsible and progressive government which expands opportunity for all Californians. We built a tremendous record of accomplishment together, and I look forward to making contributions to build on that record of progress in the future. 
In the immediate term, I will be continuing my service in the Assembly, and working hard to help elect Democrats up and down California.”
Now, Yee will face Republican Ashley Swearingen in November with Democratic pride to keep all of California's constitutional office in blue hands on the line.

Friday, July 18, 2014

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Sharapova, Dimitrov, Stephens At ESPYS



Sloane Stephens, Maria Sharapova and Grigor Dimitrov all attended the ESPYS this week, where Sharapova beat out Serena Williams, Li Na, Agnieska Radwanska for the Best Female Tennis Player ESPY. Rafael Nadal won the ESPY for Best Male Tennis Player.

10th U.S. Circuit Affirms Ruling Invalidating Oklahoma Ban On Marriage Equality

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has affirmed a lower court ruling striking down Oklahoma's ban on marriage equality. The same 3-judge appellate panel that struck down Utah's ban on marriage equality earlier this year (making history to become the highest court to issue a ruling that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional in Kitchen v Herbert) has now ruled in Bishop v Smith that Oklahoma's marriage equality ban is also unconstitutional.

Freedom to Marry notes that this case is one of the longest running legal battles over marriage equality (originally filed in 2004!) and is the twenty-sixth consecutive win in court for marriage equality. Eval Wolfson said:
“Today’s ruling arises out of the oldest active marriage case in the country, filed in Oklahoma ten years ago; and follows more than two dozen favorable rulings for marriage in the past year. The legal consensus is clear: marriage discrimination is unconstitutional and inflicts concrete harms on committed gay and lesbian couples and their families.  From the heart of the Southwest and as far as the Mountain West, the federal rulings from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals from Oklahoma and Utah affirm that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry. It is time for the Supreme Court to end this patchwork of discrimination and bring our country to national resolution as soon as possible.”
The Washngton Blade reports that the vote count was 2-1 and that the 46-page opinion was written by Carlos Lucero, a Clinton appointee. The court basically says that its decision in Bishop is controlled by its earlier decision in Kitchen.

Interestingly, the Department of Justice and the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group are defendant-appellants in this case because the original lawsuit also challenged the now-defunct Defense of Marriage Act. I don't know if that makes it more or less likely to be taken up by the Supreme Court on appeal (I would think, less likely, but who knows.)



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Science Magazine Has Special Issue On HIV/AIDS This Week


The most prestigious scientific journal in the world has a special issue on HIV/AIDS this week, with a cover devoted to an article about transgender sex workers in Jakarta (pictured above). Next week, the 20th International AIDS Conference is being held in Melbourne, Australia.

Hopefully the news on progress in the fights against AIDS/HIV will be good in the next few weeks!

BOOK REVIEW: Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey


The fourth book in The Expanse series by James S.A. CoreyCibola Burn, was released on June 17, 2014 and I devoured it in three days. Things are going well for Corey right now as earlier this year it was announced that SyFy has decided to make a television series out of The Expanse books, ordering a first season of 10 episodes, describing it as their "most ambitious" series and "Game of Thrones in space." Then, just a few weeks after Book 4 (Cibola Burn) of the series was published, they learned that Book 3 (Abaddon's Gate) won the prestigious Locus Award for Best Science Fiction. Other books that have won the Locus award include classics of the genre like Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov, Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis and 3 of the 4 books in the Hyperion cantos by Dan Simmons. Great company! As you can see from my review, Abaddon's Gate is a really good book, but the truth is that Cibola Burn is possibly even better!

Abaddon's Gate is like a roller-coaster, a thrilling ride that ends with an "oh ****!" sequence that completely upends the set of rules we thought the Universe was abiding by, opening up the story to dizzying set of possibilities. Cibola Burn is not as "big" a story as Abaddon's Gate, but it is even more suspenseful (which I did not even think was possible). Cibola Burn is really more like a very good Western. After the events of the previous book (*spoiler alert*), there are now thousands of star systems, with who knows how many habitable planets, for humanity to expand to. So, basically there is a land rush on, and Cibola Burn is set on Ilus, one of the first planets that has been colonized by former Belters (people who were born and raised in space, in the Asteroid Belts). However, a mega-corporation named Royal Charter Energy who gets a charter from the United Nations to explore the planet (which they call New Terra) and its resources (especially it's very import lithium deposits). But by the time the RCE ship gets there, Belter colonists have been there for more than a year and someone plants a bomb and destroys the landing pad, damaging the main shuttle, killing the official UN representative (and most importantly) preventing RCE from getting a secure foothold on the planet.

Because even the fastest ship would take the better part of a year or more to get to the planet (and even signals from Earth take several hours to be transmitted), the humans are on their own trying to settle what is essentially a property dispute in a jurisdiction where the rules are "TBD." This is basically a wild, wild west scenario. So, how will humans in the future advanced civilization deal with an uncivilized situation rife with conflict?

This is the powder keg that Corey has set up as the primary explosive force behind the plot developments. For the first time in the series, the entire book basically deals with problems pertaining to one planetary system. Although there's also a bunch of new characters, the people we have been following for four books: James Holden (captain of Rocinante), his lover (and Rocinante executive officer) Naomi Nagata,  pilot Alex Kamal and chief engineer Amos Burton return and we get to learn a lot more about them. My favorite character in the series, Chrisjen Avarasala (the profane grandmother who basically is the most powerful person on Earth), has a too-brief cameo in the Epilogue chapter along with Bobbie Draper, the huge female Marine who is so important in Caliban's War.

In addition to these characters, there are new people in the story who we get point-of-view chapters from: Basia (a Belter colonist on Ilus who is a father of two teenagers a bit over his head), Elvi (a Earther scientist who is sent by RCE to investigate alien life on the planet and finds herself the subject of one of her own experiments) and Havelock (an Earther who is working in the security department on the RCE ship and has appeared in previous books in the series in more limited fashion). Of these my favorite was Elvi (demonstrating once again that the all-male duo that is James Corey can fully realize female characters with the best of them!) However, the most memorable new character is the villainous Adolphus Murtry, the chief of security on the RCE ship and who turns out to be a psychopath).

amazingly, Holden is sent to Ilus to serve as a United Nations representative to mediate between two groups of people who feel like they can basically justify any action if it leads to their desired result of control over this new planet. Since we know from the first three books in the series that Holden is pretty headstrong himself (and diplomacy is not his strong suit) it should not come as a surprise that the situation on Ilus/New Terra (the warring factions can't even agree what to call it) goes from bad to worse. And then the crazy alien stuff starts happening.

In my opinion, Cibola Burn is the best story in the series so far. It is incredibly suspenseful and exciting. However, in terms of the overall Expanse series there is not much development in answering some of the larger questions of the series (except one very big event that happens towards the end of the book that I will not spoil for you here except to say that it involves the protomolecule from Leviathan Wakes) and that is somewhat disappointing but frankly I was so gripped by the overall story that I absolutely devoured the book (which is not small) in roughly two days of reading.

The only bad thing about finishing this book so quickly is now I have to wait almost an entire year until Book 5 comes out. But I am cheered by the news that the series has been expanded from the original trilogy to nine books. Let's hope the SyFy television series will be as successful!

Title: Cibola Burn.
Author: 
James S.A. Corey.
Paperback: 592 pages.
Publisher:
 Orbit.
Date Published: June 17, 2014.
Date Read: June 20, 2014.

OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.83/4.0).

PLOT: A.
IMAGERY: A-.
IMPACT: A-.
WRITING: A.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

GODLESSS WEDNESDAY: Cosmos Earned 12 Emmy Nominations


Good news for the forces of enlightenment fighting the irrational beliefs of religion and "god-fearing" folks. The television series Cosmos has earned 12 primetime Emmy nominations. Friendly Atheist summarizes them:


  • Outstanding Art Direction For Variety, Nonfiction, Reality or Reality-Competition Program
  • Outstanding Cinematography For Nonfiction Programming
  • Outstanding Directing For Nonfiction Programming
  • Outstanding Picture Editing For Nonfiction Programming
  • Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Outstanding Main Title Design
  • Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music
  • Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Series
  • Outstanding Sound Editing For Nonfiction Programming (Single Or Multi-Camera)
  • Outstanding Sound Mixing For Nonfiction Programming
  • Outstanding Special And Visual Effects
  • Outstanding Writing For Nonfiction Programming
The original Cosmos: A Personal Voyage earned 5 nominations (3 wins) way back in 1981 and was hosted by Carl Sagan. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is executive produced by Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, Seth MacFarlane, Star Trek's Brannon Braga and others. According to Variety, it has been a huge ratings success:

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” which premiered this spring on Fox and National Geographic Channel and received an unprecedented rollout in 180 countries, has become the most-watched series ever for National Geographic Channel International. 
A whopping 135 million people — including 45 million in the U.S. — watched at least some of the 13-part science series, National Geographic Channel announced today. Overall, it aired on all 90 National Geographic Channels as well as 120 Fox-branded channels in 125 countries, making this the largest global launch ever for a television series.
The Other Half and I saw all 13 episodes as well (usually time-shifted 3 or 4 days). Cosmos is great! 

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin