Immigration: “It’s not just policies… It’s about people.”

On Tuesday, President Obama spoke to the nation in broad terms about his proposals for comprehensive Immigration reform. Of course, much of the reason for the broad terms is because he wasn’t proposing anything new.

The President’s speech on Immigration reform was short, and to the point. He didn’t mince words much, and simply asked Congress to get to work.

Watch the President’s full remarks here…

Star-Spangled Scandal or Legacy? Beyonce and “Anthem Gate”

Ok, Full disclosure…

I am most certainly a fan of politics, and something of a citizen blogger. But above even these noble exploits, my first love is music. I am a singer. Throughout the years I’ve performed various styles of music, from classical and jazz, to gospel and pop. I’ve had the privlege of getting to also learn about different aspects of the music industry as well. Though I have certainly never attained celebrity status, or risen to the level of music mogul like Beyoncé or Jay-Z, I do know a thing or two about music, and stage performance.

Here’s me and my friend, American Idol quarter-finalist Wendy Taylor, singing a duet version of the song “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJLuv5NnKpI]

This is one of my favorite songs, and considering that I got to work with a super-talented artist like Ms. Taylor, it turned out being one of my favorite videos to shoot as well. On the recording, you hear us singing. On the video you “see” us singing. But we’re not doing both at the same time. This video, like most music videos you’ll ever see, shows the artists lip-syncing. It’s industry standard now to never sing live while one is on film, especially if you’re trying to save that particular footage for re-use (to be played on MTV), or for posterity. As you can tell, I’m TERRIBLE at lip-syncing!! But I’m very glad for how the video turned out.

I share all of this because of the fascinating debates that we’ve had this week over lip-syncing. After Beyoncé’s performance at Monday’s 57th Inauguration, there have been no shortage of opinions on whether or not she lip-synced. Initially, everyone thought it was great. Commentators were left speechless about how beautiful and graceful the diva looked, and what a magnificent, and appropriate arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner she delivered. That was the news about Beyoncé before allegations of lip-syncing broke out.

The one question I have for everyone… are any of those comments no longer true? She DID look beautiful. She DID sing the Anthem. It WAS a great arrangement, and it WAS very appropriate for the occasion. Watching on that day, many people moved by it. The only question that could possibly remain… did Mrs. Knowles-Carter sing our Nation’s Anthem in real time?

The answer is… it doesn’t matter. Yes, Beyoncé is a singer, but she is also a major force in American popular culture. Out of 315 million citizens in the United States of America, President Barack Obama asked her to be the one and only American to step into recorded history, and deliver our nation’s National Anthem on January 21st, 2013. She was THE person to deliiver that Anthem to over 1 million pepople on the national mall, and now Billions of people that have watched it in the hours and days following. Pre-recording or not, that is what happened at the Inauguration.

Long after Mrs. Knowles-Carter, myself or anyone else reading this blog can utter even a sound from our voice box… long after the full history of Obama’s second-term Presidency is just notes on a page and files in a 22nd, 23rd or 24th Century version of Cloud data, and long after any sort of controversy over whether she lip-synced or not is a barely readable footnote, the Anthem heard that day will still stand, and the video of who sang it will too.

So before you judge the singer in the heat of the moment, take a second to go back and listen to that version of our National Anthem. If you listen closely, you can hear not only Beyoncé’s voice, but the immense care that she took to make every note and every sound just perfect. You can hear the full weight of responsibility that she felt preparing for one of our nation’s most public moments of time. You can hear her sheer patriotism, love for this country, and respect for our nation’s President in that recording. Maybe Beyoncé played it safe that day. But she still played it well.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-DSFrGnQrk]

There you go folks… history.

Best Role Yet: A Teen Comes Out To His Whole School

If you went to high school, you probably remember them… senior class awards. “Most Likely To Succeed”, “Class Clown”, or the dreaded “Best Looking”… at least, dreaded for everyone that didn’t win at the time.

Well just last week at a New Jersey High School, Senior Jacob Rudolph received his Class award for “Best Actor”. When he took the stage, he revealed to the entire assembly that he had been acting every single day of my life.” He then proceeded to come out to the school in his acceptance speech. The video his dad made of the speech has immediately gone viral on YouTube, with already 150,000 hits in just three days.

Given the amount of courage it took for Jacob to do this, I suspect his best roles in life are yet to come.

Mitt Romney’s next role: Health Care Advocate??

Though he may have tried to run from his record during the campaign, Mr. Romney does have a well-known, well-documented public record… he served four years as Governor of Massachusetts. And during that time, his single greatest legislative achievement was the passage of of universal health care reform.

As crazy as it sounds after 2012, historic health care reform is Mitt Romney’s legacy as a public servant. The state of Massachusetts still operates by the provisions he signed into law, and though not perfect, most Bay Staters would never go back to a time before universal coverage. Regardless of their opinion of Romney, they definitely like their Romneycare.

Of course we all know the next chapter of the story… President Obama, seeking to make significant progress for the nation, takes Romneycare as a blueprint to craft Obamacare. Though the bill passed without a single Republican vote (unless you count the “vote” of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts to uphold the law after its 2012 challenge), it is truly some of the most bi-partisan legislation we have in recent memory. The provisions of Obamacare were born, tested and tried via Romneycare.

Listen to him defend his universal health care plan with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. I Had to transcribe my favorite part here…

Cavuto: “Let me step back from this Governor, if you don’t mind. When people are polled on this issue of universal healthcare coverage, a Fox Poll that we did… 2 out of 3 folks say ‘don’t want it, don’t see the need for it.’ What do you say about that?

Romney: “Well what they don’t recognize is they’ve already got it, and that’s the big surprise. Everybody in this country does get free health care. If people get sick… they go to the hospital and they get treated. And everybody else pays the cost of those individuals if they don’t have health insurance… So we have universal health care. For people that can afford to pay, it’s time for them to step up to the plate.”

Now that it’s 2013 and the President is officially a 2nd termer, the opportunity has been born for us as a nation to have an adult conversation regarding national health care reform. Both the President and Governor Romney are men that now have more in common than they ever had during the campaign. They are both powerful, influential people, both public servants, and both concerned about their legacy. After any election, win or lose, there is a critical window of time that things can actually “get done”. As Steve Leblanc of the AP and Huffington Post wrote today, states are looking to Massachusetts for leadership on how to implement Obamacare. That leadership should include Mitt Romney.

Of course many Democrats will rightly point out that Romney signed the legislation, but then chose not to run for a second term. That left much of the shepherding of “Romneycare” to the states next Governor, Deval Patrick. As a faithful Democrat, he and the Massachusetts legislature have worked hard to ensure that the law lived up to its goals of providing access to insurance for all Bay-Staters. The Boston Globe did a comprehensive review of Romneycare in 2011, saying that it has been (and continues to be successful in achieving those goals. In 2006, some 500,000 Massachusetts residents did not have health insurance. Today, that number hovers around 120,000 and continues to drop as more tweaks are put in place. Romneycare, though not perfect, is an example of what government can actually DO to improve people’s lives.

As the nation begins a rapid implementation of Obamacare, we still remain deeply, (some might say tragically) divided on what health care reform means for the country. Democratic Governors and legislators are going full-steam ahead by embracing the new provisions, while Repbulican strongholds are building a fort against them even if it defies logic and reasoning to do so. As Texas Governor Rick Perry, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and others toy with the lives of millions in need of access to affordable care, it may be of benefit to have a prominent Republican voice that can attest to the good that health care reform can do. Sure, Mr. Romney’s status was lessened as being the losing candidate, but that doesn’t erase what he did for the Bay State. If anything, this could also be an opportunity for the former Governor to restore his reputation and find new purpose in the public debate.

The term “Obamacare” was originally drummed up by the Right-Wing media to distort and shame the President’s efforts for health reform. But in the 2012 campaign, President Obama turned around saying “I like Obamacare, because I actually DO care!”. Despite what he may have said in 2012, the same actually holds true for Mitt Romney. It’s why he chose to put the universal symbol for medicine into his official portrait as Governor of Massachusetts… the portrait that will align the walls of the Massachusetts State House for all forseen time. But now, in this time, our nation’s health care reform is in need of advocates from BOTH parties. We’ve got the Democrats, and now we are looking to Republican leaders who can break with the tight- lipped opposition, and defend the importance of health care. After all, our health can never truly be a party issue.

It’s called “Romneycare” because, at least this writer believes, Romney does care.

Montrose, Meet Your ‘Poe’ Excuse for a Congressman

Houston is very diverse city, and few areas give a better taste of that diversity than the neighborhood of Montrose. It’s the heart of the GLBT community, and home to much of the city’s progressive (yes I said PROGRESSIVE) community. And in 2013, we have a “new” United States Congressman… Ted Poe.

So just what does Congressman Poe have in common with Houston’s progressive community? As it turns out, absolutely NOTHING. He has worked hard to earn a 0 rating from the Human Rights Campaign, which means that he is the absolute enemy on all GLBT issues from marriage equality to hate crimes prevention. Had Ted Poe had his way, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for our nation’s military would still be in place. And of course the Congressman is new to our area, but it’s worth noting that he was one of only 7 house members to vote against the Ryan White CARE Act reauthorization in 2009. Named after an Indiana teenager that died of the disease, Ryan White CARE is “insurance of last resort” for poor advanced HIV and AIDS patients when they can’t get medication or healthcare elsewhere. It’s also a critical funding source for clinics in the Montrose area that treat these patients. Well guess what, neighbors… it’s up for Reauthorization again this year.

Another issue that is certainly of concern to the citizens of Montrose is Immigration reform. We are in Texas, afterall. Regardless of how Immigration reform plays out, it will have a major effect on the the city of Houston, the state of Texas and all over. Most Montrose residents in fact probably know someone that will be directly affected, it not themselves. So if you were wondering where Mr. Poe stands in regards to Immigration reform, don’t expect him to have much empathy, or insight for the complex situations of Texas families. He likens illegal immigration to something that can be cured with insect repellant. Listen to what he said…

“Now it seems to me that if we are so advanced with technology and manpower and competence that we can capture illegal grasshoppers from Brazil, in the holds of ships that are in a little small place in Port Arthur, Texas on the Sabine River… If we’re able to do that as a country, how come we can’t capture the thousands of people that cross the border everyday on the southern border of the United States? You know they’re a little bigger than grasshoppers and they should be able to be captured easier.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-OuKzZbbSE]

If you’re looking for an adult conversation about our nation’s immigration system, you ain’t-a-gonna get it from Ted Poe.

Thankfully, the Congressman has recently softened his stance, saying in a recent Politico Op-Ed that he even supports Immigration reform now. But thanks to clips like the one above, I’ll have to believe it when I see it.

Perhaps what is most disturbing was a the recent vote to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, which Ted Poe gladly voted against. Of course when the citizens of Southeast Texas needed 1.7 Billion dollars in federal funds to recover from Hurricane Ike, Congressman Poe was a thankful recipient. So when it’s Texas families that need help repairing their homes and getting loans for their businesses, it’s “aid”, but if those families are in New Jersey it’s “wasteful spending”?

So Montrose there you go… this is the guy we’ve been stuck with thanks to Texas’ shoddy redistricting program. But our neighborhood does not have to be ignored. In fact, we should introduce ourselves to the Congressman with some phone calls, emails, Tweets and throw in a couple of invitations to the Pride Houston this summer.

We’re already in a Red State, right? Let’s show Mr. Poe just how red we can get.

Christie: NRA ad discussing Obama’s kids is “Reprehensible”

It’s clear with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie that most people probably have a love-hate relationship with his policies. He’s a rare type of public figure that evokes a strong emotion for both supporters and opposers. Even if you may be a “bleeding heart Liberal” and would never vote for the guy, you can’t help but acknowledge when he’s right. And you also can’t help but see that it moves our national conversation forward.

Such is the case with his latest bombshell YouTube clip. When asked about the controversial NRA ad attacking the Obama family because their kids are protected by armed guards, he doesn’t try to sugar coat his opinion in favor of the GOP. He calls the NRA for what it is… Reprehensible.

When he’s right, he’s RIGHT.

Obama’s 23 Executive Orders on Guns

From the White House, here are the 23 Executive Orders just signed by President Obama (via TPM)…

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.