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SF Spikes Hosting National Gay Indoor Soccer Tournament September 25-27


The San Francisco Spikes Soccer Club will be hosting the 3rd Annual Folsom Weekend Indoor Soccer Tournament  September 25-27.  For more info see   Spikes allows our entire community the opportunity to compete in local leagues, represent San Francisco in tournaments worldwide, and play recreational soccer. Their president Trey Allen says “we’re excited to welcome LGBT soccer players from teams such as the Albany Empire, Chicago MSA, Long Beach Waverunners, WeHo, NY Ramblers, Philadelphia, Portland and Vancouver and their allies from all over the US who will be competing in this year’s tournament taking place in Bladium Sports Arena 800 W. Tower Ave., Alameda.”

At this traditional tournament you may register as an individual and they will help find you a team. Spectators are welcome and volunteers are still needed to help out as water boys and time keepers.  The weekend festivities begin with a panel discussion hosted by Commonwealth Club San Francisco and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) “A New Era of LGBT Openness in Int’l  Soccer” including Jaiyah Saelua from American Samoa, the 1st transgender player to compete in a FIFA qualifier.  The panel discussion is hosted by the San Francisco Commonwealth Club.

The San Francisco Spikes Soccer Club was founded as a team in 1982 to represent SF in the 1st Gay Games.  All are welcome to join including any  skill and income levels.   ”We offer fun competitive, intermediate and recreational soccer programming. We offer indoor and outdoor programming, too.”  Becoming a Spike is easy. Register online or show up at one of their indoor intramural nights (Mondays during the late Fall to early Spring) or their Thursday night outdoor practices (Spring- Fall). Click the calendar link on their website   for upcoming practice dates. Email for more info.

Trey Allen (he’s Spider Man in photo), a native of Bakersfield is working on his Master in Public Administration at SF State and has served as president of the SF Spike’s since 2014.  He and I met up at none other than Spike’s Coffee and Tea on 19th St (one of their community partners). He has increased membership overall as well as at their indoor league.  Under his leadership fundraising has increased and registration at this year’s tournament has nearly doubled.  Over a dozen community partners have been recruited.

This year’s 3rd Annual Folsom Weekend Indoor Soccer Tournament from September 25-27 promises to be even better than last year! Join in the fun with the numerous local and out-of-town athletes.  Ask to see if they’re wearing a harness along with their shin guards or the other way around.

Paul Margolis,

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Americans believe we spend around 26% of our national budget on foreign aid. Here’s the truth.

“I think the U.S. spends too much money helping out other countries when we clearly have a sh*t ton of problems being ignored in our own,” said a dear friend of mine.

I was asking for her thoughts on how the United States goes about helping other countries through foreign assistance. It can be a confusing and controversial topic.

As it turns out, her response is a common one.

So if the general sentiment is that we’re spending too much helping other countries on things like health, economic development, and humanitarian assistance … just how much are we actually spending?

Americans believe we spend an average of 26% of our entire U.S. budget on foreign aid.

I’m not going to go all math class on you, but to put it into perspective, our entire fiscal year 2016 budget (as it stands) is around $4 trillion. So the thinking is that over a fourth of that is being used toward other countries — or is it?

The reality is America spends less than 1% on foreign aid.

According to, America spends approximately 0.8% of its entire budget on foreign aid.

Considering foreign aid is such a tiny, tiny, tinyyyyy fraction of our spending, America is really making huge strides.
Think about these five ways the U.S. has been able to improve other countries while spending less than 1% of its budget:

1. 8 million people have received life-saving HIV treatment, and 56.7 million people have received HIV counseling and testing.

Just to put that into perspective there are about 8.4 million people living in New York City. A whole New York City got saved. Cool.

And that’s not all. According to USAID, more than 14.2 million pregnant women have been supported with HIV testing and counseling and provided prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission to more than 749,000 HIV-positive women. 95% of those babies were born HIV-free, which is great news for future generations.

2. Agricultural programs have helped 1 billion people in 20 years.

What’s cooler than helping a million people? Helping A BILLION PEOPLE.

Malnutrition contributes up to 45% of all childhood deaths. Oof. Agricultural programs like Feed the Future are working to cut that in various, sustainable ways.

In just 2014, Feed the Future reached more than 12 million children with nutrition interventions and helped nearly 7 million farmers gain access to new tools or technologies such as high-yielding seeds, fertilizer application, soil conservation, and water management. It’s teaching them how to help themselves.

3. Deaths caused by malaria in African children have dropped by 51%.


Foreign aid programs have helped bring malaria rates down in a historic way. A 51% drop between the years of 2000-2012 has meant that 500,000 African kids under the age of 5 have been saved each year and otherwise wouldn’t have, Foreign Policy and a 2013 report from the World Health Organization explain.

4. More moms and babies are staying alive. Millions more of them.

Moms used to die in childbirth. That number has been halved. HALF! We halved it with 1% of the budget.

Deaths of children under 5 worldwide have declined from 10.8 million in 2000 to 6.3 million in 2013. That’s a huge drop! And there’s more reason to celebrate too. Between 1990 and 2013, maternal mortality has dropped by almost 50% worldwide.

Many of these deaths can be easily prevented or treated with simple and affordable interventions, which makes me very hopeful we can help decrease these numbers even more.

5. Mobile banking is GIVING people a future … and it is the future. And it’s happening now!

No bank? No problem. We’re putting banks in cell phones! Next thing you know, women are taking out loans and opening up businesses.

There are 1.8 billion people in the world with access to a phone but not to a bank. That’s beginning to change. A big shift in foreign assistance is to focus on effective ways to expand poor people’s access to formal financial services, and phones are proving a great way to do it.

A great example lies in Nepal. According to USAID, over 300 mobile financial services agents in 30 of 75 districts are now operating in Nepal. In 2013, banks serving Nepalese clients were expected to reach more than 19,000 new clients, with more than $2.3 million in rural loans disbursed to almost 8,000 borrowers — most of them women. That’s how businesses are started and people become able to contribute to the economy. Bam! Progress.

We do have problems in our own country that need addressing. But we’re also not exactly using up all our resources on other countries either!

How do you feel knowing how effective America has been with it’s 1% of the budget?

If you’re like these folks, you start seeing things a little differently.

Some even start to think that maybe we should could even do more.

I’m happy to know that America’s budget is getting used in this way. It’s a tiny sliver of money, prioritizing helpfulness, and the result is billions of safer earthlings. Oh, the possibilities!

Morgan Shoaff, UpWorthy

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Alonzo King LINES Ballet welcomes new Executive Director, Karim Eric Baer

Alonzo King LINES Ballet is pleased to announce the appointment of Karim Eric Baer as its new Executive Director, effective September 10, 2015. Baer brings extensive experience in programming, education, organizational development, strategic planning and fundraising to Alonzo King LINES Ballet.

“We found a dynamic, strategic and compassionate leader in Karim Baer,” said Board President Lucia Choi-Dalton. “His mindful approach to management and his enthusiastic embrace of LINES Ballet’s mission will continue to help sustain the financial health of this multifaceted organization. The board is excited to begin working with our new leader soon.”

“We are thrilled to have an innovative thinker and leader like Karim on board,” said LINES Ballet Artistic Director & Choreographer Alonzo King. “His energy, enthusiasm, and vision make him a great candidate to lead LINES Ballet into the future.”

Baer most recently served as the Director of Public Programs & Performances at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), a private, non-profit institution of higher education based in San Francisco. Baer built a cultural and intellectual hub at CIIS, expanding a small collection of workshops to a dynamic program featuring internationally known artists, intellectuals and cultural influencers. He was also responsible for tripling the revenue of the Public Programs department. Prior he served as the Managing Director of the 7th Heaven Body Awareness Center in Berkeley and as a Social Worker in the Department of Social Services in Kansas City, MO.

“I have long considered Alonzo King LINES Ballet to be San Francisco’s premier dance company, representing the Bay Area’s commitment to the creative life here and abroad,” said Baer. “Likewise, the organization’s commitment to developing dancers through the LINES Dance Center and its myriad educational programs is inspirational. I am deeply honored, humbled and excited to join the team at LINES Ballet. I hope to be of great service and contribute to the artistic tapestry that is San Francisco.”

Baer received his BA in Psychology from Naropa University in Boulder, Co. He will remain involved with CIIS as an advisory board member to Public Programs & Performances.

Baer succeeds Janette Gitler, who served as Executive Director from 2011 until July of this year.


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My mom always asks me when she’s going to be a grandmother. Most of the time it’s in jest, but sometimes, when it’s just she and I in the car running errands, she gets more serious about it. “You’re not so young anymore,” she tells me, not in a mean way, but in a mom way — meaning that it comes from a place of love, but also that she won’t be dancing around some shit. And she’s right that I’m not so young anymore. I’m 34 years old and living like I’m 24. I have three roommates that I met off Craigslist, I’m in an often unsteady relationship (due in part to my Peter Pan Syndrome), and I want nothing to do with anything that requires me to be responsible for anything or anyone other than myself. And the thing is, I can’t imagine having any other kind of life … and I’m not sure I want to.

We always refer to San Francisco as Neverland. But as more and more Peters and Wendys and Lost Boys and Tinker Bells are pushed out of the city, I wonder if we can continue with this fantasy. Can a Peter Pan like myself survive in a Neverland diaspora? It’s easy to be forever young when the landscape that you live in doesn’t support adulthood. Shirking grown-up responsibilities like car payments is simple when you can ride a purple fuzzy bike everywhere. When the concept of owning a home is unfathomable, you just continue living with a bunch of roommates like a college student. But if I were suddenly evicted and forced out of this bubble of Victorians, fog, and hills, would I find that maybe my development had been arrested after all?

Before the current housing crisis, most of the people I knew who left San Francisco did so because, for them, it was time to escape the fantasy. They wanted normal grown-up shit like dishwashers and laundry machines and a multiple-bedroom house with a yard where their Tenderloin-studio-conceived kid could play. A cultural rift developed between those who decided they wanted out and those who wanted to continue playing make-believe. Many of us who stayed continued to do things like go out drinking on weeknights, have casual sex, and fuck around with mind-altering substances. A savings account was just the place where your money hung out until you transferred it to your checking account, and the concept of a retirement fund was ludicrous, because who the fuck has any money for that anyways? If you’re never gonna grow up, who needs a 401 (k)? Lately, though, for those of us who continue to play along, it’s felt like there’s a crack in the snow globe, and the vagaries of time are slipping in.

These days it seems possible to play at Peter Pan only if you’ve got VC funding. Silicon Valley bankrolls buy the trappings of eternal youth, like foosball tables and PlayStations at open offices. But it all seems contrived: going to an office in the first place and working for someone else sounds a lot like growing up.

I may not have realized it at the time, but I made a choice a long time ago to live a life devoted to creating things. Stories, poetry, spectacles, moon dances; the wild stuff that makes being alive worth it. I’ve always been content being monetarily broke but creatively and experientially rich. The things I make (booksTV shows, articles, poetryweb things) are highly consumed, and because of this popularity, my lifestyle far exceeds my bank account. From free meals to free booze to free tickets to shows, I get taken care of very well everywhere I go in SF, and that, combined with rent control, has always made being a broke artist viable. But here’s the thing: I am terrified of being evicted. I’ve managed to cobble together a life where bartending a few times a week supplements the little bit of money I make through my endeavors. But if I lose my rent control, I pretty much have to move out of the city, and I worry that I’m too old to start all over again and build this someplace else.

I have always been a motherfucking hustler, but right now I’m hustling harder than I’ve ever had to in my life. The fear of losing my apartment and the torment of having been so successful artistically yet so broke, is pushing me to work 12-hour days most weeks. I’ve always worked under the assumption that if I just keep making dope shit, I will finally pass over the tipping point that my career has been on for so long. But faced with the reality that San Francisco now only seems to support your dreams if you dream in code, I’m grinding doubly hard, trying to make my projects profitable instead of just cool. Because I’m not ready to leave.


The strange thing about worrying when I’ll get pushed out of Neverland is that I’m just as nervous about what happens if I don’t. I’ve seen a lot of people who, like me, never fancied the idea of growing up, and they are still living in the same broke-as-fuck situation as I am. I look at some of my heroes and I see my future in them and it terrifies me, because if it’s this hard now, I don’t see how it can get any easier as I get older. These are the people who, given the choice between chutes and ladders, chose the chutes every time because it was always a hell of a lot more fun than climbing up somebody else’s fucking rungs. Idealism can be a dangerous thing when you live in a place that so thoroughly encourages it, but it’s even more treacherous when it feels like that place is crumbling away. When you’ve built your whole life around living in San Francisco and not ever really growing up, what do you do when San Francisco grows up without you?

No matter how much I want to stay young and play make-believe forever, the forces of time and economics are conspiring against me. And as the city that so supports our fantasies also succumbs under the weight of gold, it makes me wonder what to do next. Do I leave Neverland and finally grow up? Or do I stay here with what’s left of the pirates and the fairies pretending to be young forever, until one day when I just can’t pretend anymore?

Riding in the car with my mom, going onto whatever the next errand is, we continue to talk about her nonexistent grandchildren. “I look at Harriet and she’s my current hero,” she smiles at me. “She didn’t become a grandmother until she was 70. To be honest, honey, I just want you to be happy,” she says. For the moment, living this weird life of uncertainty, where I hustle hard every day to both pay rent and create meaningful art, I think that might be exactly what I am. Happy. Let’s just hope I can figure out how to make this shit last.




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Clinton Email Scandal Falls Apart As State Dept. Says There Was No Policy Against Private Email

The Republican Hillary Clinton email scandal is falling apart as the State Department confirmed that there was no policy against Clinton using private email.

On CNN’s New Day, State Department spokesman John Kirby said, “We have said in the past, Chris that there was no policy prohibiting the use of a private email account here at the State Department, and that is still a fact. Now, obviously, we have policies in place now that highly discourage that, and you are supposed to use your government account so that there is a constant, permanent record of it, but at the time she was not violating policy….I can tell you that there was no prohibition for her use of this, and we’ve since changed the policy to discourage that greatly, and in fact, the policy is that you have to use your government account for business.”

Kirby added that he didn’t believe that the policy changed while she was Secretary of State, which means that Hillary Clinton was doing nothing wrong when she used private email.

In a recent interview, also on CNN, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) admitted that the number of emails that Republicans claim were classified information in Hillary Clinton’s email account was not accurate due to retroactive classification.

The great email scandal that Republicans hoped would destroy Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is heading down the same path as “IRS scandal,” the “Benghazi scandal,” and President Obama’s birth certificate.

The email scandal is being revealed as another in a long series of election-year stunts. Republicans are set to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on politically driven investigations into Clinton’s use of email, and their efforts are likely to result in nothing.

A CNN poll released last week revealed that voters don’t care about Hillary Clinton’s emails. Clinton still leads every Republican presidential candidate, and Republicans are now confronted with the reality that if Hillary Clinton did not violate any policies regarding the use of email, there is no scandal to investigate.\

Jason Easley, PoliticusUSA

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Two Gay Men Who Fled ISIS Just Made U.N. History

Three months after arriving in the U.S. as a refugee once persecuted for his sexual orientation, Subhi Nahas is still grappling with the transition from his former home in Idlib, Syria, to life in San Francisco. “When you resettle you have lost everything in the country of origin that you came from,” he told reporters at the U.N. on Monday. “It means that you’re going into the unknown, that you don’t know where you’re going, that you don’t know what’s going to follow.”

Nahas never could have predicted that so soon after being granted refugee protection he would become one of the first people in history to address the U.N. Security Council on LGBT persecution. The historic meeting, an informal session known as an “Arria,” was prompted by attacks by ISIS and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq against LGBT individuals.

“I was so nervous, but then it feels like that you’re empowered and you have a message that you want to deliver,” Nahas, who now works for the Organization for Refugee, Asylum, and Migration, said of his address to the Security Council. “It feels like you’ve done something really good for the community and for the people that I want to help.”

The meeting, organized by the U.S. and Chilean delegations, was held behind closed doors to protect the privacy of an anonymous Iraqi gay man who used the pseudonym “Adnan” and delivered testimony via telephone. It was attended by 13 of the 15 member nations of the powerful chamber, with only Chad and Angola refusing to participate. Four countries with troubling LGBT rights records of their own — China, Russia, Nigeria, and Malaysia — declined to speak, but remained present for the entire meeting.

“This is the first time in history that the council has held a meeting on the victimization of LGBT persons,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said in her remarks. “It is the first time we are saying, in a single voice, that it is wrong to target people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a historic step. And it is, as we all know, long overdue.”

Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Of course, LGBT individuals in Iraq and Syria had endured violence and discrimination long before ISIS emerged last year from the chaos of the Syrian civil war. However, the group’s unique brand of barbarism — executing those suspected of sodomy or homosexuality by stoning, beheading, firing squads, or throwing them from buildings, and then actively promoting the killings on social media — prompted urgent calls for the historic Security Council meeting.

Power recounted one video in which a man found to be having a gay affair was blindfolded and pushed off a building, only to survive the fall and be stoned by a mob of bystanders. “Kids in the crowd were reportedly encouraged to grab stones and take part,” she said.

“ISIS are also professional when it comes to tracking gay people,” Adnan said in his remarks. “They hunt them down one by one. When they capture people, they go through the person’s phone and contacts and Facebook friends. They are trying to track down every gay man. And it’s like dominoes. If one goes, the others will be taken down too.”

Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said activists had documented at least 30 instances of gay men being executed by ISIS since June 2014. However, she cautioned that lesbians and transgender individuals have also endured sexual assault and fatal violence.

Stern noted that the killings her group was able to document were due in large part to the sophisticated social media propaganda machine ISIS uses to disseminate news after each gruesome execution. “I never imagined that I would say that a militia is my main source of information, but they are,” she said.

With ISIS known for using targeted violence against individuals and communities it knows will generate shock value and lead to news headlines, concerns have been raised over the potential danger involved in shining such a powerful spotlight on the Iraqi and Syrian LGBT communities.

“At best, the meeting will be useless,” former Human Rights Watch advocate Scott Long wrote in a blog post critical of the Arria. “It’ll lead to that indolent repletion where people feel they’ve acted when they’ve actually done nothing.”

“At worst, it’s going to cause more killings,” he cautioned.

Stern acknowledged these concerns as valid: “Could association with a U.N. mechanism potentially actually increase vulnerability for LGBTI Iraqis and tar them as associated with the West?” she asked. However, she argued that given the Security Council’s past discussion of ISIS’s treatment of women, the minority Yazidi community, and Christians, it was important not to exclude LGBT individuals in order to truly document the brutality of ISIS.

“Given the extreme constant forms of attack by ISIS on LGBTI Iraqis and Syrians, we think it’s of the greatest importance that the international community be informed about the issue, be seized with the issue, and take action,” she said.

Power, too, responded to the worry in a call with reporters Monday afternoon, saying she believed the opportunity to raise concerns about LGBT rights in the U.N.’s most powerful body “would do [good] for LGBT rights writ large.”

Exactly what the Security Council can do to help isn’t clear, though. While Stern’s group is calling in part for greater protection and services for LGBT refugees from the U.N. and international community, the Security Council is not a humanitarian body. A referral to the International Criminal Court also seems unlikely, Long wrote, as it might also open up Syrian or Iraqi authorities, and their various international backers, to potential prosecution.

“We don’t have a series of next steps mapped out in relation to the Security Council. In the 70-year history of the U.N., it’s never addressed this,” Stern said. “[But] today a door has opened, and we have to find out what happens when we walk through that door.”

Speaking to reporters after she addressed the Arria, Stern said she had been encouraged by the response of member nations. She noted she’d been informed that Jordan’s statement in the meeting condemning ISIS violence generally was the first time an Arab country had said something explicitly positive in the context of LGBT violations.

Ambassador Power said that in recent years the U.S. has resettled 75 to 100 LGBT refugees annually, but did not support calls for the government to dedicate spots for LGBT refugees or fast-track their applications. She called on Congress to raise the cap on the number of refugees resettled to the U.S. each year — which is now 70,000 — in response to the unprecedented 60 million people currently displaced worldwide. “The main thing is we need to work together to insure that there’s more political support up on the Hill to fund and to accommodate a larger pool of refugees,” she said.

Subhi Nahas, who fled Syria after facing threats from militants with Jabhat al-Nusra, as well as physical violence from his own father, said he is still struggling to make sense of a foreign culture and language. He said he has found it difficult to make conversation and communicate, but on Monday his voice was forceful, clear, and determined.

“There’s a community in the Middle East that is now standing up, and we want to push back,” he said. “We want our voices to be heard, we want our rights to be acknowledged, and we will prevail in the end.”

David Mack, BuzzFeed

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President Obama Is the Anti-Lame Duck

Quentin Tarantino really likes President Obama:

You supported Obama. How do you think he’s done?

I think he’s fantastic. He’s my favorite president, hands down, of my lifetime. He’s been awesome this past year. Especially the rapid, one-after-another-after-another-after-another aspect of it. It’s almost like take no prisoners. His he-doesn’t-give-a-shit attitude has just been so cool. Everyone always talks about these lame-duck presidents. I’ve never seen anybody end with this kind of ending. All the people who supported him along the way that questioned this or that and the other? All of their questions are being answered now.

Rapid fire indeed. In no particular order, here’s a baker’s dozen list of his major actions in the nine months since the 2014 midterm elections:

  1. Normalized relations with Cuba.
  2. Signed a climate deal with China.
  3. Issued new EPA ozone rules.
  4. Successfully argued in favor of same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court.
  5. Put in place economic sanctions on Russia that have Vladimir Putin reeling.
  6. Pressured the FCC to approve net neutrality rules.
  7. Issued new EPA coal regulations.
  8. Issued an executive order on immigration.
  9. Got fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and seems poised to pass it.
  10. Signed a nuclear deal with Iran and appears on track to get it passed.
  11. Won yet another Supreme Court case keeping Obamacare intact.
  12. Issued new rules that increase the number of “managers” who qualify for overtime pay.
  13. Presided over the birth of twin giant panda babies at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

I sure hope those baby pandas survive. It would be a shame if Obama’s legacy were marred by insufficient maternal attention from Mei Xiang.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent comments: ”What’s particularly striking is how many of these major moves have been embraced by likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and have been opposed by the 2016 GOP presidential candidates.” In other words, Obama’s late-term actions will provide much of the contrast between the likely Democratic and Republican nominees next year.

That’s partly because Clinton is reconstituting the Obama coalition of millennials, minorities, and socially liberal, college educated whites, who are more likely to support (and care about) action to combat climate change, immigration reform, relaxing relations with Cuba, active government to expand health coverage, and so forth. It’s also partly because the Clinton camp genuinely sees these issue contrasts as useful to the broader mission of painting the GOP as trapped in the past. It’s possible the Clinton team thinks it can pull off a balancing act in which she signals she’d take the presidency in her own direction while vowing to make progress on Obama’s major initiatives and excoriating Republicans for wanting to re-litigate them and roll them back.<

Also, too, because Obama and Clinton are both liberals, and are naturally likely to agree on the general direction of the country in the first place. It’s worth remembering that a lot of Democrats struggled in 2008 to find much daylight between the two.

, Mother Jones

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Trump wants to tell you about the ‘real’ unemployment rate

On the first Friday of every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases a report on monthly U.S. job totals and the nation’s unemployment rate. In the most recent report, the rate was 5.3% – its lowest point in more than seven years, and far from its peak of 10% in 2009.

In Republican circles, this poses a bit of a problem. President Obama and his agenda are supposed to be causing an economic nightmare of historic proportions, with “job creators” crying over their balance sheets when they’re not being dragged into the streets for their ritual tar-and-feathering. With job creation improving so much, so quickly, conservatives find themselves looking for new ways to talk about the issue.

For some, conspiracy theories are a convenient crutch – that rascally White House, the argument goes, must be manipulating the data to fool everyone – while other Republicans make the case that there’s a difference between the unemployment rate and the real unemployment rate.

Consider GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments to Time magazine this week:

“We have a real unemployment rate that’s probably 21%. It’s not 6. It’s not 5.2 and 5.5. Our real unemployment rate – in fact, I saw a chart the other day, our real unemployment – because you have ninety million people that aren’t working. Ninety-three million to be exact. If you start adding it up, our real unemployment rate is 42%.”
Note, over the course of a few seconds, Trump said the “real unemployment rate” doubled from 21% to 42%. That escalated quickly.

We’re left with two very different sets of numbers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Labor Department have official data that shows a rate of 5.3%. On the other hand, Donald Trump “saw a chart the other day” and came up with 42%.

I’d ordinarily just shrug this off as Trump being Trump, but with so many conservatives looking for ways to question good news, it’s worth pausing to appreciate what they’re trying to say.

Trump’s numbers aren’t completely made up. When the GOP candidate talks about “our real unemployment rate,” he points to the 93 million Americans who, in reality, do not have a job.

But as the Wall Street Journal explained, the details matter.

[M]any people without jobs are teenagers and retirees…. The Labor Department doesn’t consider these people unemployed for a reason: Your kid brother who is a high school junior and my grandma who just turned 88? They’re not considered unemployed, for a very good and very obvious reason!
Right. For Donald Trump, the “real” unemployment rate should include kids in high school and seniors who’ve retired from the work force. That strikes me as a little silly, but your mileage may vary.

If conservatives want to make the case that the official unemployment rate – the U-3 rate for you wonks out there – is not the best metric for understanding the health of the job market, I’m not unsympathetic to the argument. As regular readers know, I’m far more interested in whether jobs are actually being created than whether the rate, which only counts those actively looking for a job, is inching higher or lower.

But let’s not play political games with the data, pretending there’s a “real” unemployment rate that should include octogenarians.

Steve Benen, MSNBC
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An Old Folks Home In San Francisco Has Some New Residents: Young Techies

Some luxury apartment buildings in San Francisco lure young tech workers with perks like housekeeping, dry cleaning, and concierge services. But at one newly renovated building in the city’s Mission neighborhood, techie tenants are instead encountering amenities like a free blood pressure screening and an educational workshop on arthritis.

That’s because the building, in addition to housing some fresh young faces, is also a government-subsidized senior community, where most of the residents are elderly retirees.

For several years now, with the San Francisco real estate market reaching stomach-turning heights, developers have been finding new ways to cash in on surging demand. Gleaming high-rises in the South of Market and mid-Market areas, featuring pricey apartments within longboarding distance of many tech companies, have helped push the median monthly rent for a studio apartment in the city to $2,722 as of June, according to Pricenomics.

But the transformation taking place at the Mission building, a longtime home for the elderly, highlights how the city’s real estate gold rush can occasionally veer into the absurd. The building, known as the Vincentian Villa, had been owned by the St. Vincent de Paul Society charity for 40 years, until it was sold to a Los Angeles–based developer for $13.5 million last year. The purchaser, GHC Housing Partners, agreed to extend a federal contract to keep about 60% of the building’s units priced far below market rates. But it is now gradually renting out the rest as they become vacant — apartments so small they are called “micro studios” — to tech workers paying around $2,000 a month for roughly 300 square feet of space.

One new tenant, Zane Riley, a 24-year-old product designer from southern Missouri, came across the Vincentian Villa toward the end of a two-month apartment search this spring, while he and his girlfriend, Megan Keesee, were staying with an Airbnb host in Berkeley. “We didn’t know anything about the San Francisco housing market,” said Riley, an artsy type with a slight country twang, who grew up fishing and swimming in a quarry near his hometown of Blodgett (population: 211). “We got our apartment in Missouri with a handshake, basically.”

The young couple, who shared their first kiss on the banks of the Mississippi River, were surviving only on Keesee’s starting salary as a public relations associate. The craft beers and cage-free eggs at the nearby Berkeley Bowl were out of reach; for dinner, they would sometimes split a single appetizer at a local Korean place. “We usually walked to McDonald’s,” Riley said. “That was about the extent of going out.”

The Craigslist ads for studio apartments in the Vincentian Villa didn’t mention that the majority of the building’s units were covered by the federal government’s Section 8 housing assistance program for low-income tenants. At first glance, the building, which was recently renovated at a cost of $3 million to include granite countertops and new plank flooring in the units, and a modern-looking courtyard in back, resembles the countless other habitats marketed to aspiring yuppies. Riley said he didn’t remember the building’s Section 8 status being mentioned on the tour. Only when he later googled the address on a hunch — after signing the lease and paying the security deposit and first month’s rent — did he learn the building’s history.

The agent who did the deal, Kent Boeker of J.Wavro Associates, said Riley should have known better. “Everyone was told that this was an assisted living, subsidized housing building, where a small number of units were currently available for market-rate tenants,” Boeker told BuzzFeed News. “But it’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. I would only say it once.”

Boeker’s boss, James Wavro, put it more bluntly.

“Anyone who walks in that building will see a critical mass of old people, rolling around the building, hanging out in the common areas,” Wavro said. “The way that we train our agents, I tell them, ‘Kill the deal, kill the deal, kill the deal.’ What I mean by that is, let people know what they’re getting themselves into.”

“Our joke was, we’re going to have multigenerational bridge games going on in the club lounge, which we thought would be kind of fun,” Wavro added. “Because you can learn a lot from old people.”

The San Francisco real estate boom, accompanying the city’s rise as a major new tech hub in recent years, has reshaped neighborhoods and inflamed local tensions. A growing number of new residents — many of them young, highly skilled workers — are competing for a limited number of apartments in a few hot neighborhoods, like Soma and the Mission. Even as new apartment buildings have gone up, competition for living space has intensified.

By the end of this year, the city is projected to have a 3.2% apartment vacancy rate, compared with a projected rate of 4.8% for all major U.S. cities, according to the real estate brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap. In a report this spring, Forbes, using Marcus & Millichap data, declared San Francisco to be the No. 1 worst city in the nation for renters.

While developers have seized the moment by erecting structures like Nema, a luxurious apartment complex where some studio apartments rent for more than $4,000 a month, the situation at the Vincentian Villa is more complicated.

The building’s new owner, GHC, is one of the largest owners of affordable housing in the United States, and it took certain steps last year to keep the elderly residents in their homes. Crucially, it extended for 20 years the federal contract that had ensured Section 8 affordability for 72 of the building’s 124 apartments. Many of the other apartments, though lacking the federal subsidy, are still being subsidized by an ad hoc fund created by GHC and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. (Companies like GHC that own Section 8 housing receive payments from the government to make up for the lower rent.)

The arrangement hasn’t attracted much attention from local housing advocates, who say they are instead concerned about buildings like Frederick Douglas Haynes Gardens, a development in the Fillmore district that is apparently at risk

of losing its Section 8 designation altogether. “I wouldn’t have done a deal that would have required us to displace people to make a profit, or to make a property financially viable,” Gregory Perlman, the chief executive of GHC, told BuzzFeed News.

Indeed, GHC is pursuing a more nuanced strategy, with plans to reap its biggest profits from the 52 apartments that aren’t covered by Section 8. When residents in those apartments leave — or die — GHC will rent out their homes to new tenants at market rates.

At least 14 such units have been rented out so far. Riley and Keesee, who pay $1,700 a month for a roughly 285-square-foot studio that they share with Champ, their 65-pound German shepherd–border collie mix, were among the first young people to move in. The other new tenants include “young twentysomethings moving to the city for a new job, or even their first job,” according to Boeker, the real estate agent.

To speed this process, and also to ease the challenge of renovating the building with elderly people living in it, GHC offered $25,000 last year to any resident who chose to leave. Five people took the money. Perlman said the offer was not intended to drive people out of the 52 apartments that would go on the market. Three of the tenants who took the money, he said, had been living in the Section 8 apartments, which will stay subsidized for 20 years.

But even in those cases, the landlord can benefit from a tenant taking a buyout. When a Section 8 apartment becomes vacant, elderly residents in the other apartments have first dibs on moving there, according to Perlman — creating vacancies among the apartments that can be rented at market rates.

One longtime resident who made such a move was Maria Amparo Ochoa, a 73-year-old immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico, who once worked in a clothing factory in Los Angeles. She told BuzzFeed News that she didn’t move by choice. Instead, she said, the building management moved her from an apartment on the first floor to a different one on the third floor, a small space crowded with cardboard boxes of her belongings. The higher elevation, Ochoa said, aggravates her health issues, including high blood pressure.

“I feel suffocated and my breathing is not good. I need to take a lot of medicine for the high blood pressure, constantly,” Ochoa said in Spanish. “I really would like to go down,” she added. “I live more comfortably on the ground floor.”

Perlman, the chief executive of GHC, said in an email that Ochoa’s move to a Section 8 apartment on the third floor ensured that she would have subsidized housing “for the long term,” under a federal contract. He said Ochoa had signed up to be on a waiting list for a Section 8 room, and that “fair housing laws do not allow her to pick and choose which unit she can move into.”

Ochoa may want to move back to her old apartment on the first floor, but she can’t now. The apartment has already been rented out — to Zane Riley.

Riley, of course, didn’t have a clue about this backstory when he moved in. As gentrifiers go, he couldn’t be further from the entitled brat stereotype. Living with elderly peo

ple, he said, “was perfect for us” and reminded him of a similar setup he and Keesee had in Missouri. Their dog, Champ, he added, “does much better with older tenants.”

“Because I’m from a low-income area, that’s always on my mind: Now I’m a techie yuppie that everybody hates,” said Riley, who works at Brit + Co, a media and e-commerce startup in the city.

“Back home, we were worried about things like food deserts and infant mortality rates,” he added. “If I have to live in a small apartment to do the work that I love, that’s fine with me. Hopefully the tenants don’t feel we’re displacing them.”

William Alden with Erica Sánchez, Aaron Reiss, and Zach Nacev ,

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2 More Gay Men Thrown Off Building by ISIS then Stoned by Blood-Thirsty Waiting Mob

Where is the rage people? Imagine if two gay men were thrown off a roof in San Francisco. We should be just as angry. I feel like we are too comfortable with these things happening to our gay brothers and sisters when they are on the other side of the world.

Daily Mall reports:

A gruesome video has emerged showing ISIS jihadists executing two men whose only crime’ was being gay.

The video shows two men being thrown to their deaths from a roof in Homs, before being stoned by a bloodthirsty and baying mob – which included children.

It goes on to show the killers apparently conducting the rituals of an Islamic burial – only to be dumped in an unmarked grave.

The murders are the latest in a string of rooftop ‘executions’.

Read more:


From AccidentalBear

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Twyla Tharp’s 50th Anniversary Tour, Bach Collegium Japan, and Gil Shaham provide multiple access points to the composer in the inaugural season of Berkeley RADICAL

 Cal Performances Executive and Artistic Director Matías Tarnopolsky curated three thematic strands when programming the 2015–2016 season. The first, called ZellerBACH, features a series of performances and public programs to explore the lasting musical legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach. American iconoclast Twyla Tharp celebrates a half-century of creating ambitious, complex dance works that embrace and extend the American vernacular, with her 50th Anniversary Tour, featuring new works set to John Zorn, New Orleans jazz, and Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. The Baroque chamber orchestra and choir Bach Collegium Japan, directed by Masaaki Suzuki, are pioneers of period-instrument performance in its home country, performs an all-Bach program. And violinist Gil Shaham plays Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, with new projections by acclaimed visual artist David Michalek.  Performances of Twyla Tharp’s 50th Anniversary Tour are Friday­­ and Saturday, October 16 and 17 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, October 18 at 3:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall.Bach Collegium Japan performs on Saturday, October 24 at 8:00 p.m. in First Congregational Church, and Gil Shaham takes the stage in Zellerbach Hall, with films by David Michalek, on Thursday, April 14 at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall.

In February 2015, Cal Performances unveiled Berkeley RADICAL (Research And Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts, and Learning), its new project to cultivate the artistic literacy of future audiences and to connect the world’s most innovative artists with the intellectual capital of the UC Berkeley campus. Through carefully crafted public programs and creative artistic residencies, Berkeley RADICAL serves as a framework to expand the reach of Cal Performances by providing audiences with multiple access points to a single work of art or artist. In addition to the performances, ZellerBACH programs include pre-performance talks, and a community response panel exploring the dynamic attraction of Bach’s music for contemporary artists and audiences. For more information as events are announced, visit

Twyla Tharp’s 50th Anniversary Tour celebrates her influential career creating dance works that have famously bridged popular and classical forms, with two new works performed by a company of 13 dancers. Featuring two Bay Area premieres, Preludes and Fugues is set to Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, and Yowzie is steeped in the rhythms of early jazz, with music by Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller, arranged and performed by Henry Butler and Steven Bernstein. Each dance is introduced by a Fanfare, composed by John Zorn.

Bach Collegium Japan, directed by Masaaki Suzuki, returns to Berkeley with an all-Bach program, including the “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 5, the Concerto for Oboe d’amore in A major, the Trio Sonata from theMusical Offering, and a solo cantata, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut. Praised for the clarity of its interpretations, “[The ensemble] played with such purity of tone, so reliably in tune. The small, precise, dramatically alert chorus breathed fire but also revealed a heartbreaking tenderness” (Los Angeles Times).

With Bach: Six Solos, violinist Gil Shaham brings a 21st-century vision to some of the most cherished works in the canon, performing Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, set in conversation with new video projections by David Michalek. Michalek is best known for Slow Dancing, his outdoor video installation of hyper-slow-motion ­video ­portraits that has been shown internationally, and here creates a contemplative, immersive tableau as a companion to Bach’s iconic works.

Friday­­ and Saturday, October 16 and 17 at 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, October 18 at 3:00 p.m.

Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley Campus

Bancroft Way at Dana Street, Berkeley


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Gay Cowboys Awarded $43K From Texas County Over Denied Marriage License

A Texas county clerk’s refusal to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple has cost taxpayers more than $43,000.

The Hood County Commission has agreed to settle a lawsuit against Clerk Katie Lang, who cited her religious beliefs in refusing to issue a marriage license to Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton (above) following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

After Cato and Stapleton, a couple of 27 years, filed a federal lawsuit, Lang quickly relented and issued the license — but it would be too late.

Lang, represented by the anti-gay Liberty Institute, could have been on the hook for more than half a million dollars in attorney’s fees and damages, according to Cato and Stapleton’s attorneys. However, the couple agreed to forego damages, and the attorneys cut their hourly rate in half to avoid protracted litigation.

Pat O’Connell, one of the couple’s attorneys, said in a release announcing the settlement (believed to be the first in a case where a county clerk refused to issue a same-sex marriage license):

“It is a shame that Hood County Clerk Katie Lang refused to follow the rule of law, causing our clients to go through the difficulties of hiring lawyers and filing a federal lawsuit to obtain the marriage license to which they are constitutionally entitled. And it is sad that the taxpayers of Hood County have to pay the price for their elected official’s misconduct.”

Jan Soifer, another attorney for Cato and Stapleton, added:

“Marriage equality is finally the law of the land. Instead of seeking legal advice from the Hood County Attorney about the impact of the law on her official responsibilities,Hood County Clerk Katie Lang turned to a private attorney from the Liberty Institute,putting her own personal political goals ahead of her responsibilities to Hood County taxpayers. Clerk Lang’s actions in violation of her legal duties forced our clients to file their lawsuit. Clerk Lang is fortunate that the Hood County Commissioners agreed to resolve the lawsuit now to save her from dealing with the additional expense and significant financial exposure her actions caused the taxpayers of her county.”

And Cato said:

“We are overjoyed that justice was done, and grateful to our lawyers for forcing the County Clerk to follow the law, something she was unwilling to do before our lawyers stepped in to represent us. We are very happy that we finally received our marriage license and were able to celebrate our marriage at our home in Granbury.”

Cato and Stapleton’s attorneys say they’ll donate a portion of their earnings to the Equality Texas Foundation, so Lang can take comfort in knowing her refusal to issuing a same-sex marriage license will ultimately help fund a gay-rights group.

Now, perhaps Lang should put in a call to Clerk Kim Davis in Rowan County, Kentucky, to advise her as to the consequences of violating same-sex couples’ civil rights.


John Wright, TowleRoad

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Flagging in the Park – Celebrating San Francisco’s Disco Era

August 15, 2015 Interview of Xavier Caylor


Flaggers and fanners entertained us from the stage while we danced the night away at the Trocadero Transfer and I-Beam during the disco era here in San Francisco.  The vibrant colors swooshing and swaying through the air enhanced our experience with trails of color.   Watch this YouTube video of a fan dance from 1984:

Many passed away of AIDS and were buried with their flags and fans. Carrying on this tradition today is a group of flow artists – fanning, flagging, poi, staff, hoopers, and flow arts supporters who gather 5 times annually during the spring and summer in the National AIDS Memorial Grove located at Nancy Pelosi Dr. & Bowling Green Dr.  Flagging in the Park is a celebration of life and fundraiser for local charities and since 2005 they have been responsible for $145,000 in disbursements. One of their events benefits the Grove and the other 4 beneficiaries are chosen by the deejay of the event.


Xavier Caylor moved here after admiring a flagging tribe in the Grove in 1997. He is among a group of volunteers who co-produce Flagging in the Park.  He also volunteers at Grass Roots Gay Rights Foundation, is a tie dye artist instructor and ASL interpreter.  Some participants at the events take his flagging classes at FitnessSF while others are self-taught.  Xavier describes the experience as “magical, mystical & meditative as well as self-healing.”  See this YouTube video from their May 2015 event and feel the energy:

The Flaggers also build community by performing at fundraising events such as the Folsom Street Fair and Bliss, an event benefitting Maitri, a residential care facility for people living with AIDS.

Flagging in the Park will entertain us once again in the beautiful National AIDS Memorial Grove August 23rd from 1-4pm along with the amazing deejay John LePage.  Proceeds will benefit the SF AIDS Foundation.  All are invited to participate – at the last event over 600 people did so.  Flags are available for use or you can relax, take in the fun dance music and colorful visuals.  See the event page  Come enjoy the sun, music, flora, and friends.

Their last event this year will take place October 10 benefitting the AIDS Housing Alliance. For information regarding upcoming events and volunteer opportunities see their website and Facebook page

by Paul Margolis , Director of



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Mike Huckabee: 10-year-old rape victim should be forced to carry rapist’s baby

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee argued over the weekend that a 10-year-old girl should have been forced to carry her pregnancy to term after she was raped.

During an interview on Sunday, CNN host Dana Bash asked the GOP candidate if he would refuse an abortion to a 10-year-old girl in Paraguay, who was allegedly raped by her stepfather.

“Creating one problem that is horrible — let nobody be misled, a 10-year-old girl being raped is horrible — but does it solve a problem by taking the life of an innocent child?” Huckabee said. “And that’s really the issue.”

The former Arkansas governor recalled that he had known a man who was born as the result of a rape after doctors in Texas refused to give his mother an abortion.

“Today, his organization feeds, cares for and brings living capacity for water to hundreds of thousands of people across the world,” Huckabee noted. “That would never have happened… So when I think about one horror, I also think about the possibilities.”

He agreed that it wouldn’t be “easy” to force a 10-year-old girl to carry her rapist’s baby, “but let’s not compound the tragedy by taking yet another life.”

“When an abortion happens, there are two victims,” he insisted. “One is the child, the other is that birth mother, who often will go through extraordinary guilt years later when she begins to think through what happened, with the baby, with her.”

“There are no easy answers here,” Huckabee opined. “And I realize that there are some people that will be very different in their view of this than me. And I respect that. I don’t want to get into a shouting match with people who think I’m wrong. I respect that.”

“I just come down on the side that every life is precious. I don’t think we discount the intrinsic worth of any human being, and I don’t know where else to go with it.”


David Edwards, Raw Story

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S.F. Chinese Community Health Plan Sued by its Own Physicians for Endangering Patient Health Care

S.F. Physicians Sue For Contract Breach, Criticize CCHP Management for Endangering Patient Safety, Health Care

In Separate Legal Action, Whistleblower Sues CCHP in S.F. for Overbilling Medicare

CCHP accused of harming Chinese patients, endangering healthcare in S.F. Chinatown

CCHP accused of harming Chinese patients, endangering healthcare in S.F. Chinatown


The physicians association representing the medical staff at the Chinese Hospital in Chinatown has filed suit against the for-profit Chinese Community Health Plan (CCHP), claiming that recent actions by CCHP management to siphon doctors from the association threaten to tear apart longstanding health-care alliances in the community while putting the very future of the hospital at risk.

The non-profit, independent physicians association, known as Chinese Community Health Care Association (CCHCA), represents 197 doctors serving the Chinese Hospital and community health clinics in Chinatown.  For more than three decades the physicians association has served as a gatekeeper between CCHP, the Chinese Hospital and health care providers, ensuring that everyone in the community received high-quality health care.

Recently, however, CCHP sent doctors in the physicians association Participating Provider Agreements – individual physician contracts – in an attempt to pressure doctors into signing directly with the health plan. The contract offer included language that intentionally misled doctors into believing that the PPA was simply a renewal of an existing agreement, when in fact it was a completely new offer that would have legally bound the physicians directly to CCHP.

“We believe the purpose of these unprecedented solicitations is to decimate the independent physicians association, destroy the unique health care alliance that has served this community so well for so long and ultimately drive up profits for CCHP at patients’ expense,” said Dr. Raymond Li, President of CCHCA.  “The actions by the management of CCHP will leave our community with fewer doctors and far fewer health-care choices.”

The CCHP contract offer threatens to divide the health-care community in Chinatown and diminish the availability of care for thousands of Chinese patients. Without the protections of CCHCA, health plan management would be free to manipulate fees and other reimbursements, driving qualified, culturally sensitive doctors from the community and depleting the medical ranks within the Chinese community.

San Francisco elected representatives told the San Francisco Sentinel they will investigate the allegations made by physicians to ensure the safety of Chinese patients from price gauging, unsafe medical practices, overbilling and other questionable actions by CCHP and its management and board of directors.

“The unique alliance between CCHP, CCHCA and the Chinese Hospital served the Chinese community well for many years,” said Dr. Eric Leung, Vice President of CCHCA.  “But the tradition of affordable, reliable care and services is threatened by the actions of profit-driven corporate leaders bent on controlling and manipulating the health-care marketplace. The pending opening of the new Chinese Hospital will mean little if the historical structure of health care in the community has been destroyed by corporate greed.”

CCHCA took legal action against CCHP reluctantly and only after a cease and desist letter from CCHCA was ignored. Indeed, instead of ending the solicitation, CCHP sent out an addendum to the physicians that continued the deception in an attempt to coerce their signatures. Despite these veiled threats and strong-armed tactics, only two physicians have signed the CCHP contract.

The California Medical Association and the San Francisco Medical Society recently penned a joint letter to Brenda Yee, CEO of the health plan, expressing their grave concerns about CCHP’s actions. “It is critical that the health plan respect the important role CCHCA has played in delivering much-needed, culturally appropriate, affordable health care to the Chinese community,” the letter stated. “CMA and the SFMS are prepared to support CCHCA and its physicians to continue to achieve its charitable purposes.”

As the letter from SFMS and CMA points out, CCHCA for three decades has promoted social welfare in Chinatown by providing financial support for health-related community programs, including the Chinese Community Health Resource Center, the Neighborhood Disaster Response Plan and treatment room services at the Chinese Hospital. CCHCA has also provided more than $2 million in direct grants to innovative community projects.

“We have asked our elected representatives to join us in condemning the recent actions by CCHP management,” Dr. Li said. “In the spirit of transparency and cooperation, CCHP must drop its efforts to destroy our health network so we can continue our mission of serving our community and providing high-quality health care to all.”

CCHCA Doctors Stand Up for Chinese Patients

Non-Profit CCHCA Doctors Stand Up to Protect Rights of Chinese Patients Against For-Profit CCHP

Separate Legal Action Claims Chinese Community Health Plan Overbilled Medicare

In another lawsuit filed this week against Chinese Community Health Plan in San Francisco, a whistleblower in Texas has brought a lawsuit against former employer CenseoHealth and numerous Medicare Advantage Organizations (including CCHP in S.F.) alleging they overcharged Medicare for in-home patient care.

Plaintiff and former Censeo Coding Manager Becky Ramsey-Ledesma of Texas has demanded a jury trial, according to court documents filed with the U.S. District Court of Texas. So far, no trial date has been set.

The court documents were ordered unsealed by the court on June 17 after the United States Department of Justice declined to intervene in the civil action, according to Judge Barbara Lynn.

[Also: Feds look closely at Medicare Advantage plans in risk adjustment probe]

Plaintiff Ramsey-Ledesma claims Censeo knew diagnoses of patients were not supported by medical record documentation, but were “picked up” from diagnoses predicted by medications used, according to court documents.

“If a prescribed medication could potentially support a diagnosis, they were to code for that diagnosis,” according to the lawsuit.

Ramsey-Ledesma claims Censeo Chief Medical Officer Mark Dambro developed an evaluation process designed to maximize the capitated payment rates paid to Censeo’s client Medicare Advantage Organizations.

Rather than rely on medical records provided by physicians treating patients, the plaintiff alleges Censeo obtained self-reported data directly from certain MAO members, according to court documents. The data was collected through evaluation forms completed by physicians retained by Censeo, not for the purpose of treatment, but to create ICD-9 codes for submission to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to the lawsuit.

Censeo targeted those MAO plan members who were likely to yield the most serious diagnoses, and more likely to generate higher capitation payments for Censeo’s MAO clients, the lawsuit states. Medicare Advantage plans get higher rates for patients who are sick than those in good health.

The company completed twice as many assessments in 2013 as it did in 2012, saying its clients propelled the company into a record-setting first quarter, increasing the number of evaluations by 250 percent, according to the lawsuit.

[Also: Medicare Advantage proposal means rates fall, rise depending on risk ]

Revenue growth for 2013 was projected to reach $120 million, a 140 percent year-over-year increase, according to court records.

Censeo contracted with at least 30 MAOs to provide the home assessments, including Blue Cross Blue Shield in several states and Humana, which are both named as defendants.

Defendants include: CenseoHealth LLC, Mark Dambro, Chief Compliance Officer James Edward Barry Greve Jr., Director of Quality Joy Ridlehuber, Altegra Health Inc., Blue Cross Blue Shield Alabama, Blue Cross of Idaho, Blue Cross Blue Shield Tennessee, Care Plus Health Plans Inc., Chinese Community Health Plan, Commonwealth Care Alliance, Community Health Plan of Washington, Coventry Health Care Inc., Health Net Inc., Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Hill Physicians Medical Group Inc., Humana, Inc., and North Texas Specialty Physicians.

Ramsey-Ledesma said she was fired August 9, 2013, after advising coders she would code only those diagnoses that could be supported by a doctor’s assessment. Messages for comment to Censeo were not returned.

This case is among several whistleblower cases filed alleging billing fraud of Medicare Advantage plans. CMS has said in the past it suspects home visits improperly raise risk scores.

In July, the Center for Public Integrity published a report of government audits showing widespread billing errors — mostly overcharges — in private Medicare Advantage health plans.

The audits involved five health plans: Aetna Health Inc. in New Jersey; Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia; Lovelace Health Plan in Albuquerque, N.M.; Care Plus, a division of Humana, South Florida; and PacifiCare in Washington State, an arm of UnitedHealth Group, and considered the nation’s largest Medicare Advantage plan.

Among the findings: Medicare paid the wrong amount for 654 of the 1,005 patients in the sample, an error rate of nearly two-thirds. The payments were too high for 579 patients and too low for 75 of them. The total payment error topped $3.3 million in the sample.

Auditors concluded that risk scores were too high for more than 800 of the 1,005 patients, which in many cases, but not all, led to hefty overpayments.

Auditors could not confirm one-third of the 3,950 medical conditions the health plans reported, mostly because records lacked “sufficient documentation of a diagnosis.” The names of the medical conditions were redacted by federal officials.The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which conducted the audits, had no comment, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

None of the health plans would discuss the audit findings.

Aetna, in a statement, said the company had “raised a number of questions and concerns” regarding the results and was “awaiting a response from CMS.”

Clare Krusing, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry’s primary trade group, said the audits “overstated” the payment errors, according to the nonprofit and nonpartisan investigative news organization. The records are coming to light at a time of rapid expansion – and consolidation–in the Medicare Advantage market. Enrollment has neared 17 million. An estimated one of every three people are eligible for Medicare.


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SF lawmaker announces ‘Idaho Stop’-style bike yield law proposal

Supervisor John Avalos on Wednesday announced plans to introduce an ordinance to make citations for bicyclists who “safely yield at stop signs” the SFPD’s lowest law enforcement priority.

The proposal is called the “San Francisco Right-of-Way Policy,” but it closely dovetails what is commonly called the “Idaho Stop.” That state law allows cyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign if no vehicles or pedestrians are present at an intersection.

Yielding at stop signs when no cars are present is a natural cyclist behavior, bike advocates argue, for safety and momentum. Now those cyclists may get their wish: Yielding at stop signs may soon be quasi-legal.

The announcement follows a recent police crackdown on cyclists rolling through stop signs, which prompted an outcry from San Francisco bike riders.

The number of cyclists in San Francisco has boomed in recent years, Avalos noted in his announcement. The SFMTA’s Annual Bicycle Count shows bicycle traffic has increased 206% since 2006.

“This dramatic increase in bicycle traffic has led to an increase in conflicts between bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers,” Avalos said, in a statement. Board of Supervisors President London Breed told the Examiner she supports the “Idaho Stop.”

The Board of Supervisors is currently in recess and will reconvene in September.

Managing enforcement priority is not a new police practice. Low-level drug offense enforcement has been a much lower priority for SFPD than violent crime in San Francisco, starting around 2013.

Cmdr. Ann Mannix, who heads the traffic division, told the San Francisco Examiner previously, in an email, “If the public, legislators, voters want us to enforce anything else they must create it and get adopted as law.”

From Avalos’ announcement of the ordinance:

Supervisor Avalos’s proposed ordinance would make it the lowest law enforcement priority in San Francisco to issue citations for bicyclists who safely yield at stop signs. However the ordinance would not discourage officers from citing bicyclists who fail to slow to a safe speed at stop signs or fail to yield to another vehicle or pedestrian.

The ordinance would also establish the “San Francisco Right-of-Way Policy:”
To promote safety, tolerance, and harmony on our streets, all users of San Francisco streets shall respect others right-of-way and take their turn when navigating intersections.
All users of SF streets shall yield to emergency vehicles.
All users of SF streets shall yield to Muni vehicles.
Drivers and bicyclists shall always yield to pedestrians and be vigilantly aware of pedestrians.
Bicyclists shall always yield to others at intersections, but they may slowly proceed without fully stopping at stop signs if the intersection is empty.


 Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, SF Examiner
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The San Francisco Improv Festival presents its 11th season of off-the-cuff comedy from top improv and sketch comedians. The festival welcomes back the husband and wife comic duo WeirDass, comprised of Stephnie Weir (MadTV, Raising Hope) and Robert Dassie(Eleven Year Itch, Funny or Die). Joining WeirDass will be Upright Citizen’s Brigade founding member Matt Besser (Comedy Central, MTV, NBC), who will be live recording his popular iTunes podcast, improv4humans, at the show. Also featured will be Chicago comedian Susan Messing’s hit show Messing with a Friend (with guest, MadTV’s Frank Caeti) and iO West’s star team King Ten, one of the premiere improv ensembles in Los Angeles. The San Francisco Improv Festival runsSeptember 10-19, 2015 at The Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. For tickets ($5 – $35 for shows, $50-$225 for workshops), the public may

In addition to ten jam-packed days of comedy from some of nation’s sharpest minds, the festival also includes master-level workshops led by industry pros, Friday night comedy jams with special celebrity guests, and the festival’s traditional finale, “Game Island,” in which performers throw down under the watchful eye of formerWhose Line Is It Anyway Games Director Ron West. The program will also include local talent and out-of-town comics selected from a highly competitive, record-breaking pool of applicants.

Headliner Stephnie Weir made a name for herself as a head writer and actress on hit sketch comedy show Mad TV.  Weir, a Second City alumna, has appeared in and written for other series including The MillersModern FamilyWeeds, and ’Til Death. She most recently co-starred in the FX network show The Comedians, alongside Billy Crystal and Josh Gad.  Robert Dassie, the other half of improv duo WeirDass, is a veteran sketch comedian who has performed with Second City, iO West, and others. He has appeared on Comedy Central, FX, and NBC, and is a regular performer in Funny Or Die’s online sketches and HBO televised series. Matt Besser is host of the popular sketch series, improv4humans, one of the top comedy podcasts on iTunes.  A founding member of Upright Citizen’s Brigade (alongside Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh and Ian Roberts), Besser has also appeared regularly on television series including Comedy Bang! Bang!Parks and Recreation, and Key and Peele. 

The full list of participants is as follows: 5 Play (Fremont, CA), BATS (SF), Awkward Dinner Party (SF), Cat Dance (SF), Chardonnay (SF), Chick Flick (SF),Chicken Scratch Improv (SF), Damaged Goods (Louisville, KY), DASH at Un-Scripted Theater Company (SF), Euro Trash (SF), Game Island (LA),Hamilton & MacLean(SF), Honey (NYC), Hot Again (NYC), HUGE (SF), improv4humans (LA), Jetzo (LA), King Ten (LA), Liss n’ Sams (SF), Messing With a Friend (Chicago), My Cousin’s Wedding (LA), Off One Letter (SF), Pilgrim (LA), Shades of Grey (SF), Sketchy Alley (SF), Speechless (SF), Stage 4 Improv (San Jose, CA), The All Girl Revue (LA), The Double Improv Rainbows (Hawaii), The Five Deadly Improvisers (SF), The Letters (SF), The Recchia (SF), The Right Now (SF), The Unwritten Bedroom (SF), The Utility Players (Reno, NV), Vagina Jones (SF), and WeirDass (LA)..

The San Francisco Improv Festival celebrates the art of improvisational theater by presenting events with local and out-of-town ensembles, producing workshops with the most innovative minds in the art form, and educating the public about all aspects of improvised performance. The San Francisco Improv Festival was founded by Sam Shaw and Shaun Landry in 2004. Jamie Wright has been Executive Producer since 2009.


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What non-Californians don’t know about Carly Fiorina — but should

The most surprising takeaway from last week’s Republican presidential debate — next to the difficulty of puncturing Donald Trump’s helium-powered candidacy — was the mass anointing of Carly Fiorina as the Candidate to Watch.

Praise for the former Hewlett-Packard CEO’s performance at the introductory undercard debate spanned the full range of news outlets. The conservative National Review remarked on her “poise and her well-crafted answers,” and CNN paid homage to her “sharp knowledge of the issues.”

Fiorina told the latter that she went into the debate aware that “only 40% of Republicans even know who I am.”

She must be talking about people outside the state of California. Here in the Golden State, we know Carly Fiorina very well. We know her as the under-performing CEO of one of Silicon Valley’s marquee corporations, and even better for her losing campaign against Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010.

So as a public service, let’s share with the rest of the country what we’ve learned about Carly Fiorina. We’ll start with her dismal political record.

Even before her 2010 campaign against Boxer could get off the ground, it was poleaxed by the revelation that she had failed to cast a ballot in 75% of the California elections for which she was an eligible voter. She missed presidential primaries in 2000 and 2004, and the primary and general elections in 2006, including a Senate reelection run by Democrat Dianne Feinstein. She skipped the primary and general elections in 2002, a gubernatorial election year, as well as the historic recall vote that brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to the governor’s seat.

In an Orange County Register op-ed announcing her Senate candidacy in 2009, she explained lamely: “I felt disconnected from the decisions made in Washington and, to be honest, really didn’t think my vote mattered because I didn’t have a direct line of sight from my vote to a result.”

I observed at the time:

“During her reign at Hewlett-Packard, according to public records, her corporation spent $4.7 million to lobby Congress and donated more than $390,000 to political candidates through its political action committee. Fiorina and her husband, Frank, a former AT&T executive, have made more than $100,000 in political donations personally since 2000.

“That suggests not that Fiorina ‘felt disconnected’ from what was going on in Washington, but rather that she understood all too well that in politics, money talks. Why bother to vote when you can get what you need with greenbacks?”

(In other words, she believes in the political system, just not the one that non-millionaires have to use.)

Among her big issues was healthcare reform and the bill just then beginning its journey through Congress. “Wouldn’t you love to know what’s in that 1,990-page healthcare bill that’s being considered right now?” she asked the crowd at her launch event in November 2009. Actually, the measure was closer to 950 pages — but why count pages when there’s a political point to be scored? — and, as I pointed out, it was no secret. The text could be downloaded from a public website and read by anyone, including Fiorina.

More to the point, Fiorina, who was making much out of her own battle with breast cancer (“After chemotherapy, Barbara Boxer just isn’t really that scary anymore,” she quipped), displayed the usual contempt that privileged insurance owners have for the uninsureds. Fiorina received her health coverage through her husband’s AT&T retirement plan, but for everyone else she advocated allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines, which would be a boon to the insurers and a disaster for buyers.

As I observed: “If she were an average person who lost that AT&T coverage and had to replace it in an individual market where the insurers could sell it to her on their own terms, subject to the rules of the most lenient and consumer-unfriendly states … as a cancer survivor, she’d be uninsurable.”

The Affordable Care Act, which she opposed in its cradle and now says should be repealed, bars discrimination against applicants based on their medical conditions. What’s her answer to that? We don’t know, because she wasn’t asked at the debate. She has, however, advocated defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health services to middle- and low-income women unlike her.

The foundation stone of Fiorina’s political pitch is her business career. It’s impressive on paper, underwhelming in reality. She was CEO of Hewlett-Packard from mid-1999 to early 2005, a period in which the company’s stock sank 49% to 60% (depending on how you count), making it one of the worst-performing high-tech firms.

CEO Fiorina talked a lot about “innovation” while pursuing corporate strategies displaying a striking lack of imagination. She cut HP’s payroll by 10,000 employees in 2000 while surrounding her glamorous self with clouds of image and strategy consultants. She marketed overpriced knockoffs of other companies’ consumer technologies and then, disastrously, doubled down on the PC business by acquiring Compaq in 2002, when the right move would have been to exit that low-margin business altogether.

The Compaq takeover led to a bruising battle with the HP board, which she utterly mismanaged, leading to her bitter ouster in 2005. Her reaction was to blame everyone else, which doesn’t speak well of her capacity for introspection. She left with a severance package estimated at $40 million, which speaks very well of her negotiating skills (or her lawyers’).

The Affordable Care Act, which she opposed in its cradle and now says should be repealed, bars discrimination against applicants based on their medical conditions. What’s her answer to that? We don’t know, because she wasn’t asked at the debate. She has, however, advocated defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health services to middle- and low-income women unlike her.

The foundation stone of Fiorina’s political pitch is her business career. It’s impressive on paper, underwhelming in reality. She was CEO of Hewlett-Packard from mid-1999 to early 2005, a period in which the company’s stock sank 49% to 60% (depending on how you count), making it one of the worst-performing high-tech firms.

CEO Fiorina talked a lot about “innovation” while pursuing corporate strategies displaying a striking lack of imagination. She cut HP’s payroll by 10,000 employees in 2000 while surrounding her glamorous self with clouds of image and strategy consultants. She marketed overpriced knockoffs of other companies’ consumer technologies and then, disastrously, doubled down on the PC business by acquiring Compaq in 2002, when the right move would have been to exit that low-margin business altogether.

The Compaq takeover led to a bruising battle with the HP board, which she utterly mismanaged, leading to her bitter ouster in 2005. Her reaction was to blame everyone else, which doesn’t speak well of her capacity for introspection. She left with a severance package estimated at $40 million, which speaks very well of her negotiating skills (or her lawyers’).

Michael Hiltzik, LA Times

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Guest Editorial: Why Saturday’s Bernie Sanders Rally Left Me Feeling Heartbroken

Many people have been e-mailing and asking me how I am thinking about what happened yesterday at the event on social security and medicare, when some protesters identifying as Black Lives Matter got up on stage to challenge Bernie Sanders on race and racism, and ended up shutting down the event so Bernie could not speak. I’m struggling but in the spirit of community, here’s what comes to mind.

First, I want to give a huge shout out to the amazing leaders who worked for months and months to organize the event: Robby Stern and PSARA, Social Security Works Washington, Washington CAN, Burke Stansbury, and so many more. This was a huge event to put together, and their determination is what ultimately got Senator Bernie Sanders to Seattle in the first place. The rally was also packed—maybe around 5,000 people—and people stood in the hot sun for a couple of hours, engaging actively and cheering on the incredibly wide range of speakers the coalition had put together. I was proud to be the speaker just before Bernie was supposed to speak. Watching what unfolded made me heartbroken. I have so many somewhat jumbled thoughts—here are just a few.

1) This is one small result of centuries of racism. As a country, we still have not recognized or acknowledged what we have wrought and continue to inflict on black people. The bigger results are how black kids as young as two are being disciplined differently in their daycares and pre-k classes. That black people are routinely denied jobs that white people get with the same set of experiences and skills. That black people—women and men—continue to die at the hands of police, in domestic violence, on the streets. That black mothers must tell their children as young as seven or eight that they have to be careful about what pants or hoodies they wear or to not assert their rights if stopped. That this country supports an institutionalized form of racism called the criminal justice system that makes profit—hard, cold cash—on jailing black and brown people. I could go on and on. But the continued lack of calling out that indelible stain of racism everywhere we go, of refusing to see that racism exists and implicit bias exists in all of us, of refusing to give reparations for slavery, of refusing to have our version of a truth and reconciliation process—that is what pushes everything underneath and makes it seem like the fault is of black people not of the country, institutions, and people that wrought the violence. That is the anger and rage that we saw erupt yesterday on stage. But it’s not the problem, it’s a symptom of the disease of unacknowledged and un-acted upon racism.

2) When the disruption first happened, the crowd (mostly white) turned ugly.It’s hard to say what is the chicken or the egg. Some of it may have stemmed from the protesters calling the whole crowd racist. Some of it was from annoyance at the disruption. Some was probably from deep disagreement about tactics in a movement to get attention to an issue. Some was from deep disappointment because people had stood in the hot sun for hours to hear Bernie. Whatever it was, the conversations that ensued—the name calling of white and black people against each other, including some people calling blacks who didn’t agree with what was happening racist—were so painful. I was in the speakers tent and Pam Keeley alerted me to two young black girls (Gina Owens grandchildren) who were weeping, they were so scared, so I went over to comfort them. We stood with our arms around each other, and in some small way, that gave me the greatest sense of doing something tangible—to be with people I love, assuring them they would be safe, and that none of us would ever let harm come to them. After the protests, several people came up and wanted to talk. Many were furious—some white people said they no longer support BLM. Others said they do support it but this erodes their support. Some said outrageous things from anger. Others seemed befuddled. Some understood. People will have to work this out for themselves, but as we all do, I hope that we can open our hearts to all of the pain and suffering in the world and be as compassionate and kind as possible to each other so that we can also heal as we learn and listen.

3) I don’t have any answer on what is “right.” Bernie Sanders was a guest in our city—invited by a multiracial coalition to speak on some very important issues. Enormous amounts of work went into yesterday’s event and it was so important to talk about preserving and expanding Social Security and Medicare. None of the papers today are covering those issues, because they were eclipsed by what happened. That’s not necessarily “wrong”—it just is what it is. But here’s what I would have loved to have happen: after the protesters were able to get the mic and say their piece and have the 4.5 minutes of silence for all the black people who have been killed, I would have loved for Bernie Sanders to take the mic and respond. And also to speak about Social Security and Medicare too. Here’s what I would love even more: for the Sanders campaign and BLM nationally to sit down and talk about an agenda on racial justice that he can use his presidential platform to help move. Imagine rolling out that agenda and inviting black people to talk about it on stage with him. Now that excites me.

4) I had not yet endorsed Bernie Sanders (and still have not), although I was incredibly excited about his candidacy. One of the primary reasons is because I wanted to know more about his stands on race and racism. I asked the campaign for some time to discuss this with him, and he did very graciously make some time for me to have a short conversation with him. What I got from the conversation is that he knows he comes from a very white state and he’s a 70+ year old white guy. He knows that running for President, he must now speak to voters who are very different from those in his state. He IS deeply committed to equality on all counts but his primary lens for all of his work—and a HUGELY necessary and not-often-enough-acknowledged lens—is economic. He is a truth-teller on economic issues in a way that no other candidate is. He gets the connection between large corporations, elections, and income inequality. He does understand the problems of the criminal justice system and I fully believe he will work to change that if elected. But the deeper comfort with talking about race and racism is harder. As Mayor of Burlington, early on, he endorsed Jesse Jackson for President and Jackson went on to win the state. He was active in the civil rights movement. But more than that, he is someone who has fought for so many of the threads that connect our movements. He has to learn to talk about racism in that way, to connect his ideas on education, economics, incarceration, and race. As I said when I had the honor of introducing him at his evening rally, he is in a unique position to do so. And we are in a unique moment where we crave that leadership in a presidential campaign.

I told him in my conversation with him that he needed to talk head on about institutional racism—he said he agreed and he would do it in the evening. And he did—to an enormous, cheering crowd of 15,000 people. That’s a huge platform for our messages. There’s more to do and learn for sure, but is any one of us perfect? The most we can ask for is for someone who listens and cares deeply, who is trustworthy, and who will do what he says. I know I learned a lot in my campaign and I will continue to grow from listening to people’s voices. I believe Bernie Sanders is growing too—and I hope (and yes, believe) that we’ll look back on this and see his emergence as a leader who brings our movements for economic, racial and social justice together in a powerful way.

5) Here’s what I am trying to deeply think about: How do we call people in even as we call them out? As a brown woman, the only woman of color in the state senate, often the only person of color in many rooms, I am constantly thinking about this. To build a movement, we have to be smarter than those who are trying to divide us. We have to take our anger and rage and channel it into building, growing, loving, holding each other up. We need our outlets too, our places of safety where we can say what we think without worrying about how it’s going to land, where we can call out even our white loved ones, friends, allies for what they are not doing. But in the end, if we want to win for ALL of us on racial, economic, and social justice issues, we need multiple sets of tactics, working together. Some are disruptive tactics. Some are loving tactics. Some are truth-telling tactics. Some can only be taken on by white people. Some can only be taken on by people of color. Sometimes we need someone from the other strand to step in and hold us up. Other times, we have to step out and hold them up. Each of us has a different role to play but we all have to hold the collective space for movement building together. That’s what I hope we all keep in mind and work on together. It’s the only way we move forward.

From Pramila Jayapal, The Stranger –Pramila Jayapal is a state senator from Washington’s 37th District.


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S.F.’s median sold price hits $1.175M — here’s what you can buy

If it seems like San Francisco home prices jumped practically overnight, they (sort of) did.

Prices rose yet again this June, up 2.2% from May and, more strikingly, up 17.5% from June of 2014. Such rapid appreciation can be attributed to many things: the influx of wealth to the city, new residents arriving for our revived tech boom, continued low interest on loans. But likely the biggest factor is the same one it’s always been: not enough houses for all the people who want to buy them. In other words, simple supply and demand. And the supply, always tight, is still tighter, with the number of homes for sale down 21.9% year-over-year this June. The result: The median sold price for all types of homes in S.F. in June, 2015 was $1.175M.

The gallery above shows these data in-depth, as well as a few examples of what you can buy for the current median. Depending on whether you’re a seller or a buyer, the information may bring you joy or pain. Express either in the comments below.

Anna Marie Erwert, SFGate

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To all considering watching the newest whitewashed version of queer history:

It is time that black and brown transwomyn and drag queens are recognized for their efforts in the riots throughout the nation. From the preview alone, we know that will not be happening . Majority of characters casted are white actors, cis men play the role of transwomyn, and folks who began the riots do not seem to be credited with such revolutionary acts. 

WE ARE CALLING A BOYCOTT OF STONEWALL. Do not throw money at the capitalistic industry that fails to recognize true s/heros. Do not support a film that erases our history. Do not watch Stonewall.

Tell your own history! Use social media to recall what you know to be true of Stonewall. Film your own short films. Make videos, write poems, sing songs. CONTINUE TO TEACH TRUE HISTORY.

Why is this important?


History classes throughout our nation have built a reputation of instructing young generations that white, straight, cis folks are the saviors and founders of this land. Wrong. We were taught that light-skinned people are the goal; the goal to assimilate to. Wrong. We were also rarely taught about queer history, but when we were, it probably revolved around white cis gay men. Wrong.

This film is no different that the history classes that are serving a disservice to every potential viewer. From the previews alone, queer folks have gathered that the centralized character is a white cis gay man. (WHY?) From the previews alone, queer folks have gathered that not many people of color are even in the film. (WHY?) To make this short, we have also gathered that white folks are being credited in throwing the brick, starting the riots, starting the “gay liberation front” and also capturing the heart of a light-skinned transwomyn. (Of course we all fall in love with the white saviors. WRONG.)


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High school athlete told to stay in the closet by coach, receives love on Facebook

The first person I ever told was my high school basketball coach. It was my freshman year and I had not planned on saying anything to anyone at the time. I come from a very conservative town with a population of 626 in far northeastern California. As a small town it wasn’t very welcoming to outsiders or people with different ways of life. My whole family is also extremely religious, which made liking boys even tougher.

But countless days of hearing the phrases “don’t be a faggot,” “you’re so gay,” and “eww, you queer” put this weight on me. Of course the phrases and words weren’t always meant maliciously, and kids were just mimicking what they have grown up around. Nevertheless the meaning of those words will hurt any LGBT person. They hurt me.

Locker room chatter was where I felt most insecure and the heaviest weight. It was harder for me to believe in teammates, let alone friends, after hearing them use hurtful words.

Then one day someone called me a “fag.” They didn’t just use the word, they directed it at me. My life somehow became crystal clear after that. I laughed it off and held back the tears until everyone was gone. Then I let loose. My coach approached me – a sobbing mess – asking what had happened. I didn’t hold back.

His reaction at first was blank until he realized I wasn’t kidding. He sat next to me and his response has stuck with me to this day.

He explained to me that people don’t like different, don’t like people drifting from their idea of life, especially in our town. As he explained to me, I need to bottle that part of me up so nobody could ever see it because nobody would understand and I would forever be frowned upon.

“No matter what,” he said, “you need to keep this a secret. You can’t ever tell anyone. Promise me, you won’t tell anyone.”

I agreed.

From that day forward I became two people, one that I would show to the world and the other that I would keep to myself.

I finished freshman year and then sophomore year all while never telling anyone my secret. I thought if I just hooked up with countless girls that God would somehow forgive me for my sinful thoughts. I still have a hard time breaking that thought.

Depression set in and mom noticed. She asked countless questions, but I never told my secret. It was easy to give an excuse for the depression: I had been found positive for acute myeloid leukemia. I got so good at keeping my secret that people never even questioned my sexuality.

Toward the end of sophomore year my parents decided to move out of the state. My depression was too much for my mom to handle, so she decided it was time for a change, a new start for all of us. We didn’t venture far but we wound up in a much larger town. With a population of 66,000 it was a huge step in the right direction for me.

I was nervous about the people at my new school. I still thought nobody could ever know my secret. I was playing baseball and quickly had made so many friends that I didn’t need antidepressants anymore. Yet my friends still didn’t know me, the real me. I had created such a big lie that I myself even believed it from time to time. My hook-ups continued, but by senior year I started to experiment with both sexes.

Just a few months before graduation I once again told a coach about me. This time it was different.

“You only get one life,” he said, “so you need to live it the way you want to.”

After explaining how he had no problem with my sexuality he gave me the hard truth: Not everyone accepts people who have different views and that is okay, I just needed to be ready to take the heat. I wasn’t ready for the heat at all. So I boxed everything up once again and continued to fake a smile.

Courage is hard to find when all you have ever been told by your family and friends is that gay men and women are sinners who should punished. For a lot of people this is their way of life. It took me years to accept the fact that you can’t make people change: they have to be willing to change.

Freshman year of college started last fall and I found myself at the University of Oregon. It wasn’t until I mustered up the courage one night that I came out to my mom on the phone. I cried a lot. My mom just kept saying the same thing to me over and over again.

“I still love you.”

It took my parents a couple months of asking me if it was just a phase to realize it wasn’t, but they came around. As I came out to more and more people in my life, I remember getting emotional one day at one wonderful realization: People would finally know me, the real me.

After attending Portland pride and meeting so many inspiring and beautiful people with countless stories I decided it was time to tell the world. With that I wrote a letter and posted it on Facebook. The responses were amazing.

I have learned throughout my life that you cannot and will not please everyone. Everyone will always have their own opinions and you can’t change them, they have to change them. I have lost a lot of “friends” since my coming out, and yes every loss hurt. But with that I have gained so many more wonderful people in my life.

You have to accept yourself before you can expect others to accept you, but you’re going to make it because the night can only last for so long.

Be you, accept you and most importantly love you.


Casey Bethel, Outsports

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Jimmy Carter Is Correct That the U.S. Is No Longer a Democracy

On July 28, Thom Hartmann interviewed former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and, at the very end of his show (as if this massive question were merely an afterthought), asked him his opinion of the 2010 Citizens United decision and the 2014 McCutcheondecision, both decisions by the five Republican judges on the U.S. Supreme Court. These two historic decisions enable unlimited secret money (including foreign money) now to pour into U.S. political and judicial campaigns. Carter answered:

It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. Senators and congress members. So, now we’ve just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over. … At the present time the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody that is already in Congress has a great deal more to sell.”

He was then cut off by the program, though that statement by Carter should have been the start of the program, not its end. (And the program didn’t end with an invitation for him to return to discuss this crucial matter in depth — something for which he’s qualified.)

So, was this former president’s provocative allegation merely his opinion? Or was it actually lots more than that? It was lots more than that.

Only a single empirical study has actually been done in the social sciences regarding whether the historical record shows that the United States has been, during the survey’s period, which in that case was between 1981 and 2002, a democracy (a nation whose leaders represent the public-at-large), or instead an aristocracy (or ‘oligarchy’) — a nation in which only the desires of the richest citizens end up being reflected in governmental actions. This study was titled “Testing Theories of American Politics,”and it was published by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page in the journal Perspectives on Politics, issued by the American Political Science Association in September 2014. I had summarized it earlier, on April 14, 2014, while the article was still awaiting its publication.

The headline of my summary-article was “U.S. Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy Says Scientific Study.” I reported:

The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s ‘news’ media).

I then quoted the authors’ own summary: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

The scientific study closed by saying: “In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes.” A few other tolerably clear sentences managed to make their ways into this well-researched, but, sadly, atrociously written, paper, such as: “The preferences of economic elites (as measured by our proxy, the preferences of ‘affluent’ citizens) have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do.” In other words, they found: The rich rule the U.S.

Their study investigated specifically “1,779 instances between 1981 and 2002 in which a national survey of the general public asked a favor/oppose question about a proposed policy change,” and then the policy-follow-ups, of whether or not the polled public preferences had been turned into polices, or, alternatively, whether the relevant corporate-lobbied positions had instead become public policy on the given matter, irrespective of what the public had wanted concerning it.

The study period, 1981-2002, covered the wake of the landmark 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Buckley v. Valeo, which had started the aristocratic assault on American democracy, and which seminal (and bipartisan) pro-aristocratic court decision is described as follows by wikipedia:

[It] struck down on First Amendment grounds several provisions in the 1974 Amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act. The most prominent portions of the case struck down limits on spending in campaigns, but upheld the provision limiting the size of individual contributions to campaigns. The Court also narrowed, and then upheld, the Act’s disclosure provisions, and struck down (on separation of powers grounds) the make-up of the Federal Election Commission, which as written allowed Congress to directly appoint members of the Commission, an executive agency.

Basically, the Buckley decision, and subsequent (increasingly partisan Republican) Supreme Court decisions, have allowed aristocrats to buy and control politicians.

Already, the major ‘news’ media were owned and controlled by the aristocracy, and ‘freedom of the press’ was really just freedom of aristocrats to control the ‘news’ — to frame public issues in the ways the owners want. The media managers who are appointed by those owners select, in turn, the editors who, in their turn, hire only reporters who produce the propaganda that’s within the acceptable range for the owners, to be ‘the news’ as the public comes to know it.

But, now, in the post-Buckley-v.-Valeo world, from Reagan on (and the resulting study-period of 1981-2002), aristocrats became almost totally free to buy also the political candidates they wanted. The ‘right’ candidates, plus the ‘right’ ‘news’-reporting about them, has thus bought the ‘right’ people to ‘represent’ the public, in the new American ‘democracy,’ which Jimmy Carter now aptly calls “subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.”

Carter — who had entered office in 1977, at the very start of that entire era of transition into an aristocratically controlled United States (and he left office in 1981, just as the study-period was starting) — expressed his opinion that, in the wake now of the two most extreme pro-aristocratic U.S. Supreme Court decisions ever (which are Citizens United in 2010, and McCutcheon in 2014), American democracy is really only past tense, not present tense at all — no longer a reality.

He is saying, in effect, that, no matter how much the U.S. was a dictatorship by the rich during 1981-2002 (the Gilens-Page study era), it’s far worse now.

Apparently, Carter is correct: The New York Times front page on Sunday 2 August 2015 bannered, “Small Pool of Rich Donors Dominates Election Giving,” and reported that:

A New York Times analysis of Federal Election Commission reports and Internal Revenue Service records shows that the fund-raising arms race has made most of the presidential hopefuls deeply dependent on a small pool of the richest Americans. The concentration of donors is greatest on the Republican side, according to the Times analysis, where consultants and lawyers have pushed more aggressively to exploit the looser fund-raising rules that have fueled the rise of super PACs. Just 130 or so families and their businesses provided more than half the money raised through June by Republican candidates and their super PACs.”

The Times study shows that the Republican Party is overwhelmingly advantaged by the recent unleashing of big-corporate money power. All of the evidence suggests that though different aristocrats compete against each other for the biggest chunks of whatever the given nation has to offer, they all compete on the same side against the public, in order to lower the wages of their workers, and to lower the standards for consumers’ safety and welfare so as to increase their own profits (transfer their costs and investment-losses onto others); and, so, now, the U.S. is soaring again toward Gilded Age economic inequality, perhaps to surpass the earlier era of unrestrained robber barons. And, the Times study shows: even in the Democratic Party, the mega-donations are going to only the most conservative (pro-corporate, anti-public) Democrats. Grass-roots politics could be vestigial, or even dead, in the new America.

The question has become whether the unrestrained power of the aristocracy is locked in this time even more permanently than it was in that earlier era. Or will there be yet another FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) to restore a democracy that once was? Or is a president like that any longer even possible in America?

As for today’s political incumbents: they now have their careers for as long as they want and are willing to do the biddings of their masters. And, then, they retire to become, themselves, new members of the aristocracy, such as the Clintons have done, and such as the Obamas will do. (Of course, the Bushes have been aristocrats since early in the last century.)

Furthermore, the new age of aristocratic control is not merely national but international in scope; so, the global aristocracy have probably found the formula that will keep them in control until they destroy the entire world. What’s especially interesting is that, with all of the many tax-exempt, “non-profit” “charities,” which aristocrats have established, none of them is warring to defeat the aristocracy itself — to defeat the aristocrats’ system of exploitation of the public. It’s the one thing they won’t create a ‘charity’ for; none of them will go to war against the expoitative interests of themselves and of their own exploitative peers. They’re all in this together, even though they do compete amongst themselves for dominance, as to which ones of them will lead against the public. And the public seem to accept this modern form of debt-bondage, perhaps because of the ‘news’ they see, and because of the news they don’t see (such as this).


Eric Zuesse, Huffington Post

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Satire? — Former Rep. Michele Bachmann Launches 2016 Presidential Bid

Former Rep. Michele Bachmann is coming out of retirement to run for president again.

“God came to me in a dream, told me he was not happy with any of the presidential candidates and commanded me to run again,” said Bachmann in a campaign launch hosted at an Evangelical church.

Bachmann also said God told her to run in 2012, even though she quickly dropped out of the race. God also told Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Ben Carson to all run for president.

When asked why God told her to launch a failed campaign in 2012, Bachmann said, “God was testing how faithful I was. He commanded and I obeyed. It’s not for me to ask why people didn’t vote for me in 2012.”

Bachmann was a controversial congresswoman renowned for her incorrect statements. During the 2012 presidential debates she didn’t know Libya was in Africa and claimed the HPV vaccine caused mental retardation. She also claimed that she and her husband Marcus had never received a penny from the federal government, even though they had received $260,000 in farm subsidies. Marcus Bachmann’s clinic, which provides counselling for gay people who want to become straight, also received $161,000 in state and federal funding.

Marcus Bachmann was excited about embarking on another presidential campaign.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea,” he said. “I can’t wait to get out on the campaign trail and start picking out Michele’s outfits.”


By Billy Dane, Business Standard News

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No Really—What’s the Difference Between a Democrat and a Socialist?

After DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz failed to answer a question on the difference between a Democrat and a socialist, we asked a political scientist.

What’s the difference between a Democrat and a socialist? As self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders makes a play for the Democratic presidential nomination, party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz says there are more pressing questions at hand.

During an interview on MSNBC’s Hardball Thursday, host Chris Matthews asked Wasserman Schultz if she wanted Sanders, a Vermont senator, to represent the party at the Democratic National Convention. Then he asked her what the difference is between a Democrat and a socialist.

“I used to think there was a big difference, what do you think it is?” Matthews asked.

Wasserman Schultz laughed, then dodged the question. “The difference—the more important question is, what’s the difference between a Democrat and a Republican?” she said.

The right-leaning Washington Free Beacon published a clip of the interview, which was also picked up by conservative sites like Hot AirNewsMax, the Washington Examiner, and The Daily Caller. The story caught on among conservatives because it fits into a narrative that liberal extremism (in this case, socialism) is becoming mainstream in the Democratic Party. As Hot Air wrote in response to Matthews’ question, “Answer: Not much at all, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz knows it.”

The thing is, there is a difference. Specifically, there’s a difference between a democratic socialist (how Sanders identifies), a socialist (what Matthews and others in the media call him) and a Democrat, explains John Ahlquist, an associate professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California at San Diego who has focused on the politics of economic inequality. “The modern American Democratic Party has very little to do with anything resembling what we would consider to be socialism or social democracy,” Ahlquist said during a phone interview.

Democrats, he said, are a centrist coalition that includes some groups that are left of center. Traditional socialism, other hand, is a political-economic system that organizes the economy purely around the needs of the people.

“The basic idea is that production decisions and everything else are not organized around the desire to make a profit, they’re organized by a cooperative group to produce stuff that people think they need,” Ahlquist said. “There’s no public figure in the Democratic Party who is advocating for social ownership of the means of production, Bernie Sanders included.”

When people talk about Sanders and his ideology, they’re discussing social democracy, the idea that “the elected government has a responsibility to ensure that the functioning of a market economy adequately provides for basic needs for everybody,” Ahlquist said.

Social democracies have been popular in Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries which Sanders often cites as examples of ideal policy. For example, here’s how Sanders described what it means to be a democratic socialists to Vox in an interview published this week:

What it means is that one takes a hard look at countries around the world who have successful records in fighting and implementing programs for the middle class and working families. When you do that, you automatically go to countries like Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and other countries that have had labor governments or social democratic governments, and what you find is that in virtually all of those countries, health care is a right of all people and their systems are far more cost-effective than ours, college education is virtually free in all of those countries, people retire with better benefits, wages that people receive are often higher, distribution of wealth and income is much fairer, their public education systems are generally stronger than ours.

European social democracies don’t eradicate capitalism, but put in place a strong regulatory system alongside it to ensures a minimum standard of living for all citizens, Ahlquist said. The “democracy” part of social democracy means that the regulations need to be put in place gradually, by legitimately elected officials.

That’s the long version. If Ahlquist had been asked the same question, his response would actually have been similar to Wasserman Schultz’s.

“I would laugh,” Ahlquist said. “No one is actually talking about or seriously proposing—at least among the mainstream American political parties—seriously, traditionally, socialist platforms.”

From Bloomberg Politics

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