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Black History Events in San Francisco

Plan an excursion throughout the city or join in the many celebrations programmed to celebrate Black History Month this February, as these events commemorate the amazing contributions of African Americans throughout the United States. Plan ahead, purchase tickets, gather your friends and take part in all of the excitement via these cultural happenings in San Francisco and beyond!

EXPERIENCE

Experience the Power of an Anointed Sound
Meditate to the music and wisdom of legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane
An american jazz saxophonist and composer, John Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and was later at the forefront of free jazz. He led at least 50 recording sessions during his career, and appeared as a sideman on many albums by other musicians, including trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist Thelonious Monk. Celebrate Coltrane’s genius by experiencing A Love Supreme Meditation which will help calm your mind and tune into the spirit as visitors are guided through a meditation on the testimony and music of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Saint John Coltrane Church, 1286 Fillmore St., every Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

EXHIBITIONS & CONVERSATIONS

San Francisco African-American Historical and Cultural Society Celebrates Black History Month
Kick-Off Black History Month at San Francisco’s City Hall
In conversation with Oxford University Press historian John William Templeton, learn about the society’s role in maintaining the legacies of great African American figures such as Capt. William Alexander Leidesdorff, Mary Ellen Pleasant, Sargent Johnson and Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett and how its founders supported African liberation leaders during the founding of the United Nations. And during Freedom Week (Jan. 31 – Feb. 7), SFSoul Shuttle offers four tours daily of the California African American Freedom Trail. Black History Month Kick-off Event: Feb. 5, 2016 at San Francisco’s City Hall Rotunda, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl., 12 – 1 p.m.

Who Among Us … The Art of Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle
Featuring artwork from three projects that Hinkle worked on concurrently over the past six years
Interdisciplinary visual artist, writer and performer, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle presents Who Among Us as a tool to undo the imaginings placed onto the colonized body and its movements throughout space and time. Hinkle’s work remixes and re-imagines these perceptions and seeks to invent new possibilities of engaging visually with the black female body respectively. Concerned with the historical present, Hinkle’s research based practice is a collision of mediums. Through April 3, 2016 at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), 685 Mission St., Mon. – Tue. Closed; Wed. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun., 12 – 5 p.m.

I Am San Francisco
Capturing the home and soul of native Black San Francisco
Created and curated by Kheven LaGrone and hosted at the African American Center at San Francisco’s Main Library, the I Am San Francisco exhibition collects the personal stories of several African Americans from San Francisco featuring stories that were assigned to various artists, from various places, to interpret using various media. “An African American born in San Francisco?  I’ve never met one before. You must have been one of the few,” a native Black San Franciscan often hears. For many, these type of questions conjure up the feelings of marginalization and the loss of home and remind us that African Americans are being written out of San Francisco’s past and present. Through March 10, 2016 at the African American Center, San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin St., Sun. 12 – 5 p.m.; Mon. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Tues. – Thurs. 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday 1 – 6 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Pop-up Talk: Judy Juanita on Virgin Soul and the Black Panther Party
Reflecting on Black Panther History
Join the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) for a Black History Month-inspired pop-up talk with guest speaker Judy Juanita, a novelist and playwright based in Oakland in the Gallery of California Art. Juanita is a former member of the Black Panther Party, one-time editor of the Black Panther Party newspaper and was an instructor in the first Black Studies program in the nation at San Francisco State University. Juanita’s talk will draw upon her novel titled Virgin Soul which is set in Oakland and reflects upon Panther history. Included with Museum admission and happening during Friday Nights @ OMCA, from 5 to 9 pm, admission is half-price for adults, free for ages 18 and under. Oakland Museum of California, Feb. 19, 2016, 7 – 7:30 p.m.

PERFORMING ARTS

Satchmo at The Waldorf at The American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.)
Witness an unforgettable glimpse into the heart and soul of one of history’s most iconic jazz legends
Satchmo at The Waldorf, a richly imagined autobiographical one-man show featuring a collision between two jazz titans, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, who are both magnetically channeled by America’s “greatest classical actor” (New Yorker) John Douglas Thompson. This acclaimed off-Broadway hit details Armstrong’s meteoric rise, as well as his fateful relationships with his manager and with Davis. A tale of ambition, artistry, and overreach set just four months before Armstrong’s death in 1971. Through Feb. 7, 2016 at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary St., 2 p.m. matinee performances; 8 p.m. evening performances.

The Colored Museum at the African-American Shakespeare Company
A poignant, socially-conscious, satirical comedy that will delight audiences of all colors
The Colored Museum is a depiction of black culture in America, which is especially relevant in today’s world of “Black Lives Matter.” The African-American Shakespeare Company has enlisted Tony Award-winning playwright, George C. Wolfe, to take audiences on a journey of black culture with a take no prisoners satire that electrifies, unsettles and delights audiences of all colors. The Colored Museum redefines our ideas of what it means to be black in contemporary America as the various exhibits depicts old and new stereotypes. Feb. 13 – March 6 at the Buriel Clay Theater, African American Art & Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St., Sat. 8 p.m. and Sun. 3 p.m.

Paula West at Feinstein’s at The Nikko
Winner of Three New York Nightlife Awards for Outstanding Female Jazz Vocalist
A Bay Area favorite known for her rich, powerful contralto voice, Paula West will present an all new show backed by a four-piece band and an eclectic set list with her unique interpretations of songs by Bob Dylan, Glen Campbell, Pearl Bailey, Ethel Waters and more. West has performed nationally and internationally at prestigious venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Maison de la Musique and the White House. Feb. 11 – March 6, 2016 at Feinstein’s at The Nikko, Thurs. – Sun.; times vary, check the events calendar.

The 12th Annual Black Choreographers Festival
Engage in a celebration of African and African American Dance and Culture
The Black Choreographers Festival is an annual event celebrating African and African American dance and culture, featuring award-winning Bay Area choreographers and companies. The Next Wave Choreographers Showcase: New Voices | New Works celebrates the diverse artistic expression within the context of African and African American dance and culture featuring premieres by Dazaun Soleyn, Joslynn Mathis, Erik Lee, Cherie Hill, Phylicia Stroud, Pat Taylor, Chris Evans w/ Byb Chanel Bibene, and more.  Feb. 20-21, 2016 at the Dance Mission Theater, 3316  24th Street, 7:30 p.m.

FOOD & DRINK

sf|noir Wine & Food Festival
Prominent chefs offering their interpretations of soul food and African American-inspired dishes
The sf|noir Wine & Food Festival returns for Black History Month celebrating the best in black and Southern-inspired cuisine from prominent Bay Area chefs. The festival honors the region’s best in black cuisine from throughout the Diaspora, including: soul food, Southern-inspired cooking, Caribbean and Pan-African dishes, BBQ and more. Taking place around the Bay Area, it includes popular events, such as the Shrimp & Grits Taste-Off, a Sunday brunch, cooking demonstrations, live jazz performances and more. Feb. 26-28, 2016, Various locations and times.

Sips with Soul at 1300 Fillmore
An evening featuring eclectic wine, delicious food and live music
Sips with Soul at 1300 Fillmore brings together the wine from African American Vintners with soulful hors d’oeuvres from 1300 Fillmore’s chef David Lawrence. Enjoy the company of members of the Association of African American Vintners and network amongst other foodies and wine lovers. Vintners who will be featured include: Esterlina, Sharp Cellars, Black Coyote, Vision Cellars, Rideau Vineyards, Longevity Wines,  McBride Sisters, Brown Estate, Stover Oaks, Marke Wines, Indigene Cellars, Sosabe and L’Objet Noir. Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016 at 1300 Fillmore Restaurant, 1300 Fillmore St., 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.

TOUR

Black History Month Programming with the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Stand on the stern of Balclutha, face west to feel the fresh wind blowing in from the Pacific Ocean
Located in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park offers the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Pacific Coast maritime history. African Americans have played a major role in maritime history, from the earliest days of our nation to modern times, they have built, crewed and captained ships; fought in wars; invented tools and created maritime music. Join the San Francisco Maritime National Park in celebrating African American History Month with special programs throughout the month, including:

San Francisco Maritime National Park, Visitor Center, 499 Jefferson St. at the corner of Hyde St.

Download an Audio Tour Featuring the Black Panther Party
Visit the intersection where the Black Panthers became the first crossing guards to carry shotguns
Detour, the producers of mobile app audios curated and narrated by people who live here, offers a downloadable audio tour featuring the Black Panther Party and the Oakland neighborhood where the Black Power revolution took root. Produced by Oakland residents Jason Jakitis, Mwende Hahesy and Ian Davis, the tour walks through North Oakland’s Santa Fe neighborhood and allows listeners to hear directly from original Panthers such as Emory Douglas and Bobby Seale. Downloading the tour requires purchase of the Detour Application for iOS and Android.

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Anti-LGBT Group Threatening To Sue City Over Dolores Park Pissoir

The new open-air pissoir in Dolores Park has drawn some complaints for its somewhat flimsy privacy screen, but that’s apparently only the beginning of its troubles. According to the Examiner, Sacramento-based nonprofit Pacific Justice Institute(which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as an “active anti-LGBT group”) is now threatening to sue the city if the urination station isn’t removed.

In a letter to the city, the PJI argues that the urinal violates its users’ privacy, discriminates against women and the disabled, and could potentially unwillingly expose passersby to users’ genitalia. “We intend to give their legal theories all the consideration they deserve,” City Attorney’s Office spokesman Matt Dorsey told the Examiner.

 

Hoodline, via the SF Examiner

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A Gathering of Royals – The 36th Academy of Friends Awards Night Gala is February 28th

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Come out & enjoy a night of glitz and glam with food provided by the Bay Area’s finest restaurants and caterers, wine and champagne by amazing vintners at the most over the top Academy Awards event in the Bay Area.  Have fun watching the 2016 Oscars® viewable from most every angle in the Galleria at the San Francisco Design Center 101 Henry Adams St.  Bid on hundreds of fabulous items in the silent auction. Win a 2016 Mercedes GLA from Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco or a 7 Day Caribbean Cruise from Celebrity Cruises.  Following the awards broadcast, be ready for raffle drawings, performance from the cast of Dirty Dancing then dj dancing until the doors close plus an after party at SFOasis 298 11th St.!

100% of ticket and raffle sales will be distributed to six HIV/AIDS services providers following the gala.  2016 beneficiaries include: AIDS Legal Referral Panel (ALRP), Maitri Compassionate Care, Positive Resource Center Project Open Hand, Project Inform, San Francisco Suicide Prevention‘s HIV Nightline.

2016 Academy of Friends Gala – A Gathering of Royals

Sunday February 28 5 PM – 10 PM

https://www.facebook.com/events/497460807094679/

for tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-gathering-of-royals-academy-of-friends-2016-gala-tickets-19162152514

Can’t make it to the Gala?  Join Academy of Friends and Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco, at their 2016 VIP Pre-Party! Enjoy champagne, wine, cocktails, food, live music.

Academy of Friends’ VIP Pre-Party at Mercedes-Benz San Francisco

Thursday, February 18 at 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

https://www.facebook.com/events/1680155555585683/
Academy of Friends was founded in 1980 by Kile Ozier as a small, private Oscar Night party with some great food, lots of champagne, and plenty of glamour. Over the years the party became an HIV/AIDS fundraiser and is now one of the largest contributors to HIV/AIDS services providers in the Bay Area. Per Gil Padia, member of the Board since 2012 and current Board Chair “The work of Academy of Friends would not be possible without the efforts of my colleagues and all-volunteer Board which includes a diverse group of ages and backgrounds dedicated to this worthy cause.”

Academy of Friends produces its premier Academy Awards Night Charity Gala as the annual centerpiece of its efforts to raise funds, award donations, and encourage volunteerism. To date, Academy of Friends has distributed over $8.7 million to more than 73 HIV/AIDS agencies. Donations are encouraged http://www.academyoffriends.org/donate/ and so are tax-deductible Silent Auction Donations  http://www.academyoffriends.org/silent-auction/  Their typical Gala draws over 1000 attendees and Silent Auction contributors are prominently featured in program materials. It’s an easy way to show your support for the community while promoting your business or service

As they celebrate their 36th year, you are cordially invited to join in their fundraising efforts as a volunteer http://www.academyoffriends.org/volunteer/ or join in the fun at their Academy Awards Night Gala on February 28, 2016.

 

Information by Gil Padia – to Paul Margolis, OurTownSF.org

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New York City finally figured out what to do with all its old phone booths.

New York City’s phone booths are about to be replaced.

By what? You may ask.

By these:

That, my friends, is a public Wi-Fi hotspot. And it’s free.

They may look like the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but instead of providing light-speed, mind-expanding information access to a species of primates, the Wi-Fi hotspots will … actually, they’ll sort of do exactly the same thing! (Humans are primates for those of you who slept through biology class.)

Starting this summer, Wi-Fi terminals from a project called “LinkNYC” will start appearing all over New York City.

Since at least 2012, New York has been trying to figure out what to do with all the old pay phones. They launched a nationwide competition looking for solutions, and the idea to turn them into Wi-Fi hotspots was the winner.

The project is run by CityBridge and funded in part by three tech companies: Qualcomm Technologies Inc., a smartphone chip maker; CIVIQ Smartscapes, a networking company; and Intersection, which has backing from Google’s parent company Alphabet.

CityBridge plans to install 500 of these hotspots in July 2016, with the eventual goal of 7,500 appearing throughout the city.

Cities have tried in the past to provide free public Wi-Fi, and CityBridge plans to leave those efforts in the digital dust. LinkNYC terminals will provide a whopping 1,000 megabits/second (mbps) Internet speed with no ads. That’s a lot faster than a typical wireless carrier offers. (One of Verizon’s more expensive wireless plans is only 50 mbps.)

That’s great news for New York City’s many cafe writers, Instagrammers, and public porn-viewers.

This is also great news for the wireless market in general.

New York City offering such blazing fast Internet for free will force all Internet carriers in that market to step up their game.

“This is creating all kinds of competition,” Colin O’Donnell, CityBridge’s chief technology officer told the Wall Street Journal. “This is going to set a new standard for speed, drive pricing competition, and set new expectations for data caps.”

Since New York City is one of the countries largest Internet markets, competition is beneficial to all. Among the chief providers of Internet service in New York is Time Warner Cable, which has been rated as the most unpopular company in America.

Three hand clap emojis for New York City setting yet another major precedent.

After all, this is the same city that successfully banned trans fats and invented salt warnings for the sake of public health, recently gave working parents and caretakers legal job protection, and even planted 1 million trees to improve the environment.

Now, NYC is setting a high bar for information access in the age of the smartphone.

In 2011, the UN declared Internet access a human right, calling “upon all states to ensure that Internet access is maintained at all times, including during times of political unrest.”

Starting summer 2016, all of New York City’s residents can enjoy that human right free of charge and free of hassle. Perhaps it could set an example for other cities to do the same.

Frankly, it’ll just be nice to have something in the city without Donald Trump’s name on it.

The only question left is: Where is Superman supposed to change now?

 

John Comulada, Upworthy

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10 Right Wing Companies That Every Progressive Should Boycott

Now that we are between elections we will have to wait until next year to make our voices heard through the ballot box. But in the meantime there is actually a lot that we can still do to fight right wing extremism in our every day lives. One of the best ways to do that is by going after major right wing donors and their businesses and hitting them where it hurts….in their wallets.

You can actually use your hard earned dollars to send a message that reflects OUR values and priorities. I’ve listed a few of the right wing companies that have historically been either major donors to extreme Conservative causes and candidates or that run their operations directly against core Progressive values. Now this is certainly not an exhaustive list, sadly there are many more, but this list of very common brands is certainly a good place to start. And of course another great thing you can do is to patronize Liberal businesses. But here’s some that you should definitely avoid….

CHicks1. Chick-fil-A

This one is likely no surprise to you because their anti-gay stance has been in the news quite a bit over the past couple years. But not only are they completely against gay marriage, they also are huge donors to extreme right wing candidates and causes.

1024px-HobbyLobbyStowOhio2. Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby is another business that has gotten a lot of media attention because of their extreme Conservative views. Hobby Lobby is not only against a woman’s right to choose, but they are also against birth control. After Obamacare was implemented they vehemently fought against the employer mandate for birth control to be included in their insurance policy. They actually took their fight all the way to the Supreme Court….and won.

You know, the really ironic part of this story is that Hobby Lobby and Conservatives claim that they were fighting this mandate because they are so against abortion. But without affordable access to contraception, there will surely be more abortions. I’m not sure that they thought this one all the way through…..

carls3. Carl’s Jr.

Carl’s Jr. has been notorious for objectifying women in most of their highly sexual and controversial ads. But they also have been huge supporters of extreme anti-abortion causes. And if that’s not enough reason to avoid this fast food restaurant, they are also totally against gay rights. As a matter of fact, gay rights groups actually started calling the food “Bigot burgers” after the company’s founder, Carl Karcher, came out in support for a 1978 proposition which would have allowed school boards to fire any teacher for being gay or for advocating homosexuality. In addition Carl’s Jr. is also a big time donor for Conservative Super PACs and the Republican Party.

WalmartTest4. Walmart

Over the past several years Walmart has consistently gotten into trouble for controversial practices. It is widely known that they pay their employees extremely low wages and are totally against any sort of raising of the national minimum wage. They are also famous for being anti-women. Many of their female employees have continually spoken out about wide-spread discrimination. In 2011 several female employees actually filed a class action law suit against Walmart and took it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Marriot5. Marriott Hotels

Marriott, along with their subsidiary Ritz-Carlton, has been a major donor to Conservative Super PACs and extreme right wing candidates. Their chairman, J.W. Marriott Jr., contributed more than a Million dollars to Mitt Romney’s Super PAC, Restore Our Future.

Waffle House6. Waffle House

Waffle House is another restaurant run by extreme Conservatives who are major donors to right wing causes and candidates. As a matter of fact, 100% of all of their donations went directly to Conservatives. Waffle House’s CEO, Jim Rogers Jr., has been a big supporter of Republican causes for a very long time. In 2006 he joined the finance team for Mitt Romney’s Super PAC, Common Wealth PAC.

Angel Soft7. Angel Soft, Brawny, and Dixie

Angel Soft toilet paper, Brawny paper towels, and Dixie cups are all subsidiaries of Koch Industries, headed by the Koch brothers. And they donate Millions of dollars every year to groups like The National Rifle Association, The National Right To Life Committee, and Grover Norquist.

Exxon8. Exxon

Exxon Mobil has a very long history of fighting against the LGBT community. As the Huffington Post reported in 2013, Exxon “has been fighting for years against non-discrimination protection and equal benefits coverage for their employees.” Moreover, as IdentitiesMic reports – “before Exxon acquired Mobil in 1999, Mobile had ‘policies to protect discrimination against gay men and lesbians, and even offered benefits to same-sex couples,’ but Exxon took that all away, according to LGBT news site the Dallas Voice.”

Cracker Barrel9. Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel is yet another company who has had a long history of racist and anti-gay practices. They have been known to fire employees who did not appropriately display heterosexual behaviors. In 2004, the U.S. Justice Department declared that the restaurant had discriminated against both employees and diners based on the color of their skin or sexual orientation.

Urban Outfitters10. Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters has a very well known reputation for being both anti-women and anti-gay. In 2008, the company’s president and founder, Richard Haney, decided to back one of the Presidential nominees. And of all of the choices out there he felt he most aligned with the homophobic Rick Santorum. And in addition this company is also a major donor for extreme Conservative causes and candidates.

Mindy Fischer, LiberalsUnite

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Ted Cruz’s Logo: Hilariously Appropriate

You know that “TrusTed” logo? The one with TRUS and TED merged, yet separated via different colors?

TrusTed
Turns out that when you Google “TRUS”, the logo at once becomes hilarious and hilariously appropriate:

“A transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) is an ultrasound technique that is used to view a man’s prostate and surrounding tissues. The ultrasound transducer (probe) sends sound waves through the wall of the rectum into the prostate gland, which is located directly in front of the rectum.”

Yup, that’s the very top Google result. Basically, it’s an anal probe. Which makes us even more certain that he’s actually an alien.

Well done, Ted!

 

Hinko, DailyKos

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Warren: GOP push to block criminal justice reform ‘shameful’

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) slammed a Republican push to oppose a sentencing reform bill unless it includes a provision that could make it harder to prosecute corporate crimes, calling the move “shameful.”

“All of a sudden, some Republicans are threatening to block a reform unless Congress includes a so-called mens rea amendment to make it much harder for the government to prosecute hundreds of corporate crimes,” she said Wednesday from the Senate floor. “That is shameful because we’re already way too easy on corporate law breakers.”

She added that her colleagues should reject the effort, which is considered key to getting additional Republican support for passing criminal justice reform legislation this year.

Democrats and the Obama administration have voiced concerns about linking the battle over “mens rea” to a reform bill, suggesting it would make it harder to prosecute federal crimes including corporate fraud.

Including the provision, however, has support from key House Republicans, as well as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who voted against the criminal justice reform bill during a Judiciary Committee markup over the fight.

The Utah Republican suggested it is needed to help protect Americans who don’t realize that they are committing a crime.

“Without adequate mens rea protections—that is, without the requirement that a person know his conduct was wrong, or unlawful—everyday citizens can be held criminally liable for conduct that no reasonable person would know was wrong,” he said at the time.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing last month, when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the committee, suggested the panel was to try to “get to the bottom” of the fight that is threatening to bog down the broader criminal justice effort.

Warren’s remarks come after she slammed the Obama administration Friday for being “shockingly weak” on corporate crime.

She added on Wednesday that if Republicans block the broader criminal justice bill, there could be political consequences.

“Anyone in Congress who thinks they can simply talk tough on crime and then vote to make it harder to crack down on corporate criminals hear this: I promise you, I promise you, the American people are watching,” she said.

Jordain Carney, The Hill

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Ted Cruz applauds Duck Dynasty star’s ‘cheerful’ vow to ‘rid the earth’ of gay marriage supporters

“Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson warmed up a crowd Sunday in Iowa for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) by vowing to “rid the earth” of same-sex marriage supporters.

“It is evil, it’s wicked, it’s sinful and they want us to swallow it,” Robertson told the crowd in Council Bluffs.

“We have to run this bunch out of Washington D.C.,” Robertson continued. “We have to rid the earth of them. Get them out of there.”

Robertson said Cruz was a “godly” politician who could cure what he believes is a “spiritual problem” in Washington, D.C.

“When a fellow like me looks at the landscape and sees the depravity, the perversion — redefining marriage and telling us that marriage is not between a man and a woman? Come on Iowa!” Robertson said, drawing cheers from the crowd. “It is nonsense.”

Cruz followed Robertson onstage and described the reality TV star’s wrathful comments as “cheerful” and “unapologetic” expressions of Christian love, reported Right Wing Watch.

“How about Phil Robertson, what an extraordinary human being,” Cruz said. “I mean, listen, God makes every one of us unique, but some are uniquer than others. What a voice Phil has to speak out for the love of Jesus. What a joyful, cheerful, unapologetic voice of truth Phil Robertson is.”

Robertson also described Cruz, who is polling second to Donald Trump in Iowa in the hours before Monday’s caucuses, as a “strict constitutionalist” who “loves James Madison.”

The conservative TV star explained his comments about Madison later Sunday in an interview with Fox News, where he shared a phony quote to claim the Founding Father was an evangelical Christian like himself.

He claimed Madison had written that the U.S. was based “on the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves based on the Ten Commandments of God.”

However, as the website Snopes reported, historians have found no evidence that the fourth president had ever made such a statement.

“The idea is inconsistent with everything we know about Madison’s views on religion and government, views which he expressed time and time again in public and in private,” said the curators of the Madison Papers at the University of Virginia in a 2013 response to a question from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Travis Gettys, Raw Story

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San Francisco’s tech bros told: quit changing the gayborhood

When Cleve Jones, a longtime gay activist who led the creation of the Aids Memorial Quilt, went to his local gay bar in the Castro district, he saw something that shocked him.

“The tech bros had taken over The Mix. They commanded the pool table and the patio. These big, loud, butch guys. It was scary,” he said. “I’m not heterophobic, but I don’t want to go to a gay bar and buy some guy a drink and have him smirk and tell me he’s straight. They can go anywhere. We can’t.”

Residents of San Francisco’s historically gay Castro district are worried that it’s changing, as speculators come in to flip the few remaining ramshackle old Victorians and the old-timer gay bars shutter. In a recent small survey, 77% of people who have lived in the neighborhood for 10 or more years identified as gay, while only 55% of those who moved in the past year did.

When an iconic building was on the market earlier this year, it was between two potential tenants: a gay strip club and a SoulCycle. The SoulCycle won. This winter, The Gangway, the oldest gay bar in town, is closing down.

“When you lose the geographic concentration, you lose a lot,” Jones said. “We lose the cultural vitality, the political power – you also lose the specialized social services.”

Let’s be clear: San Francisco is still extremely gay, with 6.2% of the population identifying as LGBT, according to a recent Gallup poll that puts the Bay Area as the gayest region in America. Portland follows with their gay population at 5.4% of the region.

But the gay community is changing – and traditional LGBT institutions are rapidly disappearing.

“The neighborhood is more professional gay now. Not that it’s less gay, but you gotta have money to move in,” said Hank Cancél, who lives on the corner of 19th and Castro streets, where he keeps a collection of gay erotic dolls in the window. “So now it’s Apple gay. Airbnb gay.”

The “faeries” – which Cancél defines as those in the artistic, eccentric gay culture, the sort who founded the Castro as a gayborhood in the 1970s – are now more rare. “There are so few faeries, we call it a unicorn sighting,” he said, unwittingly giving each other the same word given to startups valued over $1bn. “It’s such a rare magical thing to run into a fellow faerie in the city these days.”

At the Castro district Vanguard office, real estate agent Steve Huang said he finds the gay people moving to town don’t necessarily want to live in any specific neighborhood anymore but prioritize being close to work or Bart. Also, as gay people have integrated further into mainstream culture, it’s gotten harder to tell who’s gay in the first place. “So you’re doing this story about gay culture disappearing, and you might want to take a picture of a mother pushing her stroller outside a porn store, but that mother might be gay or she might be pushing it for two dads. The thing is we just don’t look so different any more.”

He wonders if gay people need to live in a concentrated neighborhood at all and says it’s not a major factor for most of his queer homebuyers.

“If you follow the history of the Irish or the Japanese, they started in concentrated communities and then they assimilated,” said Huang, whose husband leads historic tours of the neighborhood.

Asked how he felt about SoulCycle winning the key real estate over a male strip joint, he balked and said something half a dozen others interviewed for this story echoed:

“Oh my God, think if you have a male strip spot near Bart. Who’s going to come? Not gays. No, no,” he said, raising his hands and leaning back in his office chair. “Bachelorettes. Bachelorettes will come.”

Charlie Ballard, a longtime drag queen and comedian in San Francisco, said he now has to contend with straighter crowds that are less enthusiastic about LGBT topics.Charlie Ballard, a longtime drag queen and comedian in San Francisco, said he now has to contend with straighter crowds that are less enthusiastic about LGBT topics. Photograph: Stephen McLaren for the Guardian

Others worry, though, that as the gay community becomes less concentrated or visible, those who do stand out will feel less safe.

Amy Sueyoshi, 45, associate dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University, says she now feels less safe as a genderqueer person walking around San Franciscoand faces more street harassment. “Now, me and my friends step off Muni and we get called ‘dyke’ and ‘queer’ … It feels less loving … I do think that taking a walk on Valencia Street is not so great for me any more.”

“The Dyke March has become this huge frat party … All these straight dudes and their girlfriends are descending on the park and setting up hammocks,” Sueyoshi said. “It’s a little bit sad.”

She followed up with an email: “I do like to go to places in and around the Castro for Happy Hour or a snack and I’ve noticed more straight people making out at these places where I go deliberately to NOT feel like I am oppressed by heterosexuality. Really, straight people do you HAVE to make out in the Castro as well? Good Lord.”

Some drag queens feel they’re gawked at more recently. Charlie Ballard, a longtime drag queen and comedian in San Francisco, said he now has to contend with straighter crowds that are less enthusiastic about LGBT topics. “Some of our LGBT performers have to deal with wishy-washy audiences of pseudo-hipster techie types. They’re just sitting there, and I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re not watching TV.’”

On a recent Thursday night at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, one of the only remaining drag bars in the Tenderloin, the crowd included a mix of longtime gay patrons and younger straight people – some of whom work in the neighborhood. Bar manager Joe Mattheisen, 66, who has worked at the hole-in-the-wall bar since 1997, said the bar has attracted younger, straighter crowds in recent years.

Part of the reason that so many gay bars have closed or turned straight, he said, is that LGBT people have become increasingly comfortable spending time at mainstream bars.

“The gays fought for equal rights – and they got it,” he said. “So the gays no longer needed gay bars. They just go to their neighborhood bar.”

Mattheisen said real estate brokers regularly reach out to Aunt Charlie’s expressing interest in buying the space. But he said the owners have no plans to sell the business and plan to maintain it as a gay bar – even if the crowd is getting straighter.

Eddie Bellber, 75, is a longtime regular at Aunt Charlie’s who spends nearly every day at the bar. Known locally by his nickname “Hola”, he said that it’s been depressing to see so many gay bars in the area shut down. “San Francisco in the past few years has changed so rapidly with new development and young professionals coming here and new tech companies moving in,” he said.

He said he fears that Aunt Charlie’s could suffer a similar fate. “I’m constantly worried. It’s like they get one offer a week to sell,” he said. If it closed, the drag performers would lose one of their best performance spaces. “Where would my girls go?”

At Tenderloin gay bar Gangway, which recently acquired new owners and is expected to soon close and transform into a new establishment, longtime manager Bob Ames, 58, said he hoped the gay community would continue to patronize the bar in its new form. “I keep telling people they’ve got to come back, and we’ve got to make it our own.”

 and in The Guardian

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Every Candidate’s Impossible First-Day Agendas, Ranked

With the Iowa caucuses officially kicking off primary voting season, it won’t be long before a brand new butt is working a fresh groove into Obama’s old chair. In preparation, our various candidates are already hard at work making wild schedules for their first day on the job. And each one is more impossible than the last.

First, let’s remember that there are still only 24 hours in a day, some of which will almost surely be spent sleeping. And let’s also remember what George W. Bush did during his first day on the throne:

  • Had coffee with his parents
  • Spent the day “getting accustomed to his surroundings”
  • Took supporters on a tour of his new home

In fact, it’s the very same schedule I had the first day I moved into my freshman college dorm. Obama’s first day checklist, while slightly busier, still just consisted of:

  • Read the note left behind by Dubya
  • Attended prayer service
  • Met with advisors
  • Swore-in Cabinet members
  • Signed an executive order forbidding White House employees from acting as lobbyists

So with those ambitious day-one agendas in mind, let’s take a look at the proposed agendas of our current candidates, ranked in order from most impossible to least.


1. Ted Cruz will…

  • Rescind every single executive order issued by President Obama (which total 184 thus far)
  • Open a Department of Justice investigation into Planned Parenthood
  • “Rip up” the Iran nuclear deal (which would look something like this)
  • Order the IRS to end its “persecution of religious liberty”
  • Order the Department of Justice to end its “persecution of religious liberty”
  • Move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
  • Send flowers and condolence notes to “all the editors and reporters who have checked themselves into therapy”

2. Donald Trump will…

  • Eliminate gun-free zones at schools and on military bases
  • Round up and ship out all 11 million “bad” illegals
  • Stop all American companies from continuing to build their products outside of the U.S.
  • Have the U.S. Treasury Department declare China a currency manipulator
  • Rescind every single executive order issued by President Obama (which total 184 thus far)

3. Jeb Bush will…

  • Rescind every single executive order issued by President Obama (which total 184 thus far)
  • Repeal Obamacare
  • Lift the “regulatory burdens” off of business’s backs

4. Mike Huckabee will…

  • Sign an executive order supporting “traditional” marriage and “protecting religious beliefs”
  • Direct the Attorney General to protect religious liberty and aggressively prosecute any violations of First Amendment rights of individuals, businesses, religious organizations, institutions and civil servants, including those who believe in traditional marriage”

5. Rand Paul will…

  • Shut down the National Security Agency’s various mass surveillance programs
  • Repeal Obama’s environmental regulations

6. Ben Carson will…

7. Marco Rubio will…

  • Rip up” the Iran nuclear deal
  • Increase and reimpose previous sanctions on Iran

8. Carly Fiorina will…

  • Make a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to let him know that he has the U.S.’s support
  • Make a phone call to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, to demand that he allow the U.S. to conduct random and unrestricted inspections of Iranian nuclear sites

9. Rick Santorum will…

  • “Walk away” from the Iran nuclear deal and “open up all these facilities for inspection”

10. Chris Christie will…

  • Sign an executive order decreeing that for the next three months there will be “no more regulation by any government agency or department” [Note: This makes absolutely no sense.]

11. Martin O’Malley will…

  • Write an executive order declaring the transition to clean energy the government’s number one priority

12 and 13. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders…

… have yet to release any first day plans whatsoever. Slackers.

 

Ashley Feinberg, Gawker

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You’ve Probably Missed This Key Struggle Among Democrats

The 2008 financial crisis was the most transformative event in American politics since the end of the Cold War. But while the crash fundamentally changed the way voters think about politicians, leaders in both parties have struggled to adjust their politicking to the populist currents it unleashed. That confusion at the top is forcing Debbie Wasserman Schultz to fight for her job.

Wasserman Schultz is best-known for her tumultuous tenure as chair of the Democratic National Committee. But she’s also a congresswoman from a solidly liberal district in Florida. This month she drew a formidable primary challenger in Tim Canova, a law professor who studies big finance with a critical eye.

“On all these issues that I’ve been writing about for so many years — trade, banking, money in politics — she toes the Wall Street line,” Canova told The Huffington Post. “People want politicians who will represent them and not sell them out.”

The contest between Wasserman Schultz and Canova mirrors the internal conflict that has roiled the Democratic Party in the years following the crash. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has vaulted from a bankruptcy scholar to one of the most popular Democrats in Congress — but many of her top legislative priorities have been thwarted by old party hands. At the presidential campaign level, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is marshaling the same anti-corporate momentum against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who most party insiders had picked to take the nomination in a walk.

But the Florida race could well reveal more about the Democratic Party than any other contest this cycle, including the one for president. There are no electability considerations for Democrats in Florida’s 23rd District, which stretches from just south of Fort Lauderdale to Miami Beach. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will make it to Congress. It’s a question of whether a bald, male, not-quite-so-accomplished version of Warren can defeat a proven fundraiser with deep connections forged over the course of a decade in office. It’s a test of whether progressive ideas or corporate money are more central to the Democratic Party’s future.

“The progressive wing of the party — which really used to dominate the party from Franklin Roosevelt through John Kennedy — has mostly been taken for granted,” Canova said. “Their votes are curried by the New Democrats at election time, but when it comes time to governing, they’re really marginalized.”

Many DNC chairs pass through the post without becoming household names. It’s never an easy job, but nobody remembers the trials of David Wilhelm or the tribulations of Paul Kirk. Wasserman Schultz has become a national figure by screwing up. She’s been panned party-wide for burying presidential debates on holiday weekends when viewership is low, a move broadly seen as an attempt to tilt the scales in favor of Clinton (Wasserman Schultz chaired Clinton’s 2008 presidential run). She severely punished the Sanders campaign for exploiting the DNC’s own security failures on voter data, only to reverse course a few days later. As soon as that controversy had died down, she said weird things about medical marijuana and abortion rights activists in an interview with The New York Times Magazine.

“For someone who’s the head of a national party, you would think she’d be better at, you know, politics,” an anonymous “senior Democrat” told Bloomberg in October.

Wasserman Schultz did not respond to HuffPost’s request to comment for this article.

Canova isn’t running for DNC chair. He’s running for Congress. Unlike Republicans, Democrats rarely take on other sitting Democrats, according to research from Clark University political scientist Robert Boatright. Ideological contests are even more infrequent — candidates are far more likely to be targeted for scandal or old age. Literally nobody launched an issues-based challenge against a Democrat in 2014.

Primary challenges are just hard to win. Across every election since Bill Clinton left office, only 21 Democrats have lost a primary in the House and Senate combined — an average of three per year. Sometimes even when they win, they lose. Ned Lamont knocked out Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic primary, only to be defeated by Lieberman in the general election.

Still, somebody wins those races. While the headlines about the DNC’s management have made their way to Florida, Canova is focusing his attacks on Wasserman Schultz’s voting record. The issue that convinced him to run, he said, was her vote in favor of President Barack Obama’s trade agenda this summer — particularly a provision allowing corporations to challenge domestic laws and regulations before an international court.

“I’ve been teaching international trade law for many years,” Canova said. “I’m very concerned about the investor-state provisions in the [Trans-Pacific Partnership].”

The TPP became a major progressive cause, bolstered by Warren’s very public opposition to the same provision Canova criticizes. But Canova himself is all but unknown in electoral politics. His only tenure in Washington came as an aide to Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.) in the mid-1980s. The two men got along well, but it wasn’t a good ideological fit. Tsongas was one of the pioneers in the Democratic Party’s turn toward GOP economic ideas during the Reagan era. Canova, by contrast, was already sharpening his knives against big banks. Two of his letters to the editor on financial policy were published in The New York Times, and he even wrote a feature for the Washington City Paper on the collapse of Continental Illinois — at the time the largest bank failure in American history and the birth of the phrase “too big to fail.” Canova argued (correctly) that deregulation had destabilized American finance, and predicted a rash of upcoming bank failures that are today known as the Savings and Loan Crisis.

Tsongas didn’t even try to prevent his aide from publishing articles that conflicted with his own views. At the time, Canova’s interests just weren’t hot-button issues with the general public. Big-ticket bank deregulation bills were passing with broad bipartisan majorities — a trend that continued through the 1990s.

What a difference a crash makes. Today, corporate accountability, particularly in finance, is a major organizing principle of Democratic activists. The progressive chatter surrounding the presidential primary has spent nearly as much time on Glass-Steagall as it has on single-payer health care. But the major organizing principle of elected officials — Republican or Democrat — is fundraising. And Wasserman Schultz has shined as a fundraiser throughout her career.

Since her earliest days in Congress, Wasserman Schultz has identified as a member of the New Democrat coalition — a group of lawmakers who take progressive stands on social issues, but are sympathetic to GOP economic policies.

Signing up with the New Democrats was once seen as a savvy move for ambitious young politicians, allowing them to woo liberal voters on abortion, gay rights and other issues while consolidating a power base among corporate elites.

Sometimes Wasserman Schultz’s corporate favoritism is subtle. She voted in favor of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill — but has also voted to repeal key aspects of the law and hamstring regulators from implementing it.

There’s nothing subtle about her fundraising success. Wasserman Schultz raised $2.2 million for her leadership PAC in 2014 — almost double what Nancy Pelosi brought in, and just behind the haul generated by Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat. So far in the 2016 cycle, she has received contributions from Goldman Sachs, Comcast, Google, Lockheed Martin, the Major League Baseball Commissioner’s Office, the Transport Workers Union and lobby groups representing all kinds of different industries.

This is on top of the money she raises for the DNC itself. She even deploys her own personal campaign fund on behalf of other Democrats, giving $270,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2014 — money that the DCCC in turn spent on House races.

This money doesn’t just help put Democrats in office — it generates loyalty. Everybody who gets a check from a Wasserman Schultz fund knows that he or she owes her something. And there are a lot of debtors. In the last cycle, 96 Democrats got money from Wasserman Schultz’s PAC. Twenty-eight Democrats have already received money from her PAC for the 2016 elections.

So not many Democrats highlight the breaches Wasserman Schultz makes with her party. She waffled on the Iran deal when Obama was looking for support. She opposes not only legalizing marijuana for recreational use, but also medical marijuana (Canova highlights her fundraising from the alcohol lobby and private prisons — two groups that have a financial interest in blocking medical marijuana). She also voted to hamstring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new rules against shady payday lenders, and to help auto dealers charge more to customers of color. When Warren and Pelosi led a revolt against a government funding bill over federal subsidies for risky Wall Street trades, Wasserman Schultz supported the package.

These are common transgressions among Democrats — Obama wanted the funding bill to pass, and 87 other Democrats joined Wasserman Schultz on the auto dealer bill. Several Democrats outright opposed Obama’s Iran deal. And Wasserman Schultz has always supported reproductive freedom and gay rights — she officiated a same-sex marriage near the Supreme Court last year. But the rest of her record has made progressives eager to see a different face representing the party.

“She’s not progressive,” said Howie Klein, a former record company president who now runs Blue America PAC, a fundraising group that supports liberal candidates and is backing Canova. “Tim is who he says he is. He’s terrific.”

Blue America is currently backing only one other challenger to a sitting Democrat in Congress. But a chance to take down the DNC chair was worth the gamble. Klein has been eyeing Wasserman Schultz since 2008 — before she was tapped to head the DNC — when she refused to support three Democratic candidates over Republican incumbents.

When Tsongas retired from the Senate in 1985, Canova enrolled in Georgetown University Law Center. He eventually turned to academia, focusing his work on the Federal Reserve, and landing a tenured position at the University of New Mexico. In Albuquerque, he helped lead a successful campaign to reinstate the voting rights of convicted felons who had served their time, convincing a Republican governor to go along with a progressive policy. He has written articles for Dissentand The American Prospect on the Federal Reserve, arguing that its current structure is fundamentally undemocratic. By insulating itself from the dictates of elected representatives in Congress and the White House, Canova argues, the central bank became far too cozy with the very banks it is tasked with regulating. Canova calls for the Fed to finance both state and federal spending by purchasing infrastructure bonds at low interest rates — a return to policies the Fed pursued in the 1940s, which had largely been scrubbed from economic history prior to Canova’s scholarship. In 2011, Sanders named him to an advisory committee on the Fed, alongside liberal economists including Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz.

The Fed isn’t going to finance Canova’s campaign. And neither will corporations. “I’m not taking corporate money,” he said.

But the campaign support has to come from somewhere. In South Florida, a lot of eyes are on John Morgan — founder of the plush trial law firm of Morgan & Morgan, home to heavyweight lawyers including former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Morgan is a staunch advocate of medical marijuana. In 2014, he bankrolled a Florida ballot initiative to legalize medical weed statewide. The initiative came up 3 points shy of the 60 percent threshold needed for approval. Wasserman Schultz campaigned against the issue, and Morgan has never forgiven her.

Morgan has deep pockets, and his law firm is not a publicly traded corporation, so his dollars won’t violate Canova’s ban on corporate cash. He has also tweeted support for Canova as a “true progressive” and blasted Wasserman Schultz as a “transactional politician” in the aftermath of Canova’s announcement. That has not, as yet, translated into campaign contributions, or to what some insiders say would be still more effective — an independent super PAC.

The primary election for the Florida House doesn’t take place until August, months after the presidential primary. Canova will not benefit from any Sanders supporters looking to turn the tide at the top of the ticket. But even a close race would demonstrate that Democratic voters want to see a different policy course than what their leaders are offering.

“I think there need to be progressive challenges to incumbents around the country, even in primaries,” Canova said. “Most of these members of Congress have safe seats for the general election, so if they’re not challenged in the primary, what does that say about our democracy? There’s no contested election in the primary, there’s no real contested election in the fall. They get a free pass the entire time. And of course they’re going to keep voting the interests of the big corporations that are funding their campaign.”

 

Zach Carter, Huffington Post

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Word for Word Presents the First Production of its 2016 Season

Stories by Emma Donoghue and Colm Tóibín:  
“Night Vision” by Emma Donoghue and “Silence” by Colm Tóibín
Directed by Becca Wolff and by Jim Cave

 

Word for Word opens the company’s 2016 season with the work of two powerful contemporary writers, Emma Donoghue and Colm Tóibín. The evening-length performance is entitled Stories by Emma Donoghue and Colm Tóibín: “Night Vision” by Emma Donoghue and “Silence” by Colm Tóibín.

The production opens with a press night on Saturday February 27 and runs through April 3 in San Francisco’s Z Below Theater. “Both Irish, and transplanted writers, Emma Donoghue and Colm Tóibín have taken historical moments and let the empathy of their imaginations and the curiosity of their research create stories of two unique women. Each of these writers has a film currently in release and based on their novels: Donoghue’s Room, and Tóibín’s Brooklyn. These two films show the writers’ incredible empathy for the ravages of the heart and the amazing power of love over adversity.’’ remarks Co-Artistic director Susan Harloe.

Culled from historic fact, both of the production’s  stories deal with writers and their adversities. “Night Vision,” by Emma Donoghue, tells of young, blind Frances Browne who thrived on education when it was allowed her, and whose determination made her one of Ireland’s most renowned poets. In “Silence”, Tóibín recreates the story of the intense love-affair between Lady Gregory (founder of the Abbey Theater in Dublin) and the young poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. Their affair was secretly revealed in the love-poems she gave Blunt to publish as his own work. Lady Gregory’s self-containment and reserved passion are impressively imagined: women’s interior lives are one of Tóibín’s great strengths.

“Night Vision” by Emma Donoghue (from her collection The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits) is directed by Becca Wolff**. “Silence” by Colm Tóibín (from his collection The Empty Family),is directed by Jim Cave. The production features actors Stephanie Hunt*, Robert Sicular*, Rudy Guerrero*, Patricia Silver*, Richard Farrell* and Roselyn Hallett**. The production is realized with scenic design by Jacqueline Scott, lighting by Jeff Rowlings, costumes by Callie Floor and dialect by Lynne Soffer. *Member AEA; **Word for Word Associate Artist 

“The stories create an evening showing the power of the word, the thirst for learning, and the profound desire to create…” states Susan Harloe.

Emma Donoghue’s “Night Vision” reveals Frances Browne as a child. Blind–and a girl–the common wisdom is to deny her schooling, but Frances’ love of words and longing for learning gives her the courage to overcome the obstacles of her time and place. Tóibín’s “Silence,” views Lady Gregory, married to a man far beyond her years, who embarks upon an affair with a well-known poet.  Her longing for expression, and to break the bounds of her own silence, lead her to share her private story with writer and chronicler Henry James. Both stories reveal the secrets of these women with wit and compassion.

Feb 27- April 3 (Previews Feb 24-25-26)
Z Below, 470 Florida St.

Word for Word Performing Arts Company, a program of Z Space,  is an ensemble whose mission is to tell great stories with elegant theatricality, staging performances of classic and contemporary fiction. Founded in 1993 by Susan Harloe and JoAnne Winter, Word for Word believes in the power of the short story to provide solace, compassion, and insight into our daily lives.

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Outrage: House Republicans Call Everyone BUT Gov. Snyder for Flint Poisoning Hearing

After intense public pressure, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has finally agreed to hold a congressional hearing this February 3rd to address the Flint water crisis. Incredibly, Governor Rick Snyder will not be required to testify.

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) said Snyder was “at the top” of her list of witnesses she wanted to question, but the Committee chose to ignore her request. She called the decision to give Snyder a free pass “unacceptable.”

“The nearly 100,000 people of Flint who have been permanently impacted by this crisis, either directly or indirectly, demand that Congress set aside party politics if we are to ensure that this never again occurs in Flint or any city in America,” Lawrence said.

Party politics may indeed be the key to Rick Snyder’s free pass. Gov. Snyder is a valued member of the Republican party and was even one of the frontrunners to be tapped as Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential candidate before ultimately losing out to Paul Ryan. The House Committee is comprisedof 24 Republicans, with Democrats in the minority at 17.

Lawrence says she’s still not giving up. “I told them I felt that was unacceptable. It’s not a full hearing unless we get the people who are actually responsible for the decision-making at the table. I am not going to give up until I feel the proper people have been called.”

empower-girls_Lawrence-Brenda

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.)

“The only way that we can hope to earn back the shattered trust of the American public is for our government leaders to put the needs and interests of the people we serve above all else,” Lawrence said.

Meanwhile, the state is still asking Flint residents not to drink their own water, and the National Guard has been distributing bottled water to supply the needs of the people. The public water used in Flint tested as being over 900 times the EPA limit for lead particles.

Ironically, committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) campaigned on a platform to bring reform.

“The pitch I made to the steering committee is we really have to triangulate the problem if we’re actually going to get to reform,” Chaffetz told Politico in 2014. “In order to fix the problem long term, we can’t just be the highlighter pen. We do a good job highlighting things, but we don’t do a great job of fixing things.”

Nathan Wellman, US Uncut

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SYLVESTER Musical Opens Feb. 17 at Brava! for Women in the Arts

This show will have youdancing in the aisles!!  Don’t miss this musical nominated in 5 categories for NY’s prestigious Audelco Award for Excellence in Black Theatre that celebrates the life of the Original 1970′s Disco Queen Sylvester.  Broadway Star Anthony Wayne sings, lives and breathes life as Sylvester. Also featuring the return of the amazing Anastacia McCleskey (“Priscilla,” “Hair,” “Book Of Mormon”) and Jacqueline B. Arnold (“We Will Rock You,” “Priscilla”) as Two Tons of Fun/The Weather Girls.

With songs like “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” “Can’t Stop Dancing,” and “You Are My Friend,” this show tells the story of Sylvester through HIS music and HIS point of view. Beyond all his trials, tribulations, glitz and glamour, he was iconic for being unapologetically fabulous. If you enjoyed last year’s show, this year 3 additional songs, new costumes and a new set are introduced.

Might Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical - The smash hit of last season, returns for a LIMITED ENGAGEMENT

February 17 – March 13, 2016 at Brava! for Women in the Arts 

Wednesdays 7pm / Thursday, Friday & Saturday 8pm / Sunday 2pm &  7pm

brava

Brava ! for Women in the Arts
In 1986, Ellen Gavin and an eclectic and talented group of 75 women artists, met at Galería de la Raza in SF’s Mission District with the intention of bringing attention to the unspoken realities of women’s lives, through the creation of new theater works. These artists first expressed their creative passion by producing a black lesbian event at the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Western Addition, followed by a women’s writing showcase at the Victoria Theater. In the midst of these two projects, Brava! For Women in the Arts sprang forth.

In 1996, BRAVA purchased the shuttered York Theater, a former vaudeville / movie house built in 1926, on the vibrant lower 24th Street Corridor in the Mission District.  A $3 million renovation ensued creating two performance spaces, a 360-seat main theater and a 60 seat Studio Theater.

Stacie Powers Cuellar, the Executive Director since 2012, has revitalized youth programming and regenerated their capital campaign which recently was awarded $200,00 from the Superbowl 50 Fund to create much needed dressing rooms and performance space. Per Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe, Marketing Director since 2013, “in the future we hope to renovate nearby storefronts boarded up for the past 7 years.”

“Today Brava supports the creative talents of LGBT and under-represented communities including persons of color.”  In the recent past they have headlined LGBT artists such as Marga Gomez and Lydia Popovich.

Brava is seeking volunteers who wish to gain lighting, sound, costume and set design experience plus many other positions are available.  They offer artists-in-residence training as well as a chance to have fun and network.  http://www.brava.org/about-brava/volunteer-opportunities/#.VminEOLQObQ

Your generous tax-deductible contribution supports their efforts at: – low-cost and free youth programs – unique and diverse live performances – subsidized community rentals – artists-in-residence – community collaborations – theater building repairs – new storefront performance space, offices, and dressing rooms! http://www.brava.org/about-brava/support-brava/#.VminU-LQObQ

 

This article prepared by Paul Margolis – Founder and Director of www.OurTownSF.org

See more interviews of SF LGBT nonprofits at http://ourtownsf.org/Videos-Interviews

 

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Bernie Sanders Refuses to Melt

Bernie Sanders keeps refusing to run the way that the pundits think he should — that’s what makes this primary so interesting and perhaps a turning point in American politics.

You could see it last night in the Democratic town hall. Before they let, you know, sensible people ask questions, there was CNN moderator Chris Cuomo. Cuomo, of course, wanted to know if Bernie Sanders was going to “bring back the era of big government.” This is exactly the kind of frame that pundits have been trying to put on American politics for about as long as I can remember, which is at least back to the Carter era.

This question is supposed to be a kind of kryptonite that causes Democratic politicians to sweat and turn pallid and immediately explain that no, they’re for efficient government or some such. It’s the kind of question that turned Bill Clinton into a triangulating centrist who cut welfare to the bone and elevated corporate power with a series of disastrous trade agreements. Everyone in Washington knows that “big government” is always bad.

But Bernie wasted no time in saying that he was going to bring back the era when government helped care for people. He thinks government should help people go to college and pay for their medical care, which is what big government does in every other industrialized country in the world. He even — in an ad released earlier in the day — dared to advocate that people who have spent their lives working might deserve the chance to relax and be grandparents at the end of the day. 

This kind of stuff makes the keepers of our political order crazy. In the last few days, we’ve seen folks such as Paul Krugman in the New York Times and Paul Starr in Politico patiently explain that Bernie is too far to the left to be president. It’s like they’re dumping water on the Wicked Witch of the West and waiting for her to shriek, “I’m melting!” But actually, he’s just shrugging it off, like a duck. As Cuomo tried to get him to confess to his socialism, his team just tweeted out a list of “socialist” accomplishments: Social Security, the minimum wage, Medicare, the 40-hour workweek.

The Beltway polls don’t quite get how much America has changed — how unequal and desperate it’s become. Sanders has spent his career on the back roads of Vermont, which is America’s second-most rural state. That means he’s met a lot of poor people and a lot of desperate people — a lot of people like the woman who started crying at his event in Iowa earlier in the day. The Washington Post reporter described it as “a remarkably moving thing,” which it was. But since Post political reporters only meet actual people during those rare moments in a four-year cycle when they happen to intersect with presidential candidates, he perhaps imagined it as rare. This is what life is like.

Which is probably why actual people are also less worried about the other half of the “serious people” test imposed by pundits. Cuomo’s next question for Sanders was about if Hillary’s experience trumps his. This was pretty much the same question Hillary herself posed to Barack Obama with her infamous “3 a.m.” ad eight years ago. In the D.C. world, “experience” is crucial. It doesn’t matter what you believe — it matters how much power you’ve exercised. Do your time, and you’re in the club.

But again Bernie refused to melt. Yes, he said, she’s very experienced — an obvious concession made with the graciousness that’s marked his campaign. (“People are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”) But, hey, experience isn’t everything. If it was, we’d elect Dick Cheney to every possible office, because he’s had the most experience of all. Instead, as Bernie pointed out, judgment is really more important.

That is why, he added, it is relevant that he opposed the Iraq War when she supported it. And he opposed the Keystone pipeline when she supported it. He could have gone on for a long time with that list: why did she set up a wing of the State Department to spread fracking around the planet, for instance? Why was she against gay marriage for years? But the point is clear. A leader is someone who figures out where the future is going, not someone who joins the party once it’s underway. A canny politician, by contrast, is precisely someone who waits until it’s safe and then runs up to lead the parade. 

If it was a year for canny politicians, then Hillary would be a shoo-in. She’s spent decades perfecting that approach.

But it’s not, perhaps, a year for canny politicians. Our Earth is becoming hopelessly unequal (a report last week showed that 62 people owned more assets than the poorest 3.5 billion on the planet) and hopelessly hot. It’s a year, perhaps, for people who insist on telling the truth, even if it’s in a Brooklyn accent.

Bill McKibben, The World Post

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Former Pentagon chief Robert Gates: Republicans’ grasp of national security is at a child’s level

Robert Gates , a Republican stalwart and former US defence secretary who served under eight presidents, has derided the party’s election candidates for a grasp of national security issues that “would embarrass a middle schooler”.

An ex-CIA director who first joined the White House under Richard Nixon, Gates joked that if frontrunner Donald Trump wins the presidency, he would emigrate to Canada. He condemned the media for failing to challenge candidates from both parties on promises he believes are unaffordable, illegal or unconstitutional.

“The level of dialogue on national security issues would embarrass a middle schooler,” Gates said of the Republican contenders at a Politico Playbook event in Washington on Monday . “People are out there making threats and promises that are totally unrealistic, totally unattainable. Either they really believe what they’re saying or they’re cynical and opportunistic and, in a way, you hope it’s the latter because God forbid they actually believe some of the things that they’re saying.”

Gates is among Republican elders dismayed by the way this year’s campaign is unfolding with establishment figures such as Jeb Bush, whose father he served as director of central intelligence, failing to gain traction against mavericks with unusual prescriptions for keeping America safe.

Trump suggested “closing parts of the internet” to prevent Islamic State attracting recruits, Ted Cruz pledged to “carpet bomb them into oblivion”, Chris Christie proposed flying Air Force One over disputed Chinese islands and Carly Fiorina boasted of having had “a private meeting” with Russian leader Vladimir Putin when in fact they met in a green room at a conference.

Gates, promoting a new book, A Passion for Leadership, said “one of the greatest, most appealing aspects of Ronald Reagan was his optimism about this country and about the future, and these guys all make it sound like we’re going down the drain.” All the candidates, he argued, should “try to communicate better to the American people that these are complicated, difficult problems that are going to be difficult to solve and are probably going to require some sacrifice”.

The 72-year-old declined to comment on specific candidates but was pressed by interviewer Mike Allen on the prospect of Trump reaching the White House. After a pause, he replied: “Well, I live about 50 miles from Canada.”

As the audience erupted in laughter, Gates continued philosophically: “I’ve been around a long time. There are a lot of people who have run for president where people have said, ‘Oh my god, if he’s elected it’s the end of the world!’ And the truth of the matter is, it wasn’t, and so I’m not prepared to be overly dramatic and believe me, the comment I just made was very sarcastic and humorous, not meant seriously. Somebody out there will write a story that I’m going to Canada. It’s totally not true; I intend to remain within the United States.”

Gates was the only defence secretary in American history to be asked to remain in that office by a newly elected president. Working under Barack Obama, he was alongside Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state and praised her as “tough minded” with “a lot of common sense” but admitted they began to disagree on issues towards the end, notably the intervention in Libya .

He did not mention Bernie Sanders by name but did suggest both Democratic and Republican candidates are being given an easy ride by the media. “Frankly, I think that the press needs to be more aggressive,” he said. “A lot of people in both parties are making huge promises and commitments.

“In some cases the things they’re saying they’re going to do are unconstitutional or merely against the law and others are, from a budgetary standpoint, inconceivable, and so it seems to be that the press has not hammered hard enough and been relentless in saying, ‘How the hell are you going to do that?’”

Gates condemned National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden as a traitor, called on tech companies to put security ahead of business interests and cooperate with intelligence agencies on encrypted data, and repeated his past description of Putin as a “stone cold killer” which, in the light of the Alexander Litvinenko inquiry, “the British now seem to reaffirm”.

The intelligence veteran of nearly 27 years also spoke about the danger of leaks and recalled the 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed terrorist Osama bin Laden. A friend later emailed him a Photoshopped version of the famous picture in the situation room with the occupants wearing superhero costumes: Obama as Captain America, Joe Biden as The Flash, Clinton as Wonder Woman and Gates himself as the Martian Manhunter.

“And we all had a good laugh, and then I said, ‘Mr President, this is the reason the photographs of the dead Bin Laden must never be released, because somebody will Photoshop them and it will anger every Muslim in the world, even those that hated Bin Laden because of being disrespectful of the dead, and it will create greater risk for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and for all Americans, especially in the Middle East.’ And to the best of my knowledge those photographs are the only things about that raid that have never leaked.”

He added: “The Defense Department wrote the book on leaking. They know how to do this. But the Defense Department leaks about policy and budget and weapons programmes and stuff like that. They do not leak about military operations because they know lives are at stake. So the leaks about the Bin Laden raid for the first couple of weeks came from the White House and CIA, and I just thought that was a disgrace.”

David Smith, The Guardian (from Raw Story)

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Newly Leaked Emails Indicate Michigan Republicans Didn’t Poison Water To “Save Money”

As Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s tower of lies collapses around him, we are finding some extremely disturbing, if at this point unsurprising, new pieces of evidence among the rubble. A great deal of effort is going into determining just what happened in Flint, Michigan, where a switch in water sources by the Snyder administration, ostensibly in order to help save money after Snyder’s tax cuts blew giant holes in the state budget, ended up poisoning thousands of people with toxic lead in the poor and largely African-American city of Flint.

However, question marks are already emerging from the conventional explanation for the switch – that is, to save $2 million by selling polluted water to Flint residents. Journalist Steve Neavling of the independent newspaper, Motor City Muckraker, believes that the water pipes were not switched in order to save money, thanks to the release of a new email which appears to indicate that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) offered Snyder a deal worth $800 million over 30 years, which would have been 20% cheaper than switching to the polluted Karegnondi Water Authority.

MCM also reports that “A high-ranking DWSD official told us today that Detroit offered a 50% reduction over what Flint had been paying Detroit. In fact, documents show that DWSD made at least six proposals to Flint, saying “the KWA pipeline can only be attributed to a ‘political’ objective that has nothing to do with the delivery – or the price – of water.” The deal was signed in 2013, and Governor Snyder refuses to release the emails from this period – refusing to offer up the paper trail of how, exactly this decision was made.

OccupyDemocrats cannot independently confirm or deny these allegations, however; if they are true, they begin to paint a very different picture than the one we originally thought we were looking at. What appears at first to have been a tragic case of desperate cost-cutting and criminal negligence is now taking on the contours of a much deeper conspiracy in which the people of Flint were a sacrificial lamb on the alter of free market fascism.

Neavling not-so-subtly suggests that the ultimate goal was to break up and privatize the DWSD by starving it of a crucial customer base. It has already been split into two entities in 2015: the DWSD and the Great Lakes Water Authority; depriving it of the Flint contract would give the Snyder administration an excuse to sell it off. Others point to a desire to begin new fracking operations in Michigan.

It just goes to show how dangerous the Republican Party’s crusade to dismantle all public institutions and replace them with privatized alternatives that put profits over the well-being of their customers truly presents to our nation. Governor Snyder, who was propelled into office with over $12 million in corporate campaign cash, has spent his entire governorship implementing all the trademark pieces of the Koch Brothers’ plan for America – an Americans For Prosperity-spearheaded union killing right-to-work law (even though he promised he wouldn’t during the election); the appointment of rule-by-decree”emergency managers” for major cities; slashing corporate taxes and instituting a budget-crippling flat tax; crippling public schools with budget cuts and replacing them with charter schools.

More information will reveal itself as Snyder heads to Washington to explain himself to the House Oversight Committee, but the lesson here is clear. Not only do the Congressional Republicans show little interest in any actual governance, but their governors tend to wreck the states they are supposed to lead. Snyder blew a $454 million hole in his budget and poisoned a city; Sam Brownback of Kansas passed corporate tax cuts that blew a $600 million hole in his state budget; Bobby Jindal of Louisiana gave $12 billion in handouts to corporations, turning a $1 billion surplus into a $1.4 billion shortfall and a syphilis epidemic after he closed all of their Planned Parenthoods. There is little that the Republican Party has to offer the American people; they are only interested in fulfilling the whims and petty desires of the oligarchs and the ultra-wealthy while the rest of us pay the price.

 

Omar Rivero, Occupy Democrats

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Hollywood Stars Pose As Gay Couples To Combat Homophobia

A photo exhibit created by French artist Olivier Ciappa hopes to combat against homophobia.

For the series, entitled “Imaginary Couples” (“Les Couples Imaginaires”), Ciappa captured beautiful images of straight celebrities posing as same-sex couples and families in order to spread a message of love.

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Featuring stars including Eva Longoria, Lara Fabian, “Sicario” director Denis Villenueve, and “Dallas Buyers Club” director Jean-Marc Vallee, the exhibit is due to come to the United States in coming months.

“The celebrities that I shot are heterosexual, but it was essential to me that you would believe these imaginary couples and families they portray were real,” said Ciappa.

“If you couldn’t identify with their love and feel it was real, then I would have failed. And to show that love is love, no matter who [is involved], the exhibition also features real gay families, straight ones, single parents, disabled, people of different skin colours and origins, different religion, young couples, old ones.

“All of these pictures, imaginary or real, have the same glamorous and warm monochrome style that makes them look not only appealing but timeless.”

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From Instinct.com

 

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Jewish transgender man gives birth and embraces life as a single ‘abba’

When Rafi Daugherty went to the hospital for the birth of his first child, he posted a sign on the delivery room door.

“I am a single transgender man having my first baby,” it read. “I use he/him/his pronouns and will be called ‘Abba’ (Hebrew for father) by the baby. Papa, Dad, Daddy, Father … are also ok.”

Rafi, 33, wanted hospital staff to be prepared for what they were about to see: a man laboring in bed.

“I didn’t want them to assume that I identified as female because I was having a baby,” he said.

After eight hours of labor, Rafi was holding his 7-pound, 10-ounce daughter: Ettie Rose, named, in the Jewish tradition, for Rafi’s maternal grandmother and great-grandmother.

Since bringing Ettie home from the hospital, Rafi’s days have been filled with frequent feedings — unable to nurse, he gives his daughter donor breast milk  — and diaper changes and stroller walks around his Denver neighborhood.

Nearly five months on, Ettie is a thriving infant with an impressive collection of plush seahorses.

Obvious, that is, if you happen to know that male seahorses carry and birth their offspring.

Male pregnancy first made headlines in 2007, when Thomas Beatie, a transgender man, became pregnant — and went public with his story, posing for magazines and appearing on “Oprah.” Back then, there were virtually no resources for pregnant transmen. (“I had nothing to go by; the organizations I reached out to had nothing,” Beatie told JTA.)

That’s slowly changing thanks to nascent research, as well as the emergence of closed social media groups devoted to transmasculine birthing and infant-feeding.

Furthermore, transgender rights and inclusion are increasingly a part of public — and Jewish — discourse. That’s due in part to the recent transition of the Olympic gold medalist and reality TV star now known as Caitlyn Jenner, and the prominence of transgender characters on hit series such as “Transparent,” where the protagonist is a Jewish transwoman, and “Orange Is the New Black.”

In November, the Union for Reform Judaism issued a resolution affirming its commitment to the full equality of transgender and gender non-conforming people. The flagship Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist seminaries welcome transgender students, and the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College have ordained transgender rabbis.

Rafi, who grew up Orthodox, said he’s been warmly welcomed by Colorado’s progressive Jewish community. One independent minyan organized a postpartum meal train for Rafi, and a large Conservative synagogue hosted Ettie’s simchat bat, or Jewish welcoming ceremony.

“I have dreamed of being a parent since I was just a small child,” he said at the ceremony in October. “It’s something that has been a part of me for as long as I can recall. I remember carrying my baby dolls around and dreaming of the day that they would be real and not just fabric and plastic.”

That day would have come sooner, he explained, but he felt he had to be “the most authentic and fulfilled human that I could be before trying to raise kids.” For Rafi, that involved transitioning from female to male — something that had long seemed out of the question, given his religious upbringing.

Growing up, Rafi attended a haredi Orthodox Bais Yaakov school in St. Louis. (Like many in the transgender community, Rafi is guarded about his birth name and asked that it not be published.) On Purim, he sometimes dressed up as a boy, donning a kippah and tzizit ritual fringes.

At night, young Rafi would pray to God to turn him into a boy. But because he was brought up to believe that gender is immutable, he didn’t think he had any agency in the matter.

Rafi was 21, living in New York, and in recovery for alcohol and drug addictions when he first met a transgender person.

“My immediate thought was, ‘Wow, if I wasn’t Orthodox I would totally be transgender,’” Rafi recalled during a 2012 speech to Congregation Bonai Shalom in Boulder, Colorado. “But I didn’t think God made mistakes and I always wanted to be a mommy, so I tried very hard to stay female.”

But in 2007, Rafi came out as a male. He had a renaming ceremony, becoming Rachamim Refael “Rafi” Yehoshua Ben Zechariah Leib, at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, an LGBTQ synagogue in Manhattan. Rafi turned 25 a few weeks later and began taking testosterone. His voice became lower and hair sprouted on his chin. He then underwent chest reconstruction surgery, but opted against other procedures, such as a hysterectomy.

“I was created with a body that could create life, and I didn’t want to damage that ability,” he said.

Living as a man, Rafi was finally comfortable in his own skin.

But his transition was met with resistance from his Orthodox mother and then-stepfather, and his haredi Orthodox brother. Rafi didn’t see his mother for three years after his transition, though they have since reconciled, and his older brother has refused contact since 2007. In an interview, Rafi’s mother described herself as a doting grandmother — she attended Ettie’s simchat bat — who is trying to respect the life choices of both her children. She acknowledged, though, that she holds out hope that the daughter she raised will go back to living as a woman. (She asked that her name not be published to protect her family’s privacy.)

After college and graduate school — Rafi has a master’s degree in crisis and trauma studies from Tel Aviv University — he settled in Denver. Rafi began working as a community organizer, then a regional manager, for the Jewish LGBT advocacy group Keshet. In 2014, he took a job at Ramah Outdoor Adventure, a Jewish camp affiliated with the Conservative movement; he is now the director of camper care.

“We welcomed Rafi as a Jewish leader, and one that pushed us to live our value of being open and accepting,” said the camp’s executive director, Rabbi Eliav Bock.

Summer session 2015 at Ramah Outdoor Adventure, which serves children in grades 3–12, coincided with the third trimester of Rafi’s pregnancy. Rafi was met with a round of applause when he told the camp staff his news. But he asked his colleagues not to discuss his pregnancy with campers, who, Rafi said, “just thought I was a fat dude.” By the end of the summer, with Bock’s blessing, Rafi disclosed to the high school-age campers that he was pregnant.

Rafi and Ettie celebrate Hanukkah. (Courtesy of Rafi Daugherty)

Rafi and Ettie celebrate Hanukkah. (Courtesy of Rafi Daugherty)

Rafi became pregnant by artificial insemination. The sperm donor is a friend whom Rafi described as “a tall, dark and handsome gay man, who is half South Asian” and half white.

“He’s expressed gratitude to be part of this journey for us,” Rafi added, “and not have to deal with the diapers and the crying.”

In 2014, the journal Obstetrics and Gynecologypublished a groundbreaking study that drew on data from 41 people who had been pregnant and given birth following a female-to-male transition. The study showed use of the male hormone testosterone did not seem to prevent conception, though some respondents who conceived reported being turned away when they sought prenatal care and facing insensitive comments from health care providers.

Rafi did run up against records software that wouldn’t allow hospital staff to enter the name of a father without first entering the name of a mother. He was ultimately successful in changing the birth certificate to reflect what Rafi called “the truth of our family”: that Rafi is Ettie’s father.

In recent months, Rafi has become accustomed to the assumptions people make when he and his daughter are out and about: that Ettie is adopted, for example, or that Rafi has a spouse at home. (Rafi is single, but open to a relationship; he said he’s attracted to “androgynous to masculine” individuals.)

“I’m getting used to saying, ‘I’m transgender and I gave birth to her,’” Rafi said, “so that Ettie can be empowered to know her story and share her story, and not feel like it’s something embarrassing or weird.”

“We got a lot of seahorse toys, for obvious reasons,” Rafi told JTA.

Gabrielle Birkner, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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Travesty: Leaked Emails Reveal Republican Officials Made Fun Of Poisoned Flint Residents

In a desperate effort to save his job, Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder has released a flood of emails in an attempt to exonerate himself from his criminal negligence that lead to the mass poisoning of thousands of people with lead-tainted water. Unfortunately for him, his desperate attempt at showing some kind of “transparency” and “accountability” is just digging himself into a deeper hole.

Some 294 pages of emails were released to the public. The first problem that journalists ran into was the fact that some of the most important emails were heavily redacted, which immediately squashed any hopes that the Snyder administration would be open and honest about exactly how the decision to switch the water supply of Flint, Michigan, to the notoriously polluted Flint River, in the hopes of saving some $5 million dollars and pad one of the giant holes that Snyder’s corporate handouts and tax giveaways blew in their state budget.

The more disturbing revelation was confirmation that the Snyder administration was dismissive and belittling to the mountain of complaints that residents filed after discovering their water had turned a disturbing brackish brown, and that even after evidence began mounting, they refused to act to rectify the situation until it was far too late, playing off their concerns as “initial hiccups” and dismissing them for being overly concerned with “aesthetics.” When the city’s water plant found traces of “coliform and fecal coliform bacterium,” they simply began adding chlorine to the water. They also refused to take any responsibility for their actions, as this email from Snyder’s Chief of Staff indicates:

“I can’t figure out why the state is responsible except that [State Treasurer] Dillon did make the ultimate decision so we’re not able to avoid the subject.”

The emails insinuate that the frightened residents were in fact politically motivated, describing them as an “anti-everything” group that wanted to use the health of their children as a “political football.”  There was no action taken after a nearby General Motors factory stopped using Flint’s water because it was corroding the metal in their cars; not after a hospital stopped using the water because it was damaging their instruments, nor after a university stopped for the same reason. How anyone could consider water that was literally damaging metal be safe for consumption by humans?

The final nail in Snyder’s coffin should be this email from an Environmental Protection Agency expert, Miguel Del Toral, which shows that “the state was testing the water in a way that could profoundly understate the lead levels.” Not only were they fully aware of the dangers presented by the water, the Snyder administration attempted to cover up the scandal by misrepresenting the data. 

All of this simply confirms what we already knew – that Governor Rick Snyder and his administration purposefully sold water that they knew was contaminated to a majority African-American city of a hundred thousands souls, dismissed the concerns of the residents they were poisoning, and then attempted to hide the evidence until it was too late. Resignation is not enough for these men. After these explosive revelations, justice demands criminal prosecution and harsh punishments for this kind of heartless mismanagement.

But that, ladies and gentlemen, is just how a Republican governs.

 

Colin Taylor, Occupy Democrats

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IOA Presents 33rd Annual Dinner à la Heart Tuesday, February 9th

ioagingIn the next few years the number of LGBT adults over 60 in San Francisco will increase dramatically. Recognizing that many LGBT older adults and seniors grew up in a time when they could be harassed, fired, arrested, disowned and/or physically assaulted for their sexual orientation and gender identity preference without legal protection, Institute on Aging understands the need to be very sensitive to the fears and concerns, isolation and loneliness and health and social disparities affecting us.

Institute on Aging is playing a role in addressing our needs through education and case assessment.  http://www.ioaging.org/lgbt  They participate in committees and forums throughout the Bay Area to advocate for appropriate cultural strategies and programming to ensure LGBT older adults have access to services.

A San Francisco tradition, Institute on Aging Dinner à la Heart on February 9, 2016 gives Bay Area residents an opportunity to choose a restaurant, make reservations online, and enjoy a unique prix-fixe dining experience with your family and friends while supporting this nonprofit neighborhood resource helping thousands of seniors remain independent and healthy in San Francisco, Marin, and the Peninsula. Prices range from $75 – $200 per person, including wine and coffee or tea.  See http://www.ioaging.org/calendar-events/dinner-a-la-heart  or reserve your seats at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/institute-on-aging-presents-dinner-a-la-heart-tuesday-february-9-2016-if-your-restaurant-choice-tickets-19954566646  If your restaurant choice does not list the required amount of seats for your party, please contact 415.750.3443.  Sandra Simon, volunteer co-chair of this event for almost 20 years, follows the tradition of her mother who was one of its founders.

In 1975, internist and cardiologist Lawrence Feigenbaum, MD, along with Barbara W. Sklar planted the seed at Mount Zion Hospital where a safe alternative to nursing home placement was created.  This was the nation’s first adult day health center in a U.S. community hospital, effectively launching the senior independence movement.

Over the next ten years, Mount Zion Hospital added outpatient service for seniors and The Institute on Aging was created in 1985.  Their innovative approach cut down on hospitalizations, and opened the nation’s first in-home creative arts program for homebound seniors.  Tom Briody, the CEO for the past 4 years, feels that the services offered “are 2nd to none and it’s an honor to be part of this organization.”

They create an environment ensuring that growing older for Bay Area residents is something to look forward to, at every age.  Call 415-750-4111 to Institute on Aging’s Connect Line to access local senior services.  If you think aging and disability are issues that matter, you may support their work by making a contribution or by volunteering.

This article prepared by Paul Margolis – Founder and Director of www.OurTownSF.org

See more interviews of SF LGBT nonprofits at http://ourtownsf.org/Videos-Interviews

 

 

 

 

 

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Flint Water Response Perfectly Captures The Difference Between Bernie Sanders And Hillary Clinton

On Saturday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to resign over the lead poisoning crisis in Flint.

Three days later, Snyder remains in office, and Sanders has moved on after generating a fair amount of media attention.

On Thursday, Hillary Clinton went on national television and chastised Snyder for refusing to ask for federal assistance in order to help the affected residents.

Two hours after that interview aired on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC, the governor did just that.

Clinton had also already dispatched two of her top aides – including one with years of experience working for a Michigan senator — to the state to assist Flint Mayor Karen Weaver (D) with whatever she needed.

The different approaches are emblematic of the ways the two Democratic presidential candidates respond to problems — and would perhaps continue to do so if they win the presidency. Sanders goes big, not always worrying about whether what he’s proposing is politically realistic. Clinton, meanwhile, focuses on the pragmatic instead of the aspirational, using her experience as a guide to what can get done.

Their approaches on health care have exposed this rift as well. Sanders has continued to push for a single-payer health care system — a dream for many Democrats — while Clinton has slammed his proposal as too vague and politically unrealistic.

Since October, officials have told Flint residents not to drink the brown stuff coming out of their taps, which they had previously been assured was safe even though it caused rashes. The state admitted it made a mistake when a local pediatrician reported unusually high lead levels in Flint children’s blood.

The former secretary of state’s approach has won over Weaver, who came out and endorsed Clinton during a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning.

“As far as what Hillary Clinton has done, she has actually been the only — the only — candidate, whether we’re talking Democratic or Republican, to reach out and talk with us about, ‘What can I do? What kind of help do you need?’” Weaver said.

Amanda Renteria is the Clinton campaign’s national political director and one of the staffers who went to Flint last week to talk with the mayor. She has experience in the state, having previously served as chief of staff to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D- Mich.).

“When this came about and [Clinton] read about it, her immediate response has been, ‘Let’s see what’s going on, and what can we do to help?’” Renteria told reporters during Tuesday’s conference call.

Snyder, for his part, has denied that Clinton and her appearance on Maddow had anything to do with his decision to ask for federal funds.

“Gov. Snyder announced the state was coordinating with FEMA days before and [was] dealing with the crisis on Thursday, not watching political talk shows,” Snyder spokesman Dave Murray told the Washington Examiner.

Last week, the Clinton campaign also called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct an “expedited review” of Flint’s water infrastructure and said the Obama administration should immediately set up a “health monitoring and surveillance system” to test residents for lead poisoning. It’s less exciting and headline-grabbing than getting Snyder to resign, but also more likely to happen.

Clinton was also the first candidate to bring up the Flint water crisis during a presidential debate. On Sunday night in South Carolina, Clinton said the crisis had its roots in race and class issues.

“We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water,” she said, adding, “I’ll tell you what — if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it there would’ve been action.”

In his statement Saturday, Sanders did go further in trying to hold Snyder accountable.

“There are no excuses,” he said. “The governor long ago knew about the lead in Flint’s water. He did nothing. As a result, hundreds of children were poisoned. Thousands may have been exposed to potential brain damage from lead. Gov. Snyder should resign.”

Erin Brockovich, the legendary environmental activist and lawyer, endorsed Sanders’ approach Saturday, saying she hadn’t yet called for the governor’s resignation because she believed “we need to focus all of our energy on helping the people of Flint.” But she changed her position after seeing the seriousness of the situation.

“I will be speaking with the campaign over the next few days to help him understand just exactly how this is truly a National crisis beyond Flint,” Brockovich said in a statement.

Weaver didn’t seem particularly impressed with Sanders’ comments Tuesday, telling reporters, “A lot of people said the governor should step down.”

The Sanders campaign did not return a request for comment on what else the senator has done on Flint.

Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post

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On Scene with Bill Wilson for Michelle Obama’s Birthday

PhotoA017237Mrs. Obama acknowledging the crowd as she is escorted to the speaker’s platform during the commissioning ceremony for the Coast Guard Cutter, Stratton.

First Lady Michelle Obama was the sponsor for the Coast Guard Cutter Dorothy C Stratton when it was commissioned at Alameda Coast Guard station on March 31, 2012. I had the privilege of attending the commissioning on what was a soggy blustery day. The wind turned the umbrella being held by Mrs. Obama’s escort inside out as they descended the gangplank after Mrs. Obama had toured the Cutter.

PhotoB017154Mrs. Obama in orange scarf poses with the crew of the Dorothy C. Stratton on March 31, 2012.

In the year that women finally gained the right to sere in combat it is right to remember those who paved the way for that service. According to the official biography of Dorothy Stratton on the Coast Guard website, “ she became the first woman to be accepted for service in the Women’s Reserve of the Coast Guard soon after President Franklin Roosevelt signed an amendment to Public Law 773 that created a women’s reserve program for the nation’s oldest continuous-going sea service.  Her transfer to the Coast Guard as the Director of that service’s Women’s Reserve occurred on 24 November 1942 and she was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander.  She made commander in December, 1943 and captain in February, 1944.  One of her first contributions to the Coast Guard was creating the name SPAR for the Women’s Reserve, which she discovered in the first letters of the Coast Guard’s motto “Semper Paratus” and its English translation “Always Ready”.

PhotoCStrattonRooseveltLt.(JG) Eugenia Laurence, Commander DOROTHY C. STRATTON, Director Women’s  Reserve of the US Coast Guard, Vice Admiral Russell H. Waesche, Commandant, US Coast Guard and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (left to right) review a contingent of SPARS as they celebrate the first anniversary of their organization on November 23, 1943.  Credit Line (ACME)

While searching for photos of Eleanor Roosevelt on Ebay I was amazed to come across one of Mrs. Roosevelt and Dorothy Stratton. It seemed to me that it completed a cycle. Two First Ladies whom I greatly admire connected by Dorothy Stratton the woman, and the Coast Guard Cutter named in her honor.

PhotoD017302-Mrs. Obama addresses the crowd of invited guests at the commissioning of the Coast Guard Cutter Dorothy C. Stratton on March 31, 2012.

 

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Trump Slams Obama for Not Freeing “Hostages” Five Hours After Obama Negotiated their Release by Iran

Thanks to the reasoned negotiating of Barack Obama and his team, the ten American sailors detained after entering Iranian waters were released early this morning, and a potential international incident was averted at a critical juncture for the Iranian nuclear deal. Donald Trump, however, who apparently pays little attention to world affairs or to the office he supposedly aspires to hold, put his dangerous ignorance on display in calling for the sailors’ release five hours after it was announced.

Picking up the standard Republican line, he criticized Obama as being “weak” and assured us that he would be “much stronger” in dealing with Iran, nevermind that the Iranians had legitimate cause to detain the sailors. But, the insidious belief that diplomacy is “weak” and yelling and murder are the only way to get things done is not the only shameful Republican tenet on display in Trump’s statement. Even more so, it was yet another example of many Republicans’ profound ignorance of the Middle East, the region that attracts so much of their demagogic and racist war-mongering.

It’s no secret that many of the leading Republican presidential candidates know remarkably little of foreign affairs, and their incessant racially-tinged fear-mongering about ISIS has put this baffling ignorance on full display, from Chris Christie calling a long-dead Jordanian king his close friend to Ben Carson’s top advisors literally having to quit because they were unable to teachhim the first thing about the Middle East. As in most contests of stupidity and incompetence, however, Donald Trump has taken the cake for his ignorance of the Middle East even as he has blithely called for the mass murder of innocent civilians in the region.

He has confused Iran’s Revolutionary Guards with the Kurds and Hamas with Hezbollah, and has been unable to name a single major leader in the region or even a former U.S. Secretary of State, among numerous other disturbing lapses. When a radio host asked Trump when he would learn more about the region, he said, with typical middle-school level arrogance, “When it’s appropriate. I’ll know more about it than you know and believe me, it won’t take long.” As many have pointed out, however, it will never be “appropriate” in his mind to know anything about the world, because the problem isn’t simply that he doesn’t know about the world (though that is certainly the case) but that he doesn’t care about the world. To Trump and his followers, any question that he shows off his ignorance is a “gotcha” question dreamed up by the “liberal media” and their evil obsession with facts.

This is of course to be expected from a demagogic populist like Trump, who appeals to the masses with an over-aggressive militant nationalism that purposefully dehumanizes the supposed enemy. It is just this sort of dehumanization, in which the ignorance Trump so proudly displays is the first step, that makes it easy to commit mass murder and other atrocities. And, sure enough, Trump and those like him have advocated the carpet bombing of entire Middle Eastern cities and the intentional mass murder of innocent Middle Eastern citizens, who to them are nothing more than faceless and interchangeable “bad guys” whom it isn’t even worth understanding on the most basic level. It is this demagogic fear-mongering, that intentionally dehumanizes people to facilitate their murder and makes ignorance into a virtue while prizing senseless killing, that makes the moniker of proto-fascist – however sensational it sounds – apply perfectly to The Donald.

James DeVinnie, Occupy Democrats

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GOP Bill To Derail Iran Deal Goes Down In Flames After 100+ Republicans Forget To Show Up To Vote

The Republican Party is an absolute mess and we’re starting to reap the benefits.

While the GOP has spent Obama’s entire presidency attempting to do nothing to help the country, they’ve recently taken it so far that they hardly bother to show up at the Capitol at all. This is creating some really, really stupid problems.

It’s easy to see why House Speaker Paul Ryan was reluctant to take the job because one of the unenviable tasks he’s expected to do is to somehow trick the hundreds of Republican lawmakers he leads into actually doing their jobs once in a while. It’s not easy.

Recently, an increasingly frustrated Ryan even told Congress that they needed to make more of an effort to show up on time for legislative votes. The process is supposed to take 15 minutes, but with lawmakers slowly trickling in when they feel like it, oftentimes it can go on for an eternity. (If you’re getting the sense that lawmakers are behaving worse than high school students dragging their feet to homeroom, you’re not the only one.) The lack of urgency means Congress hardly gets anything done.

“Members should be reminded, members should attempt to come to the floor within the 15-minute period as prescribed by the first ring of the bells. All sides of the aisle,” Ryan said.

“As a point of courtesy to each of your colleagues, voting within the allotted time would help with the maintenance of the institution. The chair appreciates the members’ attention to this matter,” he said with a smile.

Apparently, nobody listened, least of all Ryan’s fellow Republicans.

When it came time for Republicans to vote on a measure meant to derail Obama’s historic nuclear deal with Iran, over 130 lawmakers, mostly Republicans, were visibly absent. It appears that voting for a thing they themselves had introduced had slipped their minds. An unhappy Ryan slammed down his gavel after 15 minutes and abruptly ended voting which vacated the tally due to insufficient votes.

How big of a screw up was this for Republicans? The window to truly derail Obama’s Iranian deal closed with Ryan’s gavel. They blew it. Instead, Secretary of State John Kerry says America will begin upholding its obligations to the deal starting in a matter of days, barring any setbacks from Iran.

“Implementation day, which is the day on which Iran proves that it has sufficiently downsized its nuclear program and can begin to receive sanctions relief, is going to take place very soon, likely within the next coming days somewhere.”

In a supreme irony, many Republican lawmakers were probably catching up on sleep after spending last night giving breathless interviews disingenuously spreading the lies that Iran was holding American Navy service members hostage. As usual, their lofty rhetoric doesn’t match their actions. If Iran was really so dangerous and they cared so much for the troops, would skipping this vital vote really be an option?

Yet another example that the dysfunction in Washington stems largely from the Republican Party. As the right-wing movement continues to become swallowed by anti-government extremists who were once considered the radical fringe, even doing the jobs you were elected to do – say, pass legislation – can paint you as a “RINO.” Instead, many Republican lawmakers try their best to destroy the government from the inside by willfully throwing wrenches into the works. But as we’ve seen, this “scorched earth” approach can backfire. During those times when Republicans actually do want to accomplish something, they fall apart. We see it here.

Another Republican chance to hurt Obama goes down in flames by a needless unforced error due to stupidity, apathy, and laziness. What a legacy this Congress is building for itself. Republicans ought to be so proud.

Jameson Parker, Addicting Info

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