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San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band (SFLGFB) Dance-Along Nutcracker

Interview with Pete Nowlen – Artstic Director



The 2015 Dance-Along Nutcracker® -The Nutcracker of Oz! will take audience members on a wild adventure when a twister carries Clara and her dog Fritz over the rainbow to the Land of Oz. Clara and Fritz’s journey down the Yellow Brick Road is sure to entertain and amuse.

Under the baton of Artistic Director Pete Nowlen, who is celebrating his 3rd season, the band will play Ozesque favorites from the 1939 cinema classic, Wicked and The Wiz blended with Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Sugar Plum wannabes will dance and pirouette under the spotlights of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and as always, a rollicking fun time will be had by all!

Mr. Nowlen was the guest conductor this summer for the annual conference of the Lesbian/Gay Band Association.  He serves as director of concert bands at UC Davis and on the faculty of Sacramento State.

The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band is the first openly gay musical organization in the world, inspiring the formation of LGBT bands, choruses and performing groups around the globe. On a local level, SFLGFB is the Official Band of San Francisco, having been given that honor by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in honor of the Band’s 20th and 25th anniversaries.

Founded in 1978 by Jon Sims at the height of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade, the Band has made music to build understanding among communities of all sexual orientations and identities for more than three decades. SFLGFB first appeared in public when it marched up Market Street behind Harvey Milk’s convertible in the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade, an event recreated in the Oscar-winning film “Milk.”


San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band (SFLGFB)  Dance-Along Nutcracker®
Saturday December 12  3pm & 7pm,  Sunday, December 13  11am & 3pm
at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
See and hear a sample of the show at

The cast features Donna Sachet (Witch), Zelda Koznofski (Clara), Flynn DeMarco (Scarecrow), Joe Wicht (Lion), Noah Haydon (Tinman), Tina Sogliuzzio (Glinda) and Leigh Crow (Wizard).

JOIN: “Our marching and pep program is non-audition and especially friendly to people who haven’t picked up their instrument in a while or are switching to something more marching-esque. The music we play is a good mixture of some easier pieces and some things more challenging, so there is something for everyone at every level.  There are no auditions, just come and play. Contact us at membership [at] sflgfb [dot] org

VOLUNTEER: “You don’t need to play an instrument to get involved! SFLGFB is seeking enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers and leaders. Your efforts will help make our concerts and events better for our fans and members.”  Leave a message at 415.255.1355 or email us at sflgfb [at] sflgfb [dot] org  to volunteer.

DONATE: It takes a lot of money and hard work to keep a multi-faceted musical group like this going for 36 years.  To donate online, please pay securely

HIRE THE BAND:  Hire the Band to add a true piece of San Francisco to your ceremony! Contact

We’re looking forward to seeing you at SFLGFB’s Beloved Holiday Show.  It’s just a few weeks away so order your tickets now.  Ask about their Friends and Family Ticket Packages.


Article by: Paul Margolis – Director of 

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When a local mosque was burned down, a town raised $80k to rebuild it in less than a day.

On Nov. 15, 2015, residents of Peterborough, Ontario woke up to the kind of news that makes your heart sink.

A mosque — the only one in the community — was burned down. Though the motive for the attack is still unclear, police have declared that the fire was set intentionally, and the blaze is being investigated as a potential hate crime.
Since the Paris attacks, hostility towards Muslims has become far more visible in Europe and North America.

The U.K. has experienced a huge spike in attacks against Muslims. Many U.S. presidential candidates have called for halting the flow of Syrian refugees into the country — especially if they’re not Christian. Some have gone so far as to propose shutting down mosques and have insinuated that American Muslims cheered on the 9/11 attacks.

But residents of Peterborough refused to give into suspicion and fear and were determined to do something to help their neighbors rebuild.

“Damages are estimated to exceed $80K. We encourage members of the community, of all or no faiths, to help the Muslim community restore their place of worship,” Peterborough resident Duane Rouselle wrote on a fundraising page he created.

Rouselle told Upworthy that he donated all he had — the 17 cents in his bank account.

“When I heard the news — I heard it from somebody who lived beside the Mosque, before it hit the news — I felt compelled to do something, anything,” he wrote in an e-mail.
The fundraiser hit its $80,000 goal before the first day was over.

And the donations kept pouring in. As of Nov. 23, 2015, the community had raised over $110,000 to help rebuild the mosque.
The community didn’t just rally to raise money.

Other religious groups in the city immediately stepped up to offer displaced members of the mosque space to gather, worship, and pray.

“There are no words to describe how amazing our community has represented itself as a giving, loving, peaceful and supportive community,” Rouselle wrote.
The mosque will be able to rebuild, and the Peterborough community deserves massive congratulations for living up to its highest ideals.

In the wake of a terrible tragedy, it’s natural — and understandable — to be afraid. It’s easy to look at the perpetrators of unspeakable violence and draw quick, and not always accurate, conclusions about people who look like them.

“Our acts of kindness should not conceal the very real threats that people have to live with on a daily basis,” Rouselle wrote in his e-mail. And he’s right.
It’s important to stand up for the least empowered members of our communities — even when we don’t know them that well, or disagree with them.

In the wake of the positive press, some have pointed to the Peterborough imam’s retrograde views on marriage and women’s rights. And it’s OK to be offended by them! But they’re not a reason to not help a community. And they certainly don’t justify what happened to the mosque.

Far too often, we turn to people in our communities who look different, think differently, pray differently and think, “You are other,” and “We’re afraid of you.” And we turn our backs.

Peterborough didn’t. They said, “You are all one of us. And we’ve got your back.”

We could all stand to learn from them.


From Upworthy, Eric March

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Two gay Syrian refugees get sanctuary in Canada

A gay Syrian couple seeking refuge from discrimination and war in their hometown are now able to live in Canada after local sponsors and supporters intervened on their behalf

“I want to ride a roller coaster for the first time,” Danny Ramadan told “I would also like to give back to the community that brought me here. It’s just beyond (my dreams).”

Ramadan and his partner who has requested anonymity because he’s not out to his family are are among the first refugees from the war in Syria to arrive in Vancouver, according to

The ongoing Syrian war has created over 3 million refugees with more than 100,000 Syrians having lost their lives in the escalating conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule. In the past year, Canada pledged to take in 1,300 before the end of 2014.

However, many gay men in Syria are threatened not only by the Syrian Army and Islamist organizations and rebels but also from family members, says Human Rights Watch.

Gay people even before the war have been the target of “honor killings” with family members viewing same-sex relations as a disgrace and the persecution is their bid to overcome that public disgrace.

Before coming to Canada last week, the couple had been living in Beirut, Lebanon. They are eager to start a new life in Vancouver with their rescue dog, Phoebe.

By coming to Canada, the couple hopes to escape the homophobia they faced in Syria and Lebanon.

“Here, I have the ability to be myself finally,” says Ramadan. “I have been gay-bashed in the Arab world. My family disowned me at times. But here, I feel like I have a family somehow,” he told

Their coming to Canada was made possible by a group from Vancouver who helped in bringing the couple by raising funds, working through the application process and lobbying MPs and MLAs.

Rainbow Refugee, an organization that advocates for refugees fleeing persecution because of sexual orientation, was also instrumental in bringing the couple to Canada.

Canada has identified gay men, children, religious minorities and women facing sexual violence as being particularly vulnerable among Syrian refugees.


From GayAsiaNews

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Gay asylum seekers face threat from fellow refugees in Europe

Rami Ktifan made a snap decision to come out. A fellow Syrian had spotted a rainbow flag lying near the 23-year-old university student’s belongings inside a packed refugee center. The curious man, Ktifan recalled, picked it up before casually asking, “What is this?”

“I decided to tell the truth, that it is the flag for gay people like me,” Ktifan said. “I thought, I am in Europe now. In Germany, I should not have to hide anymore.”

What followed over the next several weeks, though, was abuse — both verbal and physical — from other refugees, including an attempt to burn Ktifan’s feet in the middle of the night. The harassment ultimately became so severe that he and two other openly gay asylum seekers were removed from the refugee center with the aid of a local gay activist group and placed in separate accommodations across town.

As the largest flow of refugees since World War II streams into Europe, Ktifan’s case illustrates an emerging problem for gay and lesbian asylum seekers. Some of them arrive in Europe only to find themselves under threat from fellow refugees.

Gays who face official persecution in nations such as Iran and Uganda have been fleeing to Europe for years. But experts estimate that a record number of gays and lesbians seeking asylum, as many as 50,000, will arrive this year in Germany, the European nation accepting the largest number of refugees. Rather than leaving their home countries specifically because of anti-gay persecution, many are fleeing violence and war in nations such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Once in Europe, gays and lesbians are herded along with other asylum seekers into cramped shelters and camps, where a number of them are exposed to serious harassment.

There are no official figures. But the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Berlin and Brandenburg, for instance, says it is receiving three to six cases a week in which gay asylum seekers have been victims of physical abuse, including sexual assault. Earlier this month, a 21-year-old gay Arab asylum seeker in Berlin was hospitalized after he was insulted and assaulted at the refugee center where he was staying. In the city of Dresden, an eastern German metropolis of 525,000, at least seven gay asylum seekers have been removed from shelters this year for their own safety.

Sensing a growing threat, officials in Berlin are seeking to open the city’s first refugee center exclusively for gays and lesbians. The Berlin gay federation, meanwhile, has rolled out a new campaign called Love Deserves Respect, putting up posters inside refu­gee centers showing three couples kissing — a man and a woman, two women and two men.

“Just like everyone else, with the refugees, there are good ones and bad ones, and there are those who are carrying homophobic attitudes from their homelands,” said Jouanna Hassoun, head of the Berlin gay federation’s migrant program. “Those attitudes won’t be abandoned immediately.”

Part of the debate

The incidents are fast becoming political lightning rods, playing into the broader debate in Germany over questions of how to integrate hundreds of thousands of new refugees and whether to start sending more of them back.

The majority of the newcomers are coming from nations in the Middle East and Africa with sharply different laws and social norms from Germany regarding, for example, gays and women. Even some on Germany’s political right — rarely seen as champions of gay rights — have seized on gay bashing as further evidence of the dangers of accepting so many refugees, many of whom may never fully embrace modern German values.

Many on the political left, while demanding protections for all refugees, concede that there is, at the very least, a steep learning curve ahead for newcomers to accept established norms in a country that is led by a female chancellor — Angela Merkel — and that offers legal benefits, if not full marriage, to same-sex couples.

“You must forget what you learned at home about what is right or wrong,” commentator Harald Martenstein recently wrote in the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, addressing refugees. “You do not have to give up your culture, not that. But you must accept the equality of women. You must learn that homosexuals and Jews are just like everyone else. You must bear mocking and satire, even when it concerns your religion. . . . If you don’t accept these rules, you have no future here.”

Ktifan and two other men — Yousif al-Doori, 25, of Iraq, and Ahmed Suliman, 20, of Syria — said that initially they suffered only verbal abuse after word spread about their sexual orientation in a refugee shelter in Munich. But after they were relocated with other refugees to a longer-term facility in Dresden, things took a turn for the worse.

At one point, Ktifan said, another refugee slipped into his room at night, stuck pieces of paper between his toes and set them on fire. Al-Doori said several male refugees from North Africa and the Middle East surrounded him and then demanded sex. He said he pretended to go with one of them willingly before running away. Ktifan, ­al-Doori and Suliman said they were routinely pushed and shoved by fellow refugees while in line for food. Several of the male refugees would shout at them “to go wait with the women,” Ktifan said.

The harassment became so constant that, with the aid of local gay activists, Ktifan, ­al-Doori and Suliman were pulled out of the refugee center last month and installed in a small separate apartment near the city center. The dangers they faced, though, were nothing new.

Before fleeing for Europe, ­al-Doori said, he was kidnapped and held for two days in Baghdad by religious thugs who had tried to extort his family because he is gay. Ktifan said that in Syria he hid his sexuality from all but a select few and initially fled to Libya to escape his country’s civil war. But after a Libyan man tried to blackmail him for being gay, Ktifan said, he returned to Syria. As he grew increasingly fearful of Islamist extremists who were targeting gays and lesbians, he said he decided to join the exodus to Europe.

“We thought we were leaving that kind of treatment behind,” Suliman said. “But inside the refugee center, it felt like we were back in Syria.”

Widely differing views

Yet opinions among refugees regarding gays and lesbians differ widely and often are very nuanced. On a recent afternoon outside Berlin’s teeming main refugee registration center, some asylum seekers who were asked about their beliefs strongly denounced gays and lesbians and said they should not be tolerated.

Others, such as Ali Ahmad Haydari, a 25-year-old father of four who said he had lost two of his children during the war in Afghanistan, said accepting gay rights came with the territory of a new life in Europe.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” he said.“I like the freedom here. Everybody should live as they want.”





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The Irony: Texas GOPer Doesn’t Want Refugees Because It’s Too Easy To Get Guns

Predictably, Texas Governor Greg Abbott told President Obama that his state will not accept any of the Syrian refugees who are trying to escape violence at the hands of ISIL.

Abbott joins a list of Republicans – and one Democrat – who refuse to accept those fleeing from violence in Syria, including children.

“They do not have the capability to distinguish between those refugees who can pose as terrorist, and those who may be innocent, and until the United States develops that capability it is essential that we do first things first, and that is and that is to keep the people of the state of Texas safe,” said Greg The Christian Abbot.

State Representative Tony Dale added more irony to the mix saying that he’s concerned the refugees could obtain guns in Texas, a state which has some of the most lax gun laws in the country.

Dale penned a letter to Governor Abbott and other state leaders to issue a warning.

Sounds scary!

Dale is worried refugees would be able to get a job at the airport and said that the state cannot prevent refugees from getting a Texas Driver’s License.

“So they could get a job in the airport, for example and they could plant something on a plane like we saw in the Sinai Peninsula recently when the Russian airline was taken down, they could board a plane legally in the United States,” said State Rep. Dale.

Actually, a person can carry guns legally in airports in Texas. That is something Conservatives pushed for and now they have it.

Federal officials confirmed that gun purchases are also possible by a refugee who has the proper federal document and a Texas Driver’s License, according to Fox 7.

“California when they issue drivers licenses to non-citizens specifically says that it is not to be used for a Federal purpose, not to be used for employment and that means it cannot be used to board a plane … and presumably it could not be used to purchase a gun,” said Dale.

Fun fact: In Texas, there is no background check, no training, no age limit required to carry loaded high capacity weapons openly.

Open Carry Texas’ fearless leader C.J. Grisham could not obtain a concealed carry permit due to a blemish on his record.

So, he obtained one in another state and now he can carry legally in Texas. It’s just that simple in the lone star state.

It looks like the problem is in Texas and not with those fleeing violence. Although, we would suggest the refugees move to a different state if they want to run from violence and not to it.



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Antonin Scalia: If We Protect Gays, Why Not Child Molesters?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is famed for his archconservative views and often-homophobic rhetoric, but he took it up a notch even for him Monday, saying the logic behind making LGBT people a protected minority could just as easily apply to child molesters.

Scalia, speaking to first-year law students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., said there is no constitutional basis for gay rights decisions made by the court, The New York Timesreports. “What minorities deserve protection?” he asked. “What? It’s up to me to identify deserving minorities?”

Those decisions should be made by the people and their elected representatives, he said, not judges. He “allowed that the First Amendment protects political and religious minorities but suggested that there was no principled way for courts to make further distinctions based on the text of the Constitution,” the Times reports.

“What about pederasts?” he asked, with some sarcasm. “What about child abusers? So should I on the Supreme Court say this is a deserving minority. Nobody loves them. … No, if you believe in democracy, you should put it to the people.”

He also said, “The notion that everything you care a lot about has to be in the Constitution is a very dangerous notion,” The Washington Post reports. “It begins with stuff that we all agree upon … and at the bottom of that slope is same-sex marriage.”

There was some swift reaction to Scalia’s comments. New Republic blogger Jeet Heer called the remarks “breathtaking in their bigotry” and wrote, “Apparently you can be a Supreme Court justice without being able to understand the elementary distinction between consensual relationships between adults and heinous acts that by definition are coercive.”

In his dissents on Supreme Court decisions regarding LGBT rights, Scalia has often argued for the right of the people to assert opposition to homosexuality through discriminatory laws. In his dissent in 1996’s Romer v. Evans, which struck down an antigay Colorado ballot measure, he wrote that the measure was “a modest attempt by seemingly tolerant Coloradans to preserve traditional sexual mores against the efforts of a politically powerful minority to revise those mores through use of the laws.”

In 2003, in dissenting from the Lawrence v. Texas ruling, which invalidated antisodomy laws, he advocated for the rights of Americans who “do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home” because “they view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

Trudy Ring, The Advocate

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Anonymous Takes Down 5,500 ISIS Accounts – 24 Hours After ISIS Called them “Idiots”

The Anonymous hacking collective has reportedly taken down over 5,500 Twitter accounts purported to belong to Islamic State members following their declaration of “total war” on the terrorist group after the Paris attacks.

The announcement comes less than 24 hours after hacktivist group warned of a coordinated and targeted attack against the Islamic State in the wake of the deadly wave of terror attacks across Paris.

Anonymous spokesman Alex Poucher said:

“Our capability to take down ISIS is a direct result of our collective’s sophisticated hackers, data miners, and spies that we have all around the world. We have people very, very close to ISIS on the ground, which makes gathering intel about ISIS and related activities very easy for us.”

Poucher went on to say that the groups hacking acumen “might be better than any world government’s tools to combat ISIS online,” adding that although ISIS has its own hacking core, the terrorist group “does not have hackers like we have hackers.”

“They picked a fight with Anonymous when they attacked Paris, and now they should expect us,” he said, adding that the collective “will not sit by and watch these terror attacks unfold around the world.”

Anonymous has targeted ISIS in the past, dismantling 149 Islamic State websites so far this year, according to Foreign Policy. The hacktivist group began operations against the Islamic State following their brutal attack on Charlie Hebdo in January.

On Monday, Anonymous released a video announcing that the group would “launch the biggest operation ever” against Islamic State.

The hacking collective vowed to “unite humanity,” warning the terrorist group to “expect massive cyber-attacks.”

“Anonymous from all over the world will hunt you down,” the masked Anon spokesman in the video said. “You should know that we will find you and we will not let you go.”

ISIS responded to Anonymous’ video on Monday, calling the hacktivist group “idiots” and offering technical guidance to ISIS supporters in an effort to protect against Anonymous cyber-attacks.

In spite of the ISIS insults aimed at Anonymous, judging by the initial results, it seems the Islamic State is impotent to stop the hacktivist group from decimating the terror group’s social media outreach and recruitment efforts.

Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has been published on Ben Swann’s Truth in Media, Truth-Out, AlterNet, InfoWars, MintPress News, as well as many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.



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The Little-Noticed Conservative Plan To Permanently Lock Democrats Out Of Policymaking

The Federalist Society is the intellectual nexus of America’s conservative legal establishment. It was the incubator of both Supreme Court suits that tried (and failed) to gut the Affordable Care Act, and its events are often the best indicator of what Justice Samuel Alito’s opinions will say two years down the road. The Society’s annual national lawyer’s convention, moreover, typically showcases the many diverse strategies its members have devised to implement conservative policy in any branch of government willing to listen to them. Past convention speakers offered proposals as ambitious as eliminating anti-discrimination law, eliminating the minimum wage, and declaring much of the twentieth century unconstitutional.

This year’s convention, however, which was held this past weekend, took on a decidedly different tone. While flagship conservative ideas such as eliminating unions and protecting anti-gay discrimination certainly were mentioned at the Federalist Society’s 2015 National Lawyers Convention, the panels were fixated on a single idea — restricting or abolishing the power of federal agencies to regulate. Indeed, this topic came up so often that one could be forgiven for assuming that this year’s convention schedule was planned by Captain Ahab, with the Obama administration’s regulations playing the role of Moby Dick.

Given the Federalist Society’s influence among Republican lawmakers — especially the kind of Republican lawmaker who wears judicial robes — it is very likely that many of their proposals will be implemented if the 2016 election gives the GOP control of all three branches of government. It should be noted, moreover, that their proposals to hobble federal agencies are likely to give a structural advantage to Republicans that could very well become permanent. Republicans would still be capable of implementing their preferred policies, while Democrats would struggle to do the same even in the immediate wake of an electoral victory.

What They Want To Stop

Many federal laws delegate authority to agencies to figure out the details of how to achieve policy goals set by Congress. The Clean Air Act, for example, instructs the Environmental Protection Agency to set “standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines” if the EPA determines that those emissions “cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” In the 2007 case Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court explained that this delegation gives the EPA some authority to rein in greenhouse gas emissions — and EPA’s authority in this space is even more robust when EPA invokes its authority under other provisions of the law.

Because Congress already gave the EPA power to check emissions that exacerbate climate change, existing law has enabled the Obama administration to target global warming even though the present Congress has not shown much eagerness to find new solutions to this problem. Unsurprisingly, the fact that existing law gives the President Obama the ability to act without seeking permission from a Republican Congress has not sat well with congressional Republicans — or with those Republicans’ allies in the legal profession.

Similarly, the Affordable Care Act requires employer-provided health plans to cover “preventive health services,” but if gives various divisions of the federal Department of Health and Human Services the responsibility to examine medical evidence to determine which specific services should be included in these plans. Pursuant to this responsibility, health regulators determined that contraceptive care is one of twenty-two women’s preventive services that should be included. This, of course, has not sat well with religious groups that object to birth control, who have now brought their second lawsuit to the Supreme Court claiming that they should not have to follow this rule.

Enter the Federalist Society. Speakers at this year’s lawyer’s convention offered so many different proposals to halt regulatory action, it was difficult to keep track of them all. The conference opened with a speech by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a deeply conservative lawmaker who once claimed that federal child labor laws are unconstitutional because the Constitution was “designed to be a little bit harsh.” Lee used his talk to push the REINS Act, a bill that, if enacted, would most likely freeze most of the federal regulatory code in place. New York Law School Professor David Schoenbrod, the opening speaker at a panel on environmental law, called for a similar regime where regulations would not go into effect until they were enacted by Congress.

Yet, while the conference speakers rarely concerned themselves with whether their proposals may appear too radical or disruptive, the Federalist Society is not naive to the fact that Congress remains a highly dysfunctional branch unlikely to enact major reforms in the near future — indeed, the conference devoted an entire plenary session to a panel on “congressional dysfunction.” Perhaps for this reason, several other speakers suggested asking the judiciary to dismantle the modern regulatory state. Some pointed to the Nondelegation Doctrine, a largely defunct legal doctrine that a conservative Supreme Court briefly used to limit congressional delegations of power to the Roosevelt administration during the early stages of the New Deal. Others offered more modest — though still quite disruptive — ideas, such as weakening or eliminating the Supreme Court’s Chevron Doctrine, which calls upon federal courts to defer to agencies on many regulatory matters within their expertise.

This later proposal would effectively give the Republican-controlled Supreme Court broad new authority to strike down federal regulations.

The Long Game

Thus far, conservatives have had some success in their efforts to thwart the federal regulatory system. REINS is not law, but it has passed the Republican-controlled House on multiple occasions and has earned the endorsement of some GOP presidential candidates. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby granted religious objectors some authority to exempt themselves from the Obama administration’s birth control rules, although the Court is considering another case this term that will decide if many objectors actually have the power to cut off contraceptive coverage for their employees. In King v. Burwell, an attack on the Affordable Care Act that otherwise ended disastrously for the Federalist Society, Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion for the Court held that Chevron does not apply to questions of “deep ‘economic and political significance’” that are “central” to a statutory scheme. It remains to be seen how much impact King will have on other challenges to regulatory action, but it could prove quite significant.

Ultimately, however, these are very modest successes in comparison to the bold proposals offered at the Federalist Society. Take the REINS Act, for example, which would automatically invalidate any new regulation that impacts more than 0.0006 percent of the nation’s economy unless this regulation is approved by Congress “by the end of 70 session days or legislative days.” Given congressional dysfunction, this bill would likely shut down many new federal rules entirely — regardless of whether those new rules expand the scope of federal regulation, update an existing regulation in light of new technological or other developments, or even if the new rule repeals an existing regulation entirely.

As a practical matter, however, REINS and similar proposals would likely effect a massive shift in power from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

Much of our electoral system, at the moment, places a thumb on the scale in favor of Republicans. The GOP-controlled Supreme Court gave state lawmakers more leeway to enact voter suppression laws than they have enjoyed since Jim Crow. U.S. House districts tend to favor Republicans because Democrats tend to cluster in cities where they are concentrated into relatively few congressional districts. These geographic factors are then exacerbated by partisan gerrymandering, which also give Republicans a significant advantage in many key states.

Indeed, in 2012, ThinkProgress estimated that Democrats would have needed to win the national popular vote in all U.S. House races by 7.25 percentage points in order to eek out a bare majority in Congress’s lower chamber.

Meanwhile, Democrats may enjoy a structural advantage in presidential races over Republicans. Democrats won the national popular vote in five of the last six presidential races. Groups that tend to favor Republicans (older voters, white voters, wealthy voters) tend to be more financially secure and settled in their communities, factors which correlate with higher turnout in off-year elections. Meanwhile, groups that tend to favor Democrats (younger voters, lower income voters and voters of color) tend to be less secure, and thus more likely to only vote in presidential election years.

The result is that, while Democrats may capture the White House, they are at a serious disadvantage when trying to capture the House of Representatives. Republican presidents, by contrast, do not face the same problem. So if the House enjoys an effective veto over federal regulations, that’s a bonanza for Republicans because their presidents are much more likely to enjoy sufficient majorities in Congress to get around that veto.

Similar things can be said about judicial efforts to limit agency action. Because Democrats are at a structural disadvantage in House races, Democratic presidents are much more likely to need to rely on their existing statutory authority to make policy. Republican presidents, by contrast, are more likely to be able to sign new legislation because they are less likely to face a hostile House.

The Federalist Society’s proposals, in other words, would take a system that has already been rigged by factors such as voter suppression laws and gerrymandering and rig it even more so that Democrats cannot make policy even when they do earn the mandate of the people.

IAN MILLHISER, Think Progress

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John Pilger on ISIS: Only When We See the War Criminals In Our Midst Will the Blood Begin to Dry

In transmitting President Richard Nixon’s orders for a “massive” bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, “Anything that flies on everything that moves”. As Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty.

As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery – including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields – I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again. A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.

According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of “fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders”. Once Nixon’s and Kissinger’s B52 bombers had gone to work as part of “Operation Menu”, the west’s ultimate demon could not believe his luck.

The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They levelled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left monstrous necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air. The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors “froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told… That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over.”

A Finnish Government Commission of Enquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the “first stage in a decade of genocide”. What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed. Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.

ISIS has a similar past and present. By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of some 700,000 people – in a country that had no history of jihadism. The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common. Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.

Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed. “Rebel” Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable. A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote recently, “The [Cameron] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here.”

ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity. Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in “our” societies.

It is 23 years since this holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive “sanctions” on the Iraqi population – ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein. It was like a medieval siege. Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, “blocked” – from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.

Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Kim Howells, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. “The children’s vaccines”, he said, “were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction”. The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq – much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office – blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.

Under a bogus “humanitarian” Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society’s infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water. “Imagine,” the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, “setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable.”

Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. “I was instructed,” Halliday said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults.”

A study by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 “excess” deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five. An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, “Is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.”

In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as “Mr. Iraq”, told a parliamentary selection committee, “[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live.” When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. “I feel ashamed,” he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. “We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he said, “or we’d freeze them out.”

On 25 September, a headline in the Guardian read: “Faced with the horror of Isis we must act.” The “we must act” is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame. The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC’s Newsnight as an “apologist for Saddam”. In 2003, Hain backed Blair’s invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a “fringe issue”.

Now Hain is demanding “air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support” for those “facing genocide” in Iraq and Syria. This will further “the imperative of a political solution”. Obama has the same in mind as he lifts what he calls the “restrictions” on US bombing and drone attacks. This means that missiles and 500-pound bombs can smash the homes of peasant people, as they are doing without restriction in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia – as they did in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. On 23 September, a Tomahawk cruise missile hit a village in Idlib Province in Syria, killing as many as a dozen civilians, including women and children. None waved a black flag.

The day Hain’s article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce. Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria.

Like Ebola from West Africa, a bacteria called “perpetual war” has crossed the Atlantic. Lord Richards, until recently head of the British military, wants “boots on the ground” now. There is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Obama and their “coalition of the willing” – notably Australia’s aggressively weird Tony Abbott – as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried. They have never seen bombing and they apparently love it so much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally, Syria. This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates:

“In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces… a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals… a necessary degree of fear… frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS should use… capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”

That was written in 1957, though it could have been written yesterday. In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes. Last year, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”

The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west – Syria, Iran, Hezbollah. The obstacle is Turkey, an “ally” and a member of Nato, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian “rebels”, including those now calling themselves ISIS. Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.

A truce – however difficult to achieve – is the only way out of this imperial maze; otherwise, the beheadings will continue. That genuine negotiations with Syria should be seen as “morally questionable” (the Guardian) suggests that the assumptions of moral superiority among those who supported the war criminal Blair remain not only absurd, but dangerous.

Together with a truce, there should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region’s most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear. Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.

More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed a torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered. The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq. With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger’s latest self-serving tome has just been released with its satirical title, “World Order”. In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a “key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century”. Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his “statecraft”. Only when “we” recognise the war criminals in our midst will the blood begin to dry.

By John Pilger, Films for Action

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Colorado will vote next year on single-payer health care system — and insurers are already freaking out

First legalized marijuana, now universal health care?

As reported by the Denver Post, Colorado is now poised to consider the possibility of expanding its health coverage in a way never before seen in the United States via a single-payer insurance system — thanks to a successful campaign run by ColoradoCareYES.

The grassroots group presented 158,831 signatures sponsoring a proposed overhaul of the pre-existing health care system to the state earlier this year. This Monday, it was confirmed that they had obtained enough valid signatures to suppass the 90,000 threshold needed for the measure to be placed on the ballot, according to Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

“Colorado deserves a better option, and now they can vote on one,” said Senator Irene Aguilar (D-Denver) in a statement released by ColoradoCareYES. “Health care costs continue to rise every year, hurting Coloradans’ chances to get ahead. It’s time we get the insurance industry out of the driver’s seat and put families in charge of their health care.”

The Colorado Care measure, should it pass, would fund itself through a new 10 percent payroll deduction. Employers would pay about 7 percent of the tax while employees would cover the rest. In exchange, people would no longer need to pay individual premiums, deductibles or most co-pays. Though people would still choose their own medical providers, their bills would be paid by the state itself, creating what the group calls “Medicare for all.” According to them, savings would come from reducing administrative costs as well as allowing the negotiation of bulk rates for pharmaceuticals. It’s claimed these savings will amount to about $5 billion when compared to what Colorado citizens currently pay collectively.

Of course, Colorado is hardly the first state to attempt such a radical shift in its health care system, nor is it even the first state to get this far. In 2011, Vermont successfully passed legislation that allowed for the formation of a single-payer system. Three years later, however, the state was forced to reconsider its implementation, after it was determined that the short-term costs were too high a burden on the economy.

Similarly, there are already naysayers who decry even the possibility of a similar system in Colorado. “A single-payer system would destroy our industry. I don’t think there’s any question about it,” Byron McCurdy, board president of the Colorado State Association of Health Underwriters, told the Denver Post.

With just under a year before next Election Day, it appears that time will tell how enthusiastic Colorado citizens are for a new approach to health care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 11 percent of Coloradans are presently uninsured.

Ed Cara, Raw Story

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Texas Police Respond To Attempted Suicide, Shoot Hispanic Man, Then Learn He’s A Cop

Despite the childish response by police across the nation to the Black Lives Matter movement and repeated asinine reminders that “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter,” neither of the latter was true in the eyes of two Laredo, Texas police officers who responded to a call about a suicidal man on Monday. The mother of a Webb County sheriff’s deputy says that the two responding officers did not have a good reason to shoot their son when they showed up to respond to the attempted suicide at around 11 a.m.

Police were alerted to the situation when they received a call that 25-year-old Cesar Cuellar Jr. had sent texts indicating that he wanted to harm himself. According to Laredo Investigator Joe E. Baeza, one of the two officers opened fire on Cuellar after “repeated commands to the individual who was armed with a handgun.” According to the officers, Cuellar pointed the gun at them — but Dora Arambula Cuellar says differently.

“Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, don’t shoot, please, please, please. It’s my son.” Those were the words she recalled saying as she begged the responding officers not to end her son’s life. She says she arrived at her son’s apartment to find the officers pointing guns at her son though he was not returning the favor as they claimed in their efforts to justify murdering a disturbed and suicidal man:

“Both of them were pointing at him. My son was like this with the gun pointed down, not saying a word. He was surprised, he was frozen. He didn’t say a word. They had scared him.”

As the distraught mother begged the officers not to shoot, she says her son remained completely still. She added that the officers took their time, seemingly almost reveling in their opportunity to steal away someone’s life. “They shot him, they shot him once and then it took a while and after another boom again. It wasn’t continuous, but my son never lifted his gun. Never,” she said. “They shot him without having to, not one reason.”

It was only later that they realized they had killed a cop. Cuellar has worked in law enforcement for six years, but was relatively new to the Webb County Sheriff’s Office.

Cuellar’s mother says that she wants the officers who were involved in her son’s murder to lose their badges. “I want justice, I want justice for my son”, she explained. “I want their guns and badges taken away.” She added that he was not mentally or emotionally unstable.

Laredo Police Chief Raymond Garner has promised a “thorough investigation” into the cop killing, and says that the Texas Rangers “will also be conducting an independent investigation into this case to further ensure that all facts and evidentiary findings of this tragedy will be collected in the most thorough and transparent manner possible.”

In the meantime, the officers involved have been placed on paid vacation administrative leave, pending the results of the investigation.

John Prager, Addicting Info

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Koret Foundation Lawsuit Heats Up: New Website, Ads Call for Return to Founder’s Charitable Mission

Koret  Contributions to Hoover Institution, Polish Jewish Museum, Slammed by Koret Widow–Says Tad Taube, Anita Friedman of JCFS, Richard Green of Radovsky Green, Others, Use Charitable Funds for Own Pet Projects

President of Koret Foundation

Tad Taube, Ex-President of Koret Foundation

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Richard L. Green, Partner at law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Anita Friedman

San Francisco—A new website seeks the support of Bay Area organizations and individuals to join the fight to reclaim the Koret Foundation and restore it to the Jewish, humanitarian, and community-oriented mission intended its founder, Joseph Koret. The website started this week and is at

Mrs. Susan Koret, Joseph Koret’s widow, filed a lawsuit in October 2014 against the Koret Foundation’s current Board of Directors for ignoring the wishes of her late husband to help the poor and disadvantaged in the Bay Area and supporting Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel. The suit alleges, among other things, that the Foundation’s directors have diverted millions in Foundation dollars to grantees outside of the Bay Area and Israel and other grantees directly associated with their own personal interests – including causes in former President Tad Taube’s native country of Poland.

Mrs. Koret is seeking to restore a more egalitarian foundation structure, whereby organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area and Israel can seek funding consistent with her husband’s intent.

Many organizations stand to gain from this reform and the new website,, encourages those interested in joining this effort to sign up in support.

“Mrs. Koret claims in her lawsuit that the current directors are shortchanging the people of the Bay Area and Israel who most need the help that her husband intended his legacy to provide, and that community support will be positive for a restored mission,” said Rob Bunzel, an attorney for Mrs. Koret.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit demands the removal of board members Tad Taube and his longtime legal counsel Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh LLP; co-president Anita Friedman, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services; co-president Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; board member Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; and board member Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. The suit calls for their replacement with the appointment of an independent board with a majority of Jewish directors.

The suit claims the Koret board is using foundation funds to promote programs closely affiliated with individual board members and is purposely confusing the public by putting signage that prominently features Taube’s name alongside the Koret Foundation name on buildings and grants for which the Koret Foundation is the principal funder.

The lawsuit also claims that, at Taube’s direction, the Koret Foundation has donated approximately $9 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, a pet project of Taube, who was born in Poland.  “While the Polish Museum commemorates significant Jewish history, the diversion of Koret funds to Poland is not in keeping with my husband’s charitable mission…and in effect drains funds that could benefit the needy in communities in the Bay Area and Israel,” the lawsuit states.

“Alleviating suffering and misfortune were my husband’s top priorities,” said Mrs. Koret when the lawsuit was filed. “Joe and Stephanie’s money shouldn’t be used for Tad Taube’s pet projects in Poland or to help conservative economic and policy think tanks–not when so many in the Bay Area go to bed hungry every night and Jewish causes need support.”

Mrs. Koret noted her husband was a native of Odessa, Russia, who immigrated to America, struggled growing up poor in the U.S., and then struck it rich later in life in clothing and real estate. He was deeply committed to humanitarian causes such as alleviating hunger,  and would “be deeply angered and offended by Tad Taube and the board’s strong support of conservative  causes and grants that divert money needed for the local community and Jewish causes.”

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the spending down of the Foundation’s assets by Taube and the board members with whom he has surrounded himself and allow the appointment of a new, independent board to carry out its mission and save the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret was named a lifetime director and chairwoman of the Foundation prior to her husband’s death in 1982. She was entrusted by her late husband to carry out the family legacy of caring for the poor and supporting Jewish and community causes through the Koret Foundation, according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Koret said she has been marginalized as Taube, a Silicon Valley real estate investor, and his hand-picked supporters on the board steer donations toward causes in which they have affiliations.

Mrs. Koret said she filed the suit as a last resort after her efforts to diversify the board, get independent legal advice, confirm the perpetual nature of the Foundation and redirect funds back to her late husband’s mission were rebuffed.  She fears the Koret Foundation is facing destruction of its mission and eventual collapse unless changes are made.

The lawsuit alleges that Taube is a shameless self-promoter who has personally selected board members to rubber stamp his decisions in exchange for support of their own pet projects. Additionally, the suit says Taube established his own foundation, called Taube Philanthropies, but uses money and staff from the Koret Foundation to pay for and enhance joint projects of Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation. A review of the Koret Foundation’s public filings shows reported annual salaries and compensation of officers exceeded $1.9 million in 2011, while Taube Philanthropies showed no such expenses for the same period, according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit charges that out of the $79 million gifted by the Koret Foundation between 2010 and 2013, nearly 60 percent was spent on causes outside the stated mission of her husband, the late Joseph Koret.

Learn more about the lawsuit and recent developments by visiting

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Shunned Gay Teen Wins Lottery, Homophobic Parents Now Demanding Part Of His Winnings

Would you give any of your lottery winnings to your homophobic parents who shunned you as a teenager?

That’s the question Redditor Idontwanttogiveitup was left asking after striking it rich, winning a lottery jackpot of over $15 million (he did not disclose the exact ammount).

The now, 29-year-old millionaire, writes:

Hey everyone, I’m was told that I should bring my problem to reddit to see what people have to say. But before I do, I feel the need to say that I know it’s a privileged problem to have and I’m not falling all over the place in tears about it. It’s just emotionally weighing on me.So! I’m a 29yr old guy and I won the lottery. And it’s enough that I don’t have to work ever again if I don’t want too (over 15m). My plans are to take some finance/business courses over a period of time so I can be smart about investments and be responsible with the money. I am terrible at money management. I want to turn it into more money and hopefully get involved in charity. Altruistic I know, but I have always volunteered and it’s part of me.

My problem? My family, mainly my parents, feel they are entitled to 1/4 of the amount. I offered to pay off their mortgages and give them a little sum but that’s not good enough once they found the total amount. My family and I have a cordial relationship but I moved an hour away to get away from my oppressive mother and distant father. My sisters are nice people but we don’t really have a relationship. The definition of distant white middle class family. Boohoo, I know.

What it comes down too it, I don’t feel like they are entitled to anything and I’m being as generous as I can be (which I never said to them, but retrospectively I guess it’s implied). The conversation got ugly and When my mom said, “we raised you”, I immediately thought about how both my parents didn’t talk to me for 5yrs (ages 15-20), when they found out I was gay. And I almost failed high school because of it. Is that raising someone? Obviously I have hangups.

How do I explain to them what my plans are again and how it doesn’t involve them? Should I speak to a lawyer about it just in case? I can’t see them suing but money makes people do dumb things. I don’t want to ruin the relationships but I feel like the damage is done. I feel like a lot of people are going to say “Fuck them”.


From the Gaily Grind

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Call for Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinner

Feeding the Hungry in San Francisco for Over 35 Years!

“We are a non-judgmental group of volunteers who are dedicated to providing a bountiful meal, a smile and a gift to all of our patrons three times a year on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas,” Michael Gagne – president of the board

HOLIDAY SCHEDULE: 11/26 & 12/25 1pm-4pm 

First Unitarian Church 1187 Franklin St. (corner Geary)

Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners is an all-volunteer nonprofit serving an average of a thousand people at each holiday including the elderly, disabled, homeless, low income (to include HIV+), homeless families with children and those that do not have a family or a place to go. Easter Dinner took place 4/5/15.

FUNDING/DONATIONS: A large percentage is collected at Pink Saturday and Gay Pride plus several bar fundraisers are held by both the Imperial and Ducal Councils.  Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners is also the beneficiary of grants from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Bob Ross Foundation and the First Unitarian Church (where holiday events take place).  Private donations to this nonprofit are encouraged – see  For $40 you may sponsor a table of 8 persons.

HISTORY: Tessie was the drag name of Perry Spink, a local performer/bartender in the Tenderloin during the 60’s and 70’s. Legend has it that on Thanksgiving in 1974, he received several turkeys and was inspired to cook and serve them to local Tenderloin residents.  Due to her generosity, Tessie was honored with the title of Empress 15 in 1980.

Along with the dinners, Tessie started the tradition of giving gift bags along with the meals, a tradition that lives on today. These bags contain donated items such as toiletries, socks, gloves and an assortment of non-perishable food. Clothing donated by St. Anthony’s is also distributed after dinner is served.

Sadly, Tessie died in 1984 but the meals continue. Three years later, the name Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners was created and the meals became a holiday tradition. They were served at a church on the corner of Eddy and Gough and began focusing on the needs of those suffering from AIDS and the growing number of homeless throughout the city.

That church burned in 1995 but the meals were moved to the First Unitarian Universalist church on Franklin and Geary. The organization is stronger than ever and always mindful of the original mission of Tenderloin Tessie to help anyone in need.

VOLUNTEERS: various positions are needed Wed -Nov 25: 10:45 am to 3 pm, Thur -Nov 26:, Thanksgiving Day: 9 am to 6pm ish, Sat -Nov 28th: 9:30 – 10:30am.  Sign up to volunteer online at under the Contact Us tab on the left side of the page. Then scroll down to the Volunteer section.

Michael Gagne, current president  Board for over 10 years as well as Vanessa Bousay will be singing and Marc Sanders -pianist will be entertaining at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Facebook event page for Thanksgiving:

Paul Margolis –




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Chris Hedges: The TPP is the Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History

The release Thursday of the 5,544-page text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade and investment agreement involving 12 countries comprising nearly 40 percent of global output—confirms what even its most apocalyptic critics feared.

“The TPP, along with the WTO [World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], is the most brazen corporate power grab in American history,” Ralph Nader told me when I reached him by phone in Washington, D.C. “It allows corporations to bypass our three branches of government to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare our labor, consumer and environmental protections [to be] unlawful, non-tariff barriers subject to fines for noncompliance. The TPP establishes a transnational, autocratic system of enforceable governance in defiance of our domestic laws.”

The TPP is part of a triad of trade agreements that includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TiSA, by calling for the privatization of all public services, is a mortal threat to the viability of the U.S. Postal Service, public education and other government-run enterprises and utilities; together these operations make up 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The TTIP and TiSA are still in the negotiation phase. They will follow on the heels of the TPP and are likely to go before Congress in 2017.

These three agreements solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.

The TPP removes legislative authority from Congress and the White House on a range of issues. Judicial power is often surrendered to three-person trade tribunals in which only corporations are permitted to sue. Workers, environmental and advocacy groups and labor unions are blocked from seeking redress in the proposed tribunals. The rights of corporations become sacrosanct. The rights of citizens are abolished.

The Sierra Club issued a statement after the release of the TPP text saying that the “deal is rife with polluter giveaways that would undermine decades of environmental progress, threaten our climate, and fail to adequately protect wildlife because big polluters helped write the deal.”

If there is no sustained popular uprising to prevent the passage of the TPP in Congress this spring we will be shackled by corporate power. Wages will decline. Working conditions will deteriorate. Unemployment will rise. Our few remaining rights will be revoked. The assault on the ecosystem will be accelerated. Banks and global speculation will be beyond oversight or control. Food safety standards and regulations will be jettisoned. Public services ranging from Medicare and Medicaid to the post office and public education will be abolished or dramatically slashed and taken over by for-profit corporations. Prices for basic commodities, including pharmaceuticals, will skyrocket. Social assistance programs will be drastically scaled back or terminated. And countries that have public health care systems, such as Canada and Australia, that are in the agreement will probably see their public health systems collapse under corporate assault. Corporations will be empowered to hold a wide variety of patents, including over plants and animals, turning basic necessities and the natural world into marketable products. And, just to make sure corporations extract every pound of flesh, any public law interpreted by

corporations as impeding projected profit, even a law designed to protect the environment or consumers, will be subject to challenge in an entity called the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) section. The ISDS, bolstered and expanded under the TPP, will see corporations paid massive sums in compensation from offending governments for impeding their “right” to further swell their bank accounts. Corporate profit effectively will replace the common good.

Given the bankruptcy of our political class—including amoral politicians such as Hillary Clinton, who is denouncing the TPP during the presidential campaign but whose unwavering service to corporate capitalism assures her fealty to her corporate backers—the trade agreement has a good chance of becoming law. And because the Obama administration won fast-track authority, a tactic designed by the Nixon administration to subvert democratic debate, President Obama will be able to sign the agreement before it goes to Congress.

The TPP, because of fast track, bypasses the normal legislative process of public discussion and consideration by congressional committees. The House and the Senate, which have to vote on the TPP bill within 90 days of when it is sent to Congress, are prohibited by the fast-track provision from adding floor amendments or holding more than 20 hours of floor debate. Congress cannot raise concerns about the effects of the TPP on the environment. It can only vote yes or no. It is powerless to modify or change one word.

There will be a mass mobilization Nov. 14 through 18 in Washington to begin the push to block the TPP. Rising up to stop the TPP is a far, far better investment of our time and energy than engaging in the empty political theater that passes for a presidential campaign.

“The TPP creates a web of corporate laws that will dominate the global economy,” attorney Kevin Zeese of the group Popular Resistance, which has mounted a long fight against the trade agreement, told me from Baltimore by telephone. “It is a global corporate coup d’état. Corporations will become more powerful than countries. Corporations will force democratic systems to serve their interests. Civil courts around the world will be replaced with corporate courts or so-called trade tribunals. This is a massive expansion that builds on the worst of NAFTA rather than what Barack Obama promised, which was to get rid of the worst aspects of NAFTA.”

The agreement is the product of six years of work by global capitalists from banks, insurance companies, Goldman Sachs, Monsanto and other corporations.

“It was written by them [the corporations], it is for them and it will serve them,” Zeese said of the TPP. “It will hurt domestic businesses and small businesses. The buy-American provisions will disappear. Local communities will not be allowed to build buy-local campaigns. The thrust of the agreement is the privatization and commodification of everything. The agreement has built within it a deep antipathy to state-supported or state-owned enterprises. It gives away what is left of our democracy to the World Trade Organization.”

The economist David Rosnick, in a report on the TPP by the Center for Economic and Policy Research(CEPR), estimated that under the trade agreement only the top 10 percent of U.S. workers would see their wages increase. Rosnick wrote that the real wages of middle-income U.S. workers (from the 35th percentile to the 80th percentile) would decline under the TPP. NAFTA, contributing to a decline in manufacturing jobs (now only 9 percent of the economy), has forced workers into lower-paying service jobs and resulted in a decline in real wages of between 12 and 17 percent. The TPP would only accelerate this process, Rosnick concluded.

“This is a continuation of the global race to the bottom,” Dr. Margaret Flowers, also from Popular Resistance and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said from Baltimore in a telephone conversation with me. “Corporations are free to move to countries that have the lowest labor standards. This drives down high labor standards here. It means a decimation of industries and unions. It means an accelerated race to the bottom, which we must rise up to stop.”

“In Malaysia one-third of tech workers are essentially slaves,” Zeese said. “In Vietnam the minimum wage is 35 cents an hour. Once these countries are part of the trade agreement U.S. workers are put in a very difficult position.”

Fifty-one percent of working Americans now make less than $30,000 a year, a new study by the Social Security Administration reported. Forty percent are making less than $20,000 a year. The federal government considers a family of four living on an income of less than $24,250 to be in poverty.

“Half of American workers earn essentially the poverty level,” Zeese said. “This agreement only accelerates this trend. I don’t see how American workers are going to cope.”

The assault on the American workforce by NAFTA—which was established under the Clinton administration in 1994 and which at the time promised creation of 200,000 net jobs a year in the United States—has been devastating. NAFTA has led to a $181 billion trade deficit with Mexico and Canada and the loss of at least 1 million U.S. jobs, according to a report by Public Citizen. The flooding of the Mexican market with cheap corn by U.S. agro-businesses drove down the price of Mexican corn and saw 1 million to 3 million poor Mexican farmers go bankrupt and lose their small farms. Many of them crossed the border into the United States in a desperate effort to find work.

“Obama has misled the public throughout this process,” Dr. Flowers said. “He claimed that environmental groups were supportive of the agreement because it provided environmental protections, and this has now been proven false. He told us that it would create 650,000 jobs, and this has now been proven false. He calls this a 21st century trade agreement, but it actually rolls back progressmade in Bush-era trade agreements. The most recent model of a 21st century trade agreement is the Korean free trade agreement. That was supposed to create 140,000 U.S. jobs. But what we saw within a couple years was a loss of about 70,000 jobs and a larger trade deficit with Korea. This agreement [the TPP] is sold to us with the same deceits that were used to sell us NAFTA and other trade agreements.”

The agreement, in essence, becomes global law. Any agreements over carbon emissions by countries made through the United Nations are effectively rendered null and void by the TPP.

“Trade agreements are binding,” Flowers said. “They supersede any of the nonbinding agreements made by the United Nations Climate Change Conference that might come out of Paris.”

There is more than enough evidence from past trade agreements to indicate where the TPP—often called “NAFTA on steroids”—will lead. It is part of the inexorable march by corporations to wrest from us the ability to use government to defend the public and to build social and political organizations that promote the common good. Our corporate masters seek to turn the natural world and human beings into malleable commodities that will be used and exploited until exhaustion or collapse. Trade agreements are the tools being used to achieve this subjugation. The only response left is open, sustained and defiant popular revolt.

Chris Hedges /  Truthdig via Alternet

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Analysis Of Kentucky Election Results Indicates Fraud

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election, polls consistently showed Kentucky democrat Jack Conway leading Tea Party extremist Matt Bevin by a margin of 3 to 5 points. But on Tuesday, the unofficial election results showed a shift so dramatic that it was almost impossible to believe. Bevin suddenly and inexplicably gained nearly 15 points on election day, supposedly winning the governor’s race by a nine point margin.

On closer inspection, another anomaly in the election results showed that democrats down-ticket of the governor’s race were elected over their republican opponents. As noted journalist and election integrity watchdog Brad Friedman points out here, that’s something that would very, very unlikely to happen. The unofficial results would suggest that voters favored democratic candidates for Secretary of State (democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes) and Attorney General (democrat Andy Bashir), but then decided that they wanted a full blown right-wing nut-job like Matt Bevin for governor.

Friedman reports:

“Bev Harris, of, who I spoke with earlier today, described the higher vote totals in the down ballot races as a “significant anomaly”. She tells me that, at least until more records are requested and examined, the KY-Gov’s race ‘has to be looked at as a questionable outcome, particularly because of the discrepancies in the down ballot races. More votes in those races and not at the top…that just doesn’t happen’.”

But the evidence that the Kentucky governor’s race was rigged doesn’t stop there. Another elections watchdog, Richard Charnin, who holds a Masters Degree in Applied Mathematics just published preliminary results of his analysis of the cumulative vote shares in the Kentucky governor’s race, finding that the “cumulative vote shares indicate likely fraud.”

In explaining the analysis process, Charnin wrote:

“I downloaded precinct vote data for the largest 25 KY counties and five smaller counties (view the spreadsheet and the graphs below). Downloading all 120 counties is a time consuming process, so I expect to download about 20 more over the next few days. The objective is to view the effects of county/precinct size on the cumulative vote share trend. Since the largest counties are usually heavily Democratic, the consistent pattern of Republican Governor candidates gaining share from small to large precincts is counter-intuitive. On the other hand, there is virtually no change in vote shares in smaller, heavily GOP counties.”

(View the whole analysis, with a number of charts and graphs on Richard Charnin’s blog here.)

On November 6, Brad Friedman appeared on the Thom Hartmann show to discuss the questionable results in the Kentucky governor’s race.

For those who believe that election rigging is a baseless conspiracy, in 2011 a eight former Clay County, Kentucky officials were convicted on conspiracy charges, after it was discovered that they had rigged elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006. The guilty parties included a circuit court judge, a county magistrate, an election commissioner, a county clerk, a polling place officer, an election officer, a school superintendent. The conspiracy also included business owners who were receiving county and city contracts.

The citizens of Kentucky have every reason to be skeptical of this election. They should demand a public hand count of every ballots that was cast on November 4th.


Randa Morris, Addicting Info

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Pat Robertson: “Gay People Should Wear Specially-Colored Clothes To Warn Straight People”

Televangelist Pat Robertson recently repeated his prediction that LGBT rights will provoke God to destroy America’s financial markets, warning “The 700 Club” viewers that God’s wrath is on its way. He claimed that the U.S. is turning into Sodom now that it has “enshrined sodomy into the United States Constitution” and cities like Houston are trying to “force women to go into men’s bathrooms and men to go into women’s bathrooms.”

“Now it’s a constitutional right for sodomites to marry each other,” he lamented, warning that “the wrath of God is revealed against this stuff.” He explained: “I don’t want the wrath of God to hit this country, it’s a great country, I’d like to see America continue strong, but this is one way of weakening it. First of all, we’re going to have this financial collapse. We’re setting up for a massive financial collapse and I think if God is going to hurt this country that’s probably the way he’d do it.”

At that point, a viewer called in and inquired Robertson whether his grim predictions of such a crisis can somehow be averted, to which Robertson gave a somewhat confusing answer: “I believe so, yes, but we need to stop spreading lesbianism and homosexuality in order to achieve that. And the only way to stop the spread of these diseases that are plaguing the country is to make some sort of obvious distinction between gay people and normal, straight people.”

“I personally believe that we must impose a rule on the gay population that would require them to wear specially-colored clothes, for example. I’m thinking we need to go through the Senate with this and we need to make it official. That way, regular people would know that the person wearing the said color is a deviant sodomite and that they need to stay away from them at all cost, as well as keep their children away from their reach,” Robertson opined.

The viewer then interrupted “The 700 Club” host to state that “that sounds awfully like what Nazis did to Jews in the events leading up to World War II,” referring to the fact that Jews in pre-WWII Poland and Germany were made to wear Jewish badges, or yellow badges, which were cloth patches that Jews were ordered to sew on their outer garments to mark them as Jews in public. It served as a badge of shame.

“I don’t believe that,” Robertson quickly became defensive. “I am simply talking about protecting regular people in America, not setting out gays and lesbians as members of the population that should be tortured and slaughtered in concentration camps. Do you understand my point of view here?” the host asked the caller.

“I do,” the caller replied. “But I also understand that you’re trying to do to gay people what the Nazis did to my people more than half a century ago. And I am appalled by it.”

Lea Vat Kens,

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Ben Carson: Archaeologists Are Wrong, The Pyramids Were Built To Store Grain

GOP frontrunner Ben Carson, in a 1998 commencement address, floated his own personal theory that the pyramids in Egypt were built by Joseph — the biblical patriarch known for his coat of many colors — to store grain, Buzzfeed reported.

In the speech — given at Andrews University, a school with ties to Carson’s Seventh-day Adventist faith — the neurosurgeon shot down claim that aliens had built the pyramids. But he also disagreed with the archaeological consensus that the pyramids were constructed as tombs for the pharaohs.

“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson said. “Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.”

In the video surfaced by Buzzfeed Wednesday, Carson goes on to lay out his argument that the pyramids were constructed for grain storage.

“And when you look at the way that the pyramids are made, with many chambers that are hermetically sealed, they’d have to be that way for various reasons,” Carson said. “And various of scientists have said, ‘well, you know there were alien beings that came down and they have special knowledge and that’s how-’ you know, it doesn’t require an alien being when God is with you.”


TalkingPointsMemo, Tierney Sneed

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On Being Queer in the Caribbean

“LISTEN. Dead people never stop talking.” So begins Marlon James’s novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” which last month won the Man Booker Prize.

The statement has a particular resonance both in the book and outside it. In March, Mr. James, who was raised in Jamaica but now lives in the United States, came out as gay in a piece for The Times Magazine. “Whether it was in a plane or a coffin,” he wrote, “I knew I had to get out of Jamaica.”

Mr. James’s novel, which revolves around an assassination attempt on the reggae star Bob Marley, exposes some of the homophobia for which Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean have become known. This hatred is rooted in the legacy of the colonial laws of the British Caribbean, which criminalized sodomy, and reinforced by the powerful influence of anti-gay evangelists.

As a queer transgender woman from another Caribbean island, the Commonwealth of Dominica, I found that Mr. James’s exile resonated with me. While attending university in Florida, I, too, decided one day not to return home after coming out. In much of the Caribbean, being transgender is simply conflated with being gay; I was terrified of being ostracized at best and physically assaulted at worst.

Growing up hearing casual slurs, I had hidden my identity for over 20 years. My parents warned me against breathing a word of my transition to anyone on the island. I felt like a shameful secret; home came to feel like a phantom limb. Had I been forced to pretend to be a straight male in Dominica, I firmly believe I would eventually have killed myself, becoming like one of those dead voices that populate Mr. James’s novel.

When Mr. James was awarded the Man Booker Prize, I, like many Caribbean writers and activists, wondered how the Jamaican media would respond. The win was widely celebrated, but there was little discussion of his sexuality. Radio hosts expressed “regret” that he was queer, while others reportedly brushed off his being gay as a rumor.

An editorial in the Jamaica Observer asked if it was necessary for Jamaicans to be in exile to write well, yet, incredibly, failed to examine the reason for Mr. James’s exile: his fear of what would happen if he were to live openly as a gay man. Rather than start a conversation, the mainstream Jamaican media largely killed off his queerness.

And the many voices of queer individuals in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean who have been assaulted, forced into pretending to be heterosexual or cisgender, or even murdered, need to be heard. Such stories are not hard to find. Between 2009 and 2012, the Jamaican advocacy group J-FLAG reported 231 attacks against L.G.B.T. people.

In 2013, a queer teenager named Dwayne Jones went to a dance party dressed as a woman; when partygoers realized that this was not a cisgender woman, the 16-year-old was chased, beaten, stabbed, shot and run over by a car.

While the cause of same-sex marriage has advanced in the United States, the Caribbean has seen an increasingly vocal pushback against the granting of legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. For instance, at a rally in September of nearly 20,000 people in Jamaica to protest against L.G.B.T. rights, speakers opposed the decriminalization of sodomy, attacked same-sex marriage and warned about schools supposedly teaching about gender nonconformity or nonheterosexual orientations. Alveda King, a niece of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., appeared via video to advise Jamaicans not to fall for “the anti-procreation agenda” coming from America.

Such rallies help to enforce the need for queer Jamaicans to hide their identities — or leave. “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” Mr. James toldThe Guardian, “was a novel of exile.” Exile, certainly, is common in Caribbean literature; a large number of Caribbean authors write about the nations they grew up in while living elsewhere in the world, and so many of their novels depict characters who are conflicted about their national identities.

The exile of race, caused by our history through slavery, colonialism and indentured servitude, is woven into the poems of Derek Walcott and the novels of Jean Rhys. There are also the stories of those who left the islands to seek opportunities in the land of their colonizer, like the protagonists of Samuel Selvon’s novel “The Lonely Londoners.”

And then there is the experience of those of us, like Mr. James, who are queer — either the internal exile of living a lie at home to avoid ostracism or assault, or the external exile of fleeing home in order to finally be ourselves.

Caleb Orozco, a gay Belizean who mounted the first legal challenge to an anti-sodomy law in the Caribbean, is practically exiled in his own home. He leaves his house only for brief trips, in which he faces anti-gay slurs from passers-by, and has to fortify his home with six locks every time he returns.

When the house of the Jamaican activist and writer Dadland Maye was burned down, and he was attacked by men with guns, Mr. Maye had to seek political asylum in the United States. A former Carnival queen from Antigua named Tasheka Lavann made headlines in August when she fled to Canada because she felt unsafe after coming out as a lesbian. And such narratives are inscribed in Mr. James’s novel through the character of Weeper: A gay gangster from Jamaica who pretends at first to be heterosexual, Weeper makes peace with his being queer only when he travels to America.

The Caribbean, to be sure, is not uniformly hostile to us. Some queer individuals find ways to exist within specific communities, or manage because their wealth insulates them from the worst abuse. In Jamaica, for instance, there are the so-called rich queens, who can either buy privacy or who can afford to come and go from Jamaica more easily.

We are also beginning to see transgender people in the Caribbean speak publicly about their identity. For instance, Kayla Marraste in Trinidad and Ashley Gordon in Jamaica have spoken about the challenges of being openly transgender in their islands’ news media. Despite largely negative reactions on social media, that these interviews appeared at all is a sign of change.

In Trinidad recently, Jowelle de Souza, a transgender woman, even ran for political office. While she faced opposition from some religious groups, crucially she also received support from a leading interfaith organization.

With Marlon James’s Man Booker win — the first for a queer Caribbean writer, as well as the first for a Jamaican — history has been made. It can be made again if Jamaica and the wider Caribbean make a sustained effort to enact laws to protect our rights. Mr. James’s victory helps make us visible in a way that could lead to a new era not only of unafraid Caribbean writing, but also of queer Caribbean people living less in fear of whom we love or who we are.

That Mr. James left Jamaica in order to be himself is a story we are likely to hear again. But if we continue to speak out, perhaps we can make this history of exile briefer, as well.

Gabrielle Bellot, NY Times

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On Scene with Bill Wilson

APhoto140078Virgin America now has daily flights from SFO to Honolulu

Admittedly I am not a morning person. So when I read that Virgin America was holding a press conference/celebration of their new SFO to Hawaii at 8 am I really had to think about whether I would go, but only for a moment or two. My previous experience with Virgin America convinced me they know how to celebrate. So even though my inner clock was still saying 6 am feels like it is 7 am, it was much to early for me. I found myself catching BART to SFO on the morning of the first substantial rain of the season. It felt like I was part of a film noir– putting one foot in front of the other oblivious to the fate ahead.  The black of the night was pierced by the light of the street lamps, reflected in puddles of rain.

BPhoto139721Rain arrives at SFO

 As I arrived at Terminal 2 my first thought was I should find the men’s room. As I walked in to the one nearest the security gates there was only one person who was on his way out.  Because the first urinal was “self flushing”, I moved one down. To my left were probably 10 urinals – to my right  - one. As I am standing there using the urinal in the way intended, I hear footsteps walking into the bathroom. I didn’t look behind me, but I could feel the person beside me to my right. So having finished I turn to leave and noticed that the only other person in the room was in fact Sir Richard Branson.  I used to joke about not taking photos in the men’s room until a friend had a restraining order taken out on him for taking a photo of a local politician in the men’s room, so it’s not joking matter to me.  But I did restrain myself – no conversation, no photos, no invasion of privacy.

CPhoto139783Hawaiian treats

As I walked out into the concourse there were several people there nervously waiting I assumed for Sir Richard. So I went up to them and said, “I can confirm for you Sir Richard is still in the bathroom.” The one lady smiled as I thought they would, but one man standing behind her took offense and said to me, “Of course he is human he uses the bathroom just like any other person!”  That person I thought I recognized as the CEO of Virgin America so I quickly changed the subject by asking him where the check –in was for the 8 am press conference.

DPhoto139911Sir Richard Branson during brief press conference before boarding the furst regular scheduled Virgin America flight to Hawaii.

They had advised media to be there no later than 7 am because they would have to go through security. So part of the check-in at the Virgin America counter was to get a dummy boarding pass to be able to go through security. They had required a date of birth with the RSVP. It was the first time in a long time that I had to go through regular security instead of pre-check. I had forgotten that everything – jacket, belt, and shoes had to come off. Fortunately my pants did not fall down when I had to hold my hands over my head for the body scanner.

EPhoto139943Sir Richard Branson applauds the hula dancers giving the proper  send –off to the Virgin America flight to Honolulu.

At the gate there were hula dancers, Hawaiian singers and a great morning buffet  - pastries, fruit and yogurt, pineapples and bananas. Because the flight was actually scheduled to leave at 9 am everything was on time. Shortly after 9 am the Pineapple Express was pushed back from Gate 54B  and Virgin American was on it’s way to Hawaii.

FPhoto140176The Pineapple Express  heading through rain clouds to sunny Hawaii

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Jimmy Carter’s Nepal/Habitat For Humanity trip cancels—not skipping a beat he goes to U.S. city

At 91, and diagnosed with cancer, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will not be stopped. After getting the okay from his doctors to go to Nepal to build homes via Habitat for Humanity Work Project with former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, the trip was cancelled due to the country’s current civil unrest and some fuel problems. Since 1983, the Carters, who have been married for 69 years, have been building homes with Atlanta-based Habitat For Humanity. Refusing to break tradition, the Carters rescheduled to build homes in Memphis, Tennessee on Monday, November 2.

Giving of their time, kindness and energy, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have worked to help others around the world. In 1982 they founded the non-governmental non-profit Carter Center.The center’s mission seen around the world is: Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope. Some of center’s accomplishments and ongoing work includes monitored 138 elections to ensure fairness and democracy, and helping to fight the Guinea-Worm Disease and River Blindness—with great success. With his beautiful sense of humor, President Carter says he’d like to see an end to the guinea worm before his end.

A Nobel Peace Prize recipient and member of The Elders (founded by Nelson Mandela), President Carter continues to promote peace in countries like Syria. During his four-year term, he never took America in war. In 1978, President Carter facilitated a treaty between Israel and Egypt called the Camp David Accords. There has been peace between the two countries for 37 years.

His lifetime achievements in the White House and after leaving the Oval Office are massive and much of the public is just now discovering his great deeds. Hundreds flock to Georgia to hear President Carter speak at a church Sunday School. He teaches many, not by “pushing” his own faith on others, but by living through example, inspiring others to love more, give more, and live better lives. They also go to visit the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

A national and world treasure, President Carter is a rare gift representing peace, democracy and human rights. Many are grateful to have lived to witness the work of one of the greatest human beings of our time. Thank you, President Carter.

Leslie Salzillo, Daily Kos

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Cruz: Let ‘real journalists’ Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh host GOP debates instead of ‘left wing operatives’

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) put a layer of paranoia on top of the GOP’s outrage over being asked questions they didn’t like during Wednesday night’s primary debate on CNBC.

The GOP candidate for president called CNBC moderators “left wing operatives” during a campaign event in Iowa on Saturday, The Hill reports. Cruz added that future moderators should have the prerequisite of voting in Republican primaries.

“What you wouldn’t have is a bunch of left-wing operatives whose object is that whoever the Republican nominee is, they want him as battered and bruised as possible so the Democrat wins in November,” Cruz told the audience. “Instead you’d have moderators that were trying to help conservatives make a decision who’s going to be the best and strongest conservative to represent us and win, who is the proven conservative, the consistent conservative.”

He went on to say better choices for GOP debate moderators include conservative hosts Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, saying those three are his idea of “real journalists.”

“You know, how about we stop letting left-wing liberals moderate Republican debates?” he said. “How about instead of a bunch of attack journalists, we actually have real journalists?”

Cruz had lashed out at moderators during the event, accusing them of asking “gotcha” questions. On Friday, Republican National Convention chair Reince Priebus sent a letter to NBCinforming the broadcasting company that February debates were off because the RNC was unhappy with the questions posed Wednesday.

CNBC is a cable channel that focuses on financial and economic news.


, RawStory

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The Golden Girls: How One TV Show Turned A Generation Of American Boys Into Homosexuals

The Golden Girls television program was never much to look at. A foursome of Florida geriatrics getting agitated about pharmacy bills and shoulder pads– who could ever find such a thing interesting? But somehow these perky and absurd women wormed their ways into America’s homes for an 8-year run in the 1980s. Maybe it was our desire to see our grandmothers having fun that encouraged us to watch. Maybe we wanted to believe old age wasn’t dominated by infections and hip problems, loneliness and crushing depression before death finally stomps us out like the acrid end of a damp cigarette.

The most unexpected segment of this show’s fanbase was America’s young men. In the 80s, these were boys too delicate for sports, too awkward for girls, too “artistic” for labor-intensive work and too flamboyant for peer acceptance in high school. With no real adults in sight, these poor children became obsessed with the poorly conceived characters on this show. Desperate for a firm hand in their lives, they gravitated to the subversive undercurrent of masculinity in these aged matrons.

Many studies have been done on why the gays love The Golden Girls, but science can’t fathom the moral challenges and social upheaval of those historic times. The 1980s was an epoch of President Reagan’s manly wisdom and the terrifying threat of Cold War annihilation. America had sobered up from the flashy lights of 1970s disco. We were skipping all night cocaine and sex parties to focus on our careers. Spiritual leaders like Jerry Falwell were telling us that Christianity was in the majority again. On the other side, there was a subculture of homosexuality creeping up on our youths. It gave them an excuse to wear tight jeans and to sneak off to public parks for quick releases with hairy men of different ethnicities.

golden showers of peril


It was only to be expected that our lonely boys exposed to these conflicted times would succumb to the nagging Golden Girls agenda. These were slender, unathletic children who were left out of the fun militarism of the Reagan years. Skyrocketing divorce rates ruined their faith in traditional relationships. Rock groups like Duran Duran and Styx encouraged big hair and overactive libidos. The show lit a match which enflamed their intense physical urges. With the utmost cruelty and immorality, The Golden Girls seized upon this opportunity to cross the hormonal wires of America’s lost generation.

The results were disastrous. Our horny, lonely boys sought out intimate comforts with likeminded Golden Girls addicts who didn’t mind each other’s theatrical voices and touch-feely hand gestures. Together, these clusters of awkward teens and twentysomethings bonded over their favorite episodes and characters, mimicking the voices and gowns of their tv friends. When the rush of cheesecake and gabfests wore thin, these hairless boys needed a harder thrill. They were so desperate for the next big trend they turned to same-sex sexual experimentation. What woman would have them now, anyway? This led to the worse excesses of early homosexual visibility– the most enormous of drag queens, the dirtiest of leather daddies, the most enticing of twinkie boys, androgyny, overeating, public sex and the birth of “camp.”


If you walk down the street today and bump into a middle-aged homosexual, chances are that the nasty comeback he will shout at you is something he picked up from Dorothy Zbornak of the Golden Girls. Played by noted liberal activist and Archie Bunker-foe Bea Arthur, Dorothy had a hard, masculine voice. She was cold and quick-tempered. She taught our modern butt rompers to disparage everyone in their orbit. She schooled them on insulting people’s clothing choices, body odors, organ sizes and educations. Dorothy taught the gays to speak very fast and have the most superior attitude possible. This formula has worked for many of your urban leather daddies and flaming queens, who attack with the swiftness of a ninja. It often happens that by the time I figure out what the insulting gay man has said to me, he is long gone (probably off groping someone’s son in a Sears lavatory). For others, and here I’m talking about your waiters and retail salesmen, Dorothy has given them permission to be two-faced. They smile at you through gritted teeth when you tell them to keep their nail polished fingers off the edge of your pasta dish or when you make them promise that they won’t peek while you’re trying on a swimsuit in the dressing room. Beneath that smile is a sneer. These gays really hate you for your Christianity and your gold card, your mature good looks or the fact you lead a handsome camping group into the hushed mountains of Tennessee. In whatever afterlife world she inhabits, Bea Arthur is surely pleased by your outrageous outrages, you homosexual anarchists of America.

Blanche Devereaux, played by Rue McClanahan on the show, is one of the sluttiest sluts around. She will do anything to get anyone into her bedroom for hours of offensive copulation irregardless of her aging orifices. Like many contemporary gays, she also demands expensive dinners and presents from her “dates” and takes special pride in catching the rich ones. Blanche’s promiscuity is a common model for the personal lives of today’s homosexuals. Most gay relationships last a week. It is no coincidence that this is the amount of time between Golden Girl episodes when they first aired on primetime. Blanche’s appearances on the show taught today’s 30-something homosexuals that you need a new strange man on your arm every seven days or else your viewers/friends will lose interest in your life’s plot. Sadly, with the Golden Girls in weeknight syndication, the youngest gays have confused this timetable to mean they need five new boyfriends a week. Their sexual adventures have become both shockingly fast and befuddling to their next-door neighbors and Twitter followers alike.

Rose Nylund, played by x-rated comedienne Betty White, was added to the show as a sort of comic relief to the other more serious characters. She is thoroughly dimwitted. Her clueless acting style makes me cringe at her obvious senility. Senility is not at all funny, but the careless creators of this awfulness used her stupidity for a relentless barrage of immature jokes. Once again, Rose’s most salient trait was picked up and celebrated by the gay community. Every buff beefcake I’ve ever met has been tremendously brainless. They can bump out the beats to any Madonna song on a club railing, but are incapable of telling you the difference between Acapulco and an avocado. They lack the concentration to finish reading your text message, let alone a fantastic website article you may have forwarded to them. Most homosexuals love to gallop around a conversation, yammering out a bunch of big phrases to show you how smart they are. The truth is that if they slowed down for a minute you would see that the Lady Gaga references, truckstop handjob stories and Kevin Jennings defenses don’t add up to an intellectual argument. They’re just random phrases strung together by psychotropically-medicated, carnally-motivated ridiculous libertines glazed with moisturizer.

For Florida, The Golden Girls completely ruined the reality of Miami’s masculine reputation. It was no longer a city of Scarface and Miami Vice. The Cuban machismo and gorgeous Ferraris melted in the face of lengthy canasta games and comfortable paisley chairs. And then the gays came marching in to South Beach. Not even CSI Miami can win the city back for the straights.


Today, as this crowd ages we have to wonder what comes next for the Golden Girl generation of American homosexuals. They’re turning 40 and 50 now. Their hair is thinning, their waistlines expanding, their cachet in the cultural scene is long past. Most have settled into heavily mortgaged condos or bungalows in gentrified neighborhoods, bitter at their mid-level jobs with zero hope of becoming a CEO to make their fathers proud. Many are too old at this point to be pursuing anonymous street pickups and have settled into caustic relationships that are only monogamous out of mutual laziness. Maybe they find weekend solace in amateur photography or an overly primped shit-zu.

In a dozen years, the next logical step for these people is Florida. Will we see whole sections of this state devoted to horny gay retirees sporting the worst 1980s fashions? High pants and feathered hair and modern architecture? Will they follow in the lusty steps of their forebears, the Golden Girls? When all these gays are in such close proximity to each other, will we see a huge upsurge in illicit homosexual elderly trysts? Will they vote out Florida’s married Christian Republican leaders, like Governor Charlie Crist? Will they embrace any and every cutting edge social issue that will be hip in 2020? Personally, I do not look forward to the day when we’re having moral debates about robot sex, gay jetpacks or houseplant marriage. And worst of all, will the next generation of television executives see the need for a new Golden Girls show featuring silver daddies, poppa bears, wankers on walkers and 50-year old twinks who sit on your lap and suck Metamucil lollipops? America, I will be turning off my tv for good in 2019 just in case.



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Season-Long Schumann Symphony Cycle Continues With Performances Of Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, Spring


Soprano Laura Claycomb joins MTT and the Orchestra for performances of R. Strauss’s Brentano Lieder


Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) continue their season-long performance and recording cycle of Schumann’s four symphonies with the composer’s Symphony No. 1, Spring, November 19-22 at Davies Symphony Hall. MTT pairs this week’s symphony with two works by Richard Strauss: his intimate Serenade in E-flat major for 13 winds, as well as the Brentano Lieder with soprano Laura Claycomb.

The music of Robert Schumann has always captivated Michael Tilson Thomas. “Schumann’s symphonic music requires great imagination, attention, and sensitivity on the part of both the orchestra and conductor,” he says. Throughout the 2015-16 season, MTT and the SFS perform Schumann’s four symphonies, all of which will be recorded for release on the Orchestra’s Grammy Award-winning in-house label SFS Media.

Each of the four concert programs pairs a Schumann symphony with multiple works by a single composer: Brahms, R. Strauss, Sibelius, and Copland.The cycle launched November 13-15 with the composer’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Rhenish, written with the splendor of Cologne Cathedral in mind. Symphony No. 3 was paired with two works by Sibelius, whose 150th birthday is celebrated this season. Performances continue this spring with the composer’s Symphony No. 2 in C major, paired with works by Copland (March 30-April 8), and Symphony No. 4 in D minor with works by Brahms (May 19-22).

Soprano Laura Claycomb has been a frequent guest performer with the SF Symphony since 1990. She has toured with the Orchestra both nationally and abroad. She appears on MTT and the SFS’s Grammy nominated recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and its triple Grammy Award winning recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8. She most recently joined the SFS in performances of Beethoven’s Missa solemnis and Palestrina’s Kyrie, Gloria, and Agnus Dei from Missa Papae Marcelli during MTT and the Orchestra’s Beethoven Festival in 2013. Laura’s first solo album, Open Your Heart, with guitarist Marc Teicholz will be released in mid-November.

Laura Claycomb began her career as an Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera, where she performed over a dozen roles including Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, and Marie in La fille du régiment. She first captured international attention at the age of 24 when, on short notice, she assumed the role of Giulietta in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi at the Grand Théâtre de Genève. She has since sung Giulietta with the Bastille Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, and the Bayerischer Rundfunk Orchester in Munich. Since her meteoric rise to prominence, Claycomb has proven herself to be an exceptionally versatile soprano, performing more than 75 roles in dozens of works by composers from Monteverdi to Messiaen.

Claycomb has appeared repeatedly with the Paris Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Théâtre de la Monnaie, London Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Le Concert d’Astrée, and The Cleveland Orchestra. Further highlights of her varied career range from engagements at the Salzburg Festival and the Lucerne Festival, to the BBC Proms and the title role of Linda di Chamounix at Teatro alla Scala in Milan.



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The University of North Carolina’s New President Is Shockingly Anti-Gay

When Republicans gained supermajorities in both houses of the North Carolina legislature in 2012, they stacked the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors with extremely partisan, conservative appointees. Those appointments paid off for the GOP: The board fired the UNC system’s left-leaning president and, last Friday, elected Margaret Spellings to replace him. Spellings served as secretary of education under President George W. Bush. During her earliest days in office there, she was responsible for perhaps the decade’s most galling act of homophobic censorship.

The Senate confirmed Spellings on Jan. 20, 2005. Just days later, in her first official act as secretary, she penned a shocking letter to PBS, which had produced an episode of the children’s program Postcards From Buster featuring same-sex parents. In the episode, the titular Buster—an anthropomorphic rabbit who travels around North America experiencing different cultures and customs—visits Vermont to learn about maple syrup. He meets children with two moms who are presumably in civil unions. One child says she has a “mom and stepmom” and that she loves her stepmom very much. That is the extent of the episode’s gay content.

This fleeting encounter with same-sex parents made Spellings furious. In her letter to the network, Spellings declared:

Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode. Congress’ and the Department’s purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television.

Spellings reminded PBS that some (though not all) of the funds used to produce the program came from the government. She asked the network to return the money used to produce the Vermont episode and to strip any reference to the Department of Education from the show or its promotional materials. She also demanded that PBS notify member stations of the episode’s same-sex content so they could elect not to air it.

Finally, Spellings noted that “you can be assured that in the future the department will be more clear as to its expectations for any future programming that it funds.” But how could she be “more clear”? The message of the letter is obvious: Depict another same-sex couple, and I’ll pull your funding. PBS decided not to distribute the episode, though some brave stations still chose to air it. Meanwhile, gay families across the country learned just how deeply their government despised them. It is difficult to think of a more effective way to stigmatize same-sex parents and their children than to tell them that their mere existence is too deviant to acknowledge on public television.

Spellings had a chance to apologize for this incident at a press conference after her election on Friday. Instead, she dug herself deeper. When asked about the letter, she said, “I have no comments about those lifestyles.” Of course, this kind of phrasing is itself troublingly homophobic, implying that homosexuality is a choice rather than an identity—and a bad choice at that, one centered around immoral actions.

On Tuesday, I asked Chris Sgro, executive director of the LGBT rights group Equality North Carolina, for his read on Spellings. He sounded nervous.

“The fact that she felt like she could use the word lifestyles after what she did around PBS is really problematic to us,” Sgro told me. But Equality North Carolina is equally concerned abut the board of governors’ broader move “to conservatize the university system” through “an attack on the academic side,” cutting programs like women’s and gender studies.

I asked Sgro where, on a scale of 1 to 10, he would rate his concern about the negative impact of Spellings’ appointment on the lives of LGBT university students.

“An 8,” he said, laughing. But he wasn’t joking.


Marc Joseph Stern,

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