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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I observed at the time:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Hiltzik, LA Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Anna Marie Erwert, SFGate

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

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

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

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

Why is this important?


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I still love you.”

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

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

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

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

Be you, accept you and most importantly love you.


Casey Bethel, Outsports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Eric Zuesse, Huffington Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marcus Bachmann was excited about embarking on another presidential campaign.

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


By Billy Dane, Business Standard News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Bloomberg Politics

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Ted Cruz Launches Senate Fight To Auction Off America’s Public Lands

After a busy few months trying to impeach Attorney General Eric Holder, increase carbon pollution, and wipe out limits on campaign contributions, Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is now working to sell off America’s national forests, parks, and other public lands.

On Tuesday, Cruz filed an amendment to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363) to force the federal government to sell off a significant portion of the country’s most prized lands in the West. The amendment would prohibit the federal government from owning more than 50 percent of any land within one state, and requires the government to transfer the excess land to the states or sell it to the highest bidder.

Federal lands make up one-fifth of the nation’s landmass and over 50 percent of the land Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska. Under Cruz’s proposal, these states, which are home to some of the country’s most beloved national parks, forests, wildlife areas and iconic natural resources, would be forced to either pass the costs of managing these lands along to state taxpayers or, more likely, give them away or sell them off for mining, drilling, and logging.

Cruz’s amendment is the latest in a radical effort by right-wing lawmakers to give control of America’s public lands to states or private industry. The movement garnered national attention earlier this year with the help of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who spurred a standoff with federal officials after refusing to pay more than $1 million in grazing fees owed to taxpayers. Bundy notoriously refuses to acknowledge federal authority, telling CNN in April that “I’ll be damned if this is the property of the United States. They have no business here.”

The amendment aligns Cruz with the other 15 incumbent members of Congress who agree with Bundy that America’s public lands should be seized by the states or sold off for drilling, mining, or logging. Highlighted in a new series from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, these “Bundy’s Buddies” support the extremely costly and unconstitutional proposals to seize and sell off America’s public lands, which are also far from mainstream views of Americans in the West.

Although Cruz attached the amendment to a bill intended to benefit sportsmen by expanding hunting, fishing and shooting opportunities on public lands, sportsmen do not support efforts to seize or sell off federal lands. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA), who have voiced supportfor the sportsmen’s bill on its own, have condemned land seizure efforts as “a radical cry to wrest our national forests and prairies away from public ownership.”

Steve Kandell, Director of Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project, also made it clear that fishermen and sportsmen don’t support land sell-off proposals when praising the recent introduction of a bill from Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), also a cosponsor of the Sportsmen’s Act. In a press release, Kandell said that “public lands shape the American identity, support local economies and perpetuate our sporting heritage. They should not be sold.”

Although the Senate voted 82-12 to advance the Sportsmen’s Act on Monday, a dispute over amendments like Cruz’s stalled the bill earlier today, with several of the bill’s Republican cosponsors voting to stop its progress. A frustrated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who yesterday told Politico that “Republicans have not provided a list of ‘reasonable’ amendments,” today described their position as “bringing to this body a new definition of what it [means] to sponsor legislation.” The bill’s prospects for passage seem to be dimming rapidly.



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The San Francisco Track & Field Club was founded after the 1st Gay Games in 1982. Per Sean Au, president of the club “there are currently about 100 core members, new members and visitors are welcome and there is no fee for joining.” They meet every Sunday morning and in the evening during the week from late January to early October. There are a number of track meets available to athletes, from local all-comer meets to National Championships. Coaches prepare training programs for sprinters, distance runners, hurdlers, throwers and jumpers. All ages (Open, Masters Seniors) genders and abilities are welcome to participate at the level they feel most comfortable. For those who are starting for the first time or who have had a break, there is a program that is aimed to build up strength without getting injured. See for their upcoming events schedule.

The club produces and hosts an annual one-day Pride Meet which was held this year on June 20 and drew a record number of athletes to San Francisco State University’s Cox Stadium. Eight athletes posted leading marks for the 2015 US Masters’ list and one female athlete set a world’s record. They raise most their funds and can use volunteers at the Pride Meet and street fairs such as Folsom.

Eight of their members are competing in the EuroGames taking place between the 5th and 9th of August 2015 at the old Olympic stadium “Stadion” in Stockholm. The participants will be divided into age groups within each event. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to the top three in all events. The EuroGames is expected to attract over 5,000 participants and more than 250,000 visitors. It is among the world’s largest LGBTQ-events, founded by the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation (EGLSF) in 1992. Per Trey Allen, president of San Francisco Spikes (soccer), they are sending 18 athletes and per Jeremy Davidson, president of Tsunami Swim Team, they are sending 17 swimmers, 12 synchro swimmers and 3 coaches to the EuroGames.

San Francisco Track & Field Club 20 athletes competed and won 98 medals at the Gay Games in Cleveland in 2014. Sean Au says “we’re also looking forward to the 2016 North American Outgames in Saint Louis and the 2018 Gay Games in Paris.”

Let’s wish all our athletes the best at their competitions in Stockholm at the EuroGames. Have a blast and bring home the gold !

This article prepared by Paul Margolis – Founder and Director of

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Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country?

Tom Engelhart,

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of “we the people.”

Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

1. One Percent Elections

Check out the news about the 2016 presidential election and you’ll quickly feel a sense of been-there, done-that. As a start, the two names most associated with it, Bush and Clinton, couldn’t be more familiar, highlighting as they do the curiously dynastic quality of recent presidential contests. (If a Bush or Clinton should win in 2016 and again in 2020, a member of one of those families will have controlled the presidency for 28 of the last 36 years.)

The 2012 presidential campaign was the first $2 billion election; campaign 2016 is expected to hit the $5 billion mark without breaking a sweat.

Take, for instance, “Why 2016 Is Likely to Become a Close Race,” a recent piece Nate Cohn wrote for my hometown paper. A noted election statistician, Cohn points out that, despite Hillary Clinton’s historically staggering lead in Democratic primary polls (and lack of serious challengers), she could lose the general election. He bases this on what we know about her polling popularity from the Monica Lewinsky moment of the 1990s to the present. Cohn assures readers that Hillary will not “be a Democratic Eisenhower, a popular, senior statesperson who cruises to an easy victory.” It’s the sort of comparison that offers a certain implicit reassurance about the near future. (No, Virginia, we haven’t left the world of politics in which former General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower can still be a touchstone.)

Cohn may be right when it comes to Hillary’s electability, but this is not Dwight D. Eisenhower’s or even Al Gore’s America. If you want a measure of that, consider this year’s primaries. I mean, of course, the 2015 ones. Once upon a time, the campaign season started with candidates flocking to Iowa and New Hampshire early in the election year to establish their bona fides among party voters. These days, however, those are already late primaries.

The early primaries, the ones that count, take place among a small group of millionaires and billionaires, a new caste flush with cash who will personally, or through complex networks of funders, pour multi-millions of dollars into the campaigns of candidates of their choice. So the early primaries — this year mainly a Republican affair — are taking place in resort spots like Las Vegas, Rancho Mirage, California, and Sea Island, Georgia, as has been widely reported. These “contests” involve groveling politicians appearing at the beck and call of the rich and powerful and so reflect our new one percent electoral system. (The main pro-Hillary super PAC, for instance, is aiming for a kitty of $500 million heading into 2016, while the Koch brothers network has already promised to drop almost $1 billion into the coming campaign season, doubling their efforts in the last presidential election year.)

Ever since the Supreme Court opened up the ultimate floodgates with its 2010 Citizens United decision, each subsequent election has seen record-breaking amounts of money donated and spent. The 2012 presidential campaign was the first $2 billion election; campaign 2016 is expected to hit the $5 billion mark without breaking a sweat. By comparison, according to Burton Abrams and Russell Settle in their study, “The Effect of Broadcasting on Political Campaign Spending,” Republicans and Democrats spent just under $13 million combined in 1956 when Eisenhower won his second term.

In the meantime, it’s still true that the 2016 primaries will involve actual voters, as will the election that follows. The previous election season, the midterms of 2014, cost almost $4 billion, a record despite the number of small donors continuing to drop. It also represented the lowest midterm voter turnout since World War II. (See: demobilization of the public, below — and add in the demobilization of the Democrats as a real party, the breaking of organized labor, the fragmenting of the Republican Party, and the return of voter suppression laws visibly meant to limit the franchise.) It hardly matters just what the flood of new money does in such elections, when you can feel the weight of inequality bearing down on the whole process in a way that is pushing us somewhere new.

2. The Privatization of the State (or the US as a Prospective Third-World Nation)

In the recent coverage of the Hillary Clinton email flap, you can find endless references to the Clintons of yore in wink-wink, you-know-how-they-are-style reporting; and yes, she did delete a lot of emails; and yes, it’s an election year coming and, as everyone points out, the Republicans are going to do their best to keep the email issue alive until hell freezes over, etc., etc. Again, the coverage, while eyeball gluing, is in a you’ve-seen-it-all-before, you’ll-see-it-all-again-mode.

However, you haven’t seen it all before. The most striking aspect of this little brouhaha lies in what’s most obvious but least highlighted. An American secretary of state chose to set up her own private, safeguarded email system for doing government work; that is, she chose to privatize her communications. If this were Cairo, it might not warrant a second thought. But it didn’t happen in some third-world state. It was the act of a key official of the planet’s reigning (or thrashing) superpower, which — even if it wasn’t the first time such a thing had ever occurred — should be taken as a tiny symptom of something that couldn’t be larger or, in the long stretch of history, newer: the ongoing privatization of the American state, or at least the national security part of it.

Though the marriage of the state and the corporation has a pre-history, the full-scale arrival of the warrior corporation only occurred after 9/11. Someday, that will undoubtedly be seen as a seminal moment in the formation of whatever may be coming in this country. Only 13 years later, there is no part of the war state that has not experienced major forms of privatization. The US military could no longer go to war without its crony corporations doing KP and guard duty, delivering the mail, building the bases and being involved in just about all of its activities, including training the militaries of foreign allies and even fighting. Such warrior corporations are now involved in every aspect of the national security state, including torturedrone strikes and — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of contract employees like Edward Snowden — intelligence gathering and spying. You name it and, in these years, it’s been at least partly privatized.

All you have to do is read reporter James Risen’s recent book, Pay Any Price, on how the global war on terror was fought in Washington, and you know that privatization has brought something else with it: corruption, scams and the gaming of the system for profits of a sort that might normally be associated with a typical third-world kleptocracy. And all of this, a new world being born, was reflected in a tiny way in Hillary Clinton’s very personal decision about her emails.

Though it’s a subject I know so much less about, this kind of privatization (and the corruption that goes with it) is undoubtedly underway in the non-war-making, non-security-projecting part of the American state as well.

3. The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency

On a third front, American “confidence” in the three classic check-and-balance branches of government, as measured by polling outfits, continues to fall. In 2014, Americans expressing a “great deal of confidence” in the Supreme Court hit a new low of 23 percent; in the presidency, it was 11 percent and in Congress a bottom-scraping five percent. (The military, on the other hand, registers at 50 percent.) The figures for “hardly any confidence at all” are respectively 20 percent, 44 percent and more than 50 percent. All are in or near record-breaking territory for the last four decades.

It seems fair to say that in recent years Congress has been engaged in a process of delegitimizing itself. Where that body once had the genuine power to declare war, for example, it is now “debating” in a desultory fashion an “authorization” for a war against the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and possibly elsewhere that has already been underway for eight months and whose course, it seems, will be essentially unaltered, whether Congress authorizes it or not.

A president who came into office rejecting torture and promoting sunshine and transparency in government has, in the course of six-plus years, come to identify himself almost totally with the US military, the CIA, the NSA and the like.

What would President Harry Truman, who once famously ran a presidential campaign against a “do-nothing” Congress, have to say about a body that truly can do just about nothing? Or rather, to give the Republican war hawks in that new Congress their due, not quite nothing. They are proving capable of acting effectively to delegitimize the presidency as well. House Majority Leader John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to undercut the president’s Iranian nuclear negotiations and the letter signed by 47 Republican senators and directed to the Iranian ayatollahs are striking examples of this. They are visibly meant to tear down an “imperial presidency” that Republicans gloried in not so long ago.

The radical nature of that letter, not as an act of state but of its de-legitimization, was noted even in Iran, where fundamentalist Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei proclaimed it “a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.” Here, however, the letter is either being covered as a singularly extreme one-off act (“treason!”) or, as Jon Stewart did on The Daily Show, as part of a repetitive tit-for-tat between Democrats and Republicans over who controls foreign policy. It is, in fact, neither. It represents part of a growing pattern in which Congress becomes an ever less effective body, except in its willingness to take on and potentially take out the presidency.

In the 21st century, all that “small government” Republicans and “big government” Democrats can agree on is offering essentially unconditional support to the military and the national security state. The Republican Party — its various factions increasingly at each other’s throats almost as often as at those of the Democrats — seems reasonably united solely on issues of war-making and security. As for the Democrats, an unpopular administration, facing constant attack by those who loath President Obama, has kept its footing in part by allying with and fusing with the national security state. A president who came into office rejecting torture and promoting sunshine and transparency in government has, in the course of six-plus years, come to identify himself almost totally with the US military, the CIA, the NSA and the like. While it has launched an unprecedented campaign against whistleblowers and leakers (as well as sunshine and transparency), the Obama White House has proved a powerful enabler of, but also remarkably dependent upon, that state-within-a-state, a strange fate for “the imperial presidency.”

4. The Rise of the National Security State as the Fourth Branch of Government

One “branch” of government is, however, visibly on the rise and rapidly gaining independence from just about any kind of oversight. Its ability to enact its wishes with almost no opposition in Washington is a striking feature of our moment. But while the symptoms of this process are regularly reported, the overall phenomenon — the creation of a de facto fourth branch of government — gets remarkably little attention. In the war on terror era, the national security state has come into its own. Its growth has been phenomenal. Though it’s seldom pointed out, it should be considered remarkable that in this period we gained a second full-scale “defense department,” the Department of Homeland Security and that it and the Pentagon have become even more entrenched, each surrounded by its own growing “complex” of private corporations, lobbyists and allied politicians. The militarization of the country has, in these years, proceeded apace.

Meanwhile, the duplication to be found in the US Intelligence Community with its 17 major agencies and outfits is staggering. Its growing ability to surveil and spy on a global scale, including on its own citizens, puts the totalitarian states of the 20th century to shame. That the various parts of the national security state can act in just about any fashion without fear of accountability in a court of law is by now too obvious to belabor. As wealth has traveled upwards in American society in ways not seen since the first Gilded Age, so taxpayer dollars have migrated into the national security state in an almost plutocratic fashion.

New reports regularly surface about the further activities of parts of that state. In recent weeks, for instance, we learned from Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley of the Intercept that the CIA has spent years trying to break the encryption on Apple iPhones and iPads; it has, that is, been aggressively seeking to attack an all-American corporation (even if significant parts of its production process are actually in China). Meanwhile, Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal reportedthat the CIA, an agency barred from domestic spying operations of any sort, has been helping the US Marshals Service (part of the Justice Department) create an airborne digital dragnet on American cell phones. Planes flying out of five US cities carry a form of technology that “mimics a cellphone tower.” This technology, developed and tested in distant American war zones and now brought to “the homeland,” is just part of the ongoing militarization of the country from its borders to its police forces. And there’s hardly been a week since Edward Snowden first released crucial NSA documents in June 2013 when such “advances” haven’t been in the news.

News also regularly bubbles up about the further expansion, reorganization and upgrading of parts of the intelligence world, the sorts of reports that have become the barely noticed background hum of our lives. Recently, for instance, Director John Brennan announced a major reorganization of the CIA meant to break downthe classic separation between spies and analysts at the Agency, while creating a new Directorate of Digital Innovation responsible for, among other things, cyberwarfare and cyberespionage. At about the same time, according to the New York Times, the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, an obscure State Department agency, was given a new and expansive role in coordinating “all the existing attempts at countermessaging [against online propaganda by terror outfits like the Islamic State] by much larger federal departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies.”

This sort of thing is par for the course in an era in which the national security state has only grown stronger, endlessly elaborating, duplicating and overlapping the various parts of its increasingly labyrinthine structure. And keep in mind that, in a structure that has fought hard to keep what it’s doing cloaked in secrecy, there is so much more that we don’t know. Still, we should know enough to realize that this ongoing process reflects something new in our American world (even if no one cares to notice).

5. The Demobilization of the American People

In The Age of Acquiescence, a new book about America’s two Gilded Ages, Steve Fraser asks why it was that, in the 19th century, another period of plutocratic excesses, concentration of wealth and inequality, buying of politicians and attempts to demobilize the public, Americans took to the streets with such determination and in remarkable numbers over long periods of time to protest their treatment and stayed there even when the brute power of the state was called out against them. In our own moment, Fraser wonders, why has the silence of the public in the face of similar developments been so striking?

After all, a grim new American system is arising before our eyes. Everything we once learned in the civics textbooks of our childhoods about how our government works now seems askew, while the growth of poverty, the flatlining of wages, the rise of the .01 percent, the collapse of labor and the militarization of society are all evident.

The process of demobilizing the public certainly began with the military. It was initially a response to the disruptive and rebellious draftees of the Vietnam-era. In 1973, at the stroke of a presidential pen, the citizen’s army was declared no more, the raising of new recruits was turned over to advertising agencies (a preview of the privatization of the state to come) and the public was sent home, never again to meddle in military affairs. Since 2001, that form of demobilization has been etched in stone and transformed into a way of life in the name of the “safety” and “security” of the public.

Since then, “we the people” have made ourselves felt in only three disparate ways: from the left in the Occupy movement, which, with its slogans about the one percent and the 99 percent, put the issue of growing economic inequality on the map of American consciousness; from the right, in the tea party movement, a complex expression of discontent backed and at least partially funded by right-wing operatives and billionaires and aimed at the de-legitimization of the “nanny state;” and the recent round of post-Ferguson protests spurred at least in part by the militarization of the police in black and brown communities around the country.

6. The Birth of a New System

Otherwise, a moment of increasing extremity has also been a moment of — to use Fraser’s word — “acquiescence.” Someday, we’ll assumedly understand far better how this all came to be. In the meantime, let me be as clear as I can be about something that seems murky indeed: this period doesn’t represent a version, no matter how perverse or extreme, of politics as usual; nor is the 2016 campaign an election as usual; nor are we experiencing Washington as usual.  Put together our one percent elections, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the US military and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism) and you have something like a new ballgame.

While significant planning has been involved in all of this, there may be no ruling pattern or design. Much of it may be happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion. In response, there has been no urge to officially declare that something new is afoot, let alone convene a new constitutional convention. Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon and the officials of the national security state.

Out of the chaos of this prolonged moment and inside the shell of the old system, a new culture, a new kind of politics, a new kind of governance is being born right before our eyes. Call it what you want. But call it something. Stop pretending it’s not happening.

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Bernie Sanders explodes a right-wing myth: ‘Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said the immigration debate is framed exactly wrong.

Republicans vilify President Barack Obama for supposedly opening the border to ever-increasing multitudes of immigrants, legally or otherwise, but the Democratic presidential candidate said blame is cast in the wrong direction, reported Vox.

“Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal,” Sanders said in a wide-ranging interview with the website. “That’s a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States.”

Sanders frequently targets the libertarian industrialists Charles and David Koch as unhealthy influences on American democracy — but he’s not the first to notice their support for an open borders policy.

The conservative Breitbart and the white supremacist VDARE website each blasted the Koch brothers for sponsoring a “pro-amnesty Buzzfeed event” in 2013, and two writers for the Koch-sponsored Reason — former contributing editor David Weigel and current editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie — have always been supportive of immigration reform.

That’s at odds with what many Republicans believe, and Sanders told Vox that an open border would be disastrous to the American economy.

“It would make everybody in America poorer — you’re doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don’t think there’s any country in the world that believes in that,” Sanders said. “If you believe in a nation state or in a country called the United States or (the United Kingdom) or Denmark or any other country, you have an obligation in my view to do everything we can to help poor people.”

He said conservative corporate interests pushed for open borders, not liberals.

“What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy,” Sanders said. “Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour — that would be great for them. I don’t believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, (and) I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.”

The senator said flooding the job market with foreign candidates willing to work for low pay would be especially harmful to younger Americans trying to enter the workforce.

“You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today?” he said. “If you’re a white high school graduate, it’s 33 percent, Hispanic 36 percent, African American 51 percent. You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?”

“I think from a moral responsibility we’ve got to work with the rest of the industrialized world to address the problems of international poverty, but you don’t do that by making people in this country even poorer,” Sanders said.

From , RawStory

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On Scene Bill Wilson: Boy Scouts Gay Ban History


President Barack Obama and Members of Congress view “Lucy,” the 3.2 million year old fossilized bones of a human ancestor, at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 27, 2015. Zeresenay Alemseged, an Ethiopian paleoanthropologist, explains the fossil. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

We start out with a basic premise – I am an old relic. Like the ancient fossil they displayed for President Obama in Ethiopia, I give witness to prehistoric times.  What makes me feel this way? There are two stories in today’s headlines – one national and one local that make me feel both ancient and joyous.  The national one is the fact that the Boy Scouts of America have removed the last ban on gays in the Scout movement by allowing adult scout leaders to be gay. For me this is a major development that would have made a gigantic difference in my lifeif they had been implemented when I was growing up.

While the second story is local in focus we have seen in so many ways what starts as an idea here in San Francisco grows into a national movement. The San Francisco School Board has approved a college prep course on GLBT history that will be offered at the Ruth Asawa School for the Arts this fall. Unlike my high school days there will be positive mention of the contributions of GLBT citizens have made to our society. So I guess in reality they are very much the same story.


 Tom Ammiano won election to the School Board in 1990.

In September of 1991 the San Francisco School voted 5 – 1 to ban Boy Scout activities from school property during school hours. I was one of the people at that meeting that spoke out in support of the resolution. I don’t have an exact copy of my testimony, but I do remember the gist of what I said. It was simply that it was while at Boy Scout camp when I was young that I learned to hate myself. I was inadvertently a witness to two boys engaging in sex. I wasn’t the only one who was aware of what was happening, but it was made clear to me by the others that if I ever said anything to anyone about what I saw there would be serious consequences for all involved. I felt that there must be something terribly wrong if it couldn’t even be mentioned and I internalized that silence so that I felt that I must be very evil to be turned on by the same sex.  Silence became self – hatred which kept me securely in the closet for many years. If at that time I had known anyone who was gay that I could turn to, if there had been any sympathetic person that could have helped me understand that my sexuality wasn’t a choice, it would have made a difference – it would not have made me gay, it would have helped me accept who I was. This is what I tried to tell the Board. Don’t speak as if gay people weren’t already in the Scouts, because they are, the only question is do you encourage truthfulness and honesty as the Boy Scout oath requires or do you make them hide?


Tom Ammiano Carole Migden, Harry Britt and Roberta Achtenberg at the opening of the No On K campaign in 1991.  Prop K was an attempt to repeal the city’s Domestic Partners ordinance.

 When I asked Tom Ammiano to autograph a copy of a photo I had taken at the opening of the “No On K” headquarters in 1991 he wrote, “Thanks for your fabulous presentation on the BSA.” So I guess I am part of the GLBT History that will be taught to students at Ruth Asawa SOTA.  While it does make me feel old, it also gives me immense joy that there are so many things happening  that I never thought possible in my life time.



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90 Year Old Legendary Speaker of the House Jim Wright Denied Texas Voter ID Card

A 90 year old man who just happens to be the former Speaker of the US House was denied a voter ID according to Texas’s new voter ID requirements.

FORT WORTH — Former House Speaker Jim Wright was denied a voter ID card Saturday at a Texas Department of Public Safety office.“Nobody was ugly to us, but they insisted that they wouldn’t give me an ID,” Wright said.

The legendary Texas political figure says that he has worked things out with DPS and that he will get a state-issued personal identification card in time for him to vote Tuesday in the state and local elections.

Because a 90 year old man is trying to game the system, right?

But here is the real problem:

But after the difficulty he had this weekend getting a proper ID card, Wright, 90, expressed concern that such problems could deter others from voting and stifle turnout. After spending much of his life fighting to make it easier to vote, the Democratic Party icon said he is troubled by what he’s seeing happen under the state’s new voter ID law.“I earnestly hope these unduly stringent requirements on voters won’t dramatically reduce the number of people who vote,” Wright told the Star-Telegram. “I think they will reduce the number to some extent.”

Wright and his assistant, Norma Ritchson, went to the DPS office on Woodway Drive to get a State of Texas Election Identification Certificate. Wright said he realized earlier in the week that the photo identifications he had — a Texas driver’s license that expired in 2010 and a TCU faculty ID — do not satisfy requirements of the voter ID law, enacted in 2011 by the Legislature. DPS officials concurred.

Not everyone will have the resources, or knowledge, that Wright has to overcome these obstacles. And Wright puts it very well:

We want to make sure that every eligible Texan who wants to cast a ballot can,” Pierce said. “We want to help any Texan who needs additional information.”Wright, who said he has voted in every election since 1944, lamented that such help is called for.

“From my youth I have tried to expand the elections,” Wright said. “I pushed to abolish the poll tax. I was the first to come out for lowering the voting age to 18.”

The state put up these obstacles in the first place- now they are ‘concerned’ to make sure everyone can overcome them. They have ‘solved’ non-existent voter fraud problems by creating actual problems.

9:59 AM PT: For help with getting Voter ID the linked article suggests:

For more information, voters may call the Texas secretary of state’s office at 800-252-VOTE (8683) or the Tarrant County Elections Office at 817-831-VOTE (8683). Go online for more information at or

1:45 PM PT: From kossack ccafrey who can’t post comments:

I was hoping to let people know who were commenting on the Jim Wright article, and having problems establishing id requirements for elderly relatives to tell them the following: A group of nonprofits put together a great help site that will walk you through all the requirements step by step, and have active links to the agencies/sites necessary to make corrections. It’s Got ID Texas? If someone else would post this info until my problem is resolved, that would be great. Thanks!
Heavy Mettle, Daily Kos

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Barack Obama tells African states to abandon anti-gay discrimination

The US president, Barack Obama, has launched an unprecedented defence of gay rights in Africa, telling Kenya’s president that the state has no right to punish people because of “who they love”.

Obama, visiting his late father’s homeland for the first time as US president, confronted Uhuru Kenyatta and millions of Kenyans watching on television with his “unequivocal” views. Homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya and surveys show nine in 10 people find them unacceptable.

Obama personalised the issue by comparing homophobia to racial discrimination that he had encountered in the United States. Never before has such a powerful foreign leader challenged Africans so directly on their own soil.

“I’ve been consistent all across Africa on this,” he said, during a joint press conference at the state house in Nairobi. “When you start treating people differently, because they’re different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode. And bad things happen.

“When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread. As an African-American in the United States, I am painfully aware of the history of what happens when people are treated differently, under the law, and there were all sorts of rationalisations that were provided by the power structure for decades in the United States for segregation and Jim Crow and slavery, and they were wrong. So I’m unequivocal on this.”

There had been speculation that Obama would duck the issue and focus on security and trade with Kenya. But in line with his recently emboldened actions and statements on a number of topics, he pulled no punches as Kenyatta looked on in silence.

He added that for “a law-abiding citizen who is going about their business, and working at a job and obeying the traffic signs and not harming anybody, the idea they will be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong, full stop.”

The Kenyan president publicly disagreed with Obama. “There are some things that we must admit we don’t share,” Kenyatta said, insisting that gay rights “is not really an issue on the foremost mind of Kenyans”.

He added: “It’s very difficult for us to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept.”

There was a ripple of applause from people in the state house audience. Africa has been described as the world’s most homophobic continent with same-sex relations illegal in 36 of 54 countries and punishable by death in a handful.

Obama also had firm words for Kenya on corruption, describing it as “the single biggest impediment to Kenya growing even faster”, and saying people were being “consistently sapped by corruption at a high level and at a low level.”

Obama’s comments were swiftly criticised by Irungu Kang’ata, an MP in Kenyatta’s governing party. “They are in bad taste,” he said. “It’s a breach of the principle of sovereignty and equality of states. What if Kenyatta goes to America and says it should abolish the death penalty? Or for example it is like Obama goes to London or Madrid or The Hague or even Japan and says your monarchy is oppressive and a waste of money and should be done away with. In the same manner he can’t come to Kenya to tell us things that are unacceptable.”


The Guardian

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Poll shows public souring on GOP after 2014 gains

There’s no denying the electoral successes Republican candidates had in the 2014 midterms. Arguably the most significant change came in the Senate, where the GOP took control of the chamber for the first time since 2006, but up and down the ballot, Republicans won big.

With this in mind, as 2015 got underway, the conservative party had the wind at its back and was eager to show the American public that voters chose wisely in the elections. How’s that working out so far? New polling from the Pew Research Center has to be discouraging.

The Republican Party’s image has grown more negative over the first half of this year. Currently, 32% have a favorable impression of the Republican Party, while 60% have an unfavorable view. Favorable views of the GOP have fallen nine percentage points since January. The Democratic Party continues to have mixed ratings (48% favorable, 47% unfavorable).

The Democratic Party has often held an edge over the GOP in favorability in recent years, but its advantage had narrowed following the Republicans’ midterm victory last fall. Today, the gap is as wide as it has been in more than two years.

The problem for Republicans isn’t just the gap between the GOP and Democrats. The more pressing issue is the direction of public attitudes – in early 2015, Republicans had a respectable-but-underwhelming 41% favorable rating. With GOP officials in control of Congress, most state legislatures, and most governors’ offices, that same figure has dropped sharply to 32%.

And before Republican leaders say, “The public is souring on both parties,” note that Democratic favorability has actually increased over the same period.

Looking at the breakdown over specific issues, party advantages are largely predictable – Democrats have the edge on the environment, reproductive rights, education, and health care, while Republicans lead on guns and terrorism.

But one number above all should jump out at GOP leaders:

As has been the case over the past four years, the Republican Party is viewed as more extreme in its positions than the Democratic Party. Currently, 52% say the GOP is more extreme, compared with 35% who say this better describes the Democratic Party.

The perception, to be sure, is rooted in fact. Republican politics has been radicalized to a historic degree, a development that the electorate has apparently noticed.

But therein lies the contemporary challenge for the GOP: the party has no idea what to do to move closer to the American mainstream. If leaders move away from extremist elements in their party, they’ll be replaced by their radical colleagues. If Republican policymakers abandon the far-right agenda, they’ll lose in their next primary.

At the same time, however, GOP officials are currently in the process of asking Americans to give the party control of the White House, Senate, and House, effective January 2017. The more the U.S. majority considers the Republican Party “extreme,” the more difficult it will be for voters to give the GOP that kind of power over the federal government.

Steve Benen, MSNBC

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‘Selma’ director Ava DuVernay says dashcam video of Sandra Bland arrest was doctored

Ava DuVernay, who directed the Oscar-nominated civil rights movement film Selma, suggested on Tuesday that the dashboard camera footage of Sandra Bland’s arrest earlier this month was altered.

“I edit footage for a living. But anyone can see that this official video has been cut,” DuVernay posted on Twitter, while linking to an article by journalist Ben Norton listing what appears to be discrepancies in the footage released earlier in the day by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Skepticism began mounting online shortly after the release of the 52-minute video,which shows the 28-year-old activist being pulled over by state trooper Brian Encinia.

“Someone clearly cut footage out and looped part of the video in order to correspond with the recorded audio of Texas state trooper Brian Encinia speaking,” Norton wrote. “Who exactly edited the footage is unknown, but the video was recorded by police and released by the Texas Department of Public Safety.”

For example, Norton stated, a man seen in the center of the frame at the 25:05 mark walks toward the right of the frame and off-camera, only to disappear, reappear and disappear again within a three-second period. The footage of him walking toward the right is then seen again.

Norton also said that there are several instances showing looped footage involving vehicles moving at the scene of Bland’s arrest. She was found dead in a Waller County jail cell three days after being arrested and charged with assault on a public servant.

DuVernay also posted footage from the arrest showing Bland asking, “Why are you arresting me?” and adding, “Because you know your rights,” and arguing that Encinia did so because no one would believe her.

, Raw Story

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San Francisco Police Plan Crackdown on Bicyclists on Popular Routes

The captain of the San Francisco Police Department’s Park Station is planning a crackdown on bike riders who roll through stop signs on some of the city’s most popular bike routes, saying “protection of life” is his highest priority. But bike advocates say police should focus traffic enforcement on the greatest threat to lives: dangerous behavior by drivers.

The comments by Capt. John Sanford were made at a community meeting Tuesday night, according to Hoodline:

Traffic enforcement teams will consist of bicycle officers and marked police vehicles, said Sanford, who reported that district officers have given 38 traffic citations to cyclists between January and May. “I am not too shy to say that it is a problem,” said Sanford, who encouraged attendees to spread the word that a crackdown is in the works. “Tell your friends to slow, stop and obey,” he said.

SFPD spokesman Albie Esparza confirms the department is planning targeted enforcement against people who bike in the Park police district, which includes The Wiggle, Panhandle and Golden Gate Park.

In addition to drivers, “we do see a large number of pedestrians and bicyclists who are also committing violations, and we cannot simply turn a blind eye and just ignore that,” Esparza says.

But bike advocates say SFPD should focus on the top five traffic violations by drivers that cause the most deaths and injuries on the streets.  Police pledged to have those violations account for 50 percent of all citations, as part of the city’s Vision Zero goal to end all traffic deaths by 2024.

Taking enforcement resources away from the most troublesome driving behaviors is dangerous in itself, says Chris Cassidy, communications director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

“Frankly, we’re concerned about people living in, and going through The Wiggle, Golden Gate Park and Inner Sunset if there’s any diversion of traffic resources away from Vision Zero,” says Cassidy.

study by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency found drivers at fault in two-thirds of severe and fatal traffic collisions.

Esparza says the department does plan to stay focused on the five most dangerous driving violations: speeding, running red lights, failing to yield to pedestrians, failing to yield while making turns and ignoring stop signs. But he says the department will continue to do targeted enforcement against bicyclists just like it does against people who drive and walk.

“This portion is going to be educating enforcement of bicycle laws to make sure we have people educated, and also enforce the laws to change behaviors, so we can see safer roadways,” he says.

Cassidy says the crackdown would be a change in tactics by Park Station. After receiving complaints, the previous captain would alert the bike coalition so it could increase education efforts.

“SFPD has been fantastic citywide at increasing their focus on the five deadliest traffic behaviors,” says Cassidy. “Recent comments from the Park Station are really an aberration from SFPD’s work towards eliminating traffic deaths.”

Cassidy says the SFBC encourages bicyclists to follow the rules of the road. But Streetsblog San Francisco points out:

The stop sign law in every state except Idaho assumes that bicycles are just like cars, creating the unrealistic expectation that someone on a bike should make a full stop at every stop sign, even when they are clearly not violating anybody else’s right-of-way.

The letter of the law leads to an unproductive fixation on the way that people naturally negotiate stop signs on a bike: by slowing, checking for traffic, and being prepared to yield to others.

Esparza did not indicate when the crackdown would begin.


Bryan Goebel KQED

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President Obama forces Republican politicians to eat their own words

President Obama continues his new stride as he chides Republicans for their failed prognostications. Democratic politicians encouraged his silence during the 2014 elections. Imagine what could have been if Americans had realized they had something to vote for. Imagine if Americans had believed that those pushing a relatively progressive agenda believed in that agenda and was willing to fight for that agenda.

Back in January President Obama chided Republicans for their newfound love for the American poor and the American middle class. On Wednesday he did more than that. He pointed out how off base Republicans’ willful deceptive prognostication of his policies were.

Now, I want to return to the issue of the debate that we were having then because it bears on the debate we’re having now. It’s important to note that at every step that we’ve taken over the past six years we were told our goals were misguided; they were too ambitious; that my administration’s policies would crush jobs and explode deficits, and destroy the economy forever. Remember that? Because sometimes we don’t do the instant replay, we don’t run the tape back, and then we end up having the same argument going forward.

The president then reminded America what specific Republicans said his economic policies would do to destroy the American economy.

One Republican in Congress warned our policies would diminish employment and diminish stock prices. Diminish stock prices. (Laughter.) The stock market has doubled since I came into office. Corporate profits are — corporate balance sheets are stronger than they have ever been — because of my terrible business policies.

The above can be attributed to Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Mitt Romney.

One Republican senator claimed we faced trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. Another predicted my re-election would spike gas prices to $6.60 a gallon. I don’t know how he came up with that figure — $6.60. (Laughter.) My opponent in that last election pledged that he could bring down the unemployment rate to 6 percent by 2016 — next year — at the end of next year. It’s 5.5 now.

The above can be attributed to Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

And right here in Cleveland, the leader of the House Republicans — a good friend of mine — (laughter) – he captured his party’s economic theories by critiquing mine with a very simple question: Where are the jobs, he said. Where are the jobs? I’m sure there was a headline in The Plain Dealer or one of the papers — Where Are the Jobs? Well, after 12 million new jobs, a stock market that has more than doubled, deficits that have been cut by two-thirds, health care inflation at the lowest rate in nearly 50 years, manufacturing coming back, auto industry coming back, clean energy doubled — I’ve come not only to answer that question, but I want to return to the debate that is central to this country, and the alternative economic theory that’s presented by the other side.

The above can be attributed to Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Because their theory does not change. It really doesn’t. It’s a theory that says, if we do little more than just cut taxes for those at the very top, if we strip out regulations and let special interests write their own rules, prosperity trickles down to the rest of us. And I take the opposite view. And I take it not for ideological reasons, but for historic reasons, because of the evidence.

We know from the facts that are there for all to see that America does better, our economy does better, everybody does better when the middle class does better and we’ve got more ladders for people to get into the middle class if they’re willing to work hard. We do better when everyone grows together — top, middle, bottom. We do better when everyone has a chance not only to benefit from America’s success, but also to contribute to America’s success. And we know from more recent history that when we stray from that ideal it doesn’t turn out well. We’ve now got evidence there is a better way, there is a better approach. And I’m calling it middle-class economics.

President Obama must keep the pressure on. He must continue contrasting reality-based policies from the failed policy of trickle-down economics.


From Daily Kos, originally posted to ProgressiveLiberal

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Tickets On Sale For City Arts & Lectures Fall / Winter 2015-16 Line-Up

Tickets are on sale for City Arts & Lectures’ Fall & Winter line-up. The season includes two concurrent series: “Cultural Studies” and “On Arts” (benefiting 826 Valencia College Scholarships). For over 35 years, City Arts & Lectures has presented some of the most influential, curious, and fascinating figures in contemporary culture.

The upcoming roster is one of its most wide-ranging yet. It includes onstage conversations with writers like Sarah Vowell, Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Franzen, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, artists and performers like W. Kamau Bell (who will also perform stand-up), Miranda July, and Mary-Louise Parker, chef Yotam Ottolenghi, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, economist Robert Reich, feminist Gloria Steinem and many more, as well as Word For Word Performing Arts Company’s staging of a story written by and starring Adam Gopnik as himself. Full list of upcoming guests below.

All events are at the Nourse Theater [ 275 Hayes Street ] at 7:30pm. Tickets are available individually and as part of a series [ ].

Salman Rushdie
In conversation with Michael Krasny Wednesday, September 9, 2015, 7:30pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $39 (includes signed first edition book)

Miranda July & Sheila Heti
In conversation with Thao Nguyen Thursday, September 17, 2015, 7:30pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Justice Stephen Breyer
In Conversation with Marcia Coyle Friday, September 25, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Richard Dawkins
In Conversation with Jacob Ward Monday , October 5, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Karen Armstrong
In Conversation with Dr. Jane Shaw Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Paul Theroux
Thursday, October 15, 2015, 7:30 pm In conversation with Roy Eisenhardt Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Elvis Costello
Thursday, October 22, 2015, 7:30 pm In conversation with Dan Stone Co-Presented with Radio Silence Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Sarah Vowell
In conversation with Daniel Handler Monday, October 26, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Ta-Nehisi Coates
In Conversation with Alexis Madrigal Tuesday, October 27, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Yotam Ottolenghi & David Lebovitz
In Conversation with Jessica Battilana Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Orhan Pamuk
In Conversation with Steven Winn Monday, November 2, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Robert Reich
In Conversation with Mark Bittman Tuesday, November 3, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

David Spade
In conversation with Paul Lancour Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Isabel Allende
In Conversation with Rose Aguilar Thursday, November 5, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Gloria Steinem
In Conversation with Chinaka Hodge Monday, November 9, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Dan Savage
In Conversation with Michelle Tea Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Jesse Eisenberg
In Conversation with Steven Winn Thursday, November 12, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

W. Kamau Bell
An Evening of Stand-Up & Conversation Hosted by Jeff Chang Monday, November 16, 2015, 7:30 pm
Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Adam Gopnik stars in
“The Driver’s Seat: What We Learn When We Learn To Drive” Monday, December 7, 2015, 7:30 pm
Written by Adam Gopnik
Performed by Word For Word Performing Arts Company
A Benefit for Legal Services for Children
Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $42

Jonathan Franzen
In Conversation with Ann Packer Tuesday, December 8, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Mary-Louise Parker
In Conversation with Mary Karr Monday, December 14, 2015, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

Joyce Carol Oates
In Conversation with Robert Hass Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 7:30 pm Venue: Nourse Theater
Tickets: $29

All events are 7:30pm at the Nourse Theater [275 Hayes Street].
Individual Tickets: $29 (except for Rushdie: $39 and Gopnik: $42) On Arts Series: $250 (10 events)
Cultural Studies Series: $200 (8 events)
Tickets + info: CITYARTS.NET

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15 Things Invented in San Francisco

Known as a hub for innovation, San Francisco has been setting trends for well over a hundred years. We looked into San Francisco’s contributions to the world over the years — from the weird to the stylish and the profitable to the iconic.

In no particular order, here are 15 innovations San Francisco is rumored to have brought into the world.

1. Denim Jeans

In 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patented riveted pants and blue jeans were born. Originally sold in Strauss’ San Francisco store, jeans have become one of the most popular apparel items on the planet. Proof San Francisco has been rocking the casual fashion scene since the 19th century!

2. The Cable Car

The world’s first cable car ran down Clay Street in the wee hours of the morning on August 2nd, 1873. Ever since then, cable cars have been a stable of San Francisco — even after a scare in which they were almost all removed in the late 40s. Not the most efficient method of transportation in this day and age, but they are undeniably cool.

3. The Slot Machine

Invented sometime between 1887 and 1895 by San Francisco car mechanic Charles Fey, the slot machine is ubiquitous in casinos and gambling areas across the world.

4. The Jukebox

In 1889, the coin-operated phonograph (the precursor to the jukebox) was first commercially available when it was installed in San Francisco’s Palais Royale Saloon. Charging a nickel a go, the machine earned over $1000 in its first six months of use.

5. The Martini

The history of the Martini is a cloudy one. Some say the cocktail originated in Martinez, California, while others claim it came about in San Francisco. Both origin stories claim that a Gold Rush miner’s request for a drink resulted in the creation of the martini.

6. Pisco Punch

During the Gold Rush, a clear grape brandy from Peru and Chile called Pisco was widely available in San Francisco — the reason being that boat trade with South America was easier than the wagon trade with the Eastern United States that brought whiskey to the West. At the Bank Exchange Saloon, located where the Transamerica building is today, owner Duncan Nicol used the brandy to create the recipe for Pisco Punch.

7. IT’S-IT Ice Cream Sandwiches

First sold at the Playland amusement park near Ocean Beach, IT’S-IT Ice Cream Sandwiches have been a San Francisco treat since 1928. Originally only offered in the Bay Area, the ice cream sandwiches are now available all throughout California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Arizona, Texas and New York.

8. Popsicle

Birthed out of an accident, the popsicle was invented in 1905 when an 11-year-old San Francisco boy made a soft drink by stirring a mixing powder in a cup of water. The boy left his full cup and stirring stick outside overnight and in the morning he found the drink frozen to the stick. In 1923 the young inventor patented his creation and it became the popular treat it is today. There is some contention as to whether the popsicle was invented in San Francisco or Oakland. claims it was invented in Oakland, while the New York Times and the Smithsonian claim it was in San Francisco. Perhaps we will never know.

9. The Fortune Cookie

The origin of the fortune cookie is contested. One narrative claims that the cookie was invented by a Chinese immigrant in LA who put bible verses in the cookie; the other story goes that the cookie was created by a Japanese immigrant named Makoto Hagiwara who was a gardener who developed the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Allegedly Makoto made cookies with little thank you notes in them for the San Francisco mayor when he gave Makoto his gardener job back after a previous mayor had fired him. Ever since then, the note in the cookie idea stuck.

10. Chicken Tetrazzini

Named after opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini, this pseudo-Italian dish is believed by some to have been created by chef Ernest Arbogast at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, now called the Sheraton Palace Hotel.

11. Green Goddess Dressing

This tasty dressing was named for the English actor George Arliss; back in the the early 1920s, Arliss stayed at the Palace Hotel while acting in a play called the Green Goddess. The salad was created and named by the hotel’s executive chef Philip Roemer.

12. Crab Louie

The history of Crab Louie, like many recipes, is murky — however, many attribute its creation to Solari’s Restaurant in San Francisco in the early 20th century.

13. Murphy Bed

The Murphy Bed was created in the early 1900s by William L. Murphy while he was living in a one-room apartment on Bush Street. Allegedly Murphy invented the wall bed because he wanted to entertain a certain woman in his tiny apartment, but it was inappropriate at the time for a woman to see a man in his bedroom. Murphy’s invention allowed him to convert his bedroom into a more neutral space and eventually (perhaps because of the wall bed) he married the woman. How’s that for a love story?

14. Waterbed

The first modern waterbed was designed by Charles Hall in 1968 for his Master’s Thesis project at San Francisco State University. Well known for their sex-appeal, the beds exploded in popularity and became an icon of the 70s — you can even chill on one at the dive bar Kozy Kar.

15. The Gap

Don and Doris Fisher opened the first Gap store on Ocean Avenue in 1969, and the store sold a wide selection of Levi’s, records and tapes. The inspiration for the store? Don Fisher could not find any jeans that fit him in San Francisco retail stores, leading him to take matters into his own hands.

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Although not invented here, the next two were made popular in the United States due to their success in San Francisco, so we felt they were definitely worth mentioning. Think of it as two things San Francisco did before it was cool.

The Mimosa

Although widely believed to have been created in a London pub in the 1920s under the name “Buck’s Fizz,” the mimosa was allegedly introduced to the States in a San Francisco restaurant by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Legend has it Hitchcock concocted the drink in Jeanty at Jack’s restaurant, beginning its popularity in the country.

The Irish Coffee

The Irish Coffee was popularized by San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe in 1952. Then-owner Jack Koeppler and travel writer Stanton Delaplane worked tirelessly one night to re-create the drink which had been served in the Shannon Airport in Ireland, subsequently making the drink famous.

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Jesus Was A Liberal: 15 Quotes The ‘Christian’ Right Doesn’t Want You To See

Have you ever wondered why right-wing Christians claim to love Jesus Christ, even though their toxic beliefs have nothing to do with what Jesus said, taught, or stood for? Whether you believe He was our savior, a historical figure, or a fictional character, Jesus Christ definitely was a liberal. And we’ve got 15 quotes to prove it.

“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
— Like many liberals, Jesus Christ scorned phony displays of religion.
(1) Religion: Right-wingers claim to love Jesus, and are known for loudly shouting their faith from atop their soap boxes. But, like many liberals, the real Jesus Christ scorned these showy – and often phony – displays of piety. He said: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” [Matthew 6-7 KJV]

(2) The 10 Commandments: As far as we can tell, the leaders of the Christian Right don’t obey the laws inscribed on the tablets Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai, let alone the ones Jesus valued most. When crowds asked Jesus Christ what He saw as the most important of the 10 Commandments, His reply reflects the values of today’s liberal Christians. Jesus clearly sees a pure love of God and for our fellow human beings as the bottom line for being a Christian: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” And: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 36-40 KJV].

(3) The “War on Christmas”: We’ll never know what Jesus would have thought about Christmas décor and baby-in-the-manger scenes at City Hall. But He probably would have found conservatives’ rantings about “The War On Christmas” puzzling. As many savior-savvy liberals would quickly point out, Jesus Christ didn’t celebrate Christmas: He was Jewish, and would have observed Hanukkah (if Hanukkah had existed then, which it didn’t).

“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
— Jesus Christ agreed with liberals when it comes to paying taxes and keeping Church and State separate.
(4) Paying taxes: Right-wingers keep whining about taxes and saying that paying our national debt and having a social safety net is like slavery. When they don’t get their way, they shut down the government, or threaten to secede from the US. But when it comes to taxes, Jesus Christ is more like a liberal. He said we should pay our taxes even when we don’t agree with what they’re used for. “Then saith he unto them, ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.’” [Matthew 22:21 KJV]

(5) Separation of Church and State: The Christian Right keeps trying to force their beliefs into our legal system, and to fund their churches and schools with taxpayers’ dollars. Like modern folks in the USA, Jesus Christ lived in a huge empire with diverse religions and ethnic groups. Many of Rome’s laws and customs were against his people’s customs and beliefs. But – like most liberals – Jesus Christ clearly believed that Church and State should be separate, as shown in the above quote.

“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
— Jesus Christ’s views on income inequality and capitalism were very similar to those of liberals.

(6) Income inequality: Have any of you liberals out there wondered what Jesus Christ would have thought about today’s rampant income inequality? Right-wing Christians love to ignore the fact that Jesus made his views about the one percent abundantly clear: “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” [Matthew 19:24 KJV]

(7) Capitalism: Right-wingers are ever in search of ways to promote and justify the unfettered capitalism Pope Francis rails against. But they won’t find any help from their Savior, Jesus Christ. He loathes capitalism, even more than most of today’s liberals here in the US. Pretty much the only time we ever see Jesus lose his temper is when he returns to Jerusalem with his disciples and finds the Temple full of bankers and vendors. He doesn’t just yell at them, he destroys their booths and drives them out with a whip that he makes on the fly. One can only imagine how Jesus would feel about Black Friday.

“And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” [John 2:14-16 KJV]

“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
— Jesus Christ believed we should help each other, as liberals do today.
(8) Welfare and the social safety net: The Christian Right keeps ranting about how raising taxes to pay for programs that help the poor is somehow like forcing us into slavery. But Jesus Christ’s views on feeding, clothing, and helping people in need was more in line with how liberals think. Jesus flat-out told his followers that when they help people in need, He sees that as directly serving Him:

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” [Matthew 25:34-36 KJV]

(9) Healthcare: The right-wing Christians who oppose evil, “liberal” Obamacare have failed to notice something that seems crazy-obvious to the rest of us. Their Savior, Jesus Christ, was always out and about doling out free healthcare — the horror! — to his fellow human beings. The New Testament abounds with stories of Jesus healing blind people, lepers, crippled people, paralytics, a bleeding woman, a young girl in a coma, and pretty much anyone who asked (or had someone ask for them). His disciple, Matthew, wrote: “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”

(10) Social justice: Unlike the right-wing Christians who pay only lip service to Him, Jesus Christ was a strong advocate for social justice. Martin Luther King Jr. and other much-loved liberal icons were inspired by His life and teachings. Jesus not only demands that the rich share with the less fortunate, but insists that if they don’t, they are heartless. “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” [1 John 3:17 KJV] Take THAT, Koch brothers.

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
— Like today’s liberals, Jesus Christ rejected the double standard for women and preached tolerance.
(11) The War on Women: Jesus Christ lived in a highly patriarchal society, but rose above the customs of his time. Like today’s liberals (and unlike today’s right-wing Christians), Jesus clearly valued women and treated them as equals. His parables abound with women who serve as role models to follow. At least four women — his mother, Mary Madgelene, and the sisters Mary and Martha — were in his inner circle. This may explain why women played a big role in the early days of the Christian church, and may have even served as leaders. Nor did Jesus respect the double standard that holds men and women to different rules. When a crowd gathered to stone a women to death for the “crime” of adultery, Jesus stopped them, demanding: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” [John 8:7 KJV]

(12) Abortion: Unlike the Christian Right, which won’t shut up about a fetus’ “right to life,” Jesus Christ never talks about abortion. But in the tale of the bleeding woman (Luke 8:43-48 KJV), Jesus clearly rejects irrational taboos and religious rules against women. While walking through a crowd, a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and it healed her. She then cringed away in fear (the “issue of blood” seems to have been coming from down there, which meant that touching a man would give him “unclean” woman cooties). Instead of casting her away, Jesus did the liberal thing and said, “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” It’s too bad the “Christian” folks who run this country — and some hospitals — think their weird religious rules are more important than a woman’s health.

(13) Marriage equality: Strange, but even though our right-wing Christian friends are all in a lather over gays getting married and LGBT folks’ having the nerve to simply exist, Jesus Christ never uttered a single word about gays and other non-gender conforming people. He was too busy spreading his love, healing, loaves and fishes, and miracle wine around to bother with hating … kind of like one of those liberal hippies from the 1960’s.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
Like many liberals, Jesus Christ preferred peace to war.
(12) War: During his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” [Matthew 5:9 KJV] This event took place shortly after Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, and is considered to be central to his teachings. The Sermon on the Mount was radical because of its ideals of peace, love for one’s neighbor, love of God, and striving for purity of heart. Liberals share most of these ideals, even if they don’t believe in the same god (or goddess) … or any god(dess) at all.

(13) The death penalty: The right-wing is all-out for the death penalty, all while they screech about being “pro-life” and rolling back a woman’s right to choose. But, like most liberals, Jesus Christ clearly did not believe humans had the right to take life from one another. “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” [James 4:12 KJV]

(14) Crime and punishment: Conservatives don’t just love the death penalty, they love meting out harsh punishments for even the least of crimes (unless you’re a Wall Street Banker). Our useless “war on drugs” — and large private prisons industry — explains why the US has the highest rate of people living behind bars in the world. Most liberals object to this, and so would Jesus Christ, who said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” [Matthew 7:1-2 KJV]

(15) On race: Although Jesus Christ lived in the remote region of Galilee for most of his life, He was born in Bethlehem and had traveled to Egypt and Jerusalem as a boy. He was probably more well-traveled than many people of his time, and had come across people of many cultures, colors, and nations. Jesus clearly shows that he sees no person as above another one when he said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” [John 13:16 KJV] Also, he was known to consort with all sorts of people who would have seemed scandalous to proper Jews of his time, including women, lepers, Roman tax collectors, his motley crew of fishermen-turned-apostles, and even — gasp — Mary Magdalene, who had a bad (and likely untrue) rep as a loose woman. It is unlikely that Jesus would have thought one race or skin color to be better than another.

NOTE: It is doubtful that Jesus Christ even would have been what we now call “white.” The Bible does not describe how He looked (other than things like “shining” and “radiant”). But, since Jesus and His family came from the Middle East, He is likely to have looked like today’s people from that region: Olive-skinned, dark-haired, and dark-eyed.

ELISABETH PARKER, Addicting info

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Italian Style Meets LGBT Tourism in New Free Travel App WIMBIFY Is Latest Offering from Sonders & Beach of Milan

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness,” Mark Twain said. “Broad views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth.” The tech saavy team of Sonders & Beach from Milan, Italy agrees, and have developed the new online app specific to the needs of the LGBT community: WIMBIFY.

“Wimbify is designed for the gay globetrotter,” said Alessio Virgili, WIMBIFY CEO and co-founder. “Traveling alone can sometimes be lonely and more expensive. WIMBIFY is a safe community where LGBT people can meet travel companions. You can ask for a lift or meet a local for a more personalized and friendly travel experience.”

“WIMBIFY stands for ‘Welcome to my back yard,’” explains co-founder Andrea Cosimi. “The concept behind the application is based in the increasingly popular philosophy of the sharing economy.”

Designed for both iOS and Android platforms, WIMBIFY is a free app, and has been developed specifically for the international LGBT community.

Specifically, WIMBIFY is designed to:
· Find LGBT hospitality and gay friendly accommodations.
· Check and post reviews of travel hosts and homeowners.
· Find gay guides to help you “live like a local.”
· Search for travel companions or shared transportation cost opportunities.

“Wimbify is a way for people to share unique travel experiences and destinations, ” said Virgili. “It allows people to host others for free by using the WIMBIFY app. This isn’t about renting rooms or paying to use someone’s flat. It’s about meeting people for friendship and sharing resources. It’s about connection and safety. What better way for a member of the LGBT community to feel safe and secure in a foreign country than with a local member of that LGBT community as their guide. ”

Founded by Virgili and Cosimi, Sonders & Beach is already an established leader in European LGBT travel and tourism with well known brands such as Quiiky (the first Italian LGBT tour operator and developer of the “Untold History” tours including the renowned “Vatican in a Gay Light” tour of the Vatican Museum, MiTown (a leisure website for visitors to Milan), and QMagazine (an international biannual publication of LGBT culture and tourism).

“According to recent studies, 53 % of LGBT people travel and live alone,” said Virgili. “WIMBLIFY is a free, easy and convenient way to find travel companions, low price or even free accommodations and to take advantage of discounts specific to the LGBT community.”

“Frankly,” laughs Cosimi. “We designed WIMBIFY for people just like us.”

WIMBIFY is slated to launch in the United States later this summer.

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Obama plays devil’s advocate … to himself

President Obama hosted a White House press conference this afternoon, the bulk of which dealt with the details of the international nuclear agreement with Iran. Reporters pressed Obama on several angles, and the president, to his credit, didn’t dodge anything – he offered detailed responses and defenses to every inquiry.

And then Obama did something I’ve never seen him – or really, any president – do. From the transcript:

“All right. Have we exhausted Iran questions here? I think there’s a helicopter that’s coming. But I really am enjoying this Iran debate.

“Topics that may not have been touched upon, criticisms that you’ve heard that I did not answer…. I just want to make sure that we’re not leaving any stones un-turned here.”

It’s really worth watching the video of this portion, because I’ve never seen anything like it at a White House press conference. In effect, Obama wanted to hear every possible criticism – from Republicans, from Israeli officials, from the media, anyone – of the Iran deal so that he could explain, in detail, why those criticisms are wrong.

Ordinarily, in response to a breakthrough diplomatic achievement like this one, you might expect to see a president sidestep criticisms and focus on praise and international support, all in the hopes of building public and congressional support. It’s typical, and arguably natural, for a president to downplay the role of naysayers.

Obama did the exact opposite. He welcomed criticisms. He literally sought them out. The president seemed eager, if not genuinely enthusiastic, about hearing the very worst critics could come up with. Obama effectively stood at the podium for an hour and said, “Give me your best shot.”

Indeed, after calling on specific reporters by name, Obama moved to a freer, more open press conference towards the end, pointing to those who had something negative to ask about the deal, all because the president was looking for critical talking points that he could debunk in real time.

Take a close look in the above clip at what the president does towards the end: he reaches into his pocket, pulls out a note, and says, “I’m just going to look – I made some notes about many of the arguments – the other arguments that I’ve heard here….”

In other words, the president, no longer content to debunk the negative arguments raised by the press corps, started playing devil’s advocate – to himself – looking for additional negative critiques that he could also discredit publicly.

It conveyed an amazing level of confidence in the diplomatic agreement. Obama made it clear that no matter what anyone asked, argued, or complained, he knew this deal is stronger than anything its (or his) critics could come up with.

The Huffington Post’s Ryan Lizza joked on Twitter, “Obama should propose a one-on-one debate between himself and an anti-Iran deal Republican of the party’s choice.” That’s funny, but I half-expected the president to go there.

Heck, maybe that’s next.

Steve Benen, MSNBC

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