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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.

- – -

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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LGBT Seniors To Get Passed Over In Senior Housing Complex Built For Them?

The affordable housing development currently under construction at 55 Laguna Street, on the former UC Berkeley Extension campus between Market Street and Haight, is being co-developed by a non-profit that helps find housing and services for LGBT senior citizens, and has been billed as the nation’s largest LGBT-oriented affordable housing development. It is near enough to the Castro, will ultimately have 119 units, and will provide essential, safe housing for aging LGBT residents. However only 40 units are coming online by next year, and as the Chronicle reports, it’s now only being called an “LGBT-welcoming” community, and it turns out that no preference for LGBT people will given in the city housing lottery from which the complex’s residents will be chosen.

Admittance into the city’s housing lottery is made through age and income alone, and while a development can sort for seniors (or in this case all those 55 or older with a household income at or below 50% of Area Median Income), they can’t legally give any other preference to applicants if they’re using government funds in the construction. The city does, however, give preference to people evicted under the Ellis Act.

Where this leaves Seth Kilbourn from the non-profit Openhouse is in an awkward position — he’s hosting workshops for LGBT seniors, educating them on how to apply for the lottery, but all he can do is try to stack the deck for 55 Laguna with as many LGBT applicants as possible, knowing that the majority of the applicants are going to come from the city’s general applicant pool. To put this in depressing perspective, there were 5,349 applicants for 69 affordable units recently constructed at 280 Beale Street, and 5,534 applicants for a 45-unit complex at 1100 Ocean Avenue.

As Openhouse explains, “As older adults, many LGBT seniors feel pressure to go back into the closet to receive quality care and housing. Many face serious challenges in finding welcoming and affordable housing and must relocate, leaving their cherished city and dear friends behind.” Thus they feel 55 Laguna will serve an important purpose for the community, and they can only subtly discourage others from applying by saying, “We anticipate that a large number of LGBT seniors will apply to live at 55 Laguna, with its inviting, safe and welcoming housing, services and community programs.”

So will the nation’s first and largest, affordable, “LGBT-welcoming” housing complex have more than the statistically few LGBT residents who get in through the random lottery? It only will if Openhouse and Supervisor Scott Wiener succeed in getting the word out and getting far more qualified LGBT applicants than straight ones.


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Walker dismisses minimum wage as ‘lame’

Just a few weeks before his re-election bid, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was asked whether minimum-wage laws should even exist. The Republican governor replied, “Well, I’m not going to repeal it but I don’t think it’s, I don’t think it serves a purpose.”
Seven months later, shortly after kicking off his GOP presidential campaign, Walker went just a little further. The Washington Post reported:
Scott Walker appeared to take aim at the national minimum wage on Monday evening, referring to it as one of many “lame ideas” pushed by Democrats.
Walker’s comment came in a lengthy interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity immediately following a speech formally announcing his entrance into the 2016 presidential race. Walker said the next president needs to speak the language of the industrial Midwest and connect with the working class.
According to the video, eagerly disseminated by Democratic officials, Walker told the Fox News host, “The left claims that they’re for American workers and they’ve just got just really lame ideas – things like the minimum wage.”
In context, there was nothing to suggest the governor was talking about his opposition to a minimum-wage increase, so much as the existence of the minimum wage itself. To hear Walker tell it, the law is a “lame” benefit for American workers.
It’s a pretty provocative move for a national candidate – increasing the minimum wage is one of the more popular ideas in the country right now, enjoying broad support for a wide range of voters. Just a month ago, a CBS News poll found 71% of Americans want to see the minimum wage go from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour – and that included a majority of self-identified Republican voters.
The Wisconsin governor, meanwhile, appears to support lowering the minimum wage to $0.
What’s just as interesting is how common this position has become in GOP circles. For decades, the debate was largely limited to those who wanted to raise the minimum wage and those who wanted to leave it unchanged. There were a few folks on the margins opposed to the law itself, but this was a fringe position that few took seriously.
This year, however, a growing number of presidential candidates are practically boasting about their hostility forwards the minimum wage. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), for example, has suggested getting rid of the minimum altogether, arguing it’s not “the government’s business” to interfere with wages. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has said, plainly, “I don’t think a minimum wage law works.”
Earlier this year, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), whom some see as a moderate, went so far as to say, “We need to leave it to the private sector. I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this.”
Walker clearly wants to be part of the same club. Expect this to be a major issue in the 2016 elections.
Steve  Benen, MSNBC
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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Bastille Day

Because July 14 is the French equivalent to our July 4 -  a day a new burst of freedom was felt – I thought it might be appropriate to take a little trip down memory lane courtesy of my archives, which because of various estate sale purchases include photos of historic events taken by some one other than me.  One such case is a photograph of Charles De Gaulle on state visit to the USA in 1960. On the back of the photo is stamped, “photographed exclusively for Hotel Mark Hopkins by V. M HANKS, JR. San Francisco”.


Charles De Gaulle arriving at the Mark Hopkins April 28, 1960

While I have no idea who the person is that is actually shaking hands with the French President, the man with the braid on his shoulder whose face is partially obscured by De Gaulle provides a visual explanation for the following incident recorded on the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental website, “When General Charles de Gaulle of France entered the hotel during a visit to the United States in the 1960′s, he mistook doorman Mark “Smilin’ Jack” O’Neil for some sort of American military officer, and he gave him a smart Gaelic salute. O’Neil promptly returned the salute.”

 EPSON scanner image

 President Ford and French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing during welcoming ceremonies at the White House in May of 1976.

Even though President Ford had one of the shortest terms in office, he had his share of State visits because everyone wanted to come to the United States during the Bicentennial.  I was fortunate enough to be working for a United States Senator at the time so I was able to get tickets to some of the official welcoming ceremonies.


First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton(center), Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, (far right)  National AIDS Policy Director Patsy Fleming (third from left)  and French first lady Bernadette Chirac  (third from right) visit the Whitman – Walker Clinic to participate in a roundtable discussion with women in the Women’s Interagency HIV Study in February of 1996.

Although I was still living in Washington, DC during most of the Clinton years I was not able to get tickets to the welcoming ceremonies for the Chirac’s official state visit in 1996. While I would like to take credit for the photo, I think it was actually taken by one of the clinic’s photographer.


The current French President Francois Hollande  was presented with a key to the city by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on February 12, 2014.

It was very fitting that French President Hollande visited San Francisco on February 12, 2014, the tenth anniversary of the first same sex marriages that happened under then Mayor Gavin Newsom.


French President Hollande and Ca. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom February 12, 2014.

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I, Racist

What follows is the text of a “sermon” that I gave as a “congregational reflection” to an all White audience at the Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ on Sunday, June 28th. The sermon was begun with a reading of The Good Samaritan story, and this wonderful quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.

A couple weeks ago, I was debating what I was going to talk about in this sermon. I told Pastor Kelly Ryan I had great reservations talking about the one topic that I think about every single day.

Then, a terrorist massacred nine innocent people in a church that I went to, in a city that I still think of as home. At that point, I knew that despite any misgivings, I needed to talk about race.

You see, I don’t talk about race with White people. To illustrate why, I’ll tell a story:

It was probably about 15 years ago when a conversation took place between my aunt, who is White and lives in New York State, and my sister, who is Black and lives in North Carolina. This conversation can be distilled to a single sentence, said by my Black sister:

“The only difference between people in The North and people in The South is that down here, at least people are honest about being racist.”
There was a lot more to that conversation, obviously, but I suggest that it can be distilled into that one sentence because it has been, by my White aunt. Over a decade later, this sentence is still what she talks about. It has become the single most important aspect of my aunt’s relationship with my Black family. She is still hurt by the suggestion that people in New York, that she, a northerner, a liberal, a good person who has Black family members, is a racist.

This perfectly illustrates why I don’t talk about race with White people. Even– or rather, especially– my own family.

I love my aunt. She’s actually my favorite aunt, and believe me, I have a lot of awesome aunts to choose from. But the facts are actually quite in my sister’s favor on this one.

New York State is one of the most segregated states in the country. Buffalo, New York where my aunt lives is one of the 10 most segregated school systems in the country. The racial inequality of the area she inhabits is so bad that it has been the subject of reports by the Civil Rights Action Network and the NAACP.

Those, however, are facts that my aunt does not need to know. She does not need to live with the racial segregation and oppression of her home. As a white person with upward mobility, she has continued to improve her situation. She moved out of the area I grew up in– she moved to an area with better schools. She doesn’t have to experience racism, and so it is not real to her.

Nor does it dawn on her that the very fact that she moved away from an increasingly Black neighborhood to live in a White suburb might itself be a aspect of racism. She doesn’t need to realize that “better schools” exclusively means “whiter schools.”

I don’t talk about race with White people because I have so often seen it go nowhere. When I was younger, I thought it was because all white people are racist. Recently, I’ve begun to understand that it’s more nuanced than that.

To understand, you have to know that Black people think in terms of Black people. We don’t see a shooting of an innocent Black child in another state as something separate from us because we know viscerally that it could be our child, our parent, or us, that is shot.

The shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston resonated with me because Walter Scott was portrayed in the media as a deadbeat and a criminal– but when you look at the facts about the actual man, he was nearly indistinguishable from my own father.

Racism affects us directly because the fact that it happened at a geographically remote location or to another Black person is only a coincidence, an accident. It could just as easily happen to us- right here, right now.

Black people think in terms of we because we live in a society where the social and political structures interact with us as Black people.

White people do not think in terms of we. White people have the privilege to interact with the social and political structures of our society as individuals. You are “you,” I am “one of them.” Whites are often not directly affected by racial oppression even in their own community, so what does not affect them locally has little chance of affecting them regionally or nationally. They have no need, nor often any real desire, to think in terms of a group. They are supported by the system, and so are mostly unaffected by it.

What they are affected by are attacks on their own character. To my aunt, the suggestion that “people in The North are racist” is an attack on her as a racist. She is unable to differentiate her participation within a racist system (upwardly mobile, not racially profiled, able to move to White suburbs, etc.) from an accusation that she, individually, is a racist. Without being able to make that differentiation, White people in general decide to vigorously defend their own personal non-racism, or point out that it doesn’t exist because they don’t see it.

The result of this is an incessantly repeating argument where a Black person says “Racism still exists. It is real,” and a white person argues “You’re wrong, I’m not racist at all. I don’t even see any racism.” My aunt’s immediate response is not “that is wrong, we should do better.” No, her response is self-protection: “That’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything. You are wrong.”

Racism is not slavery. As President Obama said, it’s not avoiding the use of the word Nigger. Racism is not white water fountains and the back of the bus. Martin Luther King did not end racism. Racism is a cop severing the spine of an innocent man. It is a 12 year old child being shot for playing with a toy gun in a state where it is legal to openly carry firearms.

But racism is even more subtle than that. It’s more nuanced. Racism is the fact that “White” means “normal” and that anything else is different. Racism is our acceptance of an all white Lord of the Rings cast because of “historical accuracy,” ignoring the fact that this is a world with an entirely fictionalized history.

Even when we make shit up, we want it to be white.

And racism is the fact that we all accept that it is white. Benedict Cumberbatch playing Khan in Star Trek. Khan, who is from India. Is there anyone Whiter than Benedict fucking Cumberbatch? What? They needed a “less racial” cast because they already had the Black Uhura character?

That is racism. Once you let yourself see it, it’s there all the time.

Black children learn this when their parents give them “The Talk.” When they are sat down at the age of 5 or so and told that their best friend’s father is not sick, and not in a bad mood– he just doesn’t want his son playing with you. Black children grow up early to life in The Matrix. We’re not given a choice of the red or blue pill. Most white people, like my aunt, never have to choose. The system was made for White people, so White people don’t have to think about living in it.

But we can’t point this out.

Living every single day with institutionalized racism and then having to argue its very existence, is tiring, and saddening, and angering. Yet if we express any emotion while talking about it, we’re tone policed, told we’re being angry. In fact, a key element in any racial argument in America is the Angry Black person, and racial discussions shut down when that person speaks. The Angry Black person invalidates any arguments about racism because they are “just being overly sensitive,” or “too emotional,” or– playing the race card. Or even worse, we’re told that we are being racist (Does any intelligent person actually believe a systematically oppressed demographic has the ability to oppress those in power?)

But here is the irony, here’s the thing that all the angry Black people know, and no calmly debating White people want to admit: The entire discussion of race in America centers around the protection of White feelings.

Ask any Black person and they’ll tell you the same thing. The reality of thousands of innocent people raped, shot, imprisoned, and systematically disenfranchised are less important than the suggestion that a single White person might be complicit in a racist system.

This is the country we live in. Millions of Black lives are valued less than a single White person’s hurt feelings.

White people and Black people are not having a discussion about race. Black people, thinking as a group, are talking about living in a racist system. White people, thinking as individuals, refuse to talk about “I, racist” and instead protect their own individual and personal goodness. In doing so, they reject the existence of racism.

But arguing about personal non-racism is missing the point.

Despite what the Charleston Massacre makes things look like, people are dying not because individuals are racist, but because individuals are helping support a racist system by wanting to protect their own non-racist self beliefs.

People are dying because we are supporting a racist system that justifies White people killing Black people.

We see this in the way that one Muslim killer is a sign of Islamic terror; in the way one Mexican thief is a pointer to the importance of border security; in one innocent, unarmed Black man is shot in the back by a cop, then sullied in the media as a thug and criminal.

And in the way a white racist in a state that still flies the confederate flag is seen as “troubling” and “unnerving.” In the way people “can’t understand why he would do such a thing.”

A white person smoking pot is a “Hippie” and a Black person doing it is a “criminal.” It’s evident in the school to prison pipeline and the fact that there are close to 20 people of color in prison for every white person.

There’s a headline from The Independent that sums this up quite nicely: “Charleston shooting: Black and Muslim killers are ‘terrorists’ and ‘thugs’. Why are white shooters called ‘mentally ill’?”

I’m gonna read that again: “Black and Muslim killers are ‘terrorists’ and ‘thugs’. Why are white shooters called ‘mentally ill’?”

Did you catch that? It’s beautifully subtle. This is an article talking specifically about the different way we treat people of color in this nation and even in this article’s headline, the white people are “shooters” and the Black and Muslim people are “killers.”

Even when we’re talking about racism, we’re using racist language to make people of color look dangerous and make White people come out as not so bad.

Just let that sink in for a minute, then ask yourself why Black people are angry when they talk about race.

The reality of America is that White people are fundamentally good, and so when a white person commits a crime, it is a sign that they, as an individual, are bad. Their actions as a person are not indicative of any broader social construct. Even the fact that America has a growing number of violent hate groups, populated mostly by white men, and that nearly *all* serial killers are white men can not shadow the fundamental truth of white male goodness. In fact, we like White serial killers so much, we make mini-series about them.

White people are good as a whole, and only act badly as individuals.

People of color, especially Black people (but boy we can talk about “The Mexicans” in this community) are seen as fundamentally bad. There might be a good one– and we are always quick to point them out to our friends, show them off as our Academy Award for “Best Non-Racist in a White Role”– but when we see a bad one, it’s just proof that the rest are, as a rule, bad.

This, all of this, expectation, treatment, thought, the underlying social system that puts White in the position of Normal and good, and Black in the position of “other” and “bad,” all of this, is racism.

And White people, every single one of you, are complicit in this racism because you benefit directly from it.

This is why I don’t like the story of the good samaritan. Everyone likes to think of themselves as the person who sees someone beaten and bloodied and helps him out.

That’s too easy.

If I could re-write that story, I’d rewrite it from the perspective of Black America. What if the person wasn’t beaten and bloody? What if it wasn’t so obvious? What if they were just systematically challenged in a thousand small ways that actually made it easier for you to succeed in life?

Would you be so quick to help then, or would you, like most White people, stay silent and let it happen.

Here’s what I want to say to you: Racism is so deeply embedded in this country not because of the racist right-wing radicals who practice it openly, it exists because of the silence and hurt feelings of liberal America.

That’s what I want to say, but really, I can’t. I can’t say that because I’ve spent my life not talking about race to White people. In a big way, it’s my fault. Racism exists because I, as a Black person, don’t challenge you to look at it.

Racism exists because I, not you, am silent.

But I’m caught in the perfect Catch 22, because when I start pointing out racism, I become the Angry Black Person, and the discussion shuts down again. So I’m stuck.

All the Black voices in the world speaking about racism all the time do not move White people to think about it– but one White John Stewart talking about Charleston has a whole lot of White people talking about it. That’s the world we live in. Black people can’t change it while White people are silent and deaf to our words.

White people are in a position of power in this country because of racism. The question is: Are they brave enough to use that power to speak against the system that gave it to them?

So I’m asking you to help me. Notice this. Speak up. Don’t let it slide. Don’t stand watching in silence. Help build a world where it never gets to the point where the Samaritan has to see someone bloodied and broken.

As for me, I will no longer be silent. I’m going to try to speak kindly, and softly, but that’s gonna be hard. Because it’s getting harder and harder for me to think about the protection of White people’s feelings when White people don’t seem to care at all about the loss of so many Black lives.

John Metta.

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Patrolling the Castro and Duboce Triangle mainly on weekend nights are mostly LGBT volunteers watching out for us wearing orange uniforms. Their organization, Castro Community on Patrol (CCOP), is a walking neighborhood watch which doesn’t intervene but instead observes incidents and navigates the various police and medical emergency systems as warranted.  Greg Carey, the Chair of CCOP, is well-versed in the duties of the various police and medical services in San Francisco.  They often contact the same private police force, the patrol special police, where Officer Jane Warner is a former member.

Established by Scott Wiener, Bevan Dufty, Carlton Paul, and Ken Craig in association with chief of police Heather Fong in 2006, CCOP has built strong relationships with area neighborhood associations and city agencies.  Similar groups such as CCOP serve LGBT neighborhoods in both San Diego and Seattle.

Mr. Carey joined CCOP “for the exercise” as patroller in 2007 but quickly ended up in management.  I asked him about the safety of his volunteers walking our streets sometimes late into the night.  He states “there has never been an occasion where patrollers were at risk.” He believes this is because each team consists of 3-4 people. Currently there are 30 trained patrollers.  The next patroller training is scheduled for July 14 at 7pm and takes place every 2 months.  If CCOP is successful in recruiting more patrollers, additional shifts would become available.   Requirements include “ability to: walk 3 hours, run 2 blocks in emergencies and understand that protection is more important than reaction.”

CCOP is funded by a small grant from the City, the Castro Street Fair and occasional bar events.  Thousands of whistles for use in case of emergency have been distributed at a cost of about $1 each.  CCOP also offers free self-defense and advanced self-defense classes several times per year.
The issues that deemed the creation of a walking neighborhood watch necessary are not expected to subside.  Instead, Mr. Carey feels that “more LGBT rights equals more people pissed off.” He plans on staying on as Chair of the CCOP and enjoying the personal interaction.

Questions or wish to volunteer? Contact or call 415-ASK-CCOP  Also see

Castro Community on Patrol is holding patroller training July 14 at 7pm. If space is available, please consider publishing this interview to promote recruitment.

By Paul Margolis – founder of (a website promoting SF LGBT nonprofits, arts and athletic groups)

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Sam Brownback (R-KS) Signs Sweeping Anti-LGBT Executive Order

Governor Sam Brownback today signed in a sweeping executive order with significant changes afoot – and many not imagined.


Preservation and Protection of Religious Freedom

WHEREAS, the protection of religious liberty from government infringement is a constitutional and fundamental state interest, and government is obligated to take measures that advance this interest by preventing government interference with religious exercise in a way that complements the protections mandated by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which provides:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

and Section Seven of the Bill of Rights of the Kansas Constitution, which provides:

The right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any person be compelled to attend or support any form of worship; nor shall any control of or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted, nor any preference be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship.

; and

WHEREAS, Kansas has a tradition of cooperating with charitable, religious, and private organizations in providing social services. Religious organizations and individuals have a long and distinguished history, which predates the State’s involvement, of providing critical social services. Religious organizations have a unique capacity to provide these services and thus deliver substantial benefits to the residents of this State; and

WHEREAS, on April 10, 2013, I signed H.B. 2203, enacting the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, K.S.A. 60-5303, which makes clear that state government shall not “substantially burden a person’s civil right to exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless such government demonstrates, by clear and convincing evidence, that application of the burden to the person: (1) Is in furtherance of a compelling government interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest” ; and

WHEREAS, the recent imposition of same sex marriage by the United States Supreme Court poses potential infringements on the civil right of religious liberty; and

WHEREAS, government actions and laws that protect the free exercise of religious beliefs about marriage will encourage private citizens and institutions to demonstrate tolerance for those beliefs and convictions and therefore contribute to a more respectful, diverse, and peaceful society.

NOW THEREFORE, pursuant to the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Kansas, I hereby order and direct as follows:

General protection of the free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions

The State Government is prohibited from taking any action inconsistent with the restrictions placed upon the State Government by the United States Constitution, or the Kansas Constitution, or the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, against any individual clergy, religious leader, or religious organization on the basis that such person or organization believes or sincerely acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.

Specific protections for persons and religious organizations

(a)  The State Government shall not take any discriminatory action against any individual clergy or religious leader on the basis that such individual declines or will decline to perform, solemnize, or facilitate any marriage, based upon or consistent with the individual’s sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 1.

(b) The State Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a religious organization, including those providing social services, wholly or partially on the basis that such organization declines or will decline to solemnize any marriage or to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, celebration or recognition of any marriage, based upon or consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 1.

(c) The State Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a religious organization that provides social services or charitable services, which acts or intends to act upon sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 1.


(a) As used in this Order, State Government means all departments, commissions, boards, agencies, and political subdivisions of the State of Kansas.

(b) As used in this Order, discriminatory action means any action taken by the State Government including, but not limited to:

(1) negatively alter the tax treatment of, or cause any tax, penalty, or payment to be assessed against, delay, revoke, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, an exemption from taxation of, any person;

(2) disallow or otherwise make unavailable or deny a deduction for state tax purposes of any charitable contribution made to or by such person;

(3) withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, materially alter the terms or conditions of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, any state grant, contract, subcontract, cooperative agreement, or loan from or to any person;

(4) withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, materially alter the terms or conditions of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, any accreditation, licensing, custody award or agreement, recognition, or certification from or to any person.

(c) Nothing in this Order shall be construed to prevent the State Government from providing, either directly or indirectly, any benefit or service authorized under State law.

This document shall be filed with the Secretary of State as Executive Order 15-05 and shall become effective immediately.


The proposal, which extends to social services and is unspecific as to religious faith or beliefs held, indicate the state cannot deny support or practice any discriminatory standard because those organizations choose to discriminate.

I’m currently unaware of any intent – by anyone – to get churches who do not believe in Gay Marriage to force them to recognize the same. In the same way that I have, to this point, not made an active point of storming into churches to pronounce they recognize my marriage to my heterosexual partner.. I guess they could recognize it, or not, I just haven’t been that consumed in making them worry about it.

It is in section (B) however, that the Governor goes a step farther:


organization declines or will decline to solemnize any marriage or to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, celebration or recognition of any marriage

Because the government equates providing services with “accommodations, facilities, goods or priveleges” we get into a VERY tricky area. Many hospitals and emergency trauma centers throughout the state exist as religiously held entities. The nearest hospital to me, in Overland Park, as an example is 7th Day Adventist. Nearby, a Catholic Hospital also exists – both intake emergency (911) care.Under the standard practiced by Kansas, the marital vows of an LGBT couple could be renounced in the confines of that hospital, leaving married partners unable to speak to the life care decisions of a sick or ill partner.

In an effort to stir up hysteria over continued claims of groups forcing churches to recognize gay couples despite their beliefs, Governor Brownback conflates the public sphere — which has long acknowledged remarriage of Catholic spouses without the church required anulment — with the private religious sphere.

In their haste to continue the fear and uncertainty about gay marriage in Kansas, the Governor’s quick drafting work creates a situation in which one of the key benefits of marriage — the ability to speak for a partner’s life choices when ill — may stand at risk.

Update: I’ve spoken to Thomas Witt, Executive Director of Equality Kansas, who pointed out that Gov. Brownback’s Executive Order cannot over ride statute, and that federal acceptance of funds for hospitals would make them unlikely to take the risk. Still, what the executive order does do is signal continued opposition to change on the issue, and helps create marketplace confusion. More importantly, it continues to hype the fear of a non-issues and conspiracies in order to stoke the fire of those who want to propose conspiracy theories over the issue: “Its a tantrum”.


Chris Reeves, Daily Kos

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Hillary Clinton promises megadonor she will work with Republicans– to oppose BDS

Hillary Clinton wrote a letter to Haim Saban, the biggest giver on the Democratic side, saying that she will be speaking out publicly against BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign aimed at Israel, and will work “across party lines” to oppose it.

In a two page letter with a handwritten postscript, released by Saban to the press, Clinton expresses “alarm” at the movement, links anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and the murderous attacks on French Jews, and tells Saban that she first “fell in love” with Israel more than 30 years ago when she and Bill Clinton walked the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City. (Sorry, but that’s occupied Palestine.) And Israel is a miracle; but it’s definitely not South Africa:

I am also very concerned by attempts to compare Israel with South African apartheid. Israel is a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy, and it faces existential threats to its survival. Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world — especially in Europe — we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.

She seeks Saban’s thoughts and recommendations about how to engage communities across the country to counter BDS. From Congress to state legislatures, to classrooms and boardrooms, we need to engage all people of good faith to show why BDS is harmful to Palestinians and Israelis. (But every Palestinian I’ve met is in favor of BDS!)

BDS must be doing something right to be getting this kind of attention. This is all about money; Hillary Clinton needs to raise more than $2 billion, much of it from pro-Israel Jews. Saban just staged a conference in Las Vegas with Sheldon Adelson, the big Republican giver, to come up with ideas to counter BDS. The big idea was millions of dollars.

A few weeks back President Obama also said that anti-Zionism was anti-Semitism. He is presumably supporting Democratic candidates for office.

Clinton says that the Palestinians cannot unilaterally declare a state, and no one can impose a solution on Israel. She brags on her record as a U.S. senator and secretary of state, saying she opposed “dozens of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN.” She writes that she supported Israel after the “biased” Goldstone Report.

“Time after time I have made it clear that America will always stand up for Israel — and that’s what I’ll always do as President.”

Clinton does not care that the Democratic base is deserting her on this issue. She thinks she can push this position through. Coverage of the letter is at Politico and Haaretz.


Philip Weiss,

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Jimmy Carter: Losing my religion for equality

I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices - as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Jimmy Carter,

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Si Robertson, ‘Duck Dynasty’ Star, Says Atheists Don’t Exist

There’s no such thing as an atheist, according to one of the stars of the reality TV show “Duck Dynasty.”

Si Robertson, known to fans of the show as “Uncle Si,” told the Christian Post that anyone who uses the date is acknowledging Jesus.

There’s no such thing as an atheist,” Robertson told the website. “I’m serious, because there’s too much documentation. Our calendars are based on Jesus Christ. Whether you believe in him or not, every time you sign your calendar, you add down the day’s date, you’re saying he’s here, OK? That’s documented.”

While the widely used Gregorian calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582uses years based on the approximate birth of Jesus Christ, the names of many of the months and days of the week retain their pagan origins. March, for example, is named for Mars, the Roman god of war. Tuesday is based on Tiu or Tiw, the Germanic god of war.

Robertson, a Vietnam War veteran, also cited a variation of the maxim, “there are no atheists in foxholes,” claiming that people turn to faith when they are in trouble.

“If you get in a serious bind, the first thing you’ll do is say [God], please help me,” Robertson told the website.

Robertson is promoting the film “Faith Of Our Fathers,” which is about two men who served in the Vietnam War, one of whom is devout while the other is a skeptic.

Skeptics, apparently, do exist.

“There’s a lot of skeptics,” Robertson said.

The movie focuses on the two men as well as their sons, who meet years later. According to IMDb, Robertson has a role in the film as a gas station clerk.

“Faith Of Our Fathers” currently has an 11 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on nine reviews, and a score of 20 on Metacritic based on five reviews.

The Huffington Post   |  By
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True Leaders at the Presidio Trust: Nancy Bechtle, William Hambrecht, Charlene Harvey: Editorial

1 presidio trust

San Francisco should be justly proud of the independent and visionary leadership of outgoing Presidio Trust President Nancy Hellman Bechtle and board members William Hambrecht and Charlene Harvey.   Their hard work, independence and dedication to serving the public deserves praise from every San Franciscan and California resident.

During their tenure, and because of their leadership–along with the guiding hand of recently retired Presidio Trust Executive Director Craig Middleton–the Presidio is financially self-sufficient and a thriving example of public-private partnerships that exemplify the very best in public parks, recreation and conservation in the World today.

In the face of overwhelming political pressure, these individuals and other Trust board members Paula Robinson Collins and Alex Mehran created new opportunities for San Franciscans, Californians and visitors to access one of the great treasures of American parks—The Presidio. Our Presidio.

And, just recently, the leadership of these individuals was demonstrated for everyone to see: they unanimously stood up to megalomaniac billionaire Star Wars director George Lucas, whose proposed vanity museum would have been a disgrace to San Francisco and the Presidio Trust.  Through open hearings, transparency and fairness their process concluded that not only should Lucas’s horrific design be rejected, but that two other competing proposal should turned down as well.

They took this action against the political and social pressure of Mayor Ed Lee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.  That, in itself, is no small feat. They also stood strong against venture capitalist Ron Conway, who became a one man sycophant for Lucas and his museum.  Even now, in defeat, Ron Conway continues to embarrass himself by claiming a conspiracy against George Lucas.

We believe and hope that new members Lynne Benioff, Nicola Miner, Janet Reilly, and John Keker will continue to keep the independent leadership exhibited by Bechtle, Hambrecht and Harvey alive.  The legacy left by Bechtle, Hambrecht and Harvey is an important milestone in San Francisco and Presidio history.  And, it is something that would have made Congressman Philip Burton, who championed the Presidio’s preservation, very proud.


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Can PG&E Be Trusted? Carmel Puts Pacific Gas & Electric Co. on Notice in Carmel Explosion

Jason Burnett, Mayor of Carmel, California

Jason Burnett, Mayor of Carmel, California


Five years after a devastating pipeline explosion ripped through the city of San Bruno, killing eight, and a year after another explosion destroyed a house in Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. still doesn’t have accurate records of the gas pipes around our homes, neighborhoods and businesses, the business practices to compensate for their inaccurate records, or the tools in place to immediately halt a gas leak. Each day this situation is not fixed puts the public’s safety at risk.

That’s not my opinion alone, but the concern of the California Public Utilities Commission, which opened a formal investigation of PG&E’s practices and record-keeping after recent pipeline accidents in Carmel, Mountain View, Milpitas, Morgan Hill and Castro Valley highlighted the risk to public safety of PG&E not having accurate records or maps of its vast pipeline network.

The proceeding — which could lead to more penalties and fines against PG&E — follows a report by the CPUC’s Safety Enforcement Division finding that PG&E’s pipeline records are too inadequate and too flawed to be trusted when making critically important, ongoing safety decisions. The public remains at risk until these issues are resolved.

It’s the same problem that caused tragedy in 2010, when PG&E’s record-keeping errors led to a fatal fire and explosion in San Bruno. PG&E is now facing a $1.6 billion penalty and fine for its mistakes.

And it’s the reason that another explosion shook Carmel, when in 2014 bad records misled construction crews replacing a gas-distribution line at Guadalupe and Third Street. The pressurized “live” line was punctured, causing gas to escape into a nearby house. PG&E knew it had caused a leak but allowed this dangerous situation to persist for more than 30 minutes without calling 911. Our police and firefighters were therefore not alerted and were not able to evacuate the area. The house exploded, sending building debris just over the heads of crews and residents walking nearby. Shrapnel was hurled into neighboring houses and windows were blown in by shock waves. It was a miracle nobody was killed, but we cannot rely on miracles to protect the public safety. The incident should have been prevented.

Yet bad records seem to be only part of the problem with PG&E in the Carmel region, which has suffered a string of incidents and life-threatening service delays since the initial incident.

Immediately prior to the 2014 explosion, construction crews realized they had accidentally tapped into an inserted plastic main, a main that records did not indicate existed. Once the main started leaking, PG&E did not have the “squeezer” tools in place to immediately stop gas flow.

PG&E crews were forced to halt the leak manually and it took them more than 60 minutes to do so. It was too late — the house exploded within 30 minutes.

PG&E has since been fined $10.8 million for its role in the Carmel explosion, with more penalties to come, depending on the outcome of the CPUC investigation.

Despite PG&E’s lip service and empty promises of recovery, five subsequent pipeline accidents and leaks in the Carmel area have shaken our confidence in the company’s commitment to safety.

Last year, shortly after the house explosion, another gas leak was reported in a major hotel. PG&E took more than five hours to respond. Weeks later another gas leak threatened Carmel when a third-party construction crew hit a pipe outside another hotel. A 20-foot gas cloud lingered for 20 minutes before PG&E crews finally arrived and they took over an hour to stop the leak.

While PG&E was able to halt these leaks before tragedy struck in the crowded area, the incidents underscored our urgency to make sure PG&E implements several potentially lifesaving safety measures to prevent future pipeline breaches from threatening this community again.

These include better training of construction crews with the necessary emergency tools to make sure gas leaks are stopped quickly. Crews must respond to odor calls in a timely fashion, and a project manager must be designated to monitor construction projects and make regular site visits for possible pipeline interference.

As we prepare to participate in the upcoming CPUC investigation of PG&E’s record-keeping and safety practices, we intend to require these measures as part of any penalties levied. We simply can’t trust that PG&E will impose these measures on its own. The safety of our communities and the lives of our residents depend on our diligence.

Jason Burnett is mayor of Carmel.

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