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Dancers’ Group in association with Yerba Buena Gardens Festival presents a new site-specific work by Sara Shelton Mann

Dancers’ Group in association with Yerba Buena Gardens Festival is pleased to present The Eye of Horus, a series of site-specific solos by Sara Shelton Mann, presented free outdoors at Jessie Square in San Francisco, April 24-May 3.

Acclaimed choreographer and teacher Sara Shelton Mann is “an iconoclast who has performed to great acclaim and inspired others for decades” wrote San Francisco Bay Guardian critic Rita Felciano in a recent article awarding the artist a 2014 Goldie Lifetime Achievement Award. In The Eye or Horus Mann investigates archetypes through her five dancers: Christine Bonansea, Sherwood Chen, Jesse Hewit, Jorge de Hoyos and Sara Yassky.

Conceived as both a very intimate work and a large-scale spectacle, each solo incorporates DIY sound, media and light elements constructed by Production Designer David Szlasa to interact with the dancer, cityscape and audience.

Mann took her inspiration from Sacred Contracts, a book on archetypes by bestselling author Caroline Myss in creating this new series of solos. Of the work Mann said, “I’m interested in creating solos from the performers’ specific areas of interest and skill that will rub up against the social and political landscape of San Francisco. My goal is to have many archetypes and their aspects in a performance dialogue. Within each of the solos there is one of us. Imagine seeing many parts of our own internal lives as if looking into a mirror.”

“Dancers’ Group is thrilled to be supporting the work of a dance artist who has had such a deep impact on the Bay Area dance scene,” said Dancers’ Group Executive Director Wayne Hazzard. “The Eye of Horus provides us with an opportunity to bring together many generations of dance audiences and expose younger ones to Sara’s work and legacy.”

Located at 3rd and Mission Streets in front of the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Jessie Square is a highly visible public site, attracting both local business-people and tourists visiting the museum and the adjacent Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as well as shops and businesses. “Jessie Square makes for the perfect space where to present The Eye of Horus,” said Mann. “Its rich history, as a state at bay, as a landing pad that used to be a substation, as a place where buildings jut out and careen upward next to one another. If energy never dies, then that energy is still underground rising up through the stones of the once called historical lane. Somehow Jessie Square seems to hold at bay the past as well as the future.”

The Eye of Horus is presented as part of Dancers’ Group’s ONSITE Series. Through the ONSITE series, Dancers’ Group presents large-scale public projects that allow the organization to engage new audiences and to increase the visibility of local dance and dance artists. Previous ONSITE projects have included The Shifting Cornerstone by Joanna Haigood and Zaccho Dance Theater in August 2008; Spirit of Place at Stern Grove, by Anna Halprin in May 2009; Hit & Run Hula by Patrick Makuākane and company, Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu in August 2009; Love Everywhere by the Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project in February 2010; Intimate Visibility by LEVYdance in March 2010; We Don’t Belong Here by Katie Faulkner in 2011; Niagara Falling by Jo Kreiter in 2012; and He Moved Swiftly But Gently Down the Not Too Crowded Street: Ed Mock and Other True Tales in a City That Once Was… by Amara Tabor-Smith in June 2013.

Sara Shelton Mann is an educator, choreographer and writer who has created an interdisciplinary training and performance style dedicated to the enlightenment of the individual and the integrity of one’s relationship with the social and natural world. Early in her career, she danced in the companies of Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis, before serving as artistic director of the Halifax Dance Co-Op in Nova Scotia. In 1979 in San Francisco, she formed Contraband, a group of collaborative artists dedicated to the evolution of an interdisciplinary dance vision. Over the next decade, Contraband staged 7 full-evening productions at abandoned building sites, warehouses and public housing projects destroyed by arson fire, and Mann established a complex interdisciplinary performance style and movement vocabulary that significantly influenced the evolution of contemporary dance in the Bay Area.

From 1996 to 1999, Mann collaborated and toured internationally with Guillermo Gomez-Peña, and since 2000, she has created 11 major works in collaboration with John O’Keefe, Austin Forbord, David Szlasa, Rinde Eckert and others. Mann is a Master NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Practitioner, a certified Reconnection Healer(TM), a Dowser, and has years of study in various spiritual traditions, shamanic practices and healing trainings.

Mann has received 6 San Francisco Bay Area Isadora Duncan Awards, a 2000 Guggenheim Fellowship in Choreography, two CHIME mentorship awards and an award from the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation. Her work has been funded by the NEA, California Arts Council, American Dance Touring Initiative (Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund), and Dance/USA, among many others. She has held residencies at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as a Wattis Artist; Granada Artist at UC Davis; Potsdam International Festivalof Dance & Theater, Germany; Archstoyanie Festival, Russia; and the Djerassi Artist in Residence Program. She has created work extensively and toured nationally and internationally since 1985.

Dancers’ Group promotes the visibility and viability of dance and serves San Francisco Bay Area artists, the dance community and audiences through programs and services that are as collaborative and innovative as the creative process. As the primary dance service organization in the Bay Area, we support the second largest dance community in the nation by providing many programs and resources that help artists produce work, build audiences, and connect with their peers and community.

Recognized as a national model in the field of dance, Dancers’ Group has roots that are broad and deep within the Bay Area dance community. Begun in 1982 as a small collective of dance choreographers in need of studio space, Dancers’ Group has always been, first and foremost, an artist-centric organization closely connected to its constituents, with programs, services and advocacy work developed to address both the specific and broad needs of those involved in dance. Through a network of partnerships that have given it access to artists working across the broad spectrum of styles, forms, cultures and practices in the Bay Area, Dancers’ Group has built programs and services designed to fulfill the wide-ranging needs of the region’s diverse dance community. In 1983, it began to develop a menu of presenting programs, which now serve as a central part of its operations and reach an audience of more than 30,000 per year.

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The Bundy crisis in Nevada: Don’t like a law? Get a gun.

It’s not uncommon for conservative media to put a very different spin on current events than major news organizations. For example, news consumers who surround themselves with nothing but conservative media might believe right now that the Affordable Care Act is in a death spiral, the IRS “scandal” is heating up; the nation is facing a debt crisis; the Benghazi conspiracy will soon rock the White House; etc.
But once in a while, conservative media doesn’t just put a unique spin on the news, it also identifies stories that exist largely below the radar. Over the last week, for example, far-right news consumers have been captivated with coverage of Cliven Bundy, while for much of the American mainstream, that name probably doesn’t even sound familiar.
If you don’t know the story, it’s time to get up to speed.
U.S. officials ended a stand-off with hundreds of armed protesters in the Nevada desert on Saturday, calling off the government’s roundup of cattle it said were illegally grazing on federal land and giving about 300 animals back to the rancher who owned them.
The dispute less than 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas between rancher Cliven Bundy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had simmered for days. Bundy had stopped paying fees for grazing his cattle on the government land and officials said he had ignored court orders.
Anti-government groups, right-wing politicians and gun-rights activists camped around Bundy’s ranch to support him.
By any fair definition, this was an intense standoff with a very real possibility of significant casualties.
But to understand how and why the crisis unfolded as it did over the weekend, we have to start with how it started in the first place.
Ian Millhiser did  a nice job summarizing the backstory.
This conflict arises out of rancher Cliven Bundy’s many years of illegally grazing his cattle on federal lands. In 1998, a federal court ordered Bundy to cease grazing his livestock on an area of federal land known as the Bunkerville Allotment, and required him to pay the federal government $200 per day per head of cattle remaining on federal lands. Around the time it issued this order, the court also commented that “[t]he government has shown commendable restraint in allowing this trespass to continue for so long without impounding Bundy’s livestock.” Fifteen years later, Bundy continued to defy this court order.
Last October, the federal government returned to court and obtained a new order, providing that “Bundy shall remove his livestock from the former Bunkerville Allotment within 45 days of the date hereof, and that the United States is entitled to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass after 45 days of the date hereof.” A third federal court order issued the same year explains that Bundy did not simply refuse to stop trespassing on federal lands – he actually expanded the range of his trespassing. According to the third order, “Bundy’s cattle have moved beyond the boundaries of the Bunkerville Allotment and are now trespassing on a broad swath of additional federal land (the “New Trespass Lands”), including public lands within the Gold Butte area that are administered by the BLM, and National Park System land within the Overton Arm and Gold Butte areas of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.” The third order also authorizes the federal government to “impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass.”
So, on the one hand we have Bundy, who’s said, “I don’t recognize [the] United States government as even existing.” It led him to repeatedly ignore federal law, repeatedly blow federal court rulings, and refuse to pay federal fines for his transgressions. On the other hand we have the United States government – which does, in fact, exist – showing considerable restraint in trying to resolve the problem.
All of this started to come to a head last week, with federal officials going to the area late last week to enforce the law and seize the cattle Bundy has been illegally grazing. Except this proved to be problematic – Bundy’s heavily-armed allies, egged on by conservative media, showed up from a variety of Western states to confront U.S. officials.
Facing the very real possibility that the anti-government forces might open fire, U.S. officials backed off in the interest of maintaining public safety.
“Based on information about conditions on the ground and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public,” U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze, said in a statement.
Bundy’s cattle, which had been rounded up, were released. The Bundy supporters and assorted militia members were pleased, the crowds dispersed, and no one was shot.
But you probably see the problem: it’s unsustainable to think a group of well-armed extremists can simply block the enforcement of American laws in the United States. It’s perfectly understandable that the Bureau of Land Management saw a crisis unfolding and pulled back to prevent bloodshed, but there’s an obvious problem with establishing a radical precedent: you, too, can ignore the law and disregard court rulings you don’t like, just so long as you have well-armed friends pointing guns at Americans.
To put it mildly, that’s not how the American system works. Indeed, that’s not how any system of government can ever work.
Tensions eased over the weekend, but it seems likely that this story isn’t over yet.
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Judge: Ohio must recognize out-of-state gay marriages

Proponents of marriage equality have been on quite a winning streak in the courts, targeting anti-gay laws in states across the country. That streak continued this morning in Ohio.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black has formally ruled that Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states, but he put a hold on his order for the time being.
“Ohio’s marriage recognition is facially unconstitutional and unenforceable under any circumstances,” Black said in an order he announced verbally 10 days ago.
“It is this court’s responsibility to give meaning and effect to the guarantees and of the U.S. Constitution and all American citizens and that responsibility is never more pressing than when the fundamental rights of some minority citizens are impacted by the legislative power of the majority.”
To be sure, the judge in this case had already made clear that this ruling was coming, but for civil-rights advocates, that doesn’t detract from the satisfaction that comes with another victory.
Indeed, note that Black was fairly aggressive in smacking down Ohio’s argument, concluding that the record “is staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the State’s ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
The case did not address whether or not same-sex couples can be married in Ohio, only whether same-sex marriages performed in other states should be legally recognized in the Buckeye State.
As for the current state of the law in Ohio, in light of the ruling, Chris Geidner reported, “The ruling is stayed, or put on hold, with Black inclined to issue a stay pending appeal as to the full recognition ruling. Black wrote, though, that he is inclined not to issue a stay ‘as to the as-applied claims of the four couples who are Plaintiffs because they have demonstrated that a stay will harm them individually due to the imminent births of their children and other time-sensitive concerns,’ but he announced in his ruling that he will be taking views from both the couples and the state on the question over the next day before deciding whether to issue a stay as to the four couples.”
For those keeping score, the Ohio ruling this morning comes on the heels of related victories in Michigan,VirginiaKentuckyOklahomaUtah and Texas, just from the last few months.
Steve Benin, MSNBC
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Debunking Abortions Myths

Close your eyes and think about the word abortion.

What are some of the first things that come to mind?

Pregnancy? Unborn fetuses? Policy makers? Crying? Grief?

I’m guessing at least one of these probably popped into your head.

Our society is filled with all kinds of mixed messages and myths about abortion. We often frame the conversations around abortion as being defined by grief and pain, instead of a personal decision that is filled with a plethora of emotions and experiences.

Although abortion can involve grief and sorrow, not all people who get abortions do experience these emotions, and that’s perfectly okay.

There is no right or wrong way to navigate having an abortion.

Because of the amount of emphasis the larger cultural conversations have in these myths, it’s important that we talk about them. These myths have real consequences and real effects on policy, which limits people’s right to choose.

Let’s bust some of these myths.

Myth #1: Abortion is baby-killing.

This is something you’ve probably heard a lot.

The fact is that a fetus is not a baby. A fetus is a developing mammal; in humans, a fetusdevelops at the end of the second month of gestation.

baby, on the other hand, is a human offspring who has already been born.

It’s important to understand that there is a difference: development.

A zygote (a fertilized egg) that has implanted in the uterus just two days ago is not the same thing as a human life that has already come into being.

In terms of the person housing the pregnancy, this difference is important: a fetus cannot survive without its mother during gestation—there is no separation. A baby, on the other hand, is an autonomous being.

Therefore, a fetus is a part of its mother. That makes its existence a part of her, making it her choice to terminate; hers, and hers only.

And the talk about fetal pain? That’s just phony science.

This logically leads to the conclusion that a baby and a fetus are not the same things. A baby can survive without using its mother as a life-source; a fetus cannot.

When you have an abortion, you aren’t taking the life of an autonomous being, like in cases of infanticide. Rather, you are removing a part of your own body.

Myth #2: Abortion is used as a form of birth control.

I’m sure you’ve heard people say something to the effect of “I believe in choice, but I also don’t think it’s okay to use abortion as birth control.”

Using abortion in place of contraception is not something people (okay, most people) do!

From a logical standpoint, this idea doesn’t even make sense, as it assumes abortion is easier to access than contraception.

Abortion is becomingly increasingly hard to access and requires a lot of money and time to get. The average cost of abortion is $451 in the first trimester, but can cost upwards of $3,500.

And this doesn’t even include transportation costs, co-pays and premiums, a possible hotel-stay (as many states have mandatory waiting periods), nor the cost of possibly needing to take time off of work to fulfill the waiting period requirements.

study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute found that 31% of women who live in rural areas traveled more than 100 miles to receive abortion services, and 74% traveled more than 50 miles to access services.

This data, the most recent on record, is from 2008 (let’s not even talk about how depressing that is), before many of the most harsh restrictions on abortion services were put into place.

Also, only 66% of health insurance providers cover abortion services to some degree, whichmakes paying for an abortion very difficult. Michigan just passed a law banning the use of private health insurance for abortion services, joining eight other states with laws like this already on the books.

Additionally, the Hyde Amendment restricts federal dollars from going to fund abortion services, meaning that the poorest Americans often cannot get funding for abortions.

The average person using abortion as contraception would become pregnant two to three times per year, and would therefore be getting two to three abortions per year. This would extremelydifficult to manage and doesn’t align with statistics detailing who gets abortions.

58% are in their twenties, 69% are economically disadvantaged, and 61% have children. Not exactly ideal candidates to shell out thousands of dollars a couple of times each year.

Typically, obtaining contraception is going to be a lot easier than this.

Not to mention the fact that half of the people who get abortions reported using contraception during the month they became pregnant.

Myth #3: People who have abortions regret it or experience intense grief.

There’s no shortage of propaganda out there that shows people grieving after terminating their pregnancy. There’s a lot of hype around “post-abortion syndrome” and its negative effects – which have been proven to not exist.

This myth dominates a lot of ideas about abortion: that it’s emotionally turbulent, is chosen by emotionally unstable people, and usually results in regret.

The truth is that most people do not regret their abortions. In fact, almost 75% indicated that the benefits of getting an abortion outweighed the harm.

Another study found that 95% of abortion patients felt that they’d made the right choice.

The rates of reported depression are equal to those of the general population, not indicating anything disproportionate.

Grief and sadness are not bad emotions to feel after getting an abortion.

But neither are they the only, or even the most common experiences people have after having them.

Myth #4: Only selfish women have abortions.

This myth is built in sexism. Women who in some way choose to remain childless are constantly portrayed as being self-centered and uncaring.

A good example of this from the media would be Samantha from Sex and the City. She’s very open about the fact that she doesn’t want children, but is also portrayed as being very reckless and stoic.

Getting an abortion is not a selfish decision.

People attribute abortion to selfishness, because women are expected to put themselves last (in relation to other people) and to always take on the role of nurturer and caregiver.

This myth exists because of the ways that society has constructed womanhood: women are valued primarily for their beauty and for their roles as mothers.

Those who choose to remain childless are choosing themselves; this is in direct conflict with a culture where women are supposed to always be selfless.

There are a lot of factors that go into deciding to terminate a pregnancy; it’s not an easy decision.

Most people who get abortions are young and/or low-income, meaning that they probably aren’t ready or in the best position to take on parenthood. Often, abortion patients cite age and income as among the reasons they chose abortion:

“I had an abortion when I had just turned 16. I came from a poverty-stricken, dysfunctional family and honestly didn’t know how easily one could become pregnant. I knew bringing a baby into the world I was living in would not be fair. The child would have grown up as poor as I was, would live in a dysfunctional family just as I was, and would have little hope for a future. I feel that I made the best decision a mother could for a baby,” Lori writes.

The decision of if, when, and how to have children is completely yours to make.

Myth #5: If abortion becomes illegal, abortion will end.

The foundation of anti-choice activism and legislation assumes that, if abortion is criminalized, abortions will no longer be performed.

This assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

Global research has shown that making abortion illegal doesn’t decrease the rate of abortions.The only thing it changes is the safety of the procedure.

When abortion is illegal, it is unsafe.

13% of maternal deaths worldwide are abortion-related (that’s 47,000 women) and almost all of them happen in places where abortion is illegal.

When abortion is criminalized it only creates unsafe conditions and results in more deaths. It does not prevent abortion from taking place.

It serves no one.

The key to ending abortion is to create more access to contraceptives and sex education. 

Myth #6: Only women get abortions.

Abortion rhetoric is highly gendered. Rarely is it even acknowledged that abortion patients are not exclusively cis women.

The dialogue around abortion is so gendered in fact, that it completely erases trans* people.

There are plenty of trans* men who need access to abortion and who receive them. There are also plenty of other trans* folk who don’t fall into the gender binary who also get abortions.

The fact that abortion is so often framed from a privileged perspective means that those who are marginalized in other ways are not being heard and their stories aren’t seen as important.

We must recognize the cissexism within reproductive rights activism and stand with trans* people.


These myths don’t even scratch the surface of all of the problematic framing of the abortion conversation in our culture.

There is a lot of work to be done in advancing this conversation. It seems the battle for reproductive rights will never be fully won.

But the more we steer the conversation toward human rights, feminism, and body politics, the more clearly this issue is shown, rather than being bombarded with propaganda and a fear-based mentality.

Here’s to protecting our right to choose, one myth-busting at a time.

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Gender politics: he, she or zie?

Last week, the Australian high court ruled that the sex of Norrie May-Welby was ‘non-specific’

Norrie, who identifies as a ‘spansexual’Norrie, who identifies as a ‘spansexual’

Meet Norrie May-Welby – or simply ‘Norrie’ as zie (no, that’s not a typo: bear with me) is known to the Australian media – a Scottish-born, Sydney-dwelling artist and political activist with a penchant for big sunglasses and provocative cartoons.
Except in one sense: Norrie (born Bruce Norrie Watson) is neither male nor female, hence the playfully evasive adopted surname.

Last week, the high court of Australia ruled that the sex of May-Welby was “non-specific”.

Norrie is not the first Australian whose gender has been legally declared to be neither male nor female – previous cases include Tony Briffa, a former mayor of Hobsons Bay in Victoria. In fact, since 2011, Australians have been able to tick a box marked “X” in the space for gender on passport applications.

But what is different about Norrie’s case is that it wasn’t merely about gender – a concept understood since at least ancient Greek times to encompass some fluidity – it was about sex. Specifically, it was about whether sex can be legally be “non-specific”.

Norrie, who identifies as a “spansexual”, was born with male sexual organs. Zie (the preferred pronoun of many of her fellow spansexuals, although Norrie is okay with “she” and “her”) underwent gender-reassignment surgery at the age of 28, but subsequently decided that she wasn’t female, or even intersex.

In 2010, Norrie successfully obtained a birth cert recognising that the gender affirmation surgery had left her with a sex that was “non-specific”. Cue global headlines about the “world’s first genderless person”, and a minor, embarrassed flurry in the New South Wales births, deaths and marriages office, which led to the status being rescinded just four weeks later. Since then, Norrie has been locked in a legal battle to have that birth cert reissued. That the high court ruled in Norrie’s favour has obvious implications for the estimated one in 2,000 children born intersex (with indeterminate sexual organs) each year. Instead of being boxed into one gender or the other immediately after birth, those in Australia now have time to determine which gender, if either, fits.

In the short term, Norrie’s victory may not seem to mean much to the rest of us; but to those for whom it matters, it matters a great deal. Facebook recognised the need for genders beyond the binary when, earlier this year, in a fit of either empathy or advertising savvy, it introduced a total of 56 gender options, up to 10 of which can be used on any one profile.

But even for the rest of us, it raises valid questions in a society obsessed with gender and sexual identity.

“Do you know what you’re having?” is the first question a pregnant woman gets asked (and the one she is asked at least twice a day, every day, until it can be replaced by “What did you have?”). As they grow, children’s gender is expected to determine the clothes they wear, the toys they will play with, the sports they participate in, and even where they are educated and work. As adults, we are required to declare our gender on everything from car-insurance forms to bank-account applications. Sex has become a shorthand for much more than our chromosomal make-up; it’s the bluntest and most effective way we have of corralling one another into rigid stereotypes.

But if people such as Norrie force us to recognise sex as something more fluid – if we accept that, like sexuality, it might more accurately be said to exist on a spectrum – then such divisions begin to seem more meaningless than ever.

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Washington Hospital Physician Among the First in Bay Area to Implant Lifesaving Device for Patients at Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death

Christine Ortiz, 59 of Union City, is one of the first patients in the Bay Area to receive a new unique cardiac device known as a Subcutaneous ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator). Her life nearly came to an end after she suffered what is known as sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a condition where the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. Without rapid medical attention, a person can die within a few minutes. The incident occurred while Ms. Ortiz, who is the proud grandmother to six grandchildren, was watching her grandson’s high school wrestling match. Thanks to a quick assessment by the school’s wrestling coach and a Washington Hospital athletic trainer, Ms. Ortiz was resuscitated by emergency responders and transferred to Washington Hospital; an Alameda County designated cardiac receiving facility. Upon arrival, she was placed under the care of Washington Hospital cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Sanjay Bindra, who was involved in early studies when the device was in development. Not only was the life of Ms. Ortiz saved, but as a result of this new, revolutionary device, she is already resuming a normal life and is protected from another, potentially deadly episode of sudden cardiac arrest.

The recently FDA approved Boston Scientific S-ICD® System is the world’s first and only commercially available subcutaneous implantable defibrillator (S-ICD) for the treatment of patients at risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The S-ICD System is designed to provide the same protection from SCA as traditional ICDs; however the S-ICD System sits entirely just below the skin without the need for thin, insulated wires — known as electrodes or ‘leads’ — to be placed into the heart. This leaves the heart and blood vessels untouched, offering physicians and patients an alternative treatment to traditional ICDs and fewer potential long-term complications.

“This new device is a major leap forward in the treatment of patients like Christine,” said Dr. Bindra. “Because there are no wires into the heart with this device, the risk of infection and wear on the wires, which is an issue with traditional ICDs, is not a factor.” For younger patients, those with cardiac electrical disorders or prior infection complications, the S-ICD is invaluable.

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Senate Republicans Block Bill on Equal Pay

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation meant to close the pay gap between men and women, framing an election-year fight between the parties over whose policies are friendlier to women.

The bill was an attempt by Democrats to press what they see as their electoral advantage among women in the coming midterm elections, but they fell short of the 60 votes they needed to prevent a filibuster and advance the legislation.

“For reasons known only to them, Senate Republicans don’t seem to be interested in closing wage gaps for working women,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said in a floor speech.

Republican lawmakers have said that given existed anti-discrimination laws, the legislation is redundant and is a transparent attempt by Democrats to distract from President Obama’s much-criticized health care law.

Supporters of the bill, called the Paycheck Fairness Act, say it would bring transparency to worker pay by making it illegal for employers to penalize employees who discuss their salaries and by requiring the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect pay information from employers.

Mr. Obama signed executive measures on Tuesday that imposed similar requirements on government contractors.

Republican leaders assailed Democrats’ attempt to paint them as unsympathetic to women in the work force. The Senate Republican Conference on Wednesday called the pay equity legislation “the latest ploy in the Democrats’ election-year playbook.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader who is fighting for re-election against a female candidate in Kentucky, said in a floor speech on Wednesday that women had lost ground on Mr. Obama’s watch, with declining wages and growing numbers in poverty.

“In other words,” he said, “when it comes to American women over all, what we’ve seen over the past five and a half years is less income and more poverty. That’s the story Senate Democrats don’t want to talk about.”

The pay equity bill is part of a broader Democratic strategy to appeal to low- and middle-income voters with pocketbook legislation like an increase in the federal minimum wage and an extension of long-term unemployment benefits. Neither of those measures is expected to pass a divided House.

The vote to proceed on the pay equity bill was 53 to 44, six votes short of a filibuster-proof majority after accounting for a no vote by Mr. Reid, a procedural move allowing him bring the bill to the floor again.

From the NY Times

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Court sides with MoveOn over Jindal

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) administration in Louisiana picked an unusual fight recently, taking to federal court, accusing the progressive activist group of violating trademark rules when it put up billboards criticizing Jindal’s opposition to Medicaid expansion.
So far, that hasn’t turned out well for the Republican governor: a federal judge ruled yesterday afternoon that the Baton Rouge-area billboard is legally permissible.  In his original court filings, [Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne] said the national liberal organization improperly mimicked his office’s trade and tourism branding in its satirical billboard posted just outside of the state capital. But U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick disagreed Monday, siding with in stating the group’s free speech rights trumped the state’s case.
“The State has failed to demonstrate a compelling reason to curtail’s political speech in favor of protecting of the State’s service mark,” Dick said in her ruling. She added “irreparable injury” would not be caused to Louisiana’s tourism campaign if the ad remained in place.
For those who haven’t been following this dispute, Louisiana is one of several red states that refuse to adopt Medicaid expansion, despite the fact that he policy would bring coverage to nearly a quarter of a million low-income residents. It led to put up a billboard that reads, “LOU!SIANA Pick your passion! But hope you don’t love your health. Gov. Jindal’s denying Medicaid to 242,000 people.”
The Jindal administration wasn’t pleased – “Louisiana: Pick Your Passion” is the slogan tied to the state’s tourism campaign, and it doesn’t want the phrasing appropriated by a progressive group targeting the governor. responded that its political speech is intended as satire and is therefore covered by the First Amendment.
Yesterday, a federal court agreed, offering the governor a reminder about what free speech is.
And by all appearances, he needed the refresher.
For me, the thing about this controversy that’s always seemed interesting isn’t trademark law, about which I know very little, but Jindal’s reversal about the importance of championing free speech.
As we’ve discussed before, it was just December when Phil Robertson, one of the stars of a reality-television show called “Duck Dynasty,” made a series of offensive comments during an interview. A&E, the network that airs the reality show, decided to suspend him over his bigoted remarks.
Jindal immediately leapt to Robertson’s defense. For a private business to suspend an employee, the governor said, was an affront to the “First Amendment.” As a constitutional matter, this was gibberish, but the far-right governor dug in anyway, positioning himself as a free-speech absolutist – Americans must be able to communicate whatever message they please, without exception or consequence.
“The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with,” Jindal said. “This is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views.”
Except it’s mocking Jindal’s position on Medicaid, at which point it’s a less-free country and there are limits on those expressing their views? When a television network suspends an employee, it’s an outrageous First Amendment violation, but when a state government tries to restrict political speech on a billboard, that’s fine?
The irony, of course, is that the Jindal administration’s lawsuit brought vastly more attention to the billboard than it ever would have received if the governor and his team had ignored it. Jindal’s goal was to have fewer people see’s message, but he achieved the opposite.
The administration has not yet decided whether to appeal yesterday’s ruling.
By Steve Benen, MSNBC
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The end of the Putin mystique

Vladimir Putin has enjoyed an aura of invincibility ever since his meteoric rise from intelligence functionary to president in 2000. He was the man who could bring a dead economy to life and make Russia matter in the world again.

But the Putin mystique was built on more than economic performance and Russian nationalism. It has also rested on a third pillar, one that is poorly understood in the West, where democracy is invariably associated with free elections and civil liberties. That pillar of Putinism may be called demophily, or love of the people.

Most Russians accept demophily as an alternative to “Western-style” democracy. They do not insist that their leaders supply civil rights and honest elections, but they do expect the man at the top to care about their well-being. Putin convinced them that he did.

But a reputation for demophily depends on at least appearing to be more concerned with popular welfare than with amassing a personal fortune and feeding cronies. It hinges on acting more like Park Chung-hee, South Korea’s development-minded strongman during the 1960s and 1970s, than like Chun Doo-hwan, the kleptocrat who succeeded Park. It depends on resembling Indonesia’s President Suharto between the mid-1960s and the late 1980s, when the dictator cultivated an image as a stern disciplinarian who was bent on rapid development, rather than the crony-stroking bandit that Suharto became during the decade preceding his ouster in 1998.

Putin’s reputation as a Park and not a Chun, as an early and not a late Suharto, is under threat. The cracks in Putin’s image appeared suddenly in late 2011, following elections for parliament that many Russian regarded as rigged. These were the first mass demonstrations since Putin’s ascent to power that had a distinctively anti-Putin flavor, and they prominently included upwardly mobile urbanites.


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Yet Russians are used to electoral fraud, and the 2011 elections were probably no more badly rigged than previous contests. What is more, they were for parliament, a body that holds virtually no power.

What fueled the furor was growing public unease with rot at the top. Aleksei Navalny’s attack on Putin’s United Russia as the “party of crooks and thieves” sustained the energy of the demonstrations for months. The stench of total impunity had grown palpable, and it seemed to be worsening.

The demonstrations shocked Putin, who felt betrayed by the very people whose standards of living he thought had benefited the most from his rule. But he took notice, and launched new efforts to constrict the flow of public information as well as to burnish his nationalist credentials.

In order to see how justified Putin’s fears are, we need to distinguish between the corrupt but still functional regime that Putin managed during his first term and the criminal state over which he now presides. Gone are the days when Putin used Russia’s oil and gas rents to retire the country’s foreign debt and build a stabilization fund that helped Russia weather the global financial crisis. Hydrocarbons billions now flow elsewhere. Preparations for the Sochi Olympics provided a cornucopia of fresh opportunities for pilfering the coffers of the state. One Putin crony alone, Arkady Rotenberg, received over $7 billion in contracts, more than the entire cost of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Dictators love huge construction projects due to the opportunities for kickbacks, and rarely has a dictator enjoyed a bonanza on the scale of the Sochi Olympics. The dimensions of Putin’s own fortune are impossible to assess precisely, but recent reports that place it at over $40 billion are not implausible.

The turn to kleptocracy has occurred as the economy has sputtered. With economic prospects gone wobbly, Putin now perceives that preserving the other two bases of his mystique — the restoration of national greatness and his reputation as a demophile — is imperative to his political survival.

The thrust into Ukraine seems to Putin to be the perfect mystique-preserver. It obviously plays to great power nationalism. But it also provides Putin with a pretext for restricting the inflow of information from abroad — including and especially revelations about his government’s increasingly predatory ways. By convincing Russians that the West is bent on undermining him because he is aggressively pursuing Russia’s interests in a manner that challenges the West, Putin hopes to inoculate Russians against revelations about his malfeasance emanating from Western sources. The play for Ukraine and the wartime atmosphere it creates in Russia also enables Putin to characterize muckraking Russian journalists as traitors. Discussion of corruption at the top is verboten in the state-controlled media, but Russian bloggers, sources from abroad that reach Russians via the internet, and some small-circulation independent newspapers published in Russia still publicize embarrassing information. We should now anticipate a new push to control and censor the internet in Russia in order to choke off the information that Russians can obtain about their own country, from both Western and domestic sources.

Does all this mean that Putin does not value his international reputation? Analysts have suggested that Putin does not grasp how badly his stock has been tarnished by his behavior in Ukraine, that he recognizes the scope of the damage but does not care, or that he is intentionally playing crazy as a ploy to befuddle Western leaders. These ideas are plausible but not compelling. Before Crimea, Putin worked hard to build a reputation for respecting international norms of multilateralism, state sovereignty, and the inviolability of borders. He has treasured his status as a responsible statesman, from Washington to Rome to Berlin to Beijing. He understands that his Ukrainian venture has spoiled his carefully crafted image, suddenly transforming him into a kind of Slavic George W. Bush in the eyes of much of the international community. But he is now so fearful that revelations about his corruption will destroy his mystique at home that he is prepared to sacrifice his statesman’s credentials abroad.

But Putin’s ploy will backfire. It may retard the deterioration of his demophilic reputation for a while, but sooner or later it will quicken it. Putin is stoking and riding a wave of nationalism at home, but the costs of taking over responsibility for public services in Crimea will be high. Still more onerous will be the price tag for the boost in Russia’s military spending that will be needed to deal with nervous neighbors and a sharp rise in Western antagonism. And making a staunch enemy of Ukraine, or at least the central and western parts of it, ensures that Putin’s dream of a Eurasian union is dead — unless he intends to march on Kiev and force Ukraine under Russian occupation to join his union. Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, can no longer be expected to embrace Putin’s Eurasian vision. Russian nationalists regard northern Kazakhstan much as they see Crimea: as Russian domain. Nazarbaev is more likely to reinforce his northern borders and tilt toward China than to seek union with Russia.

The market alone will impose costs. Aleksei Kudrin, the architect of the economic reforms of the first decade of the 21st century, estimates that Russia may lose $200 billion this year in capital flight due to the conflict with Ukraine. This is real money in a country whose total annual output is $2 trillion — slightly less than that of the state of California.

Furthermore, while Putin and his cronies try to stem the flow of information about their ever mounting impunity, the United States and other countries are naming names of those whose assets they are freezing. The American sanctions require the Treasury Department to publicize clues on the magnitude and location of the assets of Putin and his cronies. According to prevailing diplomatic norms, governments normally stay mum about such malfeasance on the part of the leaders of all but sworn enemies. The U.S. government heretofore has not discussed publicly what it knows about Putin’s fortune and that of his cronies. That policy has now changed. The political effects of the revelations included in Bthe sanctions may be even more damaging to Russia’s rulers than the sanctions’ economic effects.

Putin hopes that his Ukrainian gambit will discredit or shut off the information Russians get about his burgeoning malfeasance faster than that information comes out, thereby enabling him to extend the life of his increasingly tenuous reputation as a demophile. But he will almost certainly fail, all the more given the social and intellectual sophistication of Russia’s expanding urban middle class.

The good news for democracy’s advocates in Russia and around the world is that Crimea is burying the Putin mystique and discrediting demophily. The Russian experience provides evidence that demophily is no substitute for democracy; government for the people ultimately requires government by them as well.


From University of California, Berkeley political scientist M. Steven Fish, the author of “Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics.” 


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Will Rogan / MATRIX 253


Will Rogan: Scout’s ruler, 2013; gelatin silver print; 20 x 24 in. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) presents Will Rogan / MATRIX 253. For Rogan’s first solo exhibition in a museum, the artist has created a new body of work “where mystery, banality, finality, and beauty are all entangled in one another,” according to exhibition curator Apsara DiQuinzio, curator of modern and contemporary art and Phyllis C. Wattis MATRIX Curator at BAM/PFA. These new works, primarily taking the form of photography, sculpture, and video, explore various time scales—past, present, and future—as manifested in common objects.

Rogan received his M.F.A from UC Berkeley in 2006, and since then has exhibited widely both locally and internationally. Many of Rogan’s varied interests coalesce in MATRIX 253, which engages several motifs he has revisited in his work over the past decade. For Picture the Earth spinning in space (2014) Rogan rephotographed an image from an earlier work of a sewer cover that was painted over and over again. The new photograph, updated in black-and-white, obscures the paint colors that marked the passage of time in the earlier work, and instead becomes a signpost of time’s accrual in the artist’s own work.

In Negative (2014), Rogan appropriates a cheap plastic film camera that TIME Magazinesent out to its subscribers in the 1980s. Rogan has reversed the original design and shape, transforming the camera into a negative of itself, with the letters TIME rendered in reverse—another instance of time as a shifting, illegible construct. This sense of upended order, or of an understanding of time that looks both forward and backward, also informs Rogan’s photographs of a reversed one-foot ruler made by his daughter. The numerals on the ruler—one through twelve, running from right-to-left rather than left-to-right—call attention to our desire, or need, to quantify and regulate the world around. The backwards ruler, like the inverted camera, shows the glitch in the system, where a personal, subjective ordering threatens to undermine a prevailing structure.

The exhibition concludes with Rogan’s slow motion video of an old white hearse exploding. Rogan here transforms the destruction of a universal symbol of death into a transcendental imagistic effect, revealing the usually invisible minutiae of the event. “To show the death of this object in a beautiful way,” the artist says, “is to suggest that beauty and tragedy are muddled, that inside everything is a kind of pragmatic operating system, and magical incomprehensible beauty.”

Will Rogan / MATRIX 253
 is organized by Apsara DiQuinzio, curator of modern and contemporary art and Phyllis C. Wattis MATRIX Curator. The MATRIX Program is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.

About the Artist
Will Rogan was born in 1975; he lives and works in Albany, CA. He received an M.F.A. from the University of California, Berkeley (2006), and a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute (1999), in addition to attending the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (1998). Rogan’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Laurel Gitlen, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco; Objectif Exhibitions, Antwerp; the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center, Atlanta; Misako and Rosen, Tokyo; and Diverse Works Project Space, Houston. Selected group exhibitions include: Reactivation: The 9th Shanghai Biennial, Shanghai; When Attitudes Became Form Become Attitudes: A Restoration / A Remake / A Rejuvenation / A Rebellion, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco; Terrain Shift, The Lumber Room, Portland; Fifty Years of Bay Area Art: The SECA Awards, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (SFMOMA); Light in Darkness, Western Bridge, Seattle; Walking Forward-Running Past, Art in General, New York; and 2010 California Biennial, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach. He is the recipient of a Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship (2004) and of SFMOMA’s SECA Art Award (2003).

The MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art introduces the Bay Area community to exceptional work being made internationally, nationally, and locally, creating a rich connection to the current dialogues on contemporary art and demonstrating that the art of this moment is vital, dynamic, and often challenging. Confronting traditional practices of display and encouraging new, open modes of analysis, MATRIX provides an experimental framework for an active interchange between the artist, the museum, and the viewer. Since the program’s inception in 1978, MATRIX has featured artists such as John Baldessari, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle, Nan Goldin, Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, Shirin Neshat, Nancy Spero, and Andy Warhol. In recent years MATRIX has embraced a greater international scope, with the roster including Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Peter Doig, Omer Fast, Tobias Rehberger, Ernesto Neto, Rosalind Nashashibi, Tomás Saraceno, Mario Garcia Torres, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, representing countries as diverse as Finland, Germany, Iran, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, and many others.

Founded in 1963, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is UC Berkeley’s primary visual arts venue and among the largest university art museums in terms of size and audience in the United States. Internationally recognized for its art and film programming, BAM/PFA is a platform for cultural experiences that transform individuals, engage communities, and advance the local, national, and global discourse on art and ideas. BAM/PFA’s mission is “to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through art and film.”

BAM/PFA presents approximately twenty art exhibitions and 380 film programs each year. The museum’s collection of over 19,000 works of art includes important holdings of Neolithic Chinese ceramics, Ming and Qing Dynasty Chinese painting, Old Master works on paper, Italian Baroque painting, early American painting, Abstract Expressionist painting, contemporary photography, and video art. Its film archive contains over 16,000 films and videos, including the largest collection of Japanese cinema outside of Japan, Hollywood classics, and silent film, as well hundreds of thousands of articles, reviews, posters, and other ephemera related to the history of film, many of which are digitally scanned and accessible online.

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Officials from the Netherlands Come to SF to Kick Off Project Senior Vitality – Based on a Successful Dutch Model

Program Connects Seniors to Social Workers and Family via Internet

The Mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, and San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim join Curry Senior Center Executive Director Dave Knego to kick off Project Senior Vitality.    The program is a joint effort between the two cities to assist 4,800 of San Francisco Tenderloin’s 14,000 seniors who live alone and are susceptible to states of loneliness, depression, acute and chronic illness and lower vitality.

The program builds on a successful Dutch model, where socially-isolated seniors living in the Netherlands were provided a tablet and a one-on-one coach, who gave 2 hours of weekly tablet training over a period of three months.  After the three months, the seniors were able to easily access the internet, connect with family and friends, create their support network and eventually access specific resources that helped to improve their overall health and nutritional habits.    Results for the Dutch program found that 51% of the seniors experienced less loneliness, and 63% felt safer and more secure in their environment.

Project Senior Vitality is designed to start with Curry Senior Center residents and grow to the surrounding Tenderloin community.  Over three years, Project Senior Vitality will put 250 seniors on an upward quality-of-life spiral focused on peer and community support, less loneliness, better wellness, and self-management of chronic conditions.

“Curry Senior Center has an in-house computer center filled with seniors learning and exploring technology every day.  The Dutch Model takes the desires of seniors toward positive steps in managing their health and wellness, and extends digital access to their own homes.  I see Project Senior Vitality as a win-win for the city of San Francisco and its resident seniors,” said Knego.  “The expected outcomes include: less loneliness, more community connectivity, better resident health at a lower cost and a reduction in the use of emergency health care services. We fully anticipate this scalable effort to grow far beyond our own community. “

Mayor van der Laan, a long-time supporter of the needs of the elderly, will hand out the first tablets and sensors to begin the process of improvements in low-income senior health and well being to two formerly homeless seniors living in Curry Senior Center Housing, Linda Rosependowski and Judith Vincent. Both women were the first two who leaped at the opportunity because they hope to reconnect with family as well as be empowered to be more active in the process of managing their own healthcare. Many other seniors have already signed up on the waiting list even though the program is just getting started.

The pilot is facilitated by Healthcare Innovation Transfer, a Dutch public-private program hosted by the Dutch Consulate General in San Francisco., with additional tangible support offered by two tech companies: San Francisco’s and Withings in France.

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Powerball Winner to Use $425 Million to Travel, Start Charity

Ray Buxton, the winner of the $425 million Powerball lottery, wants to use his new found fortune to travel and start a foundation to do good by fighting child hunger and promoting pediatric health and education.

Buxton claimed his prize today from the California Lottery and is still overwhelmed with excitement. “Unbelievable” is the best word, he said, to describe his winning the sixth largest Powerball jackpot in history.

“Once the initial shock passed I couldn’t sleep for days,” is how the senior citizen described his feelings after realizing on Feb. 19 that he was sole ticket winner.

Since winning, he said, he has sat in front his computer in disbelief frequently re-checking the numbers across multiple sources. While validating the numbers at the California Lottery web site, he came across the “I Won! Now What? Winners Handbook,” and started to put a plan in motion. As advised in the handbook, it took some time to solidify legal and financial representation.

Buxton said his short term goals are to “spend time with my family and friends, start a charity and consult with professionals on how to pragmatically utilize this windfall.”

“My longer term plan is trying to find a way to live a normal and discreet life,” Buxton added.

Who was the first person he told about winning? Nobody, he said.

“Sitting on a ticket of this value was very scary. It’s amazing how a little slip of paper can change your life. I’m going to enjoy my new job setting up a charitable foundation focused on the areas of pediatric health, child hunger and education,” he added.

Buxton estimates he has been playing the lottery for 20 years. He beat the odds, which were one in 175 million, to become the winner of the $425.3 million Powerball Lottery on Feb. 19. He purchased his ticket at the Dixon Landing Chevron in Milpitas.  His winning Powerball numbers were 17, 49, 54, 35, and 1, with a Powerball number of 34.

He said played the lottery regularly under the mantra: “You can’t win if you don’t play.” The Feb. 19 Powerball jackpot was big – so he decided to test his luck twice purchasing a second ticket for the week’s draw. He had previously purchased an entry for the draw, but luckily chose to purchase a second Powerball ticket while picking up food at the Subway inside Milpitas Chevron on California Circle. It was a smart choice because he ended up matching six of six Powerball numbers to win.

He has selected the cash option, which according to Lottery officials, is around $242.2 million before Federal taxes.

Buxton waited until today to claim his prize. Since winning in February, he has been working with his attorney Susan von Herrmann at the law firm of Schiff Hardin LLP to establish bank accounts, a charity, and work on tax issues.

Buxton does not want to do media interviews at this time and referred all media to his public relations representative Sam Singer of Singer Associates Public Affairs and Public Relations in San Francisco.  Phone: 415-227-9700. Email:


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: On the Biden Trail

Photo ACommonwealthClub2007res600Then Senator Biden at Commonwealth Club in 2007

This column is a combination of words – spoken by the Vice President at the Human Rights Campaign dinner in Los Angeles and written by me in response. Vice President Biden’s words are in italics and are taken from the White House website.

I was raised by a truly gracious and decent man.  He taught me and my sister and my two brothers that — a simple truth, that every single person in the world is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.  And he taught us by his example, not by his lectures.

I can remember I was a junior in high school, and he was driving me into Wilmington to apply for a job as a lifeguard in the city swimming pools.  …

 I’ll never forget it, he pulled up in front of the city courthouse where we went and made the application.  And he didn’t want to park, he was dropping me off.  And we stopped at a red light.  When I looked over to my left, and there were two men kissing good-bye, and I looked, and it was the first time I’d seen that.  And my father looked at me and said, they love each other.  …

It was April of 2012.  I was campaigning for Democratic candidates around the country, and I was here in Los Angeles with leaders of the LGBT community of Southern California at the home of Michael Lombardo and Sonny Ward, and a young man, who was standing against the wall in the living room as I was answering questions, that young man was Chad (Grifffin President of Human Rights Campaign)  And Chad asked me one of the most sincere and plaintive questions I’ve ever been asked in my political career, particularly on this issue.  He looked at me and just asked a simple question.  He said, Mr. Vice President, what do you think of me?  A simple, straightforward question:  What do you think — I’d never meet him before.  What he was saying was, what do you think of me, I am a homosexual.  What do you think of me?

PhotoB040400res600 Chad Griffin addresses the 2012 HRC dinner in San Francisco

No one ever asked me that question before, and it made me sad to think that anyone — any of you in this audience, any of my acquaintances, my friends, my employees who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender have to go through any part of your life looking at people who don’t know you and wondering, what do they think of me.  What do you think of me?  What a profound question.

And all I could think of was, if all Americans understood that there are people with different sexual orientations in every walk of life, every sector of America, every nook and cranny of this country, and that you are no different.  You are us.  We are one.  And all I could think to say to Chad — it was spontaneous was — I wish every American could have been in the kitchen. 

I walked into Michael and Sonny’s home through the kitchen.  They were standing there, and their two beautiful, young children — five and seven — were standing between their parents.  And the first thing I did, the little girl put her arms out — actually the little boy did first, so I bent down, crouched and gave them a big hug.  And we talked a little bit before I even said hi to Sonny who was standing at my right.  And after a few minutes, the little girl turned to her father and said, Daddy, is it okay if the Vice President comes out in the backyard and plays with me and you speak?

Photo CSenatorBiden_Senator John Glenn listens as Senator Biden questions a witness during a Senate hearing in the 1970s.

And all I could think of was, I mean this sincerely, folks, if every American could have just been there and seen the love these kids had for their parents, just seen how normal it all was … they wouldn’t have any doubt about what the right policy is, what the right thing to do.  And it reinforced in me the certitude that the only way to prevail is to continue to step up and speak out because we are all one.  People fear that which they do not know.  And you all continue to do that. That’s why things are changing.  Not because of Barack Obama or Joe Biden, but because of you.  It’s powerful.  It’s powerful.

So I mean what I said at the front end, thank you for not only liberating people who have been persecuted and pummeled, but thank you for getting us in the way of liberating all of America.  It’s a fight we will win.  I don’t have a single, solitary doubt in my mind.  I am absolutely confident my grandchildren’s generation has already moved and will continue to move far beyond the prejudice of the past and of today.  That’s why I’m so confident that the future is only going to get better.

I heard that you gave a great speech at the HRC dinner in LA, but it wasn’t until Stuart Milk posted a link to it at the White House website that I had a chance to read it and get the full impact. It brought tears to my eyes. I worked as a clerical assistant to Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) from April 22, 1972 until September of 1979. At the time I was very deeply closeted and believed that if I looked anyone in the eye they would be able to tell I was gay. I can tell you the exact spot in the basement of the Russell Senate Office building where I was when I realized that I could walk the hallways with my head up. I know it sounds so pathetic, but back then there were no positive role models for being gay and certainly no Vice President or President was saying the encouraging words we hear from you and President Obama.

I was attending the University of Utah in Salt Lake City when Vice President Agnew came to campaign for some local Republican candidates in 1970. He spoke at an outdoor rally. I was among the group of anti-war protesters who gathered across the street that he was referring to when he said, “When I look across the beautiful Great Salt Lake the only pollution I see is the social kind.”

Photo DBiden001res Photo signed by then Senator Biden in 1977.

  My friends …worked for you when you first came to the Senate. I took photos at the reception Senator and Mrs. Hollings held in the Senate Caucus room for you and Dr. Biden. No one at that time knew I was gay because that was something I wasn’t even admitting to myself. So when you signed a photo that I took of you with the words, “You’ve been a great help to us and a fine friend.” I wondered if you knew my secret would you still have called me a friend. All these years later I learn that the answer would have been yes. I’m not sure that I can put into words what a powerful affirmation that is for me.

So part of the tears I shed while reading your speech where tears of regret that I wasted so much time and energy maintaining my closet when my fears of rejection were unfounded. There were also tears of joy for having survived long enough to see legal recognition for the love I have for my husband, Fernando. We’ve been together sine October of 1986. We were legally recognized as Domestic Partners in San Francisco since 1991 and in District of Columbia since 1992. We were married on February 12, 2004 and because the California Supreme Court declared our marriage as null and void, we were remarried on June 17, 2008.

Fernando was born and raised in Italy. He came to the United States as a graduate student in 1979 and is now a United States citizen. So I have an acute awareness of the issues that face gay communities abroad. It made me feel immense pride that the US Embassy had a contingent in the 2011 EuroPride parade held in Rome. As more countries follow the examples of Russia and Uganda and pass laws against gay people the work only becomes more necessary and urgent. It makes such a big difference that the Obama administration understands on all levels that need and urgency.

PhotoE_0012res600The US Embassy’s contingent in the EuroPride Parade in Rome, Italy 2011

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7 Reason’s Biden Thinks You Should SIgn up for the Affordable Care Act

Folks, the deadline to sign up for health insurance is March 31. If you’re not covered by then, you won’t be able to enroll again until next year. So this is serious. Need some extra inspiration? Here are seven reasons why Vice President Biden thinks you should get covered right now.

1. It won’t break the bank.

7 Reasons Why Vice President Biden Thinks You Should Get Covered By March 31

Everyone loves a good deal. About 6 in 10 uninsured individuals could pay $100 or less per month for coverage, thanks to tax credits to help them buy a private health plan through the Marketplace or because they are now eligible for Medicaid. And nearly half of single young adults who are uninsured can get coverage for $50 or less in 2014. That could be less than your cell phone bill.

2. Minor injuries can become a real headache.

7 Reasons Why Vice President Biden Thinks You Should Get Covered By March 31

Get covered and take care of yourself so today’s injury — a bum ankle, a bad back, or a spider bite — doesn’t become a chronic condition that dogs you for the rest of your life. Signing up for health insurance today could save you from a lifetime of medical debt.

3. It’s good to have choices.

7 Reasons Why Vice President Biden Thinks You Should Get Covered By March 31

Your folks probably told you that “you can be anything you want to be.” Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you’re one step closer. You no longer have to hold back from pursuing a new or different job for fear of losing your health insurance plan. If you don’t get coverage through work, you can now sign up for quality, affordable coverage at that gives you the freedom to follow your dreams regardless of the work you do.

4. You never know.

7 Reasons Why Vice President Biden Thinks You Should Get Covered By March 31

Maybe you’re at the gym, working out every day. Maybe you run half-marathons for fun. But no matter how healthy and active you are, things can change in a heartbeat. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

5. You (and your mom and dad) need peace of mind.

7 Reasons Why Vice President Biden Thinks You Should Get Covered By March 31

You’re young. You feel invincible. We don’t blame you. But even if you don’t think you need the peace of mind and security of health insurance, guess what? Your mom and dad need it. They deserve to know that you can get coverage and treatment when you need it the most. You have a responsibility to yourself and those who love you.

6. It’s a BFD.

7 Reasons Why Vice President Biden Thinks You Should Get Covered By March 31

Vice President Biden’s got a reputation for always meaning what he says — especially about health care. But as the Vice President likes to point out, for 100 years — since Teddy Roosevelt was President — we’ve been trying to make health care more accessible and affordable in America. Well, we’re getting it done right now, and that’s a big deal. Now we’ve got to finish what we started.

7. There are folks standing by to answer your questions and walk you through the process.

7 Reasons Why Vice President Biden Thinks You Should Get Covered By March 31

There are three main ways you can sign up by March 31: 1) online at HealthCare.govor; 2) on the phone at 1-800-318-2596, available 24/7 in 150 different languages; or 3) in person at locations like libraries and community health centers — visit to find places near you.

After you enroll, spread the word to your friends. Walk them through how you enrolled yourself. Tell them how you helped enroll someone else who didn’t have insurance before, didn’t think he or she could afford it, but signed up and got a good deal. They’ll thank you later.

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HuffPo: Mormon Family’s Incredible Acceptance Story

This week’s Huffington Post Gay Voices RaiseAChild. US “Let Love Define Family” series installment challenges our readers by combining the triple threat of hot-button topics: politics, religion and sexual orientation. Read on as Rich Valenza of RaiseAChild.US shares his frank conversation with one truly amazing mom, Wendy Williams Montgomery.

Rich Valenza: I hope you don’t mind if we start back in 2008. As if the Great Recession wasn’t bad enough for a person’s self-esteem, here in California we also had to deal with Prop 8. That was an especially painful time for my family and for me, personally. I was raised Catholic and when the news hit that the Mormon Church and Catholic Church were bankrolling Prop 8, I had a very hard time with it. The church that I grew up in very vocally campaigned against people like me and families like mine. Of course, my family had a “No on Prop 8” sign in our front yard. I assume that your family had a “Yes on Prop 8” sign in yours. How did that come about for you?
Wendy Williams Montgomery: My husband and I both grew up in conservative, devout Mormon homes. We had heard our whole lives that when the Mormon Church asks you to do something, you say yes. It was an opportunity to serve and an opportunity for blessings. So when our bishop, who is the head of our congregation, came over to our home and asked if we would participate, to our shame, pretty much without thinking, we said yes. He asked if we could donate financially. Because we have five children, we really didn’t have the means to donate financially. He asked if we could go out one day and go door-to-door and we said yes. So we went out one day and we did a survey. We asked people if the vote was that day, what way they would vote. We didn’t advocate for or against Prop 8, we just wrote down what their vote was and reminded them of the date that the vote was. I think it was Nov. 8 if I remember correctly. So that was our day of going door-to-door.

But yes, we had the sign in our yard. It got stolen once and we replaced it and got another sign. But looking back now, if there was ever one moment in time or one day I could take back, it would be that. Because my son was 9 turning 10 and going through that period of time and he walked home from school every day and he walked past that sign and I just wonder about the message he got walking past that sign every day. And what he thought his parents thought of gay people and what his Church thought of gay people and what he was internalizing about himself before he even knew for sure about himself. It’s my biggest regret of my entire life. I hate that I even had a part of that. We saw in our home the unrelenting consequences of Prop 8 and I doubt that the church knew how many of their own were hurt by it. I know that it’s not the message that they were intending to convey, but it was the message that was received. At least, in my home.

Valenza: How did you learn that your son is gay?
Montgomery: Well, we started getting really concerned about him when he was in junior high. He’s normally a very happy, enthusiastic kid. He was always smiling. Really energetic. Really bubbly kind of personality. Midway through 7th grade he started becoming really mopey and very depressed. His A’s and B’s turned into D’s and F’s on report cards. He wouldn’t talk to us. He wouldn’t smile. He hung out in his room. His friends started changing.

So we just started becoming really, really concerned about him. We would try and talk to him and he wouldn’t talk to us. We were getting really worried. So I just had this feeling come over me to read his journal, which he had just barely started keeping. It’s not something that I’d ever done before and I haven’t done it since. There were only maybe three or four entries in it. In one of them he had mentioned a boy in his class that he had been talking to and he was caught off guard by noticing what beautiful eyes this boy had. Then he thought of some girls that were his friends and their eyes didn’t interest him at all. There was another entry that talked about a school play that he was trying out for that was “Beauty and the Beast.” It said that “in my dreams I would be Belle” and another boy would be the Beast. So that was kind of my realization. But there were about two weeks before Jordan was able to come out to us and before he knew that we knew. This time period was a huge blessing for us because I spent those two weeks doing nothing but reading everything that I could get my hands on and trying to figure out the best ways to help him. I wanted, when he came out to us, for that to be only love and only support and a really beautiful experience for him and not a horrible, terrifying, scary thing like it is for so many kids. I just wanted him to be surrounded by nothing but love from his parents.

Valenza: This is really remarkable. As the Prop 8 campaign unfolded, I got the message of my Church loud and clear. I kept my personal beliefs, but gave up on my church.

Again, you are of the opposite belief. You and your husband want to affect change from inside the Mormon Church. How does one family try to change the belief of the Mormon Church? How does one family do that?
Montgomery: Well, I don’t know if one family is able to do that. I would love it if one family could do that. I have been a Mormon my entire life and I love being a Mormon. There is so much about it that resonates inside of me and I believe it deeply. There is so much about it that I find beautiful and good and that really speaks to me. There are a lot of things over the past couple of years that have caused me to question and caused me to falter in some of my beliefs. But the core things that I believe in have not changed.

Some of the policies and some of the culture in the Church is what I feel needs to change, like what has revolved around how homosexuality is handled in the Church. That’s not a doctrinal issue, that’s a policy issue. So to me, that could be something that would not be that hard to change, especially with how gay people are treated in the Church. Regardless of where someone is in their personal lives, they should be welcome in our congregations. Outside every one of our church buildings is a sign that says, “Visitors Welcome.” How we treat others, including gay people, is just a common decency thing.

One of the things we’ve tried to do as a family is to start a local support group for LDS (or Mormon) LGBT people and their families, because there is nothing like that where we live. We have a PFLAG group that we attend and are active in, but that’s a non-religious, non-denominational thing. But we started a local support group for people that are Mormon (or any religion). Anybody can come. We’ve also been vocal on social media, we’ve written articles, we attend lots of conferences and have spoken at lots of different events. We’re vocal in any forum we can and talk about this wherever we can — about how to us, it’s just a matter of accepting and loving people as a whole and looking beyond stereotypes, just seeing the person behind the stereotype and loving them as Christ would love them.

Valenza: I am curious to know how you are received now in your church.
Montgomery: Well, it’s been really difficult to be honest. Before my son came out in 2012, we had been in our ward or the congregation for about 10 years. We had many, many dear friends in that ward. So when we had started to tell people in that ward that our son was gay, the friends that we had (not overnight but gradually) just sort of evaporated and the friends we thought we had… we didn’t have as much. It became what felt like an old-fashioned Amish shunning. When Jordan was 13 (two years ago, when he came out) and he passed the sacrament, which is similar to Catholic communion, there were people in the congregation who wouldn’t take it from my son, they would only take it from other boys. It was incredibly hurtful for me to see that happen. My son is 15 now and has never broken any of our church’s standards: he’s never even held a boy’s hand, he’s never had a boyfriend, he’s never broken any commandments that our church has set. It shouldn’t even be an issue if he had. But according to the rules that our Church has, he is still totally worthy to pass the sacrament, but people there still didn’t think he was good enough. So that was rough. And we would have people say pretty ignorant things to us. I had a woman tell me once that I should have my children taken away from me and given to some mother that would teach them to follow the prophet better. You know, my husband and I had assignments in that ward. I was teaching a class to the 15- and 16-year-old teenagers and my husband was president of the Elders Quorum, a group of older men of the congregation. We were getting so many complaints from other people in the ward that they didn’t want us working with their children or people in their family that we finally just stepped down from those callings. People wouldn’t sit by us in class, they wouldn’t talk to my son, they didn’t want him to go on scout camp outs. They wouldn’t let their sons go if my son was going and things like that.

We ended up switching wards. We are attending a different ward now. We have been there for about a year. And it’s been a little bit better, probably because we don’t know people as well so it’s not as hurtful when they’re not as friendly. We have a few people that have been supportive and sweet, but it’s still really hard. A few people will talk to us privately and thank us for what we’re doing, but there has not been anybody that’s been vocally supportive and will stand up for us. We feel very alone.

Valenza: You know, you are making me realize that when a child comes out, there’s a long process of coming out, reconciliation and realization that the parents have to go through, too. I guess I never fully understood the impact of that before talking to you.
Montgomery: Yeah, we’ve had to do our own coming out. How we did that will tell you how courageous and brave my son was at 13. He didn’t want to be in the closet at all. He hated the closet and I didn’t blame him. I think it’s a shameful, horrible, awful place to be. He wanted to let people know that he was gay. He didn’t want to hide. So I said, “Okay, how are we going to do that?” And he said, “Why don’t we just write a letter?” This was after family and close friends already knew. But just to let everyone else know. So I suggested that we write a letter and put it on Facebook so everybody would know.

He helped us write this letter. We wrote it but he set the time for its release and everything. It went out two days before he started high school as a freshman. As if that day’s not scary enough! We put it out on a Saturday and I remember going to church the next day on Sunday. I just remember being terrified, wanting to throw up because I was so scared and I thought this is probably nothing compared to what a gay person goes through. I remember thinking: I’m going to walk in this church, I’m going to look around and people are going to be pointing at us or whispering and wondering how many friends am I going to lose today? So that’s kind of our coming out story. Jordan has this therapist he sees sometimes and she said, “You guys didn’t come out, you crashed out.”

So, that was kind of what we did. But there were already rumors and things that were being said about my son. People were saying, “Are you gay?” and there was bullying going on because he’s not a super masculine kid. It would be really hard for him to fake being straight. So we thought, you know what, they’re already asking, there are already rumors and bullying, why don’t we address it and demystify the whole situation and say, “Yeah, he’s gay, he’s a fantastic kid, he’s wonderful.” Let’s set the tone for how we expected him to be treated, and then move on to the next conversation. That was kind of our intention. Once everybody knew, initially everybody was really nice and saying, “We still love you,” but as time went one I think the “We love you” part was forgotten and the “Oh, my gosh, he’s gay” stuck.

Valenza: Your own family, you said, is conservative. Has your relationship with your siblings and parents changed?
Montgomery: A little bit. It’s been a journey, I think, for all of us. I think the best way to describe it is when we found out that Jordan was gay it was like somebody told us that we had to learn Mandarin Chinese overnight. It was the most foreign thing ever and we had to learn it overnight to help our son. And other people can take a year or a decade and it can take longer for them to get it, but their love and devotion and support to Jordan hasn’t wavered even a little bit. But for some it’s taken a little longer but they love him 100 percent. They haven’t treated him any differently. We’re still invited to every family gathering. It’s been good. There are certain things that are a little bit awkward, but I think that’s just how it’s going to be. But it’s okay. They’ve been loving.

Valenza: So what is it like having a gay son?
Montgomery: I think if somebody asked me a few days after I found out that he was gay, “If you could change him and make him straight, would you?” I would have said absolutely. Make it go away, this is so hard, I don’t want him to have to go through this, his life is going to be hard. That would have been my first, initial response because you grieve. I grieved what I thought his life would be, as a straight Mormon boy. But that was my selfish vision of what it was going to be and not who he really was.

But now two years into it, and even just a few months into it after I found out, I completely changed and I just see this wonderful boy. There has always been something so special about him, he just lights up a room. And I’ve had people my entire life tell me, “He’s the perfect boy, I wish my son could be more like him.” Then we find out what it was about him that was so special, and it’s that he’s gay. I wouldn’t change him for the world — the things that make him special, the traits that are my favorite about him, he’s that way because he’s gay and I would never ever trade those things. The way he is and the beauty of his soul is because he’s gay. I would never take that away.

I have become a better person for having a gay son — the things that I’ve learned and the way that I see other people and the way that I love other people, it’s just more loving, more open, less judgmental. I think I was wearing blinders for so long and I didn’t even know it. Having those blinders taken off has been the most wonderful experience. I tell him all the time “You are such a gift from God” because he has shown me how I’m supposed to be loving other people and I wouldn’t know that without him. He’s such a gift, such a gift. And my religion, as wonderful as it is, my religion didn’t teach me how to love. Jordan did. My son did.

Wendy Williams Montgomery and her family live in California’s Central Valley and are featured in a new film by Caitlin Ryan and The Family Acceptance Project, a research, intervention, education, and policy initiative that works to decrease health and mental health risks for LGBT children and youth, including suicide, homelessness and HIV, in the context of their families. On Sunday, May 18, 2014, the Montgomery Family will be presented with a “Let Love Define Family” award at the annual RaiseAChild.US HONORS gala. For more information about the RaiseAChild.US HONORS gala, visit www.RaiseAChild.US and click on “RSVP.”

Rich Valenza is Founder and CEO at RaiseAChild.US, a national organization headquartered in Hollywood, California that encourages the LGBT community to build families through fostering and adopting to serve the needs of the 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system. RaiseAChild.US works with foster and adoption agencies that have received training in LGBT cultural competence through the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s “All Children-All Families” initiative. Since 2011, RaiseAChild.US has run media campaigns to educate prospective parents and the public, and has engaged more than 2,000 prospective parents. For information about how you can become a foster or fost/adopt parent, visit www.RaiseAChild.US and click on “Next Step to Parenthood.”

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater In Two Bay Area Premieres And Favorite Classics At Zellerbach Hall, Tuesday-Sunday, April 1–6

The annual Cal Performances residency of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) will mix and match new works by top choreographers with timeless works made world-famous by the company. Led by Artistic Director Robert Battle, the Ailey company will perform three distinct programs covering eight works in its seven appearances in Zellerbach Hall from Tuesday, April 1 through Sunday April 6. Included in Berkeley’s programming are two Bay Area premieres: LIFT, choreographer Aszure Barton’s first work for AAADT, and Four Corners, choreographed by Ronald K. Brown.  “The names and faces may change, the dances may vary, but a night at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater guarantees you a night of amazing dancing” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Program A, performed on Tuesday, April 1 and Friday, April 4 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, April 6 at 3:00 p.m., opens with two new works. The Bay Area premiere of LIFT (2013), the company’s first commission by Canadian-born Aszure Barton, is set to a percussive score by saxophonist Curtis Macdonald. A second Bay Area premiere, Four Corners (2013), choreographed by Ronald K. Brown, uses West African and modern dance influences to depict the search for spiritual truth, and is set to “Lamentations” by Carl Hancock Rux. The program closes with Alvin Ailey’s 1960 gospel classic and spiritual masterpiece, Revelations.

Program B, performed on Wednesday, April 2 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 5 at 2:00 p.m., begins with two 1970s works created by Alvin Ailey and is set to music by jazz great Duke Ellington. Night Creature (1974) is a large ensemble work that entices the audience with glimpses of the nocturnal world, while Pas de Duke (1976) is a modern-dance translation of a classical pas de deux originally created for Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Next on the program, the emotionally charged D-Man in the Waters (Part I) (1989) was choreographed by Bill T. Jones and set to Felix Mendelssohn’s 1825 Octet for Strings. The program concludes with Ailey’s Revelations.

Program C, performed on Thursday, April 3 and Saturday, April 5 at 8:00 p.m., opens with another Ailey/Ellington pairing: The River (1970) is a sweeping full-company work that has been restaged by Masazumi Chaya, the company’s associate artistic director and the foremost living expert on Ailey’s repertory. It will be followed by Minus 16 (1999), choreographed by Ohad Naharin of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company using music ranging from American pop and cha-cha to techno-pop and traditional Israeli music; the improvisational dancing is driven by Naharin’s “Gaga” movement language. The program closes with Ailey’s Revelations.

For the most current casting information, please contact the Cal Performances press office at (510) 642-9121. Casting is subject to change.

Two SchoolTime performances for Bay Area schoolchildren, on Thursday and Friday, April 3 and 4 at 11:00 a.m., will feature D-Man in the Waters (Part I) and Revelations. Tickets are available in advance only. More information is available at

Founded in 1958 by its namesake, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has performed around the world for millions of enthralled dance fans. Dancer, choreographer, and activist Alvin Ailey led the company for its first 30 years, during which time he created dozens of works that often drew on African-American music and themes. Former Ailey dancer Judith Jamison led the company from 1980 to 2011, introducing works by leading choreographers as well as adding her own creations to its repertory. The company’s current artistic director, Robert Battle, took the reins in 2011 and has continued the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s tradition of impassioned, meaningful dance grounded in the African-American experience. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater offers Bay Area children an opportunity to learn and perform in its annual AileyCamp in Berkeley, produced by Cal Performances.


Tickets for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from Tuesday, April 1 through Sunday, April 6 in Zellerbach Hall range from $30.00‒$92.00 and are subject to change. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, at, and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to


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Is Rick Scott Guilty of Murder?

Florida Governor Rick Scott is now officially a killer, and Charlene Dill is one of his victims. Charlene Dill was a hardworking Florida woman, who moved down to Florida when she was just 18 years old. To help make ends meet, Charlene worked at various fast food restaurants, at Disney World, and even cleaned houses and babysat. As the years went by, Charlene found herself, as a single mother, struggling to raise 3 children.  Last year, Charlene made just $11,000 cleaning houses and babysitting. She used that money to help put food on the table for her children, and to put a roof over their heads.

Then Charlene discovered she had a severe heart problems that needed to be managed.  And she couldn’t afford to get it treated right, because Charlene didn’t have health insurance. Charlene fell into what’s called the “Red State Donut Hole,” created by Republican lawmakers like Rick Scott. It says that if you make over $5,400 and less than $11,400, you get no health insurance.

Below the $5,400, Charlene would have qualified for Florida’s pretty pathetic Medicaid program. Over $11,400, she would have qualified for free health insurance under Obamacare because of the subsidies for low-income people. But because she only earned $11,000, she made too little to qualify for Obamacare, but too much to qualify for Florida Medicaid.

This isn’t, of course, how the Obamacare law was written. But this giant Swiss Cheese hole was drilled into Obamacare by John Roberts, when the Supreme Court said that states could refuse to take federal money to pay to cover people who don’t earn enough to qualify for insurance subsidies but make more than state Medicaid programs will cover.  It was into that hole that Charlene fell.

Twenty-three states which are either controlled by a Republican governor or a Republican legislature have refused to expand Medicaid coverage to their citizens under Obamacare.  This is pure politics, an effort to sabotage Obamacare by cutting the working poor out of the program. Republicans are hoping that working poor people like Charlene will be so upset that they can’t get Obamacare, and won’t realize that it was the Republican governors who refused their eligibility, that they’ll be angry with Obama and the Democrats and vote Republican in 2014 and 2016.

It’s all about politics. These states are literally playing politics with people’s lives, and Charlene is one of the people they’ve now killed.  Around 5 million Americans won’t have access to healthcare in 2014, because they fall into the “Red State Donut Hole,” just like Charlene.

Since she didn’t have insurance, Charlene couldn’t afford a regular doctor or regular treatment. In 2012, Charlene went to the emergency room because of a flare-up with her heart. Doctors there told her to start taking medicine, and to be routinely monitored. But she couldn’t afford it, because she only made $11,000 a year and had to feed three kids, and Rick Scott wouldn’t let her have the free health insurance that working poor people in every Democratically-controlled state in America have.

Rick Scott was willing to let her to die so he could score political points against President Obama. Back in December, Charlene again went to the emergency room, this time because of abscesses in her legs. Shortly after that trip to the ER, Charlene picked up another job as a vacuum cleaner saleswoman, on top of babysitting and house cleaning, to help provide for her family and to pay for her ER bills, which weren’t covered because Rick Scott and the Florida Republicans refused to let the federal government pay for her Medicaid.

This past Friday, Charlene was supposed to go see one of her close friends, so their children could play together. Charlene never made it to her friend’s house. Charlene died during one of her vacuum cleaner sales appointments that day. The hardworking and loving single mother of three young children was just 32-years-young.

Charlene died because multimillionaire Republican and Florida Governor Rick Scott chose to play politics, rather than protect the lives of the Florida citizens he is supposed to be serving. And unfortunately, if Republicans across the country continue playing politics with peoples’ lives, Charlene won’t be the only one to die.

A recent study by researchers at Harvard University and the City University of New York found that as many as 17,000 Americans will die directly as a result of Republican states refusing to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.  Samuel Dickman, one of the authors of the study, told Morning Call that, “The results were sobering. Political decisions have consequences, some of them lethal.”

Unfortunately, Republicans like Rick Scott don’t give a rat’s ass that their political decisions have life-and-death consequences.  Consequences like three young children losing their mother. They just want to smear Obama, and don’t care who dies, just so long as it’s just working poor people.

But enough is enough. Some things are more important than politics, and life is certainly one of them. Republicans say that they’re pro-life, but that’s a bald-faced lie, because they refuse to let low-wage working Americans have access to life-saving Medicaid. If Rick Scott and his Republican buddies in the Florida legislature are really the Christians they claim they are, then they’re going to burn in hell. Deservedly.

From Thom Hartmann

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On Scene with Bill Wilson

It is about eight months before the midterm elections of 2014. The political “pundits” have already predicted the Republican takeover of the Senate. After years of relentless attacks it seems that the more motivated voters will be those who hate Obama. We’ve taken Joe McGinniss’ The Selling of the President to unbelievable heights. Not only can we package candidates like soap, but we can do it with “corporations are people” money and no one has to be accountable.


PhotoA082822resMoney makes the world go round.

 So what is it that makes so predictable the fact that people can be persuaded to vote against their own interests? We claim we want government to be responsive to our needs, but we reward the party that shut it down with control over the whole legislative branch.  Does it make sense to anyone that some how gridlock will be lessened by giving power to those whose biggest priority has been to make President Obama a failure?

PhotoB038551resPresident Obama on his way to the next fundraiser

 So the knot in my stomach has already begun to tighten and it is only going to get worse before it gets better. That’s the way the cliché goes, but quite frankly I’m not sure that it will be getting better within what is left of my time. (In twenty years I’ll be in my 80’s.) But there is still that part of me that wants to believe that the best will happen and Republicans will not get control of the legislative branch of the government. So I do what I can, donate what I can, and occasionally vent by writing columns.



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Master Storyteller Ira Glass Brings His Vaudevillian Mash-Up of Radio and Dance to Zellerbach Hall

“We know this is weird,”  says Ira Glass at the start of each performance of his Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host, which comes to Cal Performances’ Zellerbach Hall on Saturday, March 29 at 8:00 p.m. Glass, who is best known as the radio host of This American Life, has teamed with choreographer Monica Bill Barnes and dancer Anna Bass to restage interviews as dance pieces in a vaudevillian-style theatrical production by pairing two arts forms that—as Glass puts it—“have no business being together.” Glass uses recorded interviews, music, and personal stories to create a narrative for Barnes and Bass, who evoke characters through dance, producing “a perfect—and perfectly unexpected—union” (The Santa Barbara Independent). In true Glassian form, the performance is served up in three acts. Act One: being a performer; Act Two: falling in love and staying in love; and Act Three: losing what you love. “This is one of my favorite things I’ve ever been part of,” states Glass.

Glass met Barnes while competing in a Dancing With the Stars-type contest called The Talent Show. They thought their work shared a sensibility, even though hers includes no talking and his involves no physical movement. In May 2012, the duo collaborated on three short dances that were part of a This American Life variety show that was shown in 600 movie theaters nationwide. Following its success, Glass and Barnes decided to make a piece of theater that combines story and dance. Glass has taken the production to New York, Chicago, and San Francisco where it has consistently been a sellout.

Glass is the creator and host of This American Life, which premiered on Chicago’s public radio station WBEZ in 1995 and is now heard in more than 500 public radio stations by 1.7 million listeners each week. The show also airs each week on the CBC in Canada and on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s radio network. At age 19 in 1978, Glass began his career as an intern at National Public Radio’s network headquarters in Washington, DC. He has worked as a tape cutter, newscast writer, desk assistant, editor, and producer. Under Glass, This American Life has won the highest honors for broadcasting and journalistic excellence, including multiple Peabody and DuPont-Columbia awards. In 2007 and 2008, a television adaptation of This American Life ran on the Showtime network, winning three Emmy Awards including Outstanding Nonfiction Series.

Monica Bill Barnes is the Artistic Director of Monica Bill Barnes & Company in New York City. Founded in 1997, the company has performed in more than 50 cities throughout the Unites States and has been commissioned and presented by The American Dance Festival, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Since 2006, Barnes has been creating duets for herself and dance partner Anna Bass, performing in comedy festivals, films, and at literary events. Barnes has been an invited guest artist at many universities, has choreographed for various theater productions, and has been commissioned by Parsons Dance and The Juilliard School.

Anna Bass began working with Monica Bill Barnes & Company in 2003 and now serves as Associate Artistic Director. Bass was the Assistant Choreographer for The Jammer at The Atlantic Theater, Goodbar at the Under the Radar Festival at The Public Theater, and These Paper Bullets at Yale Repertory Theatre. She has performed all over the country and on stages ranging from public fountains and city parks to New York City Center and Carnegie Hall.


Tickets for Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host on Saturday, March 29 at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall range from $30.00 to $78.00 and are subject to change. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Saturday, February 1 and are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, at, and at the door. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. For more information about tickets and discounts, go to or call (510) 642-9988.


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Justice Scalia’s Past Comes Back To Haunt Him On Birth Control

When the Supreme Court hears two landmark cases about birth control on Tuesday, few observers doubt that Justice Antonin Scalia’s sympathies will be the Christian business owners who charge that the mandate violates their religious liberties.

The Reagan-appointed jurist is a devout Catholic who has extolled “traditional Christian virtues” and insists the devil is “a real person.” He even has a son who’s a Catholic priest. He voted in 2012 to wipe out Obamacare in its entirety and has been President Barack Obama’s most outspoken foe on the Supreme Court.

And yet, Scalia’s past jurisprudence stands contradictory to the argument for striking down the Obamacare rule in question, which requires for-profit employers’ insurance plans to cover contraceptives (like Plan B, Ella and intrauterine devices) for female employees without co-pays.

In 1990, Scalia wrote the majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, concluding that the First Amendment “does not require” the government to grant “religious exemptions” from generally applicable laws or civic obligations. The case was brought by two men in Oregon who sued the state for denying them unemployment benefits after they were fired from their jobs for ingesting peyote, which they said they did because of their Native American religious beliefs.

“[T]he right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability,” Scalia wrote in the 6-3 majority decision, going on to aggressively argue that such exemptions could be a slippery slope to lawlessness.

“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind,” he wrote, “ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.”

That opinion could haunt the jurist if he seeks to invalidate the birth control rule.

“Scalia will have to reckon with his own concern in Smith about the lawlessness and chaos created by liberal exemptions to generally applicable law,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA. “For him to uphold an exemption now is to invite more of the lawlessness that he warned about.”

Michael C. Dorf, a law professor at Cornell, also addressed the tension.

“Justice Scalia’s opinion in the Smith case offered a number of grounds for the conclusion that the Free Exercise Clause does not entitle religious objectors to exceptions from neutral laws of general application,” Dorf wrote in SCOTUSblog, observing that Scalia also posited that judges weren’t “competent” to decide which religions were deserving of exemptions.

In response to Scalia’s decision, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993, which says any law that “substantially burden[s]” a person’s exercise of religion must demonstrate a “compelling governmental interest” and employ the “least restrictive means” of furthering that interest. That’s the basis under which Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, two businesses with religious owners, are suing for relief from the birth control rule.

And that might offer Scalia an escape hatch. Experts say he could conceivably decide that the First Amendment doesn’t protect a religious person’s entity’s to an exemption from the law but that RFRA suffices to let Hobby Lobby and certain others off the hook from the birth control rule. But even then, the RFRA argument isn’t clear-cut. Nineteen Democratic senators who voted for the law in 1993 have filed an amicus brief insisting that it doesn’t — and was never intended to — give for-profit companies a pass on the law.

It’s up to Scalia and the other justices to parse that question. If he axes the mandate on the basis of RFRA, he still has to contend with his earlier argument that such an outcome carries grave dangers for the rule of law.

“To permit this,” he wrote in Smith, quoting from an old court decision, “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.”


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RNC Rolls Out Its Millennial Pitch

As Republican Party officials know very well, they’re facing a series of demographic challenges, including a generational problem:Americans under 30 are the only generation that self-identifies as more liberal than conservative. On top of the party’s gender gap and difficulties connecting with minority groups, the GOP is also finding that younger voters reject the Republicans’ far-right message.
But the party is making an outreach effort in the hopes of turning things around. In fact, this week – exactly one year after the “autopsy” report said Republicans have to start doing better with younger voters – the RNC rolled our two new ads intended to appeal to millennials, which will air in 14 states this election year.
I’m neither a millennial nor a messaging guru, but I couldn’t help but notice some of the flaws in the ads.
The first shows a young man named Scott Greenberg in his car, apparently reading cue cards, talking about energy policy.
“I shouldn’t have to check my bank account before I fill up my car, but so much of my paycheck ends up going to gas. We haven’t even talked about my heating bill at home. So when it comes to energy policy for this country, I’m for everything – solar, wind, shale gas, oil, whatever. I’m a Republican because we should have an all-of-the-above energy policy.”
Putting aside questions about whether this is really what millennials care about – don’t young adults drive less than any generation, and less than previous generations of young adults? – it’s also worth noting that President Obama is pushing for an all-of-the-above energy policy, and he’s a Democrat. The White House repeats the phrase all the time.
Scott Greenberg is a Republican because he agrees with Obama on energy policy? For that matter, since when do Republicans support solar and wind? Just two years ago, the party’s presidential candidate said the opposite.
The second RNC ad features Greenberg, still awkwardly reading cue cards, this time at a gas station.
“I feel pretty lucky to have a job. So many people I know are unemployed. It’s like their lives are stuck in neutral. So I get ticked off at politicians who say they want to help the unemployed and then vote for regulations that make it impossible to hire anyone.
“Listen, you can’t help the unemployed by hurting the people who could employ them. I’m a Republican because my friends need a paycheck, not an empty promise.”
First, blaming unemployment on “regulations” is pretty silly. Second, asking a little more from the wealthy in order to invest in job creation is more than an “empty promise”; it’s a sound economic policy.
Alex Pareene wrote a compelling message to Scott Greenberg.
[Y[ou know, it’s sort of weird that your sympathies lie with the people who could employ your friends but don’t, because they are mad at the government. I am just saying. Millennial to millennial.
In fact, millennial to millennial, one thing that connects both of your little messages here is that you seem to be saying you are a Republican because you support policies that will increase the profitability of certain Republican-allied industry interests, like business owners and energy companies, instead of just supporting direct action to help your fellow millennials deal with the real problems of high transportation costs and unemployment. Maybe instead of increased energy production and “not hurting job creators” we could try increased access to (and more reliable) public transit and, I dunno, having the government subsidize the hiring of (or directly hire) people who want to work? Just spitballing.
The RNC’s focus groups must have liked the ads or the party wouldn’t be airing them in states with competitive Senate races. For that matter, there’s nothing wrong with Republicans launching an outreach effort to a constituency that’s quickly moving away from them.
But I have a hard time imagining Democrats watching the RNC’s ads and feeling nervous.
Steve Benin, MSNBC
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Gluten Free Crepes Contest Winner at Squat and Gobble

Jessann Cohn, a trained chef who works as a caterer, has just moved the Gluten Free bar a bit further.   The Haight resident is the winner in the Squat and Gobble gluten free crepe contest and won $300 and a years worth of monthly meals.  Cohn currently works as a caterer with one of the larger SF catering companies.


“”Crepe’ and ‘Gluten Free’ are rarely heard in the same sentence” according to Squat and Gobble managing partner Issa Sweidan.   “Because we specialize in crepes, we wanted to include an alternative for people with gluten issues.  So we conducted this contest to get some new ideas to make sure all of our customers can enjoy our family-friendly menu.”

Cohn’s winning recipe replaces traditional flour with chickpea flour among its chief ingredients.   Beginning this month a version of her crepe will appear on the menu at all five Squat and Gobble locations.

At the same time, all locations will offer gluten-free pasta, as well.

Squat and Gobble has served the Upper Haight, Lower Haight, Marina, Castro and West Portal since 1994.




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In San Francisco, Plastic Bottles Going the Way of Plastic Bags

Bottled water is no longer welcome in San Francisco.

The City by the Bay earlier this week scored yet another environmental first when legislators here unanimously voted to end the sale and distribution of plastic bottled water on municipal property—a move that will bring the city nearer its goal of diverting all its waste from landfill or incineration by 2020.

The sales ban takes San Francisco a step beyond former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s 2007 executive order forbidding it to purchase bottled water with city funds. While six states and at least 140 other American cities, such as Seattle, have also officially stopped buying bottled water with municipal money, San Francisco is the first major city to prohibit vendors on its property from selling the item.

The city estimates that worldwide, tens of millions of single-serving plastic water bottles are sent to landfills every year. More than 75 percent of the 50 billion plastic bottles of water consumed by Americans each year—167 per person—are not recycled, according to journalist Charles Fishman.

“Given that San Franciscans can access clean and inexpensive water out of our taps, we need to wean ourselves out of our addiction to plastic water bottles,” said David Chiu, the county supervisor who introduced the ordinance. “The bottled water industry spends millions of dollars to undermine the public’s faith in tap water,” said Lauren DeRusha, an organizer with Corporate Accountability International, whose organization worked with San Francisco on the legislation as part of a national campaign to protect public water systems.

The legislation—which applies to bottles 21 ounces or smaller—will become official if signed by Mayor Ed Lee later this month and will be applied only to new leases and permits granted by the city. Exceptions will be made for events in areas with restricted access to public water until October 2016. Footraces and public sporting events will always be exempt, as will special circumstances where public health and safety are of concern.

The development in San Francisco is part of a growing movement to ban the bottle. Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Vermont have prohibited use of public money to buy single-use plastic bottled water. In January 2013, the town of Concord, Mass., stopped sales of any plastic bottled water 34 ounces or smaller within city limits. Dozens of colleges and universities have rid themselves of the bottles in their stores and vending machines. And U.S. national parks, such as Mount Rainier in Washington state, are getting in on the cause as well. Fourteen have already enacted a ban, says DeRusha, who is working on a national effort with Corporate Accountability International.

Not surprisingly, an industry group expressed opposition to the San Francisco ordinance.

“Water is good for you, and people should be able to choose how they drink it—whether from a tap, a fountain, or recyclable container,” the American Beverage Association expressed in a statement.

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McConnell fundraiser: Wives owe their husbands sex even if they’re not in the mood

Quite the charmer Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has hosting fundraisers for him. Dennis Prager is a talk radio host who thinks that one of the “mutual obligations” of marriage is for women to have sex with their husbands based on the husband’s wishes and not the wife’s “mood.”

Writing on in December of 2008, Prager compares a man’s obligation to go to work, regardless of his “mood,” to a woman’s obligation to have sex with her husband.“Why would a loving, wise woman allow mood to determine whether or not she will give her husband one of the most important expressions of love she can show him? What else in life, of such significance, do we allow to be governed by mood?” he writes.

“What if your husband woke up one day and announced that he was not in the mood to go to work?”

He goes on to compare a wife’s commitment to meeting the needs of their children or parents or friends even when not in the mood to having sex with her husband, asking that, because the woman is doing what’s “right in those cases, rather than what their mood dictates,” “Why not apply this attitude to sex with one’s husband?”

Why not? Um, because sex is a more intimate act than remembering to buy milk at the store? Because while people (husbands, wives, whoever) are paid to go to work and be professional about it, sex is supposed to be a mutual thing? Do men not benefit if their wives actually wantto have sex rather than doing it out of a sense of obligation?

I don’t know, just spitballing here. Maybe I’m crazy and sex really is the wife’s version of having a job. Except … no, that doesn’t make sense if you consider it in the context of how Republicans generally view sex workers; if you view the wife as a form of property it makes a little more sense, though. And what if the wife also has a job? Then does she get to say “hey, I go to work regardless of my mood, just like you, so that means I get to say I’m not in the mood to have sex right now”?

It would probably take 3,000 words to unpack all the noxious assumptions about gender roles, sex, and marriage in those few short paragraphs, so let’s leave it at this: Mitch McConnell is happy to have Dennis Prager’s name attached to a Mitch McConnell fundraiser.



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Alabama Republican: McCarthy ‘turned out to be right’

In Alabama, state Sen. Scott Beason (R), who’s also currently running for Congress, told his local newspaper over the weekend that he has some concerns about a commonly used high school literature textbook (thanks to reader A.M. for the tip).
Beason put his own flag on “The Crucible,” Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem witch trials. The senator thinks it’s unfair that the textbook attached a sidebar asking students about parallels between the witch trials and Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare of the early 1950s, in which numerous writers and others – including Arthur Miller – were accused of having communist sympathies.
McCarthy was right about most of the people he accused, Beason claims.
“So we’re comparing the McCarthy investigations of the 1950s, in which he turned out to be right, with the Salem witch hunts,” Beason said.
No, Joe McCarthy did not turn out to be right, though it’s alarming how many have come to the same conclusion as Beason.
For quite a while, the American mainstream recognized the fact that McCarthyism was a dangerous mistake – and the Senate was right to censure McCarthy in 1954 – but as Republican politics moved sharply to the right, the former senator’s witch hunt got a second look by much of the conservative movement.
And they decided they liked what they saw.
To be sure, for most of the political world, including many Republicans, McCarthyism is still seen as something of a tragedy. When the word is used, it’s not intended to be complimentary.
But there are exceptions. In Congress, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has endorsed bringing back the House Un-American Activities Committee, while Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told msnbc in 2008 that she supports investigations to determine which members of Congress are “pro-America or anti-America.”
A few years ago in Texas, conservative activists rewriting the state’s curriculum recommended telling students that McCarthy was a hero, “vindicated” by history.
And one year ago next week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was asked whether McCarthy is someone he personally admired. The senator refused to answer.
When thinking about the differences between the contemporary Republican Party and how much it’s changed over the last generation, look no further than those who’ve decided McCarthyism wasn’t so bad after all.
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