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Christians Call Out Hobby Lobby For Hypocrisy

The arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby proudly touts itself as a Christian company that puts people over profits. However, some staunch Christians say there’s a gaping hole in that claim — namely, China.

Products bearing “Made in China” labels are found all over the shelves at Hobby Lobby, evidence that some of its wares come from Chinese factories that have a reputation for labor rights violations and rock-bottom wages. Employees at these facilities often end up working grueling hours in prison-like conditions and never earn enough to escape poverty.

“You cannot call your business ‘Christian’ when arguing before the Supreme Court, and then set aside Christian values when you’re placing a bulk order for cheap wind chimes,” wrote Christian author and columnist Jonathan Merritt in a recent article for The Week.

Hobby Lobby remains quiet about its dealings in China. The company did not respond to requests for a list of Chinese factories it does business with, and did not provide information about what percentage of its merchandise comes from China.

Then there’s China’s controversial record on abortion. The country’s one-child policy was slightly relaxed in 2013, but the family planning bureaucracy still exists. Since the government instituted the policy 40 years ago, there have been more than 330 million abortions in China, according to health ministry data cited by the Financial Times. Though fewer instances of forced abortion, infanticide and involuntary sterilization now occur because they’re banned by the government, they still happen, The Washington Post reported last year.

This week, Hobby Lobby’s crusade against contraceptives scored it a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the court ruled 5-4 that so-called “closely held corporations” don’t have to provide certain kinds of contraception for employees.

“Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions, which means that we don’t cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill,” Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green wrote in an open letter in 2013. “We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs.”

Yet the company is happy to profit from the business it does with China, critics argue, even though political conditions in that country have led to hundreds of millions of abortions.

Leslie Marshall, a radio host and self-described born-again Christian, questioned Hobby Lobby’s policies in a column for U.S. News & World Report in March, invoking the teachings of the “guy who started all of this.”

“As they say: What would Jesus do?” wrote Marshall. “He would remind Hobby Lobby that ‘he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.’ Hobby Lobby should put its stones down.”

In a 2013 blog post, Matt Chambers, the director of a non-governmental organization called SafeWorld, similarly wrote that he disapproved of Hobby Lobby’s relationship with China for religious reasons.

“You see, when it comes carrying high the banner of ‘Biblical principles’, I believe a company who wanted that to be their public persona would be extra careful to NEVER do business with the very people who go against everything they claim to fight for as Christians,” Chambers wrote, according to The Christian Post.

Other Christian columnists, including The Christian Post’s Josh Stonestreet, have come out in defense of Hobby Lobby, saying that working with Chinese manufacturers is different from working with the Chinese government.

“Doing business in a place where evil exists is not the same as directly supporting that evil,” wrote Stonestreet. “In fact, it may even be a force for good!”

Hobby Lobby has remained largely silent on the issue, but in a column in the Rutland (Vermont) Herald in March, Peter Dobelbower, the company’s vice president and chief legal officer, provided some insight into Hobby Lobby’s rationale for buying products made abroad: Those factories can’t control what their governments do, so it’s OK.

“Our company sources from suppliers around the world,” Dobelbower wrote in response to an earlier op-ed, calling for a boycott, that had appeared in the same paper. “Virtually all Hobby Lobby’s vendors are small entrepreneurial businesses without control over their government’s abortion policies.”

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Sister attacked on Pink Saturday. Police need your help

Police need the community’s help in identifying the attacker(s) of one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and her husband during Pink Saturday festivities in the Castro near 18th and Castro Street.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are the main hosts of Pink Saturday festivities and widely push their “Stop The Violence” campaign year round to help curb violence against LGBTQ people and offer safe places for victims of violence to seek refuge and support. It is unfortunate that one of the do-good Sisters and her husband would be a victim of violence themselves.

According to a Castro Community on Patrol email alert, the Sister and her husband were physically and verbally assaulted by a group of up to seven people at the intersection of Castro Street & 18th Street. Both received some injuries and were very shaken by the incident, but fortunately neither required hospitalization.

The unnamed Sister allowed a photo of her from Saturday to be released on the Stop the Violence campaign Facebook Page (below) to help jog the memory of people who may have witnessed the incident. If you witnessed this incident, or if you have photographs or video of the incident, please contact Mission Police Station:

MISSION POLICE STATION:
630 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 558-5400
Email: SFPDMissionStation@sfgov.org
Non-emergency, dial: (415) 553-0123
TIP LINE: (415) 552-4558

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Sister who was attacked (photo: Stop The Violence Facebook Page)

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Supreme Court conservatives side with Hobby Lobby on contraception

When the legal challenges against the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate were first filed, they seemed destined to fail. The law already exempts houses of worship and religious non-profits, and as the 3rd Circuit explained, courts have “long recognized the distinction between the owners of a corporation and the corporation itself.” Ruling that “a for-profit corporation can engage in religious exercise” would “eviscerate the fundamental principle that a corporation is a legally distinct entity from its owners.”

And yet, as Irin Carmon reports, conservatives on the high court found a way to side with Hobby Lobby anyway.
The Supreme Court has ruled that a closely-held company can be exempt from the contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. […]

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law at issue in the case, has never been applied to for-profit entities. The Court had to decide whether corporations even have religious exercise rights – making the beliefs of the employer synonymous with the entire company – and weigh that question against the potential harms to the employees.
It was a 5-4 decision, with the five Republican-appointed justices siding against the contraception policy and the four Democratic-appointed justices ruling in favor of it. Note, it’s not a short decision: there’s the majority ruling, a concurrence, are three separate dissents.

Of particular interest, the court seems to make a distinction between for-profit corporations and “closely held” for-profit corporations, which are businesses in which no more than five individuals own most of the corporation.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Stewart Appointed Justice of 1st District Court of Appeals.

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the appointment of Associate Justice James M. Humes as presiding justice, Division One and Therese M. Stewart to Division Two of the First District Court of Appeal.

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Deputy City Attorney Theresa M.Stewart and City Attorney listen to press conference at Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

 Stewart, 57, of San Francisco, has served as chief deputy city attorney at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office since 2002. She was a director at Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk and Rabkin PC from 1988 to 2002, where she was an associate from 1982 to 1988. She served as a law clerk for the Honorable Phyllis A. Kravitch at the U.S. Court of Appeal, Eleventh Circuit from 1981 to 1982.

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 Theresa M. Stewart (right) and her spouse, Carole Scagnetti waiting at the Supreme Court on a cool spring morning March 26, 2013

 Stewart argued on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco in the trilogy of cases advocating for marriage equality for LGBT Californians in the California Supreme Court. She also led the team of San Francisco deputy city attorneys intervening as plaintiffs in the federal case challenging Proposition 8. Stewart earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University.

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Theresa Stewart  addresses her colleagues in the office of City Attorney on June 26, 2013 the day of the decision of the SCOTUS.

Stewart fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice James R. Lambden. This position requires confirmation by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. The Commission consists of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and Senior Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline. Stewart will be the first openly lesbian justice to serve on the California Court of Appeal, if confirmed. Stewart is a Democrat.

 

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Jeff and David Janis-Kitzmiller, Judge Walker and Therese M. Stewart and Carole Scagnetti

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Coulter Proves she is and Idiot: “Any growing interest in soccer a sign of nation’s moral decay “

From Ann Coulter — a trues symbol of American stupidity:

“If more “Americans” are watching soccer today, it’s only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy’s 1965 immigration law. I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.

I’ve held off on writing about soccer for a decade — or about the length of the average soccer game — so as not to offend anyone. But enough is enough. Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation’s moral decay.

• Individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer. In a real sport, players fumble passes, throw bricks and drop fly balls — all in front of a crowd. When baseball players strike out, they’re standing alone at the plate. But there’s also individual glory in home runs, touchdowns and slam-dunks.

In soccer, the blame is dispersed and almost no one scores anyway. There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child’s fragile self-esteem is bruised. There’s a reason perpetually alarmed women are called “soccer moms,” not “football moms.”

Do they even have MVPs in soccer? Everyone just runs up and down the field and, every once in a while, a ball accidentally goes in. That’s when we’re supposed to go wild. I’m already asleep.

• Liberal moms like soccer because it’s a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys. No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level.

• No other “sport” ends in as many scoreless ties as soccer. This was an actual marquee sign by the freeway in Long Beach, California, about a World Cup game last week: “2nd period, 11 minutes left, score: 0:0.” Two hours later, another World Cup game was on the same screen: “1st period, 8 minutes left, score: 0:0.” If Michael Jackson had treated his chronic insomnia with a tape of Argentina vs. Brazil instead of Propofol, he’d still be alive, although bored.

Even in football, by which I mean football, there are very few scoreless ties — and it’s a lot harder to score when a half-dozen 300-pound bruisers are trying to crush you.

Record numbers of football fans in the United States are bracing for another edge-of-the-seat match Thursday as their team battles to make the World Cup second round — and prove the sport’s growing popularity.Duration: 00:52

• The prospect of either personal humiliation or major injury is required to count as a sport. Most sports are sublimated warfare. As Lady Thatcher reportedly said after Germany had beaten England in some major soccer game: Don’t worry. After all, twice in this century we beat them at their national game.

Baseball and basketball present a constant threat of personal disgrace. In hockey, there are three or four fights a game — and it’s not a stroll on beach to be on ice with a puck flying around at 100 miles per hour. After a football game, ambulances carry off the wounded. After a soccer game, every player gets a ribbon and a juice box.

• You can’t use your hands in soccer. (Thus eliminating the danger of having to catch a fly ball.) What sets man apart from the lesser beasts, besides a soul, is that we have opposable thumbs. Our hands can hold things. Here’s a great idea: Let’s create a game where you’re not allowed to use them!

• I resent the force-fed aspect of soccer. The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO’s “Girls,” light-rail, Beyonce and Hillary Clinton. The number of New York Times articles claiming soccer is “catching on” is exceeded only by the ones pretending women’s basketball is fascinating.

I note that we don’t have to be endlessly told how exciting football is.

• It’s foreign. In fact, that’s the precise reason the Times is constantly hectoring Americans to love soccer. One group of sports fans with whom soccer is not “catching on” at all, is African-Americans. They remain distinctly unimpressed by the fact that the French like it.

• Soccer is like the metric system, which liberals also adore because it’s European. Naturally, the metric system emerged from the French Revolution, during the brief intervals when they weren’t committing mass murder by guillotine.

Despite being subjected to Chinese-style brainwashing in the public schools to use centimeters and Celsius, ask any American for the temperature, and he’ll say something like “70 degrees.” Ask how far Boston is from New York City, he’ll say it’s about 200 miles.

Liberals get angry and tell us that the metric system is more “rational” than the measurements everyone understands. This is ridiculous. An inch is the width of a man’s thumb, a foot the length of his foot, a yard the length of his belt. That’s easy to visualize. How do you visualize 147.2 centimeters?

• Soccer is not “catching on.” Headlines this week proclaimed “Record U.S. ratings for World Cup,” and we had to hear — again about the “growing popularity of soccer in the United States.”

The USA-Portugal game was the blockbuster match, garnering 18.2 million viewers on ESPN. This beat the second-most watched soccer game ever: The 1999 Women’s World Cup final (USA vs. China) on ABC. (In soccer, the women’s games are as thrilling as the men’s.)

Run-of-the-mill, regular-season Sunday Night Football games average more than 20 million viewers; NFL playoff games get 30 to 40 million viewers; and this year’s Super Bowl had 111.5 million viewers.

Remember when the media tried to foist British soccer star David Beckham and his permanently camera-ready wife on us a few years ago? Their arrival in America was heralded with 24-7 news coverage. That lasted about two days. Ratings tanked. No one cared.

If more “Americans” are watching soccer today, it’s only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy’s 1965 immigration law. I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.”

Ann Coulter is a syndicated columnist. Contact her through her website at www.anncoulter.com.

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Editorial: Good Riddance to George Lucas Vanity Museum: Chicago Be Careful What you Pray For

 

Alfred E. Neuman artwork is part of George Lucas 'art collection."

Alfred E. Neuman artwork is part of George Lucas “art collection.”

 

It was great to read the San Francisco Chronicle today and see two of its leading writers, Chuck Nevius and John King, both essentially say “Hasta la Vista, Baby!” to the vanity museum that Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas wanted to build in San Francisco’s Presidio.

The real story isn’t that Chicago “won” the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, but rather that San Francisco was victorious in rejecting a poorly-designed monstrosity that would have housed the personal collection of George Lucas’ kitschy art collection.  Chicago has “won” Lucas’ oversized ego, his childish behavior, his grumpy development team, and his collection of art that would be best exhibited in a suburban mall.

All we can say is: Thank goodness for the leadership of the Presidio Trust which turned down this monument to Lucas’ bad taste.

The Presidio park is a jewel and is enjoying nearly 20 years of success by doing the right thing and planning properly for this National Landmark and Bay Area treasure.  The cheap and cheesy museum proposed by Lucas didn’t belong on a bluff overlooking the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean.  We should all thank The Presidio Trust for acting in the best interest of the public and not in the interest of a vein Hollywood millionaire and rejecting what Chicago has all-too-quickly accepted.

Bravo Presidio Trust. Good luck Chicago.

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Wall Street nervous as Sen. Sherrod Brown vies for Banking Committee chair

Well, this would be amazing: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is vying for the gavel of the powerful Senate banking committee in the next Congress – a possibility that has excited consumer groups but put big Wall Street banks on edge.

So, how did the relatively junior Brown—he has “only” been in the Senate for eight years and currently ranks fifth in seniority on the committee—come to be a top prospect for a powerful committee chair? Well, retirements have Senate Democrats playing a little game of musical chairs:

  1. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), the current committee chair, is retiring.
  2. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) is currently next in line on the committee. But…
  3. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is also retiring. Reed is also next in line to lead this committee. He can only lead one major committee and is expected to take the reins of Armed Services.
  4. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is next in line after Reed. Schumer still wants to be majority leader someday and becoming Banking chair would force him into the awkward position of overseeing Wall Street, a home-state industry, at a time when most Senate Democrats want to get tougher on big banks. Schumer could take a pass on becoming Banking chair and remain chairman of the Rules Committee.
  5. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is next in line after Schumer. But Menendez is already chair of the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a gig previously held by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.
  6. Brown is next in line after Menendez.

Brown is already saying he wants the job, so we could end up with one of the Senate’s best Wall Street watch dogs overseeing big banks. It would be an awesome win for progressives and makes holding the Senate this fall all the more important.

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City Arts & Lectures presents Cornel West, Anita Hill, Alan Cumming and others as part of its Fall 2014 line-up

 City Arts & Lectures is pleased to announce the Fall 2014 Cultural Studies line-up.  Tickets for the 9 events (7 series events and 2 special events) go on sale to the public Thursday, June 28.

All events are 7:30pm at the recently re-furbished Nourse Theater, 275 Hayes Street. 

Tickets: $27 & $35. 

Tickets + info: CITYARTS.NET

Alec Baldwin
Film Clips + conversation with Steven Winn
Monday, July 28, 2014, 7:30pm
Tickets: $35
Series: Special Event (not a series event)

Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad  Gut Churn
Multimedia presentation
Wednesday, October 1, 2014, 7:30pm
Tickets: $35
Series: Special Event (not a series event)

Cornel West New Book: Black Prophetic Fire * Race Matters
In conversation with Astra Taylor
Friday, October 10, 2014, 7:30pm
Tickets: $27

Anita Hill  Anita: Speaking Truth To Power
Documentary Screening and discussion
Hosted by Roy Eisenhardt
Tuesday, October 14, 2014, 7:30pm
Tickets: $27

Mark Bittman New Book: How To Cook Everything Fast 
In conversation with Jessica Battilana
Monday, October 20, 2014, 7:30pm
Tickets: $27

Jack Dorsey Co-creator, Twitter 
Paul Goldberger Why Architecture Matters 
In conversation with Steven Winn
Monday, October 27, 2014, 7:30pm
Tickets: $27
* Note: This event is a benefit for San Francisco Heritage and the Haas-Lilienthal House

Alan Cumming New Memoir: Not My Father’s Son 
In conversation with Armistead Maupin
Monday, November 3, 2014, 7:30pm
Tickets: $27

Jill Lepore, Historian 
In conversation with Roy Eisenhardt
Thursday, November 13, 2014, 7:30pm
Tickets: $27

Anne Lamott, Author
Jack Kornfield Buddhist Teacher , Co-founder, Spirit Rock Center
Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 7:30pm
Tickets: $27

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San Francisco Museum Nears $610 Million Fundraising Goal

The biggest museum fundraising campaign in San Francisco history is nearing its $610 million goal two years before the opening of a new wing that will more than double the space for artworks by Andy WarholMark Rothko and David Hockney.

About $570 million, or 94 percent, has been raised by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for its 235,000-square-foot (21,800-square-meter) expansion and to add $245 million to the museum’s endowment. The $305 million wing designed by the Snohetta architecture firm is rising behind SFMOMA’s current home, opened two decades ago in the technology-heavy South of Market area, or SOMA.

“In 1995, we were the pioneers when SOMA was pretty run-down, and the tech boom followed us,” Neal Benezra, the museum’s director, said June 20 in a presentation at Bloomberg LP’s San Francisco offices. “Our expansion will solidify the neighborhood as a cultural hub.”

The museum’s main entrance will shift to Howard Street from Third Street in a slender 10-story addition that features more glass and outdoor terraces, Benezra said. SFMOMA’s current holdings will be joined in the larger quarters by the 1,100-piece collection of Doris and Donald Fisher, founders of San Francisco-based Gap Inc., that include works by Richard SerraAlexander CalderRoy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, Anselm Kiefer and Chuck Close, among others.

Scruffy Neighborhood

The San Francisco museum, among the oldest institutions devoted to modern and contemporary art, was founded in 1935 and originally housed in the upper floors of a multi-use building near City Hall. Moving to the scruffy SOMA district gave it a separate identity and set the stage for attendance growth and bequests from local donors, including Prentice and Paul Sack’s photographic collection and seven works by Frank Stella from Harry and Mary Anderson, Benezra said.

“We want this museum to mean much more to many more people, but we simply don’t have enough space,” Benezra said in the presentation. The expansion project is being completed at “one of those moments when the stars align and everything comes true,” he said.

In the two decades since the museum moved to SOMA, the neighborhood has been transformed by new luxury hotels and residences and an expanding Moscone Center convention hall. Demand from technology startups has cut office vacancy rates to the lowest in the city, with companies such as Twitter Inc. moving to nearby districts with available space.

The Fisher collection will be displayed along with SFMOMA’s current holdings in galleries that will be comparable in size to those at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The concentration of contemporary works in San Francisco may even surpass the museum’s East Coast counterpart, Benezra said.

“We think we’re going to be great from 1960 on,” he said.

 

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Americans Think It Should Be Illegal To Fire Someone For Being Gay, Don’t Realize It’s Not Already

Half of Americans support passing a law banning discrimination by employers against gays and lesbians, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows – and even more Americans agree that it should be illegal to fire someone for being gay.

The poll comes after President Barack Obama announced that his staff was drafting an executive order prohibiting job discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a broader bill that would apply to most U.S. employers, has passed the Senate but not the House.

In the new survey, 50 percent of Americans favored and 38 percent opposed legislation banning job discrimination against gays and lesbians. The poll found political division on the issue: 63 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents favored that kind of legislation, but only 34 percent of Republicans did.

But on at least one major protection the legislation would provide, all three groups were united. Seventy-six percent of Americans, including 88 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 68 percent of Republicans, said that it should be illegal to fire someone for being gay or lesbian. Only 12 percent of Americans said it should be legal.

The fact that far more Americans agree with the principle than with the legislation may be attributable to a common misconception: Sixty-two percent of Americans think it’s already illegal to fire someone for being gay, while only 14 percent of poll respondents said that it’s legal. In fact, it is still legal in 29 states to fire someone for being gay.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents all think it’s already illegal to fire someone for their sexual orientation.

 

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Jason Hanna And Joe Riggs, Texas Gay Fathers, Denied Legal Parenthood Of Twin Sons

It’s heartbreaking to think that a state has erased the parents of children and put a family in legal jeopardy, simply because of discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. But that’s what happened to a gay couple in Texas after what they described as the “magical” birth of their twin boys.

Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs are the proud fathers of Lucas and Ethan, who were born in April, after they’d connected with a surrogate mom, CharLynn.

Each of the men is a biological father to one of the babies. But, because Texas has a ban on gay marriage (it was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge last February, but the decision was stayed pending appeal), and because a judge can use his or her own discretion in these cases, neither of the men is currently on the birth certificates of either of the boys, nor have they been able to co-adopt each other’s biological child.

Only the surrogate mother — who has no biological relationship to the boys, since embryos were transferred to her — is on the birth certificates. In essence, the men are not legally defined as the parents of their own children. And though they have DNA tests for proof, they’re worried, particularly if something were to happen to one of them while the other still has not been able to co-adopt the other’s biological child.

“As of right now in Texas two men cannot be on the birth certificate,” Jason Hanna explained in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress. “So our attorney followed the letter of the law. We petitioned the court. We had DNA testing there [in court] and petitioned the judge to ultimately remove the surrogate mother from the birth certificate, who has no biological ties to the boys. We would like each biological dad to be placed on the birth certificate of our own son, and then ultimately proceed to the second-parent adoption. The entire petition was denied.”

Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs met four years ago and knew they wanted to be together and raise children, so they saved their money, knowing it would be a costly process. They married last July in Washington DC, where gay marriage is legal, and then went back to Dallas to celebrate their wedding with family and friends in August. They found a surrogate mom, and this past April the twins were born.

“We were sworn in and ultimately the judge was saying that with the information she had in front of her, under Texas law she couldn’t grant it,” Riggs said of their appearance in court last week. “I was shocked. We had a ton of questions as we walked away from that courtroom.”

It was particularly jarring to Hanna and Riggs because other gay couples in Texas, including friends of theirs, have successfully completed this process. The couple’s lawyer has offered them several options on bringing the petition back, changing the paperwork and the process. But there’s no question that if their marriage was legally recognized they would not be having this problem at all.

“In order to grant a second-parent adoption [automatically under current law], it has to be between two married people,” Jason explained. “And so, considering we’re not legally married in the eyes of Texas, they don’t have to grant that second-parent adoption because they don’t recognize our marriage…It’s up to the judge’s discretion on whether or not to grant it.”

Hanna and Riggs worry, as they wait for the next step, because they’re in a scary legal limbo.

“Without [co-adoption], if something happened to either me or Joe we don’t have any legal recourse to keep the other’s biological child,” Hanna said. “The state could come in and separate these two brothers…We want to reiterate how important it is for a state to recognize each family, whether it’s same-sex or opposite-sex, and really to ensure everyone has equal protection from the state.”

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‘House Hunters’ Creators Talk Building The HGTV Hit With LGBT Community

Randy and Greg look for their dream home in DC on the June 24th episode. (HGTV)

A funny thing happened a few years ago when I was watching “House Hunters” on HGTV with my husband. We both noticed that gay and lesbian couples were regularly a part of the show that follows a couple look for a new house. But it wasn’t a very special episode, there was no overt statement about the show featuring a gay couple and we also realized that the show, which began in 1998, seemed to be reflecting a new norm in television – making a statement but not making a statement at all.

I decided I needed to know more and I ended up on the phone with “House Hunters” creators Tara Sandler and Jennifer Davidson, a lesbian couple who, shortly after this interview, were headed to Provincetown to get married.

I’ve been a fan of the show for a long time and I remember noticing that there were gay couples mixed in.

Jennifer: Actually it’s been like that since we first started doing the show in 1998.

Tara: This came out of our own personal experience. We were deciding whether to put an offer on a house and we were like ‘It’s nice but it’s really kind of a small house with a big pool. And it’s not perfect but we could do this and do that.’ We just looked at each other and said, ‘this is a really stressful thing to decide. This should be a TV show!’

Jennifer: So we put an offer in on the house, went back to the office and wrote up a treatment.

Was it always the plan to include gay couples since obviously you started the show at a time where things are different than they are now?

Jennifer: I will say that it’s the way we normally think and the network was entirely on board.

Tara: The network said, ‘Let’s not make a big deal out of it.’ They’ve always said that. ‘They’re a couple like anything else.’ We don’t point anything out and it’s been that way since 1998.

In general, how do you find the couples for the show?

Jennifer: It’s really two major ways. Because the show has been on the air for so long, we have a ton of people applying to be on the show. So that’s one way. They apply and then our staff calls them, does a video interview and we make sure there’s enough criteria there. What we are looking for are people who are truly passionate and opinionated about the kind of place they want to live in. And some people, their number one priority might be school district or vacation and that’s not quite as interesting to ‘House Hunters.’ So we’re looking for people who have very strong opinions about what their dream place looks like, what kind of features they want and what are the deal breakers.

Right now, because we’ve done so many episodes, we’re looking for more unique outlooks more than people who just want an open layout and granite countertops or kitchen appliances. We’re looking for people who are looking beyond that and maybe have a passion for vintage features like we had one woman in Michigan who wanted a laundry chute and one of those old fashioned mail slots in the front door. We had another guy who was an architect who refused to live in a house that had hallways because he thought they were such a waste of space. Right now, that’s what we’re looking for are those more unique stories, people who are passionate about their living style and space.

The other way we find people is we look for real estate agents and we call them. It’s as simple as that. So if we think we don’t have enough shows set in Hawaii we’ll start calling the real estate agencies in Hawaii and find people that way.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned the most from the show that you didn’t expect to?

Tara: That people are really strange in some of their opinions and the way that they live. I also think it’s fascinating the trends that happen. Right now, the biggest trend is that women seem to want an all-white kitchen. White flooring, white walls…and so many men seem to want to have a backyard that’s not seen by any neighbors so they can do ‘whatever they want.’ I don’t really know what that means but once we did have one guy who wanted to go out in his underwear, he wanted to be able to pee outside…

Jennifer: Because we’ve been producing the show for so long we do notice these trends.

Tara: I also think that people watch so much HGTV that they know what they want. People have learned the language about what they like and what they don’t like.

Tell me about one of the shows this month that features a gay couple, Brad and Christian. I believe it’s in San Francisco.

Jennifer: There’s an episode about a couple searching in San Francisco and in the Marin County area that is really fun to watch. So rich visually and the characters are good.

Tara: And we’re a little obsessed with San Francisco. In the show, he needed a place that had the right acoustics for his piano because he’s a piano player. They’re a really cute couple.

And there’s another episode coming up on June 24th with Randy and Greg in Washington DC.

Tara: The interesting thing about these city episodes is what your money buys you and what it doesn’t buy you.

Jennifer: And they’re architecturally diverse.

Tara: Yeah. And the cool thing about the DC episode is they look at a very wide range of house and that’s an eye opener, I have to say!

How has it been for the relationship working together all these years?

Jennifer: People ask us this all the time. Some couples just work really easily together and some couples don’t but we happen to work really easily together. We’re happy we’ve been working together because the first 16 years it was really, really intense at Pie Town and we wouldn’t have ever seen each other. It’s all worked for us.

Tara: We’ve been together for 24 years, we’ve had Pie Town for 19 and it’s just really great to work with your best friend.

House Hunters” airs weeknights at 10pm on HGTV. The episode featuring Randy and Greg in DC airs June 24th at 10pm.

 

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Bob Jones University told rape victims to repent and look for ‘root sin’ that caused their attack

According to an investigative report from Al Jazeera America, rape victims searching for help at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., were told to repent and seek out their own “root sin” that caused them to be raped.

Within the past year BJU has opened its own investigation into sexual abuse and rape, and now former students who were victimized are coming forward to tell their stories about life on a campus where they were shamed and told to keep their stories to themselves.

Coming from a conservative Mennonite family, Katie Landry, who at age 19 had never even held hands with a boy, was raped multiple times by her supervisor at her summer job. Two years later, haunted by the attacks, and attending Bob Jones University, she sought help from then dean of students, Jim Berg.

According to Landry,  Berg asked whether she’d been drinking or smoking pot and if she had been “impure.” He then brought up her “root sin.”

“He goes, ‘Well, there’s always a sin under other sin. There’s a root sin,’” Landry explained. “And he said, ‘We have to find the sin in your life that caused your rape.’ And I just ran.”

“He just confirmed my worst nightmare,” she added. “It was something I had done. It was something about me. It was my fault.”

Landry eventually withdrew from the school and didn’t tell anyone else for five more years.

In interviews with Al Jazeera, other victims of abuse related how Biblical scripture was used to lay blame for the rapes on their own sins, and that their trauma was a sign that they were fighting God and would never be at peace until they forgave their rapists.

Called the “Fortress of Fundamentalism, ” Bob Jones University’s philosophical approach to almost all mental problems, beyond medical issues, is that they are the result of sin.

In a 1996 book, ‘Becoming an Effective Christian Counselor,’ written by former BJU Dean of Education Walter Fremont and his wife, counselors are instructed to emphasize that the blame lies with the abuser. However, the authors also state that being sexually assaulted is not an excuse for “sinful feelings” of discontentment, hate, fear, and especially, bitterness; calling unresolved anger “rebellion and bitterness against God.”

Previously Al Jazeera reported on a BJU student named identified only as Lydia, who had been raped off campus and, seeking help, reported it to the school authorities only to eventually be expelled for dwelling upon it and questioning the schools handling of the incident.

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Study by 9th Graders: Plants Won’t Grow Near Routers

Ninth-graders design science experiment to test the effect of cellphone radiation on plants. The results may surprise you.

Five ninth-grade young women from Denmark recently created a science experiment that is causing a stir in the scientific community.

It started with an observation and a question. The girls noticed that if they slept with their mobile phones near their heads at night, they often had difficulty concentrating at school the next day. They wanted to test the effect of a cellphone’s radiation on humans, but their school, Hjallerup School in Denmark, did not have the equipment to handle such an experiment. So the girls designed an experiment that would test the effect of cellphone radiation on a plant instead.

Photo courtesy of Kim Horsevad, teacher at Hjallerup Skole in Denmark.

The students placed six trays filled with Lepidium sativum, a type of garden cress into a room without radiation, and six trays of the seeds into another room next to two routers that according to the girls calculations, emitted about the same type of radiation as an ordinary cellphone.

Over the next 12 days, the girls observed, measured, weighed and photographed their results. Although by the end of the experiment the results were blatantly obvious — the cress seeds placed near the router had not grown. Many of them were completely dead. While the cress seeds planted in the other room, away from the routers, thrived.
The experiment earned the girls (pictured below) top honors in a regional science competition and the interest of scientists around the world.
Teens involved in plants and cellphone experiment, Hjallerup Skole

According to Kim Horsevad, a teacher at Hjallerup Skole in Denmark were the cress experiment took place, a neuroscience professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, is interested in repeating the experiment in controlled professional scientific environments.

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San Francisco Symphony Announces Summer & The Symphony Concert Lineup Pink Martini, Cheyenne Jackson, Melissa Etheridge, Pixar In Concert, Grease Sing-along, Arrival: The Music Of Abba, And Classical Concerts

Orchestra performs free concerts at Stern Grove Festival and in SF Civic Center Plaza.

Annual Fourth of July concert with fireworks at Shoreline Amphitheatre, and at Green Music Center, Sonoma State University

The San Francisco Symphony announces its annual Summer & the Symphony series with performances from July 2 to August 1 in Davies Symphony Hall, Green Music Center, and outdoors at various venues around the Bay Area, including San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, Stern Grove, and Shoreline Amphitheatre. This year’s Summer & the Symphony series features a wide range of events, from classical performances to pop concerts to film presentations. Highlights of the summer include two concerts with popular genre-defying group Pink Martini July 2-3, a two-night engagement with Broadway and television star Cheyenne Jackson performing famous songs from films and musicals with the Orchestra July 24-25, four Pixar In Concert film presentations accompanied by the SFS July 17-20, and two concerts with singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge July 30-31.

The first classical concert with Director of Summer Concerts Edwin Outwater on July 5 explores the fusion of jazz and orchestral music with music by Bernstein, Gershwin, and Ravel, featuring virtuoso Japanese pianist Makoto Ozone. On August 1, Outwater and the Orchestra perform an all-Beethoven concert featuring the Triple Concerto with the Gryphon.

Trio and a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. Outwater will lead two free SFS concerts, one at the Stern Grove Festival on July 6, and the other in Civic Center Plaza with violinist Benjamin Beilman on July 27. On July 26 the San Francisco Symphony returns to the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University for an all-Tchaikovsky performance featuring pianist Simon Trpčeski, who last appeared with the SFS under Outwater’s baton in October 2013. On the Fourth of July in Mountain View Outwater leads the San Francisco Symphony in its annual Shoreline Amphitheatre Independence Day concert followed by a fireworks extravaganza.

On July 22, the SFS presents ARRIVAL: the music of ABBA, a tribute band from Sweden playing ABBA’s greatest hits. Rounding out the summer film presentations, a singalong screening of the popular musical film Grease will be presented July 20. The Orchestra will not perform in either of these concerts.

ARTIST BIOS:

Director of Summer Concerts Edwin Outwater is the Music Director of Ontario’s Kitchener- Waterloo Symphony (KWS) in Canada and regularly guest conducts the Chicago and New World Symphonies. In 2011, Outwater directed the KWS on its first commercial CD release in over a decade, From Here On Out, which features the music of Nico Muhly, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry (a KWS commission) on the Analekta label. In the United States, Outwater has also conducted the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, as well as the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Houston, Detroit, Seattle, and many others. International appearances include the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, New Zealand Symphony, Adelaide Symphony, and Malmö Symphony. In 2009 he made his professional opera debut with the San Francisco Opera conducting Verdi’s La Traviata, and he has since conducted Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires with concert:nova Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Opera, as well as Menotti’s one-act opera Amahl and the Night Visitors at New York’s Lincoln Center. He participated as Associate

Conductor in both YouTube Symphony projects, at Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House. Outwater was Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony from 2001-2006. While here, he worked closely with Michael Tilson Thomas, accompanied the orchestra on tour and conducted numerous concerts each season. He made his subscription debut in 2002 with Kurt Masur conducting Britten’s War Requiem, and has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Evelyn Glennie, and many others. On two occasions, Outwater stepped in for Michael Tilson Thomas, conducting performances of Stravinsky’s complete Pulcinella, as well as works by Beethoven, Wagner, and Cherubini. In July 2006, Outwater conducted the world premiere performance and recording of The Composer is Dead by Nathaniel Stookey and Lemony Snicket, which was later released by HarperCollins. From 2001-05, Outwater was Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. During his tenure, he led the orchestra in all of their concerts as well as on tour through Europe in summer 2004, when the orchestra made its debut at Vienna’s Musikverein and Paris’s Théâtre des Champs- Élysées, and returned to Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. Before joining the San Francisco Symphony, Outwater served as Resident Conductor and Associate Guest Conductor of the Florida Philharmonic. He has held posts as Associate Conductor of the Festival-Institute at Round Top in Texas, Principal Conductor of the Adriatic Chamber Music Festival in Molise, Italy, and Assistant Conductor of the Tulsa Philharmonic.

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Cheyenne Jackson returns to Davies Symphony Hall after playing the role of Tony in the MTT/SFS complete concert performances of Bernstein’s West Side Story in 2013. The CD recording from those performances will be released on the Orchestra’s own SFS Media label on June 10. An actor, singer, and songwriter, Jackson released his latest album of original music, “I’m Blue, Skies” on SONY/ATV in 2013. He recently began filming a pilot entitled Open in February which will air on HBO. In 2012, he starred on Broadway opposite Henry Winkler, Ari Graynor, and Alicia Silverstone in David West Read’s play The Performers. He appeared in Steven Soderbergh’s Emmy award-winning film Behind the Candelabra, a Liberace biopic, with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, as well as on the NBC TV pilot Mockingbird Lane. In 2012, Jackson appeared in the PBS concert special From Dust to Dreams. On and Off Broadway, Jackson has starred in 8, Finian’s Rainbow

(Drama Desk nomination), Damn Yankees, Xanadu (Drama League and Drama Desk nominations) The Agony & the Agony, All Shook Up (Theater World Award, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle nominations), the premiere cast of Altar Boyz, Aida, Thoroughly Modern Millie, On the 20th Century, and The 24 Hour Plays. Jackson’s television roles have included series regular Danny Baker on NBC’s 30 Rock, and as Dustin Goolsby, the coach of Vocal Adrenaline on the TV series Glee. Other TV credits include Family Practice, Life on Mars, Ugly Betty, It Takes a Village, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Local Talent. In concert, he has sold out Carnegie Hall twice, in “The Power of Two” in 2010 with Michael Feinstein followed by his solo debut concert with the New York Pops in 2011 entitled “Music of the Mad Men Era.”

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Pink Martini released their newest album, Dream a Little Dream with the von Trapps on March 4. The Portland, Oregon-based “little orchestra” was created in 1994 by Harvard graduate and classically trained pianist Thomas M. Lauderdale to play at political fundraisers for progressive causes. The band plays an eclectic blend of 1930’s Cuban dance orchestra, classical chamber ensemble, Brazilian street band, and Japanese film noir. Its recordings, Hang On Little Tomato in 2004, Hey Eugene! in 2007, and Splendor In The Grass in 2009, have been popular worldwide. The group made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and in the years following went on to tour Europe, Asia, and the United States. Equally at home performing its eclectic repertoire on concert stages and in smoky bars, Pink Martini draws a wildly diverse crowd. The ensemble made its orchestral debut with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra in 1999 and has since performed with other orchestras across the country including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Pops, National Symphony, and BBC Concert Orchestra. Director of Summer Concerts Edwin Outwater conducts their July 2 and 3 performances with the San Francisco Symphony. Storm Large will perform lead vocals, and the von Trapps will make a guest appearance.

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ABBA tribute band ARRIVAL: The Music of Abba returns to Davies Symphony Hall to perform hits like Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia, Take a Chance on Me, Voluez Vous, Fernando, Waterloo, and many more of the pop songs that shot the original ABBA to international super stardom. As the only ABBA show band backed by the original group’s musicians, ARRIVAL works with ABBA’s designers to create exact replicas of the spectacular costumes worn by the original band, and recreates the staging from the group’s original performances.

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Melissa Etheridge, a two-time Grammy Award winner, became one of the most popular recording artists of the ’90s due to her mixture of confessional lyrics, and pop-based folk-rock. Etheridge won an Academy Award for Best Song in 2007 for “I Need To Wake Up,” the song she penned for Al Gore’s documentary about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. She is currently back in the recording studio writing and recording new music for a new solo album that she’s looking to release in winter 2014-15. A prominent figure and activist in the LGBT community, she recently released a digital single entitled “Uprising of Love,” the proceeds of which will benefit Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community activists. With the San Francisco Symphony Etheridge will perform all her hits like “Come to My Window” and

“I’m the Only One” as well as some new material and her current hit “Uprising of Love.”

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STUDY: Undetectable Guys Do Not Transmit HIV To Negative Sex Partners

A two-year study gives scientific credence to what many have long suspected: HIV positive guys who are on treatment and have an undetectable viral load are not giving HIV to their partners, not matter how hard they try. The study strengthens the belief that “treatment as prevention” is one of the most effective ways to stop new infections.

The two-year study, presented at the Conferences on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections this week, showed as low a risk of infection as you can find in research. As reported by AIDSMap:

When asked what the study tells us about the chance of someone with an undetectable viral load  transmitting HIV, presenter Alison Rodger said: “Our best estimate is it’s zero.”

Participants in the study were couples, gay and straight, in which one partner had HIV and the other did not. They were selected because they had sex without condoms at least some of the time, and the negative partner was not on PrEP (taking the drug Truvada to prevent infection).

The couples kept themselves very busy sexing it up in the name of science: the study reported 16,400 sexual acts among the gay couples, including being on top, being on bottom, oral sex, and plenty of “ejaculate” on and in the bodies of participants (imagine conducting those interviews with the couples).

None of the negative subjects were infected by their positive partners, although a few negative partners got infected by someone outside the relationship, which was determined by genetic testing of the HIV strain. Those guys then had some explaining to do, don’t you think? Or, perhaps, not.

Of course, you have to know if you’re positive in the first place for treatment to make a difference. At least 20% of those with HIV in the U.S. don’t know they have it. “The keys to keeping everyone healthy is for you to be regularly tested for HIV, and if you are positive, to take advantage of effective treatments,” said Raymond C. Martins, M.D., of Whitman-Walker Health in Washington, DC. “For gay men who are negative, please remember that the higher risk comes from those men who do not know their HIV status and might in fact have high levels of infectious virus.”

The jury is still out on whether or not studies like this will affect HIV stigma, but one thing is certain: our friends with HIV who are on successful treatment are definitely doing their part to stay healthy — and protect the rest of us, too.

Way to go, poz dudes.

 

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Recology Wins Resounding Victory Over False Claims by Disgruntled Ex-Employee

San Francisco, Calif. – A San Francisco jury today cleared Recology, San Francisco’s recycling and resource recovery provider, of all 154 allegations of filing false claims to the State of California in a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled former employee that claimed the company mischarged the State of California’s recycling redemption program.

The same jury returned a verdict against the recycling company on one of the five separate allegations of filing a false claim to the City and County of San Francisco. This verdict, if it stands, claims the company wrongly benefited in the amount of $1,366,933. Recology disagrees with this finding and will appeal.

“We are thankful for the jury’s determination that cleared Recology of 158 of the 159 allegations of false claims,” said Sam Singer, a spokesman for Recology. “This is a resounding victory for our company and its employee-owners.”

“Unfortunately, the complicated nature of this case has resulted in one finding against the company,” he added.  “We will be appealing the one verdict, as the facts simply do not support it.”

Recology is an industry leader in recycling and resource recovery programs and has helped San Francisco become the greenest city in North America, diverting 80 percent of its waste away from landfill. Recology programs have been replicated throughout the country and serve as a national model for resource recovery initiatives.

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9th Annual Bay Area Flamenco Festival presents FARRUQUITO

After an absence from the American stage of over ten years, 31-year old flamenco virtuoso Juan Manuel Fernandez Montoya, better known as “Farruquito,” is finally returning to the US with his latest project, “Improvisaó.”

The reigning patriarch of the legendary Los Farruco dynasty –the first family of Gypsy flamenco dance–, Farruquito has taken the unique dance style founded by his grandfather, El Farruco into the 21st century.

Improvisaó is a return to the essence of flamenco: the artists shed all artifice, relying on improvisation to create an intimate and visceral encounter with the audience. The electrifying chemistry between vocals, guitar and dance -fused with complete freedom- inspire the artists, creating a context for the miracle of the duende. 

“With the power and purity of his technique and the magic of his brooding presence, he is nothing less than sensational. The speed of his stamped rhythms is complex and phenomenal, no less so his spins and interpolations. He likes to jump headlong into the air like a charging bull.”  The New York Times, Anna Kisselgoff, 2001

“Through a single gesture or twist of his torso, he conveyed defiance, anguish or joy. Few can match his combination of superior technique and duende.”  The New York Times,Valerie Gladstone, 2003

One Night Only!
Thursday, June 19th 8pm
The Palace of Fine Arts Theater, San Francisco

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KRUGMAN: Eric Cantor and the Death of a Movement

How big a deal is the surprise primary defeat of Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader? Very. Movement conservatism, which dominated American politics from the election of Ronald Reagan to the election of Barack Obama — and which many pundits thought could make a comeback this year — is unraveling before our eyes.

I don’t mean that conservatism in general is dying. But what I and others mean by “movement conservatism,” a term I think I learned from the historian Rick Perlstein, is something more specific: an interlocking set of institutions and alliances that won elections by stoking cultural and racial anxiety but used these victories mainly to push an elitist economic agenda, meanwhile providing a support network for political and ideological loyalists.

By rejecting Mr. Cantor, the Republican base showed that it has gotten wise to the electoral bait and switch, and, by his fall, Mr. Cantor showed that the support network can no longer guarantee job security. For around three decades, the conservative fix was in; but no more.

To see what I mean by bait and switch, think about what happened in 2004. George W. Bush won re-election by posing as a champion of national security and traditional values — as I like to say, he ran as America’s defender against gay married terrorists — then turned immediately to his real priority: privatizing Social Security. It was the perfect illustration of the strategy famously described in Thomas Frank’s book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” in which Republicans would mobilize voters with social issues, but invariably turn postelection to serving the interests of corporations and the 1 percent.

In return for this service, businesses and the wealthy provided both lavish financial support for right-minded (in both senses) politicians and a safety net — “wing-nut welfare” — for loyalists. In particular, there were always comfortable berths waiting for those who left office, voluntarily or otherwise. There were lobbying jobs; there were commentator spots at Fox News and elsewhere (two former Bush speechwriters are now Washington Post columnists); there were “research” positions (after losing his Senate seat, Rick Santorum became director of the “America’s Enemies” program at a think tank supported by the Koch brothers, among others).

The combination of a successful electoral strategy and the safety net made being a conservative loyalist a seemingly low-risk professional path. The cause was radical, but the people it recruited tended increasingly to be apparatchiks, motivated more by careerism than by conviction.

That’s certainly the impression Mr. Cantor conveyed. I’ve never heard him described as inspiring. His political rhetoric was nasty but low-energy, and often amazingly tone-deaf. You may recall, for example, that in 2012 he chose to celebrate Labor Day with a Twitter post honoring business owners. But he was evidently very good at playing the inside game.

Now, if we could just get past all the ‘god-talk’ and religious-based morals, etc. My feelings for those in Washington mirror many expressed…

It turns out, however, that this is no longer enough. We don’t know exactly why he lost his primary, but it seems clear that Republican base voters didn’t trust him to serve their priorities as opposed to those of corporate interests (and they were probably right). And the specific issue that loomed largest, immigration, also happens to be one on which the divergence between the base and the party elite is wide. It’s not just that the elite believes that it must find a way to reach Hispanics, whom the base loathes. There’s also an inherent conflict between the base’s nativism and the corporate desire for abundant, cheap labor.

And while Mr. Cantor won’t go hungry — he’ll surely find a comfortable niche on K Street — the humiliation of his fall is a warning that becoming a conservative apparatchik isn’t the safe career choice it once seemed.

So whither movement conservatism? Before the Virginia upset, there was a widespread media narrative to the effect that the Republican establishment was regaining control from the Tea Party, which was really a claim that good old-fashioned movement conservatism was on its way back. In reality, however, establishment figures who won primaries did so only by reinventing themselves as extremists. And Mr. Cantor’s defeat shows that lip service to extremism isn’t enough; the base needs to believe that you really mean it.

In the long run — which probably begins in 2016 — this will be bad news for the G.O.P., because the party is moving right on social issues at a time when the country at large is moving left. (Think about how quickly the ground has shifted on gay marriage.) Meanwhile, however, what we’re looking at is a party that will be even more extreme, even less interested in participating in normal governance, than it has been since 2008. An ugly political scene is about to get even uglier.

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SF Symphony Concludes Season with Three Weeks of Concerts Celebrating Benjamin Britton’s Centenary

 First concert week includes Britten’s Prince of the Pagodas and a special appearance by the Balinese performing arts group Gamelan Sekar Jaya

Second week of concerts feature Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with Toby Spence and SFS Principal Horn Robert Ward, along with works by Copland and Shostakovich


Season concludes with semi-staged production of Peter Grimes, the first SF Symphony performances of the complete opera, and Four Sea Interludes with an SFS co-commissioned video accompaniment by Tal Rosner
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McCain’s Politics at their Most Hypocritical

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ran into a little trouble last week. The Republican senator, a little too eager to condemn the Obama White House, complained about the prisoner swap that freed an American POW despite having already endorsed the exact same plan a few months prior. After getting caught, McCain falsely accused his critics of “lying.”

Making matters slightly worse, the Arizona lawmaker, himself a former POW, complained to the media that he hadn’t learned anything from a classified briefing on Bowe Bergdahl’s release, neglecting to mention that he’d left in the middle of it.

Despite – or perhaps, because of – these embarrassments, McCain scored another Sunday-show invitation, where he somehow managed to add insult to injury.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday called the five Guantanamo detainees released in a prisoner swap for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl “hardcore military jihadists who are responsible for 9/11” and said he expects them to return to fighting against the U.S.
In context, looking at the full transcript, it’s hard to say whether McCain believes these five detainees were “responsible for 9/11” or whether he believes all of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were “responsible for 9/11,” but either way, the senator is plainly wrong.

McCain added, in reference to the Bergdahl prisoner-swap, “I wouldn’t release these men, not these men. They were evaluated and judged as too great a risk to release.”

That’s wrong, too. In fact, the former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay told msnbc’s Alex Witt over the weekend that at first he didn’t even recognize these detainees’ names. “To trade five of them for a U.S. service member, in my estimation, and I’m often critical of President [Barack] Obama, I think they struck a pretty good deal,” retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis said.

What’s more, just a few months ago, McCain personally endorsed the plan to transfer these exact same Taliban prisoners. When he says he wouldn’t have completed the swap for “these men,” he’s neglecting to mention that he’d already expressed public support for swapping “these men.”

And all of this led to the creme de la crème:

“I believe that there are other prisoners, some of whom we have already released, that we could have released that – in exchange,” McCain argued.

If someone could explain what this means, I’d appreciate it. Putting aside the fact that McCain already endorsed the plan to swap these exact same prisoners before he changed his mind and denied changing his mind, it’s not at all clear how U.S. officials could have swapped prisoners “whom we have already released.”

It’s tempting to think that, one of these days, the Beltway will stop looking to McCain as an expert on matters related to national security and the military, but I’ve been waiting for that day for quite a while. It never seems to arrive.

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A Lawmaker May Have Just Accepted An Illegal Bribe In Order To Flip The Virginia Senate To The GOP

The Washington Post reports that Virginia state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, a Democrat, “will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission.” Currently, the Virginia senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, with Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam holding the balance of power. If Puckett resigns, Republicans will gain control of the body for at least as long as it takes to elect a replacement.

The full details of this arrangement, including whether or not Puckett was explicitly offered the position as deputy director of the tobacco commission in return for his agreement to resign his senate seat, are not yet known. Although the executive director of the commission is appointed by the governor — who is currently Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe — the deputy director is appointed by the commission itself. Both the chair and the vice chair of the commission are Republicans.

If Puckett was offered the seat on this commission in exchange for his decision to resign from the state legislature, however, he may have committed a very serious crime. Under Virginia’s bribery law, it is a felony for a state lawmaker to “accept[] or agree[] to accept from another … any pecuniary benefit offered, conferred or agreed to be conferred as consideration for or to obtain or influence the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official.”

Given this statutory language, two questions need to be answered before Puckett could be prosecuted. The first is whether Puckett agreed to accept the tobacco commission job “as consideration for” his resignation from the state senate — that is, whether there was a quid pro quo deal where the job was offered up as the prize Puckett received if he agreed to resign. The second is whether Puckett’s resignation counts as an “exercise of discretion as a public servant.” Based on a search of Virginia court cases using the legal search engine Lexis, there does not appear to be a court decision answering this question.

In any event, the circumstances of this anticipated resignation — in which a Democratic senator throws control of the state legislature to the GOP, and then immediately receives a job from a commission controlled by a Republican chair and vice-chair — is suspicious. It also could have very serious consequences for Virginia’s least fortunate residents.

Gov. McAuliffe is currently embroiled in a fight with Republicans, who control the state house, over whether Virginia should accept Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. If Republicans take the state senate, even briefly, they can use their control over the entire legislature to pass a budget that does not include the Medicaid expansion. Though McAuliffe could veto the budget, Republicans could use that veto to try to blame him for an ensuing government shutdown.

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CPUC PG&E Chicanery? California Commission Sudden Halt into PG&E Gas Pipeline Safety Raises Serious Questions, San Bruno Says

San Francisco, Calif. – The City of San Bruno today criticized a decision by the California Public Utilities Commission to halt its investigation into thousands of missing Pacific Gas & Electric Co. pipeline strength test records – a sudden and shocking reversal that’s prompted concerns of a possible backroom deal brokered between PG&E and the state agency tasked with regulating it.

 

The CPUC’s Safety Enforcement Division this week quietly halted its inquiry into the safety of 435 miles of gas pipelines across California after PG&E refused to turn the information over to regulators— causing speculation that PG&E may have applied outside pressure to compel the regulatory agency to end its investigation.

 

San Bruno officials are now calling upon the CPUC to immediately re-open the investigation to force PG&E to produce accurate strength test records for 23,761 segments of pipe covering more than 435 miles – records that PG&E explicitly told the CPUC it would produce by 2013.

 

State and federal investigators identified PG&E’s faulty recordkeeping as a leading cause of the fatal 2010 pipeline explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, injured 66 and destroyed 38 homes.

 

“PG&E continues to play a lethal game with the lives of the public. We are deeply concerned by their persistent failure and unwillingness to produce accurate pipeline records, without which we cannot know whether our communities remain at risk for the same devastating and fatal explosion that we experienced in San Bruno,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “Yet even more troubling is the CPUC’s decision to not pursue an investigation of these missing records even after preparing a motion to do so.”

 

“We question the CPUC’s sudden decision this week and are concerned it may be the result of inappropriate pressure applied by PG&E at the expense, once again, of public safety,” Ruane said.

 

The CPUC’s latest inquiry came about as part of the ongoing penalty proceeding to determine how much PG&E will be forced to pay for its gross negligence that caused the fatal explosion and fire in San Bruno. The CPUC’s administrative law judges are now considering penalties and fines against PG&E of up to $2.45 billion.

 

Yet, following unsuccessful attempts to obtain missing strength test records for more than 435 miles of pipeline directly from PG&E, the CPUC’s safety and enforcement division submitted a motion on May 30 to re-open the penalty proceeding’s record for the sole purpose of forcing PG&E to produce the documents.

 

San Bruno strongly supported the CPUC’s motion and its inquiry of the missing records, which city officials say are critical to instilling the public’s confidence in the safety of PG&E’s embattled pipeline system. San Bruno filed its own motion officially supporting the safety enforcement division’s request to obtain the missing records.

 

City officials are now questioning the division’s sudden decision to withdraw the motion and suspend the inquiry – a decision the city can only speculate as resulting from outside attempts by PG&E and its proxies to influence the CPUC’s actions.

 

“We are concerned that this decision is just further evidence of the cozy relationships that continue to jeopardize the CPUC’s ability to objectively regulate PG&E,” Ruane said.

 

San Bruno officials say this latest incident further underscores the need for an Independent Monitor, who would serve as a vigilant third-party watchdog over both PG&E and the CPUC.

 

“Only an independent monitor – free of the CPUC’s conflicts of interest and cozy relationships with PG&E that have jeopardized pipeline safety – can help guarantee that PG&E maintains good records and ensure that the CPUC provides the adequate and consistent oversight needed to keep our communities safe so that what happened in San Bruno never happens again,” Ruane said.

 

Ironically, PG&E has been spending millions of dollars on advertising its new “culture of safety,” with advertisements that stress the utility’s gas pipeline safety improvements since the San Bruno explosion and fire.  Yet, Ruane said, the utility can’t back up their advertising with proof that what they are telling the public is true.

 

Also this week, PG&E revealed that the U.S. Federal Prosecutor’s office expects to file additional legal actions against the utility for its gross negligence in the San Bruno case.  In April, the federal government charged PG&E with 12 felony violations of federal safety laws.

 

Is there a dirty deal between CPUC Michael Peevey and PG&E Executives?

Is there a dirty deal between CPUC Michael Peevey and PG&E Executives?

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LUSCIOUS Queer Music Festival brings LGBTQ Musicians Together for Three Days of Fabulousness and Music

LUSCIOUS Queer Music Festival, Northern California’s first LGBTQ music festival is slated for August 22-24 at Saratoga Springs in Upper Lake California.  promises to be a “queer Woodstock”, headliners range from Grammy performer Mary Lambert to Tony-award nominee Justin Bond, to nationally lauded Marga Gomez, to lesbian icon Cris Williamson.

“Saratoga Springs is a natural place to have the inaugural LUSCIOUS Queer  Music Festival,” according to Executive Producer Ruven Hannah.  “There have been so many LGBT retreats and events at the Saratoga retreat center.  This will be the crowning musical jewel for queer people from all over the US”

Saratoga can house 1000 festival participants who can enjoy long hot summer days and warm summer nights listening to an exceptional line­up of national headlining and local favorite LGBTQ musicians, DJ’s, and comedians. Musicians slated to appear include:

  • Mary Lambert, fresh off her 2014 Grammy performance
  • Mx. Justin Vivian Bond (alter ego of Broadway’s “Kiki and Herb” fame)
  • Cris Williamson
  • Jon Ginoli of Pansy Division
  • Marga Gomez
  • Skip the Needle featuring Vicki Randle
  • Matt Alber
  • Magic Mouth
  • Gina Breedlove
  • James Panther
  • Brian Kent
  • Melanie DeMore
  • Holcombe Waller

DJ’s include San Francisco’s Page Hodel, DJ Justime, DJ Lamont, and many more.  People will be camping, and fed by local food vendors, in a beautiful secluded valley nestled in the hills of Northern California, just two and a half hours north of San Francisco or two and a half hours west of west of Sacramento.

A portion of the proceeds of LUCIOUS Queer Music Festival will go to ORAM and JFCS/East Bay’s LGBTI Refugee and Asylee Program – to make an impact on LGBTQ immigration rights by raising desperately needed funds to help LGBTQ people being violently persecuted in Africa and Russia, successfully seek asylum in other countries where their lives will not be in danger.

Tickets available through www.eventbrite.com.  For further information, www.lusciousqueermusicfestival.org.

 

ww.lusciousqueermusicfestival.com.

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