Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Guardian: Blogger, Not SF Chronicle, Exposes Mayor Newsom's Rehab Gets Govt Grants

Very kind of the Bay Guardian reporter G.W. Schultz in his article today to give me credit for poking a hole in the Chronicle's reporting that Delancey Street rehab does not receive government grants.
From the Guardian:
The San Francisco Chronicle’s intrepid reporters have insisted repeatedly in recent weeks that the Delancey Street Foundation accepts absolutely no government funds. “Instead, it relies on donations and the profits from its commercial enterprises,” San Francisco’s paper of record wrote on Feb. 6.

A simple search of the city’s vendor database, however, confirms that several local agencies in San Francisco paid Delancey Street amounts totaling well over $1 million for the last two fiscal years alone.

The Department of Children, Youth & Their Families gave Delancey Street $98,000 in program grants for each of the last two fiscal years and by the end of 2007 will have given the nonprofit more than $300,000.

And the mayor’s office gave Delancey Street $435,000 in fiscal year 2006 and $483,000 in 2005, the records show.

The city has paid the foundation more than $200,000 so far this year, and there’s another $64,000 in outstanding payments. The Guardian obtained copies of the grant agreements through sunshine requests made last week.

Mayor Newsom is receiving type of counseling for a self-diagnosed excessive love of white wine from Delancey Street’s politically well-connected executive director, Mimi Silbert, who has known Newsom and his family for years.

The foundation’s easily accessible federal tax forms reflect the hundreds of thousands in annual government dollars paid to Delancey Street.

After local blogger Michael Petrelis began contesting the claims, a Chronicle reporter clarified for Petrelis following a call to Silbert that grant money from the city supports a charter school on Treasure Island called the Life Learning Academy. The academy is managed by Delancey Street and targets troublesome teens – half of them on probation – who have had problems elsewhere in the school district. Silbert told us that the school was designed in part to emulate Delancey Street by operating businesses like its organic produce subscription service and bike maintenance shop. [...]

Thanks for the mention, Bay Guardian. To read my previous posts on this, click here and here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

WY GOP's Dan Zwonitzer Shares Letters Received Over Pro-Gay Speech

What hath Dan Zwonitzer unleashed?

Lots of letters of love and praise from many people around the globe who took the time to write to him. I spoke with Dan today and asked for copies of some of the hundreds of letters he has received since bloggers, such as Pam Spaulding, Andrew Sullivan, myself and other bloggers, either posted the text of his speech or linked to it.

Dan sent along a few letters, and we agreed that I would delete the contact info and names of the writers. If you're one of the writers and WANT your name attached to what I've posted here, just let me know in the comments section.

If I were part of a larger gay advocacy organization, one fighting in Congress for better legal protections for us, and a group that had some bucks, I'd create the Zwonitzer Prize.

It would be to acknowledge the bravery of an under-30 person who's straight, and regardless of political affiliation, stands up, even when no one in the gay community is asking them to, and at risk to their person or career or reputation, stands up or acts or speaks in favor of simple basic gay equality.

I'm just a poor blogger who can't create awards out of thin air. The best I can do to honor Zwonitzer is to again say, thank you, Dan. You're really one person who makes America great.

And now, some of the letters he's received:

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, February 25, 2007 11:18 AM
Subject: Thank you for being an ally

> Dear Representative Zwonitzer:
> I don't really know how to thank you for your courage in opposing the
> the ban on recognizing same-sex unions in Wyoming. You said what
> needs to be said: that the fight for gay rights in this country is
> the Civil Rights struggle of our generation, and as such, we cannot
> turn away from this work. We cannot abandon issues so crucial to the
> daily life of men and women in this country to the hands of those who
> forget that equality threatens no-one.
> Two years ago, I performed the marriage of my uncle to his long-term
> partner in Massachusetts. They had been together 12 years before
> they were allowed to confirm the strength of their union before their
> loved ones and the laws of the commonwealth. Whenever I see anyone
> decrying gay families as being unstable, unhealthy, I think of those
> two men, waiting patiently for 12 years with their house and dogs and
> car payments and family surrounding them and I wonder, this is the
> greatest evil in our society? I think of them, and I think of how
> little they can travel and maintain their rights should something
> happen. I think of them, and I think of how much an issue that has
> no impact on the people who protest it so vehemently changes their
> every day life. And when I see people like you, people who have a
> great deal to lose by standing up for this basic civil right, the
> freedom to marry, I know that the fight is still going on, even in
> corners of the country where its unexpected. When I thought of
> Wyoming before, I thought of Laramie. Now, I will think of you.
> As Robert Kennedy once said: "Few will have the greatness to bend
> history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of
> events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the
> history of this generation." History remembers well the citizens who
> dare to do what is right rather than what is easy, convenient.
> History remembers Abolitionists, Suffragists, Freedom Riders, those
> who dared to go against the tide. And history will remember you as a
> man who went against the tide, as the man stood before the Wyoming
> legislature and said "No"--not for your benefit, but because it was
> the right thing to do. I hope that you will always, always do the
> right thing.
> Gratefully, and with highest admiration,
>> Silver Spring, MD

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, February 25, 2007 12:54 PM
Subject: Kudos!

Congratulations on your principled stand on the issue of gay marriage. In
today's political climate it seems that forced labels and ill-fitting
pigeonholes are the norm, and it is heartening to see a public servant doing
the job for which he was elected - to wit, representing the people. I
believe you are correct, this is the most important civil rights battle of
our era. More importantly I hope that through the course of this battle we
can move a little closer to developing a social framework that asks the
questions, "Is this fair? Who is being helped by this? Who is being hurt by
this?" and perhaps resolve future civil rights issues in a healthier and
faster way. One can hope that someday we well never hear stories like the 72
year old man in Detroit who was beaten to death for being gay.

I am not gay but it pains me to take part in a society that is being so ugly
and unfair to fellow humans. Congratulations again, and I hope your message
of tolerance and hope spreads throughout your legislative body and your

Best regards,

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 3:26 PM
Subject: Kudos

Dear Representative Zwonitzer --

Even though I live in Washington state, I want to thank you for your vocal and principled stance on LGBT civil rights. Even though I tend to vote Democrat, I hold out no less hope for the improvement of the Republican party. After all, all Americans’ fortunes are bound up with the decisions of lawmakers and judges throughout the political spectrum. Washington struggles with this issue too, and Oregon suffered a heartbreaking setback a few years ago, as you probably recall. (I can remember the joy of a friend of mine, a Wiccan priest, who was so honored and moved to officiate at many marriages during Portland’s brief period of allowing them – as well as the pain he felt when the ban came crashing back into place, just after he had proposed to his own longtime partner.) So again, even though I’m technically removed from your constituency, I think the effects of your actions are felt many miles away. My husband, as a Republican voter, hopes so greatly for the emergence of more Republicans he can fully support; as it is, he must usually choose between someone who shares his fiscal views but will set civil rights back, or vice versa.

I’m also encouraged to hear from a legislator who goes to the history when considering a present-day issue, and who is both willing to acknowledge parallels when they occur and determined not to repeat the mistakes of past generations.

I hope you’re supported by all those in Wyoming who wish to see civil rights continue to advance in the 21st century.

Many thanks,


----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 12:43 AM
Subject: Thanks for your vote.

Dear Representative Zwonitzer,

I'm a life-long Democrat, and I want to thank you for the courage to vote to defeat the bill banning same-sex unions.

I am a straight man, married for almost 30 years, so I can only guess how difficult life is for people who are gay, especially those who want to commit to a long-term relationship.

But as a society, it's important that we be able to empathize with the plight of others, even if we can't completely understand what they're going through..

Without empathy, intolerance can emerge from a blindness to that other person's humanity.

I've had difficultly finding common ground with Republican folks I know lately. I'm encouraged to find that you and I seem to share a common belief in the importance of equal rights for all of our citizens, regardless of sexual preference.
I have hope that a generation from now, this time of fear and hatred of gays will be looked at as a sad, dark period, only signicant in a historical context..

Thank you again,

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, February 25, 2007 5:11 AM
Subject: In Regards and Appreciation

>I am gay, 25, and currently staying up late tending to my husband as
> he deals with a fever. We were married in San Francisco during the
> big brouhaha in 2004 in a ceremony that was at once both meaningless
> and the most important event of my life. While he's napping and
> seeing if the fever continues to recede, I've been catching up on my
> blogs and came across a writeup of your speech on I
> just wanted to convey my deepest thanks to you for taking such an
> important and (sadly) bold stand. While I'd never dare imply that
> standing in the rain for six hours while getting preached at by a
> single earnest young man and receiving coffee, pizza, and flowers from
> total strangers could possibly compare to attack dogs, fire hoses, and
> arrest, I do believe that in 30 years this era will be viewed with the
> same sense of "How could they think like that?" unreality and
> disbelief that the Civil Rights Era is viewed by us today.
> I am married. I've stood before a preacher and God and sworn my
> undying love and devotion to another human being and nothing can
> change that. No law, no amendment, no speech, and no slander. They
> cannot take away the home hunting, good morning kisses on the way to
> work, paying the bills, walking the dog, shopping for furniture,
> figuring out who gets the remote, and the thousands of other things
> that make us married. All that they can do is ensure that we have to
> file our taxes separately, and that if I ever get into an accident, my
> husband will not be allowed into the hospital room to hold my hand one
> last time.
> And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for understanding that.


----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 1:38 PM
Subject: Equality Speech


I'm not from your state, but I wanted to let you
know that I read the speech you made on equality for
same-sex couples. It was so beautiful that I cried.
I cannot express how much it means to me that there
are politicians like you who see this issue for what
it truly is.

Thank you,
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 12:39 PM
Subject: Congratulations

I am not in your voting district - heck, I'm not even in your state -
but what I read today makes me wish I were. You would get my vote for
the rest of your career.

I applaud you for making the point in your speech that this is about
equality and basic rights, rather than stooping to the arguments thrown
about by the intolerant people who support bills of this kind. We need
more politicians who are willing to do what you did - recognize the
truth of the issue, and stand up for what is right regardless of
personal opinion or party line.

I know you're getting a lot of hate mail about your speech. Please don't
take it to heart. You did absolutely the right thing, said absolutely
the correct words, and you deserve every ounce of positive recognition
you get from this. I hope that you can continue to follow your own
example during the rest of your hopefully long career.

Good luck, and thank you.

Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 10:35 PM
Subject: Kudos

Dear Rep. Zwonitzer, I am a straight old lady in WA. I am old enough to be your grandmother and was on the front lines 40 years ago. I just read your speech linked to at the Andrew Sullivan site and wanted to tell you that I think the speech you gave was just wonderful. I'm proud that a smart young man like you is now carrying the torch of equality.
Thank you very much for sticking up for our gay citizens. You're right you know, it is the fair thing to do. It is also the American thing to do.
To: "Dan Zwonitzer"
Sent: Friday, February 23, 2007 3:29 PM
Subject: Thank You for Your Defense of Gay Rights

Dear Mr. Zwonitzer,

I felt the need to write to you and express my gratitude for your
recent speech concerning gay rights. I am a white man married to a
black woman, and I view the current issue of gay marriage to be the
same as my own situation could have been in the very recent past. I
am only 45, but in my lifetime (though not my adult lifetime) it was
illegal in several states for my wife and I to be married.

Laws like this are disgusting, repugnant, and have no place in a free
society. We have friends who are gay in committed relationships, yet
they are denied the bond and the rights that my wife and I share all
because narrow minded people want to force others to live by their own
rules. Gay marriage will have virtually no impact on their own lives,
yet they passionately fight it. This is bigotry, plain and simple.

If you should lose your seat over this, maybe you'll consider coming
to Pennsylvania. We can always use a good person who actually
understands and lives the definition of morality, rather than those
who proclaim morality but wouldn't know it if it hit them in the

Thank you again.

Sent: Friday, February 23, 2007 3:47 PM
Subject: GO DAN!!!

Hey Bro
I just got call from Cain and read the Andrew Sullivan blog about the stand you took on equal rights. I just wanted to write and tell you how proud I am to call you a friend and an elected representative. I thought your words and thoughts were exactly on point, and the passion with which you conveyed your message was entirely justified. No matter what happens (and I personally don't think you'll lose your seat over this, but you know the tenor of your folks better than I) you will always know that you stood up for the good side of, like you said, the civil rights issue of our time.
So, like the subject like says, Go Dan!! Thanks for making us proud, my friend. You're a credit to the parents who raised you, the tradition of equality in the state you call home, the tradition of the college that trained you, and the crazy drunken roommates who spent 4 years liberalizing you (kinda kidding about that last part ... but only kinda :-) ).
I hope all is well -- let me know how things develop.
All the best,
Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 8:15 AM
Subject: thank you for standing up

Dear Representative Zwonitzer,

I'm writing from Portugal, where I am now living as an American expatriate. I am one of the individuals whose rights you stood up for during the committee hearing on the bill banning recognition of same sex marriages.

My partner is a Portuguese native who loves her country. I'm a native of the fair state of Oregon, and love my state, my friends and my family very much. When it came time to choose which of us would leave our home, the fact that we would both have fewer civil rights in the United States than in Portugal weighed heavily in our decision.

It is deeply embarrassing to me to witness this march of progress in western Europe and other parts of the world while knowing that my own nation cannot match it; indeed, it appears to be moving the opposite direction. As an expatriate, I get a lot of questions about my nation's laws and international behaviors, and more often than not I simply cannot explain to anyone's satisfaction. The fact that I am now living here is, I think, a fairly strong statement in and of itself.

So, on behalf of myself, my wife, my child and millions of others, I thank you for your principled stand. To take such a stand knowing that it might cost you your seat is an act of great strength and integrity, and oh, how I wish there were more like you in both parties! It is people like you who can and do make a difference. Though you may receive a bushel of hate mail for standing up, I hope you'll also receive some letters like this one to balance things out. Letters that say, "We respect you, we appreciate you, and we admire you." Because we do.

And by the way, do you think you could give some ethics lessons to the current field of candidates for President?

Best regards,
Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 8:17 AM
Subject: Thank you, and congratulations...

> Thank you sir, for continuing the proud tradition, often forgotten,
> of Wyoming's concern for civil rights. The state that first gave
> women the right to vote should be proud of you for standing up for
> what is right in the debate on Gay marriage.
> Your courage sets an excellent example for us all, and reminds us
> that there are decent, brave human beings out there doing the right
> thing.
> Best wishes in the coming year, and I won't be surprised if you are
> re-elected by an overwhelming majority. The Wyomingites I know
> quietly do the right thing, and recognize quality people. They don't
> just shout about it; they live it. And those Wyomingites will vote
> for you.
> Sincerely,
Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 12:54 PM
Subject: Thank you

Rep. Zwonitzer,

I read in the news about your vote to kill the bill that would limit recognition of same-sex marriages in Wyoming. Thank you.

Two years ago, my partner was in a terrible accident and is now permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Sitting outside the emergency room, waiting all night to find out whether she would survive was terrifying, but I was also scared the hospital would not let me see her when the surgery was over. To my relief, I was let into the ICU, where I spent days by her side, giving her chips of crushed ice from a spoon.

We’ve been through a long journey together. It’s been scary and sad and hopeful. My employer recognizes our relationship, so I was able to spend time with my partner in rehab. I was able to help her learn to dress and move again. My work offers domestic partner benefits, so we had insurance that covered her surgery and recovery without plunging us into bankruptcy. She’s doing well now. Though she will probably never walk again, she’s at work, playing wheelchair tennis, taking our dogs to the park, and wheeling my niece and nephew around in her lap.

I cannot tell you how much harder this would have been if we’d had to hide. I think often about couples like us, who live in places where people are scared of same-sex couples or hateful about them, and I worry so much about them. I hope that one day our society lets people who love each other take care of each other. Everywhere.



Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 3:31 PM
Subject: Sending my thanks

Representative Zwonitzer,

Through the political blogs that I frequent I learned of your stance against the amendment to your state's constitution to ban same-sex marriage. I am not one of your constituents, nor am I a member of your party; I am a student in California one year your junior, and I identify as a homosexual. After reading your speech given to your fellow legislators defending your "no" vote, and after recognizing the risks taken by someone in your position by doing so, I wanted to send you my thanks and express my admiration.

Recently it's been difficult for me to watch politics unfold in states across our nation where opponents of same-sex marriage are out for blood, promoting state constitutional amendments that don't simply ban same-sex "marriage," but that instead ban all similar and "lesser" state-recognized unions, and even more so, demonstrating a complete lack of compassion, prevent any marriage-related benefits and protections from being required for same-sex couples. In many states this means the loss of progress already made for the rights and opportunities of LGBT citizens.

I've always looked to the future and seen a time where people will look back and wonder what we were thinking, and wonder how an argument about "sanctity of marriage" had anything in the world to do with, say, hospital visitation rights. Now, during what seems to be a resurgence of anti-gay sentiment in politics, your words and your actions strengthen my belief that our our society is progressing on these issues.



Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 4:12 PM
Subject: Well done, sir

Dear Representative Zwonitzer,

I'm an Australian citizen in Sydney who just read a blog report of your
speech in favour of marriage equality. I admire your words and your
stand greatly.

I can debate the specifics of this bill back and forth as everyone in
this room can, but I won’t because the overall theme is fairness, and
you know it.

I know from an excerpt from an email you sent to the blogger that you
are concerned about how the rest of the US and the world views Wyoming
as in some ways backwards. Your speech will go a great way towards
countering that perception, and moderate Republicans such as yourself
also remind us that the GOP has been in some ways hijacked by extremists
who don't represent the history and ideals of your party accurately or

You are a remarkable leader in this issue, and I hope you continue to
have the chance to serve and lead against bigotry and unfairness. I'm a
religious skeptic, but my thoughts and blessings go with you nonetheless.

Respectful regards,

The blog post I read: [

Brave Straight GOP WY Rep Interviewed on Gay Radio

(Pam Spaulding; Blogger, Lesbian, Heroine.)

Needless to say, I am quite impressed, not to mention thankful, to Pam Spaulding for acquiring and posting a free audio tape of an interview with that brave straight GOP WY rep Dan Zwonitzer, conducted on HRC's radio show by Joe Solmonese and Mary Breslaur.
Two snaps up to Pam for blogging on this, another two and a half snaps up to Zwonitzer for being big and generous enough, unlike Andy Tobias and HRC, to salute the blogs that obtained and shared his amazing speech last week.
And one snap up to HRC for FINALLY waking up to the importance of Zwonitzer's courage and talking with him. Now, if only HRC would post something on its web site about him, his bravery last week, the role of bloggers in saluting him, I'd give the group a full two snaps!

Zwonitzer, you'll recall, is the straight Republican lawmaker who stood up to bigotry and voted to defeat a bill that would have allowed Wyoming to ban recognition of legal same-sex unions. He also gave an amazing speech in favor of equality.

He mentioned how grateful Zwonitzer was for the support he's received about his speech (he acknowledged the role of blogs in spreading the word), and he firmly believes that the struggle for gay equality is the civil rights struggle of his generation. Zwonitzer is also sure that in 30 years people are going to wonder why people were fixated on the issue at all -- change is coming, even in states like Wyoming.

This is a great interview -- his sincerity and believe in equality is genuine. Allies like Dan Zwonitzer are why the right wing religious zealots are worried. He represents the positive cultural shift by twenty-somethings of both parties who are coming into power, and can't understand the bigotry -- and that attitude must be fostered and supported with wide public praise. The right will do all it can to shut these people out of power.

The Dan Zwonitzers are out there putting themselves on the line in Red State America for us, and we need to have their backs.

Again, big thanks to Dan and Pam; true heroes in the fight for gay equality.

Monday, February 26, 2007

DNC Treasurer, HRC Advisor Tobias Praises WY Zwonitzer Speech for Gay Equality

(Andy "Too Cheap to Share Political Credit" Tobias.)

Financial guru, treasurer for the Democratic National Committee, former member of the Human Rights Campaign board of directors, and gay man Andrew Tobias today blogs about straight WY GOP state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer's amazingly brave speech and vote favoring gay equality.
The Words from Wyoming and Minnesota
Published on February 26, 2007

Dan Zwonitzer is a Republican state representative from Wyoming (“the equality state). In the debate on a bill over whether to recognize marriages performed in other states, he recently rose to say:

And Tobias then reprints Zwonitzer's speech, and I applaud Tobias for calling attention to the speech and political advancement for gay equality out in Wyoming. And bravo that Tobias also wrote: "We need more Republicans like this."

Hey, Andy, did the text of that speech fall out of the sky? How did you find it, dude? One of your friends from HRC post it to the HRC blog? Of course not, since HRC has no blog and is ignoring the speech altogether. Not only do we need more Republicans like Zwonizter, we also need gay leaders who can share credit when necessary.

I must point out that Tobias probably believes it would cost him too much political capital to mention that late last week, this registered Green Party member and voter was the first to post Zwoniter's speech, and that gay conservative Andrew Sullivan promoted the speech, as did the beautiful and intelligent lesbian political blogger Pam Spaulding from North Carolina:

What makes Zwonitzer inspiring and so deserving of praise is that the risk he took, in Red State America, as a straight ally. He was willing to put his neck and political career on the line to do what is right -- he is a Republican doing so at a time when Democrats in much more favorable political environs are spineless, calculating and treating us like ATMs and pariahs as it suits them. [...] Will we see a press release from HRC praising Republican Zwonitzer? What do you think?
I think Pam is expecting way too much from the Democratic Party hacks running HRC. Four days after Zwonitzer delivered his plea for gay equality, HRC remains silent about it.
Thanks, Mr. Tobias, for not sharing credit where it's due, and thanks HRC; we couldn't advance a truly multi-partisan gay agenda for full equality without you guys.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

SF Ex: Prediction Gay Dem v. Gay Dem State Race Will Become "Bloodbath"

(Mark Leno)

(Carole Migden)

I take it as a sign of community-wide maturity and political advancement that San Francisco will soon see a gay Democrat versus another gay Democrat for the same office.
One aspect of not just gay politics, but much of American races, is that there can only be one chosen candidate most if not all of the community is supposed to rally behind. Too often in San Franciscan races we see local and state seats declared by different political machines to be the domain of the machine-annointed candidate. Competition is anathema for our local machines.
All that aside, the SF Examiner today reports gay Democrat Mark Leno has formally announced he will challenge incumbent gay Democrat Carole Migden for her state senate seat.
From the Ex:
Setting up a showdown that political pundits say will split San Francisco’s gay voters and liberal political circles, Assemblyman Mark Leno confirmed Friday that he will challenge state Sen. Carole Migden for her job next year.

Both politicians have previously served on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. Both are Democrats; both are openly gay.

Migden is up for re-election in 2008, the same year that Leno is termed out of his office. [...]

Talk about Leno entering the race began several months ago, when word got out that he was conducting polls in the district, which comprises the eastern half of San Francisco, all of Marin County, and portions of Sonoma County.

Migden, speaking through her spokeswoman, Tracy Fairchild, said she was “proud of my effectiveness in the job my district elected me to do — and terribly sorry that the gentleman doesn’t have his own job.”

Political analyst David Latterman said he expected the race to become a battle of personalities that would split political “clubs, endorsements and cliques.”

“Everybody’s talking about the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] bloodbath that’s going to happen,” said Latterman, who added that members of the Board of Supervisors who are usually allied are also split in their allegiances to the two politicians. [...]

Leno said he was confident his record as a legislator and a community advocate would win over voters next year.

“With the district aspect of the job, I’ve demonstrated my interest in being in the community — working shoulder to shoulder with constituents,” Leno said. [...]

Have no idea who this consultant Latterman is, but he is seriously wrong about this race being a bloodbath. He may want such a thing, better for his business and all, but I believe we're capable in San Francisco of having two gay Democrats challenge each other, without blood being spilled on the streets of Castro.

Click here to read the full Ex story.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Read the Speech by Straight GOP WY Lawmaker Favoring Equality for Gays

(Dan Zwonitzer, Hero to Homosexuals.)

Needless to say, I am quite happy to wake up today and find not only a personal letter in my email in-box from the brave Wyoming legislator, who just happens to be straight and a member of the GOP, who stood up for gay marriage equality and civil rights for all, but the text of his actual speech also waiting to be read.
Again, Dan Zwonitzer, you are worthy of much praise and thanks from gays, not just in the Equality State, but across the United States of America.

This is his letter:
In a message dated 2/23/2007 8:02:21 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Thank you for your positive message. It's appreciated to get some positive feedback, you can imagine some of the feedback I've received here in Wyoming hasn't carried your sentiment.
There were 10 other legislators in the room in the crowd of 60 listening to debate, and when one of the proponents of the bill said some very infuriating things, it triggered something in me, and I went a bit overboard in my off-the-cuff speech, but so many people came up to me afterwards to than me.
Of course, I made the newspapers and both TV stations here, and everyone wanted a copy of my impromptu speech, so I typed up what I remember saying. It wasn't anything brilliant, but I was passionate and I think it swayed a vote or two.
I'll attach a copy so you get a better understanding of my thought process. It was a speech more of society and history, than specifically for this issue, but it accomplished what it needed to.

No, Dan, it is not I who deserves thanks from you, but you who are very worthy of gratitude and a big pat on the back from the entire gay and civil rights communities. Thanks for sharing both your letter to me and the speech you made in the WY legislature, before the vote was taken.
Here's the text of Dan's speech:

Thank you Mr. Speaker and Members of the Committee.

I am not going to speak of specifics regarding this bill, but rather talk about history and philosophy in regards to this issue.

It is an exciting time to be in the legislature while this issue is being debated. I believe this is the Civil Rights struggle of my generation.

Being a student of history, as many of you are, and going back through history, most of history has been driven by the struggle of man against government to endow him with more rights, privileges and liberties to be bestowed upon him.

In all of my high school courses, we only made it through history to World War 2. It wasn’t until college that I really learned of the civil rights movement in the 60’s. My American History professor was black, and we spent a week discussing civil rights. I watched video after video where people stood on the sidelines and yelled and threw things at black students walking into schools, I’ve read editorials and reports by both sides of the issue, and I would think, how could society feel this way, only 40 years ago.

Under a democracy the civil rights struggle continues today, where we have one segment of our society trying to restrict rights and privelges from another segment of our society. My parents raised me to know that this is wrong.

It is wrong for one segment of society to restrict rights and freedoms from another segment of society. I believe many of you have had this conversation with your children.

And children have listened, my generation, the twenty-somethings, and those younger than I understand this message of tolerance. And in 20 years, when they take the reigns of this government and all governments, society will see this issue overturned, and people will wonder why it took so long.

My kids and grandkids will ask me, why did it take so long? And I can say, hey, I was there, I discussed these issues, and I stood up for basic rights for all people.

I echo Representative Childers concerns, that testifying against this bill may cost me my seat. I have two of my precinct committee persons behind me today who are in favor of this bill, as I stand here opposed, and I understand that I may very well lose my election. It cost 4 moderate Republican Senators in Kansas their election last year for standing up on this same issue. But I tell myself that there are some issues that are greater than me, and I believe this is one of them. And if standing up for equal rights costs me my seat so be it. I will let history be my judge, and I can go back to my constituents and say I stood up for basic rights. I will tell my children that when this debate went on, I stood up for basic rights for people.

I can debate the specifics of this bill back and forth as everyone in this room can, but I won’t because the overall theme is fairness, and you know it. I hope you will all let history be your judge with this vote. You all know in your hearts where this issue is going, that it will come to pass in the next 30 years. For that, I ask you to vote no today on the bill. Thank you.

If Dan Zwonitzer is any indication of the new generation of state GOP lawmakers who happen to be straight, but fair and tolerant and speaking for gay equality, then American politics and all of us will greatly benefit from their views on civil rights for gays.

Straight WY GOP Rep More Pro-Gay Marriage Than HRC?

(Dan Zwonitzer risks his political career for gay marriage.)

Over at John Aravosis' Americablog on Thursday, night he linked to an AP story from Wyoming about an unnecessary new law under consideration that would have banned the state from recognizing gay marriages performed in Massachusetts, or any other state that may grant marriage equality. Aravosis asked if anyone knew the reason why the GOP speaker in WY cast the vote killing the legislation, a good development for gays.

Using Google, I quickly found out some background on what led two other GOP legislators to cast votes favorable to gays in this matter, and a third to publicly think of supporting tolerance for gays.

From the Wyoming Capitol Outlook, a blog published by WY Public Television:

Some observers thought that a bill to deny recognition of same-sex marriages endorsed by other states would be a polarizing distraction to a legislature with more important business to take care of - one of those social issues that generates heat but not much light. The bill (Senate File 13) passed easily through the Senate, but had a difficult time moving in the House, where some folks on both sides of the issue hoped it could die quietly without debate.

Not so. It arrived this morning in the House Rules Committee, where 13 representatives had to decide whether to let it move forward. And there, to the surprise of those who expected the debate to grow ugly, it provided a moment of clarity, soul-searching and rich, real drama. [...]

Several citizens and legislators defended the rights of gay couples.

Rep. Pat Childers (R-Cody) spoke proudly of his gay daughter, “who was born that way,” and Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) said that his study of American history revealed an ongoing extension of liberties and freedoms, “and if it costs me my seat…I can say I stood up for basic rights, and history can be my judge.”

Some legislators appeared to wrestle with their decisions right up to the end of the hearing. Rep. Tom Lubnau (R-Gillette), who had questioned the cost of extending recognition to out-of-state gay marriages, concluded, “Maybe the right thing to do is to stand up for tolerance.”

But Simpson, surprisingly, voted for the bill. That left it to Speaker Roy Cohee (R-Casper) to cast the deciding vote, as the measure was killed by a 7-6 vote.

In a fairly lackluster session, it was a dramatic, revealing, and dignified, exchange.

What a magnificent development this is for us gays and our allies who endorse full marriage equality, that in Cheney's home state, we have not one, not two, but at least three straight GOP legislators to thank for delivering us some very good news!

Many thanks to both Rep. Childers in standing up for his lesbian daughter, and to Rep. Zwonitzer, who is willing to risk his seat for gay equality. If that ain't bravery, I don't know what is.

And what, pray tell, had the Democratic Party's gay wing, alias the Human Rights Campaign, been saying about the legislation and the debate surrounding it? Was the HRC framing the issue of unequal marriage laws properly and explaining that gay relationships and families are very legitimate concerns?

The answer comes from the AP's Cheyenne bureau, in a February 11 story:

Carrie Evans, state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group, echoed that: “Surely the Wyoming legislature has real problems to deal with.” [...]

Evans says because the state typically elects conservatives, people are surprised to learn Wyoming is actually one of a “special few states that doesn’t already deny recognition to same-sex unions from other areas.” [...]

“So there’s some good and some bad,” Evans said. “Wyoming tends to be very measured. It’s not very reactionary in terms of social issues. There’s no horrific anti-gay laws on the books, but they also don’t have any laws banning hate crimes even after Matthew Shepard’s death.” [...]

“There will be a discussion that probably won’t happen for decades about whether it is legal or not for full-faith-and-credit laws to extend to marriages between same-sex couples,” Evans said. “It will take couples from Massachusetts moving around country, suffering harm and then taking it to court to say whether or not measures like these are unconstitutional.”

Overall, HRC's Evans makes some good points, but I'm sick of her organization bending over backwards to deny that our committed gay partnerships and the absence of marriage equality are not "real problems" worth defending in state legislatures when these measure crop up.

HRC basically would rather not have any debate taking place at the state level, federal level too sometimes, that calls on them to fully advance the cause of gay marriage. I say this because of the underlying message in Evans' statement that there will not be a discussion on full-faith-and-credit laws for decades. In other words, HRC really would prefer to delay that discussion because the group just isn't capable of articulating a proud pro-gay marriage agenda and it's so much easier to dismiss these state battles as not "real problems."

If denial of full marriage equality for gays, right now, in America's states, is not a real problem, do we then need to keep funding HRC to tell us this lie?

Sure, I'm no fan of HRC's, so take this for what it's worth. I'd rather have a Dan Zwonitzer at my side fighting for real equality for gays than many of the HRC leaders.

Finally, I wonder how long it will be before the Veep and Lynn Cheney, not to mention good ol' lesbian daughter Mary, are asked to comment on the Wyoming gay marriage development. Care to wager any money that when asked, all of the Cheney's will duck the chance to applaud what's happened in the Equality State?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

HRC's Thin-Skinned Solmonese is Pissing Mad at Chris Crain

The former editor of the Washington Blade, Chris Crain, a man who does not tolerate the foolish leaders of the Human Rights Campaign or their lack of political accomplishments in Congress for gays, penned an opinion column for San Francisco's Bay Times earlier this month in response to an ad during the Super Bowl, one that angered HRC.

Crain opined:

The Human Rights Campaign was quick to condemn the ads, although they ought to be busy protecting our interests on Pennsylvania Avenue, not Madison Avenue.

HRC chief Joe Solmonese was characteristically patronizing, chastising Mars for not “knowing better.”

“If they have any questions about why the ad isn’t funny,” finger-wags Solmonese, “we can help put them in touch with any number of GLBT Americans who have suffered hate crimes.”

Well I, for one, am a gay American who suffered a broken nose and two black eyes for holding my boyfriend’s hand in the street. If that somehow qualifies me to speak, then let me say I am much less disturbed by Snickers’ goofy ad than by the gross overreaction of our overly earnest activists.

Now, a few week later, Solmonese has written a reply to Crain, appearing in today's Bay Times:

While I fail to understand it, I’m beginning to view his fascination with me almost as a badge of honor. In his most recent article, “No Snickers for Snickers” Bay Times, Feb. 8, 2007), Chris Crain, once again, misses the bigger picture. [...] Chris would be more credible if he commented on the facts rather than contorting them to suit his clear manic biases. [...]

He writes that HRC, “ought to be busy protecting our interests on Pennsylvania Avenue, not Madison Avenue.” Unfortunately, it is this “criticize for the sake of criticizing” mentality that shadows way too many of his columns. Does he not understand that our work to change hearts and minds in America is connected both politically and culturally? [...]

If Chris would stick to the facts, and not his personal motives, then his columns might be read with a little more credibility.

Giving Chris Crain a platform to spout his misguided rhetoric sets back the work of the entire movement. Criticism is fair game, but blatant misinformation causes disillusionment among members of our community and that isn’t just bad for HRC, it’s bad for all of us.

Hey Thin-Skinned Solmonese, printing a reasonable column from Crain that justifiably takes you and your increasing politically irrelevant organization, except to Democratic Party bosses who appreciate HRC lapdog status for Democrats, to task does NOT set back the whole gay community.

In case no one has explained this to you yet, Joe, HRC does not equal the movement and I see nothing in Crain's writing that is cause for disillusion.

Frankly, as someone who read many of the critical articles and editorials that appeared in the Blade when Crain was the editor, I believe he and his bias, if you can call it that, was to demand better of HRC and more achievements out of the millions of dollars the group raises annually, supposedly to advance gay equality in Congress.

The problem, as I see it, is that HRC and Solmonese believe they are above reproach and any criticism leveled against them is tantamount to betrayal, which is simply not the case.

Here are few recommendations for Solmonese and HRC: Start dealing honestly with the mounting valid complaints against your operations, develop a thicker skin and stop equating HRC as the entire movement.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Act Up America's SF Die-In For Healthcare Picks Up Steam

(Standing, from left: John Silverman, yours truly, Kaye Bessler, Kenny. Seated, from left: Zel The Fierce, Ralowe T. Ampu, Clinton Fein.)

A handful of people out to change the world have met over the past two weeks to plan San Francisco's part in commemorating ACT UP's 20th anniversary, with a die-in planned for March 29, in conjunction with ACT UP/NYC's action that day.
We've used the name Act Up America and see our true agenda, universal single-payer health care for all, of course affects our city, but is truly a national concern that must be addressed by Congress and all presidential candidates now.
At our first meeting, four people showed up. The second attracted seven good individuals, all ready to contribute something tangible. Nice to almost the number of people coming, and don't we look just fabulous in our photo?
This is our new meeting schedule:

When: Every Thursday, starting tomorrow, February 22, through Thursday, March 22
Time: From 6 - 7 PM
Location: Three Dollar Bill Cafe, at the gay community center, 1800 Market Street.
The location of our March 29 action in is flux, with four or five people voicing support for staging it at the Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue, and I expect other locations to crop up at tomorrow night's meeting. Got an opinion on where to stage the action? Come share it.
We have Gay Shame veterans ready to hit the streets with posters and stickers.
Renowned political artist Clinton Fein is designing our artwork and messages. ACT UP/NYC refugee Emily Nahmanson is handling our copying needs. Georgie D. is working on getting us hospital gowns to use as costumes.
And I'm in phone and email contact with still-living members of assorted ACT UP chapters, not to mention plenty of folks committed to coming out at the end of March to renew our activist street traditions, and putting heat to politicians and bureaucrats on health care for all.
Come join us on Thursday evenings, and make a promise to be at San Francisco's March 29 ACT UP 20th anniversary demo.
Act Up! Fight Back! Health Care for All!

DC Blogger Slams HRC, Solmonese in Report on the State of Movement Forum

(HRC Honcho Joe Solmonese, A Man Without a Blog)

A forum on the state of the gay movement was held last night in Washington, DC, cosponsored by Metro Weekly and the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association and moderated by the former's editor Sean Bugg.
The event took place at the offices of the Human Rights Campaign and the group's executive director, Joe Solmonese, was on the panel, but you'd never know any of this if you depended upon the HRC web site for info on it. Cruise on over to HRC's site and you won't find anything on the panel, the fact it was held at their HQ, and that it attracted a good turnout.
My guess is that because HRC was not in charge of the forum and it wasn't one of their rubber-chicken dinners, meaning they couldn't make big money off it, there was no reason to promote it.
Here's a roundup from a few bloggers who were at the forum, offering their views on how it all went.
From moderator Bugg's blog:
Anyway, as to the State of the Movement, I thought the panel went well. It's never easy to corral eight panelists and about 100 audience members into an engaging and productive discussion, but overall I think we got some interesting stuff covered. Despite my warnings and admonitions about time, I probably should have cut people off sooner. I generally erred on the side of letting people have their say, at the cost of not being able to get to every person who wanted to ask a question.
From an audience member's blog, called Jimbo.Info:
My general impression of the panel discussions was that there is still a lot of optimism and enthusiasm in movement leaders today, but the people not presented in this panel are those who are making great change on the local level. There were a few exceptions to this in the audience, as in the case of Midge Potts from Springfield, Missourri, a 37 year-old transgender social justice activist who ran for congress in SW Missouri's August 8th Republican Primary. Midge stood up to say how she campaigned door-to-door to farmers and everyday families in SW Missouri on the platforms of direct democracy, debt free America (yeah!), and energy independence.

She sounds like someone I would have voted for, but she lost. She mentioned that in meeting people as she campaigned the prejudices "melted from their faces" as she said. She was doing the footwork that really needs to be done by everyone - shaking hands, telling their stories, and making connections with people who otherwise wouldn't meet any of us urban ghetto G/L/Bi/Trans/Whatevers.
But for the best analysis on the meeting and one panelist in particular, as far as I can see from across the country here in San Francisco, comes from The Scientist's View blog. This blogger deservedly zings Solmonese and HRC, and the zinging is so good, I've excerpted lengthy parts of it:
Dear Joe Solmonese deigned to sit on the panel tonight. And he was pedantic. His whole spiel could be embodied in this summation: "You just don't understand how things work." [...]

Joe is a political animal. As the head of HRC, he doesn't have time to explain why grass-roots approaches are so slow, sloppy and ineffective. He can just tell you that it is, he'll then do a stage voice sigh, and pick at some imaginary lint on his Gucci sleeve. Condescension dripped from his every pronouncement.

To Joe, low level politics are passe. Blogs are distracting (quote). Local efforts are notable, not as a means but soley as a humble example, but ultimately, small potatoes. The only thing that matters is the House and the Senate. 535 people are his audience. The rest of us, the unwashed gay masses, are just sheep and we ought to just write our checks and shut the fuck up. He will decide what we need and our job is to genuflect towards the onerous burden that he has in spending our contributions.

Joe told us tonight that corporate America is leading the way in gay rights. FYI - No secret there Joe. But Joe said that corporate America is an ally. Here is where we have to be careful. Joe's statement is that corporations offer all these benefits to gays and are models for the gay rights movement. But corporations offer those as a response to market forces - not as some sort of paragon of virtue. [...]

What Joe likes about the corporations is that they come to Joe to ask what they should do to enhance their gay benefits. And then Joe can get a contribution from the corporation to the HRC for his "expertise". Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton do the same thing - it is just a shakedown.

Kids - it is all about the bucks. The gaping maw of the HRC beehive needs funds - and Joe will whore the homos to get it. And tonight, alot of the gay sheep saw that. HRC is top-down. I find it sad that HRC has taken the the position that gay rights has "matured" to the point of being one more lobby. Direct action, local action, grass roots action are all cute in Joe's eyes. Look at the cute gays protesting. Its so 1970s. [...]

This rant is purely to illustrate that our largest organization oriented towards gay rights is calcified and indignant. HRC deserves not one dime of our money. For HRC has positioned itself to tell us what is important and how it will unilaterally decide what is important.

Aside from the corporate whore plea, Joe's other contribution was that "we" need a few victories to get some wind in our sails. No Joe, you need some victories. [...]
HRC has drifted so far from this as to be unrecognizable as a gay rights organization and now has every feature of a lobbying. We win our rights by living our lives and sharing our experience with our neighbors. And we expect our gay donations to facilitate change at that level. It is only fair - we are not giving the HRC money to swill drinks with Congressmen in the hopes of getting gay marriage to pass.

Boycott the HRC. Just like a corporation, when the dollars stop flowing, the rhetoric will change. Simple economics. We homos should control the HRC, some Gucci whore should not control us. [...]

More about the other speakers later - I gotta get up early tomorrow and earn some bucks. I can't suck corporate donor dick like Joe does to pay the bills. This gay bitch actually has to produce something to earn a check. Odds are that you other gay folk have to do the same as well. Demand more and expect more. It is time for the HRC to get some tough love.
Something tells me this blogger won't be invited to speak any time soon at an HRC dinner, but I'll sure be checking out his blog regularly for more truth-telling.

Monday, February 19, 2007

HRC's Hilary Rosen Gave $1,000 to Homo-hater Harold Ford Before He Lost Senate Bid

Let's see if we can follow the bouncing logical ball of one Democratic Party lesbian leader as the 2008 presidential race for money heats up.

From the Bay Area Reporter's February 15 issue:

Clinton has the support of Hilary Rosen, another longtime Democratic activist and a member of the governing board of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Rosen said she's personally known the Clintons for many years – ever since she babysat for their daughter Chelsea.

"I think she is just practically the smartest, deepest candidate in the race and frankly one of the smartest leaders I've ever met," said Rosen, who for many years served as head of the Recording Industry Association of America [...] "I think she has – on gay issues in particular and as senator for New York– broadened her horizon on the political interests and needs of gays and lesbians. I think, frankly, she's a wonderful person. I know her. I've always liked her."

Rosen said gay issues are her number one criteria in evaluating candidates and that she trusts Clinton to get the United States out of Iraq. Rosen said she is helping raise gay money for Clinton and predicted she will "pay a lot of attention to gay issues."[Emphasis added.]

If Rosen indeed has gay equality at the top of her agenda when sizing up politicians, then why did she donate $1,000 to zealous homophobe, and failed Senatorial candidate, Rep. Harold Ford, Democrat, of Tennessee?
Ford's vile use of his opposition to gay marriage and his strong support for a Tennessee amendment banning marriage equality and state recognition of same-sex relationships has even forced another gay Democrat, David Mixner, to declare recently:

"No one should contribute to the DLC [Democratic Leadership Council] or support it if Ford becomes its new chairman. Ford campaigned saying he would be the first in line to vote for the Tennessee amendment. The LGBT community and it's allies should never forget his advocacy on behalf of these amendments. We also should not give a pass to straight friends who think these actions are no big deal."

To know how low Ford has sunk in his homo-hating ways, one need only look at his ratings from none other than Rosen's own group, HRC.
107th Congress: 100%
108th Congress : 44%
109th Congress : 25%
With an ever-declining pro-gay score from HRC, vocal support to deny gays and lesbians full civil rights, one would think Rosen, who says gay equality is vital to consider before backing a candidate, nevertheless contributed $1,000 to Ford on October 28, 2006, just weeks before he went down to defeat.
Rosen claims she seriously weighs a candidate's gay-related positions before backing someone, presumably because she wouldn't give a homo-hating politician an endorsement, or a check, so why did she give anything to Ford? Did he hold a pro-gay stance of real import that no one, except Rosen, knew about?
Click here to see the FEC file of Rosen's giving to Ford. And go here to read her full FEC donations file.

Friday, February 16, 2007

UCSF: HIV Serosorting May Reduce New Infections 98%

Dr. Jeff McConnell, a researcher at UCSF's HIV/AIDS Gladstone Institute, made a fascinating presentation at the HIV Prevention Planning Council's February 8 meeting, all about serosorting, seroadaptation and seropositioning as methods of further controlling HIV infections in San Francisco, and maybe elsewhere. He also discussed continuing research into HIV superinfection, which is reflected in his last couple of slide.

It pleases me very much to report that UCSF has provided copies of Dr. McConnell's slides to the SF DPH and are now posted on the web. Click here to view all 28 of them.

I've posted what I consider to be the most important slide from his talk, slide 13, showing a mathematical model that proposes HIV rates could possible fall by a whopping 98% through serosorting and seropositioning.

So how do we turn that mathematical model into reality?

Click here
to view all 28 slides from UCSF. Scroll down to the February 8 meeting section, then click on the PowerPoint link for Dr. McConnell's slides.

Here is a photo of Dr. McConnell making his presentation last week:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

SF DPH/NASTAD: New HIV Stats Plummet 33%

No matter how long I live and keep tabs on the HIV/AIDS stats in San Francisco, I will never understand the extreme and absolute unconscionable reluctance to inform the gay community and public at large about any glimmer of hope in controlling the epidemic, not to mention significant and laudable drops in new infections.

Longtime readers of this blog know I've written dozens and dozens of posts on SF DPH epi stats showing declines of HIV/AIDS since the start of my blog.

How naive of me to think that bringing attention to the success of really controlling a viral epidemic, in the form of DPH's very own epi surveillance reports and various studies, would somehow convince DPH, and its partners in the AIDS nonprofit world and at the CDC, to share the plummeting level of new HIV infections with the media and the public. The thinking on their part seems to be, "Quietly acknowledge HIV falling, with as little fanfare as possible, certainly nothing like the full-court press we engage in when HIV is surging." Such thinking shows no signs of abating.

At the joint HIV Prevention Planning Council/Ryan White CARE Act Council meeting on February 8, the monthly report from the cochairs of the prevention council noted the following:

San Francisco was featured in the February 2007 addition [sic] of the NASTAD HIV Prevention Bulletin “Focus on the Diverse Epidemics in the U.S.” You can download a copy of the bulletin at .

Bland and short description, that I of course had to read, despite not a hint that the article, co-written by the interim HIV prevention DPH chief Ms. Tracy Packer, is a superb presentation about San Francisco's current state of tumbling HIV rates, our unique local gay/queer/MSM communities and effective prevention.

Oh, and this rather enormous chunk of incredibly fantastic news about HIV in America's AIDS Model City: New HIV infections have nose-dived a whopping 33 percent.

From NASTAD's February report, on page 10:

While there was a ten percent decrease in total estimated new [HIV] cases, this seemingly modest decrease is actually a much greater prevention success than it appears.

From 2001 to 2006, the estimated number of gay men living in San Francisco increased from 46,800 to 58,343.

The increase was likely due to real growth in the gay community and, potentially, in part the result of an underestimation of the population size in 2001.

When the effect of the increase in the population size of MSM is taken into account, new infections have decreased by an estimated 33 percent. [Emphasis added]

There will be a screaming queen out on the streets tonight, and it will be yours truly, shouting, "Congratulations, gay men! You've managed amidst great homo-hatred and fear and disease to contain an epidemic, and with the aid of HIV drugs and the community-created prevention method of serosorting, actually fully and unquestionably reversed an epidemic. And gay men deserve to hear this news from their health leaders!"

Thirty-three percent is nothing to sneeze at, especially a few short weeks after SF DPH reported a 16 percent drop in new HIV infections at City Clinic last year.
All the double-drops of new HIV stats here are truly magnificent!

I love gay men and to a large degree I can't blame them for totally tuning out the SF DPH/CDC/AIDS Inc bureaucrats, and their shameless manipulations of stats in the past to increase federal funds and stigmatizing of our sexuality and demonizing PWAs with active libidos, and for generally no longer watchdogging the SF DPH and its stats.

But I also wish my brothers would rekindle their activist interests and recognize the value of demanding SF DPH do a better job of informing us of things like the 33 percent HIV drop, only noted so far in NASTAD's publication.

The reason why is crucial to enhancing a healthy homosexual community.

Regular dissemination and active promotion of HIV stats, and papers from SF DPH leaders giving an ever-brighter picture of controlling what used to be an AIDS epidemic, is as vital to our community's overall good health as is taking a daily multivitamin.

And the question of why the joint HIV/AIDS councils' meeting last week heard no mention of this 33 percent drop and there was no discussion about it, must be raised.

Hey, SF DPH AIDS Office employees! Think about ending your coy approach to the stats and your NASTAD report.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Gay Creator of Blacks in Cross Hairs HIV Ads Murdered in Philly

(RIP Mark David Norris)

There's tragic news coming from Philly today. Mark Norris, the head of the ad agency behind the controversial HIV prevention social marketing campaign "Have You Been Hit?", featuring young black men in the cross hairs of a sniper's rifle, was gunned down earlier this week. His brother and a business partner were also murdered, perhaps over a financial deal gone bad.

Even though I strongly objected to the offensive ads and deplored the company that created them, with public dollars from the Philly health department, I am of course deeply saddened that Norris' life has ended so violently.

Two lessons I take away from this story is there are simply too many guns on our streets and weapons are not the answer to resolving differences.

From today's Philly Inky story:

Mark David Norris, who was killed Monday in the boardroom of his Navy Yard marketing company, was an entrepreneur who projected a stylish image and the sense that he had an inside line on the next big business trend. [...]

Others say there were clues that Norris, 46, of Pilesgrove, N.J., the president and chief executive of Zigzag Net Inc., may have operated several businesses too close to the margins. Police say Norris, his brother and a business partner were killed by an investor who claimed they had defrauded him.

According to public records, state and federal tax agencies have filed liens against Zigzag for nearly $180,000 in back taxes and unemployment compensation.

And some who knew Norris said his business deals often seemed fragile.

"He always played very close to the edge," said John Serpentelli, 42, an animation artist who was Norris' romantic partner for seven years. "He was very charismatic and convincing." [...]

Police said Vincent J. Dortch, 44, of Newark, Del., gunned down Norris and his brother Robert E. Norris, and their business partner James M. Reif Jr., over allegations that they had misspent his investment on an Upstate New York conference center they were rebuilding.

The eldest of four brothers, Mark Norris went to school at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. He dropped out in his freshman year, early in 1979, and enlisted in the Marine Corps. He came to Philadelphia as a Marine recruiter. After his discharge, the self-taught artist began producing and selling paintings to galleries, Serpentelli said. From the art world, he migrated into marketing. [...]

"The man was talented," said Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, who met Norris after the artist fashioned a new logo for Philadelphia International Airport, where Segal is on the board of directors.

Though he acknowledged to friends that he was gay, Norris did not trumpet his orientation because he said it could be bad for business, Serpentelli said.

Two years ago, Norris and another man moved into a two-story stucco house in the Thoroughbred Homes development in Pilesgrove, a village in Salem County. [...]

Last year, the company won a Philly Gold Award for best public service advertising campaign for its "Tough Choices" Web site to encourage at-risk African American youths and others make responsible choices about HIV-AIDS.

But a $236,000 HIV-AIDS campaign Norris designed last year for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health that equated high-risk sexual behavior to gun violence was criticized by gay, African American and AIDS activists, who called it insensitive. In response to the uproar, the city pulled the plug on the campaign.

Click here
to read the full Inky piece. And this is one of the images from the controversial HIV prevention campaign Norris created last year.