Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hetero TB Patient Quarantined, Media Ignore Straight Angle, Speaker Photos at Mock Trial

(Andrew Speaker, a straight man with TB under federal quarantine, is the man on the right in both the top and bottom photos.)

It's said among gay political and media types that there's usually a gay angle to every major news story of the day, and I think that rule applies to growing coverage of Andrew Speaker and his dangerous infection.
I wish to point out a few things about the now-quarantined Atlanta lawyer infected with a strain of drug-resistant TB, starting with the fact he's heterosexual.
Many news accounts report that he traveled far and wide because of his wedding to a woman and their honeymoon itinerary, but no story or health expert has yet directly addressed the heterosexual aspects of this unfolding tale.
You can bet the house that if Speaker were gay or bisexual, the headlines would be screaming, "Homosexual With TB Quarantined," and much fear and alarm would be integral to the public discussion about the man and his case.
When gay men are infected with drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea, staph infections, or super HIV like the man in NYC in February 2005, health officials sound loud alarms, relayed in the mainstream media, and the subtext of it all is one of gays spreading diseases, not diseases being transmitted by people who happen to be gay.
But the Speaker case is notably absent any discussion about his sexual orientation, other than that he got married to a woman. If he were gay, I think at this point in the investigation, health experts and reporters would be very publicly questioning if he had other sex partners recently, and a larger discussion about his entire sexual history and that of other gay men.
Can we have a little equal treatment of the Speaker quarantine and ask that the media broach the subject of if and how the man's sexual orientation may have been a contributing factor to acquiring TB?
It's not that I think any (hetero)-hysteria should be whipped up, like we see when homosexuals are the subject of intense medical and media scrutiny over the transmission of rare strains of deadly and injurious infections, but the unexplored sexual transmission routes of TB have not factored in to any coverage I've seen.
Final few points. I found these photos of Speaker from the 13th American Bar Association's Annual National Criminal Justice Trial Advocacy Competition, where his team won first place in the mock trial. Those skills might come in handy if Speaker faces any sort of criminal charges related to his infection, travel abroad and then re-entry into the United States.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Best New York Times Lesbian Wedding Notice Ever: Thea Spyer & Edith Windsor

(Thea Spyer, left, and Edith Windsor, right)

I admit I have a weakness for reading the gay and lesbian wedding announcements in the New York Times on most Sundays, just to see who among the gay-o-stocracy is getting hitched and meeting the high standards the paper demands before they'll tell readers about your wedding.
Straight or gay, of all races, the Times' wedding pages always feature newlyweds with a few characteristics in common - personal or family wealth, college degrees often from Ivy League universities, or high-powered executive positions. You just don't read about Joe the Plumber and Steve the Bartender marrying each other. But I digress.
This past Sunday I read what I consider to be the most emotionally moving and terrific human story of all the gay and lesbian NYT wedding announcements ever to hit the pages of the Gray Lady.
It was about the decades-long courtship and life-stories of Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor, two senior lesbian partners who've lead colorful lives, who I very much look upon as two of my many symbolic lesbian mothers and part of my extended gay family, even though I've never had the pleasure of meeting these women.
I adore how starting with their rather old-fashioned names, Thea and Edith, to their beautifully aged faces and the bright lipstick on their lips, on to a quote about the rough life of queer bars in the 1960s they experienced, to that telling detail of dancing with holes in the stockings, and the Times ending on the note of the decades it took them to finally tie the knot, these lesbians forged a path for themselves and their collective families and now I know about them.
From the Times:
Thea Clara Spyer and Edith Schlain Windsor were married in Toronto on Tuesday. Justice Harvey Brownstone of the North Toronto Family Court officiated at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel.

Dr. Spyer (above, left) is 75. She is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Manhattan. She graduated from the New School for Social Research and received a master’s degree in clinical psychology from City University of New York and a Ph.D. in that subject from Adelphi. . .

Ms. Windsor, 77, who is retired, worked in New York as a computer systems consultant for I.B.M. She was a board member of Social Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders, also known as SAGE, from 1985 to 1987 and from 2004 to 2006. She graduated from Temple University and received a master’s degree in mathematics from New York University. . .

“Everyone lived in the closet,” Ms. Windsor said of lesbian life in New York in the 1960s. “The only place to go was bars, and they were rough.”. . .

Dr. Spyer recalled of Ms. Windsor that night, “We danced so much and so intensely that she danced a hole through her stockings.” . . .

Dr. Spyer, who has become a quadriplegic as a result of advanced multiple sclerosis, said of the weekend, and her time spent with Ms. Windsor: “It was a feeling of complete delight in being with her. I had a real sense of ‘I’ve landed in my life.’ ”

That was 40 years ago.

Dr. Spyer had the help of three aides who traveled with her to Canada to officially marry Ms. Windsor, ending an engagement that began in 1967.

Congratulations, Thea and Edith, for finally making honest women of one another! Click here to read the full wedding notice.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

No White House Photos of Liz Cheney W/Her Newborns

(Cheneys with Samuel David Cheney, 2007)

The Blade syndicate of gay rags has a new writer onboard, Rebecca Armendariz, and she's quite busy posting up a storm of messages on the paper's blog and I like her feistiness and rather demanding style.

For instance, in her recent post on Mary Cheney and Heath Poe new son, Armendariz orders the lesbian parents to release a photo of themselves and their baby.

From the Blade blog:

Poor Samuel David Cheney. Not only is he cursed with that dreadful last name, but anytime anyone Googles him for the next, oh, six months or so, they'll unfortunately have to stare upon his grandfather's beak before cooing at his tiny baby face.

Who gave birth here, anyway? . . . Are we supposed to be forgetting that this baby was born into a loving, long-term lesbian relationship by overshadowing him with the umbrella of Dick's profile?

I want to see a photo Samuel and his two mommies . . . Pose away, Mary and Heather!

Sure, there's a valid point here, that being the oddity of no photos of the proud parents holding their son and sharing the image with the world. But by Googling for shots of Cheney and his newest, sixth, grandchild, I saw that the White House is being consistent in at least one aspect of informing the public, and sharing photos of new Cheney offspring, when one of the Cheney chicks gives birth.

We've all seen the photo from last week of Dick and Lynne smiling and showing off Samuel David Cheney, but how many of us have looked at the photos of the Second Couple in similar poses, one where they're cradling Richard Jonathan Perry, born in July 2006, and another one in which the couple show off Philip Richard Perry, born in July 2004? The boys' parents are Liz Cheney and her hubby Phil Perry.

If the White House won't release photos of Liz and Phil with their newborns, I see no reason why they should grant Mary and Heather special privileges, like having them pose with Samuel David Cheney and issuing a courtesy photo to the public of the lesbian moms and their kid. Maybe it just is not the White House's job to release photos of either Cheney daughters with their respective partners and newborns, and Armendariz should simply chill out.

This is not to say I don't want to see a photo of the Cheney/Poe clan in the near future. I really do want this all-American lesbian family to give us photos, which I predict most likely will turn up in the pages of People or a newsweekly of higher news value.

Since Mary was paid handsomely for her boring bust of a memoir, illustrating how she's can be persuaded to share of herself private self, when the price is right and it's on her terms.

So Mary, why not do like other celebs, get a deal to have pictures snapped of you, Heather, Samuel, sell it for a nice chunk of change, then donate to a good cause. Perhaps a nonprofit agency helping gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents birthing and adopting and raising kids?

(Cheney's with Philip Richard Perry, 2004)

(Cheney's with Richard Jonathan Perry, 2006)
Last US High School Refusing Army Recruiters Changes Policy
(One of many recent creative progressive pro-peace demonstrations in Berkeley.)

On Friday night I went to the Pacific Film Archive to catch a screening of a Peter Greenaway's breakthrough film "The Draughtsman's Contract" from 1983 and on my way to the theatre, I picked up a copy of the Berkeley Daily Planet, to catch up on the local politics and art scenes.
In it was a long story about a very depressing development, one that I would never have expected to read about from the People's Republic of Berkeley.
The administration for the last American high school not cooperating with the federal government and allowing military recruiters access to contact information to potential new recruits for the armed forces, has reversed its policy on the matter.
Berkeley High School administrators informed students this week about a change in board policy that requires all juniors and seniors who do not want their names and addresses released to the U.S. military for recruitment purposes to sign an “opt-out” form.

Prior to this, Berkeley High had simply handed over names and addresses of students who had “opted in” or wanted to receive information from recruiters.

But under threat of losing millions of dollars in federal funds, the Berkeley school board decided earlier this month on the change.

According to the federal No Child Left Behind act (NCLB), school districts must provide the military with the names and addresses of all juniors and seniors for recruiting purposes unless there is a signed letter from the parents or the student indicating that they are “opting out” and do not want information released.

Berkeley High was the last high school in the country to acquiesce to this policy. . .

The district’s belief had been that by applying the same restrictions of access to student information to all organizations, it would be able to guard privacy and shield students from unwanted solicitations as well as military recruitment, unless desired.

School district superintendent Michele Lawrence said she had sent out a letter to the Berkeley High community on May 11 about this change. . .

Lawrence said that the school board had held its position all along because of their commitment to protecting students from “some of the obvious ramifications of an open release of information, and especially to the military given our country’s political climate.”

The situation escalated when the undersecretary of defense called to inform her that BHS was the only school in the nation not to comply with this particular provision. . .

In the back of my head I held on to the naive belief that there was real hope for resisting full cooperation with the Bush war machine, because this bastion of progressive citizens and thinking was able to keep out military recruiters.
No more, and if Berkeley, California, of all places, can't continue to give us a glimmer of hope, and hard-core resistance to outrageous Bush machinations to keep feeding his lost war for oil profits in Iraq, I'm simply forced to look elsewhere for examples of patriotic Americans refusing to go along with the current White House administration.
(UC Berkeley students protesting for de-militarizing the campus)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

They All Look the Same to Me: CPs

(Supervisor Ed Jew)

Two San Francisco politicians are at the center of brewing tempests that may boil over into full-bore scandals, lesbian state Senator Carole Migden, a French-American, who rear-ended another vehicle last week on the highway, and heterosexual Supervisor Ed Jew, a Chinese-American, under federal investigation for accepting $40,000 in cash from local businessmen who he guided to a permits expediter to help them resolve their regulatory troubles.
They're just the latest in a string of corrupt politicians of the local and state variety, making the news these days. I've reached the point where it doesn't matter what their ancestry is, if they're gay or straight, male or female, or their party. When they're a corrupt politician, acting as though laws and good government rules don't apply to them, they all look the same to me.
Another two California pols quickly come to mind, who were forced from office because they arrogantly acted above good ethics and sometimes the law - former state Insurance Commissioner Charles Quackenbush, forced from office in 2000 after accepting campaign money from companies he regulated, and former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, who resigned in 2005 because he allegedly was a sexually abusive boss and engaged in campaign laundering.
If I Googled other corrupt politicians from either the Bay Area or around California and at the state capital, at least a few dozen names would turn up, along with all the dirt behind the scandals, resignations and willful malfeasance they brought on.
And at the national level, some names instantly jump out as fitting in the CP category, many gone from office, under clouds of suspicion: Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois, Rep. Duke Cunningham, Sen. Bob Packwood, Rep. Wilbur Hayes, Rep. Rick Renzi.
In the annals of corrupt politicians getting their comeuppance, today is unique in that two SF pols, Migden and Jew, were subjected to very unflattering media coverage, raising troubling questions in need of addressing.

(State Sen. Carole Migden)
Let's start with a small taste of the bad press for Migden, with more sure to follow before the week is out:
State Sen. Carole Migden bounced her state-issued SUV off the concrete median on Interstate 80 and nearly ran other motorists off the freeway before slamming into the back of another vehicle last week, the California Highway Patrol and witnesses said Tuesday.

More than half a dozen motorists made emergency calls about Migden's erratic driving before the Friday accident, the CHP said. The rear-end collision in Fairfield, midway between San Francisco and Sacramento, injured a woman and her 3-year-old daughter, who were sent to the emergency room.

In a statement released by her office last week, the San Francisco Democrat said the accident happened after she took her eyes off the road while reaching for a ringing cell phone.

But about a half dozen motorists had called 911 before the crash as Migden traveled more than 30 miles on Interstate 80, heading east from the San Francisco Bay area.

"We have drivers calling from apparently down in Berkeley all the way up to where she crashed," CHP Officer Marvin Williford said Tuesday. "Her driving was just erratic. Unfortunately, she crossed three different CHP districts, so by the time we got into position in one area, she was in a different jurisdiction."
Now let's look at one of the local stories, sure to not go away as the Memorial Day approaches, on Jew's legal problems:

Jew, who was elected last November, spent the weekend answering a barrage of questions about reportedly accepting $40,000 in cash from Quickly tapioca franchise store owners in payment for the services of a consultant who Jew says helped the owners with permit issues after Jew recommended his services.

Jew said he asked the consultant, Robert Chan, to direct some of the money toward neighborhood needs. Jew told The Examiner $20,000 of the money that was in his possession was intended to be spent on neighborhood improvements, such as a playground. When asked late Friday evening where that $20,000 was, Jew told The Examiner he no longer had the $20,000 because federal agents had confiscated it from his safe.

Corrupt politicians are not a dying breed in danger of extinction any time soon, unfortunately, which is good for the news media and political junkies, but detrimental to a healthy democracy.

It's never too late to hope other parties will produce better politicians, that the electorate smashes the dual party stranglehold on the political process, and that Democratic and GOP party bosses prevent other Foleys and Rostenkowskis from gaining too much power.

(Ex-Rep. Dan Rostenskowski)

Monday, May 21, 2007

NYT Gays in UK Military Story Omits MoD Bullying Reports

(Photo credit: Rainbow flag, with UK Ministry of Defence symbol superimposed.)

The New York Times today prints a very positive article about the generally favorable acceptance of open gay people in the armed forces of the United Kingdom.

From the Times:

Since the British military began allowing homosexuals to serve in the armed forces in 2000, none of its fears — about harassment, discord, blackmail, bullying or an erosion of unit cohesion or military effectiveness — have come to pass, according to the Ministry of Defense, current and former members of the services and academics specializing in the military. The biggest news about the policy, they say, is that there is no news. It has for the most part become a nonissue.

However, a check of the minutes for the gay steering committee of the UK Ministry of Defence documents that at its May 7 meeting, there is indeed a problem, and it may be expanding. Was the NYT reporter unaware of these minutes from earlier this month?

Excerpted from the LGBT steering committee files:

The committee members discussed harassment and bullying by some military people attending courses or workshops to which our members attended recently, and this seems to be getting worse. Chris mentioned about 2 incidents he witnessed whilst taking a recent training course. Ian mentioned an incident during which he challenged homophobic remarks also.

Further searching the ministry's web site, I found another recent publication, giving historical background to some of the problems gay have faced in the UK armed forces.

From a MoD diversity panel briefing paper:

o In a survey I conducted in Summer 04 of LGB staff, nearly two-thirds had directly experienced homophobic abuse at work.
o This abuse included homophobic joke telling, malicious phone calls at home, use of homophobic language such as queer, dyke or poof, being told by a line manager that being gay was “perverse and disgusting”, pamphlets being left in toilets reminding people that AIDS is the wrath of God against homosexuality and so on.
o The Steering Committee has requested the Equalities directors from both the Defence Academy and dbLearning to attend the December LGBT Forum to advise on how sexual orientation is covered in MoD diversity training.
o We will continue to raise the profile of the LGBT Forum in order to generate a more inclusive culture within the MoD.

Despite those problems, I don't want to overlook what appears to be a generally favorable and tolerant military environment for gays in the UK forces. I give two snaps up to the Ministry of Defence for maintaining a very informative and comprehensive web site full of resources for the gay community and the ministry. Click here to check it out.

When, not if, the US gets around to joining the modern and civilized world of nations that allow gays to serve openly, we could learn a lot from the UK experience of integrating gays into the forces.

Gen. Pace: Sept = Evaluation; End of Terror War is Like Chicago?

Gen. Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke in Chicago last week and made some comments that appear to say two things of significance.
One, though he doesn't use the words benchmark or deadline, Pace clearly has set September as the month to evaluate Bush's surge strategy for Iraq. I believe this is the first time he's publicly joined other politicians and strategists and endorsed what some GOP leaders might label an artificial timeline on the war's progress.
And second, Pace presented his picture of what the end of the war on terrorism will look like--something akin to the middle American city of Chicago. I honestly don't get the sense that this general sees a total victory in the offing out of the mess Bush has made not just of Iraq, but also in his anti-terrorism policies.
From the May 18 American Forces Press Service article, the Pentagon's news service totally committed to always putting an upbeat spin on military matters:
By September, military officials will have a pretty good feel for whether the “military part” of the president’s surge strategy is working, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace said here today. . .

On the surge, Pace explained that four of the five brigades of about 3,000 to 3,500 troops each that the U.S. military is “plussing up” are currently in Iraq. The fifth is in Kuwait and will be in Iraq by the beginning of June.

“From June until September,” he said, “we’ll have the opportunity to watch the increased U.S. presence on the ground, and the increased Iraqi unit presence on the ground, and the effect that it has on security, primarily in Baghdad.”
Those sentiments about a September evaluation are very much in tune with what House Minority Leader John Boehner has been saying this month, and back in January.
"By the time we get to September, October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B."
Sure, it's good to see Pace getting on board the "let's analyze the troop surge in September" bandwagon, I won't be surprised if he and others say at that time that need to wait until December for a better picture of security in Baghdad to emerge.
And what are we to make of Pace's remarks, summarized by the American Forces Press Service reporter, that the end of the terrorism war, as waged by Bush and Company, will resemble the city of Chicago?

More from the May 18 AFPS story:

Success in the war on terrorism, Pace said, is not like the success of World War II. The end state will be much more like the current state of a U.S. city, such as Chicago.

“Is there violence here? Yes,” he said. “Is there a police force that keeps that violence below a level at which the government can function and the citizenry can go about their daily business? This is what you’re looking at with the war on terror. …

“You’ll never stop all terrorist acts,” he said. The goal is to have “the security is solid enough so that the government can provide leadership and so the business world can provide jobs so people can prosper.”

Damn, those words sound remarkably familiar to my political ears, which hear the general basically saying terrorism could become a nuisance, something that doesn't wholly disappear, but something we learn to live with.
I hear solid echoes of a statement Sen. John Kerry made to the NY Times Sunday Magazine in October 2004, that brought forth condemnations and commercials from the Bush team. From the Times:

''We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' Kerry said. ''As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''

I don't think it's a great stretch of a political nature to see deep similarities in Kerry's comments almost three years ago, and the remarks made last week in Chicago by Pace.
Seems that Kerry in 2004 to the NY Times spoke some obvious truths about modern terrorism and dealing with it, which sadly cranked up the Karl Rove election war machine against him, and we now have the nation's top military commander saying basically the same thing, only the mainstream press not only doesn't report on Pace's Chicago comments, the media doesn't look at the larger context, that being America's war on terrorism and getting our troops home safely from Iraq.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Media Reports: San Francisco Gays Dancing on Rev. Jerry Falwell's Grave

(Photo Credit: Clinton Fein, renowned artist and political activist snapped this photo of Tinky Winky, two Sisters, and yours truly. Clinton has kindly granted permission for non-commercial use of his photos from today's action at his site, as long as he's fully credited.)

The death of Moral Majority founder Rev. Jerry Falwell has grabbed headlines in alternative and mainstream media. But happily, so has the anti-memorial we held for the late bigot and gaybasher this afternoon (May 15) in San Francisco. Here is my report about our news conference, and the media frenzy that followed.

Six activists gathered at 5 pm on this chilly afternoon. Appropriately, to mark the passing of a chief homophobe, we met at the cross roads of Gay America: Castro and 18th streets. We taped flyers on the side of the BofA building, depicting Falwell and simply reading "Falwell Dead". Our major eye-catching prop was a three-foot-high pinata of Tinky-Wink, the purple Teletubby whom Falwell had deemed a propaganda weapon to recruit the world's children to homosexuality. We hung our beloved mascot from the iron bars of the bank so he could swing free and attract passersby.

We spoke for about five minutes. We reminded people about this Bible-beating bigot's horrible legacy. The press people covered our presentation and then stopped passers-by and ask for the "queer on the streets" thoughts about Falwell. No one had a nice thing to say about the man who helped collapse the separation between Church and State and presaged the evangelical taint of today's White House.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence arrived to conduct a purification ritual, to heal all gays who had been subjected to Falwell's hatred over the decades. Reporters who stayed took advantage of the photo op of the Sisters in their make-up and regalia. Those in attendance were given a strip of pink fabric to write down thoughts about their gay fabulousness, and then asked to tie the streams of messages to BofA's iron bars, blowing our love and self-affirmation into the winds to our gay brothers and sisters across the globe.

Two resulting press reports of note: The SF Chronicle has posted a few photos and a brief news item about the event, written by a reporter who was not there, but who spoke to me on the phone earlier in the day. Plus, our regional NBC affiliate has posted a lengthy story and photos, with the provocative headline about gays dancing on Falwell's grave.

Dancing on his grave? How did that happen? Well, after we left the corner of Castro and 18th, other community members arrived to establish their anti-Falwell tributes. Someone laid down a square of AstroTurf to represent Falwell's grave with a small sign on the masking tape inviting people to dance on the dead reverend's grave.

No, this grave-dancing stuff is not mine. But I certainly endorse the sentiments of those who did it. Just think of the tens of thousands of gay people who died of AIDS neglect because of Falwell's hate-mongering that reached up into the White House and affected public policy. Or the many who killed themselves because Falwell had convinced them they were not good Christians. There
are numerous reasons why we should remember the Rev. Jerry
Falwell's poisonous legacy in this fashion.

Yes, there are some mainstream press people who felt our celebration was in questionable taste. To those horrified by our demonstration, let me assure them of one thing: When uber-bigot and primo gay-hater Senator Jesse Helms finally meets his maker, our subsequent celebration will make the Falwell event look like a Sunday tea party at the vicarage.

Jesse... it's time for the Lord to call you home...

Gays to Stage Speak Out Today Over the Death of Rev. Jerry Falwell

For Immediate Release
May 15, 2007
Contact: Michael Petrelis, 415-621-xxxx

An anti-memorial is being planned in San Francisco to mark the death and hate-filled life of the Rev. Jerry Falwell who died today. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders will speak out about Falwell relentless crusades demonizing the gay community and his political organizing to consign gays to second-class citizenship.

What: Anti-Memorial & Speak Out

Why: The death of Rev. Jerry Falwell

Date: Tuesday, May 15

Time: 5:00 pm

Location: Castro and 18th Streets, (Bank of America building)

With the obituaries for the bigoted Falwell pouring forth, many news organizations are noting his career of singling out gays for hatred. From the New York Times obit:

As a result, he was a lightning rod for controversy and caricature. He apologized, for example, after televised remarks suggesting that the 9/11 terrorist attacks reflected God’s judgment on a nation spiritually weakened by the American Civil Liberties Union, providers of abortion and supporters of gay rights, and after he called Muhammad a terrorist. He was ridiculed for an article in his National Liberty Journal that suggested that Tinky Winky, a character in the “Teletubbies” children’s show, could be a hidden homosexual signal, because the character was purple, had a triangle on its head and carried a handbag.

An organizer of today's anti-Falwell street action, Michael Petrelis, said he expects many gay people will recall Falwell's vile bigotry. "While Falwell is dead, unfortunately his legacy of hatred in the name of God will be felt legislatively for years to come. Now is the time to roll back the domination that fundamentalist religious leaders have imposed on the American body politic," said Petrelis from San Francisco.

People attending today's speak out are asked to bring signs calling for religious acceptance of gays, and Tinky Winky dolls. The organizers of today's event will be bringing a 3-foot high Tinky Winky pinata replica of the cartoon character Falwell labeled as gay.

[Update: Be sure to read my report on the action, presented with photos and links to mainstream media coverage. Click here.]

Sunday, May 13, 2007

May 14 -- Happy 139th Birthday, Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld!

In this amnesiac era when every twink who's ever been a member of an boy band is considered a courageous gay hero and leader, let us remember on May 14 the life and times of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, born and died on this day.
Hirschfeld was born on May 14, 1868, in Kolberg, Germany, and died on this day in 1935, in Nice, France, after years of persecution from his Nazi enemies.
He's a true giant of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender communities around the globe, and his legacy and brave work on behalf of queers in his troubled times, when it wasn't at all popular to be an avowed homosexual and one calling for an end to legal and medical harassment of us, must continually be acknowledged and taught to gays of all ages, newly emerging from the closet and in need of a homo-history lesson.
2007 marks no special rounded-year mark of Hirschfeld's birth 139 years ago, and his demise, 72 years ago, making it a bit difficult to generate some attention for the importance of May 14, but that is no reason for me at least not try to get other gay bloggers to blog about Hirshfeld today.
Fellow gay bloggers -- post messages and diaries on Hirshfeld on May 14. Reach your audience not only about this man, but also call for more general homo-history teaching so we all gain a better understanding of our forebears.
I've always been horribly annoyed whenever homophobic forces have called for lesser equality for us because we don't procreate and build families only through birth and blood relations.
Of course, all gays come from our biological families, and many of us are blessed with loving family members who accept and value us, but we also have our self-created gay family structures and relationships, very much of a tribal nature.
And in the gay tribe of which I belong, my family was really started by Hirschfeld, whom I view as a great-great grandfather to my generation. This also means I see a lineage from Hirshfeld to the German homosexuals forced to wear pink triangles, to Americans Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings who agitated for gay equality in the 1950s, to the Radical Faeries and ACT UP activists of the 1980s, and we're part of a very large circle in interlocking families.
Please post on May 14 for Hirschfeld and his legacy, which will surely educate a few people who didn't know who he was and what he fought for. His importance cannot be overstated.
Click here for his Wikipedia entry and go here for some Googling on him.
Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, happy 139th birthday!

Lee Iacocca Is Angry With George Bush & Not Gonna Take It Anymore!

President Teddy Roosevelt's daughter Alice Longworth once famously quipped that if a person didn't have anything nice to say about someone else, then they should come sit next to her and spill the beans.

Like her, I also can appreciate listening to someone giving me the nasty low-down, more so if it's former titan of the auto industry and a true mainstream all-American hero, Lee Iacocca and he's talking about President Bush.

Iacocca has a new book out, "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?," and in a lengthy passage from it, he has nothing nice or friendly or kind to say about the current occupant of the Oval Office.

I stumbled across this while Googling for blog mentions over the Iraqi parlaiment's recently floating the trial balloon of taking a two-month vacation, an idea attacked worldwide. Iacocca writes nothing about parlaiment wanting a break of sixty-days from their labors of holding the war-torn country together, after all, his book was penned before Iraqi politicians wanted a summer recess, so I'm not clear why a link to something from his new book turned up in a Google search. Maybe it's because he makes mention of our Dear Leader's penchant for long vacations, with members of Congress also setting a fine example of lazy lawmakers shirking their duties to the people who elected them.

What shocks me most about Iacocca's spot-on critiques of George Bush is how his words echo those of my buddies in the SF Green Party. Our nation needs more Iacoccas speaking out against Bush and his delusional politics.

If a business leader like Iacocca is willing to say such things in public, maybe he could go a few steps further and organize a coalition of other business and industry movers and shakers, and together issue a call for a responsible winding down of the Bush war in Iraq and a speedy return home of our troops.
And the next time Iacocca is in San Francisco, I hope he has the time to drop one of my favorite watering holes and tell me more about what he really thinks of George W. Bush!

This is from a much longer excerpt on the web, extracted from his new book:

The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for ...

Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us. Who Are These Guys, Anyway? Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them, or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers.
Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy. And don't tell me it's all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That's an intellectually lazy argument, and it's part of the reason we're in this stew ...

We should look at how the current administration stacks up. Like it or not, this crew is going to be around until January 2009 ...

George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping. There's a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty ... Leadership is all about managing change, whether you're leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. Maybe Bush was absent the day they covered that at Harvard Business School ...

The war in Iraq has been, among other things, a grand failure of communication. Bush is like the boy who didn't cry wolf when the wolf was at the door. After years of being told that all is well, even as the casualties and chaos mount, we've stopped listening to him ...

George Bush has a lot of power. What does it say about his character? Bush has shown a willingness to take bold action on the world stage because he has the power, but he shows little regard for the grievous consequences. He has sent our troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens) to their deaths. For what? To build our oil reserves? To avenge his daddy because Saddam Hussein once tried to have him killed? To show his daddy he's tougher? The motivations behind the war in Iraq are questionable, and the execution of the war has been a disaster. A man of character does not ask a single soldier to die for a failed policy ...

George Bush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk like a cowboy. You know, My gun is bigger than your gun. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk ...

Bush has set the all-time record for number of vacation days taken by a U.S. President, four hundred and counting. He'd rather clear brush on his ranch than immerse himself in the business of governing. He even told an interviewer that the high point of his presidency so far was catching a seven-and-a-half-pound perch in his hand-stocked lake.

It's no better on Capitol Hill. Congress was in session only ninety-seven days in 2006. That's eleven days less than the record set in 1948, when President Harry Truman coined the term do-nothing Congress. Most people would expect to be fired if they worked so little and had nothing to show for it. But Congress managed to find the time to vote itself a raise. Now, that's not leadership ...

Bush brags about being our first MBA President. Does that make him competent? Well, let's see. Thanks to our first MBA President, we've got the largest deficit in history, Social Security is on life support, and we've run up a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag (so far) in Iraq. And that's just for starters. A leader has to be a problem solver, and the biggest problems we face as a nation seem to be on the back burner ...

George Bush doesn't have common sense. He just has a lot of sound bites. You know, Mr.they'll-welcome-us-as-liberators-no-child-left-behind-heck-of-a-job-Brownie-
mission-accomplished Bush. Former President Bill Clinton once said, "I grew up in an alcoholic home. I spent half my childhood trying to get into the reality-based world, and I like it here." I think our current President should visit the real world once in a while ...

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face ...

It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero. That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq, a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will.
So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership ...

I get the strong sense, don't you, that Iacocca is channeling the late great gay actor Peter Finch in his final role, that of Howard Beale, the crazy TV anchor who was "made as hell and not going to take it anymore!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Amazon: Mary Cheney's Book Sells for Seven Cents a Copy

It has been about a year since Mary Cheney, lesbian daughter of Vice President Cheney and his wife Lynne, and a tedious apologist for the Bush administration, published a boring book.

She was rumored to have received a large advance from the publisher, close to $1 million, but Cheney's book never found an audience either among the GOP base or in gay circles. Her memoir never hit any best-seller lists and it will probably be best remembered as her shameless grab for a fat check.

Unfortunately, many trees were felled for Cheney's book and you can now purchased the damn thing for a mere $0.07. That's seven cents, folks, for a used copy. A new one could set you back $1.89. Heck, it's going to cost more for shipping charges than the price of the book.

At least some dames can get 10 cents a dance, like in that old song, but this Cheney chick can barely get 7 cents a book!

Click here to see how low the price is for "Now It's My Turn."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stars & Stripes: Army Families Quiz Pentagon on Extended Iraq Duty

Based on what is actually in this story from the Stars & Stripes, and what I'm reading between the lines, I don't get the sense that there is deep or widespread support from military families over in Germany, for the part of the Bush and Cheney surge that will extend the time the families' loved will be deployed in Iraq, with their "dwell time" away from the war diminished.

It breaks my heart to read about American families having to bear an incredible price for the failed war policies of the Bush administration, while their rather skimpy benefits, aren't always easy to obtain from the Pentagon. An extra $1,000 per month for the extension for each soldier sounds like a pittance, given the risks our troops face.

And talk about fuzzy Bush and Cheney math. Interesting that the family members who turned out for the town hall talk think 15 months really means 18 long, deadly months refereeing a civil war. If anyone should know about the military math of this administration, it's the friends and families of our troops.

As of May 11, there are 620 days to go before Bush leaves office. If only we had a exact, legally-mandated date of return home for our troops in Iraq. I mention that only because I needed something positive to think about connected to Bush.

From the Stars & Stripes of May 11:

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — By the time Drueanna Newman’s husband is finished with his extended tour, 27 of his last 36 months will have been spent in Iraq.

So when Capt. Randall Newman finally comes home, she asked, what’s being done to guarantee he gets his 12-month “dwell time”?

At a town hall-style meeting Thursday in Kaiserslautern, which dealt with tour extensions and the new 15-month deployment plan, Drueanna Newman came prepared with a list of questions. Dwell time, or at-home rest, was at the top of the list of things she wanted to ask about.

Newman, whose husband is with the 618th Movement Control Team, highlighted the case of a company of soldiers out of Baumholder who are heading back to Iraq after only nine months at home ...

About 200 soldiers and family members attended the town hall meeting, which was part of a weeklong tour through Germany by Army human resources officials from Washington.

Soldiers and family members raised questions ranging from frustrations about money lost on booked vacations because of tour extensions to programs that will help children cope with having a deployed parent.

One soldier wanted to know what the impact of longer tours will be on his wallet. When tours are extended beyond 12 months, soldiers now receive an extra $1,000 for each month of the extension. With a 15-month tour, he asked, will soldiers have to wait until month 16 for the extra money, or will 366 days still be the trigger?.

Dingle said 366 days will still be the trigger ...

In response to a question about whether more could be done to coordinate the dwell time of spouses who are both soldiers, Dingle said: “We need to be realistic about what we can commit to. We’re an expeditionary Army.”

For some family members, there are fears that tours of up to 15 months will turn into extended 18-month deployments ...

With the Army’s stated plan to grow by 60,000, there will be more flexibility in the future, Dingle said. For now, though, deployments must be driven by the needs of commanders on the ground.

“I know that’s probably not the answer you want to hear,” Dingle said.

While that wasn’t the answer she was hoping for, Newman said she thought the town hall meeting was productive and that many of her questions were answered. She was less positive about whether her husband will get the dwell time he is due ...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

AP Reporter Breaks White House Rules During Cheney Briefing

(Cheney speaking at his news briefing today in Iraq. The fuzziness of the image is present in the original source, from the Pentagon. Kind of like the fuzzy way in which Bush and Cheney view the war; out of focus and anything but crisp and clear.)

Believe it or not, there's some good news out of Iraq today. No, nothing on the order of peace miraculously breaking out or a reduction in sectarian violence and death or U.S. troops departing for home, but something small, yet significant.
An American reporter, Tom Raum of the Associated Press, apparently broke the ground rules at a press briefing with Vice President Dick Cheney. Seems the media were asked to not pose questions about benchmarks, but one journalist ignored the White House request.
From the White House web page for Cheney and his remarks:

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously I've got General Dave Petraeus and our Ambassador Ryan Crocker with us. We spent most of the day together. It's been a good day. We met with virtually all the top Iraqi leaders. Might have missed one or two who were out of town, but we caught most of them, including Prime Minister Maliki and as well as President Talabani, Vice President Hashemi and al-Mehdi.

During the course of the meetings I emphasized the importance of making progress on the issues before us, not only on the security issues but also on the political issues that are pending before the Iraqi government. I was impressed with the commitment on the part of the Iraqis to succeed on these tasks, to work together to solve these issues.

I also met with their top military leadership. I think it's important for all of us to remember that the sacrifices that the Iraqis have made in this conflict have been substantial. I look forward tomorrow to have any opportunity to spend some time with our U.S. military forces.

And with that, we'd be happy to respond to questions. And the first question goes to Tom Raum.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, did you hear anything today that makes you believe that the benchmarks that have been set up are getting met any quicker than earlier? And if so, is there any possible (inaudible) tie the performance at meeting these benchmarks to getting funds from Congress, as some Democrats have suggested?

And General Petraeus, you said a few weeks ago in Washington that regardless of how things went, it would take an enormous commitment of time and effort on the part of the United States before things are stabilized. Do you still believe that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not sure that was consistent with the rules, Tom, but what the heck. You got the first one, so we'll go with it.

With respect to the question of benchmarks, we still believe that it's important that funding for the supplemental for operations here in Iraq not contain conditions that limits either the flexibility of our commanders on the ground in Iraq or interferes with the President's constitutional prerogatives as Commander-in-Chief, which is the general principle that we've adhered to and it's one of the reasons the President vetoed the original bill.

I do sense today a - I think a greater awareness on the part of the Iraqi officials I talked to of the importance of their working together to resolve these issues in a timely fashion. I think they recognize that it's in their interest as well as in our interest that they make progress on the political front just as we deal with the security issues. [Emphasis added.]

Thank you, Tom Raum of the AP, for not bowing before Cheney and any pressure from his staff to keep the questions today light and easy. We could use a lot more reporters like you, willing to not abide by dictates from the White House during this time of war.
More from the briefing:

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Todd Gillman, Dallas Morning News.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. I'm wondering how you feel the security situation here is doing compared to the last time you were in Iraq, and if you can give any serious assurances to the American public that things will, in fact, get better anytime soon.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I have to rely on reports like everybody else does, obviously. I've spent today here basically in our embassy and the military headquarters in the green zone, so I can't speak from personal experience in terms of what's going on all across Iraq.

I can say that based on the conversations I've had today, and most of those conversations were with Iraqis and Iraqi leaders - some of them in the government, some of them not - that they believe the situation has gotten better. They cite specifically the statistics on sectarian violence, Sunni-on-Shia and Shia-on-Sunni violence that they think is down fairly dramatically.

I think everybody recognizes there still are serious security problems, security threats; no question about it.

But the impression I got from talking with them - and this includes their military as well as political leadership - is that they do believe we are making progress, but we've got a long way to go.

Um, Mr. Vice President, you're claiming you've heard the situation is improving and that progress is being made, but you were unable to see anything other than the U.S. Embassy compound and other places inside the Green Zone, so really, where's the improvement and progress and why were they enough for you to travel outside the safe security zones?

Click here to read the full briefing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Human Rights Commission Debates Hostile HIV Prevention Ads

The Bay Area Reporter ran an insightful and well-rounded front-page article in the first week of 2007, all about promises from leaders of the HIV Prevention Planning Council, the SF health department and community groups to hold debates about needlessly offensive HIV/STD prevention ads.
The debate was supposed to address the hostility of the ads, like the one featuring a young black male in the cross hairs of a sniper's gun, and look at if they've been effective at reducing infections. As is the habit of AIDS Inc, the promise was broken and no debates have taken place and none are likely to happen any time soon.
But I recently went to the SF Human Rights Commission and its gay committee and asked them to address the tone, messages and effective of the ads, and I'm please to report the committee is looking at how to debate this issue.
The commission's gay committee earlier in May posted the minutes from the March meeting, where I raised my concerns about the some of the ads.
Here is the pertinent excerpt from those minutes:

5. Presentation by Michael Petrelis regarding DPH Viagra campaign discussion and possible action item:

Michael Petrelis said that he's been concerned about Dr. Jeffrey Klausner with the S.F. Department of Pubic Health's STD Control Unit for a number of years.

In 1999 a public health ad regarding syphilis described people with the disease as "walking, ticking time bombs," as dangerous things. He feels that this adds stigma to people with the disease and those who are at risk for contracting it, especially sex workers. He's afraid that this would create barriers for people with syphilis in receiving care.

He also referred to an article printed in The Washington Monthly in 2000 in which Dr. Klausner was quoted as saying that people with HIV and AIDS need to be quarantined, that club goers need to be tested for party drugs, and that sex establishments should be closed.

He points out that Dr. Klausner had supported a lawsuit against Pfizer, the manufacturer of Viagra.
Also in February 2007, the Bay Area Reporter printed an editorial in which they said that many gay activists have major issues with Dr. Klausner's repeated attempts to stigmatize gay men for leading irresponsible sex lives. Mr. Petrelis feels that this stigmatization drives people away from health care.

He would like to see the Commission weigh in on these proposals and ads and point out that it is not good public health to convey negative messages and images for sex related diseases.

He expressed his disappointment that others in the STD Control Unit, particularly LGBT people, did not attend tonight's meeting to talk about the thinking behind the ads.

Commissioner Chung said that Dr. Klausner was invited to attend tonight's meeting to respond, that he was unable to attend because he's currently out of town, but he sent an email with attachments explaining his position. She added that there are things we can/cannot do within our purview: we cannot tell another person or office how perform their job, but it is our responsibility to constructively articulate our concerns.

Mr. Petrelis entertained questions from the Committee.

Mr. Brinkin suggested that the Committee either take a more in-depth look at this subject or request that the Commissioners write a letter of concern to the Health Commission about the possible effects these ad campaigns have on one of their constituent communities. Ms. Ulrich asked that the Committee focus on the issue of stigmatization rather than the scientific facts of high-risk behavior and correlations of it.
Let's see how the debate goes forward at the Human Rights Commission. Of course, it would be fantastic if the HIV Prevention Planning Council got around to scheduling its long-promised debate on the ads, and even if both bodies are soon discussing HIV/STD prevention ads, we'll all have much to learn about how the ads are created and evaluated. Who could object to that?
Reuters Sounds Latest CDC Gay Syphilis Alarm, Ignoring 23% Drop in SF Gays
For more years than I can count, whenever STD experts at the Centers for Disease Control wanted to sound alarms about syphilis in America, they would use data from San Francisco's public health department to bolster their scary messages. Well, that pattern may be coming to an end.
A story from the Reuters news service over the weekend about a new syphilis report from the CDC cites new data that is of concern to me, but interestingly, no stats or data are presented about gay men and syphilis in San Francisco.
Syphilis has risen sharply among gay and bisexual men in the United States this decade, driving up the country's rate for the disease and placing these men at higher risk for AIDS, federal health officials say ...

Gay and bisexual men accounted for 7 percent of syphilis cases in 2000 but more than 60 percent in 2005, CDC experts estimated.

"The most devastating consequence of this increase in syphilis cases would be an increase in the rates of HIV infection," said Dr. Khalil Ghanem of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

"Syphilis and HIV have a close, deadly symbiotic relationship."

I guess this researcher is unaware of an important study from 2004 that found the following good results:
To date, we detected no marked increases in HIV incidence among MSM in 2 HIV-testing populations, concurrent with the syphilis outbreak in San Francisco.
Maybe the federal researchers missed that study, but did they also not see the SF Chronicle story about the findings?:
A steep rise in syphilis cases among gay men in San Francisco has not produced a related increase in HIV infections, researchers reported Tuesday, stirring hope that the city may avoid a new wave of AIDS cases abetted by other sexually transmitted diseases.
As I am well aware, when STD or HIV rates are rising in San Francisco, then CDC experts love to tout the surges, but if the numbers are declining, or in the case of syphilis diagnoses climbing in 2004, but no equal rise in HIV, the data is conveniently overlooked by federal researchers and mainstream reporters.
So what's the most current yearly data on gay syphilis in San Francisco showing?
Syphilis cases of less than one year's duration (including primary, secondary and early latent cases) decreased from 550 cases in 2004 to 426 in 2005, a decrease of 23 percent.

To drive home the point about the 23% drop, SF DPH not only reported it in the annual summary but also in the December 2005 monthly report.

While I believe we should all be concerned about every STD out there, I'm sick and tired of federal health officials using gullible reporters to constantly put out a fearful message about gays and syphilis, and willfully omitting any of the declines in San Francisco's very sexually active gay male community.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Pelosi Water Act S.F. Earmark to Benefit Her & Mr. Pelosi?
This past December, I raised concerns in a letter to the SF Chronicle about an HIV/AIDS earmark made by my Representative in Congress, Mrs. Nancy Pelosi. Even with my letter appearing in the paper, and numerous phone calls and emails to her SF and DC offices, she and her staff chose to ignore my request for full transparency about her earmarks.
Now, a GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, on his blog today, reports that Pelosi has apparently inserted an earmark into a water resources bill, and if the bill passes, there will potentially be some tremendous fiscal benefits to Pelosi and her husband.

This week, the Senate will take up the Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, which the House passed last month. Should it pass, it will be the most expensive water projects bill that Congress has ever approved.

On Speaker Pelosi's website, it says the following about WRDA
: The Water Resources Development Act of 2007 will provide critical funding to small communities that have gone too long without assistance ...

The Speaker has her own earmark in the bill (Sec 5054) that provides for the re-development of part of the San Francisco Waterfront ...

According to disclosure forms, these properties resulted in rental income as high as $3 million in 2005 for the Pelosi's and could stand to benefit from improvement to the local neighborhood that the earmark supposedly provides.

The Pelosi properties, all located within 5,400 feet and 9,000 feet of the WRDA earmark are:

1301 Sansome LLC
Pelosi Real Estate Partnership
Rent Income: $1 million (2005)

945 Battery LLC
Pelosi Real Estate Partnership
Rental Income: $1 million (2005)

901 Battery LLC
Pelosi Real Estate Partnership
Rental Income: $15,000 (2005)

45 Beiden Place
Pelosi Real Estate Asset
Rental Income: $1 million (2005)

These properties are listed on Pelosi's disclosure forms and are available here.

This is the language, that if it's included in the final version of the bill, might be of great benefit to the Speaker and her husband:


(a) Area to Be Declared Nonnavigable; Public Interest- Unless the Secretary finds, after consultation with local and regional public officials (including local and regional public planning organizations), that the proposed projects to be undertaken within the boundaries of the portion of the San Francisco, California, waterfront area described in subsection (b) are not in the public interest, such portion is declared to be nonnavigable waters of the United States.

(b) Northern Embarcadero South of Bryant Street- The portion of the San Francisco, California, waterfront area referred to in subsection (a) is as follows: Beginning at the intersection of the northeasterly prolongation of that portion of the northwesterly line of Bryant Street lying between Beale Street and Main Street with the southwesterly line of Spear Street, which intersection lies on the line of jurisdiction of the San Francisco Port Commission; following thence southerly along said line of jurisdiction as described in the State of California Harbor and Navigation Code Section 1770, as amended in 1961, to its intersection with the easterly line of Townsend Street along a line that is parallel and distant 10 feet southerly from the existing southern boundary of Pier 40 produced to its point of intersection with the United States Government pier-head line; thence northerly along said pier-head line to its intersection with a line parallel with, and distant 10 feet easterly from, the existing easterly boundary line of Pier 30-32; thence northerly along said parallel line and its northerly prolongation, to a point of intersection with a line parallel with, and distant 10 feet northerly from, the existing northerly boundary of Pier 30-32, thence westerly along last said parallel line to its intersection with the United States Government pier-head line; to the northwesterly line of Bryant Street produced northwesterly; thence southwesterly along said northwesterly line of Bryant Street produced to the point of beginning.

(c) Requirement That Area Be Improved- The declaration of nonnavigability under subsection (a) applies only to those parts of the area described in subsection (b) that are or will be bulkheaded, filled, or otherwise occupied by permanent structures and does not affect the applicability of any Federal statute or regulation applicable to such parts the day before the date of enactment of this Act, including sections 9 and 10 of the Act of March 3, 1899 (33 U.S.C. 401 and 403; 30 Stat. 1151), commonly known as the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899, section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1344), and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).

(d) Expiration Date- If, 20 years from the date of enactment of this Act, any area or part thereof described in subsection (b) is not bulkheaded or filled or occupied by permanent structures, including marina facilities, in accordance with the requirements set out in subsection (c), or if work in connection with any activity permitted in subsection (c) is not commenced within 5 years after issuance of such permits, then the declaration of nonnavigability for such area or part thereof shall expire.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

NYT Human Rights Watch/Wal-Mart Story Omits Pro-Democratic Party Bias, Donations from HRW Staff
I need to state a few things up front before getting into the meat of this post. First, I generally avoid shopping at Wal-Mart and can count the number of times I've purchased something there on one hand. Second, I deplore the company's anti-union and anti-worker policies, and I fully support the Employee Free Choice Act pending before Congress.
My third caveat is that based on a reading of a news release from Human Rights Watch about their report on Wal-Mart's unfair and abusive labor practices, I am pleased HRW devoted much staff time and resources that went into researching and writing the report.
That being said, I am disappointed and concerned, as a news consumer, that the May 1 story in the New York Times by reporter Steven Greenhouse about HRW's Wal-Mart report didn't mention the hundreds of donations totaling thousands of dollars since 1988 made by HRW staff and researchers only to Democratic presidential and congressional candidates, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Party-leaning political action committees. Nor did it reference HRW backing of EFCA.
I believe it would be fair and accurate to say that HRW, based on decades of political donations just to Democrats and the party's affiliates, that this nongovernmental agency is somewhat biased in favor of one U.S. political party. Over the years, I've blogged about how HRW should be above even a hint of partiality toward any political party because human rights advocacy work should not be seen as partisan. Click here and also here for the history of HRW's political contributions.
The release from HRW endorses passage and enactment of EFCA:
A key way to improve protections for worker organizing would be for the US Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and the Bush administration to sign it into law. The EFCA, which passed the US House of Representatives in March and is now under consideration in the Senate, would increase penalties for labor law violations.
EFCA is, not surprisingly, overwhelmingly supported by Democrats in Congress, with only seven GOP cosponsors in the House and zero in the Senate, according to the AFL-CIO web site.
Given HRW staffers extensive contributions only to Democrats and the DNC, and HRW's call for passage of EFCA, I think the New York Times should have noted these facts in its article yesterday. The Times made no mention of EFCA and HRW's endorsement of it.
Interestingly, the Times referenced the following:
Wal-Mart called the [HRW] study “pro-union.” [HRW study author] Ms. Pier said that only $50 of her organization’s $33 million budget came from labor unions.
So the Times did ask HRW about financial support it may have received from unions, while omitting facts about HRW researchers heavily donating to the very pro-Democratic Party and individual Democrats.
Other news outlets, including Business Week and the Associated Press, reported on HRW's endorsement of EFCA, but like the Times, they failed to note HRW employee's giving to Democrats.
Is it asking too much of the Times, Business Week, the AP and the mainstream media to look beyond press releases and statements from spokespersons with HRW and Wal-Mart, to give a fuller picture of the players involved in this story? I think not, but I'm not sure why mainstream reporters failed to dig just a little deeper on HRW before running their stories.

And finally, here is the list of donations from HRW staffers so far for the 2008 presidential and congressional races, which is from the PoliticalMoneyLine:

Allina, Marcia
2/22/2007 $250.00 Bronx, NY 10471
Human Rights Watch/Administration[Contribution]
Becker, Jo
3/30/2007 $250.00 Suffern, NY 10901
Human Rights Watch/human rights adv[Contribution]

Becker, Jo
1/21/2007 $500.00 Suffern, NY 10901
Human Rights Watch/human rights adv[Contribution]

Whitman, Lois
3/28/2007 $1,000.00 New York, NY 10024
Human Rights Watch/Attorney[earmarked contribution]

Whitman, Lois 3/28/2007 $1,000.00 New York, NY 10024
Human Rights Watch/lawyer[earmarked intermediary treasury out]
Whitman, Lois 2/20/2007 $1,500.00 New York, NY 10024
Human Rights Watch/Attorney[Contribution]
Whitman, Lois Ms. 1/26/2007 $1,000.00 New York, NY 10024
Human Rights Watch/Lawyer[Contribution]
Whitman, Lois Q 2/23/2007 $1,000.00 New York, NY 10024
Human Rights Watch/Attorney[Contribution]