Wednesday, April 30, 2008


BAR: Protest Planned for HRC Gala in SF

The Human Rights Campaign just can't seem to catch a break this week.

They're facing nationwide gay community criticism over their failure to endorse Jim Neal, an openly gay candidate for U.S. Senate from North Carolina with a decent shot at winning the Democratic Party nomination, and for their limp and weak reaction to the 'pansygate' brouhaha involving Hillary Clinton and NC governor Mike Easley.

Adding to those headaches, the nation's most financially endowed gay advocacy organization must also now contend with trannies and their supporters in San Francisco preparing a protest at the glamorous HRC annual dinner in July.

Sure, it should not surprise any astute observer of gay politics to see such a demonstration getting organized against HRC in this city, given the tranny protests at other HRC dinners in three other cities. But what is of note here is that not only are preparations for the action starting three months in advance of the dinner, but that leaders of both gay Democratic Party clubs in San Francisco are involved in the organizing.

The clubs have been at odds, and each other's throats, to put it mildly, for the past year over the Mark Leno versus Carole Migden campaigns for state senate, but leaders of the political clubs show they can easily put aside bloody differences when it comes to holding HRC accountable.

From the Bay Area Reporter's blog:
Tonight (April 28) planning officially begins on a counterprotest to the Human Rights Campaign's annual gala dinner in San Francisco, scheduled to take place the night of July 26 at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in Union Square.

The national gay lobbying group raised the ire of many in the Bay Area when it did not denounce congressional leaders' decision to push forward a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act stripped of gender identity protections . . .

"The problem at HRC is the leadership. I would really like to see HRC, which is such an important institution in our community, better led, be more authentic, and be reflective of the values of this community. I would also like to see Joe Solmonese step down," said John Newsome, an organizer of the local United ENDA group [and leader of the Alice B. Toklas Club] . . .

As activists have done in other cities, such as in Houston earlier this month and Washington, D.C. last fall, San Franciscans plan to be out in force protesting at the HRC gala. They are also asking local officials to boycott the event. In New York none of the city's openly gay politicians attended that city's gala . . .

"It really is in the conceptual stage right now. There is a proposal being circulated and the plan is to contact elected officials and tell them not to go," said Robert Haaland, a transgender activist and local labor leader.

The LGBT labor group Pride at Work has been spearheading planning for the protest. And last week the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club voted to support the plan.

"For a significant chunk of the San Francisco queer community HRC is radioactive right now and I think they have some work to do to heal that," said Milk Club President Rafael Mandelman . . .
Okay, the HRC dinner is quite a ways down the road, but I'm making plans to be there, on the outside, of course, picketing the group with my tranny brothers and sisters.Why not take a stand for much-needed accountability of HRC and join the protest in July?

Send HRC a simple and very necessary message: More transparent accountability now.

NC Pansygate Gov Allowed
Execution of Gay Murderer


Mike Easley, the Democratic governor of North Carolina, generated some controversy yesterday when he backed Hillary Clinton for president and said she "makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy." I did some Googling of Easley and his record on gay-related matters and quickly discovered he refused clemency in 2003 for convicted murderer Eddie Hartman, a gay man whose sexual orientation was a factor at trial and during sentencing.

Here's some background on the Hartman case, reported by veteran journalist and media commentator Doug Ireland for Z magazine:
Is North Carolina going to execute a man this Friday because he is gay? That's the disturbing question raised by the case of Eddie Hartman, who is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection this Friday, October 3.
Eddie Hartman is a murderer and a gay man. These facts would not be connected had the prosecution not mentioned Hartman’s sexual orientation repeatedly during the penalty phase of his trial for murder. This was a blatant attempt to discourage the jury from considering Hartman’s abusive childhood in sentencing.
It worked. Rather than sentencing Hartman to life in prison, the jury chose to ignore mitigating factors and send him to the execution chamber.

The prosecutor admitted he’d waved the pink flag before the jury in a deliberate appeal to homophobia.

At a hearing on an appeal of the death sentence, the district attorney, David Beard, admitted he’d waved the pink flag before the jury in a deliberate appeal to homophobia. He wanted, he said, to minimize Hartman’s history of sexual abuse, which he claimed was "different for homosexuals." But this appeal was heard by the same district court that had convicted Hartman -- and by confirming the death sentence, the court ignored the taint to justice produced by this bizarre and specious argument.

Hartman’s sexual orientation had nothing at all to do with the crime he committed. Nothing. Hartman was 29 when he was convicted of shooting one of his mother’s ex-boyfriends. Hartman grew up in a home from hell. His mother was a deeply disturbed woman who tried to commit suicide multiple times, slashing her wrists before her child’s eyes. She had six husbands and a series of other boyfriends while Hartman was growing up . . .

This will be a test case of whether elected officials will stand up for justice in the current climate of anti-gay backlash.

Now it’s up to North Carolina Governor Mike Easley, a Democrat, to decide whether or not to commute Hartman’s death sentence to life imprisonment. This will be a test case of whether elected officials will stand up for justice in the current climate of anti-gay backlash following the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down sodomy laws . . .

In urging clemency for Hartman, Amnesty International has joined all the major national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

This verdict, achieved as it was by blatant prosecutorial misconduct, has left a shameful stain of bigotry on the North Carolina legal system. Will Governor Easley have the courage to stand up for the honor of his state and erase this stain? By this Friday, we will know the answer.
As a gay man opposed to the death penalty, in all cases and in every country, it saddened me to learn the depressing answer to the question posed by Doug Ireland. Easley lacked the required courage to commute Hartman's death sentence and Hartman was executed on October 3, 2003.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


(Clinton and Easley at this morning's news conference.)

HRC, GLAAD Deplore Clinton Endorser's
'Pansy' Remark


Ha ha! A phony headline we're unlikely to see today or anytime soon.

According to a Google News search,
it was more than eight hours ago that the first mainstream news stories appeared today about North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley endorsing Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House, and saying she "makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy."

From the SmokingGun.com site, just one of a few that have done more to calling attention to the slur-throwing guv of NC than HRC and GLAAD:
APRIL 29--With Hillary Clinton standing at his side, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley today described the Democratic presidential candidate as so tough that she "makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy." Easley's compliment, as it were, may offend some voters since the word "pansy" is often used in a derogative fashion to describe a male homosexual.
Yet neither the Human Rights Campaign nor the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has bothered to issue condemnations deploring Easley using this antigay derogatory term, as Clinton stood silently at his side, smiling.

Rest assured, if John McCain received a governor's public support and that governor used the slur "pansy" to make McCain look good, both HRC and GLAAD would waste no time cranking up their PR machines to condemn the endorser. The gay advocacy organizations would also be demanding the GOP presidential contender distance himself from the use of the slur.

But in Easley and Clinton's case today, professional homosexual rights groups are silent. Could it be HRC and GLAAD have separate and unequal standards, one for Democrats, another for Republicans?

By the way, the latest news on HRC's site is all about their radio show moving to a new channel. Over at GLAAD's web site, the news is that their awards show will soon be broadcast on Bravo.

[UPDATE]

The Caucus blog over the New York Times web site writes about the pansy slut controversy, and surprise!, no mention is made of any statement from either HRC or GLAAD. Why are these groups so mute today about what Easley said and Clinton smiling as he slurred us?

Click here to read the Times' blog entry.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


(Notice the rainbow flag in the center-left portion of the photo, between two blue flags.)



(Looks like an anti-nuke sign to me.)


(The rainbow flag, waving in the wind at the march in Minsk.)

First Time in Belarus: Rainbow Flag at Chernobyl Protest

A big reason why I'm a member of the Gays Without Borders network is so I can learn about gay people in other countries, and how they engage in their organizing efforts for tolerance, equality and human rights protections. This report from the gay Belarus advocacy organization TEMA was posted to the Gays Without Borders group on Yahoo, along with a few photos.

This news from Belarus won't be reported by the mainstream corporate media, but nevertheless to be shared far and wide. I salute the gays, and everyone else, who participated the Minsk march today commemorating the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of more than two decades ago.

And I'm proud to play my town-crier role and call attention to this report:
More than a thousand people took part in the opposition's march staged on the occasion of the 22nd Chernobyl accident anniversary in Minsk on April 26. It was a first time in a history, when rainbow flag used on political public event in Belarus.

The crowd started gathering at the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences at 2 p.m. and a short rally followed. Leaders of opposition had did speeches.

Sergey Androsenko, 19 y.o. gay - leader of Gay Youth Association, stay with big rainbow flag in the center of crowd. Anarchists promise to protect gays on this event if somebody will try attack them.

The crowd then walked some two miles on sidewalks from the square to a church built to commemorate Chernobyl victims at the intersection between Arlowskaya and Karastayanavay Streets.

As the demonstrators were crossing Yakub Kolas Street, some 100 youths separated from the crowd and entered the roadway but some of the organizers intervened and managed to talk them into returning to the sidewalks.

After reaching the church, the crowd observed a minute of silence for those who died of illnesses caused by the Chernobyl fallout and laid flowers at a monument commemorating the victims. The demonstrators started dispersing shortly afterward.

Police did not interfere and no arrests were reported.

This case definitely will become a part of Belarusian LGBT history as a date of beginning of cooperation between civil society and LGBT movement, and the date of proud when LGBT activists didn't afraid to become visible.
This report was prepared by Svyatoslav Sementsov who is the co-president TEMA information center, which maintains the group's web site and archives. Click here and learn about the group and the people in it. You'll be linked to TEMA's pages in English.

Friday, April 25, 2008


HRW v IGLHRC: Battle Over Gay Iranians

Yesterday I received this email from Scott Long, director of the gay unit at Human Rights Watch, using one of his several pseudonymous email addresses, which was about a private meeting to be held next week at office of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. I guess Long wanted me to be concerned that IGLHRC was holding an invitation-only meeting about the dire plight of gay Iranians.

I've learned over the years in my international gay activism that Long is not only self-appointed gatekeeper, but is also quite devious in his approach to global gay human rights advocacy, so I wasn't surprised he forwarded this message to me:
In a message dated 4/24/2008 11:15:25 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, londondiana36@yahoo.com writes:

-----Original Message-----
From: Hossein Alizadeh- IGLHRC [mailto:halizadeh@iglhrc.org]
Sent: Friday, April 18, 2008 5:18 PM
To: Scott Long; Boris Dittrich; Ariel Herrera; ddyke@amnesty.org
Cc: Hossein Alizadeh- IGLHRC; Sarah Tobias; M Hartwyk
Subject: Iran Strategy Session with Arsham Parsi

Dear Scott, Boris, Drewery , and Ariel,

As some of you are probably aware, this year IGLHRC will honor the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) as the recipient of our 2008 Felipa Award. The Award ceremony will be in NYC on April 28 and of course all of you are welcome to attend the award ceremony.

IGLHRC also plans to have a closed-door strategy session with Arsham Parsi(IRQO's executive director) on April 29, from 12 to 2 PM. The meeting is by invitation only and we hope to use this opportunity to discuss with Arsham ways our organizations can support the work of IRQO and other Iranian queer activists.

I am writing to you to invite you to join us for the meeting on April 29. For Drewery and those who are not in New York area, you can join us by phone. The meeting will be at IGLHRC's office (80 Maiden lane Suite 1505) over an informal lunch.

I hope to see (or hear) you all then. Also if you can think of other activists whom you think can benefit from this meeting, please don't hesitate to share their contact information with them so that I can invite them to the session.

Have a great weekend!

Hossein Alizadeh
Communications Coordinator
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Apparently not pleased with IGLHRC's meeting plans, Long and HRW today announced they're holding a separate competing forum with the head of the Iranian Queer Organization. Long's event will happen the day before IGLHRC's chat-fest. As far as I can recall, this the first such open meeting on gay Iran being held by Long and his group. Heck, I don't remember Long holding a single public forum at their offices about _any_ international gay human rights matter.

Here's HRW's announcement:
In a message dated 4/25/2008 12:06:37 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, lgbt@hrw.org writes:

Meeting with Arsham Parsi of the Iranian Queer Organization
Date: Wednesday, April 30
Time: 3:30-5:00pm

Location:
34th Floor Conference Room (Open Meeting)
Human Rights Watch office
Empire State Building (350 Fifth Avenue, corner of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue), 34th Floor

Arsham Parsi of the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) will discuss the IRQO's work with Human Rights Watch, and the challenges in advocating for sexual rights for Iranians in their home country as well as Iranian refugees and asylum-seekers worldwide.

IRQO is an international, non-profit, queer human rights organization based in Toronto, Canada with key workers in Europe and Iran. It provides assistance to Iranian gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered refugees all over the world, endeavoring to help when Iranian lesbians or gay men are threatened with deportation back to Iran, as well as assisting Iranian LGBTs (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) to obtain asylum in friendly countries. Arsham Parsi helped found the IRQO while seeking refugee status in Turkey in 2004. He is visiting New York to receive IGLHRC's Felipa award on April 28.

His presence provides an opportunity to learn about the IRQO's work, the inequities that Iranian refugees and asylum seekers face, and persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Iran.

We hope you can join us for this meeting.
One might think two non-governmental organizations that care deeply about gay Iranians would put aside differences, unite for the sake of the Iranians and the good of gay activism, and hold a single jointly-sponsored public meeting.

But that would require the massive egos and competing agendas at HRW and IGLHRC to not only work with each other in a respectful manner regarding meetings on gay Iran, but would also demand that they extend the respect to volunteer activists who don't work for the non-profit advocacy organizations, and unfortunately, this respect is something neither group is capable of at this time.

While I applaud HRW for this small step forward in being more transparent on its gay Iran agenda, I wish to remind everyone that Scott Long and HRW have still not released their long-promised monograph on the terrible situation for Iranian gays. Click here for the background about the broken commitment Long made in the summer of 2006 to provide the community with well-documented report on the horrendous persecution of Iran's gay community.

With great interest, and some anxiety, I look forward to reading and hearing accounts of both the HRW and IGLHRC meetings next week in New York City.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gays, Egyptians Discuss
HIV Arrests in Cairo

Earlier this month the AP wire put out a story of great concern to human rights, gay and HIV/AIDS advocates, one that I hope would generate actions at and visits to Egyptian embassies and consulates in the U.S. and around the globe:

An Egyptian judicial official says four HIV-positive men have been convicted of being homosexual and sentenced to three years in prison followed by three years of close police supervision . . .

The defense lawyer for the five, Adel Ramadan, says the judge convicted the men of the ''habitual practice of debauchery,'' a term used in the Egyptian legal system to denote consensual homosexual acts . . .

The verdicts are the latest in recent arrests and trials in Egypt of HIV-positive men that human rights groups say serve to criminalize AIDS in this country. In mid-January, four other HIV-positive men were sentenced to one-year prison terms on similar charges . . .

Ramadan, from the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the men were arrested, abused and tortured over the past seven months. He said they were verbally insulted and beaten by police officers wearing gloves who sought to 'extract confessions' of homosexuality from them . . .

My friend Hank Wilson, veteran HIV and gay rights campaigner, recently told me he'd be up for visiting the San Francisco consulate for the Egyptian government and expressing our deep and serious concern for our gays and people with AIDS in Egypt. Neither one of us felt silence in this situation would be acceptable to us as activists, and even if IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch were unable to organize protests at Egyptian government offices abroad, we would at least raise our voices in protest in at least one U.S. city. Today was the day we both had the time to visit the consulate.


The consulate is temporarily located on Mallorca Street in the Marina District, while the actual consulate and residence on Pacific Avenue undergoes extensive renovations.



We stood out front taking photos and this gentleman came walking along. He introduced himself as Nabil El Gendy, the protocol officer for the consulate. We chatted on street about human rights in his country and asked if we could come in to talk. He said yes.



We entered on the basement level, where the reception area is located, with a large photo of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak on the wall. Hank and I explained to Nabil El Gendy and his assistant that all gay people and many AIDS groups in San Francisco are very worried about the violations of international human rights standards toward gay men and people with HIV. Nabil El Gendy said he was not familiar with the recent crackdowns and persecutions against gays with HIV in Cairo, but was pleased we were interested in his country. He also recommended that we contact the political affairs officer at the embassy in Washington. We promised to do that.

(Hank Wilson, Nabil El Gendy, and me.)

After our discussion about gay men in Egypt and the persecutions they face, Nabil El Gendy thanked us for coming by the consulate and talking with him. He said he likes Americans and that San Francisco is a beautiful and he's enjoyed living here for almost 30 years. Many thanks to Nabil El Gendy for being so gracious and listening to our concerns, especially since we arrived at his consulate without an appointment.

I'm sending off a letter of protest to embassy officials in Washington and hope that our small act of solidarity today somehow helps our brothers and sisters in Egypt.

Monday, April 21, 2008




Deseret News:
Gays Empathize With Raided Mormons?

A columnist over the weekend in the Salt Lake City's Deseret News raised an interesting development in the raid on the Mormon polygamist compound in Texas - homosexuals, unnamed ones, are in empathy with the families that were raided. Why didn't someone from the gay community inform me of this? I had no inkling of this development, and I wonder if the writer is referring to gay Mormon's empathizing with the Texas polygamists.

Take note of the author erring about overturning sodomy laws because of the challenge to the Texas law. It was the Supreme Court that struck down the law.

From the article:
It's ironic that the attack on polygamous sexual practices is taking place in the same state that recently struck down laws that attacked homosexual sexual practices (Lawrence v. Texas, 2003) . . .

Not only that, they started to get a measure of empathy from others, most notably gays, also pursuing alternative lifestyles and pushing for the legal freedom to do so (see Lawrence v. Texas above).
The real reason for this entry is that I wanted to share these photos of the latest handsome Mormon recruiter I had the pleasure of meeting recently on the 22 Fillmore Muni bus line.

Just like the masculine young Mormon man I ran into last year, photos here and here, I couldn't recruit this other Mormon to the gay lifestyle. But he did let me take a few snapshots, and he smiled when the flash lit up. This hunk, who is of Laotian heritage, told me his name, but I couldn't pronounce it much less remember it.

Why is the Mormon's always send such cute young men to recruit on the streets and buses of San Francisco? Why cares, as long as they let me keep taking their photos.

Berkeley's Sunshine Law:
8 Years in the Making


I picked up a copy of the Berkeley Daily Planet weekend edition on Saturday on my way to the Pacific Film Archive to catch a screening of a restored uncut print of "Burn!," starring Marlon Brando, which I'd never seen. Two thumbs up on the film!

The Berkeley Daily Planet had a front-page article about the latest machinations to get a sunshine ordinance enacted, and, frankly, I was shocked the city of Berkeley, with all its progressive politicians and open government advocates, didn't already have a sunshine law on the books. From the article:
Despite requests from citizens to postpone the public hearing on the Berkeley city attorney’s draft sunshine ordinance—designed to provide citizens with greater access to local government—the City Council Agenda Committee refrained from rescheduling it.

The hearing will be held Tuesday [April 22] at the City Council Chambers, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Julie Sinai, chief of staff to Mayor Tom Bates, told the Planet Wednesday that although the mayor had not supported the postponement of the public hearing, he had agreed to hold off the first reading of an ordinance until June 10.

Sinai said that Bates had refused to delay the hearing since the council had been discussing the ordinance for a number of years.

The city has been working on a sunshine ordinance since 2001, when at the request of Councilmember Kriss Worthington, the City Council asked Kamlarz and then-City Clerk Sherry Kelly to look into improving the city’s sunshine policies, including the adoption of an ordinance.
On first blush, it seems a very long time has transpired since the city first considered such a law, but I get the distinct sense that sunshine advocates are diligently working to produce the best sunshine law feasible:
Bates’ decision to hold the public hearing next week met with protests from a citizens’ group—comprised of representatives from the League of Women Voters, SuperBOLD (Berkeleyans Organizing for Library Defense) and other community members—who have been meeting for almost a year at the League office to review former City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque’s 21-page draft ordinance.

In a letter to the mayor on March 31, the four workshop panelists requested a 90-day extension on the hearing.

“We have been working on an alternate draft since June,” said Gardner. “We are almost close to being done and we need a little bit more time than Tuesday. The sunshine ordinance is fundamentally important for citizens. With the ordinance, the city is taking open government one step further than the two state laws — the Brown Act and the Public Records Request Act — which address it.”
So why would Mayor Bates be in such a hurry to pass an imperfect, possibly very week, sunshine law that doesn't have the support of open government campaigners? The newspaper reports:
“It seems clear why Mayor Bates wants to force through a weak ordinance,” said Doug Buckwald, who attended Monday’s meeting. “He wants to put it in his campaign literature under his accomplishments for his upcoming mayoral election.”
Oh, that old problem of a politician worrying about his reelection campaign, so he attempts to ramrod his city council into passing flawed ordinances, is playing a role in this drama and that is unfortunate. As a veteran of San Francisco's sunshine battles, I say Berkeley should take a few more months to craft a law the advocates are behind. Let's see what happens at Tuesday's city council hearing.

Click here to read the 12-page draft sunshine ordinance.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

NYT's Auditorium Lacks
Webcasting Capability

Did the New York Times spend buckets of money building its sparkling new headquarters and really fail to make the auditorium webcast ready? The paper's official spokeswoman replies to my letter:
In a message dated 4/17/2008 6:54:12 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, mathis@nytimes.com writes:

Michael,

Thanks for your e-mails to me and to Arthur. I have checked and we do not have webcasting capability in the auditorium.

Best,
Catherine

My reply to her:
Hi Catherine,

And thank you for getting back to me. I am disappointed the Times' auditorium is not equipped to provide webcasting services, either during the annual shareholders' meeting or at other times.

It's quite shocking to learn the Times spent enormous amounts of money on the new building and can't webcast meetings from the auditorium.

You and Arthur might want to look at the growing number of American companies webcasting their annual shareholders' meetings. The Times should join their ranks.

Here is a link to the results from a Google search on this subject.

Lack of webcast capabilities aside, I still want to participate in the meeting on April 22 through teleconferencing, a request included in my original letter to you and Arthur.

Surely your auditorium has telephone capabilities that will allow me to listen in to the meeting, and for me to also address the board during the question and answer periods over the phone.

Please get back to me about how the Times will work with me to ensure my voice, as a shareholder, is heard at the annual meeting.

Best,
Michael
In this modern technologically advanced era that we live in, it should be a piece of cake for the Gray Lady to possess the tools that would allow shareholder participation from San Francisco.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

State Dept's Human Rights Report:
Vatican City Exempted

For 24 years the U.S. has recognized Vatican City as a city/state, and as such, we've extended full diplomatic courtesies, including appointing ambassadors and even establishing an embassy, separate from the one with Italy, with the Holy See. The Vatican City embassy web site gives some history:
Formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See were established in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. The mission works in partnership with the Holy See on global issues including HIV/AIDS, world hunger, religious freedom and human rights. As a global entity, the Holy See is influential on many issues and has far-reaching influence in even the most remote corners of the world.
That's quite an enormous agenda with have with the Vatican, especially given the fact that it has a population of around 1,000. Yes, the Vatican has tremendous sway over vital matters of mutual concern with the U.S., and the city/state should be judged on its human rights record and actions by the State Department when preparing its annual human rights report.

But Vatican City has never been included in the State Department's influential yearly survey. Even the tiny republic of San Marino is rated for human rights matters by the department, showing that the small size of a recognized state is no reason to exclude a country, so why is Vatican City granted an exemption?

You won't find a human rights evaluation on Vatican City from the State Department for 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, or 1999.

Why does the U.S. government treat Vatican City equal to any other European country, in official diplomatic terms and exchange of ambassadors, and then stops short of holding the Holy See accountable for its human rights practices and statements?

Monday, April 14, 2008


Gay NYT Shareholder: Let Me
Address Annual Meeting Via the Web

I own exactly one measly share in the New York Times Company because I wanted the privilege of attending the annual shareholders meeting and raising gays issues with the executives of the paper, which I did at the 2004 annual meeting. This year, I am unable to travel to New York City for the meeting, so I'm requesting the Times, with its vast technological capabilities, wires me into the meeting, without me leaving my apartment. Got my fingers crossed the Times will accommodate my request.

This message was sent today:
Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.
Chairman
The New York Times Company

Dear Mr. Sulzberger,

As a shareholder, I wish to thank you for inviting me to attend the annual stockholders' meeting on April 22 at the Times' new headquarters in Manhattan.

Unfortunately, due to financial and personal health concerns, I regret that I will not be able to be at the meeting.

However, even though I cannot physically be present, I still would very much like to be an active participant during the meeting.

In your letter to the shareholders in the annual report, you said the new Times building "includes the technology we need as a 21st century media organization."

I hope the technology in the building will allow me to observe the meeting live, as it is unfolding, through web-casting.

Also, I want to address the board of directors and the senior management of the company, either via web-cam or through tele-conferencing, regarding important gay and HIV/AIDS matters.

Just because I will be at home in San Francisco on April 22, that should in no way prevent me from listening in and watching the annual meeting, and directly speaking to the board and management team.

Frankly, I see no reason why the Times, and its new building, replete with the latest communications technologies, shouldn't be able to easily accommodate my request to interact with you and other Times executives during the meeting.

Please get back to me as soon as possible so we can work together to make sure my voice is heard on April 22.

Sincerely yours,
Michael Petrelis

Friday, April 11, 2008


HRW's Long-Awaited Gay Iran Report:
Not Available for Public Inspecton

Where is the Human Rights Watch report on Iranian gays promised in the summer of 2006, as gay advocates in dozens of world cities, including Tehran, were preparing for a global day of solidarity with gay Iranians and against the death penalty?

The director of HRW's gay section, Scott Long, like Iranians leaders, did nothing to assist in the worldwide actions, and, indeed, did much trashing of the events and the organizers. However, he did mention in an email in June 2006 that he was preparing a very important report, one that would probably settle the many questions surrounding gays in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In a message dated 6/24/2006 8:32:22 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, longs@hrw.org writes:
Dear Michael,

Thanks for your call and for the invitation. I’m sorry for not answering earlier but I was on the road.

I fully support the idea of commemorating the two victims. We would gladly sponsor an event which centered around the death penalty itself (obviously, one of the core human rights concerns in Iran) or its application to the offenses of minors. However, if the event is built on the presumption that the two youths were "gay," or were executed for it, we cannot sponsor it. There isn’t enough evidence for us to make either assertion. A great deal of speculation has for obvious reasons surrounded the case, but very few indubitable facts have been adduced, and none which clearly indicate that the two were executed for consensual homosexual acts, rather than (as the earliest accounts from Iran reported) for the violent rape of a 13-year-old. Amid such uncertainty I can’t see the possibility of pretending to a definitive statement.

We’re finishing a report on human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Iran, which I hope will be ready for release by September. Entrapment and executions for homosexual conduct certainly take place, and torture is widespread. In relation to the effort to prevent Iranian asylum-seekers from being returned to such intolerable conditions—and from a pragmatic perspective—it however seems to me unfortunate that, with the focus so completely on Mashhad, the issue has come in the view of some governments to hinge on one murky and weak case, rather than on Iran’s overall record.

I'm sorry if I sound discouraging, but I do wish you the best of luck with the demonstration.
Best,

Scott


In late July 2006, Long published a column in Gay City News in which he prominently mentioned the report:
For eight months, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has researched a report on abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Iran, interviewing dozens in Iran and the diaspora, trying to separate fact from rhetoric and rumor . . .

Iran executes more people than almost any other country in the world. Consensual homosexual conduct carries the death penalty.

Yet if there is change, it will start inside Iran. Our report won’t be aimed at audiences in San Francisco or London. The readers that matter most are Iranian lesbians and gays, who are trying to assess their risks and options, and Iranian human rights workers campaigning for basic freedoms . . . In the process we hope to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Iranian asylum-seekers with reliable facts.

Reliability matters.
Indeed, I agree with Long on reliability. Now, almost two years after he first informed gay advocates of HRW's comprehensive report, one that would please the eyes of gay Iranians in Tehran, not those he doesn't like in SF and London, he not yet released the damn thing.

Maybe if he didn't spent so much time being the divisive global gatekeeper, and devoted more effort to finally finishing the review and edits on HRW's gay Iran summary, everyone could read and use it to improve respect of human rights protections of gays in the Islamic Republic.

Hey Human Rights Watch executives to whom Scott Long is accountable to, how about getting off your butts and giving the community the long-promised report?

Everyone should read a March 27, 2008, editorial in Gay City News that recounts some of the latest warfare waged by Long against gay advocates who don't kowtow to him:

As the head of the LGBT desk at the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Scott Long bears critical responsibilities for investigating human rights abuses and advocating greater freedoms for our community worldwide. That is estimable work, by any measure.

One occupational hazard, however, of taking on a highly specialized charge on matters of such delicacy involving repressive and dangerous regimes is undoubtedly a compounding sense of proprietorship, a fatigued feeling that others "shouldn't mess with my turf, they should stay out of my bailiwick."

On matters related to anti-gay repression in Iran, dating back almost three years, Long seems to have fallen into that trap, indeed to have fallen quite far.

And a favorite target of Long's churlishness has been Doug Ireland, the veteran human rights journalist who has done outstanding reporting on the lethal threats facing LGBT Iranians living under an Islamist theocratic regime.

Recent postings made by Long to an international human rights listserve - regarding the gay Iranian asylum case Ireland writes about on page one this week - demonstrate once again an unfortunate pattern of intellectual bullying to which he's too often resorted in recent years. Long's arguments are an amalgam of factual obfuscations, conflating of arguments made independently by a wide array of individuals, and references to privileged information to which only he is privy and that therefore cannot benefit from the healthy sunshine of public scrutiny.

Sadly, as Long's critics have charged, he sees himself as the international LGBT human rights gatekeeper, and a jealous one at that.

The most recent flap began when George Galloway, a member of the British Parliament from the leftist Respect Party, said on television that the young man whom Mehdi Kazemi, the 19-year-old gay Iranian asylum-seeker now awaiting UK justice, has identified as his boyfriend who was executed by Iranian authorities because he was gay, was in fact put to death for "committing sex crimes against young men."

Gay rights activists in the UK, most notably the tireless Peter Tatchell, immediately pounced on Galloway, pointing out that there is no evidence his charge about Kazemi's dead lover is true, and that not even Iranian authorities have made that claim.

(Tatchell alleged that one of Respect's key funders is a UK Islamist who holds radically anti-gay attitudes that include advocacy for putting gays to death. That assertion is a reminder that this entire controversy is tinged with questions about the geo-political and multicultural sensitivities entailed in any discussion about Iran, but that most decidedly is a matter for another day.)

In the wake of Tatchell's written rebuke of Galloway, Long felt compelled to step up, emphasizing that he "hold[s] no brief" for the Respect Party politician, but also theorizing that the MP may have fallen victim to "propaganda" that has "confuse[d]" "gayness" and "rape." In Long's telling, activists such as Tatchell and journalists, Ireland included, have improperly imputed a gay identity to men, including two who were teenagers, executed by Iran in recent years on charges of rape.

In a staggering allowance for Galloway's reckless charge, Long wrote, "Under the circumstances, with the facts clouded by irresponsible rhetoric, it's actually understandable he might get alleged consensual cases mixed up with rape cases."

Huh?

Long's war on activists and journalists began over a dispute about the infamous hanging of two teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, in Mashad, Iran in July 2005. Initial press reports seemed to suggest that the youths were arrested after they had consensual sex with a third youth, younger than themselves. A government-controlled newspaper soon after reported that the youths instead were convicted of raping the third boy.

HRW condemned the execution of teenagers, but has steadfastly refused to credit accounts of the youths having engaged in consensual gay sex. Ireland, meanwhile, relying on multiple sources - the US-based editor of a magazine for gay Muslims, who spoke to three gay people in Mashad, and the editors of an underground gay publication in Iran, who had their own sources - reported that the Iranian regime's charges of rape were trumped up.

Long has never acknowledged a point made by Iranians, Ireland, other journalists, and activists - that the standard of proof for rape is less onerous than for homosexual conduct. He has also never come clean about the embarrassment he must have felt over the answer HRW's Iran specialist gave Ireland when queried about the group's own source about what happened - the regime-controlled newspaper.

Instead, with a piousness that is scant mask for arrogance, Long has repeatedly tisk-tisked Ireland, charging that his reporting has been "deeply irresponsible."

In response to an amazing series of first-person interviews with gay Iranians, both in-country and in exile, about which Ireland has reported in Gay City News since the Mashad incident, Long has been combative, dismissive, hostile, but not always consistent.

In a lengthy memo widely circulated via email in 2006, Long charged that Ireland had seized "uncritically" on stories such as the Mashad executions and "painted a picture of an 'intensifying reign of terror' or 'pogrom,'" which he said is "unfounded." At times, Long conflated what Ireland actually reported with rumors circulated by one or another of the vast universe of people with access to the Internet.

Yet, he also conceded he has "great respect" for Ireland's work as a journalist - and somewhat curiously credited Ireland with uncovering stories of "Iranian survivors of torture and abuse which are authentic and compelling."

Despite those kind - and well-deserved - words of praise, Long continues to snipe at Ireland, even as he glibly forgives the Galloways of the world. Last December, Ireland broke an astounding story detailing the execution of 21-year-old Makwan Moloudzadeh, who had been convicted of the rape, at age 13, of boys his own age. Because the six plaintiffs all recanted their accusations during the trial last year - Moloudzadeh insisted his own confession to one charge of anal sex was coerced and false - Iran's chief justice placed a stay on the execution, but in a rushed and apparently rump exercise of barbarity the young man's jailers hanged him anyway, in secret.

Ireland's sources for the story were the young man's attorney and the only Iranian journalist to have covered the case extensively - and whose own newspaper would not print her story. Ireland provided a vehicle for this brave journalist to tell that story to the world.

Long now complains that this is another case of improperly imputing gay identity in a case where evidence of it does not exist. Had Long read Ireland's story, however, he would know that Ireland was very clear that it is not known whether any sex ever took place. Long was merely reflexively regurgitating his own habitual rhetoric.

In a cryptic statement to the human rights listserve, Long said that he also had conversations with Moloudzadeh's attorney and his family and "the accounts that they gave us differed substantially and materially from what Doug put into print."

Never mind that Long offered no more information on those conversations (so how can we really judge his critique?) - he also failed to note that in Ireland's telephone conversations with the Iranian lawyer and journalist, the translator was Hossein Alizadeh, the Iranian-raised communications director for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Long has no inhibitions about branding Ireland "deeply irresponsible." Is he now prepared to make the same charge against IGLHRC?

Clearly, much of what HRW does in its work must by necessity remain behind the scenes. But if it is to have the confidence of the LGBT community worldwide, it must balance that need with the responsibility to demonstrate a reasonable level of transparency and collegiality and the backbone to stand up to cowards like Galloway.

Long's pretense of infallibility - unknown in modern times outside the Vatican and the police states he battles - are ill-suited to the sophisticated and nuanced leadership required in his post. He should either get off his high horse or abdicate his papacy, now gone terribly awry.


1985 Life Magazine 'AIDS Victim' is Still Alive

During the truly dark early years of the AIDS epidemic in America, the now-defunct Life magazine ran a controversial cover in July 1985, after years of ignoring homosexuals contracting the disease, that focused on the other "victims" of AIDS -- heterosexuals. On the cover were some of those people living with AIDS, and I believe the center image, of a man and woman holding a child, is the Burk family, and Lauren Burk is the woman.

Back in June 2005, when I couldn't locate the text of the article online, I found hard copy at the public library, typed it up and shared in on my blog. Click here to read it.

Today I received an anonymous comment on that old blog entry, from Lauren's sister, sharing some very good news:
I am Lauren Burk's sister, and I am happy to announce, she is still alive. Dwight was my Godson, and not one day passes that I don't see him, hooked up to IVs, feeding tubes and crying uncontrollably. AIDS is a dreadful disease. I agree, the homosexuals were the true victims. We were able to get doantions and support, while the homosexual victims only got shunned. Thank you for keeping my sister's story alive. God Bless!!!
Of course, I was beyond happy to read this comment, quickly posted on that old entry, then wrote a thank you note, which I hope Lauren's sister, and Lauren herself, read.

Lauren's story is one of longtime AIDS survival and must be shared with a wide audience, because she is a shining light of how some people with AIDS managed to beat the odds in 1985.

Lauren, if you read this, please know that I extend much love and best wishes for continued good health and lots of living!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Obama Visits Getty Mansion on
SF Billionaire's Row


The cranky and very opinionated man behind ZombieTime chooses to remain anonymous, which is fine by me because puts out great photos and videos. His conversational style of writing engages me. Oh, let me make a full disclosure here: he filmed me and Hank Wilson zapping UN head Ban Ki-Moon last summer, which was a top-ranked video on ZombieTime. Yeah, I like the guy, and some of his skeptical perspectives.

After a few weeks of not reading up on his latest activities about town, I checked out his site today and read about Obama's apparently hugely successful fundraising gigs here this week, including a stop at the Getty mansion:
On April 6, 2008, Barack Obama visited the San Francisco region, zipping from event to event all day long, from one end of the Bay Area to the other.

What? you might ask. How did I miss that? If only I had known, I would have gone to see him.

Well, there's a reason you didn't know about it. Obama didn't want you to know about it. Because the events he was attending weren't for people like you.

They were for people with lots and lots of money, who use that money to gain access and influence with politicians -- especially politicians who might become president . . .

And not only were the non-affluent excluded from these events, even the media was disallowed . . . I wasn't about to let that stop me. When I hear the words "No media allowed," that's when I reach for my camera.



And I set my sights on the grand prize: The fundraiser at the home of Ann and Gordon Getty, on what has come to be called "Billionaires Row," reputed to be the wealthiest block in the world . . .

Wait just a minute there. If you do the math, on just this one day in the Bay Area, Obama went to four events, three of which had $2,300 minimum donations per ticket, and the other $1,000 minimum per ticket. Each of the events, from the various descriptions, held as many as 400 people (the Getty mansion has a ballroom that reportedly seats at least 300). 400 x $2,300 = $920,000 per event, times three events = $2.76 million, plus the other event, which undoubtedly puts him over $3 million in contributions for this one day alone. And who knows how many other similar days he schedules in other parts of the country . . .

It was not easy finding out exactly where and when to go. The precise time of the fundraiser was never revealed, and the Gettys own many properties in the area. But another local columnist dropped a clue as to where it was happening: "The hottest ticket in San Francisco this weekend may well be the $2,300-a-head reception for Democratic hopeful Barack Obama at the Pacific Heights mansion of billionaire couple Ann and Gordon Getty." Ah, that Getty home -- it could only be the legendary one in the heart of Billionaires Row.

I scoped out the address and took a guess at the time -- late afternoon -- only to find I had arrived over an hour early. I sauntered up to one of the attendants and asked, "Doesn't the fundraiser start at four o'clock...?" "Five," he corrected me. "That's right -- five, " I said, and walked away.



The mansion, seen here in wedding-cake colors, may not look overly impressive at street level, but it sits on the crest of a ridge overlooking the bay; the estate actually cascades down the hillside behind, out of sight from the front fa├žade.
Thanks for getting to the gig, ZombieTime, at least from the outside, and capturing fabulous photos. Read the full report and look at more photos here.

Olympic Torch Runner #12 = HIV Poz Gay Man
If you'll be watching the Olympic torch relay through the streets of San Francisco later today, be on the lookout for runner number 12, because that will be my friend John Caldera. He told me this morning that the relay organizers assigned him that number yesterday and he wants to show the world a gay man living with AIDS is participating in the torch relay. Here's his essay about his participation in today's Olympic event:

Why I will carry the Olympic torch

By John Caldera


As the eyes of the world turn to San Francisco during the Olympic torch relay on Wednesday, April 9, 2008, as an official Torchbearer and longtime peace activist, I am writing to solicit peace within San Francisco, the only City in North America where the Olympic torch will stop on its way to the XXIX Summer Olympic Games.


There are those who would speak out against the atrocities of human rights violations in Tibet. These protesters have every right to speak out against anything they wish, however, the moment any protester resorts to violence, the violence would belittle and demean any peaceful message they would intend to convey. It’s very sad how easy it is to spew hate when you wrap yourself around with a blanket of ardor and zeal versus how much harder it is to seek common ground and learn to accept people who are different from ourselves.


We live in a very troubled world, a world post 9-11, and a world where currently many countries are at war. If we expect the human race to survive on our planet, we need to all learn to get along better.


The history of the human race is filled with atrocities man has done against his fellow man. It is a world where it is far easier to destroy something than it is to create, craft and bring honor to something. I believe the Olympic Torch relay and the Olympic Games themselves represent the best of what the best of us can accomplish through commitment and effort.


Athletes have trained for most of their lives to compete against other Athletes from across the globe regardless of color, creed or class on an equal playing field, not on a field of battle.


Some say the opposite of love is hate, but I believe the opposite of love is indifference. Indifference to the plight of others is a terrible thing. What’s going on in Tibet is terrible, what’s going on in Darfur is terrible, but there are a lot of terrible things happening in our own back yard. Hate crimes still happen and gang violence is on the rise and with it, the homicide rate rises as well. Still, I also believe the companion to love is hope. I have hope for a brighter future for mankind and pray for peace and good will to all men and women as well as for our very precious environment, atmosphere and earth.


I view the coming of the Olympic Torch to San Francisco as an honor for our City, wouldn’t it be convivial if we were honorable hosts and showed the rest of the world that San Francisco truly is a world-class City that can rise above the dissension to promote peace and understanding through the Olympic Torch relay and on the field of competition that is the Olympic Games.


As someone who is openly Gay, HIV+, Latino and a US Navy Veteran, I have learned to respect the many subsets of our society. At times, I agree to disagree with those who have conflicting ideas or ideals than mine and at times, through respect and discourse, mutual understanding is possible but in the end I always remember the immortal words of the great humanitarian, John Lennon: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”


I look at the opportunity to carry the Olympic Torch as an honor of a lifetime and I dedicate my run to each and every human being with HIV/AIDS because I know the torch you bear and I as I run I will remember each and everyone who was taken from us by the AIDS virus.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Gays Demand China Free AIDS Advocate
at Olympic Torch Protest

A press conference was supposed to be held today at 11 AM at United Nations Plaza by Tibetans living in the US, to demand China end its occupation of their country. I went to it expecting 2 or 3 dozen Tibetans and their supporters would be standing behind a microphone tree, explaining what they hope to accomplish as the Olympic torch passes through town.

What I found when I got there was a full-fledged rally, held in front of a large elevated stage near the north end of the plaza, and perhaps five-hundred protesters waving flags, chanting slogans and handing out flyers.

I hooked up with five other gay men who were there to call for the release of Chinese AIDS advocate Hu Jia, sentenced to three years in jail last week for pro-democracy advocacy, and to add our voices to the "Free Tibet" chorus.

Here are two photos of us posing for the cameras:



I'm proud a handful of us gays were present today, and will be attending other pro-Tibet events today and tomorrow, as the Olympic torch wends its way through San Francisco. And big thanks to the other gays who showed up today in support of our Tibetan friends and incarcerated AIDS advocate Hu Jia.

Monday, April 07, 2008


State Dept Reporters: Rice Running For Veep?

The subject? Condi and the Veep slot in November for the GOP. The place? The daily press briefing on Monday at the State Department in Washington. The fix for political addicts? Questions posed about Rice speaking to Norquist's salon, editorial writers for the Washington Times, a flattering profile in Fitness Magazine. State Department correspondents see a pattern of engagement on Rice's part not necessarily visible to the average news consumer.

Transcript excerpted from the April 7 press briefing:

QUESTION: For all the political junkies, we talked about this this morning. But Secretary Rice and the vice presidency: You said she’s not interested; no, she’s going back to California.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: So what are we to make if we were analyzing this? What are we to make of -- in the past week, we’ve seen a meeting with Grover Norquist’s group.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: We’ve seen expansive comments on race and education in America to The Washington Times editorial board.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And we’ve seen an up-close and personal spread in Fitness Magazine.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice lifting weights and looking very human --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- or super-human. (Laughter.) So --

QUESTION: Libby.

QUESTION: I just – I’m just wondering, you know, this --

MR. MCCORMACK: With a C on her chest? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: This – I think this has led some to believe that she is actively kind of campaigning for the vice presidency. So why shouldn’t we look at this as unusual from a Secretary of State?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I think if you look back at her tenure in terms of her activities, you will find all of these activities perfectly normal and consistent with the way she has done her job over the past three years or so. So like I said this morning, if – if she is actively seeking the vice presidency, then she is the last one to know about it. She plans on going back west of the Mississippi to Stanford once she’s completed her work as Secretary of State.

QUESTION: Why not a Shermanesque denial?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think – you know, I think in her view, and certainly in my view, she’s given that many times over whenever she’s been asked this question. She was asked it most recently by Mr. Kralev’s institution, The Washington Times, and I think she gave a pretty definitive answer. She said, you know, not – not interested, time for new blood. She’s looking forward to going back to Stanford when she’s completed her work as Secretary of State.

QUESTION: All I’m saying is the simplest way to stamp out these reports would be to issue an airtight --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, next – tell you what --

QUESTION: -- definitive --

MR. MCCORMACK: Tell you what, next time – next time – next time you have a chance to ask her a question, you ask her that question, I’m sure she’ll give you a no. I’ll tell you no right now, but you can get it from her when you see her next.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you think she’d consider running for California Governor?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) I think what she is considering is focusing on her work as Secretary of State because -- you may have missed it -- but there’s actually quite a bit to do. There is quite a bit left to do here as Secretary of State.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, there are a few things left on the burners right now, so she’s focused on that. And she’s – once her job as – her work as Secretary of State is done, then she looks forward to going back out to California to resume her activities at Stanford. Keep in mind, she is actually on leave from Stanford. She is still a tenured professor at Stanford University.

If you're interested in the transcript of Rice's meeting with the Washington Times editorial board, click here. She repeatedly states she's not going to talk politics, and then proceeds to do exactly that.

A sneak-peek of her comments:

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know, it's -- America doesn't have an easy time dealing with race. I sit in my office and the portrait immediately over my shoulder is Thomas Jefferson, because he was my first predecessor. He was the first Secretary of State. And sometimes I think to myself, what would he think -- (laughter) -- a black woman Secretary of State as his predecessor 65 times removed -- successor, 65 times removed? What would he think that the last two successors have been black Americans? And so, obviously, when this country was founded, the words that were enshrined in all of our great documents and that have been such an inspiration to people around the world, for the likes of Vaclav Havel, associate themselves with those documents. They didn't have meaning for an overwhelming element of our founding population. And black Americans were a founding population. Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together; Europeans by choice, and Africans in chains.

Click here to read about Rice's "No Excuses" workouts in Fitness Magazine.

SF HIV Dental Clinic Closing,
New Bar Heralds Gay Revival


The odd things about this announcement from the University of the Pacific Dental School is that the closure is the first I'm hearing that the advanced general dentistry clinic was in jeopardy of shuttering. In the past few years as local hospitals, clinics and direct care nonprofit agencies have faced budgetary constraints and potential closure, they've all told the affected patient communities that bad news loomed in the near future. Public meetings to rally patients and politicians were held, and an effort was made to save whatever clinic or services were threatened. Not so for the dental school and this clinic, where I'm a patient, as are hundreds of other people with AIDS.

I think the university owes all patients of the clinic a full explanation about the fiscal troubles they/we are facing, and why no one is organizing to save the clinic.

From the university's site:

When is the AGD Clinic closing?
The AGD Clinic will stop treating complex cases and will no longer have general dentistry residents in San Francisco after June 30, 2008.

Why is the clinic closing?

Increasing cost in clinic operations and decreased reimbursement rates from government programs have created an unsustainable operation for the school. [...]

Can I be a patient of the Main (student) Clinic?

If you were once a patient of the Main Clinic and transferred to the AGD Clinic, the reason for your transfer was due to the complexity of your dental, medical, or psychological care. You are no longer eligible to be a patient of the Main Clinic as the dental students will not be able to manage/maintain your complex care needs. Please call your local dental society for referrals. [...]

I am a Ryan White AIDS CARE Act patient. Can I be seen in the CARE Clinic?

The CARE Clinic is staffed by only one dentist who is here part time. There are currently no openings for new patients in the CARE Clinic, and the CARE Clinic does not maintain a waiting list. Please call the Native American Health Center at (415) 621-8056 or the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. [...]
In other news from San Francisco today, the SF Chronicle covers the opening weekend of a new leather bar South of Market, and how it heralds a new era, one that revives the S/M leather bar scene.
Forty years ago there were no live-work lofts South of Market, no restaurants dotting Folsom Street, and the Whole Foods Market at Harrison and Fourth streets was home to the Toolbox, one of San Francisco's first leather bars.

Warehouses and printing businesses flourished then, as now, in this industrial area of San Francisco, and at 5 p.m., workers packed up to go back to their neighborhoods. That's when the leather scene took over, dominating the SoMa neighborhood after dark with more than a dozen bars and bathhouses on Folsom Street attracting leather-clad gay men who embraced the sexual subculture.

"There were a few families living in houses, but there were no restaurants, no yuppies, none of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd," said Mister Marcus, 76, a leather scene columnist for the Bay Area Reporter since 1971. "All the businesses closed at 5 and no one was down there, so you could park and walk, all the bars were so close." [...]

On Friday, David Morgan threw open the doors to Chaps II, the most recent indication that leather is making a comeback in SoMa. [...]
You'll recall I blogged recently on Chaps II getting ready to open, but I didn't see a link between that and news from South Dakota, of all places. There aren't many occasions when the gay scene in this SF, San Francisco, anything in common with the other SF, Sioux Falls. But both SF's, in the past month, have witnessed the opening of new gay bars.

Doesn't seem to me that the gay bar culture is really dying out, and is indeed enjoying a small trendy surge.

Read the entire Chronicle story here.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Clinton Questioned About
Iran's Gay Executions


The only country I am aware of where the government in the past few years has executed homosexuals is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Have I missed the stories about Egypt, Iraq and other countries putting gays to death?

The Wikipedia entry for LGBT rights in Egypt says nothing about executions. The Iraqi LGBT entry, of course, notes the warring militias have killed gays and transgenders. I don't deny that gays in both countries face tremendous fears of abuse and in Iraq, murder by death squads, but the interviewers from the Philadelphia Gay News who spoke with Sen. Hillary Clinton should have been more precise in their question.

On the other hand, if the countries mentioned by PGN have executed gays lately, please send links to stories about the deaths and I'll link to them.

From the PGN interview with Hillary Clinton on April 4:
PGN: What changes would you make toward governments that execute gay people, such as Iran, Egypt and Iraq and numerous other countries in the Middle East and Africa? Will you offer political asylum?

HC: I would be very strongly outspoken about this and it would be part of American foreign policy. There are a number of gross human-rights abuses that countries engage in with whom we have relations and we have to be really vigilant and outspoken in our total repudiation of those kinds of actions and do everything we can, including using our leverage on matters such as aid, to change the behavior so we can try to prevent such atrocities from happening.
Yes, that is a damn good answer, on the surface. However, I wish to point out that in her seven years in the US Senate, Clinton has not vocally objected to Iran's horrendous violations of the human rights of gays. She has not condemned the Iranian government's executions of gays, and I would be the first to applaud if she did open her mouth about the killings.

And Clinton sidesteps the question of offering political asylum to gays fleeing oppressive regimes. I would have liked for her to spell out her plans, either as senator, or, if elected to the White House, as president, regarding asylum for gay exiles and refugees.

Unfortunately, PGN did not pose a follow up question to her on this matter. I must also note that one of the PGN interviewers, Mark Segal, the publisher, failed to note his $1,000 donation to Clinton last year.

All these concerns aside, I still am quite pleased PGN raised international gay issues when they spoke with Clinton.

(Hat tip: Chris Crain.)

[Update: April 7]

A reader sent a message that in January 2002 Saudi Arabia executed three homosexuals by beheading them. Click here to read the Amnesty International report on the executions.

And my friend writer Patricia Nell Warren also sent info and links on the killings of gays.

Hi Michael,
You asked for links on executions and death squads. Death squads killing gays is a big problem in some Latin and Muslim countries:
Guatemala (a country where death squads also kill hundreds of women every year)
Patricia

Friday, April 04, 2008

Gay HIV+ Latino Vet is
Olympics Torch-bear-er


My friend John Caldera and I have seen each other recently, at the YMCA where we exercise, or at City Hall, where he volunteers in Sup. Ross Mirkarimi's office, and he hasn't said a thing to me about applying to be a torchbearer for the Olympic Torch when it passes through town.

I can't think of a better politically-motivated bear to use this sports-related opportunity to promote visibility of all the different parts of his identity, including having a well-developed muscle bear body and laid back attitude!

So today I found out he's been selected to carry the torch for a portion of it's route, according to a story posted on the Bay Area Reporter web site on Thursday, and I congratulate John for this honor:
At least one of the 80 people who will carry the Olympic torch during its stop in San Francisco next week will be a gay, HIV-positive Navy veteran.

John Caldera, 43, who serves on the city's Veterans Affairs Commission, revealed this week he has been tapped to carry the Olympic flame when it comes to town Wednesday, April 9 as it makes its round-the-world trip ahead of the 2008 Summer Games, which take place August 8-24 in Beijing, China. [...]

Caldera told the Bay Area Reporter Thursday, April 3 that he was unaware if any other torchbearers will be members of the LGBT community. [...]

Caldera said while he supports the protesters' right to speak out against Chinese policy, he saw no reason not to participate in the relay.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. No one in my family has been a torchbearer," said Caldera. "Those who want to protest should be able to protest. I just hope I don't get hit with tomatoes." [...]
Naturally, I'm pleased the Chinese officials choose San Francisco as one city for the torch to pass through on the way to Beijing, all because it affords human rights advocates of many causes related to China to protest government policies.

Not only will the protesters lining the torch route send a loud message to Beijing, and the athletes participating in the games, but the choice of torchbearers in San Francisco, including John, will also a small signal for the Chinese government to respect its gays citizens and persons living with HIV.


(Photo descriptions: Top photo of John is from a bear charity fund-raising event at the Lone Star. Bottom photo of John was taken at last year's Lazy Bear event at the Russian River.)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

'Stony' George Shultz Hears 'Internationale' At SF Lincoln Brigade Ceremony
Gather round, comrades! I wish to share with you a story from the People's Republic of San Francisco, that is one of those "only in San Francisco" weird political tales people who don't live here seem to love. Okay, even residents of San Francisco appreciate such stories!

From Tuesday's SF Chronicle:
You couldn't be at Sunday's ceremonies on the Embarcadero for the dedication of the national monument honoring volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade without being moved. For some, it was a twinge of emotion as they recognized the fragility of the lineup of elderly veterans. [...]

A brass band played anthems of the Spanish Civil War as the crowd gathered. Mainly, they were old lefties, people whose idealism is untarnished, who'd marched against fascism, for unions, for tolerance, against the war in Vietnam, and recently, just as ferociously against the war in Iraq.

Carlos Westendorp y Cabeza, Spanish ambassador to the United States, was there to express the gratitude of his country, and perhaps because of his presence, Protocol Chief Charlotte Shultz was there, too, with her husband, former Secretary of State George Shultz. As they settled down on a makeshift podium along the front of the monument, I watched Shultz and the crowd, and I thought, "They're going to eat him alive." When the band played the Socialist-Communist anthem "The Internationale," some of the vets and audiences raised their fists in salute. I couldn't see Shultz's expression, but several readers e-mailed later that it was stony.

When, after noting the presence of the ambassador, Mayor Gavin Newsom acknowledged the former secretary of state, there was a loud chorus of boos from one side of the crowd. [...]
I wish I'd known about the event beforehand because I would have been there to honor the Brigade volunteers and their heroism, not to mention also witnessing the surreal spectacle of Shultz being present as "The Internationale" was performed at a public ceremony.

No photos or videos of the event have surfaced on the web, but I did find this photo of Shultz on Flickr.com taken a few days before the Brigade event. If you ask me, Shultz looks rather "stony" in the picture, a look he always had:


Here is a short YouTube video on the February 28 groundbreaking for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade memorial:



Finally, this clip is from Warren Beatty's Academy Award-winning film "Reds," featuring "The Internationale" as the Russian people rise up and overthrow the tsar: