Wednesday, July 30, 2008

SF Again Lowers HIV Stats for 2007?

Just last week, the San Francisco health department very quietly released the latest HIV/AIDS epi report and we saw that the stats continued falling down. There's been a 44% drop from 2003 to 2007 in HIV figures, and it appears that the HIV stat for 2007, at 467 infections, is actually lower.

Complicating the picture painted in that annual report are the minutes and a slide-show from the July 10 HIV Prevention Planning Council meeting, that were web-posted by DPH earlier this week.


At that meeting, DPH HIV experts presented a most interesting slide, number 24, containing the following text and numbers:

Overview:
Clients and Contacts (SPs 4/1/2007 – 3/31/2008; CTL (Counseling, Testing, Linkage program of DPH] 1/1/2007 – 12/31/2007)

Syringe program contacts
43,899 contacts
2,355,999 syringes accessed

CTL Network as a whole (includes funded and non-funded sites)
16,846 tests run
344 positive tests
309 newly-identified people with HIV (1.8%)


The info from the CTL Network is fascinating for so many reasons, starting with simply having raw numbers like that. One of the most frustrating things about following HIV/STD stats in San Francisco is that DPH can be coy about sharing number of tests performed, poz results and new infections, but here all that data is presented.

And what we see is that the 309 figure is at odds with the annual epi report's figure of 467, a difference of 158. Could the annual report be taking into account 158 new HIV infections reported from private doctors' offices? Why such a wide gap in the numbers? Accepting, if only for argument's sake, that the 309 number is closer to the genuine number of new infections for 2007, it puts the number really at odds with official DPH claims.

The minutes from the HPPC meeting show a question, left unspecified by the note-taker, was raised by a longtime person with AIDS and advocate, Ken Pearce, obviously putting the 309 stat in the proper epi context:

Slide 34 – In response to Ken Pearce’s question Dara Coan said that the 309 newly-identified HIV(+) cases found at SFDPH facilities (operated, funded, and partnered) is about half of the reported new diagnoses and about one-third of new infections in SF total.


Oh, so we have DPH stats that seriously undermine other DPH figures, and the 309 number could represent a real bright spot in controlling HIV here, and it wasn't much discussed by the HPPC! It's almost as if people are embarrassed by the tumbling HIV stats. Heck, the revelation of the 309 number is so unimportant to DPH it wasn't in the first 2 or 3 slides, but the thirty-fourth slide, essentially burying the good news.

If only DPH would deign to hold public meetings about all the latest HIV stats, or at least put our news releases calling gay community attention to the good developments, I'd be able to say the folks running AIDS Inc are truly interested in ending the epidemic in San Francisco.

But the silence from DPH and the AIDS groups tells me there is much in the numbers for the bureaucrats to fear.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

(Chart of HIV cases by race and year for Florida, from the latest annual epi report, page 8.)

FL DoH: Black HIV Fell 31% From 1998 to 2007

The Sunshine State's latest HIV stats from the Department of Health show some apparently declining rates of infections, at least for blacks, gays and the men who have sex with men populations.

The caption for the above chart explains that from 1998 through 2007, black HIV stats fell by 31% and that is probably because of targeted HIV prevention for blacks, while the white HIV increases may be due to increases of HIV in white and Latino gays.

However, the 2007 DoH report on HIV/AIDS and gays shows a slight dip in white and Latino HIV rates.

(The chart above can be found on page 9 of the DoH gay and HIV report, where there is a brief explanation of the numbers.)

Florida's breakdown of all male HIV stats by race reveal downward slopes for black and white categories, and a flattening for Latino figures.


(This chart can be found in the gay HIV summary, on page 8.)

And finally, the Florida numbers for combined HIV and full-blown AIDS numbers, paint a dramatic decline for black women, while the rates for white and Latin women are very stable.


(The chart above is from the recent DoH special report on women and HIV/AIDS, and can be found on page 7.)

Florida, by the way, is ranked at number three for states most affected by HIV/AIDS, and if the state's HIV stats are continuing to fall, as are the figures for San Francisco and New York City, then some press and gay community attention, beyond this blog, is called for. Three major, widely-separated American regions are showing HIV declines and so far, there's been no discussion why the drop have occurred, how to keep the stats going down, and are any other cities or states experiencing similar HIV decreases. When does the discussion about these developments begin?

Saturday, July 26, 2008


NYC DoH's New HIV Infections
Drop 35% from 2001 to 2006


Last week I learned from San Francisco health department HIV/STD reports that annual HIV rates for the city have dropped 44% and monthly HIV stats from the City Clinic are down 27%, and seeing such dramatic declines got me curious about the figures for New York City.

To my delight, the Big Apple's HIV infections are also tumbling down. NYC's Department of Health's annual HIV epi reports show the following stats, which are from page two of the annual reports:

Total HIV diagnoses: 3,745
Sub-total, HIV stats without AIDS
: 2,783

Total HIV diagnoses: 3,972
Sub-total, HIV stats without AIDS
: 2,944

Total HIV diagnoses: 3,980
Sub-total, HIV stats without AIDS
: 2,936

2003
Total HIV diagnoses: 4,481
Sub-total, HIV stats without AIDS
: 3,425

Total HIV diagnoses: 4,992
Sub-total, HIV stats without AIDS: 3,895

Total HIV diagnoses: 5,524
Sub-total, HIV stats without AIDS
: 4,314

What we have here with the NYC numbers is a 32% drop in total HIV diagnoses, and a decrease of 35% in HIV stats without AIDS. I find the good news from San Francisco and New York City, arguably America's two hardest-hit cities grappling with HIV/AIDS for more than 25 years, that both metropolises are witnessing continuing and sustained falls in new infections, worth noting and wish that the press and community-based organizations would start recognizing the declines and discussing them with the gay community.

Why is it such a difficult task persuading HIV prevention and service organizations that when there are numbers in the downward stage, it is a positive development and worth heralding? Will public health officials and AIDS groups ever understand the need to not only scare gays when HIV infections are surging, but to also praise sexually active gays when prevention is working?


By the way, the colorful graphs above are from the latest semi-annual NYC DoH HIV epi report and nicely illustrated the falling HIV rates for all age categories, except two of them. The text under the graphs explains that new HIV (non-AIDS) have declined overall since 2001, but that for men ages 13-19 and 20-29 have increased, while for women ages 13-19 and 20-29 have either remained the same or climbed in 2005 and 2006.

Friday, July 25, 2008


SF DPH: 27% Drop of HIV At City STD Clinic

On the heels of the just-released 2007 HIV/AIDS epi report from the San Francisco health department showing new HIV infections continued falling last year, an excellent development in the battle to control AIDS, comes the latest monthly STD report from DPH.

No surprise, at least to me, the number of HIV antibody test results that were positive for clients at the DPH City Clinic on Seventh Street showed a decline of 17%. While the drop does not represent the rate for the entire city, it is still very noteworthy since so many high-risk people are tested for HIV at the City Clinic, and is a prime surrogate marker for the city's infection rate.

From the June 2008 STD report:

June 2007: Year to Date

HIV Tests Performed
2,421

Positive Result
62

June 2008: Year to Date

HIV Tests Performed
2,655

Positive Result
47

Very interesting that even though the number of tests administered climbed, the number of positive results still decreased. Sounds to me like the decline of HIV in San Francisco cannot be denied.

What else is in the new monthly report? Male rectal gonorrhea dropped from 263 cases at the end of June 2007, to 232 diagnoses so far this year. That's a drop of 12%, and is an indicator of healthier sex habits among gay men.

At the same time, the number of male rectal chlamydia cases rose from 277 at mid-year in 2007, and have surged up to 322 this year. However, keep in mind that DPH has dramatically increased the number of tests for this infection, and has also greatly expanded surveillance of it.

How could the HIV stats at City Clinic and the male rectal gonorrhea rate for the entire city be sliding downward, and male rectal chlamydia is going up, besides more testing and reporting for chlamydia? One reason could be that chlamydia is much easier to spread and contract than gonorrhea and HIV.

Regardless, the falling annual HIV stats, coupled with the drop of monthly positive test results at City Clinic, is good news for sexually active gay men, people with HIV/AIDS, public health in general, and HIV prevention and service organizations.

Too bad the latest good developments from a DPH report get released late on a Friday afternoon, and DPH, along with the vast AIDS Inc groups, have greeted the latest stats with silence.
(Rabble-rousing gay advocates Moulton, left, and Fay, right, smooching at a protest earlier this year.)

Brendan Fay Update From Husband Tom Moulton

Dear Friends of Brendan,

I've received two more messages about Brendan's condition from his spouse Tom, both of which I share with you here. Needless to say, I am quite concerned about all the medical problems our friend must contend with. I do not know what brought on all the problems, but reading Tom's words about a wound suffered by Brendan, really worries me. At the same time, I'm very pleased Tom says Brendan is overall doing better, so I keep praying for them and doing my part to keep Brendan's many pals informed about his condition. -michael

First message, from yesterday:

Hello Everyone,

Brendan is doing better overall. We believe that he will go to Burke Rehab in White Plaines, NY tomorrow. However, he may still need a transfusion and he did have a little fever tonight. He did walk to the door of the room and to the bathroom twice tonight. He seemed a bit more tired today than before.

Will let you know when he moves and any new phone numbers/addresses. He has appreciated the cards sent to him.

Again, thanks for all your prayers and support. He especially appreciated to blessing of Knock water from Matt.

Tom
Second message, received this morning:

Hello Everyone,

Brendan had a bit of a rough day yesterday. The meds and such aren't
allowing him to pee well, so his foley had to be replaced. Not a fun thing, but a relief for Brendan not to have to constantly be trying to pee. His blood count also dropped again and he needed a transfusion as well.

The good news is that today does seem to be the
day when he will be able to go to Burke. No more fevers and his wound is finally getting rid of all that blood that ended up in his thigh. His is going a bit crazy not being able to do anything or see his friends as much as he'd like, so the move should do him good.

They will keep him busy during the day with physical therapy and we will give him some company at night. Thanks again for all the support, calls and cards you have sent Brendan. Also, thanks for all the good wishes for me too!

Unfortunately, I can't get back to everyone as quickly as I'd like.

Tom

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


SF DPH: New HIV Stats for 2007 Fall to 467 Cases,
44% Drop in Diagnoses

In keeping with unofficial Department of Public Health rules to remain silent about newly published HIV/AIDS/STD reports, especially when the number of new infections is dropping, the DPH published and web-posted the latest annual HIV/AIDS epi report this week, and HIV infections continue to dramatically drop, but DPH is doing nothing to call attention to the report.

Let's look at the just-released 2007 stats, as presented in Table 1.3 of the report, on page 17:

The number of persons newly diagnosed with HIV declined between 2003 and 2007. However, the lower numbers in recent may also reflect delays in reporting of persons newly diagnosed with HIV. Overall, the characteristics of persons newly diagnosed with HIV remained relatively stable with the majority of cases being male, white, aged 25-49 years, and MSM.

Characteristics of persons newly diagnosed with HIV between 2003 and 2007, San Francisco:

2003
839

2004
803

2005
651

2006
500

2007
467

Granted, the plummeting number may be due to tardy lab reports submitted to DPH, but the falling figures may also be due to a genuine decrease in new infections and even taking into account the reporting delays, I'm not sure the 2007 stats are going to climb to anywhere near the 2003 numbers.

There has been a 44% drop in new annual infections over a five-year period, it should be discussed widely among sexually-adventuresome gay men, so we can keep the numbers going down.

In short, I believe the decline in new HIV diagnoses, and infections, began several years ago and continues. But the DPH, as we vividly saw when full-blown AIDS cases were dropping in the late 1990s, was loathe to come out and inform the gay community and the general public that AIDS diagnoses were going down, and the same mentality of "we can't tell the fags any good news about HIV in San Francisco" permeates how DPH disseminates and discusses emerging data.

Actually, regarding discussion by DPH on these matters, I should qualify that because there is no discussion taking place about the stats. Whether the issue is this annual HIV/AIDS report, or the quarterly AIDS surveillance reports, or the monthly STD stats, which include some HIV numbers, DPH does its damnedest to keep silent about the numbers. I believe this is because the experts just don't know how to talk about declining stats and they can't peddle their alarmist and crisis-driven rhetoric with falling stats.

If there is one thing the HIV and gay communities in San Francisco need, it is a frank public series of discussions with DPH epi experts about the new annual report and other data more than suggesting a sustained decline is here.

On the flip side, when very sketchy preliminary data shows alleged increases, SF DPH goes all out to generate attention and media coverage, as happened in June 2000, right before the start of that year's international AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

The SF Chronicle, in a front-page above-the-fold story, with the headline "S.F. HIV Rate Surges", played up those 2000 prelim numbers, and got the requisite alarmist quote from a DPH expert:

"We are very concerned, and we are very worried,'' said San Francisco Department of Public Health epidemiologist Dr. Willi McFarland. "These are sub-Saharan African levels of transmission.''

Then in November 2006, in an article published in Nature magazine, about the scaling down of HIV rates in African countries and India, that same San Francisco researcher gave an interesting quote about blowing up numbers:

"Many of us in the field have suspected that the standard methods of estimation have resulted in overestimates," says Willi McFarland, director of HIV/AIDS Statistics and Epidemiology for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

That quote can easily apply to scary projections of HIV/AIDS/STD stats here. In any event, the latest HIV/AIDS epi report for America's AIDS model city should generate some media coverage and community debate.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

(Tom Moulton, left, and Brendan Fay, right, visiting the Polish parliament in the spring to advocate for gay love and marriage.)

Brendan Fay, Global Gay Activist, is Ailing

My beautiful trouble-making friend is in pain, and that causes me much grief. I couldn't get through reading this message last night from Brendan's wonderful partner Tom Moulton without shedding a few tears of empathy for my queer brothers. Since Tom is asking friends to share this note, I'm doing my part to keep Brendan's colleagues around the world informed about our dear friend's condition.

Hey, Brendan, my prayers are going out for you, good buddy. Take care of yourself.

This is Tom's update:

Hello everyone,

Just got home from visiting Brendan. He was in much better spirits tonight and not a whole lot of pain getting back to bed from the chair. He had some visitors tonight as well. Someone mentioned that I forgot to tell everyone that he did not need to have the partial hip replacement at this time. He has a rod and several pins in. He
had a rough night last night and was tired today.

Although he likes to have your calls, he did unplug his phone so he could get some rest today. So, for those of you who tried to get a hold of him but were unable, that's probably the reason. It looks like he'll have a better night tonight, so calling in the afternoon tomorrow should be OK.

We are still looking for him to go to a rehab hospital on Wed. or Thurs. So far we are looking into Rusk, in Manhattan (to make it easier for people to visit if they want) or Burke, which is very good, but up in Westchester. It will all depend on bed availability.

Thanks for all you prayers and support. Brendan has some flowers already and he thanks those that send, but would prefer if any further wishes for flowers would go for a charity of your choice. A card would be nice.

I have not been able to email everyone - his address book is just too huge and I've been too tired to go through it all, so please pass the word along.

Tom

Monday, July 21, 2008


SF AIDS Fdtn: Gay Marriage = HIV Prevention

This comes as a shock to me, that marriage, or specifically gay marriage, may be an effective method of stopping HIV. I didn't know the foundation was touting gay marriage this way, till I read their release on queer nuptials:

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation applauds the recent California Supreme Court decision to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, an important step towards equality for all Californians. The Foundation strongly supports marriage equality both because it is an important civil rights issue, and because there is emerging evidence that suggests gay marriage may be an effective HIV prevention strategy.


To their discredit, the foundation's brain-trust didn't see fit to link to any actual scientific proof to back up their startling claim, but it is certainly in keeping with AIDS Inc in San Francisco making pretty unbelievable predictions related to HIV, and offering little to nil proof.

I do give the foundation executives a tip o' the hat for how craftily they worded their statement with qualifiers. Data is "emerging" and it "suggests" there "may be" a link between averting new infections among gay men, and a piece of paper.

Hey all you brainiacs at the foundation, do me a huge favor, please. Link to the emerging evidence and defend your statement with hard proof. There are plenty of specious arguments being made by the rightwing about gay marriage, we don't need AIDS service organizations making bogus claims.

And if SF AIDS Foundation leaders endorse gay marriage as HIV prevention, will they next champion abstinence until marriage?
Cologne, SF Recall Iran's Gay Hangings

The Islamic Republic of Iran on July 19, 2005, hanged two gay teenagers, Ayaz Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari, in broad daylight in the central public square in the holy city of Mashad, and to commemorate the executions, gay and Iranian activists in Cologne and San Francisco staged vigils recently and spoke out about Iran's mistreatment of LGBT people. Click here for background info and photos of the hangings.

Below are photos from the remembrance in Ross Mirkarimi's office in SF's City Hall on July 18. And after the SF photos, you find a report from the vigil in Cologne.


Ross Mirkarimi, who is Iranian-American and a member of the Board of Supervisors, spoke about the hangings, democracy and human rights for all Iranians. He reminded us that gay activists in San Francisco have staged a vigil every year for the hanged teenagers, including organizing a speak out in 2005, one week after the world learned of the barbaric executions.


Almost 20 people, of assorted ethnic heritage, gathered in Mirkarimi's office to light candles of remembrance and hold signs demanding an end to Iranian executions.


Gay American Bevan Dufty, another member of the Board of Supervisors, holding his daughter Sidney, delivered remarks about the need to support LGBT people in Iran and living in exile.


Mirkarimi thanked everyone for turning out for the vigil and promised to help LGBT Iranians in their difficult struggle for freedom and equality.

This is the report from the organizers of the July 19 action in Cologne:

The Gay Homeland Foundation, an organization dedicated to furtherance of a Gay national movement and cultural progress of the Gay-Lesbian community, and baraka, an international self-organization group of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual immigrants in Cologne, have for the second time organized a political demonstration commemorating all Gay and Lesbian victims of the Ayatollah regime in Iran in Cologne on 19 July 2008.

The action started at 17:30 with a talk on the human rights situation of Gays and Lesbians in Iran, presented by Dr. Viktor Zimmermann, and continued with a vigil at the Memorial for Lesbian and Gay victims of National Socialism in Cologne at 19:30. Jacek Marjanski from baraka, and Ensi, an Iranian Lesbian refugee from Iran, read the common statement in German and Farsi.

RUBICON, Cologne's counseling center for Gays and Lesbians, also supported the event.

19 July 2008 is the anniversary of the 2005 execution of two homosexual teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, who were believed to be lovers and were denounced to the police by a family member.

Authorities later distributed official information suggesting that the two teenagers were executed because of a rape of a 13-year old boy. In Iran, such accusations are routinely applied against homosexuals to justify a death sentence, since the regular proof by four witnesses (as prescribed by Sharia) can not be realistically supplied.

Gay Homeland Foundation greatly appreciates the accurate research performed by Simon Forbes from the British group Outrage!.

The two executed teenagers will always remind us of the fate of many of our brothers and sisters in Iran who were tortured and murdered by the Ayatollah regime and its death squads.

In today's Iran, Gays and Lesbians still suffer the worst oppression and live in daily fear of denunciation. The country's harsh Islamic regime has declared a downright war against homosexuals, reminiscent of ethnic cleansing in its perfidy: Specially trained agents routinely entrap Gay men in internet forums. In this atmosphere of constant fear, many commit suicide or undergo unnecessary sex-change operations.

The Gay Homeland Foundation (GHF) appeals to the international community to cease deporting Gay and Lesbian asylum-seekers to persecuting countries, and to consider instead the establishment of a self-administered territory for the Gay and Lesbian people.


Many thanks to all those in San Francisco and Cologne for participating in this year's vigils for the hanged gay Iranian teenagers and for working on behalf of acceptance for LGBT Iranian people everywhere.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

New Yorker: Obama = Terrorist Cover,
Maureen Dowd & Petrelis?


Hendrik Hertzberg, staff writer for the New Yorker, on his blog today looks at the past week's controversy over his magazine's satirical cover with Michele and Barack Obama in terrorist drag. He writes:

That cover of ours seems to have kicked off a bit of a fuss. I haven’t read all the comments. Life is short, and when I Google the blogs for “obama ‘new yorker’ cover” I get twenty thousand hits, on top of the 1.75 million I get from a regular search. But I’ve read a sampling.


Oh, like who, for example? Anyone in the mainstream corporate media write something to catch your eye, Mr. Hertzberg?

Nevertheless, our cover seems to have launched a less toxic but still unfortunate meme: the idea that Obama can’t take a joke—that “he’s so tightly wrapped, overcalculated and circumspect that he can’t even allow anyone to make jokes about him,” in Maureen Dowd’s words.


And did any blogs interest you enough to the point that you simply had to link to their writing?

A few commenters on this or that blog have charged that for this or that crazy reason—to get revenge for Hillary’s defeat, to serve our shadowy corporate masters, to help the Republicans, whatever—The New Yorker was bent on damaging Obama and keep him from getting elected President. An extremely marginal view, to be sure. But it may be worth repeating that it’s horseshit. If proof is needed, take a look at this [entry at Petrelis Files]. (Note: At the magazine, Fran├žoise Mouly’s primary responsibility is—wait for it—cover selection.)


Out of millions of hit for this subject, Mr. Hertzberg, you chose only one -- mine. Thanks for linking to and acknowledging the information I uncovered and wrote about. I'm just trying to keep you media folks honest and bring transparency to bear in my media advocacy work.

Of course, what I'd ultimately like from the New Yorker is a dedicated web page listing all of the staff members' donations to politicians; and at the federal, state and local levels, over the past twenty years.

Linking to me is certainly nice and very appreciated, but news and opinion column consumers need full disclosure from the New Yorker, and all mainstream media, on their sites, disclosing donations by executives and editorial staffs.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


HRC v PFAW: Census Bureau Battle Over
Gay Couples' Stats


Thanks to the mainstream corporate media, I learned this week of the Census Bureau, a branch of the Department of Commerce, decision to not count gay and lesbian married couples from California and Massachusetts in the 2010 census for the nation. Legally hitched same-sex couples from those states will instead be classified as "unmarried, same-sex partners."

From the AP wire story:

The agency's director, Steven Murdock, said in an interview Thursday that the 1996 federal law "has that effect, in terms of being a federal agency. We are restricted by it."

The Census Bureau does not ask people about their sexual orientation, but it does ask about their relationships to the head of the household. Many gay couples are listed in census figures as unmarried, same-sex partners, though it is an imperfect tally of all gay couples.

Murdock said the bureau will strive to count same-sex couples in the 2010 census, just as it has in the past. But those people who say they are married will be reclassified as unmarried, same-sex partners.

Same-sex couples with no children will not be classified as families, according the bureau's policy. Those with children who are related to the head of the household will be classified as families.


Since this is without question a federal issue, I figured America's largest Democratic gay political organization, the Human Rights Campaign, would, in response to the outrageous statistical manipulation by a federal agency, at the very least, express some anger in a statement from the group's leader, Joe Solmonese. Maybe even tell us how HRC's has worked with the census bureau leaders over the decades HRC has been in business, and what they've done lately to persuade the federal effort responsible for honestly counting lots of things to do with gay Americans.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Googling the terms Solmonese, census bureau, gays, returned zero number of hits. And the HRC blog wrote nothing this week on the misguided census bureau leader's decision, and certainly no news about HRC's attempt to mobilize the community and our allies to reverse the census bureau's plans. Other than blandly noting what the press was reporting in the Equally Speaking podcast, did HRC actually do anything of substance on this matter?

However, another advocacy outfit in Washington, People For the American Way, at the end of the week, put out a take-charge "we're not gonna take this" release, and also announced launching a petition drive targeting the bureau:

The Census Bureau reported this week that in completing the 2010 Census, it will ‘edit’ the data from same-sex couples who accurately report that they are legally married, and that it will instead re-classify them as “unmarried partners,” the same procedure used by the Bureau during the 2000 census, when no states yet recognized same-sex couples as legally married. That kind of “editing” undermines the Bureau’s mission to provide accurate and high quality data about the U.S. population, and according to a paper on the Bureau’s own website, creates a distorted picture of same-sex households . . .

The paper, “Unbinding the Ties: Edit Effects of Marital Status on Same Gender Couples,” was written in 1999 by two members of the Census Bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch, Population Division. The authors looked at data from the 2000 Census “dress rehearsal,” and drew the following conclusions about the effects of “editing” the responses of same-sex couples from “married” to “unmarried partners”:

“it is clear from the examination of [the] unedited data that households which are identified as ‘married couple’ same gender households are a distinct group from households which are identified as unmarried partner same gender households. By combining these households . . . we [that is, the Census Bureau] are distorting the picture for both of these groups of households.”

And that was before there were same-sex couples recognized in any states as legally married — continuing to “edit” out married gay and lesbian couples in the next Census would create an even greater distortion.

People For the American Way has launched a petition urging the Census Bureau to reverse its policy.


So many words on our behalf from PFAW, in comparison to this from Solmonese and HRC:
"_________________, said Solmonese on behalf of HRC's members.

I'm not a big backer of online petitions and rarely sign them, but in this instance, I broke my standard policy of resisting putting my name on petitions. All because I want to show support for PFAW and how it took action, while the HRC remained silent and organized no effort to change census bureau policies for the benefit of gay Americans.

Maybe HRC didn't receive any marching orders this week from Howard Deans and other Democratic Party bosses on all this, and that's their excuse for inaction.

Regardless of HRC sitting on its hands, if you're interested in signing the PFAW petition, go here.
(Nuttier than peanut butter: David Benkof, formerly David Bianco. Photo credit: Rex Wockner.)

Gays Defend Marriage: Whitest Web Site Ever?

Earlier this week, Pam Spaulding reported on her web site that David Benkof was shutting down his Gays Defend Marriage web site.

Benkof, the genuinely nutty and confused gay man devoted to single-handedly stopping gay marriage by pathologizing and misrepresenting the morals and sexuality of his brethren, through inaccurate opinion columns in daily papers such as the SF Chronicle and NY Post, was also taken to task for his lie by Wayne Besen and his Truth Wins Out site.

About the closure of Benkof's site, Spaulding said:

I'm not quite sure what to make of this development, because David Benkof, advocate of "LGBT folks who support marriage as the union of husband and wife," has announced that he's shutting his blog down and seems to reject the push for Prop 8 in California (but still isn't sure whether he'd vote for it?!).

I'm not sure whether to laugh or feel sorry for the man, but I'm glad he's not tossing his support to the California marriage amendment effort.

And it appears Benkof has kept his promise to shutter his misguided site, while also going one step further in erasing his hatred of his gay brothers and sisters.

The Gays Defending Marriage opening page, and all the other pages there that I had bookmarked, are indeed gone from the web, but what strikes me as most curious is that instead of getting a dead-link and message saying "Server Not Found," you open totally white pages.

Wanna see his last post? It's gone, but check out the polar bear in a blizzard whiteness that remains.

How about glancing at one of his June blog entries on the gay marriage developments in California? He's made it disappear, and now only white nothingness shows up at the link.

Knowing how much Benkof absolutely adores the limelight, don't expect to remain silent or absent from the media or web for very long. And count your blessings we have bloggers Spaulding and Besen, and other fine LGBT bloggers, keeping track of Benkof and challenging his obnoxious nonsense.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gay Scholar Researching HIV Ads;
Requests My Help?

Okay, so I spaced off the original message from Thomas Strong because it seems so far-fetched for a guy like him to be looking for a critic like me to help with scholarly research.

He's contacted me again and will be at tonight's forum on social marketing targeting gays in San Francisco, and he wants to chat in-depth after the meeting. I'm growing more interested in what he has to say about the ads and their impact on gay live, than in trying to persuade him my criticism, and suggestions for better campaigns, should be part of his research.

It's just so heartening to know a real smarty-pants, who as far as I know, is not or has not been employed by or deeply connected to the AIDS industry in San Francisco, is going to be looking at and evaluating the social marketing campaigns.

I sure hope Thomas Strong speaks during public comment tonight. Here's his email to me today:

Hi Again,

Thanks for your message. I append below my original inquiry. I'm a US scholar currently based at the University of Helsinki, but I will be moving to Dublin in August to take up a position at NUI Maynooth beginning this fall. I will be sure to introduce myself to you this evening.

Dear Michael Petrelis,

I am a US cultural anthropologist currently based at the University of Helsinki (in Finland). I am also an avid reader of your blog. While my principle research has been in Papua New Guinea, I am currently starting up new long-term work on HIV in gay male communities in the US (and potentially, in gay communities elsewhere). One aspect of this research concerns ‘social marketing’ campaigns targeting gay men, and more generally, the way in which the gay male community is represented in relation to HIV today in gay and mainstream media, and in the ‘official’ discourse of public health.

I have found your criticisms of many of these campaigns, from their ‘messaging’ to the way in which they are funded and administered, to be both trenchant and unique and I thank you for your on-going writing about this and other subjects.

Right now I am at the very early stages of what I anticipate will be a long-term commitment and research project. I am calling the project ‘Positive Publics.’ I am committed to imagining a social future with HIV in it: as a vaccine or a cure continues to elude us, even as medications prolong life, this has become a more vital problem than ever. Positive Publics aims to uncover ways in which people in diverse settings are imagining and creating such a future.
An aspect of this will be to critique ‘official’ discourse about HIV -- discourse that I think is sometimes troubling for reasons you have been assiduously tracking.

I hope to describe and analyze histories of specific campaigns and debates about them, such as the ‘serosorting’ campaign, ‘HIV stops with me,’ and so on.
I lived for 10 years in San Francisco, from 1996 to 2006, and I vividly remember many of these discussions. I will be in San Francisco from July 8 to August 4 this year to begin sketching out this research, to make some contacts and to conduct some initial interviews. I would very much like to meet with you to hear more about your activism and writing and to learn more about your criticisms of some of the ways in which gay men are represented (and spoken to) today.

Would you be willing to meet with me and perhaps to be interviewed? I hasten to add that like all professional anthropologists, I am bound by certain guidelines with respect to research. Among these is the proviso that if you would like to speak confidentially or anonymously, I am happy to abide by that wish.

My contact information is provided here. I am also an avid user of Skype under the screen-name “Thomas Strong,” please feel free to contact me that way. I might add a personal note. My fiancee, Andrew Leavitt, fondly remembers your inspiring example of street activism in Portland, Oregon, the night that Measure 8 passed. I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely yours,
Thomas Strong, Ph.D.
Staley: Sullivan, Petrelis Not Outraged
Over CDC Gay HIV stats


My queer activist HIV poz brother Peter Staley has started a blog over at the Poz.com site, and one of his entries concerns new HIV figures from the CDC in June, that didn't spark outrage. Let's look at some of his points, which I'll respond to:

I kept looking for a response, from anyone. How about an editorial in a major newspaper? How about an editorial in the gay press? How about the blogosphere?

Never mind a major newspaper or a gay publication getting outraged, both of which have seen their reach and influence diminish in recent years, or a response from the blogosphere. Peter should be asking the billion-dollar plus HIV prevention mafia members to make a response. But even outrage from AIDS Inc may not mobilize gay men in the way Peter wants. I don't know why he wants or thinks an outraged response will do anything to avert new HIV infections.

Andrew Sullivan and Michael Petrelis, two of my favorite gay bloggers, didn’t say a thing about the new stats. They usually post long entries whenever they find a one year “trend” pointing to possible good news on HIV infections in gay men. I guess the latest news has them so stunned they don’t know what to say about it. Michael actually wrote an entry about the CDC’s press release, but didn’t list a single statistic from it. Instead, he thought it was much more important to know if the epidemiologist announcing the news was gay or not.

Peter contradicts himself by first saying I have not weighed in on the stats, but later mentions I did write something, but didn't delve into the CDC stats. That contradiction aside, he should give me some credit for at least being one activist who still does pay attention to such numbers.

I'm not stunned by the CDC latest lame effort to capture the attention of the general American population and the parTying gay community in the days before massive pride parades. The feds have lousy timing to blame for the lack of outraged, or coordinated response from AIDS groups.

As dependable as a Philip Glass composition, the CDC keeps claiming higher rates of new HIV infections, which may be true, but putting out the stats at the worst time of the gay calendar, guarantees a yawn.

Peter might be better off lobbying the CDC to release their annual scary gay HIV stats in January or February, when the community's attention is more sober and receptive to bad news.

Oh wait, I found something on Towleroad.com – an eighteen word bullet in a long list of Andy Towle’s daily dish. It was ten bullets below the lead about “American Gladiators' first-ever gay contestant.” (To be fair, all these bloggers write extensively about AIDS issues – I’m just trying to push them a little to tackle the “gays behaving badly” headlines as well).

Good for Peter for pushing bloggers who confront AIDS issues, but he's missing the much bigger targets who should be outraged -- AIDS service organizations and the CDC, the biggest funder of prevention campaigns and ads in the country, not to mention gay political organizations.

I looked at the sites for AmFAR, SF AIDS Foundation, Stop AIDS Project, SF DPH, and didn't see any statements of outrage from the HIV nonprofit world, except in the newspaper.

I guess the executives of the groups were also out having a good time during pride week. We wouldn't want the six-figure salaried folks breaking into a sweat over the new stats, right? Heck, even if they did say something of substance, it would probably entail asking for more federal money for their failing programs.

So what’s the big news? On June 27th, the CDC released stats showing that the number of young gay men being newly diagnosed with HIV infection is rising by 12 percent a year. The news was big enough for front section articles in both the Washington Post and New York Times. But I guess most readers, including many gay men, just read it and turned the page.

I've lived through too many surges, second-waves, third second-waves, spikes of HIV stats, etc., to get upset over just another alarmist CDC report about supposed rising infections amongst gays.

What did Peter want gay WaPo and NYT readers to do after reading the articles? Plan a march on the CDC in Atlanta? Demand their HIV prevention groups finally mount and maintain a long-term social marketing campaign promoting the anal condom for male-on-male butt sex, a campaign that also respects the rectum? Write a letter to the editor or a member of congress?

Ever since the early years of the AIDS crisis, our government has basically told the gay community “sorry, you’re on your own.” Homophobes in power, like Reagan and Helms and a complicit Congress, made sure that the CDC could never fund effective HIV prevention campaigns targeting gay men (a version of Helms’ “No Promo Homo” amendment is still ensconced in the CDC’s HIV Content Guidelines).

Bravo for Peter for reminding me about that awful amendment, but the fact that it's still dictating CDC' s HIV programs brings me back to a central point. What have the well-funded AIDS and gay rights groups done, with their Democratic Party and moderate GOP political allies, to undo that Helms amendment's lingering stench?

I'm not unpacking anymore of Peter's blog entry, because I think I've made my basic points and I want to move on to something that will hopefully outrage him, and other AIDS advocates.

I propose we accept that HIV prevention is continuing to be a huge failure, despite millions and millions of public dollars thrown at the problem, and instead of wasting those funds on prevention that ain't working, move the dollars into treatment for HIV poz people.

It may be more prudent and effective at stopping new HIV infections, if we put more poz people on AIDS cocktails and into continuous health care, with lots of monitoring blood tests, bring their HIV viral loads down to undetectable, and very unlikely to transmit the virus to uninfected sexual partners. And let's not overlook the HIV poz community on its own, without any funding or assistance from AIDS Inc or the CDC, brought down HIV infections in San Francisco through sero-sorting.

HIV is here to stay and I'm not joining Peter's chorus demanding outrage and a steady crisis mentality deciding HIV prevention issues, when annual CDC stats come out. Treatment will probably so much more to control and prevent new infections in the USA than any loud outrage from gay bloggers.

But in the end, I'm grateful Peter has raised the issues he did on his new Poz.com blog.
(Craig Shniderman preparing food for clients of Food and Friends. Photo credit: Henry Linser, Washington Blade.)

WPost: AIDS Exec Gets 4% Pay Raise;
Cuts Food and Supplements to Patients


The story about Craig Shniderman, the very nicely compensated executive director of Food and Friends, which began in June with a few entries on this blog and excellent stories in the Washington Blade, has picked up steam today thanks to a terrific article on the front-page of the metro section of the Washington Post.

From Philip Rucker's story in the Post this morning:

The cuts come as the District-based charity is facing criticism from some donors, AIDS activists and nonprofit group watchdogs, who say the compensation awarded to the group's longtime chief is too high.

Food & Friends paid Executive Director Craig M. Shniderman $357,447 in salary and benefits last year, and Shniderman, 60, said his salary has increased 4 percent this year. "Food & Friends compensates all of the staff appropriately, and that compensation is not, shall we say, fluctuated according to the momentary circumstances," he said . . .

"[Schniderman's compensation] appears excessive in relation to other nonprofits in related fields," said Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy . . .

"This is way out of whack, and the board really ought to have a heart-to-heart conversation with him," said Doug White, a nonprofit management adviser and author of "Charity on Trial," who reviewed the group's records at The Post's request.

So far, more than 50 comments have been left on the comments page for this story, and an overwhelming majority of the messages are critical of Shniderman's compensation.

The Post story has also generated interest from the Washington Grantmakers Daily, a blog devoted to tracking nonprofits in the DC area:

How much should a nonprofit executive be paid? I don’t know the answer, but I do know it’s not a fun day to be Food & Friends’ CEO or on the F&F board of directors (WaPo, 7/17). ”Out of line” executive compensation, and what one blogger called the ”strong CEO/weak board syndrome,” were hot topics about nine months ago, after the release of the 33 Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice for nonprofits, which didn’t address those issues.

Washington's alternative weekly, the City Paper, also weighed in today the Post article and Shniderman's very comfy salary. With the City Paper writing on the Food and Friends' director's greed, the compensation story has now appeared in the gay, mainstream corporate and alternative weekly press, showing that coverage of AIDS nonprofits and important accountability issues cuts across many political and news media boundaries.

Excerpted from the City Paper's blog:

Is it me? Were you shocked over the Food & Friends honcho’s salary revealed in today’s Post? Executive Director Craig M. Shniderman makes $357,447 . . .

Schniderman makes more than most if not all agency heads in the city. And he runs a non-profit. That simply feeds people . . .

Schniderman’s defense to the paper of record: His salary increased just 4 percent this year. So let me get this straight. He’s been making this huge salary for a couple years now. That’s not much of a defense.

Hey, Craig Shniderman and the board of directors at his fiefdom: The City Paper hits the nail on the head. Your defense for the $357,000 compensation is extremely weak. Do the smart thing. Reconsider cutting Craig's salary, an undoing the cuts in food to people with AIDS and other illnesses, if only because it would generate some good P.R. for your organization, and it can use some positive media coverage.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

SF Homo HIV Hell Has Frozen Over
If there was one thing you could always count from AIDS Inc in San Francisco, it was that it would be a cold day in hell before I was invited to be on a panel at community forum on anything to do with HIV prevention or the clutter of social marketing campaigns assaulting homosexuals.

Well, hell has frozen over and I'm sharpening my ice skates. There will be an "Edge Talk" sponsored by member organizations of AIDS Inc on Thursday starting 6:30 PM at the community center on Market Street, and I'm on the panel.

As one can well imagine, after years of calling for dismantling offensive and incompetent HIV prevention agencies and DPH programs, firing epidemiologists caught manipulating stats, forcing the CDC to audit wasteful community-based groups, and offering much criticism, sometimes loudly, at public meetings for the gay community, I'm not the first, or twelfth, on anyone's list in this town when deciding on official speakers at forums.

The topic is social marketing and good gay health, and sure, it's shocking this leading critic of HIV prevention mafiosi has been invited to speak and be a panel member, the main perpetrator of stigmatizing and ineffectual social ad campaigns, Less Pappas of Better World Advertising agency, is not on the panel.

I hope the discussion, free of Pappas' self-serving domination of earlier forums where he refused to entertain notions that the criticism against his agency's work must be confronted and changed, is a discussion challenging the fundamental theory that social marketing is a necessary component to healthy gay wellness.

The moderator of Thursday's meeting is Michael Scarce, who used to work at the Stop AIDS Project. He's penned an op-ed about gay health in the current Bay Area Reporter. His column is well worth reading in full, and I say that even though I strongly disagree with his contention that nonprofits and local health departments are worthy partners in creating gay health policies free of hysteria, provocation and stigmatizing messages. I view those agencies more as part of the problem than any solution and think the best thing AIDS Inc could do is give us a break from their propaganda.

Here's some of Scarce's BAR piece:

This is why several organizations and community members are collaborating to produce "EdgeTalk: Queer Men's Wellness" – a series of monthly community forums on "edgy" topics related to the health of gay, bi, and trans men. I know what you're thinking: "Yawn – another workshop, another panel discussion – Zzzzzzz ..." But the EdgeTalk series, like our health movement, involves more than just a laundry list of current issues or one-shot events. These forums offer an opportunity to meet others who want to transform gay men's health by taking control of our own wellness, on our own terms.

It has become clear that a gay men's health movement can only emerge from the ground up. Government health agencies and community organizations can play a role as partners, but they cannot single-handedly accomplish what we need: a radical and sustainable shift in how we approach gay men's health. The gay men's health movement will not manifest without a visible and public expression of need from a critical mass of community members.

One clear hurdle is to go beyond addressing gay men's health primarily through a lens of HIV prevention. This approach is inherently limited and problematic: it draws on a disease model driven by crisis and fear, and it foregrounds individual deficits by blaming and shaming rather than affirming collective assets such as our resilience and innovation. The prioritizing of HIV above all other health concerns for our entire community, often in contradiction to how we live and love, itself poses a unique threat to our health.

Click here for more info on the town hall meeting on July 17. And I hope to see you there and hear your opinion on gay social marketing targeting our eyeballs.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Stop AIDS Project:
Meeting HIV Prevention Needs of Gays?


I'm on a panel this coming Thursday at the gay community center, addressing the matters of gay health needs and social marketing campaigns. Click here for more info on the forum.

In order to be fully prepared for this important community discussion, I've been poking around the Stop AIDS Project web site, to understand their latest cutting-edge HIV prevention messages and campaigns. One thing that shocked me was some of their info on PEP wasn't current. This is from the agency's HIV 101 page:
If your exposure [to HIV] was within 72 hours, you could be eligible for a study that might prevent the virus from taking hold in your body. The study, called P.E.P., or Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, would give you a course of anti-HIV medications that may decrease the odds of infection by 81%. Call 415-514-4737 (or 4PEP) for more info.
That phone number has been disconnected and there's no recording about what new number to call. I hate to think that someone at high-risk for HIV infection checks out Stop AIDS Project pages for PEP info, tries that number to get treated with PEP medications, hears that it's been disconnected, and gives up seeking help through PEP.

On the up side of good prevention info, the Stop AIDS Project does promote the anal condom as a tool to stop new infections.

Of questionable value is the latest Stop AIDS Project social marketing campaign, provoking gay men to question if they and their sex partners are "iffy" about knowing their HIV status. Sowing doubt and distrust about oneself and potential sex partners has been a primary message of the group since its inception, with no end in sight to the divisive campaigns.

Too bad the leaders at Stop AIDS Project are not investing precious HIV prevention dollars on ads educating sexually active gays about the anal condom. Why do such a campaign when we all know the surest way for a butt-bottom to acquire HIV is through unprotected intercourse? Imagine a reduction of new infections because HIV poz tops are engaging in anal sex with their bottoms wearing anal condoms! And all because this community-based group uses social marketing tactics to instill better and safer butt-sex practices.

We all know such a radical approach is not going to happen in the near future, or ever, if the careerists at Stop AIDS Project continue with their business as usual approach, but I'm hopeful they'll at least provide the correct telephone number to get PEP.

New Yorker Magazine Editors Gave $4,800 to Obama;
Conde Nast Directors Donated to Dubya, Giuliani


There's a loud roaring debate rumbling through the political and media worlds today, all thanks to a viciously offensive and satirical New Yorker magazine cover this week, showing Barack and Michelle Obama in Osama bin-Laden and Angela Davis drag, fist-bumping in the Oval Office, as Old Glory burns in the fireplace.

Controversy aside, I wanted to know who, not if, at the New Yorker had donated to Obama and how much they contributed, and searching the FEC archive I found that editors gave a collective total of $4,800 to his campaign effort.

The largest donation, $2,300, came in February from Francois Mouly, the art director for the magazine. She decides what goes on the cover. Writer and editor Roger Angell gave $500 to Obama, also during the primary race; while staff writer Joshua Hersh and theater critic John Lahr each $1,000 to him in 2007.

Small potatoes really, but Obama's campaign might consider returning those donations, if only to send one more note of unhappiness to the magazine and the illustration gracing its cover today.

I also searched FEC records for donations from several top officers at Conde Nast, the corporate media giant that owns the New Yorker, and found some interesting nuggets of news.

The current CEO, Charles H. Townsend contributed $500 to Gov. George W. Bush in 1999 for his first White House run, and Richard D. Beckman, in charge of Conde Nast's media group division, forked over $2,300 during 2007 to Rudy Giuliani's presidential committee.

Isn't it great that we live in a country that allows for annoying political cartooning, and where media-owner moguls and journalists at leading political publications can freely write checks to presidential candidates, and no blood is shed from either the drawings? America, you're beautiful.

And now, I've got to run out and buy a copy of the latest New Yorker and read the damn thing.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Pink Pistols Leader Denies He's Behind
NRA's Gay Gun Lawsuit
For quite some time, Tom Boyer has been a very public face for the Pink Pistols gun group. He's promoted his views in the mainstream corporate media, and in the gay and alternative press, talking about hate crimes, the NRA, and learning to use weapons for self-protection.

Back in January he penned a letter the San Francisco Sentinel, talking trash about the city's attempt to reduce gun violence and improve civilian safety, which is costing local taxpayers lots of money:
The state appeals court has refused to revive San Francisco’s Proposition H ban on handgun possession. The City will now have to pay legal expenses of the NRA.

Even though Supervisors Chris Daly, Bevan Dufty, Tom Ammiano, Matt Gonzalez, and Ross Mirkarimi were advised that this misadventure would fail in the court, they ignored legal advice in pushing fake crime control.

San Franciscans should ask themselves how they feel to be deceived by these Supervisors, and to have their hard earned tax money flushed down the toilet.
Boyer's address on the letter is listed as being on Valencia Street, in the block where Valencia Gardens public housing project is located. He's also identified as a Pink Pistols spokesman, and find myself again, as I have over the many years I've known Boyer, in serious opposition and political disagreement with his worship of guns and the National Rifle Association.

I've suspect that Boyer is the Guy Doe listed as the petitioner on the recent NRA lawsuit against the city's gun control policies, and as they apply specifically to public housing.

During the last week of June, the day after the Supreme Court handed down a favorable Second Amendment decision, the suit was filed, generated tremendous media coverage, none of which kicked around the question of who is Guy Doe. Since this anonymous man is costing the city thousands of dollars in legal fee responding to the filing, with the potential of thousands, possibly millions, more in city funds spent fending off the NRA, I'd like the press to delve into Mr. Doe, his motives and fears of being a hate crime victim.

Click here to read the 200-plus Google News hits on the suit and the no-name gay guy bringing the legal petition.

I spoke with Boyer about all this when I ran into him at the farmers market during the week, and followed up with an email exchange, which is shared below.

Me to him:
I'm drafting a post that I want to get up on my blog regarding my belief that you're the 'anonymous' gay gun owner living in Valencia Gardens who's behind the NRA lawsuit.

There's some evidence that you are the person referred to in the suit. Are you the gay pistol owner on whose behalf the suit was filed?

I'd like to include a quote from you, reacting both to my question and the filing of the suit.

Boyer's response:
Thanks for giving me a chance to respond. The article that appeared in the Chronicle seemed to have indicated that the gun owner possessed a gun in his apartment. I myself am in no violation of the lease, which prohibits firearms, swords, water pistols, or anything that looks like a weapon.

So my answer is there is no gun in my apartment.

There is more than one gay man at Valencia Gardens, and I feel that his wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retribution are valid.

My reply to him:
Thanks for the fast reply.

I wonder if you are willing to go on the public record and state unequivocally that you are not the gay gun owner behind the NRA lawsuit? Your reply above was vague on this point.

You say there is no gun in your apartment at this time, but that is not a clear denial of being the gay guy behind the suit.

Also, from whom exactly does the gay gun owner fear retribution? The Housing Authority? A member of the Board of Supervisors or the Mayor?

Many of the articles on the suit mention this fear, but give no indication of who would exact retribution from the petitioner over his lawsuit.

And, finally, his response:
Once again Michael, thanks for holding off until I could respond.

Because there are a number of gay men living at Valencia Gardens, any answer from me will tend to identify the anonymous plaintiff, thus I will not answer that question.

As for the concern of retribution, one will have to ask the anonymous plaintiff.

I said earlier my suspicions are that Boyer is the anonymous petitioner, and his evasive answers to my questions and weak denials reinforce my belief he's intimately involved in the NRA suit.

Regardless of my personal suspicions, the San Francisco press and City Hall politicians should ask a few questions about this Guy Doe and his love of the NRA and fear of crime.

Saturday, July 12, 2008



Picketing at
HRC's Clothing Outlet in SF

The weather and air-quality in San Francisco today couldn't be more terrific. The morning fog is gone, the temperature is pleasant and there's strong breeze blowing. Factors that I thought would keep the number of protesters at the pro-tranny and HRC-accountability action at the Human Rights Campaign's store down to one or two.

But over the course of an hour, more than twenty protesters showed up to distribute flyers, offer rainbow stickers and leis, and engage Castro District shoppers and residents in conversation about changes needed at HRC. I snapped a few photos, which I share here, with commentary, of course. And excerpts from the tranny press release sent out earlier this week follow the pics.

Today's fun-filled political action was a small preview of the important anti-HRC demonstration that happens on July 26 outside the Westin St. Francis hotel. I'll be there, along with a lot more people than the handful at this afternoon's picket. Join the fun on July 26 and hold HRC accountable!

Part of the colorful, in more ways than one, crew of picketers. On the left, in blue shirt, is tranny and labor activist Robert Haaland. Fourth from the left is John Newsome, gay and anti-racist organizer of today's action. I don't know the IDs of anyone else in this line-up.

Even Robert's dog wanted to be in the pics!

Dressed in blue and gold, aw, just like the HRC equal logo, is a store employee, talking to two muscle bear members of HRC. Notice the same color scheme of the plates, bowls and napkins. Those HRC queens can be too much with the
party decorations, girlfriend!

Just what I've never wanted: Faded underwear with the damn HRC logo sewn in the waistband, right above the hole where a cock would piss from. Cock-hound brothers, would you agree with me that the one area gay men are certainly not equal is in
the meat department?


Snippets from the press release:

We Declare Independence from the Human Rights Campaign!

Next Saturday, July 12 @ noon, the San Francisco LGBT community will celebrate its Independence from the Human Rights Campaign by re-introducing the rainbow flag, created right here in San Francisco thirty years ago, as a symbol of LGBT liberation. Rainbow flag stickers will be provided to any and all who want them -- particularly former HRC members looking to cover up HRC bumper stickers.

The Independence day event is in response to HRC's ongoing refusal to support federal legislation that actually protects all LGBT people from employment discrimination.

According to Wikipedia, "The LGBT rainbow flag or Gay pride flag is a symbol of LGBT pride and LGBT social movements in use since the 1970s. The colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, and the flag is often used as a symbol of gay pride in LGBT rights marches. It originated in the United States, but is now used worldwide ... After the November 27, 1978, assassination of openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, demand for the rainbow flag greatly increased ..."

By contrast, sometime during the early 1990s, HRC introduced its own, purely-domestic, impostor flag, two gold bars -- symbolizing wealth? We're not sure.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

(The San Francisco sewage treatment facility that may be renamed for Dubya.)

LAT: White House Official Not Amused
by Bush Sewage Plant Idea


If I do say so myself, as an activist blogger quoted nicely in the LA Times story today by their San Francisco report John Glionna, I think the article is excellent and shows how one city is preparing for the end of the Bush administration. Very glad to see Glionna phoned the White House to get a (non)-reaction. From the LA Times:
Republicans aren't amused by the gesture.

"It doesn't dignify a response," White House spokesman Trey Bohn said of the initiative.

State Republicans also call the idea offensive.

"These silly stunts provide no benefit to a city that has its share of serious problems," said Hector Barajas, a spokesman for the California Republican Party. "I don't find the humor in spending government time and money on issues of no significance. It's downright foolish."

The sewage plant proposal has been picked up on blogs from San Francisco to London. San Franciscan Michael Petrelis signed the petition and then wrote about the signature drive on his blog. "It's been a frustrating eight years," he said in an interview, "and these kind of creative outlets for our anger are very healthy."

McConnell said the ballot measure was no joke.

"This is part of the long tradition of political satire," he said. "While on some levels it is a joke, the point is serious, which is to provoke a discussion about the Bush administration's legacy."

Moscow's July 19 Protest Over Iran's Gay Hangings

For the third year in a row, members of Russia's LGBT community will commemorate Iran's barbaric hanging of two gay teenagers in 2005. Nikolai Alexeyev made the announcement about a picket next week through the Interfax news agency:
Activists of Russian gay movement intend July 19 to picket the Embassy of Iran in Moscow for the third time to protest against prosecution of sexual minorities in that country.

"We sent letters to the President of Russia and Iran ambassador to Russia, and we picketed the Embassy of Iran in Moscow. This year should not be an exception. We need to continuously remind the state authorities [of Iran - IF] that the death penalty must be abolished," Nikolay Alexeyev, the picket and Moscow gay parade initiator, said Monday to Interfax-Religion.

Russian gay community organized similar pickets in 2006 and 2007, on the day of execution by Iran authorities of two teenagers charged with homosexual relations in 2005. Alexeyev said that members of Russian gay movement had from the start "made continuous protests against this medievalism." . . .
Activists in San Francisco will also be in the streets on July 19 to call for an end to Iran's mistreatment of LGBT people in the Islamic Republic. Click here for more info on the San Francisco action, along with photos from the hanging of the Iranian gay teenagers. For more info on the gay Russian organization, click here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


FOIA Requests:
Any FBI Files on Jesse Helms or Tim Russert?


The other day, I had reason to look again at the 534 pages of the FBI's file on the Gay Activists Alliance posted on the agency's web site, which still doesn't have a link to the 1,113 pages the FBI has on the Gay Liberation Front, and after I read the GAA file I had a look at the 5-page file on singer Marvin Gaye.

This is how the FBI describes what's in the Gaye pages, dated from October 1977:
Marvin Gaye, a singer, who performed on stage for a fee of $40,000 per performance, was paid by his production company. However, when he arrived in both Richmond and Norfolk, he insisted he hadn't received the $40,000 from either city and they had to pay him again before he would perform. The company who sponsored Gaye's performance made $10,000 less than it was paid out, therefore, they tried to recover the money they paid out twice.
Sure is curious to see how FBI resources and staff time were spent on a payment dispute with the great soul singer, and it got me thinking about two recent powerful men who died recently, and if the FBI has files on either one of them -- former GOP Sen. Jesse Helms and NBC newsman Tim Russert.

Federal law allows that once a person is deceased, his or her FBI can be requested and released to the media or members of the general public, pursuant to FOIA regulations and requirements. The feds require that such requests have an obituary or death notice attached, as proof that the person is actually dead.

To get the process underway, I snail mailed and emailed FOIA requests to the FBI asking the bureau for any records on Helms or Russert.

Not sure what might be in a file on either man, if the FBI has any files on them. I suspect there's likely to be one on Helms, because of all the political enemies and controversies he attracted over his long tenure doing damage in the Senate chamber. And there must be quite a few things in the agency's archive on Russert, who was interviewed by FBI agents over his knowledge of and involvement in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Here's a copy of my FOIA request related to Helms. A very similar one for Russert is on it's way to FBI headquarters.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Record Information/Dissemination Section
FOIA Officer
170 Marcel Drive
Winchester, VA 22602-4843

Dear Sir or Madam,

Under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, I am hereby requesting copies of, or access, any and all FBI records or files related to former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, who passed away on July 4.

I am requesting any such FBI records on him in all media formats, print or digital or audio/visual, but would most appreciate it if your agency can provide me with any records in electronic format.

Enclosed is an obituary for Sen. Helms that appeared in the New York Times newspaper on July 5.

If you have need for clarification or have any questions, please contact me at 415-xxx-xxxx.

Sincerely,
Michael Petrelis


(An art opening last November for Alex Lati at the soon to close Tel Aviv cafe. Photo Credit: Alex Lati.)

Israeli Gay Cafe Closing; Texas Gay Bar Reopening

The death of another gay commercial gathering is being reported, this time in Tel Aviv, and a local news story on the pending closure of the cafe makes note of similar ends to gay bars in other major world cities, according to a story in the daily Haaretz paper this week. An excerpt from the article:
Last month, the owners of the Cedamus Amori bar in Nahalat Binyamin in Tel Aviv announced its closing after a year and a half. Cedamus was one of the few places of entertainment in the city serving the gay-lesbian community. Previously the Minerva and Carpe Diem bars, which catered to the community, also closed. A few years ago there were about seven "pick-up" bars and places of entertainment for the gay community; now only Evita on Yavne Street remains, along with parties in various bars and nightclubs, which cater to members of the gay-lesbian community.

The closing of entertainment spots for gays in Tel Aviv is part of an overall trend in big cities the world over . . .


(The owner of the Denton gay bar after it was damaged and closed. Photo credit: Dallas Voice.)
Meanwhile, back in Denton, Texas, a gay bar that closed after a robbery and fire brought the establishment to ruin last year, is about to reopen, reports the Dallas Voice, a gay weekly that extensively covers the LGBT politics and social lives down in the Lone Star state. Here's the gist of the story:
More than a year after a fire set during a burglary destroyed Mabel Peabody’s Beauty Shop and Chainsaw Repair in March 2007, Denton’s only LGBT bar is just weeks away from reopening.

That’s a promise the former patrons have heard over and over again since shortly after the bar was destroyed — but this time it’s for real, according to owner Kelly Sanders.

“This is so funny because I’ve been saying four to six weeks for eight months, so I don’t know,” Sanders said. “But now I really can’t imagine it would be any longer than that.”

The difference now that makes Sanders so sure? Permits to finish renovating a new location came through June 27 after more than a year of delays . . .
International news reports on the demise of gay bar culture are greatly exaggerated, in my opinion. And let me remind folks that a new gay leather watering hole opened for business on San Francisco's Folsom Street in April, Chaps II, and from all accounts is doing boffo business. Not only that, but the Hole in the Wall saloon, which used to be on 8th Street, has successfully relocated on the famed leather strip. That makes three thriving gay leather S/M bars on a two-block radius of Folsom Street, the third being the Powerhouse.

If I were a drinking man, I'd visit these local places, just to see what gay bar life is like today in San Francisco.