Sunday, August 31, 2008

Palin 4 Governor Scrubbed From Web;
URL Goes to McCain 4 Prez

Did I imagine following a link from a mainstream news web site to a URL for the Sarah Palin for Governor web site on Friday?

Could be, after all, I've been following lots of links since the news broke that John McCain has picked a person truly unqualified to beat a heart beat away from the presidency. Maybe the logo above was from a different Palin for Governor site.

All I know tonight is that when I click on, I wind up on the site for McCain's campaign.

If I want to look at the now-removed site, it's only available through the web archive site.

Go here to read the archived list of date-stamped posting from the Palin campaign.

Looking for the list of practically every event Palin spoke or appeared at during her run for governor? Click here to see it.

Want a concise roster of her opinions on the important issues facing Alaskan voters? You will find it here.

Or you can just read it here. Frankly, it's not a good sign of faith in what was posted if any sitting governor has her most recent campaign web site scrubbed from the web, but when it's the governor who just may be our next vice president, potentially president, the scrubbing gives me the sense the McCain campaign did not adequately vet Palin.

From Palin's former site:

PHILOSOPHY IN GOVERNING - I look forward to building a team that will put Alaskans first! I believe in fairness and inclusion and will call on the public to work together for Alaska's common good. I refuse to use divisive tactics that polarize us for political gain. As Mayor of Wasilla, the fastest growing area of Alaska; as President of the Alaska Conference of Mayor; as Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; and as a business owner and mom, I approached issues with a fair, balanced, common sense approach. I love the challenge of hiring and appointing the best people to serve with me and I will bring this positive approach to Alaska as Governor. In building a public service team, my commitment to my home state is to always put Alaskans first and never allow special interests to take advantage of us. I know that government has its place, and it should be limited. My focus is on education, public safety, infrastructure and access to our resources. As manager of our vast public resources, the Governor must act as an effective CEO on behalf of all Alaskans in negotiating the best deals for the state, and I am prepared to tackle that challenge.

GASLINE - I am a conservative Republican, a firm believer in free market capitalism. A free market system allows all parties to compete, which ensures the best and most competitive project emerges, and ensures a fair, democratic process. I will communicate progress on gasline negotiations to the public.

My Administration will pursue the plan that is best for ALL Alaskans. All qualified and viable proposals and applicants will be considered. How do we get there? Through a two-step process.

First, we acknowledge that the Stranded Gas Development Act (SGDA), under which the previous Administration negotiated with the �Big Three� producers (ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and BP), no longer applies. The producers want to amend the SGDA to fit their proposed contract within the technical confines of that law. However, the Legislature's own experts have testified that the gas can no longer be deemed �stranded� due to long-term economic conditions. More>>

EDUCATION - I envision a world class educational system founded upon the principles of safety, quality, social responsibility, parental involvement and fiscal accountability.

Education is a service the state is mandated to provide. I strongly believe in providing an adequate level of funding to ensure high quality public schools. However, it will take more than money alone to pave the way toward better schools � it's also going to take commitment and collaboration with all school districts and REAA's to raise student performance and achievement. School districts must be held accountable at all times for the manner in which they expend public money. More>>

UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA - I support our University system. It's a resource. It's an economic driver. And for Alaskans, it's a cornerstone of pride.

The University of Alaska system plays a critical role in our identity as a state. Not only does the University system attract Alaska's best and brightest students, it's home to world-class faculty and the most diverse campus distribution in the country. The University of Alaska provides students the opportunity to learn in one of the most unique environments in the world.

My administration will continue to fund the University of Alaska at an appropriate level. The U of A was consistently under-funded starting in the mid-1980's. Only recently have budgets reflected the cost of operating the University system plus inflation.

My administration will take advantage of the opportunities presented by having a world-class University system:

Research - Research is a huge part of how a University can help pay its own way. The University of Alaska is currently leveraging federal dollars for research to the tune of $1 in state funds for every $7 in federal funds. The $130 million received annually in research dollars is an investment in our students and our U of A system.

Workforce Development - The time is now to prepare the workforce for the gasline economy. Job Training Initiatives will be put in place for the jobs needed to build and operate a gas pipeline

Healthcare - My administration will expand the nursing program and WWAMI slots to allow for more healthcare providers.

Affordability � We have no needs-based aid for Alaska students. Governor Murkowski tried to put 20 million in the budget for aid, but the Legislature rejected it. Lets make our own University available to students who might otherwise go without higher education.

Deferred Maintenance � Currently we have a $400 million backlog in deferred maintenance. I commit to working with the University to ensure that our facilities are safe and well maintained.

PERMANENT FUND - I oppose tapping the Permanent Fund without a vote of the people and will stand up against those who would use it to pay for expanding government. The Fund is the investment we leave to future generations. The dividend is an important part of our economy and for some families this income is critical to their survival.

ALASKA AGRICULTURE - As we look for ways to enhance Alaska’s renewable resource industries, we need to look toward growing our $30 million agricultural industry.

The important thing to keep in mind as we look to find these ways is to establish open communications with the industry. My administration will seek the input from farmers and agricultural organizations that want to see this industry prosper. More>>

COMMERCIAL FISHING - Unanimously endorsed by the United Fishermen of Alaska

Fish Platform: Do What's Right For Alaska’s Fishing Communities
• "Resource First" Philosophy
• Professional ADF&G Management with Adequate Funding
• Fishery Advisor
• Balanced Board and Council Appointments
• Aggressive Marketing Campaign
• No Fish Farming

I am not only a champion for Alaska’s fishing industry, but a part of it. My family is proud to be a Bristol Bay fishing family. That’s why, as Governor I will do what’s right for Alaska’s fishing communities. I know the resource must come first in our management decisions. If we manage for abundance, we should have enough fish for all our needs. More>>

SUBSISTENCE AND PERSONAL USE OF FISH & GAME RESOURCES - I am pro-subsistence for all Alaskan's.

I have always strongly supported the personal use of fish and game by Alaskans. I grew up hunting and fishing in Alaska, and I am proud to raise my children with this same uniquely Alaskan heritage. From a statewide perspective, personal use of fish and game is an integral part of our Alaskan culture and feeds our spirit as well as our families, whether we are fishing for personal use on the Kenai, hunting for moose on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, or fishing for kings at Scandinavian Beach in Dillingham.

The personal use of fish and game, or subsistence, has been a very divisive issue over the past three decades. Tony Knowles failed to resolve the subsistence impasse despite having called five special sessions of the Alaska Legislature during his two terms as Governor. Mr. Knowles promises now that his sixth attempt at the Legislature will be the charm, but I don't buy it.

Let's remember, our Constitution already embodies language in Article 8, section 4, which gives us the flexibility to write public law and regulations to define the terms among beneficial uses that will work in times of shortage. I intend to do just that. I don't believe another effort to push for a Constitutional amendment at this time will unify Alaskans. I will not make a campaign promise for my own personal political gain that I do not believe can be kept.

Like most Alaskans, I believe that in times of shortage, Alaskans who need the resource most to feed themselves and their families should be able to harvest that resource first. I believe we can work together and find a common sense solution to the issues surrounding the use of our fish and game resources. We must be vigilant to manage our resources for abundance so there are no shortages. Alaskans have to unify on this issue, finally.

I will exercise the flexibility given to us under our Constitution and bring together a fairly represented and politically balanced group of stakeholders and organizations. Anti-hunting groups who oppose hunting and fishing rights will be the winners if we allow them to pit us against ourselves.

As an Alaskan with strong beliefs on this issue, I am confident in my ability to build consensus among diverse user groups and reconcile the many competing interests in a manner infinitely more effective than Tony Knowles, and as Governor, I pledge to work towards this goal.

SMALL BUSINESS - Alaska's small business owners are the backbone of our regional economies. Small Alaskan-owned businesses should have just as much say in state policy as the big companies do. Our precious businesses are major employers of Alaskans and keep Alaska's money circulating through our economy. As Mayor and CEO of the booming city of Wasilla, my team invited investment and encouraged business growth by eliminating small business inventory taxes, eliminated personal property taxes, reduced real property tax mill levies every year I was in office, reduced fees, and built the infrastructure our businesses needed to grow and prosper.

TRANSPORTATION - An efficient and functional transportation system is absolutely vital to our economy. Throughout history, strong transportation systems have been the cornerstone of economic growth and success throughout the world. It is equally important in Alaska, where so much of our state is remote and still not connected by roads. Transportation infrastructure is a basic necessity that Alaska must have to succeed and prosper. Improvement and expansion to our aging network of public facilities, roads, harbors, airports, and rail is required for any development, and gas line construction success. A highly functional, well-maintained, statewide transportation network of public facilities, roads, ferries, trains, and airports is required, to improve Alaska's economy and the quality of life for ALL Alaskans. More>>

TOURISM - I recognize the importance of Alaska's tourism industry and want to see more independent travelers �find� our great state. I support developing tourism infrastructure in rural communities that are inviting this economic development, and I will l work tirelessly to promote Alaska in a positive, responsible and respectful manner.

OPEN PIT MINING - As part of a Bristol Bay fishing family myself, I would not support any resource development that would endanger the most sensitive and productive fishery in the world.

The State of Alaska has stringent laws and regulations already in place to prevent environmental problems. As Governor, I will empower our state regulators, oversight officers, and scientists to do their jobs in all areas of resource development. I promise all Alaskans my administration will enforce the laws to the letter and ensure protection of our fishing and environmental resources so they will not be compromised or endangered by development.

The Pebble Mine is a lightening rod for any discussion of open pit mining. The Pebble management firm, Northern Dynasty Mines, Inc., has not yet submitted a plan for public review and comment so the specific impacts are unknown. From completion of exploration to development could take 10 years or better because of permitting issues, public hearings and lawsuits. Northern Dynasty has a legal right to complete its studies and submit applications before the state judges the costs and benefits of the project.

TIMBER AND MINING - These industries have played a key role in Alaska's history and can continue to play a major role in our future. Demanding safe and responsible operations gives us the ability to address local and national concerns about these industries so they can continue to provide needed jobs for Alaskans.

ALASKA'S SENIORS - I support funding our Seniors Longevity Bonus Program so the program can phase out on schedule, in agreement with public discussion years ago. The program was declining and it was a shame to see our esteemed pioneers face broken promises when they were prematurely lopped off the program. I also support home and community based assistance programs, which are more cost effective than institutional alternatives and also allow seniors to stay in their homes and communities with dignity. Senior citizens will be respected in my administration and will receive our full respect and support. They are my delight and I will not let them down.

ALASKA'S MILITARY - Thank you military personnel! I support you. I respect our military personnel and understand the importance of Alaska's National Guard. As I watched our military men and women being deployed I recognized how important it is for their families to know how much Alaska and America support them. I believe in �promoting from within� to provide continued good leadership that truly understands Alaska and will partner with our elected leaders to support our troops.

HEALTH CARE - Obviously, high medical costs are hurting Alaskans and our Medicaid budget has quadrupled in the past 10 years. Solutions to this problem are complex, and no one person has all the answers. I look forward to working with affected parties to find the necessary solutions that will lead to more affordable health care for Alaskans. I support flexibility in government regulations that allow competition in health care that is needed, and is proven to be good for the consumer, which will drive down health care costs and reduce the need for government subsidies. I also support patients in their rightful demands to have access to full medical billing information.

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT - I will leverage job-training dollars through efficiencies in government, private sector partnerships, and responsible investments in job training opportunities that result in good jobs for Alaskans. I look forward to working with a cross section of citizen advisors who represent private sector employers' educational institutions, union and non-union training programs and other workforce development professionals on the Alaska Workforce Investment Board. With their advice, we can meet the rapidly growing need for trained workers. I am a strong proponent of vocational and technical curriculum in our schools and will focus on this area to get our workforce ready for the future. I don't want to see an importation of Alaska's workforce when we have untapped talent here in the state, anxious for training and anxious for the opportunity to work.

GUN RIGHTS - I am a lifetime member of the NRA, I support our Constitutional right to bear arms and am a proponent of gun safety programs for Alaska's youth.

PUBLIC SAFETY - I support adequate funding for a strong public safety presence in Alaska. Feeling safe in our communities is something we cannot accept any compromise on. This includes policing in all its forms, the court system, prosecutors and corrections. If the legislature passed a death penalty law, I would sign it. We have a right to know that someone who rapes and murders a child or kills an innocent person in a drive by shooting will never be able to do that again.

SOCIAL ISSUES - I am pro-life and I believe that marriage should only be between and man and a woman. I am opposed to any expansion of gambling in Alaska.

ENVIRONMENT AND COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT - I believe in protecting Alaska's environment through fair enforcement of our environmental laws. Having a clean record on environmental regulation is critical to getting ANWR open and maintaining our fisheries mining, timber, and tourism industries. I would also revisit the change in regulations on the Alaska Coastal Zone Management program in which the past administration by eliminating the rights of local districts to write specific local enforceable policies on important issues like subsistence.

FISH AND GAME ENFORCEMENT - The previous administration's merging of the Fish and Wildlife Troopers into the State Troopers was and remains a big mistake. Fish and wildlife enforcement will never win out over public safety and the state has seen a significant decline in fish and wildlife protection and successful wildlife crime prosecution. Currently, the Department of Public Safety isn't even recruiting candidates with backgrounds or educations in wildlife biology or resource management. As a lifelong Alaskan who grew up hunting and fishing, I recognize the importance of proper wildlife management to ensure that our fish and wildlife thrive. I will reinstate the Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection to ensure effective fish and game enforcement.

(Miss Wasilla 1984, Sarah Heath.)

Kristol, 06/29: McCain Will Pick Palin;
'Go For The Gold' With Sarah

Either conservative writer Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and opinion columnist at the New York Times, has a crystal ball, one with remarkable accuracy at predicting the GOP presidential ticket's future, or, he was among John McCain's tight circle of advisers who guided him in choosing Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Here's the pertinent part of the transcript from the June 29 edition of Fox News Sunday:

CHRIS WALLACE (host): Bill, how important the Clintons, and will Bill Clinton stop sulking in his tent like Achilles and behave?

KRISTOL: Psychoanalyzing Bill Clinton is a tough role, a tough task. I think Hillary Clinton was gracious. She's put behind her the horrible sexism and misogyny the Democratic primary voters demonstrated, which I'm appalled by, personally. Never would have happened in the Republican Party. You know, we're -- Republicans are much more open to strong women. And that's why McCain's going to put Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, on the ticket as vice president.

WALLACE: Is that your prediction?

KRISTOL: That's my -- I'm moving from [Louisiana Gov. Bobby] Jindal to Palin. I'm being even bolder. She's fantastic, yeah. You know, she was the point guard on the Alaska state championship high school basketball team in 1982. She could take Obama one-on-one on the court. Be fantastic.

Anyway, I do think -- I actually think Sarah Palin would be a great vice presidential pick, and it would be interesting to actually -- to have a woman on the Republican ticket after Hillary Clinton has come so close and failed on the Democratic side.

JUAN WILLIAMS (National Public Radio correspondent and Fox News contributor): Well, I think -- how about Colin Powell on the McCain ticket? Don't you think that would be a winner?

KRISTOL: No, no, no.


KRISTOL: That's, again, misogynist thinking. You're not --

WILLIAMS: Misogynist thinking.

KRISTOL: I think you've got to go for the gold here with Sarah Palin.

The transcript comes from the people at the Media Matters advocacy organization. And here is a video of that Fox show and Kristol's amazingly correct guess of who the GOP Veep contender would be this year:

Saturday, August 30, 2008

(Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) are shown at the Alaskan State Fair in this undated 2007 photo in Palmer, Alaska. Photo by Clark James Mishler/Getty Images)

Stevens Silent on Sarah's Selection;

Photo of Senator & Palin in Happier Times

Usually, when a person from a senator's state is picked to be a Supreme Court justice or run on a major party's presidential ticket, the U.S. senators from that state, especially if the party in question is the one he or she belongs to, release statements hailing the pick.

On Friday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of the GOP, issued a statement about McCain choosing Gov. Sarah Palin as his Veep running mate, as posted on her official web site:

“John McCain has taken a bold step today in choosing Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate. Gov. Palin has risen to every challenge she’s faced, and her choice is historic for Alaska and for the women of America. Sarah brings a great deal of excitement to the campaign and she makes Alaskans proud. Gov. Palin understands and is a leader on the most crucial issue facing our nation today -- energy. Her candidacy will highlight Alaska's critical role as a state that can help meet our nation's energy needs through domestic oil and gas exploration and development. Sarah has built an impressive record as Governor of Alaska, and she will bring a valuable outside-the-beltway perspective to John McCain's candidacy. Gov. Palin is smart, energetic and her choice as the Republican vice presidential candidate represents a new direction in the race for the White House.”

Now compare that with what Ted Stevens, Alaska's other GOP senator who's facing federal corruption charges, had to say about Palin's history-making entry onto the 2008 presidential ticket:

"_________________________________________," said Sen. Ted Stevens in remarks posted on his senatorial web site.

I get the serious impression powerful GOP forces are working to separate Stevens from Palin. The last release posted on Stevens' site is about him giving permission for the establishment of a legal defense fund on his behalf, as he fights to save his political career.

Good thing the folks at Getty Images have released a photo of Stevens and Palin in happier times, to remind the public of their link to each other.

Speaking of separating these two GOP Alaskans, a video disappeared from a site belonging to Palin. As noted yesterday on the site:

That was quick. This morning, an ad from Sarah Palin's 2006 gubernatorial campaign featuring an endorsement from scandal-plagued Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was available on Palin's campaign Web site . . . but now the Stevens ad has already been scrubbed. The link is no longer on her campaign site.

But don't despair! The commercial can be seen thanks to being archived at YouTube:

Friday, August 29, 2008

(Sarah Palin with Alaska's Rep. Don 'Bridge to Nowhere' Young.)

Palin's Financial Disclosure Forms on the Web

Just as I was growing curious about Alaska's disclosure requirements for elected officials, and starting to search for a state sunshine panel, I read in the New York Times and at an advocacy blog about some curious items of interest in Gov. Sarah Palin's public disclosure forms.

And thanks to the Alaska Public Offices Commission, I found Palin's disclosure files on their web site. See below for links to the seven files at the commission's web site.

Saturday's NY Times contains a profile of Palin and cites details from the governor's disclosure forms:

In addition to Ms. Palin’s $125,000 state salary, Mr. Palin earned $93,000 last year running his own commercial fishing business and working part-time at BP’s oil production facility, according to her public financial disclosure reports.

The Center for Public Integrity blogged today about Gov. Palin's push for transparency and some info contained in her disclosure forms, thus shedding more light on this person who may become the next vice president:

One of her first acts was pushing ethics bills that advocated greater access to politicians’ financial disclosure reports and restricted gifts from lobbyists to public officials . . .

On house ownership, the Palins can’t match the McCains’ eight homes, but her real estate portfolio is respectable, thank you very much. Palin owns three houses, according to her 2007 financial disclosure form. The forms don’t list the value of the properties, but indicate that one is residential and the other two are used for recreation.
Follow the Palin paper trail and click where it says "View" to link directly to the reports, or go here for her forms on the Alaska Public Offices Commission web site:

Public Official Application Search
Total Records: 7
Last Name First Name Office Sought Position






Sarah Governor


AOGG Commissioner


AOGCC Commissioner


Sarah Governor


Mayor Wasilla

(GOP Veep Hopeful Sarah Palin, with husband Todd.)

FEC Files: In 2004 Gov Palin's
Occupation Was 'Housewife'

Like her political resume, GOP vice presidential pick Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has a thin Federal Election Commission file.

In June 2004 she donated $328 to the Alaskan Republican Party, and in July 2004 she made a $300 donation to U.S. Senate candidate Mike Miller, who didn't become senator.

The FEC file for the first donation shows Palin listed her occupation as "housewife," and the FEC record for the other contribution lists her job a "homemaker."

I happen to think having either housewife or homemaker on one's resume is a plus, for a political candidate, but I stop short of saying that's reason enough to vote for someone.

The reason why I'm pointing out Palin's two FEC contributions is because the American voter needs as much information as possible, especially on paper, about the woman who may come to occupy Number One Observatory Circle, the home of the vice president, and is first in line to become president if McCain wins and dies in office.

Speaking as a Green Party/independent voter, I just don't see Palin's trajectory on the political going from housewife, to city councilor and mayor of Wasila, Alaska, then governor of the Last Frontier State, before progressing to nation's second-highest office. Her slim record and list of accomplishments, seem quite pale to me, when compared to Joe Biden, but that may not mean much to millions of voters.

We'll see how successful she is as a national candidate come November, in the meantime, it's a breakthrough in American politics to have a former housewife running on the 2008 GOP ticket.

Here are her two FEC files. Click on the images to enlarge them:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

(Lamppost at United Nations Plaza.)

First Time: Leather Pride Flags on
SF Lampposts for Folsom Street Fair

The annual S/M and leather street party on Folsom Street marks its 25th year of giving sexual fetishists what they want with this year's event, happening more than a month away on September 28.

And maybe for the first time, city lampposts along a several-block area of Market Street, are festooned with the black & blue striped, with a red-heart, leather pride flags, blowing in the wind. They're spanking new and not faded, like the rainbow flags that adorn the street poles for pride events in June.

I asked Alex Randolph, Mayor Gavin Newsom's gay liaison, about the flags and this was his response:

As far as I was able to find out today this is the first year that Folsom
Street Fair has put up the lampposts. Hope this helps.

Click here for more info on the Folsom Street Fair. Warning! The link is for mature adults only and definitely not safe for viewing from your computer at work.

Here are some shots of the flags I took this week:

(Les 'me like money' Pappas, head of Better World Advertising. Photo credit: Rick Gerharter.)

'Me Not Meth' Contracts for
$17.5 Million Released by CA

Earlier this year the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, through several social marketing campaign agencies, including the Better World Advertising agency in San Francisco, launched a massive effort targeting gay men about meth use.

Other than generating a very comfortable stream of income for gay ad executives, and one in particular, Les Pappas, the head of Better World Advertising, I'm not convinced that these campaigns are effective at creating anything of substantive benefit for the gay community or maintaining good health habits for gay men.

There is no independent evaluation of all the alarming HIV/AIDS and meth campaigns funded by government dollars in the past two decades, but lack of proof that the campaigns are driving down infection rates or increasing testing patterns is no reason to halt funding these media campaigns.

I think whenever gay men are being targeted by such social marketing, the contracts behind the campaigns must be made public on the web, which is why I recently filed a public records request with the state for their "Me Not Meth" contracts. Gay men need to know exactly why the campaigns are being launched, what the ad agencies hope to accomplish, and how the gay community is expected to react.

The alcohol and drug programs for California sent me two contracts for "Me Not Meth." The first is for the initial outlay of state funds, $14,037,197. And the second contract details how an additional $3,505,912 in public money is being spent. Together, the contracts explain how $17.5 million for ads will potentially address the gay meth problem.

That $17.5 million figure, by the way, is a lot higher than the $10 million the San Francisco AIDS Foundation said was the cost of the campaign.

From the SFAF release:

This initiative began when the San Francisco AIDS Foundation led a coalition of HIV/AIDS advocacy and service organizations, including the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and the California HIV Alliance, which urged Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature to address the alarming relationship between methamphetamine and HIV infection. The final state budget the Governor signed in 2006 granted $10 million to the California Department of Drugs and Alcohol for this “Me, Not Meth” media campaign.

Whether it's $10 or $17.5 million, AIDS groups sure have a special ATM relationship with health agencies and politicians in Sacramento.

Follow the links to read contract number 1 and number 2 from the state.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

CA Office of AIDS: HIV Up, Down or Stable?

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month released newly revised estimates for number of HIV infections in recent years, one state was glaringly omitted from the federal estimates -- California. Because the state for years refused to implement names-based HIV reporting regulations, and we were stuck with a highly unreliable unique-identifier-based system, our HIV incidence rate is nearly impossible to determine.

Since the release of the new national stats, showing supposed increases, I've been calling and emailing the state Office of AIDS, requesting HIV data because I'm trying to determine if California's HIV rate of new infections has been up, down or stable in the past few years.

I've also complained to Dr. Gil Chavez, head of the CA Department of Communicable Diseases, which oversees the Office of AIDS, that the AIDS division needs to forthwith do a better job of communicating with the public about its activities in the past twelve months. After a lengthy phone conversation with him last week, in which I laid out specific areas I want the state to address, he promised to send me follow up note. I'm please to share with you his reply below.

And one of the state's HIV epidemiologists, who is handling my request for tons more HIV stats and data, sent me an email, see below, detailing when I'm likely to have the requested public information.

After several weeks of communications with CA health officials in Sacramento, discussions with AIDS activists in San Francisco, and lots of cruising around web sites for the many HIV/AIDS service organizations in the state and local health departments, I've got an uneasy feeling that too many powerful institutions have allowed complacency and invisibility to reign at the state level.

I can't locate any letters or news releases from AIDS groups or health departments questioning the lack of reliable HIV stats for California and no real engagement with the affected communities and public on the part of the Office of AIDS.

Who is served when this great state, in year 27 of the American AIDS epidemic, can't begin to tell the public if HIV infections are declining or rising? How did the California HIV/AIDS community get to the point where, despite massive amounts of public and private funding and ultra-modern technology, the HIV rate can't be determined?

It's a shameful blot upon this state and AIDS Inc that HIV epidemiology is woefully and criminally inadequate. This situation must change.

This is the letter from the HIV epi expert:


After our telephone conversation this morning (August 21, 2008), your request should actually have been for two tables. One for the number of monthly and yearly cases of HIV Non-Name Code Based data (July 2002 through March 2006) and a second for the number of monthly and yearly cases of HIV Name Based data (April 2006 through July 2008). I will put the appropriate notes on each table.

I will attempt to have them to you within the next week but, as we discussed, it may be ten working days.

Winnie Dysle

And here is the note from the head of communicable diseases division in Sacramento:

Mr. Petrelis,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to give me your perspective on our HIV/ADIS programs last week. You clearly have an excellent pulse of the issues facing people living with HIV/AIDS and I welcome your ideas and suggestions on how to better share information on our programs, accomplishments, data, and ideas with the community.

As I indicated to you over the phone, we are fortunate to have someone of the caliber of Michelle Roland, MD at the helm of our state HIV/AIDS activities. She is a visionary leader with immense clinical expertise. You will be pleased to see her progress forward over the next few years.

I discussed with Dr. Roland your request for information on the five major areas listed below:

1. Posting of agendas and minutes for CHPG meetings.
2. Post HIV/AIDS data on our website by race/ethnicity, specifically for African Americans.
3. Provide a response of the California impact of the August 3, 2008, JAMA article on National HIV Incidence Estimates. Do we plan to revise our incidence and prevalence estimates?
4. Provide more level of sub-population detail on our HIV/AIDS data.
5. Provide an opportunity for a Southern and a Northern California Town Hall meeting for people living with HIV/AIDS to hear what the OOA is doing and get community input.

Dr. Roland is preparing a detail response to your request. You will be pleased to hear that she was already moving to address all the points you raised. Much of the information you requested is already available but we need to make it easier for people to find. Please expect to hear from Dr. Roland over the next few days. Feel free to call her at 916-449-xxxx if you want to discuss your request in more detail or if you need additional information.

Dr. Gil Chavez

Monday, August 25, 2008

2,400 Ride Free on Monthly Muni Passes;
Annual Cost = $1.3 Million

The head of public information for the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, the folks who oversee our Muni transit system, responded last week to my sunshine law request for public documents and numbers related to cost-free passes issued by the agency.

Not including any police officer or firefighters or any employees of the other public safety agencies and religious institution on the list of uniformed workers allowed free travel, the number of passes distributed on a monthly basis is 2,481. That figure represents dependents of Muni employees, 1768, and retirees, 713.

Assuming that all of the passes were at the monthly adult rate of $45, the lost revenue to Muni was $111,645.

Further assuming the number of passes is stable at 2,481 for a one-year period, the total for lost revenue comes to $1,339,740.

That's a lot of money that could be going toward maintaining a semi-decent public transportation system. Muni riders need to be made aware of these figures and a debate started on whether the transit agency is too generous with who gets a monthly free ride.

I spoke with Kristen Holland of the SF MTA and she said they lack an estimate of how many uniformed workers take advantage of their ability to travel free on Muni.

She also clarified for me why the Sisters of Charity are on the list. First, that is not the religious order founded by Mother Teresa. And secondly, the Sisters of Charity have received cost-free travel since the great cholera epidemic of the 19th century. (Sounds very much like they were "grandmothered in" from back in the day.)

Here's the information I received:

Dear Mr. Petrelis,

Please find below the responses to your inquiries dated August 11, 2008.

Responses to the specific questions are included in the text below. Attached is the list of the active Free Issues.

Please contact Kristen Holland, cc’ed here, if you have any questions next week. I’ll be back in the office on September 3.

Judson True
These are the figures in response to my sunshine request:

Petrelis Question: What is the exact number of lifetime passes currently active allowing free transportation on the Muni system?

SF MTA Answer: One.

Petrelis Question: I want to know the number of lifetime passes issued, for the years 2006, 2007 and thus far for 2008.

SF MTA Answer: Only one active.

Petrelis Question: Also, what are the names of the individuals enjoying this privilege, their job titles within the Muni system, or other city agencies, if they work for Muni or the city government, and reasons explaining why they are issued a lifetime pass.

SFMTA Answer: Ben Beckman, Former Operations Manager for DPT. Pass approved by the SFMTA Board.

Petrelis Question: I also want to know the precise figure for number of monthly or weekly passes allowing cost-free travel on Muni, distributed during 2007 and so far in 2008, and in a month-by-month format.

SFMTA Answer: We only maintain the active file (attached as excel spreadsheet). [Contact me if you would like a copy of the spreadsheet. -michael]

Petrelis Question: As with the lifetime passes, I'm requesting the names, Muni job titles, and explanation why they're entitled to this no-cost courtesy on a monthly or weekly basis.

SF MTA Answer: We don’t have specific names of individuals receiving the free issues or free rides. Below is the “FREE RIDES” list that includes any of the following individuals in uniform and/or displaying a valid identification.

1. San Francisco Police Officers
2. Probation Officers/Juvenile Counselors
3. Office of Citizen Complaints
4. Firefighters
5. Patrol Special Police
6. Current SFMTA Employees
7. Deputy Sheriffs
8. Other Peace Officers
9. Sisters of Charity

TOTAL NUMBER OF DEPENDENT STICKERS ISSUED FOR 2008 (Mailed out November 2007): 1768

Please note: We do not track the number of dependent stickers (passes) by year. We only track how many we sent out by last count. Dependent stickers are available to SFMTA Operators per their contract.

Total Number of Retiree Stickers Issued for 2007 which included (86) new requests (Mailed out November 2006): 673

Total Number of Retiree Stickers Issued for 2008 which included (40) new requests (Mailed out November 2007): 713

The number for retiree stickers (passes) also changes since it depends on when the person retires.

Boos During Oliver Stone's "W" Trailer at SF Theater

Over the weekend I caught the new thriller-on-a-train movie "Transsiberian" down at the multiplex cinema on Market Street, near the Powell Street cable car turn-around.

Before the flick began, we in the audience had our eyes and ears assaulted with 20-minutes of loud commercials and rapidly-edited coming attractions, none of which stood out except the last one. It was for Oliver Stone's new movie on the Worst. President. Ever.

The trailer's pacing is a very old-school coming attraction in that it allows the viewer, towards the end, more than a nano-second to look at the characters and who's playing them.

When "Karl Rove" appeared, a few people loudly grumbled, and there were hisses as "Donald Rumsfeld" crossed the screen, but there was unmistakable booing as "Dick Cheney" showed his face. Count me among those who booed and hissed the characters, not the upcoming biopic on George W. Bush.

As soon as the trailer ended, a man behind me raised his voice to ask, "Is it January yet?" I haven't experienced such audience participation at the movies since I saw the sing-a-long version of "West Side Story" at the Castro theater two years back.

Any other reports of audiences reacting to the "W" trailer now showing at local multiplexes?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sac Bee: Lesbian Senator's Meltdown
Forces Office Closure

The saga of Carole Migden's embarrassing and painful-to-watch years-long acts of self-destruction continued on Thursday when, after an emotional meltdown, her Sacramento office was shuttered by state officials.

I've never voted for Migden and didn't see her as an effective legislator worth supporting, but count me among those who would like to see her exit the political stage and take care of herself.

She leaves office at the end of November, when Mark Leno takes over the seat, for the great benefit and relief to the constituents of this state senate seat.

If you need a true political fright to scare you today, check out this blog at the SF Weekly. Rumor had it earlier this month that Migden was considering running for a seat on the Board of Supervisors, an idea that sends chills down my spine.

Read this excerpt from yesterday's Sacramento Bee story:

Sen. Carole Migden's Capitol staff was sent home on Thursday afternoon and told not to report to work on Friday, after the San Francisco Democrat was heard berating them from the hallway.

Enedina Hidalgo, the director of personnel for the state Senate, overheard Migden screaming, according to a witness to the event. The source said she entered the office while the senator was not present on Thursday, informing the staff of their rights.

Soon after, Hidalgo returned to Migden's office with Tony Beard Jr., the chief sergeant-at-arms of the state Senate. They told the staff to pack up their belongings and escorted them out of the building, the witness said . . .

When Sen. Carole Migden was directly asked about Thursday's events, Perata aide Lynda Gledhill sought to intervene, telling Migden she did not have to comment.

"They weren't sent home," Migden said of her staff, before walking away . . .

Migden suffered a bout of bad publicity during the campaign, especially surrounding an erratic 30-mile drive last May on Interstate 80 in which she careened off the center divider and later rear-ended a car with her state-owned SUV.

She later suggested that medicine she was taking for leukemia may have contributed to the episode.

A no-nonsense lawmaker, Migden admitted during the primary that her curt demeanor sometimes rubbed associates the wrong way. But she was unapologetic. "I make no apologies that sometimes it's a tough arena," she said at the time.

Friday, August 22, 2008

CA AIDS Chief Releases Calendar;

State Agency Still Invisible

Earlier this month I sent a letter to Dr. Michelle Roland, former ACT UP activist and UCSF researcher, after realizing she had been California's AIDS boss for more than a year, but her tenure up in Sacramento was remarkable for invisibility. It took more than a week to receive a tepid response, one that didn't address my specific concerns, in which Roland makes a standard bureaucratese attempt to prove she's met with people with AIDS and stakeholders not beholden to local health departments or nonprofit AIDS groups.

In response to my separate records request for her calendar and phone logs for her twelve-plus months in power, Roland provided me with her calendar. It's a sixty-page attachment, one that I can't post to my blog, but will share with interested parties, if you send me a request for the document.

The AIDS boss for California, based on reading her calendar, has been quite busy on a number of very important issues, including attending many government advisory panels and board of directors' meetings with private AIDS charities. All well and good, but knowing full-well how such panels and boards are comprised pretty exclusively by HIV negative careerists and how little independent thinking and voices exist within those bodies, Roland's attendance at them does not equal meeting with people with AIDS and other citizens whose jobs aren't tied to AIDS Inc and state funding.

And while it's a step in the right direction that she has shared with me three documents about Office of AIDS activities, she should realize the documents also need to be available on her site, so the public can be educated on the activities. Let more people know about these activities, not just those who file records' requests and make phone calls to find out what the office is doing.

Lack of public forums aside, Roland and the CA Office of AIDS must forthwith begin a real engagement campaign through their web site, and other communication methods, about all the work they do perform. Right now, Roland's web site totally lacks a shred of info on what she and her agency have accomplished in the last year, what they're working on now, especially related to CA's HIV infection stats, and what the agency is up to for the next 3-4 months.

California also needs Roland and her staff to be visible, both before the media and the communities most affected by HIV/AIDS, when HIV issues directly related to our state are in the news.

Here are three examples of stories where Roland and her office's response were missing, but should have been part of the public dialogue.

1. The CDC in June distributed their latest annual gay stats right before gay pride, showing supposed increases, including in California.

2. In July, the Black AIDS Institute of Los Angeles released a frightening report on African-Americans and HIV, including the black community in the state.

3. At the Mexico City AIDS conference, the CDC gave out new allegedly higher HIV stats for America, but one state, California was notably absent from the federal numbers, because of our criminally inadequate HIV stats.

In each instance, Roland wasn't quoted in any story and if the lack of statements and news releases on her web site is any indication about the three developments, she made no effort to explain to the public, regardless of media attention about her reactions, as to what her office and the state government was going to do about the problems. Silence is not an acceptable response.

Here is Roland's reply to my recent post about her and the Office of AIDS:

Mr. Petrelis:

In response to your recent communications, I would like to assure you that, since I assumed my current position at the California Department of Public Health/Office of AIDS (CDPH/OA), I have taken the opportunity to attend numerous local (e.g., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Long Beach, Orange, San Diego, Alameda, San Joaquin, Tuolumne/Calaveras/Amador) and state (CHPG) HIV community planning groups, all of which have a large representation of people living with HIV/AIDS.

I have also visited with numerous public health, community based organization, clinical, advocacy and academic stakeholders in many regions throughout the state. In addition, Office of AIDS managers, staff and I have convened and/or attended many additional meetings and advisory bodies including various stakeholders over the past year. The calendar I sent you demonstrates this activity.

Attached please also find copies of presentations made at 3 of these meetings which will give you a sample of the sort of issues CDPH/OA staff and I have been discussing with various stakeholders.

Thank you for your feedback about the materials available on our website. We have recently migrated to this current site and are now focusing on ensuring that we have appropriate materials there.

Finally, your specific data request is being attended to by OA staff.


Michelle Roland, MD

Thursday, August 21, 2008

GQ: Gay Life, HIV, Serosorting, Money,
PEP & Swiss Recommendations

A publicist from Conde Nast publications sent me an email this afternoon alerting me to the pending web-posting on Friday morning of David France's extensive GQ article on AIDS and gay men, "We All Forgot the Condom." I think France has done folks like myself, critics of AIDS Inc and the HIV prevention mafia, a great favor in simply painting a landscape portrait of where America is right now in terms of stopping new HIV infections.

He broaches sensitive topics such as anal sex, poppers, serosorting, failures of AIDS nonprofits, rising national HIV stats, and lots of other important issues. I share some lengthy excerpts below, of keen interest to my agenda.

And there are two things I want to pull out from France's story and go out of my way to say, thanks for mentioning these items. One, he twice references a fact getting ignored by the SF media and Mayor Gavin Newsom -- falling HIV rates. Discussing serosorting, pozzies sleeping only with pozzies, France writes:
Some researchers think so, citing data from San Francisco showing that syphilis rates have soared while HIV rates have decreased ... But there is another possible explanation for the lower rates in San Francisco despite a return to unsafe sexual practices.
Second, France gets a tip o' my hat for reporting on the recommendations of Swiss researchers earlier this year, and the shameful non-debate conducted by AIDS Inc institutions across America:
Last January no less an authority than the Swiss National AIDS Commission actually advocated unprotected sex for some patients with repeated undetectable results and no other sexually transmitted diseases, saying they posed zero risk of infection. This is a startling finding, one that certainly would change life for couples in which one is positive and the other negative. But it could also have a far-reaching impact on the epidemic’s march ...

Did this good news touch off celebrations here in the United States? Hardly. The Swiss study went largely ignored in the media. What’s more, powerful AIDS groups rushed to condemn it.
The sobering truth on failed vaccine efforts and forms of HIV prevention science:
The search for an AIDS vaccine has been a colossal global undertaking, with spending topping a billion dollars a year and clinical trials involving nearly 25,000 subjects. And yet scientists have little, if anything, to show for their efforts and have recently resigned themselves to failure ...

The same goes for the so-called “liquid condom,” a tantalizing theory that an effective microbicide might be added to a lubricating jelly to neutralize HIV on contact. In all of the large-scale microbicide trials to date, most medicated ointments showed no efficacy whatsoever, and two increased transmissions.
But what about the penile condom messages promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and every HIV group in the country?
And the reason for these increases? Gay men are no longer abiding by the one commandment that dominated gay life for decades: “Use a condom every time.” In survey after survey, gay men say they have stopped using condoms. “I think the last rubber gay guys used in this town was in 1985,” Michael Petrelis, an AIDS blogger in San Francisco, joked when I asked him about this trend.
How to best sum up some of the complexities of gay men's attitudes and resistance to penile condoms?
Gay men say they feel cheated out of the full pleasure and intimacy of sex, and many have come to perceive condoms as emblems of a still hostile world, imposed on them by a culture that continues to stigmatize gay sex. “To use a condom every time you have sex, for the rest of your life?” says Daniel Siconolfi, of New York University’s HIV-prevention think tank, the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies. “That’s a very, very big burden. That’s a lot to ask of somebody. And it’s not being asked of anybody other than gay men.”
GQ magazine provides a valuable history lesson, for old timers like me who remember Michael Callen and honor the heroism of Dr. Sonnabend, but also for young gay men who probably have never heard of the life-saving pamphlet they published in the early 1980s. Reading this passage reminds that much of the real prevention work was, and still is, done by those outside of AIDS Inc:
The suggestion was contained in a stark pamphlet, forty pages folded and stapled and wrapped in a white, tombstone-like cover with the title “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach.” The pamphlet was written by Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen. They weren’t doctors or epidemiologists ...

It’s difficult now to fathom how hard it was to disseminate information or raise an alarm before the Internet. Callen and Berkowitz could find no newspaper willing to report their theory, nor any community group able to publish it. So they paid for the publishing costs with donations from patients of their mutual doctor, Joseph Sonnabend — Callen threw in his own tax refund — and then delivered stacks of the booklet to gay venues in the city, including my local bar, where I watched them drop off a stack and then read through it in one sitting.
David France also segues into the matter of PEP, which the sexually active fag community in San Francisco should have been educated about, through a continuous social marketing campaign, not just a pilot ad effort, from our multi-million dollar prevention groups and the local DPH. How many fags in Frisco must contract HIV before we see a PEP campaign here?
The data confirm that this morning-after approach—called post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP—is extremely effective: It reduces infections by 81 percent. If administered within hours of exposure, PEP appears to block all but a few transmissions. What’s more, the drugs are regularly prescribed to rape victims in emergency rooms.

But PEP is not routinely available to the most common targets of HIV in America today: gay men exposed through either a broken condom or a night spent carelessly. Without ad campaigns and other promotional pushes, most don’t even know it is available. Why the silence?
Well, one person with a big mouth who hasn't been silent about PEP is my pal Sean Strub. He's not only been vocal on this issue, but also on the need to further debate in the USA the recommendations of the Swiss experts. His quotes here are why we still need honest and provocative activists:
AIDS activists find this indefensible. Sean Strub, who founded Poz, calls this “practically criminal negligence. We on the front line know what works. It’s incredibly irresponsible that we’re not making it much more widely available.” ...

But HIV is a weekend peril; most transmissions likely happen late Friday night, as far from a doctor’s appointment as possible. So some gay men keep a starter set of morning-after pills on hand, just in case. Strub, who is HIV-positive, doles his own pills out to HIV-negative friends. “It’s probably illegal, but that’s what I do,” he says.

GQ and David France deserve big pats on the back for pushing this kind of AIDS story in the corporate media. May the article engender pointed and honest debates about failing HIV prevention strategies being pushed by AIDS Inc.

Access to HRC Archive Heavily Restricted at Cornell

Peace and the Middle East. George Bush and intelligence. The Human Rights Campaign and transparency. Some things just don't blend together very well.

A friend tipped me off to the heavy restrictions on HRC's archive at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He writes:

Check this out. Roughly half of the archived materials have some sort of restriction on the user's ability to view or use the contents. Scroll down to information for users. Why archive it at all? Those records could gather dust anywhere.

Not that I have anything against Ithaca, but it is not centrally located and for many people most likely interested in the HRC archive, it would be a real schlep to get to Cornell and read the HRC documents. I don't get the sense that HRC wants too many people having easy access to their records, and even for those who make it up to Ithaca, HRC is keen to maintain high restrictions on how many eyes examine the files.

These are the details on the restrictions from Cornell's web site:

Access Restrictions:

Names and addresses of private individuals cannot be disclosed in writing or other publication medium until 70 years after presumed creation of the document unless the individual gives express written permission. All users of the collection will sign an agreement to abide by this restriction.

HRC records will be restricted until 5 years after creation, except for publications, which can be made available immediately upon creation, and other exceptions as noted below.

Executive Director and administration correspondence and Board of Directors files will be restricted for a number of years still to be determined.

Files marked "confidential," "confidential draft," or "staff only," will be restricted for 10 years after presumed creation unless otherwise noted.

Financial information such as payment and donation amounts will be restricted for 25 years after such transactions occurred.

Materials submitted to HRC under the assumption that they will be anonymous will be restricted until such time that names and addresses have been redacted to protect the privacy promised by HRC.

Blueprints to existing HRC facilities will be restricted to permission of HRC.

Box 54 contains material restricted until 2008.

Box 55 contains material restricted until 2009.

Box 56 contains material restricted until 2010.

Box 57 contains material restricted until 2011.

Box 58 contains material restricted until 2012.

Box 59 contains material restricted until 2013.

Box 60 contains material restricted until 2014.

Box 61 contains material restricted until 2015.

Box 62 contains material restricted until 2016.

Box 63 contains material restricted until 2017.

Box 64 contains material restricted until 2018.

Box 65 contains material restricted until 2019.

Box 66 contains material restricted until 2020.

Box 67 contains material restricted until 2021.

Box 68 contains material restricted until 2022.

Box 69 contains material restricted until 2023.

Box 70 contains material restricted until 2024.

Box 71 contains material restricted until 2025.

Box 72 contains material restricted until 2026.

Box 73 contains material restricted until 2027.

Box 74 contains material restricted until 2028.

Box 75 contains material restricted until 2029.

Box 76 contains material restricted until 2030.

Box 77 contains plans for HRC's office building and is restricted to permission of HRC.

Boxes 78-79 contain material restricted except by permission of archivist.

Box 80 contains material restricted until 2068.

Boxes 82-102 are restricted. HRC has not determined the length of the restriction.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

UK Muslim Students Disrespect Gays More Than Jews

At the end of July across the pond, results of an important survey were released in London that touched upon young Muslims and their attitudes in relation to gays, showing an uncomfortably high rate of intolerance.

While the survey and the results generated some attention from papers and bloggers in the United Kingdom, I don't believe the findings received any notice from American bloggers, and I want to do my part to shed a bit of US light on the survey.

This is excerpted from the executive summary:

Attitudes towards homosexuals and Jews:

- A quarter (25%) of Muslim students polled said they had not very much or no respect at all for homosexuals, as opposed to 4% of non-Muslim students polled.

- Male Muslim students were the most likely to be intolerant of homosexuality: male Muslim respondents (32%) were much more likely than female Muslim respondents (19%) to have little or no respect for homosexuals. Amongst non-Muslims polled, the percentages of males and females saying the same were 4% and 3% respectively.

- Almost one in fifteen (7%) Muslim students polled said they had not very much or no respect at all for Jews. Four out of five (79%) Muslim students polled, however, said they respected Jews.

The 25% and 32% rates of those in this UK survey who had little to no respect for gay people are troubling, and force me to wonder if those same rates of intolerance would be found among US Muslim students.

It's worth noting that the percentage of those who have no respect for Jews, 7%, is so much lower than the figure about gays, 25%. Why is the number about gays higher than that for Jews? What conditions and factors contributed to better understanding among young Muslims towards Jews?

I'd like to learn why the 7% is so low, and the respect level for Jewish people, 79%, is sky-high. Can we ever expect to see such numbers from Muslim students in the UK towards gays?

If the Muslims polled can overcome centuries of hatred, vicious misunderstanding and antagonism towards Jewish people, I see no reason why we one may see more Muslims turning tolerant and maybe even accepting of gay people.

Here's a brief explanation of the survey from the firm that conducted it, the Centre for Social Cohesion:

Islam on Campus is the most comprehensive survey ever undertaken of Muslim student opinion in the UK, based on a specially commissioned YouGov poll of 1400 students, fieldwork and interviews. The report examines students' attitudes on key issues including killing in the name of religion, establishing a worldwide Caliphate, introducing Sharia law to the UK, setting up an Islamic political party in the UK, gender equality, the treatment of apostates and homosexuals and the compatibility of Islam with secularism and democracy.
SF Chron, Wizard of Poz: Pay No Attention to
SF HIV Stats Behind The Curtain

The agenda for the August 14 meeting of the CDC's HIV Prevention Planning Council (HPPC), for San Francisco omitted any report or presentation on the city's HIV infection rate that continues to decline.

Recent annual, quarterly and monthly HIV/AIDS epi reports all document falling infections and diagnoses, and were the subject of a front-page article in the Bay Area Reporter.

The great news in the BAR last month:

The number of people newly diagnosed with HIV in San Francisco declined again last year, continuing a trend first noticed in 2003. AIDS cases also showed a decline in 2007 while AIDS deaths appear to be holding steady.

The Co-Chairs Report for the HPPC meeting contains details on the new national HIV stats from the CDC, and Dr. Grant Colfax, one of the co-chairs who also serves as the head of DPH HIV prevention services, made a PowerPoint presentation on the CDC New Incidence numbers, which took up about 15 minutes of time.

But local HIV stats were not on the HPPC agenda, even though the city's head of prevention co-chairs the meetings and sets the agenda. Also at the meeting from DPH was Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, head of the STD control unit and the City Clinic for STD testing, whose recent monthly reports show HIV positive test results at the clinic continue to drop. Klausner only spoke about a sex worker related ballot initiative before the voters in November.

Instead of addressing falling HIV figures in San Francisco, both Drs. Colfax and Klausner avoided the topic. Just like the Wizard of Oz, these guys give every indication they don't want to bring attention to the HIV stats behind the metaphorical curtain.

I'm not suggesting that Drs. Colfax and Klausner should not have spoken on CDC's new stats or the ballot proposition, but that in addition to those matters, they also talked about our own local HIV numbers, that happen to be on the wane.

Given that the HPPC is supposed to be devoted to HIV prevention, which is clearly working according to the epi reports, I would think both DPH leaders and HPPC members from prevention organizations would have insisted upon a discussion over the sustained decline of HIV stats in San Francisco. But like Dorothy, I was greatly disappointed with these wizards.

In keeping with avoiding discussing local HIV rates, today's SF Chronicle prints an editorial with the provocative headline "An End to AIDS?"

Just like DPH experts running the HPPC, the Chronicle does not look at local HIV stats, but it does mention international stats have fallen in the last five years:

Will there be a breakthrough ... prevention plan that will cut down on the 2 million infected last year with HIV, which causes AIDS? ...

The yearly infection rate has curved down from a peak of 2.2 million in 2005 [on a global scale.]

I give credit to the paper for citing this downward curve, but questions must be raised why our local paper of record fails to cite the same downward trend for San Francisco's rate.

The editorial also fails to mention gays and MSM, men who have sex with men, affected by and infected with HIV/AIDS. What are we to make of the fact that when discussing the controversial aspects of this disease, the editorial glaringly omits gays and MSM?

On a broader scale, will it ever be possible for national leaders to focus on a topic that touches so many hot-button topics: prostitution, drug use, women's rights and civil liberty protections for HIV-infected people?

Any other paper would have included homosexual sexual activity on that laundry list, but the Chronicle appears to have gone out of its way to exclude any reference to gays in the editorial. Check out this sentence:

Big-city newspapers ran lists of obituaries of single young men.

I believe it would have been more accurate to say the obits were about single young men, many of whom were gay.

It's frustrating to see that after close to three decades of HIV/AIDS, the DPH and SF Chronicle go to some lengths avoid calling attention to a positive development -- sustained HIV declines. I'm calling on DPH and the Chronicle to get over their embarrassment, or whatever is the cause of their reluctance to discuss the city's HIV drop, if

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

(Apartment buildings in City of Gori after
Russian air strike on August 10.)

Gay Georgian Leader's Photos from Gori War Zone

I haven't received any word recently from Paata Sabelashvili, the leader of the Inclusive Foundation, Georgia's only gay advocacy organization, who is also a photographer, but through Googling, I know that he's been in the Gori region and was mentioned on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs official timeline of the war. As soon as I hear from Paata himself, or hear from one of his colleagues, I'll share the update here.

Over at Artmika's GayArmenian blog, he shares some cyberattack news being perpetrated by the Russians, alleging the Georgian president is a homosexual:

Over the last few days my mailbox’s ‘spam folder’ caught number of ‘gay Saakashvili’ messages (referring to Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili). Obviously, I did not open them expecting that this could be a kind of fishy, computer virus spreading spam. Today posted news by Security Lab which provides details of that spam attack.

"Mikheil Saakashvili gay scandal! New of this week!" messages contain a reference to the fake BBC news link. It re-directs to the site which starts downloading a malicious code into the user's computer. Experts note the size and technical execution of this spam attack ... There were 44 identified computer sources of that spam indicating the formation of a new botnet.

This is from the Georgian foreign ministry's web site:

13 August

14:45 Paata Sabelashvili, photographer, reported from highway nearby Gori that mini-bus with Georgian civilians have been robbed by Ossetian separatists, one of the passengers, 25-year old women has been kidnapped by the attackers.

Last week, Paata had a dozen of his photos posted on the web site, which describes itself thus:

Civil Georgia is a daily news online service devoted to delivering quality news and analysis about Georgia. Civil.Ge is run by The UN Association of Georgia, a Georgian non-governmental organization, in frames of ‘National Integration and Tolerance in Georgia’ Program financed by USAID. Civil Georgia is also supported by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, German Foundation and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
Here are more of Paata's front-line photos from the site:

Apartment buildings in City of Gori after Russian
air strike on August 10, 2008

Internally Displaced Persons in Mtskheta
Reception Center near Tbilisi, August 12

Georgian President Mr. Mikheil Saakashvili
in city of Gori, August 11

Russian troops close to city of Gori, August 13

Dear Paata, take care of yourself and please find a small degree of comfort knowing that my friends and I stand in solidarity with you, and we're very concerned for your safety and the security of all Georgians.