Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Whatever Happened to
HRC's Elizabeth Birch?

That question came to mind today, after reading a new round of criticism about what continues to be wrong with the Democratic Party's gay division, alias the Human Rights Campaign. So much of what we are seeing play out right now at the federal level between gay Americans and the White House and U.S. Congress, are the best laid plans of the former HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch.

There are two accomplishments I will always associate with her tenure at HRC. First, there's the HRC building on Rhode Island Avenue in Washington, which was a $30 million project, and the second thing is the disastrous Millennium March of 2000. Sorry, can't think of any legislative advances for ordinary gays while Birch was in charge of HRC, and its large bank account.

Birch spoke this week at the University of Pittsburgh, according to the campus newspaper, which goofed and said she is currently head of HRC. Really, does it much matter whether it's her or Joe Solmonese or someone else at the helm of the org? No, not when HRC corporate structure is genetically wired to serve as the Stepin Faggots for the Democrats for eternity.

From the Pitt News:

Elizabeth Birch, president and director of the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, the Human Rights Campaign, will speak about issues regarding the LGBT Community today at 8:45 p.m. in room G23 of the Public Health Building.

Adam Dobson, Rainbow Alliance’s political action chair, said Birch has been an inspiration to the LGBT community, working to improve human rights.

To get a better inkling of her current agenda, I checked out the site for the Elizabeth Birch Company and learned she's a consultant, with unique skills for lucky orgs:

Elizabeth believes organizations should look from the inside out and back again. She is known for getting to the heart of a matter and transforming goals into strategic, achievable steps. She has demonstrated a special gift for communicating complex issues and goals in ways that can be absorbed by busy people inundated with information. Elizabeth helps organizations recapture or renew their missions, to keep that mission relevant and fresh.

Maybe she could help HRC renew and make relevant whatever its goals are. Or perhaps I should say, they should use her consulting services again, because according to the 2008 edition of HRC's IRS 990 filing (see page 6), they did engage Birch's expertise to the tune of $15,000.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, but as we enter the second quarter of 2010, I don't see any substantive proof that Birch's legacy and leadership is showing gay America strategic and achievable steps to end Don't Ask Don't Tell or gain passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The former HRC leader also has something called an "eblog." Cute. Must stand for EBlog, as in Elizabeth Birch blog. Anyway, her last, and apparently only, post was in March of 2009. Doesn't seem to me she likes to blog much.

But let's put those serious issues aside and end on a funny note. At the Birch site, she's posted humorous video about her life and work, and early on, the narrator exclaims that her family didn't know when she was a kid that she "would become the queen of her people." Click here to view it, and have your political funny bone tickled.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Gay Walk for Tolerance
in Jamaica on April 7

The gay and HIV communities in Jamaica will take another step forward in their fight for peace and social justice next week, when they stage public display of political activism that is promoting tolerance and understanding. Given the brutality suffered by Jamaican gays in the past few years, including attacks on gays that left them bloody because of police hostility toward the gays, this is a big development.

The Walk for Tolerance is the gay Jamaican community's first organized act of protest in the streets to demand respect, and I'll be praying everything goes well for the organizers and participants. Let's all spread the word about the upcoming demonstration and lobby our American embassy in Kingston to use its leverage to ensure proper local law enforcement is in place to protect the marchers.

At the same time, I'll be contacting the Jamaican embassy in Washington and the country's mission to the United Nations in Manhattan, with a simple message. Jamaica must know that on April 7, the whole world will be watching the Walk for Tolerance, and human rights advocates everywhere expect Jamaica to guarantee the rights of gays to freely assembly, without fear or violence.

Here's the message about the walk from JFLAG:

I hereby request your participation in a ‘Walk for Tolerance’ planned to take place in Montego Bay Jamaica on April 7, 2010.

This critical event is being spearheaded by Jamaica Aids Support for Life (JASL) which is Jamaica’s oldest and largest Non-Governmental Organization working in the area of HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and care. JASL serves a large clientele who are drawn from the most vulnerable communities in our society and who endure persistent and insidious acts of discrimination and stigmatization. It has been recognized that this level of stigma and discrimination severely hinders the national fight against HIV/AIDS. The promotion of tolerance at all levels in the society is therefore essential to minimize the negative impact of this disease among these populations and the Jamaican society as a whole.

In this regard, JASL proposes to hold a ‘Walk for Tolerance’ in Montego Bay which has the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS prevalence in Jamaica. The purpose of the walk is to raise awareness of the need for tolerance, educate and inform persons about these groups which are most at risk of HIV/AIDS transmission and what can be done to minimize the impact of the disease on them and the nation as a whole.

The ‘Walk’ has been planned for Wednesday, April 7, 2010 and will see its participants walking a mile along Howard Cooke Boulevard starting from Howard Cooke Park to the ‘Dump-up Beach’ using the largely underutilized paved sidewalk on the left. Participants will carry posters, banners, and other signage displaying messages of tolerance. There is also proposed to be a lunch hour presentation at 12 noon at Dump-up Beach where speeches and presentations will be made. Refreshments will be served and booths established to provide information on the work of JASL and other groups working with vulnerable communities in Jamaica.

It is expected that at least 100 persons will participate in the walk representing various local and international groups such as NGOs, churches, schools, government officials and the press. JASL has sought to partner with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) and the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) in carrying out this ‘Walk for Tolerance’ because of the intersections of the populations they serve.

Refreshment and transportation will be provided for participants. Please indicate your attendance and need for transportation to Timothy Aarons at 978-xxxx. We look forward to your participation as we seek to engender a stigma and discrimination free society.


Dane Lewis
Programmes Manager
Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays - J-FLAG

Harvey's Bullhorn Held Hostage by Big Ego

(Milk with his bullhorn. Photo credit: Jerry Pritikin.)

The Bay Area Reporter's Matthew Bajko wrote an excellent and balanced front-page article last Thursday about one big ego retaining sole control of an iconic piece of gay history, and it made me thankful for the good folks at the GLBT Historical Society down on Mission and 4th Streets. The society possesses and controls many Milk artifacts, and their use and preservation is in the hands of a professionally run operation. It is not held hostage to the whims of one ego.

The same cannot be said about Harvey's bullhorn. From the BAR:

Students at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy took to the streets of the Castro in early March to protest painful budget cuts by both the city and the state. Led by their principal, they marched down Castro Street, chanted "save our schools," blocked traffic for a time, and held a rally at Harvey Milk Plaza.

In covering the afternoon demonstration, the Bay Area Reporter noted that rather than use the bullhorn that belonged to Milk, the slain gay rights pioneer for whom both the public plaza and elementary school are named, Principal Christina Velasco instead was banging on a drum strapped to her shoulders. [...]

"The day of the protest I got asked about it," said Velasco. "The kids asked where is Harvey's bullhorn?"

After the story appeared online, a parent from the school contacted the B.A.R. to say the reason why Velasco didn't use the bullhorn is that it has been missing for the last two years. [...]

It currently is residing in the Palm Springs home of LGBT activist and Milk confidante Cleve Jones, a consultant on the movie who is the owner of the bullhorn.

"It is in my house," Jones told the B.A.R. in a recent phone interview after the paper began inquiring about its whereabouts. "The bullhorn belongs to me and has belonged to me since Harvey gave it to me."

Jones said he is amenable to returning the bullhorn to the school, but first he is trying to have it appraised and then plans to insure it. [...]

Gosh, it's been a few decades since Cleve received this incredible gift, loaned it to the students in the Castro, and he still can't get it appraised or insured? Why is he taking his sweet ol' time? Who knows. Too bad he's not working with the historical society, or any other community org with a track record of archiving and insuring a valuable piece of our history.

Frankly, if the historical society, or the San Francisco Public Library which also houses a tremendous amount of community relics, papers and such, are not good enough for Cleve, maybe he can form a new org with the Milk school, and place the bullhorn in the possession of a circle of people.

Is it asking too much for Harvey's bullhorn to come back to the Castro and the school named for him? More from the BAR:

Until it is given to a museum someday, Jones said he feels having it back at the school "is totally appropriate." But he doubts he will be able to finalize an agreement with the school in time for the state's inaugural Harvey Milk Day this May 22, which would have been Milk's 80th birthday.

I honestly can't see any legit reason why the bullhorn can't be back with the schoolkids and our neighborhood by May 22. After all, the school and the students took damn good care of it in the years during which they were honored with the bullhorn. They surely can do so again, and in time for Harvey's birthday.

HIV Panel Discusses
UCLA Math Model

The HIV Prevention Planning Council (HPPC), which is a joint CDC and SF DPH-mandated advisory panel, heard from me earlier this month regarding many unanswered questions related to UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine mathematician Sally Blower's model on HIV drug resistance in San Francisco.

The community engagement committee of the HPPC dealt with a few of my concerns at their March 2 meeting, which I wasn't able to attend. Here is what the minutes report transpired:

The committee was asked to present an e-mail and letter from someone in the public for public comment. His name is Michael Petrelis and he was unable to be present for today’s meeting. The co-chairs approved this e-mail and letter to be read as public comment.

Desmond read his e-mail and passed around copies of the letter. The e-mail referred to a recent report in Science on a study conducted by Dr. Sally Blower at UCLA.

There were some questions and comments from the members regarding this public comment. One member asked for more background information on the study. Tracey [Packer of the SF DPH division for HIV prevention] was able to give some context and explained more details to the group. Someone mentioned that there was discussion of this study and paper at the CROI Conference a few weeks ago.

A member asked if this same e-mail/letter was sent to the [Ryan White] Care Council. It was suggested that this may also be relevant for that group to discuss.

Someone also mentioned that Grant Colfax was interviewed by the Bay Area Reporter (BAR) about this subject recently.

Action item: Send around the BAR article mentioned above to all members of this committee.

Gabriel said he will bring today’s comments to the next Steering Committee Meeting (3/25).

I don't get the sense that the committee members put much, if any, stock in Blower and the hysteria from UCLA, do you? It pleases me that the committee was to look at the BAR story, to get a better understanding of this study and why it's being questioned. Also, kudos to the members for widening the discussion to include the CARE Council and steering committee of the HPPC.

I attended the monthly HPPC meeting on March 11, and again used public comment to put forward my concerns. From the minutes:

Michael Petrelis commented on Sally Blower’s study regarding drug resistance in San Francisco. He stated the study is not correct and asked the community to engage in a conversation regarding drug resistance and HIV. He mentioned that Bloomberg News published a new article today regarding drug resistance and HIV causing un-needed fear. It is not believed that San Francisco is creating drug resistance through HIV [transmission, but through many PWAs on cocktails develop resistance because of longterm use of the drugs]. Mike thanked Grant for commenting on the article and challenging Sally Blower’s study.

[HPPC co-chair Ben Hayes] stated that the Community Engagement Committee received Michael’s letter, and the committee will be discussing how to address the issue of Sally Blower’s study and the article in Bloomberg News.

I'm not sure how or when the HPPC will discuss the UCLA math model, and the needs of people with AIDS experiencing resistance, but I've been assured by panel members that the issues and complaints raised over the study will be considered in the next few months.

Keep in mind, regardless of my questions about UCLA's research, if there were great worry among community PWAs, SF DPH, AIDS Inc, and UCSF's assorted HIV institutes and the 35-40 employees and executives at those orgs who are members of the HPPC, the place that worry would be addressed is at the HPPC.

And based on the agendas and minutes from all of the HPPC meetings since January was Blower's study came out, I can safely say no one has stepped forward and endorsed UCLA's findings, or called for action based on Blower's hysteria.

The Blower math model and its controversies are not fading away.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gay Angle to FBI Opening
'Special File Room'

The Boston Globe today published a fascinating story about an anonymous FOIA requester, who helped bring a huge ray of transparency to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This story is of interest to me simply because it's about FOIA and I'm always keen to learn how other sunshine advocates use FOIA to pry loose government records and information, but the icing on the cake is the gay angle to the article.

Let's start with what the feds are opening up:

It is the FBI’s “special file room,’’ where for decades sensitive material has been stored separately from the bureau’s central filing system to restrict access severely and, in more sinister instances, some experts assert, prevent the Congress and the public from getting their hands on it.

Established in 1948 under the reign of notoriously secretive FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, it remains in use today at FBI headquarters in Washington to safeguard what the bureau considers its most highly sensitive information.

But now, for the first time, the FBI has opened its doors — at least a crack — by releasing hundreds of pages of memos outlining why bureau officials have deemed certain information too hot to handle even for most top-level officials. [...]

Here is what the Boston Globe reports on an early gay rights org and other files related to homosexuals:

Others were more questionable in nature, such as numerous files from the 1950s and 1960s detailing the FBI’s spying on early gay rights groups such as The Mattachine Society, which in one 1958 memo was categorized under “internal security.’’

Homosexuality, in fact, was for a lengthy period an obsession of the bureau and the focus of multiple domestic intelligence operations, the memos show. Another file was spirited out of the regular bureau filing system because it involved “allegations of homosexuality of some very prominent individuals.’’

It added: “In view of the obscene nature of the allegations and the prominence of some individuals mentioned, therein, it is felt that this file should be retained in the Special File Room.’’ [...]

It would be a boon to government transparency and a better understanding of the full scope of the harassment, surveillance and discrimination gay Americans have endured over the decades, if every scrap of paper in the FBI's Special File Room were publicly available on the web.

The Boston Globe further reports on a divisive tactic used on African American radical organizations, a tactic I wouldn't be surprised to learn was also used against gay radicals by either the FBI or local law enforcement officials:

Other files on domestic spying that were routed to the special file room involved “black nationalist extremists.’’ There were also files about an “extremely sensitive counterintelligence technique’’ called snitch-jacketing, which apparently involved the FBI spreading false information that members of a targeted group were government informants in order to sow conflict within their membership.
Like me, I imagine this is also the first time you're reading about snitch-jacketing. Better to know about these terms and tactics, and I hope this story leads more citizens to file FOIAs.

Visit these free letter-generating sites to file a FOIA or two. Get My FBI File will walk you through the steps to make a request for your own file, and Get Grandpa's FBI File for similar steps to make a FOIA for any deceased individual.

Let the sunshine in!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Obama AIDS Plan: Ready by
Midterm Elections or 2011?

(President Obama meets with HIV/AIDS adviser Jeff Crowley in the Oval Office. A photo-op is not a plan, Mr. President. Photo credit: The White House.)

If, and that's a big if, we're lucky, people living with HIV/AIDS and the rest of the American public will have a National AIDS Strategy from President Obama before the year is finished.

Over at the AIDS Inc-run site for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, in a post with a headline about the development of it entering a supposed final stretch, we get a sense of the lazy timeline at work here:

ONAP [Office of National AIDS Policy in the White House] aims to finalize the Strategy by this summer. [ONAP director Jeff] Crowley pledged to host a meeting with community stakeholders to present the major themes under consideration by ONAP for inclusion in the Strategy before making final recommendations to President Obama. Only after the President has authorized the final Strategy will ONAP make its final Strategy publicly available.

The operative word is "aims." Should Crowley get Obama a draft of the plan by, say, the 4th of July or maybe Labor Day, I don't expect the President to then quickly sign off on it, not with the mid term elections soon to happen. It troubles me that in year 29 of the AIDS epidemic, our President and his advisers have not only failed to produce a strategy, but they have also not publicly committed to a hard timeline they will follow to produce it.

Bear in mind that with the administration restoring $250 million to abstinence programs recently, a clear signal of support for flat-earth, conservative approaches to HIV and pregnancy prevention was sent, and it doesn't bode well for innovative thinking on AIDS issues.

If a best-case scenario plays out and Crowley meets his "aims" in the summer, we might be fortunate and witness the White House implementing the National AIDS Strategy by the end of 2010. Sure, it will be good to finally have the strategy guiding America's response to AIDS as 2011 dawns, but half of Obama's first-term will be over by then.

We are quite far from the final stretch, and I hope the groups and activists that have poured so much time and energy into developing the National AIDS Strategy make a ruckus about this procrastination from the Obama administration. Let's not give Obama a free ride on domestic AIDS concerns.

The ONAP blog reminds us:

Although the United States has among the worst HIV epidemics among industrialized nations, the US has never adopted a coordinated nationwide response to address the epidemic.

The HIV clock is ticking, Mr. President, and the lives and needs of people with AIDS need your leadership -- now. We needed a coordinated plan in 2009. No more delays!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

WaPo: Health Bill
$250M for Abstinence

Today's Washington Post reports on a huge windfall for proponents of abstinence -- hundreds of millions of dollars for programs that advocate a no-sex approach to stop teen pregnancies and STDs. Where is our fierce and realistic advocate for sane pregnancy and HIV prevention policies?

I'd sure like to hear from gay White House staffers Brian Bond, the gay liaison, and Jeff Crowley, the head of the Office of National AIDS Policy, about the supposed benefits behind allocating so much money for abstinence programs long-debunked by scientific research. Anyone care to wager that Bond and Crowley don't say a thing about this outrageous waste of money?

From the Post article:

A little-noticed provision of the health legislation has rescued federal support for a controversial form of sex education: teaching youths to remain virgins until marriage.

The bill restores $250 million over five years for states to sponsor programs aimed at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by focusing exclusively on encouraging children and adolescents to avoid sex. The funding provides at least a partial reprieve for the approach, which faced losing all federal support under President Obama's first two budgets. [...]

NYT's Zimbabwe, Gays Story:
Gay Voices Omitted

An otherwise good piece of reporting in today's New York Times about gay concerns in Zimbabwe, which also mentions the problems gays face in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda, is missing one important element -- quotes from gay Africans.

There are plenty of brave gays in all of those countries, many of whom can be quoted using their real names at great personal risk to their security and safety, but the Times didn't find a single gay person affected by the political maneuverings to weigh in.

This sort of journalistic omission shouldn't be happening at any respectable newspaper, much less the Times. I expect the Grey Lady to include comments from any minority community being written up, be it women, the disabled, or gays.

Let's give the Times credit for carrying this story, a demerit for no gay voices in it, and hope that all future articles on gays in Africa feature a quote or two from gay people.

From today's article:

Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, said Thursday that any thought of putting gay rights in the nation’s new constitution was “madness,” and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who often disputes almost everything Mr. Mugabe says, this time seemed to agree.

Both men were appearing at a belated celebration of International Women’s Day in a suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. [...]

Mr. Tsvangirai’s response, according to the news media, was, “Why should a man seek to have a relationship with another man when women make up 52 percent of the population?”

Mr. Mugabe’s comments were unsurprising. In the past he has described homosexuals as behaving “worse than pigs and dogs.” Gay bashing is one of his enduring themes. [...]

On Friday, the prime minister’s spokesman, James Maridadi, tried to play down the significance of the remarks. “Tsvangirai was speaking off the cuff in a very lighthearted way,” he said. [...]

Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe, but gay rights organizations have been allowed to operate openly. In nearby Malawi, such groups can work only clandestinely. Two gay men there could face 14 years in prison after they were arrested for holding an engagement party in December.

Homophobia is the norm throughout Africa. In Uganda, a lawmaker has proposed harsh penalties for homosexuality, including the death penalty in some circumstances. In Kenya last month, the police broke up a gay wedding and arrested many of the guests; the police intervened, they said, to keep an irate mob from killing the participants. [...]

Friday, March 26, 2010

Video: HRC's Straight Lobbyist
Introduces Herself to Gays

The legislative director for America's largest professional political organization, the Human Rights Campaign, is a straight woman. This fact was shared with me yesterday by a little birdie in DC, and at first I was surprised to learn Allison Herwitt is not a lesbian.

But what does it matter, really, what the sexual orientation is of HRC's chief lobbyist is? There have been plenty of same-sexers running the org for the past three decades, and there isn't much to show for it.

Googling for any info on Herwitt and her agenda for gay Americans, especially at this crucial time for a number of our issues pending before the U.S. Congress, doesn't turn up items of significance. Since she is straight and worked for eleven-years at the National Abortion Rights Action League, Herwitt has no track-record on our gay issues. What are her qualifications, that she's friends with Joe Solmonese?

One thing I found from Herwitt that introduces her to the gay community, is a video she made about living with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder. She has an extensive history of advocating for people living with celiac disease, including this video:

In terms of her resourcefulness, I'm not impressed with how long it took her to realize she could surf the web to find answers to questions about her illness. Herwitt says:

Until – at the time I was engaged – until my fiancé said to me, you know “Why don’t you try to find a support group?” Well hello! Yeah. I should have done that. Right from the beginning. I should have found a group of people that had been living with this disease, knew a lot more about the diet than I could, so I didn’t feel so alone, I could get some advice from people, I could figure out where to shop. So I started to look on the internet and I found a support group in my area and I went and I have to say, it was the support group that really changed my life.

Frankly, based on this bit of info, I don't have confidence that Herwitt is the creative and fierce advocate the American gay community needs right now, as our top lobbyist before the House and Senate.

Here's a radical notion for Herwitt and HRC. Make a video that is all about Herwitt, her plans for moving our gay agenda forward, and how she will engage the community. It says much about what is wrong with HRC that its legislative director has a video on the web about living with celiac disease and no comparable video about her job as our chief lobbyist on Capital Hill.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

HRC's Legislative Director Came to SF and ...

Allison Herwitt, who serves as the legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign and earned $163,891 last year, like her boss Joe Solmonese, came to professional gay advocacy after working on abortion. She was the governmental director for NARAL. Solmonese was at EMILY's List for 11-years. Herwitt's background, on a highly controversial issue, could serve her very well in pushing gay rights on Capital Hill.

Yesterday I learned that Herwitt had been in San Francisco last weekend for a panel discussion at the one-day annual Givers and Shaker's meeting, organized by the Horizons Foundation. Deb Stallings from that org shared more info with me:

With regards to Givers and Shakers, I’ll attach to this email some info about the event. You’ll see that the morning plenary featured not only Ms. Herwitt but other leaders of the LGBT movement as well. [...]

I will also let you know when the audio files are available. To be honest it probably won’t be as soon as I would like since our communications person is out of the office on family leave, but we’ll get them up just as soon as we can. I hope you - and others - will find the information interesting.

This is the info on the panel held on Saturday:


Matt Coles, Project Director, ACLU LGBT and AIDS Project
Allison Herwitt, Legislative Director, Human Rights Campaign
Russell Roybal, Dep. Executive Director of External Relations, NGLTF
Léonie Walker, Advisor, National Civil Marriage Collaborative

MODERATOR: Roberta Achtenberg,
Trustee, California State University

I have no problem with Horizons Foundation putting on the event, nor do I object to charging folks $50 to attend. I'm very much looking forward to listening to the discussion, once the audio is made available to the community on the web.

What I do have a concern with is that Herwitt and HRC apparently made no effort whatsoever to also stage their own panel discussion, or town hall meeting, open to the full breadth of the Bay Area's vast and diverse gay community.

In particular, it would have been engaging on so many levels, especially here in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's district, if we had heard from Herwitt about HRC's agenda with her, and how we, her constituents, could apply pressure on her and move our legislative gay agenda forward through the Speaker.

Here it is 2010, there is significant gay and progressive community impatience to see DADT lifted and ENDA passed, a ravenous hunger for true leadership from HRC executives and lobbyists, and an overwhelming desire to see some of our national problems solved through Congressional and White House action.

Yet, what I see is boring and ineffective HRC business as usual. When was the last time any top leader from HRC came to San Francisco and made a genuine effort to outreach, engage and mobilize the local community? And I don't mean showing up for a basically private chat that costs money, or for the annual HRC dinner.

If HRC and Herwitt had an inkling about motivating the community and truly moving us beyond the in-fighting and attacks on them, they would put some muscle into creating new ways of interacting with the community out here.

Why are the words "community engagement" not an integral part of HRC's lexicon?

Secret Service Director's Reports
Reference Me Because of FOIAs

There's a fantastic online archive of a multitude of federal records of all sorts, from many agencies, that were pried loose through Freedom of Information Act requests. The site is and I'm proud to say my name shows up on the site a few times, all because I've made FOIA requests at federal agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service.

In the monthly briefings for the director of the Secret Service, in which he is informed of recent FOIAs filed, institutional names appear such as the Washington Post and CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, there's a blogger mentioned -- me:

Request from Proclaimed News Blogger for Entry and Exit Logs pertaining to the White House and the Camp David Compound from January 21, 2001, to February 1, 2006

The FOI/PA Program has received a request from Michael Petrelis, who identified himself as a news blogger, for access to information regarding records pertaining to the entry to and exit from the White House Complex and the Camp David Compound from January 21, 2001, to February 1, 2006. The FOI/PA Program has acknowledged receipt of the requests. A search for responsive information has been sent to PPD.

Three other FOIAs from me are also cited in the director's monthly briefings. My requests to other federal agencies are contained in other documents available at the site, which I located using the internal Google search engine on the opening page.

Hundred of files, memos, letters, and additional documents are posted at the site, as are hundred more FOIA logs from dozens of agencies. A FOIA and sunshine advocate could spend days perusing everything there, and would find many many interesting things to request from agencies, and in particular would learn new ways to ask for data from agencies. Many big thanks to the folks behind Government Attic and the FOIA officers and staffers at the agencies.

What fascinates me about FOIA logs is seeing who in the mainstream media or bloggers or ordinary citizens have made requests and what they asked for. FOIA logs also give me ideas for duplicate requests I want to make for the same records requested by others.

The logs can also guide me to ask an agency for a copy of the letter of request, the letter of response, and the records provided to the requester. The agency might also be asked for a copy of the contents of the administrative tracking/processing/handling file/folder (including memos, notes, emails, etc.) to learn how they processed the request and what might have been included or omitted. In short, more ways of bringing additional transparency to the federal government.

And speaking of FOIAs, now is a good time to remind folks that the Get Grandpa's FBI File site is an excellent resource for making requests for the files on deceased individuals. It is generally quick and easy to get an FBI file of a deceased individual. Most requesters now get a response within 3 months, and typically there is no charge for the file (although for legal reasons you must express a willingness to pay fees if there are fees).

If you want to see if the FBI has a record on you, check out and the Get My FBI File. Both sites are free and generate letters to send to the FBI.

If you've ever been curious to learn what the feds may have in the archive on you or any deceased person, please don't procrastinate about making a FOIA request on a federal agency.

FOIA is a valuable tool to keep our government honest and transparent, not to mention accessible, for the people. File a FOIA today! You, and American democracy, will be glad you did.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SF DPH: HIV Still Declining;
UCLA Modeler Silent

The February monthly STD surveillance report came out yesterday, and the editorial note says for a recent three-year period, new HIV infections fell. This data is consistent with other figures in recent years from the local health department, documenting HIV infections entering an endemic phase, and into solid drops.

With this good news about continuing drops in new infections, even taking into account the DPH's caveat about the confidence intervals overlapping and researchers saying the declines are not statistically significant, a decline is happening and may help to undermine the hysteria and stigma of UCLA's HIV math model for the city.

UCLA's Sally Blower and colleagues found absolutely nothing good to say about HIV control and prevention here, and with the aid of the university's press office, stigmatized gay men and people with AIDS, with offensive quote:

"Our model showed that what is going on in San Francisco is very complicated — but in a nutshell, it is due to the bug, the drugs and sex."

What the new local report shows is not complicated at all -- HIV is falling in San Francisco, but UCLA researchers in their ivory tower won't recognize this fact, because it doesn't fit into their apocalyptic and questionable findings. If Blower and colleagues were respectfully engaging the local community, we could have a fruitful discussion about all of these issues, but such engagement is not possible when Blower is more concerned with her academic career.

It's my sincere wish that the numbers in the new report receive the proper attention they deserve from other gay bloggers, local media and our local HIV advisory councils.

From the latest monthly STD report, emphases mine:

The SF DPH HIV Epidemiology Section, in collaboration with the CDC, has developed a HIV incidence surveillance system to estimate the number of new or incident infections occurring each year in SF.

Blood from standard HIV tests from newly diagnosed HIV cases is retested using a laboratory assay (called BED) that classifies individuals as having either a recently acquired HIV infection (within the past six months) or a longer-standing infection. Results from this test are used with a statistical adjustment for HIV testing patterns to calculate HIV incidence.

Applying this methodology in SF in 2006, 2007 and 2008, we find that the number of new HIV infections is declining.

In 2006, the estimate of new HIV infections was 935 (95% CI 658 – 1,212). In 2007, the estimate dropped to 792 (95% CI 552 – 1,033) and in 2008 the estimated number of new infections dropped to 621 (95% CI 462 -782).

While this decline is encouraging and corresponds with a similar drop in number of new HIV diagnoses, the confidence intervals overlap indicating that the declines are not statistically significant.

We will continue to use the HIV incidence surveillance system to produce a population based HIV incidence estimate each year. We remain optimistic that these declines in HIV incidence in SF will continue.
UCLA's HIV Modeler
Denounced at Regents Meeting

The Regents of the University of California held a regularly scheduled meeting today in San Francisco, and I was there to criticize UCLA's controversial mathematician Sally Blower because of her stigmatizing model on HIV drug resistance here.

I arrived at the UCSF Mission Bay campus early this morning and was greeted by at least 15 uniformed UC police officers. There were about 25 demonstrators picketing on the sidewalk for a living wage for janitorial and clerical workers, and I expressed my support for their demands on my way into the building.

Everyone had to open all bags for inspection at the entrance, and if you were going to the Regents meeting, then you got a small pink sticker with today's date on it. At the next security check-point, the UC police looked at the sticker, then directed me to the second floor auditorium.

There was a long line of students and community protesters waiting to get in, and because I had signed up in advance for public comment, I was moved to the head of the line, where I had to give up my camera, and go through another search of my bag and get wanded. Each public comment speaker was allowed what seemed like only 90-seconds, maybe two-minutes, at the mic.

The gist of my presentation was that UCLA and Sally Blower dumped their HIV math model on the people with AIDS community in San Francisco, that the model needed to be investigated and that Blower has done nothing to help find solutions to the problems she says exist here. I loudly said all that was not okay, gave an old-fashioned shout of "Act up, fight back, fight AIDS," and my time was up.

It was a good thing that I sent several pieces of criticism against Blower and UCLA from the past few months, to the assistants for the Regents because no one was allowed to hand anything to the Regents. Did I mention the security was incredibly tight?

The audio portion of all of today's Regents' meetings were streamed, and are supposed to be archived here. And the campaign for accountability from UCLA and the UC Regents regarding Blower's questionable study, goes on.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

1,138 Federal Provisions,
Not Benefits,
Due to Marital Status

Over lunch at Cafe Flore the other day, a friend asked me what exactly were all of the 1,138 federal benefits given to straight married couples, that were denied to gays. His question got me curious, and I soon learned that there are _not_ 1,138 such benefits.

This is from the Gay Life section of, and is a perfect example of misinterpretation of what is actually in federal statutes, emphasis mine:

[H]ere are a few of the 1,138 benefits the United States government provides to legally married couples [...]

According to a 1997 General Accounting Office report, initiated at the request of the late conservative, and no friend of gays, Rep. Henry Hyde, there were more than 1,000-plus instances when marital status was taken into consideration:

In connection with the enactment of the Defense of Marriage Act, you asked us, in your September 5, 1996, letter, to identify federal laws in which benefits, rights, and privileges are contingent on marital status. Your staff agreed that we should identify more generally all those laws in the United States Code in which marital status is a factor, even though some of these laws may not directly create benefits, rights, or privileges.

To find laws that meet these criteria, we conducted searches for various words or word stems ("marr," "spouse," "widow," etc.), chosen to elicit marital status, in several electronic databases that contain the text of federal laws. From the collection of laws in the United States Code that we found through those searches, we eliminated (1) laws that included one or more of our search terms but that were not relevant to your requests and (2) as agreed with your staff, any laws enacted after the Defense of Marriage Act. The result is a collection of 1049 federal laws classified to the United States Code in which marital status is a factor. [...]

I had always thought there were more than 1,000 actual and tangible benefits at the federal level for married persons. Now, I'm enlightened about the nuances behind the figure we gays bandy about as the number of federal benefits denied to gay married couples. I will no longer make the mistake of saying so many benefits exist based on marriage.

To make sure I was getting the clear picture, finally, on this matter, I asked Jenny Pizer, gay attorney at Lambda Legal, for her opinion:

I generally do think it's better to say 1,100+ places in federal law where one's marital status matters or "is a factor," and that's the way I usually phrase it. I think it's more accurate and if/when lists are made of the rights and obligations at stake, most people probably wouldn't think of all the numerous tax rules as different rights/obligations.

So my view about what's better is based on my judgment that it might not be helpful in the long if some people argue the 1,000+ number is inflated, thereby possibly undercutting the force of the solid arguments about how devastating and unjustifiable federal discrimination is in Social Security, immigration, certain federal taxes, etc etc. The cruelty of the discrimination isn't really a function of how many minute subsections there are in statutes (e.g., in the IRS code), but rather about when and how the different treatment affects people's lives.

That got me wondering if there had been an update from GAO since the Henry Hyde-initiated report was issued in 1997. In 2004, the GAO provided a revision on the figure, and this report came after conservative and anti-gay Sen. Bill Frist asked for an update, which said:

We have identified 120 statutory provisions involving marital status that were enacted between September 21, 1996, and December 31, 2003. During the same period, 31 statutory provisions involving marital status were repealed or amended in such a way as to eliminate marital status as a factor. Consequently, as of December 31, 2003, our research identified a total of 1,138 federal statutory provisions classified to the United States Code in which marital status is a factor in determining or receiving benefits, rights, and privileges.

Provisions do not equal benefits, and this is important to remember when we discuss gay marriage and federal benefits. I wrote to Jenny that it was strange to think our GOP adversaries, Hyde and Frist, in getting the GAO to carry out the reports, which help us. Jenny writes:

And it is interesting -- telling, really, about how recent it is that we have serious support for DOMA repeal in Congress -- that it was anti-gay leaders that requested these reports. Maybe the right word is ironic because neither requestor sought to provide a tool for gay rights advocacy, obviously, and it probably didn't occur to either of them that these reports would help us, just as the same probably didn't occur to those on our side working in Congress.

The funny thing is that, while the reports have been somewhat helpful as research references, we have known the issue areas (and statutory citations) that cause most harm for those who are, or have been, in same-sex relationships. The main new information those reports provided is the big number which, as you are pointing out, has rhetorical power but easily becomes somewhat misleading when used to emphasize the point in a broad-brush way.

There's an irony in that, too, given how pervasively, and destructively, some noisy anti-gay crusaders distort information -- well, actually, not distort. They lie outright and outrageously. And that practice often serves them badly, for example, in many of our cases, even though they still get away with it a lot in political campaigns and media.

Thanks, Jenny and Lambda Legal, for the fuller understanding about the statutes and benefits, and best ways to use the figures and reports.

Here's a radical notion. Let's get a Democratic member of Congress to ask for another update on the GAO's information. After all, it's been six years since the last revision happened, and we sure could use more current information. Would also be great if this time we had a Democrat take the initiative to use the GAO to our advantage.
It's the 30th Anniversary of HRC's Founding

(Democratic Party hack and homo clothes-horse, Joe Solmonese, from a 2009 fashion spread in Washington Life magazine.)

My, my, how times flies when you're holding endless rubber-chicken galas, parading an endless line of attention-starved B-list entertainers in front of your logo, paying an executive director a solid $300,000-plus salary and showering healthy six-figures on other top leaders, telling the gay community you have a road map to federal equality but can't reveal any directions, and having pretty much nil to show for advancement of gay protections at the national level.

From the HRC site:

The Human Rights Campaign was founded in 1980, with a goal of raising money for congressional candidates who supported fairness. In the years that followed, the organization established itself as a resilient force in the overall movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights as it strived to achieve fundamental fairness and equality for all.

In 1980, Steve Endean, an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, founded the Human Rights Campaign Fund to raise money for pro-fairness congressional candidates. [...]

Happy birthday, HRC! You're thirty-years-old and your list of genuine accomplishments is remarkably slim, for an org that has probably raised and wasted close to a billion dollars. Buckets of gay dollars have flowed your way over three long decades, and the biggest achievement you've got on your resume is the purchase of an office building in Washington, DC.

Oh, and today Joe Solmonese, the nincompoop fashion maven at the helm of HRC was chosen by Washington Life magazine the most Elegant Activist of the Year:

If the past thirty-years of HRC's incompetence and non-delivery of real change for gays is any indication of what the next three months hold in store from the org, we'll see more galas and minor performers yammering in front of cameras, promoting HRC's equal logo.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunshine King Nets $3.5M for SF

If I had to pick one man as the top sunshine advocate for San Francisco, it would be Kimo Crossman. Sure, there are lots of terrific sunshine fights here, each with great skills and knowledge, and Kimo has that in abundance, but what makes him special is his friendly way of reaching out to many ordinary folks who need guidance or advice in filing requests and opening up the government.

Over the years, I've seen Kimo in action at different venues and his core belief -- that our governmental agencies are answerable to citizens and internal documents belong to the people -- comes shining through at all times.

Being an admirer of his, I'm happy to see Kimo getting some public recognition for finding $3.5 million for the city. The Bay Guardian reports:

But in the last couple days, he earned a gold star from the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder for pointing out that when Morgan Stanley walked away from five high-profile San Francisco properties, it neglected to pay a transfer tax. Thanks to an email from the ever-inquisitive Crossman, the assessor-recorder was able to collect roughly $3.5 million and feed it to the city’s ailing General Fund.

It started when Crossman read an article on about Morgan Stanley walking away from five San Francisco skyscrapers last December that it purchased in 2007 [...]

He was annoyed. “Individuals can’t walk away from their obligations,” he said. But for the huge financial firm, “it doesn’t appear that they have any negative repercussions.”

It just warms my activist, emailing-sending heart to see one of my mentors bring a windfall of money to the cash-starved city coffers, all because he sent an email to a government worker.

So what did the assessor's office have to say about the good work of our Sunshine King? A deputy in that office wrote to Kimo:

I wanted to let you know that no exclusion was applied toward the Morgan Stanley transaction. As a result, the Assessor-Recorder's Office collected about $3.5M in transfer tax revenue for the City and County General Fund. I want to thank you, once again, for being engaged in these tax issues. I certainly appreciate knowing that there are people, like you, who are also monitoring these transactions. I would ask that you continue to send us these emails.

And why did he ask the assessor a few questions about Morgan Stanley taking a hike on its San Francisco properties?

Crossman told the Guardian, “I did it just to help the city and because I was mad at the banks walking away from their loans.”

The city has a discretionary law that allows for agency chiefs to award citizens a reward, for saving or earning the city big money, and Kimo likely qualifies for a commission of the $3.5 million. However, he doesn't expect to receive a check from the Mayor anytime soon.

He may not be receiving a finder's fee, so when you see Kimo around town, be sure give him a healthy dose of much-deserved praise for all of his pro bono service on behalf of open government and public accountability.

(Photo credit: SF Mike and his Civic Center blog.)
UCLA Apologizes, If They Offended
Anyone With HIV Math Model

Recently, I wrote up complaint to several people at UCLA above Sally Blower, the math modeler who's created two-months of controversy, and I asked her superiors to investigate her research and the stigmatization stemming from her model, study and the UCLA press office's news release.

At the same time, gay health writer Clinton Fein was delving into a few of the myriad and extensive controversies surrounding Blower's previous and current research, and her stormy tenure at both UCSF and UCLA. Fein wrote two great, detailed essays, posted here and here, that the university simply couldn't ignore.

Late last week, UCLA Vice Chancellor for Research, Dr. Roberto Peccei, responded with a limp response that tepidly apologized for all the trouble caused by Blower and UCLA, with a huge caveat along the lines of "if anyone took offense" language. I guess a weak apology is better than none, right?

But this note from Peccei is not enough to make the lingering questions about Blower's research and the UCLA press office's role in creating the controversy go away.

Peccei and his UCLA colleagues can keep repeating how much they respect Blower and stand by her, how fabulous it is her work was published in a scientific journal, but I believe one reason why the apology was finally made was to show Blower's husband, Nelson Freimer, that UCLA is working to defend his wife. The Peccei apology was not copied to Blower, but instead was copied to Freimer.

In Science magazine of April 1, 2005, it was reported that Freimer, a rising star in the filed of genetics much sought-after by UCLA, that his working for the university was contingent on his wife getting a position:

Blower joined the biomathematics department in 2000 after she and her husband struck a deal with UCLA. The university was aggressively recruiting Freimer, who said he would come only if his wife was also offered a tenured position.

I must also point out what key component is sorely missing from this UCLA apology, and has been missing since January when Blower's work was first published and raising questions from many institutions and people in San Francisco. Nowhere in this note does Peccei explain what Blower is doing to address the problems of drug resistance among people with AIDS here.

Blower has done nothing that I'm aware of to find solutions for PWAs with resistance in SF, nor has she lifted a finger to deal with the frightening conclusion of her math model:

"Consequently, currently circulating [AIDS drug]-resistant strains in San Francisco pose a great and immediate threat to global public health."

What happened was Blower and UCLA made their alarmist claims, threw their study down from their ivory tower, and said let others solve the problems. In short, PWAs in San Francisco and our medical conditions were used by Blower to advance her academic career. The last thing on her twisted agenda is working with PWAs, the SF Department of Health, nurses and doctors in clinics dealing with actual living and breathing PWAs, a creating solutions.

Thanks to Blower, UCLA once-sterling research reputation in San Francisco gay and AIDS communities has been severely tarnished. It will take concrete actions, respectful community engagement, and a genuine and unequivocal apology to restore that reputation.

Here is Peccei's note:

I am writing to you regarding the recent publication in Science entitled “Evolutionary Dynamics of Complex Networks of Drug-resistant Strains: the Case of San Francisco” by Professor Sally Blower, current and former members of her research group (Dr. Robert Smith, Mr. Justin Okano, and Ms. Erin Bodine) and her clinical collaborator, Professor James Kahn at UCSF.

I understand that this research paper has caused consternation among some and even the suggestion that it should be withdrawn. The paper was thoroughly peer-reviewed and draws its conclusions from a rigorous data-driven mathematical modeling study. There is no reason for the paper to be withdrawn. Professor Blower is a distinguished member of the faculty at UCLA and a valued colleague within the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. The University fully supports Professor Blower and the published research.

I can assure you that UCLA never intended to offend anyone within the LGBT community in San Francisco and I apologize to any who may have been. UCLA has been and remains sensitive to the concerns of the LGBT community and, indeed, undertakes a wide variety of research that directly and indirectly benefits that community.

I also would appreciate it if you would communicate directly with me, and me alone, on this matter.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Scrubbed: Cuddling Soldiers Pic
Gone From AfPax Site

For some unknown reasons, the AfPax web site operators last week scrubbed the image from their site. I had blogged about the image on Wednesday, and when I visited AfPax on Friday, it was gone, along with the terse explanation about the counterfeit sunglasses.

Two emails were sent to the site operators, and they've chosen to ignore my requests for info on why the post with the cuddling male soldiers was removed. Given all the much larger problems they face as rogue Department of Defense contractors, it's weird to see them have trouble with the male soldiers pic.

And scrubbing it has not removed the pic or the AfPax post from the web. Thanks to the surveillance and archiving by Google for next to everything on the web, you can view what AfPax operators no longer have on their site.

Here's where the original post was, and this is the cached version. Click here to read the NY Times story from last Monday about the operators and their site, and also to check out the Times' screen capture of, in which the pic in question was featured.
More Kramer: Who's Giving to HRC?

(With a hand in the air, a minor comic and Obama donor uses the gay community to boost her career. At her side is Joe Solmonese, a minor Democratic Party hack who earns a first-class salary of $307,000. Photo credit: Alex Wong, Getty.)

From New York City, Larry Kramer posted a comment in response to my essay yesterday about the Human Rights Campaign's 2009 IRS tax filing. Larry writes:

michael, this is revolting, that so many staff members receive so much and the organization provides so little. i have called for joe's resigning. hell, i have called for the organization itself to disband and sink into a well-deserved oblivion. what i want to know is who in this day and age of reality and transparency gives money to this useless place? they must be living on the moon not to see what isn't going on. each year they seem to rake in more and more big bucks. it's sickening. you should try and get a list of their major donors and post that!

good work, as usual. thanks.

That got me curious about HRC donors and their corporate sponsors, so I checked out their 2009 annual report, and the info was not in it. Like Larry, I wonder who in their right mind gives money to this useless org, and I'd sure like to read their views on why they think HRC is worthy of even a queer three-dollar bill.

By the way, the Getty photo agency today published pics from the HRC rally this week, and this caption for the image below caught my eye:
"Local resident Jim Rinefierd holds up a US flag and a Human Rights Campaign flag during a rally in support of a repeal of the "Don?t Ask, Don?t Tell" policy March 18, 2010 at the Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC."

(Photo credit: Alex Wong, Getty.)

The info for practically news photo captions is gathered by the photographer, and it's most likely in this case that Alex Wong asked James Rinefierd who he was and where he lives. Since I know from HRC's IRS 990 filing that Rinefierd is an executive at the org, and that he earns $158,000, I wonder why he didn't tell the photographer that he ain't just some average gay out to support HRC.

Call me skeptical about anything to do with, or anyone who works for, or was once employed at HRC. I don't think the Getty photography got the full truth from Rinefierd.

The org has sucked up too much money and political capital from the gay community for decades and we have so little to show for the hundreds of millions they rake in.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Larry Kramer:
Homosexual Sounds Good Again!

(Photo credit: David Shankbone.)

Aardvark Books on Church Street had only one copy left of the March/April issue of the Gay and Lesbian Review on the stands this afternoon, and I grabbed it. Right off the bat, I was stimulated by some of the content, which comes from our beloved and cranky gay godfather of angry activism and rhetoric, Larry Kramer. He writes in the letters column:

Jason Schneiderman’s article [G&LR, Jan.-Feb. 09] about my article [Sept.-Oct. 09] certainly shows a great deal of work. I wish I could understand it as something more than what I have come to name all queer studies: gobbledygook. You people do seem to find unlimited ways to obfuscate the obvious. [...]

I do believe in the “universality of homosexuality,” and from the beginning of history. All this other shit you and others continue to lay on top of this simple definition is wearying, annoying, and retrograde. And it’s the greatest inhibitor to our progress as a people. I too am unhappy with the word “gay.” But it is not as loaded as you guys have made “queer.” In a strange way, “homosexual” is beginning to sound good again!

Oh, to not only reclaim true and glittering fabulous terms like gay and queer and homosexual, and put forward an agenda of liberation and pride in our uniqueness.

Homosexual may be sounding good again to Larry and others, but we are still stuck with the weak and useless gay wing of the Democratic Party, the Human Rights Campaign, running our agenda in Washington, and HRC ain't delivering shit for any of us, no matter what terms we use to identify ourselves.

Support the Gay and Lesbian Review, buy a copy today of the magazine at your local gay bookstore or newsstand.
IRS: HRC's Solmonese Flies First-Class

About a year ago, at the old Washington Blade, longtime reporter Lou Chibbaro presented the community with a gift of a story. It was a salary survey of our gay and AIDS orgs' executive directors. Thanks to the truly fabulous HIV site Aegis, that survey is still available online for folks to read.

Lou noted that according to the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese "took a voluntary pay cut of 10 percent, lowering his total compensation from $338,400 to $302,200, according to HRC," for 2009. Nice of him to sacrifice a small amount for the good of the movement.

When HRC released its most recent IRS 990 filing on August 14, HRC estimate for his pay was adjusted slightly, up to $307, 050.

What is of equally keen interest is this explanation that sheds a healthy ray of sunshine into the professional life of our Dear Leader, on page 29:

"HRC provided first class air travel on occasions for President Joe Solmonese, as permitted by policy adopted by the HRC Board. The president's schedulue often requires last minute changes in travel plans, and therefore fully refundable tickets are frequently used. First class tickets were occasionally purchased in situations in which fully refundable coach tickets were comparably priced to first class tickets."

Gosh, it must be so difficult, having to make travel plans to be in LA walking the red carpet for an HRC "L Word" party, instead of trying to influence the New Hampshire primary:

Or getting to the Sundance film-apalooza to schmooze with indie, creative types:

Or appearing at the HRC dinner in New York City and doing a great impersonation of a wax figure:

Or schlepping back to Washington and getting pimped up for a society photo-shoot:

Snark aside, I would not give a fig if Solmonese always traveled in first class and even made half a million in annual pay, if I thought he were genuinely working round-the-clock to advance federal equality for gays and that his leadership of the community, and stewardship of HRC's budget, was accomplishing clear-cut results.

But he and his org are the biggest leeches to affix themselves to the gay community's hide, and they ain't about to give up their lucrative salaries and benefits and really deliver federal changes for the rest of us.

The HRC's IRS 990 report, on page 7, shares this info on what other executives at the org made last year:

Cathy Nelson

David Smith

Martin Rouse

Susanne Salkind

Alison Herwitt

James Rinefierd

Robert Falk

Christopher Speron

Elizabeth Pursell

Andrea Green

Kevin Layton

Ann Crowley

Halcyon Mathis

Total: $2,185,803

A solid $2.1 million to pay just 14 leaders at HRC, and the average for those salaries comes to $156,000. What do we get in return for paying these leaders such good compensation, to work on our equality and federal issues?

HRC's Dear Leader and his minions gave us another in a long line of minor female celebrities brought to DC to appear in a photo-op promoting their equal logo, and the comics use gays to generate interest in their careers or latest entertainment product.

It's insulting that 17 long years after Bill Clinton created the Don't Ask/Don't Tell ban on gays in the military, and hundred and hundreds of gay dollars wasted through HRC since then, we get to this pivotal moment to potentially overturn the ban, and the best HRC can do is give us a straight chick looking for laughs.

The longer HRC exists and maintains its reputation as the Worst.Human.Rights.Organization.Ever., the longer the joke is at our collective expense.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Philly Edge: What Turmoil Over
UCLA HIV Math Model?

There's a stenographic piece of gay/AIDS journalism appearing today on the Edge Philadelphia web site, on the controversial HIV math model created by UCLA's Sally Blower that appeared in a January issue of Science magazine. Edge writer Annie Brown reports:

The study, released in Scientific Magazine earlier this year, found that these strains began to emerge in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, London and other rich-resource cities. [...] This study has raises serious concerns among those fighting to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic, because patients with the drug-resistant strain see little improvement in their health when provided antiretroviral drugs (or ARVs). [...]

Um, the study was published in Science, and as I far as I can determine, there is no publication called Scientific Magazine. Furthermore, Blower's study said absolutely nothing about drug resistant HIV strains in New York, Chicago or London. It was a Bloomberg News story in March, in which Blower alleged such strains were showing up in those three other cities.

All that aside, Edge Philadelphia and Brown omit mention of the steady drumbeat of criticism leveled against the study, the researcher and the UCLA press office that used alarm and stigma to publicize the study.

Since the study's publication, institutions such as the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the Bay Area Reporter and KPIX-TV have raised serious questions about the research.

We've also seen health writers Clinton Fein and Liz Highleyman express strong concerns regarding the findings, among other concerns. SF Supervisor Bevan Dufty has written to Blower, stating his issues related to the study and impact on the local gay and AIDS communities.

And Barbara French, UCSF's vice chancellor for communications, just a few weeks ago put great distance between her press office and the UCLA press office's handling of promoting the Blower study.

Yet, for Edge Philadelphia and its science writer, they couldn't be bothered to report on anything related to the two month of turmoil and controversy in San Francisco, from many entities and people, about the study and associated matters. This kind of stenographic report is a stain upon good journalism, and is a perfect example of how not to write about Blower, her HIV math modeling and drug resistance.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cuddling Male Soldiers
& Rogue DoD Contractors

The New York Times on Monday reported on independent Pentagon contractors establishing a network of spies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who were recruited to track and kill alleged militants, and a photo with the story caught my gay eye. It showed a screen-capture of a post from the site clearly featuring hunky soldiers in their uniforms embracing.

The Times explained how the site came to exist and what its purpose would be:

[The contractors] proposal was to set up a reporting and research network in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the American military and private clients who were trying to understand a complex region that had become vital to Western interests. They already had a similar operation in Iraq — called “Iraq Slogger,” which employed local Iraqis to report and write news stories for their Web site.

[Former CNN producer Eason] Jordan proposed setting up a similar Web site in Afghanistan and Pakistan — except that the operation would be largely financed by the American military. The name of the Web site was Afpax.

The site is dormant and it appears the last updates on it were in September 2009. However, under the headline "Oakley Man Love: Cuddling Soldiers, Fake Shades," shared this homo-erotic image:

The caption reads: "These counterfeit Oakley sunglasses were purchased today (September 3, 2009) at a supermarket in Kabul. The cost: 500 afghanis or 10 USD."

Other than the cute headline, no other reference is made to the sexy gay imagery on the cardboard display box. (And who knew there were supermarkets in Afghanistan?)

Very interesting that whoever is behind marketing the fake Oakleys believes the best photo to hawk the wares is an image of two beefy male soldiers who display warm affection between them. The counterfeiters would mint a handsome penny using such a display in the Castro neighborhood's clothing stores.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Survey: High Tolerance for Gays
in Latin/Carib American Politics

Over at the Americas Quarterly blog, Mitchell Seligson, a political science professor who conducted some very thought-provoking findings about gay acceptance south of our borders, caught my attention with an excerpt from an on the surveys he conducted, and this graphic:

I wish the graphic from the Americas Quarterly were crisper, but I hope you can make out that the top blue bar is for people above 35-years-of age, and the red bar is for 18-to-34-year-olds.

What I found startling was that for Jamaica, one of the region's most homo-hating countries, in both age brackets, the level of tolerance for gays in politics was above the low single-digits. Where the hell did Seligson's surveyors find enough Jamaicans to say that more than 40 percent would tolerate gays in the political sphere? Sure would be fantastic if those folks surveyed could speak out for acceptance of gay people in Jamaica.

That aside, Seligson places the Jamaican numbers up against what he found in Latin America:

The new found momentum for allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the U.S. military springs from attitudinal changes that have taken place since the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy of 17 years ago. If only this type of generational change were occurring south of our own borders. Recent surveys demonstrate that levels of political tolerance of gay rights in Latin America have changed little across generations.

The most basic measure of tolerance is that of citizens to accept the right of a citizen (in this case a homosexual) to run for political office. Sadly, even by this basic measure of tolerance, younger generations in Latin America are only marginally more supportive of political gay rights, especially in the most notoriously intolerant environments for homosexuals, Jamaica and Haiti.

Unfortunately these sad trends look unlikely to change. The greatest predictor of tolerance toward the political rights of gays in Latin America--as throughout the world--is education. But educational levels are slowly rising throughout the Americas south of the Rio Grande. [...]

To read all of Seligson's post, you have to sign up for a trial offer with the Americas Quarterly. Sorry, but I don't sign up to read any full blog post. Either post the entire piece, or you won't find me signing or registering for anything just to read the piece. Nice of them to share the terrific graphic though.