Monday, January 31, 2011

Castro Biz Org Won't Lower Flag for
David Kato on Feb 3 at Milk Plaza

Today I learned that the rainbow flag and pole at Harvey Milk Plaza, which I believe is city property, are controlled by the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro, MUMC. I contacted them foolishly thinking they would work with Gays Without Borders for our February 3 rally at Harvey Milk Plaza from 6 -7 pm to honor murdered gay Ugandan activist David Kato.

The reply below from the head of MUMC makes clear they will be doing us no favors on behalf of our effort to stand in solidarity with the beleaguered gay community of Uganda. Between the death of David Kato and the still-pending death penalty bill jeopardizing the safety and very lives of gay Ugandans and people with AIDS in the country, I would think MUMC would bend their rules a small bit. Was I wrong, or what?

While hundreds of gay and human rights groups, AIDS leaders, and many politicians around the globe including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, have condemned the killing of David Kato, called for an investigation into the death and pleaded for Ugandan political and religious to respect the lives and dignity of gays and PWAs in the African nation, the MUMC folks will not allow us to lower the rainbow flag, a small token of solidarity.

I appreciate the MUMC president saying he views the situation for gays in Africa as "horrendous," but it's a damn shame such thinking is not enough for him to fly our community's flag at half mast for a one-hour rally.

I would like to see proof from MUMC about all the requests they claim to receive, their agreement with the city to operate the flag pole, and papers about their supposed insurance costs. Let's also have a public discussion about a community advisory board to MUMC, to re-work the rules about when the rainbow flag at what is supposed to be public community space in the name of Harvey Milk.

There is no reason why the San Francisco gay community must accept at face value only the concerns of the business people in the Castro. If the Castro's public community spaces are indeed parcels of land that belong to all of us, MUMC will change its iron-clad rules about the rainbow flag.

Meanwhile, please show up on Thursday from 6 - 7 pm and show support for the gay Ugandan community, and demand justice for David Kato.

This the note from MUMC:


MUMC controls the large rainbow flag at Castro and Market St.

It is MUMC's policy to only lower the flag at half staff for special honors such as the deaths of Officer Jane Warner and Officer Jon Cook. When the flag was first put in place several years ago we were getting requests daily to lower it half staff for individuals and causes. We still get requests at least 4 - 8 times a month. If we honored every request, the flag would be kept at half staff most of the time. Therefore, we only lower it for very special honors within our community.
MUMC was the group behind getting the flag pole erected and maintains the flag pole. MUMC pays for the flags, maintenance and insurance which runs several thousand dollars a year.

As I am very sympathetic to your cause, (I feel what is happening in Uganda and the rest of Africa horrendous) I cannot grant your request at this time.
Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns

Steve Adams
President, Merchants of Upper Market and Castro

Saturday, January 29, 2011

US Gay Hater Rev's Bizarre Theory
Why Ugandan David Kato Murdered

Over the years I've advocated for gay tolerance in Jamaica, and I can say with all honestly that the most frequently cited reason for brutal attacks and gruesome deaths of homosexuals and transgender persons is a supposed gay romance gone sour. From letter-writers to the local papers up to the police forces, homo-on-homo hate is behind the crimes. Such thinking is now on display in the tragic murder of our gay Ugandan brother David Kato.

I learned this thanks to a column at the Boston Globe's site written by my friend Rob Anderson. We hooked up in 2006 when a call went out for vigils on the one-year anniversary of Iran hanging two gay teenagers, and 23-year-old Rob organized a well-attended speak out in Washington's Dupont Circle park, that also generated mainstream media including an excellent piece in the Washington Post, "Pictures from an execution."

Rob and I have kept in touch and he's doing us all a huge favor in putting this reportage out about the nutty and dangerous Scott Lively's views on the Kato killing. That's Lively in the photo.

From Rob's essay in the Boston Globe:

After the brutal murder of a Ugandan gay rights activist Wednesday, a Massachusetts preacher accused of helping incite anti-gay sentiment during a trip to the African nation responded to the killing with a feeble, callous statement. The pastor, Scott Lively, also offered his own bizarre theory about who may have killed activist David Kato by bludgeoning him to death with a hammer.

The killing is still being investigated, but gay rights activists in Uganda have connected Kato's murder to the anti-gay climate fostered by a trip there by Lively and other American preachers in 2009. ...

But in a statement posted on the website Defend the Family today, the Springield pastor made no mention of his 2009 trip, nor did he condemn the murder or offer his condolences. Lively also said he would "caution the media against assuming Cato’s [sic] murder was a hate crime."

Instead, Lively suggested Kato may have been killed by someone with whom he had been romantically involved, despite the fact that no one familiar with the case has suggested Kato was killed by a gay person, let alone someone with whom he had had a sexual relationship. There remains a "possibility" Kato was "killed by a 'gay' lover," Lively wrote, and likened Kato's death to that of Carlos Castro, a Portuguese journalist who was allegedly beaten to death and castrated by a male model in New York City earlier this month. The link between Kato and Castro — besides the fact that they were both openly gay men who had been brutally murdered — is unclear. But Lively has linked homosexuality to violence in the past. In his book Pink Swastika, Lively blames Nazi violence on homosexuality. ...

One way to counter the disgusting nonsense of Lively and his ilk, while also honoring the bravery of David Kato and all gay Ugandans fighting for their well-being and very lives, or seeking asylum in the United Kingdom and everywhere else, is to show up on Thursday, February 3 at 6 pm at Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco for an important rally. Click here for more info on the action.

Evil Iran Hangs Dutch Woman:
Zahra Bahrami, RIP

(This photo of Zahra Bahrami and the one below were taken by Eddie Woods.)
My first instinct is to condemn Iran for this and every hanging or execution it carries out. After that, my second instinct is to re-commit as a gay man and person with AIDS to always in every case oppose the death penalty and speak up for the abolishment of capital punishment everywhere.

Thirdly, John Aravosis of AmericaBlog who recently raised the specter of hanging an HIV positive man and has steadfastly refused to state if he opposes hangings, will likely remain silent about the latest Iranian hanging. Fourthly, every gay organization and blogger who consider themselves dedicated to a human rights agenda must unquestionably condemn this hanging.

Just a short while ago my friend Tate Swindell passed along this heart-breaking essay from his American-born and Amsterdam-based friend Eddie Woods. He knew Zahra Bahrami and he provides facts about his friend and circumstances surrounding her execution. Click here to read various mainstream news accounts about the hanging of Zahra.

From Eddie Woods:

Early this morning the murderously barbaric Iranian regime hanged my friend, and my friend Jane’s friend, Zahra Bahrami. Her crime? To be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even though the Islamic Republic of Iran would like for the world to believe otherwise. Zahra was 46 years old and a dual Dutch-Iranian national. Only the Iranian government refused to recognize her Dutch citizenship and therefore consistently denied Dutch consular officials in Tehran any access to her. And today they killed her.

Zahra, formerly a student of Indian classical music at the Rotterdam Conservatory and a professional belly dancer, had traveled to Iran more than a year ago to be with her daughter, who was undergoing chemotherapy. Foolishly perhaps, she (like thousands of others) participated in one of the Ashura demonstrations that were held on December 27th 2009 to protest the disputed presidential elections in June. Zahra, who has never belonged to any political organization (contrary to another false claim being made by the regime), was arrested and kept in solitary confinement until the moment of her death.

During the entire time she was repeatedly beaten and tortured. And was once forced to make a public confession, which she later retracted. A few months ago her Iranian lawyer, a lady well in the regime’s sights for handling other human-rights cases, was also imprisoned. While just the other day the Dutch foreign ministry appointed two attorneys from the Netherlands to ‘represent’ Zahra, a much-belated move that may well have sealed her fate.

For Zahra had first been tried and sentenced to die not on the political charges (that trial was still meant to happen) but for possessing, smuggling and selling narcotics. Drugs which had clearly been planted (as though they would need to plant them: they could simply say she had them and that would be that). Zahra did not even use drugs, any drugs, and was certainly not a smuggler.

But by trying her for this, the Iranian regime hoped (successfully, it appears) to blindside Western governments, and the Dutch in particular, as to their real motivations by saying this was all part of a ‘war on drugs.’

One AFP story said: "TEHRAN [says] is holding a Dutch-Iranian woman caught with drugs, state news agency IRNA reported, after the Netherlands sought details about a dual citizen reportedly on death row...

"'One of the cases that Western countries use to pressure the Islamic republic is the case of a woman named Zahra Bahrami, who holds European passports as well as an Iranian passport,' Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, quoted by IRNA.

"'(Bahrami) has been arrested by the police for carrying over 1kg of narcotics,” Mr Mehmanparast said without elaborating on the sentence or her nationality. He dismissed foreign interference in the case, in comments apparently aimed at the Netherlands which sought clarification...

"'They are not allowed to interfere in our internal affairs and our judiciary is quite independent,” said Mr Mehmanparast.

I have lived in Iran. And twice worked there as a journalist. That was when the Shah was in charge. The same Shah who had a rather nasty secret police force called SAVAK. (But hey, aren’t all secret police everywhere nasty? They damn sure are!) The bastards running the show in Iran nowadays don’t leave anyone alone. They call themselves ‘men of God’ but they are evil through and through.

At present suffice it to say that the power-wielding mullahs and their traitorous (to the Iranian people) cohorts must go. As for how to get rid of them, I do not know. Except that it must come from within. As it came from within in Tunisia and is coming from within in Egypt. And hopefully will come from within in numerous other nations ruled by equally brutal and corrupt regimes.

Capital punishment is abhorrent, period. And to say it is more abhorrent in Zahra’s case is missing the point. Zahra’s case is a tragedy because she never should have been arrested, should not have been imprisoned, ought not to have been tortured, and certainly not sentenced to death and hanged. But Zahra is not alone.

Iran executes people day in and day out. As does China. As does the bloody United States. And too many other countries. In the European Union it is banned. Even Russia abolished the death penalty. The rest must follow suit. Without any exceptions and in all circumstances. It is wrong.

Zahra's brother was executed for having a photograph of the Shah in his possession! Her elder daughter committed suicide. She is survived by a younger daughter and a 22-year old son.

RIP Zahra Bahrami. What a terrible way to die. At the blood-stained hands of a horrible regime that is as close to pure evil as any regime possibly can get.

Feb 3 S.F. Rally Poster for David Kato
& Gay Ugandans Needs Publicity

The necessary pieces to create a successful public vigil and protest over the horrific murder of gay Ugandan leader David Kato on January 26 are coming together. Friends, news photographers and other bloggers are calling saying they're coming this Thursday to the rally. We have a bullhorn charged up, global gay solidarity signs and one rainbow flag, ready for use.

And today, thanks to the creativity of Gary Virginia, a community organizer who wears many hats including graphic designer for Gays Without Borders/SF, the small group sponsoring the rally, there's now a fabulous poster to share and use for recruiting gays and our allies to be at the rally.

San Francisco, where the United Nations was chartered and which also is a bright beacon of hope and liberation to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world, takes its responsibilities of showing clear and unequivocal solidarity with our brothers and sisters everywhere.

Gay citizens and our many allies in San Francisco are deeply saddened by the murder of David Kato, along with the deaths, bloody assaults, political and religious discrimination and biases faced by gay people in far too many countries and we will not be silent.

Today I am asking you to play a part in making the February 3 rally at Harvey Milk Plaza from 6 pm to 7 pm an action we can be proud of, by doing one or more of the following steps:

1. Spread the poster above on your blog or Facebook page, via Twitter feeds and email blasts. Help Gays Without Borders/SF get the word out.

2. Commit to being at the protest, bringing a couple of friends, signs deploring capital punishment or expressing solidarity with gay Ugandans, a candle to light or a rainbow flag.

3. If you don't live in the San Francisco Bay Area, organize your own street action for the gay community of Uganda in the coming week or so.

In December 2009, Gays Without Borders/SF staged a solidarity rally at the Uganda pillar at United Nations Plaza because of our anger at American evangelical Christian ministers exporting their vile and dangerous of homosexual-hatred to the African nation.

We had a simple, yet powerful message that we chanted: "Gay Ugandans under attack. What do we do? Act up! Fight back!"

Now is the moment we must loudly repeat that chant in the streets of San Francisco. Show up on February 3 at Castro and Market Streets at 6 pm. Publicize the poster and details of the rally. Help send a message of hope and solidarity to gay Ugandans.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Gay Egypt Call to Action:
Get in the Streets & Protest!

(Egyptian protesters flash the peace sign, January 28. No inference is implied as to the sexual orientation of anyone in the photo. Credit: Sarah Carr's Flickr stream.)

The handful of people behind the Gay Egypt site, were among the first to support global actions of protests in 2005 and 2006 over Iran hanging two gay teenagers, which is when I first worked with them, and like so many, I've been impressed with their social networking site over the years.

Yesterday, the site shared this message and call to action. I am sharing the full text of it, and hope we soon receive positive word from our gay brothers and sisters in Egypt about their efforts to democratize their nation. From Gay Egypt:

27 January Egypt update: El Baradei expected to arrive from Vienna at 19.15 Cairo international airport terminal 3. Protests already restarted today in Halwan, Cairo, and Ismailia. I can personally verify that on each road leading into Tahrir Square police in vans are already waiting (as of 1pm) for anticipated protesters. If I had to put a number I would say around 100, including those inside vans, at the entrance of each street into the main square.

I saw a large number of police at other points including Medan Opera. Plain clothes officers also waiting and a few already carrying long sticks.

Last night police blocked all access to parts of Tahrir Square after 9pm. Hundreds of shield and baton wielding recruits ran from one suspected point of protest to another. Plain clothes officers redirected pedestrians while others carried large sticks, and beat some who failed to escape from repeated small protests near to the Corniche. Even onlookers were effected by a cloud of tear gass. We hope to post some photographs shortly.

Egypt's gay and lesbian community has had enough of years of police brutality and torture and calls on all lesbians and gays to join their brothers and sisters on the street to peacefully express their demand for immediate change.

Speaking of getting into the streets for global gay issues, don't forget there is a solidarity rally on February 3 in San Francisco at Harvey Milk Plaza to protest the murder of gay Ugandan David Kato. More info here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

February 3 SF Protest Over
Murdered Gay Ugandan David Kato

(David Kato, who was bludgeoned to death on January 26, wearing a rainbow pride t-shirt as he remained visible and served as a community organizer in Kampala.)

With several friends from Gays Without Borders at my side, I am proud to announce at this sad time that we are organizing a speak out over the murder of David Kato, our gay Ugandan brother who was murdered this week.

Citizens of San Francisco of all backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities, political and religious beliefs, or lack of them, are uniting to send a message to the gay community of Uganda: We stand in solidarity with you.

Here are the details of our protest:

WHAT: Rally to honor David Kato
WHERE: Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro Street
THEME: Stop killing queers
DATE: Thursday, February 3
TIME: 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM

We are asking everyone to bring signs specifically opposing the death penalty, hangings, stonings, state-sanctioned and extrajudicial executions. We also want posters addressing global gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, third-sex and intersex solidarity. Rainbow flags would help.This is a grass-roots action by Gays Without Borders, alias gays without a budget. Only you can make it happen and with proper fabulous signage and colors.

South African-born Clinton Fein, political artist and activist explains why February 3 was chosen as the date.

"Our San Francisco protest will coincide with the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., taking place on the morning of Feb. 3.

"The Family, a secretive Christian organization behind the prayer breakfast, has more than enough blood on its hateful hands when it comes to gays and Uganda, and must be held to account," Clinton wrote in an email.

"Our aim is to co-opt the National Prayer Breakfast from the Left Coast with our loud voices and raised fists.

"Let the world know that some of the people behind this constitutionally precarious National Prayer Breakfast are doing a lot more than simply placing homosexuals in crosshairs on websites. They’re shaping deathly legislation and are one step away from handing out hammers. Enough is enough."

Ugandan Tabloid: Hang the Gays;
American Blog: Hang the HIV+

(The October 2, 2010, front-page of a hateful, demagogic tabloid in Kampala. Above the red-boxed "National Scandal" is a sideways yellow bar promoting "Hang Them!" Them being the two gays in the photos below, and on the left, wearing a white collar, is the now-murdered David Kato.)

(Screen capture from AmericaBlog last week.)

Last week, the high-traffic AmericaBlog founder John Aravosis wrote this about an HIV positive military vet convicted of having unsafe sex and not disclosing his status:

My first instinct is to hang the man. [Recently updated to now say: for what he did to all those women (and possibly men).]

Before I wrote my first post about the inflammatory opening, I twice emailed John asking him to clarify if he supported hanging an HIV positive person and if he supported the death penalty. When I received no reply, I posted my piece with a provocative questioning headline.

John eventually replied, but didn't address my two questions and I used his full email in a follow up piece, which generated this obfuscating note from him:

Now you're sounding reasonable, what you sent around by email was not. You claimed that AMERICAblog Gay called for all HIV positive people to be executed, and that's a lie. You weren't interested in having an honest discussion about a complicated and serious issue, you were interested in being sensationalistic and scoring "gotcha" points for traffic. This is a serious issue that affects people's lives on all sides, it should be treated as such, and not as an opportunity to play games.
I've defended you and your work countless times, and you may recall that the reason we know each other is that I reached out to you when my best friend was dying from AIDS - and his death is the reason I came out and got involved in gay rights advocacy. I don't treat these issues lightly and wont be goaded into doing so. I expected better from you.

Notice that John doesn't say if he supports hanging the HIV positive vet or opposes the death penalty. I never claimed his site called for hanging all people with HIV, and note that he doesn't cite an actual quote from me saying this, because he's good at turning the focus away from his sensationalistic original post.

He then correctly states HIV disclosure and transmission is an important issue, yep, which is why I reached out to him _before_ writing a damn thing and he chose to ignore my emails. Now, like the demagogue that he is and that has served him so well in building high-volume traffic, he's acting like an ayatollah and claiming I'm not interested in a serious discussion. If you don't play by John's debating rules, which he amends to suit his needs, then anyone who questions him is not interested in a serious chat.

I'm not the only one troubled by John raised the specter of hanging an HIV positive man. Over at Bilerico, HIV poz writer Todd Heywood had this say:

So when the Jan. 20 post by John Aravosis supporting the hanging of a man convicted of failing to disclose his infection came across my inbox, it was a shocking reminder about how much work is left to do in relation to HIV and criminalization.

Regular Bilerico contributor Alex Blaze also weighed in on John's dog whistle screech:

Honestly, every time I read someone saying that people who don't disclose their status should hang, I can't help but assume that these people bareback regularly and are scared to death that they've had sex with someone who's poz who didn't disclose. It's the obvious explanation for such extreme rhetoric.

Also funny: We've been spending weeks talking about the "violent discourse" on the right, and here this pseudo-liberal asks for someone to be killed (I only want the government to kill him, he'd plea.) Gotta watch out for those pseudo-liberals - they can cause more damage than honest rightwingers.

In a tragic ironic turn today, AmericaBlog's deputy editor Joe Sudbay quotes from the BoxTurtleBulletin about the murder of Ugandan gay activist:

David Kato was a spokesperson for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and one of the plaintiffs (or applicants) in the successful lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction against the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication of the same name). Kato was one of three applicants who had been named by the tabloid under a headline tagged “Hang Them!”

Here we have AmericaBlog citing the "Hang Them!" encouragement from a rotten newspaper, while John and Joe probably see no link between what the Ugandan tabloid said on it's front page above a photo of the now-dead Kato, and their site's recently broaching of hanging an HIV poz person.

As I've shown above, despite repeated attempts to force John to once and for all clarify his views on hanging of any HIV poz person or the poz vet he finds despicable, and his view on the death penalty, he's choosing not to address the questions. The silence of AmericaBlog on hangings of any sort is deafening.

Whether it's a homo-hating Ugandan tabloid or a revenge-driven, sanctimonious American site, when the word hanging comes up related to gay or poz people, I get damn uncivilly upset.
I oppose hangings, lethal injections, firing squads, stonings and any and all other forms of state-sanctioned and extrajudicial executions and killings. That doubly applies when the person might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, third-sex, intersex or HIV positive.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

NYC's 2-Page Contract for Scary HIV Ad
Omits Measurable Outcomes

I loathe practically all social marketing targeting the America faggot about his health care needs and dealing with sexual infections, including HIV. These campaigns, which the late gay thinker Eric Rofes labeled violent and harmful to the community and an individual's health, are so rarely tied to actually improving gay health with measurable outcomes.

It's sickening the way we allow our (infected) faggots bodies and very complex wellness requirements to be commodified by health departments and AIDS Inc groups, through endless and needlessly provocations with PSA videos, bus shelter and newspaper ads, and web-based programs.

What we have are health bureaucrats targeting us, and justifying their jobs too, to have discussions, as with the recent fear driven HIV prevention ad from New York City's Department of Health, and talk is all they are after.

Important matters - increased testing for HIV and other infections, transmission reductions, other defined goals and objectives - are missing from the foundation of the "It's Never Just HIV" campaign. The prime Joan Rivers outcome desired by NYC DOH is talk, talk, talk. Success is measured by stories generated, angry conversations at HIV panels in Manhattan, blog posts and buzz.

Sorry, but after a few decades of this advertising approach to gay wellness, we should either have better health outcomes or end the campaigns and put the money into paying for doctor visits by low-income men of color hustling the peep shows along 8th Avenue in Chelsea.

Check out the report from Housing Works about an HIV panel getting some answers from the DOH:

NYC Department of Health’s Dr. Monica Sweeney continued to defend the contentious HIV prevention video that many activists called offensive and sensationalistic when it debuted on TV in December.

“We need to think of all the possible ways . . . to get people’s attention, because HIV definitely isn’t on the front page anymore, at least not until this ad came out,” she said, speaking to an audience of more than 100 people at a crowded Ryan White Planning Council meeting in Manhattan. ...

With direct health services for gays suffering due to lack of enough funds, screw getting people's attention for a vague newspaper to generate ink by manufacturing a controversy. Meet the full required health care needs of the community, then let's talk about social marketing.

Below are the two pages I received from NYC DOH further explaining their rationale for the recent ad. Yes, the factors listed as in need of addressing are vital, but I can't accept that the best way to contend with prevention fatigue and drug misconceptions and everything else is through a 30-second spot. Direct services and a multiplicity of educational messages, not all based on fear, would do a lot more to attain wellness.

If there are measurable gay wellness outcomes in this document, or the 61-page contract sent last week, I've missed them:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

100+ At Lyon Martin Emergency Meeting;

My report is partial because I was able to attend only thirty-minutes of the emergency community meeting tonight about the pending closure of the Lyon Martin queer health clinic. Here are the basics of what I saw, heard and said.

Easily more than 100 folks packed the fourth-floor meeting room at the San Francisco gay community center, and at the front of the room stood 4 members of the clinic's board and staff, engaging the assembled crowd in an open and forthright discussion about what's gone wrong. Let's give credit and thanks to these four folks, whose names I'm sorry I don't know, for presenting themselves to the community and not beating around the bush about the troubles.

I'd estimate thirty percent were transgender people, over all audience was under 30, quite a few colors of human rainbow were in the chairs and speaking up. Longtime trans advocate and Asian HIV prevention worker Cecilia Chung posed detailed questions about current clinic contracts for public and private dollars. Queer youth AIDS activist Jackson Bowman was the most gracious Oprah, running around sharing the mic.

From City Hall we had Supervisor David Campos urge the crowd to make their views known at the budget committee and the mayor's office. As I was leaving, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi came in and waited his turn to speak. Not sure if Supervisor Scott Wiener was present before I arrived. Scott, lemme know if you were in attendance. [Pollo del Mar informed me Scott was there before I arrived.]

(Instead of an agenda on the poster to guide the discussion, there were agreements.)

In my few minutes of comment I stated the Lyon Martin problems come on the heels of the following community orgs either going out of business or facing major leadership and funding troubles: Academy of Friends, New Leaf, SF Pride, and the SF Community Center. And the crisis today is going to expand to other local orgs and additional California gay/HIV groups.

"Where is Equality California tonight?" [One trans hand went up.]
"Thanks for being here. When is Geoff Kors going to hold meetings to discuss what to do about the looming state cuts? Is anyone here from the Human Rights Campaign?" [No hands rose, but the giggles at HRC's absence struck a point.]

"We have a health care crisis in the community. You beautiful people showed up, while our official state and national groups stayed away. A-gays sent millions to HRC and EQCA in the past few years, and what have they delivered? More gays to grab guns, head off to the war in Afghanistan. And a fight for wedding cakes." [Smattering of applause.]

"Stop applauding! I need AIDS drugs and health care. Don't talk to me about guns, war, wedding bells without addressing local community health needs." [Pollo del Mar, an icon of the drag and fag communities who I've adored only from afar, introduced herself and simply crushed me in her embrace. Girl, you are fab!]

The second part of the meeting, with Gabriel Haaland serving as facilitator, was for a few things: Plan fundraisers, mobilize the clinic's clients, political strategizing. A good fifty people were hanging around, lots with old-fashioned paper notebooks and ink pens, itching to keep the organizing going.

Oh, there was talk of not allowing the clinic to close, but you'll have to turn to the clinic and others for those details. Lyon Martin may get a temporary reprieve, but let's get over our foolish head-in-sand approach to how they got to their latest crisis, and start to prepare for other California HIV and gay groups facing closure.

Hello, EQCA and HRC? Any idea about how you're going to directly help our drowning health care service providers?

SOS Meeting 7:00 Tonight: SF Center
Over LyonMartin Clinic Closure

This important meeting notice just landed in my in box from Tommi Avicolli Mecca:

Hi friends,
As you may have heard, Lyon-Martin Health Clinic is closing at the end of the business day on Thursday. Tonight we are pulling together a community meeting at 7pm at the LGBT Center, 1800 Market Street, room 301. The intent of the meeting is to formulate a community response./demands and develop an action plan. At 6:30pm, a few of us are planning to meeting to come up with a tentative agenda for the meeting.

Lyon-Martin has 2500 clients and there is no transition plan for these people for when they close their doors on Thursday afternoon... When New Leaf closed, many patients were transferred there and now they will be bounced to who knows where.

Please join us tonight.

All the best,
Gabriel Haaland

Also, here are two important updates to check out:

#1 - Over at the site is some new info reported by Chris Roberts from Supervisor Scott Wiener about the clinic and its potential closure later this week.

#2 - Also on the story are Brock Keeling and Jay Barmann at the site, raising good questions about gay organizations in town and their troubles they are facing.

SF Queer Health Clinic Lyon/Martin
Closes on Thursday?

dear friends,

let's put this email in the larger context of gay inc here in SF. last year, the new leaf mental health agency closed, after decades in business. also last year, the board of SF pride lost several board members and the ED had to step down, after massive failures in executive and board leadership. the SF gay community center is transforming into a for-profit business model and far, far away from its original mission cooked up by a-gays and an east bay living aids executive. the fraying of gay inc and service agencies continues in SF and there will be no town hall meetings to discuss the troubles. it is gay inc business as usual. -michael

-----Original Message-----
From: tommi avicolli mecca
Sent: Tue, Jan 25, 2011 11:41 am
Subject: did you know

that the board of Lyon/Martin is planning to close the place on Thursday? This is a facebook message I just got...want to spread the word, this is a tragedy for poor folks, queers, etc.

Jackson BowmanJanuary 25, 2011 at 9:39am
People met in front of Lyon-Martin between 8:30 and 9:00 because we were told the board was meeting with staff at 8:30. The board didn't show and are instead meeting with just the Medical Director at 10:00.
Look for more soon about an organized protest, but in the meantime here is the name and cell number of the board director. Pass it to as many community members, advocates, organizers and providers as you can and tell them to start calling.

Lauren Winter 510-390-xxxx

Important things to mention:
- the services that Lyon-Martin provides are absolutely essential to the health and well-being of trans, gender-queer, queer, lesbian, immigrant, and un-insured people.
- the board is making this decision against the wishes of the staff and in dis-regard of the needs of the patients.

Lets show the board that our community can NOT go without this clinic!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Jury Duty for Me 
on a Murder Case?

Fulfilling my duties as a citizen of San Francisco, I reported for jury duty selection today down at the Hall of Justice on Bryant Street this afternoon. This was my fourth time in six years being summoned by the court for potential jury duty.

After hearing from the court clerks and being duly sworn in to tell the absolute truth to the court, Judge James Collins stood at the mic and podium in the cavernous assembly room. He introduced a lawyer from each side of the case, then told us that the matter of the trial was murder. The name of the accused was said, but because of the lousy acoustics I didn't catch his name.

When the word murder sank into my head, and that I might be on a jury in such a criminal case, I'm sure the color drained from my face. I don't want to be a juror to begin with, much less one on a murder case.

It seemed weird and fitting in a cosmic sense, that after a week of contending with the possibility Iran was about to again engage in state-sanctioned hangings, perhaps of a gay related nature, and AmericaBlog's John Aravosis broaching the matter of hanging and an HIV poz person, that I would find myself in jury pool involving murder.

As more than a third of the attendees headed for the exit to go down to the judge's court room on the second floor and plead their cases for hardship and to be excused, those of who remained were given a slip of paper. It tells me to report before Judge Collins on Wednesday morning for the second cattle call in the selection process.

BTW, Wednesday is my birthday, so I'll be spending part of my special day meeting my democratic obligations for the proper functioning of part of our legal system.

If the January 26 selection hearing is like the one when I was in another jury pool involving cars insurance holders, a few accidents and the insurance companies, we'll be asked our views about relevant matters, maybe including our opinions on the death penalty and appropriate punishment for guilty defendants.

Should this murder case be a capital charge, and I'm required under penalty if I commit perjury to state my view to the court on the death penalty, it will be what I said the other day in response to AmericaBlog's rhetorically raising hangings as a suitable punishment.

I am firmly believe in abolishing the death penalty and oppose it's application by any state or government for any reason.

Let's just hope I get excused from jury duty.

Spring Blossoms in San Francisco;
Photo Prove It

Just about two weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were so cold in our apartment we had our single gas heater in the front room pumping out heat, while an electric heater kept us warm in the TV room. We were expecting a long and cold winter, with both of us wearing layers of sweaters and woolen shirts for the next month or so.

Well, yesterday Mike was dressed in shorts and t-shirt, and I wore only a t-shirt and a thin long sleeve over that, as we looked at the trees on our block. A few of the red-leaf trees are basking in the great weather we've having that they're blossoming.

Take a look at one of the trees outside our front windows, next to the Friends of San Francisco's grammar school. The photo was snapped an hour ago. Those buds are open and bright pastel pink. Sure signs that spring is mighty early this year.

I hope my friends and family back east are not too jealous of the sunshine and warm weather we're experiencing, as they deal with frigid temperatures.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lame Non-Reply: AmericaBlog
on Hanging an HIV Poz Man

Let's recap. John Aravosis at his AmericaBlog gay pages, wrote last week that his initial reaction to an HIV poz military man convicted of not informing sex partners pertained to hanging the man. I asked John to clarify his views on hanging a poz person and the death penalty, and this is his full lame non-reply:

A lot of people don't defend you like I have. Or engage you like I have. I really thought you were better than that.

Instead of addressing my few questions, John shifts the focus to his alleged defense of me, against what charges and to whom, he doesn't say. And why would that or his engagement with me preclude him from giving answers?  My latest response to John, which has generated nothing but silence, asked him again to answer some simple concerns.

He asked for people to share their views. I did and explained why I was troubled with what he wrote. Now, thanks to his silence, I am left to think that John may have no problems with hanging an HIV positive man and also believes in capital punishment. Why he is unwilling to clarify his positions on such important matters is mystifying.

Two San Francisco bloggers, SF Mike, whom I've never met and who covers culture and politics at his site, and my friend Clinton Fein of, shared their views to my initial post and are well worth sharing. From SF Mike:

Good catch. I haven't been able to read John A. for years. His mix of hyperbole and sanctimony is laughable, and his conservative sheep in a liberal wolf's clothing has always been sort of sick-making.

And this what Clinton has to say:

John Aravosis comment about hanging a man for failing to disclose his status is simply lacking in intelligent forethought, and provides fodder for those who make it their business to regulate sex and morality - usually hypocrites. (Aravosis seemingly has no qualms about the military convicting the man on charges of adultery, despite his wife being a willing participant.)
Worse, however, he seems to think that those of us who are HIV negative are unable to assume responsibility for our own choices. If you're fucking multiple partners at a swingers party, the onus is on you, the participant, to make certain assumptions, weigh the risks and act accordingly. Don't then turn around and blame someone else. It's ridiculous. Is it a perfectly good driver's fault if you choose to dart across a busy road? Not all of us need a Nanny State to govern our behavior or how we engage sexually.

Education, not broaching the topic of executions, is the answer to the question of how to address sero disclosure by HIV poz persons.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

 NYC Scary HIV Ad 'Contract' Omits . . .

We're into our second month of a needless controversy surrounding a stigma-enhancing New York City Department of Health HIV prevention ad, and a vital component to the debate has been missing.

That would be the contract from DOH, providing the public with details about some of the scientific reasoning behind the "It's Never Just HIV" social marketing campaign, and the measurable outcomes, community goals and health objectives the NYC officials expect.

A few weeks back, I filed a request for the contract and what I received via email yesterday was a 61-page document that is an agreement between the DOH and the Mind4 Inc ad marketing agency for a number of campaigns. When it became clear the outcomes and objectives were omitted, I sent the document over to Duncan Osborn, longtime AIDS reporter for Gay City News, to get his thoughts on it. He said:

It's not a contract to do that specific ad. It's a contract to provide both agencies with creative development services and media campaigns. That ad is one of several that they have done for the health department. That contract is worth just under $4,950,000 over three years. Pretty much everything after page 15 through the start of Annex A looks like boilerplate. If you look at the start of Annex B on page 49, you will see that DCF billed part of the their services at cost plus 12 percent. I don't know if that is high, low, or standard for such contracts. 

Since Duncan is a pro at filing requests for public records, I very much expected he would have already beaten a path to the contracts bureau of DOH, which have made so much easier for me to get the desired appropriate contract, but that's not the case.

As far as I know, no one has yet obtained the contract for the HIV campaign, and I hope DOH will son locate it and release it to me. Heck, they could do all of a huge favor and just post it on the NYC DOH's page for HIV/AIDS programs, to provide full transparency over every aspect of the ad.

I've communicated via email and phone calls with the DOH press office, regarding my qualms with was sent and further specified the public records I want. The press office has a better understanding now and is going back to the contracts bureau to have them look again and I'm promised an update early next week.

To show folks the processes it takes using New York's Freedom of Information Law to get a public contract, I'm not only writing this post but I've also posted what was sent to me so anyone can have a look at it, because it is tangentially related to the controversy. Click here to view the 61-page contract.

This is a valuable opportunity to educate everyone about how California's health department clearly spelled out the plan, measurable results and objectives of a recent social marketing campaign regarding anti-meth abuse and the devastating health influence meth has on users. The Me Not Meth contract contains 73-pages and I've made it publicly available here.

Starting on page 16, that California contract gives tons of details and explanations on the thinking that created the campaign, what the health authorities expect to accomplish, and how meth abusers will be helped. Once you glance at that info, you'll have a better sense of what it is I am expecting from NYC's DOH.

Gay health advocates and HIV prevention activists would be wise to adamantly insist upon the contract of every social marketing campaign by any city, state or federal public health agency ought to be posted on the sponsoring agency's web site whenever a new campaign is launched.

The debate about the fear-driven NYC HIV prevention ad requires that we all become familiar with the contract. That will happen soon enough with the help of the DOH press office.

GayAmericaBlog Backs
Hanging HIV Poz Man?

Permit me, as a queer man living with AIDS, to state my bias upfront: I adamantly oppose the death penalty. Be it execution by hanging, electric chair, firing squad, stoning, lethal injection or other method, I'm against it.

On Thursday, over at AmericaBlog's gay section, John Aravosis got my attention with a heated post about an HIV poz military man just convicted of not telling his sex partners about his sero status.

My first instinct is to hang the man. I just find it despicable, if you have any contagious life-threatening disease (hell, I'd add STDs in there too), and you sleep around and don't tell your partners. Now, there are valid concerns about furthering the stigma around AIDS, about creating a climate in which people are afraid to seek medical help. But still. You are literally putting people's lives at risk. I just am finding it very hard to have pity on this man. How about you? ...

John's opening sentence was dog whistle code, IMO, that scares me. Maybe I'm reading too much into his provocative opening, after a week of concern that Iran may have been set to stone to death two young gay men, so I sent off a few questions to John:

Could you clarify for me if you are saying you would actually support hanging an HIV poz person? Do you really think execution of this guy might do some good? Why do you raise the specter of hanging at all and at the outset of your piece? Are you trying to further stigmatize all poz people? Do you fear your piece could have an indirect impact on poz people? What are you views on the death penalty? Sure would appreciate hearing your feedback.

Despite two attempts to get some answers, John has not replied and I find that disappointing, but that's his choice to not further explain his views.

I get nervous when anyone, much less a gay advocate, in any way appears to endorse hanging a person with HIV or AIDS, even as a rhetorical idea and for whatever reason. Personally, I have seen too many people die from AIDS and think there's been more than enough death associated with the disease, and it is never my first instinct to think that more death is a solution to any HIV problem.

The silence of John Aravosis as to whether he would back hanging the convicted HIV positive military member or endorses capital punishment, is quite strange given that he usually loves igniting hysteria and basking in the attention he generates.

In year 30 of the AIDS epidemic in America, we do not need any gay man even rhetorically suggesting hanging an HIV poz person.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Meetup Sat. at Cafe Flore
to Plan Anti-HRC Speak Out

The Human Rights Campaign has moved into Harvey Milk's former camera shop on Castro Street, and the grand opening for the HRC store is set for May 22, which is Harvey's birthday and will be the second year of California officially recognizing the date as one of significance.

Since there is no democratic engagement from HRC with many parts of the community it claims to represent, I am working with longtime queer housing advocate Tommi Avicolli Mecca to stage an All-People's Soap Box Speak Out on May 22, in order to send a message to the elitist group and to empower activists of all ages to hold Gay Inc accountable.

To get the ball rolling, Tommi and I are holding an open coffee chat this Saturday, January 22, from noon to 1 pm at Cafe Flore, located at Market and Noe Streets. All folks fed up with HRC, it's agenda, and social justice matters of importance to queer people are invited to join us.

Everyone is asked to mark their calendars for the May 22 All-People's Soap Box Speak Out, and to spread the word about this action in a few months. It's never too early to begin organizing for democratic change at Gay Inc.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Harvey Weeps: A-Gays Jones & Black
Cut Backroom Deal With HRC

While he was alive, gay icon Harvey Milk was well-known for standing up to what he called the machine bosses and their politics, and for also democratically engaging friend and foe alike with public debates and discussions. In keeping with his democratic principles, Harvey participated in a number of open forums with John Briggs, anti-gay state politician who was pushing a prohibition on openly gay teachers in California schools.

The Milk/Briggs debates are so integral to Harvey's legacy they were immortalized in Gus Van Sant's biopic "Milk", written by Black.

But those democratic ideals of Harvey have been tossed aside by A-gays Cleve Jones and Dustin Lance Black, who recently engineered a backroom deal with the Human Rights Campaign over the group taking over the lease of what had been Harvey's camera store. Some history is in order here.

First, remember when Cleve-Apalooza was being organized for the autumn of 2009? There were no public forums held leading up to the ego-driven event, one that was supposed to produce, according to Jones, a nationwide network of activists in every congressional district. That network never formed.

Second, barely a month ago Jones railed against HRC and their plans: "I think Harvey would be appalled by this. I resent it, I find it offensive, and I intend to do everything I can to stop it." Black was equally appalled at HRC moving into the shop. It's all water under the bridge now.

According to Towleroad, Jones and Black have made statements applauding HRC agreeing to share some of the space in the Castro Street store with the Trevor Project. I don't have an issue with the Trevor Project benefiting in a small way from the controversy surrounding HRC taking over the store.

What I object to, though, is that the fundamental issue of lack of public engagement and democratic open meetings with HRC were in no way addressed by the agreement with the Trevor Project. Sure, Jones and Black are happy because they are seen by some as heroes for striking this agreement, and their egos were well-massaged, but the key issue of HRC's elitism, so important last month, has been dropped by these two A-gays.

Over at the Bilerico Project, Alex Blaze adds his critical voice to the HRC/Trevor Project/Jones arrangement:

Wait, how does this "resolution" deal with any of the original problems with HRC running a store out of that site? Am I surprised that gays can't even isolate the original problem? Does Cleve really think a lack of phone calls with gay kids from Altoona was the reason people were complaining? Was it the reason he was complaining?

... Since HRC will still be selling the mystique of real activism and using the profits for their execs' bloated salaries (only now some phone calls will happen in the same building, even though more phone calls could probably happen on cheaper property), I'm guessing what happened here is the Trevor Project put their name on the idea and then people feel like they can't say anything since the Trevor Project is beyond criticism because they deal with gay teen suicide.

Rest assured, Alex and everyone else still concerned about the lack of openness and democratic engagement with HRC, the criticism is not easily going away.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

SF Chronicle: Gay Kawa Virtually
Ran the City for Years

(While our biggest daily is happy to keep Steve Kawa's mug out of the paper, I'm equally pleased to run as often as is warranted. Credit: Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal.)

I'm so old. How old? Old enough to remember when the dailies in major cities informed citizens about key players at City Hall before a backroom deal was signed, sealed and delivered to the voters who were keep in the dark about the politicking. The San Francisco Chronicle is a sad example of a daily that once shined a light on the municipal insiders, and kept some of their maneuvering in check. No more.

Now, the paper keeps former mayor powerhouse Willie Brown on staff as a political gossip columnist and (dimming) star writers wait until after the deal goes down to pick the interim mayor to inform readers of facts that should have been reported a long time ago.

This nauseating info appeared in the Phil Matier and Andy Ross column on Sunday only in the print edition, and didn't hit the web until days later. Let's unpack this news item:

From the selection of the new mayor to the pick of the new district attorney, one of the most important players in the recent turnover at San Francisco City Hall was the one you saw the least.

That would be Steve Kawa, ex-Mayor Gavin Newsom's chief of staff. New Mayor Ed Lee calls him "my right arm."

Who kept him out of view? The Chronicle for one. Nothing of relevance about Kawa integral role in the selection process appeared in the paper, making it so easy for him to be the player we saw the least. Kawa and his bosses sure must appreciate the omission.

Kawa, who came from a working-class Boston family, moved to San Francisco after coming out of the closet and landed a job with then then-Supervisor Tom Hsieh.

Willie Brown hired him away when Brown became mayor, and for the past few years Kawa virtually ran the city as Newsom sought higher office. For Newsom, one of Lee's strongest selling points as interim mayor was that he would keep Kawa in place.

So the all-but-invisible Kawa was essentially the mayor for a number of years, and Matier and Ross and the Chronicle couldn't be bothered to make this fact news. This should give all of us San Franciscans good reasons to continually ask, what else is the Chronicle not reporting that is of vital concern to the electorate?

Kawa is so little known that most people get the pronunciation of his name wrong - even Brown, who insisted on calling him "Ka-wa."

Kawa finally piped up, "Mr. Mayor, it's pronounced 'Ka-va.' It's Polish."

He is so little known in large part thanks to the Chronicle's consistent policy of keeping Kawa out of its pages, until now, and when he is reported on it's in a faux-folksy humorous way, such as this column.

To which Brown responded: "The way I say it, people think you're Japanese. And there are one hell of a lot more Asian voters in San Francisco than Poles.

"So just keep quiet, and whatever you do, don't get your picture in the paper."

From the looks of things, it was advice well taken.

Oh, hardy har har! As our municipal democracy was getting shredded by that jokester Willie Brown and his cronies, which obviously includes the Chronicle, they all colluded to keep Kawa under the radar and his visage out of the paper. I need no more proof that our major daily is not reporting vital news without fear or favor.

Early last week, the Chronicle gave us additional fodder about their telling important facts only when they and their cronies have done their dirty work. From a January 10 editorial:

Replacing Newsom will be veteran city administrator Ed Lee, who will be the city's first Asian American mayor. Can an interim or caretaker mayor run the city with strength and authority, especially one who took the job reluctantly? He must establish himself as a leader and stand independent of the forceful insiders such as former Mayor Willie Brown and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak, who pushed for his appointment. Their interests may not always align with the entire city's. ...

This is grand. Chronicle columnist Willie Brown and his buddy Rose Pak have agendas don't all bode well for the rest of us? I'm shocked, shocked at their wily ways! Oh, what would we do without this paper to tell us such things?

These tidbits about Kawa serving as shadow mayor for Newsom and the Brown/Pak machine keeping their interests satisfied at City Hall, are the best we can expect in terms of muckraking from the Chronicle. More like surface dust-raking is what we've been given.

And now that it's over, expect Kawa, Brown and Pak to receive the same deferential coverage at the paper.

IGLHRC on Allegations of Pending
Gay Iranian Executions

A statement regarding conflicting and questionable reports over the Islamic Republic of Iran preparing to execute by stoning two young gay men has been issued by the New York-based IGLHRC organization. Here are excerpts:

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has received reports of the imminent execution of two men in Piranshahr, Iran. By some media accounts, Ayub and Mosleh have been sentenced to death for raping a young man, filming their actions, and inserting images of President Ahmadinejad into the film. There have been reports that the men are scheduled to be killed by stoning on January 21. IGLHRC has been unable to confirm the allegations in this case.

This case is evidence, however, of much bigger problems in Iran: widespread abuse in the justice system and censorship of information. People, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender may be arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and convicted on baseless charges. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to know the facts that lie behind convictions.

IGLHRC condemns the use of capital punishment in all instances, including this one, regardless of the alleged acts with which the individuals have been accused or convicted. Likewise, IGLHRC condemns all forms of sexual violence and rape. We call on the Government of Iran to immediately annul any execution order related to this case, to end the practice of death by stoning, and to repeal the criminalization of same-sex activity. ...

Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts
Has a Lesbian Cousin in SF

As I was passing the magazine section at Safeway on my way to the pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions, my gaydar starting zinging as my eyes saw the man gracing the cover of the latest issue of Fortune. It was Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts. I've heard talk that he might be a member of the choir, but lack proof that he's gay.

I read the Fortune profile of Roberts and my expectations that a gay case would figure in it were met. The article touches on gay marriage and gay adoption challenges in the lower courts, and how the SCOTUS might rule on such matters:

Roberts is also likely to vote like a conservative if the Court eventually hears the constitutional showdown that [SCOTUS watcher Tom] Goldstein considers "possibly the case of the century": the challenge to the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative forbidding gay marriage.

Numerous gay-rights cases are now working their way through the lower courts, challenging, for instance, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (which says that if gay marriage is allowed in one state, other states and the federal government need not recognize those marriages) and state laws restricting gay adoption. The Prop 8 case will be the toughest case for the gay-rights side to win,  Goldstein explains, because it asks the Court to do the most: Strike down a definition of marriage that has prevailed for most of the country's history and that is still used in all but a handful of states. ...

What surprised me though was learning that Roberts, like millions of American families, has a lesbian relative, something I am not aware of being reported until Fortune magazine spoke with his cousin:

At Roberts' confirmation hearings, one of the members of his family that he introduced to the Senators was a cousin named Jean Podrasky.

"I don't know John that well," says Podrasky, 46, in an interview with Fortune, "but he's always been very kind to our family." Roberts gave her a personal tour of the White House as a high school graduation present, she remembers.

Podrasky is gay, as Roberts knows, she says. She lives in San Francisco with her longtime girlfriend. Would she like to be able to get married someday?


Has she ever discussed --

"I really would never disrespect him by asking him about his cases," Podrasky says, interrupting. ...

If it had been reported before that the chief justice of the Supreme Court has a lesbian cousin, I'm almost sure I would have filed that factoid. Googling for any gay or lesbian references to Podrasky didn't turn up much, but she worked in the 1990s at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. BTW, the transcript of the hearing at which Roberts introduced his cousin shows he made no mention of her being a lesbian.

While I can understand Podrasky not chatting up her influential cousin about cases that might soon come before the Supreme Court, I would still hope that she would talk to him about the real-world impact of his decisions and the affects they have on gay people.

Kudos to Fortune for breaking the news about Roberts' lesbian cousin.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

UK Writer: JMG/Towleroad Deleting
Gay Iran Posts = Ethical Breach

In response to my post about Joe Jervis and Andy Towle removing their posts about Paul Canning's story alleging Iran is about to stone to death two gay men, Canning and I have had the follow exchange at the Gays Without Borders listserv.

Granted, Jervis and Towle are being asked to provide more answers to my concerns and questions. But the bigger issue here is getting Canning to either give more info about his sources and also a simple reply to my query for a good English translation of a Kurdish news piece in the Rojhelat Times that Canning and a colleague at Gay Middle East say is the source for the sentencing handed down to the gay Iranians. GME story is here.

As much as Canning would like the focus to be on Jervis and Towle, they are not the heart of the problem. We need Canning to shed more light on his sources and show us if any non-governmental organization other than the International Committee Against Stoning is working on the gay Iranians' cases.

From Canning:

This information has also been deleted by Towleroad.

None of this deletion has been conducted by communication with the sources of the information, in my understanding in breach of basic journalistic ethics, with both Joe and Andy now breaching such basic ethics.

Neither I, nor any of my contacts have heard from either of them regarding whether or not this story is TRUE.

This is journalism 101, check sources.

I have asked Towleroad why they have deleted, thus far no response. I trust that American readers will ask questions of these gatekeepers as to why they have behaved as they have. Because, thus far, I have no idea why and they have no communicated to me why.

My reply:

 i am trying to check YOUR source, the kurdish language rohela times: . unfortunately, i don't speakurdish, and cannot locate a free online kurdish-to-english translation service.
since many questions are being raised about what you say is in that kurdish
story, can you provide me and others with an english version, please? would be
very appreciated.

From Canning:

I do not know why either Joe or Andy discounted my report. It was based on several Iranian sources who both backed it up, and contextualized it.

GME has been elaborating on what we know. It really is happening and I have asked both for an explanation. You say this is 'pushed' by me. No, it is reported. Big difference.

Here's why. This I also published today would this not also be reported by at least Joe, though maybe Andy (I alerted him) would be more likely  - and you?? I try to report a lot. What gets picked up is another matter.

I am really pleased that you are asking them, also, WTF is going on here. Because I think this episode speaks to their ethics.

Still more from Canning:
Michael, via this, as your email blocked.

The issue is that neither has asked me for confirmation from sources of the information.

The take-down is presumably on the basis of challenges to those sources which haven't been given to my sources. Journalism 101, IME. This is the what needs to be asked of them.

My final note of the night:

very odd that you've not addressed my query about a good english translation of
the kurdish news article, nor are your providing more info on your sources. it's
bed time here in SF and i will see if in the morning any of the NGOs, or gay or
straight iranian human rights groups back up what you are alleging.

Gay Iran Pending Deaths Posts Gone: 
JMG & Towleroad - Why?

From the United Kingdom today, prolific gay writer and international human rights activist Paul Canning caused a stir across the pond and elsewhere with his story in the Pink News about Iran getting ready to execute two gay men after their cell phone video of them having sex was discovered.

Two gay blogs with wide audiences, JoeMyGod and Towleroad, picked up on Canning's piece, and Joe Jervis said he expected actions in my hometown, San Francisco, and NYC, and I was intrigued about the story out of Iran and potential protests.

After a busy day and evening, I came home wanting more info on such protests, and have found a screeching halt occurred at those sites. The note below were sent out tonight, and I am taking them in their original formats and showing them here because, as a longtime global gay activist who has organized with his colleagues many actions over gays in Iran, and democracy too in the Islamic Republic, we need some answers from several actors in this drama.

I believe JoeMyGod and Towleroad acted in good faith, and lack the resources to vet every story and press release that comes their way, and they simply ran with what they knew from Pink News.

The actor in all this who must shed light on the situation of the gays facing execution in Iran later this week, if that is indeed true, is Paul Canning. Let's hope he clears up the confusion and mess we now have before us regarding this gay story from Iran.

My note to Towleroad:

hi andy towle,

i feel as if i'm in an episode of the 'twilight zone' with this pending gay iranian executions story that was pushed earlier today by paul canning of the UK, and the subsequent removal of a post about the story on joemygod and now i see you've removed your original post, but have also shared some vague reasons as to why your took it down.

missing from your note above is clear info on what exactly was wrong in your first piece, what new info has come to light, why you believe it is credible, who is the source, why you have omitted the name of the source, info as to whether you have asked paul canning for more info or from the pink news outlet that ran his story. in short, your explanation leaves many new questions unanswered and that is shameful.

please, inform me. what was wrong with the paul canning/pink news story and who is now giving you supposedly better and credible info, and what is the status of the gay iranians who face execution on friday? responsible global gay activism deserves a few answers, especially from paul canning, who is being copied on these notes.

paul canning: why have joemygod and towleroad been forced to remove their earlier post on your story?


The update at Towleroad:

Note on Earlier Iran Report...

Iran Earlier I published a post regarding reports of some planned executions in Iran. Late this afternoon, upon receiving some credible information, I took the post down as the case cannot be understood properly based on the information out there at this time. Obviously, these kinds of cases are very serious and lives are at stake.
Should I get any new information regarding the situation, I'll share it at that time. Thanks. (Source: )

My note to Joe Jervis:

hey joe:
earlier today you blogged about a story from paul canning in the UK about the pending executions later this week of two gays in iran. you also mentioned that you expected groups in SF and NY to stage actions over this matter and that the protests would take place at iran's consulates. there was a small error on your part, because there are no iranian consulates in the US since we don't have diplomatic relations with that country.

on the gays without borders yahoo group, paul canning cited the importance of your picking up on his story, and in the comments on your post and at the GWB listserv

"I have confirmed this. Joe Jervis of 'Joe My God' is calling for NYC/SF protests. Any others I hear of I'll forward to list." soruce:

i found it quite odd that he was not himself organizing any street protest at the UK iranian embassy, nor was he sharing the phone/fax/email info for that embassy and calling for folks to bombard the embassy with messages. that oddness aside, i'm quite used to some folks issuing calls for actions but not doing any such organizing themselves, but i digress.

tonight i went back to your blog to find out if actions were being planned, especially in my city of san francisco, but the post has been removed. i google for a cached version, but only found this:,+paul+canning&spell=1&fp=41d9d04263c928a1

Joe. My. God.: IRAN: Two Men Sentenced To Death By Stoning For ...

Jan 18, 2011 ... Joe. My. God. JMG: Blog Year Seven ... Paul Canning reports at Pink News: Two young men who filmed themselves having sex ...

i followed the link back to you site, and this appeared on my screen:

Page not found

Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog Joe. My. God. does not exist.

i'm curious as to why you removed the post and more importantly would like to know if you indeed heard from SF and NYC based orgs about any protests. if there is a protest happening in SF, i'd like to know about it, show up for it and add my voice.

you may know that i care quite deeply about democracy and gays in iran and have organized many protests and vigils and squeezed proclamations out of our board of supes and former mayor gavin newsom, so i take posts such as yours and the story from paul canning quite seriously.

also, i believe there were at least forty messages, mainly very supportive of calls to protest, among the comments at your post before it was deleted. it made my activist heart quite happy to see such interest in a foreign gay issue and indications that some commentators might show up to a street action.

i may blog on wednesday about the pending gay executions and hope you can provide some follow up and answers about where we are with the situation for the condemned iranians and protests. thanks.


Monday, January 17, 2011

SF D.A. Gascon Gave 
to Newsom and ActBlue

Given the rushed process in San Francisco to replace former district attorney Kamala Harris, who now serves as California's attorney general, there wasn't enough time to properly, fully and publicly vet her replacement, former police chief George Gascon.

With several rounds of musical chairs playing out before former mayor Gavin Newsom finally resigned that position to begin his duties as lieutenant governor, citizens barely had a day or so to weigh potential replacement DA's under consideration by Newsom.

After Newsom chose Gascon to take over for Harris' remaining 11-months in the DA's chair, it came to light that Gascon once described himself as a Republican to the Los Angeles Times and was registered as a GOP voter when he still lived in Arizona.

Since I didn't read anything in the local dailies or weeklies about any political donations made by Gascon to either candidates or political action committees, I checked a few search engines to see what contributions he might have given that could shed light on his political leanings. Here's what I discovered.

At the federal and local San Francisco levels, Gascon has made no donations. Same goes for any contributions while living in Arizona. However, when he was chief of police for Los Angeles, in 2001 he gave $50 to Democrat Tom LaBonge for his Council District 4 race.

Last fall, Gascon coughed up $250 for Newsom's lieutenant governor's campaign and he also gave $500 to ActBlue California.

Relatively small donations, and I mention them because there can never be enough sunshining of elected and appointed public officials.

Friday, January 14, 2011

LA Weekly: 
EQCA Needs Town Hall Meetings

Patrick Ranger McDonald, who recently wrote an extensive piece for the LA Weekly about Equality California and its soon-to-be gone leader Geoff Kors that presented pro and con views on the org and Kors, has a follow up blog post today about EQCA hiring a head-hunter firm.

It really says quite a lot about what is still monumentally wrong with EQCA that more than two-years after its elitist style of organizing directly impacted the loss of Prop 8 and gay marriage in California, the org is not holding any regular public meetings, no open forums soliciting advice from average gays about what we want from the org and its new executive director.

One of Patrick's sources, Richard Zaldivar, whom I've never met but who share my concerns about persuading EQCA to get out of its ivory tower and start democratically engaging with the community beyond its A-gay donors, nicely states some very simple advice that EQCA should quickly heed:

Whatever happens, The Wall - Las Memorias Project Founder Richard Zaldivar, a Latino gay rights and AIDS activist who was also quoted in the Weekly cover story, still wants EQCA board members to reach out to the gay community and seek its input by holding town hall meetings.

"It is good to know that Equality California has retained a search firm to recruit an executive director," Zaldivar writes in an email to the Weekly. "It is my hope that Equality California meets with all (LGBT) community stakeholders to help guide a search for the appropriate and capable candidate to lead this organization. It is my hope that the candidate for the job is from our California community and is culturally sensitive to its emerging populations."

So far, EQCA, which receives millions of dollars from the gay community every year and makes decisions that impact the lives and rights of some 850,000 gay and lesbians in California, has yet to make any public moves to suggest it will follow Zaldivar's advice.

How long must we wait for the A-gays running EQCA to get over their pathological fear of meeting with the ordinary gays they claim to represent? No one is helped by the intransigence of EQCA to public forums.