Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Nation's vanden Heuvel =
$291K Democratic Party Donor

The San Francisco Chronicle on Monday turned over its entire op-ed space to The Nation's editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel, to push sales of her new book via a press release masked as opinion:

My new book, "The Change I Believe In," reflects how I've navigated the Obama era - as an editor and journalist, a woman, a citizen of conscience and a small "d" democrat. I believe my journey is similar to that of millions of Americans - from the exhilaration engendered by Obama's historic election and the first months of his presidency, through the disappointments. 

Let's unpack some of this statement. First off, vanden Heuvel is a small "d" democrat and also a Big "D" Democrat as evidenced by her federal and New York state donations. More about the donations below.

Second, while her journey regarding Obama's campaign and parts of his presidency does resemble what millions of Americans have experienced, she is unlike the majority of those millions in one very important way. She's part of the 1%, able to contribute robust amounts of money to Democratic politicians and causes.

The Federal Election Commission files for vanden Heuvel reveal since 1984 she has written checks totaling $221,500, and all of it went to Democratic Party candidates or affiliated PACs such as EMILY's List. Her most recent contributions were a $25,000 to EMILY's List and $10,000 to the Working Families Party of New York.

At the federal level, vanden Heuvel's donations to the WFP come to $13,500. In New York, she's given an additional $28,500 to the WFP. Her total amount to them equals $42,000.

Another way to look at her giving to Democrats and their causes is to add up her federal contributions, $221,500, and the New York state donations, $36,500, along with the $33,350 she's doled out in various New York City races to see these three slices of her largesse come to $291,350.

If writing checks in the hundreds of thousands doesn't qualify one as a Democrat and 1%er, what does? How many 99%ers do you know who can drop this sort of serious coin on political causes?

Contributions from vanden Heuvel to the WFP were not disclosed in this piece she wrote about them in a gushing column for The Nation in October 2010. This is the closest she came to full transparency to readers:

The Nation has not only covered the WFP's advances and progress over these last twelve years, but also played a small but significant role in the party's birth. We mobilized our readers and community through editorials and outreach to help the party reach the 50,000 votes needed in 1998 to secure a line on the New York State ballot.

Um, you've also given the party $42,000, a significant sum, Katrina, and it should be disclosed when you write about them.

I will not be attending her chat tomorrow at the Commonwealth Club where she'll be chatting about her new book with Chronicle editor in chief Phil Bronstein.

(Photo credit: C-SPAN.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Got $1,500? 
EQCA Will Give You Inside Gay Dope

If you're among the gay 1%, you can afford the prices Equality California and its chief strategy consultant (translation: interim executive director) Joan Garry (pictured) are charging to attend two early December Southern California fundraisers to learn about the group's agenda and plans for this state's LGBT community.

Prices start at $50 for non-Capitol Club members, and climb as high as $1,500 for new or renewing club members, and at that four-figure cost you'll get four-tickets to both parties with Garry, who once served as the executive director of GLAAD. Besides being led by Garry however briefly, GLAAD and EQCA also share something else in common: lack of democratic engagement with ordinary gays.

During her years at GLAAD, Garry couldn't be bothered with pesky matters like free, regular town hall meetings or direct community input in the group's agenda and board decisions. One could always donate big bucks and enjoy the illusion of access to gay power brokers (ha!), but the tiered donor approach employed by GLAAD was nothing more than an empty status ranking for wealthy gays.

That same approach is EQCA and Garry's. Heck, it is the methodology of all Gay Inc organizations, but I digress.

EQCA has announced its Seasons of Giving parties featuring Garry at the private homes of EQCA's wealthy donors, and the locations are hush-hush, divulged only when money is coughed up. Every aspect of this effort reeks of elitism and the biggest prize dangled in front of potential donors is insider dope about the group's agenda in the coming year.

That information should be shared with all LGBT Californians, if Garry and her crew are serious about doing business differently with the larger community. She and whatever staffers remain, along with board members should make themselves available to all folks in the community regardless of income levels.

The underlying message of the fundraising invitations is clear. EQCA will do only one kind of outreach - the kind that brings in money. Cost-free public discussions where the location can be announced in advance and for-profit cocktail parties? Do two approaches at the same time? That appears to beyond the capabilities of Garry and whomever is running EQCA these days.

The fundraisers on December 2 and 3 may rake in some decent dough, but money alone will not make EQCA magically relevant to the 99% of LGBT folks in California who are struggling financially and/or over EQCA.

Here's a radical idea for Garry and EQCA to think over. If you won't dismantle the group and close up shop, please at least officially become a Democratic Party group for A-gays with nothing more on your agenda other than monitoring governmental affairs in Sacramento.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Activists Fein, Virginia Oppose
Wiener's New Milk Plaza Restrictions

Two of my old friends and activist associates, artist Clinton Fein and fundraiser Gary Virginia, looked over District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener's misguided proposed legislation to solve public space disputes in the Castro and grew concerned about what is under consideration. I first reported on this legislation yesterday, generating a blog post from one of the SF Chronicle's many conservative writers, Debra Saunders, who scoffs at Wiener's move.

Here is what Clinton Fein had to say:
I’m not sure what problem currently exists that Supervisor Wiener’s ordinance seeks to address, other than a blatant fear that the plazas may be occupied.

It certainly fails to take into account any of the recent issues regarding use of the flagpole as a community resource or address the murkiness governing its administration – an agreement that purportedly exists between MUMC and DPW that neither has been able nor willing to reproduce or make available.

Given the actual ten-month controversy swirling around control of the flagpole and the lack of any transparent, consistent policy governing the ability of the community to utilize lowering the flag to draw attention to important issues, it seems like this ordinance is tone-deaf at best.

Who, other than the Castro Community Benefit District did the Supervisor work closely with to come up with this ordinance, what other “neighborhood stakeholders” were included, and how committed are they to First Amendment issues?

The Supervisor can’t claim to be unaware of the simmering flagpole control issues, which may appear petty and local on the surface, but speak to a much larger First Amendment issue in San Francisco.

This ordinance barely recognizes the plazas as bastions of freedom of expression, deserving of the highest First Amendment protection.

What we need is an ordinance designed to advance and protect freedom of expression and clarify to activists, celebrants, the general public, and anyone seeking to enjoy their rights to free expression, or to peaceably assemble how to best do so. And instructions for law enforcement that balance public safety with free speech. That, however, would have required leadership.
Clinton is wise to point out the dearth of political leadership in the Castro and to look at the flagpole wrestling in a free speech context. I expect Clinton will address this and other matters at the December 3 Occupy the Castro protest starting at noon at Milk Plaza.

These cogent thoughts and questions that require direct answers are from Gary Virginia, who's lived, worked, rabble-roused, voted, and loved in the Castro since 1987:
I have read the proposed ordinance by Scott Wiener and I have many problems with it, not limited to the following:

1. What problems exist currently that can not be solved otherwise without creating more legislation, especially when it gives vague power/discretion to the Director of the Department of Public Works of when the plazas may be closed for general sitting and congregating?

2. I don't consider these two areas as just "public parks." They existed first and primarily as traffic thoroughfares and still do. I would bet that 99% of the people who walk through these "plazas" are trying to get from point A to point B with no other easy alternative to do so without endangering their lives by crossing through active car, bus, street car, cab, bicycle and pedestrian traffic. But they all will be subject to this ordinance as they pass through.

3. I am very concerned about the broad and vague language with the section on peddling. I have organized many rallies and fundraisers at Castro and Market Streets where money was exchanged for worthy gay and HIV community nonprofits. Girl Scouts have sold cookies there. There have also been rescue pet adoption efforts set up there. There is plenty of room for pedestrians to traverse the area and have tables or people there doing the aforementioned.

4. Regarding the wheeled equipment prohibition, I again don't like giving broad authority to whomever happens to be the Director of DPW as this position is often politically selected. There is a long-standing tradition of Tricycle Races on Memorial Day weekend which builds community, attracts visitors and consumers to the neighborhood? What happens when fees start getting assessed for these permits, if not already required?

5. I don't like the hours being restricted. Many people work past 9pm and come into or leave the neighborhood on their commute and would like to sit down to take a break or see the sights. What if an artist wants to set up a chair and easel before 7am in the plazas? Want to discuss the movie you just saw at the Castro that got out after 9pm?  We need to enhance reasons for folks to hang out in the plazas.

I also feel these regulations are being set in place to be able to control any Occupy SF actions should they occur in the most relevant part of the Castro for such an action. We have already witnessed the violence and oppression of freedom of assembly and speech by police and politicians in New York City, Oakland, CA, and elsewhere. We don't need to give the government of San Francisco more power to do the same.

I oppose this entire ordinance. It is creating legislation and bureaucracy where no real problem exists that could not be remedied with common sense and laws already in place. The devil is in the details of how this ordinance could be used "by discretion" or in its vagueness.
I'm counting on Gary to not only speak out at Occupy the Castro, but to also share his concerns with all members of the Board of Supervisors when the legislation is debated at the Land Use Committee.
Blade Omits Socarides Pay,
Equality Matters Fiscal Info

The self-proclaimed gay "war room" Equality Matters was established almost one-year ago, to great fanfare and was part of the Media Matters for America operation based in Washington, DC. Its top leaders were longtime gay Clintonista hack Richard Socarides and the former Advocate reporter of mediocre skills Kerry Eleveld.

The purpose of Equality Matters seem to be promoting Socarides as an official national gay spokesman, even though he lacks a constituency within the LGBT movement beyond other Democratic Party operatives. Gay marriage was a key launching issue for Equality Matters, as if we don't already have enough groups devoted to that concern.

I never understood why this group existed and it's had dubious and negligible positive impact on ordinary gays. If it had major accomplishments in the past year, I missed that news.

Phil Reese of the Washington Blade reported yesterday that Socarides and Eleveld are leaving the group and that's it is nearly defunct. Oh, well. This is no loss for LGBT Americans and actually is a gain for the community, seeing this worthless organization go down the drain.

Reese's story stays focused on the personalities involved at Equality Matters and the parent organization run by David Brock, while totally ignoring a few basic questions any decent journalist would have addressed starting with what was the budget for the group, who were the big donors to it, and how much compensation was paid to Socarides and Eleveld.

I attempted to post a comment at the Blade page for the story, asking why fiscal transparency and accountability were omitted but my comment was rejected by the moderator. FYI, Reese's article can best be described in three words: Equality Matters said. No criticism of the organizations or its leaders was included in the one-side article.

The Blade could do us all a big favor and assign a different reporter to look at the monetary questions that need to be raised about Equality Matters.
Occupy the Castro: 12/3: Milk Plaza:
Protest Evictions, Big Banks, Gay Inc

My old friend Tommi Avicolli Mecca, a stalwart of many social justice causes, is a key organizer in the upcoming Occupy the Castro protest and I'm helping spread the word about it. The basic info from Tommi:

There's going to be an Occupy the Castro action on Saturday, December 3 as part of a day-long protest organized by Occupy SF and tenant groups, taking place in several San Francisco neighborhoods. 

We'll meet at noon at Harvey Milk Plaza then go on a walk through the gayborhood to call attention to our concerns. 
We'll be demonstrating against the greed of the banks and realtors, the foreclosure and eviction epidemics, and the failure of Gay Inc to address economic justice for low-income LGBT people.

At the Human Rights Campaign store we'll present a demand letter asking that they start making jobs, housing, healthcare for all and town hall meetings top priorities. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are doing an ATM card-cutting outside Citi Bank. We'll also be hitting the Bank of America branch at Castro and 18th Streets.

Come join us!

I'll share more info about the December 3 Occupy the Castro action, as it becomes available. Please share the above poster on your Facebook page, blog or web site. Spread the word throughout your social networks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dufty's $1.3M Audition for a
Job in Mayor Lee's Administration

Former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who came in seventh in the race for mayor, raised $1.3 million according to the Bay Citizen analysis of campaign records. That amount included $682,108 in public financing reported by the San Francisco Ethics Commission.

I contend that Bevan essentially auditioned for a plum appointment in Mayor Ed Lee's administration, or will otherwise be rewarded with employment from Lee's powerbroker pals Willie Brown and Rose Pak, and that he used public coin and private gay donations to do so.

During the election Bevan made the following promise to me in September, regarding the controversy over the rainbow flag in Harvey Milk Plaza:

On occasions I have contacted MUMC leaders to support flagpole flexibility to recognize major events involving our community. From reading the BAR, it appears there has been movement in this direction.

After November 8th I will revisit the situation.

Well, first off, MUMC has made no moves on flexibility and control, and second, November 8 has come and gone, and so has Bevan. His promise to activist Bill Wilson and myself that he would meet with us after the election is gone with the wind, like the money he spent to place seventh.

Right after November 8, I followed up and pushed Bevan to agree to a time and place for the promised-meeting. He said it would happen last week, and it didn't. Three emails and two phone calls to him have not produced a response.

What I believe went down here was Bevan just wanted to string us along till after the election, not jeopardize his political and monetary support from the Merchants of Upper Market Castro, and with the election over, and him having played Mr. Super Nice Guy to Mayor Lee during the race, the last thing he wants to do is risk a payback from the mayor and moneyed Castro circle that backed his campaign.

These shenanigans and basic dishonesty are among the reasons why Bevan received none of my three votes. He was a good supervisor and a pleasure to work with on so many important global LGBT issues, and he's a pal, but his attempt to become mayor was quite misguided.

In all honesty, I can't see what the electorate or the local gay community gained from Bevan's $1.3 million effort. There are better ways to spend that kind of money than on a losing political quest.
Wiener's Proposed Regs for Milk Plaza
Prevent 'Occupy the Castro' Encampment

Last week, District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced an ordinance pertaining to management and control issues for Harvey Milk and Jane Warner Plazas. He explains some of his proposal at his official site:

Our City's parks are governed by the Parks Code, but these plazas are not covered by those rules. This legislation will set basic standards for the plazas so that everyone can enjoy them. For example, the legislation will extend the ban on smoking that's already in existence in parks and other public spaces, will ban camping (as already banned in parks), and will prevent large shopping carts from coming into the plaza. 

Since the legislation has not yet been agendized by the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee, it therefore is not posted for public inspection. However, an assistant clerk of the board has shared the four-page legislation with me and if you'd like to read it, please send me an email and I'll forward it.

The ordinance reads, in part:

Both plazas play a vital role in the Castro community and act as gathering places for the public and visitors to the neighborhood. With the extensive use of both plazas, the Board has determined that special regulations should apply to the use of these plazas.

While I agree about the role of the plazas for the Castro and larger LGBT community of San Francisco, special unwritten rules already are in place for Milk Plaza regarding use of the flagpole. The Merchants of Upper Market/Castro control that important public structure without a written, transparent process in place that allow for equal access to the flagpole.

Since the flagpole controversy erupted in February, MUMC and the Castro Benefits District have expended much time and resources into solidifying their control and influence over the plazas. Wiener's ordinance, I fear, will move more control of the public plazas out of the hands of the public and give it to MUMC and the CBD through the Department of Public Works.

There's a section of the ordinance that seems to have sprung from City Hall's problems with and disapproval of the Occupy SF encampment at Justin Herman Plaza at the foot of Market Street. I read this and hear fear on the part of Wiener, MUMC and the CBD that an Occupy the Castro encampment could take root at the top of Market Street:

No person shall construct or maintain or inhabit any structure, tent, or similar shelter in either the Harvey Milk Plaza or Jane Warner Plaza that may be used for housing accommodations or camping, nor shall any person construct or maintain any device that can be used for cooking.

As if the specific new regs are not sweeping enough, Wiener also proposes the following, bolding added:

The Board of Supervisors urges the Director of DPW to adopt a DPW Order that includes the regulations set forth in this Ordinance and any additional regulations that the Department deems appropriate and necessary for the proper management and use of the aforementioned plazas, such as the posting of signage setting forth the regulations. Such DPW Order shall be adopted after a public hearing and thereafter made available to any member of the public that requests such Order.

Whoa, I'm nervous about granting DPW the power to create "any additional regulations" even with the proviso that they hold a public hearing first. It's terrible enough now with MUMC illegitimately controlling the public flagpole, I shudder to think of how more control will slip from the public and come under private domain.

Mark my word, if this ordinance becomes law, the DPW folks will go through the motions of a public hearing, taking comments from citizens, but the decision will have already been made behind closed doors.

Let's all keep tabs on this bad and unnecessary legislation from Wiener, as it moves through the Land Use Committee before going to the full Board of Supervisors for a final vote.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sterling Bank 'Owns' Castro Rainbow Flag;
Request Process Coming Soon?

For all intents and purposes, iconic rainbow flagpole at Harvey Milk Plaza is owned by the Castro branch of Sterling Bank and the president of it, Steve Adams, pictured, on the right. If you want to request a flag lowering or in some other way make use of the flagpole, you must either send an email to Adams' email address at the bank or call him there. It is in his Sterling Bank capacity that he possesses the key to the control box of the flagpole, making him owner of it.

Regardless of the fact that every square inch of this important public plaza is municipal property, the president of the local branch of a bank is the controller and gatekeeper of the flagpole. This alone should be of concern to all queers who are part of the Occupy SF movement, because it is another example of how a bank has remove public real estate from the at-large LGBT community's access.

Oh, and forget the b.s. about equality for all as a crucial component of the Gay Agenda in the Castro, when it comes to equal access to the public flagpole. Should Sterling Bank's branch president not like your politics or personality, he'll deny your request for access and use of the enormous rainbow flag flying on city space.

In the past week, two community members have informed me of their conversations with Adams and his renewed claims that he's developing a written process for making requests related to the flag and pole. He's said this for more than six-months. Would be great for him to finally keep this promise, or for the community and city to stand up to him and take possession of the control box key, and return the people's property back to the people.

One would think, given all the money he has access to, that Adams would have hired a web maintenance outfit to take his alleged text explaining how to make a request. How complicated or expensive is it to write up the process and post it, for all the world to see?

This continued lack of transparency is so in keeping with Big Banking, and making it impossible for the customer or member of the public to simply have rules plainly and clearly spelled out, and easy to find. Check out the Merchants of Upper Market's web site to see that Adams hasn't shared a word about his embracing of transparency.

The situation with the public flagpole and ownership by Sterling Bank's Adams makes a mockery of any semblance of equality for all LGBT persons in the Castro and San Francisco.
NYT: Joan Crawford Ephemera,
Including Padded Hangers, at Auction

One reason why I still read the New York Times on recycled tree has to do with flipping the pages of each section for a glance at headlines and photos, seeing things that I wouldn't normally check out through lots of clicks on the Gray Lady's site, and I certainly wouldn't visit their antiques page.

But last Friday's print version of the Times' antiques page is a good example of the occasional payoff from this reading habit of mine.

The page featured the photo above of the late great actress Joan Crawford, that caught my queer eye. The photo will soon be on the auction block, along with other pictures and personal items that belonged to her. Click here for more images and details of what will be auctioned off next month at Doyle's.

From the Times, bolding added:

Ephemera from Joan Crawford’s career and complicated love life ended up in files at the home of one of her adopted daughters, Cathy LaLonde. On Dec. 7, Doyle New York will offer 77 lots from the family’s memorabilia collection, including honeymoon snapshots, scrapbooks, film reels and clothing.

Although the paperwork is tattered here and there, the LaLondes took good care of the iridescent sequined shirts and mink stoles, in keeping with Crawford’s legendarily strict standards for closets. The clothing lots (with estimates between $100 and $1,000 each) come with the family’s padded velvet coat hangers. ...

Let the wire hanger jokes begin! Who can forget this memorable scene from the film "Mommie Dearest"?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bay Citizen, NYT Partner, Posts IRS 990;
$11M Revenue, CEO's Pay = $456K

I've twice blogged about following the money flowing through the Bay Citizen, a nonprofit news operation that partners with the New York Times online and in print, and my requests to the BC for their IRS 990 return. Previous posts are here and here.

Founded in 2009 with millions of dollars from investor and philanthropist Warren Hellman, well-endowed foundations including the Haas Jr Fund, and Bay Area powerbrokers, the BC has provided local news and analysis filling a void for regional readers. It also shares some of its extensive coverage with the NY Times on Fridays and Sundays.

The BC says it has raised more than $17 million, and now with the release last week of their first IRS 990 return, we can follow some of that funding.

The 2010 tax filing reports $11,268,490 in revenue and just over $8 million is assets, quite a robust nest egg to be sitting on during these hard times for all media outlets. Here's the list of top BC employees and how much compensation they received:

Lisa Frazier, President and CEO: 

Jonathan Weber, Editor in chief: 

Brian Kelley, Technology chief: 

Rose Roll, Secretary: 

Steven Fainaru, Managing editor: 

I wonder how those salaries compare with executives and editors at for-profit, corporate news operations in the Bay Area. On the surface, compensation of top BC staff is generous, and may be the industry norm. FYI, both Frazier and Weber stepped down from their positions in the fall.

Omitted from the BC's filing, as with returns from all charities, are details about the big donors, but the BC volunteers names and amounts of major individual and foundation funders here, and corporate and banking sponsors here.

Kudos to the BC for quickly posting their 2010 tax return, in addition to providing other instruments of fiscal transparency.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pix of Gay Youths Dead from Bullying
Redacted from Jennings' Slides by the Feds

(Click to enlarge. Credit: U.S. Department of Education.)

A year ago this month, when he was still the Department of Education's safe schools czar, Kevin Jennings delivered a powerful speech in Portland, Oregon, about the harmful and sometimes deadly consequences of bullying among youths. The Oregonian's piece about Jennings' presentation opened with a focus on a key component of his talk:

A slide showed 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker Hoover on one knee, grinning in his football uniform. The text below created a disturbing contrast: "Death by hanging."

The next slide showed another smiling youth. Then another was added, then another -- seven in all. All suicides since 2009 of young people who were bullied.

To drive the point home about the importance of the slides, the story closed with an emphasis on them and the dead gay youths in the photos:

At the end of Jennings' talk, the images of the seven suicide victims lingered on the screen. Jennings broke the silence:

"I used to have more photos on this slide, but I ran out of room."

That slide of the deceased teenagers, shown above, was released to me recently in response to a Freedom of Information Act request I filed with the Department of Education. You'll notice all images of the dead are redacted. This redacting was done by the department, citing privacy exemptions of FOIA.

It's all quite odd given that Jennings, who has retired from the department, was allowed by his superiors to include the photos in his slide presentation, but when a member of the public requests copies of the slides those photos are whited-out.

If the images can be shown while giving a federally-sanctioned talk about combating bullying, then the Department of Education should also show them when FOIA requests are made for the slides used by Jennings.
Italian Film Festival's Closing Weekend;
Thumbs Up for 'Quiet Life' & 'Habemus Papam'

The latest edition of the San Francisco Film Society's annual survey of new Italian cinema concludes this weekend, and I have some advice regarding three of the films. All films are being shown down at the Embarcadero Cinema.

This evening "A Quiet Life" screens at 6:30, and it's a taut crime thriller highlighted by a terrific performance from Toni Servillo in the lead role of Rosario. Two youthful, quick-tempered Italian criminals show up at the elegant lodge and restaurant in Germany where Rosario works, and they lie about their true intentions.

Rosario keeps them at arms-length because of his own past full of secrets, and tensions mount as the young criminals plan and carry out a murder against a local businessman. Desperate to hold on to his new identity, wife and son, and the comfortable life he's made for himself, Rosario schemes to prevent the criminals from ruining his life and harming his family.

I was on the edge of my seat throughout, as the motivations and true identities of the male leads are gradually revealed. One narrative distraction is a subplot involving a waitress at the restaurant, but it doesn't take up much screen time. The cinematography stands out in its virtuosity, with an excellent tracking shot early in the film at the lodge and a crane shot showing the isolation of the more hot-headed young Mafiosi enhancing the the story.

A very satisfying film, one I highly recommend.

Also showing tonight is "20 Cigarettes" at 9:30, and it receives thumbs-down from me and I need to disclose I didn't watch all of it.

Starting in Rome in a comedic vein, we are introduced to  Aureliano, a young cameraman and political activist hanging out with his pot-smoking college buddies, as he prepares for what he expects to be a fun-filled gig working on a documentary in Iraq. Once in the war-torn country, the reality of armed conflict rears its ugly head and Aureliano is seriously wounded in an attack by insurgents.

Using a hand-held camera we're shown Aureliano's bloody and torn body, as he cries out for help to stop his bleeding and intense pain. I watched the film on DVD and had to fast-forward past these gruesome scenes, and quickly lost interest as the storyline shifted back to a lighter tone and stopped watching the movie.

"20 Cigarettes" was not my cup of cappuccino.

The closing night film "Habemus Papam" ("We Have a Pope"), plays on Sunday at 6:30 and 9:15, starring Michel Piccoli as a new pope questioning his faith and ability to serve as  head of the Catholic church.

Mixing some laugh-out-loud comic situations with dramatic internal Vatican political power plays, the film takes a few confusing turns but the acting by Piccoli and writer/director Nanni Moretti as the psychiatrist brought in to help the pope is beautifully constrained and enjoyable to watch.

The lavish sets and gorgeous costumes are top-notch, providing a fabulous eye-pleasing backdrop to the film. All of the subplots are not plausibly resolved by the end, but getting there is much fun.

Despite its flaws, "Habemus Papam" is quite entertaining and recommended.

Click here for information on tickets to these and the other Italian films playing at the Embarcadero Cinema today, tomorrow and Sunday.

(All photos courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Andy Humm to Mixner:
Disassociate Yourself from Bloomberg

(Andy and Ann. Credit: Bill Bahlman.)

Democratic gay consultant David Mixner's post about Tuesday's assault on Zuccotti Park, in which he fails to mention Mayor Michael Bloomberg and deplore him by name for the raid and trampling on the First Amendment, today has a wonderful comment from a reader.

Andy Humm, who's an old friend and veteran LGBT/AIDS/progressive activist in New York City, and co-host with Ann Northrop for Gay USA, had this to say to Mixner:

Please accept responsibility for helping put Bloomberg back in office and condemn his fascist tactics in trying to stop OWS--brutality against the demonstrators, clearing their camp in the dead of night, throwing their library into a dumpster, and barring the press from covering it. You endorsed him for his outrageous grab at a third term. It is not too late to disassociate yourself from him. 

Thanks so much, Andy, for pushing Mixner to do the right thing and speak out against Bloomberg's dangerous political maneuvers in recent days. So far, Mixner has not responded to Andy's comments, a situation that I hope changes. Silence about Bloomberg is quite lame.

My previous post on Mixner and other LGBT Bloomberg backers not publicly condemning the mayor is here.
SF Chron: Students Say Bank of SF
Lesbian Achtenberg is Part of 1%

Longtime Democratic lesbian Roberta Achtenberg, pictured, has never pretended to be a grassrooter. Her Wiki entry provides details about her work in the nonprofit and educational worlds, serving as a member of the Board of Supervisors before being appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve at Housing and Urban Development as a special assistant and lots of other facts.

She has in recent years served as a trustee of the California State University system and yesterday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, she was ignored pleas from students to not raise tuition at a contentious meeting of trustees:

"We have an institution to run here, and we have an obligation to run it well," said Trustee Roberta Achtenberg, who voted for the increase.

Because she also sits on the board of the Bank of San Francisco, Achtenberg has been identified by protesters as among the "1 percent" who should make banks and corporations pay more in taxes to help public education.

That's news to me, her position with the bank, which certainly adds credence to the charge that Actenberg is part of the 1% not working on behalf of folks who comprise the 99%. It doesn't help matters that she cast a yea vote raising tuition at state universities.

According to the San Francisco Examiner account of yesterday's meeting, she had this say to her colleagues and angry students, bolding added:

“This is the last thing in the world that I want to do. You can respect that or disrespect that. I couldn't care less.”

Achtenberg didn't win any points among the 99% for that comment dismissing the deep concerns of students and their families. Let's hope she eventually comes around to showing some leadership in addressing the great divide between the 1% of folks like her running the banks, and the vast number of ordinary people suffering countless hardships during these recessionary times.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NYT, NY Review: ACT UPer Bill Dobbs,
Spokesman for Occupy Wall Street

My friend from the old dark and deadly early years of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, Bill Dobbs, has been an instrumental public advocate on nobody's payroll for decades in the gay, AIDS and progressive movements. He's been active on the ground at Zuccotti Park since it began and he's been my eyes and ears about the Occupy Wall Street movement from its inception.

Bill received excellent attention in an article published last month by Michael Greenberg in the New York Review of Books, as he articulated some basic truths about OWS and American democracy. Have a read:

Seeing me take notes, a tall, elegant, rather knowing man who looked to be in his late forties approached me. He surprised me by introducing himself with his full name—Bill Dobbs. (His e-mail address was “duchamp,” a clue to his mindset.) He told me he had been an AIDS activist in the late 1980s, and for Occupy Wall Street he was involved in “outreach to the press.” When I asked him to characterize the protest, he answered, “It’s an outcry, pure and simple, an outcry that has cut through miles of cynicism.” He knew, he said, that in the absence of identifiable leaders, I could talk to anyone in the movement and that they, in turn, could represent themselves in any way they wished without accountability. This worried him, but only slightly. It was one of the drawbacks of direct democracy, which, “as you can see for yourself works beautifully here on the whole.” I mentioned Proposition 8 in California, an instance of direct democracy that overturned a state supreme court ruling that had legalized same sex marriage.

Bill nodded bleakly. He seemed unexcited about the union support. For years the unions had been organizing demonstrations that both the news media and the government yawningly ignored. The unions stood to benefit from the publicity at least as much as Occupy Wall Street. That this might in some way help the hospital workers, for example, did not seem something he had considered.

He seemed particularly scornful of the Democratic Party, elements of which were currently courting the movement. Paraphrasing Gore Vidal, he said, “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party, and it has two right wings, Republicans and Democrats.” How, with this view, he expected to get people into positions of power he did not say. He insisted that the only way to run an honest movement was to staff it strictly with volunteers. “As soon as you have not-for-profit organizations their main concern becomes how to keep themselves going. For us, it’s different. No grants, no donors, no worries.”

Thanks Bill, reminding OWS participants and supports of the incredible dangers of going the nonprofit route when agitating for social justice and democratic changes.

He was also quoted in today's New York Times about Bloomberg's ousting of the campers on Tuesday and curbing First Amendment rights:

“Occupy Wall Street can only grow,” said Bill Dobbs, a spokesman for the group.

And if you click here, you'll see the extent of his work explaining the status of OWS, plans for civil protests in New York City tomorrow and showing the world OWS has a functioning press committee.

Good job, and keep it up, Bill!

(The photo of Bill accompanied a glowing profile of his work for the anti-Iraq war movement that appeared in the New York Times in August 2004.)
Bloomberg Backers Mixner, Socarides
Silent on Trampling of the First Amendment

One excellent recap of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's outright trampling of the First Amendment as his police force evicted the Occupy Wall Street protesters earlier this week from Zuccotti Park, was written by Barbara Morrill for the DailyKos site.

Morrill's post was titled "A media blackout on Michael Bloomberg's raid on Zuccotti Park", making it clear from the get-go that the mayor wasn't much concerned with the First Amendment. She cited statements from mainstream reporters kept from practicing journalism during the raid, bolding added:

New York Observer Politics Reporter Hunter Walker: I was blocked from viewing nypd raid at #occupywallstreet along with reporters from cnbc, nbc, cbs, wsj and reuters #mediablackout

New York Times Reporter Brian Stelter: I'm w/ a NY Post reporter who says he was roughed up by riot police as Zuccotti was cleared. He thinks violence was "completely deliberate."

Everyone seems have received the meme that Bloomberg was the person responsible for the raid on Zuccotti Park, after weeks of strenuously rejecting the argument of Occupy Wall Street protesters and supporters, except Democratic gay consultant David Mixner. He was the key organizer in 2009 of enlisting numerous bold-names from the LGBT community to endorse Bloomberg's bid to buy himself a third-term as Hizzoner.

Mixner's post today, "The Assault on Occupy Wall Street", about the raid and attendant issues omits Bloomberg's name and responsibility for that assault. After singling out Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for a lashing, Mixner deplores the raid and media blackout:

To see squads of police in riot gear move into these encampments late at night or early in the morning to avoid press and witnesses is outrageous. Press were kept at a distance so they could not record the movements and actions of the police. Many members of the press in different cities were arrested with the protesters for attempting to monitor the actions of the police. In many cases, including New York, the police went in with a vengeance. The pictures of some policemen assaulting those peacefully resisting arrest was disturbing.

Nice of him to use words like outrageous and disturbing about the NYPD keeping the press from witnessing the ousting of protesters, and deploring cops bashing activists, but where the hell is Mixner naming the man responsible for it all - Mayor Bloomberg? Says a lot about Mixner that he didn't name Bloomberg in his post.

Mixner and the Bloomberg campaign in 2009 compiled a list of notable gay leaders who backed his reelection bid, and included on the list were Richard Socarides of Equality Matters, Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black, GLAAD employee and candidate for NYC's City Council Corey Johnson, Truth Wins Out's Wayne Besen, activist and restauranteur Florent Morellet, actress Cherry Jones, former Congressman Michael Huffington, ex-GLAAD executive director Neil Guiliano, and furniture designer Mitchell Gold, among others.

I found that list in an essay written by gay Bloomberg critic and longtime NYC activist Allen Roskoff, who detailed what was wrong with Bloomberg on LGBT and AIDS issues, along with enumerating civil liberty problems with the mayor. Thanks Allen, for archiving who supported Bloomberg in 2009.

If I were advising anyone on that list, I'd tell them to quickly release a statement deploring Bloomberg's despicable raid, the assaults on protesters and the curtailing of the First Amendment. Since the LGBT endorsers lent their good name to help reelection Bloomberg, I believe they have a duty now to condemn the mayor and actions.

A search of Socarides' Equality Matters site failed to turn up any denunciation of Bloomberg's b.s. this week. Click here to read a bit about the years of Bloomberg butt-kissing by Socarides' lying lips.

Why have I singled out Socarides and his group? It has to do with how this sack of shit has instant access to mainstream TV, print and online news outlets, and if he wanted to take his buddy Bloomberg to task for trampling on activists and free speech, he'd have many venues to broadcast his criticism.

The silence of Mixner and Socarides regarding Bloomberg's tactics in recent days says a lot about their allegiance to the mayor.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Corporate Ads Colonize 
the Ceilings of Muni Buses 

It's like a 1950s low-budget science fiction movie, in glorious black and white with jumpy music wailing on the soundtrack.

I'm talking about the further disappearance of public space in San Francisco, space slowing and methodically taken over by Corporate America and their ceaseless need to capture more consumer eyeballs.

You've read my posts railing against the empty news racks cluttering up key pedestrian intersections, and that they're nothing more than Clear Channel advertising spaces bringing in a minimal return for the city's coffers. One element to this scary urban tale.

Other San Francisco bloggers and public space advocates, whom I can count using only my two hands, have bemoaned the cylindrical kiosks sitting along Market Street, lit up at night with three enormous ads vying for attention. Not enough voices speaking up over the encroaching commercialization of our beautiful city, which I fear will be even more prevalent during four-years of Mayor Ed Lee running City Hall. Ugh.

There's also the relatively new, at least to me, four-panel V-shaped stands hitting the sidewalks around town, taking up more of the ever-diminishing public space.

Don't forget about the additional advertising space at bus stops and throughout our regional public transit systems, and on the sides of the squat-shaped public toilets around town taking up more room for Big Banking or Corporate America advertising.

More public space has been taken away from average folks, this time on Muni buses. During the inclement weather on Friday, I was forced to ride Muni and while cruising a handsome man at the back of the 22 Fillmore bus, my eyes followed him when he stood up and above his cute head was the ad you see in the photo.

That was the first I'd seen of such advertising. I missed the notice from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency before they sold off the ceilings of our bus fleet.

What should we call this terrible eating away of the public space and transit vehicles? Does "Invasion of the Public Space Snatchers" work?

The better question to pose is, how do we reclaim our collective space back from the corporations and politicians who have auctioned off the public property and retain what is left of it?

San Francisco's unique cityscape is harmed with all this commercial crap and no matter how much public space is sold off to the highest bidder, it won't solve our budgetary shortfalls.
Wiener Mute on Muni Probe
3-Months After Castro Pedestrian Death

Back in August, I blogged about the death of Emily Dunn, a young pedestrian killed after a Muni bus struck her on a street in the Castro district. Supervisor Scott Wiener was notably quiet about this tragic accident in his district, and in his September newsletter to constituents he mentioned the San Francisco transit agency's probe into the accident:

On September 13, at my request, the Board of Supervisors adjourned in [memory of two pedestrians recently killed in vehicle-involved deaths]. Muni's investigation into Ms. Dunn's death is ongoing, and I am looking forward to finding out exactly what happened and how it will be prevented in the future.

Today, almost three-months after Dunn died and Muni started an investigation, I emailed Wiener and his two staffers requesting an update on the investigation, hoping that he was completed and that the supervisor would provide some all-important follow-up.

Unfortunately, as with too much of Wiener and his office's engagement with Castro stakeholders, they have chosen to remain mute and not respond to my request. IMHO, Wiener should be offering folks a status report about Muni's investigation and where it stands.

The reason why the investigation is on my radar today is because last night, another pedestrian who was hit by a Muni bus passed away from his injuries, according to the Bay City News via the SF Appeal. The dead man has been identified as 71-year-old Manuel Tomaneng and he was struck on Mission Street near 5th.

We need all supervisors staying on top of Muni operations and all investigations they conduct. I hope that Wiener soon shares info on Muni's probe into the factors that led to the demise of Dunn in August.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Castro's Top Vote-Getter: Avalos;
Dufty was 4th in Gay District

This electoral analysis in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle makes me wonder how District 8 voters, who twice elected out and moderate Bevan Dufty to serve on the Board of Supervisors but in 2010 selected out and conservative (by SF standards), Scott Wiener to be the new Supervisor, voted overwhelmingly for straight and progress Supervisor John Avalos on Tuesday.

Dufty has not been out of office a full-year, and I'm surprised he did so poorly in his own district. At the same time, Wiener backed Herrera and it didn't seem to have a big impact on Castro voters deciding who was their top mayoral pick.

Quite a bit of political swinging - from the center then more to the right ending at the very left of the spectrum.

There's also the matter of straight and center Dennis Herrera, the City Attorney who's quite pro-gay marriage and stress that in his campaign, coming in third in the Castro. Raises the question of why more gay voters didn't pick the candidate with the best track record on gay marriage.

Are they more concerned with affordable housing, standing up to Big Banking and taxing the wealthy, key Avalos issues, than with gay marriage as a reason to vote for someone?

From the Chron:

In the vote-rich Castro and Upper Market neighborhoods, the traditional power center of the city's gay community, Avalos came out on top, followed by Lee.

Herrera, whose office has been waging a vigorous legal battle on behalf of the city advocating for same-sex marriage rights, placed third.

Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, the only major gay mayoral candidate who served as the district's representative for eight years, came in fourth there - an outcome that offered one of the few surprises in the analysis of how neighborhoods voted.
VicTorie Osborn Royally Pissed at EQCA;
Burbank Blogger Slams Her Ego

 (Osborn, in a screen grab from the vid she made in 2009 for Rick Jacobs' political group, the Courage Campaign.)

Longtime lesbian nonprofit executive and consultant who also fancies herself a grassrooter, Torie Osborn, is running for an Assembly seat in a newly carved-out district. She didn't get the endorsement of Equality California recently and she and her supporters have been kvetching over the gay group backing a straight politician.

Allow me to digress, to point out that EQCA is one sorely messed up organization and the last thing they ought to be doing is pissing off any quarter of the Los Angeles gay crowd, if they have any reasonable expectation of somehow bouncing back to previous levels of funding and A-Gay support.

From Saturday's SF Chronicle:

It's a three-way fight for the newly formed district that stretches from Malibu to West Hollywood and the contenders include current Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, who represents the 53rd Assembly District and has moved to the newly drawn district; Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom; and Torie Osborn, a lesbian and longtime leader in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

This week, the state's largest LGBT political organization, Equality California, endorsed Butler, who is heterosexual. Osborn was, to put it lightly, displeased. Butler is "a straight carpetbagger who has never lived in the district," said Osborn ...

"She's not the incumbent in this district. There is no incumbent in this district," Osborn said, adding that, "this is precisely why people are frustrated with this insider, incumbency-protection racket in Sacramento."

It's no big deal if one less Democratic lesbian is not elected to office. We have plenty of them already and Osborn is no great shakes. A competent enough bureaucrat. Let her stay in the nonprofit world. She's not spoken up or done a damn thing about the EQCA racket until now, when she wanted their meager and basically inconsequential support. Maybe she didn't get the memo about EQCA's meltdown.

Osborn in the three years since EQCA led the disastrous No on 8 campaign, as the group has steadfastly refused to implement basic democratic engagement principles, has not piped up about the myriad problems at EQCA.

The Burbank Blogger, who doesn't identify herself or himself, is another critic of Osborn and really zings it to her in this post from Friday:

Case study number 2 [of special interest races] comes a little south of Burbank, where a candidate named Torie Osborn is challenging Betsy Butler for Assembly.

We polled our fellow Democratic activists: On ALL the major issues: LGBT, labor, immigrants, choice, the environment, etc, there is not one iota of difference between Torie Osborn and Betsy Butler. NOT ONE DIFFERENCE. Thus, excuse us for concluding that this stupid internecine challenge is all about Torie's monumental ego and her personal ambition.

Excuse me, but those are NOT good reasons to get in politics.

(As of press time, Torie's camp would not confirm that her campaign slogan will be, "Torie: It's About Me." We did confirm however that she really does punctuate emails with a call to VicTorie. No kidding...)

Nice to see effective use of snark, but I wasn't sure the Burbank Blogger was speaking the truth about the "VicTorie" branding of Osborn and her campaign, so I checked out her site. Lo, and behold, she indeed is using VicTorie throughout her site and messaging, for which I salute her. Creative reworking of her name and victory, and it's so upbeat too, that even this critic gives her props.

BTW, Osborn's campaign is not just about her moving up the gay political ladder and becoming another LGBT elected official. It's peddling a better life to backers, according to the promo for her Camp VicTorie last month:

Gimme a break on this touchy-feely stuff. Electing Osborn to any office would in no significant way advance LGBT liberation.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wiener Roasted:
67% of SF Voters Reject Gay Supe's Prop E

The Castro's gay member on the Board of Supervisors, Scott Wiener, saw his signature ballot proposition this week go down in flames. A whopping 67% of San Franciscans who cast votes soundly rejected Prop E, that would have allowed the Supervisors and the Mayor to amend future ballot props and opened up a can of worms ready to eat away at our local democratic system.

In August, Wiener penned a column for the Huffington Post making big claims about what the citizenry was supposedly concerned with this election cycle:

Two of the most common questions I'm asked as an elected official are "Why do you make us vote on so many things?" and "Why doesn't the Board of Supervisors do its job and pass legislation without asking us to pass it for you?"

Folks are losing their jobs and healthcare insurance, rents are climbing and banks are foreclosing on properties in Wiener's district and across the city, municipal services are being curtailed, and lots of other bad economic news are hitting ordinary people, and Wiener would like us to believe the issue he most heard about was our alleged broken prop system.

What planet is Wiener living on? Sure as heck isn't the same one where struggling San Francisco citizens reside.

Recent filings by the Yes on E campaign show the committees donating to the effort were from real estate and downtown business groups, hardly a grassroots-backed campaign here.

Wiener's Huff Post essay boasted the following:

This proposal won't fix our ballot measure system in one fell swoop, but it starts us in the right direction. I look forward to a robust discussion this fall and beyond.

Seems clear to me the proposal's overwhelming rejection went completely against the direction Wiener was hoping for. His claim of welcoming a healthy discussion apparently stopped on Election Day, because he's not said a thing about Prop E's defeat on his Facebook page nor has he tweeted about it.

If he is genuine about that discussion he's going to have to put some sweat and energy into making it happen, but his track record about public talks is shoddy at best.

Back in the spring, the BAR reported on Wiener calling for public discussion about merging the gay parade committee with the community center, an idea worth debating. Only trouble was he didn't speak with the parties involved:

He also said he hasn't proposed the [merger] idea to Pride officials. Asked about the LGBT Community Center being a [possible partner in a merger], Wiener said that "certainly would be an option. ..."

[...] Wiener said, "I think it's terrific that we have people who are getting involved and making sure the organization stays viable, and making sure the parade is a success. But it doesn't avoid the need for a conversation about where Pride needs to go in the long run, and what kind of organizational structure the parade needs."

He wouldn't say whether he'd talked to Rebecca Rolfe, the center's executive director, about the idea. 

So, he wanted public discussion about a potential merger and he blabbed to the BAR about it all, only he didn't take the time to speak with the head of the center. Four months later, the gay paper again asked him about consolidating the SF Pride committee with another nonprofit and there was no indication that in the intervening time he brought about the discussions he called for. More talk about talk from Wiener:

As far as Pride merging with anyone, Wiener said, "I think we need to have a frank discussion about the future of Pride."

What is needed from Wiener is him delivering on his many calls for public discussions about ballot props, the SF Pride committee and other issues. We'll see if he's willing to take responsibility and organize the open chats we need.

I hope the 67% figure is enough to wake him up about the wrong direction of some of his efforts.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sister None-of-the-Above 
Wins 60% of Votes for S.F. Mayor

Breaking news from the Baron von Munchausen wire:

The San Francisco Comical
November 11, 2011

Miraculous Upset in Mayor's Race
by I.M. Biased and Count de Monet

The latest novitiate to join the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Sister None-of-the-Above, has been declared the winner of Tuesday's mayoral race, a shocking result for the political and business establishments, and nothing more than a yawn for the largest bloc of voters.

Pundit and university professor Corey Cooking-Uppa-Quote explained the importance of the electoral upset, seen by the Sisters and their myriad supporters as divine intervention. "This means years of future work for me and fielding calls from the media that will maintain my high profile," he said.

With practically all of the votes counted (7,000 outstanding), and twelves rounds of reallocating votes under ranked choice voting rules, Sister None-of-the-Above has been elected mayor with 60% of vote according to the latest tallies from the Department of Elections.

"I'm thrilled that of all registered voters in this overwhelming liberal and progressive city, just under 60% stayed home or didn't bother to use their mail-in ballots," said Sister None-of-the-Above to her backers in each of the municipality's eleven supervisorial districts. "Being on the bottom of the ballot listing really paid off for my butt!"

Sister None-of-the-Above, whose birth name was Dick Hertz before it was legally changed, promised her first order of business would be to ask all mayoral losers who accepted public funding to refund The City the cost of a single vote paid for with municipal money.

For City Assessor Phil Ting the amount would equal a robust $383 at the top of the losers' list, while for Supervisor John Avalos' refund would amount to a paltry $17.

"At a time when San Francisco's vital services have been drastically reduced because of budgetary cuts, we need politicians who were publicly-funded to show symbolic sympathy with the city and give back a portion of the taxpayer dollars they spent - even if it means from their own personal bank accounts," the mayor-elect Sister said from her convent in the Castro district.

Interim Mayor Ed Lee, who came in second, was shocked at his loss to the political novice who bested him. "Gosh, with Willie Brown and Rose Pak pulling my strings and all the stops out, I fully expected to prevail and keep on representing downtown business interests from Room 200 at City Hall. Why didn't all those independent expenditure groups deliver a better voter turnout for me?"

At 4:00 pm on Friday, the Department of Elections will release the latest, and possibly last, ranked-choice vote tallies. Click here for more information.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hates Crimes Law Turns Two;
HRC & Gay Inc Silent on Anniversary

 (From the left: David M. Smith, Cathy Nelson, Joe Solmonese and Elizabeth Birch, on October 28, 2009. Credit: Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.)

For a solid twenty years, the Human Rights Campaign raised and spent millions of dollars and expended countless words to pass a federal hate crimes law. Check out their timeline, which stops in October 2009, here.

Practically every act of violence or assault against a gay person during those years was used by HRC and lots of Gay Inc groups, pushing Congress to enact legislation against hate crimes against LGBT people and other minorities.

When the murder of Matthew Shepard shocked the nation in 1998, the perfect young and innocent martyr was created and HRC used his tragic death, and his mother Judy, to raise millions and awareness asking Members of Congress to pass the hate crimes law.

The political and social stars finally aligned for Congressional approval of the legislation, which was titled and sold as a prevention tool at the local and national level, and on October 28, 2009, President Obama signed the legislation into law. HRC led the LGBT community in heralding these developments as monumental achievements of great benefit to us.

The two-year anniversary of that signing came and went a little more than two weeks ago, and as far as I can tell, HRC and Gay Inc remained silent about the occasion. HRC's well-oiled and publicity machine didn't even bother to issue a release. It was probably naive of me to expect professional LGBT advocacy organizations to educate the community and the media about the law's impact two years hence.

Has the federal hate crimes law made a dent in preventing gay bashings? In what specific ways, if any, has it improved the safety and security of gays? Where are the statistics and analyses illustrating the impact two years after enactment?

Follow up regarding the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hates Crimes Prevention Act is needed from HRC and Gay Inc, and my questions should be addressed by the groups who invested so much in the act.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

ACLU: No Comment on Resolution
of Gay ED Romero's Drunk Driving Arrest

In August, I blogged about the out gay executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Romero (pictured), and his legal and ethical troubles stemming from a drunk driving arrest in late June in East Hampton, NY. Romero faced allegations that he covered up the arrest, and Newsday reported he would appear in court on October 6 as the matter worked its way toward a resolution.

Seeing no follow up stories on the web, at the end of October I started calling and emailing the East Hampton Justice Court, seeking details about the October 6 hearing. I never reached a live person, and none of my voice mails or emails elicited a response from the court.

Yesterday I sent a query to the ACLU's national press office, requesting info as to the legal resolution of Romero's arrest. Press rep Molly Kaplan replied:  

Thanks for reaching out to us on this. We don’t have any further information on this, but have you tried the East Hampton Town Court?

How odd that the ACLU couldn't shed any light on the ED's arrest and if the legal proceedings had been resolved, not to mention the group pushing me to contact the court, instead of simply asking Romero to answer my few questions. I wrote back to Kaplan, copying the note to Romero, stating I had indeed reached out to the court and received no reply, and again requested the ACLU to explain the status of the case.

Receiving no reply from Kaplan or Romero, I sent them another email this morning, pleading for an update. Steven Gosset, whose email identified him as the manager of media relations, shared this response:

In regards to your inquiry, neither Mr. Romero nor the ACLU will have any comment on this matter. If you seek further information regarding the proceedings in connection with this matter, I would suggest you contact the East Hampton Justice Court.

I am sorry I cannot be of further assistance.

What utter nonsense, that the mighty ACLU can't comment on the relatively minor legal infraction of its executive director and whether they matter has been resolved. Pushing me off to the court for some details is quite uncooperative and just doesn't smell right.

Why all the secrecy on the ACLU's part, especially considering the organization in July railed against secrecy and its poisonous effect on democracy? They should be doing every thing in their power, through their press office, to get the facts out there before the public about Romero's arrest and possible resolution of the matter.

The ACLU needs to come clean about Romero's October 6 hearing before the court, and fully explain the legal situation of his arrest.

Monday, November 07, 2011

SF Chronicle: Mail-in Ballots:
Chinatown = 79% vs Castro = 6%

Some very interesting numbers presented today about mail-in voting patterns thus far in the election process. The San Francisco Chronicle reports an incredibly high percentage for early voting by mail in Chinatown and a surprisingly low number for the Castro.

The LGBT voters of the Castro generally have one of the largest voter turnouts in the city, and while the mail-in votes are quote low, there could be a surge of in-person ballot-casting tomorrow. It will be curious to see the analysis of the LGBT vote after Tuesday and how that bloc was split among the dozens of candidates.

My prediction in the mayoral race is that Mayor Ed Lee will be elected to a full-four year term, and the greasy Willie Brown and Rose Pak machine will grind on, to the detriment of the city. A depressing thought, but one we may have to get used to after all the ballots are counted.

From the Chronicle:

An analysis by Redistricting Partners, a Sacramento political consulting firm, found that as of last week, 79 percent of expected mail-in voters in Chinatown had turned in their ballots - 32 percentage points above the citywide average return at this time during two earlier election cycles.

Visitacion Valley, which has turned heavily Asian in recent years, is showing an 18 percentage point surge, followed by new immigrant areas like the Excelsior (12 percentage points) and the Sunset and Bayview (both five percentage points). ...

In Bernal Heights, only 38 percent of expected ballots had been returned, nine percentage points below the citywide average. The numbers were almost identical in the Haight.

Likewise, Potrero Hill was running four percentage points below average, the Mission seven percentage points and the Castro 6 percentage points.
My BF Went to Gayville, SD, 
& All I Got Was This Fabulous Photo

The great state of South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore, a number of Native American tribes, my husbear and partner Mike, and the town of Gayville. Sure, you thought the Castro and Chelsea urban districts were Gayvilles, but you're wrong. The real Gayville is located in America's rural heartland.

Mike was back home recently visiting with family and friends, and one day his brother Nick and his wife Mary took him on a drive through the Gayville area. They stopped in the town of 407 people for a bite to eat and a stroll around the place, then took a fabulous photo of Mike standing in front of the local music hall.

The town proclaims itself the Hay Capital of the World. Okay, that's one claim to fame. However, with the right kind of branding and marketing, Gayville could make a pretty penny selling merchandise branded with their town's fine name to gay people around the country.

Hey Gayville, South Dakota, thanks for showing my partner and in-laws a fun time during their brief visit, and for a having a great enormous mock postcard made for picture-snapping.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

November is 3rd Month in 2011
the Castro Theatre is Shut 8-Nites

(The Castro's calender for November. Click here for info on programs, tickets and showtimes.)

It is never too early to express concern that an iconic still-functioning single-screen movie theatre may be ailing and not getting the audience it needs to stay in business, operating seven-days a week.

You'll recall I blogged about the Castro Theatre being closed eight-nights in April, while in August I wrote about the eight dark night that month.

November is the third month in 2011 our cherished picture show palace won't be showing a film or hosting a live event.

I didn't pay close attention to the January and February Castro calendars, and they're not online, so I don't I know if either month was closed for just over a week or close to it, as happened for April, August and November. I hope they weren't months where the Castro was shut for just over a week; bad enough with three such months.

For my part to help keep the Castro surviving and thriving, I plan to catch at least three films on the new schedule. Give the calendar a glance, print it out, post it on your refrigerator door and make it this theatre in the near future for a film or two.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

EQCA + Haas Fdtn's $1.1M =
Waste. Toilet. Flush.

They all look and think the same to me. The Gay Inc folks who cycle in and out of jobs at Gay Foundation Inc or Gay Advocacy Inc or crossover from AIDS Inc and Gay Democratic Party Inc or Non-Profit Inc. You know who I'm talking about.

Let's start with Matt Foreman, who has been the executive director at a few organizations including Empire State Pride Agenda and NGLTF, and is now doling out the big dollars at the Haas Jr Foundation in San Francisco. Hundreds of thousands of dollars flow from Haas, which is non-transparent and holds no public meetings, to Equality California and Matt just flushed a few more bucks down this toilet.

Then there's Joan Garry, who when she headed GLAAD adhered to a strict non-transparency policy and was at one point the highest paid Gay Inc executive around, and is now advising EQCA. Hard to tell the difference between her and Matt regarding their elitist and secretive approaches to running "community" organizations.

We can't forget that another GLAAD executive, Julie Anderson, who handled development matters for the group when she worked with Joan, will also be offering advice to EQCA.

They all have to deal with the disastrous tenure of Roland Palencia, who came from a nonprofit network of community clinics and departed after barely three-months as executive director of EQCA.

Roland may be a Latino, unlike Matt, Joan and Julie who are white, but they're all cut from the same damn cloth of fearing the community, refusing to have regular democratic engagement with the grassroots, chasing corporate and banking industry support and keeping the at-large community under tight control. There is no fresh air or ideas with crew of Gay Inc types.

EQCA's gushing news release detailing Matt giving more Haas money so the group can hire Joan and Julie and transition the whole shebang into a viable and relevant entity, says nothing about grassroots community engagement during the time the consultants will be diagnosing the group's strengths and weakness. Yes, the same old wasting of a crisis by Gay Inc where the last development the same old elitist executives want it democratic engagement with the grassroots, is happening at EQCA.

BTW, the Haas Foundation's search engine goes back only to 2006 and since then EQCA has received at least $1.1 million, showing how tight Gay Foundation Inc and Gay Advocacy Inc are. Given the meltdown of EQCA this year, I'd say a lot of those Haas dollars went down the toilet leaving EQCA without a statewide grassroots network of engaged, committed supporters.

New Haas money is funding EQCA's "breakthrough conversation" program, whatever it may be. It's not been fully developed yet, but it's supposed to help LGBT California speak to families and friends about our lives. Whatever.

In the past two months, without a single consultant or big bucks spent, the nation has witnessed hundreds of General Assemblies at various Occupy encampments and protests, with lots of gay people speaking up and participating in Occupy actions.

Can you imagine Matt, Joan, Julie and their ilk seeing the handwriting on the wall at the Occupy protests and General Assemblies, and incorporate the genuine grassroots, democratic engagement tactics and strategies of that movement into their Gay Inc agenda? I certainly can't.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Dutch PM Holds Moscow Meeting
With Russian Lesbian Leader

(Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, left, with open hands meets activists in Moscow. Polina Savchenko, a lesbian leader with Coming Out, is on the right side of the conference table wearing a white jacket. Click to enlarge. Credit: Coming Out.)

Responsible and effective LGBT leaders in Russia from the Coming Out group, made a significant advance in elevating their issues in recent weeks with a foreign government Kremlin politicians very much want to have good diplomatic relations with.

I've cribbed details from the rough Google Russian-to-English translation of an account from Coming Out and a Dutch news site to cobble together this story of that advance for Russia's gay movement:

In October, at the invitation of the President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mr. Mark Rutte visited Russia on an official visit. Rutte made it a public priority of highlighting human rights issues in Russia for the Netherlands. In order to gain a more complete picture of the situation on the eve of his talks with Medvedev, Rutte met with representatives of the human rights movement in Russia, including a leading lesbian advocate.

At the October 19 meeting in Moscow with Rutte at the Dutch embassy were Alexei Navalny (a transparency blogger), Elena Panfilova (Transparency International), Tatyana Lokshina (Human Rights Watch) and Polina Savchenko (General Manager of the social service and advocacy LGBT organization Coming Out). Among the topics discussed were the fight against corruption, the North Caucasus region and the rights of LGBT citizens - all of which the Netherlands considers important issues in relations with Russia.

After the meeting, Polina shared her impressions on the Coming Out site :

"The Prime Minister was sympathetic to the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Russia. He asked many questions: Why did we choose to become activists? How many individual are involved in our transparency and LGBT groups? Is the Russian government doing enough to protest the human rights LGBT Russians?"

Polina added:

"The discussion was very lively, and all of us who met with Mr. Rutte expressed our thanks for engaging with us. The main purpose of the meeting for the Prime Minister was to understand how the Netherlands can contribute to human rights defenders and what questions should be raised in talks with Medvedev and Putin."

From San Francisco on behalf of Gays Without Borders, I extend deep respect and gratitude to Prime Minister Rutte for showcasing LGBT Russian people and their issues as integral to the Dutch foreign political engagement with Russian leaders.

And big, warm congratulations to the activists with Coming Out of St. Petersburg for scoring this coup of a meeting with an important trading and diplomatic partner, one willing to publicly pressure Russian leaders to improve their record on human rights protections for LGBT citizens.

By the way, I wish to point out that the day after the October 19 meeting, at which he was not present, Russia's most prominent and wealthiest globetrotting gay advocate, Nikolai Alexseev, resigned as leader of Gay Russia. Readers may recall that when he grandly exited the global gay stage on October 20, Nikolai told the UK Gay News that he simply couldn't provide any details why he was retiring from the movement.

Do I think he was angry to not be at the meeting with the Dutch Prime Minister and that his apparent non-invitation contributed to his retirement? Very much, yes. Could diva Nikolai accept that another LGBT Russian leader went to the meeting and he wasn't given any role to play? No, never.

I could be wrong, of course, but the timing of the meeting and resignation are quite curious.

Again, Gays Without Borders in San Francisco salutes our good friends at Coming Out in St. Petersburg on their success with the Dutch government, and we look forward to continued progress with their incredible advocacy work and social services for LGBT Russians!