Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stop Wiener's Attack on 
Historical Preservation in San Francisco

Here's one more example of Scott Wiener's politics of polarization without nearly enough effort on his part to compromise and find common ground with stakeholders beyond his circle of donors and backers.

This note is from Suzanne Ruecker who is a member of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club. Kudos to her and the club for keeping tabs on what the Castro's supervisor is devising to dilute excellent preservation policies in San Francisco.

Ruecker asks that everyone write a letter in opposition to all of the planning commissioners, listed below followed by their addys in cut-and-paste format with an addy for the Heritage Society because they are tracking emails going to the commissioners.

Key points to stress: the commission should retain the Historic Preservation Committee's Articles 10 and 11, oppose Wiener's amendments that would impose unique procedural hurdles on the designation of historic districts, oppose Wiener's proposal to exempt residential projects "for households of 150% or less than median income" from historic review requirements based on "economic hardship".

The commissioners:
President Ron Miguel
Michael J. Antonini
Gwyneth Borden
Kathrin Moore
Hisashi Sugaya
Rodney Fong

Their addys:

Here's Ruecker's message:

I just wanted to update you on the ongoing struggle with Wiener's amendments to the Planning Code. The current incarnation of his amendments still threaten historic preservation, and they give renters no voice in the process of creation of a historic district.

Public comment on the issue will take place this Thursday sometime after 1:30pm.

Action Alert: Planning Commission to Consider Supervisor Wiener's Amendments to Planning Code
When: Thursday, February 2nd. Item to be considered after 1:30pm.
Where: City Hall, Commission Chambers, Room 400
What: Write a letter or make a public comment!

The Planning Commission is considering amendments to the city's Planning Code, including a series of controversial amendments introduced by Supervisor Wiener that would give renters no voice in the historic preservation process and create undue obstacles in the creation of historic districts.
Please plan on attending this hearing to strengthen the voice of preservation of historic San Francisco. Visit http://sfheritage.org/SFAHtalkingpointsPC_Feb2hearing.pdf for more information and talking points, or to email the commission. For more information, contact Suzanne at sruecker@gmail.com.

Do you think you'll be able to make it? An email to the commissioners will be the next best thing, but bodies are extremely important! Do you have anyone else you can turnout, or can you push this to your networks?
ACT UP's 'United in Anger'
Opens MOMA's Doc Fest on Feb 16

My old friends Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard, the co-directors of "United in Anger", a film about the extraordinary work of the people in ACT UP and our activism that saved lives, today announced that their film soon premieres at MOMA's prestigious doc fest and on it's first night. Congrats Sarah and Jim!

Wish I could be there for the debut, at one of my cherished still-operating theaters where I spent many hours in the 1980s, and experience the audience's reactions. Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the film and appear in it.

All you folks in the New York City area who give a damn about AIDS and the ACT UP story, and anyone keen to learn how that dark and deadly era is being memorialized in the popular culture, should purchase tickets now and after you've seen "United in Anger" share your opinion of it with me.

From Sarah and Jim:

We are thrilled that our film will be the opening night of the Museum of Modern Art's Documentary Fortnight festival. We hope you'll join us! We'll both be there to present the film, and for a Q&A afterwards.

United in Anger World Premiere
Documentary Fortnight 2012: 
MoMA's International Festival of Nonfiction Film and Media
Thursday, February 16, 2012
8:00 PM
The Titus One Theater
11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP is an inspiring documentary about the birth and life of the AIDS activist movement from the perspective of the people in the trenches fighting the epidemic. Utilizing oral histories of members of ACT UP, as well as rare archival footage, the film depicts the efforts of ACT UP as it battles corporate greed, social indifference, and government neglect.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Castro Flagpole Zap at Warner Plaza;
Feb 4 @ 2 PM: Leno,Wiener, Dufty

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the controversy surrounding the public rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza. Last January 26, gay Ugandan activist David Kato was brutally and senselessly murdered in Kampala and as part of a global call to action, Gary Virginia and I organized a vigil the first week of February and requested that the flag be lowered at half-mast.

This simple request to the illegitimate holders of the key to the flagpole's control box, the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro, ignited a debate over why this private group has domain over an incredibly important piece of public space.

The flag was eventually lowered for Kato, but it took overcoming unnecessary hurdles and an extreme uncooperative nature on the part of Steve Adams, the president of MUMC and the local Sterling Bank.

On Saturday, February 4 starting at 2 PM, many of the politicians, merchants and civic organizations that have adamantly refused to hold any public discussion over the one-year and counting flagpole controversy, will be at Jane Warner Plaza.

At this public event, a gaggle of straight and gay elites will be unveiling a plaque honoring the life and work of the late policewoman and lesbian activist Jane Warner. According to the Bay Area Reporter, gay career politicians Mark Leno, Scott Wiener and Bevan Dufty will be officiating. They'll also be mouthing off about how great they are. Any time one of them speaks, it always is with the intent of advancing themselves and the unveiling on Saturday is the perfect opportunity to zap them with questions over the flag.

Of course, not one of them is known for holding regular town halls, which would be a more perfect venue to discuss issues like the flag, but because the pols don't democratically engage voices of protest must be raised in the (ever-dwindling) public space.

Leno, Wiener and Dufty together don't make up even half of the greatness of Harvey Milk, their predecessor as the Castro's supervisor. Unlike these three who have buried their heads in the sand on the flag, Harvey would be bringing all factions together and creating a solution.

Since this is the Castro, and we are talking about one of the two plazas that may soon come under additional city restrictions because of polarizing legislation from Wiener, where he held no community meetings of his own open to all to discuss the proposal before introducing it, and the legislation is expected to pass the full board tomorrow, I expect I won't be the only activist there.

If the three amigos were smart, they'd organize for a public comment and general assembly, and not stage just another photo-op for themselves and only they get to talk. Lemme know when gay democracy breaks out in the Castro.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Zapping SF's Sheriff at Court:
'Resign, Ross, Resign!'

(Your humble blogger answering reporters' questions at the Hall of Justice, January 26. Credit: Luke A. Thomas, Fog City Journal.)

Ross Mirkarimi, San Francisco's recently sworn-in sheriff who's facing three misdemeanor charges related to an act of alleged domestic abuse with his wife, was in Superior Court before Judge Susan Breall on Thursday requesting amendments to the restraining order preventing him from having contact with his young son.

Breall rejected Mirkarimi's wish to have supervised contact with the child and his case suffered no delays, even with a new defense attorney hired by Mirkarimi just the day before the hearing.

I showed up with a "Resign, Ross, Resign!" poster and shouted at the sheriff as he entered and exited the court room. "Do the city a favor, Ross! Resign!" echoed off the marble walls, as I sent a message from my lips to the sheriff's ears.

My basic view of this case is that Eliana Lopez, Mirkarimi's wife, has told a lot of truth about her mistreatment at the hands of her husband, the same goes for former girlfriends stepping forward now, and that there are powerful political forces that don't like the new sheriff and a whole lot of folks who want to see him brought down.

However, I don't for a moment believe that district attorney George Gascon would press three serious charges in a matter that he certainly knows will attract intense scrutiny and demands to produce evidence that can sway a San Francisco jury, if he didn't have rock-solid proof backing up the charges.

I stand with the women's and anti domestic violence groups and leaders who have called on Mirkarimi to resign.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Gary Virginia: Castro's Wiener
Must Post 2012 Meeting Schedule

(Gary Virginia on his phone. Credit: Bill Wilson.)

This past Monday, I attended the Land Use Committee hearing at City Hall regarding pending legislation related the public plazas in the Castro neighborhood. This was the first meeting where all interested parties were in the same room with Scott Wiener and everyone was allowed a chance to speak on the legislation.

Several speakers complained that Wiener held no meetings of his own, and that he appeared only before civic groups friendly to his agenda. At the end of the hearing, Wiener said he had appeared at neighborhood meetings, which is true but what he omitted is that some of those meetings were for members-only, or held at 9:00 am when lots of working folks couldn't attend, and not publicized.

My old friend Gary Virginia, a longtime Castro voter and indefatigable LGBT and AIDS community organizer and fundraiser, and an incredibly sweet guy, penned this essay rebutting Wiener's bogus claim that he did sufficient outreach before introducing his plaza proposal. I've been granted permission to share the essay here.

Virgnia's basic idea, that Wiener set and publish a schedule of when he'll hold his own open meetings in the district, should immediately be adopted by the supervisor. If Wiener were to heed Virginia's advice, such meetings would go a long way toward cooling the scorching divisions that diminish the Castro's vibrancy. Who could object to the supervisor expanding the number of constituents he hears from and bringing transparency to his style of leadership?

Here's Virginia's opinion column:

I see a continuing problem with local politics in District 8 (Castro, Noe Valley, Glen Park.) Supervisor Scott Wiener is following closely in the footsteps of his predecessor by not hosting community meetings but claiming he “has worked with stake holders” when voting and acting on issues of concern to all constituents.

The latest issue in this line of selective input, is Wiener’s justification for proposed legislation for Jane Warner and Harvey Milk plazas. A capacity crowd at the Jan. 23 Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee met to discuss his proposed legislation which has now been amended at least twice (one item changed due to input by the ACLU).

Excerpted from a change.org online petition that was submitted at the meeting:

“We oppose Supervisor Scott Wiener's proposed regulations for Harvey Milk and Jane Warner plazas in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood. There was no community process in coming up with these regulations. In fact, a local community group, QUEEN (Queers for Economic Equality Now) had proposed a community task force to address any concerns people had with the plazas and develop ways to make them welcoming to all people, including the homeless. That proposal was rejected by Castro Benefits District (CBD), a neighborhood group funded by the city, and Scott Wiener.

“Jane Warner, for whom the one plaza is named, cared a lot about homeless queer youth. As a Patrol Special officer, she worked tirelessly with homeless advocates in the neighborhood when they set up three separate homeless LGBT youth shelters in the late 90s.

“The plaza named after Harvey Milk, another fierce advocate for queer youth, has become a symbol worldwide of the freedom that LGBT people have been fighting for these past five decades. It has always been a place where all people can gather, rally, have fun, sit, cruise, give out literature, sell pamphlets, and generally enjoy public space. Putting unnecessary restrictions on our public space is not in keeping with the spirit of Harvey Milk or the LGBT community.”

The majority of public comments at the Jan. 23 hearing opposed the legislation including speakers from Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC), Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, Community United Against Violence, Homes Not Jails, QUEEN, Gays Without Borders/SF, Coalition on Homelessness, Pride at Work, Homeless Advocates for Youth, Gubbio Project (a daytime program for homeless people at Saint Boniface Church in the Tenderloin), as well as personal friends of Harvey Milk and Officer Jane Warner. Unfortunately, the legislation was passed out of committee (Sup. Carmen Chu & Scott Wiener in favor; Committee Chair Eric Mar opposed) so the legislation will be heard by the full Board on January 31.

Wiener prides himself on having worked with “stake holders” but this has been limited to business and residential neighborhood associations and the paid-for CBD. When you look at the neighborhood association memberships, many of the same people and officers belong to multiple associations, and the presidents and officers are skewed to million-dollar homeowners. Likewise, I doubt there are any LGBT youth, homeless, or vulnerable populations represented in the Merchants of Upper Market & Castro (MUMC) or CBD groups.

I have volunteered and donated thousands of hours of my time to MUMC, CBD, Castro After Dark (bar guild), Castro Farmers’ Market, and many activist, charitable, and neighborhood causes so I know from where I speak. Many issues are not black or white, but open dialogue results in the best solutions.

I also have personal friends who have been affected by the ill-conceived Care Not Cash program, the Sit/Lie ordinance, TIC and Ellis Act evictions and gentrification. One friend who came out at 52 years of age lost his life savings and has been living out of his car for two years. My former roommate who will be 80 this year got evicted due to a TIC sale 14 years ago and she’s been homeless since. Other friends who could not beat crystal meth

Victims of the economy, domestic violence, or homophobia often seek refuge in San Francisco due to our long-standing values of compassion and care. For LGBT folks, the Castro is perceived to be a beacon of hope, tolerance and often a last resort for help. To continually criminalize people and force them into a cycle of homelessness is not humane nor economically savvy for our city’s shrinking budget.

Here’s my challenge to Sup. Wiener: publish a 2012 schedule now (rotating days and times) for monthly community meetings in your district. Have the first item on the agenda be for public comment. Publish the minutes online. Simple, transparent, democratic.

The charade of “I have met with stake holders” is over. Many of your constituents don’t want to, or are unable to, join a neighborhood or merchant association. I have been a witness to how many of these groups control the agenda, and prearrange strategy, speakers and data to skew outcomes. They do not speak for me, nor your most vulnerable constituents. You were elected to represent the interests of ALL people who live, work, play or spend time in the Castro ... not just merchants, contracted benefit districts, and neighborhood associations.

There’s a reason a Facebook group was created named “Recall Scott Wiener Now!” As with the Occupy movement, average people are fed up with the “haves” controlling the destiny of the “have nots.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

On My Second 64th Birthday, My First Will

In gay years, I am turning 64 (again) today.

That was the age I chose for myself last January 26 when I'd been thinking about my husbear Mike and our incredibly fabulous years together, and that old Beatles song "When I'm Sixty-Four".

Whatever my age, in either gay years or reality, 53, it's great to be alive and mostly thriving.

That said, allow me to share with you what present I gave myself this week: a notarized will and advance healthcare directive. With apologies to Stephen Sondheim, let me say, look, I made a will, where there never was a will.

I addressed the reasons why up till now I lacked these legal documents in my last column for the Let's Talk HIV series over at the Edge Network. Give it a read, and if you were like me, lacking a will, maybe my example could help you get your legal affairs in order. I'm pleased to say not only do I have the will and healthcare directive signed, I also have all the power of attorney and end of life wishes taken care of.

Here's my piece:

All of my adult life, I’ve had a psychological barrier stopping me from taking care of very important records that should have been addressed long ago. I am in the process of drafting my first will, advance healthcare directive (AHD), and other legal documents regarding my wishes when my health declines, and after I’ve passed away.

One of the first steps the Gay Men’s Health Crisis had me do after becoming a client was sit down with a counselor who had one piece of advice for me: draft a will.

That directive was at odds with my "fuck you, AIDS" attitude after receiving my diagnosis. My focus was totally unable to look at death as quickly approaching and all of my thinking was how to live as long as possible. Drafting a will would bring about my demise before I was ready to check out of this thing we call life, sums up my thinking back in the 1980s.

The GMHC counselor had no information about the limited drug trials taking place in New York or Paris or alternative healing community clinics, and explained that they couldn’t say a thing about such topics because it might be seen as an endorsement of the treatment. Our appointment ended expeditiously when it was made explicit that a will was not on my agenda at the time.

That’s changed and in recent months I’ve given much thought to all the reasons why I need two documents finalized, affixed with my signature and legal -- a will and the AHD.

After comforting a dying man with AIDS with singing on Christmas Eve at the Maitri hospice, glimpsing for a moment how end-of-life actually takes place today, I talked to my partner and folks I want to serve as my agents to discuss my latest thoughts about my end-of-life concerns. It felt good to articulate my wishes to my loved ones and again receive permission to make them my agents.

As if I needed a reminder about helping my agents and survivors carry out my wishes, and my always-challenging health, I suffered another episode of diverticulitis recently. The pain was excruciating enough to send me off to the emergency room at Davies Hospital. I’m now on a regimen of flagyl and cipro antibiotics and under orders to increase my fiber and roughage intake, which is already high, to calm the inflammation and heal my stomach.

If a medical crisis struck and my partner needed legal documents allowing him to make healthcare decisions on my behalf, right now he would lack those papers. It is unfair of me to burden him with any extra stress and hassles, should I suddenly take ill.
There is quite a large degree of self-satisfaction knowing that my end-of-life legal papers will be notarized and valid in the new year. It’s like making a resolution without realizing it and the resolution is kept.

There’s also the matter of the will taking care of my earthly possessions. The lawyer assisting me in this, who was recommended by the AIDS Legal Referral Panel, has sent me a clear and concise will spelling out my wishes. It needs some minor editing before finalizing next week.

The lawyer emailed a two-page disposition of remains document I have to fill out, explaining my cremation wishes, who is to arrange my funeral, the kind of service I’d like, and my favorite music, among other simple directions my survivors will need after I’ve kicked the bucket.

Legal issues aside, there are a few items of activist and personal nature that I wish to be part of my send off and legacy, and those wishes will be written down and shared with my trusted survivors.

One of my friends who’s agreed to serve as an agent for AHD requirements, and is almost a decade older than I with many tangible assets and financial resources, said he didn’t have a will and that one of his promises to himself in the coming year is to write one.

I laugh at myself being surprised he does not have a will, when I am in the same boat and think, well, I am a bit younger than he is and I lack his assets so I can cut myself some slack. Glass houses and stones come to mind.

Not that I planned these steps taking care of my will and AHD as 2011 would be coming to a close, but there is quite a large degree of self-satisfaction knowing that my end-of-life legal papers will be notarized and valid in the new year. It’s like making a resolution without realizing it and the resolution is kept.

What better way for me to welcome in the new year of 2012 than with my first will?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Romney Gave $25,900 to CA's Whitman

I blogged earlier today about no direct donations from Mitt Romney to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign in 2008, and now wish to share what was located at the state level for any donations to candidates.

In 2009, Romney gave a robust $25,900 check to California Republican for governor Meg Whitman, who thankfully lost to Democrat Jerry Brown. Here's the screen grab from the Secretary of State's site showing the donation. Click to enlarge:

Must be nice to have that kind of money to drop on a fellow GOP politician running for office. I don't know any 99 percenters who have that kind of money sitting around waiting to be donated, do you? That's Romney's only donation in California.
Romney Family's Donations 
to Yes on Prop 8 Campaign?

This screen cap is from the San Francisco Chronicle's search engine of the California Secretary of State's records for all donors to the pro and con campaigns in 2008 over the gay marriage initiative Prop 8. Click to expand the chart.

The top name is Jennifer Romney who gave $1,000 to the Yes on 8 anti gay marriage effort, and she's married to Mitt Romney's son Tagg.

I couldn't locate proof that any other contributors with the last name Romney are related to Mitt, but allow me to point out that a private investor named Richard L. Romney of Rancho Santa Fe, California, coughed up $17,000 for the Yes on 8 side.

He also donated $750 in 2011 to Mitt's presidential bid, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's a relative of the GOP candidate. I'm blogging about Jennifer Romney and Richard Romney's Yes on 8 contributions to sunshine a small part of Mitt's network of donors.

The prod that got me poking around the Prop 8 donors' records was diary at DailyKos yesterday about Mitt's tax returns and their potential content. Let's see if he actually keeps his promise to release a return or two, and what they contain. Here's the pertinent section of the DailyKos diary titled "Will there be a Prop 8 bombshell hidden in Romney's tax returns?":

But a new report out from ABC News has LGBT Americans in particular buzzing about "Just how much did Mitt Romney spend to take away Californians' right to marry?" ABC accounts his donations, or tithing, at more than $4M over the last 5 years, although exact totals are not known. Release of the tax forms may reveal more still.

[The diarist reminds us of a New York Times story about the Yes on 8 side making an urgent push for fund in the days before the 2008 election, then asks a question.]

Was Gov. Romney one of the many who heeded the last minute "urgent appeal"? Of course, Mitt Romney's opposition to marriage equality is well known. Still, if it turns out Romney was particularly helpful in passing the marriage equality banning amendment, this might be particularly infuriating news to the LGBT community still smarting from that loss.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

GLAAD'S Corey Johnson Fired;
Running for NY City Council Seat?

(Johnson, left, posing with Chuck Wolfe, the head of the Victory Fund, a group devoted to electing Democratic LGBT people. Credit: Klaus Enrique.)

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is no stranger to LGBT politicians in need of employment.

Two of its executive directors, Neil Giuliano and Jarrett Barrios, ran the organization after their political careers ended, and there's also been aspiring elected official Corey Johnson using his perch at GLAAD to pretty much run a nascent campaign for New York City's City Council in 2013.

Yesterday, Johnson, along with ten other staffers at GLAAD, was fired because of severe budgetary problems. The Advocate is so far the only source of info on the firings and continuing fiscal troubles of GLAAD, but their story omits the names of who was laid off.

GLAAD's staff directory no longer lists Johnson as the deputy director for programs, and there is nothing posted about the shrinking of the staff.

My sources in NYC inform me that much of Johnson's time while on the GLAAD payroll was spent shoring up support for his next step up the political ladder, and that his advocacy for the group was all about promoting himself.

He currently serves as the board chair of Manhattan's Community Board 4, for the Clinton/Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea neighborhoods, a position he's held since July of 2011, and last summer spoke with the Chelsea Now paper and had this to say when asked about his interest in running for the City Council:

Q: There’s been lots of speculation, in the pages of our sister publication The Villager, for example, that you have ambitions for the District 3 City Council seat in 2013.

A: I think it’s flattering that people are talking about two years from now. But my only focus is to do the best job possible as Community Board 4 chair, and to continue the amazing, deliberative, engaged work that this Community Board does.

After months of hearing supposedly interim San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee say he would not seek a full term, only to see him run last November, I know dog whistle code when I hear it. My sources don't believe Johnson's coy protestations about no interest in becoming an elected Democratic gay officeholder, and I believe them.

They say Johnson is not solely focused on the Community Board, that he is campaigning already for 2013's race and spending lots of time on Facebook. Now that GLAAD has sent him packing, he'll plenty of time to work on his City Council campaign.

The larger picture, GLAAD laying off so many staffers, while it's terrible that LGBT folks are losing their jobs, is something that leaves me deeply untroubled. GLAAD is a bloodsucking leech upon the gay body politic and pocketbook, putting on an endless number of meaningless awards shows and getting all riled up about pathetic TV shows dying from their own stupidity.

When the day comes that GLAAD goes out of business, and make no mistake it is business first and foremost, it will be an excellent development for the LGBT community.

Friday, January 20, 2012

SF Sheriff's Sites: 
Mirkarimi MIA, Hennessy in Charge?

Nearly two-weeks ago Ross Mirkarimi was sworn in as San Francisco's sheriff, under a cloud of domestic abuse charges, and he's maintained that he can perform his official duties while also wrestling with a pending trial, hours of time consulting with his personal attorney and strategists, and the restraining order temporarily keeping his family broken and separated.

Well, here are two small pieces of evidence belying Mirkarimi's contention that his sheriff's department is functioning properly.

The official SFGOV.org one-page site for the sheriff that contains a link to the department's satellite web site, still features now-retired Michael Hennessy's visage. Click to enlarge:

Follow the link to the department's site, which is woefully out-of-date and lacking in many areas needing serious revising and updating, and you'll find this handsome profile photo of Hennessy on the sheriff's biographical page:

The organizational chart for the department also lists Hennessy as the boss. In non-Mirkarimi matters, the In the News page was last revised in January 2001. The Who We Are page lists staff titles, snail mail addresses, phone numbers and only one email address: Sheriff@sfgov.org.

It's clear that under Hennessy this city office didn't develop healthy and robust public engagement through the web, and Mirkarimi needs to immediately address the pathetic and anemic approach of his public information office, if only to update the department's two sites to reflect the fact that he is the new sheriff.

If Mirkarimi can't get his media office up and running, he's also unable to adequately delegate other authority and provide leadership for the department and the public. I just don't see how he can credibly maintain that all his personal legal woes are not negatively impacting how he carries out his duties.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mirkarimi Judge Gave to D.A.
When Both Worked for Hallinan

San Francisco's sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, who's been on the job for only a few weeks and has been charged with three misdemeanors related to a possible domestic violence incident involving his wife Eliana Lopez and their son Theo, was arraigned this afternoon. He appeared before Superior Court Judge Susan Breall, pictured, and pleaded not guilty.

Because I believe all the political players in this sad drama should be intensely scrutinized, I searched for any donations made by Breall to Mirkarimi in either his campaigns for District 5 supervisor or sheriff.

The judge has made no such donations, however, during the 1999 race by then-district attorney Terence Hallian she gave his campaign $750. At the time, Mirkarimi worked in the DA's office and on his reelection campaign, while Breall also worked for Hallinan as chief of the criminal division.

Breall's other municipal donations show that she additionally gave Susan Leal $750 for her supervisorial and mayoral races, and $200 to Debra Walker's effort for District 6 supervisor.

On top of her $1,700 in local contributions, Breall also at the state level gave Gov. Gray Davis $1,500 in 2001. In the national political arena, Breall wrote a check for $500 in 2008 to the Democratic National Committee.

All this giving illustrates the genuine political biases of the judge, and in the interests of judicial impartiality for all, regardless of my thoughts about Mirkarimi and the charges he faces, I think someone has to say serious questions need raising about Breall's potential conflict of interest in this case.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

'Mysteries of Lisbon' 
Tops My 10 Best Films of 2011 List

My list of the top-ten films for last year is a bit later than other such lists, but I operate on my own schedule and decided since the National Society of Film Critics only recently announced their picks for 2011, it's not too late to share my choices. The criteria I used in selecting these films was which ones gave me absolute pleasure when watching them in the theater, and were films I saw twice or would see again.

Let's start with my favorite at the top and the remaining nine films are listed alphabetically and not ranked.

1. An unquestionable masterpiece from world director Raul Ruiz, who passed away in August, "Mysteries of Lisbon" is a four-hour sumptuous delight from the opening credits to an incredibly satisfying ending. The story takes place in the 19th century and follows the complicated life of an orphan boy, jealous and scheming aristocrats and clerics, and is told with astounding cinematography. This is one glorious film where the camera is a character. I was enthralled and delighted watching every minute.

2. The Romanian documentary "The Autobiography of Nicolai Ceausescu" opens and closes with the final hours of the lives of the communist dictator and his wife Elena, and in between we witness Ceausescu's rise and fall. Using only historical film clips, including home movies of the Ceausescus frolicking at their private villa, there are no talking heads or commentary. An intelligent documentary that demands much from the viewer, showing that absolute power corrupted absolutely in Romania before the democratic revolution.

3. My tolerance for 3-D movies is low and the gimmick generally puts too much headache-inducing strain on my eyes, but Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" was a sheer pleasure to watch. The beauty of the cave paintings dazzled, and Herzog's patented eccentric narration kept me not only entertained but wishing the film was longer. How about a sequel? Nothing would please me more.

4. Iran's top director Abbas Kiarostami's first film made outside his native land, "Certified Copy", was set in Italy and starred Juliette Binoche and William Shimell. They may or may not be former lovers reconnecting, as they spend a day together driving and walking through scenic small towns. A delicate tale that takes it's swell, sweet time getting to a satisfying vague ending that asks viewers to decide if the characters were lovers or just very persuasive liars.

5. Who can keep up with all of the excellent movies Steven Soderbergh is turning out? His latest, "Contagion", follows a talented ensemble cast as mysterious, quick-killing virus spreads from a promiscuous woman into a global pandemic. Echoes of AIDS, anyone? But it wasn't just the plot and acting that kept me hooked. The top-notch production values, taut framing and crisp editing made the film one of Hollywood's best last year.

6. Woody Allen's been making some of his best movies in recent years, set outside his beloved Manhattan. His streak of winning film set in Europe continued this year with "Midnight in Paris", his most commercially successful film in his long career. What's not to love? A great screenplay, full of wit and humor, an international cast having a ball, charm to spare, and a shout-out to Luis Bunuel's classic "Exterminating Angel", are just a few morsels of pleasure this film gave me.

7. "The Mill and The Cross" captivated my senses with an abundance of fantastic visuals, both real and computer generated, as we watch a few of the characters in Pieter Bruegel's classic painting "The Way to Calvary" come to life. This is a work of art in its own right, and it whet my appetite to see more of director Lech Majewski's other films. Please catch this film in a theater with a decent size screen and give your eyes and ears a cinematic treat that will stick with you.

8. A marvelous anthropological look at a rural Italian village, a dying shepherd and his flock of goats, and the religious and social customs of the residents. Not quite a documentary, another slowly paced film breaking conventional story-telling rules, and a truly hilarious scene involving a dog, a parked truck and villagers staging an Easter rite. For such an off-beat art film, it enjoyed short runs in New York, San Francisco and other cities.

9. The "Tree of Life" is Terrence Malick's fifth feature in 40-years, and it pushes the envelope of contemporary mainstream moviemaking. Full of stunning images, we follow a 1950s Texas family and their interconnected relationships, as Malick contemplates spiritual themes, the beginning of life on earth and a sunny apocalypse. Told in a non-linear narrative, starring Brad Pitt in a commanding performance as an ideal father, with many scenes taking place at dusk suggesting a paradise about to be lost. This is one film to see only in theaters, to fully appreciate its palette of emotions and ideas.

10. "Silent Souls" is a wonderfully dark and somber film by first-time director Aleksei Fedorchenko, that runs only 75-minutes but packs much truth and honesty. A wealthy businessman's younger wife has died and he enlists the assistance of an employee to accompany him as he takes his wife's body back to her ancestral home. The dialogue is kept to a minimum, the takes are long and convey much of the story, with a New Age-y soundtrack. Should be out on DVD soon, so add it to your Netflix queue.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The POZ 100:
Joe Sonnabend, Liz Taylor and Me

The editors over at POZ magazine recently released their list of 100 people, ideas and things they loved in 2011 and I was on the list, an honor that came out of the blue. Being on the POZ 100 list is a nice ego-stroking citation for my advocacy and this blog, but there is something else giving me much pleasure and that is appearing on any list with Dr. Joseph Sonnabend.

Sure, it's way cool that goddess-in-so-many-ways Liz Taylor is featured on the POZ cover and is the most glam name on the list, and I don't mind at all being in her company.

But making the list, or any list, with Joe's name on it humbles me. He was my first AIDS doctor and he's played a major role in keeping me alive, in so many ways I can't being to count. Click here to read my small tribute to this giant of sanity and progress in the early decades of the AIDS pandemic.

This is Joe's citation in POZ:

Sometimes it takes a doctor to diagnose the complicated research results from an HIV/AIDS study. A pioneering AIDS doc (and prolific POZ blogger), Sonnabend makes sense of complicated notions, reading between the lines to unearth implications others miss. He’s often so ahead of the curve that some question his wisdom. Until he proves prescient and correct. He’s never afraid to highlight an unpopular truth and to swim against the tide. Independent thinkers like Sonnabend are essential.

Permit me to repeat what I've said previously: Joe has not received the proper institutional honors and global gratitude for his courageous and pioneering work.

Never one to seek the limelight or get caught up in awards and prizes for humanitarian work, Joe would probably reject any such honors. It's probably enough to know he's helped keep people with AIDS from contracting deadly opportunistic illnesses and alive with dignity, assisted the creation of effective prevention efforts, changed Big Pharma practices and governmental programs, and lot of other great things.

Dear Joe, thanks for all you have done for PWAs and controlling the HIV epidemic.

Here's POZ's citation for myself:

Once called a “tiny terrorist” by POZ, San Francisco–based Petrelis is a significant voice on important issues affecting our community. As a gay man living with HIV, he and his activism go back decades for both LGBT and HIV/AIDS causes. In his blog “The Petrelis Files,” he calls out the powers that be and takes them to task like few others do. Lucikly, he remains relentless.

Thanks, POZ magazine editors!

(Credit for Sonnabend photo: Scott Morgan Photography.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Streep's Shout-out to 'Pariah'

Count me among the movie-lovers who have little tolerance and patience for hand-held, jerky-movement camerawork most keenly when it's accompanied by rapid-fast editing. Two such movies that drove me out of the theater before the first twenty-minutes were over were "District 9" and "Meloncholia", despite being engaged with the narrative and acting.

I almost walked out on the press screening of "Pariah", a powerful film about a black teenage lesbian named Alike growing up with a religious fundamentalist mother and understanding father in Brooklyn, because the first ten-minutes assaulted my eyeballs, but stayed and got caught up the movie once the camera settled down.
We watch Alike as she takes in the dancing and cruising lesbians in dark bar, showing both shyness and a beautiful almost-blinding smile. After closing time, she gets on a bus home and changes out of her butch drag and into more femme attire, before arriving home and putting on a straight act for her waiting mom.

"Pariah" is an honest look at a young lesbian of color emerging into her sexuality and forging an educational path into adulthood, with a knock-out performance by the talented Adepero Oduye in the lead. It's a shame she has not received best actress accolades and award nominations, that she more than deserves.

While Oduye may not be receiving the attention from the likes of the Golden Globe nominating committee, but she got a shout-out from acting goddess Meryl Streep in her acceptance speech last night at the Globes, who also praised "Pariah".

The film's creator, out black lesbian Dee Rees, has written and directed a gritty, urban contemporary coming out story that stays true to its Brooklyn setting, and she's delivered a few universal truths many of us went through to step out of the closet regarding of our skin color or where we were raised.

She doesn't hit the audience over the head the joys of Alike finding intimacy or dealing with her parents' conflicts about her declaring her lesbian status. Rees is a new talent on the American indie film scene, with new films in development and I'm expecting more engaging stories from her, stories that reach my heart.

In San Francisco, "Pariah" is playing at the Embarcadero Cinema. Click here for info on tickets and showtimes. Go here to visit the film's official web site. And be sure to catch this movie.
Bain: $66 Billion in Assets;
Firm's Charity Got $1.6 Million

Discovering that there was a nonprofit arm to Bain Capital, the venture capital consulting firm where Mitt Romney earned a lot of coin when he worked there, came as a surprise. Who knew there was any philanthropic component to the firm?

The Wiki entry for Bain Capital says that at the start of 2012, they are managing around $66 billion of "investor capital across its various investment platforms." Over at the Vault's company profile, the claim is made that the firm's "current assets under management total $78 billion", contradicting the Wiki amount. Regardless of the $12 billion difference, it's clear they've got an ample pile of cash on hand.

The Bain Capital Children's Charity was founded in 1997, and I'm not sure if Romney was ever an officer. Looking over the IRS 990 filings for the charity from 2002 through 2010, Romney's name does not show up. He left Bain Capital in 1999 and IRS returns for that year or 1998 and 1997.

The charity's annual grants totaled $1.2 million in 2002 and 2003, $1.3 million in 2004, $1.6 million in 2005, $1.9 million in 2006, $2.1 million in 2007, $1.5 million in 2008, $1.6 million in 2009 and $1.3 million in 2010.

From 2002 through 2010 Bain Capital Children's Charity donated $13.7 million primarily to Boston area nonprofits working with kids. Seems a paltry sum considering how many billions they rake in annually, and I would expect since they have a charity that it would be much more generous in its philanthropic work.

By the way, here's how they describe their "exempt purpose achievements" in all of their IRS 990 filings:

"Bain Capital Children's Charity, Ltd, conducts golf and other informal fundraising events to benefit various charitable organizations which support the general welfare of children and young adults."

Frankly, I wouldn't expect Bain Capital to have nonprofit attached to the firm because they're not in the business of helping humanity. Their goal is making profits, regardless of social consequences. Why should they give a damn about the less fortunate 99 percent and engage in big-time philanthropy?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

KGO Vid: Longtime SF Pot Club
Shuttered by US Dept of Justice

The presser at the Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue on Monday attracted a crowd of about 50 clients and workers of the Market Street Coop, along with a good number of media folks looking for a story.

I'm proud to have been a member of this medical marijuana dispensary that is the fifth such operation in the city forced to close because of President Obama's Department of Justice threatening landlords.

Our news conference to tell U.S. prosecutor Melinda Haag was the first protest over the recent dispensary closures across California, and I don't expect it to be the last.

There was also an emotionally-charged love-in and rally at the coop's headquarters on Market near Laguna, as they sold their final bag of medicinal herb on Monday evening. 

The clip above is from one of the TV newscasts on the closure and is the one most pleasing to the coop's former workers, so I'm sharing it at their request. Kudos to KGO-TV for their report.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

SF Mayor Lee:
No Paid AIDS Czar Needed

The Bay Area Reporter last week covered Mayor Ed Lee's plan for gay and HIV concerns, as he begins his first year as the elected chief executive of the city, and I was pleased to see this news:

During the campaign Lee said he saw no need to hire an AIDS czar but would appoint someone within his administration to be a point person on HIV issues. He is still deciding who that person will be as he prepares to make several changes to city leadership. "We are going through an internal re-organization, if you will, and will bring in new people," said Lee.

We've been through a few such czars and there was no direct benefit to people with AIDS or significant impact on care or prevention programs. The redundancy of a czar in San Francisco was tolerated when the city was awash with so much federal and local AIDS funding, they could waste dollars on the position.

No other disease, as far as I am aware of, ever had several paid mayoral assistants at City Hall, even though other diseases have bigger or equal impact on the local population. Just another example of AIDS exceptionalism.

Mayor Lee should seek the counsel of the Department of Public Health's director Barbara Garcia or chief of HIV prevention services, who also know a heck of a lot about treatment services, or other DPH experts, and if he wants the advice of two community panels and their co-chairs and members, many of whom are people living with HIV, he can request it from the Ryan White CARE Council and the HIV Prevention Planning Council.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My One-Night Stand with Spalding Gray

Here is another essay I wrote last month for the Edge Network's Living with HIV blogging series. Two wonderful comments were posted at location and I've copied them into the comments section of this post. I like being among the folks who met this amazing man and remember him with much endearment. Check out the Spalding Gray memorial and celebration site here. My essay:

The year was 1990. I had moved to Washington, D.C., to start organizing a chapter of ACT UP, in a city where we surely needed an in-your-face, AIDS-specific activist group.

A month after I arrived, an acquaintance from ACT UP/New York put me in touch with the monologist/actor/writer Spalding Gray. He was looking for a diverse cross-section of people with AIDS to appear on stage with him at George Washington University for a one-night discussion about living with HIV.

My acquaintance thought I’d be perfect as the angry PWA activist of the evening, and I soon received a call from Gray, who the next day came to my apartment for a brief chat. He was talking to everyone who would appear with him on stage, to get to know us a little bit so we weren’t total strangers meeting for the first time before an audience.

After answering Gray’s questions, he said I was free to ask him anything since he was after all going to be posing personal and political questions to me at the university. He wanted an honest exchange with each of the PWAs, not a situation where he was the interviewer directing the dialogue.

Feeling provocative, knowing he was straight, married and had kids, I asked Gray if he’d ever had a sexual experience with another man. The question surprised and pleased him.

"No, I haven’t and it’s because I’ve never gotten in touch with the feminine side of my sexuality," he said.

Before he left, we chatted a bit more about the federal government’s abysmal commitment to PWAs, treatment development, and science-based prevention targeting gay men and injection drug users.

Two nights later, a sold-out crowd packed a large university auditorium. The audience consisted mainly of young college students with a healthy smattering of Washington’s artists and musicians, all ready to participate in a night of frank political words and emotions.

Gray brought up two single gay men living with AIDS and the sweetest most loving sero-discordant couple, Frederick Nunley and George Guarino. I can only recall them and not the others because after the event they were among the founders of ACT UP/DC.

Nunley was negative and Guarino had been diagnosed with full-blown AIDS, and Gray inquired about their sex life and how they managed to find mutual pleasures without Nunley contracting the virus. They spoke plainly about the joy of anal sex with condoms.

Guarino brought forward the most appreciative wave of love and support when he said it was sexy to change top and bottom roles, depending on the mood and deciding who would wield the riding crop when they wanted to whip up some fun.
The larger issues framing the discussion were homosexuals and our lives at that moment in time, and how the larger culture was coming to terms with our fierceness and fabulousness.

AIDS claimed Guarino after a long and valiant fight, and Nunley is still among the living.

I was the last speaker of the evening and Gray’s queries to me were about controlling my anger and channeling it into the activist realm. The evening was officially about AIDS, but the larger issues framing the discussion were homosexuals and our lives at that moment in time, and how the larger culture was coming to terms with our fierceness and fabulousness. Recruiting for the nascent ACT UP chapter was my final point.

Then Gray asked me the closing question posed to all speakers. "Do you have a question for me?"

Looking directly into a very friendly set of understanding eyes, I said, "Yes, Spalding, I do."

A gale of laughter and clapping erupted at my line and serious delivery. The rush of being an actor before an audience that is ready to eat you up was enthralling. I knew from the twinkle in Gray’s eyes he was making a form of theatrical love with me. His happiness anticipating my question was a pleasure to see up close.

"When you came to my apartment and told me you’d never had a male-on-male sexual encounter, you claimed it was because you hadn’t explored the feminine part of your sexuality," I said. He nodded his head and licked a lip, waiting for my question.

"Well, why do you think it wouldn’t be your masculine side that would lead you to have sex with another guy? Gay sex is not so limited just to two sides of anything."

Smiling broadly, Gray said until that very moment it just hadn’t crossed his mind to think like that about his sexual interests, but it sure was fun to be asked such personal matters before an adoring audience that all wanted a cure for AIDS, or at least a federal government that gave a damn.

He thanked everyone for joining him on his quest for better understanding by the American public about the AIDS crisis. There was much hugging after the show and ACT UP/DC quickly got organized, angry, and into the streets.

Sadly, decades of mental anguish and chronic physical pain led Gray to take his own life in 2004.

I’ll always remember him as someone who played a small part in 1990 in boosting our local ACT UP chapter, helped educate college kids, and provided a platform for PWA voices.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Moscone's 'Ghost Light':
2 Endings Too Many; My 2-Word Cameo

Big Mike and I were admiring the sculptured busts of Bay Area theatrical luminaries in the windows of the public parking lot opposite the Berkeley Rep's two theaters last night before taking in "Ghost Light". The creator and director of the dramedy, Jonathan Moscone, came walking along and I struck up a conversation with him. He's so down-to-earth, and a handsome bear to boot!

Moscone commented on Mike's Gayville Hall hat, and they shared a bear-to-bear moment, while I readied my camera for photo-snapping. That's Mike on the right, Moscone in the middle, and me. We exchanged pleasantries, I said we looked forward to a good play, but little did any of know I would have a two-line cameo in the evening's performance.

"Ghost Light" is an emotionally-charged mix of serious drama about the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and some of the impact it had on his son Jonathan, leavened with humor that elicit hearty laughs.

We're introduced to the adult Jonathan character while he listens to messages left on his answering machine, including one from a gay candy-maker who wants to produce and sell a candy-bar named for his father called "By George!" Moscone, the co-creator of the work with Berkeley Rep honcho Tony Taccone, excels at poking fun at himself throughout the play.

Also coming on the receiving end of wicked satirizing is Gus Van Sant, a pretentious radical queer artiste simply named Film Director in the cast credits, during the making of the Harvey Milk bio picture "Milk" that reduced Mayor Moscone to little more than a Post-It note.

During the first act, Jonathan, played by the charming and equally infuriating Christopher Liam Moore, conducts an acting class with the audience and all the house lights turned up. He came out in the audience, stood at the end of my row and barked out a question. Did anyone in the class really know the feelings of our fellow students?  

"No," I called out. Moore lit up hearing my voice, quickly agreed with my answer, then asked for my name. "Michael," I said. "Michael, you get an A," Moore replied, as people chuckled and my two-word cameo participation was over.

The drama is quite effective showing a complex gay man thrust into the historical limelight at an early age, confronting a few ghosts in his life and career, with a few relevant contemporary political issues like Prop 8 and a reference to Rick Santorum getting laughs, but there's a major problem.

There are two-endings, stretching the running time just past two-hours and thirty-minutes. I thought the play was wrapping up when the adult Jonathan is addressing his demons and the audience, as George Moscone steps onto the stage as flickers of thousands of candle-lights, evocative of the march down Market Street the night Moscone and Milk were assassinated, are projected on the scrim behind them.

Tony Bennett crooning "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" fills the theater, and the play goes on when it should have concluded at that point. Instead, minutes drag by as Moscone and Taccone bring us to The End. Trimming the closing to a single ending would elevate this play to even more greatness than it already possesses in abundance.

Tickets for the remaining performances are going fast and if you don't act soon, you'll miss a chance to see this important American play linked to a revolutionary moment in our country's history. "Ghost Light" has its final performance on February 19. Click here to purchase tickets at Berkeley Rep.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Fab S.F. Poster: 
Medical Cannabis Is Not A Crime

There's a fire sale going over at the Market Street Coop, located at 1884 Market near Laguna, in anticipation of the medical marijuana dispensary being forced to shutter on January 9th because of harassment from federal prosecutor Melinda Haag, at the direction of the Obama administration.

(Forget a bang. The Market Street Coop is going out with a bong, and they're doing everything in their powers to end in a way that honors their long-held philosophy: affordable medical cannabis for all!)

A soon-to-be-unemployed coop worker, Matt Knoth, created this fab poster for the press conference and protest on Monday at 11 AM at the federal building on Golden Gate Avenue. Permission is granted for folks to spread and share the poster, and don't forget to show at the action.

The key reason for the pending closure is due to the coop's proximity to a school two-blocks away at the Baptist church on Waller Street. I believe the dispensary was in operation before this private school began operations, but I'm checking on that. It would be interesting to learn what the principal has to say about the dispensary, which does not allow children to just wander into the place and buy weed.

Another dispensary that was forced to shift to a delivery service was featured in a recent Bay Guardian piece about the federal prosecutor's bullying, had a great relationship with a school nearby, according to the principal. Sounds like this place was not a problem for the school. A good reason to rethink this widening attack on access to pot.

From the Bay Guardian:

The dispensary was compelled to close its doors on 1933 Mission Street after a Sept. 28 letter from Department of Justice attorney Melinda Haag threatened its landlord with jail time if Medithrive didn't cease operations in the space within 45 days. ...

The feds' given reason was Medithrive's proximity to Marshall Elementary School, located a 745-foot walk (according to Google Maps) from the dispensary door.

But Marshall's principal Peter Avila wasn't consulted on the matter. When called for comment by the Guardian, he said that he had bigger safety concerns.

"Right next door to Medithrive is a liquor store," Avila said, adding that there is also a methadone clinic across the street from his school. "We have to deal with people passed out on the property, people smoking — those are more the issues than people buying medical marijuana."

The principal says he patrols Marshall's immediate neighborhood three to four times a day, dealing with drug addicts, people with mental problems, and the Mission's homeless population. He called the dispensary "discreet" and never saw any cannabis usage by dispensary patients.

Tenderloin Health AIDS Clinic Closing;
Does Sup. Kim Have Anything to Say?

Well, that was fast.

Just yesterday the Bay Area Reporter covered the horrible fiscal mess at the Tenderloin Health organization, a longtime AIDS service provider in one of San Francisco's poorest and densest neighborhoods serving thousands of people with AIDS or those at-risk of contracting HIV, all of whom have multiple drug and healthcare needs.

The BAR reported that the head of the Department of Public Health, Barbara Garcia, would be meeting with David Fernandez who is executive director of Tenderloin Health to discuss righting the financial problems at the organization. Has anyone heard from Supervisor Jane Kim, in whose district the agency is headquartered?

This morning's San Francisco Chronicle was on the story, from the angle that the organization is closing. From troubled to going-out-of-business literally overnight. Sheesh.

In recent years, we've seen the New Leaf mental health agency close, the Lyon-Martin Health Center announce an overnight closure that was averted after the lesbian and trans communities mobilized to save it, the disappearance of the Eagle Tavern and A Different Light book store, the Academy of Friends almost go under, a meltdown at the SF Pride committee and Equality California and many institutions experiencing hard economic times.

And I'm hard-pressed to think of which institutions came to the community before a crisis or closure happened. New Leaf did, and before they locked the doors and turned out the lights for the last time, they took a few months to wrap things up.

In my view, it's not just the monetary issues that afflict these institutions but a general lack of regular, respectful engagement and transparency with the clients receiving services. We should keep this in mind as Tenderloin Health shutters.

From today's Chron:

Tenderloin Health [...] will close due to financial problems, the center's board of directors announced Thursday.

Existing debt, the poor economy and the loss of federal funds led to the decision to close, said David Fernandez, the chief executive officer of Tenderloin Health since 2009.

Tenderloin Health was created by the 2006 merger of two long-term health providers, Continuum HIV Day Services and the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center. ...

Fernandez said he expects Tenderloin Health to close within months, but not before new providers are found for the existing clients. "The whole goal of this transition plan is to make sure there's no interruption in their service," he said.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Anti-Pot US Prosecutor Haag
Gave to CA AG Harris, EQCA/No on 8

(U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder with Melinda Haag. Credit: AP photo.)

You can't make this stuff up.

Melinda Haag, before President Obama appointed her to serve as federal prosecutor for the Northern District of California, was a proud political animal happy to make donations to candidates and causes she believes.

Even though the donations were made before becoming part of the Obama administration, they illustrate her political engagement as a liberal Democratic partisan donor and the contributions were remembered when appointment time came. My duty is to sunshine those donations and raise the specter of a conflict of interest with California attorney general Kamala Harris, who's received $600 over her career from Haag and who is doing a lousy job of getting the feds to back off the dispensaries.

Haag's been cracking down on long-established medical marijuana dispensaries the past few months, jeopardizing the health of hundreds of patients and putting dozens of people out of work. Some reelection strategy for Obama.

When she was in private practice at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP, in San Francisco, Haag wrote out a robust number of checks at the all levels of elective office, so let's start from the top, her federal giving.

FEC records show a total of $12,200 from Haag, of which $9,700 went to Obama and two of his related presidential campaign PACs, and the remainder went to the likes of Barbara Boxer, Evan Bayh, John Kerry, Christopher Dodd and the DNC.

At the California state level, Haag's $5,930 in donations is broken down thus: $250 to Kamala Harris for attorney general, $1,680 to her law firm's PAC, $2,000 split among Carole Migden, Phil Angelides and Janice Hahn, and her biggest single contribution in California went to Equality California and the No on 8 campaign in the amount of $2,000.

Great. She's pro-gay marriage and anti-medical marijuana. How messed up is that?

And finally, in San Francisco races she gave all of $550. Kamala Harris received $350, Susan Leal got $100 as did some guy named Larry Kane.

Let's tally up Haag's federal, state and municipal giving. It comes to $18,680. A robust chunk of change, greasing her climb up the legal political ladder.

Over the course of Harris' career, Haag has given her $600, a small amount in the grand scheme of electoral fundraising, but it's enough to demand a few questions be raised about Haag's motivations carrying out the dispensary closures and conflict of interest with the state attorney general.

If there was mainstream press scrutiny of her donations at the time Obama appointed her to the federal prosecutor's chair in Northern California, I missed it. Typical of coverage was the San Francisco Chronicle story by Bob Egelko which omitted Haag's many checks written out to politicians, including the guy who nominated her to the top ranks of the Department of Justice.

Please join the protest on Monday, January 9 at 11 am at the federal building at 450 Golden Gate Avenue, and tell Haag to cease and desist with shutting our medical marijuana dispensaries.
January 9 at 11 AM;
Pot Protest at S.F. Federal Building

 (450 Golden Gate Avenue entrance to the Federal Building.)

After a few days of meetings and listening to their clients, the leaders of the Market Street Coop have decided to stage a protest and presser at the office of the federal prosecutor who is forcing them to go out of business. As far as I know, this is the first public action taking place protesting the recent harassment and closure of several California medical marijuana dispensaries by the Obama administration. Please spread the word about Monday's demonstration and join us.

January 9, 2012

Medical Cannabis Patients Protest Closure of SF Dispensary

Patients and supporters of one of San Francisco's longest running dispensaries will hold a press conference and rally in front of the Federal Building located at 450 Golden Gate Avenue at 11 a.m. on Monday, January 9, to protest its closure due to federal pressure on the dispensary's landlord.

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Melinda Haag sent a letter to Market Street Cooperative's landlord, threatening to forfeit their building and rent money received unless the dispensary ceased operations by January 9, 2012. Haag's action stands in stark contrast to the Obama administration's promise to leave dispensaries alone, so long as they abided by state and local laws.

Announcement of the dispensary's closure came as a huge surprise to the thousands of patients it serves. The cooperative has long been renowned for its low cost medical cannabis and other free services it offers to its patients, including free yoga, acupuncture, and chair massage.

"We offer some of the lowest cost medical cannabis in San Francisco. We have seriously ill patient members who are unsure of what to do and panicked that they may not be able to access their medicine at an affordable price," said Tate Swindell, the cooperative's spokesperson.

"We went through great lengths to obtain city permits, pay taxes, employ staff at a living wage with benefits, donate to community and non-profit organizations, and provide free and low cost medical cannabis and alternative health therapies to our patients. Instead of embracing the transparency that lawful dispensaries offer, the feds are denying patients access and forcing them into a costly and unsafe black market," noted Tate Swindell.

"As a longtime person living with AIDS, I take a daily cocktail of pills and in 2011 my total drug costs were $48,000 and the side-effects of the cocktail were lessened because I had access to affordable, organic medicinal cannabis from the Market Street Coop. My health was balanced and my spirits were upbeat, thanks to the healing herb prescribed by my physician at the SF Department of Public Health. Federal prosecutor Melinda Haag is jeopardizing my ability to legally obtain medical cannabis that is helping to keep me alive. I hold President Obama responsible for the shameful closures of jobs-generating, tax-paying dispensaries. This is no way to save lives and win votes from California voters," said Michael Petrelis, a member of the coop for more than a decade.

A dispensary has been operating at the location (1884 Market Street) since September of 1998. Market Street Cooperative opened its doors in July 2007.

Contact: Tate Swindell (415) 685-7262

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Is Wiener Doing a Damn
Thing Over Castro Sobriety Club?

(At the emergency April meeting at the neighborhood sobriety center, Wiener is second from left. Credit: BAR.)

The very large clean and sober crowd of the Castro, which encompasses stakeholders who live in the district and those who don't, has been busy over the holidays debating the fate of the Castro Country Club and its cafe and meeting rooms helping many people kick their addictions.

Matthew Bajko of the Bay Area Reporter last week wrote that the CCC's current fiscal sponsor Baker Places, will be exiting its agreement and that a new fiscal sponsor is needed, while a deal to sell the property that houses the CCC collapsed. The comments there, and at the CCC's Facebook page, not to mention another Facebook page created by lots of folks upset with the management team headed by Terry Beswick, have been barbed and dishy.

This is one Castro community controversy where I don't have a stake because I'm not in AA or a related sobriety program, but I am friends with Beswick and part of the Occupy the Castro crew that showed up at the CCC in early December to protest the then-pending sale of the building.

And as all this public drama played out, with much more kvetching and criticism taking place off-line or in private emails some of which I'm privy to, one name never comes up as a stakeholder working to find a solution unless I ask about him: Supervisor Scott Wiener.

He got his mugshot in the BAR in the spring because he was somewhat engaged at that point in the CCC's troubles, and it would be good to learn what he's done since and lately. His policy of not responding to my emails and not engaging with me is why I didn't bother to contact about this.

However, I asked Bajko why Wiener's name was omitted from his story and he replied:

City officials and the CCC is a different angle to the first story I wrote. This is an ongoing story and just can't get everything into one article. Will be doing follow up pieces in the weeks to come.

Still, an integral and embattled district institution is on rocky shores, and I would expect a hands-on politicians with deep community roots to be included in all big BAR pieces such as what they ran on Thursday. Looking forward to future BAR articles and seeing what Wiener has to offer at that point. I also asked Beswick about his knowledge of what the supervisor has done about the club. Here's his reply:

Scott has attended a number of community meetings and events to lend moral support for the CCC. He also has met with me and other constituents in his office about the CCC. He has recently offered to meet a group of CCC reps again. A number of ideas were discussed concerning how Scott's office could be of assistance, but I cannot say that anything has come of these ideas to date.

Obviously, Scott cannot direct city funds on his own. This would require cooperation from the entire board and/or the mayor. Scott has repeatedly cautioned us that the City budget is in the red and it would be an uphill battle to get funds to help the CCC. We have not asked for city funds for operating expenses, but have only discussed securing city assistance with financing of the building purchase for the CCC. So far, these conversations have not been fruitful, but we are hopeful that something will come of it.

Right now, we have raised enough funds for a downpayment and we are bringing in enough to make mortgage payments. What we don't have and what we need help with is the financing or someone to co-sign a mortgage.

More power to the CCC that their supervisor is not totally missing in action on their behalf. I'd like to be surprised and see Wiener more fully develop a public engagement role in the club, and the enormous community who depend on it for sobriety, starting with addressing the many issues about saving the club on the two Facebook pages.

Monday, January 02, 2012

NYT: Romney Avoids Iowa Pizza Ranch
Over Founder's Male-on-Male Sex Crimes

I hope everyone had a healthy and happy welcoming of the new years. Mike and I did, and now it's back to politics and blogging.

This is an interesting news nugget, about why Mitt Romney avoids a central gathering spot for candidates and Iowa caucus-goers, from yesterday's New York Times. I wonder if the Romney campaign avoids appearing at any venue where an executive has been convicted of a crime. It's also noteworthy that there is a male-on-male sexual aspect to this info.

From the NYT:

Every candidate for the Republican nomination has campaigned at Pizza Ranch, a beloved restaurant chain in Iowa with strong ties to the Christian right.

Every candidate except Mr. Romney. His campaign prides itself on a vigilance and meticulousness bordering on the obsessive. So before Mr. Romney appears at a campaign stop or accepts an endorsement, his staff conducts sometimes painstaking vetting to avoid potentially embarrassing disclosures.

A founder of Pizza Ranch, it turned out, spent time in prison on charges of sexually abusing male employees. “There is not a lot of room for mistakes,” said David Kochel, Mr. Romney’s top strategist in Iowa.