Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CQ: Pelosi Central to LA v SF
HIV Federal Money Battle

The fight over Ryan White CARE Act federal funding to benefit people living with HIV/AIDS (PWAs) is heating up again, reports an article in Congressional Quarterly Weekly. If you subscribe to the publication, you can read the full article here.

What's the latest skirmish with San Francisco versus the rest of America in dealing with the needs of PWAs and the higher amounts of federal dollars we receive out here?

A three-year-old disagreement over AIDS funding is forcing Congress to devote a little of its health care debate to the future of the Ryan White CARE Act [...]

In 2006, Congress couldn’t agree on how to deal with a growing inequity in funding between big cities, where the disease hit first and where the law directs most of its resources, and the smaller cities and rural areas that now make up a growing share of the cases. Unable to resolve the dispute, Congress just tweaked the funding formulas.

At issue is the missing reauthorization of the Act by Congress and the big divide between cities and rural areas.

[...] And a detente on the issue seems unlikely, given that the city benefiting the most from the law’s original funding formula is San Francisco, home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi .

Oh, yeah, expect the Speaker to fight tooth and nail to keep up SF's AIDS funding, even when it harms PWAs in other areas.

The debate centers on a “hold harmless” provision guaranteeing that 24 urban areas, including San Francisco, that initially suffered the most from AIDS and its originating virus, HIV, would not lose the federal help they were getting as their case numbers leveled off. [...]

After Congress in 2006 changed the way AIDS funding is calculated — allocating more money through formulas and less through grants in a way that reduced San Francisco aid — Pelosi began adding riders to appropriations bills to help the city out. This year, the Speaker arranged for $5 million for San Francisco (and an extra $200,000 for New York) to be added to the House version of the fiscal 2010 spending bill that covers the Department of Health and Human Services.

This is the first I'm reading about those riders, which no doubt greatly please the SF DPH and AIDS Inc in the Speaker's district.

The “hold harmless” provision that helps San Francisco bothers other places. “I very much respect our colleagues in San Francisco and the work they’ve done, and the trauma they had early on,” says Whitney Engeran-Cordova, director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Public Health Division in Los Angeles. “But the data simply doesn’t support their funding levels.”

The SF data, which has long shown dramatic decreases in both full-blown AIDS diagnoses and new HIV infections, should make it more difficult for Pelosi to engineer her riders, but that's not yet the case. Good for AIDS leaders in Los Angeles to point this out. If federal AIDS funding were fair and based on caseloads and hard data, not Pelosi's pork-delivering power, federal money would be equitably distributed, helping out more American PWAs who don't live in Pelosi's district.

According to the GAO, San Francisco is receiving the most money of any jurisdiction in this fiscal year to treat individual cases of AIDS or HIV — $852 for each patient. Baltimore, Los Angeles and Washington, by contrast, receive just $646 per patient.

The GAO contends that San Francisco is receiving such largess in large part because it is the only place in the country receiving funding based on its HIV and AIDS cases plus the number of people who have died there of the disease. Other places may count only people living with AIDS or HIV.

This GAO contention is also known as "San Francisco exceptionalism" and it harms the well-being of PWAs who live elsewhere.

Wyoming’s Michael B. Enzi, ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, says he will fight to block additional San Francisco funding this year. [...]

But Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill says Enzi’s charges are disingenuous, since it’s been Pelosi, not Enzi, who’s fought to expand Ryan White funding year after year. The increased funding Pelosi has won, he says, has “benefited all jurisdictions.”

Let's wait and see what she does as this matter moves forward in Congress, and hope that Pelosi actually looks out for the best interests of every PWA, and not just the needs of AIDS Inc in San Francisco.
Hoax: Jews Kept Out of
CA Gay Marriage Organizing

A note very critical of recent alleged San Francisco actions about gay marriage and some key players in the battle came my way this morning, from a man I've never heard of before, Bob Numerof.

His charges piqued my curiosity and I checked around the Courage Campaign web site and other places for any info on the meetings he claimed had taken place. Here is his full email, misspellings and all:

As an active member of the San Francisco Queer Jewish Community I am deeply troubled by how the Repeal Prop 8 in 2010 Campaign is proceeding. The meeting to elect a governing committee was held on the Ros Haskahan, the second holiest day in the Jewish Calendar. And it was held in a Church during the hours when all observant Jews such as myself could not attend. This shut religious leaders from the Jewish Community out of the campaign leadership.

Then yesterday, on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, Steve Hildenbarnt, the Obama campaign consultant hired by Courage Campaign held a meeting in San Francisco about the campaign and how to include clergy during the final most important service -- holding a meeting about including clergy on the most religious day of the year for Jews demonstrates that either a deliberate attempt to exclude us, incompetence or mischief. I worry it is the latter.

When I called Courage Campaign's number I got a voicemail and no response. I have had no replies to my emails about this. I called Chaz Lowe from Yes on Equality last night when returning from Temple who said he was told that the reason these dates were picked was to keep EQCA's three senior staff from being able to get elected or participate and ask questions as Geff Kors, Mark Solomon and Alice Kessler are all Jewish and therefore would be in Temple. Chaz said this was clever. It is not clever.

We cannot allow outsiders like Rick Jacobs and Steve Hildenbarnt run a campaign in 2010 while excluding the one religious community that is most supportive or our major organization. It is a new year in the Jewish Calendar and time to be inclusive of all.

I forwarded that note to Steve and he sent this reply, also posted without any cuts or edits, and the bolding is his:

In order to address the specific suggestions of Mr. Numerof, I would hope and expect my response to be used in full on your blog.

The Courage Campaign and I have no role in the IAG, so the decision to hold those elections on any particular day is not our responsibility.

Regarding myself and my “outsider” Jewish colleague Rick Jacobs – neither of us are running, leading or managing a campaign to repeal Prop 8 in 2010. The Courage Campaign has not yet taken a formal position for involvement in 2010.

Several weeks ago, I was invited to speak at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco with the date of the speech to be held on 9/28. I was only able to be in the city for the one day and while there, I wanted to fill my schedule with several meetings. One of those meetings was with a small group of progressive clergy who I have been wanting to meet with for some time now. We mutually agreed to hold a short meeting after my speech at the Commonwealth Club since these folks were attending the speech anyway. But because it was Yom Kippur, we also agreed that we would get together on my next trip to SF with all folks involved in the progressive faith community in the Bay Area.

The suggestion that I or anyone involved with the Courage Campaign would be involved in any effort to exclude the Jewish Community or anyone else, is completely wrong. My style is to be very inclusive and that is an operating standard embraced by Rick Jacobs and the Courage Campaign.

I very much look forward to my next trip to San Francisco to have a full and thorough conversation with clergy in the Bay Area. I hope Mr. Numerof will be available to meet either one-on-one and/or with the full group. I’m sorry he didn’t reach out to me directly with his concerns. I am very approachable and most think I’m pretty reasonable. Making attacks and having to respond to them through a blogger is not the best way to handle concerns like this.

Good to get a reply and have his clarifications, but I felt slighted by Steve's last complaint about replying through me, a blogger, and conveyed that to him. I asked if he made similar requests to traditional print media, to which he replied:

If you want me to work with and be responsive to you, I would like you to use my response in full. I will rarely ask you to do that, but the charges leveled by this guy at me and the CC are not accurate and deserve a clean response. I have no problems with bloggers as long as they are responsible. I do have a problem with people who think I’ve done something wrong or acted inappropriately, to attack me in a public forum without ever discussing those concerns with me directly.

You asked for a response and I gave you one. I hope that puts this to rest.

Hey, I'm just trying to sunshine what this argument is about, and keep tabs, as best I can without attending all of the meetings, demonstrations and summits taking place in San Francisco these days regarding gay marriage, and I feel the real issue here is between Numerof and people named in his note.

As I waited for Numerof to reply to follow up questions, I spoke with Cynthia Laird at the Bay Area Reporter and she said she was also waiting for him to respond to her concerns. I went back to Numerof's email and noticed his name was misspelled in the "From" line: "bob numeros ". Hmmm, something's not right here.

I found a phone number for Numerof, called it and got his partner, Robert Shepard, on the phone. Long story short: the email's a hoax, Numerof is traveling, didn't and wouldn't send such an email, and the boyfriend thanked me for calling to check out any truth to the note. I was punk'd.

Robert and I had long and productive phone chat, agreeing on many points, especially the dysfunctional ways of the CA gay community, which extends from the many unresolved problems of last year's No on 8 debacle. We both wanted to continue the talk over some coffee, but Robert and Bob are in the final days of moving from Berkeley down to Los Angeles, and he has no time for a face-to-face chat.

However, he said one good thing to come out of this hoax was our conversation, from which, I have to say, I learned about his similar concerns that CA's gay community needs a lot more accountability and post-Prop 8 healing before we will see truly functional and effective statewide political coordination.

So, why post this to my blog? To show just a small example of the large dysfunctional atmosphere hovering over the state's gay marriage fight and our overall battle for gay liberation in the Golden State. Maybe this exposure will one day lead us to better organizing.

Memo to the hoaxer: Consider coming out of the closet with your criticisms and concerns and stop hiding behind another gay man's name.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Folsom: $84K in Govt Grants,
No Public Meetings
(A rare sighting at yesterday's fair: a young man taking notes on paper with a pen!)

An open letter to Demetri Moshoyannis, executive director of the Folsom Street and Dore Alley annual fairs.

Dear Demetri,

Can we talk about some important issues?

I am quite concerned that your organization this year mounted a comprehensive campaign to curtail gay male sexuality at both fairs, and that you all made the decision to mount this campaign without holding a single public meeting with the local gay community. The rules regarding public sex, posted below, are quite detailed and restrictive, and need community scrutiny and debate.

I've also just learned today that the fairs allow children at the fairs, a policy in need of changing, in my opinion. I was under the impression that because beer is sold, that meant persons under 21 were banned, and that's not the case here.

I would like for you to reconsider the no public or community meetings policies current in place. What possible reasons could you have for not holding such meetings?

We in the gay community who attend and enjoy the fairs, would greatly benefit from public discussion with the leaders who run the fairs. It would also be great to have your organization providing more transparency and accountability over all of the decisions that go into making the fair happen every year. Nothing wrong with expanding sunshine over gay groups.

Additionally, since the San Francisco government provides funding to the fairs, that is another reason to open up your organization to community meetings. According to Brett Conner, spokesperson for the Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund agency at City Hall, this is the breakdown of grants to the fairs in the past five years, which totals $84,800:

FY 2009/10: $16,600
FY 2008/09: $22,000
FY 2007/08: $22,000
FY 2006/07: $12,100
FY 2005/06: $12,100

As you must know, because the annual grants are less than $250,000, the city nonprofit/open meetings law does not apply to your organization. However, that should be an excuse for failing to hold community forums.

What do you say to starting public forums and allowing for more community input into the fairs and how they're operated?


From the frequently asked questions section of the Folsom Street Fair's web site:

Folsom Street Events encourages all fairgoers to express behavior that is safe and within the law. We encourage everyone to take personal responsibility for providing a positive communal environment for the adult alternative lifestyle community. Lewd acts will be disrupted by our security volunteers who reinforce this message for anyone found on the fairgrounds to be in violation of our policy.

At the suggestion of SFPD, we have implemented a more aggressive graduated policy for violators of the lewdness policy.

Step 1: Verbal warning
Inform the fairgoer that the behavior is not allowed and that they will face ejection from the fair on the next occurrence.

Step 2: Reminder

Fairgoer will be reminded of the first warning and given a personal escort to the fair exit with notification to gate volunteers not to allow re-entry. Warn the fairgoer that on the next violation of this policy we will escalate to SFPD.

Step 3: Turn over to SFPD
SFPD will be called to assist and requested to cite the fairgoer who has violated the lewdness policy.

Lewd behavior in second and third story windows on the fairgrounds will be referred directly to SFPD for intervention.

Sheesh, I sure would like to know when the gay community was given a chance to weigh in on Folsom Street Events' policies regarding public sex. Seems to me the fair organizers have more rules against gay sexuality than against allowing children to be present.
Ban Children From
Folsom Leather Fair. Please.

Yesterday was the 26th edition of the Folsom Street Fair, an annual celebration of all things leather/BDSM/fetish, and I attended it with my usual precautions of protection - lots of sunblock and rubber earplugs. But nothing could protect me from all the kids and dogs at the fair.

The organizers on their web site explain that there are no age restrictions for anyone who wants to attend the fair, but they warn that young people will be carded if they want to purchase a beer.

Nice loose policy, but I'm of the opinion that this street event should be for adults only. Not for prudish reasons, but because I don't want to hear the cries of children or bump into their strollers.

Heck, I also don't want to see canines at the fair. It's difficult enough navigating the streets and sidewalks during the fair, why add to the pedestrian congestion with yelping kids or dogs? I also wonder if the children or dogs get any pleasure out of the day.

Hey, Folsom Street Fair organizers - how about recommending adults leave the kids and dogs at home next year? Here are a few pics from yesterday, with a few that are NSFW. Enjoy them, or head to another site before scrolling down.







Saturday, September 26, 2009

CA Lesbian Pol Losing 'Job' in
Three Months; Thanks, Arnold!

One of the most corrupt and nasty politicians in California just happens to be a lesbian, Carole Migden, who is also a career politician, and I didn't know until I read a note in the Marin Independent Journal, that she will soon be losing her "job" with the state.

When gay politician Mark Leno was about to be termed out of the state Assembly in 2008, where he served as one of the reps for San Francisco, he opted to violate the 11th Democratic Party Commandment - thou not mount a primary challenge to a sitting Democrat with a large bank account. Leno easily trounced Migden in last year's primary and she had to find comfortable place to park her butt until she found another office to run for.

Along with the two other gay and lesbian state politicians termed-out last year, Sheila Keuhl of LA and John Laird of Santa Cruz, Migden was appointed by Gov Schwarzenegger to the Waste Management Board. Long a joke as a very expensive parking spot for former elected politicians waiting for their next gig to appear, the board was placed in the crosshairs of good government watchdogs from across the political spectrum when Migden was appointed to it.

What's the news here? It's that the state has finally put an end to the board and at the end of this year, the board will be recycled into other facets of government in Sacramento, and state money formely wasted on corrupt politicians will be reduced. Thank you, Arnold.

From the Marin Independent Journal:

Carole Migden soon will need to find a real job. The San Francisco Democrat represented the North Bay and the city in the State Senate until 2006 when she was defeated in the primary by Mark Leno. She then landed a cushy no-work $132,000 seat on the California Integrated Waste Management board. As part of the state budget deal, that board is abolished effective Dec. 31; its duties and staff transferring to the state's Natural Resources Agency.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why Didn't Gays Protest
UN's General Assembly?

The deadly problems faced by gays in South Africa, Iraq, Jamaica, the United States and many other countries should be addressed by the United Nations, and the world body has only recently made favorable and relatively small moves toward including violations of our human rights on the agenda.

We've also seen the Obama administration reverse a Bush administration decision and come out to support a UN declaration calling for decriminalizing homosexuality, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has offered strong remarks endorsing protecting the lives and rights of gays around the world.

But we must always be visible in pushing our issues and never allow the politicians, at home or on the world stage, to take our lives and issues for granted. We must continually put our concerns before the policymakers and media, and demand action.

I was reminded of this earlier in the week when Rob Anderson, a gay journalist who has covered global gay issues for the New Republic in the past, posted this message to the GaysWithoutBorders group on Yahoo:

I am a journalist in New York City hoping to cover the protests of Ahmadinejad's visit to the U.N. this week. I know most of the protests will be aimed at the elections--rightly so. But I'm wondering if there is anything being planned by/for/about queer issues this time around. I'd appreciate any help, leads, sources, ideas.

Unfortunately, no one replied to Rob and I've been unable to locate any info about any gay-specific actions of any sort taking place during the opening this week of the United Nation's General Assembly.

I contacted Paul Schindler, editor of Gay City News in Manhattan, and asked him why this was the case. His reply:

Not sure what to tell you about the UN except that the community might indeed be on overload. City elections here in NYC, trying to push marriage in Albany, AIDS demos at the G20 in Pittsburgh, saving marriage in Maine, and planning a march on Washington.

The organizers of DC have insisted that energy is not finite and that all this can be done at once, but I have not found that a persuasive argument.

One other point. Gaddafi here in New York and I think generally has been the story. The various efforts to prevent him from pitching a tent (in Englewood, NJ, in Central Park, in Beford, NY on land owned by Trump) has gotten a lot more attention that Ahmidinejad's appearance.

What I will tell you is that I have not heard of any gay-specific protests or other activity here in NYC, and given that it is mid day Wednesday I think it's safe to say it will not be happening, unless I am just totally out of the loop.

Probably the biggest factor is that AIDS activists have decamped for Pittsburgh, and that crowd generally has some of the most motivated folks for grassroots action. Cleve Jones is in town for a Center forum this evening, so there has been mobilizing on that.

Paul makes many good points, and, we must also bear in mind that even if gays were to attempt a street action anywhere near the UN this week, it would have been damn difficult, to put it mildly, to get the permits for it or figure out a way to get activists to the demonstration, given all the security and rerouting of life on NYC's East Side.

Still, if there had been time or energy among NYC activists to focus some attention on foreign gay people and issues, it would have been great to see speak outs in Union Square or at the Stonewall Inn. Maybe a town hall session at the gay community center, or lectures at the many universities with gay student leagues.

Perhaps our professional advocacy organizations with domestic and global agendas, including Human Rights Watch, IGLHRC, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Campaign and NGLTF, could have pulled together a joint news conference and made a loud call for change from the UN, and increased concrete steps by the Obama administration.

You might ask, why do any or all of that organizing, when the competition for media and political attention is so fierce? The answers are because it is such an important week on the international agenda and efforts must be made at such times to show that we are an engaged community, because our actions could break through the competition and garner widespread or respectable attention, and simply to exercise our global gay networks.

The UN and the gay community - two parties that need to be more engaged with each other.


A friend writes in with something very notable I want to call attention to:

You might note that it was a REPUBLICAN congresswoman, Ileane Ros-Lehtinen, who put out a press release protesting the statement of the former Libyan Foreign Minister, and present UNGA President, on homosexuality.

Hat tip to JK, and be sure to click here to read the congresswoman's full statement to the Miami Herald on this. And here is an excerpt from the statement:

“The anti-gay bigotry spewed by this Qaddafi shill demonstrates once again that the UN has been hijacked by advocates of hate and intolerance.

“Likewise, the leadership of the UN Development Program is held by the Iranian regime, which denies the presence of gays in Iran even as it murders them and other innocent citizens. [...]"

Rostow: Obama's Stance on ME Gay
Marriage Initiative Is . . . ?

Let me put all pretense aside and state the obvious: I adore Ann Rostow. A fabulous Texas lesbian writer who writes for SF Bay Times every week, Ann can always find the right words to make an educated, and usually very entertaining, few points on gay politics. She does so again in her latest column, promoting a fabulously radical idea: Get the President to make a public stance known about the anti gay marriage proposition before Maine's voters in November.

Anyone know if HRC or NLGTF or DC-based gay media and bloggers have asked the White House press office or the public engagement office's gay liaisons Brian Bond and Shin Inouye, to explain Obama's position on Maine proposition?

From Rostow's current Bay Times column:

Barack Attack?

Let me go back to Maine for a second, if I may. San Francisco acti-blogger Michael Petrelis just issued a warning, an obvious one once you think about it, to the Maine campaign, telling them to expect a mass mailing featuring a smiling Barack Obama with the quote: “I’m not in favor of gay marriage.”

The anti-marriage forces in Maine are the same people who successfully took marriage away from California couples last year, and as mentioned earlier in this column, they are using the same playbook. One of their fear mongering commercials about teaching gay marriage in schools is actually identical to an ad they used in favor of Prop 8.

So it’s reasonable to expect them to use the same flier that blanketed California last year, distorting Obama’s words to imply that banning marriage carries the Presidential Seal of Approval. In fact, Obama came out strongly against Prop 8, but our side did little to push that point across.

I’m not sure Obama has said anything about the Maine battle, but since he opposed Prop 8, I assume he’s also against Question One. So let’s get him on the record and preempt an attack that is surely coming our way. I imagine the Maine activists have thought of this themselves, but then again, I thought the No on 8 campaign would make strong use of Obama and they didn’t.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Obama's Anti Gay Marriage
Mailer Sent to ME Voters

I hope that my phony and scary headline sends fearful chills up the spines of the leaders in the effort to retain gay marriage in Maine. Such propaganda has not been mailed in Maine. Yet.

Last October, days before CA voters erased gay marriage out here, the anti gay marriage forces, led by strategist Frank Schubert, sent out an old-fashioned paper mailer to voters, featuring an anti gay marriage quote from then-candidate Barack Obama and smiling visages of him and Michelle Obama.

After months of being rebuffed by gay leaders at the No on 8 campaign, I, of course, didn't waste a minute trying to contact them and make them aware of the Obama-quote mailer. Instead, I contacted veteran gay reporters Cynthia Laird at the Bay Area Reporter, and Rex Wockner in San Diego, and they helped raise the alarms. I also snapped a pic of the mailer and it went viral. Click here for some of the history from the BAR.

The No on 8 leaders had not prepared for such a mailer, even though that negative Obama quote had been public for months, and the No on 8 folks ineptly tried to respond, the final weekend of the campaign.

I mention this history because Schubert, who is leading the fight to erase gay marriage in Maine in November, and as expertly reported by Jeremy Hooper over at GoodAsYou for the past few days, is re-using his very effective TV ad from CA last year, to sway voters in Maine.

If Schubert and crew up in Maine have left any doubt in our minds about their strategy to duplicate their winning plan from CA, including the use of what worked so well out here, let me try and dispel that doubt.

Expect Schubert to employ the anti gay marriage remarks of Obama, either in mailers or TV spots in Maine, probably with the same images too from CA.

If the gay leaders in Maine want my two cents, I suggest they prepare for such a mailer, and also avoid the huge mistake made by the No on 8 forces, which made no plans to use the letter from Obama to the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club of San Francisco in June 2008. Obama said:

As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law. That is why I support extending fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples under both state and federal law. ...

And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states. ...

Finally, I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks.

While this statement is not Maine specific, the voters should still heavily bombarded with Obama's pro gay love message.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hildebrand to Advise Dufty's
SF Mayoral Campaign

Openly gay political strategist Steve Hildebrand, who was integral to the election of Barack Obama to the White House, and who resides in the great state of South Dakota, has agreed to help gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty's effort to become San Francisco's next mayor.

I emailed Steve asking if he would be moving here to run the campaign and how well he knew local politics and issues. He replied he busy and can't talk to me until Wednesday, but he clarified what his limited role will be on behalf of Bevan:

If you are going to say anything about my role with Bevan, you should say that I will be an adviser. I won’t be running the campaign day-to-day.

We won't elect a new Mayor until 2011, which is many moons, and news cycles away, and we'll see plenty of jockeying for Room 200 at City Hall - the Mayor's office overlooking Civic Center Plaza, before we elect our next Mayor. I'm looking forward to chatting with Steve about San Francisco politics and the 2011 race.

Monday, September 21, 2009

BAR, Chron: Obama in SF for
During Cleve's DC March

In last Thursday's Bay Area Reporter, writer Seth Hemmelgarn informed readers of where the president might be in early October, as lots of gay were to descend on DC to pressure him and Congress to deliver legislative changes to our community. From the BAR:

When gay and allied supporters converge on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. next month for the National Equality March, President Barack Obama, whom they are focusing on in their call for equal rights, might very well be in San Francisco.

Obama, along with former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, has been invited to San Francisco for the Presidents Cup golf tournament, which takes place at Harding Park Golf Course October 6-11.

The National Equality March takes place October 11, which is National Coming Out Day.

Since the BAR lacked confirmation and hedged on whether Obama would actually be on the other side of the country, in America's Gay Mecca, it was prudent of the gay paper to say he might be here at the time of Cleve Jone's march on DC.

However, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, in his regular Sunday column for the Chronicle, now confirms Obama will be far, far away from the Jones march:

Better get your tickets early to next month's Presidents Cup golf tournament at Harding Park, because it promises to be a real Oval Office affair.

My sources tell me the old dog, Bill Clinton, will be here for the opening and the new dog, Barack Obama, will be on hand at the end to hand out the trophies. [...]

NY Gay Center's New ED's Salary Disclosed

The New York City gay community center last week announced the hiring of Glennda Testone as the new executive director, replacing Richard Burns, who ran the center for more than twenty-years. I noticed that the release, which was put out by Cathy Renna's communications firm, that Testone's salary was omitted, so I emailed Cathy over a couple of days for more information.

Testone's pay is pegged at $175,000, and regarding any contractually deferred compensation or contributions to her 401K plan, and how much the head-hunting firm of Philips Oppenheim was compensated to secure Testone's services, here's the scoop from Cathy:

Her contract includes same benefits as for all other employees. Since the Center doesn’t know what their final bill from [Philips Oppenheim] will be, they cannot answer. When required to put in the [IRS] 990’s, they will.

Testone comes to the gay center after a few years at the Women's Media Center in New York City, where, according to the 2007 IRS 990 filing for the group, she earned $107,923. Taking the new position equals a nice jump in pay for her.

BTW, the 2008 tax filing for the gay center shows that Burns total compensation package was $233,330.

Related to this, I was surprised that Cathy's firm was handling the p.r. for the Testone hire, because I was under the impression the center had its own communications department. I asked Cathy to disclose how much she was being paid to take care of p.r. tasks on this, and she declined.

In a perfect world, our gay institutions would freely embrace full transparency and without asking or prodding, would disclose basic information such as the salary and compensation package of all executive level personnel when press releases are issued about new hires.

What about Testone's political affiliation? Based on her $250 donation in 2008 to Barack Obama, I think it's safe to say Testone is a Democrat. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that, and I speak as a registered Green Party voter, but I wonder if her political affiliation will equal patronage and favors for Democratic Party politicians and causes. Sure hope not because it's better to keep such centers free of any strings to any party.

Finally, all of the blogger and gay press attention for Testone's hire omitted any mention about her salary. Many outlets and blogs simply ran the whole release from Cathy, or big chunks of it. The Advocate reworked the release, with no new info, and I'm left to ponder why so many news sources failed to go beyond the release and ask a basic question: What's the new ED's salary?

As readers of the Bay Area Reporter very well know, whenever one of San Francisco's gay or AIDS nonprofits hires a news top-level person, the BAR asks and reports on that person's salary. Click here and here for past BAR articles that prove my point.

There are valuable lessons to be learned from the BAR's coverage of our groups, lessons I hope other newspapers and bloggers heed - ask a few questions about compensation.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Gay Iraqi Still Peddling Beheading Photos
on the College Lecture Circuit?

(Haider Hamza during his Kent State University visit. Photo credit: Glennis Siegfried, Daily Kent Stater.)

With the return of students to college campuses across the nation recently, the college lecture circuit is in full swing and one gay Iraqi refugee, Haider Hamza, is active these days giving lots of lectures. As I've previously reported, Hamza has been subjected to scrutiny from the Washington Blade and the US Army for claims made on July 24 at the the Human Rights Campaign offices, that American forces have beheaded gay Iraqis and that he possessed pictures of the atrocities. His allegations have proved bogus.

However, despite the US Army finding no credence to back up Hamza's outlandish claims and his creditability called into question, he's proving a hit on a college lecture tour, garnering media attention. One recent news clip provides details about a presentation he made last week at Illinois College:

Hamza illustrated his lecture with dozens of photographs he took, many of which showed bloody and sad scenes of how the war tore the country apart.

“It became a regular scene to see bodies along the side of the road,” he said.

The photojournalist’s images captured a woman mourning the loss of two young sons mistakenly gunned down by American soldiers; beheaded and mutilated bodies; car bombings; teenage insurgents; an overcrowded military prison; and the expressionless faces of Iraqis tired of the fighting.

Sounds much like the talk he gave at HRC in July, but there is no indication that Hamza again said his beheading photos showed either dead gays or that US force were responsible for the beheadings. I believe had he done so the reporter covering the lecture would have written of Hamza making such claims.

Hamza's presentation this fall to American colleges is not the same thing he presented to the gay community in Washington. However, I continue to be skeptical of his allegations on many issues, and wish the students hiring him to come and lecture before them would start demanding independently verified evidence to back up his allegations.

For example, these allegations have been put forward and published on the Kent State University news site:

Hamza was arrested, kidnapped and separated from others during his time in Iraq.

He was arrested 68 times while on assignment for arriving on a site of an attack before the military. Hamza said he and fellow journalists simply followed the smoke. They learned quickly that where there's smoke, there's a story.

As an Iraqi citizen himself, Hamza was viewed as a traitor of his own country and was kidnapped twice.

Arrested so many times and kidnapped twice, claims Hamza has not publicly made before, and he's had plenty of media attention and sure knows how to get his message out, but now coming out during an Ohio lecture, and I would like this Iraqi to prove his claims this time.

At this point, with his previously unproven beheading claims still fresh in my mind, and with his new arrest and kidnapping allegations coming out, there should be more scrutiny of everything Hamza wants Americans to swallow as the truth.

'Soprano' Gandolfini's SF Fan Club
'God of Carnage'

I was back in New Jersey last week for a niece's wedding and also spent a few days in New York after seeing my family. One of the Broadway shows I wanted to see, the Tony-award winning comedy "God of Carnage," had reduced-price tickets on Tuesday night, so I caught the play and enjoyed the production immensely. It would impossible to not have a good time, considering the cast includes Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James "Tony Soprano" Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden, and they're all in top comedic form.

After the show, two of the stars, Gandolfini and Gay Harden, spent a lot of time talking to fans and signing Playbills outside the stage door on W. 45th Street. Neither star was in any rush to speed off in a chauffeur-driven car, so it was easy to snap a few pics and exchange small talk with them.

I told Gandolfini, who played a gay hit-man in the terrible Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt film "The Mexican," that I was from his San Francisco Fan Club, which easily brought a quizzical look to his face. I don't know if that was because he interpreted San Francisco as code for gay, which it is, or if he doubted such a club exists. It does, and I'm the sole official member. He got my coded message, smiled a bit and looked at me, with my camera ready to capture his friendly reaction.

As founder and president of this club, I'm glad to report not only did I get pics of Gandolfini, but he also autographed my Playbill. It will not be sold on eBay.

By the way, a word of advice to other fans, of the female persuasion, who may want an embrace from Gandolfini. He leaned over the barricades several times that night and initiated bear-hugs with women of a certain age, all of whom he called "Grandma." So, mature women, stand close to the barricade and you may get the bear-embrace from him.

All in all, I had a terrific time with my family and friends on this trip, and really appreciate the down-to-earth attitude of Gandolfini and Gay Harden, who shared a small bit of their celebrity-hood me and everyone outside the stage door.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Note on Dead UK Consul:
'This ... Will Happen to ALL Gays'

As more details emerge in the case of John Terry, the murdered UK honorary consul whose bloodied and battered body was found yesterday in Jamaica, I wonder how the vicious and obnoxious anti-gay forces across the island nation will attempt to blame the victim.

We've seen over the years, horrific murders committed against LGBT people in Jamaica, and light sentences handed out to convicted killers, if anyone is ever brought to justice. And too often, lawyers and politicians have blamed gays for allegedly bringing on the attacks and murders.

If any good can come of Terry's death, I hope somehow it lessens the tremendous and deadly homophobia pervasive in Jamaica.

From the Sun tabloid in London:

A note was beside the body. Police sources revealed yesterday it read: "This is what will happen to ALL gays." It was signed "Gay-Man".

It also described Mr Terry as a "batty-man" - insulting Jamaican slang for homosexual.

A police source said: "It is unclear yet what the relationship was between Mr Terry and his killer. But it appears the murder occurred after the pair returned to the home together.

"It also seems from the note that something happened between them. It may be that the man took exception to Mr Terry or his actions."

Deputy Superintendent Michael Garrick said: "His head and upper body were repeatedly hit." [...]

Daily Mail: Jamaicans Probe
Consul Killing as "Homophobic Attack"

Across the pond, the Daily Mail appears to be the first news outlet to label the killing of a UK honorary consul as gay-related:

A British diplomat has been murdered at his home in Jamaica in a suspected homophobic attack.

John Terry, 65, was found lying on his bed with a cord round his neck and severe head injuries.

Jamaican police are investigating whether the honorary consul for the British High Commission was in a homosexual relationship.

Officers said there was no sign of a break-in at the four-bedroom house in rural Mount Carey, near Montego Bay, and do not think robbery was a motive. [...]

He was found on Wednesday morning by his cleaner, with a handwritten note on his body describing him as a 'batty man', local slang for a homosexual.

A detective said: 'We have reports that he has been seen with another man. It is likely he could have known his killer.' [...]

So far, I can't find any Jamaican news clippings reporting on the gay angle in this tragic death. Sad as this unfolding murder case and investigation are, the death could eventually shine a light on the horrific homo-hatred of Jamaica, which forces the local LGBT population to fear for its safety.

The outside of John Terry's home
UK Consul Murdered in Jamaica:
Was He Gay?

This story set off a few alarms for me, because the sketchy details released so far about the tragic death of John Terry have echoes of the brutal murders and attacks carried out against gays and transgender persons in recent years in Jamaica. It is speculation on my part that this case is an anyway a gay-related death, and of course, regardless of the victim's sexual orientation, his murder is deplorable.

The Times of London reports Terry was separated from his wife at the time of his killing, a fact that argues against this case being gay-related, still, I believe it's important to ask the question: Was he gay? This potential factor should be addressed by Jamaican police conducting the investigation.

From the Times:

A British honorary consul has been found murdered at his home in Montego Bay, Jamaica, police said today.

John Terry, who was also a justice of the peace, had been beaten and his throat was tied with cord and a piece of clothing. His body was found in his yard yesterday afternoon by his neighbours.

Deputy Superintendent Michael Garrick told the Gleaner newspaper that preliminary investigations had revealed no sign of forced entry. He said that a note had been found on the victim's bed, but would not divulge the details.

Mr Terry, a 65-year-old from New Zealand, had lived in Jamaica since 1967 and represented the British High Commission on the Caribbean island’s western end and around the busy tourist resort of Montego Bay.

He is believed to have lived alone in his house after separating from his wife. [...]

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Pelosi Foundation:
Disbursements Drop 50%

The Speaker of the House and her husband have their own "vanity charity," the Paul and Nancy Pelosi Charitable Foundation, and the 2008 IRS tax filing for it shows the foundation disbursed a total of $70,000 to assorted nonprofits primarily in San Francisco.

A nice chunk of pocket change, to be sure, but it's 50% less than what the Pelosi gave out last year.

The 2007 tax filing reports the foundation disbursed $139,700 that year, but the 50% falloff from then may be a causality of the recession.

Also, in 2007 the Pelosi's gave $2,500 to the homo-hating Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, but in the following year received nothing from foundation. Heh.

And the 2008 donation figure is a steep drop from what the Pelosi foundation disbursed in 2005. This is excerpted from a January 2007 story in USA Today about Democratic Party leaders and their private charities:

Created in 1992, the [Pelosi] non-profit has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years. The charity reported having about $576,000 on hand at the end of 2005 after donating $316,000 to other charities that year.

If you compare the $316,000 number from 2005 with the $70,000 amount for the most recent fiscal year, there's an almost 78% decrease in disbursements. No matter how the donation figures are sliced, the Pelosi nonprofit is giving away a lot less money than it once did.
White House: Gays Get a Tour;
Indians Have a Meeting

(White House officials meeting on August 31 with Native American leaders at the Old Executive Office Building. Photo credit: Derek Baily, Tribal Chairman of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, and their newsletter.)

Over at the Washington Blade, veteran reporter Lou Chibbaro wrote yesterday about a special tour of the White House on August 30 for LGBT leaders, which was arranged by openly gay administration official Brian Bond.

From the Blade story:

A White House spokesperson said the LGBT groups were among a wide range of constituency organizations that were invited by the administration to arrange for guests of their choosing to take the tour.

The guests of select LGBT groups visited the East Wing of the White House and saw the same ceremonial and historic rooms in a self-guided tour that the general public sees. Those who attended the tour said there were no Obama administration officials present.

“I’ve heard from a number of guests how pleased they were to be invited and how much they enjoyed the tour,” said Leslie Calman, executive director of the Mautner Project, a Washington-based lesbian health organization. [...]

Among the other LGBT groups invited by the White House to take their members and guests on the tour were the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Maryland. [...]

“The Office of Public Engagement, through the cooperation of the Visitors Office, has reached out to a broad range of groups, individuals and agency staff to invite them to take a tour of the White House,” said White House spokesperson Shin Inouye.

Well, isn't that special? Another empty and symbolic gesture from the White House for the LGBT community. A tour for lots of friends of Brian Bond and DC-area groups, coming after a cocktail party for our community at the White House with the President and First Lady in June, and the signing by Mr. Obama of a memo giving gays in the federal workforce some changes they should have had long ago. Honestly, I can't recall the substance (?) of the memo, can you?

But that gay tour is not the point of this post. Instead, I want to call attention to a meeting held the day after the gay tour, with Native American leaders. From the Indian Country Today article:

When several tribal leaders trekked to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds Aug. 31, it represented one of the rare times in American history when a cross-section of tribes were invited by a sitting president’s staff to conduct official business.

Administration officials, eager to highlight the nation-to-nation philosophy that President Barack Obama has espoused regarding tribes and the federal government, said the meeting was a first step in enhancing relations with tribes.

Shin Inouye, a spokesman for the White House, would not say precisely how many tribal leaders were invited. He described the meeting as a couple of “informal discussions.”

Congratulations to the Indians for scoring their meeting. It's a fine example we gays should emulate. And I do wonder if the administration has any plans to extend an invitation to LGBT leaders for similar discussions.

But the White House meeting is not the only thing the administration is delivering to the Native American communities:

While administration officials would not describe specific details of the meeting, Inouye did say the gathering was aimed at informing the administration’s agenda of what he called a “tribal nations conference” to be held at the White House in the future.

A gathering of tribal nations, which was promised by Obama during his campaign for president to be a yearly occurrence, is expected to take place sometime this fall, but the exact date has not yet been decided, Inouye said.

Bravo, to the Native Americans for having the power to persuade Obama to keep his promises made to them during the campaign. Sure would be great if the LGBT could be on equal footing, and also get such a meeting, one that was part of a broader agenda leading to a White House gay conference, and, just like the Native Americans, make sure such a conference is held annually.

What was on the agenda at the Indian meeting?

Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter attended the meeting and said tribal leaders spoke about sovereignty, taxation, land claims and other issues.

So important issues were discussed. Compare that to the gay tour where hundreds of gay leaders looked at the furniture and decorations. And who at the White House organized this meeting?

The White House Domestic Policy Council, which is aimed at providing policy advice to the president, and the Office of Public Engagement, which serves as an outreach vehicle for the White House, co-hosted the event, according to the letter [from Obama's top Indian adviser inviting Indians to the meeting.]

The public engagement office is where Brian Bond works, and I wonder why he and the office gave gays a tour, while Native Americans got a meeting. How about showing some equality in arranging sit down meetings from Bond and this office?

If we LGBT folks had effective leaders at our political advocacy groups based Washington, they would look at the August 31 White House meeting with Native Americans and publicly demand the same thing for our community. Lemme know when LGBT leaders get serious about pressing Obama and his administration to deliver on the promises made to us during the campaign.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

DC Metro Closures on Oct 11
to Impact Cleve's March

If you're organizing a massive gathering of people in Washington, DC, over a fall holiday weekend, the last thing you want is a major public transportation headache, and that is exactly what the Metro system announced late today. From the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority release:

The Waterfront-SEU and Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metrorail stations will be closed and the Green and Yellow Lines also will be closed at the L’Enfant Plaza, Metrorail station from 9:30 p.m., on Friday, Oct. 9, through Monday, Oct. 12, with no Green or Yellow Line service at these three stations at that time. Service will resume at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 13. There will be no Yellow Line service in the District of Columbia or Maryland during the Columbus Day holiday weekend, with service available only between the Huntington and Pentagon Metrorail stations.

Since my memory is rusty on the stops affected and their proximity to where I believe Cleve Jones is holding his march and rally on October 11, I emailed a DC friend and asked if the Metro plans would impact the rally and people getting to it:

Absolutely. I'm not sure exactly where Cleve is planning on having his main event -- I seem to recall both the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol grounds being mentioned.

But the main part of the Mall with the Smithsonian Museums is from 3rd to 14th Streets, and the Navy Memorial and L'Enfant stations are at 7th St, just north and south of the Mall. The line in from Anacostia will be terminated early -- cue the race card, as well as the line in from the less expensive parts of DC and Maryland, specifically the U of Maryland.

I predict no more than 10,000 LGBT folks and our straight allies will show up for the march, but even that number of people will need extra help getting around to the key locations for the march due to the Metro issues. Will the crew putting on the event soon announce plans for dealing with the Metro station closures and limited service?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Obama HIV Czar's 'Nightmare,'
Gay Men & Cable News

(Jeff Crowley at the recent HIV prevention conference in Atlanta. Credit: Bob Roehr/BAR.)

How many years has it been since AIDS Inc began discussing dispensing potent HIV medicines to negative persons engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors, as a form of prevention? I don't know the answer, and it's been a long time since the debate about it started, so where can we turn for the latest info?

Longtime gay reporter Bob Roehr in the latest Bay Area Reporter has a very informative update on the current efforts with PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, and its potential impact on the gay male community.

However, the story also raises alarms about America's top AIDS adviser to the president. From the BAR:

An ideal PrEP drug would be potent, very safe, rapid acting, concentrate in the genital tract, act early in the virus life cycle before it integrates into cellular DNA, have a high barrier to the development of resistance, and be affordable. [...]

Human trials currently are under way involving more than 20,000 people throughout the world and the first data on whether or not it works should begin to become available late next year.

Nobody expects it to be 100 percent effective, but then nothing is. Whether it is 30 percent, 50 percent, or 90 percent effective will have a great impact on how likely people are to embrace PrEP.

"There is a high risk for demagoguery about this issue," said Jeff Crowley, director of the Office of National AIDS Policy at the White House. "My nightmare is the cable talk shows saying, this is just another way to let irresponsible homosexuals have more sex."

Crowley also fears that PrEP may lead to greater irresponsible behavior on the part of those who feel they are protected, even though that protection is limited.

"It feels like a lot of people see this as our next magic bullet, and that scares me," he said.

Ugh. Almost thirty years into the AIDS epidemic in America, a Democrat in the White House and the GOP in the minority in the Congress, an openly gay man serving as the nation's HIV czar, and do we hear words from the Obama administration exhibiting a stiff backbone? Sadly, not at all.

Judging Crowley on his words in the BAR, I say he's quite the sissy and I fear what his tenure will be like, if, at this early point under his reign, he can't muster a stiff spine and a plan to deal with right-wing cable news making a story out of an effective and safe PrEP plan.

At the dawn and through the awful early years of HIV in the 1980s, I was over allowing federal health officials to be so driven and dependent upon fear! fear! fear! of all sorts setting the agenda, and in 2009 I sure as hell will not tolerate scared federal authorities engaging in the same wrong mind-set that we saw under Reagan.

If scaredy-cat Crowley needs help crafting counter-arguments that might be made if we get effective PrEP and the right-wingers attack it, he can contact me and I'll help him promote good sexual health for gay males and preventing HIV infections.

Frankly, I hope Crowley looks at the fight over women's health and the development of RU 486 and Plan B, two choices in the pregnancy-prevention toolkit, and learns a few lessons.

When the Abortion Pill and the Morning-After Pill came along, many conservatives argued each would encourage unsafe sex and promiscuity among heterosexuals. Basically, the conservatives wanted to stop scientific advances, delay or deny women these health options, and to provide as little education about them as possible.

I don't recall women's health advocates shying away from either pill and its proper usage, all because right-wingers were upset. The advocates without apology promoted a sensible and affordable approach to women's sexual health issues.

All that aside, I have to keep in mind that Crowley's fearful remarks, made before the White House forced out green jobs czar Van Jones over the weekend, because of his past leftist history and attacks by Fox News pundit Glenn Beck, are likely only to solidify. I don't imagine Crowley looks at Jones' resignation and sees reason for him to promote and defend creation of PrEP for gay men.

What will set Crowley's agenda: Good public health for homosexuals, or bad fears about Fox News pundits?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

UN HIV Report: Gay Youth
Sex Studies Omitted

The New York Times today is reporting on a controversial United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report on sexuality, and, of course, homosexuals are fodder for critics of the UN's effort proposing better education to reduce infections and death. From the Times:

A set of proposed international sex education guidelines aimed at reducing H.I.V. infections among young people has provoked criticism from conservative groups that say the program would be too explicit for young children and promote access to legal abortion as a right. [...]

A draft issued in June has been attacked by conservative and religious groups, mainly in the United States, for recommending discussions of homosexuality, describing sexual abstinence as “only one of a range of choices available to young people” to prevent disease and unwanted pregnancy, and suggesting a discussion of masturbation with children as young as 5. [...]

The agency has removed the June draft of the guidelines from its Web site, and delayed the release of the final document. [...]

While UNESCO may have taken down the 98-page draft, the Times dutifully saved it and has posted it on the paper's site. Here are the sections that delve into defining LGBT persons, which aren't shocking to us, but surely have upset political conservatives at home and abroad:

Homosexual: is an individual who is sexually and emotionally attracted to a person of the same sex. Homosexual people need not have had a sexual experience at all to identify as homosexual. [...]

Sexual orientation refers to the sex and/or gender of another person to which a person finds themselves emotionally and sexually attracted. The common terms for the variety of sexual orientations are homosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and heterosexual.

What could be so wrong with explaining these facts to young people around the world, in projects designed to stop HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections, and keep people alive longer? I believe many critics of UNESCO's draft suggestions would rather young people or sexual orientations contract nasty STDs or die from them, rather than educate them properly about good sexual health principles.

I heartily approve of what's stated here, especially the last sentence:

The challenge for sexuality education is to reach young people before they become sexually active, whether this is through choice, necessity (e.g. in exchange for money, food or shelter) or coercion. Some students, now or in the future, will be sexually active with members of their own sex. These are sensitive and challenging issues for those with responsibility for designing and delivering sexuality education. Overlooking same-sex relationships is not a solution.

I hope it's not too naive of me to hope that final sentence makes it into the final version of the UNESCO report.

As if that were not good enough in terms of respectfully discussing gay relationships, look at this paragraph on the diversity of family structures:

Many different kinds of families exist around the world (e.g. two-parent, single parent, child-headed, guardian-headed, extended and nuclear families, same-sex couple parents, etc.)

What I found most troubling in the draft was the mention that studies of educational efforts targeting LGBT youth were omitted from the review of medical literature that contributed to the findings:

There were a number of limitations to the studies and, by implication, to the review [of sexuality education on sexuality behavior]. Too few of the studies were conducted in developing countries. Some studies suffered from an inadequate description of their respective programmes. None examined programmes for gay or lesbian or other young people engaging in same-sex sexual behaviour.

Kudos to the report's authors for the respectful tone when discussing LGBT youth and families, but a big thumbs down for not locating and examining studies related to young persons who have sexual relations with members of the same gender.

According to the Times, the latest draft will be released at a scientific conference in England next week, and the final version, said UNESCO, should be out at the end of the year.