Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ACLU/NJ: Only Locals Have 'Right'
to Criticize Newark Gay Leaders?

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, Deborah Jacobs (above), responded to my post yesterday second-guessing and criticizing statewide and Newark gay leaders for their failure to stage a vigil or public protest over the killing last month of DeFarra Gaymon in that city's Branch Brook Park.

Her full, and very defensive, letter is shared here in bold, along with my comments in italics. The note from Jacobs should serve as a jumping off point, for many discussions on matters from lack of a gay vigil to the feelings of Gaymon's family. Let's go over her opinions:

I don't really care for the [headline of yesterday's post]. Describing Mr. Gaymon as a "dead black NJ cruiser" would certainly hurt and insult his loved ones. I have met with his distraught parents, and this is not the kind of "help" they want. It's also a reminder of the lens of "isms" through which many outsiders seem to view this case.

MP: No insult was meant toward Gaymon's family, and I see no offense in using the language I did to get readers' attention. For the family, I'm sure they also don't welcome the tremendous delving into Gaymon's private life by the New York Times, but we cannot look away from hard questions simply because relatives would be hurt. Jacobs states my post used a lens of "isms" and doesn't further explain what "isms" she thinks I employed in writing the post.

I also think it's interesting that the author feels he has license to criticize local activists' decision-making on this issue. Has he ever been to Newark before? Has he ever taken an interest in our community's problems? Has he ever donated money to support our initiatives? How is he in a better position to decide how to respond to this tragedy than we are?

MP: Yep, that damn First Amendment gives me the license to open my mouth how and when I wish about New Jersey's gay activists. Why would an ACLU executive have a problem with that? Jacobs implies only those who've visited Newark or given money (so typical of a nonprofit leader to tie opinions worthy of consideration to a donation).

For the record, not that it matters one way or another in terms of my free speech rights, but I was born in the city's North Ward, worked and lived part of my life there, have deep family ties to it, used to cruise in Branch Brook Park and was in Newark in July.

Wish I knew why Jacobs seems to be looking for reasons to dismiss an opinion at odds were hers, and the lengths she going to avoid the central theme of my post yesterday: There have been no public protests organized over Gaymon's death and the undercover sting.

This is an extremely complicated case, and there is more at issue and at stake than the author of this blog seems to understand. I don't think anyone who hasn't been on-the-ground in Newark has the right to second guess our local leaders, or use this tragedy to further their own agenda.

MP: Damn, this is frightening. The head of the ACLU of New Jersey is actually saying I don't have the right to questions decisions made by local gay leaders. And what is this nonsense of me using the tragic Gaymon killing to further my agenda, which happens to be trying to prod New Jersey gays to stage a vigil and for attention to be paid to cops targeting gay sex spots? Is that a terrible agenda, for civil libertarian Jacobs?

Speaking of furthering agendas, Jacobs and her organization have done exactly that, requesting the state Attorney General Paula Dow investigate the killing, and I praise the ACLU for doing this and other steps in the case.

If concerned people from outside Newark want to actually help, I can suggest a number of excellent local initiatives that need resources and support. But this kind of attack blog isn't helpful to the case, to the family of Dean Gaymon, to the Newark LGBT community or to race relations. Just my 2 cents.

Why wait six-weeks after the killing, and primarily in response to my blog posting, to make those suggestions? If Jacobs has suggestions for how folks living anywhere can help local initiatives, put the ideas out there already. It's a free web and no one is stopping her from putting out her suggestions.

And this blog will continue to cover the Gaymon case, yes, from San Francisco, and when necessary, will post criticisms and push for public protests.

Monday, August 30, 2010

No Protest for Dead Black NJ Cruiser,

6-Weeks After Daytime Killing

(The area in Branch Brook Park where DeFarra Gaymon was shot. The flowers were laid in late July as a memorial by NYC activist Bill Dobbs, who took this photo.)

Last Friday marked six weeks since DeFarra Gaymon, an unarmed 48-year-old African-American man was shot and killed in broad daylight in a cruisy section of a Newark, New Jersey, public park by Essex County deputy sheriff Edward Esposito, who was part of a law enforcement undercover sting targeting men looking for consensual sex with other men.

Late in the afternoon of July 16 in Newark's Branch Brook Park, a tragedy befell Gaymon, along with his family and wide circle of friends, when Esposito fired a single shot into Gaymon's chest. Since no other witnesses are known to have stepped forward, the only account of this killing is from the man who pulled the trigger.

The case has not received even a smidgen of attention from Gay Inc organizations, demanding not only justice for Gaymon, but also an end to all such police stings going after gays looking for sex in public parks or restrooms. I believe a combination of factors - questions about the victim's sexual orientation, squeamishness about public sex acts, narrow gay agenda focus on nicer issues like marriage and the military - are why Gaymon's death has been ignored by Gay Inc.

Recently, the New York Times published a lengthy look at Gaymon's personal life and the circumstances leading to his killing in the park. The piece also delved into Esposito's background and police career that took eight reporters to research and write. After the Times article appeared I again contacted Steven Goldstein, the executive director of Garden State Equality (GSE), an organization that says it has 75,000 members.

I've been in touch with him since the story broke, and have pressed Goldstein to stage a much-needed public protest to keep up the pressure about this outrage, and to help insure a fair and thorough investigation. Since GSE frequently turns out sizable crowds over gay marriage advances and setbacks, and they boast of a large membership, I would expect it to easily round up a dozen or two to mount a vigil, or 4-5 key leaders for a press conference.

But six long weeks after Gaymon's killing, there is no progress in getting an impartial investigation and I fear the local prosecutor's inquiry will be a whitewash, GSE and Goldstein, who has promised in emails that robust actions were in the works, have not organized any public action. On July 23 Goldstein shared this promise: "We’re taking to the streets soon – keep an eye out next week." GSE didn't hit the pavement.

And last week when I asked again why GDA had failed to act with a public protest and the lack of visibility was harmful to getting justice, Goldstein replied, "It's really bugging me too."

On the positive side of things, I laud Goldstein for creating on the GSE site a page on the Gaymon case, linking to a few news stories and copies of their letters requesting public files and meetings with law officials. Goldstein has also arranged meetings with the local officials, that have included other New Jersey gay leaders, and he's offered to share public records, once he's received them.

Let me also say that responsibility for a street action doesn't rest solely with GSE or its leader. There are others, such as the Newark Essex Pride organization, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-gender and Questioning Advisory Commission of Newark, created by Mayor Corey Booker, and advocacy groups across the state, such as the Gay Activists Alliance in Morris County, that could step up and pull together a press event.

Here we have the senseless death of an unarmed African-American man in a gay cruising area at the hands of law enforcement. What will it take for New Jersey's gay leadership to snap into public action on behalf of DeFarra Gaymon?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oops: Fox News 2x Mentions Mehlman;

HRC/NGLTF Still Equal Zero

So, I'm human and forgot to Google for an update to the Think Progress report on Ken Mehlman-is-gay mentions on the Fox News channel. The latest scoop comes from MediaIte:

This was covered rather extensively by the cable news outlets, save one notable exception – Fox News only covered the story once, during the end of Bret Baier’s show Friday evening. However, this contradicts reports in Think Progress and Politico, that incorrectly claimed that Fox News has completely ignored the story. [...]

Update - Johnny Dollar points out that this story was also covered during the GrapeVine segment of Special Report

Update #2: Yahoo’s Michael Calderone points out that Bret Baier’s mention aired after the Politico and ThinkProgress pieces had been posted, thereby making them correct at the time.

My earlier post will link back here. Let the record show that Fox News has twice made passing reference to Mehlman's coming out, and the Human Rights Charade and the National Gay and Lesbian Tisk-Tisk Farce equal zero mentions on their lame-ass sites.

And the gay tribal beat goes on . . . La de da de de, la de da de da.

Mehlman Coming Out,
/NGLTF = Fox News: Silence

[Update: Fox News has twice mentioned Mehlman.]

Let's chalk it up to Gay Inc again failing to lead, never mind participate in the public square and join with the rest of the community in debating the many ramifications of former Republican Party homo honcho Ken Mehlman stating the obvious and declaring his gayness in the media.

No matter how you slice Mehlman smashing his glass closet door finally, it was big news for us gays, and the larger American political scene. Well, that ain't the full truth. Mehlman's self-outing was not news of any sort over at the Fox News operation. From Think Progress:

[A]fter the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder reported that former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman — who had orchestrated President Bush’s gay-bating 2004 re-election campaign — was coming out as gay, Fox News Channel remained [...] mum and as of this posting has yet to run a single segment on the story.

A Wonk Room review of Critical Mention reveals that CNN mentioned the name “Mehlman” 19 times, MSNBC reported on it 12 times (searches for “gay” and “Ken” produced similar results, with Fox News stuck at 0).

A Petrelis Files review of how many times the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (follow the links), the nation's two largest and richest profession political orgs, reveals that neither has mentioned the name "Mehlman" once on their sites, relevant to his gayness.

NGLTF's column The Latest was update on August 20 and pushes action on, yawn, ENDA, which isn't going anywhere. The HRC folks last week kicked, yawn again, the very minor political National Organization for Marriage.

I'm not saying Gay Inc needs to show outing and accountability leadership, as finely displayed by blogger/advocate Mike Rogers in 2004 when he outed Mehlman, but when the political discourse is raging with opinions and facts and some mistruths, all pertaining to the Gay Agenda, yes, I expect the two richest gay political orgs to weigh in on it all.

And Gay Inc could also explain how their resistance to, or support of, or occasionally tolerance of when it suits their Democratic Party allegiances, and now silence over Mehlman, is advancing changes at the federal level. For the millions HRC and NGLTF rake in annually to be our, um, spokespeople, I expect some words to flow from the orgs.

The silence of HRC and NGLTF with Mehlman is more of the same disgusting and harmful non-engagement wired into the DNA of the orgs.

State Dept's Gay Iraqi Violence Files:

No Release Date

An analyst in the State Department's Freedom of Information Act/Public Affairs Bureau called me recently to give me an update on the status of my request from July 2009, for all records pertaining to violence and torture perpetrated against Iraqi gays.

Some background first. In June 2009, veteran gay journalist Duncan Osborn pried loose nine pages from State on the topic and he reported on the content of the pages in Gay City News. It took nearly two-years from when Osborn filed his FOIA to the release of the skimpy number of pages.

Prodded by his request, I filed my own with State, asking for additional years' worth of records on anti-gay attacks in Iraq, thirteen long months ago. I'm still waiting for the department to tell me an estimated number of pages located and when any will be released.

The last contact I had from State was a letter in April, responding to my letter asking for release of all relevant files:

Thank you for your inquiry into your FOIA request number 200904722. The Statutory Compliance and Research Division has completed the relevancy review of potentially responsive documents and material is now being prepared for official review. Unfortunately I cannot provide an estimate timeframe.

The recent phone call from the department was an exercise in government runaround. The analyst couldn't say how many pages were being reviewed or when they'd be on their way to me. She just wanted me to know that my FOIA has not been forgotten, but due to the high number of requests ahead of mine, I shouldn't expect anything released in the near future.

One key piece of information she shared clarified why, in my experience and that of other FOIA filers such as Duncan Osborn, State takes an obscene amount of time to review and release records.

For highly sensitive matters, such as anything dealing with Iraq, extra oversight is needed and even though the records I want have passed through two levels of review, there is one more look-see needed. There are just two reviewers, and they only come to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Ain't that somethin'! A key federal agency, with an extraordinary number of FOIA requests to handle annually, lacks enough reviewers to evaluate documents and get them out to requesters in a timely fashion. This bottleneck that took almost two years to spit out the nine-pages obtained by Osborn, and is now hindering release of records located responsive to my request, is a dark blot of non-compliance with the letter and spirit of FOIA.

Compare the State Department extreme dawdling with the less-than two-months it took me, from time of filing to release of files, to make a FOIA request under UK law with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and obtain 51-pages of relevant pages from London.

It should not take State more than 2-3 months to receive, search, review and release records, and if it does, then State should request additional funding from Congress hire more reviewers, and insure FOIA requests take much less than a 1-2 year timeframe to be resolved.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mehlman = Socarides;

Donor to Moderate CA GOP Pol

(Birds of a feather, in more ways than one. )

Say, did you hear the news that the Pope is Catholic yesterday? You might have missed it, what with all the news about former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman officially coming out as a gay man. I hear fellow closeted GOP travelers Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham were simply shocked at the announcement, but we'll leave their coming outings for another day.

Many ordinary gays, legions of bloggers and others in the community are weighing in on Mehlman's publicly joining the tribe, and his abysmal and harmful agenda carried out when he was in a high-level position, carrying out anti-gay policies for the Bush/Cheney/Rove White House and the GOP. Nice to see Mehlman getting raked over the coals, and much of his public record against gay receiving a fuller airing.

But I see Mehlman as in the same blighted category that former President Clinton adviser and Democratic Party strategist Richard Socarides belongs to, and other bloggers don't see a link between the two, beyond that fact that they share a same-sex orientation.

Mehlman and Socarides should be viewed as gay men carrying water for their respective parties, and putting their bosses, access and jobs first, gay community needs second. Sure, Mehlman wielded much more influence and resources than Socarides ever did, but both men stood silent as their bosses did harm to gays. Only a few political degrees separate the two.

Over at Oscar-winning writer Dustin Lance Black's Facebook page yesterday, his friend Socarides left this note, after Black gushed over Mehlman:

Richard Socarides He'll sure have a lot of intelligence to contribute. I'm with you.

Andy Humm, longtime gay advocate from NYC, offered this response to that note:

It is not surprising that Richard Socarides would welcome Ken Mehlman to his club--the gay club where LGBT rights has nothing to do with progressive politics or helping anyone but yourself. It is shocking that Mehlman's coming out hasn't caused him to move away from all the regressive Republican positions that he took as party chairman. He's still into punishing the poor and immigrants.

Socarides and Mehlman work to elect friends like Bloomberg and Bush who have done nothing but make America safer for the rich.

In other Mehlman news, public campaign records reveal he has made only one donation in any California race. He didn't give money to either side in the Prop 8 or Prop 22 gay marriage ballot initiatives, but he contributed to moderate Republican Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher:


Since that donation was made, Fletcher voted against creating Harvey Milk Day in California and he opposed recognizing out-of-state gay marriages, and also in 2009 Equality California gave him a rating of only 29%. However, in May he took to the Assembly floor to speak in favor of lifting the ban on gays in the military and voted for a resolution against the ban.

For info on Mehlman's donations at the federal level, click here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

DC AIDS Exec's 16% Pay Cut;

Salary = $334K

After years of receiving scorching criticism from people with AIDS, donors and supporters, local politicians and media outlets, Washington's Food and Friends executive director Craig Shniderman has voluntarily reduced his salary by a whooping 16.8 percent. That info was shared with me today by Michael Bento, board member of the org.

Just as I had been reading the dates of when GLAAD finalized its IRS 990 filings to learn when it became available for public inspection, I also read the filings for Food and Friends. That is why I knew August is the month in which the org completes last year's tax return, and I contacted the financial officer.

Here's the bottom line. Shniderman earned $333,857 last year, as noted in the 2009 return, compared with his salary in 2008, when his compensation package totaled $380,225, as reported in that return. This almost a 17% fall and is quite amazing.

An important note about some of the numbers reported in Schedule J, Part II, page 33 for Shniderman's 2009 compensation.

Column (E) states Schniderman received $598,146, but there is an asterisk leading to a footnote. This column "includes $246,289 in compensation previous reported on the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 Forms 990s and does not represent compensation earned in 2009."

To arrive at Shniderman's package for last year, you subtract $246,289 from the $598,146, and the amount is $333,857.

If I gave out Gay Sunshine Awards, one would easily go to Food and Friends because they not only voluntarily post their IRS 990s on their site, they make four years' worth of tax returns available. The GuideStar site, per IRS statutes, requires only three years' filings to be publicly open for inspection. Food and Friends deserves kudos for the fiscal transparency, and going beyond the standards of GuideStar.

On the other hand, I think Shniderman's 16% compensation reduction still leaves his salary package too high for my tastes. To seriously impress me that he is truly sacrificing a big part of his compensation, I want to first see the pay drop to no more than a quarter million.

Taking home $333,000 not much of a step forward in reducing excessive AIDS Inc pay.


Shows ED's $225K Salary

(A winner in the Boston Globe's Beautiful Lawyers contest of 2009, Jarrett Barrios. Reminds me of HRC's Joe Solmonese winning the 2010 Elegant Activist award from Washington Life. Will gay leaders ever get around to winning awards for effectiveness and productivity? Photo credit: Hornick/Rivlin Photography.)

Looking over recent IRS 990 filings from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation available at the GuideStar site yesterday, I noticed that the filings were signed off and finalized by the org in early August. When a non-profit org finalizes their IRS 990, they are then legally obligated to make the filing available for public inspection.

Instead of waiting for months while the IRS processed the latest GLAAD tax filing and being patient as the GuideStar folks obtained and posted it, I requested the FY 2009 filing, and leaders at the org shared it with me and other bloggers and gay reporters on a group list I created.

Unfortunately, GLAAD is not committed to full fiscal transparency to the community it serves, so the the latest IRS 990 is not available on their site. The org also refuses to share previous tax filings on the site and makes no reference nor links to the filings at GuideStar.

Over at the Bay Area Reporter's blog, reporter Matthew Bajko late in the day yesterday blogged about the release of the IRS filing and seven-figure decrease in revenue:

Today the gay media watchdog group GLAAD released its federal tax return for 2009 and revealed its executive director is being paid $225,000. It also reported a significant drop in revenues for last year, resulting in a loss of $1.5 million.

The agency, whose full name is the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, had refused until this afternoon (Tuesday, August 24) to reveal what it was paying its top executive since it hired Jarret T. Barrios last September. After the Bay Area Reporter wrote about the lack of transparency surrounding Barrios’ salary in April, the agency’s public relations director excoriated the paper for its coverage.

In an email containing the tax return filing sent to LGBT reporters and bloggers, prompted by an inquiry from San Francisco blogger and gay activist Michael Petrelis, GLAAD Director of Public Relations Rich Ferraro noted that Barrios dropped his own annual salary, with Board approval, to $225,000 in December. [...]

GLAAD would show great wisdom should they decide to end their practice of not sharing their tax returns on their site, but who associates wisdom with GLAAD? Let us give thanks for IRS statutes that force all charity orgs to share this fiscal info with the public.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jacobs Campaign Spent $78K
in 1st Half of 2010

Join me please in becoming an accountability activist, using publicly available documents for the Rick Jacobs Courage Campaign, hereafter referred to as it is realistically incarnated as the Jacobs Campaign, to get a look at how one Gay Inc org handles stewardship of some of their community dollars. This exercise will take but a few minutes.

The Jacobs Campaign has a registered issues committee with the California Secretary of State, and the most current documents for the org are for the first six-months of 2010.

I've looked over the expenditures, totaling $78,624.33, and nothing stands out as questionable in any way, at least to my eyes. The items that caught my attention were the payments made to RDJ Strategic Advisers, which is an arm of one Richard D. Jacobs. Yep, his Jacobs Campaign uses the services of his RDJ affiliate and it comes across as a cute practice. Go here for a taste of Rick Jacobs Inc.

Please check out the many sets of fiscal info on the Jacobs Campaign's state arm at the SoS's site. Click here to read the full list of expenditures.

In other Jacobs Campaign news, a key organizer, Wendy Aragon, has left the org and circulated this open email over the weekend:

I've had conversations with a few of you and it's actually been a very long back and forth process, but as of today, I will officially be moving on from The Courage Campaign.

I made the commitment today to become one of the San Francisco Community Organizer with Organizing for America, which is similar to what I do as a DFO in Courage.

I feel that it is the best move for me and will help me to really take on many of the issues that I have been wanting to work on for some time now but have not been able to with Courage. [...]

Excerpted from the SoS filings on the Jacobs Campaign:















Let's hear other voices from the CA gay community about these filings and the Jacobs Campaign agenda leading into the 2010 state elections.

Spoof: How to Win a GLAAD Award

Hat tip to the Dallas Voice's reporter John Wright for blogging today on a cute, but way-too-long, video satire on how to get an award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

The vid was made by Israel Luna, the creator of the semi-controversial flick "Ticked Off Trannies With Knives," which seems destined to never break out of the festival circuit.

It would have been even better at a shorter length, but regardless of running time, I had a few laughs from the vid:

As is so often the case when a Gay Inc entity comes in for either a gentle ribbing or hard-edged criticism, a dreary supporter of GLAAD made this comment at the Dallas Voice blog:

This is an immature and tasteless attack on an organization that has done so much for our community. It’s not about celebrities and parties, it’s about changing perception. [...]

Trust me. GLAAD could disappear tomorrow and the gay community wouldn't suffer from its demise.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Freaky Names: CA Pol Butt Backs Erotic Ball

(Richmond, CA, City Councilmember Tom Butt. Photo credit: Phoebe Fronistas, Bay Citizen.)

I'm launching a new, light-hearted running feature today, devoted to watching newsmakers and others with Freaky Names, or simply ironic names or names that make you say, "Huh, is that his/her real name?" Let's get started.

The SF Chronicle over the weekend reported on the annual Exotic Erotic Ball moving from the Cow Palace, just over the San Francisco border in Daly City, over to an East Bay city. The sexual fetish and costume ball attracts a mainly straight crowd and is described by many as an indoor version of the Folsom Street Fair.

One local politician is pleased with the event moving to his city and using a municipal pavilion for adult fun and frolic:

During World War II, a mostly female workforce outfitted tanks [at the ball's future location] for the military, said Tom Butt, a Richmond city councilman. After the war, it was used for a time as a Ford assembly plant. [...]

It hadn't been used much in recent years until a new owner spiffed it up, Butt said.

Click here for more info on Mr. Butt. Good to see this pol getting, um, behind the ball coming to his city.

Reading about Butt reminded me of NYC's black Christian minister and political advocate Calvin O. Butts who has waged campaigns against tobacco companies. Both men belong on the Freaky Names list, don't you think?

Another name to add to the list is longtime gay Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman, who recently bragged about signing up JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater after he dramatically told off a passenger and then exited the plane, with a cold beer in had, on an inflatable slide.

And finally today, there's Mark Papermaster, who until recently was senior vice president of Apple for hardware engineering. He's departed the computer giant after it suffered consumer complaints, and loads of bad p.r., over the company's antennae glitches with their SmartPhone. Does anyone think of paper or a master for it when Apple's name comes up? Maybe Papermaster should find work at Georgia-Pacific, the paper manufacturer.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

HRC's Rosen's gAyTM is Open:
$1,000 for the DNC

Since November 2009 there's been a boycott underway, organized by several A-list gay bloggers and progressive straight bloggers, urging folks not to donate to the Democratic National Committee, which includes the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Click here for more info on this important gay/progressive boycott.

One lesbian powerbroker who's chosen to ignore the boycott against the Democratic Party and its affiliated committees is Hillary Rosen. A longtime member of the Human Rights Campaign's board of directors, who also served as interim executive director between the ousting of Cheryl Jacques and the hiring of the dreary Democratic hack Joe Solmonese, Rosen doesn't always put gay community interests first.

Back in 1999, I searched Rosen's Federal Election Commission files and discovered she was donating to anti-gay Republicans Orrin Hatch, Spencer Abraham and Mary Bono. At the time of her donations, all of them were rated poorly on our issues by HRC. So much for HRC political rankings influencing gay donors.

Today I looked at her most recent FEC records and found that Rosen in June donated $1,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. If anyone thought Rosen was taking into account well-deserved anger and demands for Democratic Party action on our gay agenda when making donations, the $1,000 to the committee is a slap in the face.

Frankly, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if she also shops at Target, regardless of her org's campaign against the corporate giant over its donation to a Minnesota anti-gay group.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Accused Lez-bezzlers to be
Tried as Married Couple

What's the latest word from the heartland regarding the pending trial of two lesbians with deep ties to the gay political establishment? Let's turn to Tom Witosky, reporter for the Des Moines Register who's been following the case since charges were first filed, for some answers:

Marla Stevens will be tried at the same time as her spouse, Phyllis, on charges stemming from the alleged embezzlement of nearly $6 million from Aviva USA, a federal judge ruled [August 11].

U.S. Senior Judge Ronald Longstaff rejected a request by Marla Stevens' lawyer, Trever Hook, that his client be given a separate trial. Hook had argued that Marla Stevens could not get a fair trial because Phyllis Stevens intends to use an insanity plea in her defense. [...]

The two women are scheduled to go on trial on Sept. 20 in U.S. District Court in Des Moines. [...]

In rejecting the motion for two trials, Longstaff said no specific reason was presented to justify separate trials for the two women, despite claims that Phyllis Stevens' insanity defense would imperil Marla Stevens' planned defense.

"Marla has failed to set forth a specific reason as to why her particular defense is so antagonistic to or inconsistent with Phyllis' insanity defense that she will be unable to get a fair trial," Longstaff ruled. [...]

I expect this case will generate a number of precedents that will reverberate when gay or lesbian married couples are charged with committing crimes together. There should be much creativity on the part of both Stevens' attorneys.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lesbian Counsel to Obama
Leaves the White House

(President Obama with his departing Associate Counsel Alison J. Nathan, left, her partner Meg Satterthwaite, and their twin sons Oliver and Nathan, standing in the Outer Oval Office on July 7, 2010. Photo credit: Pete Souza, official White House photographer.)

When Barack Obama chose openly lesbian Alison Nathan to join his legal staff at the White House in January 2009, Gay Inc lauded her appointment. The G/L Victory Fund, where current White House gay liaison Brian Bond once served as the executive director, lists Nathan as one of "a record number" of gays to serve this President. Her appointment attracted a decent amount of attention.

After 17-18 months of service to Obama, according to the caption the White House attached to the photo, Nathan has moved on. I can't find anything through regular Googling and searching news sites about why she's departed the White House, and certainly nothing about anything of substance she may have accomplished during her tenure, or how she advanced gay equality.

While I have many qualms about how the Obama administration and too many Democrats use appointments such as Nathan's as proof they're our friends, I can understand why Gay Inc goes all out to herald such appointments, at the time they are made.

However, if there is any follow up by Gay Inc, or the mainstream or gay press or gay bloggers, about what the appointees actually do that benefits ordinary gay people, I'm not aware of it. We gays should insist on report cards and honest assessments of all Obama's gay appointees.

And now that Nathan is no longer working at the White House, I'd like for her to open up about her reasons for leaving, her thoughts about Obama's way-less-than fierce advocacy for many gay concerns, and his refusal to see gay and lesbian marriage (perhaps like hers, if she and her companion have married in the states or DC that permit such marriages), as equal to opposite-gender marriage, among other issues.

When will Nathan talk publicly about her leaving the Obama administration?

Holiday in the 'Manny State'

My short getaway this week up at the Russian River was just the relaxing holiday from San Francisco and the web that I needed. Thanks to the bike racks on the Golden Gate Transit and Sonoma County bus lines that I took up to Guerneville, I was able to get in lots of biking time.

One day I rode out to Armstrong Woods, to enjoy the enormous redwoods, and just outside the welcome center's parking lot was this sign. That last line, putting the onus of proper behavior protecting the park and hiking trails on the visitor, revealed an assertive Manny State attitude from the rangers. Good for them! If visitors want the Nanny State, they can bring along Mary Poppins.

Here I am with my adorable cub Tate Swindell, enjoying a good meal at a restaurant on Guerneville's main drag. It was so much fun to spend time with him and his brother Todd, their pal Brion, and Danny and Rita Novak. Thanks friends, for making the trip a true holiday full of laughs and great scenery.

I also spent time on the banks of the Russian River, and even went into the chilly water for a swim. Must have been my inner butchie that got me to plunge into the river. Great to get out of town, and even nicer to be back with my husbear Mike. Now it's time to resume blogging, after such a refreshing time away from the city.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gone Fishin' Up at the Russian River

This city queer is heading up north this morning to visit with friends in Guerneville, along the Russian River. I'm anticipating some serious Oblomov-time. Very much looking forward to unplugging from the web and my computer. A restful and rejuvenating time should be quite easy since there is no bear or other theme week taking place while I'll be there. Will resume blogging next weekend. Have a great week, y'all.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

NY Enacts No-Fault Divorce for
Gay Married Couples

This fascinating news comes from my friend veteran community organizer and blowhard (a phrase of honor in this case!), Andy Humm, of New York City. I like him personally, and respect his decades of ceaseless advocacy, plus he has a wealth of knowledge about our history, and our enemies and friends, and wish he would get a blog. Andy is one queer person who should have started a blog long ago.

From the Humm Wire:

Same-sex couples can't get a marriage license in New York, but they have been recognized as married for all purposes private and public (except federal, of course, and in the case of state taxes because a narrow reading of the tax law by the state department of taxation and finance).

But even though the Senate voted against a bill opening marriage to same-sex couples, it passed the Assembly bill on no-fault divorce that includes explicit reference to same-sex married couples:


The operative graf:

It is the intent of this legislation to grant full recognition and respect to valid marriages of same-sex couples to obtain relief under New York State laws and in New York's courts. While the Domestic Relations Law uses the terms "husband and wife" in some places and "plaintiff and defendant" in others, in using the terms "husband and wife", it is not the intent of this legislation to preclude access to relief under the Domestic Relations Law by same-sex couples with valid marriages performed outside the state.

Current New York law, written to apply to "husband and wife," has been properly interpreted by New York courts to allow relief for same-sex couples with valid marriages.

It is not the intent of this legislation to alter the interpretations of this case law including Martinez v. County of Monroe. 50 A.D.3d 189, 850 N.Y.S.2d 740 (4th Dep't 2008), Beth R. V. Donna M., 19 Misc. 3d 724, (Sup. Ct., N.Y. County 2008), and C.M. v. C.C., 867 N.Y.S.2d 884, (Sup. Ct., N.Y. County 2008), nor is it the intent of this legislation to alter New York State's policy to recognize out-of-state same-sex

Hey Andy, it's not too late to sign up with Blogger.com for a free soapbox. And thanks for passing this info along.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Henry Kissinger Plays a Stoner?

(The former U.S. Secretary of State, in 2007. Photo credit: Steve Pyke.)

If war criminal Henry Kissinger ever needed a medical reason for using marijuana, it would likely be for stress related to his fear of being indicted, successfully prosecuted, and receiving a well-deserved extended incarceration for crimes against humanity.

May I live so long to see him standing in the prisoner dock at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Click here to read part one Christopher Hitchens' case against Kissinger.

But I digress. According to SF Chronicle gossip columnist Leah Garchik in her August 2 report on the powerful members of the ultra-exclusive Bohemian Grove gathering for fun and games, and she says Kissinger was part of a revue:

One entertainment highlight, I am told, was Henry Kissinger playing the role of a stoner. "The crowd roared" is my spy's description of the critical reaction.

He should be sitting in a prison cell, instead of enjoying a privileged life in the woods of Northern California.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

SF Appeal Parodies Chronicle's
Anti-Prop 8 Decision Op-Eds

Eve Batey, publisher of the SF Appeal, a terrific site keeping tabs on City Hall and local institutions, serves as a watchdog, one that bites when necessary, over the SF Chronicle. Eve today called my attention to what she's been up to on the continuing series of op-eds dumping on Vaughn Walker's Prop 8 trial decision.

Let's give her the floor, and be sure to follow the links:

Didn't know if you saw that we've been parodying the Chronicle's near-daily Open Forum pieces (Open Forum, as you know, is a Chron editorial board vetted, selected, and edited feature of articles from the community on a variety of subjects) by homophobic groups?

The whole Chron thing is very odd to me, I know they really went out of their way to make sure Open Forum was fair, and that it did not demonstrate "hate" (for example, they routinely refused submissions from white supremacy groups).

So why have they published 4 anti-gay op-eds since Judge Walker's ruling? I dunno, and I asked them, but they won't respond. But we're taking them to task.

Here's our most recent one, in response to today's Prop 8 op-ed in the Chron.

I don't want to bury you in links, but you can see the links to the Chron's recent past anti-gay op-eds and our other parodies in the short graf before the piece begins.
Keep up the great work, Eve, at the SF Appeal.

Gay Scout Merit Badge for

Recruiting Mormon Boys

(Elder Rockwell, left, with Bibles in hand, and I can't remember the shorter boy's name.)

It was a classic homo moment. I was riding my bike down 21st Street in the Mission when I saw these two Mormon recruiters walking toward a bodega, and my eyes undressed them to just jock straps and Birkenstock sandals, before thinking how nice they would look at the upcoming Folsom Street Fair, taking in the fleshy sights.

As part of my responsibility as a gay liberation activist, I believe in recruiting new members to the tribe, so I struck up a conversation with them. I asked the boys if I could recruit them into the homosexual lifestyle. They laughed and I snapped their photos. Regular Chatty Cathys, they were, replying to my prying questions.

(So adorable they deserve a second photo in this essay.)
The big guy on the left just arrived in town this week, from Colorado, is here for six months, loves football and didn't want to know about joining a medical marijuana dispensary. His fellow recruiter has been here six months, enjoys practicing his Spanish primarily at the 16th Street BART plaza and hails from Alberta, Canada.

My final success at getting them to laugh came when I said they were way way way too young to be addressed as Elder Whatever. "You should call me Elder Michael," I said. "I'll look for you boys at BART plaza and make sure San Francisco is treating you good."

Longtime readers of this blog may recall my first and second 2007 attempts to recruit this Mormon boy, Elder Adams:

And don't forget about my 2008 effort with this Mormon boy, while riding the 22 Fillmore bus:

I believe the public record shows I have performed admirably in my effort to win a Gay Scout Merit Badge for Recruiting Mormon Boys, don't you?

Pelosi Note on ENDA

House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi killed a few trees for her latest mailer to constituents. I'm not sure why she bothers around election time to do this, when she faces no jeopardy for her seat and she's fine the rest of the time to refrain from using the post office to communicate with voters.

On page 4 of the newsletter, Pelosi panders to her AIDS Inc and Gay Inc constituencies. First, she prints a small photo of President Obama signing the Ryan White CARE Reauthorization Act, and singles out the SF AIDS Foundation's federal lobbyist Ernest Hopkins in the caption.

Secondly, after first invoking the legacy of Harvey Milk, she spouts flowery statements about her commitment to passage, one day in the future, of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Color me unimpressed with such communication from the Speaker with district residents concerned about AIDS and gay matters. We need to see Pelosi break into a sweat over solving the ADAP waiting list crisis for thousands of people living with AIDS, and meaningful movement on ENDA. The newsletter in no way shows her sweating on our behalf.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Salon: Is Judge Vaughn Walker Really Gay?

(Vaughn Walker, left, dining at a Castro area restaurant in May, with AIDS org executive Brett Andrews, a platonic pal. Photo credit: Petrelis Files.)

Tracy Clark-Forey has an essay posted today at Salon about the widespread reporting on what many believe to be the gay orientation of Judge Vaughn Walker, the man who ruled last week that California's Prop 8 anti gay marriage ban was unconstitutional.

What's unique in the piece is how the writer compares the many articles and views regarding Walker potentially being gay, versus the discussion surrounding questions of Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan's sexual orientation.

Let's go to excerpts:

Considering the mainstream media's cautious treatment of the rumors surrounding Elena Kagan's sexuality, you have to wonder what's different here. Why is Walker's sexuality talked about and reported on with such certainty?

The story begins long before the Chronicle ran its blind item. Last summer, local gay activist Michael Petrelis published a blog post announcing that his "gaydar's bells and whistles went off" when he saw a photo of Walker. After getting a chance to watch the judge live and in-person behind the bench, he was convinced.

Who else in our community thinks like me on this matter? A prominent lesbian legal eagle also believes Walker is a gay man:

Jenny Pizer, the National Marriage Project director for Lambda Legal, used to live in San Francisco and knew Walker, but only professionally. "A number of people have told me that they have [socialized with Walker] and that in recent years he has brought a same-sex partner to professional or social events," she told Salon. "Enough people have said that that I have the impression that it's true."

What sort of digging do I do to satisfy my curiosity and attempt to find any hint in the public record of a same-sex partnership for Walker?

Petrelis went so far as to look up the deed for Walker's house at City Hall, on the off-chance that it was in the name of another man, but no such luck.

Also weighing in on the public and media discussions on Walker and Kagan's gayness and lesbianism is a stalwart of the Bay Area's gay marriage effort:

Molly McKay, media director for Marriage Equality USA, said she was offended to hear someone refer to the "smear campaign" surrounding Elena Kagan's sexuality. "As a lesbian person, it's like, hey, what's the smear? Being gay, there's nothing derogatory about it," she said.

I'm holding out hope that Walker one day, and sooner rather than later, consents to an extensive interview about Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, the parties involved, his judicial thinking, and his sexual orientation.

Monday, August 09, 2010

GetEQUAL's Site Omits Budget;

One Salary Reduced

(Wanna buy one of these cuddly bears? Go here for more info.)

Robin McGehee of GetEQUAL responded over the weekend to several concerns of mine, which are longstanding, regarding the org's refusal to post some basic budget and salary info on their site. Those fiscal transparency matters are on top of other questions over their agenda and organizing plans.

The nub here is that GE thinks sharing bits of info on financials at sites other than their own equals transparency. It doesn't. To understand better how GE wants others to meet the org's transparency, read a quote from their release for a telephone press conference tomorrow:

“We look forward to being able to communicate to the LGBT community, via our dedicated LGBT press corps, the exciting new announcements for the future of GetEQUAL, and to come one step closer in fulfilling our commitment to transparency and openness.”

Huh? They expect to meet GE's commitment to transparency via butt-kissing reporters and bloggers. GE transparency could be so simple if they would just post their budget and salaries, and other key info, on their own site.

From Robin:

Jonathan Lewis provided us with 190k to start for 6 months and, most recently, with the check for 250k you saw Kip put on Facebook, allowing us an additional 6 months to continue our efforts.

We have collected small donations online, but they are less than $10,000 and we are not going to be putting a line item budget online at this time, but we will file the appropriate records and list what seems relevant as we prepare that info.

We had people who asked us for shirts/merchandise during the National Equality March and we set up an account with CafePress (allowing us to only give the logo and they create the items, sell them, and then mail us a very minimal profit on each item sold).

Once the March ended, we opened an account for GetEQUAL, because the same request came in, and we have raised $1200 for the items we have been able to sell online (I think it is about $3 a shirt or some ridiculously low amount).

You have seen the salaries for our more experienced staff - I make 89k, Heather 70k, and Kip is shifting down to 58k as he'll be moving to operations and technology manager and is reducing work responsibilities...one of the things we'll talk more about on the [Tuesday call].

We are updating our site daily and will continue to do so, as we see fit and as information unfolds.

Okay enough, but how about telling the community about all staffers' salaries, not just the more experienced? And what about independent contractors, such as Brad Luna, former Human Rights Campaign spokesman, who serves as GE's press rep? What is his retainer fee?

Related to all this are the outstanding questions why GE doesn't attract more than a handful of the same folks to their actions. The latest blogger to ask for answers is a young gay blogger named Chris. From his MyGayLife blog:

Also, all of their protests have been 5-10 people who go perform some sort of impeding protest and get arrested. So 5-10 people go sit in an office until they get arrested, or 5-10 people hold a sign across the lanes of the Las Vegas strip until they get arrested, or 5-10 people sit in the capital rotunda until they get arrested. I am not saying these are bad actions, but why only 5-10 people. Would it be more effective if they did it with 50-100 people?

I understand the need to keep their actions quiet beforehand to prevent the police from being ready for them, but I really think they need to find a way to get more people involved.

After eight months, blogger Chris has a valid point about the small number of activists participating in GE protests. We'll see if the conference call presents a plan to increase participation for the org.

Kevin Jennings - What's the Point of
Openly Gay Govt Appointees?

I've been ambivalent about supporting the former executive director of Gay/Lesbian/Straight Education Network [GLSEN], and longtime gay Democrat, Kevin Jennings, who serves Obama as a safe schools advocate for the Department of Education.

In October 2009, I wrote of my concerns that Jennings and Van Jones had been the targets of right wing campaigns to oust them from serving the president. Two months later, I asked if Jennings bought his position, based on several factors including FEC files showing his donations.

This April, the Bay Area Reporter editorialized on Jennings falling far short as a visible federal government advocate for gay students and youth, and his refusal to speak with the paper regarding his accomplishments, whatever they may be. Who can say if he's been effective at anything when he doesn't conduct any transparent business in his government, or talk regularly to the gay press, in extensive interviews?

Last week in Washington, Metro Weekly's writer Chris Geidner caught up with Jennings at a public speech he made to summer interns. What did he say about being muzzled?

''We're all here to serve the president's agenda. If I were president, there might be more progressive things going on than if the president was president, but the fact is I work for him.''

''Do I feel constrained? Absolutely,'' Jennings continued. ''Everybody who takes one of the jobs should feel constrained because we're not here to push our personal agenda; we're here to advance the president's agenda.''

Geider questioned him about pushing for two pieces of legislation, endorsed by his former org GLSEN, addressing bullying and gay students languishing in Congress. His reply:

''We can't endorse legislation on our own. The Education Department doesn't make the policy, the White House does. The [Domestic Policy Council] sets the policy; we implement it. That's how it works. So, if you want movement on this issue, you call the White House.''

Sounds to me like the former gay advocate pushing for change has been muzzled into being an Obama administration insider, one who takes no leadership role in the legislation, or much of anything public that might benefit gay kids.

What is the point of having gay liaisons or any sort of gay appointee on a politician's staff or in a government job that is tied to his gayness, and then becoming a promoter of the boss first and foremost?

I'm way over the likes of liaisons such as - Brian Bond, Richard Socarides, Vic Basile, Matt Nosanchuk, Jeff Crowley, and now Jennings – who claim to be serving the needs of ordinary gays. What happens is they make their boss look good, rather than serving the community they came from.

Jennings boasts:

''I, as the leading proponent of stopping bullying in America, I was not going to allow myself to be bullied out of a job [...] 'I've been preaching for 25 years that bullying is not okay. There was no way I could then say, 'Okay, well, I'll let you bully me.'''

Sure queen, you haven't been bullied out of a job, but you've let yourself be bullied into silence.

Let's disabuse the naive among us gays who actually thinks a gay liaison gets a high-power position and is there to advance the gay agenda. Nothing would be lost if every liaison/appointee like Jennings were returned to the Gay Inc sector and forced out of government jobs.

The interns at Jennings' talk need to learn another lesson - gays make progress when risks are taken, not when we silence ourselves.

HRC's Solmonese White House Visits
Now Equal 31 Times

When I last checked for the number of White House visits made by Human Rights Campaign top honcho Joe Solmonese back in May, I searched the visitor logs using the following terms: Solmonese, Solomonese and Solmenese. We could do with some spelling oversight by the record-keepers. I found that he had access to the Obama White House twenty-two times.

Solmonese's HRC colleagues are also frequently at the White House for various functions, from small meetings to large receptions. A search in the spring revealed at least 88 visits by HRC leaders.

Looking again today at the visitor logs shows Solmonese visits now equal 28 times, Solomonese one visit, and Solmenese went to the people's house twice.

The leader of America's largest professional gay advocacy org has been to the White House at least 31 times and I wonder what exactly such access has produced for the average gay citizen. As the number of Solmonese visits continues to rise, I wish I could see a similar climb in number of benefits and/or advances for the rest of us.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Tribute to My Beloved Cousin Mary

(In the center, our cousin Mary Weingart Slattery, with my brother John and myself.)

Dear Friends,

My cousin Mary died on August 4 in New Jersey at home, after a long battle with cancer. She was surrounded by her loving family and friends.

She will be so terribly missed by everyone who knew her, and will always be in our hearts.

I saw Mary in early July. She was happy I had come back East to see her and say how much I cherished her.

Illness and treatments limited her speech, so she had tremendous difficulty speaking and being understood. During my visit, three words gave her slight trouble: I love you. Her eyes were able to convey the sentiment, but I sense Mary wanted to "speak" the words to me.

Looking at her beautiful face, I spontaneously pointed my two biggest fingers at my right eye, then rubbed the palm of hand over my heart. Finally I made a small circle with my hand and pointed the same two fingers at her.

Mary gave me a smile, nodded her curly head of hair, then repeated the hand motions. I was so choked up, I could only say, "Thank you."

We shared more smiles, looks of love and sadness, a few tears. I knelt at her wheelchair for a tender embrace. Moments later, her hospice-care nurse came over and took her back to her bedroom.

It was the last time we saw each other.

Since that day, when I reflect upon that final good-bye, I think of how Mary showed me the essence of life. That is, to love someone with all your body and soul.

My fondest memories of Mary are from childhood. One frigid Christmas day, we were sledding together down a small snow-covered hill near her home. She had one of those large red plastic saucer sleds, that whooshed down the hill with great speed. It was so typical of Mary's innate generosity that she would invite her cousins to join her on the saucer sled, for a lotta fun. We would sit on it together, get a push, then slide down the slope, screaming at the top of our lungs all the way.

She truly spread joy while she was alive with us.

Mary leaves us way too soon, at only 48-years-old. She is survived by her loving parents Marie and Lin, devoted brother Michael, adoring extended family and circle of friends, and two beautiful teenage daughters, Shannon and Caitlin.

As the Tin Man said at the end of The Wizard of Oz -- a movie that Mary and I used to watch as kids at Grandma's home on North 11th Street in Newark -- I know I have a heart, because it is broken.

Dear Cousin Mary, you were deeply loved by many. Rest in peace.