Friday, May 30, 2014

HRC Griffin's Evasiveness on LGBT Organizing in Alabama

All package, no product. Maybe that should be all propaganda, no actual program when it comes to the Human Rights Campaign in general and specifically what ever the heck their agenda is behind their alleged $8.5 million budget for Project One America.

That project focuses on three states in the South - Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi and as per HRC custom, details are few and seriously lacking depth, as I noted earlier this month.

(Griffin appearing recently on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show. Public domain photo.)

A few weeks back, the Alabama news site had their reporter Madison Underwood interview HRC's president Chad Griffin and he was evasive regarding specifics and goals. Griffin said the three states were partially chosen because they've been "dramatically underresourced" in terms of LGBT advocacy, something HRC intends to change. From the interview: Can you tell me a little bit about how y'all are going to do that? 
CG: There's sort of two pieces of this work. Number one, and first and foremost – and it's how we've approached this work across the country –  is changing hearts and minds. You change hearts and minds by building bridges and by having a conversation with business leaders, with faith and religious leaders, with community leaders, and also with elected officials at the community level and at the state level. 

Do Griffin's words serve as a great example of platitudes or what? Underwood wanted specifics and pressed Griffin for them: What does the interaction with the community organizers and the people that they are reaching out to, what does that look like at the local level? What kind of arguments are they making? I guess, what are these people going to be doing?
First, Griffin directed me to a video on their website. 
CG: You know, the research shows that 9 out of 10 Americans say that they know someone in their close family circle, friend circle, or colleagues at work who are LGBT. In the South, that number is smaller. It's not because there are fewer LGBT people, it's because more of them remain in the closet. What we have to do is work to build an environment in which people feel more comfortable coming out of the closet and telling their story.

Not a single measurable marker or goal or anything about what the HRC organizers and their allies will actually do. Undeterred, reporter Underwood presses on trying to get Griffin to give specifics on the time of the new HRC effort: Why now? Why is this the time to make this move into Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama? 
CG: Look, it's work that I've talked about since I started this job. The Human Rights Campaign is also the single largest organizer in the South. One-third of our members are from the South – that's a surprising number to many people. That's over 500,000 HRC members who are from the South, including over 60,000 just in these three states alone. 

What about the recent controversy related to racial and economic diversity in a local group partnering with HRC? One organization that has been promoting y'all's visit to Alabama and the HRC effort here in Alabama is Equality Alabama, which has come under a little bit of fire about the diversity of both the people they are targeting and with their message and the people on their board. How do you make sure that the people that are targeted by y'all– 
CG: I can't speak to that because I'm not aware of exactly what you are referencing there. We do have on-the-ground community partners in all three of those states, including volunteer equality organizations, as you just mentioned.

So much for HRC being aware of local LGBT controversies and concerns. Underwood again ask for specifics: What sort of specific legislative accomplishments would you say are your goals, and how do you feel about your odds in the next three years of getting those done? 
CG: First of all, I'm optimistic. I'm talking to you at the moment from Little Rock, Arkansas. This is a state that most thought would be one of the last to have marriage equality, but because some brave plaintiffs and brilliant lawyers stood up, there's a case that has allowed marriage to start in this state. [...] There's no question that as we change hearts and minds, some of our early goals will be looking for partnerships at the city and community level where we can bring about protections.

And there you have it. Griffin can't and won't be pinned down to something we can measure him and HRC by in a three-year period. Sure sounds to me like it's the same old HRC approach used in Washington with the federal government that has produced so little from the group, given their raising and spending hundreds of millions of LGBT dollars, being applied at the South.

There is something of note HRC did this week in Alabama, and I hope you're sitting down for this news. HRC issued a press release (!?) congratulating local football teams for welcoming gay players, a development they had nothing to do with. Same old same old.

HRC. What a waste, regardless of who the executive director is.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

GLAAD's Executive Director Joins Exclusive Club

Let's give thanks today to the Bay Area Reporter and their writer Chuck Colbert for shedding light upon one important aspect of the leech on the gay body politic known as GLAAD - the salary of the relatively new executive director Sarah Kate Ellis.

(GLAAD's leader Ellis shaking hands recently with presumptive 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Public domain photo.)

From the BAR:

Based in Los Angeles, with an office in New York, the organization has an operating budget of approximately $6 million and staff of 29. Ellis's salary is $225,000, she said.

What a waste of good gay dollars, paying another Gay Inc executive director a robust six-figure amount. The exclusive club of LGBT leaders making more than $200,000 has a new member.

When I think of GLAAD, which is not all that often, I am reminded of how the primary purpose of too many LGBT organizations is to keep themselves in business and receiving paychecks.

And while I'm offering a bit of praise to the BAR and Colbert regarding Gay Inc accountability, I also want to point out that their profile desperately needed voices other than Ellis' offering constructive criticism of GLAAD.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

$69M Housing Works AIDS Group Must Post IRS 990s on Their Site

The following letter was emailed this afternoon to Housing Works, a Brooklyn-based AIDS nonprofit.

Dear Housing Works Leaders,

I recently checked out your Annual Reports page and was disappointed to see supposed listings for six years of IRS 990s, there was only a single tax filing and it was for 2007, while the other five links went to consolidated audited reports.

Over at the Guide Star site, I found a total of fifteen Housing Works affiliates listed of which thirteen showed income in 2013. Here are the rounded income numbers from Guide Star:

1. Housing Works Thrift Store

2. Housing Works Inc

3. Housing Works Services II

4. Housing Works Book Store & Cafe

5. Housing Works Health Services

6. Housing Works Services Inc

7. Housing Works Food Services

8. Housing Works Jefferson Housing Development

9. Housing Works Housing Development 

10. Housing Works East New York Housing Development

11. Housing Works Lexington Housing Development

12. Housing Works Harlem Housing Development

13. Housing Works Pitkin Housing

Total: $69,560,000

As you may know, many HIV/AIDS service and advocacy organizations voluntarily post at least three years' worth of IRS 990s on their web sites, including tax filings of their affiliates, and these nonprofits include AmFAR, GMHC, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Project Inform, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and many others.

Today, in the service of full transparency to the community, your donors and clients, I am requesting that Housing Works and all of its affiliated arms immediately post a minimum of three years' of IRS 990s on your primary site.

Please let me know if you'll grant my request. Thanks.

Best regards,
Michael Petrelis

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

HRC Briefing & Socarides on Gay Marriage to Clinton White House

There are a good number of public records available at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library web site to pore over and it's great not to have to file FOIA requests to inspect the documents.

In the archive from when Bill and Hillary Clinton were still President and First Lady, is an undated (but clearly written after the 1996 election) briefing paper from the Human Rights Campaign's executive director Elizabeth Birch that appears to be half for him and the other half for her.

This page about same-sex marriage is curious because HRC writes, "Although the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed in 1996 and in 1998 Hawaii modified their state constitution to define marriage as a 'union between one man and one woman,' the fight for equal marriage rights is not over. [...] In response [to the potential for a state to allow same-sex couples to marry], the Federal government passed DOMA in September 1996."

Notice that HRC omits saying Bill Clinton signed the damn act into law.

In their policy recommendations, HRC says, "While advancing the goal of legalized same-sex marriage may not be politically feasible at this time, there are several policies that can be advanced to enhance and protect the rights of domestic partners."

How about calling for repeal of DOMA? Not on the HRC agenda at the time.

The section about gays in the military policy states "In 1993, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law a policy on gays in the military dubbed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"

HRC's policy recommendations had a long term component that included repealing DADT. Curious that HRC in this section mentions Clinton signing DADT and promotes overturning the military ban, unlike their omission regarding him putting his signature on DOMA and remaining silent about a long term goal of repealing that act.

The briefing paper for the First Lady included HRC's polling results on a number of LGBT issues, excluding gay marriage. This chart was the closest they came to surveying voters about that issue, all about hospital visitation and inheritance rights, and providing health care and Social Security benefits to gay partners.

Either HRC didn't poll on gay marriage or they did and the results were not favorable.

A cache of emails here and here from White House gay liaison Richard Socarides shows that in July 1997, he and two colleagues requested the president appear at HRC's upcoming November dinner in Washington.

Socarides writes, "It is my strong recommendation that we accept this invitation. All things considered, this is the best opportunity we will get this year to address a (extremely supportive) audience. And as you know, the Human Rights Campaign has been extremely supportive and we owe them."

Yeah, I know very well how HRC was giving cover to the Clinton White House during those years.

In early September 1997, wrote to Elena Kagan about a column by lesbian journalist Deb Price about a potential outcome to the gay marriage trial in Hawaii, and he says, "If same-sex marriage soon becomes legal in Hawaii, as this writer suggests, we will quickly have to deal with a whole serier [sic] of legal/policy questions that I don't think we are really now prepared for."

Fascinating to learn the Clinton's gay liaison hadn't given much thought to the notion that gay marriage might become reality at that time.

At the end of September 1997, Socarides wrote again to Kagan to say, "Well, like, what do we do when a legally married same-sex couple file a joint US tax return, or file for any federal benefits that legally married people would otherwise be entitled to under federal law. Do we even know what all these benefits are? In other words, I don't think anyone has given any thought how we should enforce, and just as importantly what do we say about the enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act? I just think we ought to be thinking about it, or ask someone to think about it."

It turns my stomach, as does practically everything to do with Socarides who don't forget wrote Clinton's talking points after he signed DOMA protecting him from the gay community's justifiable anger, to read that he wanted advice about _enforcing_ DOMA if one of those potential scenarios played out.

Not a single word about using those scenarios to repeal the odious DOMA from Socarides.

With advocates such as HRC and Socarides, who needs enemies?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Castro's Blush Bar Bans Google Glass

[UPDATE: Scroll down for the note from Blush.]

One thing that surprised me about see this sign was the fact that there were only two customers enjoying some wine when I walked past a wine bar on Saturday afternoon in my gayborhood.

Due to a capital improvement project widening the sidewalks of the Castro business district, with no parking on Castro and 18th Streets, plenty of dust and dirt blowing in the wind, and the sidewalks narrowed to the point two people can barely pass each other without touching, even on a sunny Saturday the area was extremely less populated than usual.

Business owners have been complaining about a serious reduction of customers and revenue, so why would the Blush Wine Bar on Castro ban Google Glass wearers from the joint if they have money to spend? Like I said, only two folks were at this bar late on Saturday afternoon and I imagine the owner could use a few more patrons to help her or him pay the rent.

What if patrons wearing the tech toys don't want to turn them off? They take their business elsewhere. I emailed Blush but haven't heard back from them, so I have no response to include in this post. If anyone knows why this bar has banned Google Glass wearers, please share the info with me.

IMHO, there's too much banning of things in San Francisco such as gay bathhouses, nudity on the streets, sleeping in public parks, LGBT community access to the rainbow flag pole on public property at Harvey Milk Plaza and backroom bars.

How about practicing education and tolerance instead of so much banning?

UPDATE: Here's the message from Bree Theriault, the general manager of Blush, I received this morning. Sorry I forgot about this right of businesses:

We reserve the right to refuse service and it is our choice to not 
subject our staff or customers to being filmed without their knowledge.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Frank Kameny v. Charles Socarides: 1974 PBS Gay Marriage Debate

Here's an important piece of homo history I wasn't aware of until this week when I read my friend Rick Rosendall's blog post for the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC.

(Homosexual hero Frank Kameny. Credit: WGBH-TV.)

On May 2, 1974, a one-hour debate organized as a mock trial and aired on a show called "The Advocates, The PBS Debate of the Week", and the subject was "Should Marriage Between Homosexuals Be Permitted?" and the event was held on the University of California at Irvine campus. Leading the charge for the gays was longtime gay pioneer Frank Kameny who was masterful in his presentation and how he framed his arguments.

I was shocked to learn the early 1970s date of the debate in part because of what gay marriage advocate Evan Wolfson says on his group's web site:

Prior to founding Freedom to Marry in 2003, Wolfson launched the marriage movement as co-counsel in the landmark Hawaii marriage case, Baehr v. Miike. 

Putting aside his enormous ego and his claim that he alone launched this movement, but not overlooking Woflson's important role in the battle for gay and lesbian marriages, this 1974 debate is a key piece of evidence that the fight was underway before he worked on the Hawaii case. That case went to trial in 1996, more than two decades after the PBS mock trial took place.

Joining Kameny were out lesbian Elaine Noble who was a professor at Emerson College at the time, a year before she was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Dr. Richard Green, a psychiatrist from UCLA, and quite the bear but I don't what his sexual orientation is.

The opposing side was led by Florida civil rights attorney Tobias Simon, who was joined by Robin Smith at Occidental College, and  Dr. Charles Socarides, listed as an Associate Clinical Professor at Albert Einstein Medical School.

Socarides was the father two blights upon the LGBT community, the first being the now-discredited bogus "conversion therapy" that held a person with same-sex attractions could be changed to desire the opposite sex, and the second was his son Richard Socarides, a Democratic political strategist who holds the dubious distinction of having written talking points for President Bill Clinton deflecting LGBT advocates' anger over the signing of the Defense of Marriage Act when he was the White House gay liaison.

Unfortunately, WGBH-TV in Boston has shared the video from 1974 on their web site but not made it embeddable. Click here to watch it, please.

These words of Kameny's are from the transcript and serve as an excellent reminder of some of what made him a giant of the gay community:
Our society guarantees first class citizenship to all of its citizens, the right of the pursuit of happiness to all of its citizens, and the right to be different and to be unpopular without disadvantage to all of its citizens. Our society does not always respect those rights in practice. 

Exercise by homosexual couples of the right to marry detracts not one iota from the rights of heterosexual couples to marry. Homosexual marriages interfere with no one individually, and such marriages impair or interfere with no societal interest. In fact, they further some societal interest. They provide a myriad of special privileges given to legally married people. 

Most important, for many persons a legal marriage is psychologically supportive. The relationship is stabilized by it. For society to accuse us, as it does, of unstable, short-term relationships and then to deny us a powerful means of stabilization is to make their accusation self-fulfilling in a peculiarly vicious way. To extend the definition of the family to include gay couples in no way endangers or diminishes the institution of the family. 

Quite to the contrary, it strengthens it. Our society belongs to all of its members and segments. It is our society as homosexuals quite as much as yours as heterosexuals. If heterosexuals wishing it have the right to the benefits of marriage, then homosexuals wis have the right to the benefits of marriage. That equality is what America is all about. It is as simple as that. 
Weekend Woof #75: Heatwave and Homo Flesh

I took a break last weekend and didn't share any photos of assorted handsome dudes, so I'm happy to be back today with a new batch of guys to share.

The recent heatwave in San Francisco sure got lots of men to show more skin, as you can see in these pictures.

Two fine looking furry fellas of the chunky variety brought viewing pleasure to my queer eye.

On occasion, there are young men riding Muni who make all the hassles of using public transportation worth the effort.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

On Becoming a 'Truvada Bore' at UCSF's Poz Clinic

I had my intake appointment this week with my new primary care physician Dr. Susa Coffey up at the UCSF Parnassus campus' 360 Poz Clinic, where I've transferred to after years of receiving care at SF DPH's Castro Mission Health Center. Frankly, I should have left that center years ago because of the higher quality of care, not to mention easier coordination and ability to secure appointments, at UCSF.

Dr. Coffey and I spent nearly ninety-minutes going over my recent pulmonary problems and other current concerns, while also taking into account my historical medical records from DPH. We were both very worried about my high hepatitis B viral load and discussed a treatment plan to address that, without driving up the HIV viral load or creating new problems.

We decided I'd go off of Combivir and switch to Truvada, the drug that fights both HIV and hepatitis B. Get more info about the drug and dealing with both infections at the site.

I've picked up the Truvada from my pharmacy and am now taking it, and have enjoyed a good laugh about getting on it for the stated relatively boring old reasons and not for the controversial reasons of using Truvada as a PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, tool to avert acquiring HIV.

Some of the sexually active gay men using Truvada as part of their plan to stay HIV negative, in response to stupidity surrounding Truvada equals PrEP, have taken to declaring themselves a "Truvada whore" and wearing t-shirts with the Twitter hashtag "#TruvadaWhore". I heartily approve. Carry on with such treatment = prevention activism, and self-empowerment, men!

However, for me as a longterm AIDS survivor it's much more appropriate to identify as a "Truvada bore" and today I'll be launching the hashtag "#TruvadaBore" on Twitter, lol.

Hoping that I get nothing but the best results from the drug to battle my HIV and hepatitis B co-infections.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Did Christian Science Monitor Out GOP Sen. McConnell?

My queer mind wonders what the editors at the online-only news source, Christian Science Monitor, were thinking when they ran this headline earlier in the week.

When I see photos or videos of Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, he registers on my gaydar, just like other GOP gay closet cases over the years including Mark Foley, Steve Gunderson, Larry Craig, Ed Shrock who is not to be confused with Aaron Schock, Mark Kirk, Jim Kolbe, Lindsey Graham and Charlie Crist to name a few.

I'm just saying that was a very interesting headline.
Clinton Library Has 22,000 Pages on HRC's Chad Griffin

Way before he was designated the gay Rosa Parks by New York Times reporter Jo Becker in her book "Forcing the Spring", Chad Griffin back in the early days of the Bill Clinton White House administration worked in the public affairs for two years.

He now serves as president of the Human Rights Campaign and I think we need to sunshine more of his past, so I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, for copies of any and all records related to his work at the White House.

The library replied recently and said they possess 22,812 pages of materials related to Griffin. Quite a high number, so I've chatted over the phone with a FOIA staffer at the library about obtaining only records of substance and not paying for copies of irrelevant emails or news clippings merely passed along by Griffin to White House colleagues.

I should know by the end of next week how many of those thousands of materials are substantive and worth paying for copies of, and once I get that info there are still a half dozen or so other steps the library has to go through before anything is released to me.

Stay tuned for updates.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Who's Donating Gifts to SF City Attorney Herrera?

How can the public know who may be attempting to influence an elected official, or just make nice with the politician, if the elected official does not keep a list of gifts? Here's what the San Francisco City Attorney's web site has to say about the threshold that must be met for certain reporting to kick in:

The San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance provides for the public reporting of all gifts of money, goods or services, worth more than one hundred dollars in aggregate, for the purpose of carrying out or assisting City functions (S.F. Admin. Code Sec. 67.29-6). The San Francisco City Attorney's Office has received the following gifts, which are reportable as part of that sources of outside funding provision.

I submitted a public records request to Dennis Herrera for all gifts to him or his office regardless of amount, since I've become aware of New York Times reporter Jo Becker giving him a copy of her book "Forcing the Spring" and wanted to see if and how he maintained a list of such gifts since 2008.

A staff publicist for Herrera, Gabriel Zitrin, replied to my request stating, "Our Office does not maintain a list of gifts and services to our Office, the City Attorney, or members of our Office. As a result, we do not have a record responsive to your request".

Well, isn't that convenient? The City Attorney can't be bothered to track which private persons or corporations or nonprofits or business provide him and his office with gift.

They do have hard copies of 1,600 Form 700s for the City Attorney and staffers that I could pore over at their office, but I believe the taxpayers deserve a simple list of gifts and services of any amount should be kept and shared by this office on the web. Herrera needs to do more to be fully transparent and accountable to the public.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Only in Ess Eff: Drag Nun in Dept of Elections GOTV Video

Check out this nifty get-out-the-vote video from the public servants who run San Francisco's elections:

Needless to say, I heartily approve of using City funds to showcase a diverse cross-section of local voters in an effort to persuade more folks to cast ballots and it's terrific to see Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence standing in the Castro district's Duboce Park.

Has any other elections department ever utilized a drag nun like this? I doubt it, but if I'm wrong, lemme know.

However, I have questions about why the Department of Elections decided to shoot footage of the photographer from the Western Addition and the foodie from the Bayview district not in their neighborhoods, but instead along the Embarcadero waterfront. Is there something wrong with showing those districts in such a video? I hope not and it would have been so cool to see the Western Addition and Bayview districts behind the featured voters.

Two important reminders. You can vote now either by mail or down at City Hall in the June 3 primary and of course on primary day. Also, I'm running for the Castro's District 8 seat on the Board of Supervisor and you should like my Facebook page and support my campaign.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How Many Sulzberger Women Wield Power at the NY Times?

As someone who holds one share in the Gray Lady, I read the annual proxy statements for many reasons including seeing who's on the paper's payroll from the extended Ochs-Sulzberger families. Rarely does a woman's name appear and if it does, it's on the business side of the New York Times and the 2014 proxy statement shows there are no Sulzberger women working on the editorial side.

(Michael Golden with his daughter Rachel at her September 2009, wedding in Vail, Colorado. Credit: Kent Meireis Photography.)

From the "Members of the Ochs-Sulzberger Family Employed by the Company During 2013" section, bolding added:

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. was employed as Chairman of the Company and Publisher of The New York Times. Michael Golden was employed as Vice Chairman. [...] 

Samuel Dolnick was employed as a staff reporter and deputy sports editor for The New York Times and was paid $122,761. James Dryfoos was employed as a program director in business intelligence and advertising systems and was paid $175,503. Michael Greenspon, who was employed as general manager, news services division and general manager, news services and international, was paid $360,933 and received time-vested restricted stock units with a grant date fair value of $34,827. 

Rachel G. Kirscht was employed as a manager in marketing and was paid $79,635. David Perpich, who was employed as vice president, product management and general manager, new digital products, was paid $287,926 and received time-vested restricted stock units with a grant date fair value of $23,950. Arthur Gregg Sulzberger was employed as an assistant editor for The New York Times and was paid $118,285. 

I count eight family members, seven of whom are men and one woman. Interesting that the sole women here, Rachel G. Kirscht, was the lowest paid of the relatives. So how are all these folks related?

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., Michael Golden and Carolyn D. Greenspon’s mother are cousins. Samuel Dolnick is the son of Michael Golden’s sister. James Dryfoos and Michael Greenspon are each the son of a cousin of Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and Michael Golden, and Michael Greenspon is Carolyn D. Greenspon’s brother. Rachel G. Kirscht is Michael Golden’s daughter. David Perpich is the son of Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.’s sister and Arthur Gregg Sulzberger is Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.’s son. 

The New York Times Company's board directors includes one female member of the Sulzberger family, Carolyn D. Greenspon, who's been on the board since 2010.

With so much controversy swirling over the sacking last Wednesday of former executive editor Jill Abramson and a tremendous amount of scrutiny focused on this venerable institution, now is a good time to look at the number of Sulzberger women in positions of power at the paper and it's one.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sup. Campos Can't Open Gay Homeless Shelter in 4-Years

Here's what I really don't understand about this candidate for California's assembly district 17.

Supervisor David Campos is a Harvard law school graduate, has spent more than a decade at City Hall as a public servant in the City Attorney's office, was on the police commission, is a Member of the Board, sits on various transportation committees and was also elected to the Democratic County Central Committee.

Sounds like he's a smarty-pants, right? At least to me and I would expect him to know his way around the various public agencies for housing and buildings and permits, etc, and how and where to apply pressure to get a shelter in his district opened and serving the needs of homeless LGBT people.

More than four years ago, plans began to make 24 beds available at a facility on South Van Ness Avenue in his district. Seth Hemmelgarn of the Bay Area Reporter recently wrote an update on the status of the shelter and it sure seems like this matter will drag on and on and on:

Gay Supervisor David Campos, a key backer of the shelter, said in an interview Monday that the objective is to open the shelter space this fall, and he's "cautiously optimistic" that goal will be reached.

"We've had a number of meetings in my office with various players to make sure we're moving things as quickly as we can," said Campos.

According to estimates from Swinerton Builders, the project managers working pro bono with Dolores Street on the project, construction will take four to five months to complete. 

However, as Sandra Kim, Swinerton's proposal manager noted, construction can't begin until the permits have been issued. Getting those approvals could take several weeks, if not months.

Practically everyone involved in the shelter keeps citing permits needing to be issued and if Campos has rallied his troops to pressure City agencies to finally get off the dime in the past year, he's sure kept that news quiet. Heck, forget about his troops. He's got three paid staffers who should be nudging the agencies daily and keeping the community informed on (lack of) progress.

Should he possess a plan and timeline regarding what he and his office will do between now and November's election, let's see it. That might make me consider voting for him in June's primary.

One argument made to elect Campos to the assembly is that we need a gay politician at the table in Sacramento advocating for LGBT people and our needs and that person is Campos. Oh, yeah?

Considering his lackadaisical approach to this shelter, and how the only updates we ever get are either when the BAR writes about them or I get news from the nonprofit that would operate the shelter.

I'm no fan of Supervisor David Chiu's and certainly do not view him as progressive, the label Campos so proudly wears, but just because I'm not voting for Chiu is no reason to turn a blind eyes to four-years of Campos unable to move the shelter from the planning stages to reality.

If he can't deliver on activating City agencies in such a long period for such a relatively small project, I don't believe Campos will do any better moving State agencies if he's elected to Sacramento.

Why Muni Omitted Surnames of Safe Driver Honorees from Ads

Have you noticed the ads inside Muni buses and streets cars for their "Saluting the 174 Safe Driver Honorees of 2013"? Yeah, didn't think so since you're probably reading your electronic device or looking out the window for your stop. But they caught my eye since the surnames of all the drivers are omitted.

I queried San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Paul Rose about the ad campaign, omitted last names and associated costs. He says:

As a general rule, the SFMTA avoids fully identifying frontline personnel in its external marketing. This is done primarily for confidentiality and safety purposes. Similarly, it has been a long-standing organizational policy to not require Muni operators to wear name tags. This policy is in line with public transit agencies throughout the country and internationally. Though public servants, many operators wish to maintain their privacy and not identify themselves using their full name.
All Muni operators can be identified through a “cap number” arm patch worn on the right sleeve of their uniform should a member of the public wish to commend or report issues relating to a particular Muni driver. Our customers can also report operator issues by simply dialing 311 and providing the date, route and time of day they were riding.
We are extremely proud of our 2013 Safe Driver awardees and chose to honor them this year with special-length car cards. The two 39’’ x 11’’ car cards were created in-house and photographed by the SFMTA photographer. Five-hundred cards were produced of each of the two versions for a total printing cost of $2072. The car cards are posted on Muni vehicles at no cost as part of the SFMTA’s agreement with its vendor, Titan.
Okay, a lot more info than what I asked for and I've never noticed the lack of ID tags on Muni drivers, but I sure have been aware of how other public servants such as police officers and fire fighters have their full names on their badges or name tags. I bet some of them would like to have their privacy protected but give up that privilege in exchange for a City job.

Muni spokesman Paul Rose did me a favor explaining how to ID an operator via a cap number. My experiences lately with Muni drivers have been normal, in that I have to motion for them to lower the front-end so I can load my bike onto the rack and most of them say "you're welcome" when I board and thank them.

I have bigger issues with SF MTA management and loathe the, um, free ride they're giving Google buses and other luxury coaches clogging our dense streets, how those vehicles too often block Muni stops and the ridiculously low fee of charging those Big Tech buses a dollar a day for using City infrastructure.

That is, if the experimental plan with the $1 fee is ever implemented. We're still waiting for legal challenges to sort themselves out and City Hall power-brokers to devise a way better fee schedule for the tech giants, who aren't in the poor house.

Every day I can get around the city with my bike and not have to ride Muni is a good day.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Obama's AIDS Czar to Hold 'Listening Sessions': Time-Wasters

For the life of me, I can't think of any serious accomplishments from this office taking up space at the White House. I've kvetched about their lame blog rarely having something new or substantive to report.

There was a time when Dr. Grant Colfax from the San Francisco Department of Public Health's AIDS Office was the Obama AIDS Czar, and he's now gone and other than issue reassurances about the rollout for the Affordable Care Act and concerns of people living with HIV. Can't recall any lasting impact he had on federal policy, can you?

(Photo credit: The White House.)

In March, Obama replaced him with Douglas M. Brooks, pictured left, an openly-identified person with AIDS from Boston with a history of service on federal HIV advisory panels and his appointment generated a handful of stories in Massachusetts and statements from health advocates. In other words, a big yawn.

In keeping with Washington's long tradition of making announcements on a Friday that you want to escape widespread attention, the Obama administration today shared word that Brooks will hold "listening sessions" and I call bullshit on this, labeling the sessions nothing but time-wasters and useless spin. Expect local HIV nonprofits to put on dog-and-pony shows when Brooks comes to town.

Speaking of spin, soon after Brooks took over the White House rounded up gushing quotes from AIDS Inc groups that receive federal funds and are not known for criticizing the hand that feeds their salaries and keeps them in business.

If ONAP no longer existed, would it have an impact on the lives and healthcare access of people with AIDS or would folks notice?

From the Obama administration:

The White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) announced that it will host a series of regional listening sessions this summer on the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). 

Mr. Douglas Brooks, ONAP’s newly appointed Director, will lead the listening sessions, which will be part of a visit to each community that will include site visits to organizations engaged in the community’s efforts to improve outcomes along the HIV Care Continuum. 

The purpose of the listening sessions is to better understand local and state level efforts related to the implementation of the NHAS, including discussion about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is helping advance the Strategy. [...]

The first of these listening sessions will be held in Jackson, Mississippi on Thursday, May 29, 2014 from 2:30 PM-4:30 PM at the University of Mississippi Medical Center Conference Center.
Did Chad Griffin Pen a Letter Promoting 'Forcing the Spring'?

Another public records request has produced more emails from the San Francisco City Attorney's office.

Author Jo Becker on March 28 wrote to deputy city attorney Therese Stewart and the email subject line was "The letter from chad [sic] is going out today", but there is no text included and no attachment. We can assume she is referring to Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin, the star of her controversial book "Forcing the Spring".

Stewart replied with a word of thanks and then Becker emailed back saying, "THANK YOU, For everything. Big hug, Jo".

Well, considering how Dennis Herrera and his staff including Stewart were knocking themselves on City time to conduct public relations for Becker and host a reception for her at City Hall, yes, the New York Times reporter had lots of reasons to shout her thanks.

There are no emails with the contact of Griffin's letter unfortunately. Was it to promote the book and did it circulate from HRC's press office?

We don't know and the City Attorney's office has made it clear to me they won't answer my followup questions related to all this, because they are adhering strictly to public records laws which do not require them to address questions.

However, a previously unreleased email from Stewart, who herself lobbied Judge Vaughn Walker to appear at the City Attorney's photo-op for Becker on May 1st (at Becker's request), shows that Dennis Herrera personally spoke with Walker about the reception presumably to be a media draw with his presence.

If anyone knows what Griffin said in that March 28 letter that so excited Stewart and Becker, please clue me in.

Previous posts in my effort to hold the City Attorney accountable for his role in using City infrastructure and City employees' time to promote Jo Becker's book "Forcing the Spring" and related concerns are here and here and here and here and here and here and here.
Tammy Baldwin & Gay Inc Raising $$ for 'Carpetbagger' Sean Eldridge

It's business as usual for the elites of Gay Inc in Washington. They're turning out on May 19 for a pricey fundraiser for Sean Eldridge, the husband of Chris Hughes who has an estimated $700 million sitting in the bank, a young man with a thin political resume (and that's putting it mildly).

Lack of experience and the charge of carpetbagging are not deterring the Victory Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, longtime lesbian power-broker Hilary Rosen, lobbyists Steven Elmendorf and Robert Raben, and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin from organizing and hosting a fundraiser for him.

Why a fellow whose husband is bankrolling his campaign to buy a seat in the House of Representatives needs to be asked.

It's part of the "cost" of doing business in DC. You write a check for my guy, I'll write a check for yours, basically just laundering funds, avoiding limits, and building an astroturf sense of broader support. Contributors want to maintain access to the Hughes and Eldridge checkbooks and The New Republic, not to mention a potential Member of Congress. In many ways it's a can't lose situation for everyone, except ordinary gays and the constituents of the district Eldridge hopes to represent. 

The Associated Press recently covered the race for New York's 19th Congressional District and broached the subject of carpetbagging, which must be a strong concern of longtime locals:

The moves have attracted plenty of attention to the 27-year-old candidate, whose husband is Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. They’ve also stirred partisan accusations that he’s a carpetbagger trying to buy votes in the closely watched race. One Republican campaign email even includes a cartoon of Richie Rich. 

“How could somebody with virtually no experience and absolutely no ties to the district — how can it be that this guy is the candidate for the Democratic Party?” asked the district’s two-term Republican incumbent Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook. “Can there be any other explanation? Any other explanation at all, except for money?”  [...]

Eldridge worked for Freedom to Marry during the successful push for same-sex marriage in New York in 2011. He has advocated for campaign finance reform and served on the boards of the local Planned Parenthood and the Poughkeepsie-based environmental group Scenic Hudson.

I guess when you have access to hundreds of millions of dollars, you don't think about starting a political career at the local or county level because being among the 1% entitles you to national office, to your mind. Needless to say, along with the district voters and Gay Inc folks I'll be curious to see the debates between Gibson and his challenger.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

HRC's Partner, Equality Alabama, Lacks Black LGBT People

The Human Rights Campaign recently announced a new public relations effort in three Southern states, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi, called Project One America and I checked out some aspects of it and find it to be nothing more than the group putting forward spin and remarkably little substance.

Have they built a specific program for each state? Their page for the Magnolia State is vague:

Human Rights Campaign fights for LGBT equality in Mississippi alongside state and local groups and lawmakers. In an unprecedented effort to bring equality to Mississippi, HRC has just announced Project One America [...]

For the Yellowhammer State, the page claims:

Human Rights Campaign fights for LGBT equality in Alabama alongside state and local groups and lawmakers. In an unprecedented effort to bring equality to Alabama, HRC has just announced Project One America [...]

Guess what their page says for the Natural State:

Human Rights Campaign fights for LGBT equality in Arkansas alongside state and local groups and lawmakers. In an unprecedented effort to bring equality to Arkansas, HRC has announced Project One America [...]

If anyone knows precisely what HRC will actually do at the state level that is tailored specifically to each state, heck, how about a road map for the entire project, please clue me in. Details are seriously lacking from the group.

There is a professionally produced video component to the program and I heartily give HRC credit for its diverse racial mix of folks featured, there are hefty and slender LGBT people, and the optimism of the speakers is beautiful to experience.

However, not one person's surname is included. Everyone is identified only by the first name. There are no images of LGBT Southerners engaged in displays of affection. No smooching or kissing even among the long-term lesbian couples, even in their own homes or on their front porches.

Why are the surnames omitted and why couldn't HRC include people warmly embracing each other?

Let's now turn to a Southerner with a last name offering insight about HRC's program. Michael Hansen is a gay male leader and recently launched the One Alabama site and he sheds much light on a few issues in an open letter Chad Griffin, whom Jo Becker deigned as the gay Rosa Parks in her "Forcing the Spring" book. Hansen opines:

I recently served on the board of the statewide organization Equality Alabama for a year. I resigned in March due to irreconcilable differences between myself and the [all white male] executive officers on issues of race, gender, poverty, privilege and perception. [...] I became distraught this year, when it was clear the organization’s newly elected executive officers weren’t receptive to debate and conversation about power, privilege and diversity (in both leadership and programs).

[I hope] your staff will focus on grassroots organizing and storytelling, and not on exclusive fundraisers, galas and other events that will alienate the great many Alabamians who are transgender, low-income, minorities, immigrants and queer.

(Photo credit: Michael Hansen.)

Who helped lay the groundwork for the HRC effort in Alabama? Hansen's caption for the photo provides an answer:

In December 2013, HRC staff came to Birmingham to talk about strategy and long-term goals with Equality Alabama’s board of directors and Rep. Patricia Todd. HRC’s staff are good folks who know what they’re doing. I hope they see all the white faces in this picture and see it as a call to bring more diversity to the table.

Over at the About Us page of Equality Alabama is where I found this photo of the board, which has not diversified racially since that HRC dinner in December.

If Southern LGBT people in the three states targeted by HRC expect true change in their lives as gays, they should a backup plan just in case the HRC Project One America and its promise to "dramatically expand" just doesn't work out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

SF Taxpayer Tab for Herrera's Foto-op at Sundance Film Festival?

Let's give the San Francisco City Attorney credit for not only turning his office into Jo Becker's boutique public relations firm recently to promote her book "Forcing the Spring", on the taxpayers' time and dime, but for also using the world premiere of a lame and poorly-reviewed documentary, "8, The Mormon Proposition", to raise his profile among potential donors from the movie world for his future political campaigns.

(Credit: Clayton Chase, Getting Images.)

The documentary debuted at the January 2010 Sundance Film Festival in Utah and there was absolutely no City business being conducted there, but that didn't stop Dennis Herrera, center, from jetting to the event to pose with former Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese and Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights for this photo-op.

We, the taxpayers of San Francisco, footed the tab for Herrera's Sundance junket.

My public records request to the City Attorney brought back a document revealing Herrera stuck us taxpayers with a bill of $924 for lodging, taxi service and meals.

We also footed his airplane travel costs which came to $2,632, and adding that to the other expenses totals up to $3,556, just so Herrera could schmooze at the Sundance Film Festival.

On his way back to San Francisco, he flew first class but at least on his way to Utah rode in economy class.

Last year, I investigated (and piqued the interest of local media outlets) the cost of Herrera traveling to Washington with seven of his staffers, including publicist Matt Dorsey, when the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Prop 8 Perry case. You'll recall that Herrera was not required nor needed at the hearing since the main litigants, Ted Olson and David Boies, were handling those chores.

Herrera and his staff's junket to DC cost San Francisco taxpayers $17,000. He sure likes traveling to help his career and allowing us to pay his expenses.

You could make the argument that with the Perry arguments, Olson and Boies could have taken sick or suffered amnesia and Herrera might have been needed to save the day before the nine high court justices, and all of his staffers would be ready to assist him in a horrible worst case scenario (sure), but what excuse does Herrera have for making taxpayers underwrite his Sundance photo-op?

It's not too late for him to do an honorable act and repay the City the $3,556 he charged us in order to be at the 2010 film festival.

All of Chad Griffin's Emails Released by SF City Attorney

Something just doesn't smell right that there are so few emails in this matter. My public records request to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera was for any and all correspondence between anyone in his office and Chad Griffin, a man who wears several gay hats, from the start of 2008 through last week.

In 2008, Herrera hired Griffin to provide political and fundraising advice to his independent state committee against Prop 8 and from 2009 the City was a litigant with Griffin's American Foundation for Equal Rights in the Perry case. I would have expected dozens, if not hundreds, of emails flew back and forth between Griffin and the City Attorney's office over the years about media, legal and political strategizing, but my assumption was incorrect.

Around a dozen emails from Griffin were released and include some like this, with simple notes from him in July 2009.

Or online introductions between deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart and a staff attorney at Ted Olson's law firm.

In May 2010, Stewart wrote to Griffin about the film he executive produced, "Outrageous", about the outing campaigns against closeted homosexuals with anti-gay agendas and the ex-gay movement's hypocrisy.

The most contentious exchange between Griffin and the City Attorney's office, in the emails released, took place in early December 2010 over a strategic time proposal, as outlined in this pushy email from Griffin trying to arrange a conference call.

Same day, a few moments later, Stewart replied she had no interest in the conference call Griffin wanted to happen.

Undeterred, a minute later Griffin said he would circulate a number to dial into for the call along with a draft letter to be submitted to the court.

I suspect Griffin and Stewart got on the phone and tried to resolve their differences, to no avail, and he next emailed her to say they would accommodate Herrera's participation in the conference call and hoped she would join it.

The final email from Griffin of what was released was in early February 2011 and he says about some positive development, "Thank god we are smart negotiators!"

My hunch is that there were lots of other emails exchanged between these parties, but that the City Attorney and his staff used private addies for those discussions. One thing that keeps me amazed as more public records are released, is that there has not been a single email to or from Herrera himself. As I've said previously, he's learned well from Willie Brown to not write a damn thing down himself so there is no email trail to follow.

Previous posts in my effort to hold the City Attorney accountable for his role in using City infrastructure and City employees' time to promote Jo Becker's book "Forcing the Spring" and related concerns are here and here and here and here and here and here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

BART Issues List of Officer-Involved Shooting Deaths Since 1972

After completing my project of getting all the names of officer-involved shooting fatalities from the San Francisco Police Department since they began keeping such records in 1939 and posting the names on my blog, there was another agency from which I wanted similar records.

I filed a public records request with the Bay Area Rapid Transit authorities for their list of such killings since the BART system began services on September 11, 1972, and today they provided me with the responsive records.

Here's the info on when the victims died, their names and race:

11/15/1992: James Hall, Black Male Adult
05/28/2001: Bruce Seward, Black Male Adult
01/01/2009: Oscar Grant, Black Male Adult
02/19/2009: Christopher Gonzales, Hispanic Male Adult
07/05/2011: Charles Hill, White Male Adult
01/21/2014: Tommy Smith, White Male Adult

A total of six BART police officer-involved shooting deaths, three of them were black men, two white men and one Hispanic man.

Let's pray there are no more names ever added to this list.

'Rainbow-Washing' Larry Kramer's Ire at the NY Times by Frank Bruni

We need a new term to describe the act of ignoring or omitting crucial queer history, so I'm coining the term 'rainbow-washing' for this purpose. The impetus for this stems from the April 27 column by out gay New York Times writer Frank Bruni, about legendary author and activist Larry Kramer and the approaching debut of HBO's version of "The Normal Heart".

(The March 25, 1987, photo and caption that ran in the Gray Lady about the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power's first action, when the paper only referred to gays as homosexuals.)

Bruni discusses gay marriage advances, the founding of ACT UP, the AIDS epidemic and other issues before writing this:

But any serious discussion of credit has to travel back many decades, to scores of pioneers who fought for the baseline recognition of gay and lesbian people that was a prerequisite for “I do.” It has to encompass Milk, Urvashi Vaid and, yes, Kramer, whose association chiefly with AIDS activism — with getting doctors, drug companies, politicians and gay men to wake the hell up — shortchanges his broader cause and full effect. 

He understood as well as anybody else did that for Americans in the 1980s to care about AIDS, they had to care about homosexuals, and to care about homosexuals, they had to realize how many they knew and loved. He appreciated the need for visibility, from which so much subsequent progress on so many other fronts flowed.

No mention of Larry's tireless and ceaseless attacks on the New York Times for various crimes against LGBT people and failure to accurately report on AIDS by Bruni. If all you knew about Larry's gay and AIDS activism was what Bruni says, you'd have a gaping hole in your knowledge. That visibility Bruni writes about? We sure as hell didn't get from the Times.

Maybe he should reread what former Times theater critic Frank Rich wrote when "The Normal Heart" premiered at the Public Theater, and be reminded of how pervasive Larry's anger was at the paper:

Mr. Kramer has few good words to say about Mayor Koch, various prominent medical organizations, The New York Times or, for that matter, most of the leadership of an unnamed organization apparently patterned after the Gay Men's Health Crisis.

Let's also recall what Douglas Crimp and Adam Rolston wrote in their 1990 book "AIDS Demo Graphics":

A book will one day be written about the New York Times's continuous failure to report the AIDS crisis accurately -- if at all. It will no doubt begin with the infamous comparison noticed by Larry Kramer:

• During the first 19 months of the AIDS epidemic (by the end of which time there had been 891 reported cases), the Times carried seven articles about it, none of them on the front page.

• During the three months of the Tylenol scare in 1982 (seven cases), the Times carried fifty-four articles about it, four of them on the front pag

To ignore all this and so much more about the decades of neglect and harm from either no coverage or biased reporting, Bruni does a disservice to the man he praises and the historical record which cannot be erased through rainbow-washing.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Castro's Now Voyager Travel Agency to be Evicted on June 16 

The casualties in San Francisco rampant and avaricious gentrification continues to grow. I'm not opposed to change and even if I were, there's not much to be done to stop it but what I'm against is the obscene lack of smart-growth planning that doesn't displace the working class and poor.

(A tribute to Jonathan Klein in the window of the soon-to-be-gone business on 18th Street. Credit: Peter Greene.)

My friend Peter Greene emailed me this week with the sad news that his longtime travel agency based in the Castro district will be evicted in a few short weeks.

(Peter at the travel agency last year. Credit: Bryan Goebel, KQED.)

You may recall that Peter, who is a long-term AIDS survivor, was featured in a depressing KQED story last October about the displacement of gay men living with HIV from the Castro and other parts of the city. Peter in his email said:

The Now Voyager travel agency, a 30 years iconic LGBT and straight friendly business in the Castro, has been given a 60 day eviction notice that arrived on April 15, and the clock's been ticking down since. The commercial space we're now in is to be repossessed on June 16.   

We were not even given a market value lease option. Yes, it's scary but nobody seems safe in this frenzied gold rush happening all over the city.   

I'm still reeling from the suicide of the previous owner of my good friend and beloved community activist Jonathan Klein a year ago.

I'm at the helm of the agency and determined to keep the vision alive that Jonathan and I started over three decades ago.  

I was barely 30 years old when we started Now Voyager and it's important for me to thank all the many wonderful people who have passed through the doors of the office on 18th and Eureka Streets, and I hope for their continued support in whatever place or form the business reemerges as after the eviction. 

I am also very committed to help change the laws that fuel the horrible epidemic of San Francisco evictions impacting too many people who are poor, disabled and elderly.

Once word spread last year about Jonathan jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge and ending his life, his survivors including Peter, who shared this image with me, and companion Tom Orr created a memorial for him at Castro and 18th Streets. The "Eviction = Death" sign generated much-needed community conversation about the housing changes taking place and Jonathan's suicide became an opportunity for long-term AIDS survivors and all members of the LGBT communities to discuss our mental health challenges.

Let's wish Peter all the best as he faces the impending eviction of Now Voyager.