Monday, May 25, 2015

NYT: Gay Irish Hero Panti Bliss Omitted, HRC & Adams Quoted

Here's a letter I'm circulating to my various global LGBT contacts, after the stunning victory over the past few days across the Republic of Ireland.

I'm calling b.s. and heaping shame on the Gray Lady, the New York Times, for ignoring and omitting the unquestionable and crucial role Panti Bliss, alias Rory O'Neill, a drag artiste of many talents, in legalizing gay marriage in Ireland.

Bliss kick-started the referendum a few years back, decrying anti-gay oppression and taking on the Catholic church and conservative leaders. She also operates a gay bar in Dublin, is openly HIV positive and was a dominant figure in mainstream and various social media platforms in Ireland and elsewhere. Pretty much everywhere except the Times. Here's my letter:

Dear Global Friends,

I join with you all celebrating the fantastic separation of church and state in Ireland this weekend, with the Irish electorate voting 62 percent yes for gay marriages. We lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people were on the ballot and won, and we couldn't have done without many straight allies.

Powerful media outlets such as the New York Times must update their contact lists for global gay activists and groups. It shames me that the USA's most influential paper, and friend of the gays, couldn't find any LGBT activists beyond America's borders to comment on the importance of the Irish vote to folks abroad.

Sunday's Times coverage mentioned gay advocates around the world and their reaction, and the only group quoted was the Human Rights Campaign, an American organization known more for glitzy dinners and sucking up to the Democratic Party than anything to do with international LGBT issues.

No mention of Panti Bliss. Same goes for Monday's coverage which included a photo of her and Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams, enjoying the celebration at Dublin Castle on Saturday after the votes were counted.

The Times has given more space to Adams, a straight ally, and the HRC group, which is always hogging media attention that rightfully belongs to others who do actual and effective organizing, than to Panti Bliss. Some things never change.

As the world gives credit to where it is due, at the high-heeled feet of Panti Bliss, and all the LGBT and allied Irish voters for this major leap forward for social justice and so much more, I hold out hope that the New York Times will eventually profile Panti Bliss and her beautiful courage.

Queer cheers,

Joyous 'Carmina Burana' From SF Symphony Chorus

The Sunday, May 17, evening concert at Davies Hall by the San Francisco Symphony Chorus under the superb direction of conductor Ragnar Bohlin was like a glass both half empty and half full. Let me explain.

Starting with Igor Stravinsky's "Mass", which as performed sounded more like a sketch more than a complete work and didn't impress this listener, the first half of the concert was pleasant enough filler and also included a short choral work by Francis Poulenc. The chorus sounded fine, but in my section of the audience we were anxious to get to the intermission and section half of the evening.

The main attraction was Carl Orff's classic lustful and celebratory "Carmina Burana" and the singers and musicians performed with just the right amount of gusto to excite my ears, from start to finish.

When the drummers banged their instruments, a rich and vibrant sound stirred me. Many sections were sung with so much glee and verve by the symphony's chorus and the Pacific Boychoir, I wanted to join them in the singing and merry-making. Maybe the programmers will consider a sing-along "Carmina Burana" performance in the future. That would surely be a sell-out.

Soloists soprano Joanna Taber, tenor Jonathan Thomas and baritone Michael Taylor stood out with their remarkable vocal talents which blended so well with the hundred-plus choral members' joyous delivery.

Each piece of the work had its moment of glory and all added up to a marvelous performance that raised the roof of the hall. Well-earned rousing applause erupted at the conclusion, with the audience giving a much-deserved standing ovation to the artists on-stage. A joyous concert we will long remember.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Trans Flag Flies at Half-Mast to Mourn LGBT Teen Suicide

Tragedy strikes an individual member of our queer community. Another LGBT teenager has taken his own life. Some facts from the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News:

"On Monday, May 18, San Diego transgender teen Kyler Prescott died by suicide. He was 14-years-old. [...] and the world will never know him as an artist or an animal rights activist or an accomplished pianist. But one thing is for sure, his death will bring awareness to people and their need for education on issues that reach beyond the physical aspect of growing up and into the hearts of children and their coping spirits."

An indoor memorial was held for Kyler over the weekend and the rainbow flag that usually flies high in a public plaza in the heart of the gay section of the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, was lowered in his remembrance. People also gathered at the flagpole for an outdoor candlelight service, according to this FB page created by Kyler's survivors. The Hillcrest business group that maintains the flagpole has a FB page that explains why the rainbow flag was replaced with the transgender flag for Kyler.

Dear Kyler, rest in peace. You died way too young.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

SF Mayor Lee: No Budget Files on US Mayors Confab

Like magic, nominally independent nonprofit committees spring up to assist Mayor Ed Lee and his tech titan buddies put out the City's red carpet for opulent photo-ops for themselves and at our expense. Sure, the mayor is claiming no records about the City's allocations for the upcoming U.S. Conference of Mayors, wink wink, but rest assured much time on the City's clock and municipal monies are being used for the event.

Earlier this week, after filing my request, I learned these deets from Emily Green of the SF Chronicle:

"The celebration [of City Hall's 100th anniversary]will coincide with the city’s hosting the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting. The celebration and lights are being paid for with $2.2 million in private dollars and $1.8 million in public funds."

Imagine that, close to two-million buck in public funds and the mayors has no budgetary records about it. If you believe in Santa Claus, you'll accept at face value the contention that the mayor's office also has no contact for the nonprofit outfit organizing the conference next month. The response from the mayor's sunshine liaison, which arrived yesterday:

"This letter responds to your Public Records Request sent on May 12 and your May 20 email clarifying your request, in which you request the following documents for the time period of January 1, 2014 through May 11, 2015:

"1. Any and all documents regarding budget allocations and expenses from the Mayor’s Office for the US Conference of Mayors in San Francisco.

"2. Documents regarding or reflecting all costs the City is ensuing for hosting the US Conference of Mayors in San Francisco.

"Response: The Mayor’s Office does not have any documents responsive to your request. Please note, the US Conference of Mayors San Francisco Host Committee is fundraising for and responsible for costs associated with hosting the US Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in San Francisco this June.

"I don’t have a contact for the US Conference of Mayors San Francisco Host Committee at this time, but I will obtain a contact if you’re interested."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

3 Events, Same Day/Time, Inept Organizers Killed the Mission

When I read legacy or social media comments about "saving" the Mission district of San Francisco, I pay no heed to the writer or person quoted. The bohemian Mission that many believe can be saved was lost more than a decade ago and the efforts to retain vestiges of what once an affordable and very artsy and Latino neighborhood, are not to be taken seriously. Let's go over four event today that back up my point.

First up, the coordinators of Plaza 16, San Francisco resident Andy Blue and Maria Zamudio, who lives in the East Bay and is a paid community organizer with Causa Justa, held their regular monthly meeting tonight, May 21 at 6 pm at St. John's Episcopal Church in the Mission. After two-years of existence, here is what Blue and Zamudio promised for tonight, the usual vagueness and no specific agenda:

"We are all City planners! The monthly Plaza 16 meetings at St. John’s Church are now focused on our community process to create a vision and plan for development at 16th and Mission that truly serves the needs of the existing community. This is exciting work and we need your contributions."

If after dozens of large and small meetings, some not open to all members of the Mission and controlled by the nonprofit mafia, this group does not have a vision and plan then there is nil reason to waste time at their meetings. Forget about influencing City policy or stopping developers from this gang that can't organize for shit. Occasional big rallies don't stop developers or Mayor Ed Lee and his cronies.

Second, also tonight and at the same time and promoted by Plaza 16, was this event at L's Cafe in the Mission:

"Plaza 16 joined forces with Our Mission No Eviction, Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, ACCE, Eviction Free San Francisco, Poor Magazine, and other groups to organize the Mission Takes City Hall action on May 8. This group has its second follow up meeting this Thursday."

There is a finite number of folks who can make it to meetings and it's shameful that both meetings were at held simultaneously at different locations. Dividing and diluting the interest of regular folks and forcing them to choose one or the other meeting is a sign of terrible weak organizing and planning.

Third, would you believe there was a third event tonight? Guess the time. From the Plaza 16 Facebook page:

"May 21st: Steps of St. Peter’s Catholic Church (on Alabama St and 24th St) 
"6PM - 8PM
"Thousands of Working Families Displaced from the Mission and San Francisco; 
Latino Catholics Launch a Tenant Education Campaign. Prayer March in the heart of the Mission District to lift up the crisis faced by hundreds of families being pushed out of their homes, and to ask for a stop to Evictions and a Moratorium on Building of Luxury Apartments: We Need to Protect and Create Affordable Homes for Families."

If all the communication technology we have at our fingertips and in our palms are not currently used by the dozens of Mission Inc groups and community "organizers" to coordinate events and plan for maximum impact of actions, that don't all occur on the same day and time, I don't hold out hope that the leaders will gain the brains to overcome their ineptness.

Oh, but there is a fourth event you need to know about, again promoted by the Plaza 16 Facebook page for this event at 3 pm today in the Bayview district pulled together by the Alliance Californians for Community Empowerment:

"In the wake of the May 8th City Hall Shut down by Mission groups, Bayview residents facing immediate displacement, ACCE members, will be demanding to ensure that their neighborhood is included in a moratorium on market rate housing construction until local housing conditions, affordability, and preservation of existing African American community are addressed."

Just like the three 6 pm meetings tonight, this Bayview afternoon action is about the sure-to-fail moratorium on housing development in the Mission from Supervisor David Campos in same fashion.

So, we have Mission Inc leaders unable and unwilling to better coordinate events and actions, all eggs are placed in the Campos moratorium basket and the Mission will witness more market rate and luxury housing construction, and additional evictions. The old Mission is dead. Get used to it and part of the blame can be laid at the doorstep of Mission Inc.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Zero New Clients at Homeless Center Last Week of April

The latest stats and demographic data about clients entering San Francisco's Navigation Center for the homeless, referred to City workers as the dashboard, from the Office of Mayor Ed Lee released in response to my public records request reveals curious numbers.

Emails from Kyle Patterson, the numbers-cruncher from the Office of the City Controller, state the dashboard during the last week of April recorded zero new clients.

The first week of May's dashboard says only four new clients have been admitted to the Navigation Center.

Demographic numbers show that since the homeless center opened in late March, a total of sixty-three individuals have been clients and as of May 10 there were forty-four active clients.

The largest ethnic category shows 35% are white, 24% black, 19% Latino, 8% Native Americans, 3% Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, 2 % Asian and 10% other.

Asked if they identify as LGBTQ, 79% said no and 21% replied yes. There are 67% male clients, 27% female, 5% male to female transgenders and 2% female to male transgenders.

A lotta percentages for a relatively small group of homeless folks. Can Mayor Lee and his backer spin these numbers as a success in addressing the needs of homeless people on the streets, and getting them into the center or shelters or supportive housing or an affordable apartment?

The homeless center is located on Mission Street near 16th.

Airbnb's May 26 SF Pride Party: Zap Time?

While political leaders at City Hall reckon with myriad controversies about Airbnb not paying enough local taxes, enforcement of weak existing rules for the tech giant regarding private housing stock available for short term rentals, evidence that the company adds to the housing crisis because of rental stock removed from the reach of local low income and long-term residents, I received an invitation today to take advantage of Airbnb's services. Nice of SF Pride and Airbnb to ask me to a party but, no thanks.

In 2014, SF Pride sowed divisiveness when it accepted a $100,000 donation from Airbnb without any public debate allowed first. It's my hope that there is zap or picket of this event on Tuesday, May 26th.

For longtime San Francisco residents such as Mike and myself, we know the City cannot be "saved" as many Mission housing activists have been demanding. We can only hope to salvage vestiges of what existed before the Tech Boom disfigured the Mission, and fight like hell to keep low and moderate income folks in their homes.

I'm no longer attending SF Pride board or membership meetings because there is so little impact I or other members can have, and when the actual parade and weekend celebration roll around the events are so overwhelmed with corporate sponsorship or merchandising targeting LGBT dollars to expand their profits, or firms dominate legacy and social media coverage, while the parade is front-loaded with elected officials and law enforcement contingents. Not my idea of Queer Pride.

This Airbnb link is one additional reason I don't give my time and energy or support to SF Pride. Here's the invitation:

SF Pride is fast approaching, and thousands of visitors are looking for places to stay for the weekend. If you're lucky enough to live in the Bay Area, there's never been a better time to try Airbnb and #HostWithPride!

As the Official Alternative Accommodation partner for SF Pride, Airbnb invites you to be our guest and to learn about hosting! Join us at the #HostwithPride meetup in San Francisco, to hear from hosts in San Francisco, meet new people, and get your questions answered.

Where: Airbnb HQ, 888 Brannan Street
When: 5/26
Time: 6:30pm - 8:30pm

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Two 420 Compassionate Use Vapes Donated to Me

After chatting with my physician about using smokeable medical marijuana and my longstanding diminished respiratory functions in recent months, we agreed I would investigate using a vaporizer product as the best harm-reduction way of receiving 420 benefits. This person living with AIDS has need for herb.

Two months ago, I snailed-mailed a letter requesting a compassionate use vape to a dozen San Francisco medical marijuana dispensaries, explaining my medical condition and low budget. I also told lots of friends about this effort to see if a compassionate use program existed either at the clubs or through the manufacturers directly.

My thinking was that lots of pot heads have vapes they're not utilizing just sitting in a closet, so maybe there was an informal network that accepted donated vapes to pass along for compassionate use needs.

The Love Shack left vmail explaining they couldn't assist me and suggested I contact a nearby vape shop on Guerrero, one I had already visited asking if the shop had a compassionate program and they didn't.

My friend Elaine over the weekend gave me her never used battery-operated vape in a wooden case that I load with my fave 420 product, along with a recharger, glass stem for inhaling and brush for cleaning purposes.

I also heard from the Green Door on Howard Street and they agreed to give me a vape if I would visit their emporium. Yesterday, I did exactly that was given an already loaded vape pen with a price tag of $55 on it and thanked the young furry fella at the reception desk for the gift.

When I tried this vape with Mike looking on, I inhaled and watched little red lights flash at the tip then got a whiff of an unpleasant chemmy smell. Didn't like the taste of what I sucked in, but I'll try it again and know this will not become my method of 420 smoke delivery. I want control over that I put in my vape and a vape that is reusable.

I'll regift the vape pen to someone who'll appreciate it and put it to good use. Meanwhile, here's an idea for the billionaire dollar pot industry and vape manufacturers. Develop a patient assistance program (PAP) and better meet the needs of low and moderate income patients.

Vape products and my Write-In Petrelis for Mayor campaign card.

Recology's Hydrant Accident Wastes Water on SF Street

While looking out our front windows a bit before 10 am today, I saw a geyser of water gushing up high into the tall trees on the parklet area of the Saint Francis of Assisi Assisted Living Center up our block. Behind the thick plumes of thousands of gallons of precious water was the Recology truck half on the sidewalk. 

I ran outside with my camera and shot this video. Calls from others to 911 were made and it took more than ten, possibly fifteen, minutes before we saw San Francisco Fire Fighters show up to turn off the hydrant.

There is never enough water to waste and so many of my neighbors and passers-by expressed the same sentiment. What a shame in the middle of this horrible drought to see water going down the drain like this. By the way, today's episode is not the first time that hydrant has been busted by a truck. Here's my video:

Monday, May 18, 2015

SF HIV Rate Drops = No DPH Praise for Gays?

If the San Francisco Department of Public Health has officially and unequivocally saluted gay men in the past twenty-years for controlling the HIV plague, I didn't get the memo. Never mind the memo: where's the social marketing campaign not only praising gays for making AIDS a chronic, manageable disease for the vast majority of people living with HIV, but encouraging us to maintain healthy sexual behaviors?

I've seen this scenario too often, in which there is ample scientific evidence new HIV transmissions and infections are being averted and poz folks are living longer live, but DPH is simply incapable of saying a damn positive word or two about it. Such evidence is a mere footnote to continuing the sex-negative, stigmatizing programs.

Susan Philip, the director of STD prevention programs for the DPH, will present her "Responding to Increasing STDs in San Francisco" slide show tomorrow, Tuesday, May 19, at the health commission meeting at 101 Grove Street, starting at 4 pm.

The downward sloping red line of new HIV diagnoses should be a key element to a sex- and gay-positive social marketing campaign patting gays on the back and promoting sexual liaisons that are healthy and reducing HIV rates. Persuading DPH to finally underwrite such a campaign is as likely as Mayor Ed Lee failing to win reelection this November. Ain't gonna happen.

Too much institutional resources and many DPH staff and researchers are invested in always finding the negative downside, and to the healthcare workers there always are such things, about gay men and sexual activity and infections,

While DPH has long equated STD stats with HIV infections, their own evidence presented in the first slide showing a clear decline of HIV rates and this one with corresponding years presenting the gonorrhea rate for all persons as steady or stable. DPH is wrong to state STD rates equal HIV infections, but since their agenda is constant alarmism about all sexually transmitted infections much manipulation and cherry-picking of data is necessary for the DPH researchers.

A perfect example of the "there's never good news about gay men, sex, HIV and STDs" approach and propaganda of DPH. Sure, let's acknowledge that the condom code continues to not be part of HIV prevention for gays, but we also need the DPH to admit use of Truvada as a PrEP strategy is not only rising but it's at the same time as a steady reduction of HIV diagnoses. Nothing in the slides about those facts.

As a gay man living with AIDS who has survived and thrived through the plague years, and devoted much of adult life to stopping HIV and improving the wellness of gay men and engaged in activism that greatly expanded the budgets of government health agencies and nonprofit service organizations, I must again demand that these institutions with SF DPH in the lead must began putting out the praise and positive strokes toward the gay male community.

I'll say as much at the health commission on Tuesday.