Letters to the Editor

  • Wednesday August 16, 2006
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AIDS cases and money

The prospect that the number of AIDS cases in San Francisco continues to decline is indeed welcome ["Early '06 AIDS figures show decline," August 3]. This trend makes sense given the aggressive advocacy that has produced a well-funded system of health care for people with HIV and AIDS and the availability of effective antiretroviral medications to treat HIV infection. Both factors are working to keep people with AIDS healthy and to prevent people with HIV from progressing to an AIDS diagnosis.

Suggesting, however, that because AIDS deaths may be declining, funding for HIV/AIDS programs should shrink ignores an important reality ["Encouraging news on AIDS," Editorial, August 3] . New HIV infections are increasing the number of San Franciscans living with HIV (currently estimated at 14,000) by some 800 cases a year. Many of these newly infected people depend upon federally funded services to remain healthy. HIV/AIDS services must therefore have more funding – not less – to keep pace with continual growth in the epidemic. Meanwhile, the actions of the Bush administration and Congress have resulted in cuts to domestic HIV/AIDS programs – threatening even our ability to provide life-prolonging antiretroviral medications to low-income Americans infected with HIV.

When Congress finally reauthorizes the Ryan White CARE Act, which funds over $2 billion in medical and social support programs for people with HIV/AIDS, the new law will slap San Francisco with a huge cut to its federal HIV/AIDS funding. This cut could be as much as $10.7 million next year or as little as $8 million over a three-year period. Unless this cut is replaced from another source, or the current service delivery system is reorganized to be more efficient and improve patient outcomes, critical programs including housing, inpatient substance abuse – even food – will be cut.

HIV/AIDS service providers have an obligation to consider ways in which our system of HIV care can be made more cost-effective. But taking money out of this system threatens life-saving services for thousands of people who rely on them today and thousands more who are at risk of becoming infected in future years. In addition to increasing funding for HIV/AIDS care, it is imperative that we strengthen current efforts to prevent new cases of HIV from ever occurring in the first place.

Mark Cloutier, MPH, MPP

Executive Director

San Francisco AIDS Foundation

HRC's 'shoddy' performance

In a recent letter to the B.A.R. [Mailstrom, August 3] , Supervisor Tom Ammiano stated he was "very disappointed" that Les Natali had brought a lawsuit seeking an official withdrawal by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission of its preliminary findings that SF Badlands, an establishment owned by Mr. Natali, had engaged in racial discrimination. As counsel in that lawsuit, we are equally disappointed that Supervisor Ammiano, much of whose work we deeply admire, has penned such an ill informed missive.

Mr. Natali's lawsuit will in no way "weaken" the proper function of the Human Rights Commission, which, as Supervisor Ammiano states elsewhere in his letter, is to provide "mediation services" when an issue of discrimination arises between private parties. What the commission is neither competent nor legally empowered to do is issue "findings of discrimination" by a private party, as it attempted to do in the Natali matter. The commission has no authority or resources to conduct a proper investigation of allegations of discrimination. When the agency that does have those investigative resources, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, conducted a full and proper investigation, including the use of undercover operatives, it quite correctly found no evidence of any such discrimination on the part of Mr. Natali or SF Badlands.

That the commission issued its baseless "findings" against SF Badlands is particularly troubling because the commission had been previously advised by the San Francisco City Attorney's office that such action was legally inappropriate. Responsibility for the present lawsuit lies entirely with the commission, which was invited by Mr. Natali to retract its preliminary findings after the complainants in the Badlands matter withdrew their complaints. The commission unreasonably refused to do so. Following the filing of Mr. Natali's lawsuit, the commission quite correctly reversed its position 180 degrees and has now agreed that its findings are "no longer operative," thereby conceding that Mr. Natali's position in the lawsuit is indeed well founded.

The threat to civil rights enforcement posed by the Badlands matter arises not from Mr. Natali's lawsuit but from the commission's shoddy performance in dealing with this dispute. We believe that a prompt and satisfactory resolution of this lawsuit will assist the commission to do better in the future.

Dennis P. Riordan, Donald M. Horgan, Michael S. Romano

Counsel for Les Natali

HRC's 'interview' techniques

In response to Supervisor Tom Ammiano's letter expressing disappointment in Les Natali for suing the San Francisco Human Rights Commission for defamation and to letters published the previous week, it is apparent that Mr. Natali's argument that the HRC "findings" are illegitimate and that the "fact finding" process denied him due process is ignored.

I fully understand the exhaustion members of the community feel in regard to the Badlands dispute, and many probably wish Natali would allow the issue to fade away. Perhaps it would have been better if he had. However, this does not mean that the HRC procedures are fair or appropriate. Further, if the city is going to continue using HRC to investigate allegations of racism, then it should re-evaluate its procedures in order to ensure HRC comports with the basics in legal evidentiary procedures.

Both the ABC and the HRC interviewed me because I was a former employee of Mr. Natali's. I was not an employee at the time of the interview with the HRC, nor was there any consideration paid by Mr. Natali to me in order to induce my cooperation. Further, Mr. Natali did nothing to suggest how I should respond to questions.

The "interview" was nothing less than an interrogation. Not only did it start hours later than scheduled, but also I was asked questions in a sarcastic tone. When I gave my response to the questioner, she acted as if she did not believe me and would ask the same question again. Further, when I did not know the answer to a question (I worked for Mr. Natali for four years and could not recall the exact date on which some of our conversations occurred), rather than accept an honest answer, I was pressed. Attempting to induce a witness to answer questions to which he has no memory is derogatory to any sense of justice and is a corruption to the process of truth finding.

Lastly, during my interview, an attorney for Mr. Natali was present in the room (a man with whom I had no prior contact and who did not represent me). He was not allowed to object to the questions asked or object to the condescending manner in which they were posed. A basic rule is that officers of a court are not to belittle, harass, or berate a witness. Further, due process requires that the accused be allowed to rehabilitate a witness through cross-examination.

I am unfamiliar with the procedure followed with respect to other witnesses or if Mr. Natali was allowed to cross-examine his accusers (which at its essence is the foundation of our legal system – giving the accused an opportunity to test the veracity, honesty, and memory of those who oppose him). My understanding from comments made by his attorneys published previously in the B.A.R. is that he was not afforded such an opportunity.

If the city feels Mr. Natali's defamation action is unwarranted, then it should vigorously defend against it. The argument I am making however, is that the manner in which they conduct fact-finding is more akin to a witch-hunt than a fair process. Even those who dislike Mr. Natali should welcome reformation of the way the HRC conducts itself in order that future activities of the agency are not under a cloud of unfairness or illegitimacy.

Richard John Nelson, J.D.

San Francisco

Natali should drop lawsuit

I have been reading the letters to the editor for several weeks now and I felt compelled to write my first letter. I am disgusted with Mr. Natali and his filing suit against the Human Rights Commission after its report found him in violation of discrimination ["Natali sues HRC," July 6]. I for one was glad of the boycott last year by And Castro For All. Let us see a more stringent boycott of all of Mr. Natali's properties – there are other bars in the Castro. Why give to someone who is a negative influence on our community and doesn't seem to care about his vacant properties either, or the image of neglect it brings to the Castro. Is he really a friend of the gay community? I think he is a carpetbagger, even if he is supposed to be one of us.

Someone mentioned with all that is going on why we write letters over this issue (Les Natali and the Patio Restaurant). My answer is because the Patio was a fixture of our community and before all of these problems, I enjoyed many happy lunches there with friends that are no longer with us. There are memories there. It is a cherished place to those of us who have lived here in SF for 30 years or so. I never did know why it shut down, and have wanted it to reopen long ago. Mr. Natali needs to open his properties posthaste if he wishes to save face with me. He has languished long enough and taken from the gay community. I say put it back now, Mr. Natali, and drop your suit against the HRC. Maybe then you will get some love, respect, and attention you are so desperate to attract.

Charles R. Sears II

San Francisco

Here's hoping to a safer Halloween

Bravo to District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty for shaming San Francisco officials into addressing the ever-increasing safety concerns surrounding Halloween in the Castro ["Halloween's a go," August 10]. I have lived in the Castro for 28 years and have seen the event morph into an excuse for primarily out-of-town teenage homophobes to invade my neighborhood and threaten gays with physical violence. These vandals trash the neighborhood and most nearby residents stay inside, behind locked doors, hoping that they and their homes won't be harmed.

Dufty is the first public official to take responsibility for this frightening "celebration" and thanks to his efforts, we will have significantly increased police, fire, sheriff, public works, and Department of Parking and Traffic personnel in the neighborhood on that scary night. Equally as important, Mayor Gavin Newsom has committed to planning for downsizing future Halloweens in the Castro, so that it ceases to attract hoodlums who feel free to attack participants and terrify our neighborhood.

Robert W. Melbourne

San Francisco

More porn reviewers needed

Have been reading the tripe that passes for porno reviews written by John F. Karr for years but the bit of ethnic male character assassination he compiled into his review of Arabian Men 2 sent me over the top ["Penis mightier," Karrnal Knowledge, August 3].

If he had bothered to check out the Web site in any detail he would have noticed that most of the men in the Arabian Men 1 and 2 appear in most of the current films produced by Alexander Pictures. He might have also gleaned that the company produces work exclusively featuring Brazilian men. That's just lazy research to be overlooked. What cannot be overlooked are his ruminations over the ethnicity of the men in the film. Referring to the Alexander site Karr writes, "�a site crammed with free jpgs from movies starring boys of manifold dusky hues." Dusky? Dusky is a term that has been used as a racial pejorative for decades.

The ramblings continue with the befuddled announcement that one of the actors looks more Latino than Arab. John F. Karr, which group of Arabs should the cast look like? Karr, dizzy with his own cleverness, while still confounded by the ethnicity of the cast writes, "Uthman looks like an American Negro." Negro?!?!

In all the years I have been reading the crappy reviews of John F. Karr he has never so completely revealed his ignorant lack of understanding when it comes to films featuring men of color.

In reply to the last line of his review, "Am I just not able to acclimate to sex that isn't the staged spectacle of an American sexo?" The obvious answer is yes.

I wish the editor(s) at the B.A.R. would find someone who can at least from time to time positively review films featuring men of color without all the attendant posing and racial stupidity.

Raul Salazar

San Francisco

Column counterproductive

As a supporter of both the Gay Games and the Outgames, I found Jim Provenzano's August 3 opinion column ["Outgames a go," Sports Complex] in the B.A.R. rather counterproductive. (By the way, I did go back and read his previous columns on the subject as he suggested in his column of August 10.) Clearly, he has a right to express his opinion regarding the organizers of the Montreal 2006 Outgames, he can even ascribe motives to their actions based on his interpretation thereof, but it seems pretty darn clear to me from his own columns that the problem that resulted in the refusal of the Montreal committee to sign the federation's licensing agreement has origins on both sides of the table. The Federation of Gay Games was understandably cautious in light of the history of financial failures of previous Games and the Montreal committee's exuberance. On the other hand, I don't think the FGG clearly recognized the level of public and private support that Montreal would receive, such that undue FGG financial control would not be advisable, legally or ethically. In retrospect, given the numbers in attendance and participation at both the Chicago Gay Games and the Montreal Outgames, it seems pretty clear that, had the Games been held only in Montreal, Montreal would have met or exceeded the 16,000 participant figure it originally needed to be feasible under the constraints of the FGG.

As you are no doubt aware, there was not a lot of duplication of participants in each event. Moreover, whether you are aware of it or not, regardless of the HIV issue, it is very difficult for unmarried foreign nationals (particularly males) to secure even tourist visas to the U.S.; consequently, holding the Games in a U.S. city results in a de facto reduction of international participation since many people will not even apply for visas (and a "visa denied" by the U.S. consulate on your passport can hinder travel in other countries). Finally, holding the Outgames in conjunction with Divers/Cite in Montreal was a stroke of genius, in my view, since it afforded attendees and participants many gay-positive entertainment and cultural options, with most at no cost.

Ultimately, I think it was unfortunate for LGBT sports that the Montreal committee and the FGG could not reach a compromise. I would assume that Mr. Provenzano agrees with that assessment. Thus, it seems to me that the more responsible among us should be encouraging GLISA and the FGG to mend fences – quickly – and to resolve the matter before plans for Copenhagen 2009 or Cologne 2010 become solidified, rather than making destructive allegations at this late date that might further entrench the parties in their respective positions. Assuming one world games for LGBT people is your preferred outcome, it would appear that Mr. Provenzano's column of August 3 did not serve to achieve that goal.

T. Jeffery Gregoire

New Orleans, Louisiana

Two Games not damaging

I have just read Jim Provenzano's August 3 column in the B.A.R. about the Outgames.

I am surprised by the obviously biased tone of the column, at a time where we should be celebrating the success of both Games. So I would like to give my viewpoint as an athlete having participated at both events (in cycling).

Since the gist of the column deals with the opening ceremonies, let me start with them. Although neither of the two opening ceremonies left me with as strong an impression as the one I felt in Sydney [Gay Games VI], the Montreal one still looks superior to me. The Gay Games might turn out to be profitable, but it clearly showed: the ceremonies at times verged on boring. That was saved a bit by Margaret Cho and the last part gained up a little bit of steam. In Montreal, even the speeches, while shorter, seemed to me more moving and stronger.

My main complaint about the Outgames opening is that they let the athletes stand for the whole show and didn't allow them to use the seats. There were more spectators than Mr. Provenzano insinuates, but I am sure there was room for us in the Olympic Stadium. The main consequence was that a lot of us walked out before the end.

In both cases, and unlike what I had enjoyed the most in Sydney, we were deprived of watching the other athletes entering the stadium.

What also showed – and I understand it's not the Federation of Gay Games' doing – was the almost completely American character of the Gay Games, emphasized by the playing of the "Star-Spangled Banner" at the beginning. And of course, that was the case during the whole week: the Outgames had an international feeling that Chicago sorely lacked.

One point, the column mentioned the booing of the Canadian government. I can only hope that would have been the reaction of the public in Soldier Field if a member of the current U.S. government had tried to speak!

In terms of the competitions themselves, I can, of course, only speak about cycling and some other sports I watched (or in Chicago's case tried to watch). The organization was definitely superior and far more professional in Montreal. The Gay Games suffered from a lot of improvisations and last-minute changes. It was clearly not due to the event organizers themselves, who have been nothing short of amazing, but my impression is that the city of Chicago didn't really make it easy for them. On the other hand, it gave a "family" feeling to the cycling events in Chicago that was lacking in Montreal. That might have been also due to the fact that so many San Franciscans were present in Chicago.

In a sense, after reflection, it doesn't seem so damaging that we had two LGBT sporting events: after all it multiplied the visibility. Maybe the only drawback was what I mentioned earlier: the lack of international participation in the Gay Games. And on the other hand it also reduced the "gay" factor of the Outgames in public perception.

In the end I returned from both Games with a lot of great memories. I wish they wouldn't be tarnished by reading such reporting.

Jerome Thomere

San Francisco

Here's to Woman's Will

Thank you for publishing the great article by Erin Blackwell about her experiences acting in "Twelfth Night" ["Acting is a drag," August 3]. Her insider's perspective was fascinating – much different from the usual feature articles about local theatrical productions. The show itself – which I went to see – was also excellent. It was a cold and windy Sunday in Dolores Park – which didn't stop the usual sunbathers from wearing Speedos – but a great afternoon of entertainment from Erin and the rest of the cast. I hope that the article encouraged people to get to the park and enjoy Woman's Will!

And if they missed it, Woman's Will will be back again next summer doing a different play in parks all over the Bay Area.

John Sulak

San Francisco

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