Saturday, August 15, 2009


Congressmember Davis Speaks at Orderly Town-Hall Meeting

Disruptions At Other Health-Care Meetings Nationwide Don’t Happen Here

by MARK GABRISH CONLAN

Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine •All rights reserved

The story of Congressmember Susan Davis’s town-hall meeting on health care at the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest August 11 is the story of the dog that didn’t bark in the nighttime. Elsewhere in the country such meetings have been disrupted by aggressive opponents of the health-care reform proposals now being debated in Congress, sometimes shouting down the Congressmembers before they even had a chance to speak. These people and their tactics have been hailed by the Republican party and the Right-wing media as grass-roots citizen activists, and denounced by Democrats as thugs following a carefully prepared script. But the August 11 meeting in San Diego ran peacefully, quietly, with no disruptions, and even the people critical of the House health-reform bill HR 3200 framed their disagreements politely and in the form of questions.

That the San Diego health-care meeting was so peaceful, and that Congressmember Davis got a chance to give an overview of HR 3200’s provisions and challenge a lot of the Right’s more bizarre statements about it without being shouted down, can be attributed largely to the actions of the sponsoring organization, the Hillcrest Town Council. Its officials kept tight control over who would be allowed into the meeting at all. They called first on the 30 or so Town Council members, then seated residents of Hillcrest before letting in anyone else — thereby assuring Davis a liberal-leaning audience. Only after Town Council members and other Hillcrest residents were seated were other members of the public allowed in. Most of the opponents of health-care reform were left outside, sparring with progressives equally critical of the current health bills but for opposite reasons: because they leave the private health insurance industry in place and don’t move decisively towards a single-payer system in which a government agency would replace private insurers as the bulwark of health coverage.

Freed from having to deal with the kind of unremitting hostility from loud, assertive activists that has shut down meetings on this subject in other cities, Congressmember Davis was able to speak for several minutes about the details of HR 3200 and what it would and wouldn’t do. “There’s a lot of information out there on the Internet, but some of it is not true,” she explained. “If you receive your health care through the Veterans’ Administration or Tricare [a health insurance program for active-duty and retired military and their families], your care will not change. Some provisions try to make Medicare more solvent, but we’re trying to continue the program’s high quality and close the ‘doughnut hole’” — a gap in prescription drug coverage left over from the Bush administration’s bill to add drugs to the Medicare program.

Taking on two issues that the Right has successfully used to reduce public support for the bill, Davis said that under the current draft of HR 3200 no tax money will go to provide health care to undocumented immigrants, and no tax money would go to fund abortions. She didn’t directly address the propaganda that the bill would encourage euthanasia by denying health care to senior citizens — which was based on Section 1233, a provision in the legislation that would require insurance companies to pay for a consultation with a health-care provider on “advanced care planning,” which could include drawing up a living will, Though stressing that the final bill is not perfect — and will likely change quite a bit before the full House votes on it — Davis clearly was more interested in describing the positive aspects than dwelling on the criticisms.

Davis said that one aspect of the bill would limit the ability of health insurance companies to raise premiums continually — something she said has hit her own family hard. “My son and his wife pay $1,200 for coverage for a family of four,” she explained. “In just four years, those premiums have gone up from $65 to $1,200, and if reforms aren’t passed, premiums will double in 10 years.” Another provision she strongly supported was one that would prevent insurers from denying coverage to people with so-called “pre-existing conditions” — which in some cases has gone so far as to deny people treatment for cancer because decades before they had a yeast infection or acne.

“Today, 12.6 million Americans are discriminated against in health coverage because of pre-existing conditions,” Davis said. “Under the current system, we are all one illness away from not being able to obtain coverage on the private market. Under the health care proposal, people would never lose access to coverage. … I don’t know how many of you worry about losing your coverage through illness or an adverse event. [Under HR 3200] health care plans would no longer be able to deny you coverage if you’re ill, or set a total limit on the amount they will pay under your policy.”

Davis also described the proposal in the bill for so-called “health exchanges” as a provision that “increases competition through incentives for private insurers.” The idea of the exchange , Davis said, is to offer people in the market for individual health policies a way to “shop and pick and choose from a number of private and public plans. If you had to buy private coverage today, would you know how to shop or where to buy? The goal of the health insurance exchange is to allow people to compare prices, choices and co-pays. The new coverage will drive down costs. The government will not select plans for you. If you currently have insurance through an employer, you would keep it.”

Closing her prepared remarks, Davis praised the robust debate on the issue and outlined her vision of the American people’s priorities. “We all want Americans to have affordable health insurance, and to be able to change a job or start a small business without losing coverage. We all want the best health care in the world. We all want health care decisions to be between doctors and patients — and sometimes today it’s the private sector that gets in the way of that.”

The first question Davis got from the audience was from Deborah Figuera, a woman with disabilities concerned about the cutbacks in Medicare and Medi-Cal services — which, Davis explained, were coming mostly from the California state government, not from the feds. Davis said that under HR 3200, Medicare and Medicaid (the national program of which Medi-Cal is a part) would remain pretty much the same, though “a lot of the bill is about changes in that area to make them more effective.” Davis said that for lower-income people seeking health coverage, “there could be subsidies” to buy private plans, “or the public option could be important to you.”

Another woman in the audience said, “I have lived under all the systems, including Canada’s” — whose “single-payer” system, in which a government agency replaces the private insurers and pays people’s medical bills out of money raised by taxes, is hailed by many progressives as the model the U.S. would adopt and denounced by conservatives as leading to shortages and rationing. Right now, she said, “I’m on Medicare, and that’s even better than Canada.” Her question was whether the health reform would pay doctors on a fee-for-service basis or whether there would be “capitation” — in which doctors are paid so much per patient regardless of how much care they provide. She made it clear that fee-for-service was her preference because it “gives us, the consumers, the control to change the system and make it right.”

“Fee for service in Medicare will not change,” Davis said, “but sometimes there may be ‘bundling’” — which appeared to mean different doctors, hospitals and clinics comparing notes and coordinating their treatments for the same patient — “to create a way that that care will help patients feel better. More tests is not necessarily better care.”

The same audience member pointed to the 20 to 30 percent overhead, including profit margins, of the private insurers versus the 3 percent overhead of Medicare — and Davis used that to point out that the bill before the House would cap the health insurance industry’s so-called “medical loss ratio” at 85 percent. The “medical loss ratio” is the total percentage of premium income a health insurance company spends on actually paying for patient care — and, as former Cigna public relations director Wendell Potter explained on the July 10 TV show Bill Moyers’ Journal, investors in health insurance companies want that number as low as possible. According to Potter, in the early 1990’s the average medical loss ratio for the health insurance industry was 95 percent — and now it’s 80 percent. Davis said that there’s a clause in the bill that any company participating in the health exchanges would have to keep its medical loss ratio from going below 85 percent.

The next question was about the $1.4 trillion cost estimate the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) slapped on the health-care proposal. Davis said that that fearsome number didn’t include cost savings from a provision in the bill that would prevent health care providers from charging co-payments for preventive care. She also said that the bill should cut costs by reducing the pressure on physicians and hospitals to practice “defensive medicine” and by giving doctors “better ways of sharing information” so they’d know more about which treatments worked and which didn’t. The bill “probably doesn’t do enough for the cost curve,” Davis conceded, though she said the CBO re-scored the bill and “came back with a figure of $68 billion” instead of the widely reported $1.4 trillion.

One man in the audience said in regard to the controversy over the health bill’s cost, “I never hear anyone ask the cost of sending 48,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan. I want to know the morality of how we can spend so much to kill people, and pinch pennies to heal people.” The same individual then made it clear the bill didn’t go far enough for him in that it left private, for-profit insurance companies in charge of most health coverage when they are the ones most often coming between doctors and patients and having bureaucrats without medical expertise making treatment decisions for patients. “I wonder if there’s any way to push further and get insurance companies out of health care altogether,” he asked.

“People want change they have a comfort level with,” Davis replied. “It’s important for us that where we have a system a lot of us like, we should build on that. If we set limits that you can’t exclude people or raise premiums, that would be good. If we can put the pieces together, we can do a better job. … We’re all trying to work together to have the best return for Americans, to cut costs and provide quality of care. Our responsibility is to get things better.”

In response to a woman who asked the bottom-line question to end all bottom-line questions — “What’s my premium going to be?” — Davis said she didn’t know, but “the idea is you won’t see them double in 10 years. As we try to change the cost curves, your premiums won’t see the kind of escalation there’s been recently. There’s language in the bill that says co-payments for preventive care will not be utilized.” Asked by another audience member why can’t ordinary Americans have the same health benefits as members of Congress, Davis said that was basically the proposal before the House. She added rather testily that the congressional benefits aren’t nearly as impressive as many people think: “I have to pay extra for dental and vision.”

At several points during the meeting, Davis made it clear that she supports a “public option” provision in the bill as an alternative to private insurance companies. She raised it to the person who asked why Congress couldn’t extend its own health benefits to the rest of us. She said it could be an option for Deborah Figuera regarding her concern that private insurance wouldn’t cover her needs as a person with disabilities. When asked by one audience member whether her hearing aids will be covered under the health care reform — she now has to pay for them out of her own pocket — Davis said, “I can’t say what the public option will cover,” but hinted that she might have an easier time getting hearing aids paid for that way than through a private plan.

One legitimate criticism of the plan came from the wife of a San Diego firefighter who pointed to the provision in the House bill that requires that employers pay at least 8 percent of their total payroll cost to providing health care for their employees, either through buying coverage themselves or paying into a fund that would cover the otherwise uninsured. Her fear was that what’s being presented as a floor would become a ceiling; that employers who now spend more than that, especially public ones like the city of San Diego that are in budget trouble and looking for places to cut, will reduce their spending on employee health care to 8 percent.

“That is not how it would work,” Davis said. “The 8 percent figure is to incentivize private businesses to provide more coverage. There would be some constraints, including the timing and the number of employees. The idea is to make this a level playing field as much as possible.”

By keeping close control over the attendance at the meeting, the Hillcrest Town Council managed to ensure Davis a mostly sympathetic audience. The real debate took place outside the meeting, as crowds disenchanted with the health care proposals before Congress from both ends — progressives who want to see a single-payer system replace the health insurance industry as well as conservatives who want to see less, not more, government involvement and funding of health care — squared off. Though no violent incidents were reported, a number of impassioned conversations took place, often pitting supporters of single-payer against people opposed to any role for government at all.

Some of the Right-wingers there said they were against employer-based health insurance — they felt people ought to buy individual policies or just pay for medical care as they need it — and were also against public education and virtually any government program that provides for the common good at the expense of individual taxpayers. TV news reporters who covered the meeting spent as much time outside the hall as inside, interviewing Right-wing opponents of health reform but not any of the single-payer advocates. After the meeting, the TV reporters asked departing attendees if there had been any openly confrontational questions from reform opponents, and seemed disappointed to hear there had been none.

Congressmember Davis did field one question that wasn’t about health care at all. Ted Bunce, activist with the San Diego Democratic Club, asked her what she planned to do about getting rid of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning Queer servicemembers from serving openly. “I’m very supportive of having it repealed,” she said. “Every one who wants to serve our country in the military should be able to. I forced a hearing on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ for the first time in 15 years. We work closely with our officers behind the scenes. We want the military to talk about ho they will implement it, and we know once we bring this issue forward, our commanders will stand up and salute.”

Saturday, August 01, 2009





Does California Need a Constitutional Convention?

San Diego Hears from Advocates at August 1 Meeting

by MARK GABRISH CONLAN

Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

PHOTOS, top to bottom: Matt Regan, Thad Kousser, Xandra Kayden, Gregory Morales

The last time California had a convention to rewrite its constitution, the year was 1878. The convention had no women, African-American or Asian-Americans as its delegates, and exactly one member was Latino. Its product included a prohibition against offering paid employment to any Chinese immigrants. Though various changes, some of them quite sweeping, have been made to the California constitution since — the referendum, initiative and recall in 1910; establishing a full-time state legislature in 1966; and Proposition 13, limiting both overall property taxes and the ability of local governments to raise money, in 1978 — there hasn’t been a full-scale convention since 1878-79. Yet the state’s most recent budget fiascoes are convincing a lot of activists that one is needed now — and a coalition promoting the idea came to San Diego August 1 as part of a series of statewide meetings to build support for the convention.

Though the organizers of the meeting — which drew over 100 people to the community room of the Mission Valley Library and forced latecomers to fetch their own chairs or lean against the wall — included the San Diego chapters of the American Constitutional Society, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters (LWV) and Mexican-American Political Association, the dominant force in the meeting was the Bay Area Council. Composed of CEO’s and other high-level businesspeople including the heads of Google and Chevron, the Bay Area Council called for a constitutional convention after finding that California legislators weren’t paying attention to them during their annual August lobbying trip to Sacramento in 2008 because they were still deliberating on the state budget well over a month past deadline.

Matt Regan, the Bay Area Council’s director of government relations — who quickly emerged as the meeting’s dominant speaker even though three other presenters appeared — recalled that in August 2008 the Bay Area Council sent a delegation to Sacramento to meet with the so-called “Big Five” — Governor Schwarzenegger and the Democratic and Republican leaders in the state legislature — thinking that by then, over a month after the constitutional deadline for the state to pass a budget, the governor and legislators would be ready to consider other issues. Instead, Regan recalled, “Nobody wanted to talk about the issues. The Big Five all wanted to talk about the budget — and they all wanted to apportion blame. It was very embarrassing. Senator Don Perata spoke to us and said, ‘You know what? We need a constitutional convention! This doesn’t work anymore!’”

According to Regan, the Bay Area Council took Perata’s suggestion and ran with it. “We did a lot of research about best practices [about constitutional conventions] in other states,” Regan recalled. “Our CEO, Jim Wanaman, wrote an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle calling for a constitutional convention. This had an amazing response. Our phones rang off the hook. We were a little perplexed, so we started making phone calls to Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, the New America Foundation and others, and built a coalition of like-minded reform folks that agreed that California’s government is fundamentally broken and needs reform.

Once they called their coalition together, Regan said, the two big questions they had to address were how to select the people who would make up the constitutional convention and how to decide what they would discuss. After studying laws in other states — some of which, including Illinois, Hawai’i, Alabama and Connecticut, require the voters to decide at 20-year intervals whether or not to have a constitutional convention — as well as the Canadian province of British Columbia, which had a successful constitutional convention two years ago, the Bay Area Council decided against either electing delegates to the convention or having existing government officials appoint them.

“If you have an elective body,” Regan explained, “public-employee unions, business groups, social conservatives and Howard Jarvis-type [anti-tax activists] will run their own candidates — and it will look like the state legislature, and be about as functional. We looked at appointed experts and decided it would get very complicated and be difficult to explain to voters.” Instead, Regan said, his group came up with the idea of picking people at least to some degree at random, on the model of the way grand juries are appointed. The state would go through voter registration rolls and Department of Motor Vehicles registrations and pick 200 people in each State Assembly district, who in turn would caucus and select 10 of their number to be delegates to the convention.

As for what the convention would discuss, Regan explained that his group wants to focus it exclusively on the structure of government. “It will not address the social issues,” he said. Items like the current California constitution’s right to privacy, which infuriates the Right because it guarantees women freedom of reproductive choice; or Proposition 8, the recently approved ban on legal recognition of same-sex marriage, which similarly angers progressives and Queers; will be off the table. What will be on the table, he explained, is just about everything government scholars have claimed has hamstrung California’s decision-making: ballot-box budgeting initiatives like Propositions 98 and 42 (which locked up great chunks of California’s tax revenue for education and transportation, respectively); term limits on legislators; the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a state budget or to raise taxes; and even the still-popular Proposition 13.

Because the current constitution allows a convention to be called only by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the state legislature, Regan explained, his group will have to circulate signatures for two initiatives. One, Proposition 1A, would amend the existing constitution to allow the people to call a convention by majority vote. The other, Proposition 1B, would actually call for the convention and set the rules by which its delegates would be appointed and what issues it could address in the final document. Once the convention finished its work, its draft constitution would still have to go before the voters for final approval — and, Regan said, the need to come up with a document that would be politically palatable to the state’s electorate would itself act as a brake on some of the wilder notions convention delegates might have.

Besides Regan, other speakers on the panel included Thad Kousser, associate professor of political science at UCSD and board member of California Common Cause; Xandra Kayden, former president of the Los Angeles League of Women Voters and a participant in one of the commissions that revised the Los Angeles city charter; and Gregory T. Morales, member of the Mexican-American Political Association (MAPA) in San Diego. Kousser, listed on the meeting’s call as the M.C. (though actually Jeannie Brown of San Diego Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, filled that role), thanked the overflow crowd for coming out on a warm San Diego Saturday to discuss “a problem that couldn’t be more important: making California work again.”

Kousser discussed the differences between the U.S. and California constitutions, noting that the California constitution is so long it’s an entire book in printed form; he showed a copy of the book and then the little pamphlet version of the U.S. Constitution he was using as a bookmark in it. The reason the California constitution is so big, Kousser explained, is that a lot of it isn’t about the overall structure of government or safeguarding people’s rights. Rather, it’s full of basic legislation that in a more rational system, like the U.S. government, is dealt with exclusively in statutory law that can be amended easily. The California constitution, Kousser said, “has one article exclusively about motor vehicle fees, and another about usury.”

Another distinguishing feature of the California constitution, Kousser said, is the ease with which it can be amended. While the U.S. Constitution has been amended only 19 times during the 222 years it’s been in effect, Kousser explained, “the California constitution makes itself easy to be rewritten. The first way to change it is by simple amendment by a majority vote in any statewide election. You can put it on by an initiative or the legislature can put it on by a two-thirds vote of each house. The second way is by a constitutional revision commission, a panel set up by the legislature, whose recommendations are then put on the ballot by the legislature and voted on by the voters.” This route worked in the 1960’s, Kousser explained, when the revision commission’s recommendations easily passed the legislature and then went before the voters and were enacted — and failed in the 1990’s when they couldn’t get the needed two-thirds vote of the legislature even to allow the people to consider them. The third way, he added, is a constitutional convention.

Like Regan and Kousser, Xandra Kayden, the third speaker on the panel, also declared in favor of a constitutional convention. “The genius of American society throughout history has been our ability to change and evolve,” she said. She compared the current historical moment to the first two decades of the 20th century, when two competing reform movements — the progressives and the populists — sought sweeping changes in American government to control the power of large corporations and the federal government. The populists, Kayden argued, were mostly small farmers in the Midwest and South, while the progressives were mostly small businesspeople who were losing both income and social standing to nationwide corporations.

“Both [the progressives and the populists] were against the concentration of power in large corporations and the federal government,” Kayden said. “The main development of their movements was direct democracy: the referendum, initiative and recall. It put power back in the hands of the people — and it worked well, largely because it was little used, until the middle of the 20th century.” As California grew from, as Kayden put it, “just another big Western state to the personification of the American dream,” more and more initiatives proliferated on the California ballot. Political writer David Broder wrote a book about the process, Democracy Derailed, in which he said that the widespread use of initiative had turned California from a government based on laws to “laws without a government.”

What’s more, Kayden argued, the initiative changed from a control on special interests to a tool for them. The reason was that, as California grew, it got harder and harder to qualify an initiative based on grass-roots efforts alone. Today, she said, it’s estimated that you need $1 million just to get an initiative on the ballot — mostly to hire people to stand outside shopping malls and other gathering places and get paid so many cents per signature — let alone the additional cost of campaigning. (In California’s most expensive initiative campaign, over the anti-marriage Proposition 8 in November 2008, each side spent $40 million.) “Not many ordinary, everyday people who aren’t engaged in major money-making activities can afford to get something on the ballot,” Kayden explained.

Another problem with the initiative system is that, once something gets on the ballot, the voters have only two choices: yes or no. “The federal constitution presumes that interests will compete, but eventually work out a compromise that creates consensus,” Kayden said. “Initiatives write into the state constitution something that maybe should be more flexible. They don’t promote compromise. You either win or lose — and if you lose, you get angry.” Kayden added that many initiatives are so complex even the volunteers of the League of Women Voters, whose mission includes explaining them to us and giving us information about what a vote either way will mean, don’t read them word-for-word; instead, they sometimes endorse initiatives based on who’s for them and who’s against them.

Besides the initiative, Kayden said, her group is “also concerned about the two-thirds budget rule and the tyranny of the majority.” California is one of only three states in the U.S. — along with Arkansas and Rhode Island — that require a two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature merely to pass a budget, though about 15 states have a two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes. Kayden argued that this gives the minority party in the state legislature — currently the Republicans — no incentive “ to try to build a majority; they just have to hold one-third.”

Kayden’s other complaints about the current California constitution include a “rigid and inflexible” tax system — largely the legacy of Proposition 13, which by capping property taxes forced the state to rely on the much more volatile income tax, and pushed cities and counties to seek shopping malls and retail outlets that generate sales taxes instead of factories and other types of businesses. She also faulted an education system that hasn’t taught most Californians just how their government works. She took issue with Erwin Chermerinsky, her former colleague in the effort to revise Los Angeles’ city charter, who wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times saying that California needed constitutional change but the voters would never approve it. “This is something we all see,” Kayden said; we all know there’s a crisis in California, and the whole world knows it.”

The fourth panelist, Gregory Morales, was much more skeptical about a constitutional convention or even a major revision. He said that unlike his colleagues, he’d actually set out to read the entire California constitution cover-to-cover — even though he had to check out two books from a law library to do it: the 2008 edition of the constitution and a law book detailing the most recent changes. The exercise convinced him that there are a lot of good provisions in today’s state constitution and we need to enforce them before we rewrite the document — including a requirement that the state’s public schools be safe and a stipulation that the people, not the government or private companies, ultimately have jurisdiction over public utilities.

“MAPA would like to suggest that, as a first step, all of our policymakers actually read and apply the California state constitution,” Morales said. “The two-thirds vote requirement also applies to people who want to change the constitution and have good government that works for the people. I think the one thing two-thirds of the current public officials would agree on is to remove anyone who wanted government to work for the people.”

Morales’ skepticism about a constitutional convention and his cynicism about the motives of current government officials found an ironic echo in the handful of anti-tax libertarians and Right-wingers who attended the meeting and made it clear that they like Proposition 13, the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget and legislative term limits just fine. Two of them, Richard Rider of California Taxfighters and Jim Obenshain of the John Birch Society, handed out leaflets before the meeting. Obenshain’s was an attack on the idea of a federal constitutional convention which he said applied to the California one as well. “The whole discussion is premised on the basis that we need to rewrite the California constitution,” Obenshain said. “The one we have worked so well for so long, and it’s not working now only because the politicians aren’t following it.”

“Government is nothing more than a leviathan leech that lives off the production of others,” said Jesse Thomas. “Margaret Thatcher said socialism is great until you run out of other people’s money.”

Rider’s leaflet was a complaint that neither he nor anyone with similar politics was put on the panel — an issue he renewed when he spoke to the meeting. “When I looked over your slate of people, how many of you are opposed to repeal of the two-thirds requirement of passing a budget or raising taxes?” Rider said. “You’ve selected all people who want to raise taxes and increase spending.” As the only person in the room who had actually participated in an official effort to change the California constitution — a fact he mentioned on his leaflet — Rider was asked about that process. He explained that the constitutional revision commission he served on in the 1990’s “was put together by big-government Republican Pete Wilson. He appointed one-third of the panel, the Democrat State Senate” — using the truncated form of the Democratic party’s name which Republicans and Right-wingers prefer, much to the audible disgust of several members of the audience — “appointed one-third, and the panel was specifically convened to repeal Proposition 13.”

Rider explained that he only got on the panel because the California Assembly changed from a Democratic to a Republican majority during the process, and the newly elected speaker, Republican Curt Pringle, replaced six members with his own appointees, including Rider. “The measures did not go through because they did not get a two-thirds vote of the legislature,” he said.

“By the time the proposals got to the legislature, the economy was recovering,” Kousser added, suggesting that the demand for constitutional reform eased with the economic crisis. “Also, some of the proposals from the commission included a unicameral [single-house] legislature and some other pretty wild ideas that had no chance of passing a popular vote. The commission didn’t have its eye on public opinion.”

Regan said the work of the 1990’s commission “is sitting in binders in Sacramento, gathering dust. All of that work died because of the two-thirds vote requirement in the legislature. It’s living testimony to the fact that minority rule doesn’t work.”

Herb Shore, who introduced himself as part of the San Diego chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) — which provoked Rider to say that a one-on-one debate between him and Shore would have been more enlightening to the audience than the program they were actually getting — cited Grover Norquist, head of the Americans for Tax Reform and a major player in the Right-wing movement nationwide, and said that his dream of cutting the revenues available to government until it had to shrink so much you could drown it in a bathtub has “come true in California” thanks to Proposition 13, the two-thirds vote requirements and legislative term limits. “By the time any elected officials actually read the California constitution, they’ll be termed out of office,” he said. “I am in favor of a constitutional convention because California state government has become unfunctional.”

Marilyn Riley of the San Diego Democratic Club noted the irony that the push to call a California constitutional convention was coming from business leaders. “I’m not the most business-friendly person in the world,” she said, raising the issue that if the convention delegates are selected in a manner similar to grand juries, ordinary working people won’t be able to participate and the convention will be skewed — as grand juries and trial juries are — in favor of affluent and retired people.

“We fully understand that if this is business-led, it dies in the cradle,” Regan replied. “The first group that joined us is the Courage Campaign, an offshoot of moveon.org, which certainly isn’t an organization noted for getting into bed with business. We’ve certainly broadened our scope beyond the business community.”

Many audience members had questions about the total cost of the convention (between $25 and $30 million, Regan said), whether convention delegates would be paid (yes, but they haven’t decided how much) and protected against job loss due to attending the convention, how the convention will be staffed and who will be responsible for giving the delegates the background information on state government they’ll need to deliberate effectively. (Rider acidly commented that he suspected Common Cause and other supposedly “non-partisan” but actually liberal, pro-tax and pro-government spending groups will get that job.)

“The staff would be a largely neutral body,” Regan said. “They would bring drinks and documents.” Regan also compared the $25 to $30 million price tag for a convention to the $40 million it costs the state every day the budget is late — 22 days in 2009 and a whopping 81 days in 2008.

Kausser disagreed with Regan’s characterization of the convention’s staff as errand people bringing drinks and documents. “Staff often sets the agenda, including who’s going to address the convention,” he acknowledged. “One idea is a hybrid: a broadly representative group of people to staff the convention and present the alternatives, and the randomly selected convention delegates to make the final decisions.”

Asked if the convention advocates had considered “the unintended consequences of government growth,” Kayden replied, We know the consequences of what’s happening now. It isn’t working and people get hurt.”

“We currently govern by single initiatives,” Regan said. “The legislature is a toothless dog that has control of only 7 percent of the state budget. We pass initiatives that mandate spending but don’t provide funding. Through a constitutional convention, we would look at all the flaws of our governmental system, and limit those unintended consequences through a legal process.”




Queer Democrats Endorse Susan Davis for Re-Election

Her Support for Seaman Provost Helps Get Her the Votes

by MARK GABRISH CONLAN

Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

PHOTOS, top to bottom: Susan Davis (file photo from her debate with Mike Copass, May 25, 2008), Ben Gomez, Mike McGee, Ted Bunce

The predominantly Queer San Diego Democratic Club barely endorsed Congressmember Susan Davis for re-election as a so-called “friendly incumbent” at their July 23 meeting. Davis squeaked through with the bare minimum of votes she needed to meet the club’s 60 percent vote threshold for an endorsement — 22 in favor to 14 against — after a heated debate in which her supporters stressed her opposition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning Queers from serving openly in the U.S. military and her generally good record on feminist issues and Queer rights. Her opponents questioned her slowness to endorse repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” her steadfast support of all the supplemental appropriations bills to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and her opposition to anything resembling a single-payer health insurance system.

The debate stemmed from the club’s policy of making “friendly incumbent” endorsements on the basis of officeholders’ track records rather than making them go through the ordinary process of filling out a club questionnaire and attending a meeting. Some of the friendly incumbents so endorsed are people running for statewide office who can’t reasonably be expected to address a local club in San Diego. Others are candidates in other states, whom the club is permitted to endorse as long as they’re openly Queer. At its previous meeting on June 25, the club’s board presented a slate of friendly incumbent endorsements including local Congressmember Bob Filner, state treasurer Bill Lockyer, state controller John Chiang, secretary of state Debra Bowen, Assemblymember Manuel Pérez (D-Los Angeles) and openly Queer officeholders Congressmembers Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jared Polis (D-CO), all of whom were approved.

But club members pulled three names off the slate for further discussion: Massachusetts Congressmember Barney Frank, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressmember Davis. Because the June 25 meeting ran three hours, those discussions were delayed until July 23. Boxer’s and Frank’s endorsements passed easily. Even Ted Bunce, the member who pulled Boxer’s name off the slate, ended up voting for her after saying he’d merely meant to register a protest against her vote (along with almost all the Senate) against the appropriation the Obama administration sought to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Boxer’s endorsement was unanimous, and Frank’s endorsement passed with just three dissenting votes.

Davis’s was another matter. Bunce, who the month before had questioned whether the club ought to be endorsing at all for an election that isn’t going to happen for 11 months, was bitter that Davis hadn’t spoken to the club in years — and she didn’t have the excuse of being a statewide or out-of-state candidate. “All local candidates we endorse come before us — except Susan Davis,” Bunce said. “When was the last time she came? We should invite her in August, when Congress will be in recess, rather than endorse her now and let her take us for granted.” Bunce also pointed out that just before the meeting, Davis had sent out a newsletter to her constituents which extensively covered her efforts to help military families — and made no mention of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“I’m supporting the friendly incumbent endorsement of Susan Davis,” said former club president Craig Roberts. “She is the only Congressmember who has actually held a hearing on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.” Roberts conceded that Davis had been slow to endorse repealing the anti-Queer military policy and had only done so after the San Diego Democratic Club delayed her endorsement in a previous election cycle, but said, “When people move in your direction and you still withhold your endorsement, she’ll have to wonder, ‘Why bother?’”

“You’d be hard pressed to find anyone more consistently supportive of LGBT [Queer] issues,” said Laura Fink, Davis’s political director. “In 1985, as a member of the San Diego Unified School District board of trustees, she was on the losing end of a vote [in which the majority] allowed HIV-positive students to be thrown out of school. I’m pretty proud of what she’s done on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ She’s not afraid to take on the military leaders.” Fink said the reason Davis hasn’t had another hearing on the policy since 2007 was “because the military people will not attend.”

“I was a fundraiser for Susan Davis in her Assembly campaign, and she was 100 percent on Gay issues,” said veteran club member Elaine Graybill. “She has stood for us on every issue. I can’t imagine why, every time Susan’s name comes up, we run into this.”

“It really surprises me when I hear anti-Susan Davis remarks,” said former club president Gloria Johnson. “She’s consistently supported women’s issues and actually helped me staff the San Diego Democratic Club booth at Pride. She’s 100 percent pro-choice and I’m glad we gave her an early endorsement last time.”

Other members questioned whether Davis deserved an early endorsement when a more progressive primary challenger might still emerge before the filing deadline for the race next February. Some club members felt hamstrung that the club endorsed Davis early in her last election, well before Mike Copass of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) decided to challenge her in the primary. At her one debate with Copass, Davis said that though she was proud of her vote to oppose the initial resolution authorizing the Bush administration’s attack on Iraq, “I also have to tell you with my heart and my head, I have supported the funding, because I believe that it does support our troops.”

Anti-war activists in the club questioned that position, and other members also criticized Davis’s position on health care. Davis voted against an amendment to the House’s health care reform bill that would have allowed individual states to enact single-payer health programs as an alternative to the private, for-profit health insurance industry. Davis supporter Nick Neville said she voted against this amendment “because she feels the whole point of federal health care reform is to have one national system.”

Both Neville and Michelle Krug, a club member who’s also a city worker and an activist on labor issues, claimed that Davis did support the so-called “public option” in the proposal that would allow individuals a choice besides a private insurer. (Health care activists outside the club have said that Davis is the only Democratic Congressmember from California who has not endorsed the “public option.”) Krug said that Davis “has a problem with anything tainted with single-payer.”

Davis’s chances for the endorsement got a boost from an unlikely source: the recent murder of Seaman August Provost on base at Camp Pendleton near Oceanside. Two spokespeople for the movement to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” and allow Queer people to serve openly in the U.S. military, Ben Gomez and Mike McGee, came to the meeting to report on the Provost case — and they were carefully scheduled before the debate on the Davis endorsement so their praise of her role in pushing the investigation would help her cause.

“Seaman Provost was murdered at Camp Pendleton,” said Alex Sachs, the club’s political director. “He was openly Gay and his murder was particularly brutal. The leading groups questioning his death are Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Fund (SLDN), American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER), the North County Lesbian/Gay Coalition and the San Diego Human Relations Commission. There has been a vigil in Oceanside, and yesterday the club arranged a meeting by phone with Congressmember Bob Filner. He and Susan Davis have both been active in pushing for an investigation into Seaman Provost’s death.”

Sachs read a long statement from the U.S. Navy that denied Seaman Provost’s death was a hate crime or had anything to do with his sexual orientation. The Navy has accused fellow servicemember John Campos of killing Provost and is seeking a so-called “Article 32 hearing” — military law’s equivalent of a grand jury indictment — based on the theory that Campos was attempting to set fire to a hovercraft, Provost caught him in the act and Campos killed him to keep from being reported. “This is the most we have heard from the Navy,” said Gomez, an openly Gay man who left the military when he fell in love and decided he wanted to live with his partner and be “out” about who he was and who loved, rather than continue to have to hide it under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“It’s important that we note the efforts of Davis and Filner,” said McGee, an activist with AVER. “They have been very active in putting pressure on the Defense Department to get answers. Two SLDN attorneys have been working on this since the murder, and we are working with our sources to get as much information as possible.” Gomez mentioned three other Congressmembers who are working on the Provost case: openly Lesbian Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin); Sheila Jackson-Lee, a Texas Democrat whose district includes Provost’s home town, Houston; and San Diego Republican Brian Bilbray. Though Bilbray is usually on the opposite side of issues the San Diego Democratic Club cares about, he’s joined Filner and Davis in pushing for a full investigation into Seaman Provost’s death. One club member noted bitterly that, despite Bilbray’s involvement, fellow Republican Congressmember Darrell Issa, whose district includes Camp Pendleton, has still not taken an interest in the case.

McGee cited Provost’s murder as an example of the evil of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Because of the policy, McGee explained, when Provost was being harassed by fellow servicemembers for being Gay, “He had nowhere to go to report the harassment” — because reporting it would have immediately put him on the fast track to a punitive discharge for violating the policy. McGee also said that though a bill to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” and bar the military from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation is on the floor of Congress, it’s going nowhere because many Democrats are too afraid of the military to sign on. Even Senator Karen Hillenbrand’s relatively modest proposal to suspend discharges under “don’t ask, don’t tell” for 18 months couldn’t get a majority of Senators behind it, McGee said.

Movement’s Pioneers Launch “Project History”

Gay Lib Began in S.F. in March ’69, Months Before Stonewall

PHOTO CAPTION: The photo that began it all: Gale Whittington and Leo Laurence get close on camera for a March 24, 1969 Berkeley Barb story called “Homo Revolt: Don’t Hide It.” The result: both Whittington and Laurence lost their jobs, and the Committee for Homosexual Freedom (CHF) they had organized mounted the first demonstration in U.S. history challenging a private employer’s discrimination based on sexual orientation. This and other stories will be told in Changing History. (Photo: Ron Hoffman. Courtesy Leo E. Laurence.)

We love our myths, including the story that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree (none were found in archeological digs).

Billions of marketing dollars are involved worldwide, based on the myth that our global, Gay Liberation movement began with the Stonewall Inn riots in New York in June 1969.

Dozens of so-called, Gay history books document it inaccurately. They are produced by authors using second-hand, and often incorrect, materials.

A new first-person history book is being produced by an international team of Gay pioneers, based in San Diego, called Project History.

Those involved include the co-founders of the first Gay Liberation Front, Leo E. Laurence, J.D. of Hillcrest and Gale Chester Whittington of Wetumka, Oklahoma. Another original Gay pioneer working on Project History is Pat Brown of La Jolla. Both Brown and Laurence were totally ignored during the recent Gay Pride events in San Diego.

Whittington, a semi-retired author and humorist, has already published his own autobiographical book, Beyond Normal: The Birth of Gay Pride.” His premier novel is The Happy Campers,” which was followed by a second novel, True Chameleon, a third book of Rod Serling-inspired short stories, Whirlwinds of the Mind; and a poetry anthology: Ode to Ricardo: Love in Other Words.

Whittington’s works can be found on his Web site: http://www.galechesterwhittington.com. He is now working closely on Project History.

“Gale was pretty-boy cute, blond, smooth and slim, and my real inspiration, as we worked together and formed the ‘militant’ Committee for Homosexual Freedom (CHF) in February 1969, four months before Stonewall,” says Laurence. “He was so hot, and smart!” (But he wasn’t Laurence’s lover, as some sources have reported.)

“Changing History”

The Project History team is working on a first-person history book about Gays. The working title is Changing History.

While this history book is being written in an autobiographical style by Laurence, associate editor of Zenger’s Newsmagazine and a working credentialed journalist with an advanced law degree, it is really a massive community effort by Gay pioneers, long forgotten by the Gay Establishment in San Diego and nationwide.

Though Gay Liberation literally grew out of Gay journalism in the underground press in the late 1960’s, even the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association refuses to acknowledge it. Many NLGJA members may be shocked when they read Changing History.

Photos and documents of the pre-Stonewall Gay militancy in San Francisco in 1968-’69 have poured into the Project History headquarters in Hillcrest at 3907 Georgia St., Condo #15; San Diego, CA 92103-3548, phone: (619) 757-4909, fax: (619) 220-8686. Anyone with relevant materials from the period is strongly urged to contact the project at the above address and phone, or e-mail Laurence at leopowerhere@msn.com

Billy Glover is a Gay senior with a massive presence on the Internet. After Glover first revealed the news of the launching of Project History recently, other Gay pioneers began joining the international team.

Changing History will be different from the usual college-level history text. It is being written in a very raw, angry style. It will intentionally be very controversial. Changing History is going to make some people very mad, especially the professional Gays and Lesbians who run the Gay Establishment.

Tough Protection

During the late 1960’s, the very tough and militant Black Panther Party provided training and pro-tection to the CHF on the streets of San Francisco.

When a carload of big, tough rednecks were discovered preparing to attack the nearby demonstra-tion/picket line of the Committee for Homosexual Freedom, they were confronted.

After being bluntly warned that the very tough Black Panther Party was providing protection to the Gay militants, and were right around the corner on the streets of San Francisco’s financial district; “and they will clean up the streets with your homophobic blood in seconds,” the rednecks quickly left.

A detailed report on that dramatic confrontation will be chapter one of Changing History.

The team working on Project History is currently producing a publisher’s package. It will include the completed first chapter, plus a synopsis of the rest of the history book, production budget, etc.

Before Labor Day in September, the publisher’s package will go to a literary agent, probably in San Francisco or New York, who will offer the history book to mainstream publishers.

There will be several editions, including: (1) the basic college-style history book, (2) a Spanish edition, translated by a team of Gay Mexicans, (3) an XXX-rated edition, and (4) an interactive Internet edition.

The history book’s cover tentatively will be an on-the-scene photo of co-flounder Whittington being interviewed by the San Francisco news media.

The photo by Gay activist “Mother Boats” was made in front of the ABC-KGO broadcasting studios, Laurence’s employers, who were threatening to fire him for writing Gay-themed articles for the underground Berkeley Barb newspaper. The radical homosexuals of the CHF were conducting a very loud and angry demonstration for employment rights, the core demand of the group’s militant actions.

In the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a reporter discovers the truth about a legendary historical event and offers his editor the story. The editor turns it down, saying, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” The members of Project History believe that for too long the Gay press has been printing the phony legend of Stonewall as the place where Gay activism began. Now, they feel, it is time to print the facts.

DAVID CROWE:

Canadian Activist Organizes Alternative AIDS Conference

interview by MARK GABRISH CONLAN

Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

An unusual conference about AIDS is scheduled for November 6-8, 2009 at the Waterfront Plaza Hotel, 10 Washington Street in Oakland, California. What makes it unique is it will be the first conference on U.S. soil exclusively exploring alternatives to the conventional wisdom that AIDS is caused by a single virus, HIV, and that drugs designed to stop the virus from reproducing are the best way to treat AIDS no matter how much collateral damage they do to the body and its immune system. Among the speakers are alternative AIDS scientists Peter Duesberg, David Rasnick, Henry Bauer, Etienne de Harven and Claus Köhnlein and veteran AIDS journalists John Lauritsen and Joan Shenton. The topics for discussion will include whether HIV even exists, whether and to what extent anti-HIV drugs actually cause AIDS symptoms, the indeterminacy behind so-called “HIV tests” and the ways the HIV/AIDS dogma have hurt Gay and Bisexual men, Africans, all who test “HIV-positive” and other populations identified as “risk groups” by the AIDS mainstream.

Much of the burden of organizing the conference has been carried by David Crowe, a Canadian researcher and activist who heads Rethinking AIDS and the Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society. Though he’s garnered less publicity than the late Christine Maggiore and other heavyweights in the alternative AIDS movement, Crowe has been working behind the scenes for years, maintaining the www.rethinkingaids.com Web site and offering a wide variety of perspectives from scientists, journalists, activists and ordinary people who’ve been harmed by the mainstream view of “HIV/AIDS” and the legal sanctions increasingly imposed on “HIV-positive” people who refuse to medicate their children with anti-HIV drugs or insist on continuing to have active sex lives. Crowe has also targeted the suppression of alternative views of AIDS by the mainstream media and the aggressive attacks on alternative views on mainstream Web sites like the so-called “www.aidstruth.org.”

Crowe’s day job frequently brings him to San Diego, and on June 14 he sat with Zenger’s for an extended interview covering a wide range of topics regarding alternative views of AIDS. The interview was videotaped and shown at the meeting of the local alternative AIDS organization, H.E.A.L. [Health, Education, AIDS Liaison]-San Diego, on July 7. This is the first of a two-part publication of the interview; DVD copies of the video are available on request from H.E.A.L.-San Diego by calling (619) 688-1886.

Zenger’s: Can you start out by telling a little of your background and how you got involved in this issue?

Crowe: Certainly. I started out as a young person wanting to become a scientist, so I went to the university to study science and eventually got waylaid into the computer field. But while I was doing a thesis in a rather esoteric area of biology, I started to realize the areas where science could not answer questions; that there were limits to the power of science. I also started to understand how the power of science could be biased when the scientists wanted to achieve a certain goal. It became very difficult for the scientists who had a goal in mind not to try to achieve that through biased interpretations of their data.

I spent a few years in the computer field, and then one night I was just trying to put my young son to bed, and I happened to turn on that Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program called Ideas, which was talking about whether HIV really caused AIDS. It caught my attention and it seemed like an interesting subject. I didn’t really know anything about it at the time — this was about 1990, I think — but it was so fascinating that I actually ordered the transcript, the only time in my life I’ve ever done that. I got some of the books and papers that were listed in this, and then started my exploration, first as a scientific issue. Then I started to understand the human-rights aspects to AIDS as well, and I started to know people personally and see how their lives were being disrupted. That’s how I got brought into it in a really big way.

My interest in it was pretty casual until about 1996, when Dr. Peter Duesberg’s book Inventing the AIDS Virus came out. By the time I had read that book, which involved about three nights of staying up until 3 o’clock in the morning to make sure it was finished, I was completely hooked. And shortly after that I got involved with the case of Sophie Bressard in Montreal, an HIV-positive woman who at that time was healthy, had two healthy HIV-positive children. One of them got bronchitis. It was diagnosed as PCP [Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia] because the child was “HIV-positive,” and it became an utter nightmare which ended up with the forced drugging of her two children — including the one who was perfectly healthy, not even with bronchitis — and the death of Sophie Bressard. Then I realized this was a lot more than just a scientific dispute. It’s a scientific dispute that actively kills people.

Zenger’s: That’s a pretty strong term, “actively kills people.” How does that work? How does something that most people have been led to believe totally actually lead to people’s deaths? I mean, the scientists who are pushing this would say, “Oh, no, we’re saving lives.”

Crowe: Well, they think the anti-HIV drugs are somehow “life-saving,” even though in the literature there are many, many documented cases of death associated with them. they somehow call those drugs “life-saving.” They passionately believe in the drugs, and they will coerce or even force you to take those drugs. And that leads to the deaths of people. In the case of a woman who has a child, they will force the woman to give drugs to the child or she will lose her child, in which case the child will get drugs anyway. It puts women, mothers, and fathers in a very difficult situation. If you’re an ordinary adult who has control over your life, it usually manifests itself as coercion. The doctor will say, “You must do this. You’re going to die if you don’t do this.” I have talked to many HIV-positive people, and this is a common story: that doctors will berate them into taking the drugs. And many of them give up and do what they’re told, which is to take the drugs.

Zenger’s: Bottom-line, what’s the argument against HIV as the cause of AIDS?

Crowe: I think this is one of those rare cases where the entire [mainstream] edifice needs to be condemned. There’s not much that I can think of that can be saved from this construct. In essence, the construct is that there is an external retrovirus called HIV; that it’s transmitted sexually; that when you get it, you will eventually get a disease — maybe 10, 20 years down the road — that will kill you; that we can measure your progress by counting CD4 cells or viral loads; and the only thing that can slow it down is modern pharmaceuticals. All of those assertions are questionable.

It didn’t used to be common to question the very existence of HIV, but now that’s one of the most common arguments against HIV as the cause of AIDS. The virus has never been purified. There are no pictures of it under an electron microscope. Now, if they never actually purified the virus, how did they get the RNA to make the PCR [“viral load”] tests if they don’t have pure virus? They fished around in some impure materials, and got out some RNA, and we said, “That’s the virus.” But they did not get it from pure virus because they’ve never purified the virus. Therefore, the viral load test is unvalidated.

The issue of the CD4 counts: these are the immune cells that are supposed to monitor your progress towards AIDS. We know that HIV does not kill CD4 cells directly, because that’s admitted by even the mainstream. We also know that those nice graphs you see, where the CD4 counts go down dramatically, then they come up a little bit, then they plateau and then they go slowly down until you die, those graphs are fraudulent. That was first discovered in 1988 at a conference where John Lauritsen took a picture of one of these graphs, and Peter Duesberg said, “Why are there no numbers on this graph?”

Somebody, one of the dogmatists in the audience, said, “Well, it’s just what we think happens. It’s just our conception of how HIV causes AIDS.” But it was being used in the conference to say Peter Duesberg is wrong, because this is what happens. But what it turned out to be was this is what we think happens, and therefore Peter Duesberg is wrong. That doesn’t make much sense, so they “solved” the problem of not having numbers by putting numbers on the graph. And so if you go to the NIAID [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] Web site right now, you’ll see a nice graph that looks very much the same, but now it’s got numbers. Over time, this original graph changed slightly. So as it got referenced from one paper to another, they would change the curve. But at no point was it ever contaminated with data.

The graph is completely divorced from that, and yet it is used as a powerful tool. A doctor can put it in front of a patient and say, “Here’s your CD4 count. It’s down from this a month ago. This is where you are, and if it keeps going like this, I estimate you’ve got three years left.” I got into a fight recently with two dogmatists. They did a YouTube video and they included a really similar graph, and I said, “I want the citation for this graph.” They chased me around, or I chased them around, with a whole bunch of irrelevant issues, but they would not tell me this. They pointed me to papers from the early 1990’s and said, “Well, we’ve known it for so long, it’s even in papers from the early 1990’s.” I said, “Well, the measurements from those papers in the early 1990’s were different. It was CD4 plus p24, not CD4 plus viral load.” Plus there was no graph in this paper they referenced me to.

So then they referenced me to a paper from 2009 and said, “Well, here’s something newer.” And the first thing it said is, “The time at which to start therapy based on CD4 counts is one of the central mysteries of AIDS.” And I’m going, “Wait a minute. First you’re telling me that in 1990, we knew it all; and now you reference a paper in 2009 that says we’ve never actually known the correlation between CD4 counts and disease.” This is the kind of shoddy science that goes on, but if you’re in a church, or you’re on the throne and you’re giving divine wisdom, you don’t have to worry about somebody down on the floor questioning you because, if they do, they’ll just get dragged off and silenced. Maybe not as brutally as in the 1600’s, with a sword to the neck, but they have ways to stop you talking.

Zenger’s: Tell me about the so-called “HIV tests,” the antibody tests, the way that people are labeled “HIV-positive” in the first place, with all that that means for them. What’s the central problem with them?

Crowe: An antibody test just has a lot of problems. You could get cross-reactions to related viruses, or even unrelated viruses that happen to share some proteins in common [with HIV]. According to [supposed HIV “discoverer”] Robert Gallo, HIV came from a family of three viruses, HTLV-1, -2 and –3. One and two supposedly caused cancer; HTLV-3, which is now known as HIV, supposedly caused immune deficiency. Well, at the very least maybe this test will sometimes say you’ve got HIV when you have HTLV-1. But HTLV-1 supposedly causes a cancer based on having too many CD4 cells. HIV is a disease of too few CD4 cells — or at least that’s what they say, based on the CD4 cells. So at the very least it could diagnose the wrong disease.

Secondly, the HIV antibody test has components in the test that you can react to. The test is made up of several chemicals that aren’t supposed to have anything to do with HIV, and if your blood reacts to one of those, it can cause the test to react positively. So you then have a “disease” based on antibodies to some other component of the test kit. In other words, it’s a meaningless diagnosis. But a bigger problem is that they took a very special population of people — people who were very sick with what they called “AIDS” — and they said a high percentage, 89 percent or something in Gallo’s research — were positive on this antibody test.

Zenger’s: Not 100 percent.

Crowe: Not 100 percent. So then they said. “We can then conclude from that that a person in the general population who tests positive will also suffer from the same diseases along the road.” Well, why would you make that leap of logic? You don’t know how many people 100 years ago would have tested positive on the HIV test. You can show that these antibodies are more common in a sick population, but they’re not 100 percent. You cannot conclude from that that healthy people with a positive HIV antibody test will be diseased. Yet they’re not only told that they will get sick, but they’re told, effectively, “You will die — and it will be a horrible death.”

Zenger’s: Isn’t one of the problems also that you don’t necessarily know that an antibody reaction means an active infection?

Crowe: That’s actually an important point. Normally, an antibody reaction means that your body has reacted to the infection and therefore it’s a good thing. We are supposed to get infected as children with measles, mumps, chicken pox, all of those things, and we develop antibodies that in many cases last our whole life.

Zenger’s: Isn’t that the whole premise behind vaccination? You give someone something that will help them develop antibodies, so that later, when they’re exposed to the virus, they will not get the disease.

Crowe: Right. So antibodies are supposed to be a good thing. But with AIDS — and a few other diseases, when they don’t have another test — all of a sudden they become a really bad thing. Now, the nice thing about an antibody test is that it’s very cheap, and it’s very quick. But those should not be considerations in a test around which your life revolves. “If it’s positive, you’re going to die; if you’re negative, you’re not.” Now, with a test of that importance, why would cost and speed come into play? Another test which is commonly used, which I think is also proof that it’s inaccurate, is the Western Blot.

Zenger’s: Now, this is the second phase of the antibody test. If you go down to your test site, they first run what is called an ELISA, which is simply a yes-or-no reaction: does the test react or not? And if that’s positive, they run a second ELISA. And then if that’s positive, they run the Western Blot. Now, what’s wrong with the Western Blot?

Crowe: Actually, the ELISA is not a black-and-white test. The ELISA is a color change. They make it black-and-white by having a color sample and saying, “Well, if it’s blue, this is the density; and if it’s darker than this, it’s positive; and if it’s lighter than this, it’s negative.” So you can still be blue — in other words, it’s reacted — but if it’s not quite blue enough, then it’s a negative. When they actually in some cases have a category called “borderline reactive.” And if you’re “borderline reactive” and you’re “at risk” — say you’re a Gay man, for example — then they do extra testing, just to help you get that diagnosis that you might have really wanted.

The Western Blot is, as you said, the second phase. They usually do two or three ELISA’s, and if they do three it’s usually two out of three. If two out of three are positive, they’ll go on to do the Western Blot. The Western Blot supposedly has separated the HIV proteins by molecular weight. So you see proteins like p24, gp120. The number is the molecular weight. So then they’re separated by weight, and then you see how many does your blood react with. So sometimes it will be two or three. There’s a couple of problems here. First of all, the Perth group [Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, Valendar Turner and colleagues at the Royal Perth Hospital in Australia] has collected about 10 different interpretations of this test. Some need four proteins to be positive. Some need three. Some need two. The types of the proteins that you need are different.

Zenger’s: Aren’t these 10 “interpretations” basically different rules for which proteins need to light up on the band that separates them to be considered a “positive” reaction?

Crowe: Yes. You could be positive on one, indeterminate on another — and “indeterminate” usually is interpreted as negative —

Zenger’s: Unless you’re in one of the so-called “risk groups,” in which case it’s interpreted as positive.

Crowe: Yes, There are some interesting flow charts that show how these “borderline” results can be re-interpreted if you’re supposedly in a “risk group.” A “risk group” could mean that you’re a Gay man. It could be that you’ve been accused of a sexual crime; or that you’re the supposed victim of a sexual crime. An HIV-positive man sleeping with just about anybody else is considered a sex criminal these days. So you get special treatment. You get more tests. You are more likely to test positive. But it is very strange that somebody could walk into a lab in Africa, get a Western Blot — it would be unusual to have a Western Blot in Africa, but sometimes that would happen — and walk out “positive,” and the same man could give the same blood in New York or England and be “negative.” Or vice versa. How can this be if the tests are accurate?

Zenger’s: So this is why Peter Duesberg joked that if you’re HIV-positive and you want to be HIV-negative, move.

Crowe: One of the other interesting conundrums is that in the United States, the majority of new “AIDS” cases are in those with no disease, but a positive HIV test and a low CD4 count. And as far as I’ve been able tell, nowhere else in the world is this non-disease form of “AIDS” allowed. So about 75 percent of new American AIDS cases are in this category. The vast majority of people in America who are diagnosed with AIDS are not sick at the time of their diagnosis, which is ridiculous.

Zenger’s: My understanding was that as of 1997 that was about two-thirds. And after that, the CDC stopped releasing that information.

Crowe: Christine Maggiore found some more recent information, I think just for California. It indicated a higher percentage. Now, given that in 1992 that percentage was zero, because that was not part of the AIDS definition until 1993 — and by 1997 it had reached 65 percent, I think saying it’s about three-quarters is reasonable. But let’s be conservative and say it’s about two-thirds of new AIDS cases in America are in people who are not sick.

What will that do to the death rate? Well, if you start people on toxic drugs when they’re perfectly healthy, they’re going to last longer than if you start them on toxic drugs when they’re just about on their deathbeds. So consequently the death rate will go down if you start diagnosing people who don’t have any illness. They may last five or 10 years on these drugs, and you can say, “Well, the average person with AIDS in the 1980’s only lasted a year. Now they’re lasting five or 10 years. It’s gotta be the drugs.”

Zenger’s: We’ve already talked on this briefly, but what are some of the ways you can test “HIV-positive” if you don’t have a disease?

Crowe: Well, I think the most extensive summary of this was done in the 1990’s by Christine Johnson in L.A. She found around 70 different conditions, including pregnancy, certain types of vaccination and other infectious diseases, that can cause you to test positive on HIV tests. This is not universal. Not everybody who gets a flu shot will test HIV-positive. But that’s not really the point. If one percent of people who get a flu shot would test positive within the next month, that’s a lot of people who are going to get a false-positive diagnosis.

The doctors will rarely consider a false-positive diagnosis, although they may be more compelled to do this if you’re not in one of the “risk groups.” This, of course, increases the risk that a Gay man, an IV drug user, a hemophiliac, will get an HIV diagnosis, because with a single test they’ll say, “Oh, we’re sure. We know this is true.” If you’re a 35-year-old monogamous woman from a small town, they’ll probably say, “How could she possibly be ‘HIV-positive’? Let’s retest.” So the chances of getting a retest, or being advised to get a retest, are much higher if you’re not in one of these “risk groups.”

Zenger’s: One of the ironies that strikes me is that one of the reasons the Gay community so totally embraced HIV as the cause of AIDS is that it seemed to be, “O.K., this is something that doesn’t blame it on our lifestyle. It’s a virus. It’s something impersonal. It just happened to hit our community early.” Whereas what you’re saying is that a lot of these so-called “diagnoses” are being based on lifestyle.

Crowe: Yeah. In the book When AIDS Began: San Francisco and the Making of an Epidemic, about San Francisco in the early days of AIDS, Michel Cochrane, the author, talks about how the diagnosis of PCP would occur. If you were “HIV-positive,” if you were a Gay man, the chances of getting a PCP diagnosis were far, far higher than if you were any other patient in the hospital. This was just one example of the incredible bias. You It’s actually very difficult to diagnose PCP, so they just “knew” if you were Gay, and you had respiratory disease, it was PCP. That would be the bias early on, which I think really distorted things.

But I do dispute that Gay men said, “It’s not our lifestyle,” because they really had a choice. They could have said, “Some of us are doing a lot of drugs, and that’s damaging, and as a community we should tell those people that it’s dangerous and we should get them to stop or slow down.” The other choice was, “We’re too promiscuous,” because the belief was that Gay men were getting HIV-infected because of their numbers of sexual partners. It really was buying in to the feelings of the outside world that Gay men were out of control sexually.

Zenger’s: I think it also had to do with the feelings of Gay people themselves. Here’s a group that has been dumped on for centuries, that has been accused of all sorts of things — being in league with the devil, being witches, being psychologically sick. In fact, the word “homosexual” was originally coined in the 1860’s as a description of a mental illness. I don’t think the Gay community saw the choices in how to look at AIDS in the way you’ve just described them.

I think they saw it this way: “Here are people who are blaming it on drug use, on sex, on STD’s, on all these so-called ‘risk factors’ that are really condemnations of the way we live; and here’s this other group that is saying, ‘It’s a virus. It can infect anybody. It just happened to strike our community first. That lets us off the hook. We don’t have to look at our lifestyle. We don’t have to feel guilty about being Gay, or think that we brought this on ourselves.” And part of that was the belief that the disease would quickly spread out of the Gay community and infect the general population, which hasn’t happened.

Crowe: Well, according to some people it has happened in Africa. I was looking at a nationwide survey of South Africa whose samples were based on the sizes of the various census districts, so it was very evenly spread across the entire country of South Africa. And it found that 24 percent of young Black women were HIV-positive. Now, here’s the kicker, though: only about 6 percent of young Black men were positive.

Now, if you ever ask yourself who’s more promiscuous in Africa, the answer is the same as in America or Canada. It’s the men. The survey itself showed that. If you ask how many partners they had, any question about promiscuity, men will tend to give answers that indicate that they’re more promiscuous. And yet women have about three times the rate of HIV in Africa, at least in this survey in South Africa. So how can this possibly be? How can women be getting infected when they’re not as promiscuous as men? It makes no sense at all.

Zenger’s: So what you’re basically saying is instead of looking from the facts and then reasoning from the facts, they’re starting with the conclusion and cherry-picking the facts that support their conclusion, and ignoring or trying to rationalize away the facts that don’t.

Crowe: That’s right. When I was a science student my professor used the phrase “a priori reasoning” on me all the time, which is basically you decide something, you decide in your mind what’s true, and then you design an experiment to prove it — as opposed to saying, “Here’s an interesting question. I want to find out if the answer is A or B,” trying to be unbiased about it. I think most scientists don’t get that lecture enough times, and I really don’t think it sinks in.

Zenger’s: Right now I’d like to talk about one thing that’s been said in a number of the mainstream sources, that you can say what you want about how HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, but a lot of people in your camp have been dying. David Pasquarelli died. Christine Maggiore died. There’ve been a lot of people who have proclaimed themselves dissidents who’ve said, “Well, I’m HIV-positive but I’m not going to take any of the meds, I’m not going to follow the conventional treatment wisdom,” and they have died prematurely, just as people who have been following the mainstream have. So isn’t that an indication that there is something wrong with them associated with testing positive on this test, whatever it means and whether it is indeed an indication of a viral infection?

Crowe: What it really means is if you’re an HIV-positive dissident, you’re not allowed to die of anything else other than AIDS. You can get hit by a car and they’ll say, “Well, obviously you started across the street in the final throes of brain wasting, and you wouldn’t have got hit by a car if you hadn’t had such serious AIDS.” The last time I checked, I believe that there are a lot of people who follow their doctors’ orders and take AIDS drugs who die. And it’s an indication of bias that people like [John Moore’s] aidstruth Web site are looking only at dissidents who die, and they’re not looking at people who follow doctors’ orders who die.

Zenger’s: Actually, they can always say if someone dies, it’s the virus that killed them; and if someone lives, it’s the drugs that saved them.

Crowe: Right. But what if somebody took drugs and died? And they can’t hide that, because I read the scientific journals on a regular basis, and I see many case reports of people dying after taking AIDS drugs. And in many cases, it’s either overtly stated or clearly implied that the drugs caused their liver to fail. In one horrible case, the drugs depleted his bones so badly that his back broke from his own weight, which I think has got to be one of the most horrible things I’ve ever read. In another case, after starting AIDS drugs, a massive anal tumor occurred.

If you read these horrible things that happen to people — and these are far more horrible than what’s happening to the dissidents who died — they are not just dying. They are spending their last few days or months feeling like a total freak, feeling like their lives are being destroyed in total and utter pain and misery. And yet the establishment is not interested in those cases. They’re only interested in the dissidents who died.

They’re also not interested in people who correspond to a term which they invented, which is “long-term non-progressors.” “Long-term non-progressor” was not a term that the AIDS “denialists” invented. It’s a term that comes straight out of the mainstream. And what is a “long-term non-progressor”? Well, they have to be HIV-positive, obviously. They have to have remained healthy for a long time, usually 10 to 15 years. And they must not be taking AIDS drugs. Now, if the establishment has created this term, that’s an admission that some people are essentially ignoring their HIV diagnosis and going on to live several years afterwards without any health consequences.
Death of an AIDS Dissident

by MARK GABRISH CONLAN, Editor

Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

“If you’re an HIV-positive dissident, you’re not allowed to die of anything else other than AIDS,” said David Crowe of Rethinking AIDS and the Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society when I interviewed him on June 14 for this issue’s cover story. He could have been writing the obituary for my friend Gerard “Jerry” Colinard, who actually had three weeks to live when David and I did the interview. In fact, in addition to recording my conversation with David, I also videotaped it, hoping it could be used on the “AIDS Lie” public-access cable telecast which Jerry produced for our alternative AIDS group, H.E.A.L. [Health, Education, AIDS Liaison]-San Diego. I heard of Jerry’s death, in fact, when I called his number to invite him to the H.E.A.L. meeting at which I showed the video, and got a return message from his friend John Himebaugh telling me he had died on the morning of the Fourth of July, three days before that meeting.

I’ve been an active member of the so-called “AIDS dissident” movement — sneeringly called “HIV denialist” by our adversaries, who want to compare us to the people who still think the Nazis didn’t mass-murder Jews, Queers, Gypsies, Communists, people with disabilities and others during World War II — since 1993. That year, Elliot Fox, the late Robert Bruckner and I founded the Association to Re-Evaluate AIDS (ATRA), which three years later became part of the international network of H.E.A.L. organizations. I’ve been involved ever since because I believe there are a great many unanswered questions about AIDS, and I find the AIDS theories of alternative scientists like Peter Duesberg, David Rasnick, the Perth Group in Australia and others (who often don’t agree with each other) that AIDS is a long-term toxic breakdown of the human immune system far more logical, persuasive and better supported by evidence than the mainstream view that it’s all caused by HIV.

I met Jerry Colinard in 1989 when he showed up at a meeting of Gay Grads of San Diego, an educational and social organization for college-educated Gay and Bisexual men (we didn’t bar women from participating but it was mostly a male group) with which I was involved. He kept turning up in my life thereafter and often surprised me with his transformations, never more so than when he started attending H.E.A.L. meetings, acknowledging not only his “HIV-positive” status but his horrible history with anti-HIV medications. Jerry told our group that he’d taken AZT for four years in the late 1980’s and had ended up near death, whereupon he’d stopped them and had recovered his health. Naturally, this made him highly skeptical of the claims that later generations of anti-HIV meds were “life-saving” and had led to “deathbed recoveries.” For Jerry — at least as he told the story — it was stopping AZT that got him off his deathbed and allowed him to live 20 years longer than he would have otherwise.

Not that Jerry was doctrinaire about it — he tried the meds again when he had a health crisis later on and they seemed, when used temporarily and judiciously, to help him — but he always maintained a high and justified level of skepticism about the mainstream view of AIDS. What’s more, he put his energy and his money where his mouth was. He compiled packets of alternative AIDS information and made them available, at his own expense, to his friends and to anyone else who requested them. He took over producing the “AIDS Lie” TV show after the previous producer died of non-AIDS causes, and often offered to give his friends private showings of “AIDS Lie” episodes and other documentaries on alternative views of AIDS.

Most of his friends ignored these offers and refused even to read or watch alternative sources of information about AIDS. Jerry would frequently come to H.E.A.L. meetings and unburden himself of his frustration with the unwillingness of people he cared about to concede that there might be another point of view about AIDS than the mainstream. I’d usually respond by pointing out that “HIV/AIDS” had long since ceased to be about science or health; instead, it was — and is — a self-perpetuating religion, a shamanistic explanation of the inexplicable (why do people die, and in particular why did a large group of Gay men start being diagnosed with then-uncommon diseases in the early 1980’s?) that survives not by winning a free and open debate in the scientific community, but by a government-proclaimed and media-enforced monopoly on AIDS discourse that prevents people either from being exposed to alternative views or taking them seriously when they do gain access to them.

The latest proof of that came in the July 23, 2009 Gay & Lesbian Times, which carried an obituary for Jerry clearly written by an HIV believer. It praised him for his past work with mainstream AIDS organizations like Being Alive (of which I am also a former member and activist, by the way) but said that “by 2001 … he had rejected traditional Western drug-centered HIV medicine. He referred to himself as an ‘AIDS dissident’ thereafter.” The same issue featured a letter to the editor by Dr. Adrienne M. Schlang, responding to a two-page ad in the July 16 Pride issue of the publication giving some alternative perspectives on HIV and AIDS. Dr. Schlang quoted two of the claims made in this ad — that HIV antibody “test results are open to interpretation” and that AIDS medicines (she put a “sic” after that terminology for reasons that baffle me) “themselves cause the symptoms of AIDS” — but, rather than challenge those statements on factual grounds, she called their publication “the height of irresponsibility” and said they had made her “apoplectic.”

In fact, both those claims are amply supported in the scientific literature. ELISA and IFA HIV antibody tests come out as colored dots on paper and need the input of a reader to determine whether a particular color counts as positive (“reactive”) or negative (“non-reactive”). The Western Blot, the so-called “confirmatory” test, comes out as a series of strips that respond to the presence or absence of the nine proteins supposed to make up HIV, and there are at least 11 different standards worldwide for determining which pattern of bands on the test strip counts as “positive” and which “negative.” What’s more, when test results are “indeterminate” — when the readers can’t make up their minds whether they’re reactive or not — they frequently refer to the background information on the patient to determine how to read it, so a Gay man or a member of another acknowledged AIDS “risk group” is more likely to be told he’s positive on the basis of an in-between test result than anybody else.

The claim that anti-HIV drugs themselves cause the symptoms of AIDS is based on a number of sources, including the warnings published with the drugs themselves — which frequently mention bone-marrow depletion, anemia, weight loss and other AIDS-like symptoms as possible side effects — and also on studies like the one presented at the 2004 international AIDS conference in Barcelona, which showed that the number one cause of death among HIV-positive people in the U.S. was liver failure from the toxicities of anti-HIV medications. Instead of citing facts, however, Dr. Schlang made clear that her agenda was to get the Gay & Lesbian Times to stop publishing statements challenging the mainstream view of HIV and AIDS and keep their pages closed to legitimate debate.

The fact that the HIV/AIDS mainstream is promoting religion, not science, never comes out as clearly as it does when a prominent person in the alternative AIDS community dies, especially if they’re diagnosed “HIV-positive” and die relatively young. When Christine Maggiore, who founded the Los Angeles-based Alive and Well organization and worked closely with me and other leaders of H.E.A.L., died in December 2008, Connie Howard wrote in VUE Magazine in Edmonton, Canada, “Predictably and sadly, some AIDS activists are celebrating — not her death exactly, but celebrating a point for their team nonetheless. This isn’t a war though, and premature death, whether from AIDS or AIDS meds refused or AIDS meds used, is a tragedy. … No matter what we still have to learn about the disease, Christine Maggiore deserves to have chosen her own path and to be respected for it. The hate she has suffered, and the hate and pressure her surviving husband and son will suffer, is inexcusable.”

I can’t imagine that the Jerry Colinard I knew for two decades, the man who worked hard and gave of himself unstintingly to advance alternative sources of information and thought about AIDS, would be thrilled that some of his friends are saying that if he’d only been a good little boy and taken his drugs like he was told, he’d still be alive. (As I noted above, that was the opposite of his real-life experience.) I don’t think he’d be thrilled that his survivors are using his death to raise money for the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park, as his Gay & Lesbian Times obituary stated — though he’d probably be even more pissed if they’d used it to raise money for mainstream AIDS research or services instead of a memorial. He’d seen the use of other AIDS dissenters’ deaths by the mainstream for propaganda purposes, and though we never discussed the issue I can’t see Jerry wanting his death exploited by the very people who are trying to shut down debate on the causes and appropriate treatments of AIDS once and for all.

Military Types Will Love “Soldier Boys”

by LEO E. LAURENCE • Copyright © 2009 by Leo E. Laurence for San Diego News Service

Photo Caption: Retired journalist Tom Turner of San Diego holds a copy of his autobiographical novel about the Army’s basic training: Soldier Boys. Photo by Leo E. Laurence, San Diego News Service

San Diego — Soldier Boys is a candid and deeply personal exposure to Army basic training, with a little touch of the homoerotic challenges facing teenage soldier recruits. But, the story of the development of this book is as fascinating as the book itself.

Soldier Boys really isn’t a “Gay book,” though the title suggests otherwise and it is primarily distributed in a Gay book store in the very Gay Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, the Obelisk.

Is it a Gay book? I asked the author during a private interview. “Yeah,” he answered, with a wide grin and glint in his eyes.

“I thought it was porno” when I looked at the cover, responded Zeek, 26, a Latino acting stu-dent in Hillcrest. And, there are some “saucy” passages, as Turner describes them.

Burt is a novice soldier who had never masturbated.

“Let us show you how it’s done, my friend,” said Whit (actually the author), sitting on a bed with Burt and Wally in a hotel room while on they were on a cherished pass, away from the Army’s basic training.

Wally set his beer down on the floor and pulled out “his already swollen joint through the open-ing in his underwear.

“Burt let out a gasp, but said nothing. He stared at Wally as he began slowly pulling on his cock.

“Whit realized he was staring, too, and that his own cock was swelling. He grabbed hold of it eagerly and began working on it.

“‘Here, buddy, let me get yours started,’ Wally instructed, reaching his left hand into Burt’s drawers and pulling his penis through the opening. Still, Burt said nothing, but took possession of his own cock and began pulling on it as he alternately eyes Wally and Whit.

“Burt’s expression didn’t change as he reached for Wally’s dick with a right hand and Whit’s with a left, bringing moans of pleasure from both …”

Soldier Boys, however, is really more of an autobiographical story of a young closeted, Gay man (then called “homosexuals”) who goes through the Army’s basic training in ‘62.

The author originally wrote over 300 pages that were “kinda dry and dull,” he said in an interview. “I was far from being ‘out.’ I wrote it all down as a novel about a puny college kid without any athletic ability being able to make it (in the Army’s basic training).

“I sent it to agents (and received) nice, polite responses. I got married in ’64 in Olathe, Kansas; divorced in ’76 and the book went on the shelf. At that time, the manuscript wasn’t about being Gay.” (Turner is a retired journalist and editorial writer.)

“My older son, Michael, 32, knew about the manuscript. He’s also a journalist, with the Florida Times Union in Jacksonville,” Turner explained.

“Dad, you ought to pull that book down and give it a Gay theme. That’s particularly timely with ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” his son advised. So Turner followed his son’s suggestions.

Soldier Boys is basically autobiographical, which makes it more raw and exciting.

“The basic facts are real,” Turner said, “but the Gay parts are invented. Some of the characters are composites of guys who I actually trained with, but the names have been changed to protect the straights.”

The book’s original title, Every Man’s a Tiger, should have stayed as the title, to avoid the pornographic suggestiveness of the current title.

Soldier Boys is available at Obelisk Bookstore in Hillcrest and online through Amazon.com