Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Vampires Strike Back

Evidently, with the gang at County Health at least temporarily sidelined by that inconvenient retraction of earlier false statements issued yesterday, Cal-OSHA, which shares the same "mandatory condoms at any price" approach, has decided to act unilaterally in an attempt to impose their standards through some kind of administrative fiat. They laid the groundwork for this yesterday by playing Elliot Ness at AIM's main Clinic. Read all about it via the L.A. Times:

Health officials inspect clinic that serves porn industry

Tired of waiting for a response from the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation about a positive HIV test for a performer, state investigators make the surprise visit.

By Kimi Yoshino

June 18, 2009

Tired of waiting for a response from the San Fernando Valley-based health clinic where an adult film actress recently tested positive for HIV, state health and safety investigators Wednesday performed a surprise inspection of the medical offices and this week will issue subpoenas demanding access to patient records.

Since the HIV case was disclosed last week, public health officials and AIDS advocacy groups repeatedly have criticized the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation for not cooperating fully with county and state authorities and for protecting the industry by withholding the name of the production company that filmed the woman without a current, clean test.

The state also is seeking information about 18 additional HIV-positive cases that the clinic has reported to Los Angeles County health officials since 2004. The county did not investigate those cases and has no information on whether they involved active adult performers or how the transmissions occurred. AIM has said that the latest case involves the first active performer to contract the disease since a 2004 outbreak shut down production for a month.

"We were unaware of all of these cases until recent reports came out," said Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health. "That's why we wanted to get into the clinic. We wanted to interview staff that work there. We wanted to look at records. We want to understand this."

The agency was prepared to obtain a court warrant to gain access, but when investigators arrived at the Sherman Oaks facility Wednesday afternoon, clinic officials let them in and cooperated.

"The response was fairly good," said Amy Martin, special counsel to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. "They allowed our people to do a walk-around. They allowed them to speak to employees. There was no exchange of documents yet. There will be in the future and we'll see how that goes."

Sharon Mitchell, the former porn star who opened the clinic in 1998, could not be reached for comment.

The clinic's attorney, Mark Levinson, said, "It's strange that this happened at this particular moment, but it's their right and we have nothing to hide."

He said he could not comment on requests to turn over documents until he receives the subpoenas.

In statements on the clinic's website, Mitchell repeatedly has maintained that the clinic is following all laws. She has said that the actress and her two sexual partners have been barred from work, pending additional testing. The partners haven't tested positive.

Mitchell has told county officials that the clinic, which was sued for breach of privacy after the 2004 outbreak, is awaiting final, confirmatory test results and legally has up to seven days to report the information.

But state health and safety officials didn't buy that.

"If you're going to err, err on the side of caution," Martin said. "Don't say let's wait another seven additional days and meanwhile, let's go make some more unprotected films. . . . We think they're creating a hazard by sending people into a known unsafe work practice. They're who the industry relies on to stop the people from working."

The industry has long held that its practices are safe. Producers say that no performer is filmed without proof of negative tests, which should be taken every 30 days, according to industry standards.

That is not adequate protection, Martin said, because the disease might not show up in tests for days. The only protection is condom use, she said.

So, other than disrupting clinic operations and attempting to intimidate the entire porn community, the purpose of this fishing expedition would appear to be the beginning of an effort to use whatever flmsy excuse they can to compel the whole industry to do sex the way they tell us or face random inspections (of which there can never be very many because they lack the funds and personnel to properly regulate the thousands of industries already under their jurisdiction) and fines and other administrative penalties where they see opportunities. That's clearly what they were seeking yesterday - opportunities.

As it's already be established, by the admission of our friend Dr. Fielding, that the so-called "undisclosed cases of HIV in the porn community" weren't really in the porn community at all, Cal-OSHA's spokesman Dean Fryer's claim that: "We were unaware of all of these cases until recent reports came out," and that they are the reason "... we wanted to get into the clinic. We wanted to interview staff that work there. We wanted to look at records. We want to understand this" seems pretty flimsy. Those cases, as we know and as County Health now admits, were not industry-related, and the last time I checked, Cal-OSHA didn't have authority to regulate people's behavior in their own bedrooms.

But the real object of their interest is pretty obvious, and directly related to the single HIV case detected on June 4. In the words of Cal-OSHA's chief condom crusader Amy Martin: "If you're going to err, err on the side of caution. Don't say let's wait another seven additional days and meanwhile, let's go make some more unprotected films. . . . We think they're creating a hazard by sending people into a known unsafe work practice. They're who the industry relies on to stop the people from working."

Of course, AIM has already quarantined the tiny group of contacts from the single established HIV case discovered on June 4, and in any event, AIM doesn't "send" anybody anywhere. AIM monitors, reports, traces contacts, makes notifications and recommends action. That's what it was created to do and that is the extent of its abilities.

But somewhere in those records that Cal-OSHA seeks by court order, hoping to override California's medical privacy laws (for the greater good, of course) these officials want to find specific information about the infected performer, and where, when and with whom she worked. This would pave the way for levying fines against the company that shot her wiithout a clean test. Martin and her friends read the papers and know the other cases waved in the wind by Dr. Fielding and his pals are unrelated. That's just a cover for the obvious objective of pinning down a culprit in this affair and making an example, which they will try to expand to include the entire industry.

Anyone doubting that that is the goal should re-read Martin's parting shot:

"The industry has long held that its practices are safe. Producers say that no performer is filmed without proof of negative tests, which should be taken every 30 days, according to industry standards.

That is not adequate protection, Martin said, because the disease might not show up in tests for days. The only protection is condom use, she said."

Cal-OSHA has previously fined a production company for creating a workplace hazard during the events of 2004 and I have no doubt if they turn up what they're looking for, which may or may not be possible from trolling the paperwork of an unspecified number of AIM's clients and whatever other information AIM's contact tracing activities may have generated, that the agency will act against the company in question.

How far they can go beyond that is not Their intention to extend what powers they legitimately enjoy to try and impose universal condom use in porn without the benefit of specific enabling legislation by pursuing sanctions against purported safety regulation violators in an effort to intimidate everyone else into adopting their preferred approach is clear enough from Martin's statement.

This did not happen in 2004, when there were demonstrated workplace HIV transmissions and fines were successfully imposed on producers, so it's pretty doubtful that they'll get what they want, other than somebody's head to hang on their office wall, out of this latest show of force.

The overwhelming majority of producers who have followed AIM's recommendations and never had an HIV incident on any of their sets are quite likely to go on doing what they've been doing, just as they did after 2004.

However, the invasion of AIM's facilities by the inspectors, the attempt to discredit AIM's methods and the disruption of AIM's operations pretty much confirm worst suspicions about the agency's secondary goal of undermining confidence in the existing safeguards, even if no workable replacement yet exists.

Can this blatantly political exercise of state power succeed in making things worse for everybody? To some extent, by compromising AIM's confidential relationships with its clients, it already has. But how far it can really go from there would appear headed for some kind of juridical determination.

There are legal limits to CAl-OSHA's reach, and the standard they wish to force down all our throats having been created for a different industry without consultation with those to be subjected to sweeping new rgulations most likely exceeds the agency's authority.

It looks like we're going to find out.

In the meantime, Amy Martin can pursue her agenda at taxpayer expense to whatever end while the industry continues to do what it has been doing all along: operating as normal under AIM's accepted testing protocols.

The ugly way in which Martin and her gang have conducted their campaign deserves whatever push-back it's going to get, but the end result is unlikely to have much impact on the broader operations of porn producers. Existing laws don't support a single state agency's desire to dictate massive new regulations by administrative fiat, and the laws that will enable them to do so aren't going to be enacted for reasons that have been previously discussed at interminable length.

More showboating, more grandstanding, more strong-arm tactics and no substantive change in anything. That's what Cal-OSHA's latest door-busting at a health care clinic amount to. They should know by now that these things don't go down well around here. Bigger government entities with much more impressive powers at their disposal have been using those same tactics for years in efforts to regulate porn content through criminal prosecution. They get some heads now and then too, but the rest of us go on according to our own best judgment, and I'm betting that these arrogant bureaucrats are going to run into some pretty stiff resistance when they try to prevent us from engaging in our lawful production of adult entertainment.

But I'm sure they'll keep on trying.


  1. Welcome to Modern Day Witch Hunt 2009, starring Sharon Mitchell as The Designated Witch.

    It is so amazing how these authorities think that they can ignore the basic facts and attempt to overturn common sense and basic fundamental law to impose their methods on an industry.

    Now....why don't they try some of that with Big Pharma using single payer?? Or with the banks during the bailout with basic essential regulation?? But Noooooooo....that would be SOCIALISM!!!!!

    But apply it to the porn industry or to sex's just good old fashioned protection for their own good!! Just shut up and put on that condom, and never mind if you happen to get infected from micro-tearing or that you happen to be shooting with your significant other who is truly's all about teaching the masses about doing it the RIGHT WAY...that is, OUR WAY!!!!

    After Sharon Mitchell wins this round, she should sue LA Health Care, Cal-OSHA, and all the others for the slander and defamation done to her and AIM's reputation.

    As if Cali doesn't have enough problems with health care issues already.


  2. There is now a link to the original post at Fleshbot. Thanks to Mr. Ponante.

    First Ernest, thanks for a great post.

    Second some disclosure is needed. My background is with MI-OSHA not CAL-OSHA. I fully expect that there are some differences,

    Ernest, your choice of the word vampire was a good one. According to legend, a vampire can only get into your home if invited. Once invited, well then the damage begins. So it is with OSHA. I would urge Ms. Mitchell to make sure that all of her ducks are in a row concerning MSDS documentation and make sure her staff training is documented.

    It is painfully clear that CAL-OSHA is going to push their mandatory condom agenda forward. Do you not think that it is time for at least the major studios to come together and form some sort of alliance? Such an organization might very well come up with a strategy that could prevent these regulations from ever seeing the light of day.

  3. And, right on cue, here comes Michael Weinstein of AHCF to drop the other shoe: "L.A. Public Health Officials Have Been Asleep...HIV and STD in the porn industry..."

    I'll simply repost the kind of claptrap spewing from his website right now:

    “L.A. County Public Health officials have been asleep at the switch with regard to monitoring HIV and STD prevention and testing in the region’s porn industry,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Under the auspices of California Code that is enacted into law and already on the books, we are calling on County health officials to immediately institute a requirement for condom usage in the production of adult films—something already far more widespread voluntarily in adult gay films. If not, County health officials should shut down production sets that refuse to comply with the California Code.”

    AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) will host a press conference and teleconference, Thursday, June 18th at 1:00pm Pacific to demand that officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health use existing California law to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases—including HIV—in performers working in California’s multi-billion dollar adult entertainment industry. AHF will also criticize the County’s handling and reporting of one or more recently reported HIV infections found in actors in the industry.

    Let me of right now, only ONE -- spell that O-N-E -- performer has been confirmed to be infected with HIV, and more than likely, she got it from outside the industry. Only ONE -- allow me to spell that again for Weinstein's benefit, since obviously his vision is being affected by the microcode running his brain, O-N-E -- other performer and "Patient Zero's" significant other -- who is NOT an industry performer, BTW -- has been identified as an "primary contact"...and as of right now, both of them have tested NEGATIVE for HIV or any other STD.

    And never mind the basic fact that the "16/22 performers infected by HIV between 2004 and today" meme has been already proven to be a bogus as a Bigfoot sighting in Las Vegas....never mind the latest fishing expedition attempt by Cal-OSHA that really is nothing more than a witch hunt designed to fuel the attempted coup d'tat to strongarm AIM into submission and publically out private medical records to serve their "impose condoms by any means neccessary" campaign.

    If this shit couldn't be pulled off during the Tony Montana outbreak of the 1990's, or the Darren James/Lara Roxx outbreak of 2004, which were far, far, far more expansive and involved a much wider breadth of industry activity, then how in the HELL do they think that they will be able to dupe everyone into submitting into their agenda this time???

    Personally, I think that someone is going to have egg in their faces when the truth finally is revealed. Based on what I'm seeing, it probably won't be AIM or Sharon Mitchell.

    But, hey....why let the truth get in the way of a good moral crusade?? Especially one that can be cloaked in the most hip, liberal, "sex positive" language of "protecting performers" and "saving lives" from deadly diseases....even if it means not even allowing the workers themselves to have any say over what is going to be imposed on their own bodies???

    Maybe it's time for defenders of the porn industry and AIM to hold some protests and pressers of their own against these fools.


  4. This just keeps getting better and better.

    "The porn industry has too much power in the halls of Sacramento"

    This is a recap of the PC by AVN

  5. Oh, DAMN....isn't this rich.

    This particular comment really gave me a bout of the LOL's:

    "I think the county is afraid of the industry," Weinstein incredibly claimed. "The industry wraps itself in the First Amendment. It has much too much power in the halls of Sacramento and the county defends them, or they just don't want to take responsibility. I was very pleased to see Cal-OSHA going in and doing the inspection that they did, that's a step in the right direction, but they went to the AIM office; they didn't go to the set where the people are working."

    Oh, I get it...never mind that the single performer who was infected actually was infected from OUTSIDE the industry, and never mind the basic fact that the other performer has so far tested HIV NEGATIVE (as has been his and her secondary contacts so far)...and never mind the basic fact that no damn condom would have prevented the original performer from being infected altogether. Forget that....we want NAMES and STUDIOS so that we can make that perfect bust that will make the 11:00 news and turn the political tide our way!!!

    Of course, Fielding and Weinstein could give not one whooping hole of cow dung about HIV spreading in the general population...otherwise, they would aim their guns at a far more realistic target like the right-wing minority Republican politicos in the Cali Assembly who have basically hijacked social services with their 1/3rd plus veto over budgetary matters and their desire to cut everything that can't be sold for their private profit.

    But nooooooooooooo, far easier to rant against the porn industry who supposedly has far more power over the Assembly than even the Big Banks, the right-wing talk show circuit, and Big Business.....combined.

    Oh...and I especially love the "But, we're not REALLY against pornography; we just want to PROTECT THE PERFORMERS!!!!!" line....a line that is used by so many other antiporn activists (especially of the Gail Dines variety) who insist that they are really on the side of the workers whom their actual legislation would destroy and condemn.

    I suspect that we will be seeing Gail Dines herself (and probably even a few ex-porn starlets turned born-again fundies or radfems) at the next AHCF presser talking about how the evil, bad porn industry is once again using its profits to infect innocent women. Just like the Fundie Right used to use the "gays use AIDS to infect kids" meme that was so popular during the height of the first HIV/AIDS pandemic during the 80's.

    Sex panics exploited for political gain. They're not just for right-wing hacks anymore, I guess.


  6. Well, well, well, aren't all these folks busy trying to change the subject from yesterday's fiasco?

    Now Weinstein is pretending to denounce the gang at County for not enforcing the existing laws (nudge-nudge-wink-wink) after having worked hand-in-glove with Fielding and friends to set up the current confrontation since they all got shot down by the legislature in 2004.

    Right, sure, AHF is really pissed at LADOHS over this. In fact, they're trying to provide them some cover to do a thing they won't and can't do, and more importantly, haven't done in situations far more relevant than porn sets.

    County Health has not, for instance, shut down bathhouses or sex clubs frequented primarily by gay men, even though the department admits that HIV infection rates among those establishments' regular clientele hovers around 10%.

    But of course, there are poltical reasons to go after porn instead of gay sex clubs. Weinstein, for one, knows where his contribution checks come from. He's all over the media like swine flu on the porn thing, but quiet as a mouse on the sex club deal. How odd. What a coincidence.

    Meanwhile, he congratulates Cal-OSHA for raiding a clinic not in any way implicated in the spread of any disease, but faults them for not going far enough. He demands that the entire industry be subject to random search and seizure because of a trumped up public health emergency that just happens to fit his political agenda.

    All these clucks, I suspect, think that in the new political climate of Obamamerica regulation, no matter how preposterous, is a shield behind which any ugly political machinations can be hidden.

    Not so. In fact, as Mr. Obama himself is discovering, regulation isn't that easy of a sell to legislators, courts or the general public. I suspect the hacks, flacks and quacks behind the latest anti-porn hysteria here will soon discover that the going won't be so easy for them either.


  7. Outis,

    Thanks for your support and your input. n answer to Outis's concerns, I can assure you that AIM has seen this coming for a long time. We know who are enemies are and how they work, and we've been getting ready for them since 2004. They can come on in and look around and if they find something they have no business accesssing and use it in a manner not legally permitted, they can enjoy for themselves the pleasure of being sued silly by those whose privacy they violate. As our lawyers told us, transgress California's HIPAA laws and you will lose, no doubt about it.

    As for the producers, talks are already in progress about forming up to repel this latest attempt at smashing the industry. We've been through many variations of it, and whatever our individual differences, we know a frontal attack when we see one and we know what to do about it.

    Dr. Fielding got a little taste of that and didn't like it much, as he ran for cover yesterday. Now his pals are trying to get their whole project off its back foot and in the process laying themselves open to direct legal action that is very unlikely to go the way they want it to.

    Tomorrow is going to be very interesting indeed. If public health inspectors start showing up on porn sets while half this city can't even get ER care in under four hours, they're going to have a lot of explaining to do, and so far they haven't proved particularly good at that.

    Am I worried about all this? A bit. Am I pissed off? Very. Does this generally describe the attitude of our whole industry right now? You bet it does.

    If these jokers want a jurisdictional war, they better get their legal kevlar on because they've chosen exactly the wrong crowd to start it with. Illegal searches and seizures? Been there, done that. Attempts at redefining administrative law to criminalize lawful behavior? Seen that one too. Efforts to misapply statutory authority to situations for which it was never intended? Ever heard of the Freeman case?

    Wonder how they intend to prove that the routine conduct of a virtually HIV-free community warrants a suspension of basic constitutional protections and due process over the use of condoms without extending that suspension to the bedrooms of the private individuals among whom transmissions occur on a daily basis. Should be entertaining to watch them try.

    Yep. Going to be quite a show when the restraining orders start flying. Count on it.

  8. That was a good article, Outis. Sharon Mitchell's description of the situation was very clear. Thanks for the link.


  9. Drar here,

    Ernest, I miss you. I miss you dearly and happy birthday. I also miss Anthony - surprisingly, my life seems a little empty without my sparring with him.

    This situation Ernest presents to us has caught my attention. I'll have more comments later when I have time. Until then, I hope this post finds everyone doing well.


  10. Drar,

    Always a pleasure to hear from you and thanks for the good wishes.

    I do intend to check in on and thank the well-wishers who showed up for my birthday party when I couldn't get away to join them.

    And I'm glad this issue has caught your attention. I have no doubt you'll bring an interesting perspective to it and look forward to your comments.

  11. Happy Birthday, Ernest! (Belatedly). I hope you had more fun stuff to do yesterday than deal with AIM-related brushfires.

  12. Drar here:

    I have several comments to make about this and other posts, but for now I'd like to engage our dearest Ernest Greene.

    Mr. Greene,
    First, happy birthday and may you see many, many more.

    Secondly, I saw on a previous comment (Anthony's "Obama's war on porn post, I do believe) where you made a statement mentioning that you were retracting from active blogging and other such forms of communication. While I can certainly understand your reasons for this comment and can certainly agree to the idea that you may need to take some time off, I would ask that you reconsider your stance of backing away entirely. First, as memory recalls, you mentioned you sometimes feel like you are talking to a brick wall when dealing with the opposition. That certainly appears to be the case on many an occassion, no doubts there. However, sometimes your efforts do bear fruit and, if anything, when you engage the opposition (read: WALL) you are at least keeping them on their toes. Sometimes the best victory may not be winning itself, but at least in keeping the other side from gaining any further ground.

    Secondly, I'm sure you are also feeling the "choir" syndrome meaning that those who do listen to you are the ones who already fully agree with you. One may ask why waste time speaking to those that are already believers (preaching to the choir). Because every cause requires a champion. The members of the choir are those who, like our dearest Mr. Kennerson, find resolve to carry on after a good shot of the ol' Greene in the arm to get things going. In other words, motivation should not be underestimated. And, don't forget, many of us who are listening to you are also learning from you as you bring up examples from history and other sources to support your position.

    So while I'm certain some time off is in order during these rather hot days of summer, I do respectfully request that reconsider your current position of backing away from blogging and other such forms of communication.

    More comments soon.