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May 11, 2009


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"Without hope, the Universe dies."

I had an interesting exchange with friend Ginger over at my own blog when I posted about the movie and wondered what would have happened if Milk had not been assassinated.

I'll have to get this from the library in a while, to fit into my reading schedule.

I wondered that in my post on the film. Would he have been practical enough to see AIDS as a health emergency and close the bathhouses somewhat earlier, which might have made some difference in the speed at which it was spreading? Or would he have looked more at the social/community side and sided with the bathhouse owners? I really don't know. Milk didn't seem to be much of a bathhouse guy; he was a hearts-and-flowers "marriage" guy who did long-term relationships. But he wasn't monogamous and I have the impression he tricked a bit on the side, especially when one relationship was falling apart and before he found a new one.

For that matter, I'm not sure exactly when San Francisco bathhouses started opening in the first place. It may have been after Milk's death. I don't have the impression from the book that the Castro was secure enough from police interference even at the end of Milk's life to support a bathhouse scene.

Susan... If I remember correctly, the movie has Harvey tell his Significant Other that, now that he is an elected official, he's going to stay away from the bathhouses so one can assume that they were around. Unless it' an anachronism. On the other hand, Armistead Maupin's stories, which were written back then, also feature the bathhouses. That being said, as with most what-ifs, one can't be absolutely sure. Still, I expect that he'd have become part of the Establishment after forcing its redefinition, which of course would have led to some people to turn on him. 'Sainthood' doesn't last in America.

A little digging suggests that they were legalized in California in 1976, though they'd existed for many years before. It also turns up the same idiotic idea that the bathhouses and the spread of STDs such as AIDS have/had nothing to do with each other. (Quick quiz: anonymous unsafe sex with dozens of partners per night; risk factor for STDs or not?)

Milk was doing a pretty good job of not being part of the Establishment even after his election -- I was particularly amused by his dressing up in a clown costume and accosting tourists, telling them "I'm an elected official!"

Ah, for the sight of Sean Penn in a clown suit...

Yes, Serge and I did talk about this..I don't know how Harvey Milk would have handled the bathhouses vs. AIDS issue, but I do think he would have provided some leadership to a devastated community. He would have been an openly gay leader at a time when gay men were not open, nor openly leading, and could possibly have led the fight against AIDS from an earlier time. Larry Kramer was -- and still is -- the original Angry Man, which is fine for getting the rabble roused, but not so much for political stuff, like working out compromises with police and public health. Harvey would probably have been the go-to person on that side of things.

I think if Harvey Milk had lived, he would have slowed the inexorable wave of deaths from AIDS in the gay population. He could have been charismatic against Reagan's charisma, and possibly brought things out sooner.

When Dan White committed suicide, it seemed like it was because he realized he'd been wrong, and couldn't admit it.

Ginger, when I consulted (1980-83), I frequently worked with an openly gay man, but the weird part was that all the secretaries he interviewed tried to date him. We had complementary skills -- I did the tech, he got the secretaries to tell him everything they did at work so I could make the tech properly -- and it was amazing to see them think he was straight. I've always wondered if they just couldn't accept it.

Was he actually telling them he was gay? Some people can't take hints.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the White Night Riots, which occurred when Dan White was given a ludicrously low sentence for the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone.

Tomorrow is Harvey Milk's birthday. He would have been 79. It's hard to imagine.

Susan, he wasn't telling them, but I can't see how a couple hundred secretaries all missed it.

I'm starting this book tonight -- I requested it from the library last night and picked it up on Saturday when I was there for bookgroup.

Yah gotta TELL people or they will make these assumptions. He's not "openly gay" if he isn't telling people.

Great day to start reading this book, given the anniversaries. Let us know what you think.

I'm twitching around here waiting for the ruling from the California Supreme Court at 10:00 California time. I'm not expecting it to be favorable overall (my impression is that they will uphold Prop 8), but I do hold out some minor hope that they will not invalidate 18,000 legal marriages made during the months when marriage equality was the law in California.

...and yep, that's exactly what happened. A small silver lining in a nasty black cloud.

One can look at existing marriages being a foot in the door. Still, people should not have to have the door opened just a crack.

Clinton plans to give the same benefits to all domestic partners of diplomats, heterosexual or homosexual. That's good news.

The following came up on Comcast's site...

President Barack Obama says he will end the "don't ask, don't tell" military policy.

It doesn't say when.
But it says it.

Yeah, he said that during his campaign, too.

I'll be more impressed when/if he actually does it.

Me too. I expect to be disappointed by politicians, and yet, when they fulfill those expectations, it still depresses me.

The bottom line is that, when I first saw that headline, I got carried away in a moment of foolish enthusiasm. It happens even to pessimists and cynics.

People need to remember that the president can't make laws all by himself. We purposely have Congress and Justice to balance him (and someday, her). The protest march here yesterday was very large; it was by gay folk who want change now, rather than being patient for each state to change.

Marilee... I know that, and we did have 8 years of a President who saw himself as an Imperial Ruler. I wish Obama would stop being so accomodating to the GOP.

That makes sense on a collective basis, but it's pretty hard to tell individuals that they personally should simply accept not having full constitutional or human rights. Martin Luther King Jr. displayed the same unseemly lack of patience. So did suffragettes. Waiting politely for people in power to share it is generally a losing game. Someone has to push.

And DADT could be put on hold administratively by Obama any time he wants to without need for Congress to act. He has the authority as Commander in Chief to stop firing people for being gay. You can't blame them for being upset about being fired as a political strategy to pacify the right-wing nuts who are, frankly, not going to pacified by anything Obama does or does not do, because they're nuts.

It especially burns while they're accepting murderers and rapists into the armed forces because of a shortage of volunteers while firing thousands of trained gay soldiers. With a war going on. It's insane.

Susan... Waiting politely for people in power to share it is generally a losing game. Someone has to push.

What is that line that MLK said about that?

And people do push. It just takes a while to get things done. I know that's frustrating, but I think people who live locally see more of the structure.

For those who watch TV... There's this show called Lie to Me. It stars Tim Roth as a scientist whose group has raised the reading of body language to such an accurate degree that they help in solving crimes. Anyway, I caught something interesting in this week's episode. It was quick, and I had to rewind, but sure enough, the group's young computer expert has a photo of Harvey Milk in his office.

I watched all of the first series* of Lie to Me which is interesting partly because it features some of the subtlest acting on TV, which is then highlighted with close-ups, instant replays and over analysis. The important thing is not whether people are lying (because they always are about something**) but why and about what and, more importantly, what you do about it. In one episode, Tim Roth's character realised his teenage daughter was lying to him, and rather than call her on it let her go ahead and have a house-wrecking party.

I generally don't talk about foreign politics***, but wouldn't not enforcing DADT be ignoring, or maybe even breaking the law? I don't think that's something to encourage in elected officials. They might start to make a habit of it.

* Which is the highest accolade I give TV series.
** in the show
*** On the internet

There are some colossal loopholes in the DADT law. Most notably, they do NOT require discharge from the military if it is in the best interest of the armed forces not to discharge the person in question. Analysis by people with legal expertise indicates that the President could make a blanket determination that it is not in the best interest of the armed forces to discharge personnel it has spent millions of dollars training and to then spend millions more to replace them.

Being gay is also not a disqualification if you tell people you are gay or indulge in "homosexual conduct" with the purpose of getting discharged; in that case, they are not supposed to discharge you. So if you just get really flagrant about it, and make a point of wanting to get discharged...they shouldn't do it. 'Cause apparently that's not as bad for morale as being discreet.

Yes, we have a little consistency problem...

Neil... Strictly speaking, DADT isn't a law, not in the legal binding sense. It's a directive issued by the big boss in the Oval Office. I think, but don't quote me on that. When DADT first was issued, I wasn't yet a citizen and probably didn't understand the subtleties of the political system.

Neil... One thing I've noticed about Lie to Me is that they didn't feel it was necessary for the main character to hide that he was from elsewhere. That's a refreshing change from Australian actors who have to hide their accent to get any work. Maybe the day will come when an American drama series's main character has a French accent. Byut I don't expect him to be called 'Serge', because that's a Eurotrash name, according to Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Serge, the DADT was a policy put together by Congress and approved by Clinton. Obama thinks it has to be let go by Congress; some folks think he can do it.

Marilee... I stand corrected. If I remember, Clinton had tried to ditch the military's ban on homosexuals in the military, but every Republican came down on him like a ton of bricks. And they were joined by by the usual spineless Democrats, who signed on to Congress's DADT. (Sounds familiar?)

I can see why Obama would be very reluctant to repeal an act of Congress. Dangerous precedents. Still, I wonder why he doesn't just issue an executive order that basically annuls DADT without openly saying so. Stupid games, I know.

Well this is why I don't talk about foreign politics. Nevertheless, I'd probably say that I agree with both Susan's cynicism AND Serge's initial optimism; Obama is saying the right things, and we should encourage him to act on it. Sadly he probably doesn't read Rixosous, but if he did, I think the message I'd like him to take away is, that I agree with and support his stated position, and would like him and congress to move on it as soon as possible, preferably by unambiguously changing the law.

If I'm incoherent tonight, it's because it's the end of term. It's possible that I will be more active on the internet for the next couple of weeks, as I'm not at work, but whenever I say that a huge hiatus happens, so I make no promises.

He's getting encouraged to do a lot of the things that are his stated positions, and so far, he hasn't been able to get a lot of them through Congress. Not just health care, but getting the Gitmo prisoners to trials in US, freeing GLBT from restrictions, give federal judges more power, and many more. (It helps to have the WashPost to read.) Some things don't have to go through Congress -- the FDA has inspectors all over the country at "health" product manufacturers to make sure there aren't any steroids or other disallowed components in their products -- and those are getting done.

Neil, when end of term comes and you're incoherent, is that because it's a lot more work at the end of term, or you miss school?

I'm incoherent as I'm in need of a rest. I generally pace myself at the start of term so that I don't collapse in a heap every Friday, but as we reach the end more and more things go wrong/get forgotten etc. and need to be fixed at short notice as we never have time to plan or reorganise things during term. I've been working longer hours for the last two weeks, partly as there are exams straight after the break, and partly because one of the maths department has been out ill (and several others are suffering from various things). We've got a really good supply teacher, but there's still a lot of things to do to make up the slack; I've been marking those sets end of term tests in addition to trying to prepare some of the kids for exams after the break, which involved after school revision sessions*. Also we took some of them on a trip on Thursday which I find stressful as there are so many more ways they can get into trouble. As always though, whenever there are people from other schools or members of the public watching, they turn into little angels.

Also I was full of sugar, caffine and alcohol.

* We had good turn outs, possibly slightly too good, as four girls who are fine on their own all came and became a loud rude and moany mob when together.

Neil... I'm in need of a rest

My best wishes that you do so, and soon.

As for myself, I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not a truck. Yesterday, I finally received the signoff on phase one of my Big Office Project. Today, we begin phase two of the BOP, and it shouldn't be a big deal because I fixed the bugs that we'd run into during phase one. In other words, I'll be able to get the final signoff on Wednesday, if not before.

The weirdest moment about this BOP is that, on Friday, it looked like I wasn't going to make it, and do you know what my new manager's reaction was? It was supportive, and he was going to stand by me. It's been a long time I've had a manager like that.

Good job, Serge!

Thanks, Marilee! I just started Phase II's processing. I can now walk away from my computer until tomorrow morning, when the processing has ended.

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