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And-the .Band Played On THE LAST FEW .weeks of the legislative session inevitably take on a carnival atmosphere, but never more so . than when the Capitol is alive with strange admixtures of interest groups. . On Tuesday, May 16, the place was crawling with cops. Apparently, . it was National Law Enforcement Week or some such thing, and the police were on hand with display tables and public relations promotions. One unusual event in .public relations took place at mid-day, : when .a group of five uniformed officers. from San Antonio set themselves up as a rock band in the Capitol rotunda. A large sign in the shape of a police badge identified the band as “Alamo City Heat.” It wasn’t evident whether anyone. in Alamo City Heat could sing; their specialty seemed to be in the bad imitation of rap music. Something about the band was . . . well . . . extremely loud. Hard to say just what they were rapping about. As most Capitol tourists and workers were scattering like ants to get away from Alamo City Heat, the rotunda for a brief moment saw a clash of two sideshows: suddenly out of the north hall came a parade of somber activists marching in single file straight toward the band. Each activist was dressed alike, with a black T-shirt and a hand-held death mask in front of the face. The mask was of a white skull with dark hollow eyes and the T-shirt carried the message: SILENCE = DEATH. As the band blared on, the activists took a few loops around the rotunda, marching in silence amidst noise, like ghosts among the living. Their presence tended to.. make people uncomfortable. For several days toward the end of the session, these activists were popping up in one place aftef another, determined to remind people at -the Capitol of unpleasant facts: that people were dying of AIDS and that for the legislature, to ignore it would only mean that even more would die of AIDS: DURING THE DAY .the House bells ring incessantly, soundinglike the bells in a pinball machine, and one gets the feeling that all the groups are concentrating on a grand arcade, where if you have just the right touch you might be able to win big. Certainly as long as the appropriations process is going on everyone knows there is money at stake, and some legislators begin to refer to themselves and to lobbyists as “players,” as in “those of us who are players on this issue . . .” The activists on the AIDS issue are a new kind of player and there has been some question about what effect their demonstrations were having. The conventional lobbying technique at the Capitol is not to march around in death masks. The conventional technique is to be careful not to offend. Ingratiation is the name of the game. Respect is, the rule; obsequiousness the common practice. Traditionally, it has been the legislators who have made spectacles of themselves. The lobbyist’s job is to pretend not to notice. In the normal course of things, a distinguished member might well be able to walk into the Capitol having forgotten to don his trousers and the lobbyist would be expected to say, “You’re looking well today, Sir, and I sure do hope we can get your support on our bill . . .” But this session, some members of the gay and lesbian community have introduced a new style of guerrilla theater, with mixed results. When a conference committee on. the appropriations bill decided only days after the largest gay rights march ever held in AuStin to -slash the amount of money devoted to the fight against AIDS, a group of activists held a rally on the Capitol steps lampooning the legislature with a mock carnival that included a “Shoot the Queer” booth. Members of the House of Representatives have not taken such demonstrations with good humor. It is difficult to say that a backlash against the gay activists has been factor in the Houk because that body is unlikely to be sympathetic to the gay -!`agenda” in the first place. When a routine resolution expressing sympathy for AIDS victims and their families passed the lower chamber, more than 50 House homophobes Republicans and Democrats asked to have their names omitted from the resolution. And when the House finally began to debate the omnibus AIDS funding bill on May 19, expressions of petulance and recrimination were as much a part of the discussion as the dire statistics on how many are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus. On that day, the AIDS bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Mike McKinney, D-Centerville, sought to publicly defend two of his \\C-1T 1E TEXAS server JUNE 2, 1989 VOLUME 81, No. 9 FEATURES Locked Out By Louis Dubose 1 Bentsen Planning Presidential Bid By Ronnie Dugger 4 The Devil and Mr. Mattox By Debbie Nathan 10 J. Frank Dobie Translated Voltaire By Tom McClellan , DEPARTMENTS 16 Dialogue 2 Editorial 3 Political Intelligence 13 Books and the Culture Lost Generations By Michael King The Anecdotal Speaker By Tom McClellan 17 18 Afterword Diabolical Rumors By Louis Dubose ‘ 23 conservative colleagues who he said were being criticized unfairly. “Billy Clemons was blasted in the press,” McKinney said. “He didn’t deserve that.” He also defended Brad Wright, a churlish Houston Republican who, with conservative Democrat Clemons, has been outspoken on the AIDS issue. Wright, for his part, said on the House floor that he resented the implication by some “that our committee has had an interest in seeing people suffer.” But he was willing to dismiss his critics. “I have had worse things said about me by better people,” he said. “There is lot of bitterness,” commented Clemons later in a discussion with reporters.. “I think what causes it is the emotions of the issue itself; the tragedy, the costs in lives and money, the frustration of not having a cure. These things weigh heavily and people who get involved in the issue want desperately to do the right thing.” What about the effect of some of the gay activists’ demonstrations? he was asked. “I’Ve tried to warn all players,” Clemons said. “I said, don’t let a group of 40 or 50 fringe people influence what you’re going to do. Don’t take it out on all AIDS THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3 EDITORIAL