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Jesse’s Camera. Corps BY MOLLY IVINS Austin Ai r S WE ALL KNOW, our government is little peculiar. If we could just keep it om working at cross purposes on even one issue, we’d be better off. Take two of its weirder reactions to the fact that there are homosexuals among us. One of government’s madder, sadder functions lies in the nitty-gritty of kicking gays out of the military. From 1980 through 1990, almost . 17,000 homosexuals were dismissed from the military. That means someone had to go around tracking them down. The Nation got an interview with a former civilian employee of the military who did precisely that a photographer who was called upon, among other things, to burst into the wiretapped bedroom in the private home of a lesbian lieutenant and photographed her in flagrante with her lover. Anthony Thomas said his photography unit handled about one such case a month, just like sleazy private dicks in the days of bad divorce laws. Said Thomas, “I felt rotten, really low-life, to be involved in this. But it was paying the bills and one of those things you are led to believe you have to do for ‘God and country.'” So here’s the government paying people to photograph gays doing it, but meanwhile, back at the National Endowment for the Arts, you will recall there is this running flap lest so much as a nickel of our tax dollars be used to support or show arty photographs of gays. Sen. Jesse Helms and his merry allies have thrown hissy fits about erotic photos of gays in art exhibitions even partially funded by the NEA. Glenn Smith, an Austin political consultant, suggests a cost-saving solution for this unhappy contradiction. If only Robert Mapplethorpe hadn’t croaked, he’d be the perfect photographer for the military in these situations. He liked taking pictures of gays and was awfully good at it. If we could find a few more artists like Mapplethorpe who are doing this anyway, maybe some of them would volunteer their services, thus saving the taxpayers money and allowing Helms a rest from his labors. What do you think? Good idea, or what? Meanwhile, we can all be proud of our tax dollars at work, as we pay people to burst into other people’s bedrooms on the one hand, and then pay Jesse Helms to suppress photos that have artistic merit on the other. We live in a great nation, a great nation. Another happy thought comes from John Albach, a Dallas lawyer, concerning the recent Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She is author of Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?, a best-selling Vintage paperback. report that AIDS is affecting only “marginal populations.” Since the highest rate of growth in AIDS cases is now among women and teenagers, I’m not sure how we should feel about being stamped “marginal,” but I trust another study will be along soon. While we’re waiting, Albach suggests that what it takes to see “marginal populations” is a peripheal visionary. In the coming festivities over “shared sacrifice” keep an eye on that astonishing number in the poll by Time mag: 70 percent of the richies in this country think they should be paying higher taxes. They get booted up to 36 or 38 percent, hey, not too much gritching. Now, we all know we can’t solve the deficit by soaking the rich. Guys like George Will have been harping on that for years. Although, since the rich are lot richer than they used to be, we can sure come closer than we used to. But suppose we cut out welfare for the rich on top of raising their taxes tax-deductible business entertaiment, capping mortgage interest deductions for the rich, cutting off agriculture subsidies to wealthy farmers lots of perks and deductions going to folks who don’t need them. Clinton has already announced he’s going to cut the deduction corporations can take for paying their CEO’s humongous salaries. Conservatives always squirm when someone takes up a fine old populist slogan such as “Up the rich,” believing this is an unseemly stirring up of class hostility. Nah, the hostility stems from the unfairness of having the taxpayers as a whole subsidize the rich on everything from health care to Social Security. A particular peeve of mine as long as we’re all thinking of dandy ways to gig the richies is letting corporations write off their advertising costs as a business expense. This may or may not be good for the economy in most cases, but would anyone like to explain to me why we should subsidize advertising by monopolies such as utilities? It isn’t as though we were going to switch to some other gas company or electric company if dear old Texas Utilities didn’t play jingles for us. GOOD ON THE TEAM of Laney and Linebarger. They hauled that ox right out of the ditch and we have a school finance bill, voters willin’ and the creeks don’t rise, the schools will stay open. Major credit to Speaker Pete Laney and House Education Chair Libby Linebarger of Manchaca. \(Look, that we’ve taken a long breath for hallelujah on that one, the session can start. So far, this has been another special session on school finance. The result of this interminable isometric exercise in which the Republicans have been hold ing up a constitutional amendment to fix this mess is not particularly pretty. Any number of great minds came up with better plans, but one thing we do know by now is that this is the best we can get: not the best plan but the best plan we can get passed. The last 11 votes, painfully pried out of the Republican block, were finally blasted loose largely by grassroots lobbying hometown school officials calling to say, “We don’t want our schools closed.” And therein lies a lesson. Coming up soon is a nasty ol’ bill repealing many of the rights of consumers in this state. The products-liability bill, which is what we call consumer protection in our state, is a Texas trial lawyers’ deal. Trial lawyers, you say? Aren’t they the guys who make a handsome living protecting consumers by suing do-bad corporations? Yup. And they just caved in without consulting anyone. This here products-liability bill is a classic example of secret legislating. The trial lawyers, who have gotten trounced lately at the polls largely because of the propaganda spread by their foes in the bidness lobby, took a gander at the new lineup in the Senate heavy on Republicans and decided to cut a deal in advance before they got beat on the floor. Lite Guv Bob Bullock, who knows how to count votes, and Sen. Carl Parker of Port Arthur, one of our shrewdest freedom-fighters, knew they were in a no-win situation. But the trial lawyers didn’t even aim for a draw. The bill immunizes the tobacco industry from liability, which is especially ironic given that Bullock is sitting over there with one lung \(and I’m sitting here smoking as I write this, but that doesn’t mean I think the makers of a poisonous product should be allowed to hook S.B. 4, which the consumer group Public Citizen calls the Tobacco Products Protection Act, sailed through the Senate 31-zip. Hell, you couldn’t get anything short of a resolution in favor of the flag through the Senate 31-0. The smell of tobacco money is more prevalent around here than the smell of tobacco smoke. As has been reported elsewhere \(Washington Post, Austin American-Statesman, money is pervasive, not just in campaign contributions \($20,000 to Bullock in the past two been diversifying, they now control a lot of nontobacco employment Kraft, Nabisco and can lean on legislators who have factories in their districts. Philip Morris, for example, employs about 6,000 Texans at 60 locations. health advocacy group, has documents from Philip Morris showing that the company spent $225,580 in lobbying and political expenses 1’HE TEXAS OBSERVER 13