Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Oscar nominees have been announced. You can find the complete list here. I’ll mention only a few.

The gay love story Call Me By Your Name, which I saw, is nominated for best picture, for best adapted screenplay, and its young actor Timothee Chalamet was nominated for best actor in a leading role.

While a gay love story in the best picture category is wonderful, it isn’t the first gay story in the category. There was Brokeback Mountain, more about homophobia than love, and Moonlight, about growing up (with gay undertones) that won best picture last year.

Greta Gerwig is a female nominated for best director for Lady Bird, which is also up for best picture.

Jordan Peele is a black man nominated for best director for Get Out, which is also up for best picture. That movie also features Daniel Kaluuya, a black man, for best actor.

Rachel Morrison is the first female to be nominated for cinematography for Mudbound, a story about racism.

Tom of Finland, which I saw a couple days ago, is Finland’s submission for foreign language film, but did not make the final list.

Only two years ago people complained about Oscars So White.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Partisan considerations

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that the map of congressional districts is gerrymandered so much in favor of the GOP, giving their candidates 70% of the seats while getting only 50% of the votes, that it is in violation of the state constitution.

The justices demand a new map by Feb. 9. They’re quite willing to create their own by Feb. 19. They intend everything to be in place to be used for the primary election on May 15.

GOP defenders complained that the courts had never specified what constitutes unconstitutional gerrymandering. They also said it is impossible to not take partisan considerations into account.

The national Supremes recently let North Carolina off the hook while working up a ruling in the Wisconsin case. But this suit was brought under the state constitution, not the federal one. Thus, it can’t be appealed to the federal level.

This case highlights why an independent commission (what I’m working towards) is necessary. First, the highly gerrymandered map was used three times before the suit got to the state Supremes. Second, the GOP admitted it is impossible for them to make a non-partisan map.

More than a million

The Women’s March in Los Angeles drew about a half-million people. New York and Chicago combined were another half-million. Thousands in smaller marches in many other cities. I haven’t seen estimates of combined totals. In addition, there were well-behaved crowds and no Nazis.

So how much coverage was there in the Sunday morning talk shows?

20 seconds.

So tell me again that having news organizations managed by men (some of whom are accused of sexual harassment) made no difference in the last election.


I listened to another episode of More Perfect, stories of major cases at the Supreme Court. This one was 68 minutes.

Back in 1984 Dethorne Graham was suffering from insulin shock an acting erratically. Police roughly subdued him and cuffed him. Graham was incensed by his treatment and sued the police department for excessive force. In 1989 the case reached the Supremes.

During the hearing there was lots of talk about what the cops were doing. Justice Thurgood Marshall kept coming back to Graham. What had he done to deserve that kind of treatment? The lawyer sputtered a good long time over that question. Chief Justice William Rhenquist wrote the unanimous opinion that the cop’s behavior must be reasonable.

The case went back to the lower court with this standard in mind – and Graham lost.

And over the last couple decades every case of a cop killing an unarmed black man has used this ruling to acquit the cop.

The ruling wrapped the definition of reasonableness rather tightly. The jury can only look at the moment that prompted the cop to pull out the gun. In that exact moment – such as the suspect reaching into a pocket and pulling out … something – was the cop acting reasonably in opening fire?

This standard is now being challenged and various Circuit Courts have come to different conclusions. Rhenquist’s ruling also had a tiny bit about looking at the total situation. So far the Supremes haven’t taken a case that might resolve the differences.

One challenge to this ruling says that if a cop was afraid because he claims the suspect was drawing a gun – there had better be a gun. If not, then the cop goes to jail.

Another challenge is over that little bit about the total situation. And one important piece that Marshall hammered at: Did the suspect deserve to die for what he did?

I had a couple related thoughts. The episode featured a cop who was scared of the suspect, so shot him. Would that cop have been so scared if the suspect was white? One of the cases mentioned in this episode was Tamir Rice, the pre-teen who was carrying a toy gun. Why did the cop shoot him on sight and not even bellow out “DROP THAT!” Why didn’t the cop take a couple seconds to determine if there was a threat right now?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Troubleshooting guide

Susan Grigsby, writing for Daily Kos, laments out Constitution doesn’t have an appendix with a troubleshooting guide. Many instruction manuals have a place to look when things don’t work as intended. But we don’t have one for our democracy. What should we do when Congress refuses to do the checks and balances on the Executive? What steps to take when Congress refuses to do its job (that financial stuff, which this shutdown is all about, should have been handled by October 1st with an actual budget). What’s the remedy when extreme wealth creates historic levels of inequality and control of the media? What steps should we take when perjury charges should be brought against Cabinet secretaries and aren’t? What’s the plan when gerrymandering is so bad the vote can’t be the remedy? Sure wish we had that troubleshooting guide. Or a reset button.

Strong and virile and uninhibited

Mention the name Touko Laaksonen and you’ll get a lot of blank looks. Mention Tom of Finland and the eyes of gay men (of a certain age) will light up. My second movie of the weekend was a the bio-pic Tom of Finland.

I went to Cinema Detroit to see it. Normally, when I go for a matinee I walk directly to the box office and have a wide choice of seats. Not this time. There was a line at the box office. And most seats in the 90 seat theater were taken. All but a handful were gay men. And I didn’t see any youngsters learning about gay history.

The movie starts with Touko as a Lieutenant in the Finnish Army in WWII. He learns which other men in his outfit are also gay – and that includes his commanding officer. After the war, Touko still has a hard time because gays are frequently assaulted and that includes by the police. Touko has artistic talent and gets a job in and advertising company.

But it is the art he draws for himself and a small circle of friends that helps him get through daily life. This art is of gay men, strong and virile and uninhibited – gay and proud. Many are in leather or in uniform or in the clothes of masculine occupations.

Touko finds a lover, who urges him to get his pictures published. They do find a publisher – in Los Angeles. Touko becomes Tom of Finland.

In America the art is appreciated. Doug is able to meet Jack because Jack has one of Tom’s pictures in his gym locker and Doug is able to show he has one too. Doug becomes Tom’s American agent.

The year of any particular event isn’t identified. I kept wondering how much time had passed. Though the year was obvious when we got to the start of the AIDS epidemic.

Tom is indeed celebrated because his art showed it was OK to be gay.

I first encountered the art of Tom of Finland probably back in the 1980s. I paged through one of his books in a bookstore. At the time I didn’t feel comfortable enough being gay to actually buy the book and take it home. It was too risky and risque. To see some of his art for yourself just go to Amazon and search for Tom of Finland books. The covers will show enough.

I’m delighted that this movie is Finland’s entry to the 2018 Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Gays in Finland are treated a whole lot better today than they were after WWII.