Every Now and Then, Arizona Gets it Right.

April 22, 2012

Rainbow Flag

This weekend is the Phoenix Pride Festival. It’s true that most Pride celebrations are later in the year; usually June or July. A friend asked me why so early for we here in Arizona. The answer is deceptively simple. Have you BEEN to Phoenix in July?? And yesterday it was hot- over 100 degrees- which is warm even by Arizona standards for this time of year.

That didn’t stop the Mesa Police Department and even a couple of members of the Maricopa County Sherriff’s office from marching in uniform in this year’s Pride Parade. Source.

Mesa Police Chief Frank Milstead’s decision to permit his officers to march in their uniforms was not without controversy. Those opposed to the decision have been trying to paint the issue as a political one; a law enforcement entity should portray absolute objectivity and avoid issues that can give the appearance of bias. Or some other such nonsense. The parade is to celebrate diversity and equality for all, not to push a political agenda. But if it makes those folks feel better, we did have those sign carrying protestors telling us we’re all going to burn in hell. One of them called me a “Gaylord”. I’m still not sure what that is, but I don’t think he meant it as a compliment.

Anyway, bravo, Mesa PD and MCSO. Bravo, indeed.


Feminist War of 2012

March 16, 2012

By Tatiana von Tauber

I’m embarrassed to be an American woman with witness to the current state of the Union.

Being a woman is without a doubt the most difficult process of becoming I’ve ever undertaken especially since I began my role as a mother 14 years ago. Nothing prepares you for the experience of motherhood better than truth and so I feel the same about the future of young girls in America.  There are many I know who were totally lost in the wake of the conservative pool of stupidity in the days of GWBush and his side’s abstinence education policies in American schools.  There is an entire generation of kids who are completely misinformed about birth control and sex because of religion.

More and more I feel battered by having the feeling women were given erotic beauty for reproductive purposes – that selfish gene – and then, as though being whores weren’t enough, women were thrown into the immature flatlands of male needs where they were then expected to create synthesis. However, a bit of a power struggle later, women became those to not only seduce, but birth, nurture and support an entire family, if not society yet be given “jump for the carrot” freedom on body parts – by the very men they birthed!  How did America come to be like this? If American politics continue to enter the domain of a female’s sex life,  America has little to offer women of the next generation.

I’m drained from realizing Congress is really a bunch of men who can’t get their heads out of the female genitalia.  If they don’t pay to get in one they pay for others to stay out of one!  For the men who are playing around with this issue, women are only a piece of ass and little more, except maybe for their little girls who are a piece of ass for the boy next door. For women who support recent attacks on female rights in the name of being faithful to a God, I have no words, only disgust.

Reproductive rights, the womb, women’s health – all of it has to do with the absolute power this birth right gives to women; and patriarchy has never been stronger in modern America! As an American I am so appalled at this downfall of this great nation – that the womb and its ownership, the vagina and a woman’s health are on the table of political discussion rather than the real issues that need immediate attention, it all makes me want to throw up on Congress.

The bottom line to all this rhetoric is this: women have the power to veto men through sex and men don’t like that. Thank you Dr. Leonard Shlain for helping me understand this through your wonderful work, Sex, Time and Power (may you rest in peace) but how about a little help down here with the rest of the blind folks, eh?

The last time I checked, my kidney belonged to me and nobody could force me to do anything specific with it.  The main reason the womb is different is because it controls males’ sex lives.  The fact that women are under attack, in America, in 2012 stuns me.

Here’s my contribution to the debate: “Feminist War of 2012″.  I designed this back in 2007 or so and struggled with a proper title.  The Image just found its perfect match and almost sadly, its perfect time.

"Feminist War of 2012", ltd. ed. Giclee, 13"x19" by Tatiana von Tauber

Bonus material to chew on: 

Speaking of controlling women, this is an example of how women get screwed by men and the baby fantasy and how media uses them to make money to help glorify the chaos and continue the cycle.  See Kate Gosselin, mother of 8 now.

Great post and kick ass quote: The Body Politic, “This campaign needs more women and less gynecology” – Virginia Heffernan


Florida Airport Seeks to Evict the TSA

March 14, 2012

By J. DeVoy

The Orlando Sanford Airport (not to be confused with Orlando International Airport) is going to try removing the TSA from its security theater and using private security teams in its place.  While the airport would not be exempt from federal regulations and oversights, it may be able to operate without the TSA’s costly involvement.  While new federal legislation enhances the ability of airports to evict the TSA, airports currently cannot unilaterally fire the TSA and operate with private security unless authorized to do so by the DOT.  But, we dare to dream.

It is remarkable that this happened in Floriduh, a swamp as paternalistic as it is backward and meth-addled.  What one hand giveth removing the TSA, the other takes away by arbitrarily prosecuting anything that looks like erotica.  If the Orlando airport’s bid to remove the TSA is successful, I can only think to compare it with a drunken, abusive father punching the 7th grade bully in the mouth, one tyrant subduing another.


Your Elected Officials Just Kicked the First Amendment Square in the Nuts.

March 13, 2012

And don’t even think about whining about it. Source.

Here’s the text of HR 347, the festering shitburger your government passed and your president signed. Kids, this is no longer an issue of politics and which party sucks more. HR 347 passed with overwhelming support.

P.S. Did you know the G8 Summit this spring has been moved from Chicago to Camp David?


CNN Debate: Should FCC Boot Rush Limbaugh From the Airwaves?

March 12, 2012

On the side of kicking him off the air, Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem.

On the side of protecting his right to free speech, Marc J. Randazza.

This is not the same debate over whether the subject of his diatribe has a valid defamation claim against him. I wrote about that here.


Judge should review history of First Amendment

March 1, 2012

Pennsylvania District Judge Mark Martin needs to review his First Amendment law a little more carefully. Ernie Perce, an atheist who marched in a Halloween parade last year dressed as “zombie Mohammed,” was before Judge Martin after he alleged he was attacked by Talaag Elbayomy, a Muslim who took action after he witnessed Perce’s costume.

Perce wore a turban and a long, fake beard and painted his face green. During the parade, he yelled the phrases “I am the prophet Mohammed! Zombie from the dead!” He marched with another protestor, who was dressed as a zombie pope, carrying a banner that read, “The Parading Atheists of Central Pennsylvania: Ghoulish, Godless, God-awful.” According to Perce, Elbayomy attacked him, and Elbayomy was charged with harassment.

Judge Martin dismissed the charges against Elbayomy and scolded Perce, telling the protestor he had been insensitive. He also called Perce a “doofus.”

“You have that right, but you’re way outside your bounds of First Amendment rights,” Martin said, according to CNN. “I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak our mind, not to piss off other people and other cultures, which is what you did.”

To the contrary, our forefathers intended that all U.S. citizens be allowed to criticize anyone they chose. The very first American citizens often criticized Great Britain, who they viewed as overly oppressive to the colonists. You can bet that the Brits were none too happy about that. The purpose of the First Amendment is to ensure that all people are protected when expressing their views, even if such views are unpopular. As GW Law professor Jonathan Turley pointed out, “People like Thomas Paine spent his entire life ticking off people across the colonies.” Another founding father, Thomas Jefferson, was hostile to the Catholic Church and criticized it often.

Perce was within his right to express his religious beliefs as an atheist, and if Elbayomy had expressed his dissent in a non-violent manner, he would have also been within his right. Sure, the thrust of the First Amendment isn’t to promote behavior that offends other people, but that is beside the point. Just because Perce offended Elbayomy did not give Elbayomy free license to assault Perce.

Judge Martin’s rationale for dismissing the charges against Elbayomy most certainly should not have been because Perce intended to “piss off other people and other cultures.” This is exactly the sort of thing the First Amendment was intended to protect against. Yes, Perce’s costume was offensive to Elbayomy, but it didn’t rise to the level of fighting words—there were no “personally abusive epithets” required by Cohen v. California.  Judge Martin should not have let Elbayomy off the hook for assault just because Perce said something he personally didn’t like.

Judge Martin could learn a thing or two by looking back again at what the First Amendment actually protects.


It’s Not Over Yet.

February 9, 2012

I, for one, am elated that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found Prop 8 Unconstitutional.  Source . However, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least bring up the one thing Prop 8 supporters have going for them- Prop 8 was passed by the voters. And that is a very good, very important point. Whenever the judicial branch overturns the will of the people, we all have an obligation to think twice about the rationale behind it. Even when our knee jerk reaction is to celebrate, take a moment for a sanity check because things may not always shake out in our favor. The Prop 8 supporters were right to bring this issue up and their briefing on the subject ain’t half bad.

That being said, and beyond the “will of the people” argument, I admittedly have a hard time understanding the Proponents’ reasoning. As far as I can tell, they feel that Prop 8 advances California’s interest in “responsible procreation and childbearing.” Stay with me here. They believe that children are better off when raised by two people who are, at least in theory, capable of biologically creating a child. That is, one man and one woman, because kids need both genders to partake in upbringing in order to become functioning members of society. The Proponents also say that Prop 8 reduces “irresponsible procreation”, e.g., there will be less bastards in the world. Therefore, they argue, because same-sex couples are not at risk of “irresponsible procreation” as a matter of biology and society has an interest in procreative sexual activity, there is simply no need to for same gender couples to get married. They also argued that Prop 8 would “protect” their little darlings from being taught in public schools that “same-sex marriage’ is the same as traditional marriage.”

The Ninth Circuit didn’t buy it, saying “[t]here is no rational reason to think that taking away the designation of ‘marriage’ from same-sex couples would advance the goal of encouraging California’s opposite-sex couples to procreate more responsibly.” The court went on to note “[o]nly if Proposition 8 had actually had any effect on childrearing or “responsible procreation” would it be necessary or appropriate for us to consider the legitimacy of Proponents’ primary rationale for the measure…[i]t is implausible to think that denying two men or two women the right to call themselves married could somehow bolster the stability of families headed by one man and one woman.” Did you catch the word “rational”? That’s the level of scrutiny, and in layman’s terms, it means you better have a really really really good reason for that law. I mean really good. Not just the “gay people make me feel ooky” platform.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional for two reasons: first, it deprives same-sex couples of the fundamental right to marry, which is guaranteed by the Due Process Clause, and second, it excludes same-sex couples from state-sponsored marriage while allowing opposite-sex couples access to that honored status, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. This is because even though same gender couples have the same rights statutorily as their hetero counterparts, the Appeals Court focused on the lower court’s finding of fact that “[d]omestic partnerships lack the social meaning associated with marriage “and that the difference between the designation of ‘marriage’ and the designation of ‘domestic partnership’ is meaningful. The court relied heavily on Romer v. Evans, a United States Supreme Court case striking down an Amendment to the Colorado State Constitution that would have prevented anyone anywhere at any time recognizing gays and lesbians as a protected class. In his dissent, Judge Smith disagreed that the burden of denying marriage to lesbians and gays was similar to the burden in Romer and the really really really good reason (e.g. rational basis) was in preserving responsible procreation and optimal parenting. He noted that even though rational basis is the correct level of scrutiny, the fact Proposition 8 eliminates the ability of same-sex couples to enter into an official relationship designated “marriage,” they still have the same basic set of substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage,” so no harm no foul. He also disagreed that the separation of gays and lesbians as domestic partners was different and not as good as marriage.

Here’s the thing. The Court did not (and could not) consider the broader issue of whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to get married. The judges were limited to only determining if Prop 8, as enacted, violated the United States Constitution. The broader question of whether same gender couples should have the right to get married remains unanswered. What is noteworthy is that the district court found that “[t]he campaign to pass Proposition 8 relied on stereotypes to show that same-sex relationships are inferior to opposite-sex relationships.” Television and print advertisements “focused on … the concern that people of faith and religious groups would somehow be harmed by the recognition of gay marriage” and “conveyed a message that gay people and relationships are inferior, that homosexuality is undesirable and that children need to be protected from exposure to gay people and their relationships.” I will be paying very close attention to that issue in future cases. And, I hate to tell you, but Perry won’t be the Roe v. Wade type of landmark case if it’s affirmed (I have every reason to believe it will be). It’s just too narrow. We have a long way to go, kids, before we can put this baby to bed. And it promises to be an exhausting journey. But at least we have a start.


Georgia Supreme Court Helps Legitimize Assisted Suicide

February 6, 2012

By J. DeVoy

While illegal in 39 states, assisted suicide in not illegal in Georgia.  The state attempted to create the illusion that the practice was illegal, however, by outlawing public advertisement of assisted suicide services through OCGA § 16-5-5(b).  The statute did not forbid all offers to provide assisted suicide services, but only those publicly advertised.  Today, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down the law as an impermissible content-based restriction on free speech. Final Exit Network, Inc. v. Georgia, Case No. S11A1960 (Ga. Feb. 6, 2012).

Applying both the Georgia Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, the Georgia Supreme Court subjected § 16-5-5(b) to strict scrutiny.  Succinctly stating the position of its opinion, the Georgia Court wrote:

It is not all assisted suicides which are criminalized but only those which include a public advertisement or offer to assist. This distinction takes the statute out of the realm of content neutral regulations and renders it a selective restraint on speech with a particular content. See Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U. S. 781, 791 (109 SC 2746, 105 LE2d 661) (1989) (“The principal inquiry in determining content neutrality . . . is whether the government has adopted a regulation of speech because of a disagreement with the message it conveys.”) (source.)

The court goes on to further eviscerate the state’s justification for banning advertising of assisted suicides:

The State argues §16-5-5 (b) is narrowly tailored because it reaches only those who publicly offer to assist in suicide and then, in fact, undertake an overt act to accomplish that goal. Had the State truly been interested in the preservation of human life, however, it could have imposed a ban on all assisted 5suicides with no restriction on protected speech whatsoever. Alternatively, the State could have sought to prohibit all offers to assist in suicide when accompanied by an overt act to accomplish that goal. The State here did neither. (source.)

The Final Exit Network decision is a very short but devastating opinion.  It also raises a number of concerns about the social and legal status of suicide in America.  For states with significant elderly populations – Florida, Nevada and Arizona come to mind – the manner by which they restrict assisted suicide may come under attack.  A full legal ban on all forms of suicide and assisted suicide, premised on the value of human life, likely would withstand constitutional attack.  If this goal is achieved from an outside angle as Georgia attempted, though, the laws may not withstand judicial scrutiny.

Being old – and especially extremely old – is a miserable existence.  I support strong penalties for murder and taking the lives of other human beings.  But when someone can no longer walk, can barely talk, has had their mental faculties degraded by alzheimer’s (or just old age), and has regressed to the point of requiring diapers to avoid daily humiliation, there is a serious question as to what value and dignity that life has left.  Would it be so bad if we allowed them to choose a time and place to bring about the end, rather than forcing them through years of semi-conscious misery to vindicate what are ultimately religious principles?  The same is true of the very ill – if it’s clear that the much needed liver or kidney transplant is not going to arrive in time, why be subjected to a degrading life of seizures, dialysis and pain?

The same arguments about medicinal marijuana, which liberals and libertarians are so fond of – that it helps people, and it does not directly harm anyone else – are equally applicable to suicide.  For many people, suicide is the best and possibly only way out from under whatever dilemmas are facing them, whether medical, psychological or financial.  By outlawing suicide, those who seek an exit are forced to inhumane and painful ends, using guns and pills to bring on a quick ending – and facing even worse consequences if they fail.  The unreasonable social shame surrounding suicide forces people who ultimately choose this route to live longer, more unpleasant lives, enduring the harsh scrutiny of others in the process.

Central to the concept of liberty is one’s right to do what he or she pleases until it runs into the rights of others.  Your life should, to the fullest extent possible, belong to you, which includes the way it is lived as well as the way it is ended.  The broad sweep of laws and public attitude against suicide is inimical to a truly free society.  Moreover, it is hypocritical for the United States to tout its position on freedom and yet take such a draconian position on suicide, assisted or otherwise.  While debates rage on about rights to own guns and receive healthcare, the right for citizens to have full control over their lives, including ending them without stigma or obstruction, has been totally overlooked.


What happened to Cohen v. California?

January 23, 2012

A man was arrested for wearing a jacket with a political message on it while in the history exhibit at the United States Supreme Court.

Yes, the same United States Supreme Court that said it was Paul Robert Cohen’s right to wear a jacket in a courthouse emblazoned with the message “fuck the draft.” Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).

H/T: Paul Levy


Blasting people on twitter – not cyberstalking!

December 16, 2011

By J. DeVoy

Pundits were concerned earlier this year when the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland brought a criminal action against William Lawrence Cassidy.  His alleged crime?  Posting 8,000 harassing twitter messages about Alyce Zeoli, a buddhist leader in Maryland.  The Court dismissed the Government’s case, as Cassidy’s anonymous speech addressed a topic accorded the highest constitutional protections: Religion.

Admittedly, some of the messages were witty.  Take this poetry, for instance:

Ya like haiku? Here’s one for ya. Long limb, sharp saw, hard drop

Some were more esoteric, such as “A thousand voices call out to (Victim 1) and she cannot shut off the silent scream,” while others got to the point: “Do the world a favor and go kill yourself. P.S. Have a nice day.”

The Court’s Order  is a solid win for the Defendant – and free speech.  Within it, the Court found that 18 U.S.C. § 2261A(2) is unconstitutional as applied to the defendant.  Not only does the First Amendment kick ass, it’s now a tool, albeit a slow-working one, against the federal government’s overcriminalization of daily life.

I strongly encourage reading the whole Order, but most importantly, there’s this:

However, it is questionable whether the same interest exists in the context of the use of the Internet alleged in this case because harassing telephone calls “are targeted towards a particular victim and are received outside a public forum.” United States v. Bowker, 372 F.3d 365, 379 (6th Cir. 2004). Twitter and Blogs are today’s equivalent of a bulletin board that one is free to disregard, in contrast, for example, to e-mails or phone calls directed to a victim. See id. at 378 (contrasting why a federal telephone harassment statute serves a compelling governmental interest and a statute that made it a criminal offense for three or more persons to assemble on a sidewalk and to be “annoying” to a passerby did not serve a compelling governmental interest). (emphasis added)

H/T: EFF


Fuck the King of Thailand

December 8, 2011

For the King of Thailand


An American citizen translated a book about the Thai king and posted it on his website. He lands in Thailand and is arrested for lese majeste — insulting the King. (source)


Vaginal Obsession – TSA, you’re doing it wrong

October 31, 2011

If you had to create a chart of the things I like and the things I don’t like, vaginas and the TSA would clearly be at opposite ends. The vagina is truly a wonderful thing, when properly cared for. Your mileage may vary depending on diet, grooming, genetics, and a host of other factors. But, in general, vaginas are a wonderful thing.

The TSA is not a vagina. It is not even vagina like. Even though it is run by a bunch of twats, it can’t even get close to being in the vagina zone when it comes to coolness.

I’ve never hidden my hatred for the TSA.  When I go through security, I always opt for the pat-down, and I make sure to make it difficult for the agent. Why? Because when I was in basic training, they taught us that it is our duty to make captivity as difficult for our captors as possible. I harass TSA employees when I see them in public, reminding them in grocery stores, theaters and anywhere else I find them that they are low forms of shit, and I advocate that we all do the same).  They are only doing their jobs? Well so was John Demjanjuk.

As much as I hate the TSA, I must admit that we have something in common: We both got a thing for vaginas. Of course, I prefer mine to be over the age of consent — the TSA harbors no such prejudices. Nope, not at all.

But, if I may be so pompous as to declare myself qualified to offer instruction on how to care for and attract vagina — TSA, you’re doing it wrong.

The TSA’s latest victim is prominent feminist blogger Jill Filipovic, of Feministe fame.  Ms. Filipovic recently took a trip to Dublin and, upon arriving, found a note from a TSA agent who’d discovered a vibrator in her luggage:

“GET YOUR FREAK ON GIRL” (source)

She reacted in a way that was noticeably un-second-wavy of her — with a sense of humor. She wrote:

Total violation of privacy, wildly inappropriate and clearly not ok, but I also just died laughing in my hotel room. (source)

The TSA’s reaction to this incident was predictable, given how it responds to terror threats: Namely, it enacted a remedy that will never be useful in the future. The screener got shitcanned.

But, is that really what anyone wanted? Filipovic has as much right as anyone to demand that this TSAsshole lose his or her job. Nevetheless, she did not call for the agent’s head. (She admirably dislikes Coldplay more than she dislikes this Agent).

It’s easy to scape-goat one individual here, but the problem with the note is that it’s representative of the bigger privacy intrusions that the U.S. government, through the TSA and other sources, levels every day. The invasion is inherent to the TSA’s mission, regardless of whether a funny note is left behind — the note only serves to highlight the absurdity of all this security theater. (source)

Filipovic went on to write that she is pleased that the TSA took the issue seriously, but firing one person who made a dumb mistake really misses the whole point.

I get no satisfaction in hearing that someone may be in danger of losing their job over this. I would much prefer a look at why ‘security’ has been used to justify so many intrusions on our civil liberties, rather than fire a person who made a mistake. (source)

Instead, the TSA seems to treat this as an isolated incident — or a failure by one of its drones. Meanwhile, the actual issue, which Filipovic tried to make us think about, is lost in the guffaws over the gooey gewgaw.

After we get done chuckling about Filipovic being anonymously told to “get her freak on,” I hope that we can think about how the TSA’s Freudian field day with our reproductive organs demonstrates the absurd nature of its very existence, the failure of its mission, the lie that it represents. It hasn’t got a damn thing to do with keeping us safe. I wish that we could think about how you should never try and have an agency devoted to such a high-falutin goal like airline safety, when you staff it with low-grade morons who are not fit to reproduce, let alone do anything else. Anyone who even wants that job must be a twisted, broken, loser; the kind of person who has lamented their loss of power ever since they left third grade and had to return the “hall monitor” sash to the principal’s office. Next time you are at the airport, just try detecting any intellect in the TSA agents you encounter. You will fail in that task. That alone should tell you that the agency has no reason to exist. If the job were actually important, we would never hire people who are this desperate, stupid, or lazy, to try and do it. And, when you give a powerless idiot a little bit of control, that misused power will find its own center, and that center is apparently our ‘nads.

Filipovic’s experience is no mere outlier. Take the recent tale of Amy Alkon — my client. The TSA only pried into what Ms. Filipovic inserts in her vagina; in Amy Alkon’s case, the TSA actually went up in there.  Repeatedly.  Four times over.  Naturally, Ms. Alkon did not like this and used her free speech rights to express her outrage over the event, shining the light of truth upon the TSA’s misdeeds, and calling the agent’s actions “rape.” Filipovic herself reports that even the FBI would agree with this assessment.  Unlike Filipovic, Alkon did not (so far) find out that her tormentor was fired. Ms. Alkon received a demand letter for $500,000 from Thedala Magee, the TSA agent with whom she had her little run-in. (Well, from her lawyer, but you get the point). 

It might have been undignified for the screener to scrawl a note about Filipovic’s sex toy – but unfortunately, that seems to be where the bureaucracy got hung up, and the real discussion about civil liberties got swept under the carpet — again.


The First Amendment is for Christians Only

October 27, 2011

Oh Flori-duh, you never fail to amuse.

Clay County Pastor, Ron Baker of Russell Baptist Church in Green Cover Springs, FL holds weekly prayer sessions near the Clay Hill Elementary school’s flagpole. To make sure that everyone knows about it, the school principal, LArry Davis put out a newsletter supporting the prayer meetings. (source) That’s a no-brainer violation of the First Amendment.

But principal Davis has a way around that. In his newsletter announcing the meetings, he wrote:

“Pastor Steven Andrew states: ‘Our children need God back in schools,’ and he is calling Christians nationwide to bring back the Holy Bible and Christian prayer to schools … The First Amendment was for Christianity, not other religions.” (source)

Davis told the Florida Times-Union that, despite the passage in his newsletter, he doesn’t feel that the First Amendment only applies to Christians. Seems like an ineffective backpedal to me. Read the passage for yourself.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the school superintendent informing him of the fact that Davis’ conduct violates the First Amendment. The Superintendent said that Davis went too far, and asked Pastor Baker to stop holding the prayer meetings at the elementary school.

Like any good christian, Baker refused. “I think if I were to stop, it somehow sends the message that I think it must be wrong,” he said. Because whether it is insisting that the Earth is the center of the universe, or that there is an almighty space being who gets mad if two guys cocks touch each other, if there is one thing that christianity teaches us, it is “never, ever, ever, ever admit you are wrong, no matter how fucking retarded your views are proven to be.”


And now, the inevitable TSA mission creep

October 21, 2011

Candle of Liberty, Amy Alkon, brings us news that the TSA is now setting up on the highways. Remember that, the next time you silently and submissively put up with them at the airport — saying “oh, I can’t be bothered to give a shit.” See Did You Really Think The TSA Would Just Be An Airport Thang?


Can Connecticut take porn from its prisoners? Should it?

October 17, 2011

Many concerns come to mind when someone thinks about spending time in prison.  First and foremost, there is always the risk of being shanked with a very, very sharp toothbrush.  For the financial criminals, there is the distinct shame of being bested by Bernie Madoff in a game of badminton.  This is to say nothing for the fable of being made someone’s bitch. But what about a lack of porn?

Connecticut’s prisons were very tolerant of pornography in its prisons until recently. (source.)  Now that the Connecticut prisons are pulling the plug on this entertainment, the inmates are threatening to sue.  This is not isolated to the Northeast, either, as a Michigan man filed suit over a guard’s refusal to provide him with pornography, claiming the guard’s action violated his constitutional rights. (source.)

Not to put too dull of an edge on it, but prisons can basically do what they please to inmates. Correctional facilities have staked out the lowest standard of review available under law.  Prisons can enact policies that run counter to prisoners’ First Amendment rights as long as the regulations are rationally related to a legitimate penological interest, a standard that has consistently led to judicial affirmation of anti-pornography policies in the big house. Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401, 413 (1989); Smith v. Dept. of Corrections, 219 Or. App. 192, 198, 182 P.3d 250 (2008).  In contrast, the next-lowest standard of review – and generally the lowest for non-prisoners – is rational basis review, where a government action must be rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest to be constitutional (and intended as such – no post hoc analysis is allowed).

Courts review a prison’s limitation on the inmates’ First Amendment rights by using the three-prong reasonableness test enunciated in Thornburgh:

  1. whether the governmental objective underlying the regulations at issue is legitimate and neutral, and whether the regulations are rationally related to that objective;
  2. whether there are alternative means of exercising the right that remain open to prison inmates at de minimis cost to penological interests; and
  3. the impact that accommodation of the asserted constitutional right will have on others (guards and inmates) in the prison

490 U.S. at 414-18 (citing Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 85 (1987)); Owen v. Wille, 117 F.3d 1235, 1237 (11th Cir. 1997).

As seem in prong 3, rehabilitation interests of prisoners are not all that may be, or is, considered when evaluating these policies.  Courts have found that preventing the harassment of employees who work in the prison is a valid justification for a limitation on sexually explicit materials among inmates. See, e.g., Mauro v. Arpaio, 188 F.3d 1054, 1059 (9th Cir. 1999).

The reach of these policies has been broad. In Washington v. Werholtz, 2008 WL 4998689 (Kan. App. 2008), the Kansas appellate court upheld a policy that banned all sexually explicit material, which included any display, actual or simulated, or description of a variety of acts, including intercourse and masturbation.  While such a policy will cover Larry Flynt’s oeuvre, it will also ban trashy romance novels and some important works of fiction, such as L’ Histoire d’ O.

As long ago as 1989, Iowa grappled with this issue, which made its way into the New York Times.  Under Iowa’s policy, only inmates who had been psychologically screened and approved to view the material – with prisoners whom prison psychologists believed would be obsessed with the material being denied access to it. (source.)  The policy drew a bizarre distinction between how various forms of pornography were treated; inmates who could view porn were allowed to keep “soft-core” content in their cells, while hardcore content was only viewable in a well-supervised reading room.  One then-inmate complained that the reading room was impossible to enjoy under this policy, as the guards filed through the area as if it were a freeway – denying him any privacy in which to evaluate the materials.

In 2006, Indiana instituted a similar policy.  The Indiana Commissioner of the Department of Corrections previously explained that state’s pornography prohibition as something in the interest of both inmates and facility employees.  The Commissioner’s explanation appeals to stay at home moms everywhere, exempting medical and anthropological instances of nudity, but adopts an “I know it when I see it” definition of pornography. (source.)  Ultimately, Indiana’s restrictions amount to subjective, content-based limitations determined by what individuals find stimulating, as opposed to some objective standard by which the content can be evaluated, such as penetration. (Id.)

I strongly disagree with these policies.  While I have not been incarcerated in prison, I question the harmful effects pornography can have on its inmates, and am deeply troubled by the broad sweep that these policies can have – swallowing up non-explicit materials that have considerable value.  While prison exists to deny agency to its inmates, one cannot help but wonder if these policies beg the question about pornography’s supposed harmfulness.  In fact, research shows that more porn = less rape.  While there are other covariants at play, as everyone who has read Freakonomics knows, the results of isolating pornography and analyzing the porn-rape relationship have been in porn’s favor.  Beyond rape, the gratification of pornography may replace or inhibit other criminal or undesired activities as well.  In short, the premises that prison guards’ penological interests rest upon – that porn is bad and makes people do bad things – are beginning to be proven as bullshit.

When I debated the Indiana commissioner on Fox News, his rationale was to “promote public safety in Indiana.” Give me a break. Is Mary Homemaker “safer” because a convict doesn’t have a porn mag? He also stated that he wanted to see his prisoners devote their time to more constructive pursuits. This being Fox, I didn’t get a chance to cross examine him, but I presume he didn’t mean ass-raping one another. The biggest load of bullshit he slung was the meme that prisons need to ban porn because they want to promote a non-harassing environment for prison guards.

Seriously? You want to be a prison guard, but you can’t handle the sight of a guy reading Hustler? I got news for you if you’re “offended” by the sight of a guy jacking it to porn — you can’t handle being a security guard at a candy store, let alone being a prison guard.

The rationale for these bans clearly has nothing to do with “safety,” and it has nothing to do with the feminist-imposed “hostile work environment” bullshit. It has to do with an erotophobic attitude, fostered by superstition, and then fertilized with the crap of cheap political points.

Nonetheless, prisons have erected a high wall around themselves, their guards, and their asinine policies.  In a way, it is logically consistent for an enterprise that exists largely as a consequence of unjust and counterproductive policies such as the war on drugs to have special legal protection allowing it to further screw the people entrusted to its care. See Thornburgh, 490 U.S. at 407 (describing moden prison administration as an “inordinately difficult undertaking”).  As such, challenged to these policies, however well deserved and meritorious they are, seldom succeed.


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