Proving Yourself Wrong About Things You Think You’re Right About

December 20, 2012

By Christopher Duston

This is a story about hypothesis and fact-checking on the gun-violence debate. And about how proving you are wrong about something is better the thinking you are right.

I was listening to an interview on NPR with Jack Levin, a sociologist and criminologist from Northwestern Northeastern University in Boston. He commented that there are not very many similarities between the shooters in these mass killings, making it hard for policy-makers to target the problem. However, he said most of them had some kind of “history of depression.” I did not verify the accuracy of that statement, but that suddenly made sense to me – it is at least believable that citizens in a 21st century United States face new social, economic, and technological challenges that could increase the rate of depression.

The details of this depression-link (if it even exists) would be very complicated, but if we claim that it is because of some kind of major change in our society, we should look for an indicator that detects such large scale phenomena. In other words, it can’t just be the growing income gap that is causing us to unleash outlandish violence against each other.

So we need something that will measure the “total health of a society”; such things exist, for instance the Legatum Prosperity Index (LPI), which takes into account various factors such as economy, healthcare, and personal freedom. This seems like something that would track what I’m interested in, since the basic claim is that there are a number of different factors, which together contribute to an increase in gun violence.

And, the great thing about the LPI is that Wikipedia lists the top 30 (and bottom 20) countries for the years 2012-2008. You don’t need a degree in criminology or a class in statistics to look at numbers.

We want to compare to gun violence rates; again, Wikipedia helps! You can get the firearm-related death rate (per 100,000 population). You can even sort it. (Although, this is ALL firearm-related deaths; I am not isolating mass shootings. In this case, Wikipedia’s entries are so detailed that broad categorization is hard).

So, with the most basic data analysis software you can imagine (Google Docs), I made a spreadsheet of the LPI rank of each country and their firearm-related death rate. I was already writing my segment as a guest on Rachael Maddow…but then I made the plot. Well I was wrong. As you can see, there is zero correlation between the LPI rank and firearm-related deaths.


But this doesn’t mean we didn’t learn anything. The LPI is not a discriminating enough tool; my interpretation is therefore that gun violence is not connected to “quality of life,” broadly defined. Of course, there are all kinds of other possibilities, but this is a simple analysis, and so I restrict myself to simple (and imprecise) statements.

I’m not saying there is a complete lack of analyses out there about the violent nature of the United States – I won’t do a literature search, but good people certainly work on the problem. However, with the democratization of data, we need to acknowledge that no one should be allowed to get away with statements that are not backed up by at least a minimum of quantitative analysis. This analysis took me about 35 minutes. I just came up with something I thought was brilliant, hopped over to Wikipedia to mine some data, plotted it using a FREE online service, and proved myself wrong. Study over.

Police yourself!

PS: One guess as to which blue dot is the U.S. Yup, it’s that one. Yeah, we have less gun violence per capita than the likes of Mexico (LPI rank 61), Brazil (44), and Colombia (69), but that is not the group we should be in.

Christopher Duston is a graduate student in the physics department at Florida State University. His research focuses on mathematical physics and quantum gravity, and he will receive his Ph.D. in May 2013.

Statutes of Limitations

October 25, 2012

Contributed by Charles Platt

For two weeks, now, UK residents have been stunned by an avalanche of revelations–or at least accusations–regarding the BBC and one of its most famous, nationally revered figures, Sir Jimmy Savile, a disc jockey who hosted shows over a period of decades. Savile endeared himself to the British by doing charity work for hospitals, and was even given his own little room at one, allowing him free access to the entire facility. Apparently he used this access to molest young people, many of them under the age of consent, when they were incapacitated or in wheel chairs. I’m reminded of Willie Sutton’s famous quote, explaining that he robbed banks because “that’s where the money was.” Savile appears to have volunteered at a hospital because “that’s where the helpless young girls were.” The appearance of cold-blooded premeditation is remarkable.

He was also a frequent visitor to a “reform home” for “troubled young girls,” some of whom he would take for rides in his Rolls Royce, where the self-described victims have alleged that sex acts occurred in the back seat. Several hundred women have now come forward with allegations. One BBC executive has already resigned, while others are finding it difficult to claim that they knew nothing. Contemporaries of Savile who are still alive, especially in the music-broadcasting section of the BBC, are being named as co-conspirators. Savile seems to have gotten away with it because he was protected by his fame, his wealth, and his charitable donations to the very places where he has been accused of preying on innocents. Others who worked with him are much more vulnerable, even though they may be now in their 70s and 80s.

Since Savile is now dead, the British press is relatively free to run with this story, despite the strict libel laws in the UK. Journalists have been far more circumspect about naming living suspects–until they issue statements of denial, at which point they become “fair game.”

More interesting to me (but less relevant to this blog) is that there is no statute of limitations on serious sex crimes in the UK. Since many of the alleged events occurred in the 1970s, a defendant may have a hard time coming up with exculpatory evidence to refute the allegations of a sobbing alleged victim in a court room. A blog here claims that in Germany, claims from victims dropped by 80% when that nation discontinued its practice of awarding compensation to crime victims, except where there was corroborative evidence. The same blog claims that, conversely, in Britain, where compensation is paid to victims, claims of abuse that occured decades ago have doubled during the past three years, coincidentally with the economic downturn. 

A statute of limitations may seem intuitively unjust to many people. If the crime occurred, why should someone get away with it just because it happened more than, say, 7 years ago? I note that in some areas of the US, limitations have already been abolished or modified for sex offenses, thus copying the British model.

I am assuming that readers of this blog would distrust any further erosion of statutes of limitations, especially if such protection was reduced or eliminated in First Amendment cases.

Or would they?

U.S. v. Heicklen Explained – a Win for the Wizened and Worried

April 24, 2012

By Larry Sutter, Special to the Legal Satyricon

The Southern District of New York recently issued its order dismissing the United State’s case against Julian Heicklen.  The order is available here.  While this is an interesting case about the protection of speech advocating jury nullification, what is even more interesting is the story behind it – from both the people involved to the affect it has had on New York’s legal community.

The Defendant: An 80-year-old retired chemistry professor who believes in freedom and liberty. Like, a lot. He stands in front of the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan handing out pamphlets advocating jury nullification. Calling him “cantankerous” is an understatement that does violence to the language: With his counsel’s motion to dismiss still pending, he addresses a letter to the federal judge who has his case firing his court-appointed standby federal defense counsel–a letter in which the salutation is “Dishonorable Judge Wood,” and the closing is “yours in disgust and hatred.” Among other requests, the letter sought the indictment of the District’s US Attorney.

As part of the investigation, the US Attorney sends an undercover agent posing as a juror to talk to the professor – who advises him he has the right to decide both the law and the facts in the interest of justice. The professor is then indicted for violating the federal jury tampering statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1504. Ironically, such a charge does not merit trial by jury.

The federal defenders, who moved to dismiss the case on every possible ground before they were fired, including § 1504’s vagueness and overbreadth in violation of the First Amendment. But even in their briefs, the defenders refer to their client as a “shabby old man distributing his silly leaflets.”

New York’s legal community has drawn its battle lines over the case, spawning numerous articles on our precious heritage of freedom.  Prominent attorneys forecast that mere anarchy would be loosed upon the world—as two eminent lawyers argued last December in The New York Law Journal:

“Pause for a moment to imagine how this would work in practice with cases involving politically heated and classically divisive social issues….Runaway jury verdicts would amount to little more than a random 12-person vote….Talk about an engraved invitation for chaos—indeed, anarchy.”

Indeed? Indeed! Which the prosecutors were glad to echo. Last month, an Assistant U.S. Attorney characterized Heicklen’s advocacy as “an absolute threat to the system,” during a hearing on the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

But then comes a noble-visaged Portia of a judge to render justice between these parties.  Filleting the statute as skillfully as the countermen at Zabar’s wield their razor-sharp knives upon the $28-a-pound Nova Scotia salmon, Judge Kimba Wood rules that because the statute—giving effect to all its language, not allowing any of its provisions to be condensed or duplicated—only forbids attempting

“to influence the action or decision of a juror upon an issue or matter pending before that juror or pertaining to that juror’s duties by means of a written communication made in relation to a a specific case pending before that juror or in relation to a point in dispute between the parties before that juror.” (Emphasis the Court’s.)

Therefore, generalized exhortations—as opposed to urging the juror to throw a specific case—are OK. (source)  And you don’t even have to get to all those tricky First Amendment issues, do you?

Nevertheless almost half the decision is spent not getting to the First Amendment issues. In particular, the judge found that the danger, whatever it might be, in free-floating jury nullification advocacy wasn’t clear or present enough to pose “a danger to the administration of justice.” Why shouldn’t the jurors respond as sympathetically to the judge’s instructions to follow the law as she gives it as they might to Heicklen’s exhortation to disregard it?  Indeed, Judge’s Wood statutory interpretation reached the same result Heicklen’s counsel urged in their overbreadth argument, namely, that to convict Heicklen for what he was doing would be to punish protected First Amendment activity, viz.,  speech not directed to a specific case or matter before a particular juror.

Heicklen is said to be pleased and is reported to be planning to resume his post Monday in Federal Plaza and, afterwards, go to lunch with his supporters. Dutch treat, of course. It’s reported (on Scott Greenfield’s Simple Justice blog) that his email to this effect was signed, “one small step for a shabby old man, but a giant leap for justice and our country.”

“Feminism” In Iceland: Saving Women From Their Own Adulthood

December 7, 2010

By Dr. Marty Klein

Iceland, the world’s oldest democracy, is now heading in exactly the opposite direction. And they’re doing it in a familiar way—by eliminating choices regarding sex.

Iceland has now criminalized all strip clubs. And forget even something as quaint as a topless bar; the repression of the 1950s is looking positively progressive, as the law even makes it illegal for a business to profit from the nudity of employees.

What makes this law particularly repulsive is the crowing of self-proclaimed “feminists” and “women’s advocates,” who seem unable to grasp the simple idea of adult choice. Member of Parliament Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir says, “It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold.”

By that, I assume she also plans to shut down all theaters and soccer matches too, well-known sites where “women or people” are a product to be sold. You say that that’s where the public purchases performances by women and men? Explain that to the strippers who are now out of jobs because Parliament disapproves of their performances.

The legislation, of course, comes bundled with claims about forced prostitution, rape, and trafficking, legitimate issues that are trotted out on cue whenever someone wants to justify restrictions on any consensual sexual expression. They are the sexual equivalent of flag-waving and mom-&-apple-pie.

Iceland’s prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottirs is not only a woman, but an open lesbian. As Americans already know, female politicians are no more willing to guarantee sexual rights to women than the most misogynist male. Apparently, lesbian politicians are just as willing to curtail others’ rights as straight politicians. No surprise there, either—as we’ve been saying for decades, gay people are just people who happen to be gay. Some of them are against sexual expression and sexual rights.

Plenty of dictatorships and women-hating countries in our world officially ban stripping—either for “moral” or “religious” reasons. Iceland has the distinction of being the first country in the world to ban stripping and lap-dancing for allegedly feminist reasons. They think this is a good thing. To an adult woman prevented from doing what she wants by a government who doesn’t trust her to make her own decisions, it’s a pathetic distinction.

Guðrún Jónsdóttir of Stígamót, an Icelandic organization fighting sexual violence, supports the ban because sex “is not a commodity.” That’s the same sophomoric nonsense that Pope Benedict XVI uses to deprive women of their right to contraception and abortion. Is he a closet feminist, too?

This piece originally appeared on Marty Klein’s Sexual Intelligence Blog, here. (reprinted with permission)

Unprotected Speech from Outside the US

September 14, 2010

by Charles Platt

Send a drunken email from the UK to the White House, calling the president a prick, and you’re banned from the United States for life. Or so it says here.

Drunk Driving: A Victimless Crime

April 12, 2010

by Charles Platt

I wonder if anyone else agrees that drunk driving is a victimless crime. A conviction merely affirms that a person was more likely than average to hit someone or something. Well, all kinds of people are more likely to do that, such as the elderly, or people who simply don’t have an aptitude for driving.

State laws used to recognize this, more or less, by allowing police to make a judgment call about impairment, based on their observations. But that wasn’t good enough for Candy Lightner, whose daughter had been killed by a drunk driver. In the wearying tradition of family members who want to make the death of a loved one seem more meaningful by inconveniencing everybody else, Lightner started Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The name of this brilliant campaign guaranteed its success. Who could possibly disagree with Mothers (that most sacred category of human being) who wanted to protect their children from alcohol-crazed hit-and-run maniacs? Alas, it ended up criminalizing the people whom it was supposed to protect.

Young people themselves are the most likely to drink and drive. So, MADD’s answer was to stop them from drinking–even including the ones who didn’t own cars and didn’t have driver licenses. Of course the federal government lacked constitutional authority to enforce this, so it simply threatened to take away a percentage of highway finds if the states didn’t capitulate. Such coercion would be familiar to any mafia boss: “Nice little highway you have here. Be a shame if something happened to it. Maybe you should think about raising the legal drinking age to 21.” Thus young people who had been 18, 19, or 20 at the time suddenly had to stop drinking, or become criminals. Once they were 21 they could start drinking again.

Does anyone imagine that this actually worked? I have never yet met any teenagers who aren’t able to obtain alcohol if they want to. College presidents are aware of this, which may have been why more than 100 of them got together in 2008 and demanded that the legal drinking age be lowered. No doubt they were weary of trying to enforce a prohibition that is unenforceable. Of course, their plea was ignored.

Candy Lightner subsequently quit from MADD. Her demands for salary increases had been rejected, which may or may not have been a factor. In 1994 she became a spokesperson for the American Beverage Institute, a lobbying group which represents some liquor companies. She argued against a further tightening of the law regarding illegal levels of blood alcohol, stating that MADD had become “neo-prohibitionist.” Apparently even she realized that the juggernaut that she created had gotten out of hand.

Too late, Candy. Young people lost some more of their dwindling rights, and police departments gained a great new tool for raising revenue. Lives have been disrupted in the process, since people convicted of DUIs lose their licenses in many states, and this can be catastrophic for someone who lives alone in a rural area. Meanwhile, millions of teenagers have gained criminal convictions as a result of doing something that is legal for the majority of the population.

All this in the cause of preventing a crime that might happen.


July 4 And Your Sexual Freedom

July 4, 2009

Dr. Marty Klein

Dr. Marty Klein

By Marty Klein, Ph.D
Special Guest to the Legal Satyricon

This weekend we celebrate the birthday of our country. Many will do this by participating in a parade, getting drunk, or displaying the Stars & Stripes. But there are other ways to celebrate the sacrifices that have made America the world’s most radical experiment in free speech and free thought.

It’s not the fact that you were born here that makes America great. It’s the principles that America stands for, struggles with, and protects. So this week you’ll be honoring those who have fought and died for America when you:

* Use birth control
* Download porn
* Watch the Sopranos or South Park
* Go to a raunchy comedy club or listen to a raunchy CD
* Have non-intercourse sex
* Get a lapdance at a neighborhood club
* Have sex with someone of a different race
* Have sex with someone of the same gender

Every single one of these acts took a court decision to affirm its legality—many from the Supreme Court. Yes, the same historic court that ended racially segregated public schools was needed to decide that Americans could legally purchase contraceptives, and that whites and blacks could have sex together.

When you live your normal life this week—using condoms, watching grownup TV, shopping in private on the internet, enjoying oral sex, ignoring ads for massage parlors in your local newspaper—you’ll be honoring the lives and hard work of thousands of plaintiffs, lawyers, judges, clerks, and volunteers.

These men and women may not have died in the line of duty, but they are on the front lines, serving our country. We have no medals for Bill Baird, Phil Harvey, Mildred Loving, Sherri Williams, or other heroes who have risked their lives, freedom, money, and sanity to protect our sexual expression. They fought not against a foreign enemy, but against tremendous pressure right here at home—from tyrannical majorities, powerful minorities, vindictive government agents.

These same elements threaten our basic American rights today.

Like other freedoms, sexual freedom isn’t free. Today, on our country’s birthday, let’s remember those mostly-anonymous people who struggled and suffered to make America safer for sexual expression and the commercial and intellectual activities needed to support it.

Let’s also remember the human beings languishing in American jails simply for creating sexually explicit films that millions of grownups have bought to use in their own homes. Our government has spent our money to stop these people from expressing themselves. If these people aren’t political prisoners, who are?

Some will say that our founders didn’t suffer at Valley Forge or die at Lexington & Concord so that your niece can buy rubbers, or a guy down the street can go see a stripper, or you can hear Jon Stewart say “dickhead.”

I say that that’s exactly why people died to create America—a special country in which people have the extraordinary right to do, say, and think things of which their neighbors—and government—disapprove.

“Why I do it” — An Erotic Documentarian’s Viewpoint

May 21, 2009

by Tony Comstock
Special Guest to the Legal Satyricon

In a world that seems awash in sexualized imagery, why is it that so little of this imagery speaks to the common pleasurable reality of sex? We’ve been producing the “Real People, Real Life, Real Sex” erotic documentary series for some time now, and I’ve heard the same kinds of questions dozens, perhaps even hundreds of times from people who know and love our work, from therapists and counselors, from people in pain about their sexuality, and from people enjoying their sexuality as part of full and wholesome lives. Over and over, I am asked, “Why are films like ours, films that depict sex in a way that is joyous and cinematic, almost nonexistent?” “Why are art films that contain explicit sex always so downbeat?” “Why does pornography look and feel so different from the other sorts of visual images we see?” “How does what we do — and do not — see in cinema affect our understanding of our own sexuality?”

I’d like to say the answer is that I have a special insight into the human sexual condition as it relates to cinema, but it’s a little more complicated than that. To truly understand why sex on film looks the way it does, one needs to look at the history of sexual imagery in cinema, the history of obscenity laws, and the business and technology of image making. Once you have that background, you can explore how cinematic images actually work, and how that relates to cinematic depictions of sexuality. I have spent many years investigating that background, and the more I learn, the more I am driven to make the films that we produce.

I have been a photographer my entire adult life. I believe passionately in the power of the moving image to help us understand who we are as human beings. I’ve documented unspeakable suffering, violence, and death. For that, I’ve been called a courageous witness.

In bearing witness to sex, I sometimes get called other, less charitable names. Sometimes this hurts my feelings. Sometimes it makes me feel like quitting.

I bear witness to the sex act because I believe that depictions of truly joyous and wholesome sex — depictions that represent the overwhelmingly positive and important role that our sexuality plays in our humanity — are all but absent from the cinematic landscape. Moreover, in an age where it is easier than ever to see sexually explicit imagery, it is harder than ever to find imagery that reflects the common reality of sex: that sex is nice; that sex is normal; that sex is good.

I’d like to share a comment left on my blog about three years ago. As you might imagine, doing this work and demanding that it be taken seriously can sometimes be a struggle. But when I despair, I go back and read this:

I have issues with sex. I’m a sexual abuse survivor. Anyone who’s been sexually abused comes into sexuality with a handbag and two trunks of emotional baggage.

When we were trying to conceive there was a blatant point to having sex: having a baby. That made it okay. After all, society couldn’t look down it’s nose at a married couple — young, still facing fertility problems, trying to have a child.

And then when the child is born, you get the excuse of body recuperation. And if your child is sick, you get a bonus 6 month reprieve. However, there does come a point where sexuality, motherhood, couplehood, and life clash. I’m tired. Sex requires energy. So does doing the dishes. But sex requires an emotional investment, something I’m not ready to make, something I feel inferior making. So the dishes it is. And laundry for good character.

I feel conflicted by sexual imagery. I sometimes like what I see. I sometimes like it a lot. But sometimes it scares me. I’m not pretty like Eva Longoria. I’m not thin or have shiny hair. I don’t have nice breasts. Mine are saggy and droopy and currently nourish the body of a very rotund 9 month old. They serve a purpose, and purposeful breasts aren’t sexy — to me anyway. And besides, they don’t LOOK like the breasts I see on TV. Perfect, sculpted breasts. Breasts that boys like. And bodies. Don’t get me started on the bodies.

What we see isn’t real. It’s said over and over. I know there are 50 people off-set creating the magic. What they’re feeling isn’t real. What they’re doing isn’t real. And it makes me wonder if what I’m doing is okay. Emotionally un-investing myself in my relationship. Because really, I can’t ask family about sex. I can’t ring my mother-in-law up and ask her if she ever felt this way when looking at her naked body. Or ask her if she felt hung up on emotional issues when her husband’s hand touched her bottom.

Abuse survivors bring guilt into the game as well. Not only do we have more bodily hang-ups, failed relationships and mental problems, but we have guilt about sexuality. About wanting sex. About feeling GOOD about sex.

Today though, something struck me in just in the right spot. I had one of Oprah’s famed “a-ha” moments. A link took me to Dubbed: “Real People, Real Life, Real Sex” the site explores sexuality for real. In a documentary style, we meet and enjoy the couple and then venture into the velvety movement of their bodies.

I must say. I was stunned. I’m not a fan of porn. I am disgusted by a lot of what is sold to men. The fairytale behind that isn’t charming, in my opinion. But watching these clips I thought, wow. Oh my goodness. So THIS is sex. For real. And I loved the charming banter of the couples. I feel grown up right now. Like a real adult. I’ve confronted one of my demons — enjoying a sexual experience — and I can actively admit that I enjoyed it. Which is probably a lot more information that you’ve wanted to hear from the mother of a child who doesn’t do a lot of sleeping. If you’ve got the time and the inclination I encourage you to take a step into the realm of Comstock films. It’s the first step I’ve taken to embracing that humans are allowed to be sexual beings. – Jen P.

Award-winning filmmaker Tony Comstock frequently lectures on the legal and business realities that shape and too often warp the sexual imagery we see. Drawing on examples from Hollywood’s history of self-censorship, landmark obscenity cases, and the collision of technology and image-making, Comstock offers an expanded framework for understanding of how what we do and do not see in cinema effects our understanding of our own sexuality.

Welcome a New Satyriconista – Matthew C. Sanchez

April 16, 2009

Matthew C. Sanchez

Matthew C. Sanchez

Matthew C. Sanchez is a budding First Amendment and media lawyer based in South Florida. A regular volunteer with the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard, Matt has logged more than 1600 hours of pro bono work dealing with free speech issues. His own (mostly) free speech consists of music journalism and children’s fiction.

He is a certified bad ass.

How Feminists Can Improve the Porn Industry

December 11, 2008

Special Guest Author<br />Tatiana Von Tauber

Special Guest Author
Tatiana Von Tauber

By Tatiana von Tauber

Feminism drives me crazy. Truthfully, the more feminist stuff I read the more I get stirred into falling for how women never seem to get treated right, how they’re always second class despite all of feminism’s efforts, objectified and “abused” and then I unconsciously start bashing men, which is usually when I realize I’ve fallen for feminist indoctrination again. Isn’t feminism mainly about choice?

One advantage – though sometimes maybe a disadvantage – is that I haven’t been schooled through academic feminism. My philosophy is self made through personal experience and education. As a female I’ve been mistreated, “used and abused”, fucked – both literally and figuratively – underpaid, discredited, viewed as under qualified and overrun by the whole mommyhood-work balance that causes havoc in my daily life. I know very well the realities of femalehood but pointing blame on the porn industry as an aid to the disadvantages women have is disempowering. And stupid.

I willingly gave up career to be a stay at home mom. I like sex. I photograph nude women. I write erotic fiction. I like being a girl and have little fear being looked at as a sexual “object” because to be objectified isn’t the same thing as being looked at. The general philosophy of feminism as I know it equals “fucked up female mentality” **yet I object to female disempowerment based on gender and there is no other word other than “feminist” to define my kind of view of female empowerment.

It seems to me that feminism is stuck on the idea that women can have their cake and eat it too. Feminists never seem to be happy. I’d be better to just say that women can have a sliver of that cake, or the whole thing at different times and offer women some realism. Feminism didn’t give me that sense when I was younger and just because men appear to have it all doesn’t mean they do. I think feminism disregards some the negative realities men deal with in their manhood; men are always bad to women yet we fail to see the ways in which women might be hurting men. That’s simply unfair both ways.

So it bothers me that feminists in general are so wound up about the sex thing and sometimes I fight for the adult industry more than I care to just to smack it to them because while feminists scream gender empowerment and choice, when it comes to sex there’s only judgment.

To quote a superb article from Jezebel dot com:

Feminists talk a lot about owning our bodies and making our own sexual choices, but when it comes to women who choose to work in the sex industry, we tend to get a lot more narrow-minded about it. Just ask Joy King, the Wicked Pictures exec – when she was featured talking about her company on the local news, her son’s best friend’s mother refused to let him come over to play anymore because King was one of “those” women.

Feminists claim patriarchy is the problem but, is it really? How much of it? Aren’t women a part of their own problem? Why do so few want to address that?

The few women who share my sexuality-as-empowerment views happen to be the women in the sex industry. I don’t know much about movie porn but I can offer a lot on porn/erotic photography. For me, when viewing erotic material, the only “threat” I see is that someone else got the job. I know what goes into making those sex pictures, what the girls really look like without Photoshop, the reality of the “dumb-blond” stereotype (which isn’t always true), the reality of the supposed “sexual stimulus” in creating such photos and I know that generally, it’s a job: sex is only the illusionary final product no different than any other regular mainstream entertainment created for money. That’s it. It’s about money and if there was no money in porn, there’d be no porn no matter many men suffered from blue balls.

Porn is entertainment which assumes to stimulate the sexual appetite but for me, it more stimulates my own sense of living a life in and around eroticism which fuels my artistic creativity more than my sex life. I am first and foremost, an artist and to assume I only get a sexual thrill from erotica/porn shows the narrow mindedness people have about it because that’s a subjective view become a mainstream norm simply because the majority jack off to it. Yet, if porn/erotica do stimulate the sexual appetite, why would that be so bad in the first place? Why is sex acceptable only under strict contexts? Clearly we can blame religion but in some ways, hasn’t feminism only continued such ridiculous views?

I think the root of changing some of the misconceptions and negative realities in the adult industry could easily be rectified if more women got into the adult industry: more female photographers, writers, producers, directors, agents, etc. If women want power over men – figuratively and literally – maybe they ought to hit the source and dominate what the men have access to sex wise while nurturing the young females who are impressionable and be sensative to their choices by creating better, healthier work environments in the adult industry. It seems like the most logical compromise between the sexes and a compromise is the only way to achieve a realistic degree of equality and relative satisfaction to all.

If new standards want to be set, can women really expect men to do it in the sex industry? If a woman wants a job to be done a differently way, then she ought to do it herself or at the very least, respect and encourage those who attempt to participate in change from positive, pro-active positions they’re too squimish to participate in themselves. However, to make change by attempting to bash, judge or ban porn only fuels further animosity between the sexes. It helps no one.

** update: my quote statement here, thinking of it now, seems harsher in meaning than I intend. Perhaps it needs a rewrite to “a selfish female mentality” rather than “fucked up female mentality”. Feminism generally isn’t fucked up and I don’t want to throw bad onto something that intends good and has, in many ways, created good. However, female egotism is a “fucked up” state of mind and upon original writing, that’s where my thought was headed.

New Satyriconista, Christopher Harbin

September 11, 2008

Christopher Harbin is a second-year law student at the University of Michigan. His interests include anonymous internet defamation, net neutrality, John Doe lawsuits, obscenity law, video game law, and corrupting the English language through the use of L33tSp34k.

Welcome to the revolution, Mr. Harbin!

Individual Rights? Forget Heller

August 14, 2008

By Jonathon Blevins,
Legal Satyricon Second Amendment Correspondent

As first reported here and here, the Second Amendment does not act (currently) as a restriction on the states’ power to regulate the right to keep and bear arms. The Heller decision simply laid the foundation for the eventual incorporation of the Second Amendment via the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, unless you live in D.C. or are currently under Federal jurisdiction, Heller is not a shield from government intrusion.

A current illustration of the lack of protection comes from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. See FN 2. The case demonstrates that while the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, it is not a restraint on the individual states. For an analysis on the available constitutional restrictions please see post. However, this post will exclusively concern the incorporation doctrine as it applies, or should apply to the Second Amendment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Heller in Wisconsin

August 7, 2008

By Jonathon Blevins,
Legal Satyricon Second Amendment Correspondent

Recently, the Eastern District of Wisconsin denied a felon’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Kenneth Robinson plead guilty to possession of a firearm as a felon. See Case. The motion stated that in light of District of Columbia v. Heller 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008), the federal regulation of firearm possession by felons, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922(g)(1), is unconstitutional as applied. The statute states, “it shall be unlawful for any person who has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . [to] possess in or affecting commerce any firearm or ammunition.”

The defendant, Mr. Robinson, argues that he can withdraw his guilty plea because his crime is no longer a crime. Mr. Robinson is incorrect. The statute remains valid on its face and as applied to Mr. Robinson.

Heller is parsimonious in application. The decision invalidated an absolute ban on handgun possession. The Supreme Court was careful to allow for reasonable regulation of the “new” individual right to keep and bear arms. Thus, the federal government lost the power to ban handgun possession but retained the power to regulate possession. The Eastern District of Wisconsin does a good job explaining the flaws in Mr. Robinson’s argument based on Heller. However, Mr. Robinson would be incorrect prior to Heller.

Even prior to Heller, Courts traditionally subjected laws regulating the right to keep and bear arms to a “reasonable regulation” standard of review. See Parker, 478 F.3d 370, 399 (D.C. Cir. 2007). Under this standard, courts should invalidate a gun law if it is arbitrary or so restrictive that it “eviscerates,” renders “nugatory,” or results in the effective “destruction of the right to bear arms.” See, e.g., State v. Hamdan, 665 N.W.2d 785 (Wis. 2003).

Such courts, applying a reasonableness standard, all recognized, “[t]he police power cannot [ ] be invoked in such a manner that it amounts to the destruction of the right to bear arms.” State v. McAdams, 714 P.2d 1236, 1237 (Wyo.1986). Under this standard, courts traditionally upheld gun control laws in limited situations banning only: 1) a limited class of persons from possessing firearms i.e. felons and intoxicated persons; 2) particular types of firearms; 3) the carrying of concealed firearms outside of one’s home or office; and 4) the transportation of loaded firearms. See, e.g., Johnson, 497 F.2d at 550 (upholding a statute restricting felon access to firearms). As Parker explained, states may impose such “time, place, and manner restrictions” on the right to keep and bear arms because they are “presumably reasonable.” 478 F.3d at 399. The restrictions on the Second Amendment right are parallel to those imposed on First Amendment rights. See What Does D.C. v. Heller mean for *First* Amendment Rights.

It appears that Mr. Robinson has little recourse based on court precedent pre and post Heller. While the Supreme Court ruled that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, it did not deem the right absolute. Certain restrictions are allowed including those levied on Mr. Robinson.

The New Marketplace of Ideas Remains Open for Business

June 30, 2008

by Sam Lea
Legal Satyricon Correspondent

Blogging, an often controversial area of the “marketplace of ideas,” has just won a victory over an overzealous attorney, who improperly sought to silence one of his clients critics.

In an Order handed down by the District of New Hampshire, Judge James R. Murihead levied sanctions against Clifford J. Shoemaker, Esq., for “an abuse of legal process, a waste of judicial resources and an unnecessary waste of time and expense to the purported deponent.”

The “purported deponent” is blogger Kathy Seidel of the weblog, where she post articles by herself and others concerning the possible link between autism and exposure to mercury. After posting a particularly critical article of Mr. Shoemaker’s extensive litigation efforts in the area of Vaccine Injury Compensation Program claims, Ms. Seidel received a subpoena for Mr. Shoemaker’s most recent autism case involving Sykes v. Bayer Pharmaceuticals Corporation. The subpoena requested in the judge’s words “…every scrap of paper related to autism, her website, her tax returns, and her communications with the government.

Mr. Shoemaker defends by stating that Seidel is a co-conspirator with Bayer, “…or by some organization dedicated to harassing this Plaintiff and her witnesses.” The judge found this to be completely unsupported by any facts and recognized that Seidel was “openly and extensively exercising her First amendment right to speak on the issue.”

This is good news for bloggers in light of some of the recent litigation involving the blogosphere and free speech. Additional sanctions are may come from the Virginia State Bar, once they review the above Order from the court. Further and more extensive condemnation of the scare tactics used by Mr. Shoemaker will hopefully have a lasting effect and serve to caution future attorneys who may decide to use the government, via the court system to curtail or chill free speech adverse to the positions held by themselves and/or their clients.

Perhaps Mr. Shoemaker should be ordered to maintain his own blog for a while so that he may truly get a sense of how well his own ideas can withstand the test of the Market.

Sam Lea is a 3L at Barry University School of Law

Guest Blogger Correct says Supreme Court…

June 26, 2008

By Jonathon Blevins,
Legal Satyricon Second Amendment Correspondent

Today the Supreme Court handed down District of Columbia v. Heller. The background of the case is available here:

The agonizing 64 page decision can be found here:

To summarize Justice Scalia’s opinion, the Second Amendment plainly means what it says…The people (individual) has the right to keep and bear arms. The Court bridged the gap between gun nuts and regulation hippies by providing a laundry list of potential valid restrictions on firearm ownership, use, and storage. The case is seminal in its subject matter but limited in its power.

Heller is not the end of the story regarding the Second Amendment. The case simply means that DC’s absolute prohibition on firearms is unconstitutional and the individual has a “theoretical” right to keep and bear arms. The right is “theoretical” because the individual right to keep and bear arms is only applicable against the federal government. DC is a under federal law. Thus, the states may still restrict firearm ownership within its boundaries so long as it does not conflict with the ruling. The next step is incorporation via the Fourteenth Amendment. It is only a true right when we are ALL protected from state and federal intrusion.

While the Heller decision is a great day for individual rights and freedom lovers, it is a sad day for the “independent judiciary.” The Court was split 5-4. The rift was down the middle, conservatives v. liberals:

The issue split the court along conservative and liberal ideological lines, with Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in the majority. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and David Souter dissented.

The highest court in the nation should be truly independent. One should be unable to predict the outcome of a case based on political ideology. However, the Court proved it is continually susceptible to outside pressure. The Court should rule on logic, reason, and precedent…NEVER donkey v. elephant…this is an issue for a later debate.

The First Amendment has some backup in the fire power of the Second Amendment.

Jonathon Blevins