Don’t listen to other people

June 2, 2011

By J. DeVoy

If I had listened to the advice of other people over the last five or so years, I’d have levered up and bought a house, gone to the local law school, started running marathons and stopped eating meat.  In short, my life would have been ruined — actually and definitively ruined, stuck in an underwater house within a dying rust belt hellhole, as opposed to teetering on the brink of insanity and ruin as it is now.

Individuals give terrible advice.  Facts and hard data, where available, are superior; where they fail, experts suffice.  All of the conventional wisdom you have been told your whole life, from buying a house to investing in the stock market to going to college is wrong, or at least critically compromised.

The framers realized the mind-numbing inability of average people, even if well-read and smart on their own merits, to see the big picture.  As a result, we wound up with a representative republic instead of a direct democracy, with senators originally chosen by the house of representatives, rather than direct election.

Unsatisfied with the direct election of 2/3 branches of government, groups of people now want to affect the operations of agencies that are supposed to be autonomous and, for institutional reasons, beyond the reach of popular rule.  It’s not news that various groups are putting the screws to Attorney General Eric Holder so he’ll ramp up obscenity prosecutions against the adult industry.  (The last obscenity prosecution that actually made it to trial failed spectacularly.)  Why an appointed official such as Holder should care about public pressure is unclear, and this effort distracts from more pressing matters, such as why Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of Countrywide Mortgage – one of the engines behind the housing collapse that toppled the house of cards constituting America’s economy – has not been arrested.

It’s not just religious crazies who push for these things, either, but support for such prosecutions, even tacitly, can come from unexpected sectors.  I remember my first girlfriend from college in situations like this.  In the heady days of spring 2004, she was agog with the site BangBus, apparently unaware that it was completely staged.  While I was not familiar with § 2257 back then, I was somehow able to intuit that a group of people having sex with women in a van, and then driving off without paying the participants at the end of the clip, would not be filming their exploits and marketing them in what became one of the dominant adult sites on the internet.  I couldn’t articulate the legal issues at the tender age of 18, but it seemed obvious to me that waivers and releases were signed, and everyone knew what they were getting into.

My ex couldn’t contend with this reality, or entertain the possibility that it was consensual, economically and personally valuable expression.  What made this naivete and revulsion surprising was that she worked at Hooters.  Moreover, she’d been approached about entering adult entertainment at least once.  And yet BangBus was, to her, the world’s worst injustice for reasons she couldn’t explain.

I see no problem with her having that opinion, curious as it is.  That experience, though, showed me how easy it is to get people on board with repressive agendas based on something as ephemeral as “feelings.”  People far outside the religious or feminist fold can be seduced into encouraging the state to bully people – with the threat of lengthy prison sentences – into self-censorship for the sake of their feelings.  Yet, the collective ego and delicate sensibility of whiny bitches everywhere, both male and female, now demand that the Attorney General do exactly that.  In addition to being a perversion of the purpose of executive agencies, it subverts the entire purpose of representative government.  Instead of addressing the burgeoning economic crisis now three years in length, our elected officials – and unelected ones – must contend with frivolous bullshit of the most unimportant nature.  Individuals shouldn’t just stop having opinions and expressing them.  But this kind of obstructive sabre-rattling allows individuals who know nothing about law enforcement to turn the DOJ on its head and follow their whims at the expense of institutional missions.

This isn’t to say you should never consider the advice of other people.  I personally have six people I run major life decisions by because I know each will see it from a different perspective, and often a few that I hadn’t considered.  My friend Jay (confusing, I know) let me and two other friends occupy his house for a week to serve as his “consultancy.”  Just as lawyers are valuable for dispassionate analysis, so too is the analysis of friends, allies and mentors.  Considering their advice, though, is a different analytical process than blindly listening without rigorous review, or heeding it just to appease them.  No individual should follow those routes, and neither should the government at any level.

Phillip Greaves’ Arrest Warrant and Affidavit

December 22, 2010

By J. DeVoy

Following up on Marc’s earlier coverage of Phillip Greaves’ arrest in Pueblo, Colo., on charges brought by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, we now have the arrest warrant and affidavit.  This document sheds a little more light on how the case was developed, including the affiant’s communication with Greaves under an assumed name to obtain a copy of The Pedophile’s Guide to Love & Pleasure.

First Amendment Alert! Author arrested for writing a book

December 20, 2010

Please can't global warming melt the ice caps a little faster?

I’m the first to admit that Phillip Greaves is not the most sympathetic figure in America. Greaves wrote “The Pedophile’s Guide,” which was originally for sale on before the online retailer bowed to public pressure and pulled the book from its online shelves.

I don’t necessarily have a problem with that.

But, I have a big problem with today’s developments. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd had Mr. Greaves arrested in Pueblo, Colorado on obscenity charges.

Lets remember that Grady Judd’s jurisdiction is home to meth labs, cops who diddle children, and (given the inbred nature of its residents) a pretty high incest rate.

Despite the “real crime” in his jurisdiction, Judd instructed his detectives to
request an autographed copy of the book. Mr. Greaves obliged and Judd used that as his justification for having Greaves indicted on obscenity charges in his little caliphate of inbred-methistan.

Greaves told ABC News last month he wasn’t trying to promote pedophilia and was not himself a pedophile: “I’m not saying I want them around children, I’m saying if they’re there, that’s how I want them to [behave].” (source)

The implications of this arrest should outrage you far more than any child molestation incident. That is not to minimize child molestation, nor is it me just trying to be provocative. If a child gets molested, our republic stands. If petty little white-trash sheriffs like Grady Judd can find a book they don’t like and have the author hauled off to jail for it, the First Amendment means nothing. Judd’s offense is compounded by the fact that Mr. Greaves does not live in Florida and has no connection to bibleburg Polk County except that he mailed a book there, at the express request of a law enforcement officer who was clearly trying to manufacture jurisdiction.

Judd made his disdain for the constitution abundantly clear.

Judd said he was frustrated that Greaves’ book was protected under freedom of speech laws, even though it was created “specifically to teach people how to sexually molest and rape children.”

“There may be nothing that the other 49 states can do, but there is something that the state of Florida can do … to make sure we prosecute Philip Greaves for his manifesto,” Judd said. (source)

I hope that Mr. Greaves can afford a spirited defense to his extradition. If he winds up having to face these charges in Polk County, I can’t imagine his defense lawyers being able to find jurors with the intellect or the ethics to stand up for the First Amendment. Naturally, I would imagine that a conviction will be overturned on appeal – but only after he spends a significant amount of time in jail awaiting that happy day.

And in the meantime, your Constitution will sit in that jail cell with him.

Anyone who is inclined to lack sympathy for Mr. Greaves should set that aside. I don’t ask you to care about Mr. Greaves. I ask you to care about your constitution. I ask you to realize what his happening in this case.

This is the same pig who locked up Chris Wilson for publishing photos sent to him by U.S. troops in Iraq. This is the same backward jurisdiction where a guy who said “shit” because he was going to jail got 179 days for that transgression. This is where a guy who took photos of consenting adults, at their request, for their own personal use, was pursued relentlessly for obscenity charges. This jurisdiction saw a 15 year old arrested for farting. Another kid was arrested for taking photos of a traffic light. Before all that, when an adult entertainment performer called the cops because she was being stalked, she wound being charged with obscenity.

Just like censorship minded swine from Anthony Comstock to Katherine MacKinnon, Grady Judd is obsessed with the power that comes from wielding the censor’s cane.

And if we let him get away with it, we all lose something precious.

When, and if, I find out who is defending Mr. Greaves, I will post a follow up with information on how to donate to his legal defense fund.

Amazon Censoring Kindle Title List

December 18, 2010

by Charles Platt

After Amazon caved in and removed _The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure_, other titles with erotic content are now being targeted. The currently uncertain situation is summarized here.

Legislation banning “crush” videos signed into law

December 16, 2010

By J. DeVoy

STOMP! - just a musical production after all.

Ever the free speech patriot, president Obama signed the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010 (ACVPA) into law earlier this month.  The bill, which labels crush videos as “obscene,” contains a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment for violating its provisions. (full text here.)

Here’s the relevant portion of the new law, 48 U.S.C. § 18:

(a) Definition- In this section the term ‘animal crush video’ means any photograph, motion-picture film, video or digital recording, or electronic image that–

(1) depicts actual conduct in which 1 or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians is intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury (as defined in section 1365 and including conduct that, if committed against a person and in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, would violate section 2241 or 2242); and

(2) is obscene.

The Supreme Court recently considered a similar issue in US v. Stevens, affirming the Third Circuit and ultimately striking down a 18 U.S.C. § 48 due to constitutional overbreadth. 559 U.S. ___ (2010).  That statute prohibited depictions of animal cruelty, and was enacted with a focus on the interstate market for the same crush videos the legislation enacted by Obama seeks to outlaw.  The Supreme Court ultimately decided that the sweep of 18 U.S.C. § 48 was too broad, encompassing protected speech within its scope and effectively outlawing an entire genre of expression without any judicial oversight.

Remember, also, that it was Alito’s dissent that showed his morbid fascination with crush videos.  Surprisingly, he argued that they should be their own form of unprotected speech, a la child pornography.  It looks like he may have gotten his wish.

The ACVPA apparently tries to side-step this by invoking the word “obscenity,” and criminalizing only depictions of harm to animals that is obscene.  In contrast, 18 U.S.C. § 48 did not require that the content be obscene.  This new legislation creates an interesting proposition: either it will be widely used and essentially turn prosecution of crush videos into obscenity trials under the Miller test, or, fearing that obscenity will never be provable, prosecutors will never try a case under this law.  Given Eric Holder’s tenure as Attorney General to date, I’m inclined to believe the former scenario is most likely, especially amidst increased pressure to bring obscenity prosecutions.  While I love like tolerate puppies as much as the next person, vocal members of the ASPCA and PETA – including the guy who changed his name to – are whiny agitators on a level previously reserved for the AARP’s bovine membership, and will try to see this law put to use immediately.

Because the law sets obscenity aside as its own provision for finding guilt, it may survive for a while.  There is a proprietary concern, however, with adding the animal abuse “plus factor” that augments the penalty for obscene speech beyond it merely being obscene.  While not a content-based restriction in the way an outright ban on animal abuse videos was in Stevens, this legislation’s content-consciousness may come into play in a hopefully inevitable constitutional challenge.

Bob Guccione belated RIP

November 1, 2010

by Charles Platt

I’m slightly stunned to learn that Bob Guccione died ten days ago. Why would I care? Because he was an idiot-savant of the sexual revolution who also launched Omni magazine, a bastard mix of science fiction and science. It spawned a slew of imitators, including Discover, which I think is the sole survivor.

I used to write for Omni, and thus was invited to a party at Guccione’s brownstone on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in the early 1980s. Sinister Sicilians in dark blue suits stood guarding million-dollar oil paintings that were hung casually, as if they were mere reproductions. A swimming pool occupied the entire basement. Strange-looking women with big mouths and revealing dresses were tottering around on high heels, and I wondered who they were, until Isaac Asimov remarked to me, “It’s quite an experience to see real glamor models in person.” Belatedly, I realized that the women were Penthouse Pets.

Guccione was not a very civilized character, but he played a role in securing the sexual freedoms which we now take for granted. Hefner, at Playboy, had brought naked pictures to the masses by wrapping them in intellectual pretensions (Norman Mailer used to be published in Playboy). Guccione made Hefner look old-school with a more in-your-face attitude and, of course, photographs showing pubic hair. Larry Flynt, in turn, made Guccione look staid by revealing the inner folds of female genitalia, and then the World-Wide Web superceded Flynt by showing pictures of absolutely everything else, from bestiality to fisting. On this tawdry basis we affirmed serious intellectual liberties to write anything and depict anything with impunity, so long as it doesn’t involve children. Generally, I think this is a good thing.

When porn first appeared on the Web, I felt sure that federal legislators would find a way to shut it down. But the Communications Decency Act was deemed unconstitutional, and crusaders for clean living never figured out a way to get around that. So here we are now, in a world where acts of unspeaking depravity are a mere mouse-click away. Like most print publishers, Guccione never adapted to it, and he had to sell his mansion and his art long before he died.

Special Delivery

October 4, 2010

by Marc J. Randazza

The Gloucester Daily Times has a funny story for us: A woman claims that she left her cell phone on her mailbox. A mailman was later caught with the cell phone. In the few minutes that the mailman had the phone, he had time to drop his pants, take pictures of his penis, and then send the pictures to someone in the woman’s address book. (source)