Dipshit Dines and her MacKinnonite Crusade

July 27, 2010

Sound the alarm! The pornographers are coming to get us. Or so says the ever-hysterical Gail Dines in a recent Boston Globe article about her latest book.

To Dines, it is not coincidental that pornography has grown increasingly brutal in its treatment of women as the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan have underscored the real-world gains of women in the fields of politics, law, business, and medicine. Among other things, she says, “Pornography is a backlash against women’s advancement.’’ (source)

Yeah, that’s it. The moment that I heard about Elena Kagan’s nomination, I just had this incredible desire to jack off watching Belladonna suck dick. I mean, how else is a real man to react to this uppity behavior?

Dines tries to make her quest seem like mere criticism and education, but she has a control-freak’s sinister side.

Having viewed countless images as part of her research, Dines says there should be legislation that would define pornography as a violation of women’s civil rights and would entitle women to sue the industry for harm done to them. (source)

And it would all of a sudden make her research actually relevant and useful to a tribe of worthless lawyers who went from graduating from a womens’ studies program to law school to stewing in their own bitterness that nobody wants to pay them $200,000 per year to whine about how much they hate men.

Arguments like this have earned her — along with threats, hate mail, and vitriolic broadsides from the pornography industry — the inevitable accusation that she favors censorship (Dines says she does not) and that she is an anti-sex prude. At that, she just rolls her eyes.

“If I was criticizing McDonald’s, you wouldn’t accuse me of being against eating,’’ she says. “I’m against the commodification and industrialization of a human desire. I’m not against sex. Pornography does not equal sex, and sex does not equal pornography.’’ (source)

If she wants to criticize pornography, I’m all for it. She doesn’t just want to criticize it though. She wants to smear her grubby nasty hands all over our laws so that they fit her Victorian / Comstockian social agenda. If she was criticizing McDonalds, nobody would care. If she came up with her own diet program and wanted the government to help her take away your choice of what you got to eat for lunch — then THAT would be an accurate analogy.

Zealot’s censorship attempt backfires (the best $40.96 I ever spent).

May 6, 2010

Tina Harden of Longwood, Flori-duh decided that four books in the Lake Mary public library did not meet her standards of morality. The Cecily von Ziegesar books Reckless, The It Girl, Notorious, and Don’t You Forget About Me apparently clashed with Ms. Harden’s view of what other people ought to read. So she refused to return them from the library.

“If I turn them in, they will be put back into circulation and they’ll be available for more young girls to read,” said the mother of three, who keeps the four books hidden in a closet. “Some material is inappropriate for minors.”

Harden said she doesn’t want them banned, but she does want the library to put a warning label on the four titles — one in the Gossip Girl series by Cecily von Ziegesar, and three in a spin-off series called It Girl — and make them unavailable to minors. (source)

The Seminole County Library agreed to reshelve them in the adult reading section, but refused to make them unavailable to minors. Jane Peterson, the county’s library services manager said “If we denied access to this particular title, it would be censoring.” (source)

That’s not good enough for Harden, who said that as a taxpayer she should have a say in which books land on the libraries’ shelves. “They’re supposed to be public servants,” she said.

Unfortunately, Harden’s view of what a “public servant” is supposed to do is a bit skewed.

I used to live in Lake Mary, and I was unfortunately not very surprised that this story took place there. There is a mormon temple right around the corner from this library. My former homeowners association’s treasurer (who claimed that he had a “bachelor’s degree in law” put up a confederate flag to welcome a black family to the neighborhood. That said, Seminole County isn’t all white trash, and they deserve access to books just like the rest of us.

So I called the library and told them that I would pay to replace the books. They were most grateful.

After my check went out, I received the following email from the library:

Ms Harden will be returning the books to the Northwest Branch today. We have also already received several donations of the books. We appreciate you offering to give a donation but since she is returning the books I wanted to let you know that you do not have to send us a check.

Of course, they can keep my $40.96.

Nice work, Harden, you nitwit… now, not only did you fail miserably, but more people than ever before will now have access to the books.

Free Speech Coalition v. Holder —- 18 U.S.C. § 2257 Delendum Est!

October 8, 2009

Let's hear it for the FSC

Let's hear it for the FSC

The Free Speech Coalition has filed its long-awaited complaint seeking to have 18 U.S.C. § 2257 declared unconstitutional.

The Background – The War on Sex

Social conservatives on both the right and left take great delight in attempting to carve out an erotic speech exception to the First Amendment. The far right thinks that their imaginary friend knows what is best for us – and that is that we shouldn’t have access to erotic materials. The far left is just as bad – believing that they know how to bring us to utopia, and banning erotica is a cobblestone in that road. Neither have any respect for the First Amendment. (For a great discussion of the issue of erophobia, see Dr. Marty Klein, America’s War on Sex).

For the most part, these efforts have not been successful. Outright bans on adult entertainment are unconstitutional. Attempts by misguided left-leaning paternalists to create private causes of action engineered to drive erotica out of business have been no more successful. See, e.g., American Booksellers Ass’n. v. Hudnut, 771 F.2d 323 (7th Cir. 1985).

However, when Congress passed 18 U.S.C. § 2257, it inaugurated a new, creative, and somewhat scary “third front” in the war on sexual expression. Forged in the fires of the Meese Commission, Section 2257 attempted to drive adult entertainment out of business by simply making it too burdensome to produce it.

What is Section 2257?

Section 2257 is a law that requires any “producer” of “actual sexually explicit” content to keep age verification records pertaining to anyone appearing in that content. Explained that simply, Section 2257 seems quite reasonable. If you are going to produce pornography, make sure that the talent is over the age of 18, and be able to prove it.

If only it were that simple.

It isn’t just about pornography

First, lets take a look at what kind of images are regulated by Section 2257. In order to fall under Section 2257, the images must be of “actual sexually explicit conduct.” (hereinafter, ASEC). What does ASEC include? As articulated by the Sixth Circuit, ASEC includes: “sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex.” 18 U.S.C. § 2257(h)(1) (2006); see 18 U.S.C. § 2256(2)(A)(i) (2006). It also includes images of bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, and “lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.” 18 U.S.C. § 2257(h)(1) (2006); see 18 U.S.C. § 2256(2)(A)(ii)-(v) (2006).

See? Already things are getting a little muddy. Any reasonable person would have to agree that “genital-genital intercourse” is a relatively clear term. But, what does “sadistic or masochistic abuse” mean? The law contains virtually no guidance in that department. A photograph of dripping candle wax on someone’s leg could qualify as “sadistic or masochistic abuse,” as could any number of other activities that don’t come close to any definition of “pornography.” Remember, the supposed goal of this statute is to keep children out of pornography..

How about “lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person”??? Go ahead, try to actually define those terms. I’ll wait….

Who is to determine whether the “pubic area” of a person is in a state of “lascivious exhibition” in any given photograph or video? Under this statute, most Victoria’s Secret catalogs, Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, and any number of seemingly “innocent” images could be swept up in the anti-porn dragnet. That would be just fine with the erophobes. It is not just fine as far as the Constitution is concerned.

What Records?

Now that we have figured out what kind of images or depictions trigger responsibility to keep Section 2257 records, let’s look at what that responsibility means:

Under § 2257, a producer of sexually explicit images must inspect the talent’s government-issued photo identification to ascertain her (or his) date of birth. See 18 U.S.C. § 2257(b)(1) (2006); 28 C.F.R.§ 75.2(a)(1). Not such a big deal… but the government couldn’t be happy with that.

Section 2257 also requires that the producer copy the ID and keep it in a file. The producer must also record any stage names or aliases the talent has used in the past, and record and index all places where the image is published and keep all that information in a file where it is not co-mingled with any other records of any kind. See 18 U.S.C. § 2257(b) (2006); 28 C.F.R. § 75.2(a), (d), (e). Also, the way the regulations are written, it makes the adult entertainment industry into the one industry that is either protected from outsourcing, or at the least, the entertainment equivalent of the minuteman brigade. (Link)

Accordingly, if a producer of First Amendment protected adult material puts anything in an entertainer’s file that is not specifically required by 2257, it could mean that the producer is off to jail.

This isn’t the worst of it…

Fourth Amendment? What Fourth Amendment?

Once the producer creates these records, indexes them, and cross-references them, that isn’t the end of the line. The producer must then list a “2257 statement,” listing the date of production, and an address where the records may be inspected during regular business hours – and those hours must be at least 20 hours per week. 18 U.S.C. § 2257(e) (2006); 28 C.F.R. § 75.6(a), (b). There are more technical requirements as well, including that the statement must be in 12 point font, printed in a color that contrasts with the background, and must be prominently displayed. 28 C.F.R. § 75.6(e) (2006).
The Attorney General, or any designated agent may now come knock on the producer’s door for a “2257 inspection.” By law, they are not allowed to give any advance notice. No warrant. No probable cause. No reasonable suspicion. Once every four months, for no reason at all, FBI agents get to show up at the producer’s door for an inspection – and they can come more often if there is a reasonable suspicion that a violation has occurred. 18 U.S.C. § 2257(c) (2006); 28 C.F.R. § 75.5(b), (c), (d) (2006).

If you blow the requirements – five years in jail. That’s not for having underage performers, mind you. If your paperwork is not in order you are staring down the barrel of a five year jail sentence.

With this as a backdrop, the Free Speech Coalition is fighting back. The statute and its administrative regulations are clearly unconstitutional, clearly intended to burden free expression, and don’t do a damn thing to prevent child pornography from being produced.

Lets wish the FSC the best of luck.

2257 delendum est!

“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 www.comstockfilms.com. 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.

University of Massachusetts Liberals Against the First Amendment

April 17, 2009

university-of-massachusetts-amherst-4f736c5dI am usually very proud to be a graduate of the University of Massachusetts.

Not today.

AMHERST, Mass., April 16, 2009—Multiple First Amendment violations have rocked the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in recent days. UMass has done nothing about the videotaped theft of and, later, the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. Worse, last night, when a student senator offered a bill to reverse the unconstitutional censorship of The Minuteman, the Senate’s speaker had the UMass police throw him out (video of this incident is expected soon). These assaults on free speech came in the wake of last month’s disgraceful episode in which a speech by columnist Don Feder was shouted down by hecklers while UMass police officers did nothing. (source)

What caused the tiff? The UMass conservative organization, the Silent Majority, publishes a newspaper called “The Minuteman.” The most recent issue of The Minuteman exposed some financial irresponsibility in another student organization, Bridges (an organization that is supposed to spend its funds to tutor minority students), and mocked the organization and its director. The Expose appears on the first page of this document.

The next page of The Minuteman contained the following content:

‘STUDENT BRIDGES’, Our Jackass of the Month

• The only thing more horrifically large than their bloated 172K FY2009 budget is the bloated backside of
their responsibility-averse Director, Vanessa Snow.

• The only thing more wasteful than the careless way they manage their budget were the amount of
uneaten tacos and burritos they left at Taco Bell.

• They spent more money on food, drinks, hotels, and rental cars in Fiscal Year 2008 than Eliot Spitzer
spent on high-class hookers. (Well, almost)

• They failed to show any tangible quantitative achievements in their program during Fiscal Year 2008, yet
had the arrogant audacity to request a $50,000 larger budget when most student groups’ overall budget
allocations are less than $5,000.

• They, in essence, take your Student Activities Fee money to discriminatorily tutor poor minority students
without showing any tangible results.

• Under the guise of “building bridges to education opportunities” and acting as a “community service
organization,” the only servicing this group of corrupt bureaucrats-in-training does is at the salad bar at
Salsarengue, where it spent a preposterously indefensible $5000 in Fiscal Year 2008, thus literally making
Director Snow’s ass its own (rather large) budgetary line item for Fiscal Year 2009

• Given all the time this clumsy group of freeloading Leftists spends at restaurants in Holyoke, it is no
wonder that their obesity rate is higher than their mentored students’ high school graduation rate ‘STUDENT BRIDGES’, Our Jackass of the Month (source)

The Bridges crew wasn’t too pleased about this, so they engaged in a pretty time-honored UMass tradition: They stole all of the copies of the newspaper that they didn’t want others to read. The UMass student government association responded by calling for the conservative group’s funding to be cut unless they purchased an advertisement in the campus’ main newspaper, The Collegian, apologizing for the above statements. (source)

Despite the fact that the measure violated the First Amendment in two different ways, it still passed. The resolution passed, and when a student senator attempted to introduce his own measure repealing the clearly unconstitutional measure, he was escorted from the senate floor by campus police.

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is on the case. They issued this letter to the UMass chancellor.

Sadly, I can report that none of this surprises me. While I got a fantastic education at UMass, I can say with great authority that the political correctness crowd runs the place. Any criticism of an organization like Bridges will certainly be met the same way.

I am certainly no fan of the campus right-wing crowd. Nevertheless, my beliefs are strong enough that they can stand in opposition to theirs… and if they can’t, then the marketplace of ideas will have spoken. It is a shame that Vanessa Snow and the Student Government Association don’t feel the same way about theirs.

I’m about as leftie as they come. Hell, my poor wife had to carry our daughter for an extra four days due to obligations I had to the Obama legal team. My liberal bona fides are pretty well established.

But, I’m not a free speech advocate only when it is my ox being gored. Well, yes I am… when free speech is under attack, it is always my ox being gored… whether that is the free speech of adult entertainment companies, protestors against the war in iraq, or the KKK.

Any “liberal” who doesn’t stand up for the Minuteman has no right to complain the next time it is liberal-valued free speech under attack.

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Holy Crap!

April 2, 2009

Carlos Miller reports:

In what should send a frightening chill down the spine of every blogger, writer, journalist and First Amendment advocate in the United States, Phoenix police raided the home of a blogger who has been highly critical of the department. (source)

Read the whole thing. Then be grateful that you don’t live in Phoenix.

Patriot Act’s National Security Letter Gag Provisions Choke on First Amendment Grounds

December 16, 2008

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals struck down one of the most constitutionally repugnant provisions of the PATRIOT Act — the portions of the Act that place recipients of so-called “national security letters” (NSLs) under a permanent, unreviewed, lifetime gag order. See Doe v. Mukasey, __ F.3d __ (2d. Cir. 2008).

Through NSLs the FBI can compile vast dossiers about innocent people and obtain sensitive information such as the web sites a person visits, a list of e-mail addresses with which a person has corresponded, or even unmask the identity of a person who has posted anonymous speech on a political website. The provision also allows the FBI to forbid or “gag” anyone who receives an NSL from telling anyone about the record demand. Since the Patriot Act was authorized in 2001, further relaxing restrictions on the FBI’s use of the power, the number of NSLs issued has seen an astronomical increase. The Justice Department’s Inspector General has reported that between 2003 and 2006, the FBI issued nearly 200,000 NSLs. The inspector General has also found serious FBI abuses of the NSL power. (source)

Doe v. Mukasey deals with an internet service provider challenging the NSL provisions, but NSLs have also been used against librarians and the internet archive.

The service provider received an NSL requiring disclosure of information pertaining to one of its customers along with an order that neither the contents of, nor the very existence of, the letter could be revealed. The service provider claimed that the gag order constituted an unlawful prior restraint. Prior restraints are “the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights,” Nebraska Press Ass’n v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539, 559 (1976). “Any prior restraint on expression comes to [a court] with a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity,” Organization for a Better Austin v. Keefe, 402 U.S. 15, 419 (1971).

The Second Circuit held that the gag orders were unconstitutional, but only to the extent that they were issued without proper judicial review. As the PATRIOT Act was written and passed, it allowed law enforcement to simply claim that there was a national security interest without specificity and without oversight. In other words “we just wanna” was good enough.

The Second Circuit didn’t go so far as to strike the entire NSL provision from the books, but it did require that anyone seeking an NSL and a gag order would need to confront that “heavy presumption against its constitutional validity,” and explain to a court why it needed such a draconian device.

To recapitulate our conclusions, we (1) construe subsection 2709(c) to permit a nondisclosure requirement only when senior FBI officials certify that disclosure may result in an enumerated harm that is related to “an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities,” (2) construe subsections 3511(b)(2) and (b)(3) to place on the Government the burden to show that a good reason exists to expect that disclosure of receipt of an NSL will risk an enumerated harm, (3) construe subsections 3511(b)(2) and (b)(3) to mean that the Government satisfies its burden when it makes an adequate demonstration as to why disclosure in a particular case may result in an enumerated harm, (4) rule that subsections 2709(c) and 3511(b) are unconstitutional to the extent that they impose a nondisclosure requirement without placing on the Government the burden of initiating judicial review of that requirement, and (5) rule that subsections 3511(b)(2) and (b)(3) are unconstitutional to the extent that, upon such review, a governmental official’s certification that disclosure may endanger the national security of the United States or interfere with diplomatic relations is treated as conclusive. (Op. at 48)

More importantly, the Second Circuit imposed judicial review requirements including requirements for prompt judicial review.

We would deem it to be within our judicial authority to conform subsection 2709(c) to First Amendment requirements, by limiting the duration of the nondisclosure requirement, absent a ruling favorable to the Government upon judicial review, to the 10-day period in which the NSL recipient decides whether to contest the nondisclosure requirement, the 30-day period in which the Government considers whether to seek judicial review, and a further period of 60 days in which a court must adjudicate the merits, unless special circumstances warrant additional time. See Thirty-Seven Photographs, 402 U.S. at 373-74 (imposing time limits to satisfy constitutional requirements). If the NSL recipient declines timely to precipitate government-initiated judicial review, the nondisclosure requirement would continue, subject to the recipient’s existing opportunities for annual challenges to the nondisclosure requirement provided by subsection 3511(b). If such 16 an annual challenge is made, the standards and burden of proof that we have specified for an initial challenge would apply, although the Government would not be obliged to initiate judicial review. (Op. at 49-51)

The Second Circuit appears to have performed a bit of CPR on the Constitution after the Bush Administration’s attempted murder. Let us hope that this is a trend which will continue.