As Goes Iowa…

January 5, 2011

By Chad Belville, Guest Satyriconista

Iowa, a square state in the Heartland, is one of the few states in the US that allows any two adults of legal age to marry, regardless of gender. Unlike every other state where Supreme Courts found that government should legally recognize the unions of two same-sex adults, the Iowa decision was unanimous and shot down all arguments against limiting legal recognition, including those of tradition, religious bias, and the red herring argument that removing the gender restriction of two adults to enter into a bi-lateral contract will lead to allowing persons to enter into contracts with plants, animals, or upend the entire bi-lateral nature of the marriage license and allow polygamous marriages. The decision was well-written and should be a foundation for all other states to follow.

Immediately following the decision, the usual right-wing activists vowed to reverse it and take those rights away with an amendment to the Iowa Constitution. This requires approval by both House and Senate in two consecutive sessions of the Legislature followed by a popular vote. Democrats in control of both chambers refused to bring the issue to the floor, thus maintaining the equal rights of all adult citizens.
This past November, Republicans took control of the Iowa House of Representatives, who vowed to pass a bill that could eventually send the issue to the voters. The Iowa Senate remained in control of the Democrats and the Leader of the Senate, Mike Gronstal, has vowed not to bring this discriminatory amendment for a vote. Senator Gronstal can effectively keep such an insidious vote at bay for this legislative term but what happens beyond 2012 remains a mystery. His position is that civil rights of minorities should never be subject to approval by a popular vote, and he is absolutely correct.

As more time passes, more people realize gay people are not imported from far-away lands to indoctrinate kindergarteners but instead are their friends, neighbors, and relatives. Attitudes change and the urgency to take away the legal right to not testify against a same-sex spouse fades. These right-wing wackos know that time is not on their side; they know that if they do not pass constitutional amendments right now their battles will be lost as public opinion turns against them. Massachusetts has a similar system of amendment; after passing once and failing the second time through both Houses the issue died off. The fanatics moved on to take away or prevent establishment of rights for gay couples in other states where their shrieking could be effective.

In the State of Iowa, one man really stands in their way. Senator Gronstal’s position on equality and civil rights has painted a target on his back for the social conservatives who wish to turn back time. The National Organization for Marriage will expend millions of dollars to unseat him as punishment for opposing their bigoted beliefs, regardless of whether or not they can ever succeed in passing an amendment through both Houses in consecutive sessions. They led a successful campaign to remove 3 of the 7 Justices from the bench of the Iowa Supreme Court so their threats must be taken seriously.

Over the next two years, tremendous pressure will be put on Senator Gronstal to allow a vote on the floor of the Iowa Senate. Groups that are friendly only to Ozzie and Harriet-style families but not any others will pour money into anti-gay campaigns in an attempt to roll back the rights of a very small minority for the sake of their religious purity. Iowa is a small state, and the money from outside organizations will have a serious effect on the outcome. For now, equality in marriage is the law of the land in Iowa, but it is extremely vulnerable. The old saying is that “So goes Iowa, so goes the country” which used to apply to Presidential primaries but applies here and now to the issue of equal rights in the eyes of government. I have donated directly to Senator Gronstal’s campaign and to OneIowa, the umbrella civil rights organization that is countering NOM’s campaign of bigotry. I will continue to donate all of my equal rights contributions to Iowa organizations because the battle there is so acute and my donation dollars can do the most good. While I support things like the Employment Non Discrimination Act, the outcome of national equal rights activism is not on such a tiny fulcrum as in Iowa. I am asking anyone that will listen to join me in donating to the campaign of Senator Gronstal and OneIowa where small donations WILL make a difference.

http://www.oneiowa.org/

http://mikegronstal.com/


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 Amazon.com 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.


Nothing can hurt a Marine – except Teh Ghey

December 15, 2010

You think you can distract ME, you MAGGOT?

General James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps said that allowing gays to openly serve in the military would “pose a distraction” and cause more battlefield casualties. (source)

Huh?

Seriously?

Does this guy think that a gay soldier is going to be hiding behind a wall, shells exploding all around, and his buddy is going to rip off his helmet and say “I just HAVE to do something about your hair?” What bizarre stereotype is this “distraction theory” based upon?

In an interview with newspaper and wire service reporters at the Pentagon, Amos was vague when pressed to clarify how the presence of gays would distract Marines during a firefight. But he cited a recent Defense Department survey in which a large percentage of Marine combat veterans predicted that repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law would harm “unit cohesion” and their tight-knit training for war. (source)

This has been the same argument every time we try and integrate another group into the military. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry had its detractors, and look how that worked out. (You saw Glory, didn’t you?). How about the Japanese-American Fighting 442nd?

I’m not going to bash the guy. I presume that his statements are made out of slight ignorance rather than huge personal issues. His job is to keep his men safe. If he believes that this will harm them, then I applaud him for saying so. But, its the kind of applause that you render when you’re at a crappy talent show, and the slow kid gets up and sings “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.”

Despite my stance that the military has nothing to do with protecting freedom, I have mad fuckin respect for the USMC. That is one bona-fide bad-ass group of men and women. And, I’m absolutely certain that there are a hell of a lot of homosexuals already in the Marine Corps — certainly more than you’d find in a random sampling of the non-military population. Now if these guys and girls can be sent to some god-forsaken desert to die for lies and bullshit, at least let them be who they really are. Marines can handle anything — including the fact that their buddy might be gay.


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.


Because who cares if it’s your kid?

November 1, 2010

By J. DeVoy

Troubling news from Britain, America’s canary in the coalmine and a target of immense reverence from college students who lived there – in a nice part of town, with other Americans – while studying abroad.  From a Spectator article arguing for the complete end of DNA paternity testing:

At a stroke, the one thing that women had going for them has been taken away, the one respect in which they had the last laugh over their husbands and lovers. DNA tests are an anti-feminist appliance of science, a change in the balance of power between the sexes that we’ve hardly come to terms with. And that holds true even though many women have the economic potential to provide for their children themselves. (source.)

First and foremost, let’s put the shoe on the other foot: Aren’t feminists constantly calling for tort consequences against men who make minor verbal misrepresentations to get laid?  Certain women seek to denude men of their tools for getting what they want while keeping their own.  Also, it seems imbalanced for feminists to deride men for using verbal and physical tactics to make themselves more appealing  – “game,” writ large – while 1) they do the same thing with makeup and dating guides like The Rules, and 2) the “one respect in which they had the last laugh over their husbands and lovers” has consequences much farther reaching than waking up one morning, rolling over and realizing you were – by your own consent – pwned by some dude with a weak chin and guyliner.

The way McDonagh describes her venomous opposition to paternity testing in the article reveals much about those who would take it away: It’s not about equality, or even fairness, but about power. (I want to note now that this is not the majority or even a sizable number of women, but a vocal segment nonetheless; this is addressed at the end of the post.)  Through science, men have empowered themselves to determine whether they are the parents of the children borne by their lovers, spouses, or complete strangers alleging paternity.  A particularly shrill segment of society wants to end that for no reason than consolidating power for themselves – ultimately in the form of child support expropriated from men by the state – and by using shame to do so.

The next Bridget Jones movie may turn this under-discussed issue into a talking point. For those who didn’t follow the columns that took our heroine into the next stage of female angst — about being childless rather than single — the gist is that BJ becomes pregnant, but she is not entirely sure by whom, having been seeing the nice Colin Firth boyfriend, and the bad Hugh Grant one, in pretty short order. The matter could have been fruitfully ambiguous, with Bridget having a choice of fathers, but it was resolved in sordid contemporary fashion, one of the candidates being wrestled to the ground by Bridget’s girlfriends, so as to swab his inside cheek for a DNA sample. And so she found out the paternity of the baby and the most ancient game of humankind, Guess the Daddy, wasn’t played any more.

Bridget Jones never quite caught on like Sex and the City did, but the movies have always had a following.  With this third movie, the die is cast and a seed is planted in the public psyche; people who never would have considered the implications of paternity fraud will have the opportunity to question whether it’s right for them, like some service touted on Oprah, and if they shouldn’t settle for less than the father they feel their child deserves.  Paying the bill for this, of course, will be men, as detailed in a lengthy New York Times exposé from November 2009.

Now I can see that some men might rather welcome an end to the old-fashioned scenario whereby they find themselves held to account for the paternity of children born to girls with whom they just happen to have had sex.

You don’t say.

The actor Jude Law recently found himself in just this position, and unhesitatingly and ungallantly demanded a DNA test.

Reframed: Jude Law saw millions of dollars potentially flying out of his pocket to a child that possibly wasn’t his.  True to the Reagan maxim, he verified what he had been told by the mother.  He saved himself a life of financial hardship to support someone else’s offspring, as any rational person would do.  Is the reasonableness of this decision noted?  Is the fact that this is what any mother or father would counsel their son to do recognized?  No, the reason Jude Law shouldn’t have tethered himself to a child that wasn’t his is shame.  It was ungallant for Law to demand a paternity test.  Surely he should have “manned up” and paid someone vast sums of money for being cunning enough to accuse him of being the father.  Similarly, I have my own characterization for this argument: bullshit.

By contrast, the old situation, in which women presented men with a child, and the man either did the decent thing and offered support, or made a run for it, allowed women a certain leeway. The courtesan in Balzac who, on becoming pregnant, unhesitatingly sought, and got, maintenance from two of her men friends, can’t have been the only one. Uncertainty allows mothers to select for their children the father who would be best for them.

Finally, and with refreshing honesty, the article reaches why certain women fear DNA paternity testing.  DNA testing requires mothers to go with the dads they have, rather than the ones they want.  Admittedly, this doesn’t address step parents or adoptive parents who stand in to raise someone else’s children, but McDonagh’s article similarly does not address this point — as they are fully aware of the family situation they enter, rather than being deceived into raising a child as their own, step parents and adoptive parents seem outside the scope of this situation.  When it comes to cuckoldry, though, there is no better asset in the resource-gathering war than ambiguity.

Banning DNA testing essentially would reduce paternity disputes to the dark ages.  It does not seem unreasonable for a woman to want the most honorable and successful man to raise her child.  He would be the most likely to accept, too, fearing the social repercussions of being accused of not taking responsibility for his child.

Many men have, of course, ended up raising children who were not genetically their own, but really, does it matter?

Yes.  Only in this sick, broken world, sliding into a new dark age with hollow politically correct platitudes serving as truth, could the author ask this question deadpan.  Many parents lovingly adopt or raise children who are not their own, but this ignores McDonagh’s broader question of “does [paternity] matter?”  Legally, and for the cuckold who believes the child is his, and raises it under those circumstances – rather than as an adoptive parent or step parent – it absolutely matters.

If DNA testing ever was to be banned in the United States, it would raise an interesting constitutional question.  Matters of birth and abortion are generally covered by a broadly defined right of privacy that governs martial relationships and reproduction.  First established in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), then expanded to cover abortion by Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and sex in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).  Under Roe‘s progeny, a woman has broad rights over her pregnancy and ability to take it to term, but states may require DNA tests after birth to confirm or deny paternity.  If this practice is banned, it may create a question of whether child support payments would constitute an unconstitutional taking of property.  When paying judgments or taxes, the government takes steps to ensure that the right person is paying the judgment.  Even now, the government has stepped in to halt a foreclosure process that cannot produce the notes of delinquent mortgage holders — despite many of them rightly being subject to foreclosure.  Whether the government can take property from a putative father based on a woman’s say-so, and without using testing that was previously available, would be an important but dangerously uncertain question.

There is an essential caveat to this position.  This post does not apply to all women, or seek to imply it addresses all of them.  In fact, the segment of society seeking to end DNA paternity testing is small and on the fringe of political activism.  Similarly, these changes would affect only a small portion of the population. Historically, however, it is the squeaky wheel that receives the grease.

Among my age group, the ideas of marriage and children are met with a blend of derision and fear.  Men, women and children didn’t change; the legal and social atmosphere did — and neither gender seems particularly happy about it.  A couple’s higher earning spouse lives in fear of divorce, particularly in no-fault divorce states.  The costs associated with divorce and child support contribute to men being unwilling to marry.  Based on the concern over men’s hesitation to marry, it seems that women don’t envy the prospect of endlessly dating and potentially missing out on the brass ring of marriage, either.

Removing the protection of DNA paternity testing will only agitate existing tension and mistrust between the genders, which neither of them seems to have particularly wanted.  Nobody wants to be divorced, or live constantly on guard to the prospect of his or her partner being constantly solicited – or soliciting others – in pursuit of the elusive “something better” that we’ve been told is waiting for us.  Few men or women will ever need DNA paternity testing, but eliminating its existence likely will create paranoia and distrust between men and women that otherwise would not have existed.  It will only serve to make degrading gender relations worse and, in the end, hurt everyone.


“Some chicks marry chicks. Get over it.”

October 15, 2010

by Tatiana von Tauber

Nothing like the F word being appropriately used:


Guatemala has regrettable, sloppy hookup with United States

October 1, 2010

By J. DeVoy

And all it got to show for it was Syphilis and Gonorrhea!

No, this isn’t some tribute to Larry Flynt and Hustler’s famous ad about Jerry Falwell; we actually did this.  Consistent with the CIA’s penchant for involuntary testing of chemicals – such as LSD on Americans and the French, and extreme plutocratic capitalism throughout Central America – this time an unnamed branch of researchers infected hundreds of Guatemalans with gonorrhea and syphilis without their knowledge. (source.)

Naturally, Hillary Clinton and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius fell over themselves to over-apologize.

“The sexually transmitted disease inoculation study conducted from 1946-1948 in Guatemala was clearly unethical,” according to the joint statement from Clinton and Sebelius. “Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices.”

This is an unfortunate development, even if its roots are more than a generation old.  But, as with most failed social service programs, the road to hell was paved with good intentions.

The researchers were trying to determine whether the antibiotic penicillin could prevent syphilis infection, not just cure it, Reverby writes. After the subjects were infected with the syphilis bacteria — through visits with prostitutes who had the disease and direct inoculations — it is unclear whether they were later cured or given proper treatment, Reverby notes.

Many of the test subjects were prisoners and patients in Guatemala’s National Mental Health Hospital.  Even if they wanted to refuse the study, they could not.  The United States isn’t solely to blame in this situation, though, as it had the Guatemalan government’s cooperation.

The STD experiments were conducted with the cooperation of the Guatemalan government. During that time, the U.S. — which had a long association with the Guatemalan military — exerted a powerful influence in the Latin American country, largely in order to protect the interests of the American-based United Fruit Company. In 1954 the U.S. CIA helped overthrow Guatemala’s democratically elected president because of land reforms that opposed the multinational corporation.

Many countries have had bad hookups with the United States, including Iraq and Afghanistan (and those were in the 1980s, before shaving and waxing came into vogue – yikes!).  This is one of the first times, though, that regrettable diplomatic relations have carried the same consequences of similarly ill-planned sexual experiences.


Ending the prohibition on prostitution

September 6, 2010

Danny Ledonne thinks we should.


12 People in Forrest City, Arkansas are True Patriots and True Americans – Thank You

September 4, 2010

By Marc J. Randazza

In St. Francis County, Arkansas, local prosecutors are apparently the kind who think that the whole “First Amendment thing” is a bit over-blown. Despite taking oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution, they brought the owners of “Adult World” up on two felony counts of “promoting obscene material” for selling a couple of movies starring consenting adults to consenting adults. (source)

These prosecutors alleged that Jim Philpot and Wayne Philpot, as owners of the store, violated state law by selling “obscene materials” in their stores. Prosecutor Fletcher Long told the media that he devoted a lot of time and resources to shutting down this “threat.”

“We have made cases in the past against the clerks and the manager out there, and for the last year we’ve been investigating the gentlemen who own those businesses,” prosecutor Fletcher Long told the Times Herald. (source)

Long compared the stores to methamphetamine dealers. I guess that is why he devoted so much of his office’s resources to trying to put an end to the sale of dirty movies.

“I’ve heard the argument that these people are operating a business, and with the tough economic times we’re facing we should just leave them be, but my issue is with the law,” he said. “If someone was operating a business which sold marijuana or methamphetamine and the times were tough, would they have a problem with it? What is being sold out there is just as illegal as marijuana and methamphetamine, and is no less against the law to promote, sell or possess.” (source)

I’ll give him a pass on the “sell or promote” part, but apparently this dumbass doesn’t know about Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557 (1969). “If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.”

Sometimes, when a public official places his hand on the Bible and swears to uphold the Constitution, sometimes he bungles that equation up and seems to think he is supposed to do the opposite. This happens most often in the former Confederacy, but this disease is not unique to the South, nor is the South without its patriotic citizens who understand what the Constitution is all about. That is particularly apparent today, as twelve Arkansans chipped away with that stereotype.

Fellow First Amendment Lawyers’ Association member, JD Obenberger was there to observe the trial, and he provided an account of the proceedings: Obenberger reported that the prosecution put on a case against the Philpots for selling two DVDs. One called “Reality” featured double penetration, some multiple ejaculations, some ass-to-mouth content. Another, called “Grudgefuck” included choking, throwing of a female onto a bed, stuffing a female’s mouth with underwear, ass to mouth, facial ejaculation, choking, and other material going to a fantasy of hostility.

Obenberger said (in an email), “The judge gave the defense almost no breaks and gave the prosecutor just about everything he wanted. The instructions included some way-over-the-line language including morality and decency. The judge denied the defense the opportunity to put on evidence of comparable material being sold elsewhere in the state because, apparently, he felt the sales were not so open and obvious as to make them relevant as to what the community knows about and accepts.” In other words, the judge didn’t seem too disposed toward the defendants.

One of the corporations got tossed out of the case because there was no evidence that it was involved in the sale of either video, but the rest of the charges and defendants were placed at the mercy of the jury. After four hours of deliberation, the jury acquitted all defendants on all counts.

Obenberger reported that this trial, aside from being an affront to liberty, was part of an ongoing vendetta:

This drama has been going on for years and it reflected a crusade by local politicians to close the remaining store down. There had been raids on the store with multiple arrests of clerks and the manager. At trial, the manager was given immunity and compelled to testify, fairly dramatic stuff, especially because she apparently is facing allegations of probation violation for continuing to work at the store, the probation being the result of a nolo plea and an arranged disposition.

One of the most important issues in an obscenity prosecution is the rule laid down in Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973) that the work must be “taken as a whole.” Government zealots usually like to cut out the most disturbing scenes and show those to the jury. Some shitty judges allow that. This judge may not have been friendly toward the defendants, but he allowed the movies to be shown in their entirety. This turned out to be key, because the films included documentary-style trailers. The prosecution only put in its “shorter summary” which conveniently omitted those parts. After the movies were shown, one juror applauded.

Obenberger reports:

In the closing argument by D.A. Fletcher Long, after he announced that these out of state defendants took all their money out of the state, leaving the residents of St. Francis County with only the filth, Fletcher went on to say that [the defense’s] arguments arguments would lead to the destruction of civilization – and the availability of videos showing dogs killing dogs. [Defense Attorney Louis Sirkin] objected at a sidebar and the jury went back to deliberate. [Sirkin] was then able to get access to the Internet in the courtroom and obtain a summary of [United States v. Stevens] which he read to the court, and he told the judge that though he could not print it out, the court could read the text of the opinion acknowledging First Amendment protection with respect to such materials. Judge Neal said that he’d heard about the case, and the Prosecutor was wrong to so argue, but he didn’t think it important enough to pull the jury out and tell them so.

In the end, the jury of six blacks, six whites, six men, and six women, acquitted on all counts. These twelve people, whoever they are, are hereby awarded the First Amendment Bad Ass award.

I am certain that aside from the guy who clapped, most of these jurors did not like the material they saw. Hell, even I don’t like the material they saw, and I’m about the most disgusting libertine that most of my acquaintances have ever met. But, that is not what freedom means. Freedom does not mean that a zealot prosecutor gets to look at material he does not like and decide that since his imaginary friend would disapprove, that his fellow citizens belong in prison for selling it. Freedom means being able to make the choice to watch “Grudgefuck” or to boycott it. To buy it and throw it in the trash, or to protest outside the store that sells it. These 12 Arkansans apparently understood that.

While we’re handing out First Amendment Bad Ass awards, I would like to hand a couple out to Louis Sirkin and Jamie Benjamin, both brothers of mine in the First Amendment lawyers’ association. They were defense counsel in the case, and because of them, and these 12 Arkansans, you are more free today than you were yesterday.


Morality Police Deface Public Art in Springfield, MA

August 16, 2010

Wrong Springfield

Censorship — its not just for rednecks

I often rant about the censorship minded former confederacy — but I must admit that my home state of Massachusetts has its share of censorship monkeys. The censorship monkey of the day — the city of Springfield, MA and Gina E. Beavers, director of the Springfield Arts Initiative for the Springfield Business Improvement District (SBID).

Springfield, Massachusetts and its Sneaker Exhibit

The City of Springfield is essentially a heroin and crack infested slum with three things going for it: The Basketball Hall of Fame, a couple of decent strip clubs, and the Huke Lau (which is actually in Chicopee). To help celebrate the first in the list, the SBID put together the “Art and Soles” exhibit. The exhibit placed 19 huge fiberglass basketball sneakers throughout the downtown area. Various artists were asked to paint them with the theme “What do you love about Springfield?” (source)

Artist Robert Markey decided that his theme would be “dancing.” So he painted ballet dancers, hip-hop dancers, and other forms of “regular” dance all over the upper part of the sneaker. On the bottom, he decided to show the “underside” of Springfield by depicting a pole dancer. She was clothed, in a bikini.

“She had gold hair, and she was sort of embracing the pole. She wasn’t nude … I meant it sort of tongue-in-cheek – the underside of Springfield, on the bottom of the shoe,” said Markey, 62, standing beside his sneaker outside Tower Square on Main Street and referring to the cluster of nude dancing clubs in an approximately three-block radius downtown. (source)

However, once the organizers of the event saw the sole of Markey’s sneaker, they freaked — and they spray painted it black.

They didn’t call him.

They didn’t give him a chance to change it.

They didn’t even give him a chance to photograph it. So there is no record of what it looked like.

His art is gone.

“We decided that it could not happen. This was supposed to be a family friendly art exhibit in the heart of (Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame) enshrinement week,” Beavers said. “We wish we had time to let Bob in on the decision, but there just wasn’t time.” (source)

Markey took the position that since Springfield’s strippers are the only professional dancers in the city, they deserved as much recognition as any other dancers.

Douchetastic, for certain. But is there a legal claim here?

In civil law countries, artists have what are known as “moral rights” in their artwork. These are rights outside of the copyright to a certain work. Moral Rights essentially protect the artist in an inalienable way — by protecting the right of attribution and prohibiting the mutilation or modification of an artist’s work. For example, if an Italian director makes a black and white film, and he sells his copyright in the film to a studio, the studio can not later colorize the film without the director’s permission.

But we do not live in a civil law jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, moral rights are recognized in the United States, in a very limited capacity, by the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), codified at 17 U.S.C. § 106A. Among other things, VARA gives a visual artist the right to prevent the ” distortion, mutilation, or other modification of the work which would be prejudicial to his or her honor or reputation.” See 17 U.S.C. § 106A(a)(2).

This leaves us with two questions: Did Markey sign away those rights? Maybe. I haven’t read his contract with the SBID. The other question is whether the mutilation of his work was “prejudicial to his honor or reputation.” That might seem like a difficult sell, but we’re not talking about “reputation” in the defamation sense — we’re talking about an artist’s reputation. It seems to me that if Mr. Markey intended to create a mental three-dimensional picture of Springfield, and the SBID turned it into a whitewashed and banal piece of dreck, he might have a legitimate gripe. The SBID’s sins seem to be exacerbated by the fact that they did so without even bothering to call Markey up on the phone so that he could modify the work, or at least make a record of it before they destroyed it.

Legally actionable or not, it certainly was douchetastic, and Ms. Beavers’ explanation only booted it into the douchemagnetisophere.


Checkmate

August 16, 2010

Eat a pail of feces, bigots!

It looks like the uneducated peckerwoods supporters of Proposition 8 are seriously considering throwing in the towel. They fear that they will lose 5-4 at the Supreme Court. That and they realize that if you have a court case, you can’t just expect to argue “well, gays are ummm, bad, mmmkay?” and expect to win.

So rather than risk allowing the 31 states with bigotry amendments “go down in flames” (their words, not mine), they might not appeal at all — and just let the Prop. 8 decision stand. (source)

Checkmate, and ha-ha fuck you, bigots.


Romantic Advice

June 25, 2010

Wisconsin DA threatens charges over sex education

April 7, 2010

By J. DeVoy

The District Attorney for Juneau County, Wisconsin, has threatened to bring charges against teachers who inform students of reproductive options other than abstinence.  Scott Southworth – whom you can contact here – wrote a letter to Juneau County’s teachers, warning them of the consequences for following a law requiring them to discuss condoms and contraceptives.

“If a teacher instructs any student aged 16 or younger how to utilize contraceptives under circumstances where the teacher knows the child is engaging in sexual activity with another child – or even where the ‘natural and probable consequences’ of the teacher’s instruction is to cause that child to engage in sexual intercourse with a child – that teacher can be charged under this statute [of contributing to the delinquency of a minor]”

In the Journal-Sentinel’s piece on this, Southworth offered some unsurprising tidbits about himself.

“If I’d wanted to be ideological, I would have said in the letter you shouldn’t have sex before marriage because that’s the Christian perspective. I’m an evangelical,” Southworth said.

While perhaps not ideological, the way some people want to push all forms of sexual education other than abstinence out of the classroom certainly is partisan.  Liberals and moderates doubt the causal link that Southworth and his ilk see in presenting information about condoms and increased fornication.  In fact, his position is pretty dumb, as abstinence-only education has coincided with increased teen pregnancy for as long as such data is available.

Normally, someone threatening to prosecute teachers would have me doing a happy dance.  Education majors have lower GRE scores than their peers; from what I see on facebook among those my age, they also seem more prone to simplistic thinking.  In this case, however, the First Amendment is at stake, especially as it applies to something as important as sex education.  Here, Wisconsin has enacted a responsible law that requires sex education to include information about condoms and other contraceptives.  Not only is it unfair to put teachers in a double bind like this – required by the legislature to do one thing, and potentially punished by the executive if they do – it impedes their ability to be honest with students about protecting themselves.  While threatening to prosecute teachers for voluntary speech is intolerable, doing so for statutorily compelled speech is unconscionable.

Finally, it’s hard to believe sex education is so contentious of an issue.  Normally, it’s a brief film and 30 minute presentation that’s never spoken again.  My Catholic elementary school taught us about condoms in the fifth grade; no parents complained, and we’re all miraculously alive today.  Also, who is having so much sex in high school that makes condoms and contraceptives such a heated issue?  It surely wasn’t me or any of my friends, but thumbs up to anyone who was pulling it off, especially in our all-male high school.  The real issue is our sexualized society, where sex isn’t just in porn, but wedged inartfully into most advertisements and the bourgeois mainstream “culture” peddled by ABC, NBC, CBS, MTV and Fox.  Even if mainstream culture’s debasement is undesirable, and many elements of it are, taking a puritanical stance in response to it is counterproductive.


Naughty Teenagers

April 6, 2010

by Charles Platt

Since “protecting our children” became a reliable mantra for DAs seeking re-election at some time during the Reagan administration, the horrors of statutory rape and child pornography have justified countless legislative excesses. Unfortunately such laws conflict with the inconvenient biological fact that most young people become capable of reproducing around the ages of 12 or 13.

Age-of-consent laws used to recognize this. (In the text below I am talking primarily about teenagers having sex with each other and taking pictures of each other, not adults taking advantage of children, which is, or should be, an entirely separate issue.) Here’s a site that tabulates international laws on the subject. In Chile, for instance, the age of consent still appears to be 12. Many other nations used to share this permissive attitude until the US and the UN leaned on them to shape up.

Even in the United States, the situation is confusing. Suppose a 17-year-old girl starts giving oral sex to her 17-year-old boyfriend while he drives their car west across Texas (not a safe practice, but, it happens). As they cross the state line into Arizona, they magically turn into sex offenders.

During my lifetime, liberties for young people have been progressively eroded. To see how extreme the transition has been, just take a look at the movie of Woodstock. Two explanations come to mind. From a sociobiological perspective, adults benefit by delaying the reproductive activities of young people for as long as possible. From a political perspective, those under 18 cannot vote, so legislators can trash their rights without reducing their chances of re-election.

Adult backlash against teenage sexuality has been far worse in the United States than in some other countries. The Japanese, for instance, see nothing wrong with cute 15-year-old pop stars in tight sweaters and micro-skirts, flaunting themselves as sex objects. The notorious Saaya Irie, who started modeling lingerie when she was 11, is pictured here at the advanced age of 16. She has appeared in several movies and is promoting herself as a serious actress.

Since this seems to be an area of fear, denial, and repression, I suppose it’s inevitable that laws relating to it should be a mess. This, however, does not excuse their existence. I tend to think that if we really want to stop teenagers from fornicating (and taking salacious pictures of each other), parental guidance is a far more benign remedy than arrest, conviction, jail, and subsequent stigma as a sex offender.


Minnesota to state employees: No hotel porn for you?

March 26, 2010

The Minnesota House of Representatives recently killed a bill that would have prohibited government employees from staying at hotels that offer pornography on their in-room televisions when on official business.  The Senate version of this bill, however, S.F. No. 2861, has made it out of committee and awaits a final vote.

The availability of porn in most hotel rooms seems like a given in this day and age.  The intent of this bill is not necessarily to make Minnesota state employees stay at cut-rate roach motels, but seems intended to coerce larger, reputable hotels to make a value judgment and remove their adult content in order to receive state business.  Because the bill only allows for employees to stay in these preferred hotels that don’t offer porn where they are available, its passage would create a race to the bottom; the first business to give up porn would win the bounty of revenues from state employees’ hotel stays.

But what is pornography?  In this case, it is no rhetorical question, because the statute offers a specific definition in section 1:

“pornographic image or performance” means a sexually explicit image or performance that objectifies or exploits its subjects by eroticizing domination, degradation, or violence.

If this bill is enacted into law, it’s doubtful that it will withstand a constitutional challenge.  This essential issue has been decided before, and in favor of free speech.

Deja Vú: American Booksellers Ass’n, Inc. v. Hudnut

The definition proposed by the Minnesota legislature is similar to one promulgated by a Indianapolis ordinance, and which the Seventh Circuit held unconstitutional in American Booksellers Association, Incorporated v. Hudnut. 771 F.2d 323 (7th Cir. 1985); aff’d mem. 475 U.S. 1001 (1986).  The ordinance defined pornography as follows:

The graphic sexually explicit subordination of women, whether in pictures or in words, that also includes one or more of the following:
(1) Women are presented as sexual objects who enjoy pain or humiliation; or
(2) Women are presented as sexual objects who experience sexual pleasure in being raped; or
(3) Women are presented as sexual objects tied up or cut up or mutilated or bruised or physically hurt, or as dismembered or truncated or fragmented or severed into body parts; or
(4) Women are presented as being penetrated by objects or animals; or
(5) Women are presented in scenarios of degradation, injury, abasement, torture, shown as filthy or inferior, bleeding, bruised, or hurt in a context that makes these conditions sexual; or
(6) Women are presented as sexual objects for domination, conquest, violation, exploitation, possession, or use, or through postures or positions of servility or submission or display. 

Writing for the Circuit Court, Justice Easterbrook held that this definition was unconstitutional, and that “no construction or excision of particular terms could save it.” Id. at 332.  The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, which found the ordinance’s definition overbroad, a prior restraint on speech, and justifiable only by a compelling state interest in reducing sex discrimination, which Indianapolis failed to establish.

The court analogized pornography to the rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party.  Irrespective of how degrading others may find pornography to women, those objections are not sufficient to make a ban on pornography like the one embodied in the Indianapolis ordinance constitutional.  At the heart of the matter, the court found that the definition of pornography depended merely on the creator’s perspective; under the ordinance, speech that showed women in a subservient or submissive way would be prohibited irrespective of its literary merit, and expression that embodied gender parity would be lawful without consideration for how graphic and extreme it may be.

The fact that this ordinance was enacted to affect people’s thoughts, and namely to prevent men from seeing women treated subserviently and subsequently treat them as such, was considered by the court.  It was that potential power of this speech, however, that indicated its value.  What the videos at issue depicted – degradation and torture, in some cases – was not the same as the action itself.  As the court stated, “the image of pain is not necessarily pain.” Id. at 330.  Because the ordinance did not consider that such works may contain literary, scientific, political or artistic value, and instead preemptively considered them to be unlawful as if obscene and excepted from the First Amendment’s protections, the court found it to be unconstitutional.

Would Eight follow Seven?

Here, the Minnesota legislature employed a remarkably similar and rigid definition of pornography, essentially prohibiting hotels that host state employees from offering it, as if it were obscene.  Embodied in the Senate bill’s prohibited eroticization of “domination, degradation, or violence,” are the same inflexible standards seen in the Indianapolis ordinance that had nothing to do with obscenity – the avenue most likely to deprive pornography of First Amendment protections – and was found unconstitutional by the Seventh Circuit.  Under the Minnesota bill, works that depict sex without domination, degradation or violence will not be considered pornography and subject to restraint, however outrageous or meritless they are.  This, like the Indiana ordinance before it, pays no heed to the artistic, literary or scientific merit that porn may have, and fails to grasp that a depiction of exploitation, degradation or violence is not in itself any of those things.

Beyond misconstruing pornography as obscenity, the bill uses poorly tailored means to effect its goals.  If the legislature truly is concerned about objectification and exploitation of adult performers, prohibiting state employees – and only them – from using hotels that provide porn as an in-room service is an odd way of showing it.  As previously stated, this legislation is an end-run around an overt intrusion on free speech, and serves as a coercive measure to make hotels stop offering porn on their own.  To that end, it bears no relationship to actually curtailing the woes of exploitation or objectification as the bill claims it does — it merely limits the number of people who can see depictions of them.  Indeed, the only thing this bill likely will stop is the comfortable lodging of state employees in well-known hotels when traveling on state business.

Thankfully, this definition of pornography is drawn poorly enough that it should not withstand a constitutional challenge.  Combined with a badly aimed bill that affects only a small percentage of the state’s residents and doesn’t reach its stated concerns about exploitation, it has little chance of being constitutional.  The test for obscenity already exists under Miller v. California, and it almost certainly will not be redrawn by a legislative enactment in Minnesota – especially when courts struck down virtually identical provisions in the past.  Just as the state has no valid interest in enforcing such a law, the people of Minnesota shouldn’t have an interest in letting it pass.  Even if families and individuals have no interest in viewing porn during their hotel stays, they have every right to do so.  If this bill becomes law and is challenged, the courts seem bound to agree.