Wednesday, June 28, 2006

US government to collect child pornography

A massive database of child pornography is being created by a coalition of AOL, Earthlink, Microsoft, United Online (Who? Oh, the NetZero folks.), and Yahoo. This is part of a strategy to support the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (or NAMBLA). Now there's a database ripe for the hacking!

They do know that collecting the images doesn't actually remove them from the Internet, right? (Do we still capitalize "Internet"? I guess we do.)

The idea is that, by having copies of the images that are floating around cyberspace, they can look for the same files being collected or transmitted online. They would do this by spying on e-mail attachments, looking for the images on web sites, and other tactics. From what I can tell, this would be warrantless, across-the-board spying. AOL, for example, would look at each e-mail as it scans for viruses.

The top lawyer for AOL said, "[W]e believe it is possible to increase the chance that child predators will be caught and provide a deterrent to those who would be tempted to exploit children on the Internet."

OK, by all means, find the people who are actually abusing the kids and prosecute them. I'm with ya there.

I don't agree that someone who possesses these images is necessarily a "child predator". Unless they know who took the pictures, they are not directly involved. Some say that the viewer of such images is providing a market for child pornography, but I don't see how someone downloading an image for free is in any way contributing to the crime. Unless the web site they go to has Google ads or something.

Just as there is a difference between a pedophile and a child molester, there is a difference between the viewer and creator of child pornography. What's the difference? A pedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to children; a child molester is someone who sexually abuses children. One is thought; the other, deed.

Would a pedophile who finds child-pornographic images on the Internet be more or less likely to commit abuse? Would he be tempted to act on those feelings, or would he be satisfied to keep them in the realm of fantasy? I don't know; does watching a violent movie tempt someone to commit violence? Some yes, some no.

I imagine that a pedophile would not necessarily need child pornography. If they are truly attracted to kids, then why not the Toys-R-Us catalog (straight guy's analog: Victoria's Secret)?

The ones to go after are the creators of child pornography; not because it's "filth" in and of itself, but because children are abused. I'd study the pictures. See if I recognize any landmarks. See when and where a new image is posted on the Internet to try and track down the source.

Given that children are being harmed, I'm concerned that the limited resources might be diverted to prosecute the wrong people. Find the guy with the kid and the camera! (Tip: check the EXIF info on the images. These guys are foul predators; maybe they'll be stupid and careless, too.)

Star Jones...

...is not newsworthy.

It's hard out here for a pimp

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) is proposing legislation to prosecute pimps and prostitutes who don't pay their taxes.

Under the proposed law, a pimp who does not file a W-2 for a sex worker in his employ faces up to 10 years in prison for each violation. Five hookers, fifty years. Presumably the law would also apply to self-employed or "independent" sex workers. No word if pimps who have more than 2 employees need to provide worker's comp or a dental plan.

What Grassley calls "sex trafficking" is "right under our noses in the United States, and it's a no-brainer to have the IRS go after sex traffickers," in his opinion.

I agree: it is a no-brainer. As in, "Grassley has no brain."

Decriminalization, which I support, would bring the sex trade into the daylight (so to speak), and would go further in protecting women from the violence and abuse some suffer as a result of the activity being underground.

When it's no longer a crime for a woman to engage in sex for money, then by all means tax her earnings, and provide all the requisite labor protections afforded to workers whose profession or trade is on the right side of the law.

Sucks to be Frist

Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) isn't having a very good time of late. First, his proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage failed to garner enough votes to prevent a filibuster.

Now, the proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw flag burning has been defeated by a single vote.

Before the vote, Frist described the lesiglation:

"It's a simple amendment but it speaks to the fact that the flag is the single symbol that protects our liberty and freedom."

The flag protects our liberty and freedom? Why don't we just drop flags on the Iraqi insurgents, and let our symbol go to work defending our American way of life?

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said, "Is this the most important thing the Senate can be doing now? I can tell you it is.''

FYI: over the lifetime of this country, the average number of reports of flag burning per annum is about 1.

Hatch went on to say that "[w]e had five unelected justices change the Constitution, and usurping [sic] the power of the Congress.'' Those damn activist justices. When you look closely at the Constitution, you can see erasure marks and some writing in Bic pen.

After the vote, Hatch said, "For protecting the Stars and Stripes, I will not give up and I will not surrender."

Wait a minute...where have I heard this? Oh, yes:

"Never give up!" Galaxy Quest "Never surrender!"

Cut and run, part 2

President Bush has said that he would leave it up to the military commanders "on the ground" in Iraq to advise him about troop withdrawals.

About a week ago, General George Casey expressed his opposition to a "timetable":

"I don't like it. I feel that it would limit my flexibility. I think it would give the enemy a fixed timetable...."

And now it has come out that General Casey has indeed drawn up a plan that calls for reducing the number of brigades in Iraq from 14 to 12, and possibly down to 8 by the end of next year. This represents about 20,000 soldiers.

Of course it's election-year politics; did you think otherwise?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cut and run

The disingenuous motherfuckers—I mean, the Republicans—have branded the call for troop withdrawal from Iraq "cut and run."

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, "The last thing you want to do when you have the terrorists on the run is give them notice that you're going to leave."

Unless the US plans to stay in Iraq forever, I imagine that one day US troops will leave that country. But troop pullouts don't happen overnight. Just as it took months to stage the occupation, so it will take months to plan and execute troop reductions. I think the terrorists might figure that we're going to leave at that point, at the very latest.

I hate this partisan garbage. The RNC's web page is sickeningly sycophantic and faux-patriotic (they weren't so "patriotic" when "Our President" was Clinton). There's nothing so hateful on the DNC's web page.

The amount of lies and corruption swirling around the Bush administration sets a new low standard, even for Washington, DC. I know, I know: this is nothing new. Conservative Republicans will always disagree with me on this matter, or try to bring up some feeble analog from the Clinton administration, as if two wrongs make a right.

All of this is symptomatic of our American society, and shows where our priorities are: we romanticise violence, and we fear sex. Clinton lied about his sexual proclivities, and he was impeached. Janet Jackson's breast was (nearly) exposed on TV, and there followed a crackdown on "indecent" programming with fines decupled.

Meanwhile—oh, you fill in the blank; I'm sick of it.

Kellogg's S'mores Pop-Tarts

Kellogg's S'mores Pop-Tarts

Submitted by Marshall Norton Jr.


She shoved me under her bed and told me not to move. Her father had gotten home earlier than expected. As the minutes passed, I inventoried the various pieces of dirty laundry and discarded plates under her bed with me.

A little later, her face appeared, upside-down. "They're leaving soon. I'll come back when they're gone. Here, have some," she said, offering me a piece of the Pop-Tart she'd brought up on a plate. I thought it best not to ask about the other plates for the moment.

[ From McSweeney's, reprinted without permission because they don't have any links to individual posts. ]

[ Note: I tried to find Mr. Norton online to ask permission to reprint this, but it appears his blog has been hacked. ]

[ Here's what to do before your blog gets hacked. ]

The causal viewer's guide to the Oprah Winfrey show

Format

Oprah enters to a standing ovation (if it's going to be a fun show), or is already on stage (if it isn't). Oprah stares into the camera reading the TelePrompTer about the topic of the show.

The first guest arrives to thunderous applause (if it's a fun show), or are already on stage (if it isn't). As their story is told, the camera cuts away to smiling faces (if it's a fun show), or horrified faces (if it isn't). Oprah reads the cue cards again announcing what will happen next. First commercial break.

Second segment with the guest (if it's a fun show), or similar guest/opposing viewpoint (if it isn't). Oprah asks the audience if they were aware of whatever it is that's being discussed; they weren't. Commercial break.

Completely different segment (if it's a fun show), or analysis (if it isn't). Audience members stand up and praise Oprah/the guest (if it's a fun show), or offer their brief sob story (if it isn't). Either way, Oprah invites the audience member to the stage for a hug and/or photo op. Commercial break.

Increasingly smaller segments, followed by increasingly longer commercial breaks at a "Zeno's Paradox" rate until she barely has time to say "welcome back" before she says "we'll be right back."

Credits roll.

Schedule

Monday: "Bad Men and the women who love them"

Families are torn apart by lying/cheating/inconsiderate husbands. The victimized/stunned/enabling wives sob as they tell their story. Eyes glisten as the children are considered. Dr. Robin attempts to psychoanalyze as Oprah interrupts. The Bad Men on stage listen stoically, then promise Oprah they'll behave. Tissues and redemption follow.

Tuesday: "A danger/predator could be in your home/neighborhood that could threaten your children/health"

A Bad Man/toxin may be lurking. Oprah talks to a reformed Bad Man who tells all—not for the publicity, but in the hope that his story can prevent others from falling victim to the same tricks. Or, a doctor shows icky footage of nastiness. Eyes glisten as the children are considered. A list of simple precautions you MUST DO NOW is proffered. Hand-wringing and determined faces follow.

Wednesday: "Free stuff for the audience"

Something fluffy happens: a fashion show, cooking segment, shopping treats, or other manifestation of conspicuous consumption is shown. Oprah rolls her eyes, makes a gesture, or momentarily adopts a ghetto accent so that the mostly white audience can pretend that they have a black friend. The well-dressed soccer moms in the audience shriek with joy over the abundant free toys. Snacks and discarded packaging materials follow.

Thursday: "Compassionate cry-fest for the unfortunate people of somewhere"

Oprah/Oprah's friend travels to an impoverished/war-torn/devastated location. Plights are revealed. Oprah shows visible empathy. The audience is moved. Oprah writes a check. Audience members wish they had come on Wednesday. Tissues and schadenfreude follow.

Friday: "A celebrity plugs their latest thing"

A star comes on to plug their latest film/CD/book (which the audience has already screened, or which they will find under their seats), or to confess to past bad behavior—not for the publicity, but in the hope that his/her story can prevent others from making the same mistakes. Rapturous applause and redemption follow.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Celebrity Journalism

Alessandra Stanley's excellent article in the 21 June 2006 New York Times compares Angelina Jolie's "extravagant philanthropy" with the conspicuously caring journalism as practiced by Anderson Cooper.

Some people fault stars like Jolie or Bono or Bob Geldof for being too political. "They should just stick to acting or singing, and not behave like they're the only ones who can save the world" is an attitude many share about the exploits of celebrities far afield from their chosen profession.

Angelina JolieJolie makes no secret that she gives away one third of her income to charitable causes. Movie stars make too much money? Jolie agrees: "I have a stupid income for what I do for a living." One can't complain that someone makes too much money in their job, then complain when they give a lot of it away to those in need.


Anderson CooperStanley's article goes on to contrast Jolie's generosity with Anderson Cooper's apparent self-promotion, where he compares his own field reporting (i.e., his job) to Jolie's volunteer work with refugees. Cooper does have a way of looking simulateously caring, forbearing, and heroically handsome when reporting—arms akimbo—from some sweaty pile of devastation.

With so much work to do, and with so many stories untold, it's hard to fault Cooper's Pride (yes, I meant to capitalize "pride"), when other "news" programs feature stories about changes at your local KFC, or just how bushy Geraldo Rivera's moustache really is.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Decriminalizing prostitution

I read this article on the Huffington Post about a police bust of prostitutes (or "sex workers") in New York by monitoring Craig's List.

It got me thinking about a book I read some time ago, called "Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do" by Peter McWilliams. The book's subtitle is "the absurdity of consensual crimes in a free society."

From what I understand, prostitution has been decriminalized in the U.K. and Commonwealth nations (like Canada). Decriminalization differs from legalization in that legalization implies some sort of government regulation, as exists in parts of Nevada. Decriminalization just means that there is no criminal penalty for it.

Decriminalization would be the way to go; government is intrusive enough. And besides: conservatives always say they are for smaller government.

Decriminalization would also be safer for the "service provider": if she is attacked, she can call the cops without fear of incriminating herself.

Do we really need to fill up the jails with people who provide (and seek) pleasure from one another? Surely there are more deserving potential inmates.

Hugh Laurie is in the House!

I find it kind of funny that Hugh Laurie as "House" is regarded as such a sex symbol by some American women. I also find it kind of funny listening to his American accent, as well as seeing him in a serious role.

I've been watching him for the last 20 years or so, from "The Young Ones" to "Blackadder" to "Fry and Laurie" to "Jeeves and Wooster", "Peter's Friends", and even "Stuart Little".

He's a gifted British comic actor, very good at playing upper-class twits. He is also excellent as Gregory House, M.D.

If you're unfamiliar with his back-catalog, check out his role as the daft Prince George opposite Rowan "Mr. Bean" Atkinson in "Blackadder III", or his airheaded Bertie Wooster to life-long pal Stephen Fry's Jeeves in P.G. Wodehouse's "Jeeves and Wooster".

It's great when a long-time favorite achieves "overnight success", especially in such an out-of-character role (to me) as "House". Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Number 27

Jonathan Harris does amazing work, and presents it at Number 27. Some of his designs are so crisp, elegant, and beautiful that they almost make me want to cry.

His latest, We Feel Fine, is a collaboration with Sepandar Kamvar. They describe it as "an exploration of human emotion on a global scale."

They comb through thousands and thousands of blogs worldwide to find expressions of each writer's feelings, then present the results in an entertaining, interactive format.

Just stop reading this and go look.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hot For Stepdaughter

I spoke with someone today who presented me with this scenario:

  • He is 40 years old, and has been married for 7 years to a woman who has a 19-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
  • In his opinion, his marriage is not going so well.
  • His stepdaughter has been flirting with him for a few years now.
  • He is attracted to his stepdaughter.
  • They have kissed.
  • Once, she came into his room and showed him her naked body. Apart from having some of his flesh turn to stone, he did nothing about it.
  • He wants to have sex with her.

How would you advise this fellow?

  1. Tell her no?
  2. Get professional help?
  3. Divorce his wife, then tell her yes?
  4. Just go for it?
  5. Ask WWWAD (What Would Woody Allen Do)?

The Curse of Consciousness

The curse of consciousness is that one believes one has some degree of self-determination over and above instinct and external stimuli.

Conscious questions:
  1. What is this I see?
  2. Why is it here?
  3. Who am I?
  4. Why am I here?
  5. I see things die; will I?
  6. It scares me to think about dying; can I stop it from happening?
  7. If I can't stop it, what happens to "me"?
Atheism boils down to:
"I will die forever."
Agnosticism boils down to:
"I don't know if I will die forever."
Hymns boil down to:
"I don't want to die forever."
Prayers boil down to:
"Please don't let me die forever."
Religion boils down to:
"I hope someone can prevent me from dying forever."
The priest class boils down to:
"Someone can prevent you from dying forever."
"Only I may petition that someone on your behalf."
"It will cost you."
The prophet class boils down to:
"Someone can prevent you from dying forever."
"That someone has told me what you must do to keep from dying forever."
"That someone didn't tell you."
"That someone didn't tell the priests."
"Do what I say if you don't want to die forever."
"It will cost you."
Life boils down to:
Nothing.
Something.
Nothing.
God boils down to:

Angels dancing on the head of a pin.

Strut. Fret. Sound. Fury. Nothing.

To be, and not to be; that is the answer.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I! Have! A! Russian! Girlfriend!

I received this e-mail:

HI! How are you doing?
I live in Russia! And my name is Julia!
To me of 38 years! And I very much want to find the clever and decent person!
There can be it you??
I liked to read about you!
Excuse that I write so a little... I long did not dare to write to you!
And I am confused a little!
Write to me on mine e-mail box
And I promise - I shall tell to you a lot of interesting...
I shall tell to you the secrets
Whole.. I wait for the letter...
Your girlfriend Julia

I'm so happy! That I have a girlfriend!! Julia!!! I can't wait until she tells to me a lot of interesting... That sounds good, doesn't it? And what's more, she shall tell to me the secrets Whole!

You poor jealous bastards....

Good Lord

I stumbled across a website that links "The Da Vinci Code" with Moses and DNA and the pineal gland and Jeanne d'Arc and the Ark of the Covenant and and and...oh, yes, they claim to be 99th-generation descendents of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

They offer a free DNA test so you can find out if you too are a 99th-generation descendent of Mr. and Mrs. Christ. No, you don't have to send in a vial of spit; you merely listen to a 5-minute MP3, and if you feel your pineal gland a-rustlin', congratulations!

It's amazing how one never heard of this before Dan Brown's novel. I'd heard of the Jesus/Mary connection, and the Knights Templar, and the Prieure de Sion, etc., of course, because that was all contained in the book "Holy Blood, Holy Grail", which pre-dated "The DaVinci Code" by a couple of decades, but which an English lawsuit decided did not form the basis of Brown's bestseller. You know, the book by Baigent and Lee, the guys whose surnames were rearranged by Brown into "Lee Teabing".

Anyway, back to our story: Somehow, there were enlightenment and healing techniques taught by Jesus and Mary Magdalene that were kept shrouded in secrecy by the Knights Templar that could not be told until the truth was revealed by an international best seller.

Oh, and they knew all along that Judas was a good guy; they just never bothered to speak up until after the Gospel of Judas was discovered.

Now, some good news for your correspondent, a liberal: conservative fundamentalists cannot enter Heaven. Only liberal and moderate Christians may do so.

Um, oh, and Moses was a prophet, apparently, as well as an Egyptian Pharaoh, and wrote his prophecies in his "Temple O' Prophecy" from the ground up, with the symbols at the top being commentary on the current generation. I was amazed to learn that some of these symbols depict jets, tanks, helicopters, oil barrels, and an eagle, something that confused everyone for 3,300 years until the USA invaded Iraq.

It goes on, and on, and on. I don't know if they eventually work in the Federal Reserve or the Illuminati, but I'm sure it's crackin' good. Anyway, be sure and get your free DNA test at The True Jesus, and let me know if you're a relative of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene-Christ.

Monday, June 12, 2006

"No-Clue Rant"; "Learn, O Cunt"

In today's New York Times, David Carr explains the success of a certain write-winger "in part because seeing hate-speech pop out of a blonde who knows her way around a black cocktail dress makes for compelling viewing." He adds that "the fact that she is one of the leading political writers of our age says something about the rest of us."

By "leading" I assume Carr is referring to her book sales, which have earned her millions. She's certainly not "leading" in any qualitative sense. And the only relevant "us" are those who give their money willingly so that she may live a more comfortable life in Palm Beach.

She's popular among Republicans because she's one of the only remotely fuckable women on their side of the aisle. She makes news because she says the most extreme, reprehensible things while looking as though she should be commenting on the latest trends in handbags or rubbing noses with some foofy little dog.

C'mon, she's about as authentic as pro wrestling. She's famous for being infamous. She has found a formula that works for her, and is milking it until it runs dry. She's about as consistent as a Johnnie Cochran defense argument, without the rhyming.

Skeinks

A friend of mine likes to knit. She and her friend were casting about for a descriptive term for themselves. I suggested "skeinks".

It's kind of like the "
Shopping Bags" on the Fine Living cable channel (who are sweet Canadian babes, not bags).

According to Google, this term may actually be original (in English, anyway). I couldn't be more thrilled.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Thinking About Elliott

Begin
  • Heatmiser
  • Roman Candle
  • Elliott Smith
  • Either/Or
  • Good Will Hunting
    • Me in the audience, staying to watch the credits to find out who was singing like Simon & Garfunkel
    • Miss Misery at the Oscars (not that many years after Phil Collins was denied permission to sing Against All Odds because he didn't fit the Oscar image)
  • XO
    • Me in the audience at a show watching a very humble, sweet guy making a lot of people happy
  • Figure 8
  • sharp knife
End