aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, October 14, 2006
The Times’ Hillary endorsement
We enthusiastically endorse Mrs. Clinton for re-election, while watching with interest to see if she can convince the country that she has as much aptitude for the presidency as she does for her current job. Her extraordinary discipline might help her to avoid mistakes during a presidential campaign, to run a race that will not center on some symbolic slip-up. But can she conjure up a vision of the future for a nation desperately in need of inspiration and real leadership? Can she speak to the great issues of the day directly, without carefully trimming every sentence to steer clear of controversy?
The real question is not whether she can turn in continued good performance in the Senate, or even whether she can run a smart campaign for president. It is whether she can put some great idea ahead of her own political upward mobility, whether there is a cause so important to her that she will risk her political security for it. We are waiting for a profile-in-courage moment, a sign that she is something more than a very competent politician. Meanwhile, we endorse Hillary Clinton for another six years in the Senate.
A rose by any other name
Scholars who track gender-law issues say that gay rights groups and their allies have worked hard since the last election to create a middle-ground position on the question of partnership rights that could appeal to voters who might not vote for same-sex marriage.
The position, which has been repeated like a mantra across Colorado this year by advocates for the civil union proposal, holds that civil unions are not marriage and that if voters want to hold marriage apart as a separate institution for heterosexuals, that would be fine. But it is only fair and just, they say, that couples in other types of relationships have legal protections, too.
Opponents of the civil union bill say that the moderation line is a smokescreen and that same-sex marriage in Colorado will become a reality in fact, if not in name, if the civil union proposition is approved.
“It is nothing short of Orwellian doublespeak to say it is not marriage,” State Representative Kevin Lundberg, a Republican from eastern Colorado, said at a recent forum in Denver on the ballot proposals.
How the RIAA Litigation Process Works
The RIAA lawsuits pit a small number of very large recording companies against individuals who have paid for an internet access account.
On the plaintiff’s end, the owners of the underlying copyrights in the musical compositions are not involved in the case; neither are many smaller record companies.
As to the defendants, since no investigation is made to ascertain that the defendant is actually someone who engaged in peer to peer file sharing of copyrighted music without authorization, there are many defendants who have no idea why they are being sued and who did nothing even arguably violative of anyone’s copyright. Defendants have included people who have never even used a computer, and many people who although they have used a computer, have never engaged in any peer to peer file sharing.
Sometimes the cases are misleadingly referred to as cases against ‘downloaders’; in fact the RIAA knows nothing of any downloading when it commences suit, and in many instances no downloading ever took place.
It is more accurate to refer to the cases as cases against persons who paid for internet access which the RIAA has reason to believe was used by some person—possibly the defendant, possibly someone else—to engage in peer to peer file sharing.
Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse
In response to the scandal involving former Congressman Mark Foley, a number of conservative religious groups have claimed that homosexuals pose a substantially greater risk of committing sexual abuse against children than heterosexuals, and have issued papers citing a number of scientific studies to support these claims. However, when one examines the studies cited in these papers, one finds that the religious right has engaged in some serious distortion of the works of others. The scientists who authored the studies made no such claim about homosexuals posing a greater threat to children, and in fact in many cases argued the opposite.
In addition, many in the religious right have employed a version of the “slippery slope” argument, charging that the gay rights movement has led inevitably to tolerance for pedophilia by eroding all traditional norms of sexual behavior. However, the “slippery slope” argument is based on the false premise that the protection of children from sexual activity is a long-standing part of the Judeo-Christian ethic, which has only recently come under assault as a result of the gay rights movement. In fact, throughout most of history, the Judeo-Christian tradition tolerated and even approved of sexual relations between adult males and girls of twelve years of age or even younger. The contemporary taboo against sex between adults and minors developed only in the late nineteenth century, as societies became increasingly committed to the ideals of individual rights and personal autonomy, which led to concern about the possibility of coercion and exploitation in adult-minor relationships.
The other day I pointed to fervent and overt anti-gay episodes in Philadelphia and Sacramento. In these and other examples from around the country every day, gay people are equated with adulterers, fornicators, prostitutes, perverts and pedophiles.
What does this tell us about the public policy goals of these individuals and groups? I honestly don’t believe they think that through but it’s reasonable to infer a wish to go back to a time when homosexual activity was a crime.
I read this article when it was published last month. It’s stuck with me. Maybe if you read it it you will remember it too the next time you hear about some present day anti-gay activity:
On Feb. 4, 1957, a Guilford County grand jury emerged from its closed session and issued a bundle of indictments of a scope unlike any before or since Ã¢â‚¬” against 32 men accused of being homosexual.
After witnesses named the men during police interrogations, the suspects were tried one by one in a Greensboro courtroom for crimes against nature, almost exclusively with consenting adults.
The now-obscure episode, which some longtime residents came to call “the purge,” was the largest attempted roundup of homosexuals in Greensboro history and marked one of the most intense gay scares of the 1950s.
Unlike sweeps of subsequent decades, involving raids on public parks and gay bars, Greensboro’s 1957 trials focused on private acts behind closed doors.
The purpose, in the words of the police chief, was to “remove these individuals from society who would prey upon our youth,” and to protect the town from what a presiding judge called “a menace.”
Some 32 trials in the winter and spring of 1957 would end in guilty verdicts, 24 of them resulting in prison terms of five to 20 years, with some defendants assigned to highway chain gangs.
Based on dozens of interviews over a four-week period with those who recall it, this is the story of what happened.
I urge you to read on.
When is your birthday?
The modus operandi of Foley is particularly loathsome; I hadn’t thought it through before:
Georgia: a Cyber Police State
William Saletan examines the ironies in the Clinton and Foley sex scandals, “Clinton introduced us to the ambiguities of sex. Foley is introducing us to the wilder ambiguities of cybersex.”
His conclusion merits deeper consideration:
Georgia, for instance, forbids any “Internet contact” with minors involving “explicit verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexually explicit nudity” or even of “sexual excitement.” Actually, the recipient doesn’t have to be a minor. He can be anyone “believed Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ to be a child residing in this state.” You can charge Foley under this law even if he never goes to Georgia or writes to anyone there. All you have to do is meet him in a chat room, pose as an Atlanta teenager, and wait for him to say something gross.
If a pervert won’t act on his words, you can criminalize the words. If he won’t utter them, you can prosecute him for writing them. If he won’t come to your state, you can go get him. If he has no victim, you can invent one. This is no joke. In almost every state, laws specify that you can be convicted of an Internet sex offense against a child even if you contact no child and commit no physical crime. In fact, the most recently analyzed data, published by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, suggest that more people are arrested for using the Internet to solicit cops posing as kids than for using it to initiate relationships with real kids. The unnatural has been surpassed by the artificial.
Cybersex is only getting weirder. Most Canadian college students surveyed by a dating Web site say they’ve already had sex through instant messages. By year’s end, more than 100 million people will be playing online games. Fifteen million Webcams are in use; hundreds can be viewed for a fee, and many are pornographic. You can even interact with a ”virtual girlfriend” on your cell phone. It’s a creepy world of imaginary meetings and deeds. The only thing creepier, perhaps, is to prosecute them like the real thing.
Emphasis mine. If the problem is a real and serious one, as I do definitely believe, then why do I bemoan these laws? And what policy prescription do I offer?
I have said again and again that the laws are ineffective. I have seen no evidence anywhere ever of efficacy, only the assumption that they work and cynical politicians fanning the flames of panic for their own electoral advantage.
I don’t have an answer but I do have a core belief that the panic must stop so that we can apply the findings of research that has already been done and move forward with more to honestly and effectively address the scale, scope and cause without creating an unwarranted police state in our online spaces.