Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
Click here to go there... Click here to go there...

Here you will find a few things you might want to investigate.

Support the Just Above Sunset websites...


Click here to go there...

« August 2004 »
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31
Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
Contact the Editor


"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

Site Meter
Technorati Profile

Monday, 2 August 2004

Topic: The Law

Taking sides when the world has changed again...

Tuesday's Guardian (UK) - as left as it is - provides its usual clear prose, and the text for this particular sermon.

First up? George Monbiot on how the War of Terror is destroying out freedoms. The usual, right?

A threat to democracy
Basic freedoms to protest are being systematically undermined by anti-terror legislation
George Monbiot, The Guardian (UK), Tuesday August 3, 2004

His opening is classic - a model of effective prose style (with British spellings) - and a bit scary ...
If we have learned anything over the past 18 months it is this: that the first rule of politics - power must never be trusted - still applies. The government will neither regulate itself nor be regulated by the institutions which surround it. Parliament chose to believe a string of obvious lies. The media repeated them, the civil service let them pass, the judiciary endorsed them. The answer to the age-old political question - who guards the guards? - remains unchanged. Only the people will hold the government to account.

They have two means of doing so. The first is to throw it out of office at the next election. This works only when we are permitted to choose an alternative set of policies. But in almost every nation, a new contract has now been struck between the main political parties: they have chosen to agree on almost all significant areas of policy. This leaves the people disenfranchised: they can vote out the monkeys but not the organ-grinder. So voting is now a less important democratic instrument than the second means: the ability to register our discontent during a government's term in office.

Applying the first rule of politics, we should expect those in power to seek to prevent the public from holding them to account. Whenever they can get away with it, they will restrict the right to protest. They got away with it last week.

The demonstrators who have halted the construction of the new animal testing labs in Oxford...
No, readers here don't much care about the British examples. None of that. Click on the link if you want details of what, in England's green and pleasant land, bothers this fellow.

We have our own examples - see You won't see Dick, unless you say the magic words... and Keeping the Press in line... and other such items for domestic examples.

Such items are not hard to find.

At both of the political conventions protesters are confined to fenced-in "free speech zones" where, behind the chain link fence, they can say anything they want. No one wants trouble.

Only the people will hold the government to account? The people - from their pens? Well, we should expect those in power to seek to prevent the public from holding them to account, and these cages will do.

But I don't know what to make of this item. Things are getting tighter.

Orin Kerr over at the UCLA law blog The Volokh Conspiracy notes this -
I have read a lot of Fourth Amendment cases over the last few years, but today I learned something new: several courts of appeals have allowed the government to obtain and execute "anticipatory" search warrants. According to these cases, the government can get a warrant even if their case for probable cause hinges on some future event. If the future event occurs, the warrant becomes operative and they can execute the search. If the future event does not occur, then the warrant is not yet operative and they cannot execute the search.
Kevin Drum in The Washington Monthly has this to say -
... the problem with this is that a "future event" isn't necessarily a simple, clear-cut incident. It might be something that's unmistakably black-and-white, but it also might be something based on the suspect's behavior that's a bit of a judgment call.

And that's disturbing. The whole point of a warrant is that it prevents police from making their own judgment calls and requires them to make their case to a neutral judge if they want to execute a search. I wonder how long this has been going on and how common it is?
In the comments to Kevin Drum in The Washington Monthly Matt Davis posts this -
This sounds really bad in the abstract, but if the concrete manifestations are limited by normal legal standards of "reasonable" behavior, it might not be that bad.

Think of it: Policeman wants warrant to search when the impending meeting with Mendoza takes place (you know, when the drugs will still be there). Is it so wrong to give it to him? And to trust him to recognize that a meeting with Mendoza has (finally) taken place?

It's certainly not more epistemological discretion than we already grant our police, although we might want to reconsider.
Another comment - "Gee, prior restraint used to be unconstitutional."

Anticipatory search warrants. A curious notion. I'm note sure these are a direct result of the War on Terror as much they are just the result of a growing sense that we really must give the police more freedom in these dangerous times. That would make the rise in the issuance of anticipatory search warrants only an indirect result. Our worldview has changed - the zeitgeist has changed, the paradigm has shifted - choose your pretentious words here. Folks be scared. What will you give up when you're scared?

Well, life is safe in a police state - if you behave yourself.

Martin Kettle, on the other hand, is almost cheery. Americans aren't all torn apart and angry and frightened. That's all been blown way out proportion.

On both sides of the Atlantic, progressives could be braver
Americans are less polarised than their politicians would have us believe
Martin Kettle, The Guardian (UK), Tuesday August 3, 2004

He does a riff on Alan Wolfe -
Six years ago, the American sociologist Alan Wolfe published a strikingly important book. Entitled "One Nation, After All," and subtitled "What Middle-Class Americans Really Think About," it is an essential text for understanding the pulse of modern America. What makes it both important and essential is that Wolfe painted a picture radically at odds with the exaggerated perception, both in the US and abroad, of America as a nation of entrenched and embattled ideological extremes.

In fact, Wolfe argued that middle America was not so much a land of culture wars as of cultural pragmatism. "I have found little support for the notion that middle-class Americans" - a category within which three quarters of all Americans define themselves - "are engaged in bitter cultural conflict with each other over the proper way to live," he observed.

"Reluctant to pass judgment, [Americans] are tolerant to a fault," he concluded. "Not about everything - they have not come to accept homosexuality as normal and they intensely dislike bilingualism - but about a surprising number of things, including rapid transformations in the family, legal immigration, multicultural education and the separation of church and state. Above all moderate in their outlook on the world, they believe in the importance of leading a virtuous life, but are reluctant to impose values they understand as virtuous for themselves on others; strong believers in morality, they do not want to be considered moralists."
Oh really?

Well, Kettle interviews Wolfe and find the guy still maintains this view, and gives this summary -
The essence of Wolfe's case is that the great wedge issues of the late 20th-century culture wars have simply shrunk in significance. The most important of these, as always, is affirmative action on race, where the supreme court has managed to strike a sensible compromise. Nor, he argues, does abortion still have the divisive potential of the past, though if a re-elected Bush attempts to nominate a supreme court dedicated to overturning the landmark pro-abortion Roe vs Wade judgment of 1973, that could change. Having won the political argument over what it calls partial birth abortion, though, Wolfe reckons the right is less angry than it was.

There's much about America in 2004 that bears this out. Over the past couple of months, the president has spent $50m on campaign ads designed to promote his opposition to gay marriage. As Wolfe's original research found, gay equality remains one of the issues on which middle America remains to be convinced; yet you would have to search long and hard to find many people who believe that gay marriage is the great dividing issue in America. At the margins, Bush's advertising may help to motivate some social conservatives to vote Republican, but mostly it has sunk without trace.
Yes, Rick Santorum and fellow who worries about box turtles aside, no one much cares about gay marriage. We all have gay friends. What's the point? Live and let live.

Disclosure - this writer, along with gay friends, also has more than a few morose friends. (Sorry - couldn't resist.)

So what's the problem? Why this apparent great divide? Kettle's conclusion ...
A possible explanation is that the polarisation of 2000 and 2004 is simply untypical - most US presidential elections are not nearly so close as the last one was and the next one promises to be. In that case, some special factor - the disabling effect of the Clinton scandals on the Democratic cause in 2000, perhaps, or the mistrust towards Bush's Iraq policy and his tax cuts this time around - may have made these two contests more impassioned than they might otherwise have been.

A second is that the practices of modern campaigning and media - giving voters a relentlessly inaccurate picture of the choices they face, presenting their own candidate in an unbelievably favourable light and their opponent in an equally unbelievably negative light - conspire to create a polarised contest between core electorates and to drive down participation. As US journalist Jack Germond says in his new memoir, the Republicans do not have a monopoly on such tactics - they just seem better at it.

There is, of course, a third possibility: that Wolfe's "one nation" theory is just wrong.
Yes, that is quite possible.

I am tired of my conservative friends shouting at me that the world is newly and uniquely dangerous - and that a modified police state run by Ashcroft for the Bush administration is they only thing that will keep us from all being killed by the swarthy, nefarious Islamic radicals - THE CONSTITUTION IS NOT A SUICIDE PACT! - and that I should, basically, just shut up.

But I so enjoy stirring the pot. Perhaps I shouldn't. Everything changed since 9/11 - as we have all been told.

No it hasn't.

Or am I living in the past - a world that no longer exists? Damn, I kind of liked that free-press / say-what-you-want / ask-for-a-warrant-before-you-let-them-in world. Oh well.

Alan Wolfe? He sees no really big divide. He's wrong.

The divide is not about gay marriage or abortion. We can settle that stuff. The divide is right on the line between granting fairly limitless power to the current authorities in trade for a bit more security, and claiming freedom of expression, freedom of movement, basic personal privacy and that other quaint stuff - knowing there are risks but accepting those risks.

Nothing new there - Austria 1938 or Kent State in 1970 or... find your own example. Here in California we just elected a governor, a charismatic German-speaking Austrian curiously enough, who wants to get rid of the state legislature - make them part-time advisors, no more - so he can get some things DONE, damn it! He is tremendously popular. He'll get this.

We are just being asked to choose, one more time. Freedom or security.

Of course you can work out ways to have bits of both, or a lot of both. We managed that for quite a while, on and off.

But no one is talking compromise any long. Bush says you are with us, or with the terrorists. Kerry and those running against his administration are saying no way, George - we think you've done a lousy job and, by the way, we don't like the terrorists at all. We have other ideas - and on the economy and the environment and lots of stuff. Bush and his crew are saying that just cannot be so - why do you folks hate America - do you want the terrorists to win?

Alan Wolfe? He sees no really big divide. He's wrong.


Footnote -

In the discussion of George Monbiot's ideas above I mentioned England's green and pleasant land.
The phrase comes from this - Blake wanting to make things better, idealist that he was.
Yeah, the famous "dark satanic mills" words, and those Chariots of Fire, come from this.

(From 'The Preface' to 'Milton')
William Blake (1757-1827)

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold;
Bring me my arrows of desire;
Bring me my spear; O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

Posted by Alan at 21:57 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 2 August 2004 22:04 PDT home

Topic: Election Notes

Election Notes: Tough Times for the Third Man

The Third Man - but this time it's not Harry Lime (Orson Welles) at all. The third man in this case is Ralph Nader. One thinks more of Rodney Dangerfield than of Orson Welles' Harry Lime. Some days things just don't go well, and you get no respect.

Go to the footnote for everything you ever wanted to know about Harry Lime and that 1949 film, if you wish, but consider this curious question from Michael Scott -
Q. What do Ralph Nader and John Ashcroft now have in common?

A. They've both lost in balloting where the voters knew they were supporting an opponent who wouldn't be able to serve even if elected.
What is Scott taking about?

This from out here in California on the morning wire -

Nader Loses Presidential Nomination For Calif. Peace, Freedom Party
Party Goes With Imprisoned American Indian Activist
POSTED: 8:00 am PDT August 2, 2004 UPDATED: 8:52 am PDT August 2, 2004
LOS ANGELES - Ralph Nader lost a chance to get on the California ballot when the Peace and Freedom Party chose an imprisoned American Indian activist for its standard bearer, it was announced Sunday.

However, the 70-year-old consumer activist could still get on the Nov. 2 state ballot if a weekend petition drive is successful in getting about 25,000 more signatures his supporters said he needed to qualify as an independent candidate.

Meeting in Los Angeles yesterday, delegates to the Peace and Freedom Party Convention heard an appeal from Nader, but instead chose Native American Leonard Peltier, which the group described as a political prisoner.

Many believe Peltier was framed for the murder of two FBI agents on a reservation in Wounded knee, S.D., in 1975. He is serving a life sentence.

Nader appeared at the convention a few hours before the vote but was unable to sway a majority of the delegates. ...
Yep, they choose a man who couldn't run as their candidate. Better than Ralph.

As least Leonard Peltier isn't dead. And Ashcroft did lose to a dead man.

Republican senator loses to dead rival in Missouri
CNN - November 8, 2000 - Web posted at: 2:49 a.m. EST (0749 GMT)
(CNN) -- The late Gov. Mel Carnahan collected enough votes to beat out incumbent Republican Sen. John Ashcroft for the U.S. Senate seat from Missouri.

The incumbent Ashcroft was left running against a dead man after his opponent, the popular sitting governor, died in a plane crash on October 16. By that time, it was too late to remove Carnahan's name from the ballot.

No one had ever posthumously won election to the Senate, though voters on at least three occasions chose deceased candidates for the House.
Oh well. Ashcroft got a better job. Can't manage to beat a dead man in an open election? Well, you can still be appointed the Attorney General - top lawman of the whole nation. What are Christian friends for?

Ralph Nader, unfortunately, has other problems, on the other side of the continent. The homeless are revolting - against him.

Nader office shuts down as workers seek pay
Petition circulators demanded payment for signatures collected. A campaign employee said the scene smacked of dirty politics.
Michael Currie Schaffer, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Saturday, July 31, 2004

Here's the sad story...
Ralph Nader's presidential campaign this week abruptly abandoned the Center City office that housed its efforts to get on the Pennsylvania ballot, leaving behind a mess of accusations and a damaged building.

The office, on the 1500 block of Chestnut Street, was emptied Thursday after a raucous scene the night before. Police were called as dozens of homeless people lined up to collect money they said they were owed for circulating petitions on the candidate's behalf.

Many of the circulators were never paid, according to outreach workers and interviews with several men who had collected signatures.

"A lot of us were scammed," said Ed Seip, 52, who said he collected more than 200 signatures for Nader.
Ralph Nader would, actually and for real, scam people?

Well it seem in this report that John Slevin, a "ballot-access contractor" hired by Nader to run the Pennsylvania petition campaign, is saying everyone is going to get paid - really. Honest. He seems to think "the accusations and chaos at the office were the result of political trickery. That's the only explanation for it." He just didn't expect these hoards of homeless people looking for "petition work." He'd been hiring "petition circulators" for two weeks - promising seventy-five cents to a dollar for each valid signature. And the deal was half the money at the end of each day and a check on each Wednesday.

But Wednesday was a mess -
... people who showed up Wednesday described a chaotic situation. Lines moved slowly as Slevin and one assistant, protected by armed guards, vetted the petitions for obviously forged signatures. Many in line were shouting and claiming they had been underpaid. As tensions grew, police were called.

By day's end, many left without being paid. Those who returned the next day found the office empty.
Ah, gone in the night. Let them eat cake... or let them take Prozac.

Slevin did say he would mail checks to the addresses people had given when hired - but gee, a lot of these folks didn't exactly have addresses as they were down on their luck, living in the streets and scrambling for a few bucks. Well, too bad.

Well, the whole thing was a mess - and the folks who worked for Ralph were, shall we say, unruly and angry -
"They trashed the place," said Lee Brahim, a co-owner of the building where Slevin had rented an office for the month. Brahim said people had urinated in garbage cans and broken a stairway railing.

The 2-week-old effort to collect signatures using hired petition circulators also faced scrutiny last week after reporters witnessed several circulators repeatedly signing each other's forms and telling signers that they could use whatever name they wanted.

Slevin said circulators had been instructed to obey the law.

But one disgruntled circulator said they had not known the rules. "Everyone in the mission was just passing them around from person to person," said Michael Reed Jr., 21, who said he had not been paid.
Gee, it is hard to find good help these days. You tell them to follow the rules and these low-life types still mess up.

Ralph's team in Philadelphia should have done what his team in Michigan did - you don't use the scruffy underclass of losers, you turn to the elite, the folks who are responsible and run this country. You turn to the Republicans.

Nader accepting GOP signatures in Michigan
Dem leaders have asked him to refuse the signatures
Tuesday, July 20, 2004 Posted: 11:28 AM EDT (1528 GMT)
LANSING, Michigan (AP) -- In an about face, Ralph Nader decided Monday to accept thousands of petition signatures collected by Michigan Republicans if that is the only way he can qualify for the state's presidential ballot.

Last Thursday, Michigan Republican Party officials submitted 43,000 signatures -- far more than the 30,000 needed -- to ensure Nader could appear on the ballot as an independent.

Republicans began collecting signatures after it appeared that Nader might not get on the ballot as the Reform Party's candidate for president.

Nader's campaign had turned in about 5,400 signatures.
What are friends for?

But be it known, Ralph Nader is disappointed with liberal and progressive and other sorts of people who want change - disappointed he has to turn to the Republican Party to get the required signatures to get on the ballot in a number of states - so people can vote for him - and NOT for Republicans or Democrats. I suppose that makes sense, in an odd sort of way.

But here in California some folks would rather have a convicted murderer in prison serving a life sentence represent them on the ballot - not the earnest "I have no ego" Ralph. Rodney Dangerfield's signature line comes to mind - "I tell you, I get no respect, no respect...." And in Philadelphia these bums you hired to collect signatures get all uppity and trash your place because the greedy bastards want paid. "I tell you, I get no respect, no respect...."

All in all, a bad week for the third man.


Footnote - the movie -

The Third Man (1949) was directed by Carol Reed and written by Graham Greene. The Third Man is a classic film noir, enhanced even more so by the quirky zither music of Anton Karas and fine cinematography of Vienna's bombed out buildings and underground sewers.

Set in post-war Austria, a country politically divided into different sectors controlled by the U.S., England, France and Russia. Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), an American author, arrives in Vienna where he has been promised work by his old school friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Upon his arrival, Martins discovers that Lime has been killed in a suspicious car accident, and that his funeral is taking place immediately. At the graveside, Martins meets outwardly affable Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) and actress Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), who is weeping copiously. When Calloway tells Martins that the late Harry Lime was nothing more or less than a thief and a murderer, the loyal Martins is at first outraged.

Gradually, he not only discovers that Calloway was right, but also that the man lying in the coffin in the film's early scenes was not Harry Lime at all - and that Lime is still very much alive (he was the mysterious "third man" at the scene of the fatal accident). Calloway hopes to use either Anna or Hollings to flush out Lime. Unswerving in her loyalty, Anna refuses. Martins does likewise, until Calloway shows the novelist the tragic results of Lime's black-market in diluted penicillin.

Arranging a rendezvous with Lime at the huge Ferris wheel in the centre of Vienna, Hollings listens in barely concealed disgust as Lime casually dismisses his heinous crimes. Feeling particularly brazen, Lime offers not to kill Hollings if the latter will go into business with him. Thus the stage is set for the famous climactic confrontation in the sewers of Vienna - and the even more famous final shot of The Third Man, in which Martins pays emotionally for doing the right thing.

The film is currently available in both an American and British release version; the American version with an introduction by Joseph Cotten, the British version is narrated by Carol Reed. Nominated for several Academy Awards, The Third Man won a "Best Cinematography" prize for Robert Krasker.

Director: Carol Reed.
Asst Director: Guy Hamilton.
Producer: Carol Reed, Alexander Korda and David O. Selznick.
Associate Producer: Hugh Perceval.
Script: Graham Greene, Alexander Korda, Carol Reed and Orson Welles. (from the story The Third Man by Graham Greene)
Cinematography: Robert Krasker.
Art Direction: John Hawkesworth, Joseph Bato and Vincent Korda.
Asst Art Direction: Fernand Bellan.
Editing: Oswald Hafenrichter.
Costume Design: Ivy Baker and James Sawyer.
Makeup: George Frost.
Sound: John Cox.
Music Direction: Anton Karas.

Joseph Cotton - Holly Martins
Orson Welles - Harry Lime
Alida Valli - Anna Schmidt
Trevor Howard - Major Calloway
Bernard Lee - Sergeant Paine
Wilfrid Hyde White - Crabbin
Paul Hoerbiger - Porter
Ernst Deutsch - Baron Kurtz
Herbeil Halbik - Hansel
Paul Hardtmuth - Hall porter
Alexis Chesnakov - Brodsky
Martin Boddey - Man
Nelly Arno - Kurtz's Mother
Geoffrey Keen - British Policeman
Siegfried Breuer - Popescu
Erich Ponto - Dr. Winkel
Paul Smith - MP
Hedwig Bleibtreu - Old Woman


Another Pop Culture Note - this from the New York Daily News, Tuesday, August 03, 2004
The Grateful Dead's Bob Weir is pleading with Deadheads everywhere not to vote for Ralph Nader. Performing on Saturday in Boston, Weir told the band's followers to be sure to vote, but the exorted, "Don't vote for Nader. I know him. He's an a--hole," our spies tell us. The band then broke into "Johnny B. Goode," a theme song of the Kerry-Edwards campaign ...

Posted by Alan at 17:11 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 3 August 2004 09:37 PDT home

Sunday, 1 August 2004

Topic: Photos

Heads Up!

The new issue of the virtual magazine (the webzine), the parent to this weblog, Just Above Sunset - Volume 2, Number 30 - was posted to the net a few hours ago.

Note -

Specials in the photography pages - the caged Lilac Cadillac of Sunset Boulevard and a cherry Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide, AND John Slater's shots from the Pasadena Street Art Festival, AND a film studio builds at fake hamburger stand on Sunset.

Much on current events - expanded versions of what first appeared on this web log - and some items that didn't - with new commentary from friends here and in France.

Bob Patterson is back as The World's Laziest Journalist and this week's quotes - Doctor Johnson on life, and others on war....

Current Events

Fixing Things: What to Make of the 9/11 Commission's Report

Book Notes: Social Darwinism as seen from Pasadena

UK Notes: Using the law to keep delusions under control... Us (US) as seen by them (UK).

Gloom and Doom: The Really Dismal Science and the Damned Invisible Hand

French Doctors: No one is neutral as you are with us or with the evildoers... regarding M?decins sans fronti?re

The Law: Lawsuits Destroying American Business (Trust the FDA?)

Sidebar: "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!"

Boston and the Election

Boston: What to do with the apolitical majority...

Asked in Boston: Cain's Question

Boston 2: Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice!

Election Notes: Events NOT Occurring in Boston (Oklahoma and Florida)

Dissent: You won't see Dick, unless you say the magic words...

Dissent 2: Keeping the Press in line... [all new and not published previously here]


WLJ Weekly: The World's Laziest Journalist - "Muster in Custer" or "East of Eden"?

Alabama: Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere

Quotes: Useful Pithy Observations... Doctor Johnson on life and others on war


Photography: Dislocations from the Present - the caged Lilac Cadillac of Sunset Boulevard and a cherry Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide...

Photography 2: The Pasadena Street Art Fair (as seen by John Slater)
Direct Link:

Photography 3: The faux White Castle on Sunset, three blocks from home...

Hollywood at its oddest...

Posted by Alan at 18:12 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 31 July 2004

Topic: The Law

Alabama: Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere

Note this - the official Alabama motto -
"Audemus jura nostra defendere" has been translated as: "We Dare Maintain Our Rights" or "We Dare Defend Our Rights." This Latin phrase is on the state coat of arms completed in 1923.

According to a Birmingham News-Age Herald article by Marie Bankhead Owen (the director of the state Archives) dated April 23, 1939, she came upon the idea while searching for "a phrase that would interpret the spirit of our peoples in a terse and energetic sentence." A part of a poem entitled "What Constitutes a State?" by the 18th-century author Sir William Jones found in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations includes the stanza "Men who their duties know. But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain." The motto was translated into Latin by Professor W. B. Saffold, of the University of Alabama.
And thereby hangs a tale...

CHAPTER ONE: The Manufacturer Cheers

Good Vibrations Celebrates Lift of Alabama Sex Toy Ban
Names Sex Toy "The Alabama Slammer"
San Francisco, CA -- October 3, 2002 -- An Alabama law banning the sale of sex toys was struck down this month by a federal judge as a violation of the right to privacy. "The fundamental right of privacy, long recognized by the Supreme Court as inherent among our constitutional protections, incorporates a right to sexual privacy," said U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith Jr.

To celebrate this triumphant occasion, legendary San Francisco-based sex toy store Good Vibrations has re-named a popular bright red personal massager "The Alabama Slammer." Sex toy-starved Alabama residents can reclaim their right to own vibrators, dildos and other adult products by purchasing the vibrant red Alabama Slammer -- or any other Good Vibrations merchandise -- at a 15% discount during the month of November.

For the last four years Good Vibrations has supported the American Civil Liberties Union case against the Alabama sex toy ban. The 1998 law -- part of a package of legislation strengthening the state's obscenity law -- banned the sale of devices designed for "the stimulation of human genital organs."

In 2000, as part of an effort to raise awareness around the Alabama legislation, Good Vibrations collected an emergency supply of sex toys and collected nearly $10,000 worth of product from generous vendors to distribute to the unfortunate, toy-less masses in Alabama.

Good Vibrations, the "clean well-lighted place to buy sex toys," supports every person's right to sexual pleasure. Throughout the ban Good Vibrations argued that sex toys are not obscene and sexual gratification is indeed a basic human right.

As Good Vibrations Sexologist and author Dr. Carol Queen says, "Alabama may have maintained that 'there is no fundamental right to purchase a product to use in pursuit of having an orgasm,' but we strongly disagree, and have for the last four years. What exactly do they think the constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness means?"
I'm not sure the Founding Fathers had these products in mind. But the idea is clear - the government has no business legislating here. This is all a personal matter.

The counterargument might be that the state has a compelling interest in banning certain activities, no matter how private, as such activities create a permissive and perverse mindset or attitude that can do real, substantial and irreparable harm to the general good. Proving that certain harm might be difficult. Asserting that harm is not difficult. I suspect the idea is that sexual activity that is not directed toward procreation is a real problem. It leads to the breakdown of the family - the basic social unit. And that hurts everyone. Thus we should stop such private activity.

CHAPTER TWO: The Legislature Acts and Refuses to Remove the Ban

Link Expired - April 29, 2003 - Associated Press
The Alabama House voted against a bill Tuesday that would have removed a ban on sexual devices, such as vibrators, from the state's obscenity law. ....

A federal district judge in Birmingham has twice ruled that the ban is unconstitutional. The first ruling was overturned by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the second ruling has been appealed to the appeals court.

... The sponsor of the bill, Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said because of the court ruling, the obscenity law is unenforceable as long as it contains the ban on sex toys....

With little serious discussion, the House voted 37-28 to leave the sex toys ban in state law, leaving Rogers standing at the microphone shaking his head. "What you just did is make our obscenity law illegal. You voted for obscenity,'' Rogers shouted at lawmakers.

But I see what Rogers means. Leave this ban on these gizmos in the law and then the whole anti-obscenity law remains unconstitutional.

Well, they left the ban on these gizmos in the law - they thought it was important to the welfare of the state's citizens.

To hell with the courts!

CHAPTER THREE: The Stunning Reversal as a Federal Appeals Court Rules - The Constitution Does NOT Include a Right to Sexual Privacy

11th Circuit upholds Alabama sex toy ban
Jay Reeves - The Associated Press 7/28/2004, 5:22 p.m. CT
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- A federal appeals court Wednesday upheld a 1998 state law banning the sale of sex toys in Alabama, ruling the Constitution doesn't include a right to sexual privacy.

In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the state has a right to police the sale of devices including electronic vibrators and other products meant to stimulate the sex organs.

"If the people of Alabama in time decide that a prohibition on sex toys is misguided, or ineffective, or just plain silly, they can repeal the law and be finished with the matter," the court said. "On the other hand, if we today craft a new fundamental right by which to invalidate the law, we would be bound to give that right full force and effect in all future cases including, for example, those involving adult incest, prostitution, obscenity, and the like."

Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett disagreed, writing that the decision was based on the "erroneous foundation" that adults don't have a right to consensual sexual intimacy and that private acts can be made a crime in the name of promoting "public morality."

"This case is not, as the majority's demeaning and dismissive analysis suggests, about sex or about sexual devices. It is about the tradition of American citizens from the inception of our democracy to value the constitutionally protected right to be left alone in the privacy of their bedrooms and personal relationships," Barkett wrote in her dissent.
Yeah, but she's a woman and thus may own, or even use one of these gizmos.

Note the court is saying that asserting this hypothetical Constitutional right to sexual privacy - by ruling that there may be such a right - they would be opening the doors to all sorts of evils like incest, prostitution, and, who knows, possibly sex with box turtles. It's that slippery slope, or slippery gizmo in this case.


Above the federal appeals courts sit the nine justices of the US Supreme Court. Will the ACLU and the Good Vibrations folks find a way to move this up to the ultimate panel?

Can you imagine the oral arguments? (Don't even THINK it!) What a hoot! Scalia and Clarence Thomas (oh my!) discussing the "The Alabama Slammer" while Sandra Day O'Conner rolls her eyes? Maybe Anita Hill could argue the case for the ACLU and the Good Vibrations Corporation.

This could be great fun.

The moral Christian right conservatives in Alabama would have then made things difficult for the ruling Republican leaders of our country. Their mantra is keep government out of our lives. But does that mean an adventurous woman, alone at home, cannot make use of "The Alabama Slammer" because the government says so? Which is it - less government intrusion, or government mandated private behavior? Make up your mind.

What a pickle!

I can't believe I said that.

Posted by Alan at 20:33 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 30 July 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

You won't see Dick, unless you say the magic words...

This is just too cool!

Say you find yourself in Albuquerque this weekend. Why you would be in New Mexico is not relevant. Just say you are.

Dick Cheney will be in town - giving a rousing speech in defense of the administration. And say, hypothetically, you want to see this guy who works for us all, at the right hand of our president. And yes, we all pay him to do that with our tax dollars.

Well, this gets a bit tricky. It seems you must sign a sort of loyalty other to get in the door - saying that you "endorse Bush for reelection" [sic] and, additionally, that you consent to have your named listed by the Bush-Cheney Reelection Committee as an "endorser of President Bush."

I'm not sure this applies to the press covering the event, but probably not.

Read all about it here:
Obtaining Cheney Rally Ticket Requires Signing Bush Endorsement
Jeff Jones, The Albuquerque Journal, Friday, July 30, 2004

The gist of it?
Some would-be spectators hoping to attend Vice President Dick Cheney's rally in Rio Rancho this weekend walked out of a Republican campaign office miffed and ticketless Thursday after getting this news:

Unless you sign an endorsement for President George W. Bush, you're not getting any passes.

The Albuquerque Bush-Cheney Victory office in charge of doling out the tickets to Saturday's event was requiring the endorsement forms from people it could not verify as supporters.

State Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell, speaking on behalf of the Republican Party, said Thursday that a "known Democrat operative group" was intending to try to crash Saturday's campaign rally at Rio Rancho Mid-High School. He added that some people were providing false names and addresses and added that tickets for the limited-seating event should go to loyal Bush backers.

However, some who left the office off Osuna NE without tickets on Thursday said they're not affiliated with an operative group and should have a right to see their vice president without pledging their allegiance to Bush.

"I'm outraged at this. I'm being closed off by my own government. It's crazy," said East Mountains resident Pamela Random, who added that she is an unaffiliated voter.

John Wade of Albuquerque said he initially signed the endorsement but was having second thoughts before he even left the office. Wade, a Democrat, said he returned his tickets and demanded to get his endorsement form back.

"It's not right for me to have to sign an endorsement to hear (Cheney) speak," Wade said. "I'm still pissed. This just ain't right."
Why not? It is a Republican Party event.

You may have a right to hear just what your elected officials say about what they're doing and why they're doing it - but this may not be, really, a public forum.

It seems one John Sanchez, who is chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election efforts in the area said he wasn't aware of the endorsement matter - and the item quotes him as saying he wouldn't be surprised if this was happening - but he said too that he works directly for the Bush-Cheney campaign and the rally is a Republican National Committee event.

Ah, two different organizations! John Sanchez isn't touching this one.

Of course the Kerry-Edwards folks issued a news release that asked, "Shouldn't all New Mexicans have the right to see their VP?" Yeah, but do they really want to see him?

And there's this -
Moses Mercado, head of the Kerry-Edwards campaign in New Mexico, was in Boston on Thursday for the Democratic National Convention. He challenged Republicans to open their event "to all New Mexicans."

"I love when they come to New Mexico, but I wish they'd talk to New Mexicans and let New Mexicans hear their plan," Mercado said. "Because I think they (New Mexicans) really are hungry. They want answers."

Foley countered that Republicans weren't invited to Kerry's nomination-acceptance speech Thursday evening at that convention. "This is a political event-- just like (Thursday night)," Foley said of Cheney's upcoming visit.

He said the Rio Rancho event is intended to "energize" Bush-Cheney supporters, and organizers don't want it disrupted. "We've received dozens and dozens of calls from Kerry-Edwards (supporters) who have used deceitful tactics to try and get in and disrupt this event," he said. "Our supporters have worked too hard to have an event like this get disrupted."

Security for Cheney's visit is exceptionally tight. There will be no parking at the school where he is to speak: rally participants will instead be shuttled to the event. Those without tickets, including protesters, are to be in a designated area across from the school.
So let's see here.... The big theme of the Democratic Convention this week was that we're all in this together, we're all Americans, so let all voices be heard (especially ours as you've been saying for almost three years now that those with questions and criticisms and suggestions are really on the side of the fanatical Islamic terrorists who want to kill everyone in the western world because they hate our freedoms.)

And this? A key policy-maker whose salary we all pay? We cannot hear what he has to say? We have to wait for a time when he chooses a neutral venue?

Most curious.

Add what you will here about Bush, Cheney, and yes Scalia, and a need for control and obedience - and a real loathing of any criticism from the little people who don't count. No need to belabor the point here. It's pretty obvious.

Okay? Got that out of your system?

And no, you didn't want to go to this rally, really. But New Mexico is really a pretty nice place and you could visit in happier and less contentious times - and really enjoy it.

Now is not the time. Be quiet. Say no sharp words. Go about your business.

Posted by Alan at 15:53 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Newer | Latest | Older