Kernes' Midnight Musings

This one may be a little disjointed ...

As anybody who knows me knows, I spend at least part of my day collecting interesting little tidbits that give (I think) some insight into the human condition or the political condition or (if I'm really lucky) the cosmic condition ... and then every once in a while, I post some of that stuff here!

So for instance, I was reading some articles on the other day, and came across this one by David Rosen, which makes some excellent points ... until he gets to  "Proposal #6: Adopt Enlightened Obscenity Standards."

He says: <<Federal obscenity policies are framed by an effort to protect the "public" for [I think he means "from"] what is broadly considered pornographic or "indecent" materials. These efforts focus on two principal areas: (i) indecent expressions offered over broadcast media like television and radio that might offend a viewer/listener and (ii) the display of sexually explicit images of children on the Internet.>>

Now that's just plain wrong. Yes, the FCC (which he mentions earlier) has filed two petitions for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court regarding broadcast indecency, but that's not "obscenity." Obscenity is when the Justice department has its minions — either FBI agents or postal inspectors — place orders with video companies to ship their DVDs to some conservative area where the DOJ thinks it can get convictions in court, or downloads trailers or scenes from the Internet in those conservative areas, hoping for the same outcome. And child porn is not generally busted under the obscenity laws; there's a whole other section of the criminal code dealing with child porn.

On the other hand, he makes a real good point about why prostitution should be decriminalized; too bad he doesn't make similar points about the drug laws ...


And speaking of the FCC, there was an interesting article in the Boston Globe about the commission's weird ideas about asses. You can read the article, but basically, it's about the court fight over an NYPD Blue episode where "In one of several segments the FCC found objectionable, the camera -- in the FCC's words --'pans down her naked back to her buttocks, pauses for a moment and then pans up her back ...'." Trouble is, though, the FCC's own definition about whether something is indecent requires that the offending footage or verbiage refer to "sexual or excretory activities and organs" — and so the question becomes, is a naked ass a "sexual or excretory activit[y] and organ[]"? ABC is arguing that while shit comes out the anus, the fleshy part that surrounds the anus — the "ass" — "plays no role in reproduction or excretion." Needless to say, the FCC takes a different view. And equally needless to say, when they argue that case before the Second Circuit, I'll report on it.


And speaking of drugs, there was an article originally published in the Providence Journal about how a group of former cops, the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), recently met in D.C. and urged the legalization of all drugs "because they're tired of being shot at in a war they can't win. They're tired of making new business for dealers every time they arrest a competitor. They're tired of busting people in the streets of America's cities over an ounce of cocaine, while the Andean region produces over 1,000 tons of it a year. They're tired of enriching terrorists."

"Isn't drug addiction a scourge that tears families apart?" author Froma Harrop asks. "Yes, it is, and so are arrests and incarceration and criminal records for kids caught smoking pot behind the bleachers. There are 2.1 million people in federal, state and local prisons, 1.7 million of them for non-violent drug offenses."


And in the category of Good News: Focus on the Family has "eliminated more than 200 positions, the largest staff cuts in the evangelical Christian group's 31-year history... Once both cuts are carried out, Focus on the Family will have about 950 employees, down from a peak of 1,400."  



And on the question of "nurture vs. nature," Neal Gabler posits that conservative assholes are born that way .


 Neil Gaiman, perhaps best known for his Sandman series for DC Comics, has penned an excellent "defense of icky speech ," which my pal Avedon Carol turned me onto (as she has so much other stuff!)


And speaking of censorship, it can't hurt to read this piece of crap by former (and, actually, current) Equal Rights Amendment opponent and all-around right-wing tool Phyllis Schlafly. I only mention it because it's the first place I'd seen mention of Edward de Grazia's incredibly excellent anti-censorship book, Girls Lean Back Everywhere: The Law of Obscenity and the Assault on Genius (which I've been quoting from a lot lately). (Um ... you might have to sign up for a "temporary library card" to read it ...)


While Schlafly certainly hasn't figured it out, the folks at Media Matters know why the U.S. isn't actually a "center-right country." On the other hand, Chris Hedges makes a good case for why some part of it is.


And in case you were wondering, "Does Overexposure to Sex Make Us Jaded?", Greta Christina has an answer on her blog, and it's one that more politicians (and Schlafly) should take to heart.


Indeed, sex is usually an occasion for joyous celebration ... so get set for another baby boom now that Obama's been elected President.


And this article made me think, "Where are all the pro-porn billboards"?


Now that contributions to Morality In Media have slowed to a trickle, and I can't picture the Obama administration throwing one thin dime to their website, president Robert Peters seems to be trying to go into "image repair mode" with  this article titled "Wouldn't it be Nice if the News Media got as Worked up About Depictions of Deadly Violence Against Humans as a Form of Entertainment, as They are About Turkeys Being Slaughtered at a Sarah Palin Press Conference?"

But I'm not sure he's succeeding when he writes, "My father also raised two ducks in a pen in the basement for food. Around the time they began getting used to my brother and I, dad removed their heads in the back yard. I cried then but have never since thought he did anything wrong taking their heads off or allowing us to watch."

And yet, he gets apoplexy over people fucking on DVDs at the video store!

It's okay, Bob; I'm sure you dad didn't mean to ruin your psyche by making you watch him chop off the heads of your pet ducks ...


And finally, apropos of nothing, I had a little exchange with another alumnus of my (ultra-liberal) high school about the home mortgage crisis:

In a message dated 12/8/08 9:28:32 AM, Michael [the Libertarian] writes:

<<The problem with this is that the lender takes the hit while the
borrower gets to walk. And for those who smile at the thought of big
financial institutions getting hurt because they forced people to take
those mortgages, a lot of those bundled mortgages are parked with
mutual funds so it will be the individuals who take the hit (in many
cases). Screw the savers to save the borrowers who borrowed what they
couldn't afford in the first place?

If a person chose to spend more than 30% of their income on housing and
the lender was willing to accept that, why should this be retroactively
set lower? The problem is really more that people gambled that they
could get out of ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgages) and into fixed rate
mortgages before interest rates went up. They gambled on the value of
the home going up. They clearly gambled wrong.>>

I replied:

Interesting that you manage to completely ignore the fact that many lenders, counting on the ignorance of many prospective home buyers, and in order to make their quota of home loans (or simply anxious for the commissions they would bring), convinced said ignorant buyers that when the balloon payments came 'round, it would be no problem for them to refinance their loans to push such balloons off into the future, and on and on and on, assuring that these "homeowners" would NEVER actually become HOMEOWNERS but would pretty much forever be beholden to the bank or finance company from whom they got their loans. The fact that these lenders then repackaged these bad loans into securitized financial instruments and PAID security rating companies like Moody's to rate them more highly than they deserved (as evidenced here ) only confirms their duplicity. I'll admit it's sad that most Americans don't seem to be able to understand fully the financial instruments they sometimes become involved in -- but then again, most of the "Wall St. analysts" who rated the securities these bad home loans were a part of HAVE BEEN MAKING THAT SAME CLAIM FOR THEMSELVES!

The latest figures say that ONE IN TEN homes in California -- not one in ten MORTGAGED homes, but one in ten HOMES -- will be in foreclosure this year. I submit that it took some real funny business on the part of banks and financial institutions to have foreclosures on that scale.

Now, exactly what the remedy for the banks'/financiers' crimes should be is open for debate -- I'd favor the lender at least losing whatever commissions it made for the loans, plus a conversion of the loan to a flat-rate mortgage at the original interest rate -- but the point I'm making here is that the borrower him/herself should be substantially further down the list of blame than the lenders should be.


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