But I thought the enemies of sex were the enemy!

My blogfather Jeff has outdone himself. He not only started a new blog devoted to pets, but he has redesigned the indispensible Alphecca site by installing Movable Type. Irascible leftist commenters and particularly SPAM commenters be forewarned; Jeff is well-armed!

Not only that, Jeff's latest post about the new "war on porn" has shamed me for neglecting something for far too long.

And as if that wasn't shameful enough, now I see that Glenn Reynolds has posted on the matter, this time blaming Ashcroft.

If only this were a late April Fools joke, but I'm afraid it's not. Here's the lead-in story (Via Alphecca and InstaPundit.):

32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO's long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains.

Department officials say they will send "ripples" through an industry that has proliferated on the Internet and grown into an estimated $10 billion-a-year colossus profiting Fortune 500 corporations such as Comcast, which offers hard-core movies on a pay-per-view channel.

The Justice Department recently hired Bruce Taylor....

More on Taylor shortly.

But I thought we were at war -- with the enemies of sexual freedom who declared war on us. While I know that we're not there yet, I hate to see the United States moving in the direction of developing its own anti-sex mutawein like the damned Saudis.

I did some background research on what I saw as an ominous trend in late February. While I should have posted it, I held back, for two reasons. (Well three if you include laziness....) The first is that I tend to overreact to developments. Often what initially appears to be a horror will disappear or die down. I wanted to wait, to give these folks the benefit of the doubt. It occurred to me that it just might be a feint by the Bush forces; a bone to toss religious conservatives in the hope that they won't sit this one out. But now that I see Kerry doing all the heavy lifting for them, I am beginning to worry that this may be serious, i.e. a genuinely anti-pornography movement in the Justice Department. A Democrat's dream, perhaps?

This is so ham-handed and sure to blow up in the Administration's face, making them look like stooges for the religious right while accomplishing nothing, that one almost suspects a Democratic mole in their ranks.

And as Jeff notes,

The radical right isn't that large a constituency. Indeed, actions like this probably repel more moderate voters than attract conservative ones. Idiocy!
This all makes me wonder whether I should see the drive towards "cleaning up the airwaves," the harassment of Howard Stern and the rest of it (all egged on by the Democrats, who know it won't cost them any political capital!) in a new, disturbing light.

Hope I am wrong, of course. But after today's news, I see clear signs that the federal government is mounting a general war on sex on multiple fronts.

In February, I saw that the warning signs were there, as shown by this article (my apologies for not posting this sooner):

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department quietly has installed an outspoken anti-pornography advocate in a senior position in its criminal division, as part of an effort to jump-start obscenity prosecutions.

The Bush administration's election-year move follows three years of heat from the Christian right, which believes that Attorney General John Ashcroft, a longtime friend and ally, has fallen down on the job when it comes to fighting smut.

Now, the appointment of a tough new cop on the porn beat and other recent moves by the department to bolster obscenity cases are galvanizing conservatives, while leaving representatives of the adult-entertainment industry to wonder whether they have become a political football.

Officials said the appointment of Bruce A. Taylor, who worked in the department during the heyday of its anti-porn efforts in the late 1980s and early '90s, shows that Justice is serious about cracking down on porn after what critics called lax enforcement by the Clinton administration.

In his resume, Taylor, 53, who got his start as a Cleveland city attorney in the 1970s, lists his involvement in more than 600 obscenity cases as a prosecutor or a legal adviser.

The defendants in those cases constitute a who's-who of adult-entertainment industry tycoons, including Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Reuben Sturman, a onetime comic-book salesman turned porn magnate.

In a survey two years ago, Adult Video News, a trade publication based in Chatsworth, Calif., identified Taylor as one of the top "enemies" of the industry. The story was titled: "These Are the Folks Who Want to Put You Out of Business."

Taylor, who in recent years has headed a conservative advocacy group fighting for tougher regulation of the Internet, has been given the title of "senior counsel" within the criminal division at Justice, with a focus principally on federal adult obscenity issues.

The department's obscenity chief, Andrew Oosterbaan, who has been drawing much of the flak from conservatives, will retain his position. But instead of reporting to him, Taylor will answer to a more senior-level assistant attorney general.

Bryan Sierra, a Justice spokesman, said that by hiring Taylor—which the department didn't publicize but confirmed when asked by the Los Angeles Times—the department was simply marshaling additional resources rather than undercutting anyone's authority or submitting to political pressure.

"Bruce has vast experience, both at the federal and state level, prosecuting those kinds of cases," Sierra said. "It is all part of our overall effort to kick-start obscenity prosecutions after a long absence." Sierra said Taylor was unavailable for comment.

The news of Taylor's appontment was, of course, welcomed by the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, and assorted other anti-pornography groups.

Back in 2001, our new anti-porn czar Taylor made the following statement:

"If I was a prosecutor, I'd be like a kid in a candy store," said Bruce Taylor, president of the National Law Center for Children and Families, which aims to protect citizens from "the harmful effect of illegal pornography by assisting in law enforcement."
Just who is this Bruce Taylor, and what does he want?

One website described him thusly:

The National Law Center for Children and Families (NLC) describes itself as "a law enforcement assistance and public education center with a staff of attorneys who provide legal advice, assistance, and reference materials to state and federal prosecutors, police investigators, and legislators," as well as "a specialized resource to those who enforce state and federal obscenity and child exploitation laws" and a "training and information clearinghouse on the specialized issues involved in pornography and First Amendment related cases." Bruce Taylor, the guiding light of this insidious organization, is a former Ohio prosecutor whose obscenity cases have numbered in the hundreds. He has served as Senior Trial Attorney for the Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (set up in the wake of the notorious Meese Commission), and for a decade acted as General Counsel to Citizens for Decency Through Law (CDL), the Cincinnati-based group of smut vigilantes founded by Charles H. Keating, who is now serving a prison sentence for various felonies committed in the course of his involvement in the Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal. (CDL, which was partly responsible for the 1990 indictment of Dennis Barrie, director of Cincinnati's Contemporary Art Center, on Mapplethorpe-related obscenity charges, has been known by various names at various times, beginning its career in 1957 as Citizens for Decent Literature and evolving into the National Coalition Against Pornography before assuming its present designation as the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families.) Taylor maintains close ties to both the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, whose Vice President Rick Schatz serves on the NLC's Board of Directors, and to the Justice Department. Until recently the NLC shared a suite of offices in Fairfax, Virginia with the erstwhile Keating organization and Dee Jepson's Enough Is Enough. All three groups are now tightly focused on cyberspace indecency. Taylor proudly claims to have been one of the principal architects of Senator James Exon's egregious Communications Decency Act, and to have drafted "significant portions" of its text. He is also believed to have assembled Exon's notorious "Blue Book" of porn samples used to frighten members of Congress into supporting draconian measures to censor online communications. The NLC, a small 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit "educational" organization that strives to maintain an august, quasi-governmental image, is a wellspring of sometimes loony, frequently destructive misinformation about international pedophile networks, vast porn conspiracies, the nature and purpose of pornography, and the social cost of smut. Taylor's impeccable connections among law enforcement officials, the theocratic right, and the anti-porn left, coupled with his almost Messianic sense of mission, make the NLC one of the most dangerous pro-censorship groups in operation today.

Taylor has worked hard to stop X-rated videos from being available on hotel TV screens.

Most ominously, he worked with the FCC (yes, there's that issue again!) to require libraries to install Internet content filtering. (As regular readers will recall, I personally discovered that one major content filter, SonicWALL, blocks not only this blog, but many of the leading blogs, including Volokh, Kaus, and many of my favorites; please see all the others on my list!)

On more than one occasion, Jeff Jarvis warned about those who want the FCC to have jurisdiction over the Internet.

Well, Taylor wants to do just that:

One of Taylor's greatest challenges is persuading others that the computer is similar to any other common carrier, such as the radio. It is not, according to Taylor, a non-liability carrier like a telephone company which cannot be responsible for indecent phone conversations. Instead, as the speaker suggests, ``A computer, when it's hooked up to a telephone line, becomes the user of a common carrier,'' so that the computer becomes the sender or receiver, thus subjecting it to regulation.
As Jeff Jarvis warned,
Censorship will grow if bozos have their way. Some on the FCC would leach out past the public airwaves to private wires. And once they start censoring cable, I'll repeat, watch out: Your weblog could be next.
At least one editorialist has speculated that the appointment of Taylor was timed to coincide with FCC investigations.

Ironically, my admitted bias in favor of Howard Stern caused me to forget about this research I did in February. I know a lot of people don't like him, and because I couldn't prove that this new (if stealthy at the time) anti-pornography campaign was anything but a coincidence, I let it gather dust. Besides, I don't like to succumb to conspiracy theories.

Anyway, it sure as hell isn't about Howard Stern now.

If this isn't nipped in the bud, what are the plans for the second Bush term? Or is that a fair question?

Maybe it should have been a wake up call when they went after Stern. I don't know. I turned off the alarm and went back to bed. (As I said, Howard Stern was my alarm clock for years......)

I'm awake now.

UPDATE: I am sorry that the above Family Research Council link has been changed from what it was, and the one that worked before cannot be found. This is typical, because such outfits often hate being linked or quoted, and I should have Google-cached it. (Take my word for it; they praised the Taylor appointment! If I am lying may God strike me dead!) I did think it might be of additional interest to know that Bruce Taylor does not use the "war" metaphor lightly. Here he is talking about "war heroes." And here's the Google cache, lest some konservative Kos try some shenanigans.

(If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a war on multiple fronts.)

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking to this post, and a big welcome to all. I hope the post was illuminating (if long overdue!) and I sincerely hope all new readers enjoy this blog.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out Jeff Jarvis's comprehensive roundup of links, as well as his poignant observations (and my thanks to him for the very kind link!):

The government wants to regulat content in this country. Let's say that again: The government wants to regulate content in this country.
That should be sending a shiver up your American spine. It's not just about the FCC. It's not just about Howard Stern. It's about free speech, people.
First they went after Stern and radio.
Next they will go after cable.
Then they will come after the Internet.
Read and weep. It isn't just the mutawein and the Mullahcrats anymore.

COME AGAIN? Glenn Reynolds notes that this anti-porn crackdown might even be bad for the nation's health. Read and weep? I'm already prostate with grief!

MORE: Eugene Volokh does a bangup job of showing why this war will not work (because of foreign suppliers) -- unless unless the government creates "an unprecedentedly intrusive censorship machinery, one that's far, far beyond what the Justice Department is talking about right now." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Which leaves a simple, if nagging, question: Why?

posted by Eric on 04.06.04 at 06:02 PM


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference But I thought the enemies of sex were the enemy!:

» Justice Dept. to Wage War on Porn from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
The Justice Department is waging a war on porn and Instapundit blames John Ashcroft: I blame John Ashcroft. No, really, this time I mean it. And if the Administration thinks that this is a good use of their "computer forensics"... [Read More]
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» There's Cheap Land In Newfoundland Where Nobody Can Screw With Us from Ministry of Minor Perfidy
More and more often these days I find myself asking just what the flying hell is wrong with this country? There seems to be a new timidity, a new spinelessness that cuts across ideological lines and geographic regions. No, I'm not talking about the ... [Read More]
Tracked on April 7, 2004 9:46 AM
The title is a play with words. In Swedish, the number "6" is spelled "sex." I think it is a bit strange that the U.S. government is spending time and money on "fighting p0rn" in today's world of terror... Eric of Classical Values has covered the top... [Read More]
Tracked on April 7, 2004 11:55 AM
» Silicone-enhanced Political Games from It's Always the Quiet Ones...
Because they ran out of legitimate issues to deal with (well, legitimate issues that wouldn't cater to large blocks of equally silly constituents), and because they didn't _really_ mean that whole thing about local standards of obscenity (not that we... [Read More]
Tracked on April 7, 2004 5:53 PM
» Bush & the "War on Porn" from Blogs for Bush
There has been much dismay in the blogosphere about a recent story in the Baltimore Sun on how the Justice Department is prosecuting porn companies, specifically anti-obscenity cases:32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spendin... [Read More]
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I'm not entirely convinced the anti-porn crusade is being driven by reelect Bush politics. I study the DOJ's antitrust division, and the same anti-individual rights mentality at the center of the porn crusade is prevalent in the antitrust unit. There is a visceral hatred of free markets in the Antitrust Division, to the point where DOJ lawyers routinely lie to courts, alter facts, and coerce defendants who refuse to surrender their rights without question.

The culture of the DOJ is that of an organized crime family, not a law enforcement organization. That's not all on Ashcroft. Much of it came into place under Janet Reno and her predecessors. But Ashcroft is perfect in the role; his career has not shown him to place individual liberties at the center of governmemnt's mission.

Skip Oliva   ·  April 7, 2004 2:29 AM

Q: Name the two newaspaper publishers in the UK who are most supportive of Bush and Blair.

A: Richard Desmond and Rupert Murdoch.

Richard Desmond made his fortune in pornography and has made large donations to Blair's party.

Murdoch supports Bush and Blair mostly via his brainless tabloid The Sun, which maintains its readership via the regular use of soft pornography. In fact, today there is a girl with her boobs out on page 3 urging the troops to stay in Irag. I shed you not.

There's more at my blog today. Worth looking into if you want to cast light in some darkened corners.

Manic   ·  April 7, 2004 6:29 AM

Grammar God? I thought Gramma was a Bitch!

Ricky Vandal   ·  April 10, 2004 6:40 AM

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