Saturday, December 31, 2005


To all of the regular readers of blueollie (both of you :-) )

Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!!
Oh yeah, same to you who may have just surfed in on a whim!

To all of my endurance athlete friends: may you set PR's and stay healthy.

To all of my racewalking friends: constant contact, straight knees, and fast times.

To my ultrawalking/running friends: castiron stomachs and blister free feet.

To all my mathematical friends: some new theorems.
To all of my yogi friends: peace, harmony, and a new pose learned.

To all of my political friends and allies: a very Blue 2006!

And to all of my skeptic friends: "may you be touched by His Noodly Appendage."

Friday, December 30, 2005

Wild Bowl Finishes + Boxer's "Time to Run"

It is only fitting that my 300'th post on blueollie be about football. The Sun Bowl, where UCLA beat Northwestern 50-38, was a wild one.

The Wildcats jumped to a 22-0 lead in the first quarter, only to see the Bruins fight back to take the lead 29-22 at the half. In the third quarter, the Wildcats had pulled to 36-22 and seemed to be in control. But then the Wildcats got a field goal (after missing an easy one in the first half) and then, a touchdown drive off of a Bruin fumble. It was now 36-31 with just over 2 minutes to go.
The correct thing to do was to try the onside as the Wildcats had not been able to stop the Bruin offense. So, the tried an onside kick and a Bruin wide receiver (number 1) returned it for a touchdown! So, at 43-31, the game was over, right? Well, the Wildcats drove the ball 86 yards to pull to 43-38 with 20 seconds to go. So time for another onside kick.

Same result; the same Bruin player returned it for a touchdown! So, the 50-38 final score was a bit misleading.

The other bowl games were good too; I saw the end of the Minnesota-Virginia game (UVa won 34-31, sealing the win with an interception at the end of the game) as well as the end of the South Carolina-Missouri game where the Tigers beat the Gamecocks 38-31 with a last minute touchdown.

You couldn't ask for closer, more exciting football, though lovers of good defense might not have been pleased.

On another note, I finished Barbara Boxer's novel "A Time to Run". I imagine that it was, in part, autobiographical. I admit that I read the book over a 3 day period and it was hard to put down. But, in all honesty, it was populist-liberal-feminist melodrama. You've heard of "chick-flics"? This was "chic-lit" for progressive feminist intellectuals. All of the male characters were weak, (though one was ok) and all of the male conservatives were unethical, heartless people of low moral character. The conservative females had redeeming traits.

Nevertheless, I found it interesting that the National Review "review" of the book focused mostly on the sex scenes. I have to admit that I found some of these to be amusing. The horse sex scene was an obvious metaphor for rape and for the oppression and objectification of women. The "knee cap" reference I didn't quite get. The others, I did. Imagine that distinguished Senator knowing about sex!

My favorite sexual reference (way milder than the others) came from page 64 where the future Senator Ellen Fischer was hiking with her husband (and future congressman) Josh in the front and present friend and future political adversary (conservative pundit) Greg Hunter, trailing behind: " Ellen came next, wearing a yellow t-shirt and Levi cutt-offs, her back ramrod straight and her freckled calves surprisingly muscular; Greg brought up the rear, happy to watch the lithe swing of her bottom and the sturdy pumping of her legs."

In that respect, Senator Boxer knows guys, though I wish it hadn't been the villain checking out the future senator's butt.

Basically, the story is centered around Ellen Fischer, whose husband, Josh Fischer, died during his run for the seat of the rich, unethical conservative incumbent senator. Josh was giving up his seat in the House to run for the Senate seat. Fischer won the race and was in her first term, when the contentious nomination of a ultraconservative Supreme Court nominee (a Latina female from her home state and who was the dean of the law school from her alma-mater) came up. An ethical dilemma came up, and the book centers around the background surrounding this particular dilemma.

As far as the writing goes: the authors point of view comes across very strongly; it smacks you right over the head. In short, the book is really a liberal propaganda piece that makes few demands on the reader and doesn't set up the reader to come to their own conclusion.

A plea to Senator Boxer: "hey, how about a little more subtlety next time!"

Nevertheless, it is a fun read, and I can recommend it to progressives and fans of Senator Boxer.

I posted a slightly revised review here:

Nice Walk; Serious Topics, and Conservative Opinion

I had a decent walk around the hike and bike; I made it to the 5 mile mark (just before the I-35 bridge) in 1:04 and returned in 1:03. My walking technique felt good; then again it wasn't as if I were going that fast.

Along the way, I had to think about a topic Dus7 started me on: "just what does Harriet Mier's butt look like?"

And, I thought about a column that I read in the Austin American Statesman. It is by Jonah Goldgerg , who is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the right wing National Review (the magazine that William Buckley started). Once in a while the conservatives get it right, and this is one of those times.

What's wrong with partisan politics?
By Jonah Goldberg
Dec 30, 2005

The great cliche among the chin-stroking, eat-your-spinach types these days is that they've never seen Washington so partisan. What's funny is that there probably hasn't been a time in the last 20 years when the forces of David Broderdom haven't waxed dyspeptic about the "tone in Washington."
But at this time of year - when everybody talks about peace on Earth, goodwill toward men and all that jazz - the lament over partisanship takes on a particularly melancholy tone. If only we could be more like the citizens of Bedford Falls in "It's a Wonderful Life," where everybody comes together out of a common love of their fellow man. (I think the image of citizens joyously leaping at the opportunity to upend their purses and empty their wallets is particularly attractive to some in Washington.)
One of the greatest sources of political grief is the confusion of personal passions and preferences for political principles. In our own lives we all believe in comity and cooperation. In business we are encouraged to work as a team. The ideal in family life is mutual sacrifice and support. Most religions teach that we should treat our fellow man as a brother. We have a tendency to believe that these sorts of values should inform our politics as well. How many dictators have justified their rule on the grounds that the nation needs a strong father figure?
In the United States, the migration of social values to politics leads to the perennial question: "Why can't we all just get along?"
Politicians from both sides of the aisle take advantage of this natural human desire. Bill Clinton promised to get us past the "brain-dead politics of left and right." His wife has spoken and written many times of how we all need to get past our "partisan differences." George W. Bush was elected in part on his promise to "change the tone" in Washington and be a "uniter not a divider."
Of course, there's nothing wrong with people being more polite to one another. But the belief that a healthy liberal democracy is one in which partisanship has disappeared is not merely ignorant, it's dangerous. Liberal democracy ceases to exist when partisanship vanishes. Democracy is about disagreement before it is about agreement.
Now, obviously, some forms of partisanship are less admirable than others, and I'm sure we can all think of examples on our own. But out of deference to the spirit of the season, let's keep them to ourselves. Rather, let's look at this dispassionately.
If you were on trial for murder, would you want your lawyer to put aside his differences with the prosecution and, in the spirit of bipartisanship, strike a compromise? Sure, lawyers on both sides should be polite and obey the rules as officers of the court. But we understand that there are some things more important than the spirit of compromise in a system designed to be adversarial.
American politics is adversarial by design too. Partisanship and ambition are the vehicles by which important arguments are made.
Take judicial confirmation battles. Republicans and Democrats alike have been grossly hypocritical or inconsistent on judges. Depending on whose party is running the show, the arguments about how judges should be confirmed has gone back and forth like a windshield wiper. When the GOP was out of power, Republicans pounded the table about their responsibility to study the records of the nominees, while the Democrats insisted the president deserved deference. Flip things around and - boom - the Republicans want deference and the Dems bust out the Federalist Papers.
When you hear people say, "We need to get past partisan differences," what they are really saying is you should shut up and agree with me. Similarly, when public health experts, child advocates, televangelists, environmentalists and the rest insist that this or that isn't a political issue, it's a health issue, child-safety issue, moral issue or whatever-kind-of-issue, what they are really saying is that we shouldn't have a political argument about my cause. Because my cause is beyond politics. You should just agree with me and do it my way.
But even when people make this argument in all sincerity, they miss the point. Virtually all issues are political issues the moment we ask politicians to deal with them.
Politics is about choosing between competing public goods or competing public harms, and expecting politicians to hold hands like the Whos of Whoville and sing in a circle is to ask them to stop being politicians.
So, yeah, peace on Earth and goodwill to all men is nice. But we shouldn't let that get in the way of a good argument.
Find this story at:

Bowls: bad picks, wild finishes, bad pants

I didn't do so hot over the past couple days as far as bowl picks. I got the BC-BSU game correct both on straight up and the spread; I missed the "straight up" Alamo Bowl though I picked Nebraska to cover. But I really blew the Georgia Tech-Utah and the Oregon-Oklahoma games.

I fell asleep with Michigan up 28-17 in the Alamo Bowl, thereby missing Nebraska's comeback (to make is 32-28) and Michigan's upmteen-lateral kickoff return that made it to the Nebraska 15 yard line at the end of the game. But I did see almost all of the Holiday Bowl. With Oklahoma up 17-7 it appeared that they were going to go up 24-7 when an alert Duck defender stripped the ball from an Oklahoma running back who tried to stretch out he ball to break the plane on a goal line play.

After an exchange of punts, the Ducks drove the ball to the Sooner 15 yard line with 3:30 left and ran a fake field goal, which drew an pass interference penalty. The Ducks then scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 17-14, held the Sooners and go the ball back. Then, via some wild screen and play action passes, got the ball down to the Sooner 15. Then, instead of playing it safe, they ran another pass play. The Sooner pass rush forced an underthrow (the receiver was open for a touchdown) and the Sooners' intercepted to seal the win with 33 seconds to play, though the Sooners did get a couple of celebration penalties, thereby making the three play "kneel down" series more exciting than it had to be.

But the real issue was the Duck's uniforms. They had the ugliest pants I have ever seen; they were black and had an "O" on one side, "Oregon" written vertically on the other, and sparkles on the knee pad area. They seem to specialize in ugly uniforms over the past 3-4 years; I liked their old "Packer like" scheme of a few years ago. Their helmets are kind of sharp though. But those pants have to go!

Well, the coffee has almost done its work and it is time to get to the hike and bike to get in some walking miles.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

King Kong!

While in Austin, I got to read this following cartoon (Boondocks is not carried by the Peoria Journal Star). Click to see a larger version.

I have to admit that I have not seen the remake of King Kong but I did recently see the original. And, aside from the original being a bad movie, it made me feel bad. Why? Well, aside from the scientific nonsense of the whole thing, there was the idea that you had "educated, white Americans" going to some tropical island, dealing with ignorant natives (who made a practice to "sacrifice one of their women as the "Wife of Kong"), capturing (poaching?) this animal, and taking it back to America for entertainment value.
Yes, the film seemed to decry greed, which is a good thing. And it did give Kong a tender side, but tender for what? Well, a dainty white bottle-blonde, of course! It seemed to be indifferent to other humans, including the "wife" that "the Natives" of the island "provided" here.

To say that the original was the epitome of being non-PC is a huge understatement. How it compared to other movies of its time I can't say. The idea of this big, dark "close to human" creature taking a liking to this little white blonde did make me feel uneasy; I didn't equate Kong to a human (though I did remark that Kong would have probably been recruited by the NFL). I think that the Boondocks cartoon helped me see what I was feeling uneasy about.

The idea of Kong as a metaphor of that big bad black guy who is going to threaten "our women" wasn't lost on me, at least at the subconscious level. Though, when I think about it, that metaphor seems a bit dated.

I know that there is a bad tendency to overanalyze everything (as I learned when I talked to my now-ex wife when she was studying her critical analysis classes; by the way she took a B. A. "cum laude" in English from UT-Austin back in 1990). I am probably doing that here. But it is often a useful exercise to see how others of different backgrounds view things.

Breaking News: Very Important Research being done!!!

I had a good run on the Hike and Bike, so to speak. Ok, it took me 95 minutes to do 10 miles (16 km) on an easy course on a mild (40's F, or 5-6 C) windless, sunny day on an easy course. So, calling this "running" would be being most charitable. Nevertheless, I had fun, got some miles in, and thought some about politics.

I have a friend named "Mawk"; I've spoken about him a couple of months ago. He works in the aerospace industry (rocket research; he really is a rocket scientist) and is one of those types who can catch a mistake in a physics joke. He is also a good triathlete (12 hour ironman) and hopelessly confused about politics (reads the National Review and votes Republican) but I like him anyway.

He alerted me to the following "research project". How I'd love to join it! As far as the answer to the question "does my butt look big in this"; well, the answer is always "no" even if it means "no, it isn't what you are wearing that makes your butt look big". Just end your answer with the word "no"; leave off the explanation, even if you sweetie is as, uh, "well endowed in the hips" as my sweetie is. Phrases like "I don't like flat, skinny butts" are also ok.

Side note: I did a quick google search on "fat ass" and "fat butt" and it appears that most of the photos that had captions like "my big fat butt" are of guys; we seem to be more open about it. Perhaps it is because guys aren't judged by society by our looks but rather by our "power" or "money" (in which case I am in a heap of trouble! I have no money and my power and influence, on a good day, may extend all the way to the tip of my nose!),10117,17678698-2,00.html

Experts answer the big bum questions

From correspondents in Edinburgh29-12-2005
From: The Daily Telegraph

ONE of the greatest female sartorial dilemmas - does my bum look big in this? - is to be answered by a team of researchers.

Experts are launching the world's first scientific study into how clothing can affect the female rear's appearance. The team from Heriot Watt University's School of Textiles and Design in Scotland believes the study could have major implications for retailers.
Female volunteers wearing hundreds of different types of clothing will have their rears photographed for the research.
Participants will then be asked to look at the pictures to assess how big or small each model's backside appears.
The study will examine how various designs, colours, patterns and fabric types affect perception of bottom size.
Dr Lisa Macintyre, 33, who is leading the research, said four models had been chosen as female rear samples.
One has a "standard" womanly backside while another has a much fuller "pre-Raphaelite" bum.
The academic said the third model was slim with a small bum while another had a curvier behind like singer Jennifer Lopez.
"There's much discussion in the media of clothing styles that flatter the body and it's generally accepted that enhancing body perception can improve confidence and self-esteem," Dr Macintyre said. "But the factors behind this have never been fully investigated in a proper scientific manner.
The results from the first phase of the study, which will look at how different styles of trouser affect the appearance of bottom size, are to be published in May.

So, in the spirit of scientific research, I offer: answers below

Honest answers: "no", "sort of", "no".

Kudo's to the ACLU

I am a "card-carrying member of the ACLU" (this is a remark that the first President Bush made about Governor Dukakis during the 1988 Presidential campaign). In fact, for a few years, I was the president of our local chapter.

I am no longer on the board, but I am still a member.

I just love the latest ad (which appeared in the New York Times); click to see a larger version.

By the way, if you decide to join up, I'd recommend contacting your local chapter and joining through them. The reason is that if you join via the local chapter, you'll not only get quicker access to local events, but the local chapter will get a portion of your first year's dues (which are low and will be the same, no matter how you join).

Pre-running blither...

I am in Austin, currently letting my morning coffee do its work. A couple of interesting pieces:

Election fraud and the confidence intervals: this is an interesting study. It shows that, with the exception of the Senate race in North Dakota, that the exit polls in the Senate races closely matched the outcomes. On the other hand, in several states in the Presidential election, the exit polls were skewed toward Kerry (as opposed to the outcome). This study examines one of the major "explanations" (that Bush voters were reluctant to be polled, or reluctant to answer truthfully) and, in my opinion, rebutts it.

The study does not prove that the election was stolen but it does raise some questions about the fairness and accuracy of our elections; these are important questions, even if Bush won "fair and square" (as I believe). You'll need to have Adobe Acrobat or Ghostscript to read this article:

What prompted my reading the above article was the following article which, for the most part, is right on point. The only thing that I might dispute is the effect that "Holy Joe" had on the 200 election. I feel it was minimal. I don't like Senator Lieberman's stance on Iraq or his reluctance to question President Bush on foreign policy. I hated his moralizing about President Clinton; yes President Clinton screwed up in his personal life, and should have been honest during his civil suit testimony. But what he did pales in comparison to the evil of an unnecessary war!

But Senator Lieberman is better on social issues than he is given credit for, and much of the harsh rhetoric directed at him by my "internet friends" is, in my opinion, undeserved.

R.J. Eskow: 'Democrats: Losers or victims?'

Posted on Wednesday, December 28 R.J. Eskow,

The Huffington Post
Some Democrats would rather be victims than losers, like those who wrote me angry emails after this recent piece. In it, I call Democrat leaders "perennial losers" who lack nerve and don't act tactically. Democrats don't lose, say my correspondents, they win - only to have the elections stolen from them by Diebold, a crooked Supreme Court, and other conspiracies.
By calling Dems "losers," I'm just playing into the myth that the conspirators have created.
So, who's right? Are the Democrats inept and timorous losers, constantly blowing opportunities to act like leaders and retake the national stage, as my piece said? Or, are they victims of a broad and complex conspiracy that has kept them from assuming national leadership through foul and underhanded means? Here's something to consider: Both statements can be true.
Did John Kerry win in 2004, as my correspondents have said? The fact is that we don't know, but there's a lot of evidence to suggest that he did - at least in the electoral college. The curious (to say the least) results in Florida, and of course in Ohio, raise many serious questions and deserve intense scrutiny and investigation. So far, they haven't received nearly the attention that they should. Some conspiracies (like the Lincoln assassination) are real.

But what do we mean by "winning"? Did Kerry win a majority of the popular vote? As far as I know (and people will correct me if I'm overlooking something), nobody is suggesting that Kerry won a majority of the popular vote. I haven't heard any suggest that the 3,000,000-plus margin for Bush would have gone the other way under a "clean vote." That would mean that 4 or 5 million votes were stolen, which is a broad assertion.
Let's play out the scenario: Democrats object to the seemingly rigged votes in Ohio (and possibly Florida) - which I think they should have done. Investigations reveal e-voting fraud, and Kerry becomes President without a popular majority - and a Republican Senate and House. It would have been an untenable solution, fostered by Republican ruthlessness in obstructing Kerry's agenda, and by the fact that he became President after losing the popular vote.
After losing the popular vote - get it? And why did Kerry lose that popular vote, against a President who started an unpopular war and was an inept debater? Because he ran a lousy campaign. Because he, Edwards, Clinton, and the other Democratic Senators voted for the Iraq War Resolution out of cynicism and defeatism - and the vote made it impossible for the Party to articulate a clear position against that war. Because of a lack of nerve, political courage, vision, and tactics. Because, whether the election was stolen or not, he lost.
And why did the Democrats lose the Senate and the House? Is anyone suggesting electoral fraud widespread enough to have given both houses of Congress to the GOP?
Of all recent elections, the 2000 Presidential race was the most obviously "stolen," since it's well-documented that a politically rigged Supreme Court used the opportunity afforded by badly designed ballots to overthrow a Gore victory. (I still think the fact that Bush gave Scalia's son an important Justice Department post smacks of pure quid pro quo, given during some backroom horsetrading.)
Yet even there, we need to remember that Al Gore blew a major lead in order to put himself in a position where the Supremes could do what they did. Why? Because Bob Shrum and the other hacks advised him to put Shoeless Joe in as his VP candidate, and because he hadn't yet found his voice as a politician (which he seems to have done now.)
Is rampant electoral fraud the most important under-investigated political story of our time, as my correspondents have said? Yes, I believe it is. Is it the only one? No. Republican chicanery and Democrat weakness are also critically important. I'm going to keep hammering the Democrats for ineptitude and lack of guts, over and over, for as long as it takes - and that could be a long, long time.
We wuz robbed, some shout. OK, so what are you going to do about it? Many think the 1960 election was stolen from Richard Nixon. The Illinois vote, heavily "influenced" by Mayor Daley and Joe Kennedy, put JFK over the top. Did the Republicans sit around and whine, or did they get organized and wage a multi-year campaign for victory?
It's all too easy, especially for Democrats, to fall into the victim mentality. When "they cheated us" becomes the only acceptable narrative, victimhood becomes the party identity. Yes, we need to expose the vote-rigging conspiracy - a far more widespread and deep-rooted enterprise than the freeform Chicago improvisations of 1960, and one that threatens the very future of democracy. But the Democrats also need to get tough, disciplined - and politically courageous. No sign of that from Hillary Clinton or Rahm Emanuel.
So if it's a choice between two roles - "victim" or "loser" - I'll take "loser" any day. Why? Because losers have some control over their destiny. They can have a change of heart, and decide they'd rather be winners.
Democrats should 1) fight the e-voting issue tooth and nail, and publicly, 2) tighten up their message in a smart and disciplined way, and 3) most of all, have the guts to take a principled stand. Lives are at stake. The party's soul is in play. The future is at risk.
"Victims" never win - and this isn't a game for losers.
A Night Light
Copyright 2005 ©, LLC

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Back in Austin

For a couple of days; I hope to get in a few miles on the Hike and Bike trail today and tomorrow. I drove to St. Louis from Peoria to take a flight to Austin; this type of situation is necessary to account for the fact that olivia flew one way from Austin (unaccompanied minor to Chicago Midway) and Southwest has good fares.

But flying these-a-days is a bit of a pain. The terminal waits were uncomfortably crowded; you almost always have either someone with a cell-phone next to you or a screaming kid. It is almost as if we are a nation of megalomaniacs. (Check out a college campus sometime; the pinhead undergraduates can't seem to make it from one class to the next without their phones; the walk between classes, just blabbing away.)

Then, the plane ride itself is uncomfortable. The seats are usually a bit too small for the wide-bodied Americans (yep, my shoulders always extend on either side of the seat and I am not fat). And, everyone and their dog has some sort of i-pod or CD player going on at full blast, easily heard even though everyone wears phones. Even earplugs doesn't block it all.

What made the ride bearable was my daughter (a real joy for me) and my Barbara Boxer novel: A Time to Run. No, this is not a novel written by a professional author (example, she has characters in past settings speaking using current slang diction), and a Pulitzer Prize is not in Senator Boxer's future. And if you don't like her as a senator, you won't like her book. But if you are like me, you'll enjoy the story. There are several, uh, "bluish" passages in it, and I am not just talking about the politics! On the trip over I finished about half of it. And, if nothing else, the book being popular with anyone would drive the wing-nuts crazy.

And, at least, this kind of writing is way superior to the fluff pieces written by the right wingers (the Reagan "fluff" biographies; though Lou Cannon's Role of a Lifetime is quite good and, yes, balanced; reading this gave me respect for Reagan for the first time in my life) and is way better than the embarrassingly bad stuff written by Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity and many (not all) of the Town Hall columnists.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Still a ways to go...and I probably won't get any better

As I am unwilling to practice.

Did President Bush's Warrantless NSA wiretaps violate the U. S. Constitution?

A respected lawyer aruges "no", but they were probably illegal anyway as they probably violated FISA:

Orin Kerr, December 27, 2005

No Monarchy Here:

I read Daily Kos only occasionally, so I just came across the post "A Little Bit of Monarchy" by Armando on the NSA surveillance program that includes some criticism of my long post last week. Armando's post is a week old, but the Daily Kos gets a jazillion readers, so I thought I would respond and explain Armando's misunderstanding. (Plus, I believe Charles Krauthammer may have had the same misunderstanding, so maybe it's a widespread misconception.)

Armando writes (with excerpts of my posts in italics):
"Some conservatives, it appears, favor a little bit of monarchical powers for the President. Orin Kerr, a respected conservative lawyer who blogs at Volokh Conspiracy, appears to be one of those:

"Was the secret NSA surveillance program legal? Was it constitutional? Did it violate federal statutory law? It turns out these are hard questions, but I wanted to try my best to answer them. My answer is pretty tentative, but here it goes: Although it hinges somewhat on technical details we don't know, it seems that the program was probably constitutional but probably violated the federal law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

Say what? It is Constitutional for the President of the United States to violate a duly enacted federal law? How does that work exactly? Is FISA unconstitutional? Does the President have plenary powers when acting as Commander in Chief? Well, contradictorily, not according to Kerr:

"I have been unable to find any caselaw in support of this argument [that Congress has no power to legislate in a way that inteferes with the President's Commander-in-Chief power] Further, the argument has no support from the cases cited in the government's brief. . . . ."

So how does this work Mr. Kerr? Congress has passed a law that is consistent with the Constitution and the President can disregard it? That's a Constitutional action by the President? Even though the violation of FISA is a crime? Come again? Ahhh, a little bit of monarchy I suppose."
Nope, no monarchy, and no contradiction. Let me explain a bit more. The legality of the NSA surveillance program raises two different questions: 1) Does the NSA's surveillance program violate a provision of the Constitution?, and 2) Does the NSA's surveillance program violate any constitutionalily valid statutes? The two are quite separate issues: Whether executive branch action violates a statute is different from whether it violates the Constitution. See Dalton v. Specter. (Hat tip: Madisonian)

In my post, I argued that the monitoring probably didn't violate the Constitution (and in particular, the Fourth Amendment), but that it probably did violate FISA. This doesn't mean that the monitoring was legal; it only means that of the two possible grounds that it could be illegal, I think it was probably illegal on one ground but not the other ground.

The distinction is a little tricky in this context because some are arguing that Article II renders FISA unconstitutional in some ways. But when I said that the monitoring was probably constitutional, I only meant that the monitoring probably didn't violate the Fourth Amendment; I didn't mean that the Constitution invalidates a statute that makes the monitoring illegal. As Armando notes, I rejected that argument. (And I'm glad to see that the Administration isn't relying on the Article II argument any more, at least if its letter to the Hill last week is an indication. Also, while we're on the topic, check out Joe Onek's very interesting response to the DOJ letter at ACSBlog.)

Finally, I've been meaning to post another write-up on the legality of the NSA program now that we seem to have more facts about what the program actually entailed. My quick skim of the Times' latest piece from Saturday suggests that the legal issues may be different from what I thought they were — or at least, that there is another set of legal issues to work through in addition to the ones I wrote about last week. I'm stuck fighting my way through, er, enjoying reading a set of exams right now, but I hope to write another analysis sometime this week.

Pithy Quote: James Carville, and more on Impeachment

Terry Bibo of the Peoria Journal Star reminded her readers of this quote today by James Carville:

"Back in 2000 a Republican friend warned me that if I voted for Al Gore and he won, the stock market would tank, we'd lose millions of jobs, and our military would be totally overstretched. You know what? I did vote for Gore, he did win, and I'll be damned if all those things didn't come true! "

Source: Fighting Back

Next, Katrina vanden Heuvel, yes the woman that Rush Limbaugh called Hurricane Katrina vanden Heuvel:
BLOG Posted 08/30/2005 @ 10:17am
Messing With Mother Nature
Like all Americans, I was horrified watching pictures of the destruction wrought by the hurricane. And like others who share the name Katrina, I found it eerie hearing and reading my name all over the news. But when Fox started calling the storm Killer Katrina, I prayed some right-wing idiot wouldn't stoop so low as to link me to this human suffering. But wouldn't you know, the biggest dittohead on the block, Rush Limbaugh, is calling the storm Hurricane Katrina vanden Heuvel. National Review's Jonah Goldberg, who has never seen a bad-joke bandwagon he could resist jumping on with both feet, blogged, "It would be pretty cool if Fox played to caricature and repeatedly referred to the hurricane as Katrina vanden Heuvel." He went on to imagine the lines, "The destruction from Katrina vanden Heuvel is expected to be massive. The poor and disabled are particularly likely to suffer from the effects of Katrina vanden Heuvel."
This is how they show respect for those who are suffering and dying--with lame quips? At least Limbaugh has the excuse that drug abuse tends to stunt emotional development. What Goldberg's problem is nobody has yet discovered.

Anyway, this lady, discusses impeachment in a column in The Nation. To be honest, I feel that she is engaging in wishful thinking; there is no way the general public in the United States will ever see things like taking a country to war under false pretenses, approval of torture, and warrantless wiretaping on a par with lying about consentual oral sex. I think that Pollitt's column called "Mourn" points out that much of America got what it wanted when it elected this President: Nevertheless, this is what "Hurricane Katrina" has to say:

Katrina vanden Heuvel
'The I-word is gaining ground'
Posted on Tuesday, December 27

In the late 1990s, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, currently under indictment on corruption charges, proclaimed: "This nation sits at a crossroads. One direction points to the higher road of the rule of law.... The other road is the path of least resistance" in which "we pitch the law completely overboard when the mood fits us...[and] close our eyes to the potential lawbreaking...and tear an unfixable hole in our legal system." That arbiter of moral politics, Tom DeLay, was incensed about the danger of letting Bill Clinton escape unpunished for his "crimes"--lying about sex.
Fast-forward to December 2005. Nobody in the entire Bush administration has been fired, not to mention impeached, for shedding of American blood in Iraq or for shredding of our Constitution at home. As Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter put it--hours after The New York Times reported that Bush had authorized NSA wiretapping of U.S. citizens without a warrant-- this President has committed a real transgression that "goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power."
In these last months, several organizations have formed to urge Bush's impeachment. AfterDowningStreet, Impeach Central and are some of the best known. But until very recently, their views were virtually absent from the broadcast and print media, and could only be found on the Internet and in street protests.

But the times they are a-changin'. The I-word has moved from the marginal to the mainstream -- although columnists like torture-is-fine-by-me Charles Krauthammer would like us to believe that "only the most brazen and reckless and partisan" could support the idea. In fact, as Michelle Goldberg reports in Salon, "in the past few days, impeachment has become a topic of considered discussion among constitutional scholars and experts (including a few Republicans), former intelligence officers, and even a few politicians." Even a moderately liberal columnist like Newsweek's Alter sounds like The Nation's editorials of the last few years, observing: "We're seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator."
As Editor & Publisher recently reported, the possibility of impeaching Bush has entered the mainstream media's circulatory system --with each day producing more op-eds and articles on the subject. As if in confirmation, on Christmas Eve, conservative business magazine Barron's published a long editorial excoriating Bush for committing a potentially impeachable offense. "If we don't discuss the program and lack of authority of it," wrote Barron's editorial-page editor, Thomas Donlan, "we are meeting the enemy--in the mirror."
Public opinion is also growing more comfortable with the idea of impeaching this president. A Zogby International poll conducted this summer found that 42 percent of Americans felt that impeaching Bush would be justified, if it was shown that he had manipulated intelligence in going to war in Iraq. (John Zogby admitted that this number "was much higher than I expected.") By November, the number of those who favored impeaching Bush stood at 53 percent--if it was in fact proven that Bush had lied about the basis for invading Iraq. (The Washington Post's polling editor has refused, until now, to poll on public support for impeaching Bush--prompting fury in the blogosphere.)
For those interested in some of the most cogent and compelling charges against Bush (which should figure into any impeachment proceeding), I offer a brief summary:
Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean argued in Worse than Watergate (his aptly titled book) that Bush's false statements about WMDs in Iraq deceived the American people and the Congress and were used to drum up congressional support for an invasion of Iraq. This constituted "an impeachable offense," Dean told PBS' Bill Moyers in 2004. "I think the case is overwhelming that these people presented false information to the Congress and to the American people." Bush's actions were actually worse than Watergate, Dean argued, because "no one died for Nixon's so-called Watergate abuses."
In the Downing Street Memo, Britain's MI-6 director, Richard Dearlove, acknowledged that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" by the Bush administration. John Bonifaz, a Boston-based attorney and expert on constitutional law, told Rep. John Conyers that Bush "must certainly be punishable for giving false information to the Senate" and had seemingly "concealed important intelligence which he ought to have communicated." Bush deceived "the American people as to the basis for taking the nation into war against Iraq," Bonifaz argued--impeachable offenses.
Rep. Conyers argued as well that the president committed impeachable offenses because he and senior administration officials "countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq" and elsewhere, such as human rights' violations at Abu Ghraib prison.
Conyers concluded that Bush also "permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of [his] Administration" --as in the case of the outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. (Reps. Barney Frank and Conyers have sent a letter to the Congressional Research Service asking whether Congress has the power to impeach presidential advisor Karl Rove for leaking Plame's name to the press and blowing her CIA cover.)
The most compelling evidence of Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors is the revelation that he authorized NSA spying on U.S. citizens without having a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. Constitutional experts, politicians and ex-intelligence experts agree that Bush "committed a federal crime by wiretapping Americans." Rep. John Lewis-- "the first major House figure to suggest impeaching Bush," said the AP--argued that the president "deliberately, systematically violated the law" in authorizing the wiretapping. Lewis added: "He is not King, he is president." Sen. Barbara Boxer has asked four presidential scholars whether or not Bush's NSA wiretapping decision constituted an impeachable offense. One of them, Professor Jonathan Turley, told Knight-Ridder Newspapers that it did indeed: "The president's dead wrong," he said. "It's not a close question. Federal law is clear." Turley--a specialist in surveillance law--said that Bush's actions "violated federal law" and raise "serious constitutional questions of high crimes and misdemeanors." It is worth remembering that an abuse of power --similar to Bush's NSA wiretapping decision-- was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974. [This comparison was brought home in the ACLU's powerful full-page ad in the NYT on December 22.]
There are many reasons why it is crucial that the Democrats regain control of Congress in '06, but consider this: If they do, there may be articles of impeachment introduced and John Conyers, who has led the fight to stop the shredding of our constitution, would become Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Wouldn't that be a truly just response to the real high crimes and misdemeanors that this lawbreaking president has so clearly committed?
Source: Yahoo

Monday, December 26, 2005

Monday Night Football and Intelligent Design

I am taking a quick break from the Monday Night Football game. I admit that I have been at most an off and on fan; I more or less gave it up after I became an early riser (to get in an early Tuesday run, swim or yoga class). But I did watch it for several years.

I remember the first one (Jets vs. Browns); I lived in South Dakota at the time. The Jets were only a season removed from being the Super Bowl champions and were playing the Cleveland Browns. The Browns won, if I remember correctly. This time, the Patriots appear to be in control of the game, though the Jets finally put together a good drive to cut the lead to 28-14. I wonder how long the Patriots will play Brady, given that they had a couple of defensive starters go down with injuries (not sure as to how severe).

What does this have to do with Intelligent Design? Nothing at all; but the card next to this text represents the "Flying Spaghetti Monster"; there is a group that is pushing the "theory" that this monster is responsible for the creation of our world. The point? The point is that something doesn't become a valid scientific theory merely because some group of people thinks that it is true, even if that group of people is a large group. And no, one shouldn't put in teachings into a class just because someone's feelings might get hurt if the teachings aren't put in (don't laugh; I've actually heard such an "argument".) Save science class for valid science; that is; science that has been through the peer review process.

By the way, you can send these cards via electronic mail by going to and entering e-mail addresses. I have to admit that I have friends that might be offended by this; they won't be getting such a card from me. But in the past, I have sent electronic e-mail cards that had Barbara, Olivia and me in them. Since Barbara left for India prior to Olivia getting here, I might have to come up with a joke card of some sort via my free photo editing software.

Bush: Authoritarian Rather than Conservative? Not in this day and age...

I've been following the Alito SCOUTS nomination and was amused at the comic strip

(click if you want to see a larger version). As far as the Mallard Fillmore strip: it is mostly stupid pro-republican stuff. But the implication here is, of course, that Alito is a rock-ribbed conservative. Well, is he? It depends on the definition. Looking at Alito's record, what one finds is that he has a consistent trend toward supporting police power and supporting the government's right to intrude into our private lives. I'd call such a stance "authoritarian". My guess is that folks who believe in a "top down" culture (say, Mormons, conservative Catholics, CEO's, certain kinds of military officers) would love this guy.

But, I had thought that conservatives were for less governmental power in our lives? Well, perhaps at one time. But now-a-days, well, I guess not. And, upon reading the following article (by Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune via the Smirking Chimp), which basically argues that that Bush is really an authoritarian at heart, Alito sounds like he is Bush's kind of guy.

The ironic thing is that Bush's "my way or the highway, and if you cross me you are going to be sorry" style is coming back to haunt him, now that his enforcers have been weakened by scandal. That is the point of the next article, by Jack Hitt, which is from the January-February Mother Jones Magazine.

Steve Chapman: 'Beyond the imperial presidency'

Posted on Monday, December 26 @ 09:28:50 EST

Steve Chapman, The Chicago Tribune

President Bush is a bundle of paradoxes. He thinks the scope of the federal government should be limited but the powers of the president should not. He wants judges to interpret the Constitution as the framers did, but doesn't think he should be constrained by their intentions.
He attacked Al Gore for trusting government instead of the people, but he insists anyone who wants to defeat terrorism must put absolute faith in the man at the helm of government.
His conservative allies say Bush is acting to uphold the essential prerogatives of his office. Vice President Cheney says the administration's secret eavesdropping program is justified because "I believe in a strong, robust executive authority, and I think that the world we live in demands it."
But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula: What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.

Even people who should be on Bush's side are getting queasy. David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, says in his efforts to enlarge executive authority, Bush "has gone too far."
He's not the only one who feels that way. Consider the case of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested in 2002 on suspicion of plotting to set off a "dirty bomb." For three years, the administration said he posed such a grave threat that it had the right to detain him without trial as an enemy combatant. In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agreed.
But then, rather than risk a review of its policy by the Supreme Court, the administration abandoned its hard-won victory and indicted Padilla on comparatively minor criminal charges. When it asked the 4th Circuit Court for permission to transfer him from military custody to jail, though, the once-cooperative court flatly refused.
In a decision last week, the judges expressed amazement that the administration suddenly would decide Padilla could be treated like a common purse snatcher--a reversal that, they said, comes "at substantial cost to the government's credibility." The court's meaning was plain: Either you were lying to us then, or you are lying to us now.
If that's not enough to embarrass the president, the opinion was written by conservative darling J. Michael Luttig--who just a couple of months ago was on Bush's short list for the Supreme Court. For Luttig to question Bush's use of executive power is like Bill O'Reilly announcing that there's too much Christ in Christmas.
This is hardly the only example of the president demanding powers he doesn't need. When American-born Saudi Yasser Hamdi was captured in Afghanistan, the administration also detained him as an enemy combatant rather than entrust him to the criminal justice system.
But when the Supreme Court said he was entitled to a hearing where he could present evidence on his behalf, the administration decided that was way too much trouble. It freed him and put him on a plane back to Saudi Arabia, where he may plot jihad to his heart's content. Try to follow this logic: Hamdi was too dangerous to put on trial but not too dangerous to release.
The disclosure that the president authorized secret and probably illegal monitoring of communications between people in the United States and people overseas again raises the question: Why?
The government easily could have gotten search warrants to conduct electronic surveillance of anyone with the slightest possible connection to terrorists. The court that handles such requests hardly ever refuses. But Bush bridles at the notion that the president should ever have to ask permission of anyone.
He claims he can ignore the law because Congress granted permission when it authorized him to use force against Al Qaeda. But we know that can't be true. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales says the administration didn't ask for a revision of the law to give the president explicit power to order such wiretaps because Congress--a Republican Congress, mind you--wouldn't have agreed. So the administration decided: Who needs Congress?
What we have now is not a robust executive but a reckless one. At times like this, it's apparent that Cheney and Bush want more power not because they need it to protect the nation, but because they want more power. Another paradox: In their conduct of the war on terror, they expect our trust, but they can't be bothered to earn it.
Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune
Source: The Chicago Tribune,1,3472167.column

The McCain (et al.) MutinyA President who prizes loyalty suddenly finds the knives are out.

Jack Hitt

January/February 2006 Issue

ATTEMPTS TO GIVE George Bush's administration a nickname had been circling around this one: "The Tinkerbell Presidency". Like Ronald Reagan's "Teflon", recognizing his gift for sidling past criticism, or Bill Clinton's "Comeback Kid", honoring his talent for turning around any scandal, the epithet captures Bush's quality of surrounding himself with an amen chorus that claps every doomed policy back to life. But the name won't catch on. The Bush drama has moved into the final act, and Tink's dust isn't working.
This time the fairy will die.
Historians may want to mark the last attempt at arousing audience participation, and here it is: Just after the fall of Harriet Miers, the soprano section at the National Review Online sent out this hallelujah: "You know what the relief is this morning? A return to the feeling that this president gets the big things right. There was a detour, but I'm confident we're going to have good news shortly...."
Really? Bush may yet snag an occasional friendly headline (Nominee Confirmed), but his presidency is effectively over. A man who built his entire administration upon demanding unctuous loyalty from his allies now finds himself wounded by their shabby betrayal. You'd have to go back to one of Spain's humpbacked Hapsburgs to find court perfidy of the variety that is currently depleting the president's power.
Bush's allies in Congress began to turn away right after the election of 2004. John McCain repeatedly mocks Condi Rice or any other official who dares to come before him with honey-tongued news from Iraq. Chuck Hagel says of Iraq: "It's beyond pitiful, it's beyond embarrassing, it's now in the zone of dangerous." A senator as conservative as Jim DeMint of South Carolina has broken with Bush on the budget, and it was Republicans who knifed Bush's grand Social Security reform.
Worse, roughing up the president has practically become the new Republican way to announce a presidential campaign for 2008. Only a few months ago, Bill Frist was happy to violate his Hippocratic oath by giving the media a bogus diagnosis of Terry Schiavo to help Bush (and himself) court the pro-life fringe. Now Frist has come out in favor of stem-cell research and let it be known he told the White House to pull the plug on Harriet Miers. This is not merely about fleeing a sinking ship. Bush long ago showed that nothing should stand in the way of getting into power; so Frist, along with co-betrayers George Allen and Sam Brownback, are practicing what they have learned at the feet of the master. Now, it's Bush and his legacy that are in the way.
Outside the corridors of Congress are other kinds of betrayal, insidious ones that can't be easily restrained by threats or mau-mauing. Take television. Hurricane Katrina revealed a Homeland Security operation that looked like the Keystone Cops, and television producers saw, for the first time, mass outrage at the Bush cronies. Here's the bad news for Bush: There's only one thing the broadcast media will pursue more obediently than the approval of an intimidating government: audience share. Now that his approval numbers are in a tailspin, TV bookers are dusting off that long neglected Rolodex of administration critics.
Once, Bush's Iraq gamble had backing from moderate pundits like Peter Beinart, Andrew Sullivan, and George Packer. But each has slunk away cursing Bush's name with angry magazine covers, withering blogs, or brutal books. For conservative pundits, the turning point came with the Miers nomination. John Fund whacked it as "a political blunder of the first order." George Will and his thesaurus called her nomination the "perfect perversity." Robert Bork called it a "disaster on every level." Embodying what David Brooks, pop neologist, has already coined the "Post-Bush Conservative," they no longer see Bush as a prince to be obeyed but as political carrion upon which to feast.
Then there is the staff. It's memoir-shopping time, and what every official departing the Old Executive Office Building is about to learn is that if you don't have a fresh story of Bush confusing Sweden for Switzerland or bonking himself in the face by stepping on a rake, then don't come to Sixth Avenue looking for a $250,000 advance.
Such books will start rolling out soon enough, and here's why: Only a few years ago, Bush officials such as John DiIulio, Paul O'Neill, and Richard Clarke all came out to bash Bush as a "Mayberry Machiavelli" or "a blind man in a roomful of deaf people" or a national-security goof who ignored the "urgency" of destroying Al Qaeda. Bush's response was not to answer their arguments. Instead, each man was immediately Swiftboated with a ferocious attack on his character. DiIulio issued a cringe-inducing Stalinesque apology. O'Neill stammered on TV that he might have made a mistake. Clarke just took it.
That was then.
When the Plamegate indictments were about to come down, the Rove squad sent out an unnamed "White House ally" to say that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was "a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things." For some reason, it didn't work. Maybe Fitzgerald's Sunday-school repute broke the slander machine, or maybe the mass audience just got fed up with the same old mudslinging. Even more shocking, though, was the machine's failure to Swiftboat Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, who, in a speech and op-ed clearly aimed at finding a publisher, said foreign policy had been taken over by "a secretive, little-known cabal." He pinned the responsibility for torture not on a few bad apples among the grunts but square on Dick Cheney. Once upon a time, there would have been no mercy for the teller of such tales or the author of such sentences as: "At least once a week, it seemed, Powell trooped over to the Oval Office and cleaned all the dog poop off the carpet. He held a youthful, inexperienced president's hand."
From the beginning, Bush avoided the flaccid compromises that come from bipartisan agreements. Instead, he used the easy bullying of Democrats to solidify his base and entertain the Beltway media. Reagan worked privately with Tip O'Neill, Clinton with Trent Lott, but Bush could never call up Harry Reid for a friendly back-channel talk. Once famous in Texas as a "uniter, not a divider," Bush let the tenor of his presidency get defined by Cheney and dozens of other Ford administration refugees such as Donald Rumsfeld and John Snow. They were men who survived the fires of Watergate, got bounced from office in 1976, and then seethed for a quarter of a century before Bush v. Gore permitted them to take their revenge against the despised Democrats.
Couple that fury with Rove's tactics and you have an administration that has ruled largely by fear. Swiftboating their enemies at home and torturing them abroad, terror was not so much a war to be fought as a grammar in which to conjugate all their actions. The problem for Bush now is that all his enforcers: DeLay, Libby, Rove, and Cheney himself, are crippled. As more and more Wilkersons go unpunished, more and more will emerge. You can't rule by fear if people aren't afraid.
Perhaps Bush chose his governing philosophy from the early pages of The Prince, where Machiavelli advises young leaders that: "It is far safer to be feared than loved." Later on, though, Machiavelli writes more about the need for a kind heart. He warns young princes that those who rely too much upon "words" and not "nobility of soul" would earn only friendships that "are not real, and cannot be depended upon in time of adversity."
It's what we all expect of a C- student: Skim the first couple of chapters and hope to bullshit the rest.
Jack Hitt, a contributing writer for Mother Jones and Harper's, is a regular voice on the radio show "This American Life."

Is this pornogrpahy?

I had to chuckle a bit when I read the following from the Daily Kos:

Would it bother you to find porn your significant other had bought?
Rimjob's diary :: ::
With as much TV that I record, I probably should have a
TiVo, but I've just never gotten around to it. My mother told me about one of her friends last night that bought a TiVo for the family this Christmas, late last month. This friend of my mother is the type of woman that goes nuts if her husband so much as looks the wrong way at the hot waitress at a restaurant. I once was with my mother, when I saw her go nuts over him being a half-hour late without "checking in".
Well, the husband seemed to like the new TiVo a little too much. I guess he started using the TiVo to record Girls Gone Wild & Dirty Debutantes 27 while his wife wasn't looking. However, I'm told the TiVo will "suggest" & record programs that it thinks you like based on the viewing habits of the user. So I guess the TiVo started recording all the Cinemax-porn it could find. The wife goes to watch TV, looks at what's stored on the TiVo & finds it. She goes batshit, and has threatened to leave him, all thanks to Mr. Tivo (and her husband not being smart enough to disable functions on the damn thing). I've always heard stories about the guys busted by their wives & girlfriends looking at internet porn, when they didn't erase the history in the browser. This is the first time I've heard of TiVo doing something like this though.
However, I have to feel that it was just a matter of time for this guy. If he's recording this shit onto the TiVo, you know he's got to have a stash of porn hidden in a closet somewhere his wife couldn't find. Being in my 20's, that's one of those things that has always scared me when seeing other peoples marriages. The idea that someday you might have to act like you're 15 years old again, having to stash a Playboy under the mattress from your "wife/mom" is pathetic. However, the other side of this would say this is about having a "relationship". You have to be considerate of what bothers your partner, if you care about their feelings.
However, maybe this is somewhat short sighted or selfish, but I've always felt that if you can't trust your mate, to the point that you get upset if they're looking at the waitress or a half-hour late, maybe its time to end it...

And that got me to thinking: what exactly is porn anyway? Now certainly this is an area which lends itself to fuzzy set theory (another source): there are things which any reasonable person can look at and will say "now THAT is pornography) and there are things at which any reasonable person will look at and say "no way that is pornography".

So I turned to the internet to do some research (and no, that doesn' t mean that I surfed to porn sites!) and found the following:

  • From the University of British Columbia Library and Information Studies Department

What is pornography?

Before discussing pornography on the Internet, it is useful to discuss what is meant by the term pornography. Defining pornography is complicated mainly because the way it is used in common language or defined in dictionaries is much different than the legal definition of the term (Easton 1998, 605). Generally speaking, pornography should be differentiated from obscenity, which is associated with things that are some how repulsive to the senses and is the term most often used in laws dealing with illegal pornography (Easton 1998, 605).
Pornography is easily recognized but is often difficult to define concisely. The word pornography originates from the Greeks who defined it as writing about prostitutes (
Easton 1998, 605). The Canadian Dictionary of the English Language defines pornography as "sexually explicit material that sometimes equates sex with power and violence." (1997). This definition, by specifically including the concepts of power and violence, is perhaps too restrictive. Pornography has also been defined as "sexually explicit material that subordinates women through pictures or words" (Easton 1998, 605). This definition, by strictly associating pornography with the subordination of women, may also be too narrow. The broadest way to define pornography is as a sexually explicit depiction.
A good definition using this approach is from
The Encyclopedia of Ethics, and defines pornography as "the sexually explicit depiction of persons, in words or images, created with the primary, proximate aim, and reasonable hope, of eliciting significant sexual arousal on the part of the consumer of such materials." (VanDeBeer 1992, 991)
This definition is necessarily broad and covers most dictionary definitions of the term and how it is understood in general use. It is also clear from this definition that not all pornography is illegal, .....

  • National Academies "Net Safe" program point of view:

“I shall not today attempt further to define [obscenity]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it….”That famous statement, uttered by the late Justice Potter Stewart in 1973 when faced with a case involving obscenity, illustrates the difficulty of trying to determine what constitutes obscene or pornographic content. The term “pornography” has no well-defined meaning, certainly no legal definition. And if a Supreme Court justice had trouble defining the nature of sexually explicit material, how easy is it for the rest of us—each of whom looks at the world in a different way? Lack of consensus is one reason the subject of pornography is such a contentious legal issue.You Must Decide for YourselfWhen it comes to judging content, your definition of what’s unacceptable, pornographic, or even damaging to your children might well differ from someone else’s. One parent might feel that exposure to violence is much more harmful to children than exposure to sexually explicit material. Another might believe that sexually explicit material poses a moral danger. Some feel it’s a matter of degree, others remain unsure. Furthermore, not everyone agrees on what material is sexually explicit.* A line drawing of a sexual organ in a medical textbook might be regarded differently than a photograph of the same organ in an adult magazine.Even if the distinction were made between extremely sexually explicit imagery and, say, responsible information on sexual health, there are ambiguous areas that are often the center of parental, school, church, and civic debate. These include: sex education, dimensions of sexual desire, sexual orientation, sexually suggestive advertisements, content from mainstream art and science, and celibacy sicussions.

Topics of Contention

Sex education: This is a highly contentious subject that some public schools avoid teaching because parents have such different perspectives on what information is appropriate for young people. The idea of providing educational material about sexuality often incites debate.
Dimensions of sexual desire: Opinions differ on how people should behave romantically and sexually. The traditional “script” depicts romantic heterosexuality, in which the male is active and powerful, both in pursuit of a female partner and in sexual activity. The female is often portrayed as passive and coy, whose power lies in luring men. Materials that explore nontraditional roles, thereby broadening choices that people make about their sexuality, often cause controversy.
Sexual orientation: Some materials depict or describe what it means to be lesbian or gay in sexual orientation. What for some people is a description of positive feelings about one’s orientation might for others be an endorsement of an unacceptable lifestyle. Some parents, however, find such material useful in helping their children explore aspects of their own sexuality.
Sexually suggestive advertisements: Mainstream media have grown more sexually suggestive. Materials such as Victoria’s Secret ads and Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issues, for example, make some parents uneasy and others angry about what they consider inappropriate material. Others consider this material to be completely harmless, or they aren’t offended by how it depicts women.
Content from mainstream art and science: Some people might consider some graphic elements used in these disciplines pornographic. For example, a plaque carried on Pioneer 10, the first space probe to leave the solar system, was called pornographic by some because it included nude human figures. Others object to images of classical Greek and Roman statues or other depictions of nudity; for example, Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. And there are parents who don’t consider any of this improper.
Celibacy discussions: Underage adolescents wishing to remain celibate might engage in sexually explicit discussions with like-minded others in order to deal with questions and feelings associated with managing their sexual desire and dealing with peer and media pressure.
*On this Web site, NetSafeKids uses the term “sexually explicit material” to mean material—text-based, visual, or audio—that depicts sexual behavior or acts, or that exposes the reproductive organs of the human body. From common usage, “pornography” can be seen as usually involving sexually explicit materials.

  • A Legal Definition:

pornography n. pictures and/or writings of sexual activity intended solely to excite lascivious feelings of a particularly blatant and aberrational kind, such as acts involving children, animals, orgies, and all types of sexual intercourse. The printing, publication, sale and distribution of "hard core" pornography is either a felony or misdemeanor in most states. Since determining what is pornography and what is "soft core" and "hard core" are subjective questions to judges, juries and law enforcement officials, it is difficult to define, since the law cases cannot print examples for the courts to follow.

  • Pornography contrasted with Erotica

What's the difference between erotic art and pornography? Lots of people want to ban pornography but no one really talks about banning erotic art. Both are representations. How do we draw the line between "good" erotica and "bad" pornography? John gives a definition of both the erotic the pornographic. Why does pornography have the extremely negative connotation? Ken puts forth the idea that a lot of negative reaction to erotic art is out of fear for the power of the erotic. Then, Ken introduces the guest, Professor Anne Ashbaugh from Colgate University. The erotic shapes our life in a very important way. People use sexuality to shape their identity. But, why are sexual desires any more important than, say, our desires for food? Couldn't being a vegetarian shape my life in a way that is just as important as my sexuality? Ashbaugh says that they are both important. All our desires are important and removing any of them negatively impacts the person. Does everything go in porn? Surely not. There are things everyone is or should be revolted by, such as child porn. Where does the line get drawn though? Ken, John, and Ashbaugh talk about several possible definitions for pornography, but which should be adopted? Ken broaches the subject of objectification of women in porn. He thinks that porn objectifies women and strips them of their agency. An ex-porn actor calls in and points out that porn is basically pretend. But, our perception of the world, our view of the world, influences our actions in the world. So does saying that it is just pretend make it better? How does pornography relate to the limits of free speech? A completely free society would say, "Anything goes." A completely decent society would certainly implement restrictions. But it is not clear how or where modern American society should draw the line between the two. It is also important to consider to what extent pornography even is speech.

Lesson 1:

What is Erotica?

In this lesson we will look at the difference between pornography and erotica, explore how word choices create sensual, erotic images in the mind of the reader, and examine what terminology should be used to name or describe body parts and sexual acts. In addition, resources will be provided that will help the novice, or make the pro think. Erotica vs. Pornography
What is erotica? What is the difference between erotica and pornography? These are a couple of the questions that will be answered in this section of our lesson. In addition, we will look at word choices that could best convey the sensual, sexual scene you have in mind.
Erotica may be thought of as a literary or pictorial portrayal that arouses or sexually stimulates using soft, sensual imagery. Examples of erotica may include the material found in Playgirl’s “Reader’s Forum”, classic novels like Jong’s Fear of Flying, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, or contemporary stories like those written by Caleb Knight, RJ Masters, or Lonnie Barbach.
Erotica is stimulating fiction that is often included with equally-stimulating pictures. Erotica includes foreplay, intimacy, and a mutually-satisfying experience. It serves to gradually arouse the reader, giving the reader the sensation of almost “being there”.
Pornography, on the other hand, is considered to be far more “hard core”, more of the “wham-bam thank you ma’am” scenario. Pornographic material is more controversial, more likely to be sold in specialty adult bookstores, or in sealed plastic at the newsstand.
The primary difference between erotica and real pornography is that pornography has little or no socially redeeming characteristics and is intended to arouse the prurient interests of its readers. Pornography is generally less art and more degrading.

My comment: I have to admit to being a bit skeptical and cynical in this erotica vs. pornography debate. It appears to me that the real criteria is this:

  1. If it appeals to mostly men, then it is pornography.
  2. If women like it, then it is erotica.

Anyway, back to the sources:

  • From an artist (while discussing the role of ambiguity in the appear of sexy images)

[...]I shall begin with most titillating example I can think of: pornography. I shall concentrate my attentions on graphic pornography, that is, photographs of females. My impression is that there are three broad classes of such pornography. First, there's the swimsuit pinup, a photo of a woman in a revealing but still legal bathing suit. We often see such pinups pinned up on the walls of male workplaces (but the times, they are a-changing). Next come the R-rated photos; these are characterized by bare breasts and possibly some visible pubic hair. Lastly, there are the hardcore shots, mostly closeups of genitalia.

Note that the sequence I have described constitutes a sequence of explicit display of female genitalia. The most legal, proper stuff, stuff that you wouldn't be ashamed to put on the wall of your mechanic's garage, shows scantily clad women. Their genitalia and bodily form are partly revealed, but critical components of the visual experience are withheld: nipples, pubic hair, and so forth. The next class of pornography reveals more, but not all female genitalia. This R-rated class is less publicly acceptable than the first class; the proper gentleperson of the 90s would confine its display to his Harley mechanics' shop. The third class, hardcore pornography, is simply not permissible for mature individuals &emdash; at least, not openly.

Now, male sexual fantasies tend towards the explicit, so one would expect that the popularity of pornography would be proportional to its explicitness. Yet this does not seem to be the case. At this point, I must confess to a virginal lack of data on my part: I have not carried out extensive statistical studies of the relative popularity of various kinds of pornography. Moreover, the data is not readily available because most males are understandably reluctant to reveal the extent of their pornographic consumption. Me, I don't even own a pornograph [...]

My Interest in All of This

When I asked the question of "what is pornography", I really didn't have the above in mind. What I was wondering about was photos of women (I use "of women" since I am a heterosexual male) who are dressed in attire that is commonly worn in public and are not overtly or blatantly simulating sex acts, but are considered "sexy" in one form or another.

  • Cases where the sexual aspect is part of the appeal and is intentional.

It is no secret that I love to watch women's beach volleyball. That the organizers of this sport use sex to market it is no secret.,taormino,56465,24.html

Pucker UpOlympic SexAthletes in the flesh raise ire of press and temperature of fetishists

by Tristan Taormino

September 7th, 2004 12:30 PM

"Athlete or Sexual Plaything?" asks a USA Today headline, and columnist Ian O'Connor answers with the latter in his article criticizing American athletes for posing in popular pinup magazines. O'Connor's article is representative of a raging media debate about the propriety of female Olympians taking off some or all of their clothes for the pages of FHM, Stuff, and Playboy. From the St. Paul Pioneer Press to The New York Times, the arguments have been mostly one-sided, calling the flesh-baring degrading, disgusting, and dishonorable. Critics say that the Olympics is about national pride, fair competition, and dignified athleticism; it has nothing to do with sex. Um, did we watch the same Olympics? I could not escape the homoeroticism, fetish, and explicit sexuality of 16 days in Greece. If pornography's intent is to arouse, then so-called adult channels can't hold a candle to what NBC delivered: plenty of fodder for this girl's fantasies.
"What does he do that gets you excited, Tim?"
"Uh, just about everything, Al."
Amateur gay porn dialogue? Nope, those were the voices of Olympic commentators Dagget and Trautwig discussing Isao Yoneda before his high-bar routine. And that's just an example of the, um, aural homoeroticism. There was plenty of visual male bonding, too, from beach volleyballer Stein Metzger mounting his teammate Dax Holdren after a match win to underwater camera shots of men's water polo—a tangled aquatic gang bang of Speedoed groins and bare legs.
On the Sapphic side of things, there's no shortage of butch women in sports, regardless of their sexual orientation. When you're strong enough to lift 360 pounds or run with a debilitating knee injury, you're pretty butch. But it was a decidedly different kind of girl who caught my eye this year: Logan Tom, star of indoor women's volleyball and cute dyke extraordinaire. If she's not a lesbian—come on, with that name, that haircut, those hands—then someone had better cast her in The L Word so she can play one on TV.
And then there were the women of beach volleyball. In bikinis. Which is actually their uniform, outlined in Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) guidelines and explained with phrases like "project a healthy image" and "sun, sea, and sand are forces to be dealt with." It wouldn't seem so glaringly one-sided if the men wore equally skimpy Speedos, but the guidelines prescribe shorts and tank tops for them, which raises suspicions of sexism. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Americans Misty May and Kerry Walsh dig and spike. Sure, I was partial to May, whose ample ass wasn't made for the standard-sized bottoms, thus providing plenty of bare cheek for Walsh to grab and slap when they scored. But those bikinis do not eradicate their amazing athletic ability. They are fierce competitors and hot babes, and one does not discredit the other.
Even before the first bikini made its appearance, there was an abundance of websites devoted to documenting naked or nearly naked athletes, including the man-watching and for Olympische Babes from nine different countries—no translation needed. Thank God for, or I'd never have found half of them, including blogs filled with stills from men's gymnastics and wrestling, accompanied by snarky sexual comments.
It's undeniable that the Olympics can be a sexually charged viewing experience for some of us. We fetishize athletes' bodies—what they look like and what they can do. These bodies seem to defy laws of speed, nature, gravity. I can see how this serves as an example of what some pundits call the "pornification" of America, but that ignores some of the more complex issues raised when we watch. For women, Olympic bodies offer us alternative body types and beauty aesthetics to covet or adore, different than those we see in fashion, bodies that are stocky and muscular, tall and strong. For the most part, the typical competitor's body is still a rather skinny, unattainable one, but instead of waif-like (which evokes fragility and helplessness), athletic-thin is buff and ripped. It's not that Kerry Walsh just looks hot on the beach; if you got fresh with her at a bar, she could kick your ass. That's sexy.
When some athletes choose to make their sexuality more blatant, reveal it, use it, and flaunt it, critics are ready to take them down. Former Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes, now president-elect of the Women's Sports Foundation, gave only backhanded support. "It's a personal choice, and if an athlete wants to portray herself in a certain light, it's up to her," said Dawes. "It's not anything I would do, but women have earned the right to make those kinds of decisions." Her seemingly feminist statement about the right to choose is laced with judgment and distance, as if to say, if she wants to make herself look like a slut, that's her choice. I support her, although I wouldn't do it.
The dialogue on this subject dredges up several problematic gender "ideals" and reinforces that tired Madonna/whore dichotomy all over again. Why can a woman only be either an athlete or a sexual plaything, as the USA Today headline posits? Why does an erotic photograph erase a woman's hard work, accomplishments, and ambition? I'm sick of society telling women that if we take our clothes off for pictures, there must be something wrong with us. The implication is that if a woman chooses to represent herself as a sexual being, then she cannot be a person of good judgment, an upstanding citizen, and, in this context, a true Olympic athlete. All this dialogue clearly sends the message to women that chastity equals honor, prudishness equals pride, and our sexual power is dangerous to our values, our careers, and our images. What O'Connor and others are essentially saying is "Role model or porn star?" with no chance that a woman could embody both. Clearly these critics haven't read Jenna Jameson's memoir, which makes a good case that you can.
NBC and its affiliates ogle and fetishize bodies of Olympians to the tune of $1 billion in advertising revenues. Why shouldn't the women (and the men—don't think people of all genders wouldn't cough up serious cash to see Michael Phelps's swimsuit sneak just a little bit lower) have the choice to present themselves, on their terms, in other forms of media and profit from it?

So, do photos of women's beach volleyball constitute pornography?

  • Cases where the sexual aspect is the primary appeal

Here I think that there is a difference; there are the "clothed models" and those where "regular women" are merely "clowning around" and then there are some ambigious areas:

I think that the first photo is clearly one of a woman "clowning around"; I admit that I like it but I doubt that anyone other than the most prudish person would call it pornogrpahy. The last photo is learly posed and designed to arouse (and designed rather well...); I am not so sure as to where the middle photo falls. It strikes me as a "model "wannabe" type of thing.

  • What about the "in public" voyeur type photo, either when it is openly encouraged, or when it is really a "public voyeur" type of thing?

In a previous post (when I was responding to being "tagged" and thereby listing wierd stuff about myself) I showed the kind of photos I sometimes sneakingly take of my wife:

But, what about those photos of women who wear provocative attire in public?

Are these ponographic?

What about these, where the "sexiness" is either unintentional or at least "less obviously intentional"? Or even borderline intentional?