The list of things for which I'm grateful this year probably deserves a post of it's own, but one of those things also deserves a post of it's own. Put simply, I am grateful for people who do the important work of supporting and defending those others won't help, especially those from whom many turn away reflexivly in fear or disgust. I am grateful to those who stand up and fight against moral panics and the way they undermine freedom through fear.
Thus I am especially grateful for the National Center for Reason & Justice. NCRJ serves people falsely accused or wrongly convicted of crimes against children and does educational work to fight the irrationality and panic - and the consequent violations of people's rights - that too often characterize the investigations and prosecutions of those cases.
Click here for information about the cases NCRJ currently supports.
Below is some information I've excerpted from an NCRJ letter highlighting a few of their successes and explaining their need for your help. I truly hope you can share some holiday generosity with them, and through them with those who have lost their freedom and gained the stigma of child predator unjustly. Please keep reading, or if you are convinced already, please click here to help NCRJ with its important work.
The New York Times this morning reports on a meeting last Wednesday involving city and state elected officials including Christine Quinn (City Council Speaker) and Thomas Duane (State Senator representing parts of Manhattan), Brian Conroy (the NYPD's Vice Squad commanding officer), and LGBT rights activists. The meeting focused on whether or not the city is targeting gay men for arrest on prostitution crimes because of their sexual orientation.
That is the wrong question.
The more relevant questions are: Why is sexual activity - the buying and selling of pornography, the accepting of money for sex - being defined as a public nuisance in the first place? And, what does it mean that simply liking pornography and being in a porn shop is enough to make one the target of a prostitution sting?Click here for more.
"In this present economy, the taxpayers’ dollars are being used by the Board of Regents to inform students about such social topics. … I believe the timing is perfect to eliminate positions of professors and staff who are paid to provide such services.”
Those are the words of Charlice Byrd, a Republican representing Woodstock in Georgia's House of Representatives. She is quoted in a an article in Sunday's Atlanta Journal Constitution and she is not alone. Her colleague Calvin Hill (R-Canton) is "deeply disturbed" by the fact that the University system has experts on male prostitution and on oral sex.
You would think that these representatives and their Christian Coalition supporters (Jim Beck, president of the GA Christian Coalition reportedly wants legislative hearings on the issue) believe that researchers are offering courses in how to become a prostitute or how to perform oral sex.
We are talking about researchers whose research on sex-related topics provides the evidence needed to make smart policy on public health issues. These are exactly the kinds of people states need more of. And the state gets access to highly skilled researchers generally through their work in colleges and universities.
Thanks to Viviane for alerting me to a NYT article I'd missed on Tuesday. It announces the release of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force's Final Report to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States.
The task force was made of up of Internet service providers, social networking companies, academics, non-profit child and family safety advocate organizations and was formed in response to a call from state attorney generals for research and policy direction that would help keep kids safer online.
Interestingly the report finds that the greatest threats to kids come from their own peers and that the threat of sexual solicitation by adults, while worrisome and to be taken seriously, is not as great as one would guess based on the media fear-mongering of shows like "To Catch A Predator."
Here are some excerpts from the report's Executive Summary (PDF) :
Pop quiz - Subject: Local politics
Question: Your town has a million dollars in its reserve fund. The plan is to spend it on paying off a bond that financed the town's water treatment plant. Suddenly, the plan changes. The mayor has learned that a strip club in the area has come up for sale and he wants to buy it and shut it down. He arranges the financing through an anonymous third party because he knows that the club owners would never agree to sell to the town. According to the local newspaper the city manager describes it like this:
“We knew they would never sell it to us, but a third party, who does not want to be identified, offered to buy it for us. Just before noon (Tuesday) we closed on the property, and the keys were turned over to us. They (former Cafe Risque owners) won’t find out until (today) who really bought it.”
The mayor announces this radical change in spending priorities at a standing-room-only meeting at City Hall. Which of the following do you think happened at the meeting:
John R Miller, former Bush Anti-Trafficking Czar at the State Department (2002-2006) has written a colourful Op-Ed in the New York Times, with the provocative title The Justice Department, Blind to Slavery. The article stated that the US Department of Justice was subverting the course of justice by blocking passage of the highly controversial human trafficking legislation which would expand federal jurisdiction over prostitution, based on conflationary theory that the two are synonymous. However Miller framed it in a way that portrayed Justice as being pro-slavery. Presumably his intention was to oil the Bill in the Senate and boost Republican votes in the forthcoming elections. Presumably his former boss would also smile favourably upon this effort.
Debbie Nathan's Sex Angst Roundup ranges from the Washinton Post's look at the sex trafficking panic to an update on the Kurt Eichenwald/Justin Berry story and from Nan Goldin's artwork being yet again the focus of a censorious police investigation to the Human Rights Watch report that clearly lays out the ways that the US sex offender registries as currently administered violate human rights without protecting children. It's a "must read" -- go, check it out now. Really.
My nomination for best passage from the roundup?
I'm trying to decide what makes me maddest about Bob Herbert's recent op-ed pieces about sex work in Las Vegas.
It might be his use of a tug-on-your-heartstrings story and alarmist title in today's piece, "Escape from Las Vegas." In that piece he uses Amber, a 19 year old with a disabled mother and an abusive and drug addicted step father, who finds herself stripping in Las Vegas as representative of all sex workers:
The New York Times reports today on research that demonstrates a very high correlation between use of child pornography and the actual molesting of children. The Times did a good job of reporting why it is so important to be cautious about interpreting a study like this one. And it also does a good job of reporting on the need for continued research on child molestation.
Because of the tremendous moral panic risks that are attached to publishing anything about htis kind of research I am going to focus entirely on the cautions. There will be lots of voices out there focusing on the tentative conclusions of the study itself, so here lets just focus on the limitations:
1. Remember when thinking about these results that they were produced using only already-incarcerated men convicted of child pornography charges. These men may well not be representative of all people who have ever downloaded or viewed child pornography.