Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thick As A "Brick"

I want you to check out this list of the "50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs" from John J. Miller, not for its quality, but as an illustration of how a person's perception gets warped from viewing the world through the purely political prism. My beef here is with the inclusion of #23: Ben Folds’s “Brick.” Miller’s description reads:

Written from the perspective of a man who takes his young girlfriend to an abortion clinic, this song describes the emotional scars of “reproductive freedom” [the snarky quotation marks are duly noted, jerk -- JB]: “Now she’s feeling more alone / Than she ever has before. . . . As weeks went by / It showed that she was not fine.”

Yes, the song exudes a plaintive, regretful vibe. Certainly it is no “I’m Every Woman”-style celebration of abortion. But only a fool would argue that the narrator's (or songwriter's) expression of anguish equals a political statement against abortion. It’s an open question as to whether the couple would be better off being forced instead to have the child, isn’t it? And wouldn't it be wise to make the distinction between struggling with a decision in its aftermath and wishing away the legal right to make it?

Calling “Brick” a conservative anthem against abortion is like suggesting that Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” is some liberal plea for gun control. Please, just cut that shit out. Each song tells a tale of personal woe and despair, and perhaps they are cautionary in nature, but the subtexts are scarcely political. Which you'd realize if you actually listened to them with appreciation instead of torturously seeking affirmation of your dreary philosophy.

And I doubt most composers would appreciate your co-opting their work and reducing their artistry to cheap slogans and simplistic interpretations.

So my advice to you, John J. Miller, is: listen to the music. And quit politicizing…EVERYTHING.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bustin' Out of L7

My friend and former cow-orker Wayne recently jumpstarted his new blog. Check it out:

Bustin' Out of L7

Look for a potpourri of pop culture insights and fearless social commentary served up with Wayne's trademark wit and urbanity. Some cool posts are up already so take a look.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Wayne...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Yeah, But Have These 'Activists' Ever Actually Watched 'Dark Meat Sandwich?'

Moralizing nutjobs seek the state's help to keep you from looking at porn in hotel rooms. And of course, they're getting at least a little love from the feds:

Activists Try to Curtail Hotels' In-Room Porn

NEW YORK -- Pornographic movies now seem nearly as pervasive in America's hotel rooms as tiny shampoo bottles, and the lodging industry shows little concern as conservative activists rev up a protest campaign aimed at triggering a federal crackdown.

"A federal crackdown"? On personal choice? Sounds like the perfect job for the state.

A coalition of 13 conservative groups -- including the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America -- took out full-page ads in some editions of USA Today earlier this month urging the Justice Department and FBI to investigate whether some of the pay-per-view movies widely available in hotels violate federal and state obscenity laws.

Can't wait to see how the review process works.

The coalition also is trying to draw attention to, a directory of hotels and motels nationwide that pledge to exclude adult offerings from their in-room entertainment service.

Though porn is now cheaply and readily accessible on the Internet, and through many other outlets, the activists chose to target the hotel industry in part because of the well-known brands of corporations that cater to family vacationers as well as business travelers.

"These are places that you take your family -- these are respectable institutions,'' said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "Anything that brings porn into the mainstream is a concern. It just desensitizes people.''

Too...many...jokes. Must contain...sophomoric...URGES...

Precise statistics on in-room adult entertainment are hard to come by.

[giggling like Beavis]

By some estimates, adult movies are available in roughly 40 percent of the nation's hotels, representing more than 1.5 million rooms. Industry analysts suggest that these adult offerings generate 60 to 80 percent of total in-room entertainment revenue -- several hundred million dollars a year.

The recent newspaper ad mentioned no hotel companies by name because of legal concerns, but it did target the two major suppliers of in-room adult movies _ South Dakota-based LodgeNet and Denver-based OnCommand, a subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp. The ad accused both companies of distributing hardcore pornography to their hotel clients, and it provided a link to a list of X-rated movie titles.

Seriously, if you do nothing else today, please, PLEASE check out the aforementioned list. The irony of religious and moral zealots listing porn titles is funny, but the irony was overwhelmed by the sheer hilarity of the titles themselves: "Dark Meat Sandwich"; "TEN XTREME -- Interracial Facials"; "Quick n' Nasty -- Petite Poundings". Oh, and lest you think I'm making this up: feast your eyes on this list, Caligula.

[By the way, did that list remind anyone else of Randal's infamous "porn tape ordering" scene from the movie "Clerks"? (language NSFW)]

Spokesmen for OnCommand and Liberty Media declined to comment on the ad, and LodgeNet's spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment. However, top spokespeople for two of the biggest hotel chains, Hilton and Marriott, defended the policies that make adult movies widely available at their affiliated hotels.

Both Kathy Shepard of Hilton and Roger Conner of Marriott said the bulk of their hotels are operated by franchise-holders who make their own decisions about in-room programming. They made clear, however, that their companies consider adult movies to be an acceptable option because they can be ignored or blocked out by guests not wishing to view them.

"Really ultraconservative groups try to target the hotels in their zest to eliminate porn,'' Shepard said. "In their zest to have their personal morals prevail, they're eliminating choice for others.''

Conner said none of the programing offered by Marriott is illegal, and he depicted adult movies as a standard part of today's hotel business.

"In-room movies are a revenue stream,'' he said. "This is a business matter.''

The leader of the campaign against in-room porn is Phil Burress, a self-described former porn addict who heads the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values.

Hey, Phil -- "communities" don't have values, individuals do. And some of those individuals would appreciate your not making value choices for them. Thanks.

[By the way, how does one become a "former porn addict?" Um, don't answer that.]

Burress and his allies have had some success regionally, pressuring about 15 Ohio and Kentucky hotels to stop offering adult movies. But he says a nationwide pressure campaign would be difficult because nearly all the big hotel chains have similar policies -- porn is available at some but not all of their affiliates.

Though unable to cite specific cases, Burress contended that the availability of in-room porn is making hotels more dangerous.

Only if you forget to hang the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door (ba-dum-bum!)

"As more and more of these (hardcore) titles become available, we're going to have sexual abuse cases coming out of the hotels,'' he said. "Hotels are just as dangerous as environments around strip joints and porn stores.''

Burress said he was "cautiously optimistic'' that Justice Department officials -- whom he and other anti-porn leaders confer with periodically -- would seriously consider investigating hotel-based pornography.

Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said federal authorities are committed to toughening enforcement of obscenity laws, but he declined to comment on specific targets for investigations.

Because that's just what we need...government-approved pornography.

LodgeNet and OnCommand together provide in-room entertainment to more than 1.8 million hotel room in North America -- with customers that include Sheraton, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt, Marriott and Ramada.

The standard in-room packages offered by LodgeNet and OnCommand include adult movies, but they have tried to accommodate hotels preferring a no-porn alternative, according to Shannon Sedgwick Davis, executive director of an association of hotels which don't offer adult movies to guests.

One problem, she said, is that the big hotel chains often have negotiated bulk contracts with the video suppliers that include the adult movies and can be expensive to cancel.

Look, people. Boycotts, press releases, ad campaigns, do whatever the fuck you have to do as long as you respect personal choice. I don't care. But if you want to enlist the aid of the federal government to enforce your view of morality, then you need a refresher course on the meaning of personal freedom.

And if that article wasn't chilling enough, check out the group's press release:

Adult hardcore pornography can tragically lead to sex crimes against women and children. Yet prosecutable sex videos are available within a few clicks in millions of U.S. hotel rooms. We are calling on the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to immediately investigate the companies that distribute it to determine whether "adult" videos being sold in hotels by OnCommand and LodgeNet violate long-established Federal and State laws regarding distribution of obscene material.

OnCommand, a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp., and LodgeNet distribute the “worst of the worst” in graphic, hardcore pornographic videos. CEOs John Malone of Liberty Media and Scott Petersen of LodgeNet are chief among the nation’s “white collar pornographers.”

A list of the “adult” selections offered by OnCommand and LodgeNet's are available by clicking on the TV at the right. BE FOREWARNED, THE TITLES ARE GRAPHIC.

And hilarious!

“The lists speak for themselves,” CCV President Phil Burress says. “This is not mere nudity. We’re talking about every conceivable form of degrading, distorted sex."

Did this guy just remind anyone else of this scene from "The 40 Year Old Virgin"?

Mooj: Life is about people. It's about connections.
Andy Stitzer: It's all about connections.
Mooj: It's not about cocks, and ass, and tits.
Andy Stitzer: Yeah.
Mooj: And butthole pleasures.
Andy Stitzer: It's not about butthole pleasures at all.
Mooj: It's not about these rusty trombones, and these Dirty Sanchez--
Andy Stitzer: Please stop.
Mooj: And these Cincinnati bowties, and these pussy juice cocktail, and these shit stained balls--
Andy Stitzer: Mooj, just please stop.

"We’re talking about the types of material, which are addictive in nature, which men are lured into viewing in the privacy of their hotel rooms, and which have been responsible for sexual crimes and for the breakdown of countless marriages, families and careers. And we’re talking about a company and its leader who care more about the dollar than about those men, women, children and families."


It is a known fact that registered sex offenders use adult hardcore pornography as a high-octane fuel to direct dangerous sexual behavior toward others, including children. The often-addictive nature of pornography – which many view as a private act – continues to have drastic public consequences.

It is also a known fact that literally millions of normal, healthy people use adult hardcore pornography in ways that have nothing to do with dangerous sexual behavior, especially toward children. What's your point?

For more than 23 years Roger Young investigated obscenity cases as an FBI agent and trained prosecutors in the enforcement of federal obscenity laws. He states that, "in the majority of cases where sexual predators were arrested, pornography was associated with the commission of the crime and/or found to be in the possession of the offender."

Great. Hey, Einstein, let's try a thought experiment by substituting a few words: "in the majority of cases where bank robbers were arrested, getaway vehicles were associated with the commission of the crime and/or found to be in the possession of the offender." See what I'm getting at, or do I have to spell it out for you geniuses?

Reams of additional evidence link the use of adult hardcore pornography to the commission of sex crimes by sexual predators. So why is such a toxic ‘drug’ so readily available in virtually any hotel room in this country? Three words: Money. Money. Money.

You know what else is readily available in hotel rooms? Bibles. You know what they have in common with porn? You have the choice to ignore or peruse each as you see fit.

More importantly, this is really an issue about property rights. You want a porn-free hotel? Buy or build one to compete with the others. Otherwise, STFU. Neither the feds nor some group of yentas have any right to demand a "crackdown" on the choices of free people.

The Campaign for Corporate Responsibility is appealing to law enforcement to investigate these known pornographers.

Hey, before you do that, maybe you should check out this study -- which basically refutes all that bullshit you just said.

[h/t, as usual, to]

Friday, August 25, 2006

A New Pledge

Lately I've been bursting with ideas and half-baked inspiration for blog posts but, alas, I have little more than hastily scrawled notes and befuddling hieroglyphics as evidence. I just feel as though I need to be writing and kvetching every day even though my self-discipline has never been monkish.

But starting tomorrow, Dear Reader, I'm striving to update this thing at least once a day, every day. Bold, you say? Vainglorious foolishness? Boundless hilarity? Perhaps. And if this pledge seems like a promise of quantity over quality, well, that's probably accurate. Let's just see how this foray into chutzpah turns out.

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hey, Look! More Market Intervention Shenanigans!

Gas station owner says state won't let him lower prices

MONROE, Wis. -- An ethanol-pump owner says he wants to lower his prices but the state won't let him.

Badger Ethanol in Monroe charges around $2.22 for a gallon of E-85, an alcohol-fuel mixture that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, by volume.

Badger's owners wanted to cut the price to $2 but said they had to artificially hike prices after some competitors complained Badger wasn't meeting the state's minimum markup laws.

The markup law is "antiquated" and the governor and Legislature should eliminate it, said Gary Kramer, head of Badger State Ethanol.

Wisconsin Consumer Protection investigators launched a probe into Badger's fuel prices and found E-85 selling for just over $2 a gallon.

What's interesting is that "Wisconsin Consumer Protection" investigators launched the probe based on complaints not from consumers but from Badger's competitors. Only the state could "protect" consumers by forcing them to pay more for a product than what the market would otherwise charge.

Based on a complicated formula, the investigators said the price should have been $1 more. On Tuesday, Gov. Jim Doyle ordered state investigators to do nothing to stop the pricing.

"A complicated formula"? Sweet Lincoln's mullet, who do these guys think they are? We already have a law that governs prices fairly: it's called supply and demand. And it works just fine without the meddling of politicians.

The move came hours after Doyle's Republican opponents ripped the investigation into Badger Ethanol.

Let's review the lessons of this little episode:

The law helps:
*The state, whose power and influence is enhanced by the regulations
*Badger's wasteful and inefficient competitors, who are protected from competition by the state

The law harms:
*Badger, which is barred from profiting on its innovations and competitive advantage
*Consumers, who are legally compelled to pay higher prices for fuel

Keep in mind that this is all done under the auspices of protecting consumers. Consider also that, in a ruefully ironic twist, if Badger were to charge more for its fuel than the state deemed acceptable, it would face charges of gouging.

Don't you feel better knowing that our omniscient and compassionate overlords know precisely how much fuel should cost?

[h/t to]