Archive for April 17th, 2011

I am fearful when I see people substituting fear for reason.  –  Klaatu, The Day the Earth Stood Still

There were too many of these little stories to fit into one column this month, so here without further ado are the rest of them.

Why Not Teach Them Critical Thinking Instead?

The Arizona leadership of the Girl Scouts apparently believes a vital part of teaching girls to become “strong, active, modern women” consists of training them to buy into moral panics without examining the claims upon which the hysteria is based.  This story (which was called to my attention by regular reader Joyce) appeared in Modern Times magazine on April 12th:

…Through a partnership formed through the Innocence Lost Phoenix Initiative, the Girl Scouts—Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, has partnered with the Department of Juvenile Corrections to address a population of prostituted children.  The program…is a mentor-ship effort intended to help “build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.”  The educational prevention program is applied to underage females who have been sexually exploited and are incarcerated…The 16-week course is designed to decrease risk of victimization of minors by addressing issues related to  domestic minor sex trafficking, including crime and violence, education, gangs, health, homelessness, sexual exploitation, and substance abuse…

According to “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, Child Sex Slavery in Arizona”, a report published in December 2010 by Shared Hope International…the issue is unfortunately alive and well in the Grand Canyon State.  According to the report, The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000…defined all minors involved in commercial sex acts as victims of trafficking…“The reality is that many domestic minor sex trafficking victims are detained in the criminal justice system under charges of prostitution instead of receiving the services they need and to which they are statutorily entitled,” the report reads…

While the stated aim of the program (assisting juvenile prostitutes trapped in the Arizona prison system) is a laudable one, I’m afraid no good can come of any partnership with the FBI’s “Innocence Lost” scam or “rescue” organizations like Shared Hope.  Though the principle of locking up “victims” is rightfully challenged, nobody involved seems willing to question the illogic behind defining all teen hookers as “trafficking victims” even if they were in fact acting voluntarily.  Teaching girls credulity and unquestioning acceptance of authority is not any kind of way to make them “strong”.

Porn is Violence Against Women!

I wonder how neofeminist anti-porn crusaders like Gail Dines would spin this April 13th story from CBS News to define it as “violence against women”?  I tried to think like one of them in order to figure it out, but my brain just couldn’t function that illogically.

…an unknown number of homeless people in St. Petersburg, Florida…say they were recruited for videotaped beatings by attractive women for the website Shefights.net.  Homeless advocate G.W. Rolle told CBS…he discovered what was going on after repeatedly seeing homeless men…with injuries.  “Broken ribs, fractured skulls…I think that’s wrong and I think someone’s going to die if they don’t stop this,” says Rolle, who took photographs of some of the injuries.  Two homeless men…are now suing [the website]…seeking damages for emotional distress and money for medical bills.  Lawyers for the two homeless men said the website sells videos starting at $2.99 for a two-minute “sparring session” clip and increasing in price to $33.99 for a 33 minute clip of two women beating a man.  The lawsuit, which was filed April 1 in a Florida court, contends the beatings violate a state hate crimes law that specifically protects the homeless and that the producers are exploiting the poverty of transients for whom any cash is hard to come by.  “What type of society would allow this to happen?” said Neil Chonin, the lawyer for the homeless men.  “This company preyed on people who are desperate.”  Chonin and area homeless advocates said there are many more men who were assaulted in exchange for cash and that some were injured so badly that they were hospitalized…

What Would Orrin Hatch Do?

Since I am former librarian, you’ll have to pardon my smug pleasure at seeing librarians using common sense to solve a problem congressmen would no doubt attack with a sledgehammer.  This story is paraphrased from one which appeared in the Los Angeles Times on April 13th:

On December 28th, 2010 at the Chinatown Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, a number of parents complained because a patron was using a library computer to watch internet porn.  The incident was covered by several local newspapers, and Derek Ma of the National Chinese Welfare Council organized a meeting with library officials shortly afterward.  Librarians explained that the library has a policy of not filtering Internet access, and Ma and other Council members accepted it because of their experience with internet censorship in China.  All of the computers in the L.A. Public Library system are already outfitted with screens that make it hard for bystanders to see the content, so Ma recommended that the computers be reoriented to further reduce visibility to passersby.  He is happy with the result, and the library’s branch manager said she has not heard any complaints about pornography since her aides reoriented the computers.

A 2003 Supreme Court decision said public libraries that receive federal money have the authority to install filters that block pornography and other material that may be “harmful to children” until a patron asks for it to be unblocked.  New Jersey resident Dan Kleinman, a non-librarian who runs the website SafeLibraries.org, said in a letter to city officials that such filters are “necessary” to keep library visitors “safe” and that privacy screens aren’t enough.  He argued that libraries already have book selection policies and should have similar guidelines that determine what people can view online.  But at a Los Angeles City Council committee meeting Tuesday (April 12th), city librarian Martin Gomez said making computer use as private as possible is the best solution; he said that licensing fees for internet filters are costly and the software is imperfect.  For example, because the filters block websites with certain keywords and phrases deemed by authorities to be “obscene”, they could keep patrons from accessing websites about breast cancer.

I’m glad common sense won out over the demands of amateur busybodies from the other side of the continent with no legitimate concern in the matter.  Kleinman’s comparison of the internet to book selection is spurious; books cost money and so it is necessary to carefully pick and choose which purchases constitute the best use of limited funds.  But once the access fees are paid the internet is unlimited, so there is no legitimate reason for libraries to stop patrons from viewing any content they wish.  The mission of libraries is to make information and entertainment available, and requiring them to censor access is a serious conflict of interest.

What’s the Legal Definition of Prostitution Again?

Amanda Brooks called attention to this website in a post on April 13th; I have nothing to add to her observations other than to remind you for the umpteenth time that the dividing line between activities legally defined as “prostitution” and those which are not isn’t nearly as distinct as people like to pretend.

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