First some good news on the sex war front:
San Jose Mercury News
Article Launched:03/22/2007 06:35:49 AM PDT
PHILADELPHIA – A 1998 law designed to keep pornography away from children on the Internet infringes on free-speech rights and is easily sidestepped, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
The judge blocked enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act, Congress’ second attempt to protect children from online porn.
The law, which has never been enforced, is unconstitutionally vague and fails to address current concerns about online predators, social networking sites and chat rooms, Senior U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed Jr. wrote.
"Even defendant’s own study shows that all but the worst performing (software) filters are far more effective than COPA would be at protecting children from sexually explicit material on the Web," said Reed, who presided over a monthlong trial in the fall.
The law would criminalize Web sites that allow children to access material deemed "harmful to minors" by "contemporary community standards." The sites would be expected to require a credit card number or other proof of age. Penalties include a $50,000 fine and up to six months in prison.
Sexual health sites, Salon.com and other Web publishers backed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law on grounds it would have a chilling effect on speech. Reed agreed it would.
"Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection," he wrote.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a temporary injunction in 2004 on grounds the law was likely to be struck down and was perhaps outdated.
Daniel Weiss of Focus on the Family Action, a lobbying arm of the conservative Christian group, said it would continue to press Congress for a workable law.
"The judge seems to indicate there’s really no way for Congress to pass a good law to protect kids online. I just think that’s not a good response," Weiss said.
To defend the nine-year-old law, government lawyers attacked software filters as burdensome and less effective, even though they have previously defended their use in public schools and libraries.
The plaintiffs expect the Justice Department to appeal. Justice spokesman Charles Miller did not immediately return a phone message Thursday.
"I would hope that Attorney General Gonzalez would save the U.S. public’s money and not try to further defend what is an unconstitutional statute," said lawyer John Morris of the Center for Democracy and Technology, which wrote a brief in the case.
"That money could better be used to help educate kids about Internet safety issues," he said.
The plaintiffs argued that filters work best because they let parents set limits based on their own values and a child’s age.
Reed concluded that filters have become highly effective and that the government – if it wants to protect children – could do more to promote or subsidize them.
The law addresses material accessed by children under 17, but only applies to content hosted in the United States.
The Web sites that challenged the law said fear of prosecution might lead them to shut down or move their operations offshore, beyond the reach of the U.S. law. They also said the Justice Department could do more to enforce obscenity laws already on the books.
Judge Reed noted in his 83-page ruling that, since 2000, the Justice Department has initiated fewer than 20 prosecutions for obscenity that did not also involve other charges such as child pornography or attempts to have sex with minors.
While the government argued for the use of credit cards as a screening device, Reed concluded from the evidence that there is currently no accurate way to verify the age of Internet users. And he agreed that sites that require a credit-card to view certain pages would see a sharp drop-off in users.
The 1998 law followed the Communications Decency Act of 1996, Congress’ first attempt to regulate online pornography. The Supreme Court in 1997 deemed key portions of that law unconstitutional because it was too vague and trampled on adults’ rights.
COPA narrowed the restrictions to commercial Web sites and defined indecency more specifically.
"This is the second time Congress has tried this, and both times the courts have struck it down. I don’t see how Congress could write a constitutional statute," the ACLU’s Chris Hansen, a lead attorney on the case, said.
In 2000, Congress passed a law requiring schools and libraries to use software filters if they receive certain federal funds. The high court upheld that law in 2003.
Joan Walsh, Salon.com’s editor-in-chief, said she was deposed at about the same time the magazine was deciding to publish photos of naked prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
"This law would have let any one of 93 U.S. attorneys … (say) our Abu Ghraib photos were harmful to minors, and the burden would have been on us to prove that they weren’t," Walsh said.
Somewhere, on this earth tonight, Barbara Nitke is celebrating….but I’ll hold my breath until Abu Gonzales loses the expected appeals to the higher courts.
Not so good news, though, is the final resolution of the Great Democratic Party Cave-In on funding the war in Iraq and any future adventures in Iran..and as before, Richard of American Leftist has the story:
The supplemental funding bill has cleared the House with exactly the number of votes required for passage:
The House of Representatives voted today, by the narrowest possible margin and after an unusually emotional debate, to set a timetable for bringing American troops home from Iraq.
The bill received 218 votes in favor, the minimum needed for passage in the 435-seat chamber. There were 212 votes opposed. The Democratic leadership held the voting open for two additional minutes past the originally scheduled 15 to lock up the majority. Vote-counters had predicted beforehand that the outcome would be very close.
Of course, the timetables are not binding upon the President, as he now has the funds to continue to do as he wishes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, even, when the mood strikes, Iran, assuming, of course, that they survive the Senate, which is doubtful.
Who made this victory for the proponents of perpetual war in the Middle East possible? It’s shocking, and should never be forgotten:
With Democrats holding 233 seats and Republicans with 201, Democrats were able to afford only 15 "no" votes. Accordingly, Pelosi, and her leadership team spent days trying to convince members that the bill was Congress’ best chance of forcing Bush to change course—an argument that was aided when they added more than $20 billion in domestic spending in an effort to lure votes.
They got a breakthrough Thursday when four of the bill’s most consistent critics said they would not stand in its way. California Democrats Lynn Woolsey, Diane Watson, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters said they would help round up support for the bill despite their intention to personally vote against it because it would not end the war immediately. "Despite my steadfast opposition, I have told the speaker that I will work with her to obtain the needed votes to pass the supplemental, but that in the end I must vote my conscience," said Rep. Diane Watson, D- Calif.
Is there any need to comment upon such self-serving personal and political expendiency? No doubt all four forcefully went about the task of persuading others to vote for the bill, because, if they failed, they would have then faced the prospect of drawing straws to determine who would be required to vote against their conscience for Pelosi. Rarely has there been such a compelling example of the much maligned situational ethics associated with some Californians.
Woolsey, Watson, Lee and Waters, the Gang of Four that rescued funding for the President’s wars in the Middle East, while keeping their own voting records scrupulously clean. The Iraqis and the Afghans will have to liberate themselves, as there is no prospect that the American political system will relinquish its grip upon their countries. A revolt within the US military is possible, probably more so as a consequence of this vote, but remote.
War with Iran is now a near certainty, as it provides an escape route for those who voted for this measure as well as those who only worked for its passage. Defeat of the bill was not only essential for the ongoing vitality of the antiwar movement in this country, as discussed here yesterday, but to also impair the ability of the President to expand the war. The Iranians, like the Iraqis and the Afghans, have been left to their own devices. We will have nothing to say about the decisions they make as to how to best defend themselves. No doubt the Gang of Four will express appropriate sentiments of sadness as violence in the Middle East intensifies as a consequence of their actions.
Naturally, much of the A-list liberal blogosphere has a slightly different view of the supplemental bill’s passage. Raw Story headlined their article of the bill’s passage "House Passes Iraq Pullout Bill" (conveniently ignoring that the "timetables" set were entirely voluntary and negotiable based on the word of Dubya…who has renewed his threat to veto the bill anyway as another "liberal cut-and-run" measure); and Chris Bowers of MyDD was waxing enthusiastic about the great victory of "progressives" (despite the shameful political ball-squeezing and heavy-handed tactics used by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to jerk those progressives wanting a more solid bill for pullout into line).
Problem is, this bill probably won’t even get to Dubya’s desk in its current form anyway for the veto, because the Senate (49 Republicans and Joe Lieberman) will more than likely gut even those weak "timetables" and force the Dems to accept a "clean" bill fully supporting and enabling Dubya’s war games….and I won’t even get into the atrocious surrender to the right-wing Israeli lobbyists in not including wordage seeking Congressional approval for any invasion of Iran..basically giving a green light to any such action.
So much for progressive principles within the Democratic Party. I guess that not even Maxine Waters or Barbara Lee can avoid the ultimate folly of attempting to reform a centrist (and rapidly rightward-tacking) party from within. The money and the power of the corporate warmongers are simply too great.
The only way for true "progressives" and legitimate Leftists to really change the Democratic Party is to get the fuck out and form a REAL Left independent party…or better yet, a real movement. Cold-War liberalism just won’t cut it anymore.