November 22, 2005
Wizards of Winter
[Religion] tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people. ~ G. K. Chesterton
I had not seen this before. I bet it's a joy living across the street from them around the holidays.
November 21, 2005
The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and these are ignorance, superstition and incompetence. ~ Elbert Hubbard
There are two televisions in my home -- a bedroom number and a living room number. The bedroom unit has begun to join the choir invisible and, since the "good" TV is over 10 years old and only 19" big, I decided to ask for one for the holidays. Keeping a sharp eye out for a model that can accommodate all my A/V needs at a good price, I recently stumbled upon THIS 27" BEAUTY at Amazon.com. I am not one of those PIP / HDTV / Must have all the bells and whistles people. The fact that I'm going from 19" to 27" sort of makes me have TV guilt, but I'm over it.
The person who pledged to give me said item for the holiday (okay, fine, it's my mother *sigh*) preferred to forward the money to me and allow me to do the purchasing because buying things on-line makes her "edgy." This sort of negates the whole gift thing (one of the nice parts about getting a gift is that you don't have to hassle with the purchasing part) but it's my MOTHER and at this point, I'd done the research and knew what I wanted.
The purchase process was fairly painless and Amazon's post-sales blather said it would have it here by the 23rd. Which seemed ridiculously optimistic, but I liked the idea.
This is when I noticed that on my order page, beneath the shipping date, the following disclaimer appears:
Your order is being sent to an area recently affected by Hurricane Katrina. We estimate that delivery of your shipment may be delayed up to 10 days or more.
Forgiving that "up to 10 days or more" is a frustrating nonsense statement, and taking into account that my area had NOT, in fact, been affected by Hurricane Katrina, I find it more than a little offensive that they're using it as an excuse to cover their ass on late shipping dates. It was mildly miffed. Then, I click through to the next page and get this message:
Last Updated: October 25, 2005
At this time, deliveries to certain areas have been delayed or suspended completely due to weather activity. We have listed the affected ZIP codes below.
Please be aware that even if your ZIP code is not listed below, deliveries to your area may still be delayed because carriers are prioritizing their transport capacity to deliver emergency response materials and first-aid support.
We currently expect shipments to affected areas to be delayed by up to 10 days or more. Our carriers have assured us they will deliver packages as swiftly as possible once it is safe for their drivers to do so.
We are very sorry for the inconvenience this delay may cause. We hope you will understand that occasionally shipments may be delayed by circumstances beyond our control.
Areas still Affected by the Hurricanes
(List includes those areas that are likely to be affected by Hurricane Wilma, as well as residual from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.)
All Zip Codes with First 3 Digits:
329, 330, 331, 332, 333, 334, 339, 341, 342, 349, 700, 701, 706
So. Okay. ALL THESE areas might be affected by (insert hurricane here) and, oh, we might not even ship it at all because you know, UPS isn't shipping anything to Florida if suddenly medical supplies are necessary in Lousiana.
As a hurricane survivor who knows and understands how things work, I cannot begin to tell you how hugely offensive this is to me. This is intentional corporate falsehood to cover poor customer service practice because hurricanes give them the excuse to do so.
There isn't a single person who would be bothered if UPS or some other carrier experienced delays because they were working on getting shipments of needed supplies to storm victims. That is perfectly reasonable, and when an explination of such an occurance were to show up in my tracking, I wouldn't think twice about it. But UPS is a business and they don't just suspend all pickups and delay all shipments in entire states MONTHS after a natural disaster hits a region of that state.
I am writing a letter to Amazon condemning this blatant and shameful exploitation of storm victims for the comfort of a nice cushy excuse to give them extra delay time in their shipping buffers. I encourage everyone else to do so as well.
But back to my TV.
I wake up to an Amazon email in my box this morning. It says my TV has shipped via UPS ground and gives a tracking number: XXX-XXXXXXX-X.
Fabulous! My faith in Amazon is semi-renewed. The CYA blurb on their site is still offensive and requires addressing, but at least they aren't intentionally holding back items just because they think they can. Bad, but not beyond understanding. They notice is probably just outdated.
Except the tracking number is bogus. I'm unable to get a status on either Amazon's tracking or UPS's tracking with the number they've provided. A call to UPS and the rep tells me they've never heard of this tracking number and it's the improper format for a UPS tracking number at any rate. Of course, they cannot track a package based solely on the destination and recipient for "security reasons." In fact they cannot even CHECK to see if a package from Amazon to my shipping address even exists. Because even though I know all there is to know about this package and I'm only asking for a current status (or verification of existence) I could still, I suppose, mean the package harm and it needs to be protected from me. Out of morbid curiosity I ask if there are any areas where they've completely suspended shipments and/or pickups to entire states because of hurricanes. The answer is no -- although a few areas experience delays, those delays are reflected in the tracking when they happen ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS.
Also good to know.
Against my better judgment. Against all logic, I call Amazon customer service. No easy task. But I've had Cliche Ideas' Amazon Page bookmarked for quite some time. Helpful little Internet. Good puppy. Here, have a cookie.
I will not tell you how long it took to get through the voice prompt system which is -- I'm convinced -- intentionally unhelpful to anyone that doesn't have a basic "one size fits all" inquiry. They are, at this point, looking to actively piss off people with unique problems and force them into email-only resolution. There is no other explanation for the complete lack of accommodation for problems their system does not foresee.
But I digress.
I am put in touch with "Kath." (and if Kathy is her real name, I'm the Queen of Argyle). Kathy manages with a somewhat difficult grasp of the English language to repeat back the Amazon Order Number I provided (after three tries). It is not Kathy's fault she barely knows English. It's not like she lives in a country where English is the primary language. It's not her fault she was hired by an employer who places zero emphasis on customer service. Kathy probably speaks at least two languages, so she's obviously a competent and intelligent woman in a bad situation. I refuse to take out my bile upon her. At least not right out of the gate. More flies with sugar and all that. Even if this has already consumed an hour of my morning.
Kathy accesses the system and asks for my billing address, my shipping address, my email address, and, the last 5 digits of my credit card along with my expiration date. All of this before I can even explain the concern I'm having. But, okay. It's not "Kathy's" fault. No reason to get upset with her. I provide the information pleasantly. After all, I'm only going to be asking for a tracking number. It's all quick and painless from this point on.
Once my information has been confirmed (which takes additional tries because Kathy has a little trouble with understanding me when I speak too quickly -- so defined as any speaking pattern above slow-mo) I then get the privilege of explaining my problem to Kathy. The UPS tracking number provided in the email Amazon sent me AND on my order page is incorrect. May I please have the real tracking number? Pretty please. With sugar on top? If I promise to be good? I just want to keep tabs on the package so that someone can be here to help me lift the 80lb monster when it gets here.
I am placed on hold because, you know, asking for a real tracking number is something a rep cannot possibly be expected to have at their fingertips. Poor Kathy.
Kathy returns to the line with someone, obviously speaking behind her. Fine. So she's a trainee. No problem. There's someone there with her, two heads better than one, etc etc etc.
Kathy explains that because this is an "expensive heavy weight item" she has to fill out a special form to expedite shipping.
I explain I wasn't looking to expedite shipping (although that would be nice). I just want the correct tracking number so that I can track the package myself.
Kathy then states that there is no tracking number.
I ask how on earth Amazon could ship out an expensive "heavy weight item" with UPS and not get a tracking number in return.
What follows is a transcript of the rest of my conversation with Kathy. I recorded my end of the conversation on my home computer in a wav. Kathy's responses are from memory and may be somewhat paraphrased.
K: "The heavy weight item did not ship UPS."
Me: "But your company sent me an email saying it shipped UPS. It provided me with a tracking number."
K: "That was a technical error."
Me: "No, Kathy. A technical error means that something didn't work correctly. This is a falsehood. There is a difference between providing the wrong tracking number and lying about which company you shipped with."
K: "It was a technical error."
Me: "Okay. It was a technical error. Did the package even ship?"
K: "Yes, the heavy weight item has shipped."
Me: "Fine. What company did it ship with?"
K: "I cannot provide that information."
Me: "The shipping company is a secret?"
K: "They do not give us tracking numbers."
Me: "But they exist?"
Me: "Okay. So, what company did Amazon ship this heavy weight item to me with?"
K: "I'm sorry?"
Me: "What shipping company is currently in possession of my heavy weight item?"
K: "It is the shipping company we use for heavy weight items."
Me: "What is the name of the company, Kathy."
K: "I cannot give you that information."
Me: "So, the secret company that has my heavy weight item cannot be revealed to me?"
K: "I will fill out a form for them, ma'am, so that they will deliver your item."
Me: "The act of giving it to them and telling them to ship it to me won't get that done?"
K: "I don't understand. I am filling out your form to get the heavy weight item to you."
Me: "Kathy, it's a television. We can say television, can't we? Or is the secret company afraid this will lend some clue as to their identification?"
(The person in the back is heard murmuring. Kathy says nothing)
K: "Yes, ma'am. I am trying to get this information so that I can fill out...so that we can tell the shipping company what it needs to deliver to you."
Me: "The secret company?"
K: "The shipping company."
Me: "That has a name you can't tell me."
K: "That is correct, ma'am."
Me: "But it's definitely not UPS."
K: "No, ma'am."
Me: "Is it Fed Ex?"
K: "I cannot say."
Me: "Kathy, do you not know what company it is, or can you noy tell me?"
(A lot of muttering behind the scenes)
K: "I cannot say. It is the company we use for heavy weight items."
Me: "And it doesn't give you an internal shipping number?"
K: "No, ma'am."
Me: "Okay. I give up. What do you need from me to fill out your form, Kathy?"
K: "Your email address."
Me "The one I gave you at the start of the call?"
K: "Yes. I have that."
Me: "Okay. What else do you need?"
K: "The order number and your shipping address."
Me: "Which I also gave you at the start of the call?"
K: "Yes, ma'am."
Me: "So, basically, you don't need anything else from me to fill out your form?"
K: "No ma'am."
Me: "Okay. To summarize where we are: my package has shipped with a company that needs a form to tell them to actually deliver the item you shipped to me. You can't tell me the name of the company and they provide no tracking numbers."
K: "I...no...I am going to fill out this form so that the item will get to you sooner, ma'am."
Me: "Sooner than what, Kathy?"
K: "I cannot say how much sooner."
Me: "Okay. Let's try this. At what point should I expect the package to get here?"
K: "I cannot say for sure. Soon."
Me: "Soon? Soon days or soon weeks?"
K: " Soon days. Maybe many days but hopefully less."
Me: "Enough soon days to equal weeks?"
K: "I will fill out the form. You will get it sooner."
Me: " I don't suppose you have a supervisor available?"
K: "No, ma'am, but if you want a call back I can fill out a form for a supervisor to email you or return your call."
Me: "Email me OR return my call? I'm guessing the odds are I'd be getting an email, isn't that right, Kathy?"
(Silence. More muttering in the background)
Me: "How about this -- can I speak to your training assistant, Kathy?"
K: "I'm sorry, ma'am?"
Me: "The person who is telling you what to say to the difficult customer you have on the phone. The one speaking with you in the background. Can I speak with them?"
(A pause, the muttering gets quieter)
K: "I cannot connect you with anyone else, ma'am. If you'd like to get a call back or an email from a supervisor I can fill out the form."
Me: "No, Kathy let's not create a glut in the form room. Go ahead and fill out the shipping form and I'll just consult my Magic 8 Ball each day for tracking information."
K: "Yes, ma'am. I'll fill out this form and your heavy weight item shipper will get the item to you. They will either send you an email or you will get the item."
Me: "They will either send me an email OR I will get the item?"
K: "Yes, ma'am."
Me: "Are they going to be asking for some kind of ransom in this email?"
K: "They will provide tracking information in the email."
Me: "Which they haven't given to you -- the shipper?"
K: "That's right, ma'am."
Me: "Will they be revealing their identity in this email? Will I need a code word or decoder ring of some sort to recognize them?"
K: "I don't understand." (pause - muttering) "You will not need anything to get the email."
Me: "Good to know."
K: "Okay. So I will fill out the shipping form for the heavy weight item and you will get an email or the item."
Me: "Right-o. Thank you, Kathy."
K: "Thank you for calling Amazon today. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
Me: "I don't think we should tempt fate any more today, Kathy, do you?"
K: "I...yes..no....is there anything else I can help you with, ma'am?"
Me: "No, Kathy. You have a good day and my condolences on your choice of employer."
K: "Thank you for calling Amazon."
For what it's worth, I believe "Kathy" was legitimately trying to help me. While my tone remained polite, it's obvious I lost my temper. I'm yet another example of the ugly, rude American snot nose. But, sometimes you really must laugh or else you go mad.
All I wanted was a new TV.
November 18, 2005
If we don't get hit with another tropical storm in the Gulf, I think we have a good shot at seeing prices come off their highs. ~ Bill O'Grady (petroleum market analyst for A.G. Edwards & Sons), Newsday, 9/7/2005
Fuck. Just. Fuck.
November 09, 2005
O Rose, Thou Art Sick
O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
~ William Blake, "The Sick Rose"
The phone sex industry is in an uproar over the whole Red Rose thing and I guess it’s time to talk about it here.
Up to now I haven’t addressed the closing of Red Rose Stories. Something didn’t seem right about it. The original statement posted on the front page of the site when it was brought to my attention has been altered at least once and it struck me as strange that there was no official statement of charges, etc. It reads much calmer now, but at the time was so defensive and passive-aggressive that it reeked of trying to hide something. If I felt righteous indignation regarding my treatment by a federal agency I would be providing as much legal information regarding my case as possible to encourage public outrage. I wrote to the site admin, but as of right now, none of my emails have been returned. I was on the fence. Obviously, I am concerned about the implications of a story site being closed down by a federal agency, but, it just seemed like there had to be more to it than what we were getting.
Info began circulating at places like YNot, XBiz, and even Boing Boing expressing concern over the closing, assuming it was part of an initiative that followed on the heels of the Max World Entertainment obscenity raid. But there still wasn’t enough information available for me to research on my own and form an opinion.
I still have a lot of questions.
The important thing here -- for me -- is to get all the facts before jumping to a conclusion. "How dare the government do X" is my instinct like everyone else in the industry these days, but there's still enough of ole devil’s advocate me left to want to know exactly what was involved.
Daze Reader and Darker Pleasures (article 1, article 2) have both started finding out more compelling information and asking some harder questions. Through Google cache and a few other information sources, it’s become clear that Red Rose Stories wasn’t targeted because of stories about group sex, or mainstream taboo issues (scat, edge-play, water-sports, etc). It’s pretty clear to me that this is about the fact that many of their stories included instances of sex with children. Not Lolita "hot teen girl" stuff that walks the line in mainstream America and fuels socially acceptable movies like American Beauty.
Nope. It's not going to be that easy, friends and neighbors.
Red Rose's Lolita section apparently had headers and categories for stories that included infants and toddlers having sex with adults. At least three of the stories from what I can discern appear to include toddler snuff. So the holier-than-thou blather once posted on the home page following the FBI’s raid was more than just a tad misleading. “Rosie’s” statement that “The ONLY legal sex stories are those that involve a man and a woman, consenting to MISSIONARY POSITION SEX, in a dark room” is hardly true and does a lot more to make her look like an ass than a victim of political harassment. I’m sure that’s why it no longer appears on the page.
Still, I think we need more to go on before taboo phone sex workers start to panic. But there is reason for concern.
Phone sex is a form of storytelling. All role-play activities are. The implications of stories being able to be categorized as criminal would be a gigantic step backwards for us as a society and would cripple the industry as it stands. Going after a story site would appear to go against the April 2002 Supreme Court ruling on Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition where it was decided that "virtual" child porn was not criminal because no actual children or criminal acts are involved.
There are at least three cases that I can think of that would be valid for the FBI to investigate this issue and possibly confiscate the site equipment. First, one of the contributing authors may have actually committed a crime against a minor and the story may be gathered for evidence of that or additional crimes. Second, one of the stories may depict similarities to a case currently under investigation to the point where its parallels requires investigation of a possible suspect. Finally, one or more of the stories may have been presented as a confession, whether for dramatic effect or not. In most of these cases it would also explain why the FBI isn’t saying anything about the case. Although it would be nice to have an official statement from them to go on.
I question whether the site has actually been closed down by the FBI. They may have taken the servers and back-ups and made it impossible for the site admin to recover the site's contents, but she obviously still has control enough to post a statement. It's entirely possible that if she had a back-up the site would still be functional. These are answers we don't have. We do know that there are instances in the past where the FBI has actually killed / taken over the domain itself. That obviously hasn't happened here. The effect is the same, but there is a difference in the actions.
This is one of those cases that make us ask ourselves the hard questions and decide if we have the courage of our convictions. That’s one reason the site would have been targeted if this is just an obscenity fishing expedition.
And that would be a problem. Not just for taboo erotica sites and taboo phone sex workers, but for free speech rights in a virtual age. And we’ve got to stick to our guns on the harder cases, or else we give them the inch that leads to the mile.
At the risk of losing half my reader base, I’ll state here and now that I have no problem with most underage fantasies. They make perfect sense to me from a social and biological perspective. We become sexually aware as children. We first start to masturbate and experience sexual pleasure as children. In ancient times children were married at or just prior to puberty and let's face it, it's only been a few decades since young teens (and in some cases pre-teens) married regularly in certain places of the US. It seems reasonable to me that our basic fantasies would include fantasies of virtual children wether as ourselves or as partners. It is a way of escaping the complications of our adult relationships. What is simpler to most adults than the memory of childhood? Our mating instinct often begins before puberty and our adult minds retain that. As we get older and discover the complexities of sexuality and the emotional rewards of consenting partners, we move away from those first primitive instincts, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t echoes deep in the chambers of the subconscious. And if someone wants to explore those thoughts and feelings in the form of a roleplay session with a phone sex girl then I believe that’s perfectly reasonable.
It’s one thing to fantasize about screwing around with a teenaged Lolita. It’s another thing entirely to act on the instinct. Sure, she looks hot in that skirt, and she’s probably a lot less complex than the wife back at home, but she also listens to the Backstreet Boys and can you really imagine wanting to have sex with anyone of any age who listens to modern boy bands?
Okay. I know. It’s not a joking matter. But, it’s a real example of how our fantasies aren’t reality and cannot be made criminal no matter how revolting they may seem to others. The lesson of Lester Burnham was that sure, a guy might jerk off thinking about the cheerleader next-door, but when faced with the reality of an immature girl right in front of him, he recognized the false-front of the fantasy. That moment is the difference between a sex criminal and the average person. The choice to physically act or not; the ability of the mind to recognize the jump from fantasy to reality is monumentally important.
And those of you aching to shake your fingers at the Bush administration for this should realize right now that it’s the liberals who have given the religious right this opening. The liberals are just as often on the wrong side of this issue. Ashcroft v. ACLU started out as
ACLU v. Reno. Don’t make this liberal v. conservative in your mind. It isn’t. The previous and next administrations will likely go after this just as aggressively.
I have taken my share of underage calls as a phone sex operator, although I never had one of those phone-sex urban legend instances where supposedly the PSO believes the caller is actually molesting someone while speaking with her. Had I ever really felt that was happening I would have notified authorities. That’s basic. But then I wouldn’t have rushed to that conclusion instantly and I would have had a serious discussion with the client.
Yes, it’s true you hear about cases as a PSO, but they’re always so unlikely. Can it have happened? Maybe, but it’s such an improbable scenario. It goes against all pathology of most child molesters that we know of -- a criminal base that not only encourages but actually thrives on utter secrecy. It's far more likely that an inexperienced phone sex entertainer got spooked and began playing "whatif" over and over in her mind and worked herself into a guilt fit. It happens. Some of these guys can really freak you out, and some of them love playing mind games and seeing if they can push your buttons. It happened to me with a psycho caller who wanted to talk about murdering people and sexually assaulting children with the body parts of his victims. Never spoke with the guy again and I'm not sure how I made it though the call. But when I talked later to other girls who had handled the same caller, they said his method was to simply find whatever a girl's limits were and push against them. He'd never been that extreme with any of the other girls he spoke with – mostly he’d been into graphic scat and rape with them. Apparently I wasn't shocked enough by his regular stuff and he had to get creative. Lucky me.
Still. As much as I could never take a call like that again, I don't think it should be illegal for anyone to do so. People say "wouldn't you feel different if you found out the guy was a serial killer?" And my answer is still no. I've talked to a lot of guys on the phone about sex. It's possible (if improbable) that I've spoken with a serial killer. If that highly unlikely event took place, it's possible I talked with him about an act he may or may not have committed upon a victim. If so, then he was a psycho before he called and it’s even more unlikely that I either contributed to his actions, or could have deterred them. Anyone who has ever had any real interaction with mentally disturbed individuals knows how ridiculous it is to think reality influences them. We like to think there are reasons, explanations, and/or contributing factors. Sometimes we can find links that appear to have some influence, but they never give us the whole story. The truth is we do not know. The science isn't there yet.
There is no empirical evidence that proves people act on their taboo fantasies. Yes, there is evidence to suggest that child molesters fantasize about sex with children, but, unless we can understand how many non-molesting individuals have these same types of fantasies we can’t know how unusual that is. Police find porn at most homes where domestic crimes are committed, but that's because an estimated 80% of American homes have some kind of porn in them. Does that mean porn incites domestic violence? If 80% of American homes had toasters, would the toasters be the cause of domestic violence? Legislators continue to submarine any funding for sexuality studies so we can only wonder.
I personally have now and likely will always fantasies about being underage in my *personal* fantasy life. Generally I am between 12 and 16 in such fantasies, but occasionally I dip younger. For people who were sexually aware at younger ages, I can understand those numbers going lower. True, toddler and infant stories make me inwardly flinch, but I'm sure the idea that I fantasize about being a pre-teen makes others flinch. Complicate this with the fact that snuff makes me extremely uncomfortable (personally) and, well, we're talking about the kind of porn that is going to be the most difficult for me to defend, and I still want all the facts before taking any kind of stand on Rose Red Story’s behalf.
Daze points out that there are two schools of thought: fantasies and stories contribute to action and/or fantasies and stories appease the appetite and prevent action. I think there are other schools of thought, but the truth is that no one knows and it doesn't matter. The virtual creation cannot be counted as a crime. You cannot police the mind. You cannot make a fictional story or a work of art into a crime. That's my bottom line. Nothing else matters to me. If we start to go in that direction it will be a day ten times more frightening to me than 9/11 ever could have been. Because then it isn’t an outside force coming after us, it’s a cancer inwardly eating our rights out of our own minds.
For the record, my personal beliefs are as follows:
1. I believe in the five -year rule. A twenty-one year old having consensual sex with a sixteen year old is not statutory rape (if it's rape-rape, that's a different issue). Anyone who is more than five years older than an underage partner and having consensual sex with them should face moderate legal reprimand depending on the circumstance. Again, non-consensual instances should have different (and more severe) punishments.
2. Statutory rape is not child molestation or pedophilia. There is a reason we have separate terms for things. A thirty year old guy who is sleeping with a sixteen year old girl is not the same as a thirty year old guy committing sexual acts upon a toddler and the punishments for these crimes should be vastly different. We need to stop labeling every sex act with an underage person as “child molesting” the same way we have to stop labeling all acts of violence as terrorism. Using blanket statements is good for sensationalizing mediocre crimes, but it builds up public skepticism toward facing the real problems.
3. Child molesting and/or child exploitation is a serious crime of the worst imaginable type, but it is limited to the actual physical act. People who buy/acquire real child pornography aren't people I want to buddy up with, but they have not physically committed any act upon a child. They should be compelled to hand over whatever physical evidence they have in their possession and to aid in whatever way they can to help trace it back to the people who did commit the actual crime. We're never going to catch the people actually doing harm if we allow police to spend time, money, and effort on going after the low-hanging fruit. It will always be easier to catch consumers, the goal is to catch the producers. Making it illegal to own also makes it more unlikely that discoveries will be reported. If a person stumbles upon child porn by accident in our current atmosphere they are far more likely to get rid of it than they are to hand it over to the authorities. This makes finding the bad guys harder.
4. Those people who actually commit crimes against children should face the gravest punishments we have available via our legal system. They may not have taken lives, but they have gambled on the health, safety, and mental well-being of a helpless person. They haven’t committed murder, but they’ve committed pretty much the next most vile thing to it. There isn't a room dark enough to keep these people in. This is why we have to actually catch them and protect children from them instead of passing laws that make no sense. We also need to talk to them, study them, and try to find out what makes them do the things they do so we can help prevent it if possible (although I suspect it is going to end up being something more like a chemical imbalance than it is a social influence once sciences gets to the point where we can uncover answers like these).
Every year it seems our government is trying to criminalize a new segment of our society in the name of protecting children. Anti-smoking laws, no-tolerance drug policy, zero-tolerance school policies, and, of course, anti-gay and anti-porn crusades. We are to the point where nearly everyone has, at one time or another, engaged in a criminal activity. It’s the democratic equal of original sin. This isn't the way a free society is supposed to work and I do not agree that it is the right way to protect our children. You don’t protect children from STDs by providing abstinence-only information; You don't protect children from drugs by busting the pothead down the street and you don't protect children by teaching them that one way to love is better than another and you don't protect children by busting people for crimes of the mind instead of going after the people actually physically committing acts against children. Because children know bullshit when they see it. Maybe they don’t consciously process that step, but they know when things seem wrong and they’ll experiment for themselves until they find their own answers even if it makes them feel guilty or wrong.
Shutting down a story site, even one as over the lines as Red Rose is like busting a guy for arson because he wrote a story about burning down a house. Sure, some people say "you have to be sick to even think of having sex with a child" but I don't think that's true. Is it anymore sick to write a story about a cannibal serial killer? You have to be sick to actually HAVE sex with a child, but to think about it? Do we really want to go there?
The implications this has for the phone sex industry are obvious. If it's illegal to write about underage sex, then it's not that big a step to making it illegal to talk about underage sex. And once underage sex and age-play virtual depictions are criminalized, then what's the next item on the list?
I think Rose Red Stories was stupid. Not “damn I forgot my keys” stupid, but “someone slap that fucking idiot” stupid. To be hosting stories that involve underage characters having sex in our current political atmosphere means you had better be ready for the legal battle to come. And when it comes you better come out swinging with more than the bullshit whimpering statement that was posted after they were shut down.
But stupidity isn't criminal. I don't have enough information about the case to know yet if there is or isn't a legitimate criminal complaint here, but it seems to me that regardless this is more than just a simple test of obscenity.
If it does turn out that it’s a battle about criminalizing stories, then the FBI did pick a site that it's going to be hard to defend and Red Rose pretty much custom picked themselves for the spotlight. There aren't a lot of lawyers jockeying to stand up and say that toddler snuff story porn deserves its day. But if it turns out that’s all there is to this case, then someone has to. Because if we don't stop those trying to criminalize the human mind, we're never going to be able to focus on stopping those who actually commit physical crimes.
But it isn’t going to be pretty. And with two wild card Supreme Court justices in the mix, I think some concern is warranted. I just find it hard to feel sanctimonious about defending toddler snuff stories and I really hate the fact that I might feel compelled to donate to a defense of it once all the facts of the case are made clear.