Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The More Things Change ...

I hate to say I told you so, but ... From our friends at AVN:

NJ Producer Charged With Mailing Obscene Material

By Mark Kernes
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Barry Goldman, a Jersey City-based producer of adult DVDs, has been charged with eight counts of using the mails to send allegedly obscene DVDs to undercover postal inspectors in Virginia and Montana, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

In a turn of events which should give adult content producers cause for concern about Attorney General Eric Holder's commitment to free speech, a federal grand jury this week returned the indictments against Goldman, which include at least one count of obscenity-based violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

"The indictment seeks forfeiture of the proceeds from the sale of the DVDs, along with property used in producing the DVDs, all web sites operated by Goldman and other property," the DOJ press release said.

It is not known when the sting operations which gave rise to the grand jury proceedings were perpetrated, but it unlikely that the investigation had begun during Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey's tenure at Justice—a gap of more than six months. This suggests that the FBI's "Adult Obscenity Unit," which was credited with conducting the investigation that led to the indictments, is still operating, and that the change in administration has not significantly affected its work or mission.

If convicted on all counts, Goldman would face a maximum penalty of 40 years in federal prison, and $2 million in fines.


Could be this was already in the works before Holder arrived, but he certainly could have put a stop to it. And he didn't.

The only remaining question, and I'm not too optimistic about it, is how many of these things we're going to see under Mr. Holder. I have a sinking feeling that this is the beginning of something less oriented toward headline-grabbing and more motivated toward actually hammering the porn business.

Remember what I said about Cat MacKinnon's payoff for helping out Mr. Obama?

I think we're looking at it right here.


  1. I continue to suffer a dissonance when I read stories like this, knowing it takes place in a country where there are real dangers (of the BOOM! or infection type) being shipped through the mail.

  2. Well...there's no dissonance on my end....since Obama is tacking to the Right on so many other fundamental issues.

    Since he's hell bent on continuing and extending plenty of right-wing Bush initiatives (such as preventative detention and faith-based funding), what's one more pander with sex policing??

    Wasn't there someone who once told me that "Radicals make noise while liberals make policy"??? Well, even exempting the fact that it took radicals to make enough noise and raise enough hell in order to get liberals in power enough to even MAKE policy, it certainly doesn't seem that liberals have that much power right about now.

    So much promise...*sigh*


  3. Based on my digging around, the indictment goes back almost a year, so this is, in part, a leftover from the Bush prosecutions. (link) Still, it shows the new administration is, at the very least, willing to aggressively pursue obscenity prosecutions that were in the works from the previous administration. To the point where even the religious right is pleasantly surprised:

    "Phillip Cosby, executive director of the Kansas City office of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, said he was surprised the Department of Justice pursued the case." (link) *sigh*

    Its hard to say whether they'll be actively pursuing investigations that will lead to new obscenity prosecutions, but unfortunately, this is yet another area where the Obama administration can't be relied upon to make a clean break with some of the very bad policies of the prior administration.

    This new case is really unfortunate, because I had seen some signs that the new administration was going to break with the "sex wars" of the prior administration. Notably, the appointments of David Ogden as #2 at DOJ and, over at the DOS Trafficking in Persons Office, Luis CdeBaca, who from all descriptions, is de-emphasizing the "sex trafficking" aspect and properly pursuing trafficking in persons as an involuntary labor issue.

  4. Also, this charge follows right on the heals of a recent letter to Holder, drafted by a who's-who of the anti-porn right. There was an article about it a few days ago over at Carnal Nation. (link)

  5. Yes, well, I said that liberals make policy. i didn't say they always make good policy.

    There are many things about this administration of which I approve, not the least of which is that it isn't that of George Bush. I don't think we'll be invading any new countries anytime soon and I don't doubt we'll see some domestic policy initiatives that do help ordinary people as opposed to billionaires.

    However, it's also clear that many of the old policies will contineu, ranging from proventive detention to massive Wall Street bailouts.

    Part of the problem is that Obama really isn't a liberal, and never said he was. He was a blank slate onto which a lot of people who should have known better (not including myself, who voted for him on the LOTE priniciple I know many here dislike) projected their desires for a progressive president.

    The system being what it is, no progressive president is likely to get elected. Obama ran as a right of center candidate and turned out to be a right of center president, just not as far right of center as his predecessor, who make King Lear look like a liberal.

    I warned months ago that this administration was shot through with Melissa Farley sympahizers and that it would be no friend to any of us. It's not a deadly enemy, as the relatively humane settlement of the Zicari case would suggest, but hope for the total abandoment of adult obscenity prosecutions we saw under Clinton are probably misguided, as the current case demonstrates.

    Maybe they'll jsut clear the docket of leftover proceedings from the last DOJ, but I have my doubts.

    I would look for them to go after "extreme content" and "torture porn" and to try and restrict internet porn, all for the greater good of the kiddies of course, since as we know America must be remade into a day nursery in which the choices of consenting adults don't count for much.

    What else can we expect from and administration that files briefs in support of the DOMA?

  6. I did have some hopes for Obama, considering that he was running as a non-DLC Democrat. On the other hand, the DLC has become so much the mainstream in the Democratic Party, its really going to take some groundswell on the part of liberal Democrats (basically, a much-larger version of partly-successful anti-Lieberman campaign in Connecticut).

    I'm not sure the Obama administration is necessarilly shot through with Farley sympathizers. As I said, the anti-trafficking office at DOS has actually gotten rid of Laura Lederer, and seems to have distinctly turned away from much of the focus on "sex trafficking". Unfortunately, there don't seem to be such progressive moves at the DOJ vis a vis obscenity.

  7. Why would MacKinnon's modest-sized endorsement in the Wall Street Journal seem so huge as to merit a payoff?

    Larry Flynt endorsed Obama, so where's his payoff?

    I'm nervous these days about Obama to be sure, but I look to the delays on implementing gay rights, the disgusting brief filed by the DOJ comparing gay marriage to pedophilia and bestiality, as more significant omens for the San Fernando Valley.

    And what the hell is David Ogden doing these days - fetching coffee for Holder?

  8. The MacKinnon endorsement was carefully timed, and placed, to help defuse primary season resentments on the part of Hillary Clinton supporters. It wasn't a small favor. It was an important signal. And there's little doubt that it was helpful. In the game of Chicago politics, repayment of favors is not optional. It's how the machine works. MacKinnon is influential beyond her narrow views on porn. She's a symbol of a certain kind of establishment feminism, and her endorsement in the WSJ positions her exactly where she has the most influence - among the kind of older, more conservative female voters who might have scratched their traditional affiliation with the Democratic party over the idea of a black man getting on the ticket ahead of a white woman.

    As for Flynt's endorsement, like most things Larry does, it was just shit-stirring and neither intended nor received seriously by any of those involved.

    Regarding Ogden, like I said before, a lawyer practices law. A good lawyer like Ogden can make his arguments from either side of any question with equal abilty, and will do so with equal vigor if induced by money and power. The other kind of lawyer works for the public defender's office and doesn't end up an assistant A.G.

    One of my consistent points over the past two years has been the inroads rad-fem thinking has made in traditional liberal circles. When Meilissa Farley gets props on They NYT op-ed page from both Bob Herbert and Nicholas Christof, and Don Hazen talks about junking free speech protections for porn, it's hard to deny the obvious.

    Many women who were graduated from college at the height of second wave feminist zeal now occupy important middle-management positions in government, MSM, academia and other fields and institutions where their influence is becoming increasingly significant.

    Right now, a small but very determined group of them well-placed in the public health and industrial safety bureaucracies of the state of California are doing everything in their power to destroy the porn industry at its heart.

    Given the lack-luster support for freedom of sexual expression evident among mainstream liberals around the country of late, I very much fear they will succeed where the religious right has failed.

    If people on our side don't start pushing back and pushing back hard against such efforts, this blog will very soon have nothing to discuss.

    Sound alarmist? If you had gotten the email I got today concerning the future of AIM, you might be just a tad bit alarmed too.

    We may have won the last round of the great porn wars, but we did so with the support of civil libertarians in mainstream liberal politics. With the erosion of their support we've witnessed over the past few years, I think we stand a good chance of losing this time out with consequences that can never be undone.

    And I wouldn't look to Mr. Obama and his pals for any help in this situation. They've already cast their lot with the other side and the evidence of that will be ever more obvious as time goes by.

  9. Ernest:

    I'm not so sure that the MacKinnon endorsement was as big a deal as you say it is, mostly because from what I've seen of most of the radfems, they weren't going to back Obama from the start anyway simply because: (1) he's a MAN; (2) he was the man who denied their favorite daughter St. Hillary the nomination; and (3) most of the PUMA's were more than willing to even cast their lot with the likes of Sarah Palin as the aggrieved woman scorned by "liberal male misogyny".

    I don't doubt for one minute that radfems and their antiporn philosophy have penetrated and polluted the policies of far too many liberals and leftists; but I still say that they make up pretty much a minority of progressive opinion; the default position I'm seeing is more like "I may not like porn, but to each his/her own, and let's tackle real issues like health care and economics." Even Don Hazen's AlterNet, for all his recent ruminations in favor of Bob Jensen's books, has pretty much allowed a more open debate; didn't even our God Emperor Hostess have an article posted there recently???

    Now, that doesn't mean that there aren't liberal politicians that may be more open to "Swedish Model" politics..but the same could be said just as much about the Blue Dogs or any other conservative politician who wants to differ himself from the loony Right while still tapping into the dominant sex censorship myopia.

    And Bob Herbert and Nicholas Kristoff mouthing off about the evil of prostitution is more of a yawner to me, since they're mostly bench warmers. When Frank Rich and Paul Krugman and MoDo start mining GenderBorg rhetoric, then I get a bit antsy.

    Then again, I'm becoming a bit less endeared about mainstream liberalism myself....for obvious reasons.

    Problem is, though, until we develop a genuine, more principled progressive/Left alternative, mainstream liberalism might be all we have to fight against the Right...and I don't think that anyone here wants to endure having Birthers, Deathers, and "Wise Latina" bashers having sway over the GOP. And those are the LESS whacko elements.


  10. I too wonder how much of a difference MacKinnon's endorsement really meant to the Obama campaign, and whether its something that's going to require much in the way of political payback.

    To put it in perspective, here's MacKinnon's WSJ endorsing Obama. (link) The endorsement was promptly mirrored on the Obama campaign's Women for Obama site. (link) The date of the endorsement is late October, after the primaries and right before the election.

    Its pretty clear that this was a bid for some of the "PUMA" vote that was backing McCain by way of Sarah Palin. This was never a large constituency, but the election was potentially going to be a close one, so they were reaching out to whomever they could.

    MacKinnon's motivation may have been simply to stay politically relevant after the downfall of the anti-trafficking/anti-obscenity President, and bypassing of the Great Hope of the Second Wave in the primaries.

    However, there's also the Cass Sunstein factor, he being a friend of both MacKinnon and Obama. (I wouldn't be surprised if he was the behind-the-scenes figure who brokered the endorsement.) Amid the usual lunacy that is Womensspace, I found this interesting post amongst the discussion of MacKinnon's endorsement (link). It speculates that there was some talk of a Sunstein appointment to the Supreme Court, which would have given MacKinnon a legal inroad, having at least one justice that supported her theories on speech.

    Thankfully, the possibility of a Sunstein appointment went nowhere, and pro-woman in this regard translated into actually nominating a woman of color. And, thankfully, somebody with pretty strong free speech credentials, without any debt to the MacKinnon/Richard Delgado school of "egalitarian" suppression of free speech. (At least, that's Wendy Kaminar's take on Sotomayor's approach to speech issues according to a recent column [link].)

    Speaking of Wendy Kaminar, she also wrote a followup column on the decline mentioning the decline of a strong civil libertarian approach to speech issues within the ACLU itself (link), which is along the lines of what Ernest was mentioning.

  11. Of course, the fact that Susstein has been revealed to have more than a passing interest in supporting certain interrogation techniques and boundless executive powers -- such as those attempted to be exerted by the Bush Administration -- had plenty to do with his dimming star as a potential SCOTUS Justice.

    Funny that you should mention Blanche Seelhoff (aka, Heart(less)), IACB....since I seriously remember her series of posts done during the nadir of the Presidential campaign where she and her allies were absolutely busting Obama as a "misogynist" who didn't appoint enough women to his campaign, and who absolutely slighted, disrespected and "dumped" Hillary Clinton (even though she ultimately endorsed and campaigned for him for the sake of "unity", and even landed the Secretary of State position as a reward for her loyalty). There was even some smack leveled at Michelle Obama as a "Stepford wife" (never mind her own independent creds and her academic activism).

    And there were even not a few articles making the case for voting Republican against Obama...mostly due to the supposed shared sisterhood attacks on Sarah Palin as equal to that of Hillary...never mind Palin's preferred ideology.

    As to Sotomayor's basic judicial philosophy....well, we'll see how she does when she gets confirmed. She seems more moderate than I would probably prefer, but anything that challenges the Scalia/Thomas/Alito mad cuckoo wing would be pretty good right about now.