Friday, September 24, 2004

SEPARATED AT BIRTH?

_____________________________________

A few hours ago I came across this picture of John and Teresa Kerry:



Hmm. Doesn't John Kerry remind you of Odo from Deep Space Nine?




UPDATE: What's up with this?




I'm not sure what sort of appeal a pumpkin-hued presidential candidate will have on the masses. We'll wait and see.




Monday, September 20, 2004

JOHN KERRY FLIP FLOP #677

_____________________________________

John Kerry on September 20, 2004:
Sen. John Kerry said Monday that mistakes by President Bush in invading Iraq could lead to unending war and that no responsible commander in chief would have waged the war knowing Saddam Hussein didn't possess weapons of mass destruction and wasn't an imminent threat to the United States.

"Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious?" Kerry said at New York University.
John Kerry on August 9, 2004:
Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said on Monday he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing force against Iraq even if he had known then no weapons of mass destruction would be found.

Taking up a challenge from President Bush, whom he will face in the Nov. 2 election, the Massachusetts senator said: "I'll answer it directly. Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it is the right authority for a president to have but I would have used that authority effectively."

Friday, September 17, 2004

RISKS IN THE PORN INDUSTRY

_____________________________________

This is interesting (emphasis added):

State officials have taken unprecedented regulatory action against the porn industry, fining two adult film companies more than $30,000 each for allegedly allowing actors to perform unprotected sex.

The citations against Evasive Angles and TTB Productions, which share the same address in the San Fernando Valley, come after an HIV outbreak earlier this year involving four actors and forcing a temporary shutdown of adult film production in Southern California.
...
The companies received citations for violating the state's blood borne pathogen standard, a regulation that requires employers to protect workers exposed to blood or bodily fluids on the job. The companies have 15 days to appeal the eight citations.
...
The citations also accuse the companies of failing to notify authorities about actors who contracted HIV on the job, as the law requires. The producers also failed to have a written injury prevention program and report a workplace accident to state officials within eight hours, as required by state law, agency officials said.
...
Health officials have been urging adult film producers to require that all actors practice safe sex during filming, including wearing condoms. It is a widely held belief among producers that showing condom use in their films would hurt profits because the customers do not want to see safe sex.

This is yet another reason why porn is bad. There is an apparent financial incentive to have the actors exposed to an increased risk of HIV and other STDs. Pretty appalling.

Some might argue that the larger studios require condom use in all of their productions, or that this risk is somehow overstated. But that seems unlikely (emphasis added):
Few of the companies provide health insurance, and most performers find
they must work without condoms if they want to keep getting jobs
. "The
fans don't like to see condoms," said performer Belladonna, reflecting a belief
that is widely held in the industry. Like many other performers, Belladonna
started in the business when she was 18, the legal minimum.
Also consider this (emphases added):
A member of the California Assembly has warned the pornographic-film industry, already buffeted by an H.I.V. outbreak earlier this year, that unless actors wear condoms while they work he will write a law requiring it.

The warning, from Paul Koretz, a Democrat who represents West Hollywood and parts of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, came in a letter last week to 185 producers and publishers of pornographic material, advising sex performers to adopt "harm-reduction procedures" like using condoms or face the chance that the Legislature will "exercise its authority to mandate more stringent actions."

While most people in the sex industry appear to agree in principle with the idea of consistent condom use, it has long been believed here that condoms are not sexy.

"In any sexual interaction where condoms are used, consumers tend to drift from that," said Graham Travis, head of production at Elegant Angel Video, a production company that turns out as many as eight new releases a month. "What the consumers want to see is performers without condoms, something that's as real and intimate as possible."

Forcing condom use, he said, would mean that "a lot of people would go out of business." In any event, Mr. Travis said, "I don't think the will is there from the performers."
...
Sharon Mitchell, a former adult-film actress who earned a Ph.D. in human sexuality before co-founding the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, said on Monday that condom use in the industry had gone up after the H.I.V. outbreak to 23 percent from 17 percent and that it was now back to about 17.5 percent.

"Honey, this is pornography," Dr. Mitchell said. "People don't pay attention to the Legislature. Why should they pay attention to Koretz's letter?"

A week after the outbreak became known, Dr. Mitchell said, she struck a deal with 16 production companies under which they were to insist that performers who choose not to use condoms be tested for sexually transmitted diseases every two weeks. Across-the-board use of condoms, she said, was not on the table.
And this (emphasis added):

Michelle Sinclair, star of such treasures as American Nymphette, claims, "The fans don't like to see condoms."

And this (emphases added):

The bottom line is, customers don’t like [to see] condoms,” Mark Kulkis, president of Kick Ass Pictures, told The Los Angeles Times. “When you see an action movie and you see the hero jumping out the window, you don’t want to see the wires holding him up. Nobody wants to see condoms. It’s a fantasy.”
And this (emphasis added):

The Primetime producers who had been following her noticed changes. At 18, she had said she would never use drugs, but now Primetime learned that she was sometimes high on marijuana during her scenes. She was working without condoms, though she said the risk of AIDS was never far from her mind — or her prayers. "The fans don't like to see condoms … If I would have said I want to use condoms every time, I really wouldn't get any work," she explained. She contracted chlamydia, which can make you sterile.
And this (emphasis added):

A 20-year-old porn actress who identified herself only as Brooke said the HIV scare prompted her to give up unprotected sex scenes.

"I know that a lot of people don't want to see condoms, but I would like to see tomorrow," she said.

While many in the industry support voluntary condom use, most oppose making it a law on grounds that it would drive the business underground.

Some of the larger production companies, such as Vivid Entertainment and Wicked Pictures, require condom use. The industry also relies on monthly HIV tests administered by the nonprofit Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation.
Condoms, of course, are not a foolproof guaranty against contracting an STD:

Believing condoms are sexual salvation is like trying to stop fire from being hot and from burning people who touch or are touched by the flames. In 1997, Father Jacques Suaudeau angered the condom bloc with a study showing that the possibility of contracting HIV using a condom in high-risk sexual relations is about 15 percent. That risk rises 20 percent to 30 percent when the act is homosexual, when sexual promiscuity is high or when another sexually transmitted disease is involved.
But 83% of porn industry isn't even willing to go that far. Pretty appalling.

A huge problem here is the consumers. They are the driving force for porn involving unprotected sex (at least, that's what the producers say). As long as consumers demand such a thing, there will be peple willing to cater to that market. Thus consumers are somewhat culpable for demanding a product that is hazardous to the actors involved in producing it.

UPDATE: I'm currently involved in a discussion about this issue. One participant made this rather acute observation:

I’ve often wondered why it is that prostitution is illegal but making “adult” movies is not. They both involve performing sex acts for money. What’s the difference? Does filming the act some how make it any less an act of prostitution (sex for money)?

Well, apparently in California it does. According to California’s Penal Code, section 653.20:
653.20. For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions
apply:
(a) "Commit prostitution" means to engage in sexual conduct for
money or other consideration, but does not include sexual conduct
engaged in as a part of any stage performance, play, or other
entertainment open to the public.
So, if you do it in private (with or without a condom), you can go to jail, pay a fine, or both. But if you do it in public, it’s perfectly OK, unless you forget to use a condom, in which case you can be fined. Talk about the First Amendment gone wild.

Monday, September 13, 2004

UPDATE ON CBS FORGERY SCANDAL

_____________________________________

A good roundup of the issues surrounding the scandal involving CBS and forged papers regarding President Bush's National Guard service is here.

Friday, September 10, 2004

THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF THE MEDIA

_____________________________________

The Monica Lewinsky scandal led to the impeachment of - and almost brought down - the President of the United States. Trent Lott's laudatory comments about Strom Thurman forced him to step down as Senate Majority Leader. And the current presidential election is currently being dominated by John Kerry's various screw-ups and, now, a forgery scandal involving CBS basing a 60 Minutes report on what now appear to be phony documents that cast George Bush in a negative light (go here and here for roundups of stories on this issue).

What do all of these things have in common? One word: Blogs. The Blogosphere, not mainstream media outlets, is guiding the discourse of this presidential election, so much so that John Kerry has not granted an interview to the press in over a month.

CBS is currently dancing to the tune picked out by bloggers, not by Big Media wonks. Dan Rather is on the hot seat, and I don't think he likes it.

What we are seeing is the "democratization of the media." 100 years ago, people like Pulitzer and Hearst controlled the political discourse of this country. Today, bloggers like Glenn Reynolds, Eugene Volokh and Matt Drudge have taken their place. And not because Reynolds et. al. are fabulously rich and control a media empire, but because they have been elected, so to speak, by popular vote. Many of the most prominent bloggers have attained that position not because of connections or money, but by merit. People go to these blogs, like what they read, and return again and again. And they tell their family and friends who - in a true grassroots effort - tell their acquaintances.

The media is becoming more of a meritocracy. No longer will we see a handful of professional news guys influencing politics and every other facet of society to comport with their view of the world as seen from their "comfy liberal elite bubble." Nope. The media used to be a watchdog for John Q. Public, asking difficult questions and raising difficult issues. Ideology has warped mainstream media too far to the left. From here on out, the watchdog has its own watchdogs - a whole pack of 'em.

They're called bloggers, and they're here to stay.

Friday, September 03, 2004

BUSH TAKES A DOUBLE-DIGIT LEAD

_____________________________________

I previously blogged a bit about John Kerry's Dukakis Moment. In retrospect, I think it's perhaps incorrect to pin down exactly when Kerry's presidential bid went south.

--Was it his tall tale, repeated several times, about a "seared, seared" memory of being in Cambodia during Christmas 1968 (a claim that's been pretty much refuted by . . . John Kerry himself.)

--Was it his profoundly offensive 1971 testimony before Congress, in which he accused the tens of thousands of Americans serving honorably in Vietnam of committing systematic war crimes?

--Was it when he expressed how he felt about how we honor our troops by throwing away his award ribbons?

--Was it when he authored his anti-Vietnam, anti-American screed, The New Soldier? (This link takes you to a .pdf copy of the book, and this one is a link to Amazon, where used copies of it are selling for $699.00.)

--Was it his constant waffling on issues ranging from welfare reform to mandatory minimum sentencing to affirmative action to the death penalty to education reform? Or how about his waffling on supporting our troops in Iraq (he voted to send them there, then voted against the funding they'd need to do their job); Yasser Arafat (who Kerry has called both a "statesman" and "an impediment to the peace process"); criticizing the Commander in Chief during wartime; abortion; and on and on and on?

--Was it his constant defensiveness about non-existent questions about his patriotism? (As James Taranto put it: "Democrats themselves raised the issue of patriotism by defensively denying that they lacked it. A cardinal rule of political communication is never to repeat an accusation in the course of denying it ('I am not a crook'). These candidates 'repeated' a charge no one had even made.")

--Was it his manifestly wooden, uninspired convention speech, which even the West Coast Liberal Media Lapdog, the LA Times, characterized as leaving undecided voters "swayed, not smitten?"

I don't know, but whatever Kerry's Dukakis Moment was, whenever he jumped the shark, today we are seeing the result:
For the first time since the Presidential race became a two person contest last spring, there is a clear leader, the latest TIME poll shows. If the 2004 election for President were held today, 52% of likely voters surveyed would vote for President George W. Bush, 41% would vote for Democratic nominee John Kerry, and 3% would vote for Ralph Nader, according to a new TIME poll conducted from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.
Glenn Reynolds over at InstaPundit has more.

John Zogby predicted on May 9, 2004 that "John Kerry will win the election" and that "this race is John Kerry's to lose."

We'll see, John. We'll see.

THE BENEFITS OF BEING A POTTY MOUTH

_____________________________________

I served an LDS (Mormon) mission in the Taiwan Taipei Mission. As you may know, LDS missionaries work in "companionships," pairs of two (sometimes three) missionaries who pretty much to everything together.

One of my missionary companions was a native Taiwanese. A few weeks after we began working together I found out the reason he had, um, strong breath in the morning: he drank a cup of his own urine every morning. He said that it was an old Chinese folk remedy (for what? I wondered, keeping girls at bay?).

As my mission president at the time, Harvey Horner, had gone to great lengths to impress upon us American missionaries the importance of not being ethnocentric or looking down on Chinese culture, I said nothing on the matter (but my thoughts, as you can see, were pretty ethnocentric anyway).

Why am I bringing this up? Because it looks like my missionary companion was not alone in thinking that a cup of urine is beneficial:
Cup of urine a day keeps ailments at bay

BANGKOK (AFP) - Drinking urine can eliminate sinus trouble, turn grey hair black and even cure cancer, a Thai academic said, citing a study of local Buddhists who engage in the unorthodox practice.

Ratree Cheepudomwit, of the Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine Development Department, said hundreds of urine drinkers attested that consuming a daily cup worked wonders for their overall health and helped slow the ageing process.

She said that in June she queried 250 members of Santi Asoke, a strict indigenous Buddhist movement believed to have thousands of followers, and 204 respondents said they had learned from ancient Buddhist manucripts that drinking one's urine improved health.

"Of the respondents, 87 percent confirmed that it had head-to-toe benefits for them, including for example reduction of dandruff, grey hair, sinus problems and cancer," Ratree told AFP.
I wonder, is my repugnance at this practice just a manifestation of my cultural arrogance? Or is it natural to feel revulsion at the idea of someone drinking a cup of home-brewed Mello Yello every morning?