Libertarian Chick Fights Boobs With Boobs

Loretta Nall
This has been a highly sexualized campaign season. Congressman Mark Foley's email flirtations with teen male pages set the mood, of course, and since the Foley revelations, various campaigns have attempted to pin sex scandals on their rivals. One campaigner linked his opponent to teenage girls watching pornographic movies with probes connected to their genitalia.

In the Virginia Senate Race, George Allen — already in his own scandal for racist comments and an apparent history of racism — pulled a single passage from a novel written by his opponent Jim Webb. The line, "The man grabbed his young son in his arms, turned him upside down, and put the boy's penis in his mouth," may be on its way to becoming the most widely known fictional passage in contemporary America, and may even displace the memory of Bill and Monica and cigars. The controversy over Webb's fiction also worked its way into a wild confrontation between Wolf Blitzer and the Vice President's wife, Lynn Cheney, on CNN (although the exchange was primarily about Cheney's claims of liberal media bias). Cheney, of course, was the author of a hot a lesbian western novel called "Sisters" in 1981.

And then there's the one that has probably received the most attention recently: the ad attacking Harold Ford, the Democratic Senatorial candidate from Tennessee, for attending a party sponsored by Playboy for the 2005 Super Bowl, complete with Playboy Playmates in lingerie.

While most of the dialogue during this campaign has been sex-negative, focused on shaming politicians by linking them in some way, however flimsy the connection, to sexuality, there have been a few cases in which women candidates have tried to use their ample bosoms to attract positive attention.

Katherine Harris' BoobsWhile no one would accuse Republican psycho and democracy killer Katherine Harris of being an advocate of sexual libertinism, some did suggest that she was using her best assets in a series of photos taken early in her campaign to become the Republican Senator from Florida.

Porn star Mary Carey (NSFW) meanwhile had no bones about exploiting her sexuality in her races to become governor of California, but her recent decision to drop out of the race leaves Governor Schwarzenegger as the only reasonable choice for those of us who vote on the basis of physique.

With all the sex in this year's electoral zeitgeist, there is only one candidate that has used sex to gain our attention who actually deserves our attention. Loretta Null, the Libertarian candidate for Governor of Alabama, posed for a campaign poster in a low cut blouse with the slogan, "Loretta Nall for Governor. More of These Boobs and Less of These (photos of opposing all-male candidates) Boobs." Her Web site also includes Flash animations of someone stuffing bills down the front of her low-cut blouse. And there has also been some discussion about her preferences regarding undergarments (none, thank you.) It's all in the service of some worthy causes, like opposing the drug war and the Patriot Act, among other stances.

But let's let her tell it. I conversed with Ms. Nall via email.

RU SIRIUS: Have you been keeping abreast of how Katherine Harris has been using her campaign assets? Are you sad that Mary Carey dropped out of the governor's race? Who's the biggest boob in politics?

LORETTA NALL: I try not to watch Katherine Harris whenever I can avoid it. She makes me cringe. So, no, I am unaware of how she might be using her assets to campaign. Surprised though... she's so HOLY I figured she would have had them removed because they offend God. I did hear about Mary Carey. The biggest boobs in politics reside in Alabama under the names Bob Riley, Lucy Baxley, Don Siegelman and Roy Moore.

RU: I read somewhere that while you were vying for the Libertarian nomination to run for Governor, you confessed that you don't like to wear panties. Do you think people found that a breath of... errr... fresh air and did it help you win the nomination?

LN: Well, I didn't actually use the fact that I do not wear panties while campaigning for the nomination. The real story about the panties has to do with trying to visit my brother in prison long before I began to seek the nomination. You can read about that here. Also, I would appreciate it if, in this interview, you would link to the real story about the boobs shirt. I'm afraid the media has it all wrong. Here is a link to what really happened.

RU: Do you view sexual puritanism and shame as a serious political problem in America?

LN: Yes. Especially here in the South where sexual repression reigns supreme. I think the real problem though is that candidates have put themselves on a pedestal, have separated themselves from the public and would have us believe that they are as infallible as Jesus. This is not the case. In the beginning of my consideration of running for Governor I used to joke that I would release an "Every naughty girl thing I ever did" book to the media and to my opponents and simply take away their potential ammunition.

I think if people would stop acting ashamed of being human and doing human things then we would see less nastiness during the election cycles.

RU: With all of the recent attacks on civil liberties based on terrorism, the movement to reform or end the "War On Drugs" has kind of lost audience share. How would you compare the damage done to our liberties by the drug war with those done to us by the war on terrorism?

LN: The war on terror is an expansion of the war on drugs. It's the same people (government) doing the same things to American citizens (using fear, force and brutality) for the same reasons (to increase government power). Drug laws aren't passed because the government wants us to follow them. They are passed because the government wants us to break them so that they gain power over citizens through force. In all areas of the US local police have been federalized through Byrne grants and now Homeland Security grants. This is centralization of power. The drug and terror wars are similar in that everyone is a suspect. It is a climate of fear that turns neighbor against neighbor, mother against children. It's, "Don't trust your neighbors or family. Fear them. Only the Government can save you."

RU: Besides ending the war on drugs, what issues are you most passionate about?

LN: For one, non-compliance with the Patriot and Real ID acts. The Patriot and REAL ID Acts are the two most offensive documents to ever be passed into law in the United States of America.

Under these Acts Uncle Sam not only wants you: he also wants your email, your phone calls, your personal mail, your physician and pharmacy records, your library records, your bank records, the contents of your bladder and the bladders of your children. We are told that we must trade our liberty for security in order to help "fight the war on terror."

Our elected officials say the terrorists hate us for our freedom. Apparently our elected officials have decided to remedy that situation by taking away all of our freedoms so the terrorists won't hate us anymore.

The willingness of our elected officials both here, at home, and in Washington, D.C. to participate in the obliteration of our constitutional rights and civil liberties is disgusting and revealing. I will not sacrifice Alabama citizens to any such system.

Another position that I feel is important is opting out of "No Child Left Behind." It is a ridiculous program that forces teachers to focus on standardized testing as opposed to actual teaching. This program seeks to level things out by pushing the top students down instead of bringing the bottom students up.

RU: Are you religious and do you think it's possible to break through the assumption that our elected leaders have to be believers?

LN: I am not religious. I am atheist. I think it is possible to break through the assumption that our elected officials have to be believers. I have had a great deal of success with the religious people in Alabama. Many of my supporters are devout Christians who see my actions and policies as being more Christian in nature than those who use Christianity as political capital but rarely act as Jesus taught in the bible. I am not anti-religion by any stretch of the imagination. I believe that religion is a private family matter best left to the family and the church.

RU: How did you get into Libertarian politics, and do you have an ideological bent? Are you high on Hayek? Randy for Rand? RAW for Robert Anton Wilson?

LN: I got into Libertarian politics after a warrantless police raid on my property back in 2002. Before that I had never been really interested in politics... they tend to be very dull in the state of Alabama and so other than doing my civic duty and voting I didn't pay much attention. I realized after the raid that politics is the art of self-defense and began to look at all of the state parties to find the one that most closely espoused my values and feelings on the way things should be and came up with Libertarian. I really don't have an ideological bent.

RU: Do you think the recent media attention will lead to a higher vote count? Do you hope to win the election?

LN: Yes I am certain that the media attention will lead to a higher vote count. I am 10,000 emails behind due to all of the media coverage with the majority of those emails being from Alabama voters who first heard about me on one program or another and are going to write me in.

Haunted by Chipmunk Ghosts

America has a love-hate relationship with cute, fuzzy rodents. Not the scary kind that steal American flags, or attack from outer space. The kind that sing.

As absurdly meaningless as it seems, the last 50 years have seen Chipmunks darting in and out of the popular zeitgeist. My first podcast was about squirrels, and it culminated with the moment in 1961 when jazzman Don Elliott, along with partner Sascha Burland, convinced jazz legend Cannonball Adderley to do a duet with scat-singing squirrels. But his squirrels - The Nutty Squirrels - became casualties in a 50s-era culture war. ("Jazz was heroin, jazz was people dropping out of society," I riffed.) People weren't comfortable with the idea of nihilistic beatnik rodents, and ultimately America sought comfort in the familiarity of the Chipmunks.

Yet as 2006 began we'd seemed to have lost our faith in cheery cartoon animals altogether. The 1970s had already left both the Chipmunks and the Squirrels far behind, and Don Elliott moved on to writing the soundtrack for The Happy Hooker. Inexplicably, though, the Chipmunks made a brief comeback during the 80s with an album called Chipmunk Punk. Its Wikipedia entry argues that the album become "an integral and important part of the soundtrack of many Gen Xers' lives," and also claims — suspiciously — that Kurt Cobain modelled Nirvana's first album Bleach after the structure of Chipmunk Punk.

An indifferent world still left the Chipmunks facing an uphill climb. Glowing with Chipmunk-mimicking DNA, the son of the Chipmunks' original creator tried to spawn a revival of his father's characters. Sinking profits into a TV cartoon (which lasted for three years), Ross Bagdadsarian, Jr. then sunk his personal fortune into an ill-fated full-length feature movie which he wrote, directed, produced, and provided the voices for, along with his pregnant wife Janice. ("If rest and pampering were going to be the key to our child's intellect," he remembers on his site, "Janice was going to give birth to a melon.")

The 90s saw the franchise kept alive by unlikely novelty albums of club music, two country albums, and gimmicky specials like The Chipmunks meet Frankenstein. The corporate suits at Universal Studios ultimately bought a controlling stake in the Chipmunks in 1996, though Bagdadsarian claimed in a lawsuit that the studio "undertook the systematic destruction of a family owned and operated business," according to an article in L.A. Business Journal. They also reported the suit's claim that Chipmunk-related revenue dropped 98% under Universal, though Bagdadsarian told the business journal that, "Everything turned out great in the end."

Universal ultimately gave him the rights to the Chipmunks, and he then entered a five-year deal with Paramount.  Amazingly, American culture may see the Chipmunks yet again, as the article ends with talk of a 2008 Chipmunks movie written by Simpsons contributor John Vitti.

Meanwhile, Bagdasarian's lost Chipmunk movie from the 80s has finally been released on DVD, where it can delight and baffle a new generation of online hipsters. ("Diamond thieves? Interpol? Prepubescent chipmunk girls in belly-dancing outfits...? It's all here baby.") We can also expect new releases from the Chipmunks catalog, and even more Christmas specials.

And yet I had to wonder if Ross Bagdadsarian, Jr. feels haunted by the ghost of his father's 1950s success. If you slow down any Chipmunk record to half speed, you hear his father's voice, triple-tracked and performing as all three chipmunks. Of course, the ghost of jazzman Don Elliot can also be summoned by slowing down the Nutty Squirrels.

Music styles may change — jazz, punk, grunge, and dance mixes. But just like real infestations of vermin, the popularity of singing rodents is never really gone. 

5 More Nasty Campaigns

The war for control of the House and Senate continues to escalate. "You can't say I want to win the war but not be willing to fight the war," Karl Rove told the Washington Post Sunday.

But that's only half the story. A 2002 overhaul of campaign law shifted ad-financing contributions to independent groups — and these groups are more likely to air negative campaign ads. In this new landscape, nearly $60 million has been spent on a massive stockpile of television artillery. The pageant of grotesqueries is entertaining eyeballs all over the InterTubes, as with the ones in this round-up of nasty Senate ads. Below are four even-nastier ads for tight House races — plus an update on the nastiest Senate race of all.

1. "Hi, sexy!"

A silhouette of a stripper appears next to footage of a smirking district attorney — Michael Arcuri, the Democratic House candidate for New York's 24th Congressional district.

"The phone number to an adult fantasy hotline appeared on Michael Arcuri's New York City hotel room bill," the announcer warns, "while he was there on official business... Who calls a fantasy hotline and then bills taxpayers?"

"Bad call!" the stripper moans.

What the ad doesn't say is the call lasted less than a minute, and was apparently a wrong number. While attending a 2004 conference for district attorneys, the director of New York's Prosecutor Training Institute had used Acuri's phone to dial the state's Department of Criminal Justice Services, which coincidentally had the same number, but with a 1-800 area code. Immediately realizing his mistake, he'd dialed the correct number, Arcuri told the L.A. Times — producing phone records to back up his claim. The cost of the mis-dialed phone call? $1.25.

The ad cites as its source conservative web site, though the story was published the same day the National Republican Campaign Committee distributed the information. (Ironically, the story's 26-year-old author, Robert B Bluey, is analumnus of Cybercast News Service, which also employed suspected male prostitute Jeff Gannon.)

Because of the ad's misleading nature, New York television stations are refusing to broadcast it, and in the Times' article even Arcuri's Republican opponent Ray Meier characterized the attack as "way over the line." In fact, both men told the Associated Press they were friends, and regretted the nasty tone of ads funded by their parties' national committees. But the National Republican Congressional Committeeinsisted the ad's claim that the call appeared on a taxpayer-funded phone bill is "totally true, and we stand by it."

In another NRCC ad, their announcer tells voters that "A man charged with raping a 13-year-old girl was let out of jail after Michael Arcuri's office didn't indict him in time."

2. "Harold? Call me!"

For the other side of Capitol Hill, the National Republican Senate Committee has created a sexy ad of their own. It's a montage of bizarro-world voters, each giving a ridiculously unappealing reason for supporting Tennessee Senate candidate Harold Ford.

"Terrorists need their privacy."

"When I die, Harold Ford will let me pay taxes again!"

"Ford's right. I do have too many guns!"

"So he took money from porn movie producers. Who hasn't?"

The format gives the ad's producers an opportunity to include a woman wearing nothing but a necklace, squeaking in a bimbo voice that she met Harold at the Playboy party. It's an allusion to a 2005 Super Bowl party Ford attended, which the Republicans have been using since last March, to attack Ford's appeal to values voters. ("What kind of man parties with Playboy playmates in lingerie, and then films political ads from a church pew?") But even Ford's opponent, Republican Bob Corker, thinks the national committee's latest ad "has no place in this, or any other campaign," according to his campaign manager. (Who added that the ad was "tacky, over the top and...not reflective of the kind of campaign we are running.")

The ad closes with the warning that the candidate is "just not right" - followed by one last shot of the mock Playboy bunny, whispering into the camera. "Harold? Call me!"

3. "An absolute idiot."

Idaho Republican Bill Sali finds himself in a surprisingly competive race for a district which encompasses half the state. Now he's facing TV attacks with a barrage of damning quotes about his candidacy — from Republicans. "He was incompetent in the legislature," goes the quote attributed to State Senator Sheila Sorensen. "In the campaign he proved himself dishonest and deceitful and he'd be an embarrassment to Idaho."

"He's an obstinate opportunist," according to Representative Dolores Crow.

"An absolute idiot," says another quote from Speaker Bruce Newcomb. "He doesn't have one ounce of empathy in his whole fricking body, and you can put that in the paper."

Sali is a far-right conservative who squeaked onto the ballot after winning 18,965 votes in a six-way primary. A social and fiscal conservative, Sali entered the race with a $400,000 war-chest, prompting Idaho's largest newspaper to dub him "a wholly-owned subsidiary of a big out-of-state benefactor, the anti-tax Club for Growth." His confrontational 16-year career in the state legislature has apparently created lingering bad feelings among other Republicans. (When Dick Cheney came to Idaho to campaign for Sali, all of Idaho's Republican congressmen reportedly skipped the event.) This created an opening for Idaho Democrat Larry Grant.

The announcer in his ad doesn't identify his party affiliation. It just reminds voters that "If you're a Republican or independent and you want to vote for Larry Grant — you're in good company."

4. "Help me!"

Majority Action is a 527 group which includes seven former members of Congress and the national field director for Al Gore's 2000 campaign. They've assembled a series of hard-hitting ads about stem cell research, an issue some believe could become a liberal wedge issue splitting voters off from traditionally Republican blocs.

Missouri Senate candidate Claire McCaskill has already tapped the issue for her tight race against Republican Jim Talent. (Michael J. Fox reminds viewers he cares deeply about stem cell research, and tells Missouri voters the election's results matter to millions of Americans — "Americans like me.") But a new ad by Majority Action tries to personalize the stakes even more. "This ad, in very powerful terms, lays out what is at stake in the stem cell debate," says the group's Executive Director.

One shows three people matter-of-factly describing the medical problems waiting in their future. A boy says he'll be paralyzed for the rest of his life; a woman saying she'll have Alzheimer's disease; a little girl says she'll be diagnosed with diabetes. Staring at the camera, they indict the Congressmen who voted against federal funding for stem cell research, saying it could save their lives, and maybe the lives of the viewer's family. "Help me!" the boy says. "Help me!" the little girl says...

Majority Action is running the same ad against four Republican House candidates — Don Sherwood, Jim Walsh, Chris Chocola, and Thelma Drake.

5. "Stay the course."

Thelma Drake gets a second dose of negativity from Majority Action in another ad saying she "won't stand up to the Bush/Cheney White House."

The ad is a straightforward attempt to link the Virginia Congresswoman to the failures of the Bush administration.

An image of George Bush, doubling into two, and then four images, repeats "We must stay the course. We must stay the course. We must stay the course..."

"It was the right thing to do," Dick Cheney says nonchalantly about the war in Iraq, "and if we had it to do over again, we'd do exactly the same thing. A closeup then appears of George Washington's sad eye on the dollar bill, next to the words "Exactly the same? Cost: Over $300 billion. Billions missing and insider deals...."

"It was the right thing to do," Dick Cheney says again, "and if we had it to do over again we'd do exactly the same thing."

"Insufficient forces. No weapons of mass destruction. Dubai ports sales scandal. Our ports and borders: unsecured."

The ad's stark take is matched by its striking melodramatic music - a disembodied chorus rising over discordant violins which would be more at home on the soundtrack of a scary movie.

"U.S. Intelligence Report: Iraq war breeding more terrorists. Five 'F's' from 9/11 Commission. bin Laden still at large. Exactly the same?"

The same ad is also being run agaisnt House candidates Dave Reichert, Deborha Pryce, and Jim Walsh.

To condemn each of these lawmaker's support of President Bush, the ads close by (badly) inserting Dick Cheney's lips into pictures of the candidates, so it looks like they're speaking Cheney's words. The ad-makers are hoping to swing the election towards the Democrats, and they're staking it on the idea that voters will find something unforgiveable in the Vice President's staunch refusal to concede mistakes.

"It was the right thing to do," they lip sync, "and if we had it to do over again we'd do exactly the same thing."

See Also:
5 Nastiest Campaign Ads So Far
Awesomest Congressional Campaign Ad Ever
My Opponent Pays for Gay Teen Bestiality

Detention and Torture: Are We Still Free, or Not?

Gulf War Poster from Mad Magazine

Just as great as the vitriol coming from presidential critics right now, is the mixture of signals from the activist media regarding the Military Commissions Act signed by Bush last Tuesday.

Friday night, on Bill Maher's Real Time, Maher indicated that, as the result of the so-called "Detainee" bill (aka the Military Commissions Act) passed by Congress on September 28th, we could all get tossed into prison indefinitely without recourse according to the whim of the President. Maher panelist Representative Barney Frank seemingly seconded Maher's opinion. A September 30th New York Times article quoted Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law and political science at Yale, as saying that the bill "allows the administration to declare even a U.S. citizen an unlawful combatant subject to indefinite detention."

An All Things Considered piece on NPR broadcast on September 29th by Ari Shapiro, titled, "Bill Lets U.S. Citizens Be Held as Enemy Combatants," attempts to parse the distinctions between the treatment of non-citizens and citizens who are declared "enemy combatants." Bradford Berenson, a former White House lawyer for the current President Bush, is quoted as saying, "U.S. citizens can be detained as enemy combatants if they take up arms on the side of al-Qaida. But they get some extra judicial protections in that case." Shapiro comments, "The legislation that Congress passed does not say enemy combatants are people who 'take up arms on the side of al-Qaida.' The bill instead refers to people who provide 'material support' to the enemy. The language of the bill says that is the standard for both citizens and non-citizens."

In a September 29th discussion on Amy Goodman's popular lefty broadcast show, Democracy Now, Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, "what it gives him [the President] is the power... to detain any person anywhere in the world, citizen or non-citizen, whether living in the United States or anywhere else. I mean, what kind of authority is that? No checks and balances. Nothing." But Ratner does acknowledge, "Now, if you're a citizen, you still get your right of habeas corpus."

Over on the right, on Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds reassured that, "I've seen some people calling this an abolition of habeas corpus, but as I understand it, habeas is suspended only with regard to non-citizens. This removes a key danger of abuse, since the potential politically-motivated abuses that are most worrisome involve U.S. citizens, not aliens."

Reynolds also pointed to a piece by Jack Balkin on Balkinization, that analyzes what aspects of the bill apply to US citizens. Balkin, according to Reynolds, shows that, "the habeas-stripping procedures only apply to aliens, but other provisions regarding unlawful combatants may apply to U.S. citizens."

Drifting further from the mainstream, on October 4th on the Information Clearing House site, Chris Floyd wrote, "It was a dark hour indeed last Thursday when the United States Senate voted to end the constitutional republic and transform the country into a Leader-State, giving the president and his agents the power to capture, torture and imprison forever anyone — American citizens included — whom they arbitrarily decide is an 'enemy combatant.'"

Given the confusion regarding the direct legal impact of this bill on US citizens, I contacted Caroline Fredrickson, the Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, to get her take on the bill. Although Fredrickson dispels some of the more alarmist views regarding this legislation, I would hesitate to say that I found Ms. Fredrickson's responses reassuring.

Even before the Bush administration began gnawing on the carcass of our constitutional liberties, the ACLU said this about a 1996 anti-terrorism bill passed by President Clinton. "With the stroke of a pen, President Clinton today crippled the century old authority of the federal courts to enforce the Bill of Rights," the ACLU said in a statement. At that point, banks were authorized to freeze assets of American citizens and organizations suspected of being agents of a declared terrorist group. Citizens, even then, apparently had no recourse to challenge that designation. Since then, of course, from the 2001 Patriot Act to this so-called "Torture Bill," the hits have just kept coming. The new wrinkle seems to be legalizing anything the Administration does after the fact. I don't know about you, but I demand a sweet deal like that for myself.

There is some hope that the next president may not want all that power. Of the potential presidential candidates currently in the US Senate, Democrats Bayh, Biden, Clinton, Feingold, Kerry, and Obama all voted against the bill. Republican John McCain voted in favor of it. Power, however, tends to do strange things to people (particularly people named Clinton), so I wouldn't place much faith in a change of administrations.

RU SIRIUS: While most of the news coverage of the recent "Detainee" bill focused on its impact on torture and on the detention of non-citizens, very little has been said about those things that apply to US citizens. As I read it US citizens can be held indefinitely without any recourse.

CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: It is our understanding that this bill does not authorize the detention or military commission trial of US citizens. Both the stripping of habeas rights for challenges to detention and being subject to the jurisdiction of the military commissions themselves are specifically limited to aliens who are designated as unlawful enemy combatants. U.S. citizens are excluded from both of these potential consequences. Moreover, the congressional record includes statements by important Members of Congress that this bill does not apply to U.S. citizens.

The real problem is that this administration has shown no respect for the letter of the law or the intent of Congress and has time and again twisted the words of our laws, or ignored them altogether. The rush by Congress to pass this act before the elections compounded that problem. This is a bad bill in countless ways and given this administration's propensity to stretch the meaning of the law, the ACLU and its allies will monitor to ensure that the White House does not attempt to use these extraordinary powers against Americans and we will vigorously oppose any attempt to detain citizens on the basis of this bill.

RU: The definition of "unlawful enemy combatant" is applied to those who have "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." By my reading, this could be used against dissidents and whistleblowers. For instance, it could have been used against the New York Times for their revelations about the administration's global financial surveillance program. (See NY Times apology) Would you agree?

CF: Regardless of what the bill says, the constitutional guarantees of liberty and a free press would prevent the president from taking retaliatory actions against the New York Times or any other media outlet. In addition, the bill itself could not be applied in that way. However, we understand the concerns; after all, this is an administration that believes that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force gave it license to toss the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act out the window and spy on Americans. This president will likely continue to interpret laws in outlandish and unconstitutional ways. But the reality remains that the president is not above the law, nor is he the final arbiter of its meaning. We will continue to fight to make sure he doesn't get the last word. A federal court in Detroit has already found the warrantless surveillance program to be unconstitutional and illegal.

RU: According to one report I've seen, "the bill criminalizes any challenge to the legislation's legality by the Supreme Court or any United States court." Is this true and can they get away with this?

CF: The bill removes the ability of most of the detainees to challenge their detention or treatment in federal court. We expect the courts to begin to address the unconstitutional court-stripping provisions of the bill soon after it is signed into law. But no, the bill does not criminalize any challenge — it simply strips detainees of the ability to raise a challenge.

RU: Most citizens may assume that the government only uses the Homeland Security apparatus and the various anti-terrorist laws against terrorism suspects. Can you counter this assumption, and can you name one or two particularly egregious cases?

CF: Since the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, this administration has used the "war on terror" as a blanket rationale to curtail and undermine our civil liberties and fundamental freedoms. The Patriot Act — sold as an anti-terrorism tool — is used in routine criminal investigations. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies spy on political organizations critical of this administration. This administration has cast a cloud of secrecy over its actions, in part by undermining the Freedom of Information Act. There are many "egregious cases" — a "top ten" list of them can be found here.

RU: Have we lost habeas corpus at other times in U.S. history?

CF: Unfortunately, yes — Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. After the Supreme Court ruled that the president could not do so unilaterally, Congress passed a law to ratify the suspension of habeas. Congress also suspended the "Great Writ" in other instances - in Hawaii during WWII, in the Philippines during insurrection, and in South Carolina to quell a Ku Klux Klan insurrection in the aftermath of the Civil War.

The Constitution only allows suspension of its protections in times of "rebellion or invasion." It is important to recognize that in contrast to our seemingly endless "War on Terror," in each of those previous instances the situation was much more analogous to a true rebellion or invasion.

RU: In 1996, the ACLU said Clinton's anti-terrorism bill "crippled the Bill of Rights." How much worse has it gotten under Bush?

CF: As mentioned above, there are many examples of how this administration — sometimes with the tacit approval of Congress — has sought to "cripple the Bill of Rights." In addition to the actual policies, the rhetoric coming from the White House and its allies is particularly alarming: those who oppose the president and his policies are somehow supporting the terrorists. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ACLU and its allies — including such Republican stalwarts as former Republican Congressman Bob Barr — understand the importance of having both security and liberty. The administration pays only lip service to protecting civil liberties, while its actions seek to undermine our freedoms. We can, and must, be both safe and free.

RU: What can you, or we, do about it?

CF: Keep fighting! And realize that we are beginning to have successes. The Military Commission Act was extremely disappointing, but more and more Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are willing to vote against these types of bills. And though we lost this fight, we have managed to stop Congress from rubber-stamping the bill to legalize NSA spying — the Senate adjourned without voting on it. The administration and its allies are working hard for a bill that would legalize illegal warrantless eavesdropping, but we are fighting with a broad coalition of allies and we are winning.

Violet Blue SHOCKER: “I’d Do Bruce Campbell!”

OK. That's a cheap tabloid headline, just like the one we put on the audio version of this interview.

In truth, we get into some interesting questions: about evolutionary psychology and women's sexuality; about the awful state of sex education in the US; about how media corporations try to purchase edginess, and of course, about how Violet Blue's boobies were all over Market Street in San Francisco.

As most of you know, Violet Blue is a popular sex writer and sex blogger. Her recent books are The Adventurous Couple's Guide to Sex Toys and The Smart Girl's Guide to Porn. And she's just started writing a regular sex column for SF Gate, the website run by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The whole gang from The RU Sirius Show piped in with questions, including Jeff Diehl, Diana Brown, and Steve Robles. In the end, we all agreed we'd do Bruce Campbell.
To listen to the full interview in MP3 click here.

RU SIRIUS: You have this column for SF Gate, which is a website for San Francisco's mainstream newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle. How shocked should America be with this column?

VIOLET BLUE: It's fairly shocking, actually.

RU: So say you're like in Iowa.

VB: Oh yeah, I'm getting mail from them actually.

DIANA BROWN: Love letters, no doubt.

VB: Love letters from the square states. Yeah, it's utterly adorable being told that I should be locked up and thrown away without a key and that I should crawl back into the little hole that I came from.

JEFF DIEHL: Sounds kinky!

VB: It is. It's kinda hot actually. It's giving me all sorts of ideas. I never really received hate mail until I started writing for the Chronicle and now I'm receiving hate mail from really conservative people.

I haven't really written about anything particularly shocking, although I am writing about sex in San Francisco. We're definitely in a bubble in terms of having a really large and articulate sex culture here.

In an article I wrote about having beer with sex educators in an old man bar on Market Street, I joked about the fact that we joke about bestiality and necrophilia. To some people in Iowa... theyre like, "Oh my god, they're having sex with dogs in San Francisco in a bar..."

DB: I was working for a small publication and we were interviewing this person who put on swingers parties, and she was very clear that the majority of these things happened in hotels by the airport out in mid-America, not on the depraved coast, like people would think.

VB: Yeah, the informal statistics that I've seen for the most part state that most of the people who participate in the swinging lifestyle and also purchasers of sex toys tend to err on the Republican and Christian side.

I have some interesting and antagonistic things planned for a column coming up.

DB: Can you give us a taste?

VB: The last week of this month is Protection From Porn Week. It's Morality In Media's little war-on-porn week. They do as much as they can to educate people about the dangers of pornography. So I have a couple of columns planned around celebrating that week in a wholly different way.

JD: You're feeding their getting-offended fetish.

VB: Yes. In a way, it's like fishing with dynamite.

RU: So is there a kind of prophylaxis against porn that you could approve of? You do tell us what good porn and bad porn is.

VB: I'm definitely in a war against bad porn.

RU: So is the fact that you have this column on the Chronicles website controversial? Are their internal politics, within the Chronicle. that you can talk about?

VB: It is controversial. From my experience so far, it's kind of like working for a cokehead.

RU: Are you talking about Phil (Bronstein, Executive Editor of the SF Chronicle)?

VB: Oh no. Phil is actually cool. Phil is REALLY cool. No, I mean the institution itself. It's just like, they really want to do this thing with me but then someone at the highest level freaks out at the last minute and they pull all my links. My column went up and they originally didn't link to my site or use any of the links in my column. And then the next week, they put a couple of links in. And then in the next column, they put all my links in, including linking to my site. And then two days later, they yanked the link from my bio to my site. So now I'm wondering, what's going to happen with the next column.

DB: It sounds random.

VB: Well, it seems like there's some kind of war of ideology going on there. They want the hint of sex, or the hint of cool, or the hint of hip, or the blogger, because I'm like the token blogger.

RU: This is the whole story of corporate America; where they're always coming around and saying, "We want edgy." And they don't. They just want something that looks fashionable.

VB: They want the aura of edgy without also making the commitment to what that means.

RU: Your column [for SF Gate] was advertised illicitly [laughter]. Do tell us about our friends in the Billboard Liberation Front. Not YOUR friends, of course. You're innocent!

VB: I had no idea actually that this was even happening. I got like a grainy phone cam pic sent to me in the middle of the night. I was like, "This has got to be a photoshop job." And then when I woke up in the morning — it was the morning my column launched — I got an email from somebody in the Chronicle building that said, "I can see you from my desk, seven times life-size."

RU: Do tell our audience what this is, because they may not know.

VB: Apparently, in the middle of the night, a group of individuals went out — they had printed pictures from my website, not just pictures from my blog but somewhat explicit photos from my explicit photos gallery — and they made them look like ads that the SF Gate and Chronicle had done, so they looked like bus stop ads and bus shelter ads. And they put them all over the place. I did see one on the side of a bus.

RU: Wow. They did a hell of a job!

VB: One of the pictures that someone showed me was from the side of a bus, and the bus was in motion. I had no idea this was going to happen. I had no idea who did it. I went and found one at 5th and Mission and at the bottom it said

What's weird is that's not actually the URL for Billboard Liberation Front. is their real url.

JD: I missed them. Do you have them posted on your website?

VB: I do, yeah. My boobies were all over Market Street! [laughter]

RU: They must be big!

JD: So when I was reading the part in your book (The Smart Girl's Guide to Porn) about women being turned on by visuals. I think I can believe that...

RU: I've just never SEEN it. [laughter]

JD: Most women WILL say, "porn doesn't really do it for me." And certainly the mainstream media repeats that over and over again. And even mainstream science says, "it's just a simple evolutionary fact that there are reasons why men are more turned on by visual imagery." But there have been a few instances where I've been with girls and watched porn and could clearly tell that they were affected by it in a good way. So do you think that a lot of the difference between either the perception or reality of men versus women being affected by visual imagery has to do with the taboo? Women are more resistant to accepting that they can enjoy it because of the fear of being perceived as a slut?

VB: I think there are a couple of different answers to that question. This reminds me: I recently did an interview with the guy who is the Editor-in-Chief of Playboy magazine: the print magazine. Remember that? Anyway, he wanted to feature my book in the Playboy Advisor section. And for some reason, he wanted to talk to me on the phone. And we got into a half-hour argument over whether women are turned on by visual imagery or not. And I thought it was a really telling argument to be having with this guy who is in charge of this magazine — this very dated magazine that a lot of people often voice complaints about. And one of the things he kept throwing at me in terms of this argument is this biological imperative — that women wouldn't be interested in anything that would cause them sexual pleasure outside of anything that would promote their biological imperative to breed and have babies. And it's a real common mainstream argument when it comes to women and sexual pleasure.

RU: That's a very extreme interpretation of Darwinian evolutionary biology. There are distinctions between the sexes but that's a very extreme interpretation.

VB: One of the things I come across... obviously my Smart Girl's Guide to Porn is for women, and it's written for sort of a newcomer audience. Most women tend to be newcomers to porn. Guys sort of grow up with porn and women don't. Every guy you talk to, as a generalization, will say, "Oh yeah. Dad's Playboys" or "My older brother's porn stash." So guys grow up already with language about it before they even hit eighteen. And women don't get that growing up. And we also don't get a cultural acknowledgement between our peers about what's hot to jack off to. If you and I are the same age, your experience of porn is going to be much more advanced than mine just because of the way that our genders are acculturated.

RU: Do you think there's anything to this whatsoever? The belief is that women get hot reading stories whereas men like visuals.

VB: Ugh. It's context context context. When you grow up and you're not used to explicit sexual imagery... For instance, I got sex ed in school, but I grew up in California. In most of the nation, particularly over the last five years, you can only get abstinence education in public schools. And people who do get any sex ed in school, it's reproductive education. It's all about how babies get made and it's all illustrated cutaways of genitals. So you never see actual genitals until you see porn.

RU: When I was in school, they didn't have sex ed at all.

VB: Right so your education came from porn.

RU: Right.

JD: So most young males get their education about how to be sexual mostly from porn and whatever R-rated films they can sneak into. But (just to get you to take a devil's advocate position against yourself) with the internet, much younger boys are seeing much more extreme pornography that is pretty much sexist.

VB: Totally. It's super-dated gender stereotypes and Barbie bodies and all that bullshit.

JD: What do you think is the possible negative effect of that on how boys learn about their own sexuality, particularly with the current conservatism that's preventing any real sex ed in schools?

VB: OK. Before I play Devil's advocate to myself, I'm going to say the positive things about that. It's not just boys that are getting a porn education because of what's readily available on the internet. It's girls too. And women are being allowed to individuate their sexuality and their choices by being able to sort-of shop a little bit for visual stimulation on the web. And then they can decide, "I like that' and "I hate that." So that's a positive. People are getting more tools to be able to individuate their sexuality.

As far as negatives go, I think that there's a lot of educating and a lot of consumer advocacy that needs to be done about porn that's out there — about finding the good porn. Because there are so many racist, sexist, really Jackass-type displays of sexuality — things that you should never try at home that are on the internet, are in "mainstream porn practices." I mean, these people are trained athletes to do a lot of the shit that you see them do. Regular adults shouldn't even be trying some of this stuff at home because it's really unhealthy. That's the type of information and education that needs to get out there, because there are going to be a lot of negative effects. No one is going to be talking to these kids. STD rates among kids are skyrocketing right now because of the abstinence education. It's ridiculous. So people do need to be talking about it. But nobody is talking about anything related to healthy sexuality in regards to pleasure in a public forum for young people. Sites like Scarlet Teen are really good for kids just to learn about healthy sexuality and individuating their own choices.

RU: Besides having a guide to good porn have you ever thought about having a guide to bad porn?

VB: That sounds like a great article for 10 Zen Monkeys actually.

DB: So tell us a bit more about bad porn.

VB: There's so much bad porn. Where do you begin with bad porn?

STEVE ROBLES: How about Evan Stone? Can we just narrow it down to Evan Stone?

VB: Thank you very much.

SR: I called him the Bruce Campbell of B-level porn.

VB: He's not even that good. I would do Bruce Campbell. Evan Stone is like the Chippendales dancer that got lost. Overly waxed. Lantern jaw. He's the kind of guy where girls like me look and say, "Where are all the hot guys in porn?"

SR: They're in gay porn.

JD: In your book, you write about a lot of girls renting gay porn just because the guys are so hot.

VB: It's true. I see it in the Castro all the time. I'm never the only woman in the gay porn section. The guys are really hot and there's actual sexualization of male bodies. Mainstream porn is really homophobic. It's depictions of male sexuality are really negative, for the most part. And in gay porn, it's more like, "Whoo hoo! Look what I got. It's fun. Let's play with it." And women like me, who like guys, are like, "Whoo hoo! Yay. Let's play with it."

See also: Japanese Nose Abuse (written by Violet Blue)

Good Griefers: Fortuny v. Crook

In the easily spoofed "reality" of the online griefing biz, it's difficult to know the difference between authentic actions and ones that are done merely for publicity, particularly when the publicity-seekers don't have a whole lot of regard for their own reputations.

Jason Fortuny and Michael Crook, who both conducted sex-baiting, privacy-killing pranks on CraigsList, are currently feeding what seems to be a new phase in the lifecycle of the meme. In the process, while trying to turn "bad attention" into revenue streams, they're throwing insults at one another, as well as taking considerable rebuke from various sources.

Fortuny had baited hapless doofuses by pretending to be a woman seeking rough sex. In a blustery online interview last month he taunted his victims, saying his detractors had failed to prove his prank was illegal, and crowing that "I'm still alive... No one's killed me, no one's tried to kill me..."

But last week on his blog he posted a scan of a beautifully handwritten letter, signed, "Mom."
You are my son, and I will always love you; but I don't respect the person you have become. You'll never get the chance to play us again. You're wrong, Jason, to play with people's minds or emotions; and don't push buttons.

I do wish you well.

Good Bye, Mom

Comments of condolence quickly turn to his September notoriety as well. ("Your mom ditched you in a letter?" "Maybe she thought an email would get published on the net and it was safer.") After an earlier post where Fortuny noted he'd been unable to identify his biological father, someone suggested he simply post an ad on CraigsList looking for one. One poster even suggests that the letter itself was another prank. ("Jason has already proven he will do anything for attention," another commenter adds.)

But Fortuny continues to bait his critics. In a mock advice column to future CraigsList prankers, he writes, "Don't worry about lawsuits. They won't happen. Don't worry about getting stalked or beaten. Not gonna happen." Fortuny published what he says are hate mails in response to his prank, including one scolding email from a lawyer in New Jersey. Another blogger claims to have contacted Seattle's prosecuting attorney, and received a response that, "there is no violation of our state criminal code involved here, yet."

Fortuny identifies the experience as "the peace corps of attention whoring: the toughest spotlight you'll ever love."

Meanwhile, Fortuny found himself sharing the spotlight with second-string sex-baiter, Michael Crook. Word of Fortuny's prank had reached Crook in upstate New York, inspiring him to also post fake ads on CraigsList forums two weeks later, again pretending to be a young woman seeking casual sex. By last Sunday the Las Vegas Sun had apparently confirmed Crook's aggressive coaxing of emails and photographs from his victims, including from one married man in Las Vegas. According to the paper, Crook then made taunting phone calls to the man's wife, and to managers and the CEO at the company where he worked. For his antics, Crook was served with an injunction in late September, according to the newspaper, and within days Crook had taken down his site.

Crook's own blog had gloated instead that he'd sold the domain (, and he'd added sassily that it meant "the guys that were on there were literally bought and sold." The domain's registration did change — to a fake phone number in New Jersey belonging to a TV station, and a fake address belonging to a group of physicians. A email address associated with the domain belongs to "Nightshadow Productions," though when contacted they'd claimed plans for "the same busts, as well as the results from at least 15 new busts, some of which are currently going on." Suspiciously, still shows links only to Michael Crook's own sites, and it still appears on a list of domains which Crook himself has for sale. (Its listing says will be offered free of charge to anyone purchasing, for an asking price of $250.) Crook's boastful blog has been taken offline, though — replaced with instructions to search engines not to archive it. In an online forum he writes instead that, "It's difficult to get advertisers behind such a website, which is the primary reason I pulled out..." He says that he'd considered putting the site on a server outside the U.S., but, "It's just not worth it to me if I can't bring in the bucks."

CraigsList got involved, according to the Sun article, citing court documents where the popular web site alleges trademark infringement and harassment and threatens legal action against Crook unless he will "formally apologize" to each CraigsList victim. They also interviewed another of Crook's victims, a single 34-year-old homeowner who said he felt violated - and is "considering" hiring a lawyer. A spokeswoman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation even tells the newspaper that online pranksters "may be overconfident thinking that they might not go to court."

Crook responds on his web site, arguing he's too poor to be sued. "Judgments aren't a good thing, but when there's nothing to judge, i.e. nothing to legally put a lien on or seize, it's really a non-issue." He gloats that in any trial he'd use the sexy conversations as evidence, accomplishing "the very same thing these guys want to avoid... [E]verything would become public record, and it would likely wind up in the media, or at the very least under public scrutiny. "

He also bickers with Fortuny over which of them has kept more of their web material online, and argues that he's not ugly, but Fortuny is.

Into the drama comes a third character named "Mr Piss On Ya," a domain registered in Louisville, Kentucky which also matches the name of a Louisville "band" on a page. (Though two of their four tracks are recorded prank phone calls.) The "Mr Piss On Ya" domain shows only a picture of Michael Crook over a supposed transcript of Crook himself being baited into giving his phone number to a pretend online female. ("but what if my wife answers?") The transcript dates back to 2005, and was originally hosted on the fan site for a band called "Flaw" — also from Louisville.

There's no guarantee of its authenticity, and the content seems unusually damning and improbable. (At one point it has Crook saying his penis is "pretty small," and adding later that "I've been in 3 porn films...petite fuckers 1, 2, 3.") Crook had made himself a target for online revenge that spring, moving from an argument that America's soldiers were overpaid to incendiary comments like "Let 'em die in combat — we don't need their ilk in this country!" It's impossible to tell whether the revenge took the form of enticing a sexy chat transcript, or simply fabricating it.

But Tuesday night a tipster calling himself "" gleefully forwarded the URL for the year-old web page to 10zenMonkeys, commenting that Crook "seems to have engaged in the same behavior he's calling himself a martyr by trying to expose." Three minutes later, someone calling themself "Michael Crook is a fraud" posted the same URL — in a comment on Jason Fortuny's blog.

Another comment appeared — less than an hour later — responding that the transcript "was long ago proven to be a forgery," and adding, "Fortuny doesn't care about facts, now does he?"

There certainly appears to be a private feud between the two online sex prankers. Fortuny linked to an article about copycat Crook, then made fun of Crook's hair. Someone calling himself "Michael Crook" then appeared in the comments, saying "you can crack wise and insult all you like, but you're the one who was molested as a child (by your own admission), and you're the one who posted about BDSM." (Adding: "And if you're going to insult my hair, get out of that glass house of yours. You're so ugly that my dog wouldn't barf on you.")

Perhaps it's a fitting end to the story: Two online griefers uncomfortably co-habiting the same meme, locked in endless arguments over their respective self-destructing reputations and posturing defensively for an imagined audience of fans and detractors. Or, God save us all, maybe this meme will simply never go away!

See Also:
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
In the Company of Jerkoffs
Jason Fortuny Speaks
Craigslist Troll Gets Sued

What the F*ck is Wrong With the Japanese? (Nose Abuse Fetish)

Nose Suffocation

I'm not the first person to say this, but there's an open letter I have to get off my chest:

Dear Japan,

Please stop experimenting with your sexuality in public. It's starting to freak us out.


It's not that I think there's anything categorically wrong with Japanese people or their sexuality. I don't. In fact, I have a hard time saying there's anything right or wrong about fetishes or an individual's sexualization of anything. I don't think there's a "normal" when it comes to sex. And for the record, I don't think Americans are any less bizarre with our sexual fetishes. (You're soaking in it.)

But I have to admit, sometimes things I find on some obscure Japanese fetish sex sites make me want to jack off to horror films (more than usual, anyway).

Take for instance my most recent discovery of yet another deeply obsessed, overly specific Japanese sexualization of something I'd never thought of: closed nose fetish.

The site is ugly and the language barrier makes navigation confusing but let me take you by the nose hand with this overly, singularly, amazingly specific fetish, where women's noses are squeezed shut by their own hands or others, their noses are held under water in bathtubs, their noses are held shut with devices, and screengrabs from Japanese TV capture women mid-nose-closure, even if just for a second.
* Bathtub and water submersion nose-holding galleries.

* Big-tit, dick-sucking *nose holding* manga galleries.

* Japanese TV nose-squeezing screengrabs.

Dig a little deeper into the slightly disturbing recesses of this site and images emerge that make The Ring look like Jenna Jameson's latest girl-girl, fake-a-rama, feel-good film. And unlike other fetish sites I've come across in researching my Fetish Sex book, like one lovingly compiled head shaving image collection where there's nary an exposed titty in sight, there's no mistake that nose holding -- "nasal suffocation" -- is being sexualized here.

I supppose we should keep in mind that anything which turns someone on that's not in any typical catalog of things we culturally find "hot," is going to seem weird to some outsiders somewhere, like a freakish cabinet of throbbing curiosities. The hand of Darwin, when it comes to doling out what's arousing, tends to be a blind hand, sweeping some of us into panty-sniffing categories, or turning us into spanking enthusiasts.

On the one hand, no childhood accidents can ever be accurately tied to sexual fetishization -- it's all theory, mostly contrived by sex-negative people who want fetishists to feel bad about masturbating with stuffed animals. On the other hand, however, I just can't help but wonder upon finding sites like G-Nose, if Japan somehow didn't actually have some kind of painful sexual experience with their nose -- as a nation -- to become so into facial bondage. Did something bad happen to Japan's nose as a kid? What tickles a nation's collective ID in a particular way, to want to jack off to the contents of an entire office supply closet being applied to a pretty girl's face? Or drippy, stressful tentacle-nasal penetration scenes that don't really look like they're bringing the girls to... orgasm? I mean, perhaps the language barrier is preventing me from understanding that it's like Deep Throat and instead of the g-spot being pornologically located in the throat, it's really just up past a deviated septum, to the left or right -- don't worry, the tentacle will find it.

I guess ultimately it all means that I really should be more sex-positive, or open minded, about nose fucking. We all should.

See also: Sex for Memes' Sake.

Dan the Automator Remixes the Blue Angels

Dan The Automator
The unassuming young man in our San Francisco home studio, admiring the view and wearing the basketball clinic t-shirt, was none other than Dan The Automator Nakamura, possibly the coolest and most creative hip hop producer around today. Nakamura is simply responsible for the most surreal, humorous, eclectic, sci-fi, beat-driven music being produced these days. Some compare his contemporary position to the place Brian Eno held for so many of us in the 1970s and '80s, and the comparison is deserved although, as he tells us, he's still working on and refining his technique.

He produced The Gorillaz' first album, and he was the driving force behind Dr. Octagon with Kool Keith; Del Tha Funkee Homosapien; and he produced Cibo Matto's Stereo Type A — that's just for starters.

It was Fleet Week in San Francisco (yes, America's most un-American city does celebrate our military at least once a year), and The Blue Angels tried to shock and awe us with their aerobatics, buzzing MondoGlobo's hilltop studio and nearly strangling the sound repeatedly as we recorded the show. But after a while, we just thought of it as part of the mix.

Lisa Rein joined me as co-host for the show, and got Dan The Automator to talk about his participation in the Creative Commons; and Producer Jeff Diehl also contributed to that discussion.
To listen the the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: As somebody who watches some MTV, I've been wondering: Why do you think Damon Albarn is so happy about having sunshine in a bag?

DAN THE AUTOMATOR: You know, I'm not really sure exactly. That was an interesting one. With that particular song, we had gone through a whole slew of various lyrics to get there. The way we would work is, we'd create melodics and timing, and then words would come last. He's a really brilliant songwriter.

RU: And Del is a brilliant rapper.

DAN: Absolutely, Del's my favorite. Actually, there's a new Deltron record coming. We're probably gonna be done recording it by the end of December... So some time next year.

RU: All along you've been working with almost infinite options, in terms of the sounds that you might use; like you might have some really corny bit of advertising and you mix in avant garde jazz and classical and hard rock and everything else. Is there some method that you have for figuring out what's appropriate to a particular artist or a particular song? Is it entirely intuitive?

DAN: I'm a big fan of all the types of music you've mentioned. I'm not so much into modern R&B and modern country and modern jazz, but everything else — old country, old R&B, old jazz and even pop music from the old days through now — I'm a big fan of all that stuff. And I've followed people that don't pay much attention to categorizing music, who are eclectic about their influences. So when it comes to making records for myself, I don't look at it so much as "This is a jazz kind of thing," or "This is rock," or whatever. I just go, "This'll sound good."

RU: You were in some ways right on the forefront of this change. Before, everybody was oriented towards genres. Everything had to fit a genre. And at a certain point, people started mixing them all up, which was a great relief, because it gets tiresome.

DAN: I agree. I was influenced by the early stages of hip-hop. In hip hop, you have guys like Run DMC rhyming over rock beats or really electronic beats. Or you have another group like A Tribe Called Quest rhyming over jazz beats. That's how hip hop was, originally.

RU: It's really true that hip hop was sort of the first form that was very liberal about its use of all kinds of other things and putting it into the mix.

DAN: Just with Run-DMC, they had stuff over old Monkees records, over The Knack, Aerosmith...

LISA REIN: You donated a track to the Creative Commons — Relaxation Spa Treatment.

DAN: First of all, the Creative Commons thing — the whole idea was to give music that people could freely use and license. Part of what's going on right now in music, sampling — taking little bits of songs — it's become a very expensive endeavor. I don't mind the fact that it's expensive because if you're using someone else's work, you should pay for it. That's my personal opinion. If they don't want you to use it, that's their business. That's okay.

But on the other side, I worked with (DJ) Shadow — we made really interesting recordings. And it's like Musique Concrete, which you could never do at this juncture in time because it's too expensive. It can't exist. You're losing a form of music. So I felt like I would like to at least contribute to the side of things where — if people do want to use something, or chop it up, they can do that. The thought that goes into that kind of stuff can bring out new ideas. And that will bring about more different kinds of music. I'd hate to see that whole thing go away.

JEFF DIEHL: Don't most artists sympathize with that view? Isn't the copyright law now mostly protecting the record companies or labels; isn't it the corporations who want to protect this stuff?

DAN: Well, it's a little bit of everything. Ultimately, like I said, if you made it and you didn't want someone else using it, that's your business. You know what I mean? It's a very fundamental principle to me. I respect that.

JEFF: But that's kind of an old school mentality, right?

RU: I would say, as a writer, if somebody quotes a couple of paragraphs of mine in the context of something larger, then I don't really have the right to say anything about it. All literature and all writing is built on that.

LISA: But you might want attribution for it.

RU: If they pretended it was their own? I suppose you could have a point.

DAN: When it's a recording, it could be the guy's voice. Maybe he doesn't want to lend his voice to this project, so I respect that side of it. I have to say that I regret that you won't see records introduced like the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique, because it's become too expensive to do. I'd like to see people contribute with things that people can use, chop up and change around.

When people sample me, sometimes I can't just clear it myself because it's through a label. But I always clear my side of it, because I feel like it's the same thing if you're using music in advertising. I don't really want to, say, advertise cigarettes or something like that, but pretty much anything else, I feel like it's okay because they're still bringing music out. And I feel the same way about someone using the music in a song. In general, I want people to have the ability to do something like that.

RU: In this context, what do you think about mashups? Have you had any of your songs used in mashups?

DAN: I've heard a few things hear and there. I come from a DJ background. Before we were making records, we were doing that all the time. I'm from San Francisco. We've been mixing all sorts of different music for years. It was part of the background that allowed me to get familiar with different kinds of music. So I don't find it to be refreshingly new, if you understand what I'm saying. But I'm glad people do it. But I also think the way some people do it; it's more for the idea of doing it than the sound... what comes out of it. I don't really enjoy those so much.

JEFF: The gimmick of taking two song titles that have the same word and then mashing them together...

DAN: Exactly.

RU: You seem to work entirely in terms of projects. Have you ever thought of trying to develop a solo career or forming a band?

DAN: There's one big flaw in that theory. I can't sing, I can't rhyme, and I like vocals.

RU: Do you relate yourself in any way to the idea of the great producer? There was Phil Spector and then Brian Eno.

DAN: I think they're operating on a higher level than I am, so far.

RU: Do you have trouble listening to the stuff that you've done in the past because you feel like it could've been better?

DAN: Well, I always feel like everything could've been better, but there's another thing involved — the ability to let go. I feel like records, movies, whatever — they're a snapshot in your development and in your life. I could still be working on Doctor Octogon right now. But some time, it has to go out there and live its life.

JEFF: Because theoretically, you could just continue to work on a project forever...

DAN: Exactly.

JEFF: Like software, you could release versions.

DAN: That's a little strange, but yeah. I feel like the edges are what make things interesting. If you listen to some of these bigger budget bands, it gets more polished as time goes on. And maybe you like the more polished version, but maybe you like the rawer versions.

RU: You choose some great surrealistic lyricists. Did you always have an affinity towards that?

DAN: I work with a lot of people who have, I should say, "alternate ways of thinking." And they find the most profound and most interesting ways of putting together lyrics. That's really enjoyable to me.

RU: You list your influences on your Myspace page. I wanted to just throw out a couple of them, because they were amusing and interesting. The BeeGees! Say what you love about the BeeGees.

DAN: Well, I was a little young when Saturday Night Fever came out. People kind of looked down on them for a couple of reasons — it was disco and there's a lot of falsetto involved. (Laughter all around.) I'm telling it like it is. But as far as songwriting goes, they put a stamp on the whole seventies partly because they were great songs that just keep going time after time.


DAN: The Wu Tang Clan is just really brilliant. I'm a fan of people who take their whole thing and put it into a concept. I love the music, but even more I just like them conceptually, and the attitude it takes to go make that.

RU: It's like people who develop mythologies around their band and have a whole cosmology, and that sort of started with P-Funk.

DAN: RZA is also an organizer. With Wu Tang Clan, there wasn't actually a group — it was a bunch of different people that he kind of brought together to be a group. And if you understand, you get nine ghetto cats together and you can organize and make that happen, you're on some shit. You've really got a focus there, you know? I give him credit for the whole concept, the strength of it.

RU: Tell us about the CD you brought with you.

DAN: NBA 2k7 is a soundtrack for the NBA's new videogame. And what I did with this was I picked various artists that represent various styles of hip hop and various styles of regional rap to do this — everything from Pop New York to underground New York: to the South; the Midwest; West Coast, Backpack, Real Flossy. I wanted to show the variation, the eclectic nature of the United States.

My Opponent Pays for Gay Teen Bestiality!

Things are so bad for Republicans right now that they absolutely must rely heavily on individual attacks on the opposing candidates.

Republican Congressional candidate Paul Nelson is even recycling Vernon Robinson's notorious attack ad, word for word, by simply splicing in his opponent's name and his own; even the voice of the narrator is the same. The ad claims, among other outlandish (though somewhat true) things, that Democrats "paid for sex" by funding a study that had teenage girls watching pornographic videos with probes attached to their genitalia. revealed that, according to an online abstract from the National Institutes of Health, even though there was pornography involved, the word "teen" never appears. That is true. For that matter, when we checked ourselves, we couldn't find reference to any "genital probes" (doesn't mean they weren't used!).

What we did find, however, is that the subjects in the study of visual arousal in females were required to view some video clips of "non-human animals" having sex (as a control)!

In the interest of keeping this wave of eminently entertaining campaign ads alive, allow us to suggest one possible way forward for GOP media strategists in the post-Foley atmosphere of Republican "ickiness."

Even though "zoophilia" technically doesn't have to involve the act of having sex with an animal, it is only a hop, skip and a jump away from bestiality. Animal-on-animal porn is a gateway to far more disgusting activities. No doubt about it.

But let's not take any chances. The stakes are too high (boredom!). What's the one thing that's more repugnant than human sex with animals? Homosexual human sex with animals! By teenagers! (Which this NIH study very well may have supported.) That's even more disgusting than anything Foley has been accused of doing -- so far.

Allow us to suggest some catch-phrases for Republicans' media strategy.

"Not only does my opponent oppose body armor, but he wants to subject teenage girls to films showing horny warthogs humping."

"My opponent spent his time in Congress advocating gay sex with animals."

One other bright spot: should this program get funded again soon, it will no doubt use a new technology called "thermography" instead of "probes." This allows arousal to be measured by infrared cameras aimed at the subjects' genitalia. Do not fear; the suggested catchphrase then becomes:

"This Democrat Congressman denied body armor for our troops, in favor of night vision for degenerates in long coats to stare at penises and vaginas in the dark."

Etcetera. We leave the final tweaking up to you savvy political types. We trust you to keep us amused.

Neil Gaiman has Lost His Clothes

Neil Gaiman & RU SiriusNeil Gaiman didn't arrive naked when he graced our MondoGlobo studio on Sunday, October 1. But according to a post on his website, he had lost most of his clothes. "What are the odds that, if I was sent a box of clean clothes to wear, a box that was waiting for me in New York, I would somehow manage to pack most of the clothes that were inside back up in the box along with the awards and books and CDs I'd been given, not to mention the already-worn UK-trip clothes, and then send that box with my clean clothes in it home, and that I would only discover the awful reason why my suitcase was so light on a Sunday morning in San Francisco?"

Rest assured, Mr. Gaiman didn't smell like several days sweat, and he looked pretty much like you'd expect a comic writer and fantastical novelist to look: all in black, including the leather jacket. And if he felt like he was in the middle of one of the most common types of nightmares, he didn't seem disoriented.

In fact, he didn't even tell us about his travails and he pretty much carried the interview (along with my co-host, Diana Brown), while your humble host (that's me) was in something of a somnambulant fog brought on by that day's health issues (I'll spare you.)

And then there was the presence of Paul McEnery, who had interviewed Gaiman for Mondo 2000 back in the mid-1990s. "We broke him in America," he assured me. I had ignored his pleas to participate in the program, not wanting to crowd the show with too many cooks, but there he was, and so he was invited to kibbutz.

All in all, it worked. This is a damned fine Neil Gaiman interview.

Gaiman, noted for his Sandman comics, the novels American Gods and Anansi Boys, and so much more, has been touring America promoting his new collection, Fragile Things: Short Fiction and Wonders.
To listen to the interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: His New York Times bestselling novel American Gods was awarded the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Bram Stroker...errr. How 'bout that? The Bram Stoker award.

NEIL GAIMAN: The horror people actually call them the Strokers.

RU: What do they give you? I'm imagining a bucket of viscous red fluid.

NG: That would be wonderful. Actually, it's one of the prettiest awards. It's a little sort of haunted house designed by Gahan Wilson. You open the door and the name of what's won the award is behind the little door. It's kind of cool. It's much prettier than most.

RU: That's real effort. Do they have a ceremony?

NG: I think they did try to have a reasonably good ceremony. The trouble was, I'd logged on to their website that morning and their webmaster had been overly enthusiastic and put up the results. At nine in the morning, I discovered that I'd won. And then I had to go through the rest of the day pretending that I hadn't. People would come over to me and say, "Good luck!" and through gritted teeth I would say, "Thank You."

RU: One of the things I love in your work is the importance of the figure of the trickster or the rascal that runs through pretty much everything. It's like this figure Mr. Nancy, who appears in the last two novels. And it seems like this may be the sort of person who can bring magic into our world and it's perhaps the sort of person that we don't have room for any more in America.

NG: Oh, I think there are tricksters in America. I think they hang around the edges, which is, I think, the place where tricksters ought to be. You don't want a trickster at the center of your life because they will...

RU: ...or as President.

NG: You definitely don't want a trickster as President, although you'd have a really interesting country for 4 years, or perhaps for 3 or 4 weeks until he absconds with the money from the treasury.

RU: Do you think that fiction is the best way to express the value of that sort of character? You can't as easily write prose justifying the trickster as you can fiction.

NG: I think evoking the trickster is best done at short length. Mr. Nancy, one of the best things you can say for him is that he does die on page one. And then he hangs around the novel refusing to go away.

I always loved trickster stories. My favorites; obviously the Anansi stories are wonderful; the Coyote stories are marvelous. You run into these stories where Coyote will get into an argument with a rock...and lose.

RU: That's happened to me.

NG: The thing I think I love best about tricksters is that they lose from time to time. Gods and heroes win. Tricksters are just like the rest of us. They win sometimes; they lose sometimes. They screw up every bit as often as people do, only with more style.

RU: The comedy of that fucking-up comes across in Anansi Boys

NG: I think Anansi Boys is pretty much a comedy of embarrassment.

RU: Particularly your main character.

NG: Which is why I wanted to do a character that was English. Because the English do embarrassment better. We have raised it to some kind of slightly awkward apologetic art form. American's understand the concept of embarrassment...

RU: ...we just don't engage in it.

NG: I was talking to an American friend who told me that she was in England making out with an Englishman in a parking lot in the rain. He got very scared and upset and wouldn't continue making out with her. She asked me, why not? And I told her, "Basically, it's because you are an American. You were making out in the parking lot in a car in the rain and your attitude is 'Anybody walking past, I don't know these people. What the hell? This is my life. Go away.' Whereas his was the profound certainty that the moment that things went any further, not only would somebody knock upon the window; if he rolled the window down, it would be someone he knew and standing just behind him would be everyone else he'd ever met and they would all be staring disapprovingly." That's just how the English are built.

RU: A sense of propriety still exists.

NG: And a wonderful magical sense; a sort of conviction that the world is designed to make you slightly embarrassed and slightly ill at ease. But I actually like that.

The lead character in Anansi Boys is divided up into Fat Charlie, our hero, who is very English and very embarrassed; and his brother Spider, who is semi-fictional and God-like and for whom the world just sits up and begs and does more or less whatever he wants it to do.

RU: The sense I get is that neither is complete without the other. Charlie is perfect neurosis and the other is perfect pathology.

NG: Psychosis.

Terry Gilliam has loved Good Omens for years. He recently came to us and said, "What is it going to cost me to get the option for myself?" Terry Pratchett and I put our heads together and thought: we want this to be a Terry Gilliam film. We don't want this to be an anybody-else film. We've said no to lots of people who want to make it into a cool big commercial film. So we decided that it should cost him a groat.

DIANA BROWN: I was struck by the title of your new collection, Fragile Things, and your take on the title. And I'm quoting you: "The peculiarity of most things we think of as fragile are how tough they really are." And you talk about eggshells and butterfly wings and hearts and dreams. And the line I like best there: "Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things can prove remarkably difficult to kill." So what was your impetus to put this collection together and name it Fragile Things?

NG: The only thing that makes me feel like it's OK to write short fiction and take the time away that I could otherwise spend on a novel is the idea that every eight years or so, I can put it all together and I will have something book-like. It was eight years. I had enough stories. It was time to put them all together in one place and see what they did. Which is something very cool for a writer because the themes take you by surprise -- you put all these stories together and they have something huge in common. Things repeat. When I was reading it aloud for the audio book I would discover that even certain phrases would repeat themselves from story to story. And I thought, "Should I take them out?" But I rather like the fact that they repeat.

What gets harder is: what order do they go in? I couldn't figure out how to do it. So eventually I turned to my editor and I said, "I have no idea what order I want these things to go in. Would you do me a list?" So she sent me her list. And I looked at it and I said, "That's not right" and promptly put them into the right order. I really needed somebody to send me a list so I could go, "What are you thinking of, woman."

The original title that I had in my head was "These People Should Know Who We Are and Know That We Were Here." It's a quote from "Little Nemo." It was all going to be first person narratives and unreliable narrators talking about their lives. But then I kept coming up with stories that couldn't follow that pattern. And then I kept telling people that the title was going to be "These People Should Know Who We Are and Know That We Were Here." And everybody I would tell that title to would look at me and tell me, "Oh nice title. A bit Dave Eggers-y isn't it?"

And then finally, I'd written a song from a dream. It was one of the very few occasions where you wake up from a dream with words in your head. You write them down and they seem to be lyrics. And there's a band called One Ring Zero who did a wonderful album where they came to a bunch of authors and asked for words. And I gave them these lyrics, which we called "On The Wall." And there was this line in there: "think that I would rather recollect a life misspent on fragile things than spent avoiding moral debt." That line started haunting me. And I thought, "I wonder what those fragile things could be?" So I started thinking about the nature of fragility and people and hearts and stories and all of the things we think of as fragile. And suddenly I realized that was the title of this collection.

DB: Do you find yourself working within a particular construct of a story and the story insists on going in a different direction?

NG: Definitely. You write the story wherever it will go and sometimes you'll run into enormous trouble if you have an idea of where a story is supposed to go and it's not going there. I was about halfway through Anansi Boys. It was going completely on track. I knew where the plot was going. I knew everything about it. I'm writing away very happily. I've got a character going up in an elevator to see another character, and I thought: Hang on, if you go up to see him. And you have the conversation with him that I think you're going to have; he's going to kill you. That's not part of the plot. That's not even where I thought this story was going. That makes it much darker and derails everything. And suddenly these characters who I thought of as wallpaper, came up and started doing things.

RU: I loved that character, Mr. Coats (the murderer). I feel as though I've met that guy and maybe you have too.

NG: I loved writing him. I took enormous joy in writing a character who was everything that I could hate. He's every crooked agent that I have ever encountered.

I've had very good agents. But every once in awhile, you see a friend of yours winding up with a rotten apple. Poor Douglas Adams. I remember going to see Douglas once, and he looked very down in the dumps. So I asked him what was wrong. And he said, "I've just discovered that my accountant who has just advised me to by a new house and told me I was fine, had actually cleaned out my bank account, and having been caught, just killed himself."

DB: You start the book with "A Study in Emeralds", a fabulous literary mashup in which Sherlock Holmes meets the world of H.P. Lovecraft. What is your favorite Lovecraft story?

NG: My favorite Lovecraft at exactly this moment that you happened to ask me is probably "The Outsider." It was the first, and I had no idea of what to expect. And suddenly I'm climbing up in the darkness with somebody who has been down in this dark place, and he's climbing up and up and up and up and he finally comes into the sunlight and comes out and everybody who sees him starts screaming. And we realize he's a horrible creature and he goes back down. It's an incredibly simple plot idea and it completely took me by surprise and told me that I was with an author who would take me to strange places and whom I trusted. And for whom everything was atmosphere. The joy of Lovecraft is not plot. You don't read Lovecraft for those brilliant twists and turns.

DB: You're immersed in it.

NG: You are. You're adrift on this clotted adjectival froth that floats on top of the story and it carries you away.

PAUL MCENERY: I wanted to ask you about the theme: Gods who have fallen on hard times. That's what is really going on in American Gods and Anansi Boys. And you're revisiting it with a comic book that is coming out right now, The Eternals. Is that why you went back to The Eternals?

NG: Not really, although thematically it does seem to be an odd sort of fit with these things. It was definitely a theme that began in Sandman. I can point to "Calliope" in Sandman 17 about a muse who has been kept prisoner. Most of the Gods in Sandman are Gods who are no longer believed in, no longer worshipped and no longer anywhere near as powerful as they would like to be. And then in The Kindly Ones, I wrote this sort of weird rant that Loki has as he's killing a young lady. He does this rant about the new Gods: the gods of mortuary and ambulance and the gods of freeway and television. So I thought, "There's something here that I'm trying to say." And that all stewed, until one day I was in Iceland for a 24 hour plane stopover. So I had this plan to keep going until it got dark. And I didn't realize that on June 23 in Iceland, you don't get any dark. So I've been awake for 36 hours. And I'm in a little tourist office looking at the little maps of the Viking incursions into Newfoundland and back, and I think, "I wonder if they left their Gods behind"?

So I walked back to my hotel and I started typing out an outline. I wrote "American Gods" at the top. I was thinking, I could do a road trip. I can talk about the America that has been fascinating me. And I can talk about the fact that there are things that are missing -- spiritually missing -- in America. It's the weirdness of the American predilection towards giant roadside attractions.

DB: The Enormous Ball of Twine.

NG: The Enormous Ball of Twine. The House on the Rock. All of those kinds of things that seemed to fulfill the same kind of place in the soul that the holy places in Europe and Asia...

RU: They're not quite Stonehenge.

NG: Yes. They're not quite Stonehenge. So when all that was done, I really wanted to tell the Anansi Boys story. That is much less a story of Gods falling on hard times and more a story of how your family is embarrassing. And Gods seemed like a lovely way of super-charging that. Giving it more weight and more power. That's one of the things that Gods do. It's the great thing about Gods in stories and in our collective consciousness. They embody something. So Nancy as the trickster; as a God of storytelling; as a God who would go out and pick up loose women; as a God who would come home drunk -- this was somebody I wanted in my story.

RU: Two Englishmen, Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, both are very outspoken about their beliefs in the occult and psychedelic drugs and all kinds of weirdness...

NG: Alan worships an imaginary Roman snake god. I remember the day. I was sitting at home and the phone rang and it was Alan, who had always been a devout rationalist -- a man who would have made Penn and Teller feel that they were superstitious. So Alan called me up and said [Cockney accent], "Neil. It's my 40th birthday next week and I've decided to get me midlife crisis over with, so I'm becoming a warlock and I'm going to be worshiping an imaginary Roman snake god. Just thought you'd like to know mate. Alright?"

Unfortunately, him having done that, growing a really long beard, I think, wouldn't it be great to grow a really long beard. But Alan's already done it. So I can't imagine myself -- if I became a sort-of psychedelic warlock, people would say, "Oh, he's just doing Alan Moore."

RU: Has it surprised you that so much weirdness has managed to leak its way into the world of comics?

NG: No, not at all. We are wonderfully weird people. It's a pity really that it isn't as true these days. I'll always meet people who will explain to me that they're going into comics as a career move. Which is like somebody telling me that they're going to live in Belgium as a career move. It's just wrong.

Those of us who got into comics, at least before the early 90s, most of us got into comics because it was a really cool, strange, odd place that nobody was watching.

RU: That's what I was thinking, but to a certain extent, still nobody is watching. It's like a really big cult.

NG: I don't think it's a cult any more. I think it's hit the stage of religion. It may fall back to cult. Comics is in this weird world now where all the places that are reviewing stuff will just cheerfully review comics alongside everything else. This is what we were fighting for 25 years ago -- to be sold in bookshops. As far as the likes of me and Alan and Grant and the rest of us are concerned, we are now living in the Golden Age. This is utopia. There are zeppelins and flying cars and a cure for cancer in this perfect future. This is what we dreamed would happen. Back in '86, nobody was reading comics. I remember the sheer amazed befuddled joy when we in England discovered that Kathy Acker read comics for pleasure. And it was magic. It was so cool. She was this weird figure, but almost part of the literary establishment...

RU: Almost a legitimate intellectual. She would love to hear that.

NG: It's true. She was almost legitimate and she read Love And Rockets. And she got into line to get her copy of Dark Knight signed by Frank Miller at a signing. The reason it was so cool was that this had never happened -- somebody from that world coming into our world. These days, everybody reads comics. I go to a big author event or book expo or something like that and all these authors sort of sidle over and ask me how they can get into the business. You want to say, "Go away you latecomers! We want none of you! We spurn you."

RU: I guess anybody who's anybody has to do a graphic novel now.

NG: Exactly. It is kind of true. I actually kind of like it. I love the fact that we live in a world where you can get Michael Chabon and Will Eisner collaborating on a comic. That's magic. I'm glad we're living in a world where Art Spiegelman is taken absolutely as seriously as anybody else in American letters. But it's so easy to forget the way things were.

RU: You're doing something with Terry Gilliam, who is absolutely one of my favorite directors.

NG: Bless! I hope that it happens. Terry has been working for many years on Good Omens, which is the novel that Terry Pratchett and I co-wrote about the end of the world...

DB: It has just been re-released.

NG: Absolutely. Terry Gilliam has loved the book for years. He has been working on it for awhile. He recently came to us and said, "OK. I'm going to get the rights back to the script that I wrote with this guy called Tony Brusconi a few years ago. What is it going to cost me to get the option for myself?" Terry Pratchett and I put our heads together and thought; well, we really want Terry Gilliam to make it. We want this to be a Terry Gilliam film. We don't want this to be an anybody-else film. We've said no to lots of people who want to make it into a cool big commercial film. We like the idea of it being a Terry Gilliam film. So we put our heads together and we decided that it should cost him a groat. And I don't believe they've actually made groats, which is an old English coin worth about four pence since about the 1780s. Which means he is going to have to go to EBay.

RU: He's going to have to do some searching... a magical quest.

NG: They're cheap. I mean frankly they're really cheap. We figured out we were going to need Farthings to pay the agents -- the agent commission on a groat. I went to EBay and picked up a farthing for practically nothing.

5 Nastiest Campaign Ads So Far

Will Republicans or Democrats control the Senate? It all hangs on five tight Senate races — which means negative ads, and lots of them. Mis-leading, meaningful, desperate, or despicable — they're on your TV, messing with your mind.

To get a glimpse at those states where the battle is being fought the hardest, we scoured the party campaign sites (and sometimes YouTube), compiling this list of the five nastiest Senate campaign ads of 2006 — so far.

1. "It was unbelievably demoralizing to be painted as a pampered slut!"

This according to retired Navy commander Jennifer Brooks. Retired Commander Kathleen Murray adds that, "The unnecessary abuse and hazing received by me and my fellow women midshipmen" were contributed to by the demeaning philosophy of Democrat Senate candidate Jim Webb.

They're citing an article he wrote a whopping 27 years ago (page 277 of "Washingtonian Magazine") saying a military dorm with 4,000 males and 300 females "is a horny woman's dream." (Oh, and 14 years ago, he also called a midshipman "thunder thighs," according to the attack site Webb against women.) Of course, in the 70s the public debated whether the all-male military should be open to women at all, and "I don't think it was wrong to participate in the debate at that time," Webb tells Meet the Press. Or tries to. In the Republican Senate Committee's ad, he only gets to say, "I don't think it was wrong..." before the ad switches to different footage — of Tim Russert incredulously repeating the idea that "being in a naval academy is a horny woman's dream."

Webb ultimately countered with some tough ads of own, showing support from a (female) retired Brigadier General, a (female) Coast Guard officer and a (female) 1984 Naval academy student who says "Jim Webb broke down barriers. He changed things as Naval Secretary."

2. "My opponent parties with lingerie-clad Playboy bunnies! And then goes to church!"

That's the implicit message in a political ad which attacked Tennessee Senate candidate Harold Ford. (It has since been removed from YouTube.) In a tight (and crucial) Senate race, Democrat challenger Ford had run an effective ad emphasizing his connection to "values" voters by walking down the aisle of a church. "Here I learned the difference between right and wrong," he states earnestly. "And now Mr. Corker [his Republican opponent] is doing wrong." Corker's sins include spending millions "telling untruths" about his Republican opponents in the primary, "both of them good men," says Ford sympathetically. "And now me!"

"What kind of man parties with Playboy playmates in lingerie," counters the latest NSRC product, "and then films political ads from a church pew?" It's an allusion to Playboy's 2005 Super Bowl party, which Ford attended. The National Republican Senate Committee first seized on the party eight months ago, and Ford recently struck back with an ad mocking Republican Corker's wealth in a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous parody. It cites Corker's 30-room mansion, 6 SUVs, and $200 million net worth, finally arguing that he'd accepted three pay raises for himself, "yet nothing for police and firefighters!"

The race is neck-and-neck, according to recent polls, which means ad consultants will continue scrambling for the hottest buttons they can push.

3. "Depends on your area code!"

Oh sure, Missouri Senate candidate Claire McCaskill says she's tough on methamphetamines. But everything she says "depends on your area code... She just tells you what you want to hear."

So does this mean she's in favor of methamphetamines? Well, no. The ad doesn't cite her position on the illegal drug. But she lived in a city that had illegal drugs — lots of 'em! (Kansas City was "the meth capital of America," according to a four-year-old Kansas City Star article cited by the ad.) And at that time, Claire McCaskille was a prosecutor for the county! See?!

That charge has since been removed from the online version of the Republican National Senate Committee's ad. Its other two supposed McCaskill flip-flops were 1.) gun control, which she was either for or against, and 2.) she missed paying her property taxes, yet had the gall to talk about things like "integrity" in her campaign.

The logic can be a little strained — but we're sure Republican Jim Talent appreciates the effort.

4. "A piss-poor job!"

Emotional music lauds the 9/11 firefighters who fought Montana's forest fires. Except, they were doing "a piss-poor job" according to evil Republican Senator Conrad Burns. While pointing at one, he said, "he hasn't done a god-damned thing," according to the ad. Burns' dirty words were re-broadcast into Montana homes, after a Democrat Senate Campaign Committee disclaimer that: "The following contains language by Conrad Burns, unsuitable for Montana."

Using his own words against him, Burns' opponent, newcomer John Tester, seems to have gotten the upper-hand with Montana's conservative voters. But it's not like the Republican candidate didn't try. "Feller comes in fer a trim on his flat-top," says a barber in one of Burns' ads, "because he's running fer U.S. Senate. Guess he doesn't want anyone to know he opposes a gay marriage ban, thinks flag burning is all right, and supports higher taxes!"

Apparently, the ad-makers thought all Montanans are rural hicks who only trust their barber. But ultimately no amount of barber-speak could keep Tester from opening a lead on the incumbent that will likely cost him his Senate seat. "Here's a tip," ran the counter-ad. "The man attacking Jon Tester is an actor. A fake, sent by Senator Burns' Washington friends..." Tester later pointed out to the L.A. Times that he doesn't support gay marriage or flag-burning, but opposes addressing the issues with constitutional amendments. Finally an op-ed in the New York Times even tracked down Mr. Tester's real barber, who said the ads were phony cheap shots. Then added, "I thought there was a war going on in Iraq, for crying out loud."

5. "...The happier we'll be!"

Mike DeWine is the incumbent Republican Senator in Ohio. (He's also incredibly short.) And he used the innocuous phrase "we all have to work together: Democrats, Republicans," in his ads. Suddenly the picture freezes, in a new ad from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

"Senator DeWine HAS worked together," it tells us, "voting 92% of the time with President Bush."

"The more we work together, the happier we'll be," a chorus of children sings, as subtitles flash over a picture of smiling Michael DeWine with his arm around President Bush.
Increasing the National Debt to $9 trillion
Tax breaks for the oil companies
Tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas
Mike DeWine likes working together with George Bush.

With President Bush's popularity ratings stuck in the high 30s, this may ultimately be the most negative campaign ad of all.

Think you know of better ones? Leave them in the comments!

See also:
Awesomest Campaign Ad Ever
5 More Nasty Campaigns
My Opponent Pays for Gay Teen Bestiality.

The Perversions of Perverted-Justice

Von Erck"To Catch a Predator" on Dateline introduced sex baiting to the popular mind. Fortuny and Crook may have adapted it to their own psychological obsessions, but clearly, NBC's relationship with "" is the established and refined model for the freelance bad-guy sting.

On Friday, NBC ran the fifth installment of the pedophile-trapping news segment. The stings are choreographed by a community college drop-out and his group of "trained citizen contributors" who have, in the name of protecting society from its most reviled deviants, also aimed their vigilante arsenal at rival web sites, personal enemies, and even Google and Wikipedia.

It's got to be a little heady these days for Xavier Von Erck, the Director of Operations for In an online essay, he talks about growing up with a mother who "worked everything from Taco Bell to gas station jobs to warehouse jobs to parts delivery jobs." His group now rakes in over a hundred grand for each episode it's involved with.

A recent New York Daily News article cited another article on RadarOnline identifying him as a 27-year-old Oregon community college dropout. But when the article linked to his blog, Von Erck redirected it to his original emails to the magazine's reporter. "I completed some college before what I would call a 'productive internet addiction' ruined my studies," he'd commented, "which I were not all that interested in anyways."

There are people who oppose's methods. There's even an opposing site that calls itself ("Number of INNOCENT people harassed and terrorized by volunteer vigilantes...with no police involvement since January 2003: 2704.") This in turn spawned a counter-counter site called whose sole function is to criticize

It all culminated in a bizarre incident involving an Arkansas pilot — a married man (and non-pedophile) who still vehemently opposed the group. He'd threatened everything from online computer attacks to investigations from the IRS. The response? Erck says his group lured the married man into an online romance by pretending to be a sympathetic female and then continued the online relationship for several months, leading to the collection of thousands of lines of chat containing personal information used to out the straying man to his wife.

Fighting pedophiles has brought with it still more enemies. For instance, they have a problem with Google. Their site argues that pedophiles "have infiltrated legitimate businesses to try to spread their pro-pedo message to the masses" — if by "infiltrated legitimate businesses," you mean "posted on a blog." Google is their #1 target for its ownership of Blogspot, which is guilty of not removing sites advocating sex with children. Perverted-Justice concedes that "We love Google," yet the company is #1 in their "Corporate Sex Offender registry" for failing to remove pedophilia-advocating blogs, including two blogs by a user named Rookiee.

Both Google and (Rookiee's podcast host) are listed as "aggressive corporate sex offenders" on Perverted-Justice for giving Rookiee a platform. The first name on their list of passive corporate sex offenders is Wikipedia, which it describes as the "'wild west' of encyclopedias" with "a vast pedophile cabal seeking to undermine it." Their main objection was that Wikipedia's articles could be accessed and edited by Rookiee. (Although not any more. Last week his Wikipedia account was blocked from updating the site's articles, though not without some spirited discussion.) "We've left Wikipedia in the 'passive' category," Perverted-Justice states, "because they still have not taken a clear and unambiguous stance disavowing pedophile advocates from editing 'encyclopedic' pedophile articles."

This Saturday they added a new name at the top of their corporate offenders list: Verizon/MCI Worldcom. (Perverted-Justice argues that an obscure Canadian hosting company named Epifora hosts dozens of sites advocating sex with minors — and is getting its internet connectivity from Verizon's pipes.)

So who do they like? Well, there's YouTube — for removing Rookiee's account; Xanga — for pulling Rookie's web site; and CafePress — for pulling Rookiee's online store. (They're now listed as "the Rehabilitated.") In fact, elsewhere on the Perverted-Justice site they write that entire list was created because "Rookiee made the mistake of attacking our organization online." That was enough to get him their attention, along with the companies enabling him to speak. Perverted-Justice argues that the writings of Rookiee offer a "snapshot" into the online pedophile world.

In their own bizarre form of exploitation, every page of the site now also includes an ad for their official store, which offers to give visitors a chance to raise awareness of the growing problem of online pedophilia "by shopping." The store sells merchandise bearing the site's logo, including underwear, women's thongs, and a baby doll t-shirt. There's also coffee mugs and beer steins. For the t-shirts they've even come up with catchy pedophilia-busting slogans.

"See you later masturbator, after a while, pedophile."
"Squeeze no child's behind"
"Coast to coast, we make predators toast"

Publicizing their pushback against online predators may or may not offer another way of discouraging online predators — but it's ultimately bringing its own set of challenges. The article in Radar cited a controversial blog post Von Erck made over two years ago, arguing a hostage who signaled his weakness to an al Qaeda captor failed to understand that "Arab culture is quite sick in many respects.... Spinelessness and negotiation only encourage Arabs to attack and harass western society further." Von Erck's emailed responses to Radar's reporter also hint at other criticisms he's faced. ("[W]e have not posted the log of anyone prior to conviction in almost over nine months now.") He's angry about the way the article portrayed him and rationalizes any personal flaws by citing his site's victories in the war on pedophiles:
One was a doctor and a vice-president of a biotech firm. One was a software developer for Apple. Two were guys in IT (who likely could have figured out how to log into Yahoo chat on a Mac) And yet another had a very successful job running a fairly successful business

He may be a community college drop-out — but for the fifth time he's also busted pedophiles on television. It's worth noting, though, that before he ever dreamed of hooking up with Dateline, he posed as children in chat rooms and chatted sexually with adults. He hasn't admitted that it's one he entertains himself, but this is an established role-playing fetish in itself.

In any case, we once again have a self-congratulating sex baiter who rains righteous anger down on everyone — except himself.

See Also:
Web Fight: Wikipedia, YouTube vs. Perverted Justice
Sex Panic: An Interview with Debbie Nathan