Here Comes The Judge’s Porn

Judge Alex Kozinski posted porn online, the L.A. Times announced yesterday. But today internet bloggers discovered which porn it was!

"And now, for the more disturbing and/or pornographic images," announced conservative blogger Patterico, who claimed he'd spoken to the Times' source for two hours, and ultimately convinced him to deliver the images he'd downloaded from the judge's site. He's identified the naked women painted like cows (cropped above), the man performing fellatio on himself, and the women exposing their genitalia in front of the "Bush for President" sign. ("That is a funny joke," Kozinski admitted to the L.A. Times...)

And the "slide show striptease featuring a transsexual" appears to be just a PowerPoint quiz jokingly challenging the viewer to guess real women from the pre-op transsexuals.

Some of the photos from the PowerPoint were clearly X-rated, but the blogger posting the contents of Kozinski's directory ultimately was sympathetic. "I could be wrong, but I think that on the whole, most people will say that the actual images are slightly less offensive than one would expect from a text description," he blogged today.

And for some fans online, Kosinski is on his way to becoming their favorite judge.

At Fark, one poster remembered the time judge Kozinski contacted a supposedly female blogger at "Underneath Their Robes," nominating himself for their "Judicial Hottie" contest. ("I have it on very good authority that discerning females and gay men find graying, pudgy, middle-aged men with an accent close to Gov. Schwarzenegger's almost totally irresistible.") He proudly submitted video footage of his appearance on "The Dating Game" in 1968. (When selected, he grabs the female contestant's face and surprises her by planting a very long kiss.)

"I had my own photo-spread in George Magazine, with lots of sexy pictures of me jumping," Judge Kozinski added. "This was a few years back, but I've only gotten cuter with age."

The blog "Underneath Their Robes" was actually written by David Lat, who later became a blogger at Wonkette. "I was surprised, needless to say," Lat emailed us today about the news of the Kozinski porn stash. "But one thing I'd emphasize is that that this material was not easily accessible — you needed to know what subdirectory to enter in order to access items.

"So I'm not as scandalized as it seems other folks are. This was never material that he meant for the public to see."

And the judge himself had another explanation, which appeared today on the blog "Above the Law"
"Everyone in the family stores stuff there, and I had no idea what some of the stuff is or was — I was surprised that it was there. I assumed I must have put it there by accident, but when the story broke, [my son] Yale called and said he's pretty sure he uploaded a bunch of it. I had no idea, but that sounds right, because I sure don't remember putting some of that stuff there.

It's worth remembering that Kozinski has always been an unashamed advocate for freedom of speech — and he has a sense of humor. (When Mattel sued over the song Barbie Girl, Judge Kozinski wrote in his legal opinion that "The parties are advised to chill.") When confronted about the dirty images by the L.A. Times, he argued that at least some of the pictures were funny. Some might be offensive, he conceded, but he didn't think any matched the legal definition of obscene.

"Is it prurient? I don't know what to tell you," he told the newspaper. "I think it's odd and interesting. It's part of life."

The blogger at Patterico says the images the Times discussed had been online since December, according to his source. And one commenter at Slashdot found a cached screenshot of Kozinski's directory, with file dates as far back as 2004. But the screenshot revealed the directory held mostly the kind of viral videos one would usually find on Digg.

Yes, some of the file names were a little racy — like fart.exe, orgasm.wav, and esheep.exe. But the Kozinski directory also held a copy of Monty Python's innocuous Lumberjack song — along with two songs by Weird Al Yankovic

Wonkette ultimately called it "the sort of naughtiness you’d find in the dirty birthday cards section at Spencer Gifts," describing Kozinski's directory as "the very worst excuse for hosting a porn stash since Mark Penn told his mom 'I'm keeping that stack of Juggs for a friend?'"

Ironically, one of the Yankovic songs in his directory gave a title beginning with the words "You Don't..." presumably the song parody "You Don't Love Me Any More." ("I guess I lost a little bit of self-esteem," Weird Al sings, "that time that you made it with the whole hockey team.") It's an odd bit of synchronicity, since the judge now faces a media firestorm — and ironically, his curiosity about free speech may ultimately make it harder for him to rule in defense of it.

Though Judge Kozinski has had a stellar career, it may be Weird Al who's ultimately provided its epitaph.
You used to think that I was nice
But now you tell all your friends
that I'm the Antichrist.

See Also:
CNN Exposes Boob Job Giveaway
The D.C. Madam Speaks
Secrets of the Perry Bible Fellowship
Sex Panic! An Interview with Debbie Nathan
Racist Porn Stars

The Great Wired Drug Non-Controversy

Another pointless brouhaha about drugs has erupted, this time between Wired magazine, the New York Times, and a reporter's blog. And what fueled all the noise was less than 300 words in a tiny chart — and an unexpected admission of past drug use. (Which in no way resembled the "Faces of Meth" public service ad pictured above.)

Reporter Mat Honan is a friend of mine, and he's not a drug addict, a street pusher, or even a very regular blogger. But he created a table of eight drugs which affect your thinking for last month's Wired — seven prescription or over-the-counter drugs, plus methamphetamine. And that's when the tabloid-esque headlines started.

"Is Wired Pushing Illegal Drug Use?" read one headline, linking to a New York Times article by reporter Lia Miller. In the Times' "Media and Advertising" section, she'd asked disingenuously "does Wired magazine really mean to promote drugs?" calling their eight-drug table "somewhat disarming."

"Do the Right Drugs," it recommends, laying out the pros and cons of eight drugs — some legal, some not — that it says can “boost your cognitive output."

Yes, Wired had tried to provoked interest in their table by including a 34-word introduction.
Brains + drugs = fried eggs, right? Not always.

But as the Times had obviously recognized, nearly all of the drugs listed were legal, including nicotine. (Wired noted it neurochemically increases attention and memory formation, while listing as its side effects "addiction, cancer, and social isolation.") And for the commonly-abused drugs, Wired listed side effects which might dampen the enthusiasm of recreational users. For Adderall, a popular black market prescription medication for ADHD, Wired listed as side effects "addiction" and also "heart attack," while for methamphetamine, the side effects included "stroke "and "death." "In the context, no one can seriously conclude that we are suggesting that Wired readers take these substances," Wired's managing editor, Bob Cohn, told the New York Times.

But the Times still insisted they weren't completely placated, arguing that "Given the magazine's cheeky writing style, that may be lost." Wired had apparently failed to be rigorous enough in their anti-drug posturing, even sardonically listing each of the eight drugs with a color code identifying "how to get it."
Order online
Buy from manufacturer
Tap black market
Fake illness to get prescription
Hit drugstore

Rather than a straight-out condemnation, Wired had simply issued a gentle reminder about personal responsibility. "We at Wired aren't doctors. Anyone who takes a bushel of drugs based on our say-so must be high."

"I should probably just let it go," Wired's reporter wrote on his personal blog, but the piece "is just such a hand-wringing piece of bullshit that I have to weigh in."
I don't quite get what the Times' position is, other than "Wired is suggesting you do meth!" Well, no. That wasn't the point at all. Let's look at some of the side effects I listed: "Parkinson's-like symptoms, addiction, stroke, psychosis, prison, death." Oh, hey, and in the "what it does" column, I also note "Prolonged use can also make you stupid and crazy." Does that sound like an endorsement to you?

I'll tell you one thing about Wired that I really appreciate: we don't assume our readers are idiots.

In defending the article, Wired's reporter shared a surprising level of straight talk.
Look, here's the thing: meth can help you focus and accomplish menial and creative tasks—just as is true of other amphetamines. It boosts dopamine output. Plain and simple. Does that mean it's worth doing? No...

Why, this may shock you, but here's the thing: Cocaine is exceptionally fun. LSD? It genuinely alters your perception. I'm not suggesting that you do either of these. Both conspired, unsuccessfully, to kill me and I would no more try either today than I would attempt to put a rattlesnake in my anus. I am older and wiser and recognize that the benefits are not worth the risks... Drugs, especially highly addictive ones like speed or cocaine or heroin or ones with powerful psychological components like LSD, tend to not be worth the price you pay for their use.

Soon Gawker had taken note of the blog post, giving it their own spin with the headline "Wired Drug Writer Has His Own Drug Expertise."

"It was a stupid controversy over a relatively innocuous drug story," Gawker began, saying "The Wired piece didn't deserve criticism for its content," but then adding: "it might have been served by some disclosure." Gawker ultimately supported Honan's position — albeit in a snarky way — though ironically, both Gawker's article and the New York Times' ended up being longer than Honan's original table.

"We'll never solve society's problems if we can't at least speak honestly about them," Honan had written on his blog. But in the end, the Times had simply led its readers through yet-another exercise in knee-jerk denunciations, and there was no discussion about drug policy whatsoever. When the Times article was linked from the Huffington Post, it drew just nine comments — three of which were about the site's pop-up ads.

But at least this time there was some justifiable media criticism online to go along with the faux outrage. One of Gawker's commenters jokingly asked what kind of high they'd get from putting a rattlesnake in their anus. "Is it a jumpy high, like cocaine, or a dancey, laughy high, like shrooms, or is it groovy, like LSD? Does anyone know where I could score a rattlesnake in midtown?"

And maybe the parody of the impressionability is the ultimate point. "I don't think Wired could influence anyone to take meth," Wired's managing editor had told the Times. Instead, one Huffington Post commenter objected only to the "underlying moral self righteousness" of the headline — "Is Wired Pushing Illegal Drug Use?" — as another suggested a strong rebuttal.
Obviously the answer is no.

Why the question??

Slow news day?

The New York Times did not return our request for a comment, meaning that the online community ultimately gets the last word. "[A]s long as we're shaming, maybe the New York Times should be ashamed of itself," Honan wrote on his blog, "for assuming we are a nation of six year olds who can't be spoken to honestly or trusted to make rational decisions."

And then he linked to a video by Bill Hicks, who more than 14 years ago had laid out the case against the media's over-simplified talking points — and maybe implicitly endorsed Wired's more honest tone about the real effects of drugs.

"Wouldn't that be newsworthy? Just once to base your decision on information rather than scare tactics and superstitions and lies? Just once?

"I think it would be newsworthy."

See Also:
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube

Is It Legal Porn or Illegal Porn?

I just looked at an exposé from reporter Debbie Nathan, who attended a research convention of The Academy of Forensic Sciences to discover what the geeks at the FBI have learned about the relationship, and potential, between "real" and "computer-generated" pornographic images.

The police's particular interest, in this case, is child abuse. Sexualized images of real children are illegal, but computer-generated images are not prosecuted in the U.S., as yet, because they don't show actual kids.

This debate has gotten hotter, because it's now difficult to tell what's real — computer-editing programs are facile enough to turn anyone, theoretically, into an amateur touch-up artist.

Many questions also arise from the Feds' investigations. Do virtual pictures attract people with ill intent or actions toward children? Or is this a bizarre, if preferable, method of harm reduction?

About the author: Susie Bright is the host of the weekly podcast, "In Bed With Susie Bright." For a free month's subscription, click here. The audio version of Susie's analysis can be found here.

Debbie Nathan is perhaps best known for her book, Satan's Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt about some of the widely covered sex panic cases that rocked the U.S. in the '80s and '90s, such as the McMartin preschool case in California. Here's what she wrote after returning from the forensic scientists' conference.

"Back in the 1990s, the government outlawed computer-generated ("CG") images of sexualized children. But a few years later, ruling in a case called Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, the Supreme Court said CG child porn is legal... the general consensus was that the technological state-of-the-art for CG human images wasn't so good anyway.

If you concocted a CG image of a child having sex, the thinking went, it wouldn't fool anyone, because it was too low-tech to seem real.

Within a couple of years, though, people caught with child porn images were going to court and claiming they didn't have anything real, only CG — and that if the government thought otherwise, it would have to prove it.

The government developed several responses. One: find the actual child depicted in the pornography, and bring that real child into court, or bring in the cop who handled her case. This would show beyond a doubt that the defendant's material was not computer-generated.

Another strategy is to match the images in evidence to others previously collected by the feds, then show that the whole set dates to pre-Photoshop times, back when anything that looked like a photograph of a real kid really was real.

But what if child victims and old photo sets aren't available? A third government technique is to tell courts that the average person (an FBI agent, a jury member) can still distinguish what's real and what's CG, just by looking with the naked eye.

Is this true? The government would like us to think so. But in point of fact, the boundary between real and CG is getting fuzzier by the year – and the feds are nervous."

Check out Debbie's site to see more incredibly realistic (G-rated! of course) computer-generated images, and to read the rest of her story... it's a science fiction novel come to life:

"After [the experts'] presentations, it seemed clear that the technology exists to make real child porn look fake. And — much more significantly — to make CG porn which looks genuine enough to fool ordinary people.

An obvious question that comes to mind, then, is: how much of this sophisticated child CG porn is already on the Internet?

My sense from attending the workshops is: Probably hardly any.

But the scarcity has little to do with technology. The digital world is now rife with graphics professionals and hobbyists who spend lots of time creating reasonably real-looking virtual people as still images – adults and kids. CG adults (especially women) often look “sexy.” Sometimes they're even having sex. But virtual kids are not portrayed sexually (though teen girls often look “come hither”). CG kids remain chaste, probably, because there's no commercial market for child porn and thus no significant money to be made by doing virtual renditions of the stuff.

Hobbyists, of course, don't need money to pursue their passions. But even they are probably reluctant to do CG child porn. It's not like they can post it on graphic arts websites and get props from fellow artists.

Plus, virtual child porn is legal in the US, but it's outlawed in many other countries. If an American's CG smut got emailed overseas, he could get in big trouble."

Nathan's final conclusion?

" Given the above, I bet most defendants and their attorneys who raise the CG defense are bullshitting. They've probably been caught with the real thing.

But for how long will almost everything on the net be real? One thing is certain: if something becomes possible for human beings to do, someone will do it."

See Also:
Sex Panic: An Interview with Debbie Nathan
The Perversions of Perverted Justice
The D.C. Madam Speaks
Sex and Drugs and Susie Bright