The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, January 18

Jim Burroway

January 18th, 2012

SOPA/PIPA Protests: Online. Today, thousands of web sites, including Reddit and Wikipedia, will go black in protest of two bills that are now before Congress. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA, in the House) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA, in the Senate) were proposed to tackle the problem of internet copyright infringement. The bills originally required US Internet service providers to block access to foreign web sites found guilty of “piracy”, but that provision has been removed from the House version following outcry among opponents likening it to tactics used by China and Iran to block access to sites their governments don’t like. But at last report, it remains in the Senate version, which the Senate is expected to vote on next week. Both bills would also require search engines to block those web sites from search results, and would prohibit advertiser networks, payment processors and ISPs from doing business with the alleged copyright infringers.

Here at BTB, we take seriously the problem of copyright protections. We have acted against web sites that have copied posts from BTB without permission. However I find this action to be deeply concerning. These bills mark the first step toward the U.S. government dictating to internet users, providers, and publishers what they can and cannot publish. First steps like these often carry with them a host of unintended consequences. But the most worrisome aspect of the bill in terms of immediate impact is a provision granting copyright holders the right to seek a court order to shut down any web site which “enables or facilitates” piracy by merely linking to a suspect site, even if the linking site is unaware that the site being linked to contains pirated material.

Opponents say that the bills make it too easy to shut down web sites without sufficient due process. Herein lies the danger. BTB links to thousands of web sites. It would be impossible for us to examine an entire web site to determine if it met muster and was safe to link to. For example, we link to a lot of sites carrying Associated Press articles. How can we know if a site we link to is not paying for AP content?

As we have already seen with the Righthaven controversy, the extent to which laws like this can be abused are unpredictable, but what is predictable is that this law will be exploited to its maximum potential. Of that there can be no doubt, particularly in the murky, ill-defined area of “fair use,” which is an important aspect to all online reporting and blogging. We’ve already seen plenty of examples where allegations of “copyright infringement” against web sites who are operating in good faith under “fair use” have resulted in expensive lawsuits.

A number of web sites are joining a blackout protest. While I fully support the goals of the protest, we will not be conducting a blackout ourselves. Part of the reason is technical; bringing the site down and back up in a safe manner without inadvertently losing content is more risk than I’m willing to take. But there is something that I would ask you to do. Call your Congressional representative and both Senators, and register your opposition to these two bills. The Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121.

Tennessee Subcommittee to Consider “Don’t Say Gay” Bill: Nashville, TN. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill (HB0229/SB0049) will be discussed this afternoon by the General Assembly’s Education Subcommittee. The bill, if passed, “prohibits the teaching of or furnishing of materials on human sexuality other than heterosexuality in public school grades.” LGBT advocates fear it would close the door on effective anti-bullying efforts and prevent the formation of GSA’s in junior high schools. The Tennessee Equality Project is organizing a protest at the hearing, asking people to attend the meeting while wearing purple. “The very existence of this bill sends a bad message about Tennessee at a time when we should look at constructive proposals to make schools safe, welcoming places for all students,” TEP Nashville Committee Chair Chris Sanders told Out and About. “The fact that this is the one of the first bills debated this year makes the citizens of Tennessee wonder how serious our Legislature is about improving our schools.”

For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page. The online petition against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill can be found here.

Transgender Man In the News: 1894. The following item appeared in the Badger State Banner, published in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. It’s interesting that what would have been a normal news item about a larceny case instead focused on the nature of the defendant and his wife.

Anna Morris Given One Year
Anna Morris, alias Frank Blunt, the woman who has tried to be a man for the last fifteen years, was sentenced to the penitentiary for one year by Judge Gibson at Fond du Lac. She was arrested several months ago in Milwaukee charged with stealing $175 in Fond du Lac. It was then discovered that the prisoner was a woman, although she had worn masculine attire nearly all her life. A jury convict her of larceny and a motion for a new trial was overruled. After the sentenced had been passed Gertrude Field, a woman who claimed to have been married to the prisoner in Eau Claire, fell upon the neck of the prison and wept for half an hour. This woman had furnished all the money for Blunt’s defense, and now proposes to carry the case to the Supreme Court.

[From Jonathan Katz’s, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976): pp 231-232.]

A Simple Home Device for Aversion Therapy: 1964. On this date, the British Medical Journal published this article by R.J. McGuire and M. Vallance:

A Simple Apparatus

Click to enlarge

Aversion Therapy by Electric Shock: a Simple Technique
Aversion therapy has been used for many years in the treatment of alcoholism. Apomorphine and emetine are the usual drugs used as the unconditioned stimuli for nausea and vomiting, with alcohol as the conditioned stimulus. More recently the same procedure has been used in the treatment of sexual perversions — for example, fetishism, transvestism and homosexuality.

There are several disadvantages to the use of drugs in conditioning procedures. The time between the stimulus being presented and the nausea being produced is uncertain. The patient may not even feel nausea; and, further, the cerebral depressant effect of the drug may interfere with the patient’s ability to form conditioned responses. In addition, the treatment may have to be terminated prematurely because of its dangerous side-effects.

Alternative unpleasant responses can be used to produce aversion. In experimental psychology electric shock has been widely used both in animals and in humans. In clinical treatment, however, it has been less often used. The technique is simpler, more accurately controlled, and more certain in producing an unpleasant effect than drugs. This article describes a simple apparatus designed by one of us (R. J. McG.) and its use in the aversive treatment of sexual perversions, alcoholism, smoking, and neurotic symptoms.

Apparatus. — The components are cheap (under £1) and fit into a box approximately 6 in. (15 cm.) square and 2 in. (5 cm.) deep (Figs. 1 and 2). It is powered by a 9-volt battery and is therefore completely portable. The shock is administered through electrodes on a cuff around the patient’s forearm. To construct the apparatus requires no special skill, and the technical details are given at the end of the article.

…After initial instruction he can treat himself and may take the apparatus home to continue the treatment there. Besides saving the therapist’s time and making frequent treatment possible, this arrangement is to be preferred when the symptom is one usually indulged in alone-for example, masturbation to perverse fantasies. While the patient can use the apparatus whenever he is tempted to masturbate, he should also each day deliberately carry out the treatment at a time when the desire to masturbate is not strong.

This isn’t the first time a device for administering electric shock has been described in the medical literature for treating homosexuality. Electric Shock Aversion Therapy has been discussed since at least 1935 (see Sep 6). But as modern science entered the space age, a few therapists got the idea that there was a demand for an inexpensive home version.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?


January 18th, 2012

Women dressing and living as men was relatively common in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some were transgender or lesbians and had female partners. Others just did for social advancement and to do things they otherwise couldn’t.

Ben In Oakland

January 18th, 2012

you may have been intending some irony, but in the first paragraph you wrote privacy instead of piracy.

Jim Burroway

January 18th, 2012

I’ve corrected the error.

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