Re: Ashcroft Antics

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Thu Jan 31 2002 - 17:58:49 MST

J Corbally wrote:
> >Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 20:45:24 -0500
> >From: "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <>
> >That's my point - at some point, even in a libertarian government, someone
> >needs to have personal responsibility for the artistic appearance of
> >public buildings.
> Responsible to the public, yes. To his own sensitivities, no.
> >There is nothing wrong with Ashcroft taking charge of
> >the appearance of his building.
> There is. It is the peoples building, not "his".
> >Curtains are not "vandalism" and he is
> >not destroying his predecessors' efforts, just temporarily switching them
> >off.
> "Switching them off?"
> >Sure, Ashcroft's decision may only be temporary; sure, we may
> >disagree with it; my point is that is that it is legitimately Ashcroft's
> >decision.
> Not so sure about the legitimacy of it Anyone here know where the U.S.
> constitution stands on this?

It doesn't. The Constitution says nothing about pornography, other than
that one of congress' functions is to promote the 'general welfare',
which can include anything which makes life enjoyable: economic
stability, art, etc. It also says that congress shall pass no law
restricting freedom of speech, though several Supreme Court decisions
have determined that 'shall pass no law' is not necessarily so absolute
as one would think (just as they seem to have difficulty understanding
"Shall not be infringed").

Since art is speech, then artists can't be restricted in what art they
produce (though congress isn't required to PAY for art it doesn't like),
there is nothing in the Constitution which says that the Attorney
General has to expose to the public whatever art the left wingers think
should be on public land 24/7.

The difference between art and pornography is judged to be a boundary
established by local social standards of morality and salaciousness.
Just because a Frenchwoman thinks its okay to parade around nude with
unshaven pits and legs doesn't mean that this is okay in US society.
While this leaves the boundary to be judged rather nebulous and vague,
in the words of a former SCOTUS Justice "I know it (pornography) when I
see it."

Of course, the difference between artistic or scientific nudity versus
public nakedness and pornography is certainly a slippery one. On TV two
weeks ago I saw a documentary program about an african tribe, who were
quite proudly naked, breasts and all, all of the time, and this was
transmitted without the hint of a pixellated censor, yet the documentary
of Geraldo Rivera's sailing voyage around the world on the Travel
Channel, which contained the occasional shot of Geraldo diving bare
assed off the boat in the middle of the ocean, censored the
aforementioned hindquarters quite thoroughly.

> >How would we feel if a transhumanist Attorney General were
> >mocked in the media for putting a curtain over, say, a painting of God
> >judging sinners?
> If he did it to a private work, he'd deserve the roasting he'd get. If he
> did it to a public work on a govt. building, then we'd have to ask why
> there was a religious monument there in the first place. He'd be operating
> within the constitution if he removed it I believe.
> I'd rather see breasts on a public building than a god, but I'm a European
> after all :)

I like breasts too, and don't mind seeing them anywhere, provided they
somewhat resemble my idea of attractive ones. Since gods are fictional
creatures, I am quite indifferent to them. One should only get worked up
over them if they are real.

If Ashcroft does it to his own art, that's his business, though I don't
see the point of buying art (or producing it) and then covering it up.
Since we have federal laws governing decency and interstate travel for
sexual purposes (the Comstock Act, I believe), there is some precedent
for the AG making decisions about what he thinks is decency.

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