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The Web Hostess: Google Instant, Craigslist adult ads and more

Monica Hesse
Wednesday, September 8, 2010; 2:00 PM

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Monica Hesse: After last week's Facebook duel, we can now return to our regularly scheduled programming.This week on the Internet, Craigslist announced that it would be removing its "adult services" section from the site, in response to accusations that the section was responsible for promoting pimps and prostitution.Last year Boston Medical student Philip Markoff was dubbed the "Craigslist Killer" after he allegedly murdered a woman that he met through that section. He committed suicide in prison last month.Attorneys general in 17 different states had called for the removal, comprising a letter that said, in part, "We recognize that Craigslist may lose the considerable revenue generated by the Adult Services ads. No amount of money, however, can justify the scourge of illegal prostitution, and the suffering of the women and children who will continue to be victimized, in the market and trafficking provided by Craigslist."But some Internet experts claim that the removal of the section will have the opposite effect as intended, in that the section promoted transparency -- that officials should have viewed Adult Services as a platform for monitoring illegal activity rather than as a mechanism for pimping. Renowned researcher Danah Boyd had a thoughtful blog posting earlier this week defending that position.Her nut graph: most ISPs have a fundamental business -- if not moral -- interest in helping protect people; the visibility of illicit activities online makes it much easier to get at, and help, those who are being victimized;a one-stop-shop is more helpful for law enforcement than for criminals. What do you think? Was Craigslist's decision to remove its adult services section: 1) Correct, for the reasons described by the attorneys general -- it will help prevent illegal prostitution and trafficking. 2) Correct, because although it may not prevent prostitution, that type of X-rated information should not have been on a site easily accessed by minors, mixed in with G-rated advertisements. 3) Incorrect, for the reasons described by Danah Boyd -- it won't stop trafficking, just hide it. 4) Incorrect, because removal of the section is a violation of free speech.(we have a poll up on the topic)Also of interest:-- Google's big search announcement. What are your thoughts about the new functionality?--Can anything be learned about race from 526,000 OkCupid users.And, my favorite video of the week -- internal footage of a cruise ship caught in a storm. Clearly, this would have been terrifying to be in, and you worry for some of the passengers. And yet, especially because of the music paired with it, this video is strangely lovely and graceful.

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Monica Hesse: Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by. I have a lengthy intro up already, so I won't gum it up more, other than to say that I found OK Cupid's gender breakdowns more fascinating than the racial. But only because I have long been obsessed with Jodi Picoult obsession.Okay, git er done.

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Before there was Prince William there was ...: I had to laugh reading your article about Prince William.I know it's hard to believe looking at him now (especially with his personal history,) but many of us had very similar thoughts about Prince Charles in the 1960s and 1970s. He wasn't as good looking as his son is but he wasn't bad. And what other chance did we have of being a princess?Thanks for letting this older woman relive a youthful fantasy.

Paul Williams: Prince William: On a somber anniversary, a fan recounts how he won her heart

Monica Hesse: Yer welcome.And on an Internet note, I was shocked -shocked, I say- at the dearth of good Web galleries featuring W.O.W. throughout the years, which I was forced -forced, I say- to spend hours looking at for research.

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Twitter on WaPo: I get a kick out of seeing how "every" Web site I go to now has a "follow us on Facebook!' and "tweet us on twitter!" link, am looking forward to seeing whether they benefit from this or are just jumping on the bandwagon.In WaPo's case, on most pages there is a twitter box that usually looks like this: - Steve tweets - title of article - Mary tweets - same title of article - Joe tweets - same title of article - Ann tweets - same title of article and on and on. This really doesn't enhance my reading experience (but I am an old fogey, so what do I know?) - it just makes the page take longer to load...

Monica Hesse: My very, very, very favorite example of this is how Diane Rehm now says, in her wonderfully correct and gravelly voice, "I would be delighted if you would Tweet me."She makes it sound like Tweeting must be done over scones with clotted cream.

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Don't tell 4chan: There's some kind of Twitter tantrum happening betwixt the Perriello and Hurt campaigns. It started with a lot of name calling, and then someone from campaign A posted home addresses of staffers on campaign B - to prove the other campaign isn't really "local" or something.I can understand mudslinging and whatnot during a campaign, but posting home addresses? What is WITH people?

Monica Hesse: Here's our blog post on the whole catty affair.(though if it really involved cats, 4chan would already be involved).The home addresses was an egregious act -- which I think that all politicians involved now realize.

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Craigslist: I guess my vote would be closest to #4, but to me it's not a free speech issue. More of a "Why is it Craigslist's responsibility to police the actions of others?"If people are posting illegal ads, let the police deal with them.

Monica Hesse: Hmm. would your response be the same if the illegal postings were, say, child pornography?In either case, one would think that the police might be relieved to have known site to patrol, rather than an unknown one. But that gets back to Boyd's argument.

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okcupid: "Finally, it's worth nothing that of the four lists we've seen so far, black women's is the only one to explicitly include someone of another race: Justin Timberlake."I didn't know Alicia Keys was Asian.

Monica Hesse: Good eyes!Actually, it looks like Asian women cited a good many individuals outside their race -- Malcolm Gladwell, Anthony Bourdain, etc.

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your topics: OK, I will try this again since your little form disappeared in the middle of my typing.... I think the Google thing is pretty ridiculous. The average user doesn't give a hoot about saving 2 seconds. It just gives Google something else to brag about. I suppose it may be a step on the way to somewhere, but honestly it doesn't seem like a big deal.The prostitution thing seems like persecution of CL. Getting rid of that particular category just pushes those ads to other places on the site. Or the hundreds of other sites out there offering "escort" or "massage" services.The world's oldest profession isn't going away just because the Adult Services section of CL went away from their US boards. "erotic" services live on as close as Canada after all.

Monica Hesse: One DC news broadcast last night illustrated your third point by scouring the site's "casual encounters" section, and finding that the formerly "adult services" ads seemed to have migrated over there. Example: "I will require 150 ro$es to make me happy."Only now, they're posting them for free.As for your first comment: Potentially Google Instant will be exciting to the same people who find it really necessary to go from zero to 60 in ten seconds?

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Ship during storm: Why don't ships fasten down their stuff? Looks like a lot of damage from that storm.

Monica Hesse: Because usually storms aren't that big?I would have thought that they were fastened down, but never having been on a cruise, I couldn't say. Chatters?

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how is it a violation of free speech?: The Constitution doesn't require a private organization publish everything you submit to them. I want my novel deal Knopff!!

Monica Hesse: Posting this and the one below:

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so NOT a free speech issue: Why is it Craigslist's responsibility to publish the speech of others?"

Monica Hesse: Yeah, the "free speech" argument is a bit of a straw man -- though I've heard it made. A better way to phrase it might be the way a PP did -- that s/he didn't think the police should curtail Craigslist's speech.

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Note to Your Web Designers: A URL you typed in a previous answer runs over the main column border and into the right column.This is happening in Chrome and IE6, not Firefox.

Paul Williams: should be fixed now?

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Craigslist: I think that Craigslist shouldn't want anything illegal on its sites and should have found an effective way to prevent them without needing legal action by the states. It isn't an issue of morality, free speech, or protecting minors. They shouldn't want someone using their services to sell stolen goods or to offer illegal services.

Monica Hesse: But isn't that a question of morality? That it's immoral, or at least unethical, to permit something illegal on their site?Or are you saying that it was just a dumb business move, because CL will then be associated with trash?Either way, they are now out approximately 1/3 of their profits, which is what I believe revenue from those ads brought in.

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Gymnastics: Two things1) this Indian gymnastics-thing is amazing. It's like the balance beam, parallel bars and rings combined into one crazy-awesome event.2) would it be possible to have the directions for embedding a link in a message permanently listed for this chat? I can never remember what to do (and I'm sure I'm not the only one), and I'm sure the producers would appreciate not having to clean the messages up for me.

Monica Hesse: Holy Moly! That Indian gymnastics thing truly IS amazing. I can't believe we have professional trampolining at the Olympics, but we don't have this. (And now to Paul)

Paul Williams: Any embedding/HTML will get stripped out when it comes across, so don't worry about it.My understanding is that it's for IT security reasons, not just my own personal form of job protection.

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Asians like Calvin and Hobbes: Because the Tiger is a prominent Asian symbol? How am I supposed to stereotype people if they don't fit the mold?

Monica Hesse: I, personally, am offended that Julia Roberts was left off of the women categories. Everyone knows we live for her.

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Adult Services: Monica, you wouldn't need to give me any ro$es to make me happy.

Monica Hesse: I honestly cannot tell whether this is meant to be sweet or intensely creepy.

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re: Craigslist, varying levels of infraction: Your counter example of Child Pornography makes the question harder to answer.I still don't think it's CL's responsibility to filter posts (although, considering the servers are theirs, it's entirely their right to choose what to accept and I wouldn't object if they volunteered to take these sections down, which they really didn't), unless CP pictures are actually posted on Craigslist (and therefore residing on their servers), I still think the existing "flag this post" system is sufficient.Additionally, any reader could forward the ad to the local police department and they could follow up from there. It doesn't sit comfortably with me to force a private company (Craigslist) to be responsible for what it's users do.

Monica Hesse: Thanks for the thoughtful elaboration.I'm trying to think of an example outside of the Internet world, to see if we could extrapolate further. Would it be like penalizing a car company if drivers weren't wearing seat belts? Like fining gun manufacturers if their weapons were used to commit crimes? Would we be okay with any of these?

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NOTE TO YOUR WEB DESIGNERS: "Thanks, should be fixed now?"Afraid not. You just can't get the staff nowadays, can you?

Paul Williams: I apologize, and offer you a full refund of your fee.

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Forrest Gump: Did anyone notice that this was at the bottom of what Latinos like? And it wasn't mentioned for any of the other races. What's up with that?

Monica Hesse: When I was in Panama I saw Forrest Gump in Spanish on two seperate cable channels. I'm wondering if movie availability, copyright, and release has something to do with this?Sidenote: in Eastern Europe, I saw Legends of the Fall in Hungarian, Polish and Czech.

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Google searches: If Google wants to save me time, it needs to continue to find ways improve the results.There are still way too many websites that are filled with useless junk but for some unexplained reason find their way near the top of the search results.Although, I do find the challenge of finding an obscure piece of information on the Internet to be fun.

Monica Hesse: I actually find Google's search algorithm pretty spot-on -- though I've heard from people like you who have become Bing converts for that reason.

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King George, VA: Wow ... an acquaintance of mine was just asked for a divorce from his wife -- just one month after getting in touch with a boyfriend from her childhood on Facebook. How often does this type of thing happen? #1 reason I'm not on Facebook: I didn't treat folks very nicely in high school -- while I have changed, I'd rather leave that part of my past, well, in the past ...

Monica Hesse: Either my editor planted you, or you live in his brain. We were just talking about this as a phenomenon -- whether more people were having affairs with old flames contacted through Facebook, because it reminded them of the callow times of youth.I was all, "Oh, that story is so oooold."But I will return to him, contrite.

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Missing Answer: Craigslist made a business decision. Even though they didn't like the idea of closing down the adult section, they didn't feel keeping it open would be worth the money, time, and PR of fighting the charges all those AG's were gunning for. The question SHOULD be "did Craigslist make the right decision by caving to the AGs or should they have stood their moral (or whatever) ground?" ie, Was this a Google-China scenario? If we're wondering at the general wisdom of removing the Adult Section, then we should question those AG's rather than Craigslist.

Monica Hesse: Interesting clarification. And when it comes down to it, you're right -- Ultimately there was no "Should they?"There was only, "They had to."

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So Tom Clancy ... : ... is to white people like soul food is for black people? Is it too late to change my race? I'd much rather sit down to a plate of ribs and collards than a steaming bowl of Clancy.

Monica Hesse: Clancy is always a steaming bowl of something.

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Crazy ship video: Can anyone explain why the man in the foreground is the only one seemingly unaffected by the laws of gravity? Watch it again, I swear he's some wizard controlling everything and watching in amusement.

Monica Hesse: When Michael Jackson died, I became obsessed with doing all sorts of obscure research, and among other random things learned this: Jackson held a patent. It was a patent for shoes that planted into the floor, and it is what allowed him to nearly tip over without falling in the "Smooth Criminal" video.All of this is to say that when I saw the crazy ship, my first reaction was, "That man is wearing Michael Jackson's shoes."

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When I was in Panama I saw Forrest Gump in Spanish : Monica, you haven't lived till you've seen Clint Eastood and Clyde the orangutan in "Every Which Way But Loose" with Portuguese subtitles. Also, "Oprah" and "Dr. Phil."

Monica Hesse: Duly noted.

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Has this already been mentioned?: The National Zoo has a Lion Cub Cam for endless streaming of adorable cubby antics. (This came up in the Reliable Source chat under "ways to decrease productivity," so clearly it belongs here as well.)

Monica Hesse: Guessing that the Cub Cam has been much more of a hit than the Octopus Cam, which was just not as cuddly.

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Animal Crackers: Monica, my boyfriend insists that animal crackers are not shaped like animals and they must be called that for some other reason (e.g., they are made of animals?) On the one hand, I know he is not serious, but on the other hand, it's true animal crackers don't actually look like animals (much) and I need an INTERNET RESOURCE that will conclusively prove that animal crackers are shaped like animals. Like, a history of animal crackers long-form article.

Monica Hesse: This site is run by a chef-turned-food historian, and should assist you in your arguments. If it does not, I will find you a reference librarian.http://www.foodreference.com/html/contact.htmlReally now, boyfriend. Let's don't be ridiculous.

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Monica Hesse: P-squared provides a link to "Smooth Criminal" for our viewing pleasure.

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"Escort" Ads: They're in a lot of local papers, too -- if you look in the classifieds under personals...just sayin' that maybe before we get too self-righteous, we should check our own backyards.

Monica Hesse: In my case, literally. All kinds of funny business going on in the alley behind my house.

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Facebook breaking up marriages?: There are plenty of other things to dislike about Facebook, but the wife could just as easily been located through a number of other online activities. Maybe they're running off to live in Farmville.

Monica Hesse: Well, according to the OK Cupid research, white women do have an affinity for lots of rural-type activities...

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DITTO!: I also heard about the LionCam in the Reliable Source chat, and now I am totally hooked. As if my productivity wasn't low enough already from paying attention to all the chats! (hot tip: the mama lion has awoken from her nap!)

Monica Hesse: So sad when I went to the zoo this weekend and only the dad lion was out for the public. But then I forgave the mom because she was performing parental duties.

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Diet Coke?: So many women have the need to mention they like diet coke on their dating profile? So that many women are dull and unimaginative when it comes to writing a profile?

Monica Hesse: A close reading of Diet Coke says this:"I care about my figure. I watch calories. But I am not one of those total purists who only drinks water. Also, I am a little fussy because I will insist upon Coke rather than Diet Pepsi. Also, we will probably spend a lot of our dates at the movie theater, where my popcorn will be unbuttered."

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Free speech: Commercial speech (e.g., advertising) doesn't have the same privileges as private free speech. And illegal activities get no protection. Regarding Boyd's argument for transparency, isn't that one of the issues raised by advocates of legalized prostitution (and drug use)? If the services are illegal, I don't see why Craigslist should profit from advertising and promoting them. Should CL or other sites be allowed to make money advertising other obviously illegal activities as well? How about selling drugs on CL?

Monica Hesse: Or hiring a hit man?But even those extreme examples take us back to the same scenario:On one side of the scale is the fact that Craigslist makes it easier to participate in illegal activities.On the other side is the fact that Craigslist makes it easier to catch people participating in illegal activities, when they would otherwise be further underground.Which side weighs more?

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Subtitled TV shows: When I lived in Belgium in the 1980s, I used to watch "The Incredible Hulk" in French. It was really surreal.

Monica Hesse: Do you still remember how to say "Smash" in French?

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At what point is Craig's List or eBay culpable...: ... if someone's posting goods for sale at such ridiculously low prices that one might reasonably suspect the goods are stolen?

Monica Hesse: Another hypothetical -- and one that every person who has ever purchased a bicycle online has asked.

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Free speech: I don't understand why people throw "free speech" into every dilemma like this. Freedom of speech doesn't guarantee us the right to do anything we want.

Monica Hesse: Because no one can ever remember, say, the sixth amendment.

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Permalink: What does it mean? Nothing happens when you click it.

Paul Williams: If you want to link to a particular question on FB, twitter, e-mail (say, one about animal crackers) you can copy the permalink and send people directly to it.

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okcupid blocked at work: so i cant even read the summary! another reason to get a new droid. between blocking fantasy football, okcupid and pandora...if work blocks washingtonpost...i quit.

Monica Hesse: Unacceptable. How can they expect you to work in these conditions?

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Stereotypical Diet Coke Drinker: Cheezburger, fries, and diet Coke since I'm watching my weight.

Monica Hesse: Better make it a Big Mac.

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Also, we will probably spend a lot of our dates at the movie theater, where my popcorn will be unbuttered.: OR, "Also, we will probably spend a lot of our dates at the movie theater, where my popcorn will be BUTTERED since I'm cutting out some calories I might have gotten by drinking a regular coke."

Monica Hesse: Better make it a popcorn and nachos.

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This site is run by a chef-turned-food historian, and should assist you in your arguments. If it does not, I will find you a reference librarian.: Geez Louise, just go to the wiki entry for animal crackers. I'm sick of answering everyone's stupid questions.Sincerly, A Reference Librarian

Monica Hesse: See, I was assuming that she had already directed boyfriend to the Wikipedia entry, but he was still protesting in righteous indignation that Wikipedia could be wrong. I respect that wariness and wanted to provide alternatives.

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I don't understand why people throw "free speech" into every dilemma: "Free Speech" is the other side of the "Hitler/Nazi" coin. 9 times out of 10 critical thought and analysis die when either of those phrases are trotted out.

Monica Hesse: This is quotable.

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CL Adult Services: I am confused. How did the site "promote pimps and prostitution" as you say? Was there a big banner ad saying "pimps and prostitutes click here and we'll set you up" or were pimps and prostitutes using the site because it provided an anonymous way for them to conduct their business?

Monica Hesse: Answer B.

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Indians and Seinfeld ....: How was Seinfeld or Simpsons not in the white people's list? Do they have one for us Jews. It would all be Seinfeld and mom.Oh, and notice how Middle Easterners - landlocked as they are - are the only ones to mention seafood?

Monica Hesse: But many groups mentioned sushi...The Lutheran list would have Prairie Home Companion and various casseroles involving cream of mushroom soup.

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RE: Posting Political operatives home addresses....: But is it really tortious if the addresses are already publicly available? Is anyone accusing the RNCC guy of gaining illegal access to confidential information about the Dem staffers, then posting it? If so, how would the poster have access to confidential home info about a political opponent's staff? Call me suspicious, but the cries of "what about their safety?" seem a little far-fetched, when, in reality, anyone wanting to do harm would be able to get the information themselves. What next, people suing the on-line version of the yellow pages for having their home addresses and phone numbers listed. I'm just having trouble seeing how someone compiling non-confidential information and posting it to make a point is doing any real (vice speculative) harm. Is he/she morally/legally culpable just because he/she made it easier to find the info?

Monica Hesse: I think there is a difference, a subtle one, and it's all about context.In this case, the address postings may have been rather benign -- used to address an already-raised point about staffers "carpetbaggedness."However, what if the exchange had been preceded with a veiled threat, i.e. "Someone should go throw a brick through their window," and then the next post was the address?Still publicly available information, but in that case it is paired with a nefarious suggestion, and possibly an implicit threat.

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tom clancy, van halen, golfing, harley davidson, ghostbusters: I'm not going to agrue that these things are largely associated with white people. But I'd love to have someone assume I'm into all these things just because I'm white. I can picture it now. I'm at a party and strike up a conversation with a black guy. He keeps asking me about Tom Clancy novels and the Ghostbusters movies. I don't get it and tell him I don't know anything about that stuff. Finally he says, well, I mean, I just assumed.

Monica Hesse: I assume -- I can't say, but I assume -- that if you replaced "Tom Clancy" and "Ghostbusters" with "Basketball" and "Obama," and you might have hinted at an experience that some African Americans experience on a semi-regular basis.

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Can anyone explain why the man in the foreground is the only one seemingly unaffected by the laws of gravity?: I thought he was behind a counter and had something to hold onto. No?

Monica Hesse: Shoes. Michael Jackson shoes.

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Asian women go for Malcom Gladwell?: No wonder I see so many geeky guys trying to talk up the Japanese girls

Monica Hesse: That, and the whole Sailor Moon thing.

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Craigslist: OK, so now where do people advertise legal/legitimate adult services (I'm sure there are some, right?)?

Monica Hesse: Escorting in itself -- as in, paying for someone to accompany you to a party or office function -- is not illegal. And I have no idea where those people go.

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Monica Hesse: (P-Squared had to run, I'm going to stay on a bit longer even though it's after three. We'll keep on procrastinatin' and truckin')

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Was there a big banner ad saying "pimps and prostitutes click here and we'll set you up": I'm going to create a website called pimpsandprostitutesclickhere so they conduct their business unmolested by the law, and I'm going to scream "FREE SPEECH" when the Nazis try to take my website down. And when they throw me in jail for not taking the site down, I will scream about the Sixth amendment, which guarantees a speedy trial and right to counsel.

Monica Hesse: Just so long as you spend your time in jail watching the Cub Cam.

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that if you replaced "Tom Clancy" and "Ghostbusters" with "Basketball" and "Obama," and you might have hinted at an experience that some African Americans experience on a semi-regular basis.: Yes, that's kind of my point.

Monica Hesse: Just, y'know, connecting the dots for people who haven't had their afternoon coffee.

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What are your thoughts about the new functionality?: I thought the search did not work as well. I searched on an association name yesterday and it came right up - today, not so much.

Monica Hesse: Honestly, I haven't tested it all that much, and when I did, I didn't notice much of a difference. Will be mentally noting throughout the week, though.

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Political Addresses: See the big white building with the dome? They all work there. And the NRCC is right next door to the Cannon HOB. So if you're really that interested in whatever it is you're planning...you don't need home addresses.As someone who worked there for five years...just saying.

Monica Hesse: But see those metal detectors and security guards milling about the big white building with the dome? Do they also live at your house?

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"Escorting": Come on, "escorting"? Even if that is a real service, it's hardly an "adult" service....in the context you mention at least! Or maybe I'm just sheltered.

Monica Hesse: How many eight year olds do you know who need someone to come with them to the class party?(And all of the former nerds here give a wistful sigh and say, "I wish they had something like that when I was a kid.")

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Ghostbusters: One of them is black. I think the character's name was Winston Zedmore.

Monica Hesse: Almost. Zeddemore.

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Political staffer's addresses: The issue is that a determined person could easily obtain the information, but a casual-violence-engager would have the info given to them. It's like inciting a mob - those wanting to riot will do it without provocation, but those who can be whipped into a frenzy shouldn't be incited to do so. That's why it's a crime.

Monica Hesse: Yes. This is the analogy I was looking for. Thanks.

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craigslist: Prior to CL's decision, there were a number of calls for a ban on CL from people who objected to the adult services ads. Was never quite sure if this was a genuine moral objection or clever marketing by a rival site manipulating people's moral objections. Thoughts?

Monica Hesse: I think it was genuine moral objection -- but possibly because I'm not aware enough of the rival sites that would be big enough to orchestrate something like this.

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Big pimpin': CL adult ads are much more analogous to bongs in a head shop - only there for one activity, though can be claimed to have more than one purpose.I don't have an opinion as to what CL should have done. I'm just saying that's the better analogy.BTW, having any express forum for something (adult services ads), is a tacit endorsement of the activity and provides access to the illegal activity. That's how crack house owners get prosecuted and have their property taken.

Monica Hesse: Thanks, and thanks for the opportunity to discuss bongs in this forum, which I believe is unprecedented for this particular chat.

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What's the quality of the escorts on Craig's List: I'm assuming it's not Ashley Dupree and not street walkerish. But are they better than average or is this truly a case of you get what you pay for?

Monica Hesse: Actually, I'm assuming it is streetwalkerish. Or worse, desperate mother trying to make her rent-ish.

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black ghostbuster/early julia louis-dreyfus: i remember an SNL skit where Julia played a hispanic woman whose favorite ghostbuster was "the black one." The skit also included Mary Gross as her similarly ghostbuster-obsessed friend. Can't find it on YouTube. Help. Need instant gratification

Monica Hesse: I shall find this for you. I shall find it and post it next week, but now I really do have to run. The question queue is getting longer instead of shorter, P-squared has long flown the coop, and I hope we can pick up some of this stuff next week.

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Sweet or Creepy?: "I honestly cannot tell whether this is meant to be sweet or intensely creepy."You would be able to if you could see what I'm wearing.

Monica Hesse: Now I'm really leaving.Follow me on Twitter @monicahesse, read Dan Zak and me on Tumblr, and until next week, GSTQ.

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