Perverts, Beware

Crime, Political Animals

Senator's bill may or may not do something to you

by Craig Malisow


State Senator Florence Shapiro

Sometimes legislative bills don't seem to be written in plain English, so it's always best to go straight to the bill's author to find out what's up.

But a bill authored by Republican State Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano seems remarkably straightforward: It prohibits registered sex offenders from "using the Internet to access pornographic material."

It would also establish a means for "a commercial social networking site or Internet service provider" to be provided with a list of said perverts, so such businesses can alert authorities if they're using those sites to prey on kids.

But what got Hair Balls was that first part — about not allowing these pervs to look at any pornography, or as stated later in the bill, anything deemed "obscene." (The bill refers to the obscenity section of the penal code, which offers different definitions of obscenity, which include simulated sex.) Even though, as everyone knows, there is hardly any sex stuff on the Interweb, how would something like that even be enforced?

So Hair Balls called Shapiro to see if she could elaborate. She was on the Senate floor as we talked, which might account for some of the ensuing strangeness.

Hair Balls: Does [this] mean that you do not want anyone convicted of a sex offense to look at sex by consenting adults online?

Shapiro: I have no idea...this is an agreed-to bill that came with the Attorney General, myself and the online providers. It's model language that came out of [the American Legislative Exchange Council].

(Okay, so it turns out Shapiro wasn't sure of all the particulars in the bill she attached her name to. But she explained to us that "The whole purpose of this is that we are seeing more and more young people on the Internet, and social networking of course is one of the major issues."

She then said that the bill would prohibit certain sex offenders from joining social networking sites...which it doesn't.)

Shapiro: We need to be able to have that list [the sex offender registry list] and make that list available to the social network providers to prevent these people from going online.

HB: So they can't even use Facebook or MySpace, then, to talk to other adults?

Shapiro: Oh yes, they can. Absolutely.

HB: They can?

Shapiro: I'm sorry, what did you just ask me?

HB: Can they use a social networking —

Shapiro: No. If they are convicted, no.

HB: They can't even talk to an adult.

Shapiro: No, that's correct...Facebook is not one of them. These are social networks. This is like Friendster and MySpace. I don't know that...I don't remember about Facebook...Facebook is one of them, you're right, you're right...No, the answer is no, they cannot...This would prohibit them, if they're on probation or they're on parole, this would prohibit them from using the Internet for purposes of communicating with minors.

HB: But it also prohibits them from looking at anything that can be deemed obscene, which includes certain movies, certain art...

Shapiro: Are those things on MySpace or are they on Facebook? I don't think they are. They can use the Internet — they just can't communicate with minors...They can look at anything they want, as long as it has nothing to do with the children.

Um, actually, the bill says they couldn't. So ultimately, Hair Balls wound up a lot more confused than before we even made the call. But the important thing is this: As long as well-informed lawmakers are out there passing sensible legislation that they actually take the time to read (if not write), we should have absolutely no fear for the safety of our children. Or something.

Sports, Spaced City

Michael Strahan's got his own crap sitcom set in Houston

by John Nova Lomax

The Fox network just announced its fall schedule, and in just under the wire is Brothers, a low-key comedy set in Houston starring former Westbury and TSU star and future NFL Hall of Famer Michael Strahan. The Hollywood Reporter claims Brothers received strong feedback during the pilot's test viewings last week, and that Fox has signed for 13 episodes.

Reading the show's program line, it's kind of hard to see why. Gap-toothed behemoth Strahan essentially plays himself — a recently retired, Houston-bred, New York-based football star named Mike Trainor "who learns that even though you can always go home again, the trip back might be tougher than you think." Mike is summoned back to Houston by his tough, sassy mother (played by CCH Pounder of The Shield), and there he becomes reacquainted with his wheelchair-bound restaurateur brother (Daryl "Chill" Mitchell, of Ed fame).

"The dynamics between Mike and Chill are the same as when they were kids, and their sibling rivalry hasn't lessened with age," Fox assures us. "If they can stop their bickering, put aside their differences and learn to be teammates, the brothers might just turn out to be each other's biggest asset."

Kinda like Everyone Loves Raymond...especially when we read that the father of these brothers is a hard-ass football coach and the "conservative, opinionated alpha male of his clan. Coach thinks he runs the show, but really it's Mom who calls the shots." Wow, what a groundbreaking approach to sitcom gender roles.

Through many trials and travails, Mike learns his family — messed up as they may be — is the only one he's got, and so on and so forth through what looks like every sitcom cliché in the book. Perhaps the show's genius will lie in its manner rather than its form, and Strahan will join the ranks of gridiron greats-turned-TV-stars like Alex Karras (the dad on Webster) and Fred Dryer of Hunter infamy, but we're not holding our breath.


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