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Virtual pedophilia on Second Life

Second Life Child

Almost everyone agrees that having sex with children is wrong and should be illegal. But what about sex with virtual online children? Second Life, an online virtual world in which people live out a "second life" as a cybercharacter, is working with German police to identify members who pay for sex with virtual children. A German news program's investigative report discovered "age play" groups that center on abuse of cyberchildren. An investigator also found a group that trades both virtual and real images of child pornography.

Creepy. It raises the question of whether, in the United States, virtual child pornography is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution, which enshrines freedom of speech. One of the primary reasons for prohibiting traditional child pornography—as stated in Supreme Court rulings—is that its creation intrinsically involves the abuse of children. But the production of virtual child porn doesn't necessarily require the abuse of real children.

A debate similar to this one, about whether virtual rape is a crime, can be found on Wired's Web site and on the Freakonomics blog.

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A Democratic plan that's too clever by half

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Bush reportedly isn't thrilled about the House Democrats' plan for a new Iraq funding supplemental. The plan would immediately make available about half of the $95.5 billion Bush requested from Congress. The other half would be contingent upon the Iraqi government meeting benchmarks, with a subsequent Congressional vote on the second half of the funding in July.

The plan is too clever by half. It's unlikely Democrats can muster the votes to quash a veto by July, whether the inept Iraqi government meets a set of arbitrary benchmarks or not. So this plan merely forces Democrats to vote twice for continuing to fund the war—Bush will have won two times over.

The smarter play is to wait for September. Because if you're a Democrat in Congress, four realities are undeniable. First, nearly six in 10 Americans now support setting a timetable for withdrawal. Second, you were elected in 2006 on a platform of bringing the troops home. Third, your base wants an immediate end to the war. Fourth, there's an election in 18 months. So the last thing you want to do is vote every couple of months to continue providing funds for the war in Iraq. That's exactly what you promised the American people you wouldn't do.

Come September or October, when Gen. David Petraeus reports back on the progress of the surge (and the defense authorization bill is floating around), Republicans in Congress will be getting extremely nervous that Petraeus will ask for more time, as Blake pointed out last week and House GOP moderates pointed out to Bush yesterday in a heated meeting. If you're a centrist Republican like Olympia Snowe, John Warner, Dick Lugar, or George Voinovich, you have to start thinking seriously about joining Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith in supporting a timeline for withdrawal by fall. The same timeline language that passed the Senate with 51 votes on April 26 could probably pass the Senate with as many as 60 votes in October.

There will be plenty of opportunities to stick it to Bush in the months ahead. So the Democrats ought to relax. Time is on their side.