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Archive for the ‘Tyranny’ Category

If they come for me in the morning, they’re coming for you that night.  –  Monica Jones

Eleven months ago Monica Jones, a transgender sex worker, activist and social work student at Arizona State, was arrested for “manifestation of prostitution”, Arizona’s label for the tyrannical laws which allow cops virtually everywhere in the United States to arrest any woman they like by claiming she “acted like a whore”.  The tag “Lack of Evidence” is full of such instances, and I synopsized a few of them in “Be Careful Who You Rape”:

…When prostitution is criminalized to any degree, women who carry condoms, answer personal ads, wear sexy lingerie, go without lingerie, fail forced “virginity tests”, ask a cop if he’s a cop, “act sexy”, go out after dark without a male chaperone, or even just “look like a prostitute” are regularly arrested and charged with having sex for a reason some people don’t like…

Stand With Monica JonesThough there have been a few cases of such ridiculously-flimsy charges being struck down lately, those were not in Phoenix, Arizona, a city so addicted to authoritarianism it has kept Joe Arpaio in office for 22 years.  Jones argued in class with Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, the ethically-retarded academic paid by Arizona prohibitionists to produce bogus “studies” for them; she was thrown out of a previous “diversion” program for refuting the lies and exaggerations the propagandists were trying to drum into their victims; she has prominently protested the blatantly-unconstitutional Project ROSE; and she has posted Backpage ads to warn sex workers about the stings held to force women into the program.  In other words, she was a known enemy of the Phoenix prohibitionist machine and ventured into public (i.e. cop territory) during a time she knew they were out hunting; it was a virtual certainty she would be arrested.  And though many activists expressed shock and surprise when she was found guilty eleven days ago, I would’ve been extremely surprised had she not been.  The American courts are not about justice; they are about providing the appearance of due process while grinding up every single person cops and prosecutors decide to target, and the few who escape are like the bits of meat that are occasionally hurled free from a mechanized abattoir and go flying to the floor: not totally chopped to pieces, but not the same as when they went in, either.

As is typical in emotionally-charged legal cases, there are a lot of rumors and half-truths flying about; I therefore think it would behoove us to set the record straight on a few matters.  First:  the statement which I’ve heard more than any other since this whole thing started is that Monica was arrested for “walking while trans”, in other words unjustly profiled as a sex worker based on nothing other than her transgender status.  But while it’s true that cops do often wrongly assume transgender women are all hookers and harass them on that basis, this was obviously not what happened in Monica’s case; as I explained above, she was a persistent gadfly and a thorn in the prohibitionists’ side, and would no doubt have been targeted for that reason no matter what her race or gender status.  Furthermore, it’s a bit disingenuous to say she was wrongly profiled when she is in fact a “known prostitute” and a vocal member of SWOP Phoenix.  Her arrest was wrongful because laws against sex workers are wrongful, not because she was misidentified.

Next, as I pointed out above, the US court system is not designed to produce justice but to produce prisoners, and while there are some wise jurists out there who really do care about justice, they generally aren’t judging misdemeanor cases in municipal courts.  The typical judge at this level isn’t a brilliant doctor of the law carefully considering questions of fairness and constitutionality; he’s a fair-to-middling lawyer who graduated in the bottom half of his class and is more concerned with what he’s going to have for lunch than whether a law under which someone’s been charged is just or moral.  Such a man isn’t interested in rocking the boat; he pretends to believe whatever lies cops vomit out, decides whether the defendant probably did whatever it was, then reads out whatever’s on the little idiot-proof sentencing chart the ruling legislature insists he follow.  Monica admitted to grabbing the cop’s crotch (for some unfathomable reason); that alone was enough to convict her under the statute even if Hizzoner had been disinclined to play the stooge for lying cops that day.

Judge hanging with his hands tied behind his backFinally, given the circumstances as explained above, the judge was actually fairly lenient by Conviction, Inc standards.  In recent years the judicial branch’s power has been eroded very badly by both the legislative and executive branches; plea-bargaining and universal criminality have handed control of the proceedings to the prosecutor (executive branch), and mandatory sentencing has allowed the legislative branch to usurp much of the remaining judicial authority.  Having declared Monica guilty, the judge was bound by law to sentence her to at least 30 days, which is what he gave her.  The suggested fine was $2500, but he had the authority to reduce it for hardship; he lowered it to $150.  Arizona’s fascist prison system also demands a prisoner pay for his own abduction and mistreatment, to the tune of $2540.70 for 30 days; the judge used a loophole (because Monica is a student) to lower that to $350.  Moreover, he deferred the sentence until the end of May so as not to interrupt her school semester, and also said he would stay the sentence if she filed an appeal within the required 14 days.  If she does go to jail, it will undoubtedly be the men’s jail because this is, once again, Arizona we’re talking about; however, she would be placed in solitary confinement for the duration as she was last time and would therefore “only” be in danger of rape or assault from the guards rather than the other prisoners as well.

It goes without saying that I’m neither defending the conviction itself, nor the caging of human beings on the say-so of subhuman thugs.  I’m merely pointing out that it’s foolish to expect a bean-counter to paint pictures or compose violin concertos when he is paid to (and is indeed only qualified to) count beans, and that it’s naïve in the extreme to expect anything but tyranny from the worst pocket dictatorship in America.   If Monica can find lawyers to handle her appeal pro bono (or nearly so), she has a chance of winning based on a judgment of the law itself at the appellate level, but there is no guarantee of that; cases like this can work their way all the way up to the Supreme Court if the losing party has enough time and money to pursue it that far.  Clearly, neither Monica herself nor SWOP has that kind of resources, and I’m not really sanguine about anyone else (like the ACLU) investing in it.  The case has, however, drawn international attention and is even being watched by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights; perhaps some deep-pocketed organization will finally decide to stop dodging the issue and commit itself to sex worker rights by challenging the laws that let cops arrest virtually any woman they like without any valid reason at all.

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To go to this extreme, you know, it was the only alternative or something like that, but you weren’t made aware of that and that was kind of what I was curious about.  Because it’s not tolerated, but you need to go through — let the school handle it.  - Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet

These two Asian commercials couldn’t be more different, so I couldn’t resist juxtaposing them.  The first is a PSA against outdoor defecation from India, contributed by Jasper Gregory; the second is another of those lovely and moving Thai commercials (as previously seen in Links #168), contributed by Mike Siegel.  All the links above the first video are from Radley Balko, and those between the videos from Walter Olson (“tits”), Cthulhuchick (“cadaver”), Clarissa (“DMV” and “how about now”), and Amy Alkon (“advances”).

From the Archives

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Project ROSE is a diversion program like a person who pushes ten people onto the train tracks and pulls three off is a hero.  -  Ryan Beck Turner

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

It’s especially satisfying when a vice cop is the victim:

…Denver police detective…Michael Ryan…[is under] investigation [for] solicitation of a prostitute…Ryan works in DPD’s Vice and Narcotics unit and was instrumental in the investigation that led to federal judge Edward Nottingham resigning in the face of accusations he had patronized prostitutes.  Ryan…also served on a human trafficking task force…

A False Dichotomy 

Another good essay from Belle Knox:

…The concept of the desperate exchange permeates discussions about sex work…People assume that my support for sex workers and porn is somehow invalidated because I chose to do porn for the money rather than for love.  They act as though this is some shocking victory for them because being a sex worker wasn’t my dream job…it now somehow reverts to being morally wrong, and I become another pitiable whore to be dismissed at leisure…of course I do porn for money.  It’s a job, not a summer retreat…The majority of people don’t work every day for fun; they do it because they want…something in exchange.  Do you honestly think that the people working at McDonald’s flipping burgers and responding to rude customers on a daily basis would come to work every day if they weren’t getting paid?  Moreover, do you think as a child their dream job was to do this?…

Rooted in Racism

Police in southern France have been accused of racism after asking local hotel owners to report the arrival of Eastern European guests, in a bid to crackdown on certain crimes like pimping…a national police union official [pretended]…”(It) would not violate the values of the Republic by advocating snitching…in the fight against pimping speed is essential”…French authorities have taken a hard line against the presence of Roma people from Romania and Bulgaria, repeatedly bulldozing their unsanctioned settlements and expelling them from France…

For more examples of “sex trafficking” and “the fight against prostitution” as excuses for racism and xenophobia, see here, here, here and here.

Umpteen Thousand People Can’t Be Wrong

It takes a special kind of stupidity for a reporter to call for censorship:

Young girls are being sold online for sex…but not much is being done to stop…the most popular websites…Backpage.com…makes millions of dollars each month from “escort” and “body rub” listings.  Portland police…said it’s frustrating to know Backpage.com makes money off illegal activity, but if it went away, another similar site that is less cooperative with law enforcement would likely pop up…

Divided We Fall

when…Queer Strike “named and shamed” LGBTI organizations who they said were refusing to help decriminalize sex work in the [UK], the picture they gave was misleading…in most cases it simply wasn’t part of those organizations’ remits.  This is a particular issue under British charity law, which means they have to stick to their stated “charitable aims”…

Feet of Clay

I’m really pleased to see Reason doing a lot more on sex worker rights these days, and doubly glad to see “sex trafficking” in scare quotes:

…If you could put a date on when modern-day progressives fully re-inhabited the moral rigidity of their…forebears, it might be September 24, 2012.  That’s when Village Voice Media…split off…Backpage.com after a years-long, progressive-led campaign to shutter the site over claims that it facilitates “sex trafficking”.  “If street pimps go to jail for profiteering on under-age girls, should…Village Voice Media really get a pass?”  New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, the country’s most prominent progressive scold, wrote in a March 2012 column that blamed Backpage for the 2003 peddling of a 16-year-old prostitute, even though the site didn’t exist in 2003.  “Paradoxically, Village Voice began as an alternative newspaper to speak truth to power.  So it’s sad to see it accept business from pimps”…Kristof had the paradox almost exactly backward.  It is he and his fellow crusaders, not the buyers and sellers of controversial products and services, who are aggrandizing power at the expense of the little guy and mangling truth in the service of that unseemly goal…

True Colors

This title of this New Yorker article would seem to indicate a general piece about HIV in the American South, but it’s really much more about Deon Haywood, Women With a Vision and the arson which destroyed their offices on May 24th, 2012.  The responsible party was never caught, but here’s a clue:  the fire was started by piling up all the reproductive health models and posters in one room and setting them ablaze.

Think of the Children! (TW3 #23) Christy Mack

Sex rays can apparently enter one Lego construction and be randomly emitted from other Legos elsewhere, presumably via quantum tunneling:

[In January]…Christy Mack…tweeted [“Whoever builds me the best Lego creation to put in my house gets a blow job”]… The response on Twitter was enthusiastic, to say the least…Unfortunately for Mack’s fans, and toy store proprietors nationwide…the Lego challenge drew to an abrupt close…[when] lawyers for the company had contacted her, objecting to her usage of the Lego name…

Broken Record

They won’t stop until they extend the “gypsy whores” myth to every possible event:  “An undercover sting operation targeting prostitution and child sex trafficking netted five arrests in Augusta [Georgia]…because of the Masters Golf Tournament…

Another Example of Swedish “Feminism” (TW3 #36)

Who cares that a woman was stabbed?  The sadfeelz of naïve prudes are much more newsworthy!

Hookers are using…Airbnb…to turn prime Manhattan apartments into temporary brothels…One apartment…belongs to publicist Jessica Penzari…But when a hooker got slashed by a client in the…apartment over the price…Penzari got a call from cops…Airbnb put her up in the swanky InterContinental hotel in Times Square for two nights…and also paid to change her door locks, clean her apartment and replace her pillows and other belongings…Airbnb said…“we have zero tolerance for this activity”…

According to the Post, having a snack at your desk is “turning prime office space into a temporary restaurant”.

Under Every Bed

The underworld of prostitution and human trafficking is a dark one, often hidden from the public eye, but it exists in [Alabama] a lot more than one may think…”We used to be just a pass through state,” said Pat McCay with the Madison County Human Trafficking Task Force.  “They would come from Atlanta to Memphis…Now they are staying”…

The event which sparked all this portentous talk of vast criminal cartels?  A cop arrested a massage girl.  Of course the reporter has to get the usual self-important bile from a “legitimate” masseuse.

The Widening Gyre (TW3 #314) 

As the days pass with no sign of [missing 8-year-old] Relisha [Rudd], some…believe she may have been sold into a child sex trafficking operation.  They point to the wads of cash and expensive items Relisha’s mother and boyfriend flaunted on Facebook in the days following the little girl’s disappearance…Andrea Powell…of FAIR Girls…says, “There’s kids as young as 5, 6, 7.”  The average age of entry into this dark and devastating underworld is 13…Relisha RuddIn Washington, D.C. alone, the trafficking of children is a $100-million industry…

Given that the population of the Washington metro area is 5.8 million, that would make the “trafficking of children” worth over $5 billion in the US as a whole.  The level of mathematical illiteracy required to believe such a blatant absurdity constitutes a national crisis vastly greater than “sex trafficking” could ever be.

I Saw My Brain

Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Fla…brought felony charges…in October 2013 against two girls, 12 and 14, after the suicide a month earlier of a third girl, Rebecca Sedwick…[Judd] charged the two girls, Katelyn Roman and Guadalupe Shaw, with aggravated stalking and released their names and mugshots…He made it sound like they posed an urgent risk…A month later, prosecutors dropped the charges after…failing to find evidence of [Judd’s claims]…Judd’s tendency to overdo it isn’t news to the voters who elected him…a…suspect [was shot]…68 times…he boasted of arresting a man for running an Internet pornography site out of his home…[he] took the basketball hoops out of the local jail and stopped supplying inmates with underwear…[he uses] pepper spray on detained juveniles

Micromanagement

Is there anything more worthless than an “authority’s” promise?

French investigators began taking DNA samples…from 527 male students and staff at a high school…as they searched for the assailant who raped a teenage girl on the closed campus…All those who received summonses…were warned that any refusal could land them in police custody…Authorities have promised to discard the DNA collected once a donor is eliminated as a suspect…

One Born Every Minute (TW3 #338)

A French fundamentalist priest repeatedly raped three teachers at the school he ran in…Paris during so-called exorcisms…[he] was indicted this week on charges of rape, cruelty and torture…he had first raped one teacher during an exorcism to purge her of the “evil” from a previous sexual assault…[then] used his “spiritual influence” to convince two [others]…to undergo similar exorcisms…[which included torture with] a broom, a toothbrush and scissors…Police became involved only last year when two of the women reported the rapes to authorities…[but] several years ago the…society of St. Pius X tried him in a religious hearing and sentenced him to two years in a monastery…

Traffic Jam (TW3 #343)

A strong criticism of the ethical bankruptcy of Project ROSE from academics studying “human trafficking”:

This program is ostensibly designed to “rescue” victims…of sexual exploitation, yet there is no form of victim identification at any point in the process.  Rather than attempting to assess whether someone is being coerced…they threaten the arrested person with prosecution…If sex trafficking victims/survivors do not meet the “perfect victim” criteria and are convicted, they will face mandatory minimum sentencing in Arizona’s particularly brutal prison system…It…bears little resemblance to anything that could be considered an anti-sex trafficking program…and…is a tragically absurd version of a “diversion” program.  Instead of keeping people out of the criminal justice system, it sweeps them up and funnels them in…Project ROSE is responsible for at least 100 percent more incarcerations than “diversions”…ASU social workers…are acting like colonial missionaries – they offer to “save” the sex workers they perceive as helpless and damaged, but should [they] not gratefully accept…“help,” then armed…men are at the ready – “for their own good.”

Crumbling House

We are aware of certain allegations that have surfaced…regarding Somaly’s history…We are treating these accusations with the utmost seriousness…the Foundation has recently launched an independent, third party investigation to further examine these claims …

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #349)

According to STRASS, sex workers are increasingly marginalized and insecure since the parliamentary debate on the criminalization of clients…attacks against prostitutes have increased…On the night of March 31…a Chinese prostitute was stabbed to death…“Her assailant was known to be a bad customer so she would have refused him if she had the means.  But she had been unable to work for several days, due to constant police operations targeting Chinese women, and was therefore unable to take the time to choose her customers” said a STRASS statement…The police harassment has been repeatedly denounced by Doctors of the World…

Surplus Women (TW3 #413)

Remember, three weeks ago they were saying there was no serial killer.

Two registered sex offenders have been arrested in connection with killing four women in Orange County…[targeting them] because of their ties to prostitution or escort services, and investigators suspect there are more victims yet to be identified…Franc Cano…and Steven Dean Gordon…were arrested Friday evening…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #415)

the Upper House of the German Parliament, the Bundesrat, passed a resolution calling for an objective debate…amid plans by the ruling coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats to reform the German Prostitution Act of 2002…The Bundesrat found that debates in the public sphere and in the media were still based on prejudices, a lack of knowledge and sensationalism.  The Bundesrat particularly opposed the blanket equation of prostitution and human trafficking…[and] opposed the introduction of mandatory health checks, judging them as unreasonable and hardly expedient…

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We never know what’s percolating in the mind of children, okay?  And when they demonstrate behaviors that raise red flags, we must do our duty.  -  Charles Maranzano

Many of you have probably seen the first video, of dogs reacting to a magic trick; in the second one, a magician performs tricks for cats instead.  This isn’t the first dog/cat video dichotomy I’ve featured; look back to Links #160 for more juxtapositional fun. The three links above the first video were provided by Radley Balko, and those between the videos by Amy AlkonClarissaRick HorowitzKevin Wilson, and Eddie J Cunningham, in that order.

From the Archives

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I have to laugh when I hear people say: “Oh, I’ve never met a sex-worker before” and I have to say, chances are you have, you just don’t know it.  -  Valerie Scott

Bad Girls Andrea Alvira

Men:  Pay your hookers!  Ladies:  Get the damned money up front!

A 19-year-old…prostitute choked a [Florida] man to death after he tried to stiff her out of money he owed her for sexual services…Andrea Alvira…[chased] Brandon Day, 22…into a yard, where she dropped him by hitting him in the neck. She got on top of Day’s chest and forced her knees into his throat, suffocating him…

Grow the Hell Up!

Politicians, cops and naïve, whiny women are a dangerous combination:

…Rebecca McHood of [Mesa, Arizona] said she belongs to “a community of women who have been affected by pornography and sex addiction of their spouses…”I have five close friends whose husbands or ex-husbands have frequented [massage] parlors…I have seen the effects [sic] this has on their families, including the effects of divorce”…Lynnette Greybull…said she has found a website that lists 36 Mesa sex shops masquerading as massage parlors.  “They have a page…of acronyms…[detailing] what they’re able to do to these women…it’s very disgusting and perverted…These establishments are fake businesses…that…sell women.”

A Tale That Grew in the Telling

You know the oft-repeated lie that a third of teen runaways are approached by a “pimp” within 48 hours (when in reality, 84% of teen sex workers literally never meet a pimp)?  Well, it’s down to 45 minutes now:

Last year, King County’s Committee to End Homelessness issued a fact sheet that [stated]…“76 percent of unaccompanied minors [are] approached by either a known gang member or pimp in less than 45 minutes”…“That study has been altered, revised and bastardized beyond recognition,” says…Captain Eric Sano…“The actual study was from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  They say that one in three teens will be recruited by an exploiter.  In 2009 we…put a very youthful female member of the department [in a park in disguise] and within 45 minutes she was approached by two members of the Westside Street Mobb”…

It’s a good sign when a claim is too ridiculous even for cops and reporters.

Forward and Backward (TW3 #4)

An unusually-sensible attitude for a politician:

…I have decided to implement [activists’] recommendations…by introducing a bill to repeal “prostitution free zones” in D.C…transgender women…[say cops] regularly view and treat them as criminals…The prostitution free zones reinforce this bias…it is also critical that police officers help someone who is assaulted or raped, even if they were involved in sex work.  MPD is responsible for the safety of everyone, including sex workers…

Above the Law  

…Cleveland police officer Gregory Jones [was found] guilty of raping and kidnapping a woman…Prosecutor Jesse Canonico said…’He was a rapist masquerading as a police officer’…”  According to Canonico, cops and rapists are two mutually exclusive things!  Obviously he’s never been to New York:

Yonkers police officer Alex Della Donna…arrested…Sonia L. Gomez…[and] coerced her into having [sex] with him at least a half-dozen times…continually [reminding her] that drug charges…might be reinstated if she didn’t continue…[the rapes] ended only after Gomez’s husband threatened to tell departmental higher-ups…

Or California:  “…West Sacramento Police officer…Sergio Alvarez was convicted of…numerous counts of aggravated assault and rape…and…[given] a 205-years-to-life sentence…he raped women while on the job, sometimes even in his patrol car…”  Or even Utah:

…police officer Jeremy Rose has been charged with 15 offenses in the collection of thousands of photos of a teenage girl in various stages of undress…Rose convinced a then-15-year-old…to pose semi-nude for photos he said he would sell for her on the Internet…he also allegedly hid a camera in the girl’s bedroom to record video of her dressing and undressing…

Traffic Jam (TW3 #21)

Note the moronic “people can be sold repeatedly” canard:

[California] officials say gangs have become more involved in human trafficking because people can be repeatedly sold for profit, unlike drugs and guns…The legislature is considering a…bill…[to classify] human trafficking…as “gang activities”…Sentences for gang-related crimes are usually stiffer…

Feet of Clay (TW3 #22)

Following in the illustrious footsteps of Lauren Hersh:

An assistant district attorney was verbally berated and banished from a Bronx judge’s courtroom after failing to reveal evidence that would have freed a man held at Rikers Island on bogus rape charges…“This is an utter and complete disgrace — not just for you, but for your office in general”…Judge John Wilson told…Megan Teesdale before dismissing the case…The defendant, Segundo Marquez, had been held…for more than eight months awaiting trial…

Above the Law (TW3 #28) Jeffrey Holmes

A…Kansas City police officer who was accused of forcing two women to have sex with him was found guilty of acceding to corruption…and sentenced…to 15 days in jail…” When a non-cop does the same thing it’s called “rape” and gets more than 2 weeks in jail.

The Public Eye

In this interview with Valerie Scott (one of the plaintiffs in Bedford vs. Canada) she touches on the landmark case and the Swedish model; however, the more interesting part for me is her discussion of pre-internet sex work in Canada, sex work ethics, myths about sex work and “pimps” and the absurdity of trying to suppress the trade.

Where Are the Protests? (TW3 #48)

The…son of a peasant farmer from…China has been in custody since being found in a…Dublin…grow house with an estimated €1 million worth of cannabis…Fergal Kavanagh…said his client…[was] imprisoned in the grow-house by traffickers…[and] should be released pending a full investigation into his case…

Caring Professionals

Another nursing home ignites controversy by hiring sex workers for residents:

The elderly residents of a Long Island nursing home…[attended a male] striptease in the facility’s rec room, a new lawsuit claims.  The son of one resident, 85-year-old Bernice Youngblood, was shocked when he…found a picture of his mom stuffing dollar bills — which are supposed to be locked away in her commissary account — into a dancer’s briefs…“Plaintiff Bernice Youngblood was placed in apprehension of imminent, offensive, physical harm, as she was confused and bewildered as to why a muscular, almost nude man, was approaching her and placing his body and limbs, over [her],” the suit states…Youngblood’s attorneys argue she “lacks the mental and physical capacity” to protect herself…

Photo4by6.jpgUnless Mrs. Youngblood is unquestionably suffering from dementia, it sounds more to me like her son is just revolted by the idea that his mother might enjoy male strippers and might actually exert a little control over her surroundings instead of existing as a passive, passionless vegetable under others’ “care”.

Traffic Jam (TW3 #321)

Government officials in Phoenix are violating the law by compelling [sex workers]…to participate in a program administered by religious groups, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says…the program, Project ROSE, clearly violates the First Amendment…those arrested…are forcibly taken to Bethany Bible Church…in handcuffs…[and] given the option to avoid criminal prosecution by participating in a sectarian program.  “Phoenix is essentially telling criminal suspects that they can go to church or go to jail,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn…

Shame, Shame (TW3 #348)

[Congresswoman] Jackie Speier…has apparently decided to introduce a federal “revenge porn” bill, which is being drafted, in part, by Prof. Mary Anne Franks, who has flat out admitted that her goal is to undermine Section 230 protections for websites…to make…third parties — like “Google, any website, Verizon… face liability”…[she claims] she’s not seeking to undermine Section 230 in any way…[because it] has never protected sites from liability of federal crimes – just civil infractions and state crimes.  So her goal is to make the amorphous concept of “revenge porn” a “federal crime” thereby suddenly making third-party websites liable…this effort is fraught with dangerous consequences and potential First Amendment problems…

Subtle Pimping (TW3 #403)

You’ve got to love the way she makes it sound as though it were her idea:

University of Colorado sociology professor Patti Adler has axed the prostitution skit…that led administrators to pull her from the classroom last semester…[she] cited difficulty with consent forms and worries among participants after the…skit drew national attention…In the end, Adler canceled the controversial skit and invited local sex workers to her class…Adler interviewed the sex workers…and then allowed the students to ask…questions…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #405)

More on the German politicians who want to make life harder for whores:

…the Union [Party] wants to impose stricter controls on brothels and threaten clients with punishment.  The police and other authorities may also get the power to raid brothels without concrete suspicion, [sponsor] Thomas Strobl…said…clients should not be able to “make excuses” [if police declare that] a…prostitute has “obvious signs of ill-treatment”…the Union also wants [to reward] foreign prostitutes with…residence [if they agree to testify against]… “their tormentors” …presently, foreign forced prostitutes…do not report to the police because they…fear deportation…I Am Jennie

Drawing Lines

Former porn actress Jennifer Ketcham incoherently argues that the best way for porn actors to fight for decriminalization is to draw an artificial line between themselves and other whores.  Or something.

…Porn…advocates…are quick to distinguish between pornography and prostitution, and…it is way more okay to be a porn star than it is to be a prostitute…porn stars…[should] drop the label of “sex worker” and adopt the title of “adult film actor”…[to sever] it from the morally-loaded concept and illegality of prostitution…by drawing imaginary lines between sex work performed on camera and sex work performed behind closed doors, porn (unintentionally) debases the majority of sex workers…

The Sky is Falling! (TW3 #413)

Regarding the last line: what the hell does she think prostitution is?

…Équipe d’Action…has…[filed] legal proceedings against a “sugar daddy” dating site, which they accuse of operating a disguised prostitution racket.  The existence of such sites in France…[was ignored until] the arrival of the US site Seeking Arrangement…If the complaint is upheld in court it could change the definition of prostitution in France…Angela Jacob Bermudo, a spokeswoman for the French Seeking Arrangement site…[said] “Seeking Arrangement is not prostitution…For many girls, this is a viable option to be able to concentrate on their studies without the financial burden”…

Deafening Silence (TW3 #413)

Chinese officials violently suppress a city’s major industry, then wonder why its economy dies:

Prostitution was once rife in Dongguan…Local analysts estimated there were more than 250,000 prostitutes at its peak, and that the business generated about 50 billion yuan (HK$63 billion) a year…But…in February…authorities started a campaign to wipe out prostitution…hotel managers estimate…up to 70 per cent of prostitutes had left the city.  “The crackdown may not kill us, but it will kill [the nearby town of] Changping and then the city itself.  Without our xiaojie [whores], Changping is going to be a ghost town”…Many people working in the city’s retail and service sectors – from taxi drivers to snack sellers, landlords to restaurant bosses – grumble that their business has suffered since the…raids began…At the New South China Mall, the largest shopping centre in the world when it opened in 2005 with more than 2,000 shops, at least half the stores are vacant…

Whither Canada? (TW3 #413) 

In Canada, articles like the ones below and at right appear in the mainstream media:

…more than 300 of our fellow Canadian and international academics and researchers expressed their profound concern that the federal government is blatantly ignoring a large body of scientific evidence…that criminalization of any aspect of sex work, including the purchasing of sex, has overwhelmingly negative [effects]…banning the purchasing of sex is not scientifically grounded and sorely misguided by moral judgment of sex workers as victims.  In fact, evidence strongly suggests that this approach would recreate the same social and health-related harms of current criminalization regime…there is no evidence that criminalizing the purchasing of sex reduces or eliminates prostitution…

Whither Canada? (TW3 #414) 

Boo fucking hoo:

The person who runs Saskatoon’s “john school” is disappointed because he hasn’t had any participants since the start of this year.  Albert Brown…said that since the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country’s anti-prostitution laws last year, his class has been empty…

Synopsis of the rest of the article: “Dirty, dirty, filthy, diseased whores!”

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on March 23rd; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

The Vestal Virgins were among the most important people in classical Roman society; they were charged with keeping the sacred fires burning, and accorded numerous privileges in return.  One of the greatest of these was that their persons were sacrosanct; in other words, no person could touch them without their permission, upon penalty of death.  That meant no one at all, not even high state officials; a Vestal could not be touched even if she were convicted of the greatest crime of which she could be accused, that of breaking her vows by having sex or allowing the sacred fires to go out.  Because these offenses were believed to anger the gods and thus risk the safety of all Rome, the penalty for them was death; but since nobody could touch them to administer the sentence there was only one way carry it out:  the dishonored priestess was buried alive.  In order to avoid breaking another law against burialVestal Condemned to Death (attributed to Pietro Saja, about 1800) within the city, the tomb was provided with a candle and a small quantity of food and water in order to establish the legal fiction that it was a “habitable room” rather than a sepulcher, and the unlucky woman was thus left to a lingering death by slow suffocation to preserve the illusion of piety which would have been shattered by spilling her blood.

Whores are in many ways the diametric opposites of the Vestals:  we are as far from virgins as it’s possible to be, are stigmatized and rejected by our societies rather than being honored by them, and are responsible for banking men’s sexual fires rather than keeping actual ones burning.  But in the past few decades, there has arisen a legal doctrine which represents all women as helpless, pure and sacred; we are supposed to be delicate flowers who are irremediably damaged by the evil lusts of brutal men, from whom the Sacred State must “protect” us.  Harlots sin against that precept by being strong, self-willed beings who deal with men on equal ground and make a living from male lust rather than being “ruined” by it as the catechism claims we should be.  We must therefore be punished, but since Holy Writ has declared us blameless victims how can that be accomplished?  The answer, as it was for the Vestals, is slow suffocation…though in this case economic and social rather than literal.

The tomb disguised as a “habitable room” into which prohibitionists want sex workers sealed is called the “Swedish model”; just as the Vestals’ persons technically remained inviolate, so women under this abominable regime are not technically criminalized.  Our meager provisions consist of the fact that we can, on paper, carry out our work unhindered.  But just as the Vestal was prevented by the earth above her “room” from getting any more food, water or air, so Swedish prohibition attempts to starve and suffocate their victims by persecuting their clients, getting them evicted from their homes, hounding them with police surveillance, denying them social benefits and even stealing their children.  Swedish proponents even go so far as to proclaim that sex workers are “decriminalized”…just as the Romans could say that the condemned Vestals had not been directly executed.

In all of Roman history, only ten Vestals were ever condemned to this horrible fate.  But unfortunately for the mad totalitarian dreams of the prohibitionists, there are millions of whores in the world; it would be absolutely impossible for them to ever entomb all of us, no matter how fervently they might wish to do so.  In order to advance their scheme to extinguish as many of us as possible, they must find and close up every possible gap through which economic sustenance might flow, and that means eliminating our means of attracting and contacting clients.  Increased police surveillance could drive street workers into the dark, dangerous places where the Pure and Holy need not see them, but street work has always been a minority of all sex work and that’s even more true now thanks to the internet (which allows incredibly cheap advertising with greater reach than even the most expensive venues had twenty years ago).  Banning escort advertising has no effect whatsoever; there is no way to stop people from hiding commercial sex adverts within other, unbanned forms, and almost no way to stop buyers living under such a censorship regime from accessing websites hosted outside its jurisdiction.  This utterly infuriates the prohibitionists, who are well aware of sex workers and clients conducting our business right under their noses; they have therefore embarked upon an all-out effort to destroy its most visible manifestations, no matter what the costs in human rights.  Irish prohibitionists have proposed giving police the power to steal sex workers’ phone numbers in order to convert them into traps for clients.  Scottish prohibitionists, defeated in their attempt to impose the Swedish model, are trying to drum up support for advertising censorship by demonizing clients.  And American prohibitionists are willing to totally destroy the internet as we know it:

…members of Congress have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Backpage.com for its role in prostitution and sex trafficking or to recommend legislation that would make prosecution possible…[they claim] that…tens of thousands of children are sold for sex…every year…Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects websites from liability for content posted by a third party. That means a website can’t be prosecuted when someone posts an illegal ad on their website…

Vestal Condemned to DeathWere websites to be held liable for third-party content, they would have no choice but to shut it down.  All of it.  Amazon reviews, YouTube videos, comments on websites, free hosting of sites like mine on larger entities like WordPress…all gone, wiped out overnight.  If you think this only applies to American websites, guess again; a large fraction of the internet’s backbone is on American soil, and the US government has given itself the power to shut down any website in any country which it decides has violated some US law, through the simple expedient of shutting down traffic to it at the point it passes through the US.  And while the article above restricts its language to “children”, others are more honest about the politicians’ intent:

…proposed legislation…would allow for federal felony charges to be brought against operators of web sites that fuel the illicit sex trade through commercial ads…Under the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act, individuals would face felony charges for promoting an advertisement…that…facilitates any of numerous crimes against children and adults in the sex trade, including…pimping and prostitution.  The legislation would also allow federal authorities to shut down advertisements…

What these megalomaniacs seek is nothing less than the power to shut down any escort’s ad and to prosecute the website that carries it; even websites outside the US could be attacked as described above.  There is probably very little danger of the Roasting the Pig By Burning Down the House Act going through, or of it withstanding a challenge even if it did; US judges have repeatedly proven themselves wiser than politicians by striking such laws down every time they’ve been tried.  But the fact that they do keep trying is a measure of their hatred and disdain for the women they wish to suffocate in the name of “protecting” our sacred bodies from “violation” by consensual sex.

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How can an escort be successful and completely avoid the hobbyists and their review system?  I usually attract the gentlemanly type who won’t kiss and tell, and after my first few interactions with hobbyists, I’m utterly shocked by their entitlement and crude behavior.  Since Eros and Slixa do authentication (so clients can be reasonably sure I’m real), is there any point to an escort putting up with hobbyist garbage?

The Courtesan and the Old Man by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1530)Most clients will respect a lady’s request not to be reviewed, and that is reinforced with time because an escort without reviews will tend to be avoided by the sort of men who are most invested in the review culture.  The best clients know that a large fraction of reviews are bullshit anyway, and will judge for themselves based on an escort’s website, the length of time she’s been around, and perhaps even non-review conversations on the boards.  As you correctly point out, there are other means of authentication, and if you’ve made it up until now without allowing reviews I don’t think there’s a need to start.  One thing you might do is get to know a few of the other escorts in your area who don’t allow reviews; a good reference from one of them would help you to know that a gentleman can be trusted to be gentlemanly.

I am just beginning in the escort industry and trying to find out which are the best agencies to work for in my area.  Also, do you know what agencies would be looking for as far as interviewing – things to be sure to mention or avoid, dress, etc? 

Though working for a reputable agency used to be a good deal, it has become much less so now that the internet makes self-advertising so easy.  And remember, this is advice from a former escort service owner!  Take a look at the “Mentoring” section of “Previously Asked Questions” and read the linked entries; it may help you to make up your mind, and most of the advice there will be useful no matter which route you take.  In the interest of providing a complete answer, though, I asked a friend who lives in your area if there were any good agencies, and here is what she wrote:

I would dissuade her from working for an agency.  Besides the cost factor, clients seem to be shifting away from agencies;  they are also becoming more and more targets of LE due to the “trafficking” hysteria (remember, to target an escort service police must arrest the escorts first).  I would tell any woman entering the business to consider finding a mentor, and working independently; it just seems to me to be safer at the present time.

Arrest of a Prostitute by the Police by Jules DavidWhat she said about client shifts and cop targeting is dead on; since agency owners can be branded “pimps” and “traffickers”, they attract a lot of attention these days from cops looking for heads to mount on the wall.  Though working independently is by no means safe from cop depredation, it may indeed be safer than working for an agency (especially if you’ve got a friend who will check you in and out).

If, however, you still prefer to work for an agency, interviewing is really not all that different from what you’d do for any other job interview:  dress nicely but not fancily, be friendly, answer the interviewer’s questions honestly and be prepared to provide whatever information they need; you’ll probably be asked to sign a disclaimer.  I preferred to weed my applicants on the phone and in the interview, but it may be that they’re using online forms nowadays.  If you’re attractive and present yourself well, it shouldn’t be difficult to get them to take you on; the real test comes later, because just like any company they’re going to rely most heavily on employees who are dependable and make the company the most money (in this case, by high customer satisfaction).  Girls who are easy to contact, professional and make the clients happy will get the most calls; those who are the opposite will find their phones ringing less and less.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Even if I have lost some important parts of my body, I still want to get rich.  –  Chamangeni Zulu

I’m grateful for these quiet weeks we’ve had lately; they’ve allowed me to get boring-but-necessary business stuff done for setting up my company and my tour.  Pretty soon, you should start seeing new things populating the tour calendar, but if you’re in east Texas toward the end of next week I would like to see you at my book signing in Fairfield.  And if you don’t live near any of my planned stops, don’t forget you can get an autographed copy by mail.  This week’s top contributor was Jesse Walker, with the first video and everything above it; those between the videos are from Marc Randazza (“legit”), Mike Siegel (“headline”), Radley Balko (“gag”),  Clarissa (“Satanic”), Police Misconduct (“driveway”), and Thaddeus Russell (“blasphemy”).

From the Archives

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For a model that is supposed to help prostitutes…[the Swedish model] shows them remarkably little respect.  –  Mishka Gora

Rough Trade Danford Grant on video

Accused rapist says it wasn’t rape because his victims were only whores:

Danford Grant, a prominent Seattle lawyer…is charged with six counts of rape, one count of attempted rape and one count of burglary for allegedly attacking multiple women at massage clinics…Grant’s lawyers claim Jie Shao, owner of Carnation Massage:  “deleted all the footage that recorded what really occurred…to destroy what was evidence of prostitution, not rape or attempted rape”…attorney…Richard Hansen…has repeatedly put…responsibility …on the…victims…saying…“a lot of these…(massage businesses) were advertising on Backpage…that should tell you something”…

The Lesser of Two Evils

An excellent Christian argument against criminalization of sex work, especially via the Swedish model:

…To criminalise male purchasers while simultaneously exonerating female vendors…is a violation of natural justice…this…“denial of consent”…fails to understand the motivation of women who…prefer prostitution to the alternative…the duplicity and irrationality of wanting to eliminate prostitution…while simultaneously denying the moral agency of prostitutes…is mind-boggling.  The contortions of the mind needed to support this feminist narrative have…also led to…prostitutes [being treated]…like children incapable of taking responsibility for their actions…[while] male clients…are…“sex offenders”…along with rapists and child abusers…According to Dr Melissa Farley, upon whose dubious “research” seemingly every justification of the Swedish model is based, they are “predators”…For Christians, promiscuity has [always] been the defining aspect of prostitution…medieval canonists agreed that although it was wrong for a prostitute to practice her trade, there was no wrongdoing in her receipt of money for her services…It is…hypocritical and inconsistent to criminalise only this one form of promiscuity…It is not…criminal…for a woman to have a different sexual partner each night…nor…for a man to buy his mistress an apartment, clothing, etc…integrity would demand…prohibition [of sex work] apply to all illicit sex…Such a prohibition…was ludicrous in Catholic medieval Europe, and…even more so in a modern western democracy…

Actually, This is Good News

The more sex workers are treated as other professionals are, the better:

Prostitutes could be sued for breaching the Consumer Guarantees Act, the same as any other service provider, a law professor says.  A man who tried to sue a prostitute for compensation and damages  had his claim dismissed…But…Professor Cynthia Hawes said prostitutes were…no less accountable than other service providers…”if you’ve made a contract with somebody there could be a case.  A contract of prostitution is not unlawful in itself”…

Maggie in the Media

On Wednesday I was a guest on the Inspireland podcast; you can listen to it at that link or download it on iTunes.

Parable white slave girl

For April Fools’ Day, Jenny Heineman wrote a satire entitled “It Happened To Me:  I Read And Believed Nick Kristof”:

Despite ample warnings about the prevalence of con men seeking to prey on easily malleable puppets like me…I almost became the victim of a murky, seedy, dark, sex trafficking ring operated by equally murky, seedy, dark (-skinned) men…prostitution…is never a victimless crime…all fact-based evidence to the contrary should be deeply scrutinized…Furthermore, prostitution and sex trafficking are synonyms because if you disagree…you’re a pedophile…

Somehow, I Doubt She Thought This Through

A [Connecticut] woman faces prostitution charges after…she reported being robbed by a man who responded to her ad…Nikoletta Herman…became nervous about the way he was acting…changed her mind and…the man got upset, assaulted her and stole her cellphone…

Marching Up Their Own Arses

The newest anti-whore fad:  using “licensing” to jack up prostitution fines:

…Wausau [Wisconsin] Police Chief Jeff Hardel [wants]…an escort license…ordinance [which] would impose fines in the $2,000 to $5,000 dollar range, and [require] licensed escorts to be fingerprinted, pass background checks, and file a…business plan.

Full of Themselves (Updates Galore)

Massage parlors are victims of licensing as well:

…Minneapolis will require massage businesses to be licensed…to prevent sex trafficking…With cooperation from…victims, prosecutors are…working to drive down the demand…through aggressive prosecuting of “johns.”  The city also has conducted training sessions to educate hotel and motel owners and employees to recognize, report and stop sex trafficking…

coffee crack pipe
To paraphrase one line from the article, “The new law is intended to make Minneapolis a safe police state to call home.”

Gullible’s Travels

Coffee smoking is a dangerous new trend that could be going viral among teens…But the side effects can be dangerous. People have reported trouble breathing, dizziness, vomiting and even hallucinations.”

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs

violence and assault against sex workers by the police…has come under the scanner of the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission…Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) filed a complaint…on behalf of the sex workers…”Women have been beaten up just for standing on the road, or while walking towards the bus stop…Women have been…compelled to pay money, failing which they are threatened that false cases will be filed against them,” Professor Rajendra Y J of PUCL said…

The Prudish Giant (TW3 #9)

PayPal is at it again; here’s a letter sent out on Monday by the crowd-funding platform Patreon (which lets patrons pledge a set amount to an artist for every new work created) to artists who create “adult” material:

…we had to change your custom URL and set your Patreon page to “private”…users must [now] have a specific link to view your page, as it no longer appears in our search results.  We got a notice from Paypal this morning that they were shutting down their entire integration with Patreon because of “adult content” on our site!  As you can imagine, this would be detrimental to creators – hundreds of thousands of dollars were to be “frozen” unless we flagged all adult content pages, made them private, and removed Paypal functionality from their individual pages…We have already emailed your patrons who signed up to become your patron through Paypal, and we have asked them to switch over to a credit card.  No action is needed on your part, however, if you would like to email your patrons as well, that could be helpful in converting patrons from Paypal to credit card…

Above the Law 

Kansas jailer Kenneth Reese “has been arrested, accused of sex crimes against jail inmates”; the first allegation a year ago didn’t go anywhere, but a second accusation seems to have tipped the balance.  Meanwhile, in Louisiana, “Richland Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Dewey Allen has been arrested on charges of sexual battery and malfeasance…

Held Together With Lies

Emily J does a splendid job of ripping apart prohibitionist nonsense:

…here are the basic numbers of their claims:  140 girls & women in Ottawa right now are trafficked sex slaves…[each makes] $260 000 – $280 000…on average…[at] $200/Hour average price…$260 000 per year at $200/hour…[is] 1300 sessions in a year…if each one works 365 days per year, they earn $712 per day…[and] 3.56 clients per day, every single day…that’s 498 unique men seeing trafficked girls in Ottawa…[and] 182,000 sessions per year…[which would mean] 65% of all men in Ottawa have had sex with a trafficked sex slave…

Number Puzzle

The invaluable Wendy Lyon debunks another bogus “trafficking” study:

There’s been much in the Irish media…about a new report on sex workers’ clients…You’d need a pretty small population size for 58 [respondents] to…tell us anything about clients as a class – and the authors can hardly claim simultaneously that the population size is small enough, and that it spends €250m a year…if the respondents amounted to even 10% of the sex-buying population of Ireland, that would still require them to pay an average of €431,034 per year for sex…the…survey…asks…Have you ever changed your mind and walked away because the person seemed…a list of options follows, including “scared”, “controlled”, “unwilling”, “unhappy” and “too young”…a client who…walked out of an appointment with an independent escort who was in a bad mood…[was] recorded as having encountered a sex worker who he believed was exploited or trafficked.  This…is a gigantic leap that undermines whatever credibility this survey might otherwise have had…

Under Every Bed

This collection of single sentences  about the “sex trafficking problem” in Boise, Idaho (population 200,000; known chiefly for lumber and potatoes) is not actually organized into a coherent article; apparently, its “writer” is a dual devotee of the “sex trafficking” cult and the Hemingway software.  The gems found therein include (multiple sic):  “a child is taken in…they’re used not only for prostitution but also in gang organized crimes”; “victims…go through a ‘moral development’ period…in order to stay safe they must go along with their captures”; and “investigators…believe that a major problem stems from the Internet…‘where kids play online’”.

Bottleneck (TW3 #324)

This breathless article from the Canberra Times is clearly intended as an attack on decriminalization in New South Wales:  it spouts “sex trafficking” nonsense; quotes cops, politicians and an NGO named “Brothel Busters”; and does not quote any sex worker organizations at all.  But like many prohibitionist screeds about the “failure” of legal sex work regimes, it ignores a vital point:  the women it discusses are only victims because they are specifically excluded from working legally via some legal bottleneck, in this case the inability to get visas for sex work.  Naturally, Scarlet Alliance has repeatedly warned the government about this exact issue.

Bootlickers (TW3 #326) 

Because surely there are scads of women who think escort to barista is a good career move:

[Sheriff's Sgt. Darrell L. O'Neill] was charged…with felony promoting prostitution…for allegedly tipping off bikini baristas in exchange for sexual favors…[cops claim] Java Juggs stands hire young women who have worked as strippers and escorts and “essentially operate as drive-through strip clubs or brothels”…

Innocence Never Had

Another useless public policy based upon the absurd notion of magical “pimp” mind control powers:

[Los Angeles] officials are exploring a plan to require more…training for foster parents and group home workers to help them recognize …signs that children and teens under their care may be victims of sex trafficking…pimps sometimes recruit underage sex workers from group homes…Rachel Thomas, a sex trafficking survivor [said]…”There’s a grooming process…with recognizable signs.”

The Punitive Mindset (TW3 #352) 

Campaigners fighting the Ministry of Justice over a ban on books being sent to prisoners…threatened to take their battle to the courts…Geoffrey Robertson QC, who has offered his services for free, said…justice secretary Chris Grayling [is] acting “unlawfully and irrationally”…to inflict “cruel and unusual punishment” on literate prisoners.  “Grayling is not a lawyer, he is a politician who seems to think he is above the law,” said Robertson…”He has no power to impose additional punishment on prisoners over and above that which is imposed by the courts.  The action has nothing to do with prison security or any other legitimate purpose”…Grayling [pretends]…”the arrival of thousands of unknown parcels in our prisons each day”…would undermine the…battle against drugs…

R.I.P. Andrew Hunter

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #410)

Sex workers from across the UK and rest of Europe crammed into a select committee room in the House of Commons to argue against plans to change prostitution laws that would criminalise clients…

Whither Canada? 

Canadian prohibitionist is sad because he can no longer force sex workers traumatized by arrest to listen to his “rescue” sales pitch:

A prostitute rescue program…is now on hold because police are no longer laying prostitution charges in Saskatoon, says…Don Meikle…once an arrest was made “we would be sitting at the police station waiting for them…It’s…very disappointing…It’s taken away that crisis that quite often created change”…

The rest of the article is littered with words like “combating prostitution” and the program is praised by a pro-Swedish model prohibitionist group.

Delightful Conversation

Go back and look at the text below the second picture on yesterday’s column (which I actually posted on March 8th) before reading this:

…[Miranda Barbour] made up the claim that she killed more than 20 people and is drawing on the escapades of television serial killer “Dexter,” her sister said…”She takes a lot of truths and puts the lie in the middle so when people…see all these truths…they believe the lie”…Ashley Dean said Elytte Barbour loved the TV show Dexter and suggested that her sister…”is using descriptions from the show”…

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The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic.  -  H.L. Mencken

So, were y’all thoroughly confused yesterday?  Were you wondering who the hell wrote that crap that was posted under my name, or did you think it was a great improvement over my usual baroque sentence structure and outré descriptions?  Did you find yourself saying, “Ye gods and little fishes, it’s as though Ernest Hemingway had come back from the dead to write a guest column!”  Or did you not even notice anything amiss?

dumb kid from ShaneYesterday was, of course, April Fools’ Day, and for this year’s prank I decided to run my Reason essay “The Mythical Invasion of the Super Bowl Hookers” through Hemingway, a program which purports to “improve” your writing by making it “bold and clear”…in other words, by shortening and simplifying each sentence down to a level that would not confuse a rather slow-witted ten-year-old.  Hemingway said that my original text was “OK”, with 16 demerits; the final product was rated “good” with only 8, though I had eliminated everything the machine had labeled a “problem”.  Presumably, my score couldn’t get any lower because it still had too many words of more than one syllable and too many highfalutin’ terms like “prohibitionist”, “television” and “Canada”.

Now, in part I did this was because I thought it would be funny; not necessarily Monty Python funny, Three Stooges Funny or even Noël Coward funny, but at least whimsically amusing.  But I also did it to show just how stupid it is to defer to the aesthetic sensibilities of something that would lose in a battle of wits with a starfish.  Even if one stupidly believes that there is only one kind of good writing, and suffers from the lamentable but popular delusion that Hemingway was its archetype, and furthermore imagines that even Hemingway always wrote in that clipped, easily-parodied style we refer to as “Hemingwayesque” (which he did not), the notion that a glorified Nintendo console is qualified to judge adherence to that standard is ludicrous at best.  But as stupid as that idea is, a very large fraction of moderns cling to it with childlike devotion because it is a natural outgrowth of one of the most pernicious dogmas of the machine age:  that human beings are just another kind of (albeit complex) machine governed by knowable rules, and that Utopia can be achieved if we can only discover those rules and implement them thoroughly (and ruthlessly) enough.  This is the heart of “Progressive” thought:  force people (via social engineering, prohibition and criminalization) to only eat, wear, watch, read, hear, say, do and think what “experts” have decided is “good” for them, and the Millennium will arrive on the very next high-speed train.

The problem with this is that it’s 99 44/100%  pure bullshit.  Human beings are not Skinner’s programmable modules, social interactions are incredibly complex and most “experts” aren’t even qualified to make decisions for their dogs, much less for millions of people they don’t know.  That idea that human beings can and should be governed by rigid, top-down rules designed by said “experts” has given us the Drug War, sex work prohibition, mass incarceration, mass surveillance, the nanny state, “Child Protective Services”, the “sex offender” registry, mandatory minimum sentencing, “zero tolerance” school policies and a host of similar abominations far too numerous to list.  People’s lives, like their writing styles,The Brothers Hemingway are unique, and what works for one does not necessarily work for another; by the reductionist “logic” of modern governance, Shakespeare, Cervantes and Dostoyevsky were all terrible writers because they don’t sound like Hemingway…and their works should be mercilessly edited until a mindless computer program declares them acceptable.

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