Archive for October, 2011

Ignorance is learned; innocence is forgotten.  –  José Bergamín

Every so often a reader will stun me by objecting to my vilification of neofeminist prohibitionists with a statement like, “feminists just want equality” or “feminists want women to have choices” or even “feminists aren’t anti-sex”, which causes me to wonder where exactly that reader has been living his whole life that he’s never had to endure the kind of anti-sex venom which is spewed forth by the likes of Dworkin, MacKinnon, Farley, Jeffreys et al.  He can’t possibly have read this blog very often, else he would’ve seen my descriptions of neofeminist rhetoric in columns like “A Short Glossary of Prohibitionism” and “A Fantasy of Hate”, my direct quoting of neofeminists in “The Other Foot” and “In Their Own Words”, and analysis of neofeminist propaganda by myself and others in columns like “A Load of Farley”, “Sales Pitch” and “Down Under”.  And he must certainly have never encountered neofeminist arguments that all sex workers are suffering from “false consciousness” or “Stockholm Syndrome”, or heard them speak disparagingly of “choice feminists” and “sex-pozzies”.

Others admit to encountering these hateful harpies, but seem to believe that they are only a small and marginalized group; would that this were so!  Though neofeminists are no longer the majority in the feminist movement, they still command most of the money and have the ear of governmental officials, the media and police agencies, who find their “victimization” rhetoric useful as an excuse for persecuting sex workers and undermining women’s rights.  Also, the extensive mythology they have developed about whores, our lives and our work is repeated so often it has become an article of faith for many people in the general public of North America and Europe, many of whom (especially in religious-based groups) may not even recognize its origin.  Indeed, the neofeminist dominance of institutional “feminist” discourse is so complete that many people (such as men’s rights activists and social conservatives) neither recognize nor discuss any other type!

So I really have to wonder just how sincere these commenters actually are.  If I had this conversation, say, fifteen years ago with a bookish sort of person who didn’t watch television and never read popular magazines or anything produced by academic feminists, I might have believed that he had never encountered a neofeminist and was deriving his beliefs from some of the early second-wave literature or the odd early ‘90s sex-positive article.  But in these days of the internet (and clearly anyone who comments here has access to that) and the nigh-omnipresence of sex trafficking hysteria, I just can’t accept that anyone living in a Western country has never, ever encountered a fire-and-brimstone, rape-culture-spouting, Patriarchy-fearing, “prostitution is oppression”, man-hating, head-spinning, mouth-foaming neofeminist at one point or another.

So we’re left with several possibilities:

1)  That these people are fully aware of neofeminists, but prefer to deny their existence or numbers for political reasons;
2)  That they’re in denial because the existence of these harridans offends their idealistic views on what feminism should be;
3)  That like me, they refuse to characterize these people as true feminists and are merely expressing themselves badly;
4)  That they think of the anti-sex cult as a fringe group and are merely “whistling past the graveyard” about the very real danger they still pose and the extensive damage they’ve done;
5)  That I’m wrong, and some people really and truly don’t realize how many anti-sex radical “feminists” are out there and/or the extent of their influence; or
6)  That they’re just yanking my chain, trolling or being willfully obtuse.

We have some really good, lively discussions on this blog, and I often learn from my readers, so I’m opening this one up to the Honest Courtesan commentariat; which explanation is the correct one?  Is it a different reason in each case, or even a combination of factors?  Or is it something else I haven’t thought of?

One Year Ago Today

No Other Option” discusses a small but important segment of whores’ clientele, namely those men who, due to physical disabilities, are completely unable to acquire sex with amateurs and therefore have no other option but to pay for it.

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How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.  –  William Shakespeare, King Lear (I, iv)

The hubris which is an unfortunate but intrinsic characteristic of the modern mind leads the one so afflicted to believe that modern people are invariably more sophisticated, more moral and more “enlightened” than our ancestors were, and in many ways we are; we know more about the universe, have access to a greater range of ideas and experiences, tend to have greater respect for individual differences, have largely eradicated the worst forms of slavery and are far less violent.   But in other ways we have remained static, oscillated or even declined, and unfortunately the latter condition applies to sex work.  Since the beginnings of civilization the status of the whore has progressively (though not steadily) declined; as I said in my column of one year ago today:

Despite neofeminist dogma about prostitution being a manifestation of patriarchy, the truth is actually the opposite:  Prostitutes had our highest status in the ancient Goddess-centered cultures because we were rightfully viewed as the gateway between mortal men and the great Feminine Principle.  It wasn’t until the patriarchal cultures succeeded in subordinating the Earth Mother to the Sky Father that our status started to slip…by the 6th century BCE  free temple prostitutes in Athens had largely been supplanted by slave-girls given to the temple as donations, and the Athenian leader Solon tried to eradicate secular prostitution by establishing cheap state-owned brothels and persecuting streetwalkers…In general, male-dominated governments are not really happy about being unable to control prostitutes, and maladjusted men are unhappy that women they don’t own can demand (and get) generous compensation for their sexual favors while men cannot make similar demands from women.

Though in the West courtesans held high status from ancient Greece until the turn of the 20th century, the number of women who could qualify for the title and the number of men who could afford them steadily decreased.  In the East, government control over the lives of harlots slowly increased, and while we were tolerated in Europe until the 16th century the Reformation ushered in an age of anti-whore rhetoric (derived from the preaching of the ancient Hebrew prophets, as described in last year’s column) which slowly but inexorably grew until it combined with the social engineering agenda of the late 19th century “social purity movement” and resulted in our profession being not merely controlled but outlawed on a large scale for the first time in history.  And though these laws have been repealed or softened in most civilized countries, they continue in others (such as the U.S. and various theocratic or repressive regimes), and even the countries where we aren’t classified as criminals generally view prostitution as a “social ill” to be tolerated or controlled.  Worst of all, Victorian moralists pronounced us subhuman and modern prohibitionists continue their rhetoric, declaring us childlike “victims” suffering from “false consciousness” and unable to make adult decisions for ourselves.

This is all particularly galling because, as our ancestors knew, we serve a valuable social function.  In the most ancient societies we were honored not merely for our connection to the Goddess, but also for our role in managing the power of male sexuality, and though in later patriarchal societies we were controlled, contained or tolerated, nobody was stupid enough to suggest that we should be eradicated.  But thanks to the delusional idealism of the social purity crusaders, we are now viewed by many as not merely unnecessary, but an active harm to society…a society which would collapse into sexual chaos without us.  The tide is starting to turn; some cultures have again admitted that ours is an acceptable trade, and many individuals recognize that we serve a vital social role.  But it’s still a pleasant surprise to see an editorial like this one from the September 27th Vancouver Sun:

We, as a society, do not value the services of sex workers.  Sex work is productive work with many direct and indirect benefits to the mental and physical well-being of society…Through our inaction and misguided policies based on this attitude we have created a more dangerous situation for the most vulnerable workers…It’s a huge challenge to change Canadian law given the ambivalence and hypocrisy surrounding this issue but…nothing will change for the better unless we start to appreciate what sex workers do.

And though they’re not seeking recognition for the goodness of her work as a madam but rather for a good deed a person of any profession could have performed, it’s still nice to see people seeking a pardon for their ancestor saying that they’re proud of her:

…when the massive concrete dam below Cora Brooks’ house suddenly broke apart in September 1911, sending 260 million gallons of water churning down the narrow valley toward Austin [Pennsylvania], her quick phone call into town gave many enough warning to run to high ground.  The torrent of water obliterated the industrial town, but the woman saved all but 78 of its residents.  Three months later, when Cora Brooks pleaded guilty to the charges of running a “house of ill repute” and selling liquor without a license, the town came to her defense.  “Had it not been for her, undoubtedly hundreds more lives would have been lost,” residents said in a letter to the sentencing judge.  “Large numbers of people were fed by her, and the suffering and distressed rendered aid and assistance.”

“Cora Brooks,” the judge declared, “proved she was not only human, but humane,” and he released her with a $200 fine.  But the conviction still stands, and Cora’s distant relatives are now asking Gov. Tom Corbett to pardon her of her public sins.  “She was the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold,” says Margo Baker Crosby.  Yes, she was a thorn in the side of the town’s elite, “but that was part of her charm…She needs to be recognized for her good deeds that saved that town”…the director of Potter County’s tourist promotion agency, [Cora’s great-grandson] David Brooks…said…He’s over the embarrassment of her trade.  “I’m proud,” he said.  “If you’re going to be known for something, saving the town isn’t bad.”

Maybe one day in the distant future, men like David Brooks will be able to say they’re proud of whore ancestresses because of their work, rather than in spite of it.  But I doubt that will be anytime soon.

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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  –  English proverb

Last December I reported that an HIV patient had been cured in Berlin via stem cell transplant, and on September 29th Spanish researchers announced a possible vaccine:

Spanish scientists at the National Biotech Centre in Madrid say a new vaccine could reduce HIV to a “minor chronic infection”…90% of participants given the MVA-B vaccine showed an immune response to the virus and 85% kept the immunity a year later.  According to a press release from The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC):

The success of this vaccine, CSIC’s patent, is based on the capability of a human’s immune system to learn how to react over time against virus particles and infected cells.  “MVA-B vaccine has proven to be as powerful as any other vaccine currently being studied, or even more,” says Mariano Esteban, head researcher.  MVA-B is an attenuated virus, which has already been used in the past to eradicate smallpox, and also as a model in the research of many other vaccines.  The “B” stands for the HIV subtype it is meant to work against, the most common in Europe.

Once injected, the vaccine teaches the…immune system to track down and fight off the virus.  “It is like showing a picture of the HIV so that it is able to recognize it if it sees it again in the future,” Esteban says…[adding] “If this genetic cocktail passes Phase II and Phase III future clinic trials, and makes it into production, in the future HIV could be compared to herpes virus nowadays.”

This is fantastic news, though I have to wonder if prudish American parents, eager to cut off their children’s noses to spite their faces, will refuse to allow them this vaccine as many have refused the one for venereal warts?  Wrongheaded opposition to that one is so widespread the California legislature felt it necessary to enact a law allowing teenagers to get the vaccine (and any future vaccines for STDs, including HIV) without the knowledge of parents who would rather their daughters die than have sex; of course, there is widespread outcry over the law from people who think it should be OK to deny one’s teenage children access to health care.

California is also the state in which a city (San Francisco) with a large gay population recently saw a (defeated) effort to ban infant circumcision, despite the fact that we’ve known for five years now that it reduces the chance of HIV infection by 60% (future attempts at circumcision bans have since been outlawed by the California legislature).  In Europe, the practice is now being encouraged as one of the most cost-effective means of stopping the spread of the disease, as detailed in the second part of our lead story:

In other HIV news, a group of European economists says adult male circumcision is not the most cost-effective solution for stopping the disease and resources should be directed towards other options like finding an HIV vaccine, infant male circumcision, removing the risk of infection from blood transfusions, and stopping mother-to-child transmission of the virus…Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, told a group meeting at Georgetown University, “We need to spend money on things we know work,” and added, “Making blood transfusions safe costs almost nothing, but we’re not doing it.”

That this fact is virtually ignored on this side of the pond should come as no surprise; the United States in general and California in particular are well-known for their inverted priorities and arse-backward “solutions”, spending tremendous sums of money and enormous effort on problems that barely exist (such as “human trafficking” and domestic terrorism) while ignoring threats to thousands or even millions of people.  One ongoing example from California is another HIV-related issue, the condom porn controversy, the absurdity of which was highlighted in my column of one year ago today.  Unfortunately, Americans as a group are mired in religious thinking, even when they’re not religious; they tend to unquestioningly accept whatever pronouncements are made by those they view as “authorities” (whether religious, political, cultural or simply famous), and never let little things like facts change their minds.

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Justice will only exist where those not affected by injustice are filled with the same amount of indignation as those offended.  –  Plato

One year ago today I pointed out that though the still-contested Himel decision striking down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws in Ontario was “only one tiny crack in a very large and solid dam,” that “many such tiny cracks can weaken even the toughest structure so that one day it may yield to other pressures upon it.”  That column reported another such crack:  a judge in British Columbia allowed a similar challenge to the prostitution laws to proceed despite the efforts of prohibitionists to block it on a technicality.  And now just in time for the anniversary of that decision, I’m happy to report yet another constitutional challenge, as reported on October 7th by CTV:

Canada’s prostitution laws are facing another constitutional challenge from a woman charged with keeping a bawdy house.  And the lawyer mounting the case says other charges laid against sex workers in BC are in trouble because anyone can use a charter challenge as a defense in court.  “It’s the same experts, the same evidence…the constitutional challenge is not out of reach the way it was two years ago,” said Joven Narwal…[who] represents a woman who was charged with keeping a bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution, and procuring a person into the sex trade after Vancouver police raided…[her business just] days after an Ontario judge ruled that Canada’s prostitution laws are unconstitutional…In B.C., former sex worker Sheryl Kiselbach challenged the same laws, though the case is tied up in legal delays.

Putting those two cases together means anyone has access to the research and arguments to build a charter challenge, said Narwal.  “It’s easier now to the extent that you know which evidence is necessary, which experts will be necessary,” he said.  There are some 90 solicitation charges being prosecuted right now in B.C., and two groups of bawdy house charges.  “They’re all compromised to the extent that anybody who is going to fight is going to sue constitutional arguments,” said SFU Criminologist John Lowman.  B.C. prosecutors admit this will mean a harder fight in court, but they won’t be deterred.  “If a charter challenge is raised, that will be more complicated,” said Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie.  “If that happens more often, we’ll just deal with it on a case by case basis.”

Obviously, prosecutors “won’t be deterred”; it isn’t their own money they’re wasting, and the fight is at least half of the sadistic fun for them.  But that struggle is about to get a lot more difficult (and probably less fun) as the cracks in their prohibitionist dam keep multiplying.  Remember Insite, the Vancouver harm reduction project the Canadian government was trying to close down?  Well, the Canadian Supreme Court has unanimously decided in Insite’s favor, and legal experts are already predicting that this will undoubtedly help the sex worker rights case (thanks to Kelly Michaels for calling this October 7th Vancouver Sun story to my attention):

Canadian courts could strike down the country’s anti-prostitution laws if judges follow the logic of a landmark Supreme Court ruling on drug policy that came out last week.  Experts say the biting unanimous decision preventing the closure of North America’s only safe-injection site for drug addicts has implications for a challenge to Canadian adult prostitution laws that is working its way through the courts.  The court said closing the Insite clinic violated addicts’ basic rights to life and security, given evidence that the clinic reduced the risks from drug addiction.  “I think it’s going to be cited in many, many cases,” said Errol Mendes, law professor at the University of Ottawa.  He said the ruling’s logic can apply in a prostitution case that is likely to end up at the Supreme Court…Ontario’s Court of Appeal is expected to rule on the case soon.  If it and then the Supreme Court uphold Himel’s decision, the federal government will have to find another way to restrict prostitution, or perhaps accept legalized brothels of the sort found in Nevada.

Both Himel’s ruling and the Insite ruling found government actions did not meet the “principles of fundamental justice” that underpin Canadian legislation…A lawyer in the prostitution case agreed that the Insite case was significant for his challenge…Canada’s Supreme Court is less politicized than the U.S. court, and few lawyers expect that to change even after Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper names two new judges, probably within months.  Experts said the Insite decision showed that the government could not ignore scientific evidence to push a legal agenda that opposes drug use or prostitution.  Significantly, the Supreme Court did not examine whether the trial judge was right to conclude that Insite saved lives, focusing on how the government had to react to that evidence.  This might make it easier for the Ontario court to dismiss requests from government lawyers to reexamine the facts of the prostitution case…

Those cracks aren’t just legal, but social as well; as I reported in last year’s column and several other places, public support for criminalization in Canada is rapidly eroding and a number of newspapers have taken a pro-decriminalization stance.  I’m willing to bet that ad campaigns like this one from Nova Scotia have helped by showing that prostitutes are “regular people”, thus fighting police propaganda that we’re all criminals and prohibitionist propaganda that we’re all damaged victims.  Thus, I’m very pleased to see that St. James Infirmary has launched an ad campaign along very similar lines, and considering the story was featured on Huffington Post it may even find its way into the mainstream media:

…St. James Infirmary’s new media campaign promoting the rights of local sex workers…[is] a collaboration between [the infirmary]…and artists Rachel Schreiber and Barbara DeGenevieve…[and] features portraits of sex workers and supporters — spouses, partners, family members and health care professionals — putting faces to the people who work in the industry…”We wanted to make visible the workers who tend be invisible,” said Schreiber…”Sex workers aren’t people hanging out in a dark alley somewhere; they are nurses, teachers and mothers.  Our goal is to demystify sex workers.  They are just everyday people.”  Schreiber believes that because of the mystery and invisibility surrounding the sex industry, workers have trouble accessing the resources they need — an issue she’s hoping the campaign will bring to light…the recent controversy surrounding Ashton Kutcher’s anti-sex trafficking campaign caught her eye…“When the focus of so much media attention is on the trafficking, it doesn’t leave room for anything else — like the resources to keep those who choose to work in this industry safe and healthy, and to give those who feel like they don’t have a choice a way out.”  According to Schreiber, the problem with the media attention is that it fuels enforcement rather than support.  “Many of the sex workers we assist at St. James choose to do what they do.  And they have needs and rights just like everyone else,” said Schreiber.  “And for those who feel stuck due to financial situation, the answer is in getting them the help they need, not in having them arrested.”

The result of the project:  an honest, sincere and informational campaign across San Francisco.  Schreiber originally planned to house the campaign on billboards across the city, but both Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor rejected the campaign, telling Schreiber that “sex worker [is] not a family friendly term”…But Titan 360, the ad company that supports BART, Muni and AC Transit, happily agreed, posting Schreiber’s photographs on Muni busses all over San Francisco.  “We’re hoping this starts a dialogue,” said Schreiber.  “And we want sex workers to be a part of that dialogue.”

Furry Girl’s sex worker rights billboard was similarly rejected by ad companies, but she finally located one who would take it.  As in so many areas, the United States lags behind the rest of the developed world on sex worker rights.  But when the prohibitionist dam crumbles in Canada,  the cracks are bound to spread south; it’s good to see a few of them are already appearing.

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…as soon as she heard me she came down, opened the door, and asked me to come in…she set me on a richly decorated seat inlaid with silver, there was a footstool also under my feet, and she mixed…a golden goblet for me to drink… – Homer, Odyssey (X)

By the time the black-and-white car had come to a stop in front of the grand old house, the girl on the porch had vanished inside.  And by the time the uniformed man had made it to the front door, it was opened by a beautiful, seemingly-ageless woman he knew well.

“Good afternoon, Tommy.  Congratulations on your election!”

“Afternoon, Miss Kay; mind if I come in for a spell?”

“Well, I wasn’t going to make you sit on the porch!  Come on in, and rest your feet for a while.”

He followed her in to the beautifully-furnished parlor and accepted the glass of wine she poured him; he had known her long enough to understand that it was best just to accept it because she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.  Not that he particularly wanted to resist; she made the finest homemade wine in the state.

“I was beginning to wonder when you were going to show your face up here, young man; your father (may he rest in peace) came every week to hear the gossip.  He always said I helped him so much that I should have been on the county payroll.”

“Well, Miss Kay, that’s sort of what I wanted to talk to you about,” he said hesitantly.

“Oh?” she asked, refilling his glass.

“Well…see, it’s like this.  Things are different now from when Daddy was sheriff.  There’s a lot of talk up at the state capital about cleanin’ up crime, and about morality and all.”

“What’s that got to do with me?  There hasn’t been a major crime in this county since the end of Prohibition, and the rumors we heard helped your father deal with the minor ones.”

“Yeah, but what about your operation here?”

“Why, whatever do you mean?”

“Come on, Miss Kay, you ain’t dumb.  You do a whole lot more’n raise hogs up here.”

She laughed.  “That?  Tommy Carson, don’t be a fool; nobody in this county cares about that.  I bought this house soon after I arrived in this country, and I’ve been taking in girls and entertaining travelling gentlemen ever since.  The people around here know me for a good neighbor.”

“Folks around here, sure.  But like I said, they’re startin’ to make noise in the capital, and puttin’ pressure on local officials like me to clean up.”

“Rulers do that from time to time; it’s the way of things.  They won’t know anything about what goes on here unless somebody tells them, and nobody’s going to do that.”

“Well, maybe.  But it’s not like it was no more; it’s gettin’ a lot harder to cover up.  An’ I’m thinkin’ that extra effort has to be worth somethin’ to you.”

She put down the bottle with barely-controlled anger.  “How dare you?” she hissed.  “Boy, I delivered you, and I gave your mother poultices and medicines for your ailments and rashes and the like.  And when she came here sick with worry because you were going off to fight the Germans, who gave her a charm to protect you?”

Tommy remembered the ancient bronze coin with its faded hawk image and Greek letters; he had worn it on the chain beside his dog tags and though he would not admit it aloud, it had given him great comfort on that beach in Normandy when other men were dying all around him.  “And I appreciate all that, Ma’am, I really do.  But I figure if a man don’t look out for himself, nobody else is like to.  You of all people should understand that.”

After a long, tense pause her face relaxed, and she poured him another glass.  “Of course I do, Tommy.  You’re right.  Things change, and we have to change with them.  Let me go over my books, and we’ll see what we can arrange.”

“I’m glad you decided to see it my way, Miss Kay; I’ll come back after the weekend, OK?”

“That’ll be fine, Sheriff,” she said, seeing him to the door.  “Now, mind you drive carefully; that wine is more powerful than you think.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

“Now, Miss Kay, it’s not your fault.”

“Yes it is, Bart, I should never have let him drive; I told him that wine was much more powerful than he thought, but he insisted he could handle it!”

“You know how Tommy is; once he gets a mind to do somethin’ neither you nor nobody else is gonna stop him.”

“But he could have been killed!”

“Well, he can’t be hurt that bad because he was nowhere near the car; after the crash he must’ve wandered off somewhere to sleep it off.  I’m sure he’ll turn up; we just figured we’d check here in case he came back to use your phone.”

“Please, Bart, let me know as soon as he turns up.”

“I’ll certainly do that, Ma’am.  Oh, by the way, there was a pig wandering around near the wreck; he was real tame so the boys caught him easy and I’ve got him in the truck.  We figured he must be one of yours.”

“Yes,” she said.  “He’s one of mine.”

(With grateful acknowledgement to the work of Margaret St. Clair).

One Year Ago Today

Dry Spell” is a fictional interlude which tells the sad tale of Bea Becket, the top girl in the finest brothel in her city in October of 1929.

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Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-racking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit.  It cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practised at spare moments; it is a whole-time job.  –  W. Somerset Maugham

Most of you probably heard back in June that F. Chris Garcia, retired president of the University of New Mexico, was arrested in conjunction with the persecution of Southwest Companions; regular readers don’t need me to point out the usual pompous cophistry such as referring to a review board as a “prostitution ring” and calling a website administrator a “recruiter of prostitutes” (a phrase intended to conjure images of a pervert luring doe-eyed innocents into his van with the promise of candy), nor the trumped-up charges such as “conspiracy” (which basically means talking to someone else about something the cops decide to label a “crime”) and “destruction of evidence” (which means there is no evidence and never was).  But you may have missed this item from September 29th:

Bernalillo County’s District Attorney has dropped prostitution charges against former UNM President F. Chris Garcia.  However, the decision doesn’t mean the nationally known political science scholar is out of hot water.  It’s a move that buys the D.A. and the police more time to analyze evidence and the build their case against Garcia and other men busted in what police call a prostitution ring.  “When we have complex, multi-defendant cases that involve a lot of documents that have been seized, computers that have been seized, typically it takes awhile to analyze all of that,” said District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.  The law requires prosecutors to take a case to the grand jury within 60 days of the defendant’s arraignment.  Dropping the charges and re-filing later gives the prosecution extra time – even months…

In other words, the district attorney hasn’t got a case (remember “destruction of evidence”?) so she’s dropped the charges for now in order to have the freedom to harass Dr. Garcia later after she threatens some arrested hooker into making up a bunch of “human trafficking” bullshit.  Or, she just plans to leave it hanging over his head indefinitely, or else the dismissal is part of a behind-the-scenes deal of the type for which Brandenburg is well known (perhaps involving her buddy, escort-raping judge Pat Murdoch).  Since I’m not from Albuquerque I’m not personally familiar with her, but my research indicates she’s the sort of female politician who is bound and determined to prove that she is as sleazy, unprincipled and amoral as any man:  She has been accused of gross misconduct (including reneging on plea bargains and leaking privileged information to the press), has allowed innocent people to sit in jail despite knowing of exculpatory evidence, and has been caught lying and inventing “facts” in interviews on numerous occasions.  But her chief claim to infamy is her widely-criticized tendency to wield prosecutorial discretion like a sledgehammer against ordinary citizens (such as the decorated Marine whom she and Murdoch sent to prison for two years in order to discourage citizens from protecting their property against thieves), but to show no interest in pursuing charges against Murdoch or her other colleagues.  Which of her many faults is in play this time?

As I have pointed out before, cops and state-employed lawyers consider themselves a ruling class to whom the rules simply do not apply; they feel entitled to break laws, inflict violence on the citizenry and otherwise do whatever the hell they want:

Wayne County [Michigan] Prosecutor Kym Worthy…has filed charges against former Romulus Police Chief Michael St. Andre, his wife Sandra Vlaz-St. Andre, and five Romulus detectives…for misconduct, corruption, embezzlement, and witness intimidation…[in connection with] a scheme to improperly use drug forfeiture funds for personal benefit.  Worthy says the allegations include purchasing a Westland tanning salon operated by Vlaz-St. Andre, hiring prostitutes and spending $40,000 on marijuana and alcohol in a one-year period.  Chief St. Andre and his wife are alleged to have had bank account balances in excess of their combined annual income [and] the officers are…accused of “double-dipping” expense reports and making “fictitious payments to confidential sources.”

Their alleged criminal activity, which began in January 2006 and continued up until this month, took place under the guise of a Romulus Police Special Investigation Unit investigation into allegations of Liquor Commission violations, prostitution and narcotics trafficking…this supposed investigation was hidden from the Special Investigations Unit supervisor and supervised only by St. Andre.  No information from this case was ever turned over to prosecutors.  Worthy said the Michigan State Police began investigating allegations of police corruption in January 2009 at the request of someone she termed “a highly-placed Romulus Police official”…

In other words, the excesses were too egregious to ignore, especially since the informant (most likely the unnamed “Special Investigations Unit supervisor”) was both highly-placed and brought in too many others for the affair to be effectively hushed up.  Even so, the prosecutor prefers to hide the bald truth under euphemisms; armed robbery and grand larceny are softened into “improper use of drug forfeiture funds”, in other words dirty cops pocketing money they stole from people at gunpoint after accusing them of the heinous crime of possession of drugs without a badge.  Obviously, Dr. Garcia chose the wrong profession; had he been a cop or a judge instead of a university professor, he could have hired as many hookers as he liked as long as he invited the district attorney and other highly-placed cops to the party.

One Year Ago Today

An Older Profession Than You May Have Thought” demonstrates that our trade is very old indeed, predating our species by millions of years.

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The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business.  –  Jimmy Swaggart

Twenty years ago today, the California Highway Patrol pulled over a white Jaguar in the town of Indio for driving on the wrong side of the road.  The driver explained that he had pulled over to give a ride to a young woman who was standing on that side, and was in the process of pulling back over when he was stopped.  And the cops might’ve accepted that, or given him a ticket and gone on their way, except for two things:  the woman was a known prostitute named Rosemary Garcia, and the driver was well-known televangelist Jimmy Swaggart.  Nor was this Swaggart’s first time caught with his hand in the crumpet tin; four years earlier it was another streetwalker in a seedy motel on Airline Highway in Metairie, Louisiana.  That earlier scandal had almost ended his career, and the second one sharply curtailed his comeback.  But let’s not put the car before the whores, as it were; the story makes more sense told chronologically.

Jimmy Swaggart was born in Ferriday, Louisiana on March 15, 1935, just six months before his cousin, rock and roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis  and a year before another cousin, country star Mickey Gilley.  He married Frances Anderson when he was only 17 years old and was a father at 19, despite the fact that he had neither residence nor income.  The Swaggarts lived an itinerant existence as Jimmy preached in small rural Louisiana churches, bringing in roughly $30 a week and staying wherever people would let them.  But showmanship ran in the family, and by 1957 Swaggart was popular at revival meetings all over the South.  He entered Bible college, began recording Gospel music albums in 1960 and was ordained by the Assemblies of God after graduating in 1961.  He soon had his own radio show, and by 1969 it was popular throughout the Bible Belt.  That was the year he founded his Family Worship Center in Baton Rouge, bought an AM radio station and started a weekly 30-minute television broadcast which was later syndicated.  His television ministry quickly expanded; in 1978 the show grew to an hour, and in 1980 went from weekly to daily.  By the mid-1980s his broadcast appeared on more than 250 television stations across the U.S. and pulled in about $150 million dollars a year.

Cousin Jimmy had come a long way from sleeping in church basements and preaching from the backs of trucks, but instead of rejoicing in his good fortune and helping other struggling preachers as Christian morality demands, Swaggart instead grew jealous of his position and schemed to bring down rival Assemblies of God televangelist Marvin Gorman, whose television show was becoming increasingly popular.  In 1986 Swaggart discovered (possibly through the use of a private detective) that Gorman had a mistress, and exposed him to the AoG Presbytery with claims of “several affairs” (though Gorman only confessed to one).  Gorman was defrocked, his TV ministry collapsed and he was forced to file bankruptcy; as one might expect, he wanted revenge.  So, he hired a private detective named Scott Bailey and assigned his son Randy to assist him, and the two set out to discover whatever Swaggart might have to hide.  It didn’t take long; early in 1987 they discovered that he regularly employed the services of Debra Murphree, a $35 streetwalker who worked out of the Travel Inn on Airline Highway.  On a day when Bailey expected Swaggart to visit Murphree, Randy Gorman rented another room and secretly took pictures of her clients coming and going; when Swaggart arrived Randy snapped his picture entering the room, then let the air out of his tires and called his father (who lived only a few minutes away).  The elder Gorman confronted Swaggart when he emerged and promised he wouldn’t release the pictures if Swaggart would publicly apologize to Gorman, admit to the Assemblies of God that he had lied about the affairs and use his influence to have Gorman reinstated.

But for some reason, Swaggart never made good on his end of the deal, and in January of 1988 Gorman told Swaggart his time was up.  On February 15th Gorman contacted the AoG Executive Presbytery, the same officials who had defrocked him two years earlier, and exposed Swaggart’s transgression; they initially suspended him for three months, then travelled with him on his private plane to AoG headquarters in Springfield, Missouri to set the matter before the church’s national leadership.  One would think Swaggart would be contrite and penitent, but this was not the case; an evangelist who was on that flight later reported thatSwaggart was VERY contemptuous of them.  At one point…he stood up and wagged his finger in their faces and said…[words to the effect that] Swaggart spoke for God, and the AofG did not.”  The national leaders were so offended by Swaggart’s arrogance they increased the suspension to two years, and so it was that on February 21st, 1988 Swaggart made his now-famous “I have sinned” speech and temporarily stepped down from the pulpit.

Murphree was interviewed repeatedly by news media and admitted to the odd fact that though Swaggart had seen her many times, he had never had sex with her; instead he had paid her to pose while he masturbated.  This dovetailed with Swaggart’s admission to the AoG leaders that he “suffered from a lifelong addiction” to pornography, which certainly surprised no one who knew anything about reaction formation considering his vocal anti-porn stance.  In July she got an illustrated interview in Penthouse; Jack had a subscription (delivered to my flat so his mother wouldn’t know) and I remember several details of that feature.  One is that Murphree was, well, skanky-looking, which in conjunction with some of the things she reported he wanted her to do and talk about tells me he viewed their interaction as degrading to himself, and wanted it that way.  Another is that he was extremely cheap; though her normal price was $35 he wouldn’t pay her more than $20 because he didn’t want to actually touch her.  And as is typical of men in a state of deep sexual frustration, he had disgusting fantasies about things he probably would never actually do, such as asking if he could have sex with Murphree’s nine-year-old daughter.  Penthouse paid $210,000 for her story, of which the IRS stole three-quarters.

Meanwhile, Swaggart had returned to the pulpit in May, at the end of the original three-month suspension; the AoG leadership responded by defrocking him for disobeying their two-year ban, and Swaggart countered by making his Family Worship Center and TV ministry non-denominational.  The defiant move came at a heavy cost; he had already lost considerable following due to the scandal and was a national laughingstock (mocked by celebrities from Saturday Night Live to Ozzy Osbourne), and the break from AoG sent him into a downward spiral.  By the end of 1988 he had lost 80% of his viewership, and in September of 1991 a New Orleans jury found that Swaggart had defamed Gorman with false allegations of adultery, and ordered him to pay $10 million in damages.  Still, the fallen icon was determined and charismatic, and soon after that verdict he preached to a standing-room only crowd in San Diego.  But a week later he picked up Rosemary Garcia in Indio…and that’s where we came in.  She said he asked her to guide him to a hotel with in-room porn, and as she later told reporters “He’s the same guy who cries on TV for all these people to feel sorry for him…to give him all their money.  For what?  So he can come give it to us.  That’s pretty good.”  There was no tearful apology from the repeatedly disgraced  televangelist this time; instead, he stood before his congregation and issued the statement which forms today’s epigram.  His quick-thinking son Donnie immediately announced that his father would be temporarily stepping down as head of the ministry for “a time of healing and counseling.”

One might think that would be the end of the road for Swaggart, but as the adage tells us “you can fool some of the people all of the time.”  In 1995 he founded the SonLife radio network, which according to Swaggart’s website “is heard nationwide on over 78 stations and around the world via the internet.”  In 2009 he launched SonLife Broadcasting Network, “a Christian Television Network which airs nationally and internationally to a potential viewing audience of over 80 million.”  And though he’s not the force he once was, there’s no doubt that he’s still a multi-millionaire with millions of adoring fans.  As Larry Niven would say, there ain’t no justice.

One Year Ago Today

Hooker Humor” should be self-explanatory.  And beige.

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