Author Archives: Mark Draughn

Some Friends Of Mine Are Having a Very Hard Time…

Some friends of mine are having a very hard time, and I just need to write about it.

At about 4:30 on Wednesday, my cellphone goes off with an incoming call from my friend Leo. Leo never calls. We communicate by text message (encrypted, lately) and sometimes email, so I kind of figured something was wrong. He’s my age, and he’s taking care of his 87-year-old father, who has some health problems. So I’m not expecting this to be good news.

The conversation goes something like this:

Leo: “I think I’ve just had a stroke and I need to go to the hospital. The problem is my father is almost out of food and I was just about to go to the grocery story. Can you come over tomorrow and do some grocery shopping for him?”

Me: “… Did you call 911?”

Leo: “No. I guess I should do that.”

So we discuss the importance of him calling 911 for another minute and then hang up.

A few minutes later, I text him back “How’s it going?” I figure if I don’t get an answer, I’m going to have to figure out how to get an EMS response at his house, which is about 50 miles from where I live. He calls me back and tells me he called 911.

My wife gets home and we drive out to his house. Along the way, we call the hospital he’d most likely go to, and he isn’t there. We reach out to the Nortown Fire & Rescue department, and they tell us they have no information but they’ll look into it. Lacking any further information, we decide to go to his father’s house. It is, after all, what Leo asked me to do, and it’s the only place where we know we can help.

Thirty minutes later, Nortown Fire & Rescue calls back. It turns out the call was handled by county emergency resources, not the town, but they’ve found out my friend is in transport to the hospital. We decide to keep on going to his father’s place.

Leo has heart problems, and we’ve discussed the possibility of my taking care of his father if he is ever unable to, so a few years ago he gave me a key to his home. The thing is, Leo is a tech geek, and his front door is electronic, so the key is just a piece of information stored in an app on my phone. We’ve tested it, and it works just fine. So it was something of a surprise that it didn’t work this time.

My wife and I start ringing the bell and knocking on the door and yelling for a while, but nobody answers. A neighbor comes over. She saw the emergency vehicles and wants to know if we know what’s going on. I give her a brief answer and ask if Leo’s father is home. She doesn’t know.

I go walking around the house, trying to see inside, and through one of them I can see his father calmly working in the kitchen. He’s a bit deaf.

We ring and knock some more, but no luck. Eventually I think to check if I have his father’s cell phone number in my phone, and it turns out I do. Amazingly, he answers, and after a minute I get him to understand that we’re at his front door, and he lets us in.

It got easier after that. I went grocery shopping while my wife kept him company. She gave him both our numbers and added them into his phone. I visited the next door neighbor and gave her a mission: If she sees anything unusual, like the father wandering around outside or EMS showing up again, or he comes over and asks for help, please call me. She agreed to do so.

After that we go see Leo at the hospital He’s still in the emergency department, although they’re getting ready to transfer him to the ICU. He’s groggy, in and out, and a bit confused, but we tell him we took care of his father, and he looks very grateful to hear that, but I don’t know if he’ll remember. We didn’t get to talk to his physician — it was getting very late and we had a long drive home — but after talking to his nurse, it turns out he had heart problems. To me, this makes more sense than a strokes since he had already had one or two minor heart attacks.

He was trying to talk to us, but the effort just made him start coughing, so we decided it would be better if we left. I managed to snag his house keys so my next visit to his dad would go more smoothly.

That was Wednesday. Thursday was a normal day. The hospital told us that Leo’s vital signs were improving, and we got in touch with Leo’s father who said he was doing fine as well.

On Friday, I get a call from an MRI technician at the hospital. He wants to know if I know if Leo has any metal in his body. (Someday I must find out why such a sensitive and versatile magnetic imaging system can’t detect pieces of metal ahead of time.) I ask what’s going on, and he tells me they need more information after a CT scan showed a large infarction in his brain. That means he had a stroke after all.

That evening, we went to see Leo’s father again. We didn’t tell him what I’d found out, since I had very little information. We didn’t want to give him bad news on little more than a technician’s comment. And we need to think this through.

While we were there, my wife got him to agree to call us that night when he had taken his meds. He did, but he didn’t answer when I spoke to him, and then he hung up and called back about ten more times, each time saying nothing. We were just about to start the drive back to his house to see if he was alright, when he finally got through and explained that his fingers were a bit shaky at the moment and he was having trouble operating the touch screen on the phone. We stood down and went to bed.

On Saturday, we got the word that Leo had been transferred to a regular hospital room, and we went to see him. It turns out there was rather a lot of bad news.

One of the doctors gave me a description of what happened. It turns out he had congestive heart failure, which turns out to be the good news. It’s a relatively manageable condition, and he has essentially mostly recovered from the episode. His vital signs are healthy and his lungs are almost clear. The cardiology team hadn’t yet reported in, however, so they may very well want to do some procedures while they’ve got him.

The bad news is that he did indeed have a stroke. I’m assuming that one of the clots affecting his heart was dislodged during the event and traveled to his brain. It was described as a pretty large infarction, which appears to be a way of saying the stroke caused some brain damage. He’s not a vegetable, nor does he seem to have any major paralysis. His face isn’t sagging. When we visited him, he recognized us and held a conversation that was in many ways ordinary and normal. He also seems to be in relatively good spirits, although that could be an effect of the drugs.

He’s missing a few things, however. His arm and leg on one side are weak or difficult to control — He described them as “not being there,” which sounds like there’s something wrong with his kinesthetic sense.

More troubling, he seems to have a hard time processing symbolic information. He recognized my wife and I instantly when we walked in, but later when the doctor asked him our names, he was unable to come up with my wife’s name, and he used his own name when referring to me. He also chooses the wrong word for some things. I had loaned him some camera gear, and was trying to tell me I could take it back, and he referred to it as a “telephone.” Lots of technical things seem to be “telephone” to him. It’s like he’s got a concept that he’s trying to come up with a word for, and he can’t find the word, so he uses one that is conceptually nearby.

This is all pretty devastating. Leo is a technical geek like me. He has two college degrees, and he used to teach at a nearby college. One of his hobbies is photography. And now his ability to understand symbolic information, technology…just isn’t there. Despite his fondness for the word “telephone,” he can’t figure out how to use the one at his bed.

On the other hand, he has no trouble understanding that he’s in the hospital, and he’s asked questions about how we’re taking care of his father. The other day he had the nurse call me to ask if we had turned on the air conditioning for his father, because it was a hot day, and he was pretty sure he had left it off on the day of the stroke. (He was right. I turned it on.)

This is obviously going to be a lot of work. I’ve already talked to Leo about a medical power of attorney, and some folks at the hospital are going to help us set it up. His doctor asked him if it was okay, and Leo gratefully said it was.

As for his father, I’m going to have to be able to talk to his doctor and get information about his medical condition and the medications he’s taking. I think I’ll probably have to figure out how to get a medical power of attorney for him as well.

There’s also the problem of money. The good news is that Leo doesn’t have a job. Instead of working, he’s been staying home and taking care of his dad. I know they have some investments, and I think his father has retirement income. The reason this is good news is that it means his illness isn’t going to reduce household income.

The real problem is going to be getting the bills paid. Everything is fine for the moment, but I don’t know how long this will go on. I keep having this mental image of Leo driving a stagecoach with his father in the passenger compartment. Now Leo has passed out, but the horses are still running. Sooner or later, if someone doesn’t take the reins, their lives are going over a cliff.

I’m going to have to figure out how to manage all this for them. With my parents, all I needed was a financial power of attorney, but this is a more complicated situation, not the least because I’m not a relative.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to spin up some social services for the father. I’ve reached out to the Illinois Department on Aging, and they’ve referred me to a local aid organization, but they tell me it could be a few weeks before they can begin helping us.

The most infuriating part is that Leo and I were making plans for all of this. We knew he had to have heart surgery, and we knew I’d have to take care of his dad, and we knew it could last a while, so we had already discussed setting up powers of attorney, providing me with lists of doctors and financial institutions, and a bunch of other things. His traitorous heart just beat us to the punch.

I’m trying to find reasons to be hopeful. For example, Leo’s dad is much better at taking care of himself than my father was at that age. And I already have all the house keys and computer passwords.

There’s also the incident with the clock. The last time we saw Leo, his therapist pointed to the big digital clock on the wall and asked him to read the time. He was unable to. He had no clue how to do what she asked. Maybe ten minutes later, when we I started to wind up our visit, my wife said something like “Well, we’d better get going. We’re going to see your father next.”

Leo glanced up and replied, “Yeah, it’s almost five. He’ll be eating dinner soon.”


(I’ve changed names, places, and other details to protect my friends’ privacy.)

The DOJ’s Dick Move on Legal Aid for Immigrants

Ever since President Trump took office, we’ve been hearing a lot about the public interest legal organizations that have been helping immigrants with the legal fight to come to America and remain here. That these organizations are even necessary is because immigration law is (for the most part) civil law, not criminal law. In many ways that’s a good thing, because it means that people who violate immigration rules aren’t saddled with a criminal record for the rest of their lives.

But there’s a nasty twist: Because they are not charged with a crime, they do not have a Sixth Amendment right to a government-provided lawyer under Gideon. That’s the “If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you” part of the Miranda warning. People with immigration problems don’t have that right, so indigent defendants can go through the entire deportation process without ever having a lawyer at their side. Even children. (That story is insane, but it’s not a lone example.)

Having a lawyer is really important. As immigration lawyer Mirriam Seddiq put it in an email to me,

The real problem is that people in immigration court don’t have the right to counsel. They can get one if they can get one, but they aren’t entitled to it in the same way they are in the criminal context (no 6a right) This is a thing that probably needs to change because what could be worse than being sent away from your entire world to another country?

Because of that, these public interest organizations have taken it on themselves to offer a variety of free services, from helping with paperwork to fully representing people through deportation proceedings.

I guess that pisses off someone like Donald Trump, and now it looks like his man at the Department of Justice, Jeff Sessions, is striking back with a cease-and-desist letter to one of these organizations, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which describes it this way:

The DOJ letter purports to rely on agency regulations issued in 2008 that require attorneys to enter a formal notice of appearance if they provide any legal assistance to persons in deportation proceedings. However, the immigration courts do not allow limited appearances, so once an attorney files a notice of appearance they are obligated to take over full representation in the deportation proceedings.

The problem is that NWIRP is not staffed to fully represent a lot of people through the entire process. They’ve found they most effectively use their limited resource by giving a smaller amount of help to a larger number of people.

While NWIRP is able to provide full representation in some of those cases, the majority of people are left without an attorney. In response, NWIRP has historically provided limited assistance to help those individuals fill out applications for asylum, cancellation of removal, family visas; file motions to reopen removal proceedings, change venue, and to terminate proceedings; and advise them on defenses, forms of relief, and the procedural requirements for moving forward on cases. But now the cease and desist order has caused a dramatic and immediate impact in the way NWIRP is able to serve hundreds of unrepresented persons.

The DOJ order is based on regulations from the Executive Office for Immigration Review intended to protect immigrants from unscrupulous lawyers who take advantage of them by taking a fee and then disappearing without helping them. Obviously, lawyers who work for free aren’t trying to take advantage of anyone, and organizations like NWIRP have long been allowed to operate without having to follow this rule.

Now, however, somebody at Sessions’ Justice Department wants to enforce this rule against NWIRP, and presumably other such organizations, probably because they think this would be a good way to fulfill Trump’s goal of getting more illegal immigrants out of the country.

Any way you look at it, it’s kind of a dick move. Fortunately, at least for now, it’s a dick move that’s blocked by a federal judge. But it’s not a good sign.

(Hat tip to my occasional co-blogger Ken, who directed me to a Nation story by Rachel B. Tiven. Read the whole thing.)

Windypundit In the Age Of Trump

I seem to be having trouble blogging. My last post was on March 28th, an even 50 days ago. I think that’s one of the longest periods I’ve gone without posting since the very early days of the blog. I blogged more frequently than this throughout the months when my parents died.

Part of the reason for the reduced blogging is that I’ve been doing small projects around the house. We never really finished moving in, so I have a lot of catching up to do — unpacking boxes, moving furniture, putting things together. It uses up my spare time.

It also doesn’t help that my day job is changing. I’m taking on additional responsibilities, and I’m spending more time having to learn about some new technologies, which uses up more of my spare time. More importantly, it uses up my mental energy. Writing Windypundit is hard work. I have trouble finding the time to start new posts, and I have trouble keeping up the momentum it takes to finish a post.

(I have a bunch of partial posts from the last few weeks — taking The Federalist to task for attacking Elizabeth Nolan Brown, the dangers of weakening Section 230 protections, explaining why I’m skeptical of that study suggesting auto insurance pricing is racist, ranting about Jack Marshall’s ugly values, analysis of the Trump “tax plan,” a point that climate activists missed in Bret Stephens’s NYT piece, and a multi-part series on how insurance works. Some of those might still see daylight, but most are already too stale.)

There’s one other cause for my lack of blogging: The presidency of Donald Trump. Or rather, the difficulty I have in dealing coherently with the presidency of Donald Trump. I tend to blog about what might be called policy issues, and those aren’t much in the news these days.

That’s no surprise. My position has consistently been that Trump is a narcissistic sociopath. It’s not easy to talk about Trump’s policy preferences because he doesn’t have any beyond doing whatever is good for him. Heck, his “tax plan” consisted of a one page summary of provisions and some details given by his staff, and the provisions with the most details were the ones that would give Trump himself a big tax break.

I don’t know how to talk about policy ideas so vague and incomplete. Other pundits filled in the holes, but some of their assumptions were contradictory. Anything I wrote would be dependent on way too many assumptions to be useful.

The Republican healthcare plan was a lot more detailed — an actual bill before Congress — but even then it didn’t offer a solution to any of the major problems with Obamacare, nor did it deliver on Trump’s promises of much better healthcare plans. It just didn’t seem like serious policy, and that didn’t seem worth writing about, especially since non-serious policy could change when the wind blows.

In any case, both the tax plan and the healthcare plan were met with scathing responses from throughout the punditocracy. Much of the response was partisan, a little too much of it was crazy, and some of it I strongly disagreed with it. But all too often, by the time I caught up to the news cycle, everyone else had already said what I wanted to say, or close enough that I didn’t feel motivated to write.

That’s not to say there aren’t some real policy issues. Jeff Sessions all by himself is ramping up the war on drugs and shutting down criminal justice reform. I could certainly say things about that. But I’ve been saying things about that for a decade and a half, and everything I want to say right now boils down to “it’s very, very, very, very wrong to hurt people for committing consensual crimes.” That’s what I always say, and it doesn’t seem to be helping.

So right now it feels like everything I could write about anything going on is basically pointless.

I’m sure I’ll get over it. In part, I need to find better sources of news and information. I now realize that much of my daily skim was geared toward covering the liberal/leftist/Democratic establishment. I need to reorient my reading to find more interesting approaches to the sins of the conservative/right/Republican establishment. I’m not talking only about sites that attack the issues of the right. Sites that smugly defend them are just as useful for my purposes.

I also need to get away from the news cycle’s breathless coverage of every single Trump controversy. Potential scandals involving Russians, Comey, and Flynn may very well have an important, even devastating, effect on the Trump presidency, but they’re not what I want to blog about. I’m sure there are important policy changes going on — immigration is an obvious example — and I need to find out more about them.

Any suggestions?

The AG Cartel Breaks Down

On the Reuters news wire, Dan Levine reports on the breakdown of a gentleman’s agreement between state Attorneys General not to target each other in elections:

That hands-off stance ended this month when Republican AGs voted to abandon the agreement and spend money to help unseat Democrats in other states, according to the Republican Attorneys General Association.

I’m sure this is important news to those who were aware of this agreement, but for me, it’s the existence of the agreement in the first place that is news. Bad news.

It has long been my observation that any news story featuring the phrase “attorneys general” is going to be bad news. Nothing good comes from having these power-mad politicians combining their forces across state lines.

The  so-called ‘incumbency rule’ observed by the state attorneys’ party fundraising arms reflected a rare bit of bipartisanship in the polarized environment of U.S. politics, aimed at promoting cooperation across state lines on issues of common interest, such as consumer protection.

Consumer protection? Those sons of bitches! If two corporations agreed to divide up the market this way, it would almost certainly violate anti-trust laws.

They’re even doing it for the same reasons companies do it: Money. They’re essentially cartelizing the campaign spending market. They save money by not spending campaign funds to fight the opposing party’s incumbents in each other’s states. And the incumbents save money too, because they don’t have to spend as much to defend their positions. It’s win-win.

Except for the voters, who are more likely to find themselves stuck with an attorney general who faces little competition from the other party.

I assume this is all legal, because elections aren’t subject to commercial anti-trust laws, but it sure as hell smells bad.

Not Helping Youths In the Sex Trade

Last Friday I wrote about Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s terrific Reason magazine article on the FBI’s long involvement in policing Americans’ sex lives. In this post, I’d like to follow up on a small detail that caught my eye.

Supporters of anti-prostitution law enforcement operations often justify them as necessary to protect victims of sex trafficking, especially children. Brown’s article mentions a Department of Justice report titled Evaluation of Services for Domestic Minor Victims of Human Trafficking as an example. In particular, she references the following passage, which ends with a question that needs an answer.

Detention was also used in the belief that it protects young people and ensures their connection to services. Key informants acknowledged that this situation was not ideal but argued that young people were likely to be safer in detention than elsewhere. A public defender asked, “How else do you get them services but lock them up and force them to engage in services?”

As a libertarian, my instinctive response is “How about…nonviolently?”

Is it really necessary to send cops with guns to forcibly “help” people? And even if you think it’s necessary to coerce child victims of sex trafficking into accepting social services, can’t you do it without giving them a criminal record? State child protection agencies have the authority, if they believe there is immediate danger, to remove at-risk children who are living with their parents. I’m pretty sure they can figure out a way to take a child off the street.

That won’t work with young adults, but that doesn’t mean arresting them is the only solution. There are better alternatives. We know this because non-governmental organizations like the Sex Work Outreach Project (SWOP) don’t have arrest powers, and they’ve been doing outreach to sex workers for years.

Katherine Koster from the U.S. chapter of SWOP characterizes many of the problems facing young sex workers as basically a variation on homelessness:

The issue is that there is a very large gap in no-strings-attached resources for homeless youth. A great example of this is the lack of shelter beds for youth.

[…]

Institutions–from schools to hospitals–very commonly are not a “safe” and comfortable space for homeless, especially GLBTQ youth.

[…]

We need to be making these resources available to youth on a voluntary basis. We need to stop attaching funding for services to the criminal justice system, as is frequently the case, and start making sure funding for these core services are available to people without being arrested and locked up, without interacting with the criminal justice system.

Here in Chicago, the Young Women’s Empowerment Project spent years studying ways to help young women in the sex trade, and they had some useful observations, especially about what they call institutional violence:

First, we were surprised how many stories we heard from girls, including transgender girls, and young women, including trans women about their violent experiences at non profits and with service providers. This was upsetting because adults and social workers often tell us that seeking services will improve our lives. Yet when we do the systems set up to help us actually can make things worse. This was clear when looking at the foster care system.

[…]

Health care providers were also identified by girls as being unethical. We heard many stories from girls going to the emergency room or to a doctor and being placed in psychiatric units just because they were in the sex trade, transgender or were thought to be self injuring. 

Law enforcement authorities come in for special criticism:

There are particularly a lot of examples of police violence, coercion, and refusal to help. Police often accuse girls in the sex trade of lying or don’t believe them when they turn to the police for help. Many girls said that police sexual misconduct happens frequently while they are being arrested or questioned. […] Stories about police abuse outnumbered the stories of abuse by other systems by far.

So what are the alternatives? The YWEP has their own solution:

When leaving isn’t an option or what a girl might want, YWEP is here to encourage and facilitate safety planning, harm reduction ideas, and offer support and resources. Unlike programs that focus on exiting the sex trade—which usually exclude girls who aren’t ready, able, or wanting to exit—YWEP meets girls where they are and helps them make the next steps they choose. Empowerment means that girls are in charge of their decisions and have power over what they want to do—even if that means something different than what adults think is safe or appropriate. YWEP believes that the more often girls are in charge of the choices in their lives—whether that choice is about food, sleep, relationships, housing or the sex trade—the more power they take in their lives as a whole.

(My guess is that most members of YWEP lean liberal and progressive, but damn if that isn’t a heartwarmingly libertarian approach to helping people. They offer choices.)

The local SWOP chapter here in the Chicago area offers a variety of services, including a support group, monthly meetings, and weekly street-corner outreach events offering food, coffee, condoms, and referral to resources such as sex-worker-friendly doctors and lawyers. In winter they give out warm clothing.

Other organizations, although not focused primarily on sex workers, provide services that will nevertheless help homeless young people in the sex trade. Project Fierce Chicago, for example, has purchased a nine-bedroom house in the North Lawndale neigborhood, and they are renovating it to provide housing for 10-12 LGBTQ youths. (That may not sound like much, but with only a few hundred youth beds in Chicago, it’s going to help.)

Koster summarizes why this approach can help:

I think what is super-important is that 95% of the time, youth are not engaging in the sex trade because they are kidnapped from a secure home where all their needs are met. They are engaging in the sex trade because they ran away from an abusive home or foster home or were kicked our because they are GLBT, and they don’t have a place to sleep, they don’t have older people rooting for them and supporting them, they don’t have food. […]

So you don’t need to hold these kids in detention to protect them–you need to give them a safe place to stay and healthy meals, with great mentors and counselors. So meet their emotional and social and material needs, and they will be safe. You don’t need to hold them in a juvenille detention center to protect them.

This doesn’t sound hard. No, that’s not quite right…it sounds like it’s a lot of very hard work. But it doesn’t sound hard to understand. If you want to help people, you listen to them, you get to know them, you figure out what they want, and you give it to them.

And yet, we keep seeing stories like this one that I found at random:

Sure, there are a few local facilities where juvenile prostitutes can live, waiting for trial dates or transfers home, but these places are hardly ideal. They’re not designed for child sex workers—if therapy is offered, it’s certainly not tailored to the specific needs of juvenile prostitutes. More importantly, perhaps, they’re not lock-down facilities. Residents can leave. This means the girls must want to stay in a court-mandated home for delinquents (and what teenager would?) They must resist the urge to run back to their pimps—which sounds easy, until you remember that most were only selling sex because there was a pimp, with a lot of power over them, pulling the strings. Or throwing fists. Or both.

Girls living in these facilities have been known to bolt into the idling cars of pimps waiting outside—running right back into the abyss of abuse.

“These girls are so broken. They identify with the girls they work with, the pimps. [Prostitution] becomes their safe area, and they want to go back to where they feel safe,” says Susan Roske, Clark County chief deputy public defender. “We want to hang onto them, to keep them from running, and sometimes the only way to do that is in a secure environment.”

Many people running these arrest-to-rescue programs may have the best of intentions, but I think need to stop dismissing these girls’ choices as “broken” and answer an important question: Given that the girls, having experienced both, are running away from your facilities to be with abusive pimps, what does that say about the quality of your attempt to help?

If you have to arrest people and lock them up to get them to accept your help, maybe you need to rethink your approach to helping.

(Thanks to Katherine Koster at SWOP USA for her comments and for helping with some of the research for this post.)

An Alien Product Placement

The most recent Alien: Covenant trailer comes with an opening commercial for Walter, the synthetic (a.k.a. artificial person a.k.a. android) played by Michael Fassbender in the movie. Here it is:

At the end, they flash a couple of corporate logos. I naturally had to step through them. The first one is a new logo for Weyland-Yutani, which is the name of the fictional corporation (usually referred to as “The Corporation”) that has been running through all the films. The second logo, however, says “Intelligence powered by AMD.”

AMD is a real-world semiconductor manufacturer, and I gotta say, as product placements go, that’s pretty cool. (Not Mattel-hoverboard-in-Back-to-the-Future cool, but still pretty cool.)

It says something about my life that I immediately turned to my wife and commented on the absence of Hyperdyne Systems. Then we shared a brief moment of confusion between Hyperdyne Systems and Cyberdyne Systems — one is from the Alien series, the other from Terminator — before reassuring ourselves that, yes, Hyperdyne was the maker of the synthetics in the Alien series.

This is why we’re married.

in Movies

Sex, Lies, and Sex Police

I suspect my friends would be concerned if they knew just how skeptical I was about almost all prostitution-related crimes. Police say they broke up a human trafficking ring? Liars! They call everything human trafficking these days. They arrested ten pimps? Liars! They caught one prostitute in a sting and arrested the then people standing next to her. It’s a task force going after child prostitution? Liars! They arrest 50 adults for every child they “rescue,” and that’s only if you call a 16-year-old a child. It’s all lies, lies, lies.

My skepticism is even cutting into my enjoyment of fiction. I get an attitude whenever one of my shows features a human trafficking story line. It’s especially annoying on Major Crimes, because Captain Raydor’s adopted son used to be a teen street hustler, and none of the cops are saying he would have been better off in jail. (Hey Rusty, next time your mother is sweating a prostitute in the interrogation room, how about you try standing up for your fellow sex workers for once, you useless fuck!)

I probably need to adjust my perspective. Just because police (and prosecutors and politicians and rescue agencies) lie about these things all the time doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There really are human traffickers. There really are violent pimps. There really are people who sell the opportunity to rape a child. I wouldn’t want to dismiss a serious crime just because the authorities have been lying about it with such reckless abandon.

But…damn, there’s some awful things going on here.

In an unremarkable hotel room, a team of officers watches the footage streaming from a hidden camera next door. A middle-aged man is making arrangements to pay a young woman for sex. Once she agrees, the squad will rush in, shouting instructions, their bulletproof vests bulging with firearms and emblazoned with police or FBI. The woman—or is she a girl?—will have her hands tied behind her back and her phone confiscated. She will sit on the bed, partially undressed, as a team of men search her room, pawing through her underwear drawer and toiletry bags, seizing any cash they find. She will eventually be fingerprinted, interrogated, and taken into police custody.

That’s the opening paragraph from Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s long-form piece in Reason magazine about the FBI’s long involvement in policing Americans’ sex lives.

The surveillance of morally suspicious women and the war on commercial sex were what took the FBI—then known as the Bureau of Investigation—from a fledgling East Coast–centric operation to a force with outposts, agents, and authority across America. With the Mann Act of 1910, also known as the White Slave Traffic Act, the bureau became responsible for ensuring no one transported women or girls across state lines for prostitution or “any other immoral purposes.”

And this paragraph about the recent Operation Cross Country X anti-trafficking initiative perfectly reveals the reasons for my skepticism (emphasis mine):

Overall, the operation identified 82 “children” engaged in prostitution, an average of about 0.88 per city, or one for every five agencies participating. All were teenagers—mostly 16- and 17-year-olds—and a number of cities where they were found made no simultaneous pimping or sex trafficking arrests. To the feds, anyone under 18 who trades sex acts for money is defined as a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of whether they have experienced abduction, violence, restraint, or threats.

The whole article is filled with details like that. It’s a terrific piece of journalism. Elizabeth Nolan Brown is a clear writer, and after several years of reporting on this subject, she has a masterful command of the facts. I highly recommend you read the whole thing.

The Rampant Anti-Americanism of our Immigration Authorities

I often deride this country’s immigration bureaucracies for lacking in American values. Both Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are intolerant of diversity, have no appreciation for privacy, and have little respect for freedom.

I get them confused all the time. As near as I can tell, the difference is that if they’re being assholes to people crossing the border, it’s CBP, but if they’re being assholes to people who are already here, it’s ICE. As a separate matter, if they’re being assholes to people they suspect of committing crimes, then HSI is probably involved. And of course if they’re being assholes in airports, it’s the TSA. Really, it’s probably all of DHS. They’re probably all assholes.

Anyway, Elizabeth Nolan Brown at Reason gave us a few good examples of ICE (or maybe HSI) being assholes in a recent post:

On September 1, 2016, “Sunny” Kimnam gave a massage and a hand-job to an undercover police informant. Since that day, she has been incarcerated, and faces likely deportation to Korea.

They aren’t the only ones who’ve been caught up in immigration after a prostitution bust:

A 2016 sting on a massage parlor in Macomb County, Michigan, that led to the arrest of five Chinese women on prostitution charges has already led to the deportation of two of the women. Two others are still in custody, awaiting trial. The fifth woman, 50-year-old Meijuan Yu, just recently plead guilty to offering prostitution and was sentenced to two years probation—deferred so that Homeland Security could immediately take her into custody and get started on deporting her back to China.

On February 9, 2017, Homeland Security Investigations teamed up with two county sheriff’s offices to raid Donah’s Massage Therapy in Winnie, Texas, as part of an undercover investigation they’d been plotting since December. Three women—Song Ja Hyun, 59, Shunyu Quan, 53, and Ying Yu Jin, 53—were arrested and charged with misdemeanor prostitution; Jin was also charged with aggravated promoting prostitution, a felony. As of earlier this week, Hyun and Jin were being held in Chambers County Jail on ICE detainers, according to ABC affiliate 12 News Now.

Sex workers are common targets for immigration authorities. Here’s an example of CBP harassing a woman they think might by involved in prostitution. And here’s another example of them blocking entry to the U.S. by a suspected male escort.

This is wrong on so many levels, but the thing that most boggles my mind, the thing that really shows the depths of depravity of our immigration authorities is that foreigners are coming here to have sex with us, and these assholes are stopping them!

What the fuck? Why the hell would they do that to us?

Hand jobs are funny, so at first glance this sounds like a funny story. Perhaps it even sounds like I’m making light of a serious situation. I’m sorry for that, but I have a serious point to make, which I’ll get to in a minute.

I don’t mean to downplay how much it sucks to be blocked from entering the country, and I know that getting deported is a disaster for many people: They get locked up, they lose their jobs, they’re separated from family and friends, and they could easily lose their personal property and pets. By the time it’s all done, they could end up in a country that they hate. Or worse, they could end up in a country that hates them. That’s terrible, and I don’t think we should be putting people through that without a damned good reason. And I don’t think minor crimes — including illegal entry — are good reasons.

However, a lot of immigration hawks don’t care that they’re putting these people through hell. They’re immigrants, and they either entered illegally or committed a crime while here (or so ICE says), so who gives a shit what happens to them, right? They have no rights that an immigration cop is bound to respect.

Given that attitude, maybe I need to try another argument. Which brings me back to hand jobs. And to the serious point I need to make: Deporting “Sunny” Kimnam is undoubtedly bad for her. But it’s also bad for all us Americans who will no longer be able to get hand jobs from her. We are suffering too.

I know, hand jobs are funny…but it’s not just about hand jobs. Immigrants, including illegal immigrants, do a lot of jobs for us Americans. They farm our food, or catch it at sea. They plant forests, care for them, and cut them into timber. They build and maintain buildings, and care for the grounds around them. They make our clothes, prepare our food, and clean our houses. They help us around the office and sell our products. They do a lot of things. And yes, some of them do sex work. But the thing is, they are working for us, and taking them away takes away the benefits of the things they do.

Immigrants aren’t just a labor force, however. They are also, by the millions, our customers. By their employment they earn money, and by spending that money, they employ us. They are part of our rich and diverse economy. They are working with us to improve all our lives. Taking them away takes away the benefits of trading with them.

Even more than that, immigrants, including illegal immigrants, are members of our families — husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents. They are our neighbors. They are important members of our communities. They are our friends and our lovers. Taking them away takes away takes away their friendship, their care, and their love.

The folks running our immigration authorities may think the lives of illegal immigrants deserve no respect. They may think illegal immigrants deserve the harm that comes to them when they are deported. But we are their fellow Americans, and we goddamned well deserve respect. Every time they remove someone, we lose all the benefits of having that person in our lives, and the fact that they got laws passed to make the removal legal does nothing to reduce the loss.

They are harming us, their fellow Americans. Which makes them about as anti-American as you can get.

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