Monthly Archives: May, 2009

Men of Honor

I got this link from tomp93 who was commenting on Rhode Island’s Future, just seemed like a good thing to mention today. Let’s give credit to the deserving and ignore disgraceful behavior.

The Patriot Guard Riders started attending funerals and forming a line of flags and motorcycles to block people attending military funerals from having to see protesters who began appearing at military funerals. But as the group has grown and more families request the honor cordon, the riders now attend all funerals of fallen servicemembers when asked, Mayer said.

Mayer emphasized that the group attends funerals only at the family’s request. “We recognize that this is a very private affair, and we ensure that the family wants us to be there and that we’re not intruding on their feelings,” he said.

The goal, he said, is to show respect for fallen servicemembers and “to show a grieving family and a sometimes shocked community that America still cares.”

Self-discipline, respect and decency speak louder than all the shouting of those who abuse our freedom of speech. When the shouters have worn themselves out, good people like the Patriot Guard will still be there.

RIPTA

Good post on Rhode Island’s Future about RIPTA. One commenter notes that the necessity of owning a car to go to work is a kind of regressive tax on the poor. For sure, there are many couples who own two rustbuckets because they have to get to their separate jobs, and would be better off if they could use the bus and maintain one decent car.

Free the Starving Artists!

Excellent article in the Washington Monthly about the liberating potential of accessible, affordable, universal health insurance. Small business owners, entrepreneurs, and creative people like artists and musicians often have to take their chances because health insurance is unaffordable or unobtainable.

There are many people who are willing to sacrifice, live on little and invest in a dream, but one accident or health emergency can ruin everything they’ve worked for. Others resign themselves to staying in a job for the health insurance benefits.

Universal health insurance, far from suppressing entrepreneurship, could be a boon to it.

The main reason for this is a phenomenon known as “job lock,” a term coined during the last round of debate over universal health coverage in the early 1990s. Job lock refers to the fact that workers are often unwilling to leave a current job that provides health insurance for another position that might not, even if they would be more productive in that other position. This is because employer-provided insurance is traditionally the only reliable form of fairly priced private insurance coverage available in the U.S. The alternative is to purchase insurance in the nongroup market, where insurance prices and availability are typically not regulated, so insurance companies can drop individuals when they become ill or charge them exorbitant prices. As a result, individuals feel “locked” into less productive jobs.

We have a generation of college students who already have loans to pay off. Let’s insure everyone so that they can make the best choices to reach their potential.

Professor Donna Hughes on ‘Happy Endings’

Donna Hughes, an expert on human trafficking and one of the speakers at the community forum that started the Rhode Island Coalition Against Human Trafficking attended a screening of ‘Happy Endings’ at AS220 this Sunday, May 24.

I have differences with Dr. Hughes, and left the Coalition because I didn’t want to be a source of dissension. After the first year, the Coalition seemed on course to support a bill that would ‘close the loophole’ and facilitate arresting alleged prostitutes and customers.

Dr. Hughes supports bill H5044A, which would criminalize selling or buying sex, and offer exemptions for people who were forced or threatened. The bill would close the loophole but what next? Will it be enforced to rescue trafficked people, or to close sex businesses that are a nuisance or economic liability to their neighborhoods?

To detect and prosecute human trafficking will take political will, and a Coalition that won’t disperse once the bill is passed. Anyway, here is Dr. Hughes’ commentary, via her listserve, Dignity–

Donna M. Hughes
Professor, University of Rhode Island

May 25, 2009

Several people have asked me for my opinion about the film “Happy Endings?” On Sunday, I had the opportunity to see the entire film. Here are my comments.

The film should not be viewed by underage children because it includes a sex act filmed in one of the spa-brothels. Some adults may be offended by this.

This is not a film that should be used for education on sex trafficking.

Tara Hurley, the filmmaker, has testified before the RI House Judiciary Committee and said on talk shows that based on observations making the film, there is no sex trafficking in Rhode Island. This is the view that is conveyed by “Happy Endings?”

There are serious omissions of information about the people in the film and political biases that the filmmaker does not acknowledge.

The filmmaker does not identify the three Korean women interviewed in the film as brothel owners or operators. They are not the women doing the sex acts. By definition, the women interviewed in the film are women pimps and possibly traffickers. The women-pimps have a vested interest is saying that the women are there voluntarily. (Letting the women-pimps speak for the women doing the sex acts is like letting the owners of a sweat shop speak for the people running the sewing machines. Of course, they say the workers are content.)

Much of the film was made at an Asian spa-brothel called Central Health (76 Derry Street, Providence). This brothel was included in a federal investigation of Asian Organized Crime for sex trafficking and money laundering. It was one of 31 brothels in an organized crime network operating along the east coast from Boston to South Carolina. (U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York v. Tae Hoon Kim, Sung Chul Il, Fnu Lnu, Tae Jun Park, Kyong Polachek, Byong Il Son, Jin Sook Kim Lee, and Miae Choi-son, August 14, 2006.) During this investigation victims of trafficking were identified. They were controlled with threats to their families in South Korea.

One woman-pimp who is interviewed in the film tried to open a spa-brothel in Fox Point (and was defeated by community organizing against it). She was the operator of Asian Fantasies spa-brothel in Warwick (1550 B Post Road), which was raided last month (April 11, 2009).

The third woman says at the end of the film that she is going to open her own spa-brothel.

We never hear the voices of the women at the bottom, the ones who are sexually exploited and often abused, and sometimes trafficked. We only hear the voices of the women-pimps and two male pimps.

Filmmaker Hurley does not identify close relationship to the sex industry. According to her own blog she has been asked by the Erotic Service Providers Union to be their representative in Rhode Island. A convicted madam from this organization visited her in February. They discussed strategies to decriminalize prostitution.

Hurley has been showing her film in sex industry venues (not human rights film festivals). The film “Happy Endings?” premiered at an erotic film festival (Cinekink) in New York City in January. Next it will be shown as part of a Sex Workers Film Festival in San Francisco in June. (The hostess of the festival is Carol Leigh, also known as “The Scarlet Harlot,” who recently published a book entitled The Unrepentant Whore.)

The film has a grotesque quality to it. All the faces are blurred out, the voices are disguised. The camera often focuses only on the mouth or body of the speaker. There is grainy black and white footage from surveillance cameras inside the spa-brothel. For a number of scenes of men coming to the brothel, Hurley filmed from an upstairs window of the brothel.

If you already know something about sex trafficking in Rhode Island, you can pick-up a few interesting details from the film, but overall, most viewers will leave confused, or worse, they will believe what the women-pimps that say about women choosing to work in the brothels. It is not fair to the exploited and abused women to pretend that this film represents their lives.

Who Knew?

From the Jerusalem Post, warm praise for Judge Sotomayor. She has longstanding connections with groups like the National Council of Jewish Women, and has made some rulings that pleased the Orthodox Union. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s a New Yorker.

They Have Meds for That

Or do they? When a reporter approached Airport One demanding to give a letter, personally, to President Obama the secret service did their job. From Huffington Post

Airport security officers carried the woman away by the feet and arms as she protested her removal. She was then allowed to leave. She said the letter she had written was opposing gay marriage.

She later identified herself as Brenda Lee, a writer for the Georgia Informer in Macon, and said she is a “Roman Catholic priestess” who lives in Anaheim, Calif. She said she has White House press credentials.

Here’s an excerpt from one of Rev. Lee’s columns

Several months ago, the practice of priests sleeping with Protestant virgins before their marriage to Catholic males surfaced. A Catholic male and his would be bride went to speak to the priest concerning their marriage. The priest stated that he would have to try her out before the marriage. The girl told her mother. The marriage took place some months later.

Yeah, this is crazy stuff, but I encountered very bizarre anti-Catholic propaganda in the Pentecostal Church so I am sure this is not just one woman’s delusions. And after all, the Informer published it.

In other crazy news, HuffPost reports that former congressman Tom Tancredo said that Judge Sonia Sotomayor belongs to an organization called La Raza, which he says is exactly like the Ku Klux Klan except for the hoods, and the nooses, and the lynchings, and the shootings, and the mutilations, and the church bombings, and the cross burnings, and the terrorism, and the collaboration with corrupt sheriffs, and the co-opting of church and politics, and the racial hatred, and stuff like that.

I got up my courage and went to the National Council on La Raza site. Right there on the front page it says to wash your hands to protect yourself from the flu. And there’s something about graduating at-risk students and advice for homeowners to prevent foreclosure.

So should we be worrying about Hispanic terrorists and sex-crazed Catholic priests chasing Protestant virgins? Fred Phelps is coming to Rhode Island today to put on his ‘god hates fags show’. I think I have to work, or cut my toenails or something. They say laughter is the best medicine. Sometimes you gotta.

$15,000 Would Come in Handy

This is news from almost 2 years ago, but it still gets to me. $15,000 would just about pay the hospital bills for 2 of the pregnant women who will lose their insurance under the Governor’s plan. But when hard choices had to be made, this kind of thing took priority. Even 2 years ago, it was clear that there were other priorities than the health and care of Rhode Island’s children.

PROVIDENCE — State Democratic Party Chairman William Lynch is questioning Governor Carcieri’s decision to pay a nationally known conservative lawyer to file a legal brief opposing same-sex marriage.

The governor’s office signed a $15,000 contract with Indiana lawyer James Bopp Jr. to file a friend-of-the-court brief last week with the state Supreme Court, which had invited public comments while deciding whether to grant a divorce to a lesbian couple married in Massachusetts.

The case has drawn national attention as it is believed to be the first time any of the same-sex couples married in the Bay State have sought a divorce in another state.

Bopp, a socially conservative Republican with a practice focused on issues such as gay marriage and abortion, was one of at least two nationally known lawyers to contact the governor’s office about writing the brief, according to, Michael Maynard, a governor’s spokesman.

After Bopp was chosen for the no-bid contract, he spent about two weeks writing the 27-page legal document. He will be paid with as much as $15,000 in taxpayer dollars, though he has yet to submit a bill, Maynard said.

The details of the arrangement were released yesterday shortly after Lynch filed an open records request with the governor’s office regarding Bopp’s work. Lynch asserted that the brief was filed to promote Carcieri’s personal views and should have been paid for with personal money.

Never mind that most Rhode Islanders support allowing same-sex couples to marry. Never mind that Massachusetts enjoys an economic boost from gay couples who come there and spend money.

It’s frustrating that the Rhode Island economy is losing out because some people are determined to deny a civil right to others, and the poorest Rhode Islanders are paying the price.

Tax Gay Marriage

I still can’t believe that the Governor wants to cut off insurance for pregnant women in Rhode Island. And this while Massachusetts is enjoying revenue from all the people who come for same-sex marriage and spend big bucks.

When I went to the hearings most opponents seemed to be from churches. My church has blessed same-sex unions for thirty years. Are we heretics? Let God sort it out.

According to one poll, Rhode Islanders don’t want to be an island of inequality. From ProJo.com

PROVIDENCE — The majority of Rhode Islanders support the idea of same-sex marriage in the Ocean State, with 60 percent in favor of gay nuptials and 31 percent opposed, according to a new Brown University poll.

An even larger percentage –– three quarters of respondents — said they would favor same-sex civil unions.

One benefit of letting committed partners make it legal will be seen in the health and social work system. There’s no way to calculate how much of the burden of care is carried by families. When a sick person is sent home from the hospital it’s spouse and/or family who takes responsibility.

I think there’s a fee for a marriage license. If we call it the ‘tax gay marriage’ law and point out the financial savings will it pass? We already have civil marriage that many religions consider to be unblessed. We don’t bar divorcees from re-marrying, for example.

Let the state be the state and the church be the church.

Too Much Power

I heard something scary on the radio. Scientists have been using a virus to insert genes into marmoset monkeys. The genes cause the monkey’s feet to glow green under ultraviolet light.

Researchers have added genes to rhesus macaques before by injecting embryos, but the new work is the first documentation that such genes can be passed along to future generations of monkeys. That’s important because it opens the door to creating colonies of transgenic monkeys by breeding, which would be far simpler than the cumbersome process of making each animal from scratch by injecting a gene into an embryo.

Scary to think that there is a genetic mutation that can be spread by a virus and passed to future generations. Is the human race ready for that kind of power?

Out of Context

Don’t you just love it when a movie comes out that is a real woofer, and you look at the ads and the blurbs?

You can kind of tell when they take very short excerpts from the reviews–

“Astounding!”
“Petrifying!”
“Keeps you on the edge of your seat!”

The actual reviews said this–

“It’s astounding that a big budget could buy such tacky special effects. Ed Wood did better with a pie plate on a string.”

“The audience was slowly petrifying. It was only two hours but it seemed like an eternity.”

“This movie keeps you on the edge of your seat, but the odds are you will have walked out with the rest of the audience before it’s half over.”

Consider this when you see ‘gotcha quotes’ from any politician–quotes don’t tell you much if you don’t have the context.

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