Child Sex Trafficking Is Not A Partisan Issue

The sexual exploitation of children is intolerable.  This is a moral absolute from which there can be no deviation.  Right, left, and center, we know this to be true.

So when a pair of young muckrakers recorded several employees of the tax-subsidized organization ACORN offering advice to help facilitate child prostitution, it was clearly as newsworthy as it was despicable.  However, most national media outlets ignored this outrage when the story broke on September 10, 2009.

Posing as a pimp and prostitute trying to set up a child sex slavery operation, James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles visited five ACORN offices.  During each encounter, they sought guidance on how to obtain financing for a brothel that would house a dozen or so underage girls smuggled in from El Salvador. On at least two or three occasions, Giles mentioned she was in danger from an abusive ex-pimp.

At all five offices, ACORN staff counseled the pair on a combination of tax evasion, money laundering, staying under law enforcement radar, welfare fraud, and human trafficking.  One employee in Baltimore even recommended they claim some of the child sex slaves as dependents.  “Honesty is not going to get you the house,” advised another in Brooklyn.

Yes, this is the story that most mainstream media outlets refused to cover as it unfolded over the past week.

If not for relentless airing on Fox News, promotion on the Drudge Report, and viral duplication on the right side of the blogosphere, the damning videos released by Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government might not have received wider circulation than any fleeting Internet meme. Fortunately politicians took notice and quickly moved to defund ACORN, the recipient of at least $53 million in federal funds since 1994.

The mainstream media was finally forced to acknowledge the story, but initially did so with headlines like “Census Bureau Drops Acorn From 2010 Effort” and my personal favorite from Reuters, “U.S. Senate Denies Funds For Poverty Group.”  To call that burying the lede would be fantastically inadequate.

Then the usual media suspects moved on to playing the blame game. Five days after the release of the first video, the New York Times published Conservatives Draw Blood From Acorn, its first original reporting on the scandal.  MSNBC ran a segment called “Nuts vs. ACORN.”

Eventually even network television had to admit there was a story.  Katie Couric led the national evening news anchors with her broadcast on Tuesday, September 15.  NBC’s Meredith Vieira reported the story on Wednesday morning, and after laughing the story off as something better left “to the cables,” ABC World News anchor Charlie Gibson finally aired the story Wednesday evening.  His broadcast followed a denouncement of the ACORN staffers by the White House.

Why the delay?  Simple. Liberal reporters and producers were unable to ferret out an angle that could exonerate ACORN from culpability.  They were stymied.  The established media narrative demands ACORN be portrayed as a group of valiant crusaders against poverty.  They’re to be hailed as noble community organizers under unfair scrutiny by a racist right wing attack machine.

Even the latest video of a San Diego ACORN employee offering assistance with smuggling child prostitutes into the country hasn’t derailed that narrative.  Because the ACORN sting was the brainchild of conservative activists it is considered inherently flawed, unworthy of serious investigation. has released devastating videos of ACORN employees offering to abet child prostitution in five cities – Baltimore, New York, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. – and more are reportedly on the way.  The indecency in these videos is not a fluke.

ACORN doesn’t have just a few bad apples, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested. Incriminating videos have implicated nine employees. If ACORN Housing employs 250, as ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis attests, then we have at least 3.6 percent of the ACORN Housing workforce willing to help facilitate a child prostitution ring. Even if we include all 750 full- and part-time ACORN staffers, nine rotten apples would be a noteworthy 1.2 percent of the paid ACORN workforce.  And it may well be that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

It is by the grace of public funding that ACORN’s doors stay open.  An estimated 40 percent of ACORN funding comes from government sources, enough that taxpayers have a right and an obligation to demand transparency, accountability, and rigorous oversight.  Both houses of Congress agree, and voted this week to bar ACORN from access to federal money.  Several states followed suit, withdrawing funds and launching investigations into the group’s practices.

At best, ACORN is an organization with a toxic corporate culture that attracts or fosters morally reprehensible behavior.  At worst, it is as corrupt and contemptible as ongoing allegations of widespread voter registration fraud, tax code violations, and contribution fraud would suggest.

Lashing out at everyone from the filmmakers to George Bush, Karl Rove, and the right in general will not make this scandal disappear.  And neither will shameful incidents of media malpractice, feminist silence, and false equivalencies from the liberal blogosphere.  Any degree of support for child sex slavery is indefensible. Period.

Perhaps I should have titled this piece, “Child Sex Trafficking Shouldn’t Be A Partisan Issue.”  It shouldn’t be, and yet, for some, it’s acceptable to look the other way when it threatens to undermine a liberal organization.

Inconvenient Race? Just Edit Accordingly

Imagine for a moment you’re an MSNBC producer.  You’ve worked hard to convince viewers that President Obama’s health care reform is being jeopardized by dangerous gun-toting white supremacists who hate the idea of a black man in the White House.

So what do you do when the facts don’t reinforce your carefully crafted narrative?  For example, maybe you’ve got prime video footage of a right wing extremist carrying an assault rifle at a protest.  I mean, you can’t honestly be expected to have your on-air talent report that he’s a black man, right? And it’s not like this gun-loving wingnut is an authentic African-American, what with his distasteful conservative politics and dislike of Barack Obama.  Everyone knows blacks are supposed to be Democrats.

But then you notice.  If you get the editing peons to zoom the footage just so, taking care to make sure no exposed skin is visible, a black man and a white man look awfully similar. Why, it’s almost as if you could get away with …

A crop here, a cut there, and presto!  You’ve doctored away the inconvenient truth of a black man’s race.

All will go according to plan if you can roll your whitewashed footage as Contessa Brewer and company analyze the “racial overtones” of “white people showing up with guns strapped to their waists.”  Kind of like this:

YouTube Preview Image

To continue stoking racial animosity, go to page 24.

To get caught out there by NewsBusters, go here.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Military Sexual Assault Statistics

Statistics inspire confidence and can lend an air of legitimacy to anecdotal evidence. But as the saying goes, torture the numbers and they’ll confess to anything.

Torturing the numbers is something Columbia University journalism professor Helen Benedict knows a little something about.  She’s got the military sexual assault data on the rack and she’s ratcheting up the tension as high as she can to promote her new book on the abuse of female soldiers.

Consider these statistics published by Benedict in a recent Huffington Post piece:

Nearly a third of military women are raped, some 71 percent are sexually assaulted, and 90 percent are sexually harassed.

Benedict’s piece is entitled, “The Pentagon’s Annual Report on Sexual Assualt [sic] in the Military, or, How to Lie with Statistics,” and how to lie with statistics is exactly what she demonstrates.

The sexual assault figure is the most preposterous, and spelling assault wrong doesn’t get her off the hook.  It is an outright lie that some 71 percent of military women are sexually assaulted.

The statistic comes from a study of PTSD sufferers published in Military Medicine in May 2004.  The research sample was not, as Benedict would have you believe, culled from a general pool of female veterans or current servicewomen.  Instead, participants were selected from “an eligible pool of 4,918 representatively sampled veterans seeking VA disability benefits for PTSD.”

Helen Benedict is fully aware of the proper context for this statistic on sexual assault.  In a 2007 Salon essay she noted that the study was limited to veterans “who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder,” but since then she has repeatedly cited the statistic out of context.  She mentioned it in a Huffington Post interview this month, a recent BBC News piece called Women at War Face Sexual Violence, and a 2008 essay in which she suggests that soldiers rape because Bush lied to justify the illegal occupation of Iraq.

The data Benedict cites on military rape and sexual harassment are also misleading.

Nearly a third of military women are raped?  No.  While not as glaring as Benedict’s sexual assault deception, this is, at best, an inaccurate representation of military rape data published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2003.  Researchers found that 30 percent of a self-selected sample of 558 female veterans reported experiencing one or more rapes or attempted rapes during their military service.  The study was limited to women who served between 1961 and 1997, and does not take into account the impact of numerous sexual assault awareness and prevention programs instituted in the last 12 years. And because the study relies on self-reporting of retrospective data, recall bias is of some concern.

I don’t expect Helen Benedict to dissect every flaw each time she cites the study, but how about something like this:

A 2003 survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the first Gulf War found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military.

That quote comes from The Private War of Women Soldiers, an article by none other than Helen Benedict.  Yet again, we see that she can indeed place numbers in their proper context when the mood strikes.

The 2003 article from which Benedict gleaned her military rape statistic also indicates that 79 percent of women surveyed recalled being sexually harassed in the military.  Benedict frequently cites the rape research in that article, but rejected the companion stat that places sexual harassment at 79 percent in favor of the 90 percent figure reported in a 1995 Archives of Family Medicine study.

Again, Benedict shows a reckless disregard for the truth.  In addition to obvious flaws such as the age of the study and recall bias of the participants, Benedict’s readers might find it relevant that the research included rape and attempted rape as types of sexual harassment.  But in her Salon article, for which she won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, Benedict wrote that the 90 percent figure included “anything from being pressured for sex to being relentlessly teased and stared at.”  It should also be noted that the article significantly misquoted one of the subjects, and required several corrections.

What motive could Helen Benedict possibly have for inflating rape and sexual assault statistics at the expense of her reputation and credibility?  The more shocking the statistics, the more media coverage Benedict gets for her book.  And the more books she sells, the more attention she gets for her anti-war, anti-military agenda.  For Benedict, outrageous and dated statistics about military rape are an opportunity to smear American troops and criticize the war.

Do the reasons soldiers rape have anything to do with the nature of the wars we are waging today, particularly in Iraq?

Robert Jay Lifton, a professor of psychiatry who studies war crimes, theorizes that soldiers are particularly prone to commit atrocities in a war of brutal occupation, where the enemy is civilian resistance, the command sanctions torture, and the war is justified by distorted reasoning and obvious lies.

Thus, many American troops in Iraq have deliberately shot children, raped civilian women and teenagers, tortured prisoners of war, and abused their own comrades because they see no moral justification for the war, and are reduced to nothing but self-loathing, anger, fear and hatred.

She follows with a list of recommended reforms that would presumably stop so “many” troops from committing atrocities.  Ending the war in Iraq is “last – but far from least.”

Let me make clear that I find rape an inexcusable atrocity; even one sexual assault is one too many.  I fully believe that sexual assault and rape are underreported in both civilian and military life, and understand that reliable data on sex crimes can be elusive.  But that doesn’t excuse Helen Benedict’s agenda-driven falsehoods and emotionally manipulative sophistry.

Benedict forces us to spend time disentangling fact from fiction instead of addressing how we can reduce sexual assault.  And each time she trots out methodologically questionable rape data and self-serving hyperbole, she undermines the credibility of the publications that carry her writing and the writers who trust her intellectual honesty enough to quote her rape prevalence statistics.  Helen Benedict has dragged valid scholarship into a twisted game of telephone, purposefully garbling data into an almost unrecognizable mutation of what the researchers intended.

When assault statistics are manipulated and exaggerated for use as a bludgeon against the American military, actual experiences of rape are trivialized. It sends the message that smearing the troops as rapists is more important than addressing the very real occurrence of rape.  At the same time, it creates what may be overblown fear among female soldiers and potential enlistees.  We know that there are too many rapes in the military – too many rapes, period – and torturing the numbers harms both women and men in uniform.

Feminists have been accused for years of lying about rape – perhaps it’s time to disown Helen Benedict before she cries wolf again.


To read the studies referenced by Helen Benedict, see:

Archives of Family Medicine. 1995;4(5):411-418

American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 2003;43(3):262-273

Military Medicine. 2004;169(5):392-395

Lies, Misogyny, and the Carrie Prejean Nude Photo Scandal

Miss California pageant winner Carrie Prejean is gorgeous, opinionated, passionate, and conservative.

It’s that last quality that really sticks in the craws of her liberal detractors.

And so, they set out to destroy her.  Belittling her for her views on marriage didn’t work.  Calling her filthy names didn’t do the trick.  And mocking her decision to get breast implants, and gasp, have someone else foot the bill, seems to have fallen flat, so to speak.

It was only a matter of time before they tried to shame her into oblivion for her loose morals and unholy, sinful ways.  Enter the mildest nudie pic never to grace the pages of a men’s magazine.

The photo, which I won’t embed here as she may have been underage when it was taken, is of Carrie Prejean striking the ubiquitous lingerie model pose found throughout the Victoria’s Secret catalog.  She is wearing panties and her arms are strategically placed over her breasts as she bares her naked back and side to the camera.  This is the sort of innocuous cheesecake-lite shot found on bus shelter ads and Abercrombie shopping bags everywhere.

It’s also fodder for an all out assault on Carrie Prejean based on some manufactured inconsistency between her opposition to gay marriage and her participation in a questionably racy modeling shoot at age seventeen.  Here’s my distillation of this ever-so-feminist logic at work:

Homophobia is totally wrong. Let’s see how MissJugs4Jesus likes the taste of a little misogyny!

And yes, “MissJugs4Jesus” was a slur lifted from the blog of a feminist lesbian.

Pam Spaulding, proprietor of Pam’s House Blend and contributor to the liberal feminist blog Pandagon, is absolutely delighted that these photos have surfaced “and the devoted ‘Christian’ is forced to explain herself.”  Most of her commenters are equally giddy.

Gay activist John Aravosis also indulged in a bit of slut-baiting:

holier-than-thou religious fundamentalist Bible-thumpers don’t get to flash their breasts for profit and shrug it off as just another youthful indiscretion. You don’t get to lecture me about my morality when your morality is the equivalent of a Playboy centerfold.

Who are the real hypocrites, young Christian women who embrace their sexuality and fight for what they believe, or liberal feminists who brand Carrie Prejean as a slut while they pat themselves on the backs for their progressive stances and evolved views?

Maybe they could hold her down and sew a big ol’ scarlet letter to her scandalously naked back.  They could even invite Michael Musto, Keith Olbermann, and Perez Hilton to sling vitriol and vulgarity as they gleefully rub salt in her wounds.  That’ll show her!

Matt Lauer, always too enthralled with his own cunning in shaping the news to care about objectivity, attempted to secure the complicity of conservatives in demonizing Carrie Prejean.  He used his Today Show report to viciously smear Miss California in the apparent belief that her own supporters would step right up to bat her out of the public sphere.  A few excerpts from that report:

Racy photos of the runner up have surfaced, and some say they’ve gone too far.  Too far for NBC news to broadcast.

A lie.

I can assure you they were quite inappropriate and certainly not photos befitting a beauty queen.

An unsubstantiated accusation, assuming there really are photos that remain to be seen.

controversial pictures may not sit well with conservative groups

Another blatant attempt to shape the reaction of conservatives without actually interviewing any.

Los Angeles based KTLA went a step further with this fabrication:

The newly surfaced photos are not sitting well with her conservative Christian supporters.

Unsurprisingly, the reporter failed to quote any of these conservative Christians.

Christian social conservative Maggie Gallagher, President of the National Organziation for Marriage, has come to the defense of Carrie Prejean, who appeared in one of the group’s anti-gay marriage ads.  She strongly condemned the attacks:

The level of hatred directed at her is astonishing. Even more astonishing is her personal courage and strength of character in the midst of these attacks. Of course Carrie is not perfect. On a personal note, as a former unwed mother, I want to say to Americans: you don’t have to be a perfect person to have the right to stand up for marriage.

Carrie Prejean also defended herself, focusing on the attacks on her faith:

I am a Christian and I am a model.  Models pose for pictures, including lingerie and swimwear photos. The photos of me taken as a teenager have been released surreptitiously to a tabloid website that openly mocks me for me for my Christian faith. I am not perfect and I will never claim to be perfect.  But the attacks on me and others who speak in defense of marriage are precisely the kind of intolerant, offensive attacks that I hear some in the gay community say are hurled at them for their opinions.  No one should have their opinion silenced through vicious and mean-spirited attacks on one’s character and integrity.

I will continue to support and defend marriage as the honorable institution it is. I will continue to stand with the overwhelming majority of the American people.  If this whole experience has taught me anything it is how precious our right to speak freely is, and how we as Americans can never allow anyone or any group to intimidate or threaten us to keep silent.

I happen to disagree with Carrie Prejean on the issue of marriage.  I support gay marriage, am against federal marriage amendments, and would like to see the Defense of Marriage Act repealed as long as there are unimpeachable protections in place for religious Americans.

But even though she is my ideological opponent, I won’t lend my implicit support to the idea that Carrie Prejean is a paper doll the angry left can crumple up and discard if they don’t like the way she’s decorated.  I can believe that she’s wrong without vomiting forth misogynist insults.  I can find her opinions in total disagreement with my own without pretending that a little semi-nude modeling invalidates her moral standing.

Carrie Prejean is being savaged by the left in an effort to discredit her before conservatives.  Those disparaging her can’t rattle her on the strength of her convictions, so they hope to undermine her credibility with conservative supporters.  But attempts to shame women for flashing a bit of skin are really over the top these days.  Most conservatives won’t abandon a professional model who shares their beliefs just because she was caught baring less side boob than I see at the beach.  I expect they’ll stick by her even if racier pictures exist.

In other news, with the liberal smear machine targeting another conservative woman, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is enjoying a much needed break this week.

And in breaking news: topless photos of another gay marriage opponent leaked!

Conservatives, Meet Google

The Liberty Counsel released the following statement last week regarding federal hate crimes legislation under consideration by Congress:

H.R. 1913 (Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009) is not about stopping crime but is designed to give “actual or perceived” sexual preference or “gender identity” (which is still classified as a mental disorder) the same legal status as race. The DSM IVR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose mental disorders) lists more than 30 “sexual orientations” and “Gender Identity Disorders,” including pedophilia. The hate crimes bill does not limit “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” and, thus, includes all these disorders and fetishes.

The American Family Association and the Traditional Values Coalition also expressed concern that people with sexual orientations such as pedophilia, necrophilia, and bestiality will receive special legal protections if the hate crimes bill becomes law.

Scary stuff, right?

Or it would be if any of their contentions were true.

But pedophilia is NOT a sexual orientation.

The information disseminated by the Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association, and the Traditional Values Coalition is verifiably false.  There are not 30 sexual orientations listed in the DSM-IV-TR. In fact, the DSM-IV-TR explicitly states that sexual orientation refers to “erotic attraction to males, females, or both.”

The supposed “orientations” enumerated by these organizations are listed in the DSM-IV-TR as paraphilias.  The paraphilias, which include pedophilia, voyeurism, and sexual sadism, are described in the DSM-IV-TR as sexual disorders, but they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, orientations.  These are facts, easily verified by following the inline links to the Google Books copy of the DSM-IV-TR.

But if you believed the propaganda generated by Liberty Counsel and their fellowship of the intellectually dishonest, you’ve got plenty of company.  Both Human Events and World Net Daily covered the pedophilia angle on the hate crimes bill story, and major conservative blogs like Gateway Pundit and American Thinker repeated the falsehood that pedophilia is one of many sexual orientations protected by the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

During debate on the House floor, the notion that sexual orientation includes pedophilia was parroted by  Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN).   Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who sponsored an amendment to explicitly exclude pedophilia from the definition of “sexual orientation,” recited a list of “sexual orientation proclivities” clearly cribbed from unverified press releases.  His litany included asphyxophlia, autogynephilia, bisexuality, exhibitionism, incest partialism, masochism. sadism, scatalogia, toucherism, voyeurism, and bestiality.  And yes, his speech included definitions.  The House Republican Conference Web site links to yet another list of sexual disorders in a misguided attempt to define sexual orientation.

Rep. King’s argument for the amendment was that “sexual orientation” is not specifically defined in H.R. 1913 and is therefore open to wild interpretation.  But the term sexual orientation is already defined by federal law, in The Hate Crime Statistics Act, as “consensual homosexuality or heterosexuality.”  Since there is nothing consensual about pedophilic behavior, the amendment, however well intentioned, was superfluous.  Pedophiles don’t need to be explicitly excluded because they were never included to begin with.

By accepting outrageous propaganda as truth and not performing the bare minimum of due diligence with some quick Google-powered fact checking, these conservatives are undermining their credibility and helping to bolster the false and dangerous belief that pedophilia is an orientation.  All pedophiles have a sexual orientation; it just isn’t pedophilia.

Pedophiles can be gay, straight, or anywhere in between: that is their orientation because orientation relates to gender, not age and certainly not criminal propensity. They are not toddlersexuals or infantsexuals. They are sadistic criminals who prey upon the most vulnerable among us.

For the record, I agree with House Republicans that hate crime legislation is a bad idea whether it includes race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other class of citizens.  Hate crime statutes arose as a form of political pandering: they allow liberal politicians to posture against prejudice and bigotry while twiddling their thumbs over institutionalized discrimination like DADT. These laws perpetuate our unhealthy focus on identity politics while conveying that some victims deserve a greater measure of justice than others. Murder should be prosecuted as murder, no matter the identity of the victim, no matter the motive of the killer.  And criminals should be tried on the basis of their hateful actions, not their hateful thoughts.

The Hate Crimes Act of 2009 is also in gross violation of the principle of federalism and the spirit of the Tenth Amendment, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The Hate Crimes Act federalizes crimes that should be under state jurisdiction.

But despite my strong disagreement with this legislation, it is clearly faulty logic and poor political strategy for House Republicans to bundle pedophilia and homosexuality together in an effort to appeal to the emotions of their colleagues and constituents on the issue of hate crimes.  Let’s hope Senate Republicans don’t get suckered into the same strategy as they debate the companion bill, S. 909.  Perhaps their aides will prove to be better Googlers than their House counterparts.

The only people who benefit from defining pedophilia as an orientation are the members of pedophile activist groups who seek to legitimize their degenerate behavior.  Let’s not be party to that mission.

Help Wanted: Grammar Czar

A recent op-ed in the New York Times gently chided President Obama for his tendency to shun the objective pronoun case.

Since his election, the president has been roundly criticized by bloggers for using “I” instead of “me” in phrases like “a very personal decision for Michelle and I” or “the main disagreement with John and I” or “graciously invited Michelle and I.”

The rule here, according to conventional wisdom, is that we use “I” as a subject and “me” as an object, whether the pronoun appears by itself or in a twosome. Thus every “I” in those quotes ought to be a “me.”

Proper pronoun selection is a reasonable expectation of a former Harvard Law Review editor with two Ivy League degrees under his belt. However, writers Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman suggest it is not our infallible leader, but the overly rigid rules of modern English that require correction.

So should the president go stand in a corner of the Oval Office (if he can find one) and contemplate the error of his ways? Not so fast.

For centuries, it was perfectly acceptable to use either “I” or “me” as the object of a verb or preposition, especially after “and.” Literature is full of examples. Here’s Shakespeare, in “The Merchant of Venice”: “All debts are cleared between you and I.” And here’s Lord Byron, complaining to his half-sister about the English town of Southwell, “which, between you and I, I wish was swallowed up by an earthquake, provided my eloquent mother was not in it.”

It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that language mavens began kvetching about “I” and “me.”

Most of us have inexplicable gaps in our education that lead to embarrassing linguistic mistakes. I had almost completed high school before someone told me the “l” in “wolf” isn’t silent. I never made that mistake again.

Now, however, we live in a time when failure is becoming obsolete. Corporations are too big to fail, high school students are graded on a curve, and irresponsible borrowers receive taxpayer-funded subsidies. Why shouldn’t we relax the rules of grammar to accommodate a public official’s ignorance?

For eight years, ridiculing George W. Bush’s semantic errors and grammatical gaffes was a national pastime. Examples of “Bushisms” were painstakingly chronicled in dozens of books and calendars. His most glaring verbal missteps were emblazoned on all manner of merchandise, from tote bags to thongs, and every instance of linguistic incompetence was presented as irrefutable proof of Bush’s general incompetence as President and Commander-in-Chief.

When President Obama screws up, we review Shakespeare for precedent. Apparently he’s too big to fail.

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