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In their own words: How Texas pimps recruit and sell girls for sex

Article reposted with permission from The Texas Tribune

BY EDGAR WALTERS, NEENA SATIJA AND MORGAN SMITH

How the crusade against sex trafficking in Texas has left child victims behind.

When it comes to punishing the sex traffickers who exploit Texas kids, state leaders are unforgiving: Their crimes are “vile,” “heinous,” “despicable,” “unconscionable.”

Texas Tribune reporters talked to three convicted traffickers to try to understand the power they wield over victims and the attraction of what they call “the lifestyle.” They explained how vulnerable kids end up in the sex trade and how the business works. The interviews also revealed a common thread between pimps and their victims: the poverty and violence in their backgrounds.

Jasmine Johnson, 26, is serving a 25-year sentence for trafficking a minor — a young victim the Tribune is featuring in this series. Johnson still maintains her innocence in that case, though she spoke openly about her experience as a pimp who led a group of eight adult women in Dallas.

Anthony Harris, 30, is serving a five-year prison sentence in Huntsville for a 2014 charge of compelling a minor into prostitution. He pleaded guilty.

K.A., 25, is serving a life sentence for pimping out a 15-year-old runaway in San Antonio and murdering her boyfriend, crimes committed when he was 20. He would only consent to being identified by his initials, and he spoke in general terms about pimping — not about his own experiences.

Here they are in their own words, which have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

How did you first get into the sex trade?

Johnson: I guess ’cause my daddy wasn’t a part of my life, I acted out. I hated to see my mama struggle. I just started hustling. I knew I always had pimping stuff in me, but I didn’t call it that.

Really, the streets gave me the pimp title because I ain’t never seen it like that. I just thought I was being a player or whatever. But like, when I’d see regular guys on the street, they’d be like, “Oh, you a pimp, I salute you.”

Harris: I didn’t feel like there was a lot of opportunity in Arkansas. So I came out here … for school. School didn’t work out … I caught a drug charge.

I didn’t have the money to go back to school, so I was just working odd jobs. I kind of started getting in the streets in Dallas. I was staying in hotels. Motel 6es, two-and-a-half, three-star hotels. A lot of girls frequent those hotels. So they used to have clients that come to those hotels. But sometimes they get rowdy. They’re drunk, or they’re high.

The girls see me so much in the room that they start to friend me. And they ask me to have their back. Don’t let nobody hurt them while they do what they do. It just kinda started out like that.

How did you recruit girls to sell sex?

K.A.: If you meet a female, she don’t got no family, she don’t got nowhere to stay, but you got a little bit of money, you doing for her, you putting a roof over her head, feeding her … she going to end up trusting you, depending on you.

Y’all have some talks about the future, selling her the dream. It’s like, “Well, what are we going to do? What can we do? If you are really about this union, about this team, you are going to do this, it’s on you.”

You’ve got some females, they run their own, they manage theyselves. But most, they want a daddy to feel secure, to feel like they got somebody watching out for them.

Harris: A lot of people always think that somebody’s making them do it or forcing them to do it. That’s not the case. Most cases, these girls are already doing it. They’re doing it on their own. It’s just, they hate to be by themselves, or they can’t take care of their money.

It’s just like any regular household. A man takes care of the household, so they feel like that’s what they need the man there for. You feel like family. When you’re looking out for somebody like that, it don’t feel like a business. It feels like family. I got your back, you got mine.

Johnson: If it’s a new girl trying to get on my team, I have sex with them first because I know I can get in they head. Once I make love to them, or what they think is love, know what I’m saying, I really don’t have no feelings behind it. I just be thinking about money. That’s my main thing is money, so I be like, I have sex with them.

It was like I mind-fucked ’em. I was in they head.

And then after that, they just start giving me whatever I need. They give me all they money. They cater to me, they spoiled me. All of them did this for me. And even though I know it was kind of wrong for putting them through that because they ain’t have to do it — but they chose to. I didn’t make them. I didn’t force them. It just ended up happening like that.

What draws people to pimping?

Johnson: I was in love with the money we was making. The money was good. ‘Cause I ended up getting a car, and then I upgraded to a house. I was like, “OK. I ain’t never had no house.”

And I don’t like men, so I was gonna get artificial insemination. That’s what I was saving my money for. I always wanted a child myself.

K.A.: It’s like free money. You don’t gotta re-up. If you sell drugs, you gotta pay for the drugs at a wholesale and then go back and stack yo’ money. If you selling sex, that’s something that you don’t gotta re-up on.

Do women who work in the sex trade face violence?

Johnson: I didn’t beat my girls. I might fight them sometimes, like slap them or something, but I didn’t beat them where I just beat them for no reason or something. It wasn’t like that. We’d just fight. It wasn’t all harsh. I didn’t do them bad or nothing like that. I spoiled them like they spoiled me. They got what they wanted; I got what I wanted. They got they hair done and all of that stuff, buy them wigs and stuff like that, dance clothes, stuff they need to make their money.

K.A.: You got some, they call them gorilla pimps, who if she stops after she’s already begun, they feel like, well she said she game. They rough her up a little bit, so she’s going to get back on the program.

You have some crazy folks out there. You got a lot of males, they gonna rape someone, they ain’t gonna pay. There’s a lot of prostitutes who ended up dead doing what they were doing. It’s dangerous. It’d be treacherous out there.

Harris: The girl would text me and say, “His time is up, but he don’t want to stop.” I’d knock on the door. I stopped a lot of people from getting raped, hurt, beat up, just by my presence alone. I don’t have to go in there and be no big macho guy. Just being around. If somebody know you’ve got somebody with you, the chances of you getting hurt are minimum to none. Especially if you’re doing something dangerous.

Who were your clients?

K.A.: Just regular people, just average people. Truck drivers, they lonely, they got money, they be driving around places, they ain’t got no wife with them.

Johnson: Every Friday, they get a check. They work on a construction site or something like that. And they get drunk every Friday. So I was like, “Y’all gonna go over there, have sex with them, and if they drop they pants, get the whole wallet, you know what I’m saying.”

Harris: Most of them be businessmen with wives, you know, families. They don’t be wanting any trouble.

How did you turn a profit?

Harris: When you first start, you’re making, getting, $100 a half-hour, or $150 a whole hour, or $200. I set up a plan for them. “How much money you can make? How much are you going to need to take care of you?”

You got a thing that’s called [online] reviews. It all goes about how they dress, if they smell, if they look like they was a druggie, were they the girls in the pictures, did they get all the time they were supposed to get. What kind of fetishes they did. All of this goes into play with the rates. If you treat them fair, you know, they give you a good review. If they give you a good review, the more reviews you get, the more expensive your rates go.

For an hour, you’re getting $400, $500. That’s if you follow the plan.

Johnson: They would come and tell me, “Hey, this dude want to have sex. He talking about it’s gonna be $500 or something like that.” And if it’s a low amount, I’d be like, “No, he ain’t trying to spend no bread. No.” But $500 and up, I’d be like, “Yeah.” Or $300, yeah, that’s the lowest I’d go.

K.A.: Some might say $500, some might say $300. High-dollar female, you might send her to the Marriott with a politician or somebody who got some money like that, he may pay her $400.

It’s good money. If you pimping her, all that’s yours. I’m not going to say it’s all for you; it’s yours, but you keep a house over her, I mean you feed her, you provide for her.

What would you say to other people who are still in the “lifestyle?”

Johnson: It’s a lot of people trying to do this pimping thing, but it’s gonna get you caught up. If you can’t call no lawyer down there, you gonna end up in prison or end up dead.

I would say chill out on that pimping stuff because it ain’t what’s up no more. Everything’s getting played out. Everything’s old. The law’s really hot on it.

Harris: I know anything illegal always comes to an end. So if you have to do it, I felt like, you know, you should have a goal to do it. If I hustle this long, I can put this money into going to college, or I can put this money to a trade, or I can get me a house.

K.A.: We all playing a losing game, you know, and sooner or later everything is going to come out. You can do everything right, be smart, watch A through Z, but it’s always, somewhere down the line, something you gonna miss, somewhere you gonna slip.

Editor’s note: 

One of the reporters on this story, Neena Satija, also works for Reveal, a public radio show and podcast from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Ryan Murphy was the lead developer on this story; Emily Albracht was the lead designer.

How hollow rhetoric and a broken child welfare system feed Texas’ sex-trafficking underworld

Article reposted with permission from The Texas Tribune

BY MORGAN SMITH, NEENA SATIJA AND EDGAR WALTERS

When Mia was 16, she walked out of a Houston children’s emergency shelter. She had to go, she told the staff. Her pimp was waiting.

It was 2013, the day before Thanksgiving. She was almost 200 miles from Corpus Christi, where she grew up.

Mia had been raised by her grandparents and, after they died, by her drug-addicted mother. When her mother went to prison, other relatives took her in.

By the time she was 10, behavioral problems landed Mia in a psychiatric hospital. That’s where a state-appointed lawyer told her, as gently as she could, that the aunt and uncle Mia had been living with no longer wanted her.

She entered Texas’ long-term foster care system. For the next six years, she cycled through 19 different homes and institutions. She was brutally punished in some of those places — thrown to the ground and restrained, made to stand on milk crates for hours — and sexually assaulted. She attended nine different schools. She wound up in the emergency room twice for suicidal thoughts.

After Mia ran from one foster care facility, police found her in a park; she told them she had been having sex for money. She ran away again, and authorities sent her to the Houston emergency shelter. That’s where, 15 minutes later, she ran for the final time, back into the arms of her pimp.

Like too many kids in the state’s care, she disappeared into the underworld of sex trafficking.

Mia was still missing a year later, in 2014, when a massive class-action lawsuit against the state’s long-term foster care system went to trial. Lawyers had named Mia the lead plaintiff on behalf of all 12,000 children in the system. Federal District Judge Janis Jack would later rule the state had mistreated those children so severely that it violated their civil rights.

Buried in Jack’s 2015 decision — and largely missed in subsequent discussions about foster care in Texas — was the fact that Mia was a victim of a crime that top Texas leaders have been publicly battling for more than a decade.

Sex trafficking is “one of the most heinous crimes facing our society,” Attorney General Ken Paxton told reporters at a January news conference, flanked by posters with pictures of kids hat read “I AM NOT FOR SALE.” Gov. Greg Abbott made the fight against sex trafficking — which he calls “modern day slavery” —one of the 10 key issues of his gubernatorial campaign, and he previously spent years focused on it as attorney general. Neither Abbott nor Paxton agreed to an interview.

Yet for all the energy the state’s leaders pour into anti-sex-trafficking rhetoric, most of their focus has been on arresting and convicting pimps, not rehabilitating their prey.They’ve devoted hardly any resources to the victims whose testimony is essential to putting sex traffickers behind bars. They have also failed to confront the role the child welfare system plays in providing a supply of vulnerable kids to criminals waiting to exploit them.

Eighty-six percent of missing children suspected of being forced into sex work came from the child welfare system, national data show, and a state-funded study estimatedthat the vast majority of young victims in Texas had some contact with Child Protective Services. Interviews with law enforcement and child advocates around the state tell a similar story.

Dallas Police Detective Michael McMurray has worked child sex-trafficking cases, many involving foster children, for more than a decade. He used to believe that going after criminals would be the most effective anti-trafficking strategy. He called it the McMurray Theory.

“We’ll put all these pimps, all these traffickers in prison, and the word will get out, and people won’t be doing this anymore because they’ll be too afraid to go to prison. And that’ll solve the problem,” he said.

But after 10 years of locking up sex traffickers, the lack of progress frustrates him.

“The McMurray Theory is not working out too well,” he said.

A common story

Stories like Mia’s are tragically common: Recent estimates suggest Texas is home to some 80,000 child sex-trafficking victims, kids who — in one way or another — end up being sold to adults for sex.

The Texas Tribune has uncovered dozens of these cases buried in criminal files and unfurled in interviews with prosecutors, caseworkers, police officers and victims’ advocates over five months of reporting.

There’s Jean, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who at 16 turned to a Dallas pimp for food, shelter and affection amid a slow-burning crisis in the state’s foster care system.

And Lena, a foster child who at 17 became one of the youngest inmates in the Harris County Jail, even though authorities knew she was a victim of child sex trafficking.

And Yvette, who was convicted in San Antonio of trafficking a minor two days after her 23rd birthday, despite suffering at the hands of the man who pimped them both out.

And Sarah, a 16-year-old from Austin who gave police a rare cause for hope after landing a spot at the state’s only treatment facility for sex-trafficking victims.

Each of their pimps was punished under the law. None of the girls got the help they needed.

Empty laws, hollow programs

State officials say they have taken steps to address Texas’ sex-trafficking problem. Texas was one of the first states to pass a law defining human trafficking, in 2003. Lawmakers have piled on with additional legislation — and great fanfare — in virtually every legislative session since.

They’ve made it easier to prosecute men and women who exploit minors, as well as the buyers who seek to purchase sex with them. They’ve established a special team inside the attorney general’s office to help unravel sex-trafficking rings.

Top state leaders routinely trumpet the law enforcement stings that round up suspected traffickers. Most recently, Paxton’s office claimed a minor role in arresting the chief executive of Dallas-based Backpage.com, one of the largest online advertisers of commercial sex.

Thousands of state government employees have received training to help them identify potential sex-trafficking victims. Child welfare officials also say they are doing a better job of tracking down runaways like Mia, who are among the most vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

But the state’s child welfare system — overseen by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services — needs $1 billion over the next two years to shore up its operation, department officials say. State lawmakers have proposed spending just under one-third of that amount.

Lawmakers have also passed few policies aimed at directly helping victims, and they have balked time and again at providing the money to pay for them. That has left a laundry list of empty laws and hollow programs.

“I try to be upbeat about the Legislature, every time I come here,” said state Rep. Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat who’s worked on anti-trafficking laws. “But my little joke is, sometimes the Texas Legislature is like the guy who’s really insistent on taking you out to lunch, but when the check comes, he’s nowhere to be found.”

Bills but few dollars

Among legislators’ unfunded efforts over the past decade:

  • A 2009 sex-trafficking law calling for a victim assistance program to distribute up to $10 million a year in grants to provide housing, counseling and medical care for trafficking survivors. The Legislature neverappropriated the money. Eight years later, the program’s coffers remain empty.
  • An anti-trafficking measure passed in 2011 meant to establish a stream of funding for victims by requiring convicted child traffickers to pay them restitution. Restitution depends on a defendant’s ability to pay, which is often limited. None of the victims the Tribune interviewed said they received any money after their traffickers were imprisoned.
  • A 2013 law authorizing judicial diversion programs for juveniles caught selling sex. Lawmakers provided no money for those programs.
  • A 2015 law allowing police to take “emergency possession” of sex-trafficking victims, as long as they place them in secure facilities providing everything from 24-hour supervision to counseling. But no such facility exists, and no funding has ever been allocated to create one.

In the 2015 legislative session, lawmakers created a child sex-trafficking unit in the governor’s office and gave it a two-year budget of $6 million. That money will go toward coordinating services for victims across the state, but not toward addressing the lack of places for them to go.

There is only one facility in the entire state that is licensed specifically to treat victims of sex trafficking, and it can only fill 20 beds at a time. Not one of those beds is available for an “emergency” placement, meaning victims in immediate crisis, like those picked up by police in the middle of the night, don’t qualify. And no beds are available for boys.

The end result is that during the precarious period when victims first come into contact with authorities — adults they should be able to trust — they often end up in handcuffs instead. Nearly one-third of trafficking victims recovered by the state’s child welfare investigators are sent to juvenile detention.

“The state needs to step up and be prepared to protect these kids,” said Ann Johnson, the former lead prosecutor for Harris County’s sex-trafficking unit. “If we don’t invest wisely in the front end, we’re going to pay for it more later.”

HOW BAD IS THE CHILD SEX-TRAFFICKING PROBLEM IN TEXAS?

Texas doesn’t have a uniform policy on how state and local agencies should collect data on sex trafficking, so it’s hard to know. But there are a few numbers that offer a limited glimpse into its scope.

79,000
A conservative estimate of the number of young sex-trafficking victims in Texas in any given year, the vast majority of whom are under 18, as calculated by a 2016 University of Texas study funded by the governor’s office.
78,600
The subset of those victims who had some contact with the child welfare system, according to the same study.
86
The percentage of missing kids nationally suspected of being forced into sex work who come from the foster care or social services system, according to 2016 figures from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
31
The number of kids who ran away from Texas foster care and were identified by child welfare workers as sex-trafficking victims in fiscal year 2016. All were girls, ages 13 to 17. Given that many runaways are never found, few victims come forward and Texas only started keeping that data in late 2015, the number is surely an underestimate.
181
The number of people arrested on allegations of forcing children into sex work in Texas’ two largest counties — Harris and Dallas — in the past two-and-a-half years.
41
The number of minors arrested on suspicion of prostitution in those two counties over that same timeframe.
Source: Texas Tribune research

Texas lawmakers say they’re proud of their track record.

“We’ve passed more legislation than any state in America,” said state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, the Houston Democrat who has sponsored nearly every anti-trafficking bill for the past several years.

Lawmakers have announced plans to file another anti-trafficking bill this session, which they said will focus on further enhancing penalties for convicted pimps.

Thompson acknowledged the state needs to place more emphasis on helping victims, but she wasn’t sure there would be any funding to do so.

“I just hate we have not been able to do more faster,” she said. “But we are catching up.”

“A perpetual hell” 

As lawmakers begin figuring out how much money they can spend in this year’s legislative session, the Texas child welfare system is buckling under a $110 million budget shortfall. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services says it fails to check on hundreds of the state’s most endangered children each day, and there’s a crippling shortage of good homes for children removed from their families.

The class-action lawsuit, a series of high-profile child deaths and a barrage of negative headlines have pressured lawmakers to take action. Leaders in both the House and Senate have again proposed reforms, but so far they largely focus on administrative fixes.

Child welfare officials say they need money.

“We have to spend the funding now,” agency chief Hank Whitman said at a January budget hearing. “Otherwise, these children will end up in the criminal justice system, and they’re there for life, and it’s a perpetual hell for them.”

Whitman said his agency needs an additional $1 billion over the next two years to hire workers, find more foster homes and make basic improvements to children’s care. Lawmakers have so far shown an appetite to spend only about $325 million. The governor has asked them to spend $500 million.

“Do not underfund this rickety system only to have it come back and haunt you,” Abbott said in a January speech to the Legislature.

Lawmakers say they are skeptical more money will improve the agency’s performance.

“Problems persist at this agency despite funding increase after funding increase,” state Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican and the Senate’s chief budget writer, said in a prepared statement. “Moving forward, we must ensure that additional resources lead to better outcomes for children.”

Even as the Legislature debates its own reforms, Paxton and Abbott continue to fight Judge Jack’s orders to overhaul the foster care system, arguing Texas will do it better without the meddling of a federal court.

Meanwhile, almost two dozen children run from foster care each week. One of those children was Mia, the teen from Corpus Christi who became the anonymous face of the foster care lawsuit.

A few months after she walked out of the children’s emergency shelter in Houston and returned to her pimp, child welfare workers got a tip about her location. But they waited two weeks before visiting the address. By the time they got there, Mia was gone.

The next year Mia turned 18 and aged out of foster care. She hasn’t been heard from since.

About this story: 

The Texas Tribune generally does not publish the names of victims of sexual abuse or sex trafficking. Mia, Yvette, and Sarah are pseudonyms. Jean is identified by her first name at her request. Lena is identified by her middle name at her request. The details in Mia’s story come from court documents in the foster care lawsuit and interviews with her lawyer. In total, The Texas Tribune interviewed more than 90 people for this series, including 16 victims, 14 foster care and victim service providers, eight prosecutors, 11 police officers and three pimps. Reporters reviewed more than three dozen criminal cases and attended two full sex-trafficking trials.

Editor’s note:  

One of the reporters on this story, Neena Satija, also works for Reveal, a public radio show and podcast from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Ryan Murphy was the lead developer on this story; Emily Albracht was the lead designer.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Why it Matters / Christine Doyle

Each morning, my daughter parks in a special spot up at school, a school that promotes sustainability. These prize slots go to kids who drive “green” cars. Hers is a Jetta TDI. It gets great gas mileage and we thought produced fewer diesel emissions than its competitors. But does it?

Volkswagon has just announced that the clean diesel may not be clean after all.

We’ve been VW fans since before she was born. I had a red VW Rabbit I nicknamed Bunny when I was in college. We got a dark green Jetta sedan with tan leather interior when I was expecting her. City dwellers, it was the perfect small car solution for our family, just what we needed to take a baby and groceries home at the same time.

I’ll never forget the day, here in Missouri, in 2008, when we bought two Jettas on the same day. Mine was a Jetta TDI wagon; the other a Jetta TDI sedan. They were two of the first clean diesels available in Missouri. I still remember the conversation up at the kids school when we were talking about this new evolution in green technology at a parent breakfast meeting. Other parents kept asking, “Is it an electric car?” “No.” “Oh, it’s diesel? “That can’t be good for the environment,” they said. It may turn out it was not only not good for the environment but really bad brand management as well.  The company allegedly designed software to trick the testers gaging diesel emissions. I still remember what I was told when I incredulously asked the salesman how diesel fuel could be good for the environment? “It gets recycled and is used in other ways by the engine,” he said. Someone even got a tissue out to show us there was no soot coming out of the exhaust.

Fast track to last Summer when the EPA was expected to issue new rulings on limiting carbon emissions from coal plants. I remember thinking to myself, and asking out loud on social media, “Why can’t they just employ the kind of technology my clean diesel car uses to curb emissions? Can’t they reuse emissions before releasing them into the environment?” Why, indeed.

Locally, I have had a great experience with the folks at Dean Team. I have even made them brownies. No kidding. They’ve loaned me cars, washed the ones in service and generally been efficient and responsive. When I called them, they referred me to Customer Care. Customer Care said, “We’re still trying to figure it out but we will make it right.”  I went in to talk to a sales manager today to express my disappointment and find out whether my Toureg was affected. He said, at this point, the Toureg doesn’t appear to be since it has a different engine. They’re still asking whether the Passats, Jettas, Golfs and even Audis are among the cars with the illegal software. Hopefully, it isn’t too late for VW to make this right.

 

 

 

 

Kathleen Parker on the Planned Parenthood Videos

In his satirical solution to Ireland’s prolific poor, especially among Catholics whose fish diet was thought to enhance fertility, Jonathan Swift suggested a new menu item: Succulent 1-year-olds for dinner.

His essay “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country . . . ” was intended to shake up the English and remind them that the Irish were, in fact, human beings. This took quite a while to sink in.

Kathleen Parker writes a twice-weekly column on politics and culture. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary In 2010.View Archive

“The archers are ready,” King Edward I is told in “Braveheart.”

“Not the archers,” the king replies. “Arrows cost money. Use up the Irish. The dead cost nothing.”

Obviously, the Irish survived to write newspaper columns. And civilized people don’t eat babies — at least not roasted or steamed or as part of a ragout, as Swift suggested. But there are other ways to make use of the unborn, as revealed in the recent undercover video in which Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, explains how abortions can be performed so that body parts remain intact for medical research.

Nucatola thought she was talking to two buyers from a human biologics company that would serve as middlemen in procuring fetal organs for biotech companies. But the two were actually actors hired by the Irvine, Calif.-based Center for Medical Progress, reported to be an antiabortion group.

In the video, Nucatola is seen eating a salad, sipping wine and talking matter-of-factly about the procedures she uses. One gathers from her comments that she is a skilled abortionist.

To ensure the viability of the calivarium (incomplete skull), for instance, Nucatola prefers to move the fetus into a breech position so that the head comes out last. Otherwise, dilation is usually insufficient to avoid crushing the skull. She also avoids grasping the torso where valuable organs are located.

“I’m basically going to crush below, I’m going to crush above, and I’m going to see if I can get it all intact.”

Her comments were shocking enough, but they were magnified by the banality of the circumstances. A fetal liver here, a bite of Romaine there, a sip of wine. Nucatola’s strictly clinical view was that such valuable live tissue (a.k.a. hearts and livers) shouldn’t go to waste. By providing terminated products for research, she was facilitating an “extra bit of good.”

Apparently, this is also the view of women who sign the consent forms. At least donating one’s issue to research is a way of casting abortion in a somewhat positive light, sort of like donating the organs of a deceased child. Except for all the obvious differences.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad, but I do aim to avoid euphemism for the sake of clarity. Basically, the volume of older fetuses at some of Planned Parenthood’s locations is so great that they have a disposal problem. What do you do with all these bodies?

Environmental laws prevent throwing fetuses in the trash, and even if they could, some garbage collection companies refuse to pick them up. The middleman who, through sanitized packaging and clinical language, can clean up such a mess and, for a price, contribute to science is God-sent. Or is it from the other fellow?

Some of the research using these “products of conception” is, ironically, for ailments common to the elderly — such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. We seem to have traded “Soylent Green” wafers — food made from the remains of old folks forced into premature termination in the 1973 film — for gestational organs. There is a certain hideous symmetry to this dispensation of human products — those too young or too old to be useful except when un-alive — but I’m not sure this is how the cycle of life was intended to unfold.

Planned Parenthood’s response to the video has focused on clarifying that no parts are sold for profit. The organization’s affiliates only seek to recoup the cost of doing business. President Cecile Richards also has apologized for Nucatola’s tone.

But let’s clarify further.

Eventually, profits will be made — perhaps with medications enabled by research on a 24-week-old fetus’s brain stem. Just think: No unwanted baby; no burden to society; plus treatment for someone’s dementia — a perfect trifecta, made in hell.

And tone isn’t the issue. The issue is that we’re commodifying human fetuses and harvesting parts for distribution in the marketplace, using rationalizations that can justify anything.

The dead may cost nothing, but the livers of terminated fetuses are selling like hotcakes.

Jeb’s Slow Jam

JEB BUSH

Watch Jeb Bush Slow Jam the News With Jimmy Fallon

The latest Bush to run for president stopped by The Tonight Show

Forget Iowa and New Hampshire — the hottest spot on the campaign trail is late-night television.

Jeb Bush, who announced he was running for president on Monday, stopped by Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show to slow jam the news — something you may recall President Obama did back in 2012. While the “news” in this case wasn’t recent headlines but a brief summary of Bush’s formal campaign announcement and select accomplishments, Fallon’s suggestive commentary made the segment something you definitelyhaven’t heard before.

“He’s got lots of experience down south,” Fallon joked. “He came from Texas where everything is bigger. He turned Florida from a limp peninsula into a virile member of the U.S. economy.”

See the full video below, as well as Fallon’s interview with Bush, where the presidential hopeful talks about how he met his wife:

A Call to Higher Ground

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The following are remarks prepared for delivery by former U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth at the funeral Tuesday for state Auditor Thomas A. Schweich at The Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton. They have been lightly edited.

Blessed are the poor in Spirit.

Blessed are those who mourn.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you on my account. Amen.

Kathy, Emilie, Thomas. We who cared so much for your husband and your dad enfold you in our love, just as our Lord enfolds you and Tom in his love. We want you to know that we are with you to offer whatever strength and comfort we can.

Tom Schweich was an exceptionally able public servant. He graduated from Harvard Law School, and spent most of his career as a trial lawyer, meticulously marshaling facts and mastering the law in complex litigation involving government contracts.

When Attorney General (Janet) Reno appointed me special counsel to investigate the mass deaths at Waco, Texas, I knew that would be exhaustive work that had to be done with great care, and I enlisted Tom as my chief of staff. The investigation lasted 14 months, with scores of witnesses and a million pages of documents. Tom was highly organized, and on top of every detail of the investigation.

Again, he was my chief of staff at the United Nations. Few jobs are as demanding as dealing simultaneously with the State Department and the Secretariat of the U.N., and Tom was adept in managing both people and difficult situations.

Tom stayed at the U.N. in the same capacity with two of my successors, and then fearlessly led the State Department’s war against narcotics, traveling to the heart of danger, holding the rank of ambassador.
Half a dozen years ago, Tom told me he wanted to run for public office. His first thought was the U.S. Senate but he finally decided on state auditor. He was a person easily hurt and quickly offended, and I told him I didn’t think he had the temperament for elective politics, but Tom didn’t easily accept advice, and he was offended by mine. It was his decision, and he was my friend, and I was for him, whatever he chose to do.

He ran, won election, and became universally acknowledged as a great auditor, zealously uncovering corruption, attacking sloppiness whether of Democrats or Republicans, and praising good work where he saw it. He was so successful that he faced no serious opposition for his second term.

Tom was the model for what a public servant should be. He was exceptionally bright, energetic and well organized. He was highly ethical, and like the indignant prophets of Biblical times, he was passionate about his responsibility for righting wrongs.

We spoke often about the calling to public service, and what we said was always the same. The objective should be always to take the high ground and never give it up.
I last spoke with Tom this past Tuesday afternoon. He was indignant. He told me he was upset about two things, a radio commercial and a whispering campaign he said were being run against him. He said the commercial made fun of his physical appearance and wondered if he should respond with his own ad.

But while the commercial hurt his feelings, his great complaint was about a whispering campaign that he was Jewish. And that subject took up 90 percent of a long phone call. This was more than an expression of personal hurt as with the radio ad, this was righteous indignation against what he saw as a terrible wrong. And what he saw was wrong is anti-Semitism.

He said he must oppose this wrong, that he must confront it publicly by going before the media where he would present several witnesses. He said that they would verify that there were several times when the rumor had been spread.

Tom called this anti-Semitism, and of course it was. The only reason for going around saying that someone is Jewish is to make political profit from religious bigotry. Someone said this was no different than saying a person is a Presbyterian. Here’s how to test the credibility of that remark: When was the last time anyone sidled up to you and whispered into your ear that such and such a person is a Presbyterian?

Tom told me of his Jewish grandfather who taught him about anti-Semitism, and told him that anytime Tom saw it, he had to confront it. So Tom believed that that was exactly what he must do.

There was no hint by Tom that this was about him or his campaign. It was about confronting bigotry.
I told Tom that it is important to combat any whiff of anti-Semitism, but I said that he should not be the public face of doing that. I told him that if he were to go public, the story would be all about him, and not about the evil he wanted to fight. I said that I was concerned about his political future, that his focus should be on winning election as governor, and that the best approach would be to have someone feed the story to the press and let the press run with it.

Tom said that the press would only run with the story if he went public, and that if he didn’t make an issue out of anti-Semitism, no one would.

That was the phone call, except at the end he seemed angry with me.It’s impossible to know the thoughts of another person at such a dire time as suicide, but I can tell you what haunts me. I had always told him to take the high ground and never give it up, and he believed that, and it had become his life. Now I had advised him that to win election he should hope someone else would take up the cause.

He may have thought that I had abandoned him and left him on the high ground, all alone to fight the battle that had to be fought.

I think there are two messages in this, one for Tom’s children, the other for the rest of us.
Emilie and Thomas, always be proud of your father. He has left you a legacy, a tradition to take up in your own lives. You will have to be very brave to do this, as he was brave, and it will require energy and devotion to the task, as he was energetic and devoted to his task. The legacy your father has passed on to you is this: to fight for what is right; to always seize the high ground and never give it up.

The message for the rest of us reflects my own emotion after learning of Tom’s death, which has been overwhelming anger that politics has gone so hideously wrong, and that the death of Tom Schweich is the natural consequence of what politics has become. I believe deep in my heart that it’s now our duty, yours and mine, to turn politics into something much better than its now so miserable state.

Sure, politics has always been combative, but what we have just seen is combat of a very different order. It used to be that Labor Day of election years marked the beginning of campaigns.

This campaign for governor started two years in advance of the 2016 election. And even at this early date, what has been said is worse than anything in my memory, and that’s a long memory. I have never experienced an anti-Semitic campaign. Anti-Semitism is always wrong and we can never let it creep into politics.

As for the radio commercial, making fun of someone’s physical appearance, calling him a “little bug”, there is one word to describe it: “bullying.” And there is one word to describe the person behind it: “bully.”

We read stories about cyberbullying, and hear of young girls who killed themselves because of it. But what should we expect from children when grown ups are their examples of how bullies behave?

Since Thursday, some good people have said, “Well that’s just politics.” And Tom should have been less sensitive; he should have been tougher, and he should have been able to take it.

Well, that is accepting politics in its present state and that we cannot do. It amounts to blaming the victim, and it creates a new normal, where politics is only for the tough and the crude and the calloused.

Indeed, if this is what politics has become, what decent person would want to get into it? We should encourage normal people — yes, sensitive people — to seek public office, not drive them away.

There’s a principle of law called the thin skull rule. It says that if you hurt someone who is unusually susceptible to injury, you are liable even for the damages you didn’t anticipate. The person who caused the injury must pay, not the person with the thin skull. A good rule of law should be a good rule of politics. The bully should get the blame not the victim.

We often hear that words can’t hurt you. But that’s simply not true. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said just the opposite. Words for Jesus could be the moral equivalent of murder. He said if we insult a brother or sister we will be liable. He said if we call someone a fool we will be liable to hell. Well how about anti-Semitic whispers? And how about a radio ad that calls someone a “little bug,” and that is run anonymously over and over again?

Words do hurt. Words can kill. That has been proven right here in our home state.
There is no mystery as to why politicians conduct themselves this way. It works. They test how well it works in focus groups and opinion polls. It wins elections, and that is their objective. It’s hard to call holding office public service, because the day after the election it’s off to the next election, and there’s no interlude for service. It’s all about winning, winning at any cost to the opponent or to any sense of common decency.

The campaign that led to the death of Tom Schweich was the low point of politics, and now it’s time to turn this around. So let’s make Tom’s death a turning point here in our state.

Let’s decide that what may have been clever politics last week will work no longer. It will backfire. It will lose elections, not win them.

Let’s pledge that we will not put up with any whisper of anti-Semitism. We will stand against it as Americans and because our own faith demands it. We will take the battle Tom wanted to fight as our own cause.

We will see bullies for who they are. We will no longer let them hide behind their anonymous pseudo-committees. We will not accept their way as the way of politics. We will stand up to them and we will defeat them.

This will be our memorial to Tom: that politics as it now exists must end, and we will end it. And we will get in the face of our politicians, and we will tell them that we are fed up, and that we are not going to take this anymore.

If Tom could speak to us, I think he would say about the same thing. To borrow a familiar phrase, he would approve this message. But Tom is at peace, and it’s for us to take up the cause.

May Tom’s soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon them. Amen.

http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/readers-opinion/as-i-see-it/article12307403.html

Congratulations, Missouri!

ST. LOUIS (AP) – A judge in St. Louis has ruled that Missouri’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison issued the ruling Wednesday. He heard arguments in the case on Sept. 29.

The city of St. Louis issued marriage licenses in June to four same-sex couples, setting up a court case over the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Assistant Attorney General Jeremiah Morgan argued that 71 percent of Missourians voted for the referendum defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

St. Louis City Counselor Winston Calvert countered that the existing law treats same-sex couples as “second-class citizens.”

 

Same thoughts on Sam-Sex Marriage

I just got off the phone with a morning show here in town. I called into the host to make sure he knew about this morning’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Essentially the court said it would not rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.  The ruling doesn’t nationalize it. And it doesn’t signal it will be up to each state to decide what it wants. What it does is allow same-sex couples to marry in states with appeals pending in front of the Supreme Court.  And, according to Anthony Rothert of the ACLU-MO, “it means the decision is binding for for all states within those circuits, so marriage should come very soon to North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.” Rothert also says the ruling may lead to a decrease in states appealing directly to the Supreme Court because they can see the tide of rulings towards same-sex marriage.

Just Friday, the courts here in Missouri ruled in favor of recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples who were legally wed in other states, where gay marriage is legal.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling was like a stone skipping in water. Its tone was quiet but its effect is anything but. Within minutes, the number of states where same-sex marriage will be allowed has jumped from 17 to 30.

The question is, “What’s next?” Will we see an amendment to overturn the State’s ban on gay marriage? And if so, how will it affect the elections overall? Here in Missouri, our Attorney General (who is running for Governor) is charged with defending the law on the books. It is his job. To his credit, he has said he is in favor of same-sex unions personally. And today, the ACLU announced that Attorney General Chris Koster has indicated to them he won’t challenge SCOTUS’ ruling.

The Republican players have taken a different tack. By not talking about same-sex marriage, some may be hoping to usher in a new day in politics, where voters can agree to disagree on social issues.

Asked about a ballot initiative or amendment, Rothert says, “The better course would be to get the anti-gay amendment off the books. Gay men and lesbians do not want gay marriage – they just want marriage, the same marriage that straight couples enjoy.”

This was the crux of my conversation on the radio this morning. Will Missouri step up to reverse course on a decision it made ten years ago to declare marriage for straight men and women only?  “Somebody’s going to do it,” I said. McGraw said, “Maybe you?” I said, “Well, no one has asked me.”

The most likely advocate, Democrat Jolie Justus, the only openly gay State Senator just retired because of term limits.

Why would someone ask someone like me if I am going to get involved? I’m a heterosexual single Mom with two teenagers, two dogs and a cat and a house that is always just beyond the reach of being well maintained. I had to ask myself, “Should I get involved?” A lot of people will be doing the same thing when the issue comes up, as I have no doubt it will. A core question is why is this important to the mainstream Missourian? For me, the answers are clear.

The truth is same sex couples will find each other, live together and raise families whether there is a ban on gay marriage or not. Can Missouri continue to be a state that allows shame to remain on its books? Do we want to be a state that dials down diversity? Can we recognize that stabilizing relationships creates stable neighborhoods and communities?

I have been blogging for years about the fact that the Republican Party needed to ease up on social issues. I am in favor of gay marriage and the Non-Discrimination Employment Act. To me it shouldn’t be hard to reconcile those views with being pro-business. Being tolerant is good business.

I can’t remember who I said it to but when I first got involved in politics, I remember saying a lot of people in my generation would like to vote Republican but feel pushed out of the tent over same-sex marriage. Shortly later, I applauded when George Bush’s daughter told the New York Times, “I am Barbara Bush, and I am a New Yorker for marriage equality. New York is about fairness and equality. And everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love.”

My response today? “Same.” Same thoughts on same-sex, that is. What a compliment to be asked whether I would stand up for an issue that is sweeping this country because of what it says about our values as a tolerant society.