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Thursday, February 25,2010

Stop the sex trade

(Re: “Slaves to Sex,” Cover story, Feb. 11.) Sex addiction provides an increasingly popular explanation as to why men buy women and girls for sex. Many professional therapists and their clients support this theory, perhaps in part because the therapists directly profit and the clients are viewed with some empathy as victims of loneliness exploited by a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Having assisted rape victims, including prostituted/trafficked women and girls, for 10 years, I am compelled to write to offer another point of view. Consider for a moment if we were talking about therapy and groups to help white people handle their shame and embarrassment for the way in which they bought and enslaved black people. We would not tolerate that today. So why do we accept the theory when we are talking about the buying and selling of women? There is a notion that women are voluntarily in the sex trade, but in reality the average age of entry into prostitution in the U.S. is 12 to 14, and 87 percent say they would leave prostitution if they could. Most experience severe violence and bear the brunt of the harm — not the men who buy them.

In a recent major study of “Why Men Buy Sex,” most of the buyers told the researchers that they would be easily deterred if the current laws were implemented. Fines, public exposure, employers being informed … the risk of a criminal record would stop most of the men from continuing to pay for sex. Discovering that the women were trafficked, pimped or otherwise coerced would not appear to be effective, according to the 700 men interviewed. Men know that the women are underage and harmed, and they buy them anyway.

The slave owners knew that there was harm done to the people they bought and exploited, but it was not enough to stop them. Criminalizing the slave owners and offering freed slaves equal opportunities stopped the slave trade. We can learn from the slavery abolitionists and help improve the humanity not only of the men that purchase women, but also save the lives of the women and girls trapped in the sex trade today.

Louisa C. Russell/Boulder

The Danish Role

(Re: “The marketplace of ideas,” Danish Plan, Feb. 11.) Paul Danish argues that corporate money has always been in the American political system. And because he could win a campaign outspent 4-1, then the ability of corporations to spend unlimited sums on political campaigns won’t destroy our republic.

In the midst of bragging about his accomplishments, Danish notes the extraordinary expenditure of time and energy spent on his great campaign. But campaigns are constantly occurring at all levels of government, for just about every issue. Citizen groups have limited energy with which to devote to each. And so increased corporate spending will mean more citizen losses on more issues.

Danish’s argument that the Supreme Court ruling is a victory for free speech is perverse. Corporations already dominate our political system and manipulate just about every outcome in it. But the real problem with corporations participating politically is that the vast majority are neither social nor political organizations. Shareholders do not give them money to do activism. And employees don’t join to support a movement. As the libertarian economist Milton Freidman notes in arguing against corporate social responsibility, the responsibility of CEOs is to make money for shareholders, not to spend their money on pet causes.

The free speech Danish argues for is the right of corporate executives to take his money and speak in his name, regardless of whether he agrees with them or not. It must make it easier for Danish that he so often agrees with their agenda.

Glibly Danish notes that, “the real leveler in politics is the First Amendment.” But his version of the First Amendment allows some to spend millions of times more than others to get their messages across. This is about as level as his unbalanced head. Of course, there will never be a level playing field in politics. And there will always be corruption. But unlike Danish, Congress and the Courts have for the past century found this to be a bad thing.

The court of Congress, where we compete politically, is looking about as level as the Titanic taking a nosedive these days. There are many reasons to believe the U.S. is an empire in decline. The debt, the senseless wars, excessive military commitments and the culture of decadence all have roles to play. Butperhaps the leading role — let’s call it the Danish Role — will go to the moneyed interests that Danish so nobly defends.

Theo Horesh/Boulder

Paul Danish’s article “The marketplace of ideas” (Danish Plan, Feb. 11), in which he dismisses the concerns citizens are expressing about the Supreme Court’s ruling that leaves corporations unbridled in the political arena, is na´ve, and his arguments are simply wrong. Mr. Danish seems more intent on chiding “Boulder lefties” than getting his facts straight. The deep concerns expressed by the four members of the minority opinion in the Supreme Court, as well as the centrist President Obama, are far from left-leaning rantings.

Before the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, companies could put money into political action committees, as Mr. Danish states, but these funds came from contributions from their employees and others associated with the company. What the ruling changes, which Mr. Danish fails to understand or simply ignores, is that companies can now spend directly from their general fund.

For a company like Exxon-Mobile, whose profits for 2009 were a mere $19.3 billion, they could outspend all labor unions around the world and all citizens combined within the United States. This is just one company!

Mr. Danish’s second argument is that his campaign in Boulder to control growth over the interests of business is proof that if citizens are not “weenies,” the decision by the Supreme Court will have no real effect. To compare this campaign in the homogenous left-leaning community of Boulder to what can be done statewide or nationwide is purely na´ve, bordering on stupidity.

Besides, it isn’t really a hard sell to convince homeowners that to increase the value of their homes by limiting growth is in their interest, especially when the audience is environmentally astute, as it is here in Boulder. How about a campaign to reduce the exorbitant sales tax, cell-phone tax, vehicle registration tax and property tax, which disproportionately fall on the middle class and the poor, and replace it with an increase in income tax? Changing Colorado’s totally regressive tax system to one that requires the wealthy within Colorado to pay their fair share of the cost of running the government and our schools would have been a formidable task prior to the Supreme Court ruling. Now that they can spend directly from corporate coffers without ever having to dip into their own personal accounts to skew information disseminated to the public, the task is far more daunting.

If we want to make corporations people, then we can start by taxing them like people. Their tax rates are ridiculously low compared to the average 35 percent-plus taxes that workers receiving a paycheck pay to the government. How about when they commit manslaughter/murder by negligently or deliberately selling products that happen to kill citizens? Will management go to jail like individuals do? How about corporations giving up all tax breaks and government grants to conduct their business? I would love to get a grant from the government to help me pay for the clothing, gasoline, etc., that I need to continue working. The Supreme Court ruling continues, not by putting companies on an equal basis with individual citizens, but by continuing to place them even further than they already are above us.

If this is not a threat to democracy, Mr. Danish, what is?

James Leotta/Boulder

DEA raids help cartels

(Re: “The DEA’s dartboard,” In Case You Missed It, Feb. 18.) The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration certainly seems intent on subsidizing organized crime. Colorado’s medical marijuana law allows patients to purchase marijuana of known quality from dispensaries that generate tax revenue.

Mexican drug cartels are no doubt thrilled with the DEA’s efforts to shut it all down. Does helping organized crime maintain a monopoly on marijuana distribution somehow benefit taxpayers?

Let’s not kid ourselves and pretend that marijuana prohibition does anything other than provide artificial price supports for cartels. The U.S. has higher rates of marijuana use than the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available. Eliminating a medical marijuana cottage industry only to have it replaced by organized crime groups that sell cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine is not a good thing.

When does President Obama intend to live up to his campaign promise to stop the DEA raids? If Colorado’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry is a reliable indicator, the number of marijuana consumers out there is far bigger than previously imagined. Obama would be wise to honor his commitments if he wants to serve a second term. The excitement among marijuana reform advocates that preceded his election is turning into a sense of betrayal.

United Nations drug stats: www.unodc.org/. Comparative analysis of U.S. vs. Dutch rates of drug use: www. drugwarfacts.org/thenethe.htm.

Robert Sharpe, policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy/ Washington, D.C.

Human corporations?

(Re: “Unwanted vaginal intrusion,” In Case You Missed It, Feb 18.) I’m against the “personhood” movement, designed to give every fetus the rights of a citizen, but let’s imagine for a moment that this amendment passes. The Colorado constitution would then define a “person” as a “human being.”

What could that do to the personhood of corporations? Might it open the door to a challenge to the recent appalling Supreme Court decision on Citizens United?

Just asking.

Seth Masia/Boulder

What about Bennett?

(Re: “Forget the Olympics,” Elevation, Feb. 18.) As a lifetime Boulder County resident, a life-long skier and an avid reader of the Boulder Weekly, I like to read factual information in articles. So this being said, an article in the Elevation portion of the Feb. 18 issue of the paper is a nice personal question-and-answer article on Griffin Post, but is off the mark.

Griffin is not from Colorado, but is from Sun Valley, Idaho, skis for Jackson Hole and last I knew lives in Sandy, Utah. The article seems to promote the Freeride World Tour, which is really a European off-shoot of the 12-year-old Freeskiing World Tour. The Freeskiing World Tour is really the ultimate show of extreme big mountain skiing and showcases the best skiers that compete.

I do not want to trivialize Griffin Post, but the real stand-out extreme big mountain skier is the real native of Colorado and of Boulder County, and that is Cliff Bennett, who also is a ski competitor on both tours, having won many events on both. Cliff Bennett’s record stands on its own merits and deserves to be recognized as one of the best skiers in the world. There’s a lot to his story.

Jim Bennett/Ward

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