A bit of editing

I woke up this morning, made my husband’s lunch, kissed him on the front doorstep and sent him off to work. I did a few small things around the house and made a to-do list for the day. I wasn’t feeling much of anything special until I read an article. An article about a Christian radio personality who has apparently been charged with sex crimes. While I was disgusted by the entire thing overall, and disappointed that yet another person who claims to align himself with the attitudes and actions of a follower of Jesus Christ has a secret life that in no way matches that, I was particularly irked at the way the article was written and by some of the comments that I deem to be quite ignorant.

First of all, the actual text of the article in question can be found here. The summary sounds a little something like this:

There’s a dude in northern Michigan by the name of Balyo. He happens to work as a radio personality for a Christian radio program. The article says he’s been charged because he “allegedly paid another person, who is a defendant in another child exploitation case, to arrange for sexual encounters with minor victims.”  

Keep in mind that the federal definition of human trafficking is this:

Under U.S. federal law, “severe forms of trafficking in persons” includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking:

  1. Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age, (22 USC § 7102; 8 CFR § 214.11(a)).
  2. Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery, (22 USC § 7102).

The article goes on to say that Balyo has been arrested “on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.”

Next, an “expert” weighs in on the matter. The article states:

As Cooley Law professor and human trafficking expert Chris Johnson explains it, Balyo is accused of being a customer. “I think the terminology would be a ‘john’ — that in itself is not going to be human trafficking,” Johnson said. “The person he went to in order to secure the child would be the one who would be guilty of human trafficking.”

And that’s one of the things that’s got me all salty this morning. This dude Balyo allegedly (I understand innocent until proven guilty) sought out another person, by the name of Moser, who was already being investigated under a state and federal sting operation. This guy Moser, according to this article, was a real piece of work. It states that “He ran a website offering paying customers sex with underage boys.” (by the way, there was no “allegedly” to that statement. It had already been established that he ran such a web site.)

So here’s the first guy, Balyo, paying the second guy, whom he knows to run a web site that offers sex with minors, yet this expert says that Balyo is just a “john” and that he wouldn’t be considered a human trafficker. Hmmm. The federal definition says that Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act,…in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.”

Did this many Balyo not recruit an underage boy for sex? Does it matter that he used a mediator to make provision for him to obtain an underage boy for sex? If he had cut out the middle man and grabbed a kid off the street, we would call him a trafficker, but since he went about it the sophisticated way and paid a “professional” trafficker, we’re just gonna call him a “john” instead, right? What the heck!?

Is this man not the REASON there is sex trafficking? Balyo allegedly supplied the one thing this world needs to ensure that children are sexually exploited: the demand.

Which brings me to another point that has me all fired up this morning. This article continues to use language that is harmful in the fight against human trafficking.

The “expert” makes another statement: He apparently says “pimps with prostitutes who are underage are not uncommon.”

There is no such thing as a “prostitute who is underage”. There are only trafficking victims who are minors. According to the same federal definition above, a person who intends to sell a person under 18 is a trafficker, and that underage person is a victim of trafficking. Simple as that. There’s no such thing as an “underage prostitute”. Hear me?

The expert goes on to say that “Many times when you do have a brothel that’s raided, you do end up finding child victims, unfortunately, that are involved in the commercial sex trade…according to the Department of Justice, the average age a person enters prostitution in the United States is between the age of 11 and 13 years old, so there is quite a prevalence of people who have sexual appetites with children.”

“…there is quite a prevalence of people who have sexual appetites with children.”

This statement bothers me to no end. To me, simply saying that there are lots of people who apparently have this “sexual appetite” for children almost makes it sound as if that’s a normal thing. It sounds almost as nonchalant as saying there is quite a prevalence of people who have a craving for vanilla ice cream over chocolate. Totally normal, viable preference, right? No.

To me, semantics matter. BIG TIME. In a world where so many of us are trying to fight against human trafficking, the exploitation and sexualization of our youth, and the criminals who make all that happen, I think it’s high time we start paying more attention to the words we use when discussing the whole thing.

Stop allowing “experts” to use words and phrases such as child prostitute. It has been well established by now that we legally can’t define anyone in that way, and the fact that this person did so, no matter how credentialed he may be, disqualifies him as an “expert” on the matter in my eyes.

And let’s call things what they really are. Instead of saying stuff like “…there is quite a prevalence of people who have sexual appetites with children”  how about we think about our words and say what is really meant by that statement, like “there is quite a prevalence of people who regularly seek out opportunities to exploit children sexually.” That’s what we’re really saying there, isn’t it?  We have got to be more careful with the words we allow when speaking of this evil.

Whether or not this Balyo person will be found guilty remains to be seen. What evidence has been collected to that end, I do not know. But I do know that sadly, this is one of many people who have been accused of exploiting our children directly for their own sick purposes. In my opinion, anyone who participates in that process should be charged with human trafficking. Because the truth is, without the demand, there is no need for the supply. So a person who seeks out some other person person to assist him in exploiting a child is as guilty of trafficking as the person who sells the child for that purpose. Perhaps even more so, because the problem begins with the demand for such a thing. The problem begins with the demand. And as much as we fight against the problem of human trafficking, it will continue as long as the demand continues. It will continue as long as people are able to minimize the thing by talking in terms such as “appetites” and “child prostitutes.” It will continue as long as we don’t think our words really matter all that much.

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Soapbox for ladies: the double-standard

My lady friends…Something’s been bugging me over the past week or so, and I feel the need to climb up on my soap box for a few minutes. Like many things that are said from the soap box, it’s probably going to tweak some people off. But it wouldn’t be the first time, and I’m pretty darn sure it won’t be the last either. So here goes…(you’ve been warned.)

So, there’s this movie out called Magic Mike. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s completely awesome. Why? Because apparently it gives us ladies complete free license to dust off the ol’ “double-standard” and put it straight to work.

Women, I need you to think back: When was the last time your husband called up his buddies and chuckled on the phone about the upcoming new release all about strippers? Did he mark the calendar with the “now in theaters” date? Did they post on Facebook how they couldn’t wait to get home from work so they could head out on a Friday night and watch Channing Demi bare all he she had? Were you super excited for him when his buddy picked him up to have a “guys night” out at the movies together? Did he even arrange for a sitter (after all that helps take away the sting a little) so you could do whatever you wanted while he and his friends from work or church went to the theater early to get a good seat? I mean, you probably didn’t want them to have to strain their eyes to see every single square inch of those barely-clothed actresses’ bodies, right?   When he got home, did he tell you all about all the funny scenes with all those hot, nearly-naked women he’d seen on the screen that night?!

No??? Hmmmmm. Why not?

Because you’d freakin’ go ballistic, that’s why! And as a woman who 1) Loves Jesus and 2) Loves your husband (who also loves Jesus)  you’d have every right to be upset. You should expect more than for your husband to choose to spend his evening with a bunch of other guys feeding their eyes in a way that doesn’t need fed. It would make you feel like crap if your husband advertised to the entire world that he was going spend two hours staring at strippers, whether it was on the big screen or in a dingy downtown club. So, then…why are some of y’all ladies doing that same exact thing? I believe we just need to take a minute and think about the ways we want to be respected by our husbands, and that we in turn respect them in the same ways. And if we’re teaching our kids not to look at other people as objects to be gawked over, then we need to make sure we’re setting that example. Can I get a witness?

I’m not a prude. Far from it. I haven’t seen the movie and I won’t be seeing it. I’ve read the plot. Not much to it. (kinda helps my point here.) I’m also not trying to say that anyone is a horrible, terrible person for watching this movie. But it saddens me that somehow we women have been persuaded to think we have or “deserve” a license to do/say/watch/participate in things that we know darn well would send us into a tizz if our men did it.

In a world where we’re asking men to stop acting like dogs and to step up and be real men, we can’t very well start becoming the dogs ourselves, can we?  Just a thought.

Soapbox transmission ends.

 

Vegan Blueberry-Walnut Zucchini Bread

One of my favorite things to make is zucchini bread. Not just because it is yummy, but because in the summer I have these green veggies popping up all over my back yard and I can’t use them up fast enough unless I bake with them! Another reason I love making it is because you can add whatever else you want to it and the bread will still turn out wonderfully. So a few years ago when I first starting baking, I found a recipe online for blueberry zucchini bread. Who doesn’t love blueberries!? (That would be communists and The Grinch–before his heart grew 3 sizes) Click here for the original recipe from allrecipes.com and check out my modifications below.

Since my husband and I have changed our eating habits to an almost entirely vegan diet, I’ve found ways to modify recipes to eliminate animal products. Now, don’t get me wrong, this treat is in no way automatically “healthy” just because it doesn’t have eggs. It still contains lots of sugar which is bad for your body if you eat 5 zillion tons of it like I happily used to do! But at least you avoid the cholesterol and animal products, and in this version you actually get some healthy omega-3 oils and fiber from the flax that you wouldn’t otherwise have. So, still eat this treat sparingly, as with all sugar, but enjoy it a little more knowing that it’s been modified in a good way. I followed the recipe at the link above except for these things:

  • As an egg replacer, I used flax goop. Yep, that’s what it’s called. Replace eggs by mixing flax meal (ground flax seed) with water. You will fake one egg by mixing  2 Tbsp of flax meal and 3 Tbsp of water, allowing it to soak together just for a minute or so and add to your ingredients wherever the eggs are called for. (In this recipe that’s 6 Tbsp flax meal/9Tbsp water =3 eggs)
  • I substituted half of the all-purpose flour for whole-wheat flour. (That gives it a nice balance between fluffy bread and whole grains) and I use organic, unbleached versions in all my baking.
  • I love a little crunch to my bread so I added about 1/2 cup of walnut pieces to the batter, then finely chopped a few more walnuts and sprinkled them on top of the loaves to give them a pretty, crunchy topping.
  • I didn’t have enough fresh blueberries for the recipe so I used some fresh, some frozen, but I did let the frozen berries thaw out before using them. They worked great and add a little extra moisture to the bread.
  • If baking mini-loaves, 45 minutes at 350 seems to be just right in my oven. If I use a regular loaf pan I usually have to bake it an extra 10 minutes to get it all the way done in the middle. The edges will be a little brown, and perfectly tasty.

Enjoy your vegan treat! Try zucchini bread with all kinds of delicious fruits such as banana or pineapple, too!

Hey you, fix YOUR economy

So, did that stimulus check fix all of your financial problems? Really, it didn’t?

How about Cash for Clunkers? That was a good one, right? Your whole world was changed because of that amazing, freeing financial idea wasn’t it? No???

Yeah, I didn’t really think so.

See, the truth is, Uncle Sam is not wearing bright shining armor, and he’s not riding in on a white horse to save you from your financial dilemma. If you can’t already tell that our government is not particularly adept at managing its own finances, let alone sitting down at our kitchen table with us to help out when it’s pay-the-bills night, you haven’t paid much attention to things.

But anyone can change. You can start paying attention. Not so much to CNN and the doom-and- gloom that it broadcasts about how awful things are getting and how the whole government is going to collapse if so-and-so doesn’t get off his pompous [fill-in-name-of-hated-political-party-here] butt and sign the newest quick-fix piece of paper that will allow the truly patriotic [fill-in-name-of-beloved-political-party-here]s to fix all the financial problems of the universe. That’s not what I think you should be paying more attention to.

Instead, I think all of us should turn that pointed finger around and look at ourselves. Look at your own financial sitation. Have you, like the government, overextended yourself? Have you, like the government, given into pressures of every voice under the sun spewing in your ears about what it wants, so you’ve said yes to spending on everything? What are those voices telling you to spend all you make and buy all you want,anyway? Is it your spouse? Your kids? Your workplace party-planning-committee? Is it that little brat who lives inside you and shares your name who is always hollering “but I want it!!!”

But, you say, I’m not really an overspender…I’m just the victim of bad circumstances. I got laid off and I can’t find work. I got hurt and I’m waiting for my disability check. I got tricked into a bad mortgage and I lost my house. I hate my job so I quit because I wanted to be true to myself but now I can’t find another one.

I get it. There are some crappy situations out there. Some really, really crappy ones. I am not saying that everything will be perfect tomorrow. All I’m saying is: stop expecting someone else to fix things, stop wallowing in self-pity and hopelessness, and start doing something. DO SOMETHING.

Start with these two things: Do what you can. Do better with what you have.

Do what you can. If you got hurt on the job and can’t chuck boxes anymore, I understand. Do what you can. Maybe you can sit and take orders over the phone. Got laid off and have kids to feed? I understand. You might be depressed and have lost all hope because you can’t find a great job as a computer guru right now like the one you had. That is depressing, I understand. But you have kids to feed, so you can chuck boxes in a warehouse instead. Oh, that’s not enough money? Well then maybe you chuck boxes and deliver pizzas too, until things get better. Like to stay home with your kids, but your husband’s business isn’t doing well and things are getting tight? I get it. Do what you can. Get creative…trade childcare with someone a few days a week while you launch an at-home business or you wrangle up carts or stock shelves or whatever for a while. Do what you can to make things better.

Do better with what you have. Maybe you have a good job already and you’re fine and able to pay your bills right now and spend whatever you want. Good for you. I bet that’s what a lot of people thought a few years ago who are now out of a job. Do better with what you have so that if things change in the future (and what’s the likelihood that will happen, right!?) you’ll be better prepared. Make a budget so you have a clue. (Oh, stop whining…it’s a freakin’ budget, not a straight-jacket) Don’t spend every dime you make. Plan for emergencies by putting back money for them because they will happen. If you’re a stay-at-home mom and your husband does all the financial stuff, help ease the stress by becoming a home economist. Figure out ways to make things go further by clipping coupons, bulk shopping with a friend, sharing meal prep with another family, freezing leftovers…whatever. Just do better with what you have.

All of us have to deal with the lovely mess the government is getting us into, and if not, our grandchildren sure will. But we don’t have to add to it. We don’t have to throw up our hands and just say “oh well, the government’s out of control so why bother…I’ll  just do whatever I want too.” 

Do what you can, and do better with what you have right now.

One thing I can do is to help other people get started in doing better with what they have. Years ago I learned the revolutionary ways to get financially fit… wanna hear the secrets?

Well too bad, there aren’t any dang secrets. It’s just common sense stuff. Spend less than you make. Quit borrowing money. Pay back the money you already borrowed. Save some money. Get it? Common sense stuff. And I can teach you the steps to take to put that common sense into action with your finances. No scam, no get rich quick junk, and no I’m not making money at it. Just learning the same way I did, and applying what you learned with diligence will do the job. It works. So if any of you reading this need help getting started, let me know. Really. I will help you. I coach people all the time who need help making a budget or paying off debt or whatever. I can help you too, even if you live somewhere far away. You can read, can’t you? Well then I can recommend what to read to get started and I can coach you from anywhere. Seriously.

That is how this economy will get fixed…that is how we will fight off all the doom and gloom. We’ll do what we can and do better with what we have. We’ll help each other one person at a time. Then that person can help another person. Then they can help one more…are you getting the picture here?

The government isn’t going to save you from your crappy financial situation. YOU are the only one who can change YOUR situation. So…get started already. One little step leads to another…do something today to fix your own economy.