"If You Smell Something, Say Something." Jon Stewart Passes The Baton To Us

Just before Jon Stewart signed off The Daily Show for the last time, he gave us a little instruction. It's already known as "The Bullshit Speech."

Here is what he said . . .

"Bullshit is everywhere.

There is very little you will encounter in life that has not been, in some ways, infused with bullshit, not all of it bad. General day-to-day free ranch is often necessary, or at the very least innocuous: 'Oh, what a beautiful baby. I'm sure he'll grow into that head.'

That kind of bullshit in many ways provides important social contract fertilizer, that keeps people from making each other cry all day.

But then there's the more pernicious bullshit, your premeditated institutional bullshit designed to obscure and distract.

Designed by whom? The bullshit talkers. This bullshit comes in three basic flavors. One: making bad things sound like good things. 'Organic all-natural cupcakes.' Because 'Factory Made Sugar Oatmeal Balls' doesn't sell. 'Patriot Act,' because 'Are You Scared Enough To Let Me Look At All Your Phone Records Act,' doesn't sell.

Whenever something is titled 'freedom,' 'fairness,' 'family,' 'health,' and 'America,' take a good long sniff. Chances are it's been manufactured in a facilitate that may contain traces of bullshit.

Number two, the second way, hiding the bad things under mountains of bullshit. Complexity, you know, 'I would love to download Drizzy's latest Meek Mill Diss.' - Everyone promised me that that made sense. - 'But I'm not really interested right now in reading Tolstoy's Itunes agreement, so i'll just click "agree" even if it grants Apple prima nocta with my spouse.'

Here's another one. Simply put, banks shouldn't be able to bet your pension money on red. Bullshitly put, it's, hey, this, Dodd-Frank. Hey, a handful of billionaires can't buy our elections, right? Of course, not. They can only pour unlimited anonymous cash into 501-c4 if 50% is the voted to issue to education otherwise they'd have to 501c6 it or funnel it openly through a non-campaign coordinating SuperPac with a quarter . . .  'I think they're asleep now. We can sneak out.'

And finally, finally it's the bullshit of infinite possibility. These bullshitters cover their unwillingness to act under the guise of unending inquiry. 'We can't do anything because we don't yet know everything. We cannot take action on climate change until everyone in the world agrees gay marriage vaccines won't cause our children to marry goats who are going to come for our guns. Until then, I say teach the controversy.'

Now, the good news is this, bullshitters have gotten pretty lazy. And their work is easily detected. And looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time, like an I Spy of bullshit.

So I say to you tonight, friends, the best defense against bullshit, is vigilance.

So if you smell something, say something."

For Sale: Schoolgirls in Japan

Japan’s obsession with "JK" culture has taken a dark turn, with schoolgirls now offering themselves for “dates” with adult men. The US State Department flagged "Jyoshi Kousei" (literally "female high [school] student") or "JK" as fronts for commercial sex run by sophisticated criminal networks. This video reveals what happens behind closed doors, where schoolgirls involved in the rent-a-date industry reveal how they’ve been coerced into human trafficking.

"This problem won't be solved unless the adults who buy and sell disappear." 

Here's what the State Department said, " In a recent trend called joshi-kosei osanpo, also known as “high school walking,” girls are offered money to accompany men on walks, in cafes, or to hotels, and engage in commercial sex. Sophisticated and organized prostitution networks target vulnerable Japanese women and girls in public areas such as subways, popular youth hangouts, schools, and online; some of these women and girls become trafficking victims. Japanese men continue to be a significant source of demand for child sex tourism in Southeast Asia and, to a lesser extent, Mongolia."

For Sale: 50 State Legislatures

That's when ALEC - American Legislative Exchange Council - has its 42nd Annual meeting at which corporations and their lobbyists give prepared, written legislation to state legislators from across America. With the money from these lobbyists in their pockets, our state legislators return home with the corporate prepared legislation and create laws.

ALEC, the non-profit, corporate-funded organization that develops what it calls, “model legislation,” historically worked off radar. Thankfully, ALEC is now the subject of investigations and inquiries by several media outlets and the Bill Moyers' documentary “United States of ALEC.” It has also been shunned by major corporations (from Amazon.com to Wal-Mart) that previously paid for its initiatives. And as ALEC gathers its corporate and legislative “members” in SanDiego for their 42nd annual meeting, thousands of people are gathering in protest.

If you think ALEC has no particular political agenda, take a look at their list of Annual Speakers.

However, ALEC remains a defining force in statehouses throughout America. One report identified 466 ALEC bills that were introduced during in state legislatures during 2013 sessions. 

Today, ALEC remains an enormously powerful player in local American politics. Its influence is difficult to measure simply because the money it spreads to your elected officials pays for its own anonymity. No one involved wants you to know what is happening at these closed meetings, meetings at which your state laws are being written.

Fortunately, some state legislators propose that ALEC be required to follow existing lobbying laws, since they are quite obviously advancing the agendas of powerful, well funded special interests. In fact, the group’s 300-strong corporate members include some of the most high-profile in America: among them AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, UPS, Pfizer, Bayer, Verizon, and Koch Industries. “When a company needs a state bill passed,”writes Bloomberg Businessweek, “the American Legislative Exchange Council can get it done.”

Each state has "chairs" who represent ALEC. These leadership positions are held jointly by legislators and corporation representatives. Here is a list of "chairs" in your state.

Backpage's Answer to Credit Card Companies? Free "Adult" Ads For Everyone

Crime finds a way.

"Backpage is ballsy." That was the text I received this morning from "Marie," a working prostitute who is one of the women I interviewed for my book, "The Berlin Turnpike: A True Story of Human Trafficking in America." Like many of her brief texts, I didn't quite understand what she was talking about. I replied with a simple "?"

Her response was ecstatic. "Backpage isn't charging me anything to post ads anymore! Woohoo!"

Recently, Visa, Master Card and Amerincan Express each barred its credit cards from being used to pay for "Adult" ads on Backpage.comthe online classified-ad company that's become the center of a hard-fought battleground against human traffickingThe decision followed a request from Cook County, Illinois Sheriff Thomas Dart who said the site is used by sex traffickers. 

In response, Backpage.com has stopped charging users to post ads in its "adult" section all together. Until now, users could post free ads elsewhere on the site, but paid fees for promotions in the "adult" section, which receives thousands of ads for "escorts" every few minutes. This is the section where "Marie" posts her ads every day. 

On July 1, 2015, when Visa became the last major credit card company to bar its users from posting "Escort" ads, human rights advocates were cheering. "We commend these credit card companies for making it more challenging for traffickers to profit off of the exploitation of people," said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris, a Washington-based anti-trafficking group.

In urging the credit card companies to refuse processing Backpage.com payments, Sheriff Dart wrote, "We have objectively found (sites like Backpage) promote prostitution and facilitate online sex trafficking. Institutions such as yours have the moral, social and legal right to step up on this pervasive problem and make a fundamental and everlasting difference."

But then Backpage.com made a simple determination: since no one can pay for "Adult" ads, why charge for them?

At this point, no one knows if Backpage.com will create a new way for users to post "Escort" ads. Some have suggested Backpage will give a boost to non-government, non-bank affiliated, web-based currencies like Bitcoin. One thing is certain, "Adult" ads account for a huge portion of Backpage.com income. Without them it could lose a substantial amount of traffic and advertising revenue. 

In an email to many of its registered users, Backpage.com hinted that the free adult postings may be temporary. "We understand some users have had difficulty posting over the last few days," said the email. "Sign up for a free account and enjoy posting free ads until the payment issues are resolved." Non-registered users received a similar email, this one instructing them to register for a free account using the promo code "FREESPEECH."

"Marie's" view on the issue is diabolically simple. "I pay Backpage. The johns pay me. I pay my dealer. Why are people f____ing with that?"

Coming to Grips With the "Lyme Dome"

This is the South Western edge of the "Lyme Dome," in Old Lyme, Connecticut. If you want to find the rest of this rock, you'll have to go to Africa.
It all started a few hundred million years ago when six continents crammed together to form Connecticut. With "Game Of Thrones" names like Avalonia, Gander and the enormous supercontinent, Pangea, these land masses eventually broke apart and moved away from each other. But, like that shirt you left in your ex's closet and the framed photo of the two of you in Fiji that's buried at the bottom of a box in your basement, each left something behind with the other.
The "Lyme Dome" was formed when Gander collided with Avalonia. Gander, through no fault of its own, was pushed beneath Avalonia. (I want to be clear on this. It had nothing to do with being weak. Maybe Gander was trying to allow Avalonia to discover itself and flourish.) This vertical piling of rock created the "Dome," whose core is now located in the village of Old Lyme.
When the continents began drifting apart (which can happen even after you spend two months of your salary in Fiji) Avalonia and Gander were both severed, with parts of each shifting east to form the European and African continents . . . while the rest of us got left behind (but not abandoned, according to my therapist) in North America.
Today, the majority of the Gander rocks that form the "Lyme Dome" in southeastern Connecticut, like the one pictured here, are found in Morocco and other parts of Africa.

After 400 million years, I guess I should let it go.

After Charleston: What White Churches and Pastors Should Do, But Won't

The killing of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina is just the latest in a long list of attacks targeting Black Churches in the United States.

After the American Civil War, African-Americans, mostly former slaves, abandoned the White controlled churches in which they had been forced to worship. They began to pray, sing, and - for the first time - legally learn to read the Bible, gathering in any makeshift structure they could find. These post Emancipation churches became the first social institutions in America completely controlled by African Americans.

And Whites, also identifying themselves as "Christians," were not happy. Their attacks on Black churches killed hundreds of people and burned small churches throughout the South. In 1870, nearly every Black church in Tuskegee, Alabama was burned to the ground by Whites attempting to subjugate the newly freed Black population.

93 years later the bombs continued to explode at a well known Black church in Birmingham, Alabama which had become an established meeting place for the Civil Rights movement. Four young Black girls were killed.

Heidi Beirich, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, explains the significance of continued violence against Black churches in many American communities. "If you want to harm Black folks, it's an obvious easy target," she said.

The evidence is clear. Throughout the 1960's, over 300 bombings occurred at Black churches, according to a 1999 study in The Journal of Ethnic and Racial Studies. The study also uncovered 200 similar church bombings between 1989 - 1996. Deval Patrick, who was an Assistant Attorney General for the US Department of Justice in 1997, stated, "We are facing an epidemic of terror."

The nine murders in Charleston are the latest symptom in this epidemic. "This is an example of how terrorism works," said Barbara D. Savage, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of "Your Spirits Walk Beside Us: The Politics of Black Religion." She went on to explain how this week's attack has spread justifiable fear in the Black Christian community, "In churches all over the country people are asking, 'Do we need someone at the door, someone who is a little bit more questioning?' "

This is where White pastors and churches could truly help, but from a look at their history, they won't.

Tomorrow morning, Sunday, June 21, 2015, African Americans will gather in churches all over the United States - and they will gather in fear. While this should be the safest and most sacred moment of their week, it has become another reminder that they are set apart as targets.

And the response of White pastors and churches? Mostly postings on social media pertaining to how liberals will use this incident for gun control legislation. "Gun control advocates never give their true position - the elimination of all private gun ownership - their arguments never make common sense," was the Facebook and Twitter response from Pastor Will Marotti, of New Life Church in Wallingford, Connecticut. His comments came 24 hours after Dylann Roof killed nine people in Charleston, reloading his gun five times.

That anyone - let alone a White Christian Pastor - would be worried about protecting his guns just one day after nine people were murdered in a Black church is deplorable.

What should White churches and pastors be worried about as Sunday approaches? The answer is simple: Black churches.

Right now, Black congregations are scared of going to church tomorrow morning. Yet, are any White pastors or church leaders reaching out to them in any way? Are they offering help? Are they asking what they can do to stand by their Christian brothers and sisters - often at a church just across the street - to help alleviate their fears? Are they just picking up the phone and checking in to discover if there is anything at all they can do after this terrible week?

No. No they are not.

Making that one, powerful phone call would take a special kind of faith and courage from White pastors and churches. As we have witnessed in the past few days, active faith and courage are not characteristics they often demonstrate. Instead, they have chosen to simply ignore the ongoing history of violence against the Black members of their fellowship.

So tomorrow, White pastors and church members will casually walk into weekly worship services, concerned only with their rights as gun owners.

While a short distance away, African Americans will go to church wondering if they will come out alive.