Tag Archives: prostitution

How I Almost Became a Prostitute

prostitution, welfare, poverty, unemployment

Creative Commons: Diego3336 Flickr

The Occupy Movement has got me thinking about we, the little people, those who drudge out our days to pay the bills, with very little extra and sometimes having to choose if it will be getting a tooth fixed or getting tires on the car. How voiceless are we in how things run? Well, we vote in our representatives, if we vote, but many of us know that you can’t represent all of the people all of the time. In fact, most political systems break down after one-two hundred people. We have no true democracy and while we all have a vote we are definitely not heard nor represented equally.

One example of being the voiceless 99% was when I ran up against bureaucracy while trying to be trained in a presumably more lucrative position. I had a three-month full-time course in an apprenticeship program to be a script supervisor in the movie industry (that’s overall continuity and more). Apprenticeship programs were paid for by the government so I had no course costs. However, I couldn’t really work during that time. All of the other people in the course (around 16) had either a spouse to support them or they could get unemployment. I couldn’t because I’d been freelancing for years, where the federal government doesn’t let you pay into unemployment insurance. My freelance income just paid my monthly bills; hence why I was taking this course.

I had very little saved money but as a freelance copyeditor there were two publishers in New York for which I would edit one to two manuscripts a month for them. With one from each of them I would have just enough money to get by while I finished the course.

Three months doesn’t seem a long time but halfway through the first month, the first publisher changed their focus and went into videos. The second publisher went into receivership at the end of that month. Suddenly I had two months to go and no money. I scraped through the second month but December was coming and I had no way to pay rent, let alone buy much food. I instituted the end-of-the-world diet. I didn’t buy any food at all and used up the stores in my place. In a way it was interesting to see how long could I survive on fresh produce, then frozen foods, then canned and dried goods.

But I still couldn’t pay the rent. So I went to Welfare. Now I had once before in my early 20s been on welfare when the economy dived, I couldn’t find work and times were dire (and I had roommates). It was no fun whatsoever, and slim pickings. So here I went, down to the office, filling in forms galore to see if I could get $300 to pay my rent (my rent was more but that was what I needed to pay the rent). It turns out, because I had about $3,000 in retirement savings plans I was not allowed even $300 that I said I would repay. Instead, the brilliant of our government is to have you use up al of your retirement savings now so that when you hit old age, you can go live under a bridge, become ill and run up more costs for the government.

Not only is there no such thing as a free  lunch but there’s no help for the self-employed. I’d have to be a full-on welfare recipient, unable to work and possibly dealing with addictions to get the money. So what could I do? I had no money to pay my bills, my car payment, my rent or for food. I was trying to finish the course and not drop it. I was desperate and seriously thought of prostitution as the only way I could make ends meet. I had no job, no recourse. I determined where I could stand; I wasn’t far from the area where they stand, I could dress badly and where little. I could charge…something. Maybe I could be a call girl, have them pick me up, place an ad in the paper. I imagined scenarios in cars and back alleys. And…I just couldn’t do it.

Lucky for me I had good friends and family. Without ask, people sent me money and my landlords gave me a half month’s rent as a Christmas gift. I bought no one a present that year, but somehow I made it through. And no help to a bureaucratic government that sees everyone on welfare as a welfare bum and if they’re not, then they will be by the time they’re completely destitute and degraded.  It was humiliating.

I can see why the 99% (through really it’s probably 20%) are complaining about the 1%. Government and corporations, more than individuals, are the 1%. And we hear over and over again of the plights of the common people, denied this or that, dying in the streets, succumbing to illness, being humiliated because they just don’t have a voice made of money. Do I trust my government? No. And it’s too bad but I need to see more faith in helping humanity first. In the meantime I remain wary.

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The World’s Oldest Profession

prostitute, courtesan, hooker, prostitution, Greek, music

Wiki Commons: courtesan and musician w/client

It’s debatable as the oldest profession, but it’s also true that prostitution has been around for a very very long time. And undoubtedly there were probably forms of prostitution going back to Babylonian times. While there are Sumerian and Mesopotamian texts referring to prostitutes there is still great debate as to whether there were sacred prostitutes who gave themselves away for coin at various temples. There are many references to Aphrodite, Ishtar and Inanna, and Herodotus writes about the temple prostitutes for some of these goddesses, but some scholars debate the veracity of his words.

One thing is certain; as long as we have had men and women, there has been a need or a want for sex. And the trade has been plied in various cultures and various ways for millennia. The ancient Greeks differentiated between courtesans, concubines and wives: “we have courtesans for pleasure, concubines to provide for our daily needs, and our spouses to give us legitimate children and to be the faithful guardians of our home.” (Pseudo-Demosthenes) As with this comment it is obvious there were different classes of prostitutes. Pornai were often owned by pimps and therefore either slaves or indentured servants. Then there were hetaera, those we would associate with mistresses or courtesans. They didn’t sell to various customers but would have had a select clientele.

The hetaera could manage their own affairs, while the pornai would have possibly been dancers, musicians and/or women who had to sell themselves to survive because they had no pater familias to protect them. The world of the Greeks was not an easy place for a woman and for her to do anything she needed the protection of a man, unless she was of the select few who could run businesses and own property without a man’s permission (Vestal Virgins were one group in Roman times). Young girls and boys could also have been prostitutes, sold into it or born into it, and the world and culture were different then.

But has it changed much in the world today? Prostitutes who are “owned” by pimps are often still on the lower rung of the ladder, whereas call girls and courtesans rate higher, work with select clients and don’t have to be on the street. There are many people who get into prostitution because they are destitute, on drugs or suffered an abusive childhood (often including sexual assault). But there are some who prefer it, because, like the sacred prostitutes of long ago (some of them), they feel they are therapists, they like it or they enjoy the rewards they can reap, though like any job, work is work. There are those forced into it as child prostitutes. No one, no matter their age or gender should ever be forced to give or sell sex.

But should it be legalized? Yes. To do so would get it off of the streets…mostly (more on this in a minute). Sex workers could be certified, checked for diseases, housed in government brothels (just like cigarettes and alcohol, I can’t see how the government has passed up this opportunity for another vice tax), protected from pimps and dangerous johns. Those on the street would more likely be those underage and the police could haul them and the johns in for consorting with minors. It would literally clean up the streets and keep almost everyone else safer. Of course, there is always a grey area and the laws would have to be explicit as to how the prostitution would look, including laws about minors, people not in control of their faculties (drug addicts) and what is okay. But it can be done and places like Amsterdam and Nevada prove it.

To let outmoded religious beliefs of a few affect the sex trade is yet another case of forcing one’s morality on another. If it doesn’t hurt anyone, then it should be allowed. Let adults be adults and decide for themselves. And let’s do more to protect the numerous women out there so that they’re less likely to end up as a corpse in the woods or on Picton’s pig farm. Keeping prostitution illegal only hurts those who are in the trade and doesn’t even give them a better way out.

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Prostitution Isn’t Going Away

This week an Ontario court struck down a law that had made certain aspects of prostitution illegal, citing that it jeopardized the safety of the prostitutes by forcing them onto the street. (I’m paraphrasing.)  There are many laws about prostitution. In Canada it’s not illegal to be a prostitute but depending on where you are it could be illegal to sell sex, buy sex, live off the avails of prostitution or run a common bawdy house (known as brothel). I think pimping falls under human trafficking laws.

Harper’s government may fight this change because of right-wing religious views, but when it comes down to it, and with William Picton torturing and murdering various sex trade workers, there is strong evidence that sex trade worker lives are jeopardized by these laws. The arguments on both sides have already begun and will never end.

There are those that say that these changes open the doors for pimps and human trafficking. However, I would think there are already explicit laws about trafficking other humans that makes pimping illegal. Others argue that many women are forced into the sex trade, and at an early age, and this is true. However, the laws do not allow anyone under the age of 18 to be a prostitute anyways.

The moment that people started civilizing themselves (and I use the term loosely) by making laws and rules for living in communities, was the moment prostitution began because men could not just take what they wanted. I should point out that various cultures and religions today still turn a blind eye to men taking what they want even if it’s other people’s rights and livelihoods. And as long as we have men on this planet we are going to have prostitution. That means forever.

No matter how one makes laws against this aspect or that of prostitution, or shames the johns or imprisons the sex trade workers, it’s still going to continue. The more laws against it, the more it will be driven underground, but never away. I have a problem with this, like many aspects of laws that are meant to not keep people safe from each other but limit a person’s rights.

What harm would there be if prostitution and buying it was legal? Just think, the government could make money off of it, like it does with cigarettes, and alcohol (also once outlawed). Women could work in brothels or establishments where there was protection from murderer and other abusers of people. The workers could have regular health inspections, as well as the establishment so that the johns were likewise safe and the women were healthy (I use women here as the most common sex trade worker but understand that this can affect men as well). Prices could be controlled. Pimps would be eliminated. Sex on the streets, including the used condoms, and the violence would be lessened. And if a prostitute was found on the street, she’d probably be underage, unhealthy, addicted or something else that would identify quicker a solution for helping.

Prostitution exists and men use it. Some are single, some are married. The ways a person cheats won’t go away if there are laws against it. Legalizing prostitution would protect everyone better and the money the government made through licensing could go back into the system for education, health, addictions programs and other ways to get women out of the trade who are there more by circumstance and less by choice. And courts and prisons could be used for the true crimes.

This is such as win-win situation that I cannot understand why countries don’t implement it, except because of religious views. And the problem with someone’s religious view is that it’s not everyone’s. False morals just don’t make sense to me and if anything this creates a system where resources are used needlessly in the wrong direction, and the government can’t make statements about having wars on crime, even when the crime rate is dropping. Hype for using money where it could be used better elsewhere? Absolutely.

I’m hoping that this case in Ontario might be the first step towards a saner look at prostitution, the laws and the rights of the people involved. Because when it gets down to the nitty gritty, everyone is entitled to live their life how they wish as long as they do not hurt others.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/09/28/prostitution-law028.html

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Ho Ho Ho Ain’t Just For Prostitutes

One of the stupidest things I’ve heard in recent years in regards to Christmas was that Australia banned their department store Santas from saying, “Ho ho ho,” because it was derogatory. Who made this decision; a twelve-year-old? That’s a fine example of political correctness taken to extreme idiocy. It’s like saying, you can’t say Merry Christmas but can still celebrate it.

Granted there are other religious celebrations at this time of year but if someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah and another wishes me Merry Christmas and a third wishes me a Cool Yule, I get the sentiment. I don’t have to push my religious beliefs or superiority down anyone’s throat. I take it in the spirit of the sentiment.

I was also told by one co-worker once that her children (at their school) were told to say Merry Xmas not Merry Christmas because Xmas wasn’t making it Christian. WTF? There are so many things wrong with this statement (and I don’t know if it was this woman’s or the school’s). One, Christmas is, well…Christian. Duh! X is an old symbol for cross, as in crisscross, the crossroads, railroad Xing. It’s not because trains make X’s at that spot; it’s because they cross the road at that spot. The pronunciation of Christ in Christmas is “kris” and hence the X is a shortened form of writing “Christmas”. Really, how dumb can people get?

But Santa, he’s as Christmas as a shopping frenzy. When I was a kid, we of course had the obligatory trip to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap. I can’t remember any of those visits really, nor what I asked for. My childhood greed and wants changed every year I’m sure. The only Santa visit I truly remember was the last one.

(Spoiler alert on Santa’s existence.) I had already figured out that Santa wasn’t real and really was my mother storing gifts in her closet. Not yet at the stage of wanting to preserve the magic and the harmless lie, I said I didn’t want to go because Santa wasn’t real. My mother made me go because my little brother, two years younger, still was starry-eyed over the white-bearded gnome. Of course, somewhere along the line I blurted out to my brother that Santa didn’t exist and my mother was not pleased with me.

But she shouldn’t have made me go to see the fake. I think if a picture still exists of me on Santa’s lap it shows a sullen child. My little brother probably went first and then me. As I’m sitting on Santa’s lap and he asks me what I want for Christmas I notice the fake beard, and sticking out of it near his lip is a tag that says “Made in Hong Kong.” That cemented the truth for me, that Santa was an impostor.

Coca-Cola's first Santa

Many years later, Santa has morphed. He was of course a very Victorian image (though versions of Kris Kringle, Sinter Klaus, Pere Noel, etc. existed before that) and was hugely popularized in North America by that American institution Coca-Cola. He was first commercialized (and fattened up) in 1931, and he’s never looked back since.  Santa keeps changing and just as there is the summer flash mob that forms around a zombie walk, there are the winter flash mobs of Santas that swarm the streets, sometimes passing out candy and kisses and stopping in every alcoholic watering hole they can find.

I once ran into the flashmob Santas, from skinny to fat, tall to short, male and female. A few elves were along as well. It was fun and just brought a smile to my face. Unfortunately this year I had a previous engagement; otherwise I would have been romping with the Santas. And these days, do I believe in Santa? Well, I think I believe in the spirit of giving, for joy and fun but not because you must or it’s expected. And certainly not with a price tag that says, oh you didn’t love me enough because you only spent $20 not $80 on me. If I could I would give more including donations to charity as I found it gave me a profound sense of goodwill when I did.

But as for ho ho ho, Australia and all you other politically correct Nazis, loosen up. Ho ho ho could be ha ha ha or hee hee hee or even hardy har har. It’s the sound of laughter, which obviously those places in Australia forgot.

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Welfare: For Freeloaders or Desperados

The history of social welfare has been long and varied, being part of the Roman, Islamic and Jewish empires. It has covered different groups with different criteria but overall it was for the poor and needy, for the elderly, widows and people with disabilities.

Canada has had a welfare system since the Great Depression. Part of a social welfare system, in Canada’s case includes health care, education and supporting the underprivileged. It can vary from province to province as to what specific criteria are. There is also the specific welfare part of welfare, which is helping those who are unemployed or unemployable.

I have had the unfortunate experience of needing welfare firsthand. When I was in my 20s I hit a time of recession in the province and couldn’t get a job. Putting in over 50 applications a month landed me nothing. I had no choice but to go on welfare. As it turned out there was a period when my other two roommates were in the same situation. We would get a few tins of food from the food bank and limp celery and eked by. I had no savings, no car and was not even sure how to do more than I already was.

Eventually I ended up with a part-time job for two days a week. The business was good enough to pay me under the table. If they had taken deductions and given me a pay slip I would have had to report it to welfare. That amount I made would then be deducted from my welfare payments. Welfare at that time paid something like $300-400 a month, hardly enough to live on. I could lay around and get $400 or I could work part-time and get $400. There really wasn’t incentive to even work part-time. So the under the table arrangement helped me survive because who can survive on that amount when rent is $300?

I then got a second part-time job and worked under the table there for two days a week. That gave me four days at part-time. It made the welfare bearable but still hard to do much. At the same time both businesses offered me a full-time job and I went with the one that I thought would keep me interested longer. I got off of welfare with a huge sigh of relief. It was humiliating and belittling.

In Canada’s past, women and single mothers on welfare weren’t allowed to have boyfriends and their virtue and chastity were watched as much as their bank accounts. This attitude can perpetuate in our society. It’s one thing to be buying designer clothes but to have nice clothes and a haircut for applying for jobs is another thing. Yet people have been scrutinized and punished if they try to have any normal aspect of living. “Welfare bums” are relatively rare and those who are like that often have other underlying conditions that could do well with other government services. If a person is an alcoholic or drug addict or socially inept or unhygienic, which stops them getting a job, then the answer is not to leave them on welfare but to help them become another useful cog in society’s great machine.

Yes cogs. The cut and dryness, or the black and white world of welfare is denigrating and hard. Most people don’t choose to be there as it’s no way to live. My second brush with welfare was at a point when I was trying to move out of freelancing into another job. I was in school full-time for three months doing an apprenticeship program in script supervising. Unlike every other person in the course I had neither a spouse to support me through the program, nor was I able to get unemployment insurance because I was a freelancer. I did have two publishers in New York and on average received one manuscript a month from each. This was enough to get by on while finishing the program.

Unfortunately, both publishers went under or changed focus (one to movies) at the same time and I lost my source of income. I didn’t want to forego the course but what money I had got me through to the end of November and I still had December to go with no options. I went to welfare and said I only needed $300 to pay my rent and I could get by. ( I lived alone and had no roommates). At that time I had a grand whopping total of about $4,000 in RRSPs. RRSPs are heavily taxed if you take them out early. They are also taxed if you take them out when you’re older. But people get them as retirement income, a way to cushion one’s unemployed elder years.

Welfare would give me no money at all. Not even $5. Here I was, in school, going through training, with no options and they wanted me to cash in that $4,000, so that I could then depend on the state for longer when I was older, use medical services more because I was not living well, or more likely, end up living under a bridge. This was the government’s solution. Of course the rate of welfare isn’t much higher than it once was but I probably needed to be a drug addict to get any support. It was the only time in my life where I was seriously contemplated prostitution. I just couldn’t get up my nerve to do it, yet this is where my government wanted me to be.

So the next time you pass judgment on one of those welfare bums, trying walking and living a mile in their shoes. Welfare isn’t for the weak at heart and most people can’t even survive on it. There is no such thing as living a free and easy life while on it. Oh, and how did I get through that month? By the good graces of friends and family. My landlords only charged me a half a month’s rent. People sent me money and I gave out no Christmas gifts. I thank my lucky stars I had such generous people in my life.

http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/bc_welfare_time_limits.htm

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What I Really Think About Sex

I have posted some very strong-minded articles in regards to sex and sexual abuse. I’ve mentioned that I was sexually abused and rather than be a victim I’ve pursued a healthy mindset and not let the past or the perpetrator control me (I hope).

I’ve commented on how I am somewhat skeptical (and a bit disgusted) with the whole genetic sexual attraction thing, and though I could see a small percentage of people maybe truly just falling in love (or physically lusting after) their relative as adults, I still think that there is too much room for power over. Not to mention the cultural guilt and taboos, and of course children of such relations limits them due to the narrowing of the gene pool and the increase of genetically damaged results.

I’ve commented at least to friends on the subjugation of women in various countries where wives and girls are treated as possessions and don’t have equal rights. I’ve made strong statements about child abuse of any sort and abuse of animals, if I haven’t mentioned it before is extremely disturbing and wrong. Any living creature that can’t give its consent or understand the full impact of what is being done to it or her/him should not be coerced into sexual activity. Laws are there to protect the innocent.

So, with these opinions, it might also seem that I’m pretty hard-edge, straight and narrow on the whole topic of sex. But I’m not. I am for eliminating abuse and for equal rights, and when it comes to sex I’m all for it.

What I mean by this is that it is neither my job nor my right to snoop into someone else’s life (be it a politician’s, a movie star’s, a neighbor’s, a relative’s, a friend’s) and make judgements on how or who they have sex with (unless it is of course the aforementioned animals, children or subjugated people). I don’t care if someone does it doggy style or hangs from the rafters in a bat costume. I don’t want to know if they yodel during coitus or exchange fluids from which my imagination runs screaming. It doesn’t matter if they have sex with the same gender, five people at the same time while chanting Monty Python, or pay for it.

When we get right down to it, it is nobody’s business but those involved. Humans are sexual creatures and we like to have sex. We are also not set into a mating cycle like most animals and therefore can have sex whenever we want. Like bonobos, we do it for fun as well as procreation. It is in fact human nature.

Now I also think that people need a sex education, starting in school, that goes beyond “these are ovaries–they produce eggs, this is a penis–it (and the scrotum) produce sperm. Babies can form…etc.” They need to understand what sex is, how the process of excitement and arousal works, how to achieve it, what the results are. There needs to be a healthy wholesome attitude about something that everyone (or nearly everyone) does at some point in their lives. Instead of telling people that masturbation is bad and dirty, tell them it is healthy and normal. Instead of shushing any talk about the sex act, explain it.

I strongly believe that if we took the mystery and “dirtiness” out of sex, (this idea perpetrated by too many religions) that we would have less sexual perversion. I’m not saying no perversion but if it’s suddenly not dirty and wrong, where is the illicit thrill? Granted sex has its own thrill but it’s our society’s constraints on sex that causes some of the illness surrounding it. And prostitution should be legalized. It would take it off the street, remove the stigma from women and johns, keep it clean and safe, improve other neighborhoods, and gosh, give the government revenue. It’s only the moral religious backwardness that prevents this and makes it “dirty” as well.

At some point the greater majority of humanity has intercourse, and some of it pleasurable. However, the majority of people will not kill someone (war in some areas is still not the majority of the planet). So then why is it bad, naughty and X-rated to even see full frontal nudity, let alone intercourse, but on any prime time night you can see someone beaten, strangled, cut, shot or otherwise mutilated? HBO has shifted this somewhat but on average there is more violence than sex on TV. Is it any wonder we have a sick and atrophied culture when violence is okay to view but sex and naked bodies is bad? What a sad state. And here the Glenbow Museum’s ad (in Calgary) was banned by Calgary transit. What was the subject of the banned picture? A baby’s head and umbilical cord. Oooh, now that’s really disgusting.

But I digress. North American culture has so many sexual hangups that a nude person on a beach is wildly titillating and sex is something done in the dark and not talked about. It’s time to wake up, teach people about the joys and pleasures and wholesomeness of consensual sex (notice that important word–consensual) and stop getting all aghast when it happens near you. Don’t judge, just accept that it’s part of normal life.

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Politicians, Pot and Prohibition

In the last week two NDP candidates have had to step down because there were pictures/videos of them smoking pot. And another candidate once upon a time skinny dipped in front of teenagers. There were never any charges laid, none of the teenagers or parents ever complained, and RCMP cleared him of wrongdoing. Yet he’s had to resign from running. Something that people need to understand about the West Coast and the island communities is that it’s not abnormal for people to be free an easy. To get your knickers in a twist over someone skinny-dipping is a little over the top. The politicians are really desperate if that’s all they can find. I certainly would rather have someone dipping into the drink nude than have them scam the country of a few million or outright lying.

But that’s the lesser issue. There is the oh so horrible aspects of marijuana. Granted it was pretty stupid letting yourself ever be filmed if you have aspirations in politics but smoking pot is pretty much so minor that it doesn’t amount to even a crime. Being filmed driving under the influence of anything is a little more serious.

But let’s look at this. Pothead politicians. Hmm. When a person is high on pot, they tend to sit around, maybe eat, maybe sleep. People on pot are never seen as being zippy and really, how much crime is contributed to just potheads? I’m not talking grow ops or dealing but just plain ole smoking. Compare it to drinking. Drinking alcohol and buying/distributing it is legal. A person drunk can cause way more damage, possibly get in fights, and then drive cars. Our premier Gordon Campbell was caught and fined for drunken driving in Hawaii and he certainly thumbed his nose at everyone and didn’t step down. So why should someone who smokes pot, or swims naked do so when they’re not even in the government yet?

This comes down to the decriminalization of marijuana. The only reason it hasn’t happened yet is… Why? I wish I really knew. There are illegal grow ops everywhere, the Hell’s Angels and other criminal organizations are involved in it and make millions every year. If it was decriminalized and regulated like alcohol was, then the government would actually make money on it, like it does on alcohol. When prohibition was in effect, more in the US than Canada, criminals raked in the money and not only that, became better established. We all have images of Bonnie and Clyde times (though they were bank robbers) and moonshine.

In Vancouver, with all the crime we have (home & car break-ins) you never hear that some crazy pothead was doing it or that potheads are living on the street. No, it’s crack and crystal meth and heroin that puts people on the street, and leads them to prostitution and burglary. Legalizing marijuana would actually make it far more controllable. I’m not even sure who is against it, some conservatives obviously that feel that it’s what, the devil’s tool, undermining our youth? I just don’t know but the harms of pot are far less than alcohol and people aren’t killed in car accidents by multitudes of pot smokers. Sure there may be some accidents but the majority are alcohol induced. Better the devil you know.

As far as I can see it, some guy running in politics who confesses to having smoked pot seems such a minor misdemeanour compared to a drunk driving premier. (But then Campbell was in good company with the equally drunken Klein–actually Klein was much more an expert at drinking and only cursed beggars and threw money at them.) It would be better for our resources if police could concentrate on serious crimes and just think, the proceeds of selling marijuana could go to fighting other drug crimes.

I think we have a very skewed society where true perpetrators of crimes and politicians who break promises and rip up emplyment contracts (Campbell) can stay in power (including the mayor of PoCo charged with violence and yet won’t step down) and some skinny dipper has to give up running. It makes me even more dubious that anything can ever change in this country because the old crusty suits still run the show in outmoded ways. Do I find a broken campaign promise worse than a guy smoking pot? Yes. I certainly wouldn’t care if he did smoke pot. And like past US president Clinton, these guys should have said that they didn’t inhale.

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