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Posts Tagged ‘activism’

My short break from running around the country is almost over; this Thursday I’ll be departing for New Orleans, where I’ll be speaking on Saturday at the Students for Liberty regional conference along with Thaddeus Russell, Angela Keaton and several other big names.  Then on Monday I’ll be home for just one week before leaving again two weeks from today; on Wednesday, November 5th at 7 PM I’ll be speaking to another chapter of Students for Liberty at Loyola University in Chicago, then on Thursday I’ll get on a train for Seattle.  The day after I arrive, that is Sunday November 9th, I’ll be speaking at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture at 7 PM, and the next day there’s a private event for SWOP members which I think I’ll enjoy very much.  The rest of my time will probably be spent visiting various individuals I’m friendly with there, and doing things that I may even be able to tell you about.  Or maybe not, depending on whether the other participants give their permission.  I’m still trying to arrange for a visit to Portland, but I’m not sure if that will work out; it seems as though it’s a bad time of year for Portland.  C’est la vie.  Anyway, as things stand now I’m supposed to be back here on the afternoon of the 22nd, but that may be subject to change.

I thank y’all very much for the good thoughts and kind words last week; y’all really did succeed in raising my spirits, and very quickly, too.  I’ll have some more news pretty soon; there are several irons in the fire, and I’ll announce each as it comes ready (or forget about it if it doesn’t pan out).  All I can say for now is that the next year should be very interesting.

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We are hardly ever grateful for a fine clock or watch when it goes right, and we pay attention to it only when it falters.  –  the 4th Earl of Chesterfield

Every so often I get an email or series of “tweets” that causes me to shake my head and wonder whether the author has been paying attention at all at any time in the past four years.  Now, I’m not talking about communications from new readers or from non-readers who just read one column or even one “tweet”; rather, I mean people I’ve corresponded with before who have (presumably) been reading here for a while and should know how I do things.  Recently, I had several such incidents, so I think it would be worthwhile to address the points that somehow seem to have escaped some folks.

clockwork girlFirst, it appears that I need to spell out some details about advice letters (again).  It seems as though some people have made it several decades into their lives without quite understanding how an “agony aunt” column works, so I’ll reiterate and add details specific to mine.  Since there are many different, competing demands on my time (especially while on tour), I cannot promise that I will always get to advice emails quickly.  I understand that people who write are often upset or even suffering, and I really do try to answer every letter as quickly as possible.  Usually that’s within a few days, but while I’m travelling it can be longer; some letters that arrived in July took me almost six weeks to answer.  Yes, I could dash off a quick response, but I hardly think that’s what anyone wants unless the question only requires that sort of response.  Unless you specifically ask me not to publish your question, it may appear in a future Wednesday column, though edited and condensed to remove identifying details or even to broaden the scope slightly.  Some of you may have noticed that if you clarify the situation in a later letter and my advice changes because of that clarification, it’s still the original version which appears on the blog; when that happens it’s because I felt either that the clarified version gave away too many personal details, or that the original version would apply to more people reading.  Though you are only concerned with your own specific problem, you’d be surprised how many other people may find my answer helpful (even if their own issues are slightly different).

Next, some people seem to have failed to notice the level of organization I maintain in this blog, and have made requests of me that, while they might seem reasonable, are actually nothing of the kind.  I’ve noticed that when a reader links to either a column or one of my feature pages to make a point elsewhere on the internet, at least one ass will usually disparage the citation with some variation on “a WordPress blog isn’t a credible source”.  If I ran this like an ordinary blog, a place to jot down stray thoughts here and there as they came to me, that might be a valid criticism; however, as anyone who has been paying attention will have noticed, that isn’t how I do things.  I treat this like an electronic magazine; I write a column every day, hyperlink and cross-reference my citations, and include every post in the extensive subject index.  Once a post is published, the only changes I make are to correct typos or (within the same day or two) to correct some major error or omission; also, I may change a picture for one of higher resolution, or because the subject of a picture asked me to use a different one.  I take an extremely dim view of websites who shove posts down the memory hole just because some readers didn’t like them; I have the philosophy that “you can’t unring a bell”, so once a post is up I will not remove it no matter who finds it offensive.  Besides the ethical problem that would create, removing the index entries and hyperlinks would be like pulling one gear out of a clock; given that many of my posts are reblogged or scraped, it might not even do any good for me to censor a post because it might already have been copied elsewhere.  And if you think I’m going to leave an ugly and conspicuous hole in a four-year-long perfect record just because it hurt your feelings, I respectfully suggest you reconsider your place in the universe.

Finally, some people seem to have developed very strange misconceptions about my status in the universe, so let’s put those to rest, shall we?  I am not a goddess, an angel, a superheroine, a bodhisattva or any other form of superior entity, and have never claimed to be.  Accordingly, I am not perfect; I make mistakes and misjudgments like anybody else.  Because of this, you cannot use the evidence-free accusation that I made one mistake as an argument that my entire body of work is flawed; rather, you can do that, but it will simply result in your looking like an idiot.  Even if you have actual evidence of an error in one essay or statement, it doesn’t ruin my “perfect track record” because I don’t have a perfect track record, and nobody sane ever claimed that I did.  Moreover, I’m not required to explain every editorial choice I make to the satisfaction of whatever random stranger cares to demand such an explanation, and anyone who believes that I am needs more help than I can give in one of my advice columns.

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Cat PrayerAs of last Tuesday evening my trains to Chicago and Seattle are paid for; I’ve also booked my hotel room in Kansas City, though I decided to wait a little for Chicago because everything near Union Station was too pricey when I last looked (I’m trying to do this trip on the funds I have left from my fundraiser this summer).  As of right now, the only gig that’s fixed in place is a talk at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture at 7 PM on Sunday the 9th, the day after I arrive; I expect to hear back from SWOP this week, and then I’ll try to fill in a few private meetings with donors and a few sex workers I know there from online.  Due to a miscommunication about the dates my Portland side-trip is still up in the air, but that should be remedied this week; by next Tuesday I should have the whole trip mostly penciled in just before I leave for New Orleans two days later.  And I’ve even figured out what I’m probably going to do with my internet-less time during the 46-hour trip to Seattle.

I mentioned my leftover donations above, and that reminds me:  if you look at the subscription box on the right, you’ll notice I’ve added text about how to give me a one-time cash gift if you prefer to do that instead of subscribing.  It’s very simple; all you have to do is PayPal whatever amount you like to my email address, maggiemcneill@earthlink.net.  Ta-dah!  I like to keep things simple whenever possible.  But even if your budget won’t allow that sort of thing right now, there’s another way you can help me that won’t cost you a dime.  The pressures of this year seem to have inflicted more stress on me than I bargained for, so I’ve found myself moody and very blue lately and would appreciate your prayers, good thoughts, well-wishing, positive vibrations or whatever the equivalent in your philosophy.  You needn’t worry; these moods do come occasionally and I always get past them.  But I figure a little extra psychic support can’t hurt, even if the effect is only in my own mind…which, since it’s where the problem lies anyhow, seems perfectly reasonable.

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Dave Krueger used to run an excellent blog named Sex Hysteria! in which he chronicled the many instances of human stupidity about the subject.  “Sex trafficking” was only one of the many topics he covered, and I first heard about the “gypsy whores” myth from him.  Alas, real life eventually put so many demands on his time he could not continue the blog, and he doesn’t write as often as he used to, however, he recently reappeared on Twitter and I hope this isn’t the only guest spot he does for me.

One doesn’t have to be an avid follower of the news to notice that American law enforcement is becoming ever more tightly integrated into the day-to-day affairs of ordinary citizens; you no longer have to be suspected of a crime (in the traditional sense of the term) to warrant the interest of any of a multitude of police agencies with overlapping jurisdictions at federal, state, and local levels.  Almost every government agency that generates regulations has an enforcement branch armed with guns making sure you aren’t braiding hair or arranging flowers without a license, dealing non-approved milk, buying too much cold medicine, or allowing your kid to sell lemonade, etc.  Government insists on using its police powers to dictate even the tiniest details of human commerce; in today’s America, if you breathe, you are probably a law breaker.

But even aside from the regulatory environment, fabricated crime has replaced traditional crime as the central focus of the justice system.  In a traditional crime, some act injures a non-consenting person in some way; in a consensual “crime”, all parties engaged in the activity consent to it.  Consensual crimes may still result in injury, but no force was used to compel anyone into being a party to them.  Consensual crimes include almost all prohibitions on drugs, sex work, gambling, and usury; laws specifically targeting minorities (race, gender, and sexual orientation) belong to the same class.  Without compulsion and victimization, it is rare for anyone to report such “crimes”; that is the crux of what differentiates traditional from consensual crime from a law enforcement perspective.  Equally important is that many more people engage in outlawed consensual behavior, and usually do so more often than they would commit traditional crimes.   In other words, consensual crime creates an endless supply of easy targets for law enforcement.

Over the course of the 20th century, the US justice system experimented with and expanded its focus on consensual crime; in recent years, federal grant programs and asset forfeiture laws have actually incentivized police departments to divert resources away from traditional violent crime fighting.  Because people who engage in consensual crime rarely complain, law enforcement must resort to “stings” and confidential informants (CIs) to produce evidence of law breaking; a sting consists of tricking someone into committing the outlawed act, and a CI is anyone willing to testify, in exchange for cash or favors, that someone else committed a crime.

The most prolific campaign against consensual crime started in the 1970s with Nixon’s “War on Drugs”, which triggered a perpetual erosion of the civil liberties which were once considered a defining characteristic of American freedom.  Key among these lost freedoms are protections against self-incrimination, unreasonable searches, and privacy in general.  The U.S. now has the distinction of having more criminals behind bars than any other country on the planet, and virtually all convictions now come from plea agreements induced by prosecutors who overcharge a defendant and then offer to reduce the charges in exchange for a guilty plea.  The path from freedom to prison has become a high-volume assembly line consisting largely of clerical steps in a Kafkaesque system that holds all the cards.

Mixed with the bad news that all Americans are subject to harassment and arrest is the sobering fact that police are not subject to the same laws as the rest of us; there are no consequences when they don’t respect our rights.  In the absence of public outrage and irrefutable proof of misconduct, the entire justice system stands ready to shield cops from accountability.  Nothing has exposed this culture of corruption like the widespread use of video-capable cell phones to expose cops blatantly and routinely lying about the facts of an arrest, but even when caught red-handed it’s rare for a cop to even be fired, much less charged under criminal law.  Cops are also shielded from damages stemming from civil suits; successful suits are paid by taxpayers.  On top of that, police are taking on a more militaristic character; SWAT teams that were once intended for dangerous situations like hostage standoffs are now used to serve routine search and arrest warrants.  This militaristic, us-against-them, mindset instills an attitude that the public is the enemy; escalation of violence is becoming a reflex law enforcement reaction rather than a tactic of last resort.

Is there any way to reverse this trend?  Even as traditional crime rates plunge, the fear-mongering “tough on crime” rhetoric that permeates election campaigning remains very effective with voters.  And though millions of Americans are adversely affected by the government crusade against consensual crime, they remain largely disorganized and ignored by the establishment media.  The drug war throws thousands out of work, making many unemployable, eroding the tax base and exacerbating poverty, while the voting block that benefits from this taxpayer-financed crusade (cops, prosecutors, judges, the prison system, treatment specialists, attorneys and the illegal drug industry itself) thrives.  So although there has been some limited success with rolling back some state marijuana laws, there is not going to be any noticeable diminishment of the powerful industry that benefits from consensual crime laws without massive public pushback; this, however, is highly unlikely because  activists who fight consensual crime laws are divided by category.  The crusader against the drug war doesn’t see gamblers or sex workers as natural allies, etc.

The only viable prospect for reversing this trend is for everyone with a dog in the fight to recognize they are all fighting the same foe; rather than remaining in isolated pockets of resistance, they need to join together as one movement with one voice.  It’s time to make the case that consensual crime laws and the American police state are everyone’s problem.  This is not a left vs right issue; the current state of affairs has been an enthusiastic hand-holding joint venture between both Republicans and Democrats, but history shows that parties can change when pushed by a large enough interest group.  If you’re a sex worker, gambler, or drug war opponent, you are part of that interest group.  If you are the spouse or parent of someone whose life has been ruined because of some low-level consensual crime arrest, you are part of that interest group.  Even if you’re just a taxpayer who doesn’t want your taxes used for persecution, you’re part of that interest group.  There is power in numbers; we need to stop sending thousands of people to prison every year for no other reason than we don’t like what they do behind closed doors.

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I realize that most people wouldn’t struggle with the process of figuring out a way to designate the individual entries of a new recurring feature.  I’m sure many probably wouldn’t bother with it at all; they’d just call this feature “diary” and delineate the individual entries by date (if they gave it even that much thought).  But most people don’t view blogs as monumental projects, either; it takes a special kind of obsessive-compulsive thinking to maintain daily posting of (mostly) full essays for four years, and to insist on a fairly rigid format and schedule.  You want a window into my crazy librarian brain?  Read the intro to “Links and Changes“,  then watch the first video in Sunday-before-last’s Links column.  Anyhow, I’ve decided to just use the blog week number (as explained in “Links and Changes”) and call it good.  This is the second day of the 223rd week (WordPress starts its statistical weeks on Monday) since I’ve had the blog, hence the title.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s an update on my travels.  Everything’s all set for New Orleans the weekend of the 25th, and I know two of the other speakers (Thaddeus Russell and Angela Keaton), so it’ll be fun to visit with them again.  I’m finalizing the details of my Seattle tour, and everything should be paid for by the end of the week; I’m staying with friends there, so the only lodging I’ll have to worry about will be my few days in Portland.  As of right now, here’s what it looks like: I’ll drive to Kansas City on Tuesday, November 4th (it’s the nearest Amtrak hub with halfway-decent connections), then take a train to Chicago on the 5th to speak at Loyola.  On the afternoon of the 6th I’ll depart by train for Seattle, arriving the morning of Saturday the 8th, then around the 12th-15th I’ll do a little side-trip to Portland.  I’ll leave Seattle on Tuesday the 18th, reach Chicago on Thursday the 20th, take the train back to Kansas City on Friday the 21st and drive home on Saturday the 22nd.  I’ll probably have more details on my appearances next week, so if you have any ideas please contact me as soon as you can!

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Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favor.
   –  Robert Frost

95 ThesesThe Nation is the oldest continuously-published weekly magazine in the United States, and describes itself as “The Flagship of the Left”.  So when it prints a story with the headline, “Liberals and Feminists, Stop Enabling the Police State”, it’s the rough equivalent of a nun sneaking copies of Luther’s 95 Theses into the hymnals at Easter high mass.  For several decades now, self-described “leftists” have done their level best to ignore or deny their part in the creation and expansion of the American police state, despite the fact that its chief rationales – the various wars on consensual behaviors – were birthed, nursed and reared to maturity by the Progressives, the intellectual and spiritual ancestors of today’s statist “left”.  This state of denial is especially pathetic when the subject is sexual prohibition; soi-disant “progressives” will reflexively and spasmodically point to the right whenever the subject comes up, their left eyes tightly shut so they don’t have to acknowledge that at least half of the crusade, and the lion’s share of the current rhetoric, is growing out of their own beloved sinister avian appendage.  But JoAnn Wypijewski isn’t having any of it; she demands that her compatriots recognize the blood on their hands:

…At the crux of [mass incarceration]…is a hard truth, a moral and political catastrophe…It is the lust for prosecution, the clang of the prison door; and the liberal/progressive/feminist hand in enabling the police state and confusing punishment with justice…any invocation of freedom or human rights or bodily integrity that does not also recognize this is hypocrisy…follow the wire linking Ferguson to swelling violence budgets and shriveled social ones, to “quality of life” policing and spatial control of the poor, to police-cordoned “free speech zones” and mass arrest of protesters, to the border “fence” and Border Patrol surge, to the “cleanup” of Times Square’s XXX underbelly for hypercorporatized, hyperpoliced space, to random police stops and dog sniffs, to random drug testing, to the ubiquity of surveillance cameras, to NSA snooping, to the $350 billion US security business, to TSA full body scans, to drug blimps, to asset forfeiture…to immigrant detention, to “zero tolerance” at schools, to enhanced penalties for “hate crimes,” to sex-offender registries, to civil commitment, to torture as policy, to legalized discrimination, to legalized suspension of constitutional rights for ex-cons, to the redefinition of pimps as “traffickers” who…may be sentenced to life, to vice squad entrapment systems, to law upon law passed amid the clamor for safety, to…the gulag of prisons…that [lock away] about 7 million Americans…

Sex, or fear of it, has been almost as important in the construction of this nightmare state as racism.  Just as the legal gains of the civil rights movement were blunted by…the incipient “war on drugs,” the sexual revolution…[was] short-circuited by serial sex panics, police power in loco mariti, Victims’ Rights as a mask for vengeance and the conception of the Sex Offender as a new, utterly damnable category of human being…“Carceral feminists”…elided personal power with state power, eschewed the project of liberation…and took as [their] armor the victim’s mantle…when a 6-year-old is called a sexual harasser for stealing a kiss, and men in civil commitment have their dicks hooked to plethysmographs while forced to watch violent porn as “treatment”…the sex-crime side of the prisoner supply chain shows no sign of slowing…

This is not the only recent article in The Nation which is critical of anti-sex feminism and its cringing enablers in the American left; others have questioned the Swedish model and Canada’s flagrant defiance of its own Supreme Court’s decision to decriminalize prostitution.  Nor is The Nation the only major publication to recently publish sex-work-friendly articles; the New Republic recently featured a very positive,Becoming Belle Knox accepting article on disabled men who hire sex workers, and the Daily Dot (not remotely in the same class as the other two, but still) published a review of the documentary Becoming Belle Knox which not only condemned anti-sex work bile from both the “right” and “left”, but also correctly categorized “sex work isn’t work” and “emotional connection and sex have to go hand in hand” as myths.

Many of my readers and my fellow activists are so stunned by the incessant “sex trafficking”, anti-whore din that they begin to despair; I would be lying if I said I never felt that way myself.  But history shows us that prohibitionist noise is always most cacophonous just before the masses begin to turn against those prohibitions; consider the history of “Drug War” propaganda and anti-gay activism and you’ll see what I mean.  Though it’s nearly impossible to find a story about sex work in the mainstream American media that doesn’t consist entirely of tinned prohibitionist rhetoric, parroted police statements and regurgitated neofeminist poison, the truth is beginning to percolate into the alternative press, some magazines and many professional organizations.  There has been a subtle but noticeable change in the air over the past two years, and it’s becoming more pronounced with every passing month; within a few years sex work will be a full-fledged controversy like gay rights was in the ‘90s, and that’s the first step toward our inevitable victory.

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As I wrote in “Change Is“, most Tuesdays will now be diary columns bringing you up to date on what I did the week before and what I’m about to do in coming weeks.  I also think it will be a good place to share links to podcasts and  embed video interviews I’ve done, to tell you about articles I publish in other venues, and even to thank readers for presents and the like.  That means I’ll be retiring the “Maggie in the Media” and “Presents, Presents, Presents!”  headings from TW3 columns, but the tags will persist to enable location of diary columns with items that would’ve gone under those tags.  I don’t have any media for you this week, but I do need to mention a couple of presents I received in Washington, DC and forgot to mention earlier:  when I met Eddie Cunningham for dinner he gave me copies of Guns, Germs and Steel and The Boat of a Million Years.  Thank you, Eddie, and I apologize for not mentioning your gift earlier!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been immersed in catching up on work I had to neglect in the last month of the tour; I was so busy with activities and writing new columns for August and early September that I had to neglect correspondence, plus indexing and other blog maintenance, and by the time I got home my normal one-month buffer was entirely gone.  However, you’ll be glad to know that my correspondence is fully caught up, that the buffer was restored by last Saturday, and that the indexing will be fully caught up sometime today; once I bring up the PAQ page and a few other little things I’ll be all done.  Furthermore, you’ll be glad to hear I didn’t have to run myself ragged to do it; my improved procedures are making things easier on several fronts, and that means now that I’m caught up I’ll have time to start working on a few other things.  One of them is increasing my mainstream presence by submitting articles to a few big sites you may have heard of; another is that essay collection I’ve promised y’all for almost two years now, and the other…well, let’s not say too much about it yet.

On the travel front, I’ll be back in New Orleans again the weekend of October 25th to speak at a convention of Students for Liberty, then on November 5th I’ll be speaking to the same organization at Loyola University in Chicago.  The following afternoon I’ll be leaving Chicago by train for my mini-tour to Seattle and Portland; there is no wi-fi on long-distance routes yet, so I will be out of touch all day Friday the 7th, all evening on Thursday the 6th and the morning of Saturday the 8th.  But don’t worry, everything will be set up to go, so those who don’t follow Twitter closely probably won’t even know I’m missing.  I want to get all of my activities for those cities planned before I leave, though, so if you would like me to speak or read anyplace in either Seattle or Portland please let me know by two weeks from today, three weeks at the absolute latest!

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