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In the News (#964)

This is how the United States of America, the mightiest and richest nation there is or ever has been, treats incarcerated people.  –  Ken White

Torture Chamber 

Ken White on the inhuman abominations that the US calls “correction”:

Jeffrey Epstein’s name and face are everywhere following his death…Americans who believe in their justice system assert that it is obvious that he was murdered, and that jailers could not possibly be so incompetent, cruel, or indifferent as to let such a high-profile prisoner commit suicide.  Here, to help you evaluate that claim, are 32 short stories about in-custody deaths or near-deaths in America…

Regular readers know these stories are nauseating, but you really need to read them all. Every last one.

Uncommon Sense (#435)

The correct term is “tippelzone”, not “sex booth” or some other snickering adolescent coinage:

The mayor of [Berlin]…is proposing “Verichtungsboxen”…at Tempelhof Airport.  His proposal for the establishment of the sex booths…came as part of a discussion about street prostitution in his district and how to improve the safety of Berlin’s sex workers…

Across the Pond (#757)

UK cops are increasingly using the jolly, kumbaya word “team” to mean “vice squad”:

More than 200 letters have been delivered to residents [near a stroll] in…Nottingham…to [intimidate] residents…in[to informing on their neighbors]…the…letters were hand delivered to [make the]…int[imidation feal more real]…Since 2004, Nottinghamshire Police’s Prostitution Task Force has been working to find ways of [pretending that harassing and stigmatizing] sex workers [is] get[ting] the[m] help…whilst gradually removing the[ir income.  The cops bizarrely imagine harassing people and choking off their income will]…break down the barrier between sex workers and the police…

Soap Opera (#809)

Magical stickers, secret-squirrel codes…this is like a bad episode of Get Smart!

An Iowa newspaper employee recently {claimed to have] helped save a[n unnamed] woman trapped in a sex trafficking ring…after she flagged the delivery driver down on the side of the road…a 25-year-old East Dubuque Woman was arrested and charged with pimping….[a Cedar Rapids, Iowa] Bar…[posted a] sign in the woman’s restroom [reading]…”are you in an uncomfortable situation, do you need our help?”…[and] lists a code word drink…that customers can order to alert the bartender they’re in need of help… Teresa Davidson…of Chains Interrupted [wants] more …stickers that read “Are you safe” in bathrooms across the state….The organization is also working to [indoctrinate] convenience store employees…

Pyrrhic Victory (#931)

As I’ve repeatedly stated, it is far too late to put this evil djinni back into its bottle:

…Beijing has gone to [great lengths to] identify and control Uighurs…Within Kashgar…residents must line up to…swipe [ID cards] at each checkpoint….[and] expose their faces to [omnipresent]…facial recognition…[cops] need neither probable cause nor a warrant to detain Uighurs and check their phones for the surveillance software that they’re legally required to install….”re-education” camp[s imprison]…hundreds of thousands, or even millions of Muslims…[now] Ecuador is using a “national emergency response and video surveillance system built entirely by Chinese companies and financed by Chinese state loans”…As this technology improves and gets cheaper, it will likely become affordable to every two-bit dictator on Earth…

Disaster (#935)

The sweet smell of schadenfreude:

Verizon is set to sell the social network Tumblr to Automattic Inc, the owner of online publishing tool WordPress.  A source familiar with the deal puts the price-tag…below $10 million…Tumblr…was…considered a major player in the social media space.[when it]…was acquired by Yahoo for $1.1 billion in 2013, before moving under Verizon’s umbrella through the carrier’s acquisition of Yahoo in 2017.  [But] Verizon…[intentionally destroyed the network by ill-considered censorship]…last year.  Automattic’s Chief Executive Matt Mullenweg told the Wall Street Journal that he plans to maintain the ban [so as to use the dying site as a tax write-off]…

Where Are the Victims? (#945)

Despite their pious posturing to the contrary, this is exactly the outcome prohibitionists wanted:

Fianna Fáil has called for an anti-prostitution law to be reviewed, because of the consequences it has on sex workers who live together.  The main opposition party has suggested that it would be open to considering decriminalising sex workers who live together.  The majority of Irish political parties want the government to review and possibly scrap a law which punishes sex workers who live together under a harsher “brothel keeping” offence which was brought in two yeas ago…It follows a high profile case earlier this summer where two migrant sex workers were both jailed for nine months after they were prosecuted for brothel keeping.  One of the women was pregnant when she was jailed…Sex worker advocates had warned at the time that most of the people who were being prosecuted for brothel-keeping were independent sex workers…B[u]t…Fianna Fáil had voted down the amendment…now…it wants the law to be reviewed, after…the “[wholly]…intended consequences” [became public]…

Pyrrhic Victory (#956)

More on Amazon’s campaign to end privacy forever:

Amazon Web Services…has rolled out more terrifying features for its cloud-based facial recognition system—including, it claims, the ability to detect fear…Emotion recognition is a facial analysis technique that…works by training a machine learning system to look for certain features on a detected face which indicate emotional content…Amazon has updated the range of detectable emotions for Rekognition’s face analysis to include “fear,” adding to a list of seven other emotional states: “Happy”, “Sad”, “Angry”, “Surprised”, “Disgusted”, “Calm”, and “Confused”…the efficacy of emotion recognition is in dispute…[but used by] government agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement…and Customs and Border Patrol…

Between the Lines (#962)

Liz Brown tries to assess the damage from the rebranded “Operation Cross Country” pogroms:

…The FBI no longer reports the number of adult sex workers whom these initiatives claim as collateral…However, local news and law enforcement agencies often do..in Alabama, 49 “sex workers and their facilitators” were arrested around the Birmingham area…[and] 14 [in Homewood]……Northern Ohio [arrested nine] women…Pennsylvania [two]…Mississippi [five]…In South Carolina [five]…In…Florida [three]…In the San Diego area, six…Louisiana…25…in Shreveport…and…seven…in Baton Rouge…Police have portrayed the 4-year-old [abducted from one of their victims] as being rescued from “human traffickers”…

Diary #477

Last week I flew to Washington, DC to present The War on Whores at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit.  Amazingly, I had no problem on my flights out, and though my return flights were screwed up and delayed I still got through (though I barely made it onto three of the legs by the skin of my teeth, like literally being the last person seated).  I stayed with Elizabeth Nolan Brown and her husband Swin, who were both wonderful hosts who made me feel very welcome; on Thursday she took me to visit the Reason office and on Friday I had brunch with Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler, whom I’ve wanted to meet for years now.  The movie screening on Friday went well, but as usual the best part of the trip for me was the people; besides hanging out with Liz, Swin, Kaytlin Bailey, Alex Andrews of SWOP Behind Bars, Amber DiPietro, Kendra Holliday & David Wraith of Sex Positive St. Louis, Deviant Ollam (who designed our McNeill/Matisse 2020 shirts) and other friends, I got to reconnect with Kate Zen (now working with Red Canary Song) and meet Phoenix Calida (whom I’ve admired for a long time) and Niki Gilliland, whose story I featured back in May.  I’m probably forgetting all sorts of other people and events, but most of this was wriien on the plane home and the rest was finished after I got home, so I’m just going to sign off now by thanking my patrons for sending me!

True Lies

I’ve been seeing a number of articles lately like this one; the tl;dr version is that only a smallish fraction (around 15%) of people the US locks up in its filthy cage stacks are there for drug crimes.  In this particular example, the author even implies that the number is deceptively high because of plea bargains and such, thus implying that ending prohibition is not really the most important part of ending the abomination of mass incarceration.  And while I cannot fault the facts as stated, in actuality these people are using true statistics as a clever sidestep to admitting that prohibition, especially the wars on drugs and sex, accounts for most of the bloated US prison population.  In other words, they’re using highly-spun data to lie about the centrality of prohibition to the US incarceration machine.  First and foremost, prohibition of anything creates a huge black market in that thing (drugs, sex, guns, etc), and black markets beget crime.  It’s all well & fine to say “most prisoners are there for violent crimes”, but many of those violent crimes were spawned directly or indirectly by prohibition.  Also: the feds & many states magically turn non-violent “offenses” into “violent crimes” with the wave of a legislative wand, such as by classifying uncoerced underage sex work as violent “trafficking”; or criminalizing the mere possession of a firearm by someone also in possession of plant leaves, then defining all “gun crimes” as violent.  And then there’s the fact that obscene amounts of money have been given to police departments so they can hire more thugs, buy more war equipment and pay for more overtime patrolling largely poor and minority neighborhoods in the name of “fighting” drugs, sex work, “terrorism”, weapons, avoidance of confiscatory taxes (“smuggling” in Bureaucratese), etc; this is important because the greater the number of excuses cops can use to harass, detain, search and otherwise force interaction with peaceful citizens going about their business, the larger the number of those citizens will end up beaten, charged with violent crimes like “assault on a police officer” for defending themselves, or just plain framed by racist cops.  And the asset forfeiture that actually inspires a lot of bogus criminal charges?  Justified by the drug war.  Again and again it comes back to that.  So please, wonks and pundits and would-be social engineers, stop claiming that only people directly killed by bullets on the battlefield count as victims of war; a far larger number die of bombs, disease, starvation, accidents, post-injury trauma or infection, or any of a number of other reasons which are the unavoidable results of the glorious adventure you’re trying to cover up for.

Links #476

You’re gonna kill me!  –  Tony Timpa

A couple of months ago I featured Herb Alpert’s performance of “Spanish Flea”, and here’s an early video (1966) for “A Taste of Honey”.  The links above it were provided by Jesse Walker, Radley Balko, Patrick Nonwhite, Emma Evans, Zuri Davis, Popehat, and Radley Balko again, in that order.

From the Archives

In the News (#963)

Mental gymnastics is the best exercise of all!  –  Elana Spivack

Drawing Lines 

In the 21st century, humor sites are more honest and moral than “news” sites:

…30-year-old Penelope Clemm has been pole dancing recreationally for three years now, but has harbored an internalized hatred for sex workers her entire life.  Clemm strikes a delicate balance of acknowledging how much she loves pole dancing, but dismissing every woman who makes money doing the same thing…“It’s definitely made me…feel sexy in a way that I never did before.  And yet, I still cannot conceptualize in the slightest how any self-respecting woman would do this for money”…like many people with deep-seated, internalized biases, Clemm had difficulty articulating why she holds this position. “It’s a matter of principle, and I have principles”…

Imaginary Victims (#904)

Naturally, the prohibitionists who didn’t give a shit until last year are claiming credit for her release:

Cyntoia Brown…whose case drew national attention [over a decade] after being sentenced to life in prison for killing a man [in self-defense] at age 16, was released on parole [last] Wednesday…She will be on parole for 10 years [with] conditions…includ[ing]…that she maintain employment [with a murder conviction on her record] or educational enrollment…that she participate in [approved state] counseling sessions…[and that] she…perform at least 50 hours of community service [while working or going to school], including working with at-risk youth…

Though parole conditions are often designed to make it easy for “authorities” to cage a person again with very little justification, Brown has a better chance than most due to support from allies and public attention to her case.

All-Purpose Excuse (#923)

Ever wonder why the government pushes “sex trafficking” propaganda so hard?

[Deranged propagandist] Jaco Booyens touted President Trump’s [“historic”] work in fighting sex trafficking and [fetishized] Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as “incredible people” who helped keep children safe…His movie 8 Days [is soft BDSM porn about] a 15-year-old girl who’s forced into sex trafficking after attending a party with her friends…[yet claimed] that sex trafficking was rooted in sex addiction fueled by mass media…”It starts with…soft porn [like my movie], it’s the objectification of women”…

Blunt Instrument (#926)

While Asian sex workers are fighting back against the racist “sex trafficking” narrative, cops are trying to use that visibility against them:

Emily Zhang Lawrence…[was] charged with a number of criminal counts including human trafficking and prostitution…[after] the Montgomery County…Vice [gang raided her business]…Rose’s Spa…[pigs oinked] that the spa recruited its masseuse’s [sic] — all Chinese immigrants — from Flushing, New York.  The Queens neighborhood is known for being a [sister community to Hong Kong, where many Asian migrants first stay upon arriving in the US.  Racist pigs therefore refer to it as a] hub for…human trafficking…

Backwards into the Future (#927)

The prohibitionists are slowly losing ground to the facts:

South African authorities are compromising the safety and wellbeing of thousands of women…by treating sex work as a crime…We have researched illegal sex work in ChinaTanzaniaCambodiaSouth Africa, and the United States…and…we consistently find police abuse to be one of criminalization’s main cruelties.  Sex workers often face harassment, extortion, and rape, and vulnerability to violence…at the hands of…police…and…because they cannot trust members of law enforcement, they are deterred from reporting attacks by men who pretend to be clients…Fortunately, South Africa and the United States are both sites of growing movements to decriminalize sex work once and for all…

Pyrrhic Victory (#931)

Tyranny always starts with despised minorities, but it never stops with them:

Chinese authorities approached the family of an international student who participated in high-profile protests at an Australian university and warned his parents of the potential consequences of political dissent.  The…intimidation tactics [demonstrate that] the Chinese government was monitoring the demonstration at the University of Queensland to record who attended…last month’s event [was held] to show support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and to condemn Beijing’s repression of the Uighur ethnic minority group…within days of the rally the student received a call from his mother in China to say the family had been approached by…authorities [who] issued [threats] about engaging in “anti-China rhetoric” in Brisbane…[Australian politicians claimed to be] alarmed by [China following precedents set by] Australia…

If you like the precedent that a country owns its citizens and has the “right” to punish them for acts which were totally legal in the place they happened, thank the international war on whores.  Australia is especially hypocritical in this respect, given that since 2010, Australians who hire surrogate mothers outside of Australia can be penalized under Australian law.

Negative Secondary Effects (#937)

It’s great to see sex workers striking back at prohibitionist persecution:

…Not Buying It, a group led by well-known [prohibitionist] Sasha Rakoff has been terrorizing gentlemen’s clubs across England in recent months, by sending in undercover former police detectives to covertly film inside…The resultant tapes have been submitted to local councils in a bid to get the establishments shut down…Now, nine dancers at the Spearmint Rhino in London…have sued Not Buying It for breach of privacy, demanding that all existing tapes be destroyed.  An earlier High Court ruling had already banned Rakoff from further sharing the tapes, so the strippers’ chances of getting their way in the high-profile case, the costs of which are likely to bankrupt the losing side, are more than fair…

Pyrrhic Victory (#960)

The more we discover about Amazon’s fascist collaboration with cops, the worse it sounds:

Amazon[‘s]…Neighbors app…allows people to report suspicious things to…neighbors [and cops, mostly]…the existence of brown people…Government agencies participating in the Ring handouts are given talking points, pre-written press releases, and contractual obligationsAmazon has even crafted scripts for [cops]…to use when questioned…or…to talk people out of their Constitutional rights…”Ring suggests cops post often on Neighbors…interacting with the [peasantry so as to]…increas[e] the opt-in rate”…(There are scripts for that as well)…

Turn of Tide (#961)

The “sex trafficking” narrative has been so successful, prohibitionist rhetoric is now being used to attack the way the state persecutes sex workers:

L.A.’s anti-sex trafficking efforts…ensnare…female sex workers far more often than any traffickers, and the women arrested rarely end…up in programs designed to [brainwash] them out of the sex trade…While black women make up around 9% of the city’s female population, they account for nearly 65% of the LAPD’s female prostitution arrests…It adds up to a high-profile effort to target human traffickers and save victims that’s causing collateral damage…City officials [pre]tend that policing the sex trade is one of the best methods for rescuing trafficking victims…[but those] with a front row seat have a different perspective…Dr. Susie Baldwin, the medical director of L.A. County’s Office of Women’s Health…[said] “All of this money is going to arrest people…leaving them with severe consequences for their lives”…law enforcement…[intentionally] conflate[s] trafficking and prostitution, painting all sex work as exploitative and doubling down on vice arrests under the guise of trafficking enforcement…

The idea that sex workers are “collateral damage” in a well-intentioned war on “sex trafficking” is of course naive nonsense; the entire purpose of the narrative is to harm sex workers and our clients.  But if the gullible are going to use those fantasies to strike back at pigs and prohibitionists, I’m not going to complain.

Idiocracy

Just in case you missed it, Twitter’s completely mindless algorithms (which are not supervised or monitored by humans in any way) have locked my account again; it happened Monday afternoon and my account will (presumably) be back to normal this coming Monday afternoon.  Until then, I’ll be tweeting from my backup account, which I ask that you follow because this is bound to happen again.  What happened this time is that a prohibitionist experienced some kind of glitch while attempting to troll Prostasia‘s website, and accused the members of the advisory council (which includes yours truly) of trying to “hide” our participation in a child protection and pro-civil-rights organization (because apparently the most delusional prohibitionists believe that wanting to protect children and civil rights are somehow positions to be ashamed of).  When those accused asked the loser what he was blabbering about, he quickly descending into calling all of us “pedos”.  I replied in thread with the tweet you see here; apparently the loon took offense and reported my analysis of his level of cognitive function.  I sincerely doubt this rather mild insult was what Twitter refers to as “abuse and harassment”; what I believe happened is that complaints trigger an algorithm which scans the reported tweet for “bad words”, and my quoting what the abusive chimp was accusing us of was taken as my calling him a “pedo”.  As Isaac Asimov once pointed out, computers are high-speed morons; tell a computer that certain words are verboten and the electronic idiot cannot tell the difference between someone initiating use of the words, and someone quoting the insult.  Going forward, I’m going to keep this in mind because it’s the second time I’ve been shut down by this same censor-moron (the first one was for calling myself “queer” when a speech cop wanted me to call myself “gay”; see the similarity?)  As long as Twitter and other websites allow themselves to be governed by mindless machines, this will never stop, but cheer up:  think of how exciting driving wil be once this same kind of algorithm is actively operating a sizeable fraction of automobiles.

I recently heard you speak, but was unclear on your point that the criminalization of prostitution suppresses the sexuality of women in general, not just the sexuality of sex workers.  Could you please make this connection clearer?

The criminalization of sex work is nothing less than the criminalization of thought.  Sex outside of committed relationships, even with total strangers, is perfectly legal for motives such as fun, excitement, relief of boredom, experimentation, gratitude, friendship or whatever; it’s only when the woman has a “bad” motive, ie profit, that the act becomes illegal.  Criminalization of sex work therefore gives cops the “right” to guess what a woman’s motive for sex might be, and if they decide (correctly or incorrectly, with or without proof) that her motive is a pragmatic one, to brutalize, rob, abduct and cage her, and in most places even to rape her to “collect evidence”.  Prostitution laws therefore suppress all women’s sexuality, because women who dare to be sexual outside of committed relationships, especially women of color, are always in danger of cops deciding to harass or violate them under the premise of “investigating the crime of prostitution”.  And in the aftermath of FOSTA, we are even beginning to see an erosion of women’s right to go unescorted in a public place without being discriminated against or even accused of “prostitution” or being a “sex trafficking victim”.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)