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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.  –  Desmond Tutu

2019 will be remembered as the year it became fashionable for opportunistic prohibitionists to pretend to be concerned about the harm done to sex workers by the policies of criminalization they have supported for the past two decades.  While the deranged puritans who deny our agency, share their disgusting sexual fantasies about us in public and intentionally send thugs to deceive, rape and cage us (while pretending they want to “rescue” us from the bogeymen who reside only in their fevered imaginations) are just as awful as ever and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future, those who merely jumped on the “sex trafficking” bandwagon to sell something or gain power are now pretending to have been “neutral” before, but sympathetic now because they finally bothered to look at the mountains of data we’ve been showing them since the turn of the century, or something.  But because these sociopaths wouldn’t know a moral compass if one were driven into their faces with an impact wrench, their attempts to sound sympathetic are pathetic at best and deeply insulting at worst.

Power-mad shitbag Elizabeth Warren, for example, has signed on to support a “study of the impact of FOSTA” while simultaneously scheming (again) to steal sex workers’ money and shut us out of the banking system.  But while her duplicity is disguised well enough to fool the insufficiently-cynical, this recent effort by the staunchly-prohibitionist New York Times is embarrassingly transparent.  The newspaper which launched “sex trafficking” hysteria 16 years ago this month with a fantasy called “The Girls Next Door”, and which has since then functioned as one of the primary organs spreading “sex trafficking” hysteria with lies, masturbatory fantasies from Nick Kristof, and copsucking propaganda, now wants us to believe that it gives a shit about us.  And yet, it isn’t even trying to remove prohibitionist fecal matter from its lips before speaking up.  It starts in the lede by referring to censorship as “holding tech platforms accountable” and then refers to sex workers’ ads & online activism as “sex-trafficking schemes” and “the ills of the internet”.  It then goes on to argue that censorship is mostly a good thing as long as the government precedes that censorship with years of propaganda demonizing & dehumanizing its intended targets, and describes FOSTA-enabled censorship as “mostly positive” (“the results are not all positive” is semantically equivalent to “the results are mostly positive”).  And that’s just in the first two paragraphs; a little further along sex work is dysphemized as “the bartering of children and adults” and a law specifically designed to censor the internet and opposed by every human rights and speech group in the country is said to have been “hailed as a way to catch up to…reality”.

The most astonishing part of all this?  The Times’ writers are so clueless they really think this milquetoast admission of the harms of FOSTA is enough to erase a generation of cheerleading for tyranny.  It will be interesting to see how they, and myriad others of their ilk, try to avoid being “held accountable” for their incredibly irresponsible actions as sex worker rights follows the footsteps of LGBT rights into the mainstream of US political discussion.

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Allena Gabosch’s new book, Sex Positive Now, is out, and I have an essay in it; so do lots of others whose names you may know, including Veronica Monet, Gloria Brame, Susie Bright, Annie Sprinkle, and many others.  So as is my habit, I’ll just give you a little taste of my contribution; if you want more you’ll just have to buy the book!  And if you do you’ll not only be supporting the work of a lot of sex positive thinkers and writers, but also helping Allena herself, who is battling cancer (please also consider donating to fund her treatment).

…For most of recorded human history, the manifold laws regulating sex work were not intended to preclude pragmatic motivations for sexual behavior, but rather to keep up appearances, guard the purity of bloodlines, and maintain public order.  But as industrialization rapidly changed the face of Europe and the young United States, a new idea began to take hold of people’s minds:  if science could improve Man’s tools and techniques, why couldn’t the same process be applied to Mankind itself?  The immediate result of turning (pseudo-)scientific inquiry upon sex was that taking money for it was no longer considered merely something that “low” or “sinful” women did for a living or extra income; instead, the “prostitute” was defined into existence as a specific type of woman, separate and distinct from other women.  And once the idea of “prostitution” as some uniquely disgraceful activity was invented, and the “prostitute” was defined as the lowest of the low, it was inevitable that women who would previously have been considered more or less the same as whores would attempt to draw lines between themselves and the new pariah class.  Furthermore, once these new ideas inspired Western governments to criminalize prostitution and/or its attendant activities, distinguishing oneself from a “common prostitute” became a matter not only of dignity, but of legal necessity.

The first group to successfully shed the whore stigma was actresses, who had since classical times been considered interchangeable with harlots; dancers whose style could be credibly represented as asexual or highbrow (preferably both) followed them, then masseuses and finally, “emancipated” women who had extramarital sex for non-financial reasons.  In the past several decades, these groups have multiplied to include burlesque and competition pole dancers, glamour and lingerie models, professional “cuddlers”, nude maids, waitresses catering to sexual fantasies and even sugar babies; all of these absolutely insist that they are different from strippers, hookers and fetish workers in some real (and legally defensible) way.  Even people who are directly paid for a hands-on sexual service claim that being “certified” or “spiritual” or whatever makes them distinctly different from other sex workers, and I’ve actually heard women willing to top strangers at kink parties claim that their lack of a pecuniary motivation makes them not only distinct from, but morally or even psychologically superior to, professional dominatrices…

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The government failed in its attempt to criminalize basic human kindness.  –  Scott Warren

The Monsters Are Due 

At peak hysteria, all it takes is this:

A [contractor] who has been harassed because of the van he drives wants people to know he is not involved with human trafficking.  Marcel Jackson said the harassment started after a video of a woman claiming she saw a young girl being forced into the back of a van at a Detroit gas station went viral on Facebook.  “A lot of people have been following me, trying to pull me over, trying to look inside the van and stuff,” Jackson said….[one] woman followed him for miles…[then claimed] she was an undercover cop…and asked, “Are there any children in your van?”…Other white van owners have experienced similar harassment over the vehicles they drive.

“Are there any children in your van?”.  What is this, a game of Go Fish?.

Sex Rays (#694)

Our descendants will be confused about why we thought this sort of thing was noteworthy:

Cheetah Gentlemen’s Clubs once again…g[a]ve away 3,000 turkeys to families in need for Thanksgiving.  The annual giveaway of frozen birds [was] held at 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 25, in club parking lots…in Hallandale Beach…and…West Palm Beach…

Saving Them From Themselves (#846)

Another bad law giving prosecutors more ways to charge teen sexters rather than simply leaving them alone:

An Ohio [politician] has proposed banning sexting for those 18 and under…Nathan Manning…said his proposed law is meant to prevent minors from [expressing their sexuality without prosecutors] facing [public criticism for completely destroying the lives of young people doing ordinary, mundane things]…Qualifying first time-offenders could be [sentenced] to…[re-]education…in lieu of [prison]…The new bill is similar to…one that [failed to] clear…the Ohio…Senate…before the legislative session expired…That version of the bill faced formal opposition from the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney’s [sic] Association, which argued that [they should be able to destroy anyone’s life at will]…and from the ACLU of Ohio, which [recognizes that] there already are too many criminal laws on the books…

Choke Point (#850) 

It always starts with a politically-unpopular group like sex workers or gun owners, but never stops there:

A new gun control bill calls for banks and credit card companies to [snoop] and [snitch] to the feds on…firearm purchases as a way of tracking people…[using the excuse of] prevent[ing] mass shootings…the…bill [pretends] it’s possible to tell who is a threat based on tracking credit card activity….[but] government’s past attempts to identify “red flags” by [by spying on financial] transaction[s]…has resulted in, as…Elizabeth Nolan Brown puts it, banks “cast[ing] as wide a net as possible”…[to avoid] the consequences of being accused of not doing enough to comply with [fascism]…banks’ attempts to [spy on] customers…to identify human traffickers for the government have resulted in the creation of an extremely broad definition of what constitutes suspicious activity, including things like running up large grocery bills…

Held Together With Lies (#916)

This fantasy number now exceeds 1.3% of the entire population of the world:

Never in human history have [fetishists imagined] so many slaves…there could be more than a hundred million adults and children enslaved across the world today.  It is a vast, [disgusting], perpetually evolving [sexual fantasy], and it is a [profitable] issue [about] which to [spread bogus] data.  In 2017, statistics from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation put the number of slaves at 40.3 million…This figure…is [already based in nothing other than fantasy], but most [fetishists are unsatisfied with that absurdity and so claim] that the number is actually far higher…[many fantasists pretend] that 30 per cent of slaves are trafficked for sex and 70 per cent are in forced labour, although of course the ratio varies from [propaganda source to propaganda source]…

In case you find math hard, they’re claiming that 0.44% of all living humans are held as “sex slaves”; in reality, only about 0.33% of women are full-service sex workers of any kind.  In other words, their fantasy of “slaves” is about three times the number of actual whores, or one “sex slave” for every 85 adult men on the planet (remember that trafficking fan “estimates” of clients per day range from 15 to 100).  So this idiotic propaganda is now in line with Kristof’s claims about US men:  for these fantasies to resemble reality, every single adult man in every single country in the entire world would need to be raping a “trafficked sex slave” at least once or twice a week.

A Broker in Pillage (#935)

Burying government in lawsuits is the only way to slow its depredations:

Critics of civil forfeiture, the system of legalized theft that allows law enforcement agencies to seize people’s property by [pretending] it is connected to criminal activity, often focus on the burden of proof the government faces when owners try to recover their assets….[but] nearly nine out of 10 federal forfeiture cases never make it to court, largely because mounting a challenge often costs more than the property is worth.  And while the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA) allows owners who win in court to recover “reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs,” prosecutors can defeat that safeguard by dragging out cases and then dropping them before a judge decides whether forfeiture is legally justified.  In the meantime, desperate owners may decide to let the government keep some of their property, even when they are completely innocent.  From the government’s perspective, there is no downside…Institute for Justice…is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a case that takes aim at such sneaky tactics…”The threat of paying attorneys’ fees is a critical check on government abuse…Otherwise, there is no disincentive to stop prosecutors from filing frivolous civil forfeitures”…

Profound Ignorance (#939) 

For those who still think the decriminalization of sex work in Rhode Island was “accidental”:

COYOTE sued the state of Rhode Island in 1976 alleging that their anti-prostitution laws were far too broad…the case was…dismissed as moot…[after] the Rhode Island General Assembly changed the prostitution laws in an attempt to make them more specific…the…legislative loophole…lasted almost 30 years…[it] outlawed street prostitution but…the penalty…was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.  In 1998, the Rhode Island State Supreme Court ruled in State v DeMagistris that the law criminalizing prostitution was “primarily to bar prostitutes from hawking their wares in public,” and that someone who engages in sex work privately could not be prosecuted under this law.  In 2003 a court case was dropped after the judge realized…[this] and soon began the re-criminalization campaign in the state.  After many unsuccessful attempts…beginning in 2005…[sex work] was [re-criminalized] in 2009…

Unchristian Nation (#945)

A jury slaps down your government’s crusade against Christian charity:

Jurors found humanitarian aid volunteer Scott Warren not guilty…of intentionally harboring and concealing two undocumented migrants from the Border Patrol in the remote Arizona desert…Warren, a longtime volunteer with the aid group No More Deaths, faced up to 20 years in prison.  It was his second trial this year stemming from his January 2018 arrest…The 12-person jury in Tucson took just more than two hours to reach a not guilty verdict, striking a blow to prosecutors…who [illegally subjected Warren to double jeopardy using the excuse of] a hung jury in [their first crucifiction attempt]…

Panopticon (#970)

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

[Cops] who download videos captured by…Ring doorbell cameras can keep them forever and share them with whomever they’d like without providing evidence of a crime…More than 600 [cop shops]…have [already taken advantage of the surveillance network]…allowing them to quickly…download video recorded by Ring’s motion-detecting, Internet-connected cameras inside and around Americans’ homes [without the permission of the owner.  Amazon claims]…that homeowners are free to decline the requests…but [if a customer turns down a police demand, Amazon instructs the cops to make an “official request” to the company and then they grant warrantless access to the footage]…

The Cop Myth (#990)

Tell me again how the US isn’t a police state:

Imperial County [screw] Richard Edward Sotelo [attacked and attempted to rape] his [estranged] wife…[in] November 2012…and [she only escaped because one]…of their three children [walked in on them]…Sotelo was charged…with misdemeanor domestic battery [rather than assault and attempted rape, and] was allowed to keep his job…[until] he…groped the [penis] of a[nother pig]…multiple times at work.  It was only after…he…[was] charge[d for that]…in December 2013 that he [was forced to resign]…Sotelo pleaded no contest…was given probation…[and] the charges [were] taken off his record…the co[p] Sotelo groped filed his own legal claim against the county…[which] has [hidden the details of]…the claim and any subsequent settlement…after DUI…domestic violence [i]s the most common charge filed against [cops]…

Attempting to rape a mere peasant wasn’t a big deal; he didn’t get in trouble until he dared touch a fellow member of the ruling caste.

A Moral Cancer (#991)

Your “leaders” don’t like it when they’re caught with their hands in your till:

The Massachusetts Senate…stripped from a bill banning flavored tobacco and taxing e-cigarettes a provision that would have allowed the police to [steal] the car of anyone [they claimed they caught] driving with untaxed vaping products in the car.  Massachusetts law already lets [cops steal] the vehicle of anyone [they decide to accuse of having]…untaxed…tobacco products…the bill would have extended that to…vaping…[but politicians] worried that [it might affect them or their relatives]…

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Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  –  George Santayana

Americans suffer from a peculiar and almost characteristic ignorance of history.  Part of the reason is certainly “American exceptionalism”, the ridiculous dogma that the US is intrinsically different from all other nation and empires which have preceded it since the nation-state was first invented; after all, if one truly believes that none of the lessons of history can possibly apply to one’s own current reality, then studying it is as academic as a physician choosing to study the anatomy of echinoderms.  Another part is this country’s bizarre celebration of ignorance; as Isaac Asimov once expressed it,

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Soi-disant conservatives mock the currently-fashionable elevation of feelings above facts by the “woke”, yet they themselves are guilty of the same sin; they eschew facts which conflict with their irrational attachment to ancient religions, their emotional discomfort with new ideas, and their visceral fear of unfamiliar cultural or sexual practices.  Americans belonging to both “wings” of the US Fascist Party are only too happy to discard whatever economic, scientific, or historical facts get in the way of their preferred policies, especially when those facts indicate that the policies will accomplish exactly the opposite of their pretended goals.  And then there’s intentional disinformation; since tribalism is the highest virtue in modern American thought, nobody wants to be called a “traitor” for refuting the lies vomited out by their “leaders”, even when those lies are easily contradicted by consulting a legitimate source.  So the ignorant believe whatever they are told, while those who know better remain silent.

Worst of all, history has always been written by the victors, and in the US the victors have always been authoritarians; US history is thus warped by authoritarians to glorify other authoritarians, and Americans can’t be bothered to consult histories written by non-Americans because what do those foreign eggheads know?  They’re probably atheist or libertarian or Muslim or dead white males who aren’t Marx anyway.  USA! USA! USA!   Both Team MAGA and Team {unpronounceable string of umpteen capital letters} are much too busy dreaming of inflicting their own flavor of totalitarian dystopia on everyone else to bother even attempting to learn from those who went before, and besides, it’s 2019, duh.  And so they keep fighting over the wheel while the ship which carries all of us spins slowly in the rapid current toward the whirlpool ahead, ignoring the writing on the map, the clearly-posted warning buoys, and the shipwrecked sailors on nearby islands shouting at them to turn back before it’s too late. 

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The biggest problem with democracy is, of course, that being oppressed by violent thugs enforcing bad, evil laws invented by self-serving sociopaths who win popularity contests isn’t really a lot different from being oppressed by violent thugs enforcing bad, evil laws invented by self-serving sociopaths who are descended from other self-serving sociopaths who were on the winning side of some war centuries ago.  Without a solid constitution guaranteeing individual rights against a government whose powers are strictly enumerated, how the oppressor class justifies its tyranny is of little consequence to anyone who doesn’t have a say in the proceedings.  After all, “democratic” American institutions approved of the claimed ownership of human beings until mid-19th century; the violent oppression of racial and ethnic minorities until the mid-20th century; the violent oppression of most sexual minorities until the beginning of the 21st century; and the violent oppression of some sexual minorities (not to mention the de facto violent oppression of some minority groups and the de jure oppression of others) to the present day.  As a member of one of those groups, I can assure you that it’s cold comfort to know that the rapist thugs trying to destroy my life employ excuses made up by many power-mad busybodies rather than by a few power-mad busybodies, or that those busybodies were supposedly picked by “the people” than by a god or gods.

At one time, one’s religion was almost entirely determined by where one was born; Greeks followed the Greek religion, Egyptians the Egyptian religion, Chinese the Chinese religion, etc.  Most people simply followed the religion they were born into, and the few who questioned it were, in general, either banished or violently murdered.  But as humans started moving around more and even mixing with people who were born in different places, they became more tolerant of foreign religions; to be sure, there were still plenty of jihads, witch hunts, inquisitions and the like, but in the truly great cities a number of different religions might coexist with little friction.  And in the modern world, most developed areas are home to people of at least several different religions, and many choose to have no religion at all.  But while religion has thus developed to be less intrinsically tied to circumstances of birth than it was for most of human history, its twin sister nationality has barely developed at all.  It was very easy for me to renounce Catholicism; I didn’t have to move or lose my friends or property, and the only social consequence was some disapproval from a few members of my family.  And while it’s certainly true that renouncing religion is a lot harder than that in some places (for example, in some parts of the Muslim world), renouncing nationality is universally difficult (and sometimes virtually impossible).  Renouncing Americanism would require me to lose my home, my friends, and many of my assets; I’d have to get used to different ways, possibly even learn a new language, and could look forward to being seen as an outsider in my new land for the rest of my life.

It doesn’t have to be this way; some political thinkers have proposed that government, which we conceive of as rigidly connected to a physical territory, could be as borderless as religion has largely become.  People could choose a government as they can now choose a religion; they would be subject to that government’s laws and taxes (and reap whatever benefits it offered) just as they now are subject to the restrictions and tithes (and reap whatever benefits) of their chosen religion.  No doubt most would stay with their nationality of birth, just as most people stick with their native religion; there would probably be large areas where most people belonged to one nationality or another, just as the majority of Brazilians are Catholic, the majority of Iraqis are Muslim and the majority of Indians Hindu.  But nobody would be forced to uproot and lose everything merely to change government, and being stateless or anarchist would be no more difficult than being agnostic or atheist currently is in the Western world.  If you want a different model of how this would work, consider insurance companies; nobody thinks it’s weird or threatening that their friends or neighbors pay premiums (taxes) to a different organization and have different benefits and limitations (laws) than they do.  Want a nanny state that takes most of your income and has lots of laws but provides all kind of benefits?  You can have that.  You want a police state where armed goons watch you through cameras and then leap into action to “protect” you at the touch of a panic button?  I’m sure some government will offer that.  A theocracy?  Sure, but your neighbors can still sin like crazy if they contract with a secular government.  And naturally, some would choose no government at all.

Obviously there are a LOT of problems and complications with this idea; for example, mineral rights have long been divorced from the property under which they lie, but what about common resources like air and water?  Treaties would need to be worked out for that.  Roads and other civil engineering projects could be free to the citizens of the government or governments which built them, while others paid a toll (toll tags could parse this automatically).  Violent crimes would probably be handled by the victim’s government, subject to whatever treaties & reciprocal agreements it had with the offender’s; violent crimes committed by anarchists would automatically be handled entirely by the government of the victim, thus providing an incentive for everyone to contract with some government, if only for legal protection in case a citizen of a “presumption of guilt” state decided to point at them.  Governments could still require residence in a certain place if they wanted, just as certain cults do, and every government would maintain some capital territory in which its power was absolute (just like companies, universities, etc have their own campus rules and security forces).  But in general, people would be free to choose the government that was right for them, and within a few centuries people would consider our current “You must obey us or die because you are within this set of imaginary lines” system as barbaric and monstrous as we consider forced religious conversion.

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If there is anything that the past century has taught us, it is that the only war which will truly end all wars among humanity is the one in which the human species is finally obliterated.  –  “To End All Wars

In the first few decades of the last century, a popular conspiracy theory held that the Great War which ended 101 years ago today had been engineered by munitions manufacturers and bankers for their own profit.  But while that may have certainly been one factor, the majority of the blame rests on the power-madness of European governments and their unquenchable thirsts to expand their empires across the entire globe, no matter what the cost in blood and wealth to their subjects, both native and conquered.  A century later, however, the world’s one remaining empire is engaged in not one but many endless, pointless wars whose costs would have staggered the Rothschilds, whose lack of clear imperial goals would have confused a Caesar or a Napoleon, and whose sheer, mindless carnage would have nauseated the Spartans.  America’s war-madness has destabilized the entire Middle East; made military contractors wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice; contributed to the centralization of US federal power in the executive branch; fueled terrorism on four continents; indebted the US Empire to the only serious challenger to its pre-eminence; created the modern surveillance state; and handed so much political and military power to a domestic Praetorian class that its members can not only rob, rape, pillage and even murder citizens with impunity, but also write its own laws and openly defy legislation intended to bring it back under political control.  Certainly, the politicians who support these wars do so at least in part out of a desire to increase their own power, because far too many of the hoi-polloi still practice primitive leader-worship and adhere to notions of nationalism that were already outdated when the Great War began.  But given the popularity of astonishingly-wasteful military adventurism across the monolithic ruling party naive Americans absurdly refer to as “the political spectrum”, including among those who profess to have better and far more productive ideas for the trillions being flushed down Ares’ toilet, it seems obvious that the theorists of a century past would be absolutely correct if they were saying now what they said then:  a great deal of the impetus for modern warfare, like the impetus for the domestic wars (on drugs, whores, “crime”, etc), comes directly from those reaping profits and gathering political power from the bloodshed.  And because that is so, and nobody in power anywhere has the courage or morality to say so, the wars of the 21st century, unlike their 19th and 20th century counterparts of finite length, will continue on interminably until the Empire waging them is consumed in the flames of its own collective insanity.

 

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I’ve always been dedicated to the idea of this as the time of year for spooky fun.  So every year I collect all the spooky, creepy or scary links and other content from the previous year into one place just before Halloween.  If you’ve come to my blog in the past year, or don’t remember previous editions, they are “Trick or Treat”, “More Trick or Treat“, “Tricks and Treats“, “This Trick’s a Treat”, “Tricky Treats“, and “A Trickle of Treats” (because I also love wordplay).  Horror, death or Halloween-themed columns of the past year include “Eros and Thanatos“, “Not Your Costume?“, “Its Own Reward“, “Frozen Smoke“, “The Science of Sin“, and the short story “Wheels“; there are creepy or spooky-fun videos in Links #433, #435, #445, and #447; and here’s a collection of spooky or Halloweeny links:

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