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Posts Tagged ‘nanny state’

No matter how many times I explain it, police-state defenders keep popping up in my timeline to defend prohibition, cops and state violence.  So I thought that perhaps my language was too complex for them; however, I have trouble with simple language, so I decided to enlist the help of the late, great Theodore Geisel to rephrase my feelings on the matter.

Cops are glam
I’m a fan!

Police-state fans!
Police-state fans!
I do not like police-state fans!

Don’t you like the smell of ham?
I do not like it, Fan-I-am.
I do not like those thugs of ham.

Would you like them here or there?

I would not like them here or there.
I would not like them anywhere.

I do not like police-state fans.
I do not like them, Fan-I-am.

Would you like them in a house?
Would you like them with a mouse?

I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like police-state fans!
I do not like them, Fan-I-am.

Would you like them in a box?
Would you like them with a fox?

Not in a box.
Not with a fox.
Not in a house.
Not with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like police-state fans.
I do not like them, Fan-I-am.

Would you?  Could you?  In their car?
Lick their nice boots!  Here they are.
I would not, could not, in a car.

You may like them.  You will see.
You may like them in a tree!

I would not, could not in a tree.
Not in a car!  You let me be.

I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like police-state fans.
I do not like them, Fan-I-am.

A camp-bound train!
A camp-bound train!
Could you, would you, on a train?

Not in a train!  Not in a tree!
Not in a car!  Fan!  Let me be!

I would not, could not, in a box.
I could not, would not, with a fox.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like police-state fans.
I do not like them, Fan-I-am.

Say!  In the dark?
In a cell so dark?
Would you, could you, in the dark?

I would not, could not, in the dark.

Would you, could you, in the rain?

I would not, could not, in the rain.
Not in the dark.  Not on a train.
Not in a car.  Not in a tree.
I do not like them, Fan, you see.
Not in a house.  Not in a box.
Not with a mouse.  Not with a fox.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere!

You do not like men made of ham?
I do not like them, Fan-I-am.

Could you, would you, with a goat?

I would not, could not, with a goat!

Would you, could you, on a boat?

I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.

I do not like them in the rain.
I do not like them on a train.
Not in the dark!  Not in a tree!
Not in a car!  You let me be!
I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere!
I do not like police-state fans!
I do not like them, Fan-I-am.

You do not like them.  So you say.
But I will hound you anyway.
I will not respect your “nay”.

Fan!  Since you won’t let me be,
I will mute you.  You will see.

I do not like states, threats and ham!
I do not like their spineless fans!
I still avoid them in a boat.
I still avoid them with a goat…

And I still hate them in the rain.
And in the dark.  And on a train.
And in a car.  And in a tree.
They are so bad, so bad, you see!

So I will mute them in a box.
And I will mute them with a fox.
And I will mute them in a house.
And I will mute them with a mouse.
And I will mute them here and there.
Yep, I will mute them anywhere!
I always mute police-state fans!
Fuck you! Fuck you, Fan-I-am!

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A prison might be defined as any place you’ve been put into against your will and can’t get out of, and where you are entirely at the mercy of the authorities, whoever they may be.  –  Margaret Atwood

Bad Jobs

You’ll notice that sex workers are immune to most of these factors:

People often like to groan about how their job is “killing” them.  Tragically, for some groups of people in the U.S., that statement appears to be true.  A new study by researchers at Harvard and Stanford has quantified just how much a stressful workplace may be shaving off of Americans’ life spans.  It suggests that the amount of life lost to stress varies significantly for people of different races, educational levels and genders, and ranges up to nearly three years of life lost for some groups…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling

There are about 40,000 girls aged 13-17 in San Diego; this “study” claims that 30% of them become “victims of sex trafficking” every year:

A new study released by the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University revealed that the dark and secret world of sex trafficking in San Diego is the second largest underground economy locally after drugs…sex trafficking is an estimated $810 million-a-year industry and it is run mostly by gangs.  The study revealed that as many as 11,773 become victims to human trafficking in San Diego alone on a yearly basis…Victims are primarily underage…The study was funded by the Department of Justice, and found that more than 100 gangs are involved in the local sex trafficking operations…next to schools, other recruitment hot spots include:  trolley and bus stops, house parties, social media, tattoo parlors, churches, malls…about 1,776 victims/survivors come in contact with law enforcement…

That last is larger than the total number of “sex trafficking victims” that have ever been identified as such in the entire US.

With Folded Hands

Margaret Atwood on the asininity of giving away freedom for “security”:

…Governments know our desire for safety all too well, and like to play on our fears.  How often have we been told that this or that new rule or law or snooping activity on the part of officialdom is to keep us “safe”?  We aren’t safe, anyway:  many of us die in weather events – tornados, floods, blizzards – but governments, in those cases, limit their roles to finger-pointing, blame-dodging, expressions of sympathy or a dribble of emergency aid.  Many more of us die in car accidents or from slipping in the bathtub than are likely to be done in by enemy agents, but those kinds of deaths are not easy to leverage into panic…

Above the Law Patrick Quinn coercive cop

Sometimes sexually-exploitative cops stop short of rape:

In August Patrick Quinn, a 27-year-old…Texas [cop]…pulled over a driver and [claimed he] spotted marijuana paraphernalia in her car.  He told her he would not arrest her if she would let him lick her feet or give him her underwear.  He…was [fired and] sentenced to a year in jail…

Parting of the Ways

Peter Barbey is wasting no time as the new owner of the Village Voice.  Per an interview with [the] Wall Street Journal…he’s nixed the thought of changing the print edition size, pitched to staff the concept of special themed inserts and decided it’s time for a major ad dollar shift:  “Barbey plans to get rid of escort ads, a racy fixture of many an alt-weekly.  ‘Adult women can be escorts, that’s fine with me’, Mr. Barbey said, ‘but it’s not the kind of advertising that fits where we want go’.

Monsters 

Beyoncé Karungi, a 35-year-old campaigner…is in hospital following [a] horrific attack.  The activist had recently penned an article on surviving in Uganda as a trans sex worker, an occupation that can be dangerous and occasionally deadly.  After recieving several hate threats, she went into hiding.  When she emerged, she was attacked by a group of five unknown men.  She sustained several serious facial and bodily injuries…This is not the first time Beyoncé has been attacked…one time police undressed her, took her bag, money and phone and then cut her hair to make her “masculine”…

Frequently Told Lies

The title is “Feminism’s Sex Work Problem“, but this thorough article contains a large section debunking the usual lies prohibitionists employ:

I’m not going to make the pro-decriminalization case here.  Others have made it far more eloquently than I could…However, there are some elephants in the room that simply have to be addressed before a real conversation can occur.  These are mistruths that seem to have become cemented as fact through sheer force of mindless repetition, and unfortunately they severely derail any objective discussion of sex work…

Wise Investment (#440)

Much more of this, please:

Las Vegas police will pay more than $80,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a woman who said officers detained her for two hours in The Cosmopolitan after falsely accusing her of being a prostitute.  A federal judge wrote that the case showed…prostitution sweeps in casinos were overly broad and threatened people’s constitutional rights.  Chentile Goodman was released without charge after the 2011 incident and filed a lawsuit later that year…

The Camel’s Nose (#504)

Meet CISA, formerly known as CISPA, AKA SOPA, alias PIPA, née COICA:

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) passed the Senate today by a vote of 74 to 21.  A different version passed the House earlier in the year, so they’re going to have to conference to hammer out differences.  Retail business interests supported the legislation.  Major Internet and tech firms like Google, Apple, Yahoo, and Twitter…opposed it…”CISA…allows companies to monitor users and share their information with the government without a warrant, while offering a backdoor that circumvents any laws that might protect users’ privacy“…Attempts to add amendments to narrow the bill’s focus all failed…The Sunlight Foundation…notes that CISA creates a new exemption from the Freedom of Information Act…”That means if they overstep and share the wrong information — as this bill seems to intend — the public won’t know, and even if it did, it would have no legal recourse…CISA guarantees the public will have no ability to see what information is going from companies to the government“…

What Were You All Waiting For? Richard Branson

I’m glad Richard Branson is speaking out against criminalization, but I wish he’d talk to sex workers so as to avoid gaffes like this:

…There are good Catholic countries like Chile that have legalised prostitution.  And I know its very controversial.  Most people would put their arms up in horror.  But by legalising it, they got rid of the pimps.  The girls are monitored properly to make sure that they are healthy, to make sure they can come forward if they’ve got a problem.  And they believe a lot of the illegal trafficking of young girls has gone away…

Now They Notice

One of the more loathsome uses of asset seizure:  stealing all of the victim’s bank accounts so he can’t pay for a legal defense.

Things aren’t looking good for rentboy.com…The company’s bank accounts containing millions of dollars were frozen and its website was seized by Homeland Security…Now, the company is selling its office supplies and furniture on Craigslist in an effort to raise money to pay for its mounting legal fees…Some of these “goodies” include glass desks, chairs, filing cabinets, and video monitors.  Other items for sale include cables, software, books, magazines, artwork, lamps, a copy machine, and “a lot of special, one of a kind rentboy.com ephemera”…

Seizing Power (#574)

The Cato institute supports sex workers’ right to advertise:

Prior restraints—legal prohibitions on disseminating information before publication—are an odious burden on the freedom of expression and come with a “heavy presumption” against their constitutionality.  Indeed, they are so disfavored in the law as to be virtually impossible to obtain outside of wartime.  Informal prior restraints—government pressure without formal sanction—are even more unconstitutional than formal ones, as the Supreme Court noted in Bantam Books v. Sullivan (1963)…But that strong precedent didn’t stop…Thomas Dart and his crusade against Backpage…As Cato, Reason Foundation, and DKT Liberty Project point out in our amicus brief before that court, Dart’s claimed “epidemic” of sex trafficking has evaded any sort of empirical verification for over two decades.  Indeed, State Department data indicate that the opposite may be true.  Nevertheless, Sheriff Dart, along with a new-age Baptist-and-bootleggers coalition matching the religious right and radical feminists, have raised the human-trafficking bugaboo to rally against prostitution—mimicking the drug war and all of its worst legal mechanisms…

Welcome To Our World (#578)

Here’s the first part of an in-depth look at how the New York Times callously maligned an entire industry – one that, like sex work, provides income for undocumented migrants with little money to squander on bureaucratically-imposed startup costs:

Sarah Maslin…Nir’s coverage broadly [mischaracterized] the nail salon industry, [and] several of the men and women she spoke with say she misquoted or misrepresented them.  In some cases, she interviewed sources without translators despite their poor English skills.  When her sources’ testimonies ran counter to her narrative, she omitted them altogether.  The second article lent the Times’ imprimatur to unproven theories, while committing science journalism’s cardinal sin of highlighting alarmist anecdotes that aren’t representative of systematic research.  If it hadn’t had real-world consequences, the series—and subsequent attempt by Nir and her editors to parry criticism—wouldn’t be worth such intense scrutiny.  But the day after the first article appeared in the print edition of the Times, Gov. Andrew Cuomo…announced a new multi-agency task force to inspect nail salons…The rush to legislate based solely on the Times’ shoddy reporting has hurt the industry.  New nail salons, “which used to open every week in New York,” have stopped appearing…Salons once provided a steady source of jobs for undocumented immigrants; now many owners say they’ll hire only legal workers who’ve completed an occupational licensing program because they’re afraid of getting in trouble…

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All violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do.  –  Leo Tolstoy

I am really, really sick of being threatened with violence from “authorities” every time I turn around.  I don’t just mean the threat inherent in universal criminality, nor the implied threat of heavily-armed thugs cruising around looking for laws to “enforce”; I don’t even mean the paranoid uneasiness purposely cultivated by government actors through the use of security theater, mass surveillance and encouraging kids to turn their parents in for consensual behaviors.  No, I’m talking about direct, clear threats spelled out in plain English words on a large fraction of the flat surfaces in the United States.

seat belt threatReaders who live outside of the US may not have any idea what I’m talking about, and many American readers may have grown so used to these ominous warnings of dire consequences that they no longer recognize them for what they are.  So I’ll elucidate:  all over the United States, threatening signs are displayed in businesses, on merchandise, and especially along highways; filling stations in particular may present a wide collection of the ugly things.  For a few years, anyone pulling up at any gasoline pump from coast to coast would be greeted by the visage of a scowling cop, sometimes pointing at the viewer, threatening that one would lose his driver’s license if he drove off without paying.  The door of the attached convenience store might have a warning that loiterers will be abducted and caged, while on the counter within other placards promise wildly-disproportionate “punishments” for anyone who dares buy liquor or cigarettes for those below the magical Age of Shazam.  And after one escapes this minefield of threats and gets back onto the highway, he might see a billboard defacing the scenery with the asinine slogan “click it or ticket”, because the government is so very concerned with everyone’s safety that it steals money from people who can’t afford to lose it in order to “send a message”.

Signs threatening fines for certain behaviors, such as littering, are nothing new; they’ve been around for at least as long as I’ve been able to read them, and probably at least since the early ’50s.  But in the past few decades there’s been such an incredible proliferation of them that Americans are virtually immersed in a sea of threats.  Don’t believe me?  Try counting every one you see today.  I’ll bet there are at least 3 or 4 times as many as the estimate you’re making of the number right now, and maybe more than that; these threats have become like Shea & Wilson’s fnords, invisible to the masses yet producing a vague and pervasive sense of unease.  Because the more unsettled and fearful the populace, the more they’ll support politicians’ efforts to strengthen the police/nanny state using any excuse from “drugs” to “terrorism” to “sex trafficking” to “cancer”.  Nor are the “authorities” the only ones to profit from this society-wide anxiety; non-governmental malefactors will often use the fear the “authorities” have generated as a means of coercing compliance.  For example, non-cop rapists often disguise themselves as cops in order to intimidate sex workers into surrendering without a struggle.  And then there are these guys:

…[copyright troll] Rightscorp…gives its agents [this script] to use when people call in after receiving a [threatening] notice…[it] is quite something, with a few ridiculous statements…[such as] the following.  If the caller says that they’re innocent, here’s how Rightscorp has its agents respond:  “In order to cancel this matter without payment, you will need to go and get a police report and fax or email it to us.  The police may take your devices and hold it for ~5 days to investigate the matter.  You must be sure that it was not you, anyone in your household, including friends and neighbors or you will be breaking a different law with the police department.”  Every part of that statement is bullshit…it’s clearly designed to…frighten the caller into just paying uprightscorp threat…Rightscorp is in the extortion/shakedown business, rather than actually trying to stop copyright infringement…

As in the case of the bogus-cop rapists, Rightscorp is using the fear of police violence to intimidate their victims into surrendering without a fight.  And given that a large portion of that fear was created by the government, both intentionally through constant threats and incidentally via its refusal to punish cops who inflict violence on peaceful citizens, the government is itself complicit in these crimes.

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You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred.  Ask yourself, What do we want in this country above all?  People want to be happy, isn’t that right?…Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo.  Burn it.  White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Burn it.  Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs?  The cigarette people are weeping?  Burn the book.  Serenity, Montag.  Peace, Montag.  Take your fight outside.  Better yet, to the incinerator.  –  Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

books cause thoughtThough Ray Bradbury was much more a fantasist than a writer of science fiction, in many ways his predictions about the society of the future have proven far more prescient than those of his contemporaries whose writings are more grounded in hard science.  One striking example is his depiction of future homes and cities as being constantly inundated by music, synthetic voices and fast-changing video images from huge screens and loud speakers in every conceivable location; the TV screens which start playing commercials when one passes them in a store are straight out of Bradbury, as are the video players we carry in our pockets and the earbuds and bluetooth sets in our ears.  Most science fiction writers depicted future people as being better-informed and more scientifically literate; Bradbury realized they would, if anything, be less so.  And while typical 20th-century literary dystopias featured top-down censorship by totalitarian governments who wanted to wanted to keep their citizens in the dark for political reasons, Bradbury alone understood that the censorship of the future would be lateral, grass-roots efforts pushed by ignorant citizens who wanted to remain ignorant and unchallenged by ideas which unsettled them.

We are living in the past of Fahrenheit 451, the early stages of a culture which values feelings above thought, the history of a world in which the solution to any troubling idea is to eradicate it.  Right now it’s going on in the universities, where sheltered young people who have been coddled by overprotective parents for two decades are declaring themselves to be “triggered” or “offended” or even “violated” by ideas – whether spoken or in print – that they haven’t encountered before, or that contradict their opinions, or that they find unpleasant, or that bear some superficial resemblance to any of the preceding.  Just as their parents “protected” them from these unpleasant thoughts by banning them from their homes with internet filters or “parental controls”, so they feel entitled to “protect” themselves – and every other person within their sphere of influence – from those bad, icky ideas by banning them.  And just as they may have been shamed as children for “bad” thoughts, so they seek to shame others who originate such thoughts; sometimes these censors go beyond mere shaming to the desire to punish the Bad People, and often that punishment can be career-destroying or even life-wrecking.

But it’s not completely limited to universities, nor to insular corners of social media; as I wrote in last year’s essay for Banned Books Week (which in case you hadn’t figured it out from the topic, starts today):

…the urge to censor actually is [not]…limited to those traditionally labeled “social conservatives”…nowadays, the most belligerent, aggressive and effective proponents of censorship are those who…describe their targets with words like “sexist”, “racist”, “homophobic”, “objectifying”, etc…promoters of this chic form of censorship very often don’t call for the direct government suppression of their targets; that would, after all, be censorship, and every thinking person knows censorship is bad.  So instead, they just “critique” the things they want banned and sling ad hominems like “misogynistic” at their targets’ creators, hoping to make them so radioactive in the public mind that risk-averse corporations will refuse to fund them…this isn’t technically censorship in the strictest traditional sense of the word, because it isn’t being forcibly executed by a political authority.  Neither is Operation Choke Point direct criminalization of the businesses it targets; that doesn’t change the fact that those businesses are as effectively suppressed as if they had been criminalized…while [such methods] lack the violence associated with actual criminalization of forbidden ideas, they are still very effective in creating an intellectual soil highly toxic to free expression…

It doesn’t matter whether the excuse is “sin” or “feelings”, or the injured party is conceived of as an individual or collective, or the suppression comes from above or below, or the method is violence or economics; the suppression of thought and speech is evil, tyrannical and socially self-lobotomizing.  As Ryan Holiday wrote in The Observer,

Your feelings are your problem, not mine—and vice versa.  Real empowerment and respect is to see our fellow citizens…as adults.  Human beings are not automatons—ruled by drives and triggers they cannot control.  On the contrary, we have the ability to decide not to be offended.  We have the ability to discern intent.  We have the ability to separate someone else’s actions or provocation or ignorance from our own.  This is the great evolution of consciousness—it’s what separates us from the animals…

Up until recently, Western society was built upon the premise that citizens were self-owning adults capable of self-determination and self-regulation, but as citizenship has been expanded over the last century and a half, the rights associated with it have been dramatically curtailed.  As detailed exhaustively in this blog, modern governments believe they own citizens’ bodies and can control what we do with them to a terrifying degree; now our fellow citizens are trying to control what we can do with our minds.  That is a two-pronged recipe for cultural suicide, and though it may be much too late to avert that, I consider it the duty of every freethinking, self-owning individual to do his or her best to at least go down fighting.Fahrenheit 451 woman

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There’s this notion of treating sex workers like children who need watching over, but we don’t, and our model is evidence of that.  –  Catherine Healy

eugenics treeFor years I have held the position that the cause of sex worker rights, as part of the whole fabric of recognition of the individual’s right to be unmolested by the state due to private sexual behavior, must inevitably succeed.  As civilization has developed, respect for individual civil rights has steadily grown; certainly the growth has been neither smooth nor consistent, but as a rule the rights of individuals are greater at any randomly-selected point on the timeline of history than they were at any randomly-selected previous point.  For the past century or so the development of individual rights has been impeded by the cancer known as Progressivism, the belief that “experts” have more right to determine what is “good” for any individual than that individual has to determine that for himself, and that said “experts” have the right to dispatch armed thugs to use violence to punish those who dare to violate the arbitrary pronouncements of those experts, in order to terrorize the greater population into meek obedience.  But the bloody consequences of “progressive” thought are at last becoming obvious to all but the True Believers and the hopelessly collectivist, and it’s only a matter of time before drug prohibition follows eugenics, and prohibition of pragmatic sexual activity follows prohibition of non-procreative sexual activity, onto the ash-heap of history.

In recent years, the prohibitionists who saw this trend have been fighting a last, desperate, all-out campaign against the inevitable; it’s no accident that “sex trafficking” hysteria appeared on the scene immediately after three huge developments in sexual freedom (loosening of restrictions on sex work in Germany, decriminalization in New Zealand and the abolition of “sodomy” laws in the US) made it obvious that state control of individual sexual behavior was on its way out.  But any campaign driven entirely by disinformation, conflation, negation of individual agency and pure moral panic cannot last forever, no matter how many billions are pumped into it; slowly but surely the truth will out.  Since the summer of 2012 momentum for decriminalization has been building outside of the demimonde, and a broad coalition of UN agencies, health officials, human rights groups, think tanksacademics and journalists has joined sex workers in demanding that the state keep its filthy hands out of whores’ lingerie.  For over two years now I’ve been waiting for signs that our society had reached the watershed moment, the point at which the momentum would begin to run away from prohibition and toward respect for individual rights again, and I think that finally came two weeks ago when Amnesty International declared its support for decriminalization.  Since then, prohibitionists’ wailing and gnashing of teeth has largely been drowned out by the sounds of jubilation from the harlots’ camp, and a chorus of assent from many who had remained silent on the issue for a long time, such as drug anti-prohibitionist Richard Branson; even prohibitionist-leaning news organizations like The Guardian and Al Jazeera published op-eds cheering the Amnesty decision.  But none of them were as welcome to me as the statement from venerable GLBT rights group Lambda Legal:

…we…applaud and support Amnesty International’s recent resolution to protect the human rights of sex workers by calling for decriminalization of sex work…For many LGBT people, participation in street economies is often critical to survival…Transgender people engage in sex work at a rate ten times that of cisgender women, and 13% of transgender people who experience family rejection have done sex work…LGBT people are regularly profiled, harassed, and criminalized based on the presumption that they are sex workers, contributing to the high rates of incarceration and police brutality experienced by these communities …Laws criminalizing sexual exchange—whether by the seller or the buyer—impede sex workers’ ability to negotiate condom use and other boundaries, and force many to work in hidden or remote places where they are more vulnerable to violence.  Research and experience have shown that these laws serve only to drive the industry further underground…We look forward to working…with sex workers and…Amnesty International, to replace laws that criminalize sex work with public policies that address sex workers’ real…needs.

Lamda-LegalThis is huge; Lambda was a major player in the advances in gay rights over the past forty years, and its support may give our movement the much-needed legal firepower that the ACLU’s abdication of its responsibilities has cheated us of for decades.  To be sure, the conditions mentioned in this statement are nothing new, and had mainstream gay rights organizations not been obsessively dedicated to pursuing the agenda of white, middle-class, monogamous, vanilla gay folk for this entire century so far, they could have been addressing these issues long ago.  But if they’re willing to stop ignoring us at last, and to put their might behind us in earnest, I for one am willing to forgive them.  Gay rights groups, anti-prohibitionist groups, sex-positive groups…I don’t know where you’ve been hiding for the past eleven years, or what you’ve been waiting for to speak up.  But if that’s finally changed, we can discuss it later; right now you’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and we are sorely in need of your help.

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The students do NOT have to eat the Oreo if they do not wish to do so.  –  Mrs. Porter

I’m slowly beginning to catch up, though I still have quite a way to go to be comfortable with my work schedule.  This week’s video was supplied by Popehat, who also provided “protect” and “Jew”; the links above the video came from Wendy Lyon  (“resistance”), Jasper Gregory (“cookie”), and Jesse Walker (“911”).

From the Archives

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Governments need to be reminded (at least annually if not constantly)…that [their] overthrow…by a disgruntled minority is always a possibility.  I would like to see most if not all politicians and their minions paying for their power and privilege by being forced to live in a constant state of nervous anxiety.  –  “Guy Fawkes Night

I only call myself a libertarian because it’s the only popular term which has some general resemblance to the way I see the world.  Technically, what I am is a minarchist, someone who is to an anarchist what an agnostic is to an atheist; I’m also more or less an agorist.  But use either of those terms to most people, even to many libertarians, and you’ll be greeted with blank stares; I had to add both of them to the Microsoft Word dictionary while writing this.  For most uses, “libertarian” is good enough, though it means that I have to endure opprobrium from semi-literates who write for sites like Think Progress, Alternet and Salon and seem to believe that “libertarian” means “caricature of a fundie plutocrat” or even “whatever I don’t like”.  The demonic misnamed “libertarians” in these yahoos’ tiny minds are like cartoon distortions of Ayn Rand characters,Gilded Age political cartoon mustache-twirling (excuse me, “beard-stroking”) villains who are perfectly happy with the system except insofar as their own power-plays are disrupted by the good, noble, valiant white knights in government.  Not counting the cops and the military, of course; those are bad parts of government, totally and completely disconnected from the good parts who only try to “help” people by telling them how to live, why to fuck, whom to associate with, where to shop and what to eat, wear, buy, watch, say, do and think.  Said directives are of course implemented by laws (for our own good, naturally) and enforced (look carefully at that word) by the cops they pretend to disapprove of and locked up in the prisons run by powerful crony-capitalist corporations they pretend to hate (in Facebook posts made on their iPhones).

In truth, I’m as far from many libertarians (especially Libertarians) as I am from most Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Socialists; the main difference is that the vast majority of libertarians, no matter what their flavor, respect my right to have different beliefs from them and different opinions about which issues are most important.  And that makes them in my estimation vastly better human beings than those who assert the right to ownership over my person, my time and my effort, even if I disagree with them on a lot of issues and just can’t get terribly excited about the trials and tribulations of people who’ve made more money since breakfast than I will in my entire life.  One important way, perhaps the most important way, in which I differ from most libertarians (especially Libertarians and “libertarian-leaning” anybodies) is that I do not believe our current system is salvageable.  Unlike most people, I harbor no delusions about American exceptionalism and no 21st-century chauvinism; I refuse to comfort myself with the childish belief that the culture and time in which I live is magically different from all others that have gone before, because of God or science or “democracy” or “feminism” or mass communications or what-have-you.  As a pragmatist and a student of history, I recognize that all cultures  – every last stinking or shining one of them – are as mortal as the humans who build them, albeit on a slightly larger time scale.  No culture is immortal; all of them are born, grow, mature, sicken, decline and die, usually over a period of a few centuries to a millennium at best.  And pretending that wholly different cultures are the same merely because they occupy the same territory and call themselves the same thing is as absurd as insisting that Elizabeth II is actually Queen Victoria.  The United States of history, the patriotic fiction to which so many believe they owe fealty, is as dead as the dodo; it was born with an ugly birth defect which doomed it from the start, and the monstrous doppelganger which grew like some loathsome fungus inside of its carcass would not be worthy of saving even if that were possible.  Nor are the majority of modern Western nations any better.

I’m not calling for a revolution; I’m saying that a revolution is inevitable, whether we like it or not.  The powerful have made it inevitable, despite the best efforts of those philosophically-inclined revolutionaries we call the “Founding Fathers” to minimize the extent to which the power-hungry could take control over the less-able, less-connected, less-ambitious and less-evil.  They wanted to make it impossible for anyone to gain very much power over anyone else; they failed.  It was partly due to the toleration of an institution in which one human being could literally own another (the birth defect to which I alluded earlier), partly due to oversights and errors in the legal instruments they created, and partly due to new and horrific disguises for totalitarianism developed by successive generations, but mostly due to the fact that what they wanted was flat-out impossible; any system of government can and will be remade by the evil to give them power.  Last December, Clark Bianco of Popehat wrote a powerful polemic about what our system has become; in it he refutes the common argument that the system is “broken” (which implies it can be “fixed”, a contention he and I both deny).  It’s well worth your time, but here’s a sample:

Twenty years ago I was a libertarian.  I thought the system could be reformed. I thought that some parts of it “worked”… whatever that means.  I thought that the goals were noble, even if not often achieved.  The older I get, the more I see, the more I read, the more clear it becomes to me that the entire game is rigged…the system is not reformable.  There are multiple classes of people…the bottom of the hierarchy…can, literally, be killed with impunity…Next up…are…regular peons…[who] can have our…rectums explored at the roadside…because the cops got permission from a dog…Next up…are the…disciplined-voting-blocks…[then] the cops…judiciary and…prosecutors…and…at…the [top]…the true ruling class: the cabal of (most) politicians and (some) CEOs, conspiring both against their own competitors and the public at large…The system is not fixable because it is not broken.  It is working, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to give the insiders their royal prerogatives, and to shove the regulations, the laws, and the debt up the asses of everyone else.

Burn it to the ground.

Burn it to the ground.

Burn it to the ground.

The fires have already started, though the Powers That Be are expending considerable effort to extinguish them while simultaneously denying that they exist.  Sooner or later they will develop into a conflagration which will consume the current edifice; with any luck those who next build on the site will be able to salvage a few sound parts of the old structure to incorporate into the new one.  Maybe the next experiment will get a bit closer to the goal and last a bit longer before it, too, degenerates into tyranny.  But history teaches us that is rarely the case; things have indeed slowly improved over the ages, and there’s no reason to suspect that trajectory will change.  But the improvements always come from virile young cultures learning from the mistakes of the old ones, not from moribund old ones too obsessed with past triumphs to bother gazing upon their own decaying visages in the mirror of time. burning capitol

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