Canada’s real terrorism problem

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This mosque in Cold Lake, Alberta, was spray-painted by xenophobic vandals. The town is home to an airbase from which CF-18 jet fighters recently departed en route to the war zone of Iraq. The people of Cold Lake have since banded together to clean up the graffiti while the police search for the perpetrators.

Oh, Canada. What’s happening to you?

You used to be such a nice place. Liberal. Socialist, even. And it worked out great for you while it lasted.

You used to be such a livable, lovable place. The country to the immediate south of us may have billed itself the Land of Opportunity, but when it came to real opportunities, we had them beat. Our social safety net ensured that no one got left too far behind by the ups and downs of the mixed economy.

Everyone who came here used to feel so welcome. We got immigrants from all over the world, and they helped make this the most diverse country on the planet. And the most multicultural. And the place where the most disparate people had a chance to coexist peacefully. From Vietnam War draft dodgers to Iraq War refugees, we’ve been enriched by the presence of people who were outcasts in their own lands. And the religious and ethnic clashes of the old country were left far behind, much to the relief and joy of all. Here, it didn’t matter who you were, what you were or where you came from; you were accepted. You were always at home.

And now I feel like a stranger in my own land, even though I was born here.

We seem to have caught terrorism-itis from south of the border. Everyone’s so paranoid now. Instead of waiting to learn what’s going on, we start jumping to false conclusions. The embarrassing truth leaks out too late every time.

Like this week. These past few days saw us “attacked” by two “terrorists” who, it turns out, were something else altogether. One was a paranoid schizophrenic; the other, a drug addict. But since both were Muslims, and chose to attack and kill soldiers of the Canadian army, with a confused mess of ISIL propaganda and madness roaring through their heads, they just automatically got labelled as terrorists. As if they had flown fully loaded passenger jets into the Peace Tower and the banking district of downtown Toronto on a suicide mission co-ordinated from a cave somewhere near the Pak-Afghan border.

The truth is stranger, and sadder, and nowhere near as dramatic as that.

In fact, the “terrorists” were not foreigners, as was initially reported/speculated. They were both native-born French-Canadians. And they both had mental problems that could easily have been treated. This tragedy was totally avoidable, and neither a war nor even changes to our nation’s security systems was necessary to avert it.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at who these guys were, and how they acted.

Martin Couture-Rouleau was a convert to Islam; he converted only last year. He was not an immigrant. He was not even remotely an Arab, or Muslim by birth. His religious conversion appears to have arisen out of a growing heap of personal problems. Apparently he made enough radical-sounding noises that the RCMP was investigating him, and his passport was revoked, preventing him from travelling to Turkey (and presumably, from there, to Syria to join ISIL forces). He was alienated from his family, and everyone who knew him was bewildered by the recent changes to his personality. He was divorced, and his ex-wife was apparently frightened enough of him to seek sole custody of their child. It was not Islam that had made him that way, though; it was his own schizophrenia. His “radicalization” was concurrent with the worsening of his illness. And his own imam struggled in vain to dissuade him from supporting ISIL or taking up battle — or terrorism — on their behalf.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was also not an immigrant, although his father was one (from Libya), and his mother a deputy chair at the federal immigration department. At school he was simply known as Mike Bibeau, the big, gregarious good-time guy voted most likely to succeed, especially with the ladies. But drug addiction shortly after his graduation from high school put an end to all that. He was known to police, but only as a petty criminal and drug abuser. His parents are long divorced, and bewildered as to what has become of him. Like Martin Couture-Rouleau, he was alienated from his family; his mother said she hadn’t seen him in five years. In that time, he had fled to BC, looking in vain to escape his addiction (which had shifted from marijuana and PCP usage to crack cocaine). He tried everything from religion to prison to cure himself. He wasn’t jailed long enough to keep him away from the dealers, and the imam of the mosque where he broke in at night to sleep on the floor locked him out. His religious fervor was a direct outgrowth of his efforts to replace one drug with another. At the time of his final desperate acts, he was homeless and so isolated from humanity that even at the Ottawa homeless shelter where he’d taken refuge, he was an outsider.

Neither man was connected to the other, nor to any known terrorist groups. Both were entirely isolated, and more so thanks to their respective mental conditions.

Meanwhile, our social safety net has eroded. Mental health services have faced severe cutbacks in all provinces. People who should have been hospitalized, as much for their own safety as anyone else’s, are instead left to roam the street, helpless and untreated. A few years ago, we were horrified by a beheading on a Greyhound bus; the killer, in that case, was a schizophrenic too, and should have been hospitalized. Not until he’d killed and partially eaten a complete stranger in the thick of a psychotic episode did he finally get the help he needed. If by “help” one means psychiatric incarceration, that is.

Six years after Vince Weiguang Li began his treatment, our mental health system has not improved a whit. It is still chronically starved of funding and professionals. The mental hospitals we so desperately need are still closed, with no new ones opened to replace them. The few still remaining have waiting lists a mile long. Those who can’t afford private counselling and rehab are shit out of luck.

And worse, we no longer have a federal long-gun registry. That’s right; a crime-fighting tool born out of a terrorist attack in Montréal was scrapped by the same wonderful Conservative party that’s also behind all the other rips in our social safety net! The police are thus officially hamstrung. Who knows if we’ll ever find out how Mike Bibeau, who was legally prohibited from owning firearms due to his criminal and drug record, managed to get his hands on the rifle that enabled him to kill Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard at the federal War Memorial?

Yeah, tell me the Conservatives are not the real terrorists in all this. They’re using the hysteria surrounding these events, even now, to push their own very anti-Canadian agenda. And the sad part is, too many people are all too happy to LET them.

Of course, salient facts like that have escaped the major media, or the myriads of know-nothings who pontificate in the comments sections of their websites. Most of them seem quite convinced that if we only shut our doors tightly enough, ramped up the security high enough, and went to war in enough foreign countries to “bomb them back to the Stone Age” and “teach them a good lesson”, the “terrorist” problem would be best addressed. Never mind that neither of these guys was a foreigner, and that both in fact were born right here.

Or they’re all full of self-righteous Islamophobia, oblivious to the fact that in both cases, imams actually tried to deter these guys from taking the criminal turns they did. And oblivious, too, to the fact that Canadian Muslims are right on the same page with all the rest of us in condemning such attacks, and terrorism in general.

And above all, they’re oblivious to the role that a too-easy access to guns, and a too-hard access to mental health care, played in this whole goddamn mess. They simply cannot and will not see those connections, even though it doesn’t take a brilliant sociologist to draw them.

Oh yeah, and that’s another thing: We’re not supposed to commit sociology in times of terrorism, according to none other than Stephen Fucking Harper himself. Yes, that’s right…the tough-talking macho PM, who bravely, bravely hid in a broom closet while his underlings barricaded the door with spears made from flag poles!

But hey. At least the parliamentary Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, proved that his role is not merely ceremonial, even though his costume may be. Like René Jalbert many years before him, he was the one who engaged a confused, deranged gunman hellbent on wreaking terror. Unlike Jalbert, though, he couldn’t talk the shooter out of it; he ended up having to kill him. “Terrorist” crisis ended, either way.

And all this without recourse to war.

Now the PM’s security detail has modified its protocol so that they can enter the Commons chamber and protect him at all times. That’s fine; at least it doesn’t unduly curtail anyone’s civil liberties. Not so fine, however, is the legislation the government apparently passed on the same day as Martin Couture-Rouleau ran down Patrice Vincent in a fit of psychosis. We’re now facing intrusive, unconstitutional online surveillance under the pretext of “crime prevention”! Yay!

So, now you know. And if this is the last post you see from me, you’ll know why. I’ll have been arrested for committing the supreme terrorist act of daring to think un-conservatively and sociologically, and tying together all the things they don’t want us to understand are related. If you think Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau were crazy (and they were, alas), you ain’t seen nothin’ . My own country just totally outclassed them in the losing-one’s-shit department.

And since it’s already at war in Iraq, too, it’s also outdone them in terms of real terrorism.

Why isn’t legalized prostitution safer?

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Ah yes. Pity the poor john who got the short end of that stick, eh? He came hoping to pay for the illusion that she was really into the “mutual pleasure” of his escapist fantasies, only to be left cockadroop by the hard realities of her life (complete with “biker boyfriend”!) Instead of “an hour or two” of (poorly) paid schtupping, he left frustrated, and she came away empty-handed. I guess it could have gone a lot worse, though. She could have been raped and/or killed, as well as robbed of whatever paltry few bucks she happened to have lying around. She is at the mercy of guys like him and the “biker boyfriend” — who, for all we know, could have been her pimp. Which is why I don’t feel so bad for this particular entitled — oh sorry, “hard-working” — specimen of manhood. Nor do I feel inclined to praise him for being “merciful” and just walking out without paying. He could have done to her what johns have done to prostitutes since time immemorial. And he could have gotten away with it, too.

And if anyone thinks that legalization of the “oldest profession” (oldest crappy joe job, more like it) would have made a positive difference to that poor woman, maybe you should read all about what’s happened in Germany since exactly that:

Again and again, defenders of legalized prostitution assert that prostitution serves a kind of “channeling” function for society; that all the presumably uncontrollable urges of men can be acted out there, and so women can be protected from rape. Aside from the fact that this attitude makes men into urge-driven idiots who, due to the gladly-invented concept of “blocked urges” then go on to commit crimes — who wants to live with such men, really? — this argument also most profoundly robs prostitutes themselves of dignity, making them into “dumpsters” for that which men cannot act out at home because, we all know, that in the eyes of prostitution-defenders, all wives are per se prudish and frigid and thus drive their husbands into the arms of prostitution. But how do prostitutes defend themselves from this “acting out” by men, which has always come with a potential threat of force? The sex-worker lobby claims that it’s part of the professionalism of prostitutes to recognize dangerous johns and prevent them from doing violence. Should this fail, the prostitute has acted unprofessionally — the man, with all his “blocked urges”, naturally is not at fault.

Since 1988, there have been 51 murders and attempted murders of prostitutes. These are only the incidents that abolitionists have so far been able to research. The list is by no means complete and will be expanded in future. In 1988, a dermatologist from Frankfurt committed one murder and three attempted murders on prostitutes. He was sentenced. In 1993, 16-year-old Mandy of Hamburg was brutally murdered; her killer was only arrested years later. The papers wrote of a “Murder in the Milieu” instead of the murder of a minor. In 1999, 20-year-old Sandy of Chemnitz was brutally mistreated and killed over debts. The list goes on and on, and shows that no type of prostitution is safe, whether on the street, or in a “lovemobile”, or in rental housing, or a bordello. Absolute protection from violent johns cannot exist.

The Wiki “Sex Industry Kills” has collected all known instances of murders, attempted murders, and crimes against prostitutes. It is a gallery of horrors. Murder and rape are among the “occupational hazards” of prostitution.

Prostitution is legal in Germany since 2002. Again and again it gets argued that only legalized prostitution makes it safer for those who practice it. We can see that the number of violent acts against prostitutes has actually increased — which is no wonder, because the number of prostituted persons has also increased. Woman as merchandise — since 2002, she is available everywhere, visible everywhere. Whoever ascribes “blocked urges” to men, must also now acknowledge that they can’t resist this “offer”, and also use force. The cynicism of the “blocked urges” and “channeling” arguments is profoundly inhumane — and also stems from the 19th century. It has nothing to do with “freedom” and “self-determination”; it turns prostitutes into a usable vessel, and men into idiots. The latest attempted murder, of a prostitute in Köln, was just a few weeks ago.

Since the fall of last year, as well, those who fight against prostitution are being blamed for violence against prostitutes — because they point out the risks of prostitution, some people get “ideas”, according to one forum. Again, here there is no responsibility for the doers of the deed; instead, it’s everyone else’s fault. It is in the interests of all those who defend prostitution to make johns out to be friendly customers. The reality shows that many of them are potential violent offenders.

How closely violence and prostitution are intertwined, we can see in reports on crimes against prostitutes. Media reports on the matter teach fear. The Stuttgarter Merkur newspaper wrote, of the murder of 31-year-old Alina Gruso, in 2009: “The motive is completely unknown. Could there be a relationship problem behind it? Because the murder doesn’t follow the usual way prostitutes become victims: No fight about unsatisfactory sexual services, nor over the payment. Even robbery is ruled out. And Alina had no enemies. What then could have driven the killer?” So robbery-murder is a commonly accepted form of violence against prostitutes, as well as rape, which many don’t even regard as a crime.

Countless other crimes took place in the same time frame against prostitutes throughout Germany. Rapes, arson, armed robberies. These crimes didn’t even merit a mention of the victims’ names in the media, for the most part. It’s just “a prostitute”, whereas the entire focus is on the offender. These are almost exclusively johns. Their motive is not just sexual violence, but also extortion and robbery. In January of 2008, three men attacked a woman in Wiesbaden, raped her, robbed her and threatened to come back again. When the woman, who worked in a rented flat, went to police, she was criticized by her colleagues; she had made “too big a deal out of it”. For these men, women who work as prostitutes are just objects that they can mistreat and rob as they please, even up to sadistic torture. In Fürth, a man subjected a prostitute to electric shocks, beat her with cables, stabbed her and eventually cut off one of her finger joints. The man managed to escape unnoticed, but was apprehended shortly thereafter, because there was a security camera in the bordello. In 2010, a john in Mainz-Marienborn raped a prostitute four times and recorded it on video — he wanted to film a successful home porno, and for that he needed “real panic” in the eyes of his victim.

Johns always get violent towards women because they aren’t happy with the “service” they get for their money. One unbelievable case is that of a 51-year-old Stuttgarter, who held a prostitute prisoner in his home and abused her because he was not satisfied with her service. He ordered his mother to call the police because he felt he was in the right. In 2012, a paramedic, a family man, raped a prostitute for hours until she lost consciousness, and threatened her with “real problems” if she went to police.

Even those who defend prostitution know how dangerous it is. Their “safety tips” speak volumes about what prostitution means for those who practice it:

– Women shouldn’t wear long earrings, because they could get ripped out. Also no scarves or necklaces, because these could get used to strangle them.

– No tight skirts or dresses, so they can run away more easily.

– They should carry whistles to call for help.

– Keep defensive weapons close at hand.

– There are also concrete tips: If a woman is being held by the back of the neck, she should kick him in the balls rather than try to pry his hands off.

These and other tips can be found here.

Prostitution kills, that much is clear. The above violent incidents are not “coincidences” or “exceptions”, they are the consequences of a kind of thinking and acting that turns women into merchandise that can be bought and used. Prostitution dehumanizes, and dehumanization is the first step to gruesomeness and violence. Men who attack prostitutes see themselves as customers who have a “right” to this stranger’s body and power over it, and in the event of an emergency, they can use force. A prostitute is a preferred victim for all those who want to grab a couple of euros — because who believes a prostitute? And to square the deal for the offenders, they rape the woman too — taking “for free” what would otherwise cost. Others use prostitutes for their perverse little games, duplicating the oh-so-beloved violent pornos with “real panic in the eyes”, or sadistically abuse them.

Prostitution doesn’t channel any drives, it doesn’t protect anyone from rape. It kills and opens opportunities for offenders to take out their perversions, their misogyny and their violent fantasies where they have the least to fear. Further legalization of prostitution would only lead to women and their lacking “professionalization strategies” being made even more responsible for any violence against them. Because if prostitution is to be a “job like any other”, then the dangers can’t be acknowledged. And above all, the focus cannot be turned on the johns, who must continue to be legal clients and not potential lawbreakers. Prostitution without violence doesn’t exist. Without the degradation of women into objects, sex-buying isn’t possible. This degradation contains dehumanization, and leads to violence, whether out of greed or “blocked urges”, in just one small step. The answer is to ban sex-buying. The day before yesterday, preferably.

Translation mine. Linkage as in original

So you can see that legalization hasn’t made prostitution safer in Germany. Prostitutes are still being attacked, robbed, raped and killed there. If anything, it’s become more common, because the number of prostitutes has shot up so dramatically since legalization.

And crimes against them have been given a gloss of bizarre legitimacy. The murder of a 16-year-old can be written off as a “murder in the milieu” because she was a prostitute; the fact that she was also a minor gets conveniently swept under the rug. If she were NOT prostituted, the story would have been reported so differently; the killer would have been made out to be a heinous, pederastic pervert who must be caught soon, before he does it again. But since she was turning tricks, who the hell cares that he’s a menace to public safety? Even if she WAS under-age, she was still one of Those Women. Nobody gives an under-age prostitute the consideration that would otherwise apply to girls of her tender years. Being prostituted is considered as conferring “agency”, and hence maturity. And if you don’t exercise your “agency” properly, you end up in a world of hurt. Or dead. And the killer might not ever be caught, because you were only a prostitute. Too bad for you!

But hey, that’s the way the “free market” of sex capitalism works, right? Personal Responsibility with a vengeance. Demand drives the market, not supply. Which is why all this “sex-positive” talk of “agency” just makes me laugh sardonically. In case you haven’t twigged to this yet, it’s obvious that prostitution has nothing to do with female sexuality at all. It’s not about what SHE wants, it’s all about what HE wants. If demand drives the market, then those who exercise demand exert control. And since supply doesn’t drive it, those who provide sex don’t actually control the terms of the transaction. No matter how hard the privileged few who run the “sex worker” lobby try to make out that they do. The old adage of paying the piper and calling the tune holds truest of all in prostitution. And if the “tune” isn’t sweet enough, then…well…

See, this is why I can’t buy into the libertarian-capitalist exception that so many of my peers here on the left seem all too happy to expound. It boggles my mind that anyone could be a socialist (and/or anarchist) and not see the contradiction here. How can you be in favor of workers seizing the means of production when you also think it should be perfectly legal for a man to buy a woman and get her to do “sex work” for whatever price he deems fitting — oh sorry, “whatever the market will bear”? How can you be all “no lords, no gods, no masters” on the one hand, and perfectly okay with a man lording it over a woman in such a crassly capitalistic way on the other? How can one talk of breaking the grip of the “Invisible Hand” while turning a blind eye to the death-grip it exerts on the necks of women? Does one need to identify as female in order to see this contradiction clearly?

And conversely: Does one need a penis in order to think there is no contradiction here? Boner, Boner, über alles?

Yeah, I guess that must be it. My ladybits and ladybrain are getting in the way of the complex slew of rationalizations needed to arrive at such preposterous conclusions. Again. Why else would I insist on taking my anarcho-socialism to its logical ends even in the murky area marked S-E-X? Since I don’t have the kind of little head that drains blood (and thinking capacity) away from the big one so efficiently, I just can’t wrap my big head around the way a guy’s little one just seems to take the whole thing over and turn him from a rational, intelligent human being into a sex-crazed rabid baboon.

Antifeminists constantly accuse radical women like me of “misandry”. And yet they fail to see that when they posit men as being led by their dicks, they’re committing a much more real and profound form of man-hating than anything, actual or imagined, that they could ever accuse us feminists of.

Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I prefer to think of men as coming, like women, from Earth. None of that “Venus and Mars” shit for me. And I prefer to credit them with rationality and intelligence, like us, instead of just a crazy chemical stew of ill-defined and dangerous “urges”.

Above all, I insist that we be allowed to approach sex on an equal footing. Turning it into a pay-for-play transaction destroys the equilibrium, to say nothing of female desire. Money not only can’t buy love, it can’t even buy a half-hearted ladyboner.

But then again, who needs ladyboners when you’re only paying to get your own rocks off? And if you get off on the inequality of it all, why shouldn’t you be allowed to pay for it? After all, inequality is only to be expected when one sex/class is naturally superior, and the other naturally inferior. So goes the sex-capitalist line of reasoning.

And if that line of reasoning seems a bit too crass for you, hey, there’s always prude-shaming. It’s the go-to strategy of the modern “leftist” man who wants to have his capitalism and eat it, too. Or the “empowered” woman who hasn’t fully digested the concept of self-determination. Yeah sure, go ahead and call me “Victorian” because I take an abolitionist stance. Bluster your big head off about my so-called 19th-century morality if it makes you feel better. But here’s the kicker: If you believe that buying sex is the answer to rape and female poverty both, you’re the real Victorian. Because back in the 19th century, there was another mindset that ran parallel to that of enforced prudery for wives and virgins; namely, that of the Necessity of Prostitution. To keep the wives and virgins “safe” and “virtuous”, natch. How else were men supposed to “channel” all those “dangerous urges”? By taking them out on a certain class of women made conveniently available for the purpose.

And that class of women was denigrated and degraded not only in terms of the social discourse of the day, but in the eyes of their own clientele. They were thus easy targets for all kinds of male violence. Remember Jack the Ripper? His killing spree began and ended right at the zenith of Victorian England. During the height of a time of extreme prudery, in other words. And his victims were all street prostitutes from the down-at-heel London district of Whitechapel. “Jack”, whoever he was, was the quintessential Victorian man. He saw prostitutes as a class that was conveniently available for him to use…and abuse. Even to the death. He was smug in his taunting of the authorities, daring him to try to catch him. He was never brought to trial, at least not as the Ripper. For all anybody knew, he remained at large. And no doubt there was a certain smugness in the way the yellow press of the day reported on that, too: with overt sensationalism on the one hand, and a tacit “thank God it’s only them and not nice ladies” on the other. True, prostitution wasn’t legal…but it wasn’t abolished, either. The laws and mores of the day saw fit to ghettoize and exploit it instead of eradicating it. How do we know? Because they only criminalized the women, and not the men who bought, sold and used them. Remember, demand drives the market…and the Victorian authorities weren’t interested in dealing with the demand side. They often WERE the demand side. Why would they act against their own interests? That would have been not just taking prudery too far, but also doing capitalism wrong.

Early anarchists and socialists both opposed prostitution, recognizing it as part and parcel of the hypocrisy of the Victorian-capitalist bourgeois mindset, and their reasoning was not prudish. Read Emma Goldman if you don’t believe me. Or Alexandra Kollontai. And if you don’t have time for that, just remember: It’s not the sex that makes prostitution dirty. It’s the CAPITALISM, stupid!

Prostituted women in Germany are no longer criminalized, as they were in the “good old days” of Kaiser Wilhelm. But are they empowered? No! They still can’t count on the police to protect them. Because the johns have always been legal and legitimate, even when prostitution was not. The legal status of the women may have changed (ever so slightly!), but for the johns it’s the same as it ever was. Those guys could always “discreetly” take out their unsavory “urges” on a certain class of women. The fact that the women are now “legal” doesn’t change a thing, except to make sex capitalism more readily profitable for those running the show. Capitalism wins out over feminism. If the police are not allowed to bust bordello owners and shut the business down, they are also not allowed to arrest johns who don’t play by the official rules…at least not so long as those men are still on the premises. Because when a bordello charges a cheap flat rate for “unlimited sex”, why would they want the cops in there, banging down the doors? That’s bad for business. Makes it look like a House of Ill Repute, nicht wahr? And worse, it scares the johns into realizing that maybe “unlimited sex” has its limits, after all. What a boner-wilter!

Laws are inherently limiting, and that’s just what the sex-capitalists who run the prostitution and human-trafficking networks don’t want. Why else would they throw so much money behind their extensive lobbying efforts to remove all legal limits from prostitution in Germany — including the perfectly reasonable compromises like minimum ages, the right of police to inspect brothels, etc.?

They’re certainly not doing it to protect the women, or else we’d have seen not a single one murdered since prostitution was legalized there in 2002.

The “Invisible Men”: Germany’s woman-haters hide in plain sight

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“John #9″ rates a woman he bought for 30 euros: “170 cm tall, long dark hair, early 20s, 5 pounds overweight (which actually doesn’t look so bad), and what a wonder, obviously a Carpathian girl. Wasn’t bad today though, I wanted fucking not conversation. And her German is surprisingly good. Big plus: She washes beforehand, so that’s fine for tongue-action lovers. Blows well, no teeth, no rubber, holds her own well in fucking, but no fingering. You can fiddle with her pussy or her rosette, but don’t put your fingers in! And don’t cum in her mouth, but what can you do? For spoiled clubgoers a zero, but for the street, not so bad.”

As you can see from the above, a fairly typical entry on a German sex-buyers’ forum, the “Invisible Men” are everywhere. Even in Germany, where sex-buying is fully legal, you can find these skulking cowards, taking advantage of the anonymity of the internets to dish on women they don’t really know and don’t care to know in anything other than the strictly biblical sense. Mira Sigel, writing for the anti-fascist feminist site “Die Störenfriedas” (a wonderfully punny name incorporating the female name Frieda with the German word for “peace-disturbers”), has the goods on them:

In the current debate on prostitution, everything revolves around women in prostitution. They are the ones who are fighting the battle over the legalization of prostitution. Johns only speak up, if at all, in the anonymity of the Internet. But the business of prostitution wouldn’t exist if there were no demand from the men’s side. So the debate should actually revolve far more around the men who go out to buy women. If we go by the number of 400,000 prostitutes in Germany (and this number is from the year 2002, so there is no doubt that it has risen in the meantime), then between 1.5 and 2 million men go to prostitutes every day, and so presumably every other man has been to a brothel at least once. Our brothers, husbands, friends and colleagues.

Studies show that the legalization of prostitution and the rise in its social acceptance lead to a rise in visits to prostitutes. In plain language: Where prostitution is legal and affordable, it will also be readily used.

What is the least clear about it is this: The men who go to prostitutes are not Richard Gere from Pretty Woman. Many of them regard the women they use with undisguised disdain. The basis for that, as Julie Bindel already established in the Guardian in 2010, is plain misogyny. A john she asked why he went to prostitues revealed to her that he did not want the prostitute to enjoy it in any way. Then he would feel that he had been cheated out of his money. Also, it didn’t much matter to the men whether the women were forced prostitutes or not. The important thing was that the “service” was right. Julie Bindel’s interviews were part of a study of some 700 johns. The men were also asked what would have to happen for them to no longer go to prostitutes. The answer was was simple: Were sex-buying illegal, and they had to deal with its consequences in their private lives, many of them would shy away from it.

Men go to prostitutes because they can use them. For them, these women are just objects that they can take out their drives on at whim. The fora in which they exchange views are called “Hurentest” (Whore Test) and “AO-Forum”. The men there candidly give their misogyny free rein. Some have photos of the women they have visited as their profile pictures. Semen-smeared faces and red, swollen genitalia are shown off like trophies. The men themselves, naturally, remain invisible. They talk about where they get what for their money. One of the most important subjects: Whether you can also go “AO” — that is, without a condom, and in how many holes. Women who are in pain or pull faces get bad ratings. Before one goes to a woman, the community gets asked if there is any info about her and her “service”. Racism and misogyny are shamelessly aired, and they show how often both these forms of discrimination come up together. There is talk of the “Turkish whore”, or the horny “Thai pussy”, or the “coal bucket” that got “speared”.

Studies show that there is no “typical” john. Men who go to prostitutes come in all ages and social strata. Most are looking for good-looking women who offer pretty much everything and don’t cost much — greed is also good in prostitution. In Germany, it’s socially unacceptable to buy non-organic meat and vegetables, clothes made in Asia, or eggs from battery farms. But in prostitution, it doesn’t matter a bit how poor and exploited the women are, or that they have sex for a Big Mac. The johns see it practically — not much money for “useful services”. For many, it’s important that the women show interest, kiss them, talk with them, and charm them. Obviously they don’t get that for free in real life, so they have to buy the feeling of being desired.

Melissa Farley has made an interesting study comparing sex-buyers and non-sex-buyers. It showed that men who look for prostitutes generally are more inclined to sexual assault, and have less empathy for prostitutes. So, those men who have the most to do with prostitute, are least likely to see the women in it as human beings. Or, to put it another way: Sex-buying brutalizes and intensifies misogyny — quite contrary to the claim that prostitution would save us from rape. Johns choose women according to age and ethnicity (“today I’m gonna treat myself to something Asian”) and travel specifically to other countries to make use of prostitution there. The women should say as little as possible about what’s being done to them; if they are too “engaged”, so it’s said in the fora, they’re just faking everything. Pleasure in sex is not allowed for the women. But if they are in a bad mood or even sad, the johns also rip them apart. 41 percent of johns questioned said that they had had sex at least once with a forced prostitute, and in both groups — johns and non-johns — 68 percent said that most women in prostitution were forced into it. Obviously that, as previously stated, doesn’t put sex-buyers off when it comes to abusing these women.

More and more often, the women also get taken along for private porn videos. For a little extra money, they then find themselves on websites like Tubegalore. The women thus become porn performers, and their videos will haunt the Net forever. There is no exit, and can be none for them under these circumstances.

The johns talk about when and whether a woman is ready for anal sex. Others say just shove it in without asking. Or take the condom off before you cum. It is the johns, whose demand determines the low German prices, whose demand for condomless sex raises the health risks for women. It is the johns whose demand for paid sex ensures that human trafficking is a more profitable business in Germany than drugs or guns. The men shamelessly ask where they can find under-age girls. They get answers right away — openly readable for anyone who visits the fora. The fact that what they have in mind is a crime under several existing laws doesn’t matter. Only the assurance that they won’t catch a disease. For that, there’s a johns’ health forum. What’s up with the women is not important. On the contrary: Their bodies are the subject of degrading exchanges, comments over too-small breasts and flabby butts. On the search for a “wild junkie-fuck”, women get picked up in front of shooting galleries. Their request for someone to buy them a bit of food gets laughed off.

Johns are men who find it acceptable to have sex with others who are not interested, and even in pain or grossed-out. They buy these people for themselves. So the argument that prostitutes only sell a service and not themselves falls flat. The john side clearly sees it differently: For 20, 40 or 100 euros, the woman in question belongs to them. Former Danish prostitute Tanja Rahm made that clear in her open letter to sex buyers:

“When you regularly tried to cross my boundaries by kissing me or sticking your finger in me or took the condom off — even when you knew perfectly well that that wasn’t allowed — you were testing my ability to defend myself. And you took advantage of it when I wasn’t being clear enough or too negligent. You took advantage of that in a sick way the next time you tried to test your own power, and how far you could go in crossing my boundaries. When I finally said no and made clear to you that you shouldn’t come back, when you didn’t accept my boundaries, then you restored your honor by putting me down in my role as a prostitute. You talked down to me, were coarse and threatening.”

The johns’ statements show that prostitution is a patriarchal institution, one of oppression for women, whose sole aim is to make bodies readily available to men. Since we live in capitalism, it is also set up according to capitalistic laws: Money and services and, quite according to the “Amazon principle”, ratings after the fact. The betrayed john is the one who didn’t get enough for his money. The prostitutes themselves, their life stories, their personalities, don’t come up in there at all. No one realizes that they are not merchandise to be delivered to a man, but persons with lives, feelings and perceptions. They travel all over Germany, get passed from house to house so that the men always have a fresh supply of women. They get mistreated, their boundaries continually crossed — and when that goes well, it even gets celebrated in the fora — that is, anal sex without consent or continuation despite whimpering and refusal. The man who goes further is a hero in this community. A rapist, a woman-abuser, quite legally. Because the law allows it. The same man then goes out and meets us, the unprostituted women, with all his judgments, with his victory-feeling in his head. Do we then wonder why rape is practically unpunished and sexual violence is on the march despite all our resistance? How can we believe that we live in a society of equal rights as long as men can legally buy this for 20 euros, in every city, every town, even every village — at the expenses of the women they use there?

Johns don’t care about the merchandise, the woman-product, that they buy. They aren’t paying into a health fund, they aren’t paying taxes, they don’t even care about condoms. They don’t even openly defend prostitution, but the bordello-owners send the women they make money from out in public to do it for them. Johns are customers — that’s what they want to teach us. But the reality is: Johns are woman-haters, woman-abusers. The only way to deter them is to make sex-buying illegal. For johns, women aren’t people, but the means to their satisfaction, and this attitude has become socially acceptable through the legalization of prostitution. Do we want to live in a society in which women are consequently dehumanized?

Translation mine. Linkage as in the original.

You can see here that prostitution in Germany really does deserve to be called sex capitalism. It is capitalistic in the grossest sense, and right down to the last detail. Even the bargain-basement rates for female flesh that literally does everything are no coincidence. Neither is the demand for child prostitution, which logically follows on the heels of its adult counterpart. Why pay 50-100 euros for a grown woman when you can get an under-age girl for half that or even less — and with her, the illicit thrill of being able to cross yet another human boundary? And why bother looking for women who will do it willingly and for free, when you can get girls who won’t — but you can buy the privilege of doing to them what no consenting adult would allow?

The idea that prostitution somehow protects women against rape is nonsense. If anything, it furthers the rape-culture mindset. Men who buy sex tend to think that “every woman has her price”, or that a “whore” is fair game for anything, and are infuriated when that turns out not to be the case. No small percentage of those will still illegally take what they can’t legally buy. The idea that a woman should be willing, and thus demanding of pleasure, is anathema to them. So, they reason, if they’re buying, they may as well get their money’s worth, and really abuse the shit out of her. Under those circumstances, unnegotiated sex acts are the rule, not the exception. Every boundary gets pushed and violated, right up to and including unprotected anal sex. The worst and most painful and dangerous acts are, not coincidentally, also the ones in greatest demand. And the johns on the Internet score them as “victories”. After all, you can’t get that from your average unprostituted woman…unless, of course, you rape her. But really, the only difference between the one and the other is that for the one, money changes hands. A very paltry amount of money. These guys may be willing to pay for the privilege of raping, but they’re cheap as shit and don’t want to pay a penny more than they think a woman is worth. And they don’t think any woman is worth much. No price is ever too low for these guys!

And just think: One out of every two German men has done at least some of this quite unhindered, at least once in his life, since 2002. That’s when sex-buying became legal and the mega-bordello boom began. And no wonder: This sort of thing is not limited to the mean streets of the big cities. You don’t have to travel far from home, if you are a German, to buy sex. Even small towns and villages are home to brothels. There is nothing in the law to forbid it, and local complaints often fall on deaf ears. The town is required to let them do business there if there is demand. And there IS demand. There is always demand. If it’s not from the locals, it’s from the tourists. Sex tourists are “good” for the local economy, especially in small towns! Only if the brothels are found in violation of the health code might they be shut down. (Might is the operative word here. Getting in to run a health inspection is often the hard part, since brothel owners, as I’ve said before, want the police out of the hookering game altogether, and are lobbying hard for just that, right now.)

One out of every two German men is a john. And by that token, very likely, an abuser. Would you marry that, knowing beforehand what you were getting? Would you want to live in a society where rape culture is so easily propagated…and so easily waved aside with a 100-euro bill? Would you want to risk your health and your life sleeping with a guy who regularly pushes for condomless sex with strangers who deal with others just like him, dozens of times a day? Given that there is no “john look”, that there is no one type of men who buys sex, how can you even tell the good guys from the bad? You can’t…and that’s what’s truly scary about all this.

And this, too, is what’s at stake here in Canada, right now. We don’t have mega-bordellos…YET. And I’d wager that few women, if any, would work in one voluntarily. Especially if they knew what’s going on in Germany. And if they were being expected to do more and more for less and less, as the women in the German bordellos must. The demand for paid sex greatly outstrips the supply of willing providers, and always has. And as the overall economy declines, as it is doing, demand for lower prices grows, and the voluntary supply shrinks even further. So human trafficking must pick up the slack, and there is a lot of it.

What does that mean in human terms? You can do the math.

Imagine half of all Canadian men turning out to be just like half of all their German brethren. Go on, I dare you. Take your ulcer pills and think it over. Imagine the Russian mafias, the Yakuza, the Triads, the Hell’s Angels, and Bog knows who all else taking over the local politics of YOUR town, and constantly trying to lure local girls in with totally legit advertising for “waitresses”, “bartenders”, “dancers”, and so on. Can you picture it? Because that’s what goes on in Germany…

And if you find yourself saying “Nein danke”, you can consider yourself in the same boat with half the human race, anywhere, at any time. Because the women of Germany, prostituted or not, want that the least of all.

And their voices are those being heard the least of all, too.

Cops Behaving Badly: Back to School Bathroom Bomb Scare Edition

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The front page of an official Texas website promoting abstinence. Think it will work?

Ugh, Texas…what the fuck is wrong with you? Whatever it is, even your police are suffering from it now:

Parents in Texas are upset after police reportedly “swarmed” a Texas high school because a girl may have had a miscarriage in one of the bathrooms.

KDFW reported that a school custodian notified the principal at Woodrow Wilson High School after finding a “possible fetus” in one of the bathroom stalls on Friday.

The principal contacted police, who “swarmed” the school, according to KTVT.

They even sent a helicopter to buzz the skies overhead. Yup, miscarrying in the school washroom is now being treated exactly like a full-fledged terrorist attack. One would think it was a bomb, not blood, in the toilets.

And oh yeah: How about a little religious slut-shaming with that, too?

Dallas Police Department’s Child Abuse Unit detectives were investigating to find out who may have abandoned the fetus. The person involved was being considered a “suspect.”

“We’re reviewing video, talking to the teachers, trying to determine if anybody has any knowledge of any student that may have had something going on in their life, and pray,” Dallas Police Major John Lawton said.

Yeah, that’s right…instead of trying to find the girl and make sure she’s all right, they’re just gonna pray. Pray for that young heathen jezebel who just couldn’t wait until she was married before getting knocked up. She’s being treated as a “suspect”, rather than a girl who may be in need of medical attention.

And the local religious slut-shaming brigade also just HAD to chime in…

Alan Elliott of Baby Moses Dallas explained to KDFW that the mother could have avoided any criminal charges if she had taken advantage of Baby Moses laws by carrying the child to term, and then dropping it off at a safe baby site like a fire station.

“And that’s a happy ending when that happens, because the baby is safe, the mother is protected from any sort of prosecution, so it’s a win-win for both of them,” Elliot noted.

However, it was not immediately clear how far along the pregnancy was, and the cause of the possible miscarriage was not known.

…even though it’s not clear that it was a deliberate abortion. What if it turns out to be an accident?

And why all this horrible talk of prosecuting what must, by now, be one terribly frightened girl?

Well, maybe because Texas is an abstinence-only state. And that’s not going so well for them:

Texas has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country. Although the teen birth rate has been declining over the past decade, the Lone Star State still has the highest rate of repeat teen births, as an estimated 22 percent of teens who give birth have already had at least one child.

In light of those statistics, how is Texas’ Department of Health hoping to help prevent future unintended pregnancies among young women? By spending $1.2 million to build an abstinence-only website that doesn’t include any mention of contraception.

Yes, I’m sure that will help a lot. In fact, I bet the girl in question was already a beneficiary of just such a paucity of information. Not to mention deathly afraid of seeking birth control, because if anyone found out, the slut-shame brigade would turn out in force and swarm her, just like those stupid cops and their helicopter. Girls who conceal pregnancies tend to be afraid of things like that. Even just telling their own mothers could be the hardest thing in the world to do — especially if Mom is another of those religious freaks who would rather pray for her daughter’s soul than take her to the doctor and make sure her body is all right.

And really — since when is it the police’s duty to play Morally Judgmental Parent?

With a “win-win” framework like that in place, more bathroom miscarriages are all but inevitable.

A few random thoughts on yesterday’s Ontario election

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So, the Ontario Liberals have formed our new government. And it’s a majority. We now have our first elected woman premier (who is also our first elected out gay premier). Tim Hudak was handed his Not-So-Progressive Conservative ass, and has resigned in the wake of his resounding defeat. Meanwhile, Andrea Horwath, who led the provincial NDP — supposedly the most progressive of the three mainstream parties — got handed an object lesson in how NOT to win new friends and influence people. People who neglected to vote got just what they deserved, too: NOTHING.

And I, who swore over a decade ago never again to hold my nose and vote for a Liberal when the party lost to Ernie Eves and his nasty band of Harrisite leftovers (of which Hudak was one), have voted for a Liberal. I did not hold my nose this time.

And I’m not even sorry.

I didn’t leave the NDP; they left me. And they did it right around the time that Andrea Horwath decided it was clever to court the business vote and maybe pick off a few disgruntled SupposiTories, and throw the real, long-time NDPers under the big orange bus. And to cap off the ignominy, the provincial New Democrats ignored my demands to be taken off their call list, and instead deluged me with donation requests by phone and e-mail, as well as robocalls trying to rope me into an “unscripted” town-hall that I had no desire to take part in. I was pissed as hell over that. And yesterday, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I finally took my frustrations out in the only way I knew. I voted for the local Liberal in my riding. And he won.

And that’s why I’m not sorry. My riding is a swing riding; it could go either way in any given election, and vacillates between Lib and Con. An NDP vote would be wasted here, and doubly so under the circumstances. The Liberal I voted for unseated the Conservative doofus who’d been squatting uselessly in Queen’s Park on our supposed behalf, making idiotic proposals to attract more tourists to our area by building covered bridges. Yeah, that’s right: he was shooting for The Bridges of Madison County. Only this is NOT Madison County, and it doesn’t have a lengthy tradition of covered bridges to preserve, let alone add to. But hey — wouldn’t it have looked cute? Guess that would have created maybe a couple dozen of those million new jobs Timmy promised us. No wait, that would be public-sector jobs. And Timmy was for chopping 100,000 of those. He seemed to think that with fewer taxes to pay and less accountability than ever, the private sector would pick up the slack. Since when has it ever done that? Since, oh, about NEVER. The only thing that trickles down from Uncle Miltie Friedman’s economics is raw sewage — and, if you have the misfortune to live and work in Alberta, tar-sands waste.

And Ontario voters, those who showed up yesterday at any rate, aren’t stupid. You can’t piss on our heads out here and tell us it’s raining. Which is what Tim Hudak was trying to do. And Andrea Horwath, too. The one was handed a harsh lesson in how not to do economics, and the other, in how not to do progressive politics. On both counts, they are bullets that I chose to dodge. As for the Greens, they’ve long been off the progressive radar here, because their environmental solution boils down to too much capitalism and not enough socialism. And again, Ontario voters not being stupid, we know that that’s not enough to keep our province clean and healthy. Trying to appeal to the goodness of a businessman’s heart is a losing proposition, because they don’t have one. Big Business will almost always pay only the merest of lip service to progressive causes, and very rarely do things differently out of a knowledge that the common good is also good for business. If you don’t believe me, watch The Corporation. If corporations are legally persons, then the kind of persons they are is diagnosably psychopathic. (And just think: That’s who Andrea Horwath was trying to court, too. Oy.)

So, all bullet-dodging and ass-handing aside, what was this election about?

In the end, the “surprising” Liberal majority tells me that there was something more at work here than just avoiding the worst and punishing their fellow-travellers for jumping on the dumb populist bandwagon. Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga (and the longest-serving mayor in the country), nailed it when she picked Kathleen Wynne for her endorsement. Hurricane Hazel is no lightweight; she shepherded her city through the great train derailment of 1979, when she was newly elected, and Mississauga was newly amalgamated. It could have been the kiss of death for her, but it proved to be her finest hour, because that was when she proved not only her political mettle, but her unswerving dedication to her constituents. Hazel McCallion has never lied or played her people false. She always stood up for them, and that’s why they kept voting for her, term after term after term. So her recommendation bore some weight with me. And lots of other Ontarians too, it seems.

And then there was the Globe & Mail’s editorial board. They all endorsed Wynne too, in a consensus that took time and thought to reach, only to have orders come down from on high to throw their weight behind Hudak instead. Now, those board members were not idiots, either. Whoever told them they were going with Hudak was. But then, the Grope & Flail has always endorsed the Tories, so I guess that was to be expected. Even though the party leader was a complete twit, it didn’t matter; tradition is tradition. And the editorial high command ended up mopping egg yolks out of their beards for that.

But then, is that really so shocking? Ontarians can’t afford to vote based on tradition anymore. And neither can politicians rely on conventional, traditional strategies for roping them in. The conservative base is aging and dying. They can’t be counted on in the numbers they once had. And that’s a good thing for progressives, even in this ludicrous first-past-the-post system we have. Because we younger voters of Generations X and Y are informed by grassroots movements like Occupy, Uncut, and the 99%. We are restless, and we don’t give a hang for party loyalty when the parties betray us. We are the untapped progressive vein that the traditional party strategists are missing. They think we’ll fall for some right-wing yutz when, in fact, we are much further to the left than any of the big parties. And we are the ones with an increasing power to force the most progressive candidates to the top. In this case, it was Kathleen Wynne…who ran as a Liberal, but sounded a lot more like a New Democrat than the NDP did. For me, she was a no-brainer choice.

My polling station was surprisingly busy, given that I live in a fairly small town. Line-ups are uncommon on voting day at any station here. Usually you’re in and out in less than five minutes. But yesterday, I found myself waiting behind another woman, who was waiting for yet another woman to vote. I wonder if we all voted for the same candidate. I wouldn’t be surprised if we did! I smelled motivation in the air…and desperation in the Conservative camp, which indeed there was. Maybe my single vote wasn’t much on its own, but then again, lots of others were probably thinking the same thing. And, quite possibly, that was what put our local Liberal very soundly over the top, with several thousand votes over the incumbent Conservative doofus. If you vote, you can still make a difference; if not, you might just end up getting not the government you want, but the one you deserve.

And now that that’s all over, it’s time for the next step: holding all the new electees’ feet to the fire, as well as those of the losers, and making sure they don’t get away with more of the same old. Which is to say, politics by, of and for the money, rather than by, of and for the people. We have to make sure they don’t go throwing a “surprise” austerity budget at us. Let’s hope they’re learning a thing or two from the Eurocrisis, and specifically, the French, who are throwing debt out the window in favor of the public interest. Ontarians should get a referendum on whether a “balanced budget” is really a worthwhile priority, instead of an inflexible law. It’s time to scrap the legacy of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves once and for all. No more tax cuts for big business, and no more austerity budgets to appease the suits. For that, we’ll need concerted action.

And a lot more of it than just dutifully turning out on election day.

Maria Conchita Alonso’s latest load of bat guano

Oh, oh…what have we here?

Poor dear. It sounds like she’s trying to sing. She’s not doing a very good job. But then again, there are a lot of things Conchita isn’t very good at. Like acting, for example. Or, hell…just acting like a friggin’ human being. Take, for example, this:

Cuban-Venezuelan actress María Conchita Alonso, now a US citizen, has said that she would like for the United States to invade Venezuela “with bullets to get all those damn communists out” of the country.

That was how she put it during an interview on “La Voz de América”, in an audio clip rebroadcast curing the VTV show “Con el Mazo Dando”, hosted by the president of the Venezuelan national assembly, Diosdado Cabello. The clip was also tweeted by the minister of communication and information, Delcy Rodríguez.

On the clip, Alonso, who was born in Cuba but emigrated to Venezuela at a young age, said that what was happening in Venezuela “has repercussions in all of Latin America and even in the United States”.

For that reason, she considers it “very important” to impose sanctions on Venezuela, and proposed “taking visas away from Chavistas, who have been indoctrinated for years, as in Cuba, against this country, but who come here (to the US) and buy houses, horses, and everything.”

The actress added that another sanction should be to freeze their bank accounts, “since this money isn’t theirs, it belongs to Venezuelans.”

“In my opinion, invade the country, since the Cubans invaded without firing a shot, because they’re handing Venezuela over to Cuba, I want the United States to invade with bullets to get all those damn communists out of Venezuela,” said the actress.

Regarding those declarations, Communication and Information minister Delcy Rodríguez stated on her website that “beyond the worrisome threat of invasion to Venezuela, even more serious is the complicity of self-exiled Venezuelans in Miami.” Such is the case, she says, of María Conchita Alonso, “who, rending her garments out of a false love of her country, irresponsibly incites the invasion of the US Marines.”

“We all know the harmful consequences which a North American military invasion would bring about in our land. If we consider the lived experiences of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, we know that a gringo military invasion would affect the entire nation, and the family lives of the people would be destroyed,” said the minister.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

So we can see that here is another so-called Venezuelan who doesn’t give a shit if the country she claims to love (in such terrible songs) is invaded and destroyed by the US war machine. In fact, as it stands, Conchita doesn’t care that her beloved “freedom-loving” opposition is holding the country for ransom, and has killed at least 40 people in the latest round of violence alone. No, she won’t be happy, and she won’t consider Venezuela free and peaceful, until an overwhelming majority of Venezuelans are shot and killed. For, after all, six out of every ten Venezuelans are Chavistas.

And as we can see, her idea of “freedom” is strange even in the US, where the so-called Venezuelan exiles are anti-Chavista, and in any case, those are the only ones rich enough to buy “houses, horses and everything”. The others, who immigrated due to dire poverty back before Chávez, and who support the Revolution because they remember what life used to be like there, are invisible. They don’t count. After all, they live in the inner cities, indistinguishable from all the other poor, brown Latinos. Does she want to see THEIR bank accounts frozen? There’s not much in them to freeze. Maybe she should call for the freezing of rich “exile” bank accounts, instead. But no, that would be an infringement on good ol’ Murrican freedumb…

As for the part about that money belonging to the Venezuelan people…well, duh! It belongs to the people who brought it, and they do so happen to be Venezuelan. But I don’t hear her saying boo about Jota-Jota. Maybe because his money doesn’t come from Venezuela, but from the Colombian drug trade (among other things)? Maybe. I guess it doesn’t deserve to be part of the latest hypocritical round of sanctions, called for by right-wing dunderheads like Marco “The Clown” Rubio and Bob “The John” Menendez.

And of course, let’s not forget that Conchita’s brother Robert (not Roberto, ROBERT) has a long and extensive history of putschist activities…and an ocean of innocent Venezuelan blood on his hands.

In any case, she has some nerve, clamoring for invasion out of supposed love for a country she hasn’t actually been in for longer than she claims to have been watching it go to hell. “Hell”, of course, being a vast improvement over what it used to be when Conchita was still squatting there.

The ironies of the Venezuelan opposition, part 38

oppo-nazis

Pablo Victoria Wilches of Colombia’s Conservative Party (standing) and neo-fascists Lorent Saleh and Diego Cubillos (seated, in insets also). Strange bedfellows right-wing politics makes, no?

Howdy, folks, and welcome to this long-overdue update of VenOpIronía. Well, how about those peaceful oppos, always and forever being repressed by the iron boot-heel of the Chavista state? Only, of course, it’s not quite like that. We’ve already seen how bloody and violent they are; Dr. Dawg has already picked apart all the fake memes they’ve been circulating via the Internets. What’s left for me to blog today? Well, how about some actual fucking neo-Nazis…in Venezuela and Colombia?

Lorent Saleh, one of the promoters of the protests against Chavismo in Venezuela, along with his chief, Leopoldo López, has connections to the neo-Nazi organizations in Colombia.

The student has been one of the visible faces of the latest marches against the government of Nicolás Maduro.

[...]

The reports are founded in an investigation by journalist Gustavo Regules, published in El Espectador on July 21, 2013. It reveals the presence of Saleh at a public event organized by the fascist movement “National Alliance for Freedom”, along with Diego Cubillos, known as “The Comandante”, of Third Power, a neo-Nazi organization operating in Bogotá and other Colombian cities.

The event, which took place at the UDES university north of Bogotá, featured speeches by Colombian ex-congress member and Conservative Party presidential precandidate Pablo Victoria Wilches, and Lorent Saleh, representing the Venezuelan opposition.

“We are very concerned by what is happening in Colombia. What will happen if the Castro-Chavista forces consolidate here? I’m here to tell you that we need your support, and you need ours,” said Saleh, who is president of the non-governmental organization “Operation Freedom” in Venezuela.

Saleh is part of the most radical right wing in Venezuela. The staunch opponent of Chavismo has also referred to opposition leader Henrique Capriles as “timid and weak in the struggle they are fighting”, as we see in this video of another meeting in Bogotá, where Pablo Victoria was also present. There, Saleh rejects Capriles for not staunchly supporting the student protests in Venezuela.

Translation mine. Here’s the video in question:

And yup, it’s incriminating. Lorent Saleh, the little punk speaking, is telling the audience that the opposition has planned a coup d’état starting with trumped-up “protests” in the first half of January. He tells exactly how it’s going to go down, how it’s going to escalate into violence. PLANNED violence, planned by the opposition and carried out by its fascist youth arm — led by him, among others. It’s all designed for the express purpose of provoking a state crackdown. And yup, he shits all over Caprichito and Prettyboy Leopoldo López, too.

Such peace! Such unity! Such…um…gringos, why are you supporting these guys, again? Because these enfants terribles are your babies, carrying out YOUR imperial missions in the region. Are you not ashamed? HAVE you no shame?

How many trolls does $1 billion a year buy?

global-warming-unbeliever-fail

I don’t know, and neither do you. But I bet the Koch Brothers do…

Conservative groups may have spent up to $1bn a year on the effort to deny science and oppose action on climate change, according to the first extensive study into the anatomy of the anti-climate effort.

The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change. Such financial support has hardened conservative opposition to climate policy, ultimately dooming any chances of action from Congress to cut greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet, the study found.

“I call it the climate-change counter movement,” said the author of the study, Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle. “It is not just a couple of rogue individuals doing this. This is a large-scale political effort.”

Billionaires spending billions to keep the gravy train rolling…and rolling right over any pesky government that would stand in their way. And how exactly does that work?

“This is how wealthy individuals or corporations translate their economic power into political and cultural power,” he said. “They have their profits and they hire people to write books that say climate change is not real. They hear people to go on TV and say climate change is not real. It ends up that people without economic power don’t have the same size voice as the people who have economic power, and so it ends up distorting democracy.

“That is the bottom line here. These are unaccountable organisations deciding what our politics should be. They put their thumbs on the scale … It is more one dollar one vote than one person one vote.”

Apparently, in the United States of Amnesia, any billionaire can set himself up as a charitable cause, hiring mouthpieces so that the money keeps on rolling…right back to him.

The vast majority of the 91 groups on Brulle’s list – 79% – were registered as charitable organisations and enjoyed considerable tax breaks. Those 91 groups included trade organisations, think tanks and campaign groups. The groups collectively received more than $7bn over the eight years of Brulle’s study – or about $900m a year from 2003 to 2010. Conservative think tanks and advocacy groups occupied the core of that effort.

The funding was dispersed to top-tier conservative think tanks in Washington, such as the AEI and Heritage Foundation, which focus on a range of issues, as well as more obscure organisations such as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and the John Locke Foundation.

Funding also went to groups that took on climate change denial as a core mission – such as the Heartland Institute, which held regular conclaves dedicated to undermining the United Nations climate panel’s reports, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which tried and failed to prosecute a climate scientist, Michael Mann, for academic fraud.

AEI was by far the top recipient of such funds, receiving 16% of total funding over the eight years, or $86.7m. Heartland Institute, in contrast, received just 3% of the total, $16.7m. There was also generous support to Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group affiliated with the conservative Koch billionaires, which received $22.7m.

And if you thought Conrad Black was adept at setting up shell corporations to funnel money back into his own overstuffed coffers, that’s nothing…just look at these guys, who money-launder their own “charitable” donations:

The leading venue for those underground donations was the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which alone accounted for 25% of funding of the groups opposed to climate action. An investigation by the Guardian last February found that the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund had distributed nearly $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups from 2002-2010. The Donors group has now displaced such previous prominent supporters of the climate denial movement as the Koch-affiliated foundations and corporations like Exxon Mobil, Brulle said.

Other conservative foundations funding climate denial efforts include: the Searle Freedom Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which also promote a free-market approach on other issues.

The sad part is, all this chicanery is apparently perfectly legal. Nobody has closed the loopholes on them…yet.

And in a comic twist, the climate-change deniers are even in the business of denying that they’re all paid hacks:

A number of the groups on Brulle’s list – both as funders and recipients – refused to comment on his findings or disputed his contention that they were part of a movement to block action on climate change.

Whitney Ball, the president of the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, said the organisation had no say in deciding which projects would receive funding. However, Ball told the Guardian last February that Donors offered funders the assurance their money would never go to Greenpeace. “It won’t be going to liberals,” she said at that time.

“We do not otherwise drive the selection of grantees, nor do we conduct in-depth analyses of projects or grantees unless an account holder specifically requests that service,” Ball said in an email. “Neither Donors Trust nor Donors Capital Fund as institutions take positions with respect to any issue advocated by its grantees.”

Why do I get the feeling that Whitney Ball is lying through her teeth? Oh, maybe because that’s what they all do. That’s what they’re all paid to do. They are being paid extravagantly to lie. And the lies are downright risible:

“Each of the scholars that work on any particular issue speaks for his or hers own work,” said Judy Mayka Stecker, director of media relations at AEI, in an email. She went on to write, however, that most of the AEI scholars who have worked on energy and climate change have moved on and would be unavailable to comment.

Well, that’s convenient!

“We do believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that man-made emissions will lead to some warming,” said David Kreutzer, an energy and climate-change fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “We are opposed to mandatory greenhouse gas emissions cuts.”

He said many conservatives saw a carbon tax, cap-and-trade and other climate policies as a government takeover by stealth.

“What we are not interested in doing is a huge shift of power to the government under the guise of preventing some climate problem,” he said.

Even though the government is the one entity powerful enough to effect any change that would actually stick — and work? Again, how convenient.

The Hoover Institution, which received about $45m, claimed to produce no work on climate change – while displaying on its website an article by a Hoover research fellow on an August 2013 Hoover poll on economic, energy and environmental issues.

“Hoover has no institutional initiatives on climate change,” a spokeswoman, Eryn Witcher, wrote in an email. “Individual Hoover fellows research and write on a wide variety of topics of their own choosing, but we’re not aware of any who are working in that field at this time, nor are we aware of any gifts or grants that have been received for that purpose.”

In the article, the Hoover fellow, Jeremy Carl, who works extensively on energy and climate issues, discussed climate change and fracking, concluding: “Many Democrats and liberals are in denial when it comes to reality on energy and climate policy, endorsing both science and political fiction.”

Funny, Mr. Carl, but any reputable scientist would say the same about YOU.

And, unlike you, they would be right.

PS: Barry Ritholtz has a very helpful map here. It’s a little out of date now, as it leaves the Donors’ Trust layer out of the picture. It would be located between the top tier and the conservative think-tanks (and maybe also between them and the front groups). Perhaps an update would be in order.

Tories have wrecked Canada’s refugee system

asiatic-exclusion-riot-damage

Damage to a downtown Vancouver neighborhood by the racist Asiatic Exclusion League, September, 1907. In the last hundred or so years, it’s astonishing how little has changed, at least in the way our government treats non-white immigrants.

If you ever wondered how fucked-up our immigration policy has become, wonder no more. Just look at how our lovely right-wing government treats refugees from what is surely the most despised and ridiculed régime on the planet right now:

A recent decision by the refugee appeal tribunal to side with Ottawa and overturn a North Korean woman’s refugee status has sent shockwaves among asylum seekers who fled the Communist regime.

Minseo Kim, 45, and her daughter, Sangah Rhee, 2, came to Canada via South Korea in early 2013 and were granted asylum by the Immigration and Refugee Board in April.

However, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander successfully appealed the decision with the board’s newly established refugee appeal division, arguing that Kim and Rhee should not be recognized as refugees because North Koreans are automatically South Korean citizens.

Gee, you’d think such a bunch of fascists as we have in government here would never miss a chance to stick their fingers in the eye of Kim Jong-un. After all, he’s a dirty commie. But no, their own cheapskate capitalist tendencies have got the better of them:

Historically, North Korean refugees have had an acceptance rate over 50 per cent, peaking at 72 per cent in 2010. However, the number of claims has been steadily creeping up. In 2012 alone, 718 new claims were received, prompting concern from the federal government.

“Concern”? A few hundred refugee claims, back in the old days, wouldn’t have been cause for batting an eyelash. If these had been white Eastern Europeans back in the Cold War era, the government would have waved them though, and maybe even discreetly pumped them for sensitive information on their countries of origin, if they seemed in a position to give any.

As it is, this government is only too happy to import cheap Chinese labor for the tar sands and its associated pipeline projects. It’s hardly “concerned” about all the jobs Canadian workers stand to lose under those circumstance. So why make an issue of a few little Korean refugees? How much taxpayer money could they possibly eat up? Why are they so “concerned” that we are a more popular refugee destination of choice than our neighbor to the south?

At this rate, one wonders why we have a refugee policy at all. Why not bring back the old anti-Asian exclusion laws, if you’re going to be this irrational and hateful?

A pregnant woman from North Korea who is still waiting for a refugee hearing had her interim federal health coverage stripped in November, said Wright, because immigration officials deemed her a South Korean national. She gave birth at Sunnybrook hospital and is now $3,000 in debt.

“This is outrageous,” said Wright. “It just shows the mean-spiritedness of the government.”

Over the past year, Ottawa has designated 35 countries as “safe” for refugees and added South Korea to the list in May. It said it has no plan to put the “safe country” label on North Korea.

Given that North Korean refugees are treated as spies and enemy aliens in the “safe” South, this move could hardly be more cynical.

A few random thoughts on women’s sexuality

laura-restrepo-quote

“Feminine psychology is at times twisted: They have created in us the conviction that all the bad things in the world are lying in wait, trying to sneak in on us from between our legs.”

–Laura Restrepo, Colombian writer.

Lupita Domínguez sent me that quote this morning, so muchas gracias, hermana. She also asked what I think of it, and since I realized my reply would probably be too long for Facebook, here it is:

I have a hunch Laura Restrepo is being a bit sarcastic and mocking here, and she’s quite right. Not all the bad things in the world are trying to get into us ladies from between the legs. Some of them are trying to get into us via our eyes, ears, noses, mouths, hands, and hearts. Some are trying to get into us via our wallets. Some are trying to get into us via the media and the Internet. Some are trying to get into us via bad, simplistic books expounding all kinds of inane theories. There are a great many ways for trouble to find us, and sex is just one. So to reduce all female psychology to “what lies between the legs” is insulting and belittling, to say the least. We are more than just a vagina and a pair of breasts, and so is what’s on our minds.

Of course, there are guys out there who think we should be reduced in this fashion, and the more so, the better. They think our minds don’t matter, and that we should quit worrying about what we put into them, and turn them strictly to catering to Teh Menz. They’re calling themselves Men’s Rights Activists — oh, pardon me, Men’s Human Rights Activists, now. As though men have not been the only ones fully recognized as human throughout, oh, only all of human history. And their “human rights” activism seems to be take the form of things like this:

mra-activism

Yup, Man of the Year material right there.

I think what this guy’s really trying to say here is “You’re not supposed to like books, and you’re not supposed to write them, you’re just supposed to be a convenient hole for me to plug into. I’m the one who’s supposed to like books! I’m the one who’s supposed to write them! How dare you usurp my privileges!”

Reductio ad absurdum, anyone?

And then there’s Miley Cyrus’s performance from the other night. Those who say critics are only “slut-shaming” her are missing the point. What she did there was not so much expressing her own sexuality, but rather faithfully enacting a cartoonish exaggeration of what men assume women’s sexuality to be: a submissive pose, wiggling a tiny heinie, ever ready to be penetrated by all comers. Again, reductio ad absurdum. Plus a creepy Pedobear-ish costume, which at some point gets removed to reveal what is NOT real skin, but rubbery plastic with no nipples, no labia, no pubic hair — in short, nothing that actual women have. “Female Sexuality” à la Barbie. And this weirdly puerile sex show is supposed to be Miley’s signal that she’s a woman now? Whoopdefuckingdoo!

Of course, I might be missing some element of irony here. If she was actually sending up this whole cartoonish image of what female sexuality is supposed to be, according to men, media and porn, then I may have to rethink Miley altogether, and give her some credit for being a wry social commentator, and not just a performer making bank at a pretty damn douchey gig. That wagging tongue ought to have been planted firmly in cheek, rather than hanging out for all the world to gawp at like Gene Simmons’s ugly appendage. But I don’t think this was actually the case, more’s the pity. It could have been a great performance if there had only been some indication that this was a joke on rape culture, and that nobody is really like this, or should be. But there was no punchline. Instead, it was meant to be taken exactly for what it appeared to be: a young woman casting aside “girlhood” (symbolized by teddy bears) and embracing “womanhood” (symbolized by fake nudity, submissive pose, and grinding her ass on a fully-clothed, and very sleazy, Robin Thicke.)

It all reconfirms everything Laura Restrepo was saying: Everything seems to be waiting to crawl in on us through our vaginas. We are limited to the roles they compel us to play: virgin, mother, whore. Nothing else about us exists. Miley isn’t expressing her own sexuality (she still has a long way to go in discovering that, since she’s just 20); she’s expressing how our culture sees all female sexuality, and by extension, all females. And the fact that she combined twerking with teddy bears (very icky teddy bears) seems to suggest that we are nothing but sex toys, and that our sexual objectification starts very young. Especially black women, who seem to get appropriated along with everything else when it comes to “empowered” upper-class white women’s ostensibly de-Disnified “sexuality”.

The fact that sexual evils aren’t the only ones besetting us is conveniently swept aside by the sexualized narrative. Most women are dealing with economic disadvantages tailored to gender lines. Every day, that deck gets stacked against us a bit further. We’re still only paid, on average, 70 cents to a man’s dollar, our clothes cost more than men’s, and we’re supposed to buy more of them to keep up with the Joneses. There’s even talk of charging women higher health insurance premiums in the States, “because they have breasts”. We’re facing sanctions against abortion that are more restrictive than what prevailed in Victorian times. And student loan debts are leaving young people, women especially, financially crippled before their careers even begin.

And good luck trying to dig your way out of the financial hole without resorting to stripping or prostitution; those are the two most lucrative professions for women, and you can bet the pimps are taking note; in Germany they and the state have conspired between them to make sure the women get it coming and going. Brothels charge low flat rates for all the sexual servicing a client demands, no limits. And women who work there are expected to fork over not only a heavy percentage of their direct earnings (supposedly, to defray the cost of living in such a dump), but taxes to the state as well. And since a lot of them come from the poorest parts of Eastern Europe and are supporting families, well…you can do the math. Poverty prostitution actually has its own word in German: Armutsprostitution. Most prostitutes in Germany are not Germans; they are not free-spirited Happy Hookers doing it for love of sex, either, but impoverished immigrants who have run out of options — and in many cases, are trafficked as well. Their problems began long before they started working in the sex trade; money, not sex, is the way the ills of the world have crept up on them. Worst of all, many of them don’t make it out alive, and any dreams they had of better lives and meaningful work in non-sex professions have been yanked out from under them.

It seems to be only a matter of time before all of us find that our wallets are the main conduit between us and a similar fate. Lupita, who sent me that quote, knows it already, since need drove a lot of her friends from the Mexican nightclubs into stripping and prostitution. When I translated her book, one thing that leapt out at me was how many of them were forced into it by their own families. They are paying for their children’s food and clothing, their siblings’ educations, and their mothers’ houses. And they have to do so by taking money from strange men for acts that are often undignified.

And the worst indignity of all is that they have to deal with this double standard every day, every night, and pretend that it’s normal, and that they like it. The client gets to keep his suit on; the woman gets naked, or very nearly so. The power imbalance could not be more obvious. And neither is the twisting of psychology that says, on the one hand, that women’s bodies are “dirty”…but which, on the other hand, expects us to use them, and not our minds, to make the only living we are allowed to make, and to pretend that we are merely “exploring our sexuality”. We’re not supposed to be doctors, lawyers, astronauts, scientists or politicians, ever; when we grow up, we’re supposed to be either wives or whores. Y punto.

Reductio doesn’t get more ad absurdum than that, does it?