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

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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?

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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

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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?

God hath spoken; Christians still not listening

jesus-slap-shit

Good morning! If you ever needed proof that God is NOT on the side of blind bigotry, just take a look at how close She came to wiping out one family that decided to try Her patience:

An Arizona family fed up with abortion, homosexuality, taxes and the “state-controlled church” will fly back home Sunday after being lost at sea for months.

Hannah Gastonguay told the Associated Press she and her husband “decided to take a leap of faith and see where God led us.” The family, which included two small children, abandoned the United States and set sail for the island nation of Kiribati in May. They ended up lost in the Pacific Ocean for 91 days.

During the voyage, their boat was damaged by “squall after, squall, after squall.” The damage forced them to head towards the nearer Marquesas Islands, but they made little progress.

Luckily, human mercy saved the day for these lost and benighted souls, who are gullible enough to think (with no evidence whatsoever to support it) that the US government is interfering with religion (actually, it’s quite the other way around, and has been for quite some time). If it had been up to God, they’d have been drowned in true Darwin Award style for their stupidity. As it is, the “God-hating” US government paid to get their sorry God-bothering asses back on home soil. But have they learned their lesson? Oh nooooo:

Hannah Gastonguay said the family will now “go back to Arizona” and “come up with a new plan.”

Please plan to stay put…and while you’re at it, plan to stop reproducing. Isn’t it bad enough that you nearly killed your own innocent kids for the sake of a religious delusion?

For Charles Koch, freedom is slavery

Really. What else can one conclude, after seeing this?

So, let’s break it down here: If you’re making barely enough to survive in the United States of Amnesia, and you’re in debt up to your eyeballs, and in constant danger of losing it all to the whims of some coked-up banker or Wall St. broker — Charles Fucking Koch thinks you should count yourself lucky to be a global 1%er. Be thankful you’re not a slave laborer in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh, in other words. Be thankful you’re not one of eleven hundred workers killed when an illegally built sweatshop complex collapsed on their heads, eclipsing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that basically sparked the entire workplace-safety movement in the US. Be thankful that you’re not living on the street, fighting off rats at night and bathing in raw sewage. Be thankful, in other words, that you’re not the poor soul who’s sewing those cheap, shoddy clothes you bought at Wal-Mart, or the Gap, or Old Navy, or wherever the hell you bought them. And where you will go on buying them because they are so poorly made that they look old and crappy after less than one year’s wear. And because quality costs, and you can’t really afford it, can you? Gee, for such a rich global 1%er, you sure are poor.

And Charles Fucking Koch, a billionaire 43 times over, wants you to forget all about that, and vote for politicians he can easily buy outright, so as to do away with the pesky, “job-killing” minimum wage and send even more of your hard-earned dollars flying into his own already overstuffed pockets, and to send you (and your children) into sweatshops right in your own neighborhood. Isn’t that lovely of him?

In fact, he spent $200,000 on this ad campaign alone. That’s nearly six times the “average” yearly income that he would have you believe puts you in the global 1%. And, to him, that amount is obviously chickenfeed.

Feel rich yet, serfs? Feel free yet, slaves?

A few more thoughts on rape culture (and the importance of naming it)

never-understand-rape

So I was chatting again with my friend from the West Coast today, and he’s still upset about the incident from the other day. He wonders if he was really sexually assaulted, and he’s beating himself up over it. Does inappropriate touching from a blind stranger really count as an assault, or is it just him being oversensitive about it?

I assured him that it yes, it really is an assault. I pointed out that if he’d been mugged, he’d have no trouble saying that’s what happened. I added that the ooky feeling it gave him was enough; it doesn’t have to leave a mark to be an assault. The uninvited, invasive touch is enough, especially if it leaves you guilt-stricken and queasy afterward. After all, he didn’t invite it. He merely got taken advantage of when his guard came down for a brief moment. He had not done the wrong; the other guy had! He finally agreed, and thanked me for that.

And that got me to thinking: Why are we so reluctant to call sexual assault by its right name, even when it happened to us and made us feel like shit? And the answer, again, comes back to rape culture.

Rape culture wouldn’t be such an all-pervasive problem if we were not awfully reluctant to talk about sex in the first place. Our puritanical culture sets up the vulnerable (women mainly, but again, not only) for all manner of indecencies, some of them admittedly grosser than others. But until relatively recently, we didn’t talk openly about sex.

And an awful lot of us still don’t. Just think of those who throw “purity balls” for their daughters, and make them take virginity pledges, and wear those dinky silver rings. Do they teach their sons not to grope, grab and paw other girls — not just those doing the Silver Ring Thing, but ANY girl (or guy, or trans person) at all? Do they teach their sons not to re-enact porn scenes or talk dirty? Do they teach their sons why it’s wrong to send dick pix via cellphone, or demand boobie pix from their girlfriends? Do they teach them proper respect for others?

I’m guessing they don’t. Just look at the statistics; even the most religiously conservative communities, far from being the best at preventing rape, are often the worst at it…and the worst when it comes to victim blaming and slut shaming, too.

After all, being scared of sex, and guarding one’s vulnerable body, is a Girl Thing. (As is the shame-inducing eventual despoliation of that body, assuming that one does not enter a convent — and maybe get raped by a priest in there.)

Real Men, on the other hand, are supposed to grab and grope and maul and manhandle every woman in sight. (Or, in the case of the blind guy who molested my friend, every gay or bi guy they can get their hands on.) They are supposed to, in the words of the odious pickup artist, Ken Hoinsky, act as the “leaders”, and “force her to say no”. (And disregard her as far as possible when she does, and tell her to come on, she really wants it, blah blah.)

And don’t even get me started on what happens at SF conventions, where a very nerdy, geeky, dorky brand of rape culture thrives, and claims social awkwardness on the part of the creepers as its excuse. Things like this make me kind of glad I’ve never gone to one. The last thing I need is for some Elder Statesman of the Genre to give me an unwanted pat-down in front of everyone, and then force me to be a “good sport” and laugh off what is actually not a bit funny. (Remember, the shame of being “the woman so-and-so molested on stage” never washes off.)

Our lack of frankness about sex enables all these and so many other double standards, mixed messages, and outright bullshit to thrive. Mold and mushrooms grow in the dark. So do toxic toadstools.

My friend and I got off “lightly”, if you can call all that second-guessing and self-recrimination “light”. But we did not come away unscathed. One does not have to be an infant in diapers or an eighty-year-old nun full of bullet holes to qualify as the victim of sexual violence. One has only be have been touched (and in my case, also talked to) in an inappropriate manner. And one has only to feel awful about it afterwards to know that yes, one has been a victim. (Fuck the MRAs and their “Don’t Be That Girl” campaign of mansplaining rape away as just “regretted sex”. That shit does not fly around here, motherfuckers.)

Rape culture is about wresting control away from the victims, erasing them, and negating their experiences. It’s no coincidence that not-talking-about-it is what’s the most enabling thing for perpetrators, and the most crippling thing for victims.

And no, victim is NOT a dirty word, so let’s say it loud, if not proud. Nobody wants to be one? Fine, then let nobody be a fucking perpetrator, either. See how simple that is?

And yes, let’s keep talking. And keep calling things by their right name. Even if it makes us feel icky and we’re terribly reluctant to do so. Sunshine is a great disinfectant, so drag that shit out into the light and watch it dry up! Nobody should have to spend 25 years in silence, as I did, trying to erase what happened from her memories. And nobody should have to second-guess himself constantly, as my friend is doing right now as he struggles to process what happened to him. Name it, and shame not the victim, but the system.

And work like hell to change the system when you’ve decided you’ve had enough.

The Bolivarian campaign against homophobia

sexodiverso

“I am gay. I am lesbian. I am bisexual. I am transsexual. I am heterosexual. I am like you. I am human.”

Add another stripe to that banner, one that reads “I am Bolivarian”. The LGBT movement in Venezuela has the support of no less than the president himself:

On Saturday, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro reflected before the Great Patriotic Pole “Simón Bolívar” about the conduct of those who discriminate against others, and exhorted the revolutionary political groups to strengthen their socialist values of respect and inclusion.

“The worst discriminator is the one who denies his own nature and, with that, discriminates against himself. He is like the overseer on a slave estate, who was black like all the others, and was more of a slave-driver than the owner of the estate,” said the president, paraphrasing the words of Ingrid Varón, the spokesperson for the sex-diversity group.

During the swearing-in of the GPP in the Caracas Poliedro, Maduro spoke of the initiatives of the political coalition, which consists of 26 national organizations, among them the sex-diversity collective.

The president rejected the right-wing campaign to paint him as a “homophobe”.

“You know that the fascist J.J. Rendón, public enemy of Venezuela, launched a campaign saying that I was homophobic, but the truth is that the people cannot be homophobic, because we do not discriminate against anyone, much less our brothers and sisters of sexual diversity, whom we invite with dignity to come here to work for the nation,” said Maduro.

“You of the sex-diversity movement can count on our support, accompaniment and love,” Maduro added.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

So we see, too, that our old pal Jota-Jota is up to his old dirty tricks, slamming the big guy on sexual grounds this time. Too bad for him that Nicolás Maduro is a strong supporter of LGBT rights, like Chavecito. There is nothing there for that mud to stick to.

On the other hand, I’ve often heard it said that Henrique Capriles Radonski is gay. (I know for a fact that JAVU leader Julio Rivas is.) If that’s true, it’s a tremendous irony, since he has chosen to align himself with the most fascistic and homophobic elements in the country. And it’s quite possible that Maduro too has heard those rumors and is alluding to them in the interest of making his point: that a servant of fascism will deny his own identity in order to gain power over others at any cost.