Why it’s never “too soon” to talk about gun violence — or racism, or misogyny

mass-shootings-2015

Every time there’s a gun massacre somewhere in the United States, every time there’s an occasion for them to finally start addressing the gun-crime connection, this happens: Right on cue, the NRA rolls out its paid-off bottom-feeder of the moment — invariably, some Republican politician or other — to announce that it’s “too soon” to talk about guns. And boom! Just like that, debate is shut down. Effectively censored until the next time there’s a massacre, only to be censored again.

And again.

And AGAIN.

When nine black people were murdered in their church in Charleston, South Carolina, that was a great occasion to debate how the hell someone like Dylann Roof — white, racist, with expressed ties to other racists and fascists — could get his hands on a gun. It was absolutely striking how easy it was for someone like him to enter a black church, armed and loaded for bear, and gun down black people, seemingly at random (but not really, because he most certainly selected his targets by race).

But right after it happened, it was Too Soon to talk about that. Too Soon to talk about racism. Too Soon to talk about guns. And for damn sure it was Too Soon to address the fact that this young guy was a terrorist with fascist sympathies and some downright arcane racist ties. No, better to just portray him as “mentally ill” and a “lone wolf”. That way, no one would have to question the many social structures that supported Dylann Roof in his homicidal plotting. And no one would have to address them, either.

And now the bodies from that month-ago massacre are all buried, the immediate shock of mass grief has somewhat abated — and STILL it’s Too Soon to talk about that. Or so we’re told.

And now, just a few days ago, another shooter entered another peaceful space down south, killed a bunch of people who were just in that theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana, to watch a movie, not shoot it out barrel to barrel with a gunman. For inevitably, it was a gunman — again white, again racist, again with fascist ties. This one, on top of all else, was a raving misogynist. And all his victims were women.

Oh sure, they were randomly chosen — he didn’t have his sights on anyone in particular — but they were all, just the same, selected in a non-random manner: namely, by gender. Because they were female, and had come to take in a movie starring a famous female comedian whose main schtick is sexual promiscuity, they were scum in the eyes of John Russell “Rusty” Houser. And so they had to die.

But of course, it’s Too Soon to talk about THAT, too.

In the United States of Amnesia, there have been as many mass shootings this year as there have been days in this year. No wonder it’s always Too Soon to talk about gun massacres. Not a day goes by that there isn’t one happening somewhere in that country.

And because it’s always Too Soon, the common denominators of all those seemingly unrelated “isolated incidents” (was there ever such a callously fraudulent phrase?) will never be addressed. Bigotry in all its various guises: that’s one. Lust for power: that’s another. The ultimate one is, of course, the too-easy availability of guns, the culture built around “freedom” as conveyed by guns, the way every problem looks like a target at the firing range when the only thing you’re allowed to do about anything is, you guessed it, to carry a gun.

That’s why no one’s talking about the shocking gun-crime statistics in the United States. They’d rather blame Mexicans (who apparently all belong to drug cartels, don’tcha know) for their high gun crime rates, their high gun murder rates, and even their high gun suicide rates. Anything but point the finger at the real crime cartel: the NRA, an industry lobby group whose sole reason for existence is to gin up panic and hysteria over all manner of Others — women, non-whites, LGBT+ people, foreigners — so that the dominant social class, namely native-born white cis-het Amurrican men, will have all the reasons they need to stock up on lotsa guns ‘n’ ammo.

Oh sure, there are also armed women (most of whom are white, cis-het, blah-blah). And armed minority members (not all of whom are necessarily in gangs). But let’s face it: The NRA’s target market (pun fully intended) is that very specific band of white men, the same that commits the bulk of massacres. And the reason for that is not hard to guess, either: They are the very group whose monopoly on power is eroding under the efforts of women, minorities, LGBT+ folk, and foreign immigrants of all kinds. They are taught to fear what will happen if All Those Other People get too uppity. They are being pushed to “defend themselves” against All Those Other People. It stands to reason that they will do all in their power to maintain the old monopoly, or die trying.

And their power IS eroding, but it’s not for the reasons they’ve been led to believe. It’s because they’re all working harder, and getting less and less to show for it. In that sense, white cis-het Amurrican males are just like everyone they have been carefully taught to hate. But since they can’t fight capitalism (and won’t, because it’s the dominant ideology which they were carefully indoctrinated to believe in as surely as if it were God), about all they can do when confronted with the futility of their lives is get a gun and start popping off a pitiful few “random” targets which may reflect their own cluster of bigotries, but who have nothing to do with their real problems. Which is why, as far as the gun lobby is concerned, they are sitting ducks. When a gun’s the only power you can still reliably get your hands on, by God, you just go get your hands on a gun, son.

So people are dying in droves for an illusion of power that their killers will do anything to maintain. An illusion of white supremacy, male supremacy, cis-het “Christian” (note the quotes) supremacy. Whatever your delusion, the gun lobby is more than happy to sell you an illusion — and a quick-fix false solution. It doesn’t matter to the NRA how many blacks, women, LGBT+ folk, etc., are dropping dead. All that matters is that gun sales keep going up, up, UP. Capitalism is king, y’all! King and God and government all rolled into one.

That’s why we keep hearing so many inane bullshit “solutions” being pushed by the NRA and their lackeys. The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun — remember that? Since criminals carry guns, the best thing to do is push guns into the hands of law-abiders and enable them to carry those guns wherever and however they like. Concealed carry! Open carry! Carrying in a bar, a church, a store, a movie theatre. Any place where a bad guy could be packing, there must the good guys pack also.

The only problem with the “good guy with a gun” trope is that there’s no proof at all that it works, but ample proof that it fails. There has has been a massacre for every day in 2015. Good guys with guns have been conspicuously MIA from the scene every time. Turns out, the only guys packing and pulling and shooting in all those instances…were the bad guys.

And the worst part is, those bad guys thought they were the good guys. Dylann Roof thought he was cleaning up the scourge of those danged uppity blacks. Rusty Houser no doubt thought he was cleaning up a scourge, too, namely women. And the fact that both littered the Internet with their intentions before carrying them out should not be overlooked, either. Both men were operating under the presumption that they were “taking out the trash” — the “trash” being innocent people, complete strangers, those who hadn’t transgressed against them in any way, except to accidentally embody something that the bad guys were dead set against.

And their legal right to carry, no doubt, was all the justification either one needed. Might makes right, and guns make might — so runs the myth. In a South dominated by the Castle Doctrine, these guys no doubt felt they were just “standing their ground” against the respective phantom menaces that posed such a danger to the unearned power and privilege — however limited, however illusory — that they felt was their birthright.

But of course, it’s always Too Soon to say that, isn’t it?

No. It is never too soon. In fact, by the time the massacre has happened — yet another massacre, yet another day — it is already far too late. This is a debate that should have been settled long ago, in favor of the right to life of those who don’t have powers and privileges, however paltry, to defend at the point of a gun. Because in the final analysis, a society is only as good as how it treats its least powerful, least privileged, and least defended members. Where guns and gun ownership are privileged over people, gun massacres are not only more likely, they are inevitable. And those with an eye to seizing power, via terrorist coups, will not stop trying to do so as long as they can get their hands on a gun.

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Posted in Fascism Without Swastikas, Guns, Guns, Guns, Law-Law Land, Men Who Just Don't Get It, Not So Compassionate Conservatism, The "Well, DUH!" Files, The Hardcore Stupid, The United States of Amnesia, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off on Why it’s never “too soon” to talk about gun violence — or racism, or misogyny »

Compare and Contrast: A “tragedy” vs. a statistic

misandry-vs-misogyny

Note the quotes around “tragedy”; they’re there for a reason. Partly because this mug is a joke. Partly also because a few arrogant dudes’ hurt feelings on the internet don’t add up to nearly as much as 90 million girls’ corpses.

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Posted in Compare and Contrast, If You REALLY Care, Isn't It Ironic?, Men Who Just Don't Get It, The "Well, DUH!" Files, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off on Compare and Contrast: A “tragedy” vs. a statistic »

Crappy Women’s Day, ladies. Here, have a carnation.

In lieu of my usual Music for a Sunday feature, I’m just going to leave this here:

Aren’t those the best lyrics? And the most badass sax riffs, too?

Anyhow. Here’s what women in another part of the world are working at. Specifically, in Germany. Mira Sigel has some hard words about what work ISN’T getting done:

“Happy Women’s Day!” my porn-watching neighbor yelled at me this morning, he who otherwise likes to say that women can’t parallel-park. That he himself hasn’t had a driver’s licence for years doesn’t keep him from grinning snarkily. “Only on March 8: Special offer for women” — my e-mail box is full of messages like that. The sexist shitpile of the Left Party won’t stop handing out carnations to unsuspecting women this year, instead of troubling itself about the deeply misogynistic behavior of its members and representatives. The daily newspaper has a special Women’s Day edition — letting dominatrices tell about their great jobs and invite others to come and “play the whore” while the laughable 30% quota for female employment rings the death-knell of western civilization for many. My boss gives out yellow roses every Women’s Day to his female employees, but doesn’t consider it necessary to pay them the same wages as their male colleagues, much less promote them to leadership positions.

Women’s Day serves as a reminder to all parties, unions and organization do something for women once in a while. A little feminism just looks good nowadays — and can you believe it, women are now allowed to earn their own money and drive cars, so there’s a corresponding marketing strategy. “Women, today it’s all about you,” is the message, which also makes it clear that during the rest of the year it’s not about us anymore. On Women’s Day 2014, feminists were shoved around, yelled at, and sprayed with paint by so-called “sex workers”, johns, and male members of the Pirate Party. Despite more calls for security this year, the stone-cold reply was that there are many forms of violence. Motto: It’s your own fault, you RadFems.

97 percent of board members in Europe are men. Party leader Volker Kauder said in November that female quotas would remain the same, and that family minister Manuela Schwesig could forget about pay equity, and that it was only thinkable for businesses with more than 500 employees. Women earn on average 22% less than their male colleagues; their pensions are 60% lower than those of men thanks to maternity leave and part-time work. That’s how inequality gets cemented — meaning that our own daughters still have to fight for fair pay, even though women still do the lion’s share of the child-care work. Since 2014 there’s a discriminatory caregiver law, that together with an extremely “father-friendly” arrangement of youth offices and judges sees to it that children can even be taken with police force to their fathers, never mind if he beat their mother or otherwise terrorized her. Whereas when it comes to child support, or a fairer tax plan for single mothers, we see just as little action as with trial judges handing down a proper sentence to rapists. The morning-after pill is now prescription-free for German women, but only because the EU has taken it to heart. One in three German women has experienced domestic or sexual violence, but women’s shelters are constantly being closed or charging fees of the victims. The perpetrators have little to fear.

The female portion of city and municipal councils is barely 23%, while 97% of all single-custody parents are women. Germany is “Europe’s bordello”, where women are quite legally auctioned off as wares. The new prostitution law won’t change much there, either.

All of this is no coincidence. And it’s not the fault of women, with their “bad” choices in careers, partners or clothing, but that of the mighty institutions of patriarchy. In a society where the most important decisions are still being made by men, there can be no equality for women. So you can shove your well-wishes, your carnations and your special Women’s Day offers up your ass. In a patriarchal society, all of this is a slap in the face of every woman on Women’s Day. Instead, make this world a fairer place for women. Don’t go to prostitutes, don’t hit or rape women, don’t watch any more porn, don’t harass women on the street anymore, and pay women fairly. Then we won’t need any more Women’s Day.

Translation mine.

If we’re not equal yet, it’s certainly not for lack of effort on the part of women. We’ve been “leaning in” until our noses are buried in the dirt, only to have more of it rubbed in our faces by the Menz Rightzers, the latest and “greatest” crop of anti-human-rights activists to be spawned by good ol’ Papa Chauvin. Yay! Just in time for our so-called day.

And now we’re being sold the “agency” lie by the pimp lobby, who claim that peddling our asses for cash is somehow sexually liberating and even “empowering”. Really? If that were true, this world would be run by gigolos, because think about it — who’s more power-hungry (and sex-“positive”) than men?

Porn hasn’t liberated women’s sexuality; it’s just feeding us instructions as to how to satisfy the male gaze better. We don’t even know what our own sexuality looks like anymore, because we’ve never been free of imagery foisted on us by people who don’t care about our pleasure or our satisfaction. Instead, we’re being told that servicing men according to their specs is “a job like any other”. Well, why not? We’re already getting fucked over by capitalism; might as well make it literal, eh ladies?

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: When it comes to store-bought sex, women who sell it are not the empowered party. They never have been. They have always been dependent on the men who pay for the privilege, and those men call the shots, always. Remember the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

I note in passing that there are still precious few women out there even contemplating buying sex. “Equality” on those terms is unthinkable for us. Partly because we can’t fucking afford it, yes — but much more the fact that we don’t see ourselves as entitled to it. We don’t lack for libido, that much I’m sure of. No, what we lack is the political power to compel men to service us, as well as the bullshit belief that it’s okay for us to do that in the first place. The fact that the converse is not true for the other side, even among men who call themselves leftists, ought to be proof enough that capitalist patriarchy is not dead, that “girls” don’t rule the world even though we do the vast majority of its grunt-work, and that we sure as hell need more than just one day a year, ostensibly dedicated to women, to get it right. Every day should be women’s day, uncapitalized, everywhere on Earth.

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“Fifty Shades of Shit”: A German feminist’s heretical thoughts

no-sexual-violence

“No to the eroticization of sexual violence! Boycott Fifty Shades of Grey.”

A sentiment I can heartily get behind. This article from Mira Sigel, of the German radical-anarcho-socialist-feminist blog, Die Störenfriedas, basically says it all for me, too:

It’s February 2015 in Germany, and as a feminist, one wants to pull the covers over one’s head and wait till summer so that the sexist shitcrap that’s currently washing over us from TV and movie screens will at least be made tolerable by sunshine and ice cream.

On Thursday, in Berlin, there was the world premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey. The film version of the book, which is a — yawwwwwn — love story about an emotionally disturbed, violently inclined, rich and dominant man and a woman inferior to him in every way, is creating buzz around the world. There’s talk of “eroticism” and “lust”, and even Germany’s top-ranking feminists are applauding approval, because it has something to do with women’s liberation. That’s right: Getting your ass paddled or playing the choking game is just as sexually liberating as playing the prostitute in a bordello. The eroticization of violence and exploitation is a wonderful instrument of oppression that the patriarchy has just begun to discover. We now think of Playboy Bunnies as kindergartners, and the nonsense of Sex and the City, which for ten years was meant to prepare us for a life as constantly horny luxury queens.

But let’s go on. What’s really upsetting about the story is not that Anastasia sets out to finally find the limits of her sexuality and to cross them, but that she gets “seduced” by a rich, smart, and — naturally — “mysterious” man. What exactly is self-determined about that? It’s the age-old tale of King Bluebeard. Didn’t you know? Well, then, read up. A patriarchal fairytale par excellence. She naturally somehow “senses” that Christian Grey needs emotional rescuing, because hey, why else are we women here, with our bodies, our psyches, and our whole lives, to take care that it goes better for men, insofar as they can take it all out on us? Anastasia isn’t into S/M. She lets him do it to her, because she thinks she’ll get access to Christian’s disturbed emotional world this way. She realizes that he’s overstepping her boundaries, and still keeps going on. As well, she was a virgin before she met him, and has nothing, literally nothing, to compare his sexual experiences to.

Christian likes to hit women because his bad mama neglected him and was also a drug-addicted prostitute. Naturally, the whole wide world of women has nothing but understanding for that, and willingly sticks out its butt, so that the poor boy can take out his feelings on it. In turn we get to see him constantly in the film with his bare chicken breast. Because Anastasia takes his boundary-crossings so self-sacrificingly, eventually he does let his guard down a bit — and makes her his princess. One might laugh about that, because it’s so silly. In reality, though, it’s dangerous. Because it idealize a toxic view of relationships, in which women consequently deny their own needs and boundaries so that they’ll be better off. Women become clumsy twits, who fall so far under the influence of an experienced man’s sexual wishes that they become willing partners for damaging relations. It’s called grooming.

At the Berlin premiere, minors sashayed around with leather whips and other paraphernalia that they presumably consider sexy — because everyone tells them that sexuality is the thing of the hour. A chance to find out for themselves what they like, and to look for a corresponding partner, though, is something that neither our society nor Germany’s leading feminist group will concede to them.

Even the fact that there are also submissive men is no argument. What turns them on is subservience. The fact that a WOMAN is debasing them. Not a man. A woman. A woman who, however, is socially far beneath them. Therein lies the arousal — that is, it comes out of a deeply sexist and misogynous world-view. Sexuality is always to be viewed in the context of social reality. Why else have chambermaids been in the Top Ten list of male sex fantasies for centuries? Why do colonialist world-views express sexual desire in terms of white women and black men, and vice versa? Why are pornos full of racist stereotypes? Why is the horny secretary or nurse a fantasy that gets passed down from generation to generation? Why not a female professor or politician? Because female power — real female power — doesn’t stand for the male dominance of sexuality in a patriarchal society.

Soon, as well, we’ll see the next installment of Germany’s Next Top Model. Heidi ate burgers, döner and sausages in order to shut up the thinness critics. “I’ve been watching the show for ten years,” shrieks an 18-year-old hopeful. “It’s always been my dream to take part.”

Why doesn’t everyone wake up? Shouldn’t girls dream of high-school graduation, university, science, creative heights and successes, instead of making monkeys of themselves with Heidi & Co.?

Society shows young women their place. Either as sex toys for male power fantasies, or as skinny models without dignity.

Hopefully it will be summer soon.

Translation mine.

Full disclosure: I’m not a kinkster. I’m not even remotely curious, having read enough already to know quite well what it’s all about. I have no desire to try it for myself; what I’ve read and seen doesn’t resonate with me — at least, not in a titillating way. I will admit to feeling disturbed by a lot of it, though, and for the very reasons Sigel outlines so succinctly here. The overwhelming majority of it plays to the age-old male power fantasy of “owning” a woman. Even the reversed situation derives its power mainly from the temporary inversion of the accepted order of things. But it doesn’t question that order, nor does it seek to subvert it in the real world. What happens in the dungeon, stays in the dungeon. And anyway, even the most submissive of male subs has his safeword, meaning the action stops when he orders it to. So in the end, even he still has power — even if his male privilege is momentarily (and voluntarily) doffed. The same cannot be said for female subs, whose submission is socially encoded as “normal”.

Worse, the ugliest aspects of the male-dominant power dynamic are so egregious in Fifty Shades that even the most ardent kinksters feel the need to dissociate from the franchise. I may not share their proclivities, but I don’t blame them a bit. They say they don’t stand for Christian’s blatantly illegal moves to control Anastasia, for stalking, for isolation, for abuse, and for the actual, slave-master ownership of a person, right down to a ludicrous, legally unenforceable “contract”. I would hope not! Who’d want to be associated with something so conservative, so un-edgy, so damn OLD? Because really, this is indentured servitude, when you get right down to it; good old-fashioned indentured servitude with a side order of medieval torture.

And yet, heterosexual kink* does partake of the same old dynamics, and that’s what makes it so primal and titillating to some, and fraught — and frankly, ripe for abuse. The kink community has always had its Christians, out to exploit a ready and willing pool of inexperienced young women. And every female sub has found herself at least once, it seems, in Anastasia’s unenviable shoes, being sexually assaulted and having her bounds blatantly overstepped by a dom who refuses to hear NO. And has had to warn others away from that freak. Who is not, unfortunately, that much of a freak.

Sometimes, the only thing that separates a kinky abuser from a garden-variety one is the leather costumery. And even Christian, in his “kinky” mode, is not that much of a one for the leather gear. He can play out his “master” role just as well in banker’s grey flannels. (But hey, at least we get to see him shirtless and sweaty. Whoopee!)

The disturbing thing about Fifty Shades is not the boring-ass sex (which has been described in detail elsewhere, and if you want to read about it, just google) — it’s the mental abuse. And the most abusive thing is that it teaches girls that if they submit enough, they’ll be rewarded with the prince and a tiara and, presumably, a whole stable full of sparkly pink Pegacorns with mauve manes and tails, who piss perfume, fart rainbows, and poop marshmallows, and heal all hurts with the magical light of their crystal horns. That sacrificing themselves and having no desires of their own is the way to a man’s heart, and that they’ll cure him of all his demons that way.

In real life, as has been often pointed out, that way leads straight to the women’s shelter, and often the morgue.

Abusive men aren’t for women to cure, and they don’t even want to be cured. They’re as hooked on their violence as a junkie on the needle. The power fantasy has been marketed to them, too, as a drug that they need to score and go on scoring in ever greater hits, for ever higher highs. The fact that they become numb to it eventually is never mentioned. They end up not in control, but in thrall. The fact that they end up in jail or dead in a grisly murder-suicide is the only logical outcome for that power dynamic. And it’s a fact that gets glossed over by the media time and again. When we do hear talk of a guy going to jail for beating his female partner to death, or of one who shoots first her (and/or their kids) before turning the gun on himself, it’s always couched in nonsense phrases about “senseless violence” that “no one could have predicted”.

In fact, the violence makes a lot of sense, and is dead simple to predict, given the dynamics of the patriarchal, capitalist world we live in. This “fantasy” is a big, money-making reality. Every little Joe Schmoe wants to be a Christian, on some level. With access to an Anastasia, who takes every slap, every punch, every rape, without complaint…just as she’s been taught.

Even the stuff you grow up thinking is so “subversive” and “transgressive” really isn’t. The Marquis de Sade? Hardly a libertarian “citizen” of revolutionary France, but an opportunist who took full, gory advantage of the old droit du seigneur. His perversions weren’t even particularly extreme for his day, at least insofar as literature went; there was already plenty of “blasphemous” spanky-spanky erotica kicking around even then. He didn’t invent a libertine tradition; he grew out of one like a fleur-de-lys from shit. Most of what he cut his teeth on was anticlerical, clandestinely published, and meant to shock with its childish defiance. And it shaped his tastes, without a doubt. His contemporaries were blasé about that. But what made him truly grotesque and ultimately a criminal in their eyes was not what he read and wrote, but what he actually did. To powerless underlings who had virtually no rights in pre-revolutionary France. This was no harmless fantasy of consensual role-play. His victims were predominantly young women in poverty and/or prostitution, who had no choice but to submit to whatever he meted out to them, even death. (Oh yes, did I mention that he was most likely a serial killer, one who pre-dated Jack the Ripper by about a century? Plus ça change…)

Even now, the “sadists” of BDSM are slow to wake up to the fact that their cherished fantasies are the products of some mighty banal evils. Not necessarily childhood abuse, or mommy/daddy issues (lots of kinksters have no history of those), but forces from the larger society writ small and personal, marked “private” and for individual sale only. Some, to their credit, are at least distancing themselves from the mad Marquis, recognizing that a man of the upper class, who poisoned, mutilated and flayed young peasant women without pity, is no role model. They stress safety, sanity, consensuality. They take it as a bounden duty to provide aftercare, and laudably tend to the wounds they inflict. They are seeking alternative terms for their kink, words that don’t hark back to droit du seigneur — at least not so blatantly. Bless them for trying. It’s just a pity that those same terms they stress so hard — safe, sane and consensual — are also being used by some, who are far less scrupulous, to gloss over the serious examination of kink’s background forces that is long overdue.

But that, too, is quite understandable, in light of the blinding obvious. People want to have their cake, and their fetishes too. What else is there to do on your own time in this god-awful crapitalist soul-eating world? Why kill the buzz of kinky “transgression” with structural analysis of its deep-down conservatism, with examination of class and privilege, with history, with the nasty inconvenient fact that the playing field is not finally level now, but still every bit as lumpy and unfairly tilted as it’s ever been, even without the old seigneurial class?

And whose rights are being perpetually eroded by all the bogus talk about “sexual freedom”, used by real sadists like Jian Ghomeshi to assert that their ugliest whims are nothing less than a basic human right?

Take a wild guess. Take several. Take all the time you need.

*Gay kink — more liberating/liberated than straight? Don’t bet on it. A lot of butch/femme and even racist and homophobic stereotypes are played out there, following problematic templates similar to those of the straights. After all, they all have the class consciousness of a heterosexist society as their biggest (and really, only) role model.

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Never screw with a kangaroo!

Camera drones may be great for amateur aerial wildlife photography…but not if the wildlife is big, mean, renowned for its boxing skills…and in this case, awfully jumpy. Here’s the story to go with the video:

Drones are quickly flying to the top of Christmas wishlists for 2014 despite growing privacy and safety concerns. But what do the kangaroos in Hunter Valley, Australia make of all this? A video has emerged from the moment a drone flew near to a group of kangaroos. Just as the flying camera gets up close, one kangaroo decided enough was enough, leapt up, and dealt a knock out blow to the drone. The footage was rescued but the drone is now beyond repair.

Let that be a lesson to you…never screw with a kangaroo!

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Posted in Good to Know, Oceania, Schadenfreude, The "Well, DUH!" Files. Comments Off on Never screw with a kangaroo! »

The ironies of the Venezuelan opposition, part 48

oppo-peaceful-work

“Oh son, I’m so proud of your ‘peaceful work’!”

(Yes, I realize this is an old image. Unfortunately, WordPress’s latest update is one big nest of bugs, and one is that it doesn’t let me add new image files. Until they fix it, this will have to do. At least it fits the subject matter!)

Howdy, folks, and welcome to the latest installment of VenOpIronía, where we see how every bite the oppos try to take out of Madurito and his government…comes back to bite them:

Losses in the millions and damages done by violent “protests” to hundreds of small, medium and large-sized businesses on the Avenue Las Américas in the capital city of the western state of Mérida have caused a turnaround in the destabilizing discourse of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry there.

The organization’s leadership took a political position last February 25, releasing a communiqué in which they declared support for the “exit” which sectors of the far right promoted, intending to depose the majority-elected government of Nicolás Maduro through violence and terrorism.

However, in the last month and a half, groups of vandals have devastated the community and its merchants with the closure of the avenues, Las Américas and Los Próceres.

Marcos Delgado, president of the state Chamber of Commerce, informed that the preliminary estimates for merchants in the sector run into the millions.

“Definitively, calling for violence is calling for a civil war, and that is not the way for any country,” said Delgado, referring to the persistent calls to actions on the street on the part of spokespersons of the Voluntad Popular party.

Economic setbacks currently experienced by merchants on the avenue Las Américas, caused by roadblocks and vandalism still persisting on that main artery, have moderated the discourse of the chamber, such that it has warned of losses greatly in excess of five million bolivars a month.

“We must all recover peace in the city, political differences must be resolved in other ways, with other actions. Interrupting the free transit doesn’t seem to us an appropriate means of action, because it affects the merchants too greatly. Violent acts have led to nothing, only anarchy and destruction of public and private property,” said Delgado in an interview with the AVN news agency.

Delgado pointed out the case of the Garzón supermarket chain, a large food distributor whose flagship store on the avenue Las Américas, which employs 500 persons, as been closed since April 4 due to permanent siege and looting attempts, with monthly losses estimated at 4 million bolivars in wages and salaries alone.

Between February 17 and April 4, Garzón Supermarkets operated part-time, generating just 10% of its usual sales, due to the blockade of the avenue by violent groups.

According to Delgado, a return to normal operations and repair of the damage caused by looting to commercial infrastructure could take up to 90 days.

At present, violent groups have affected over 300 businesses and thousands of residents by way of what the Chamber of Commerce described in February as “peaceful protests by the glorious students and civil society”, according to the communiqué released at the time.

In the estimated 3 square kilometres surrounding the avenues of Las Américas and Los Próceres, at least eleven violent blockades have impeded free transit, curtailing the right to work, health, recreation, peace and education for thousands of Mérida’s people.

In the remainder of the state, the people maintain their normal rhythm of life, despite a scarcity of supplies and vehicular congestion generated by the closure of the two important arteries by violent groups.

Translation mine.

So we can see that not only are the violent uprisings by a very small group of well-to-do “students” (not all of whom are students, as we have seen) have not only failed to unseat Madurito and the other elected Bolivarians of his government, but they are also doing damage to the very entities that originally supported those “peaceful protests” (the majority of which are far from peaceful): namely, the business sector, the capitalists who would have been only too happy to have the bad old days of real shortages, real riots and real government crises back.

And how ironic is it that those who “peacefully” protested an alleged scarcity of goods and freedoms in the land have in fact CREATED that scarcity themselves? Isn’t it funny how those who have been paid thousands of bolivars weekly to generate violence are now costing their commercial supporters in the millions?

Most ironic of all is that these efforts have overwhelmingly failed to convince the poor, who voted for Madurito and Chavecito in the first place, that the socialist way of life is the way to more poverty. Instead, all it’s done is tear the last shreds of the “benevolent” mask off of capitalism and its local proponents, who are now left scrambling to restitch the scraps into something remotely convincing. While they may be able to whitewash their own cheerleading role in the catastrophe somewhat, I doubt they will ever get back the public’s trust, if they even had it to begin with.

Now those same sad clowns are going to come begging the government for more money to help them repair their premises and recoup their losses, because Uncle Sam’s multimillion-dollar budget for disruption, delivered through USAID, ironically doesn’t allow for things like this!

If only it all hadn’t left in excess of 40 dead, with more still to come, I’d be laughing so hard.

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Quotable: Bill Maher on changing times

bill-maher-on-changing-times

I don’t agree with Bill Maher on everything, but he’s spot-on here, as far as his analysis goes. Purchasing power has been so eroded that North Americans are turning into virtual serfs. Living wages? What are THOSE? Increasingly rare, if not impossible, to make if you’re working class…and the middle class, created by fair pay and progressive taxation, is doing a fast disappearing act, too. A pity Bill’s not quite connecting the dots to the fact that the rich are getting off scot-free when it comes to taxes, as well as the obscene profits they’re pulling in thanks to the increasingly low wages they’re paying the people who actually make their money for them. Without social services, any wage is bound to be too little…unless, of course, you’re a 1%er, in which case you’re making way too much even as you sleep.

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“Cuban Twitter” is an epic fail

You can’t log on to ZunZuneo anymore; the social network with the hummingbird logo (and the onomatopoeic name referencing its hum) is now an ex-parrot. Can you believe, though, that the US State Dept., working through its USAID arm, tried to position it as a “Cuban Twitter”, an alternative that would eventually foment a counter-revolution?

Yeah, that went well.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Kornbluh, you met with Alan Gross. He has been in prison in Cuba for, what, now I think he’s in his fourth year of prison. This is back in 2010, about the time that this program was starting, and he was arrested by the Cuban authorities for setting up a satellite communications network in Cuba as part of USAID’s Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program. Is there a link?

PETER KORNBLUH: Yes. This is all part of a broader USAID effort to use the Internet, to use modern social media communication systems, to both network Cubans and then have an independent communications vehicle to Cubans on the island through which messages can be sent when unrest occurs, both to spur unrest and then to basically be able to communicate with leaders of the opposition to the Cuban government. And Alan Gross’s project was very similar, although it was—it had a different technological dynamic than the Twitter account, but it was the same idea: You create a network, you build a base of independent communications, and then later you can have people use those communications and receive communications from the United States in a way that gets around the controls of the Cuban government.

Alan Gross was arrested in December of 2009. I believe that this program probably was in the works, this Twitter program, all throughout 2009 also and may well have derived from the very end of the Bush administration. The Bush administration really wanted to help the Republican Party and help Jeb Bush in Florida, eventually, by pushing forward with covert operations and pro-democracy operations, and they started throwing even more money at USAID to do this. But one of the elements that we’ve learned here is that even after Alan Gross was arrested and Congress began to very forcefully scrutinize these types of surreptitious, certainly clearly covert operations being run out of USAID, USAID did not stop them. They continued and escalated this very Twitter-like program that we’re now learning about.

I think it’s very important, though, Amy, that we recognize one thing. Like the Alan Gross gambit, this Twitter operation failed miserably. It was a waste of money in the end, and now, with the revelations of it, are hurtful to the effort to kind of rebuild a U.S.-Cuban relationship, solve the problem of Alan Gross in prison in Cuba and the three Cuban spies that are still in prison in the United States, and get on with a relationship with Cuba that is a modern relationship that meets the national interests of the United States of America. And these regime change programs are only hurtful to those national interests.

Meanwhile, it’s not like the government of Cuba was unaware of what was really going on:

The denunciations of Cuban president Raúl Castro over the destabilizing efforts of the government of the United States against Cuba were corroborated with the revelation on Thursday of a plan to push Cuban youth toward counterrevolution, with participation of a US agency.

Washington planned the creation of a “Cuban Twitter” to undermine the authorities on the island, promoted by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), with shell corporations constituted in secret and financing from foreign banks.

The Associated Press (AP) stated on April 3 that it had access to over a thousand documents over the communications network ZunZuneo, whose proposition was to make itself popular with Cuban youth and later “push them toward dissidency”.

The AP stated that users never knew that the project was created by an agency of the US State Department, nor that US contractors were gathering personal data on them with the hope that the information could be used toward political ends.

On January 1, on the 55th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, president Raúl Castro denounced “attempts to subtly introduce platforms of neoliberal thinking and the restoration of neocolonial capitalism” in Cuba.

“They tried deceptively to sell to the youngest people the supposed advantages of disregarding ideologies and social conscience, as if those precepts did not precisely represent the interests of the dominant class in the capitalist world,” said the head of state in the southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba.

He then emphasized that with such efforts, they were trying “to introduce a rupture in the historic direction of the Revolution and the new generations, and promote uncertainty and pessimism about the future, all of that with the marked intent of dismantling from within the socialism in Cuba.”

Translation mine.

So you can see that the Brothers Castro have been watching this situation and keeping their people vigilant. I bet they feel vindicated by its failure, as they should. Cubans on the island neither want nor need a “Cuban Twitter”; the government isn’t barring them from using the real thing. How do I know? Because I’m following several Cuban tweeters myself. They can and do communicate freely with the outside world. The only real thing standing in the way of Cuban internauts is the lack of a budget for that, but that’s already changing; as part of the ALBA, Cuba is collaborating with Venezuela to improve Internet access for its citizens. Undersea cables are already being built, connecting Cuba with South America. ALBA will also help improve Internet service within the island itself.

So there’s really no place for USAID in all this, and they’ve blown a big wad of cash for nothing, on people who have no cause to sympathize (and who are constantly being informed by their own government and media as to why THAT is). Good job, State Dept., good job. When do you plan on removing that silly blockade, which is the only real barrier to normal relations between the US and Cuba? Because until you do that, all these propaganda campaigns are going to fizzle just like ZunZuneo.

BTW, the Democracy Now headline is a bit beside the mark. No, USAID is not the “new CIA”. It’s not a new agency at all. And it’s been working hand in glove with the CIA’s spooks for a very long time, as my translation of Raúl Capote’s interview shows. He, too, was a selected “beneficiary” of that big-budget “democracy promotion” shell game, at least until he blew the whistle and got the spooks and “aid” functionaries edged out of what he and his fellow Cubans worked so hard to build. That, too, is an object lesson in how not to win friends and influence people in Cuba!

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25 years ago today, this happened in Venezuela

North Americans have a curious selective amnesia about the Caracazo of 1989, which began at 5 a.m. local time on this day 25 years ago. But the people of Venezuela, where it happened, haven’t forgotten:

The cruelest page in contemporary Venezuelan history was written by the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez on February 28, 1989, a day in which the indignant people took to the streets of Caracas to show their frustration with the neoliberal politics imposed by the IMF.

Pérez, who sought to liberate the economy of the land, which was already in trouble due to economic spirals which caused the devaluation of the national currency in 1983, set in motion a “package of economic measures” which comprised decisions over exchange policies, external debt, the financial system, fiscal policy, public services, and social policy.

This “parcel of penuries”, as it was popularly known, caused the fragmentation of the Venezuelan welfare state, CAP’s key electoral promise.

After announcing the “parcel”, on February 16 of that year, popular discontent grew, since the people had already lived through an odyssey for survival, while poverty and misery propagated like a virus throughout the land.

The reactions of the 27th of February, 1989, began on the buses of Trapichito, when the passengers found themselves faced with the speculation of the transport companies, who raised their prices by 300%, not 30% as ordered by the Pérez government. Reaction exploded there, in the Guarenas-Guatire terminal. Later the wave of protest expanded to Caracas and the inevitable followed: looting and riots in the land, in reaction to the “parcel of penuries”.

Faced with popular outrage, the Pérez government decided to suspend constitutional guarantees for ten days, and ordered the armed forces to repress the people. General Henry Rangel Silva, currently governor of the state of Trujillo, recalled that day as the one on which “the nation’s armed forces were obliged to take up arms against the people”.

As dusk fell on Tuesday, February 28, the cruelest curfew in Venezuelan history began. The “Caracazo” left an undetermined number of deaths, although official government figures put the number at barely 277 deceased.

With the arrival of Hugo Chávez Frias as president of the republic, who had a strong awareness of the miseries suffered by the people during the 40 years of “representative” democracy, there began a serious and detailed investigation of the events of the Caracazo, headed by the Attorney General of the Republic, Luisa Ortega Díaz.

In 2011, Ortega Díaz informed that 71 victims of the Caracazo had been buried in a common grave in La Peste, in Caracas, and the compensation of the victims’ families began.

Ortega Díaz also catalogued February 27, 1989 as the date on which the second largest genocide in the land began. The investigations of this hard page of contemporary Venezuelan history continue to this day.

Comandante Chávez considered the Caracazo as the seed that would germinate on February 4, 1992, when he led a military insurrection heralding the birth of a new country.

25 years after the events of the Caracazo, the protagonists of Puntofijismo, now installed in the lines of the opposition, and supported by the economic powers, are seeking once more to destabilize the economy of the land with hoarding, speculation, boycotts, and violent demonstrations.

However, today the Venezuelan economy is much stronger. the social politics set in motion by Comandante Chávez and continued by President Nicolás Maduro have significantly improved the quality of life among the people. Good nutrition, culture, education, health, work and sports are the backbone that sustains the Bolivarian Revolution.

Translation mine.

So now we see where that amnesia comes from, don’t we? And wouldn’t you know, it’s from the same massive blind spot in the gringo psyche that refuses to acknowledge just how disastrous “free market” capitalism really is. And how important Chavecito and 21st-century socialism have been in unravelling that Gordian knot of socioeconomic disasters.

The good work that Chavecito began continues now under his successors, and that’s why we’re seeing these temper tantrums on the part of the “opposition”. 25 years ago, those same people were not the opposition, but the government — or, more broadly, the traditional ruling class that had always taken its own undisputed supremacy for granted, and monopolized the economy accordingly. The Caracazo was a harsh wake-up call to them, the poor majority’s way of saying that things had gone too far, and it was now time to change direction…or else.

Clearly they haven’t learned their lesson yet; they seriously think they can get the country back under their thumbs by holding their breath and letting the economy turn blue. There’s just one problem with that little theory: Every single time it’s been tried since 1999, when Chavecito was elected (and ten years after the Caracazo), it’s been an epic failure. The people always came together, and always came together behind the man that the oligarchy pointed the finger at. He was the one who saw what needed to be done…and that meant circumventing the old economy by setting up a parallel, state-run one that sold all the necessities at fair prices, so that the people would no longer have to put up with the same hoarding, speculation and price gouging that caused such outrage in the lead-up to the Caracazo. In other words: not a free market, but a kind of freedom FROM the market. And by logical extension, a freedom from control by the traditional, rotten ruling classes.

The same ruling classes, of course, that are in such a tizzy today.

PS: Don’t miss this great docu-drama by Roman Chalbaud, now with English subtitles:

Powerful and moving. Well worth the time to see.

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Venezuela: Order restored in Táchira; Caracas in mourning

rodriguez-torres

Well, that didn’t take long. The Venezuelan army’s in control of Táchira, and normality is being restored peacefully there…and without a drop of blood shed:

The Venezuelan minister for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace, Major-General Miguel Rodriguez Torres, informed that food supplies, cement and fuel are now co-ordinated in Táchira, and that “we are reaching order in this important state.”

[…]

Rodríguez Torres stated that he was pleased after touring the city [of San Cristóbal] and verifying that the sectors affected by the opposition demonstrations are few, and that “we have collected 180 tons of scrap metal.”

Translation mine.

The “scrap metal” he mentions is no doubt the junk that the oppos were using to block off the roads in and out of San Cristóbal, to create artificial shortages and panic among the people. Recall that the city was under siege from its opposition mayor, who used some ugly tactics to intimidate any Chavistas who might be about. Hence the military presence in the state.

Now San Cristóbal’s roads are unblocked and goods are moving freely in again. Meanwhile, another Venezuelan city is in mourning, thanks to a “peaceful” opposition demo that ended up murdering a passing motorcyclist:

The death of young Santiago Enrique Pedroza, 29, on Friday night has caused great consternation and repudiation. Pedroza was strangled to death when, while riding his motorcycle, he tried to pass a barricade erected by opposition demonstrators, and was caught by a taut wire, which he had not been able to see in time.

The incident occurred on Rómulo Gallegos Avenue, in the Horizonte district of Caracas, where opposition members are holding pot-banging demonstrations and guarimbas. It is the second death to occur under these circumstances.

“These fascist guarimberos strung a steel wire, and this young worker, who was travelling by motorbike, didn’t see it, and it took his life, it strangled him,” said the justice minister, Miguel Rodríguez Torres.

Several opposition demonstrators have strung wires across the streets of Caracas, supposedly as a “defence” against “collectives” and “Tupamaros” who, according to them, pass through the streets of this sector of Caracas “spreading terror”. According to the daily newspaper Últimas Notícias, friends arriving at the scene said that the young man lived in Boleíta. The body was removed by officers of the CICPC. It was initially identified as Elvis Rafael Durán.

Bolivarian National Guard captain Edgardo Zuleta told the public TV channel, VTV: “A group of fascists, with the sole intent of destabilizing [Caracas], strung a wire across the avenue […] as well as piles of trash across the same, and the young man lost his life when he ran into the wire.”

The minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, repudiated the occurrence. He indicated that at this spot, there was a “guarimba” (protest consisting of blocking the roads with garbage and setting it on fire to cut off traffic), held by right-wing demonstrators on Rómulo Gallegos Avenue, in the Horizonte district of Caracas.

[…]

The minister called upon the governor of Miranda, Henrique Capriles Radonski, and the mayor of Sucre, Carlos Ocariz, to take responsibility and send out security forces to re-establish public order. “Work and co-operate with the people who elected you. It’s your job, do it,” Rodríguez Torres said.

[…]

In the Dos Caminos sector, it was also reported that a motorcyclist skidded on some oil spilled in the street. He was injured, and brought to a nearby first-aid post, according to Últimas Notícias.

In the morning, the governor of Mérida, Alexis Ramírez, informed that a citizen, identified as Delia Elena Lobo Arias, 40, of Santa Juana, died as a result of grave injuries inflicted when the motorcycle she was travelling on with one of her sons ran into a trap of barbed wire, laid by radical groups to prevent the passage of motorcycles.

“This was at 9:00 in the night, in the Santa Bárbara sector, on the avenue of the Americas. Thanks to these fascist barricades, this lady lost her life. It is a situation which we denounce, of a woman returning to her home and losing her life,” said Ramírez. The driver of the bike, the son of the deceased woman, suffered a broken right arm and minor injuries.

Again, translation mine.

Some backgrounder is in order here. The mayor of the sector in question, Carlos Ocariz, is an oppositionist, as is the state governor, Capriles (whom you may also recognize as the guy who lost to both Chavecito and his successor, Nicolás Maduro). That’s why the minister is calling on them to do their jobs. Of course, they won’t listen; when have they ever? It’s quite obvious that they are in cahoots with these guarimberos, if not in control of the “spontaneous” operation itself. That’s why there are no police on scene, dismantling the burning trash barricades and trip-wires. The mayor and governor won’t send them. This is a fascist putsch, not a “peaceful protest”. They want to see Maduro, who is fairly elected, brought down, as surely as that innocent passing motorcyclist who was killed. They might just go down in history as the sorest losers ever.

Here’s some video from the scene:

And here’s a photo of the wire in question:

trip-wire

As you can see (despite the awkward angle from which the picture was taken), it’s high enough off the ground to catch the throat of a passing biker if that person is travelling at night, when it’s hard to see something as thin as a wire across a dark street. And this in a city where so many ordinary citizens travel by motorbike or scooter. This was a planned murder, people. The victim could have been anybody. And the “peaceful opposition demonstrators” knew that, and they couldn’t care less.

Here’s a picture of some of those “peaceful” oppos, stringing barbed wire in another location…the fancy eastern part of Caracas, Altamira:

oppos-stringing-wire

You can see that they’re doing it right at a traffic light. And that there’s no “government repression” in to be seen. Again, that’s because the opposition governor of Miranda and the opposition mayor of the municipality are letting this happen. On their watch. Illegally.

They are all fascists. They ALL belong behind bars.

And riddle me this, all you dumb gringos who think it’s the PSUV government repressing these so-called protests: Why isn’t the army all over Caracas stopping this? Gee, could it be because Madurito isn’t the tyrant you’re making him out to be?

PS: Well, looky here. There’s been an arrest of a high-level ex-military man in connection with the trip-wire murders:

President Maduro has ordered the arrest of retired General Angel Vivas, who promoted the use of wire at blockades in order to “neutralise” people on motorbikes. One government supporter on a motorbike died by such a method last night.

On 20 February Vivas tweeted “In order to neutralise criminal hordes on motorbikes, one must place nylon string or galvanised wire across the street, at a height of 1.2 metres”.

He also tweeted, “to render armoured vehicles of the dictatorship useless, Molotov cocktails should be thrown under the motor, to burn belts and hoses, they become inoperative”.

Other tweeters responded to his tweet about decapitating motorbike riders with further advice for the violent blockades, including suggesting that “a lot of oil be used in the streets, it is good for two things, they fall off, and it can set [things] alight. The collectives are the ones in the vehicles”.

So we can see that his methods are in play for the two motorcycle deaths mentioned above, as well as the spin-out “accident” caused by oil on the road. Again, remember that Caracas is a city where motorcyclists abound, especially in the poorer neighborhoods, which extend well up the surrounding hillsides, and where the streets are often too narrow for cars, but still wide enough for bikes. This ugly aspect of the opposition putsch was clearly aimed at the Chavistas in those poor neighborhoods, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit that an ex-general (obviously a man of the old ruling class) is giving the nasty little piglets of the oligarchy advice on how to kill them.

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