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

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“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.

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!

The ironies of the Venezuelan opposition, part 48

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“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.

Quotable: Bill Maher on changing times

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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.

“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!

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.

Venezuela: Order restored in Táchira; Caracas in mourning

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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.

Shyness: not a human rights violation.

wongene-daniel-kim

Sorry, Men’s Rightsers. If you were hoping to make a test case for your ideology out of this guy, the facts of the matter have just made a hash out of it:

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint by University of Toronto student Wongene Daniel Kim, who accused his professor of discriminating against him as a male when she docked him marks for not coming to class because he was too shy to be the only guy.

The second-year health science major arrived at the opening of a Women and Gender Studies course for which he had signed up in the fall of 2012 — “It had spaces left and fit into my timetable” — only to discover a room full of women and nary a man in sight.

“I felt anxiety; I didn’t expect it would be all women and it was a small classroom and about 40 women were sort of sitting in a semicircle and the thought of spending two hours every week sitting there for the next four months was overwhelming,” said Kim, 20, adding he manages a part-time job with women because there are also other men.

“I’m generally a shy person, especially around women, and it would have been a burden if I had had to choose a group for group work.”

He didn’t stay for class — that day, or ever — but continued in the course and asked Professor Sarah Trimble to waive the 15 per cent of the mark earned by class participation and attendance.

She refused.

Which is only fair. Everyone is expected to do the same work; a gender-based pass for Kim wouldn’t have been fair to his classmates.

In other words: The work women have done over the past few decades to eliminate sex-based discrimination hasn’t created a situation of reverse discrimination; it has created, rather, a level playing field, where men and women are expected to work together no matter the gender ratio, and where marks are based on how well they do, not on what reproductive plumbing they have.

So far, so good. But then this happened:

Kim got poor marks on assignments and ended up failing the course, which he said he found frustrating after spending the money on course materials.

He asked Trimble to reconsider his mark. When she refused, he complained to the Human Rights Tribunal that she was penalizing him because he was male.

Which, clearly, was NOT the case. Class attendance counted for 15% of the mark — no exceptions.

And if he was being discriminated against on account of gender, why was there not a sign on the door reading “NO MEN”? Or a marker on the course calendar indicating “Female students only”?

Oh yeah, that’s right: because THAT would have been sex discrimination. And that would be, if not outright illegal, certainly unethical.

Kim said he had been unaware how poorly he was doing until it was too late because Trimble didn’t post marks on the course website. She handed assignments back in class.

“We live in a digital era, why couldn’t she have posted the marks online?” Kim said in an interview. “I believe if you want to attract more males to these courses, you have to work with them. My request for accommodation was reasonable.”

Except that no one else was asking for special accommodations; everyone else was happy to comply with the course requirements, and didn’t find them at all unreasonable.

Given all the whining from the “manosphere” about how women are always expecting special treatment (with lowered expectations, natch), it’s hilarious and ironic that when someone does demand just that on the basis of sex, it turns out to be a male. And he’s suffering from the very affliction that supposedly makes women too delicate to live in a man’s world: shyness.

“The applicant has not satisfied me that his claimed discomfort in a classroom of women requires accommodation under the (Ontario Human Rights) Code,” wrote adjudicator Mary Truemner. “He admitted that his discomfort is based on his own ‘individual preference’ as a shy person . . . and stated he thought they (the women) would not be willing to interact with him because of his gender.”

This was “merely speculation as he never gave the class, or the women, a chance,” wrote Truemner, vice-chair of the tribunal.

Kim had no evidence of being “excluded, disadvantaged or treated unequally on the basis of” his gender, she said.

This is true. Kim was the only person keeping Kim from attending on the basis of gender.

I can attest that classroom participation was actually a great help in overcoming my own once crippling shyness. Many third-year classes were small seminar-style courses, in which the big, anonymous lecture hall of the first and second years was gone, and the students and prof all just sat around a square of tables, discussing things like Old Norse sagas and Beowulf. Despite the initial linguistic challenges (imagine having to learn two new languages in one year!), I found that I was finally in my element. After that, I was able to speak up anywhere, without stage fright.

Here’s another salient point: I also availed myself of the university’s counselling service. That’s what it’s there for: to help troubled students before they’re forced to drop out. I got tested, found out that introversion is natural and normal, and that you can learn to live with it, and yes, even succeed with it. And I did.

It’s a matter of being able to distinguish between the political and the personal. And to not hide behind the one when the other is the real issue.

In this case, there was no discrimination on the basis of sex. Kim didn’t recognize in time that his own shyness was tripping him up. Maybe next time, he’ll seek help. It’s a lot easier to go in for a few counselling sessions than it is to sit through the ignominy of a failed human-rights complaint, when all’s said.

A few random thoughts on Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning

So. THIS happened.

The soldier we all knew as Bradley Manning has officially come out as transgender, and will henceforth be known here as Chelsea, in accordance with her expressed wishes.

Of course, her coming-out has been greeted with the predictable shitstorm from the usual poo-flinging monkeys. I hold out little hope for Erick Fucking Erickson, or the other random trolls of the Internet. They will always believe that she is really “he”, and that “he” is “crazy”, a “fag”, and what have you. A massive bullshit projection on their own part, of course, and one that I don’t expect to see changing anytime soon. So, fuck them. They are lost, and they can stay there. I’m going to talk here, instead, about my fellow feminists and what we can and should do to support Chelsea at this time.

For the past several months I’ve seen some disturbing indications that one particular faction of radical feminists is simply bound and determined to get the whole issue of gender wrong. They insist that transgenderism must somehow be “heteronormative” because it can take a gay man and turn him — presto! — into a heterosexual woman. Or some such. The fact that there are plenty of trans people out there who are L, G or B as well as T just never occurs to them.

And when this inconvenient fact is pointed out, they brush that aside by claiming that trans lesbians, for example, are “really” straight men who are just exerting male privilege by trying to winkle their way into women-only safe spaces (and the pants of “womyn born womyn”, as they call cisgendered women, by extension.) As for straight trans men, they are “traitors” to the lesbian community and seekers of male privilege, and therefore, also class enemies and oppressors of women. (I have no idea what they make of bisexual transfolk. Too confusing to tackle, maybe?)

The fact that a MTF trans woman gives up male privilege by coming out as trans, and that a FTM trans man does not qualify as a “real man” in the eyes of most penis-bearers-from birth, also does not register with them. Neither does the shockingly high hate crime rate against trans people. The murder of a trans person is a hate crime, and should be treated no differently, from a legal standpoint, than the murder of a woman by misogynists, or a gay guy by gay-bashers, or a black person by racist whites. Why should trans people be exempt from hate-crime protections, and even just basic human respect, simply because they don’t conform to society’s (and, ironically, certain radfems’) outmoded ideology of gender?

And yes, it is an outmoded ideology. More and more, science is coming out in support of the transfolk. It turns out that intersexed people who might voluntarily identify as one sex while still retaining characteristics of the other (or choose not to identify as either), are more common than we think. Add to them all the other gender-identity variants out there on the genetic and biological spectrum, and we get a sizable continuum of people who simply don’t fit that old Procrustean bed, and shouldn’t be made to. If we stuck to the “sex, not gender” paradigm espoused by religious conservatives (and, ironically, some radfems), those people would be abominations, or class enemies, instead of simply what they are: PEOPLE.

Of course, I fully expect that someone will accuse me of not “getting” radfem anti-gender ideology, which is supposedly opposed to chopping people’s bodies up to make them fit an assigned (and “socially constructed”) gender identity. Don’t worry, I get it just fine; I just happen to find it nonsensical, and I am done with it. Fuck ideology; this is a matter of human rights. While other feminists busy themselves worrying about the “mutilated bodies” of transsexuals, and fretting about how “heteronormative” they supposedly are, I respect them being able to make up their own minds, and support their right to live according to that choice. Nobody is MAKING them transition! I respect their lived experiences. I accept trans women as women, period — and conversely, trans men as men. I prefer to advocate for nonjudgmental counselling and safe, medically proven, publicly funded transitions, for those who wish them. I will refer to the transfolk by their chosen names and pronouns. (I will also put in a word for the singular “they”, which I like because it is so inclusive and non-specific, while still being an established usage of surprisingly long lineage.) I also choose to respect the fact that gender does exist, that it is in fact biologically based and not just socially constructed, and that it needs to be held distinct from gender roles, which ARE socially constructed (and massively unfair to women, as well as LGBTs and intersex, genderqueer and questioning people.)

The realization that so many of my radical feminist friends don’t seem willing to grasp these rather obvious things, distresses me and alienates me from that sector of the movement. I’ve avoided confronting them personally about this for the most part, as round-and-round arguments give me a whanging headache and eat up so much energy that could be put to better uses.

I want no part of the War Against Gender, which is an obviously losing battle being fought with weapons forged by fundamentalists, not radicals. If others want to cling to theories that have no consonance with the real world, fine. But not me, thanks. No using the master’s fundie tools to destroy the master’s fundie house. That means: I will not exclude, misgender, bully, concern-troll, gender-police, or snark on trans people. I have seen fellow feminists do all those things, which are shocking, shameful and unworthy. At times like that, I can’t tell them from the flying monkey rightard poo-flingers.

This is why I am coming out…as an ally, not a separatist.

And I will support Chelsea Manning just as she is, no matter what. Right now, she needs all the support she can get — and if not from other women, then where? And if we don’t respect her decisions regarding her gender, then who will? And who will respect our decisions regarding our own bodies, if we cannot respect those of another woman?

This is what first-degree murder looks like.

Beyond a reasonable doubt. Beyond an unreasonable doubt. Beyond ANY doubt. Look at this picture and you will know why:

trayvon-murdered

This is Trayvon Martin’s dead body at the scene of the crime. Do you notice anything about it?

Or rather, do you NOT notice something that is supposed to be there, but isn’t?

What got George Zimmerman off the hook for his murder is the claim that he was defending himself against a taller, stronger adversary who was kneeling astride him, pounding the back of his head, mixed-martial-arts style, into the sidewalk:

But there’s one thing wrong with this whole scenario: IT NEVER HAPPENED.

Remember, it was a rainy night. That’s why Trayvon wore his hoodie, with the hood up. He was doing it to keep the rain off; he wasn’t a lurking “thug” up to no good. He was coming back from the corner store with a can of Arizona iced tea and a bag of Skittles candy, remember?

Now, bearing in mind what the weather was like that night, take a good look at the photo. Look at Trayvon’s pants. Specifically, look at them from the knees down.

NOW do you see it?

If you didn’t see anything, you just saw the evidence of first-degree murder. Here’s why:

On a pair of light-beige pants like that, anything — be it grass stains, mud, or just grungy rainwater from a damp sidewalk — would show up as a dark splotch. Trayvon’s knees, if he had been kneeling astride George Zimmerman and pounding his head into the cement of the sidewalk, would have been wet, dark and dirty. But they’re not. His pants are clean, as though he’d just put them on.

This killing was NOT self-defence. George Zimmerman was NOT in danger. He was NOT under attack. He was not on his back, and Trayvon was NOT on top of him. He was NOT “standing his ground” against anything.

This was not second-degree murder. This was not manslaughter. This was Murder One.

George Zimmerman stalked Trayvon Martin. Trayvon’s last phone call, to his friend Rachel Jeantel, makes that more than clear. Trayvon complained to Rachel that a “creepy-ass cracker” was following him, and would not stop. Zimmerman’s infamous 911 call, in which the muttered words “fucking coons” can be heard, and in which he plainly disregards the dispatcher’s instructions not to engage, also make clear that this was a hate crime, one in which Zimmerman was the aggressor, and which he was determined to carry out because, in his own words, “they always get away”. (“They” meaning black kids.)

Oh, and that “ground and pound” bit of mixed martial arts talk? That was Zimmerman’s training. NOT Trayvon Martin’s. Zimmerman took MMA classes for a number of weeks before he shot Trayvon dead, in an effort to boost his fighting capabilities. Why?

Because George Zimmerman was out for blood that night, and all the other nights he took it upon himself to “patrol” that gated neighborhood. That’s why.

This is a clear-cut case of a racist vigilante stalking and murdering an innocent black teenager, for no reason other than that the kid was black. It is first-degree murder, open and shut.

And the prosecution and the all-white jury totally fumbled it.

And even worse: The fumble was, beyond all doubt, deliberate. The state prosecutor, Angela Corey, has a dismal track record when it comes to crimes in which the perpetrator and the victim are of different colors. At a press conference following the verdict, she was seen smiling strangely, instead of appearing downcast, as one would expect of a prosecutor who’d just lost what should have been an open-and-shut case, and lost badly.

At the very least, shouldn’t Trayvon’s clothes have been presented as evidence? Clothes show signs of a struggle, but Trayvon’s don’t show him as the aggressor, the guy on top, or even remotely menacing. One would hope that even a halfway competent prosecutor would enter them to point out that the victim never fought, never stood a chance against his armed assailant.

But Angela Corey didn’t do that, did she? Because if she did, she would have had to point out that there are no marks of any kind on the front of Trayvon’s pants. Nothing that would indicate that he was ever kneeling astride Zimmerman. On the contrary, she would have to have pointed out that it was the back of his clothes that was wet, stained and dirty, consistent with Trayvon being the one on the ground, screaming for help…just as his own father said he did when he’d had a chance to properly review the last 911 recording from that night.

Simple incompetence? Ha, no. This prosecution was incompetent with intent. And the intent was, as ever, RACIST.

It’s not too hard to see why this happened the way it did; it fits the general pattern of George Zimmerman’s life. He got off on three previous criminal charges. His daddy’s a white man, and a judge. Trayvon was black, and his daddy has no powerful connections. These things all add up.

And the system in Florida is profoundly racist; thousands of disenfranchised black and Latino voters can attest to that.

So, what can we see from this picture? That if you’re a black teenager, and you’re out at night wearing a hoodie to protect you from the rain while you go to buy snacks, it doesn’t matter that you’re not doing anything wrong. Any racist prick can legally claim he was defending himself when he chases after you, throws you to the ground, pummels you, and then shoots you dead. Premeditation? Malice aforethought? Don’t worry, black kid. The state will find a way to pin all that on YOU. They won’t fight on your behalf. The murderer will kill you, his defence team will assassinate your character, and the state of Florida will let them all get away with it.

This is what first-degree murder looks like in Florida. Not a pretty picture, is it?