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The joke is on me


When I wrote a piece years ago called “Are women human?” that title was supposed to be funny. Or at least tongue-in-cheek.

I didn’t think the answer was “no.”

But it’s official. Corporations are human. Now even with religious beliefs! Woohoo!

And women? They’re just non-artificial ambulatory uterine incubators. What’s the point of rights for a mass of blood vessels that’s a waste of space unless it’s feeding babies?

Actually, strike that “ambulatory.” Incubators are easier to use when they’re not wandering around loose. That’ll be the next decision by the Five Guys:

It’ll be entirely consistent when they come to it. They’ve never cared that some rights are essential for the others to have any meaning at all. That’s because they’ve never cared about rights, except the kind might makes. Controlling your own body is up there at Right Number One. No other right means anything if other people can do whatever they want to you. The Five Guys just knocked the whole structure down.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting. “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

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Pay No Attention

Attention even more than money marks who matters. Take one tweet like this from some random white female 14 year-old with no capacity to actually do anything;

“Hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye.”

She said it was just a joke. There was an instant response from the FBI. Her Twitter account was suspended. She was detained for some time by the Rotterdam police.

Which kind of tells you that airplane passengers matter. They were Not Amused. The girl was made to know it.

Now consider a situation which happens thousands of times a day. Men threaten and humiliate women. Just one example.

When three Chicago area teens were charged over the weekend with raping a 12-year-old girl — and then posting a video of the assault on their Facebook pages – it was a tale that was as revolting as it was entirely plausible. After all, you don’t have to look far at all on Facebook to find images of women being degraded, or for groups devoted to laughing off violence against women.

This is much worse than not-funny irony poked at US air travel security theater. So the FBI responded, the NSA tracked down the individuals involved, and they’re now in solitary confinement to protect them from the other prisoners, right?

Yeah, I know. Very funny. Not only is nothing done, Facebook doesn’t even take the garbage down. A group of people have to start a petition drive and the company still doesn’t take it down.

Which tells you that women do not matter. At all.

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What do you mean ‘wish’?

Every once in a while I stumble across a rash of posts demanding respect for prostitution. The latest was “Let’s call sex work what it is: work”. The article describes a life in an amazingly rational co-op.

[T]here was the college town escort agency “run” by R., who really was just the one who paid for the ad in the back of the paper each week and the mobile phone that customers would call after seeing the ad. The women who shared the ad and phone line paid R. a share of each half-hour or hour appointment they got through the ad, which meant they didn’t need to be around all the time to pick up the phone or give any information about themselves to the newspaper that ran the ad. They just showed up at the motel room or house where they’d meet their customers. Every once in a while a woman would call the phone number, wanting to work with them, and R. would meet with them in a coffee shop. If they decided to work together, she’d train them on all of this. Some of the women took turns answering the phone and booking appointments, and after they learned how to manage that, they’d end up going off on their own.

It’s interesting that the customers are such a negligible quantity. I’ll assume, in the words of 1066 And All That, they were Not Memorable. I’ll assume that her experience was just as she describes it: a well-paid business arrangement with no problems and consisting of answering the phone and stocking up on supplies.

But I’m left with a couple of unanswered questions. One is that aside from her personal experience, is it really humanly possible for her to be such an unfeeling soulless dogpile that she is unaware of the reality of life for the overwhelming majority of women and children who are bought to be used by men?

From the last link:

Kiki busies herself cleaning tables in the prison’s lunchroom for $1 a day and tries not to remember when she used to bring in $1,200 a day, even if the traffickers allowed her to keep only a little of it. Her eyes lit up with pride at the memory, and she pronounced the word “muh-nee” wistfully, as if her riches were candies that had dissolved too quickly on her tongue. She spends her free time coloring pictures of Disney characters and sending love letters to Enrique. “I be back to be good wife, okay baby,” she writes, trying to make amends. Enrique wishes she could get out and come live with him; Dottie wishes she would go to a restorative residential program. When I asked Kiki what she wished for herself, she struggled with the word: “What do you mean, ‘wish’?”

You could say that since I’m not in the life, I haven’t got a clue. All the misery is just a misfire and not an inevitable consequence of buying a person (for a while). That brings me to my second question. If it’s just work like any other work, except that it usually pays more, then why aren’t there at least as many men out there, lining up to service women?

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Not so cynical about Afghanistan

You know, mostly the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. Afghanistan, I would have said, has been fasttracked.

And then today I saw this.

Afghani man backpacking a ballot box up a mountainous trail in the rain

Ballot boxes were carried by hand and by donkey all over Afghanistan
(Ahmad Masood / Reuters)

Sure, Afghanistan is corrupt and war-torn and sexist and poor. They know that. They know that no election is going to make a big difference all at once. And yet they carry ballot boxes up mountains to small villages because they can see a better world even if they don’t live there.

They may make it.

Which means there may be hope even for the rest of us.

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Search and social: You are for sale

Part of a series on who owns you and what it means.

“Free!” and “ad-supported” don’t belong together in the same breath. They’re mutually exclusive. The web isn’t free any more than the supermarket is free for the cake of soap on the shelf. The soap isn’t paying to be there, and you’re not paying for the web for the same reason. You’re the product. If you mattered at all you’d be getting a cut of the proceeds.

Google made $60,000,000,000, 60 billion, sixty billion-with-a-b, last year. Eighty eight percent of that is estimated to be from advertising. You are the eyes that advertising is buying. Are you seeing royalties from Google for your essential role in this? How about from Dataium ($2 billion profit per year)? Or BlueKai, Acxiom, or Omniture (now part of Adobe)? How about Splunk? (Don’t you just love the cool, we-juggle-at-the-office names?) Or any of the hundred other hidden internet tracking companies all making profit off you? There’s a Firefox extension called Lightbeam that shows just how many dozens, even hundreds, of sites are involved. Forbes had an article that showed an estimate of how much somebody is getting for shoving one banner ad at you. Not what you’re getting. You get nothing. You’re just a thing for sale.

It’s true that the search and social sites make life easier. But they’re under no obligation to make it better.

We’ve lost control over our own lives so completely that most people’s only response is to apply the pragmatism of the damned and ask “Whatchya gonna do?”

I don’t know what to do either. Tactics are never my strong suit. I’m just here to say that we better start realizing that privacy is absolutely essential to any kind of free or comfortable life where rights are respected. Unless you’re okay with a world where your boss knows you’ve been constipated recently, where you see higher prices because of the browser you happen to use, where you find yourself not even looking for information in case you get put on a list somewhere, unless you’re okay with what total surveillance means, privacy — an individual’s right to control her or his own data — is not optional.

There are some tools to help in the fight. A collection of anonymity extensions, useful tips at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Just today I saw this: Privacy Tools: opting out from data brokers. It shows just how much of a career it is to claw back even partial privacy from the leeches.

I know the tips don’t amount to much. They either do little or take too much time. But we have to start somewhere. We have to stop being pragmatic about how little there is we can do and just start doing it.

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Now can we be outraged over apartheid?

More than 30 universities have introduced new rules banning female students from almost 80 different degree courses.These include a bewildering variety of subjects from engineering, nuclear physics and computer science, to English literature, archaeology and business.

The BBC headline for that was Iranian university bans on women causes consternation.

Consternation? Consternation? Consternation? Are you farking kidding me?

This is de jure segregation. This is apartheid. This is shutting down the civil rights and lifetime potential of HALF THE GODDAMN POPULATION.

And what do we get? Consternation.

Then there’s the ongoing hate killings of health workers in Pakistan. The price of prevention. Three more polio workers shot in Pakistan; eight dead in 48 hours. Vaccination workers shot.

All women. All executed for being outside the house while female and doing “Western” stuff.

The only problem mentioned is that Pakistan’s war on polio is imperilled. That is a big problem. No question about that. But it hardly seems like the only one that needs mentioning.

Then there was the atrocity committed against the medical student in India. The headline: Death of India rape victim stirs anger, promises of action. There have since been several more publicized abominations and, I have zero doubt, hundreds not even considered worth mentioning.

So. Lynching. And what do we get? A “struggle to respond.”

Really?

Half the human race is deprived, starved, terrorized, and murdered and the problem is that it’s hard to figure out how to respond?



(Update 2014-01-29. I’ve had these links stacked up over a year. More of the same horrors keep piling on top. There will never be a time when somehow I’ll be able to say something intelligent about it. There is nothing intelligent about destroying female human beings.)

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The nanny, the Indian diplomat, and the US authorities

Here’s what I don’t get about this event. I gather the diplomat was accused of some kind of visa violation in underpaying her nanny. Okay. So the State Department looks into it, determines if there was an underpayment and fines the diplomat (or whatever the law says) if there was. Right?

Devyani Khobragade

Consular official Devyani Khobragade
(Wikimedia commons)

No. She gets arrested in a snatch and grab raid on the street in Manhattan, as if she was a drug boss on the run, hauled off to the cop shop, and strip-searched.

I mean, WHUUUUT? Did they think she was hiding the nanny’s money in her underwear? If underpaying your foreign household help brings out the anti-terrorism swat team, most members of Congress will go into hiding.

And the US, instead of falling all over itself to apologize, says they’re talking to India and stressing how important bilateral trade is. Again, whuuut? Translated from the bureaucratese that sounds to me like, “Hey, you get lots of money/weapons/whatever from us. So shut up.”

Does the US really not understand that testerical overreaction like this is stupid?

In the past when I’ve seen people spreadeagled on the hoods of cars for minor traffic stops I’ve thought that the cops were having too much fun playing with their equipment and barking to care how stupid it looked.

After this event, I think it’s worse than that. I think they’ve been doing it so much for so long they’ve really forgotten that normal responsible adults show restraint. Somewhere in the dim corners of what passes for the authorities’ minds, they know that this is what they do to people hundreds, thousands of times a day. They do it to people who’ve run stop signs or stood still on a street corner listening to their ear buds or maybe trundled a shopping cart too far from the supermarket. Almost always brown people.

The US should be apologizing to the diplomat, and also to everybody else to whom they’ve been jackbooted thugs.

That would be a lot of people. Apparently the US has gone so far down that road, they either can’t stomach the size of the apology they have to make or, worse, they don’t even remember anymore that thuggery is bad behavior which requires an apology. [Update: Well, that would be B. "The arresting authority, the U.S. Marshals Service, characterized the strip search as a routine procedure imposed on any new arrestee."]

There’s a final little ironic postscript to this sorry tale. A good part of the Indian reaction has been outrage that a person of high rank has been treated like a nobody. Not realizing, of course, that in the US being brown is enough to make you a nobody.

The real solution is for everybody, Indians, people in the US, everybody to treat people like somebody even if (they think) they’re nobody.

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Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela voting in 1994
(Paul Weinberg : Wikimedia)

Usually, when some world leader dies, I don’t care. More often than not I even think, “Well, that’s one less lying mug I’m tired of seeing.”

But with Nelson Mandela I felt a stab of sadness, as if he was my friend.

One of our greats is gone. I wish he’d lived forever. Maybe if we live in ways that honor his work, he will in a way.

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Getting rights wrong: the example from Rand Paul

Charles Pierce is down on Rand Paul for babbling nonsense about civil rights.

…the Civil Rights Act, and nine out of 10 [titles] deal with public institutions and I’m absolutely in favor of,” he told Maddow deep in their 15-minute interview. “One deals with private institutions, and had I been around, I would have tried to modify that.”

What modifications would you like to make? Cleaner “Colored Only” bathrooms? Marble “Colored Only” drinking fountains?

Much of the discussion of Aqua Buddha’s rise to prominence has focused on his political philosophy, and far too little has been focused on the fact that he’s pretty much dumb as a stump.

I’m not so sure, unless it’s in the sense that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

Because all he’s doing is being consistent.

Being a good Randian, he seems to believe that property rights trump everything. If that’s true, then he’s quite right. You can’t tell anyone to respect civil rights on private property. Which means that there would be no real civil rights at all. If the only place you have rights is at the Post Office or on other government property, you may as well use the paper your rights are printed on for bird cage liner.

That is always the result when the hierarchy of rights is not in the correct order. Some rights have to take precedence over others for any of them to mean anything. If, as just one example, you have no freedom of motion, there’s no freedom of assembly, and then there’s no freedom of religion. It’s a complicated issue, but one thing is for sure: if the priority is wrong, you’ll wind up spouting absurdities so fast, everybody will say you’re dumb as a stump.

But if you don’t realize that the root of the problem is getting rights in the wrong order you’re making yourself vulnerable to the same criticism. Obliviousness about the need to prioritize rights is behind way too many modern problems. Pollution, for instance, puts property rights ahead of the right to be free of bodily harm. Compulsory pregnancy puts religious ideas ahead of people’s right to make their own decisions about what to do with their own bodies. And if you’re not physically safe, you’re not actually free to exercise the more abstruse rights either.

That’s the problem with getting rights in the wrong order. They all become meaningless, even the usurpers at the top. It’s a bit unfair to call people who make that mistake dumb as stumps because stumps aren’t that stupid.

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You are for sale (and that’s okay?)


You might as well be a cake of soap on the shelf at the store. The supermarket is “free” for the soap. The soap isn’t paying to be there, and you’re not paying for the web for the same reason. You’re the product.

If you mattered at all you’d be getting a cut of the proceeds.

Google made $60,000,000,000, 60 billion, sixty billion-with-a-b, last year. Eighty eight percent of that is estimated to be from advertising. You are the eyes that advertising is buying. Are you seeing royalties from Google for your essential role in this? How about from Dataium ($2 billion profit per year)? Or BlueKai, Acxiom, or Omniture (now part of Adobe)? How about Splunk? (Don’t you just love the cool, we-juggle-at-the-office names?) Or any of the hundred other hidden internet tracking companies all making profit off you?

In an article about a company that wants to sell people vaults for their personal data, “Fatemeh Khatibloo of Forrester Research said consumers want to know when data about them is collected and stored and by whom, and how it is used.” The Wall Street Journal has a list of how many trackers are planted after visits to common web sites. Dozens. Sometimes hundreds. How many of them do you even know exist, let alone what they collect and how long they store it?

What you want matters as much as what the cake of soap wants.

We’ve lost control over our own lives so completely that most people’s only response is to apply the pragmatism of the damned and ask “Whatchya gonna do?”

I don’t know what to do either. Tactics are never my strong suit. All I really have is one long bellow to SMASH THE BASTARDS.

However, I do know what we should do. We should get our rights back. We should get recognition of the fact that our information is part of our selves. Just as we have the right to control what’s done to our bodies, as in the ancient right of habeas corpus, likewise we have the right to control what’s done to our information. (Also some other posts: 1 and 2.)

Nobody can track you without your explicit consent, and only for the explicit purpose you agreed to. And when you want to revoke the permission, they have to expunge their databases.

Yes, I know that’s so far from current reality as to be ridiculous. But that only speaks badly for current reality. It doesn’t change what’s true.

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The weirdness of the footwashing Pope


You know why it seems strange that the Pope would wash women’s feet?

Because traditionally the idea is to practice humility toward the “least” among us, the powerless, the poor people.

And this Pope was so focused on his message about poverty, he treated poor women like people.

Women can be seen as people.

And that’s what feels shocking.

Sad, isn’t it.

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The Supreme Court doesn’t understand the Constitution


I don’t spend a lot of time keeping up with what passes for thinking in the legal system, so I’ve merely been aware that gay marriage rights have been toiling their way through the system. I haven’t paid attention to the arguments.

MoDo’s article came as a bit of a surprise to me. (Yes, I know, she can be a twit. But she can also write and sometimes I read her. So sue me.)

This is what stopped me short:

“Same-sex marriage is very new,” Justice Samuel Alito whinged, noting that “it may turn out to be a good thing; it may turn out not to be a good thing.”

Seriously? Justices on the Supreme Court — the Supreme Court for pity’s sake! — don’t understand the concept of rights? You have got to be kidding me.

You don’t have rights because you’re a good human being or because you’ll use them for a higher purpose. You have rights because you’re a human. Period. Gays could all be dykes on bikes without a notion of parenting. That doesn’t change their rights.

And their rights are so clear I’m flabbergasted that it could need explaining, to a Supreme Court Justice, of all people.

Equality before the law is a foundational principle of the USA. Some people can get legally married, therefore all people can get legally married. (See? That wasn’t hard, was it?) What religions want to do about it is their own business, but the law cannot treat people unequally.

Furthermore, questions of rights are very much the business of the Court, and very much not the business of the legislatures or elections. Rights are inalienable, not something for philosophers or average Joes or doofuses to vote on.

Apparently, the Court Jesters Justices don’t even know that.

“But you want us to step in and render a decision,” Alito continued, “based on an assessment of the effects of this institution, which is newer than cellphones or the Internet? I mean, we do not have the ability to see the future.”

Swing Justice Anthony Kennedy grumbled about “uncharted waters,” and the fuddy-duddies seemed to be looking for excuses not to make a sweeping ruling.

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Now is the time for your tears


Women have no voice. Their songs aren’t famous, so the only words I can think of adequate to Steubenville belong to Bob Dylan. And he, of course, is talking about murder, not that stuff which, when it happens to women, is something to joke about.

William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ringed finger …
And the cops were called in …
And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder

But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears.

William Zanzinger who had twenty-four years …
[And] rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him …
Reacted to his deed with a shrug of his shoulders
And swear words and sneering …
And in a matter of minutes on bail was out walking

But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears.

Hattie Carroll … Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane …
And she never done nothin’ to William Zanzinger

And you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears.

In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level …
And that even the nobles get properly handled …
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance
William Zanzinger with a six-month one-year sentence.

Ah, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now’s the time for your tears.

One year. One. For the premeditated, prolonged, published, endless soul-destroying torture of a human being.

One damn year.

(The complete lyrics are here.)

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From pet rocks to key


Now they figure this out? Now, when it’s too late? After years of putting women on a par with rocks — in a purely egalitarian sense, of course. Not like the Taliban.

Exiting U.S. general says Afghan women’s rights are key.


Some rights are more important than others

The European Court of Human Rights has been reading my blog! Or, perhaps, it’s an obvious idea if you think about it for even a minute, but that’s a much less fun hypothesis. I’ve been saying forever that some rights have to take precedence. (Most recently here, also here, etc., etc.)

[C]opyright monopoly as such – which is ordinary law in European states – was just defined as taking a back seat to the constitutional right to share and seek culture and knowledge, as defined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

It’s about time. We’re getting too damn close to that scenario I saw on Vimeo.


War is Peace. Murder is Good.


It’s not war if no Americans are killed.

Americans may be killed at will because it’s all self-defense. There’s a war on, you know.

Only a handful of decades have passed since the soaring words of the Geneva Convention. The US was pleased to think it was leading that charge at the time.

But it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

MQ-1PredatorDrone

Flying blind
(Source: US military file photo?)

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