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20 Sep 10:01

That Was the Week That Was (#438)

by Maggie McNeill

I was…struck by how the…treatment for these women mostly consisted of convincing them that they were victims.  –  Jessica Gutiérrez

Bad Girls 

sex worker…Aarti Yadav…was arrested…[for] the murder of a constable, Dilip Borole…”Yadav owed him money and Borole had been insisting that she [repay him]…Yadav offered him a drink laced with a sedative.  After he passed out, she strangled him…[then]  wrapped the body in a mattress, before setting it on fire…”

Maggie in the Media IMDb logo

Jayant Bhandari, who attended my presentation in Philadelphia, interviewed me for his podcast by phone last week after I returned home.  And a few weeks ago, I got my own IMDb page because of my appearance on The Independents.


Tip for reporters who don’t want to look like prohibitionist ignoramuses:  when reporting on sex work in East Asia, don’t simply say “prostitution is illegal”, but rather point out it was traditionally legal and only criminalized in the past few years due to American pressure:

…just as [US] companies…pick up the tab for employees’ lunch meetings, in Korea they subsidize…hard core boozing and…the…sex trade (never mind that prostitution is illegal)…To Koreans, the business districts of American cities appear staid, orderly and a bit dull…[Koreans say] North America is a “boring heaven” while their country is an “exciting hell.”  No salesman…gets far here unless he can sing mean, inebriated karaoke and then slug through negotiations the next morning with a thumping headache…

Against Their Will

Nobody in the Indian media seems to think it’s strange that “rescued” women want so badly to escape their “rescuers”:  “The Pune rural police have launched a search…[for] three women who escaped from a government hostel…A few months back, [they] were rescued from a brothel in Aurangabad…”  See also the next item.

Law of the Instrument

A social worker explains why she rejected the “sex trafficking” paradigm:

A few years ago I worked as a psychotherapist in a governmental institution in Mexico…we [were forced] to participate in…raids…to “rescue” victims of human trafficking…I saw how the rights of the women found in the hotel were trampled on.  I witnessed [their] physical maltreatment…This single experience made me resign my job…psychologists and social workers…were…sent in to win the confidence of the women and then use this information in an unethical way…the…["victims"] were unwilling or even angry at the idea of receiving therapy.  Some escaped from the refuges where they were housed “for their protection”.  They didn’t seem to see it as rescue…

The Clueless Leading the Hysterical Slender Man

ABC News [wrote]:  “A 14-year-old girl was arrested after allegedly setting her family’s house on fire in what authorities suspect is the latest case of Slender Man-inspired violence“…This past spring, two girls stabbed a classmate as part of a bizarre plan to prove the fictional creature was real…many reporters seemed to think it was not a weird one-off but a harbinger of a new trend, and a short burst of Slender Man media hysteria followed…the supposed Slender Man connection in the new story?  “…The teen…admitted to using the websites and, which are associated with The Slender Man“…She…”admitted” to “using” (which I assume means “reading”), a vast depository of online horror stories that is “associated with The [sic] Slender Man” in the sense that he is one of the many characters one might encounter there…

So What Else Is New?

a…recent report…published in the journal Nature Reviews Urology  by Emmanuele Jannini…found that, essentially, the G-spot is just a sensitive area that’s part of the larger pleasure center that includes the vagina, clitoris, and urethra…a…2012…study by…Dr. Amichai Kilchevsky…found…that…what [women are] likely experiencing is a continuation of the clitoris…

Scapegoats (TW3 #10)

Given that politicians who obsess about certain kinks are nearly always practitioners of those same kinks, what are we to make of Joe Arpaio’s crusade against zoophilia?

…Arpaio says sexual deviants continue to flock to Craigslist…to locate like-minded deviants to engage in sex acts with animals.  Several suspectshave been arrested by Sheriff’s deputies, and many were later convicted and jailed…Terry Wayne Haupt…went to meet up with the Sheriff’s Office undercover black lab for the purposes of engaging in various sex acts…Arpaio says he has written to Craigslist…on three separate occasions asking the company to consider forbidding this type of solicitation…Craigslist…has never responded…

Yes, Arpaio is now doing bestiality stings.  Meanwhile, nearby in Albuquerque…

Broken Record

How low can they go?

Prostitution is common during the [New Mexico State] fair, and Albuquerque police are running…[stings in which] female officers dress up as prostitutes and [trick]…men [into talking to them]…“The officers have to be very careful about how they approach…to avoid entrapment,” [pig mouthpiece Tanner] Tixier [lied]…police are seizing the vehicles of men who are arrested…

As regular readers know, they aren’t “careful” in the least; they simply invent accusations against anyone they choose to target.  And what, pray tell, constitutes “dressing up as a prostitute”?  High-heeled boots or skinny jeans, perhaps?

The Widening Gyre

Lock up your daughters!  Sex traffickers are EVERYWHERE!!!

A new study…reveals…victims of sex trafficking are recruited in places we like to think are safe havens…girls as young as 12 and 13 are first approached…at schools, malls and even parties…The study looked at five years of cases in Minneapolis…Some 40 percent…come from families [with whom] child protection had contact…a potential [excuse] for intervention…police say major events like this summer’s All-Star Game can change the dynamics of what has become a big time business…

FYI:  looking at a bunch of police reports doesn’t qualify as a “study” of anything except cops’ and prosecutors’ masturbatory fantasies about underage girls. Travis McIntosh and Matt McCormick

Like a Horse and Carriage

Gay marriage supporters claim that for two men who love each other to marry “makes a mockery of marriage”:

Two men got married in New Zealand…and people aren’t happy about it.  Heterosexuals Travis McIntosh and Matt McCormick tied the knot…as part of a radio competition to win tickets to the Rugby World Cup.  The “best mates” got hitched…with tens of thousands listening live.  But…gay rights groups and social conservatives…have both condemned the sham marriage…

Picket-fence gays:  if the state is going to involve itself in people’s interpersonal contracts, I support your right to make such contracts as you see fit.  But your busybody concern for whether two people who make such a contract are habitually shoving their body parts into each other’s orifices is deeply disgusting, and you need to STFU.

Under Every Bed 

I had an ad in the Baton Rouge phone book for years, and it only barely justified its cost:

…Emily Morrow-Chenevert…said the Interstate 10 and Interstate 12 corridor makes Baton Rouge a hub for sex trafficking.  New Orleans is among the top 20 cities…and Houston and Memphis are other big destinations.  Baton Rouge…serves as a convenient stop between those places…there’s an estimated 27 million victims of sex trafficking worldwide…

It’s a “convenient stop” an hour away from New Orleans and on no credible route between it and Memphis.  Note also that the 27 million claim has shifted from all “human trafficking” victims to specifically “sex trafficking” victims.

Lower Education 

Ohio State essentially defines all unscripted human contact as rape:

At Ohio State University, to avoid being guilty of “sexual assault”…you and your partner now apparently have to agree…“regarding the who, what, where, when, why, and how this sexual activity will take place”…[this] impractical “agreement” requirement…[also applies] to…“touching”…[and] Ohio State’s Student Wellness Center seeks to radically narrow the concept of consent further (and ban “kissing” without verbal consent as “sexual assault”).  It says consent must be “verbal,” “enthusiastic,” and must be “asked for every step of the way”…Consent also must also be a litany of other things, such as “sober,” “informed,” “honest,” “wanted,” and “creative”…

Sold Out drag queen Facebook protest

Would Facebook dare to target picket-fence gay folk this way?

In a frankly creepy overreach of authority, Facebook is going after…drag queens, requiring that they use their “real names”…In some cases they’ve requested users send in a copy of their drivers license to prove a name is legit…Facebook just rolled out gender-neutral family options, so clearly they’re trying to appear sensitive to nonconforming identities.  So what’s with the name police?

Facebook temporarily backed down after protests, but hasn’t changed its policy.

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #335)

Once again: No, Zurich’s was NOT the first tippelzone in Europe:

…Vienna is considering installing…”drive-in brothels”…to improve working conditions for street prostitutes…The facilities were first installed in Zürich a year ago…Street prostitution in Vienna is generally legal, but…more and more restrictions [have been] enacted in recent years…

The rest of the article is actually a very good discussion of the bottleneck effect.

Paint By Numbers

Yet another cut-and-paste “sex trafficking” story:

Florida…ranks among the top five states for human trafficking…local authorities formed a team to recover victims and…increase public awareness…”it’s hidden…everywhere”…Polaris Project…Traffickers…use drugs to keep their victims…Florida…has enacted stricter laws…such as requiring strip clubs to…keep [workers' personal] information on file…Parents should monitor…their children…on social media…because…traffickers…Salvation Army…conference…how to get men to stop purchasing sex, along with a prayer walk outside of massage parlors and strip clubs…

The only novel element is the assertion that “Traffickers often change locations…using standard transportation that wouldn’t raise eyebrows…”  As opposed to what, howdahs?  Pogo sticks?  Dirigibles?  Amphibious landing craft?

Dirty Laundry (TW3 #405)

a public inquiry into historical child abuse…has heard…of the abuse…at the Sacré Coeur orphanage…[in] Jersey, [where nuns] beat children with spoons and forced them to work in a knitwear factory…in one nightmarish instance, nuns confined a child no older than six to a room where a dead nun had been laid in a coffin…Other punishments included the children having sheets pulled up tightly over their heads so they couldn’t move and having to eat meals in a toilet…

Imaginary Crises (TW3 #410) David Ley

Dr. David Ley shares the story of a young man with OCD who made the mistake of telling a “Mental Health Crisis Team” (which includes a cop) about his persistent rape fantasies, resulting in his suspension from university and dozens of strangers prying into his private thoughts.  Ley writes,

…This young man is terrified that his thoughts…of rape make him dangerous to others.  Unfortunately, that’s the message that he is getting, everywhere he turns.  I’m truly sad that this young man…is now learning that asking for help can result in punishment…he…is…surrounded by a system…driven by panic and fear…[which] is making problems worse, not better…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #433)

The German Association of Female Lawyers (DJB)…rejects the prohibition of prostitution and criminalization of clients…A ban would mean a return to the times of social stigma and lack of rights for women, yet would not change the fact that prostitution takes place…[if clients alone are criminalized] an important group of witnesses in criminal proceedings would be lost…the DJB rejects the introduction of [licensing] for sex workers…the risk of stigmatization is…high and the benefits of such a scheme questionable…

Another Fine Mess (TW3 #435)

Ordinary business practices don’t magically become newsworthy when  hookers use them:

The company that operates Ireland’s biggest sex-worker website has moved its headquarters to Spain and is expanding its business across Europe…Escorts Ireland…[was] previously…based in London  to avoid [Irish anti-advertising laws]…chief executive Audrey Campbell…confirmed the company has moved to Spain because of its “more accepting” attitude…[and favorable] tax [framework]…Campbell set up the company with…Peter McCormick…who has a conviction for brothel-keeping in…the 1990s…McCormick’s son Mark was imprisoned for 16 months for brothel-keeping in 2010…

Translation:  “Internet-based company expands its operations and moves its domicile to a country with more advantageous laws and regulations.  Both owners are experienced in their field.
Whither Canada? (TW3 #437)

Terri-Jean Bedford…[has a list of] names of politicians who hire sex workers…compiled from sex workers across Canada, and…is carefully considering which…to release…after [C-36]…receives royal assent.  This would shame the hypocrites who secretly go to prostitutes while publicly moralizing against sex work or [voting] for laws that endanger sex workers…C-36 will either be undone by the next government or struck down by judges…[it] is a doomed rearguard action — aimed at winning donations and votes — and the Conservatives know it.  What they don’t know:  whose names are on Bedford’s list.

19 Sep 10:01

Instant Criminal

by Maggie McNeill

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on August 17th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

kangaroo courtI’ve written on many occasions about what I call universal criminality, the crowning achievement of the modern police state, under which there are so many vague, overbroad and counterintuitive laws that every single person is in violation of at least a few of them at all times.  Nearly any encounter with the police can be turned into “assault on a police officer” or “resisting arrest”, almost any business can be twisted into “racketeering”, virtually any financial transaction can be redefined as “money laundering” and even normal friendships or business interactions can be tortured into “conspiracy”.  But while charges like these can be used to harass, bankrupt and imprison the target, possibly for many years, they often lack the firepower necessary to totally destroy his life forever; after his release from prison he might still be able to find work, have a normal social life and rebuild his shattered fortunes into some semblance of a comfortable existence.  Worst of all (from the prosecutorial viewpoint), the public might even side with the victim, turning him into a martyr both during and after his state-sanctioned torture and caging.  But there is one weapon in the state’s arsenal which, used properly, will utterly destroy a person’s life.  At the end of the process he will have no money, no friends and no home; he will be completely unemployable and condemned to everlasting surveillance, shunned by society and unable even to avail himself of even paid companionship without triggering still more awful consequences.  If the prosecutor is really lucky, his victim may even be murdered by the police or other thugs or take his own life.  And all it takes to detonate this thermonuclear weapon of modern law is the sending of a single email.  Consider this recent case:

Two men have been convicted for “storing” extreme porn on their smartphones — despite the fact they were sent it by a third party, and in one case didn’t even watch it…Gary Ticehurst and Mark Kelly were both sent images and videos from another person via WhatsApp…Kelly… “deleted the videos…but I had no ideas they would save to my camera roll”…Ticehurst…said…he…“decided not to look at them” [but neglected to delete the files]…

The judge was “lenient” in that he “only” stole £500 from each and “only” put them on probation for two years rather than caging them.  Because, as everyone including the judge admits, these taboo images were sent them unsolicited by a third party.  That third party could be anyone, including the police themselves trying to manufacture a crime:

Simon [Walsh] was a successful professional and politician…who, amongst other things, prosecuted police officers accused of disciplinary offences…the police had to “interrogate” Simon’s personal email account…in order to discover a few images they deemed questionable” …the images were in an incoming email and may not have been opened.  In other words, it’s highly likely that the police simply sent the images to him, then pretended to “find” the “evidence” as they do with planted drugs.

In fact, thanks to the fascist surveillance complex, the police might actually know about the “evil” collections of ones and zeroes (that’s what an electronic image actually is, after all) before the mark does:

…a Houston man, John Henry Skillern, was arrested by police for possession of child pornography [after]…Google…spotted three allegedly pornographic images of children in [his] email and…tipped off the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children…Google has never made a secret of the fact that it scans email content…an attempt by non-Gmail users to create a class action suit against Google for non-consent of its scanning failed…those who already have concerns about privacy will wonder what other circumstances might cause Google to inform authorities of one kind or another…

Don’t use Google?  Don’t worry, the “authorities” can spy on you directly:

USB devices…have a fundamental flaw that [allows] a malicious hacker to take over your computer and infect any other USB device that is plugged into it…this is not limited to USB drives…Because the exploit lives in a USB device’s firmware, it can be passed around by any USB device, like a mouse, Bluetooth dongle, your printer…anything.  The malware can also be spread from the computer to any USB device plugged into it…If someone plugs in an infected USB drive…every…USB device plugged into that computer afterward would become infected…This USB exploit sounds very similar to the NSA’s “Cottonmouth” device…it could…be using the exploit to increase its access to as many computers as possible…

thumb driveIn other words, millions of computers may already be affected, and could be controlled to download child porn from a government source without the owner even being aware of it until the cops show up at his door in the middle of the night, beat him, throw him in a cage and then proceed to “find” the pictures they put there in the first place.  And even if the owner could somehow prove his ignorance, that’s not a defense:

…even if everyone involved was pretty sure you never even saw the pictures…prosecutors are so inhuman and irresponsible [that they]…charge people with crimes they know aren’t in the spirit of the law…The career incentives are that investigations must lead to charges, and charges must lead to convictions…once something is investigated prosecutors are motivated to make sure someone goes to jail…the law effectively treats every bit of crufty data, every teenage file system mistake or selfie indiscretion as if the possessor had abused the child themselves…

As long as our society clings to the primitive belief that an inanimate object can be intrinsically evil, there is absolutely no way to stop this. And literally everyone with an internet connection, or who ever uses any usb device which is not exclusive to his own computer, is vulnerable; any government operative can literally destroy his entire life simply by hitting “send” and then dispatching uniformed thugs to pick him up.

19 Sep 10:23

Devil Activity Books for Children: Satanic Temple Plans to Distribute Religious Material to Florida Schools

by clovernews

“The Satanic Temple is planning to distribute educational religious materials to public school children in Florida in an attempt to make them aware of the practise and values of Satanism.”

Link to article

19 Sep 14:19

Keeping Up With the Joneses?

by syrbal-labrys

photo(Warning: bitterness, snark, and sarcasm ahead.)

My, my but the ISIL bunch has certainly fouled the religious maniac-terrorist punchbowl.  I mean, attracting hundreds of people from allegedly civilized places like Britain, America, and Australia to their banner?  And cutting off heads.  Whoa…now that is hard-core isn’t it?

Well, no.  It is fucking madness of the sort that spawned Kristalnacht.  You know, a bunch of malcontents who can’t get their requisite 15 minutes of fame at home find if they go somewhere where they CAN be as bad as they want to be, surely someone will notice them then.

It is making the other big names in religious terrorism look a bit … well, you didn’t hear it here, ok?  But almost NORMAL.  Now, we cannot be having that shit, can we?

So Al Qaeda calls for everyone to get back on topic of kicking American ass.  And the Taliban, looking like wussy little bullies for shooting schoolgirls, decides to step it up and become arsonists.  And then, do do even better?  Yes, cutting off heads is the new vogue.

Gee, I’d be a whole lot more impressed with all these holier than thou sorts if they did something GOOD for the planet and the people upon it.  Cutting off heads is so….so 7th century.

Filed under: Politics, Religious Nuts & Bolts, Snark, War & No Peace Tagged: Afghanistan, al qaeda, Iraq, ISIL, religious fanatics, Taliban, terrorists, war
19 Sep 14:52

Pagan Blog Project – “S” Is For Shamanistic

by syrbal-labrys

redcap“Don’t call him a shaman!”  Thus said a friend of mine several years back, when she was talking about the tribal healer she knew.  “That word does not apply, it isn’t even an English word.”  Well, no, it isn’t.  But it is a word difficult to find an exact translation for in every language and unfortunately or not?  It is used to describe an array of practices including those of Amerindian “medicine men”.

It is a word from Northern European/Asiatic practice, and associated with that lovely red-spotted mushroom at left.  It is also a word I use to describe my own initiation into pagan life.  No, I don’t all myself a “shaman” or “shamanka” either….I call some of my practice loosely shamanistic.

I do not have a living tribal “community” in which to live and practice.  Since many insist this is prerequisite to being a shaman — I cannot be one.  However, my initiation was definitely in the confines of the phenomenon described (with various degrees of accuracy) by Mircea Eliade, Ronald Hutton and others.  My initiation took place in a prolonged series of dreams (the first of which was the most terrifying real) and waking visions.

Shamanic initiation in a tribal setting often involves making the initiate think they are dying, and possibly being dismembered.  This is accomplished with a combination of hallucinogenic drugs and stagecraft — in European settings, sometimes the real red dotted mushroom is/was the hallucinogen used.  But for me, I had neither at hand.  My own mind, or as some would say, my Initiator — my deity-guide — took me on a journey that made me sure I was losing my mind.

I dreamt I was in the pretty Bavarian town of Bad Tolz, where I actually lived.  And the men were being called to war, most wives and children would be evacuated — put on planes and sent home to America.  There was a frantic welter of activity and in the midst of it all, saying farewell to my Green Beret-topped husband, I suddenly felt a crushing pain in my chest and collapsed.  They took me to the tiny American clinic — identical in the dream to reality.  There, a doctor pulled a sheet over my body and told my husband he was sorry he could not have saved me!  He said there was  nothing to be done and that they all had to leave at once.

I screamed, beneath that sheet, “No, I’m here…I hear you, I’m alive.”  But my weeping children were taken away by the chaplain’s wife, my husband left to join his unit and silence fell around me.  I could not move.  Ever more distant sounds of doors slamming and vehicles departing continued until darkness fell. It was only then that I regained power to move and pulled the sheet from my face.  I got up and looked around at a clinic with drawers and medical cabinets rifled and left doors-ajar.  I called out, but was unanswered.

I walked down the stairs and looked out the doors to an empty quadrangle.  A sound behind me made me spin to the stairway inglenook. There, as in waking real life, was a door — a door that went to the sub-basements of this WWII Era German-built base; a door always locked, but now gaping open.  Down the stairs I went, lower and lower.  Finally I came out on a grand wide avenue.  The ceiling arched above me, with tree roots hanging into the open space.  The floor beneath me was thick with dust.  The sides of this subterranean hallway were filled with great arched doorways, each one thick with stone carvings in many arcs — like the doors of Gothic cathedrals.

A dim light from an unknown source gave just enough light to examine these incredible doorways…each with a tightly shut wooden planked door.  The carvings laid time bare to my eyes — each one a distant era of history.  Battles, massacres, mankind’s bloody history curved round each door.  Over my head, the ceiling shook with distant concussions and dust fell down upon me.  A horrid sound seemed to come closer and I ducked into the shadowed arch closest …. six men ran past me pulling a small artillery piece with them; their uniforms looked like Korean War Era gear.

Horrified and frightened as I heard more and more noise coming…I ran down the long, wide hallway with no idea of where I was going.  But in a brighter light ahead of me, a figure appeared — it beckoned to me.  In the dust-mote filled air, I could barely make it out — a man-shape, but with antlers rising from his head.  With screams and shrieks behind me, and only this glowing Horned One ahead of me and a sensation of peace and bliss emanating from him, I ran towards him.  He vanished around a curve in the gallery….and I woke, soaked in sweat.  Other dreams, and sometimes, when dancing or exercising hard — waking visions of related content followed.

I was sure I was losing my mind.  Especially as the dreams did not go away…for over a year dreams with a connecting, teasing, beckoning antlered figure continued.  Only a brief volunteer task at the post library saved me from being sure I was crazy; as I worked in the empty closed library, shelving books, one volume fell off the shelf two yards down the stacks.  It was Mircea Eliade’s book on shamanism. I checked it out, took it home to read. It described the ritualized death of shamanic initiates and the re-enlivenment. I was still horrified and frightened, but less so.

Eventually, though still conflicted, I took the advice of William James and set aside my own disbelief to explore the phenomenon happening in my life.  Dreams in sleep and very rare waking visions have continued apace since that beginning — the horned figure that was my initiator, laughs and switches masks at times, and my shamanistic path has a “community” of the dead of war.  I was shown, in that initial dream, the wars of all the past — I am the priestess of dead soldiers, and it is them I serve rather than the living.  I am the psychopomp who leads them from life to death –as it seems many are so shocked (and so many SO young) that they cannot find a clear way “out”.  This is my task, though doubt still makes me marvel — but it led, ultimately, to the building of the Labyrinth, The Walk of the Fallen.

And yes, everyone thinks shamanistic practitioners are crazy.  Maybe we are.  But the job is what it is…sometimes a magic mushroom or two would be a mercy; but I remain a sober shamanistic priestess, my reality unaltered by foreign substances.  And yet, forever changed…a bell, as a friend said, once rung, cannot be un-rung.

(The rest of my personal pagan alphabet!)

Tagged: dreams, initiation, pagan blog project, pagan life, shamanism
19 Sep 16:50

And Let The Flashbacks Begin…It’s Gunday, Again

by syrbal-labrys

Blue_GSVDamn.  I slept late, and wish now that I had slept later.  My body is already dumping daylight savings time, thank you.  Now I want to dump Friday.  Because a headline alone, without the story, raised a storm in my head.

I still have not read the story.  Not sure I can, because the headline alone is my personal nightmare.  My father always had guns.  He held my mother at gunpoint during arguments more than once.  And as the oldest child, I heard the shouting. The shouting wherein he stated that “…when I’m ready to go, I’m going to take ALL of you with me.”

Even as an adult, having left home at age 17, every time there was a knock on my door, my pulse-rate jumped.  Was this the day?  Was my father standing on the other side of the door, armed and come to kill me?  It was a hundred times worse once I had children, of course and being sure their lives would be as forfeit as my own.

I grew up seeing him casually kill pets that had pissed him off.  He shot a dog that barked too much, ran over a dog that had killed his favorite cat, and other pets simply vanished.  He ran off his “best friend” at drunken gunpoint.  But he didn’t have to be drunk to be so threatening.  I always tried to keep several states between his known location and my own in hopes I might hear something of a warning nature on the news in time.

He died, by his own hand, in 1997 in Sonora, Mexico.  He had been angry with my stepmother and left without her from a party.  He went home, stretched out on their bed in his best boots and party clothes and shot himself in the head.

But hey, guns don’t kill people, right?  But drunks and convicts enabled to own plenty of them sure as hell do.   And in Florida, a man like my own daddy decided to take out his daughter and her SIX kids, one an infant.  Who knows why.  My dad thought the world was going to hell in a hand-basket; and he thought it wrong to leave those he loved alone without protection — now isn’t THAT the capper for “twisted love”?


Filed under: PTSD Journals Tagged: everytown-for-gun-safety, family, gun nuts, gun violence, Gunday, murder
19 Sep 23:34

“We’re All Family Here”

by syrbal-labrys

1hand gunsI need an explanation of what that title statement means.  The sheriff of a little Florida town made that statement after looking at the bodies of a 28 year old woman, her three little boys and three little girls — one of whom was not even three months old.  They were dead at the gun-wielding hand of her father.

And the sheriff’s department had been called to that home numerous times.  The father was a convicted felon who had shot his own 8 year old son and had gone to jail for it, though they accepted that it was accidental, because he was not supposed to have a gun.  But he DID have a gun.  And he had a gun again.

What does a woman do? She calls the police, and the police do nothing.  And so that woman is dead and so are her little children.  “We’re all family here,” says the sheriff who did NOT protect her from her father.

I am finding functionality almost beyond my command today.  I survived my own father’s homicidal/suicidal impulses because I was over 1500 miles away when he decided it was time to go.  Otherwise, my children and I would have become another pretty much ignored statistic.  And some utterly useless sheriff’s spokesman would have said, “It’s a small town here, we are devastated because we are all family here.”

You know what?  No, we are not all family “here” or anywhere else where nutjobs, convicts, and drunks are allowed to so easily get guns with which to murder their own families because “OMG, 2nd Amendment.”  

What “we” all are?  Is at risk.  At risk of sudden death because America is having a love affair with the rather seditious idea that was have to all be armed to “protect ourselves from tyranny.”  Seriously, America?  I’ve got some news to break to you stupid movie/video game deluded twits: MOST of you have NO FUCKING IDEA what “tyranny” really is — you think it is when you have to drive a civilized speed limit, for pity’s sake.  You think it is when you have to act semi-civilized.

Tyranny is when you have to REGULARLY fear being summarily executed.  It is women, children, and schoolchildren who are tyrannized presently in this nation — by a host of men who have the absolute nerve to insist that they need a special deadly detachable penis to BE men.  I am SICK of it.

Expect an absolutely violent zero tolerance standard from me, as if I hadn’t made that clear before.  FUCK YOUR HOLY SECOND AMENDMENT, IT IS KILLING US.

Filed under: Life, PTSD Journals, War on Women Tagged: domestic violence, grow-a-real-dick-already, gun nuts, gun violence, guns, murder
19 Sep 21:06

What Do You Do When Your Student Tells You Her Father Threatened Her Life? 2

by Richard Jeffrey Newman

In my last post, I told you about a former student who came to my office distraught because her father had threatened her life. It’s now more than two weeks since I walked her over to the counseling center on my campus, and I hope the fact that she has not contacted me since then means that she is somewhere safe, where she can start to figure out how to live the rest of her life. What struck me most about this student’s situation, I said, was less her father’s threat, which was of course bad enough, than the network of men he was able to enlist, or simply count on, to help him keep his daughter in line. Those men, I went on, made me think of these lines from Sa’di’s Golestan:

To please the king who eats a sin­gle apple
from a subject’s gar­den, his slaves will pull
the tree up whole to plant in the palace yard;
and if he lets five eggs be taken by force,
his army will put to the spit a thou­sand birds.

“There’s always someone willing to ride the coattails of someone else’s power and authority,” I wrote, but what makes these lines particularly powerful for me is the story that gives them their full context. Here it is:

The hunting party had stopped to eat, but there was no salt to season the meat they were roasting for [King] Nushirvan, and no one wanted to serve him an improperly seasoned meal. So they sent one of the boys who was with them to get some salt from a nearby village. Before the boy left, however, Nushirvan told him, “Make sure you pay for what you take. Otherwise, the village will be ruined.” Surprised and more than a little incredulous, those who were standing nearby asked how such a simple thing as bringing some salt to the king could have such profound consequences. Nushirvan replied, “When the world began, oppression was a small hut that few people entered, but as more and more people chose to go inside, they built it up, and look how high it reaches now.”

To please the king who eats a single apple
from a subject’s garden, his slaves will pull
the tree up whole to plant in the palace yard;
and if he lets five eggs be taken by force,
his army will put to the spit a thousand birds.

As the king, Nushirvan was very aware that he could have ordered the boy to take the salt without paying for it, and he understood well the dire consequences such privilege could have for those he ruled, if he allowed it to be taken to its logical conclusion. By telling the boy to pay, Nushirvan was taking responsibility for that privilege. What interests me is whether the boy would have paid for the salt even if Nushirvan had said nothing. If not, he would have turned the king’s privilege into an admittedly minor but nonetheless naked display of power. More to the point, by refusing in the name of the king to pay for that salt, the boy would have been claiming some of that power for himself, and he would have been doing so by choice. In other words, he would have done so knowing full well he could’ve done otherwise.

The men who spied on my student for her father, whether he asked them to or not, were in the same position as that boy was before Nushirvan told him to make sure he paid. They knew full well that they could have chosen not to inform on her, but they did so anyway. Similarly, in the wake of the recent nude-celebrity-photo hacking scandal, we were all in that position. Every single person who looked at those photos, tweeted about them, linked to them, posted them on Reddit, or otherwise treated them as anything other than the stolen private property they were, could have chosen to do otherwise, but didn’t. On the other hand, those of us who didn’t chose not to enforce an idea about women’s place in society that is, in its essence, no different from the one my student’s father was enforcing when he beat her for being (in his estimation) inappropriately alone with a young male acquaintance.

I have no doubt that few of the people who looked at those pictures would openly declare themselves that father’s ally. Nonetheles, just like he valued his idea of family, and particularly women’s honor more than the flesh-and-blood woman his daughter is, the people who looked at those pictures chose their salacious value, and the power they could feel in viewing them, over the human value of the flesh-and-blood people whose pictures they were. Neither of which is very much different from the dynamic Sa’di describes, in which people who work for the king value the slice of the king’s power that they are licensed to exercise more than the humanity, to use the examples in Sa’di’s verse, of the people whose trees they are uprooting or whose chickens they are stealing.

Pick your cause. Whether it’s in the context of racism or environmentalism, militarism or poverty, sexism (including heterosexism), transphobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, unionism, or antisemitism, we all face this kind of choice every day, in ways both big and small. Do we value the human beings whose lives are materially at stake or do we value the power that creates the imbalance that turns these issues into causes in the first place? No one makes the right choice all the time. I certainly don’t, but understanding that the choice is, first and always, mine to make has made my life a lot more meaningful.


17 Sep 16:20

So-Deep Space

by Reza


18 Sep 10:01

The Kindness of Strangers

by Maggie McNeill

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.  –  Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

Maggie speaking at LOTR LA 6-5-14Long-time readers know I’m a creature of habit; I tend to keep a pretty regular schedule of eating, sleeping, bathing, working and everything else, even down to which days of the week I usually work on which features of my blog.  So the announcement of such a long tour must’ve taken many of you by surprise; some of you probably wondered whether I’d be able to complete the ambitious itinerary I set for myself.  For over three months (with the exception of a single week at home around the 4th of July) I totally discarded most of my normal habits to drive from coast to coast, living in hotels or guest rooms and eating restaurant food.  The trip was a litany of firsts:  the first time I had ever spoken to people who specifically came out to see me,  the first time I had tried a number of foods, the first time I was ever in many of these cities (or even states), the first time I had ever traveled so far or so long alone, the first time I ever undertook such a major project without any clear idea of how I was going to pay for it.

And yet, despite there being a number of extremely good reasons why it should never have worked, it did.  I embarked on the tour because it was something I felt had to be done; not only did I want to talk about my book, I also wanted to meet people and talk face-to-face with them about why the War on Whores is a spectacularly awful idea, and why they should care about it.  And so I took a leap of faith; like Blanche Dubois I depended on the kindness of strangers, though I achieved much better results than she did.  From practically the moment I left my home people I did not know helped me to plan my trip, arrange my events, pay for my expenses and get where I needed to be when I needed to be there.  People sent me money, invited me into their homes, fed me, gathered audiences for me, listened to what I had to say, bought my book, encouraged me and went out of their way to assist me when I was sick or lost.  Everywhere I went I was made to feel welcome and important, and I was often treated like a celebrity.  It’s an overused phrase, but the experience really did renew my faith in humanity.

The journey took me from west to east and north to south, through hot weather and cold, across wildernesses to the largest population centers in the country; altogether, I logged almost 13,000 miles.  There were days when I was so busy I barely had time to think, and others in which I had nothing to do but catch up on my blogging.  I had experiences that frightened me or made me very nervous or uncomfortable, and others that were among the best of my whole life; I got sick a few times and made a number of new friends.  I spoke to enthusiastic crowds in packed rooms, and enjoyed quiet one-on-one conversations with individuals.  One of these days I’ll write about the whole thing at length for my memoirs, but for right now I just want to let y’all know what an amazing gift y’all gave me by making the whole thing possible; it was literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’ll be thinking about it and drawing on it for my writing for many years to come.

18 Sep 12:51

Nature’s Performance Art

by Steven Weinberg


18 Sep 13:02

Curious Visual Guides to Victorian Pseudoscience

by Allison Meier
D. Younger, "Full, concise instructions in mesmerism" (1887)

“The Cataleptic State in D. Younger’s “Full, concise instructions in mesmerism” (1887) (all images via Widener Library, Harvard University)

What if all your woes could be healed by some good thinking? Back in the 19th century, mesmerism was all the rage, merging nicely with the DIY Victorian parlor entertainment and hefty dose of quack medicine making the rounds — from questionable experiments in electricity to phrenology.

Chauncy Hare Townshend, "Facts in mesmerism" (1841)

Chauncy Hare Townshend, “Facts in mesmerism” (1841)

A couple of books recently digitized by Harvard University’s Widener Library offer some curious visuals for the ideas of “animal magnetism” that originated with German physician Franz Anton Mesmer. On Harvard’s The Shelf library blog, Todd Bachmann shared some details on the since-debunked theory that sickness could be ameliorated by this specialized hypnosis. Bachmann mentions, among others, a book by poet Chauncy Hare Townshend from 1841 called Facts in mesmerism: With reasons for a dispassionate inquiry into it and D. Younger’s 1887 Full, concise instructions in mesmerism (falsely termed hypnotism), curative magnetism, and massage with brief hints on natural medicine, etc., with illustrations showing various phases of mesmeric treatment. Younger, who was coming a bit under the wire for the mesmerism craze’s lifespan, wrote:

The results I have been able to accomplish by this natural method of treatment, in conjunction with the various herbal remedies I recommend, have, in many cases, been most surprising, never failing to afford relief, and often effecting a permanent cure, after all the usual orthodox methods have been tried in vain.

As James Kennaway recounted this July in the Paris Review, Mesmer and those who followed him would “often used music in their treatments, favoring in particular the ethereal and uncanny sound of the glass armonica, which uses friction to produce tones in a series of graduated glass bowls.” However, the Townshend book goes further and transposes some flute music one subject performed under mesmerism while sleepwalking. It’s as erratic as you might expect.

Even Charles Dickens was a fan: this 1845 letter at the Morgan Library exclaims his interest as “a believer [but] I became so against all my preconceived opinions and impressions.” The pseudoscience stretched slightly into the 20th century, though it peaked in the middle of the preceding century, with bizarre experiments like preserving corpses with mesmerism (you can see a supposed example of one from 1913 here). Below you can check out some of the images from the two books where trances were employed for good health.

D. Younger, "Full, concise instructions in mesmerism" (1887)

D. Younger, “Full, concise instructions in mesmerism” (1887)

D. Younger, "Full, concise instructions in mesmerism" (1887)

D. Younger, “Full, concise instructions in mesmerism” (1887)

D. Younger, "Full, concise instructions in mesmerism" (1887)

D. Younger, “Full, concise instructions in mesmerism” (1887)

D. Younger, "Full, concise instructions in mesmerism" (1887)

D. Younger, “Full, concise instructions in mesmerism” (1887)

D. Younger, "Full, concise instructions in mesmerism" (1887)

D. Younger, “Full, concise instructions in mesmerism” (1887)

D. Younger, "Full, concise instructions in mesmerism" (1887)

D. Younger, “Full, concise instructions in mesmerism” (1887)

D. Younger, "Full, concise instructions in mesmerism" (1887)

D. Younger, “Full, concise instructions in mesmerism” (1887)

Chauncy Hare Townshend, "Facts in mesmerism" (1841)

Chauncy Hare Townshend, “Facts in mesmerism” (1841)

Read more about 19th century mesmerism books at Harvard University Library’s The Shelf.

h/t Slate Vault

18 Sep 14:12

New Internet Film School column, on how Community and Winter Soldier are exactly the same thing…

by SEK

…at least in the way they establish and use space.

18 Sep 14:34

Soup Weather IS Here!

by syrbal-labrys

Well, at least now and then of an evening.  So, looking over my fridge contents and thinking vegetarian…what do I come up with for a weekday supper?

cauliflower pumpkin bisque

Cauliflower Pumpkin Bisque!

I began with breaking up a large head of cauliflower and putting it to simmer in vegetable broth! I add a good pinch of saffron threads to the broth. I didn’t cover the cauliflower, only half way — I want my soup thick. Bring it to a boil and then simmer till tender. (The time is dependent on how much cauliflower and how powerful your stove!) I completely puree it in my Vitamixer.

And then prepare some curry type spices, I used cumin, tumeric, ginger, corriander and some nice seasalt. A wee pinch of cardamon, too… all mixed to taste (I use lots!) in a small bowl. Then in a skillet, I melt about 3 T coconut fat and start cooking TWO large sliced sweet onions. (If you feel venturesome, stir in some chile pepper flakes when the onion is half done.) I cooked the onion until it was medium brown — and then stirred half of it into the puree in the vitamixer with half the spices…puree AGAIN and return this to the saucepan. The rest of the onion will be cooked till it is getting crispy** — only then is it set off the heat to wait with the rest of the spices stirred in at the last minute.

Back in the saucepan, I velvetize the veggie puree by adding about 4 ounces of soft goat cheese and at least half a can of coconut cream. I bring it to just below a boil…nice and hot. If it is thicker than you like, add cream, or more broth or coconut cream. Put it in wide shallow bowls and top each serving with the crispy onions and some of the coconut oil…as with an Indian cooking “tadka” and add a final sprinkle of fresh cilantro leaves!

Perfect with some fresh chapatis — or warm wheat tortillas for the hurried cook!

*Note that without the cream or goat cheese, this is a vegan dish and lactose free!

** Indian and Mid-Eastern groceries have already browned crispy onions for sale — great time saver!

Tagged: cooking, soup, vegetarian
18 Sep 16:22

A Grumble: United States Courts Website Misinforms About Free Speech

by Ken White

Last night I carefully observed a gentleman who thinks that criticizing someone violates the First Amendment. You have to be very still in the wild or you spook them. After some irritable flailing our subject — a communications director — offered this:

A reminder that the First Amendment does not include the right to incite actions that hurt others:

What a pointlessly vague, ambiguous, and misleading summary of First Amendment law, I thought. I wonder what unschooled blogger, what anti-speech advocate, what twelve-year-old's Livejournal post, what ungrammatical cat picture is he relying on for that statement?

Funny story.

His link leads to an educational page provided by the United States Courts, the administrative entity that oversees all federal courts in America.

And it's awful.

Look, not everyone is a gigantic free speech nerd. Summaries and educational materials are going to give complex subjects a bit of a gloss. Understanding the basics, the framework, doesn't require knowing all the nuances.

But summaries of First Amendment law ought not affirmatively misinform.

The U.S. Courts' page offers a list of some things that have been found protected by the First Amendment, and some that have not.

From the "you have this right" column, for instance:

Of students to wear black armbands to school to protest a war (“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”).
Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).

First of all, that's a terrible summary of Tinker, suggesting that black armbands are somehow a special case. Tinker held that the government cannot stop students from symbolic expression without showing that it significantly disrupts or interferes with school. The page compounds the error by equally brief summaries of two post-Tinker cases showing what rights students do not have:

Of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event.
Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).
Of students to advocate illegal drug use at a school-sponsored event.
Morse v. Frederick, __ U.S. __ (2007).

What's the difference? The reader is left to guess. In fact, the Supreme Court has steadily cut back on the student rights articulated in Tinker, because courts' views of rights change over time. You won't get that from this page.

On we go with another unprotected form of speech:

To incite actions that would harm others (e.g., “[S]hout[ing] ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”).
Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).

Seriously? That's like saying "not all racial distinctions are unconstitutional" and citing Plessy v. Ferguson. Shenck is the low water mark of the Supreme Court's protection of speech. In in the Court upheld jailing people for handing out leaflets opposing the draft during World War One. The Court retreated from that almost immediately. Shenck is bad law, and this is a useless summary of it. The Supreme Court is now very clear under Brandenburg v. Ohio: "incitement" is protected by the First Amendment unless "except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action." Mean analogies on the internet don't count.

To make matters worse, the U.S. Courts drag up Holmes' old "crowded theater" chestnut, often a favorite for people who want to suppress speech but can't think of a specific reason, completely ignoring its context.

Next, the page notes more unprotected conduct:

To burn draft cards as an anti-war protest.
United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).

Once again, that is a terrible summary, almost calculated to give the reader the wrong impression, or at least leave the reader uninformed. The point of O'Brien is that the government can prohibit you from burning your draft card because (1) when speech and conduct are mixed, if the government has a sufficiently strong interest it can regulate the conduct even if it is meant to be expressive, and (2) the law doesn't attack the speech part of the expression because it bans draft-card-burning no matter why you do it. The page's summary implies that the burning can be banned because it is a protest, or at least leaves the matter ambiguous.

I'll leave you with this additional example of what is not protected:

To make or distribute obscene materials.
Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957).

Swell. You might as well say "speech that is illegal is not legal." There are familiar tests for what obscenity is or isn't. They can be articulated concisely. How does this educate anyone?

When the U.S. Courts set out to educate people about our most important and fundamental right, can't they do better than this?

A Grumble: United States Courts Website Misinforms About Free Speech © 2007-2014 by the authors of Popehat. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. Using this feed on any other site is a copyright violation. No scraping.

18 Sep 16:52

Gonna Be Another “Murder in the Cathedral”?

by syrbal-labrys

545237Wow.  The Archbishop of Canterbury wonders about the existence of God and Jesus?  I think the journalist had it wrong, it is precisely the sort of thing an archbishop should say, if you ask me.  Aside the possibility of Thomas Becket spinning in his tomb, can you imagine if an American churchman wondered such a thing aloud?

I think this sort of thing could lead to some good discussions about the proper place of religion and spirituality in life, and the proper actions of the “faithful” with regard TO life here and now.

Tagged: doubt, monotheism, religion
18 Sep 16:19

This Richard Prince–Inspired T-Shirt Hates Copyright

by Hrag Vartanian
Nothing quite says copyright like this (via Eric Doeringer's Etsy shop)

Nothing quite says “copyright” like this. (via Eric Doeringer’s Etsy shop)

Nothing quite says “fuck you” to copyright like a Mickey Mouse–meets–Richard Prince T-shirt. Whether at the gym, walking your ferret, sitting in first class on your way to Dubai, or ignoring that homeless person in front of Starbucks, this T-shirt is sure to defend you from any transgression or court case with a shield of irony.

Master-of-the-meta-copy artist Eric Doeringer was browsing the Gagosian shop on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue and spotted Richard Prince’s taunting Canal Zone T-shirt on sale.

“While I generally support Prince’s right to use Cariou’s photos in his art, to use one on a T-shirt seemed more questionable,” he says.

The best part was his next logical thought: “Could you put a guitar and some painted ovals over anything and call it fair use?”

Good question. Is “put a guitar on it” the new “put a bird on it“?

And just in case you were wondering, mugs are also available.

14 Sep 04:00

September 14, 2014

13 Sep 14:09


13 Sep 19:15

becausebirds: MAKIN’ IT RAINNNN



15 Sep 16:38


14 Sep 17:57

"My Least Favorite Trope (and this post will include spoilers for The Lego Movie, Guardians of the..."

My Least Favorite Trope (and this post will include spoilers for The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Matrix, Western Civilization, and—cod help me—Bulletproof Monk*.) is the thing where there’s an awesome, smart, wonderful, powerful female character who by all rights ought to be the Chosen One and the hero of the movie, who is tasked with taking care of some generally ineffectual male character who is, for reasons of wish fulfillment, actually the person the film focuses on. She mentors him, she teaches him, and she inevitably becomes his girlfriend… and he gets the job she wanted: he gets to be the Chosen One even though she’s obviously far more qualified. And all he has to do to get it and deserve it is Man Up and Take Responsibility.

And that’s it. Every god-damned time. The mere fact of naming the films above and naming the trope gives away the entire plot and character arc of every single movie.

- Elizabeth Bear - My Least Favorite Trope (via feministquotes)
15 Sep 01:02

Personal responsibility, it’s not just for bottoms

by stabbity

I came across a really interesting writing on Fetlife the other day titled On Personal Responsibility. The author has said some thoroughly problematic things about consent in other posts, but in this particular one she makes an excellent point:

But here’s another question, because in general, I prefer to be hated by both sides wherever possible.

Shouldn’t those upstanding members of the community also take personal responsibility for judging whether they are about to stick their figurative and/or metaphorical dicks in crazy, and choosing not to engage with those who qualify?

I’d have a lot more respect for the ‘personal responsibility! everything that happens to you is your fault!’ crowd if they put as much pressure on tops to be ‘personally responsible’ as they do on bottoms. While I can’t claim to have read everything ever written about personal responsibility in kink, what I have read seems to be all about pushing bottoms to take all the blame for everything that happens to them.

If the writing I quoted above had gone Kinky&Popular (the Fetlife equivalent of featured, for those who don’t spend much time there), I expect the comments on it would be full of domly doms whining and crying about how they aren’t mind-readers and it isn’t fair to expect them to be. But somehow it’s fine and dandy to expect bottoms to magically divine that the d-type who is being so lovely and charming right now, who has such a good reputation in the scene, is actually grooming them for abuse.

Fuck that noise. If bottoms have to responsible for everything that happens to them, then so do tops. Have a scene go badly? Should’ve done a better job of reading your bottom. Somehow run into the largely mythical malicious bottom who cries foul after a scene they seemed to enjoy at the time? Should’ve gotten to know them better before you played with them. Have a messy breakup that involves your now ex submissive screaming at you at 3 am? Should’ve dated someone with better control of their emotions.

When I put it like that, does the whole personal responsibility thing start sounding like an unreasonable standard to hold people to? If it does, that’s because it’s not actually about responsibility, maturity, or owning your shit for you. It’s about doms not wanting to take responsibility for their actions.

Maybe that sounds harsh, but think about it for a minute. Who benefits when bottoms are told that its their responsibility and only their responsibility to prevent themselves from being victimized? It’s certainly not bottoms. In fact, blaming the victim is a classic tactic of abusers.

Once more for the cheap seats: blaming the victim is what abusers do. You are not responsible for what other people choose to do to you, full stop.

Personal responsibility is great and all, but you’re got to apply it to everyone equally. For example, doing kinky things involves a certain amount of risk, and you probably shouldn’t play if you can’t handle things going wrong. No matter how carefully you prepare and how well you negotiate, there is always a chance you will suddenly discover a trigger you didn’t know you had, or equipment will fail, or you’ll misunderstand something your play/partner told you, or something that worked just fine last week will end with you crying your heart out this week. Shit happens, and the more you play, the more chances it has to happen to you. If you’re not at a place in your life where you can handle potentially feeling shitty for a few days after you play, it’s probably a good idea to play very carefully.

See how I’m not singling one group out to blame them for everything that happens to them? That’s how you talk about personal responsibility without grooming people for abuse.

15 Sep 01:55

“Looking Out For No. 1″ Is A Kind of Ethics

by Scott Lemieux

I’m happy to mostly outsource my response to Bryan Lowder’s trolling to Madeline Davies. I will only add that the increasingly shabby treatment of non-premium customers by airlines is beside the point. The idea that people should sacrifice comfort so they can be better objects for Bryan Lowder’s aesthetic contemplation while engaging in a form of travel that is never going to be comfortable is just deeply stupid and offensive on its face. (And we’re not talking here about choices that tangibly affect someone else’s comfort — saying people should shower and avoid powerful food odors is a different issue.) Nor is self-interest an issue; I generally wear a button-down shirt and slacks while on planes and never wear sweat pants unless I’m exercising. Nonetheless, you’re a decent human being if you want to wear sweatpants while flying, while pissing and moaning that the “swamp of schlumps” aren’t wearing sports jackets during their periods of encasement in flying sardine tins nowadays is something less than decent.

I hadn’t planned to bother pointing out the obvious, though, until someone on the Facebook pointed out this contrarian comedy classic from Lowder’s archives:

He was talking about the stock. Vegetarians were at that moment speeding up the express subway track toward our home, and, despite my efforts to craft a menu that would appease them, I had just failed by using chicken stock in the mushroom risotto … or had I?

I flashed my chilliest Stepford smile at him as I gently stirred the liquid into the hissing pot. “You won’t say a word, will you, sweetie?”

I should probably apologize for this supposedly egregious violation, but for some reason, the words choke in my throat. For starters, the addition of my carefully crafted homemade stock to the risotto was not malicious. In my daily cooking, the ingredient is as basic as kosher salt and freshly ground pepper; I reach for a half-cup of it to thin a sauce or enrich weeknight rice just as I would somnambulistically reach for the AC remote in the middle of a steamy August night. In other words, it was an accident.

But the more I meditate on this issue, the more I think that it is not I who should feel guilty, even for an honest mistake. After all, one version of a saying by none other than famed gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin tells us that “stock to a cook is like voice to a singer.” Can you really justify taking away my voice? When I have vegetarians over for dinner, I’m already making a sacrifice by forgoing a real entrée in favor of a meatless one. Fairness and common sense would argue that, in return, vegetarians shouldn’t make a big deal about some small amount of a near-invisible (if crucial!) liquid. I’ve compromised my culinary integrity enough already—now it’s your turn: Vegetarians and vegans, chicken stock does not count as meat.

Look, part of being a good host is that you should accommodate the dietary and ethical concerns of your guests. If your guests don’t eat animal products, don’t serve animal products. You can make a perfectly good risotto with homemade vegetable stock, or if you can’t make a decent vegetable stock you can serve one of the countless good vegetarian dishes that don’t use it. Your guests shouldn’t be required to compromise their principles because you lack imagination. And if you want to pretend there’s some principle involved in never cooking without chicken stock, don’t lie to your guests about it. I mean, really.

14 Sep 23:55

Plugged In

by Molly Moore

Plugged In

Plugged In

Before I start writing about Butt Plugs I just want to say that I am so very happy that Kink of the Week has finally returned. I know that Jade has been going through some big real life changes, hence her decision to KOTW on hold for a while, but I will happily admit that…
14 Sep 13:00

Petitions I Do Not Sign – Omnipotence Not Just For God Anymore

by syrbal-labrys

1a kissI am going to piss off some feminists, ok?  And no fuck will be given when I do, either.  Here is the turd-bombshell in their punchbowl:

Parenting, and particularly motherhood, is the most bitchily difficult and under-appreciated job on the fucking planet.

And no, I am not talking about the newest fad of uber-involved moms over-scheduling their infants and toddlers so they can vicariously exist in a “perfect” childhood of their own. (Oops, I just pissed off the Uber-moms, too.)

I’ve seem far too many of the arguments on both sides of the line – from childrearing being as hard as rocket science and seriously less well funded, to the good old misogynistic “anyone can pop out and rear a kid” opinions.  I grew up in the era of feminism where women like me who married (after having slept with the enemy and NOT left him in his cold bed) and had kids were treated as if we had betrayed the sisterhood to the patriarchy.  Then I saw it through the era where women had to be superwomen without capes OR wonder-women with no airplane, visible or invisible.  My generation was expected to do it all and do it perfectly without batting an eyelash.

Let me tell you, anyone who is honest and has tried that shit on for size?  They’d like to bat more than eyelashes before it is over with, trust me.  It leaves one feeling more than a bit like a scaled down Eleanor of Aquitaine: “bad queen feminist/woman, bad wife, bad mother.”  I feel horrible, for instance, having told a student I tutored that sure, she could do it all.  It doesn’t show up all at once right there when one is doing it all, you see.  Sometimes way down the road, where the rubber meets it, you see how it didn’t quite all get done as you would have liked after all.

And what, you wonder, has this to do with petitions?  Well, this poor guy’s daughter was murdered by a neighbor boy not much older than the poor girl, and the grieving dad had a petition to punish the killer’s PARENTS.  Wow.  Gee, all that omnipotence as parents must make one giddy, eh?  To me, as much as I feel bad for the guy whose daughter was murdered by a messed up kid; it makes as much sense to punish HIM as the parent of a murder victim.

The killer’s mom and his school officials WERE trying to get the boy helped.  Much like the seriously messed up young man who killed in that Sandy Hook school, or the crazed misogynistic shooter in California — the parents WERE trying to get issues addressed.  Thing is, even if parents KNOW something is wrong, and by the way, especially MOTHERS trying to convince someone to listen to their worries; they are often dismissed.

I brought three children into this world.  Two boys and one girl.  My two younger children both have some issues.  My daughter began acting out in distressing ways at age four; but telling her pediatrician got me patted on the shoulder with a condescending “Oh, now don’t be a nervous mom, ok?”  At age six, she tried to kill her new baby brother because she didn’t want a brother — I’d been told to deliver a sister, you see.

I got her a psychiatrist.  “Sibling rivalry,” he announced, and “it will wear off.”  Between ages 8 and 10, she stole things so relentlessly that I demanded more counseling.  A counselor came to the house to treat her “in situ” so to speak, for six months.  He told me he loved my house; it was his favorite jobsite — no drugs, no drunkeness, no abuse; yes, some frustrated yelling, but we were good parents and she would “grow out of it.”

She did not grow out of it.  In her teens she became completely secretive and good at lying and manipulation.  She sneaked out of a sleep over to go to a party and was raped, and the mental health issue almost got out of the bag then.  But in the end, she doubled down and laughed on car rides back from therapy about how she “played that silly bitch like a violin.” Her counselor was sure the rest of us were horrible people and my daughter a poor misunderstood little artist. The therapist had it half right, my daughter was a great actress.

In adulthood, she abuses prescription drugs and alcohol.  She lies and manipulates people till they catch on and run.  She is alienated from us because her constant mental bad-check writing ended up bouncing on our reality.  She is dangerous, she attacked me once physically and tried it on her father.  Had we been older, weaker, and less afraid of her — it might have availed her something.  We tried on four separate occasions to get the issue handled.  We even called the police.  We were told to stop over-reacting EVERY time.  Luckily?  She doesn’t own guns.  But she is fond of knives and not above using her fists.  If I had to guess, though she was once tentatively diagnosed (after legal age) as bi-polar, I’d say she may have some sort of personality disorder.  She openly says what is wrong with others who act like she does, but says she doesn’t follow those rules for ‘other people’ because she doesn’t WANT to do so.

My youngest son was much her disciple, especially when his idolized older brother went off to military service.  She fucked with his head.  He ran away at age 14; at age 16 she took him out of state against my will and abandoned him in Southern California.  I will doubtless never know what traumas he endured on the streets.  He joined the military and added PTSD to his issues.  He is still far away, and doing his best and he means well.  He has none of her malice and narcissism; but I know he struggles.  He is thirty years old this month.

I spent more than 20 years trying to get help for my children.  If my runaway had committed a serious crime (he was once jailed for vandalism), would it have done any good to punish me?  I was not even allowed to have him forcibly picked up and brought home by the cops while he WAS in state — nor allowed to lock him in his room, etc to try preventing his running off.  I had NO rights to keep him from running, but I was legally and financially responsible for ANY of his actions until he was 18.  And after 18?  For both him and his sister, it did me no good at all to argue that they might be a risk to themselves or others — I was just a nervous mother.

So yeah, being a parent is NOT being omnipotent.  I didn’t sign that poor grief-stricken man’s petition.  Even the most well-intentioned parent cannot always control a child.  Punishing parents, who even as bad parents (like my own) are often doing the very best they can in impossible situations is not a solution.  Punishing neglect and abuse, early on?  Yes, that — but even there, normal childhoods still produce abnormal, even horrifying results at times.  I don’t know what the answer to these sorts of problems are — I’m no Wonder Woman, nor Superwoman, nor omnipotent.

What I am IS a woman, frustrated and furious and in my own jungle of grief and guilt for the children I tried SO hard to bring up to be happy, healthy, productive people.  Hear me roar, and yes, if you think it is all so damned Wonder Book simple?  Kiss my ass.


Filed under: Life, Media Morons, PTSD Journals, War on Women, WTUnholyF? Tagged: child abuse, children, mental-health, murder, neglect, omnipotence, parenthood
14 Sep 19:17

ATSA agonising gives grounds for hope

by Tom O'Carroll

Angst and turmoil within the ranks of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) has been brought to Heretic TOC’s notice this week thanks to a leak from internal discussions.

I did not personally encounter the Deep Throat of this episode in a dimly lit underground car park and do not know his identity (or hers); but the information is highly credible and was transmitted to me indirectly by a source I will be happy to credit later for this scoop, providing no one is going to be compromised.

The leak, from a thread on the ATSA listserve, sees David Prescott, a former president of the association, debating a couple of weeks ago with Steven Sawyer, a psychotherapist in private practice, and Jon Brandt, director of a home for teenage boys on probation.

Prescott had pointed out that there is an ongoing class-action lawsuit regarding Minnesota’s civil commitment program for sexual offenders (MSOP), contesting whether the program is constitutional. He noted that the main local newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, had described the current state of affairs as an injustice.

Prescott’s view, which did not surprise me as I know him from Sexnet, was broadly liberal. Having himself worked briefly in the Minnesota program, as he declared in this listserve exchange, he had come to accept that even if it might be possible to justify civil commitment for some offenders, Minnesota’s record was highly dubious. The program had been in existence for 20 years. Prisoners were supposed to be released after successful treatment, but after all those years, and with over 700 prisoners going through the program, only one person had ever been released for a significant length of time.

He asked:

“Where do our ethical and moral obligations begin and end? Given the prime directive of the helping professions, ‘First, do no harm,’ this seems a worthwhile question. Much of the media accounts have focused on the appalling lack of courage and fortitude of state lawmakers and officials in addressing MSOP and its legal context. In fact, this has been going on years.

“How long does one have to work in a dysfunctional system before one becomes a de facto collaborator with it? … At what point are we causing harm to our clients through our involvement? Many of us have heard clients say, ‘If you really want to help me, Doc, get me out of here.’ How many have to say this before they have a compelling point?”

Sawyer’s response was defensive, along the lines “We’re not to blame, it’s the courts.” He said they were the ones making the decision to impose civil commitment on an offender, and also when to release that person. The clinicians just provide treatment. So he thought criticising them was “a bit harsh and unfair to well intentioned, professional, and talented people”. They could not be held responsible for what was outside their control.

Prescott took him to task for passing the buck, saying it is “an abdication of our professional responsibilities” just to blame the system.

Brandt agreed, pointing out that earlier this year a federal judge had declared MSOP to be a “clearly broken” system. Brandt went further, too, saying civil commitment in general was an ethical minefield for every professional who is party to it, and indeed all therapy with incarcerated offenders, whether in civil commitment or serving an ordinary prison sentence, involved an ethically problematic “dual relationship”. He was referring to the conflict of roles inherent in trying to serve the client and the state simultaneously. Increasingly, he said, therapists appeared to be less committed to helping the client’s rehabilitation through psychological work and more concerned with security and containment, in response to political pressures.

He spoke of a “treatment paradox”, a sort of no-win situation, or Catch 22: “…in order to successfully complete sex-specific treatment, clients are required to disclose all the details of their sexual history, offenses, and fantasies; often…under the duress of compulsory polygraphs. The dilemma is that the more details that clients reveal, the more they tend to disclose possible risk factors and reinforce the grounds for their own confinement.” Thus clients who cooperate with the system are damned along with those who do not.

In making these points, Brandt quoted from the academic literature in the field, specifically a recent paper by Theresa Gannon and Tony Ward. The good news here is that papers criticising the system are indeed being published, and these critiques are clearly being discussed by such leading figures in the profession as David Prescott. Even Steven Sawyer, defending his colleagues, made no attempt to defend injustices perpetrated from above, by the courts and politicians.

Another good sign recently is to be seen in a new ATSA position paper on its website opposing the horrors of residency restrictions for sex offenders. We have all heard about these oppressive rules, especially in the US, where sex offenders can find themselves living under road bridges because all the local housing is deemed too close to a school, and thus – so it is claimed – presenting a danger to the kids who go there.

Nor was ATSA’s opposition to these unjust rules hidden under a bushel. Not many people will read their website, but the association has also been trumpeting its thinking to the media.

The New York Times had reported last month that “Dozens of sex offenders who have satisfied their sentences in New York State are being held in prison beyond their release dates because of a new interpretation of a state law that governs where they can live.” Since 2005, sex offenders in the state cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school, and a February ruling from the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision extended that restriction to homeless shelters. As the onus is on sex offenders to find approved housing before they are released, the prisons have been keeping them locked up when they have been unable to do so.

ATSA head Maia Christopher leapt into the fray. She sent her organization’s policy paper to New York magazine online (not to be confused with New York Times Magazine but the NYT was doubtless sent a copy too) even before it was up on ATSA’s website. And the message could not have been more clear and robust: the association “does not support the use of residence restrictions as a feasible strategy for sex offender management” because of a lack of evidence they do any good.

Rather than increasing public safety, registry restrictions tended to decrease it, because the “unintended consequences of residence restrictions include transience, homelessness, instability, and other obstacles to community re-entry.” Since “unemployment, unstable housing, and lack of support are associated with increased criminal recidivism,” and housing restrictions lead to all three, they are a bad idea, ATSA argues.

Now, I am sure there will be some heretics here who will be reading all this with a growing sense of incredulity. How can ATSA, the dark force for decades behind regimes of coercive, confrontational cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), suddenly emerge as radical agents of humane and enlightened policies? Does Not Compute!

Well, all you sceptics, you are not alone in going through a confusing dose of Cognitive Dissonance on this, with new facts bashing up against old experience. I feel it myself, even though another of those new facts is ATSA’s openness to at least be thinking about radical non-CBT therapy – as evidenced by its acceptance of my own recent article proposing a deeper and more humane approach. A corrective against being over-optimistically carried away has been fightback385’s comments in response to Why I am talking to the terrorists.

“Fightback” has usefully pointed out that “ATSA is still ignorant of the research on child sexuality (e.g., Floyd Martinson) and refers to children who behave sexually with each other in developmentally appropriate ways that scare Americans as ‘children with sexual behavior problems’ (CSBP), advocating the use of drastic treatments that teach them their sexual feelings (and by implication, they themselves) are wrong and dangerous.”

In further comments that I would urge everyone to read, Fightback sets out a very persuasive parallel between sex offender therapy and religious authoritarianism. The really important point underlying his thesis, I suggest, is that this authoritarian thinking has not suddenly disappeared. Especially in the US, religion is still very strong. Authoritarian politicians often invoke religious rhetoric in their thunderous denunciations of “evil doers”; and it may be that in ATSA’s other stronghold countries its members include a substantial proportion of those for whom zeal against sex “offending”, even when non-violent, non-coercive and utterly harmless, has become a secular substitute for religion.

These authoritarians have a mindset in which evidence-based policy does not figure strongly: they are content to enforce their received ideas with unquestioning vigour. Their conservative morality is accordingly unlikely to be greatly influenced by progressive forces within their own ranks: even ATSA leaders as senior as David Prescott and Maia Christopher, and researchers as prestigious as Theresa Gannon and Tony Ward, are unlikely to trump the “prophets of old” in their minds, such as Gene Abel, who pioneered CBT. And for the true believers among them, of course, there is no trumping God Himself!

Bearing in mind the continuing existence of this conservative rank-and-file, can ATSA ever be expected to make substantial progress? Even more importantly, can it contribute to changing not just itself and its therapeutic practices but also wider society?

Jesse Singal, author of the New York magazine report cited above, felt that even the relatively modest change involved in getting rid of residency restrictions was no more than a pipe dream. After all, he said, what politician wants to stand up and say, “You know what? I think sex offenders should be able to live closer to children”?

His scepticism makes sense except for the fact that civil society is not led by politicians alone; indeed they tend to follow opinion rather than lead it in our age of opinion polls and focus groups. Leadership these days has passed in many cases to the judges, especially in Europe, where human rights law has racked up many major achievements over the last several decades, including the ending of the death penalty across the continent. The US, too, has enjoyed its great moments of judicial leadership, not least in terms of its increasingly radical interpretation in the 20th century of the First Amendment: it was not the early politicians, the Founding Fathers, but Supreme Court judges such as Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis who most advanced freedom of expression as a vital civil liberty, less than a century ago.

The Supreme Court itself, as opposed to the influential minority opinions of its best judges, has by contrast often been disappointing, not least in terms of rejecting challenges to civil commitment. But that may not last. Crime in general has been falling rapidly in the US for years now, including sex offences against children. Despite all the hype over internet grooming and pornography, the worst of the panic there may be passing (unlike in the UK where historic celebrity and street grooming scandals continue to fuel the flames). Whereas almost the entire civic establishment would once have backed harsher penalties for sex offenders in the US, there is now a growing realisation – including within the judiciary – that unthinking harshness has gone too far. In these circumstances, a reform-minded ATSA may be surprised to find itself pushing against an open door where the judiciary is concerned. The class-action lawsuit against Minnesota’s civil commitment program may not be the hopeless cause that some might suppose.

Heretic TOC hopes that ATSA will accordingly find ways to give this lawsuit their energetic support, whether through the media or within the courtroom or both.

12 Sep 20:39

‘Soviet Ghosts’ Captures Post-Apocalyptic Scenes Left Behind by the Fall of the USSR

BULGARIA -Buzludzha 09

Rebecca Litchfield is a photographer who has faced radiation exposure risks, arrest and interrogations, and even accusations of espionage… all for the sake of her project “Soviet Ghosts.”

You see, Litchfield is an avid urban explorer who has been fascinated by scenes of decay found in countries that were formerly part of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc.

Photographing and exploring the old Iron Curtain isn’t the easiest thing to turn into a project, she says:

Not many explorers travel to Russia, where the rules are very different, locations are heavily guarded and a strong military presence exists everywhere. There are serious consequences for getting caught. We managed to stay hidden for all of the trip, we maximised our stealthiness, ducking and diving into bushes and sneaking past sleeping security. But on day three our good fortune ran out as we visited a top secret radar installation. After walking through the forest, mosquitos attacking us from all directions, we saw the radar and made our way towards it, but just metres away suddenly we were joined by military and they weren’t happy…

Fortunately for Litchfield, she was able to wiggle out of that tricky situation and continue her adventure through more than 10 different countries.

She says that her goal is to capture the scenes as they are, highlighting their beauty in decay, “like a memory hanging on that will soon be lost in a breeze, a museum that no one gets to see.”

Here are some of the haunting photographs in the project:

BULGARIA - Soviet Friendship Monument

BULGARIA -Buzludzha 01

BULGARIA -Buzludzha 10



GERMANY - Miltary Barracks

GERMANY - Soviet HeadQuarters 01

HUNGARY - MAV 424 Steam Train




RUSSIA - Chemical Laboratory

RUSSIA - Cinema

RUSSIA - Sanatorium 01

RUSSIA - Sanatorium 03

RUSSIA - Tuberculosis Hospital

RUSSIA - Young Pioneer Camp 02

RUSSIA - Young Pioneer Camp 04

UKRAINE - Chernobyl Hospital 02

UKRAINE - Chernobyl Kindergarten

UKRAINE - Chernobyl Sports Centre 01

UKRAINE - Chernobyl Sports Centre 02

The photos in the project have also been published in a book that’s available from $28 over on Amazon. You can also find more of Litchfield’s work over on her website.

Image credits: Photographs by Rebecca Litchfield and used with permission

11 Sep 04:00

owlturdcomix: Okay, maybe not #4.


Okay, maybe not #4.

14 Sep 01:50

Sledge Hammer

by Erik Loomis

One of the first TV shows I ever remember liking was Sledge Hammer, the 80s Dirty Harry spoof that lasted only a season and a half before being cancelled. I don’t know why I liked it then, certainly not because I understood all the jokes, but I remembered some funny stuff all these years later. I figured though that watching it today wouldn’t really pay off. But my brother, who reviews DVDs on the side, watched the series again and immediately said I had to watch it.

And you know what? It holds up pretty well. It has some of the problems of an 80s comedy. Too many episodes per season for one, leading to some bad ones. After the opening episode, at least they didn’t use a laugh track. But for the most part, this isn’t bad at all and some episodes are down right hilarious. It’s really a show ahead of its time. It really trusted its audience with all sorts of movie references, some of which that wouldn’t be all that super obvious to the average schlub watching ABC at 8 pm on a weekday night. Told political jokes. Made fun of other ABC shows. Comedies didn’t do these things in the 80s.

But most of all, it just told jokes that worked pretty well. Such as in “Comrade Hammer,” an episode you should watch. Hammer has to escort a Soviet dissident scientist to a conference. That means lots of Cold War jokes.