Posts Tagged ‘St. James Infirmary’

It is apparent that the attenuated causal chain proposed by [those suing Backpage] is forged entirely out of surmise.  –  Justice Bruce Selya

Rough Trade 

Just imagine this ridiculous defense working for anyone in another profession:

A Melbourne real estate agent…was cleared of raping and imprisoning a sex worker in a vacant house…Henry Jiang…was accused of binding the woman with cable ties and raping her repeatedly…after…his booking with her had ended.  His defence barrister [Con Heliotis] said everything that happened was consensual, and the woman had agreed to extend her time with Mr Jiang after he offered her more money and drugs…[but] didn’t tell her escort agency she was staying later…because she didn’t want to pay them a higher commission.  Mr Jiang admitted taking money from the woman, because he calculated he was owed it for the drugs…Heliotis said the sex worker was concerned she had been robbed and only claimed she had been raped…when asked directly by police…In explaining the woman’s…screams as she [fled] the house, Mr Heliotis said: “She would be extremely distressed if she had lost her money and couldn’t buy drugs”…

Lying Down With Dogs

Another US-style “prostitution crackdown” in a country the US should be proud to resemble:

Tanzanian authorities are holding some 800 people suspected of involvement in prostitution…around 500 suspected sex workers and almost 300 alleged customers have been arrested…Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who was elected in October…[on a] law and order [platform has not]…banned…miniskirts [as reported in January]…though…the president and his government [say they are] are “strong proponents of decent dressing”…

Do be sure to click that link to see what Tanzanian ideas of “law and order” entail.

St. James Infirmary

St. James Infirmary, San Francisco’s health care organization for sex workers, cut the ribbon on its new Tenderloin clinic Monday, March 14.  St. James shares the space, located at 234 Eddy Street, with the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project…In addition to primary medical care, the peer-based organization also offers HIV testing and prevention services, including PrEP; sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment; transgender hormone therapy; mental health care; harm reduction services, including needle exchange and naloxone; case management; support groups; food and clothing; and other assistance to people of all genders involved in the sex trade and their families.  All services are free and confidential…

Above the Law  

Some rapist cops go out and look for victims:

A [New Jersey cop] has pleaded guilty to using his badge [and a loaded gun] to [rape] a prostitute…Dinis Oliveira…pleaded guilty…to…third-degree criminal coercion……[he] is expected to be sentenced to probation and…must give up his job and forfeit his pension…Oliveira had been charged with sexual assault, official misconduct and criminal coercion [but of course not aggravated rape as anyone else would’ve been]…

And some just wait for victims to be brought to them:

A Philadelphia-area [cop] is accused of [raping] three women [locked up] inside the police department…Roosevelt Turner is charged with official oppression, indecent exposure and indecent assault.  The charges are based on separate encounters in 2015…

It’s amazing how reporters are seemingly unable to use a simple word like “rape” when the rapist, even one who rapes a woman at gunpoint, is a fucking pig.

Change of Heart

As far as I’m concerned, any sex worker who outs a prohibitionist politician has not violated professional ethics; it’s just too bad this woman waited until the day Rubio pulled out of the race:

Marco Rubio…just suspended his campaign after Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump won [Florida] in a landslide victory.  Adding to his problems, his personal life is being shopped around by a dominatrix who alleges she had a kinky sex romp with Rubio…

First They Came for the Hookers…

It doesn’t matter what a sex worker does with her life after leaving sex work; to the media, she’ll always be a whore:

An ex-stripper who went on to law school and later was elected a judge was found dead inside her Nevada home [on March 13th]…authorities do not suspect foul play.  Municipal Judge Diana Hampton, who was 50…appeared to be the perfect picture of health…Hampton, who served as a municipal judge for more than a decade, worked with youth in the community to discourage them from crime…

Buried Truth 

Vociferous opposition to anything sexual is nearly always strong evidence of an attraction to it:

…As the prosecuting attorney for Ingham County, Michigan, since 1997, Stuart Dunnings III spend decades helping to put people behind bars for commercial sexual activity.  But at the same time, Dunnings was routinely shelling out money for sexual services…Dunnings…instituted tougher penalties and a program of impounding johns’ vehicles…Now…authorities allege that Dunnings “paid for commercial sex… hundreds of times…between 2010-2015.”  For five years, Dunnings met with one sex worker up to four times per week, in addition to his encounters with others.  For what it’s worth, the arrest affidavit paints Dunning as considerate client who tipped well and acted more like a “sugar daddy” to some of the women, taking them out to dinners and paying their rent, cellphone bills, and other expenses…After one woman confessed to a heroin habit, Dunnings paid for her weekly methadone treatments and attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings with her…the feds went after Dunnings under the guise of stopping “human trafficking”, because that’s what law enforcement calls all prostitution circa 2016.  Most of the charges actually brought against him, however, are misdemeanor charges for “engaging in the services of prostitution” (10 counts) and “willful neglect of duty” (4 counts).  The one felony charge is because Dunnings…allegedly coerced a domestic violence victim…into having sex with him, then paid her for it…about $600 every two weeks as well as…some of her bills…

The Washington Post coverage that first broke the story preferred to soak in dysphemisms and libel the sex workers that to actually cover the facts.

Backwards into the Future (#334)

UNAIDS welcomes the roll-out of South Africa’s National Sex Worker HIV Plan, 2016–2019.  Launched by the Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, in his role as the Chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), this unique plan will ensure equitable access to health and legal services for sex workers in South Africa…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling (All Traffick, All the Time)

Here’s another “rescue” scam designed to recruit unhappy whores into the anti-whore brigade; it resembles a “crisis pregnancy center”, which is not surprising since a number of “anti-trafficking” NGOs also operate (or formerly operated) such schemes.  What makes it interesting to me is that it’s the highest claimed number of clients per day (60) we’ve seen in a while, since the high-lunacy mark of 110 current from 2012-2014.  With the exception of a brief requote of that figure (which actually seems to have originated among prohibitionists in 2001) a few months ago, most of the claims have returned to the pre-June 2012 typical claim of 15/day, which is high but not literally impossible.Lake Pahoe

King of the Hill (Traffic Updates)

These moral crusades labeling one particular thoroughfare a “hotbed of sex trafficking” remind me of the Monty Python episode in which there is an entire lake in a basement flat:

Jillian Gilchrest, chairwoman of the [Connecticut] Trafficking in Persons Council, says the Berlin Turnpike is a hotbed for sex trafficking, often involving minors who are exploited…The Underground, a faith-based organization…[identified]…27 of which offer hourly rates…“For far too long, state laws and culture accepted that the purchase of sex will happen,” said Gilchrest…The Judiciary Committee advanced two bills…to attempt to address the issue…[one] would mandate additional training for law enforcement and employees at hotels and motels to identify victims of sex trafficking.  It would also require businesses that offer lodging to maintain detailed records of [cash] transactions for at least six months…[Gilchrest] said… “It was shocking to me [that people are allowed to conduct business with legal tender]”…The bill initially included a provision that would make it illegal to charge hourly for a room at a hotel or motel…But the Judiciary Committee voted…to strike the measure from the bill in response to testimony…[that] hourly rates are often used by truck drivers and travelers seeking a break from the road…

Sex Work is Work (#517)

Bureaucrats can turn anything into a hassle:

New tax laws in Austria is [sic] causing problems for sex workers as rules now dictate that all customers need to be issued with an itemised bill listing all services rendered…As services provided by sex workers covers a wide spectrum, bosses ask how, for example, a two-hour chat with no sexual contact should be written down…others questioned how a self-employed sex worker would issue receipts…

Guinea Pigs 

Americans are so ovine, all one needs do is say “THE CHILDREN!” and everyone cheers while big tech companies give cops horrifying new surveillance tools:

Palantir Technologies…isn’t unique in its efforts to turn its software toward social good—plenty of tech companies do that.  But unlike most, Palantir says it treats nonprofits like any other customer..in 2012, Polaris’ chief executive, Bradley Myles, heard Palantir’s CEO, Alex Karp, speak at a White House event…Myles knew it was something his [corporation]—which is dedicated to eradicating [sex work]—needed but couldn’t afford…Just a few weeks later, Palantir engineers were integrating data from thousands of [sex worker arrest] records, public tips and financial networks…The…company [also] integrates tips, case reports, public records, videos, social media feeds and other data sources and helps draw connections…To help…law enforcement [spy on adult sex workers and clients in the name of fighting] the abduction and sexual exploitation of children…

Crying for Nanny (#539)

The outcome was a foregone conclusion; the lawyers who orchestrated this shitshow were only appealing to cover their arses:

Backpage.com…has been sued a bunch of times, almost always by people [deliberately] misunderstanding Section 230 of the CDA which, as we’ve discussed hundreds of times, says that sites are not liable for the actions of their users…the appeal on [a] Massachusetts case has brought another good Section 230 win, saying that Backpage.com is not liable…The crux of the argument…is that…the way Backpage is set up…makes it different from a standard “publishing” platform.  This is a pretty common attack on Section 230, claiming that it does more than a publisher and thus isn’t protected.  Courts have almost universally rejected that, unless those additional actions themselves could be seen to break the law…the court rejects this argument, saying that everything Backpage.com does is a traditional publisher activity…

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I think I just wasted my time doing all these other jobs before I did sex work.  I should have been doing it a long time before.  –  Mai Jantawhite slave girl

It Looks Good On Paper

Another bullshit story touting bullshit “safe harbor” laws that allow “perfect victims” to expunge their records of prostitution charges after going through the hell that is the US “justice” system:

…states have dramatically changed laws…to distinguish between voluntary prostitution and the trafficking of women and girls…Before the new laws, states primarily dealt with the sex trade by charging sex workers, usually women, with prostitution.  Many of those laws remain on the books, but states are supplementing them with “safe harbor” laws that protect minors—and sometimes adults—who can prove they were coerced into selling sex…

There’s so much wrong in this one short section: the organized crime myth; agency denial; the pretense that only “many” prostitution laws remain (they all do); the pretense that “safe harbor” laws protect anyone; the reversal of the burden of proof…it’s truly staggering that people can’t see this for what it is.

The Punitive Mindset

Authoritarians think people can simply be ordered to be asexual:

…Sexuality in prison is a controversial topic, and the rare studies that explore the subject focus mostly on the impact of conjugal visits or on the same-sex relationships that develop behind bars.  The general consensus, though, is that helping inmates relieve sexual tensions can actually lead to a reduction in violence and prison rape.  Still, many governments around the world have refused to offer prisoners the “privilege” to watch racy content.  French judge Nina Califano, author of Sexualité, Incarcérée (Sexuality, Imprisoned), [says]…”Sexuality is a basic need that doesn’t go away when you are incarcerated”…[she] argues that allowing inmates to cater to their basic sexual needs — through erotic visual stimulation and masturbation — does more than calm inmates who are behind bars; it is also an important part of ensuring [they]…can later be reintegrated into society…

Change a Few Words

All prohibition is the same, so any move away from it affects all types:

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) appeared set to call on governments to end the criminalization of drug use and possession…but in a dramatic turn of events withdrew a briefing paper under pressure from…the U.S. government.  More than 1.5 million drug arrests are made every year in the U.S. – the overwhelming majority for possession only.  Roughly two dozen countries, and dozens of U.S. cities and states, have taken steps toward decriminalization of drug use and possession.  “There is simply no good basis in science, health or ethics for bringing someone into the criminal justice system solely for drug possession,” [said Ethan] Nadelmann [of the Drug Policy Alliance].  “This will hopefully help accelerate the global trend toward ending the criminalization of drugs”…

St. James Infirmary

This fundraiser for the St. James Infirmary met and surpassed its goal in only a few days, but they’re such an important organization that I’m not going to miss giving it a mention and ask that you consider helping out.

Comfort Zone (#320)

Sometimes the attempt to hide migration control behind the “sex trafficking” narrative is especially apparent:

The International Organization for Migration (IOM)…called on governments to more closely monitor sex trafficking and lend specialized assistance to the 1.5 million refugees expected to enter the European Union this year, warning of a surge in sexual assault against women being smuggled across the Mediterranean Sea from West Africa…

Perquisites (#340) 

Dear Dave Zirin: please STFU and stop trying to get free pussy from feminists by parroting their nonsense:

In revelations that the University of Louisville basketball program may have paid a…madam to supply recruits with strippers and sex, the reactions have congregated into two camps: moralizers and cynics.  The moralizers are bleating that this scandal has forever tarnished the innocent joys of amateurism…the cynics…[are] fashionably bored by all of this.  They shrug, saying that these kinds of things happen everywhere…But both of these reactions miss the most urgent issue—the NCAA’s political economy of misogyny…

An Example To the West (#343) Not Drowning - Waving

The writer hasn’t got much of a sense of history; not so long ago, a substantial fraction of the bars in the US were owned by sex workers:

The stereotype of trafficked Asian women exploited by sex tourists means that few people in the west expect Thai sex workers to be at the forefront of a radical push for sex workers’ rights, but…Can Do bar represents just that…it…is the only bar in Thailand, if not the world, that is owned and run by a collective of sex workers, and designed to model exemplary working conditions in the industry…[Liz] Hilton explains.  “One day a group of sex workers here in Chiang Mai said, ‘Actually the government doesn’t get it, nobody understands what we’re talking about, we’re going to have to build it ourselves, we can’t wait anymore.’  And so they pooled their money and raised a million baht [almost $30,000] between them all and created the bar”…

Secret Squirrel (#344)

I’ve written about this issue before, but this is a new low:

Halloween…is a totally subversive day, proving to kids that however much they are supervised the rest of the year, they obviously don’t need it.  They can go out with their friends, roam the neighborhood and have a great time.  So, naturally, this rebellion must be squashed.  Enter…child tracking devices that are pitching parents on the necessity of electronically monitoring their kids’ spoooooooky journey to…the neighbor’s homes. AireLive’s press release promises that its livestreaming capacity will allow “kids to communicate with their parents in real time should any questions arise.  Parents can view the livestream and assess the situation should a teen ever be in need of assistance.”  Nooooooo!  The whole idea is that if “questions” arise, kids should solve them on their own…

Legal Is as Legal Does (#440)

As Leona Hameed once wrote, “Sex work under ‘legalisation’ is still…conceived of as a crime for which the law makes allowances“.

…The ECP and [MSP Jean] Urquhart are campaigning for decriminalisation.  This is not – as has been suggested in countless media reports – legalisation.  Insisting on clarification isn’t petty quibbling.  The models are so distinct that when York Union…changed the title of its debate to “This House believes the legalisation of prostitution would be a disaster”, both sides thought they were arguing in favour of the motion…The York mix-up wasn’t unique.  Since Amnesty released its draft proposal for the decriminalisation of sex work, countless articles have conflated the terms, inaccurately holding up Germany and the Netherlands as examples of “decriminalisation gone wrong”…under legalisation, sex work is controlled by the government and is legal only under certain state-specified conditions.  Decriminalisation involves the removal of all prostitution-specific laws, although sex workers and sex work businesses must still operate within the laws of the land, as must any businesses…

Surplus Women (#550) 

I’m honestly not sure why the writer chose to link this woman’s death those of a serial killer’s victims merely because they happened in the same town:

The body draped over the fence was so bruised and mangled, passerby thought it was a Halloween decoration…Rebecca Cade, a 31-year-old resident of Chillicothe, Ohio…is the seventh Chillicothe woman found dead or missing in the past 16 months—a staggering number for a town of just 21,000 residents.  Then there’s the media coverage of Cade’s murder.  As news spread of the grisly discovery, websites across the nation used Cade’s own mugshot from a previous arrest to illustrate articles about her death—a confusing and ethically murky editorial decision that strikes at the heart of why women like Cade become victims at all…Donnie Couchenuer Jr., 27, was charged with murder and is currently in jail awaiting trial.  But it was Cade’s mugshot that dotted the digital landscape all week long…

Challenge (#559)

California legislators heard from a diverse range of voices about human trafficking and prostitution in America.  The proceedings before the Assembly Public Safety Committee provided a rare chance for people with divergent viewpoints…to come together and have their say.  And then something even more rare happened: some California politicians even seemed to come away with new perspective…Fox News Sacramento reported on the hearing with the headline “Some Suggest Legalizing Prostitution Would Put an End to Sex Trafficking“, noting the “odd mix of legislators, policy wonks, (and) sex workers” in the room…Actually, sex work and human rights advocates tend to focus on decriminalization, not legalization, of prostitution…Nonetheless, the Fox article presents an atypically nuanced perspective on prostitution…It goes on to note that “many adult sex workers say they won’t be able to protect a child, or show her how to stay safe on the streets, for fear of being arrested as a trafficker”…

Innocence Never Had (#574)

Even when authoritarians do something right, they can’t resist warping it into something wrong:

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced Wednesday that his department will immediately stop arresting children on prostitution charges.  “They are child victims and survivors of rape,” McDonnell wrote in a letter to his employees.  “We must remember that children cannot consent to sex under any circumstance.”

No, no, fucking no.  Young adults are not “children”, and the notion that they “cannot” consent is a legal fiction, not a reality.  The article goes on to delineate that these young people will still be coerced into “help” by cops, such as by confining them in the foster care system many of them fled in the first place.  At the end, the story quotes a prohibitionist named Withelma Pettigrew as saying “Labels are a big deal.” I agree, and labeling young adults as “children” and passive “victims” both demeans and infantilizes them.

Celebrities (#580)

The phrase “sanctimonious bullshit” comes to mind:

Dennis Hof is not paying the 2 hookers who cavorted with Lamar Odom at the Love Ranch brothel, because he now believes they may have had something to do with Lamar doing drugs at the facility…The…deal with Hof was to split the $75k Lamar paid — so they were to get $37,500 which they would equally divide.  But now Hof says…”They will not answer questions about Lamar or possible drug use while he was here.  I’m suspicious”…

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To make a great distinction between being paid for an hour’s sexual services, or an hour’s typing, or an hour’s acting on a stage is to make a distinction that is not there.  –  Margo St. James

Margo St. James in WashingtonForty years ago today (on Mother’s Day of that year), Margo St. James founded COYOTE, the very first sex worker rights organization.  Ironically, she was set on that path in 1962 by a cop who decided she looked like a streetwalker and a judge who convicted her of prostitution without any real evidence:  “I said in court, ‘Your honor, I never turned a trick in my life!’ he responded, ‘Anyone who knows the language is obviously a professional.’ My crime was I knew too much to be nice girl.”  Once she had a criminal record, she found that she could not get any other work, and so decided she might as well do what she had been accused of.  And though she only worked for four years, she continued to identify with the hookers and eventually founded an organization called WHO:

…Whores, Housewives and Others.  Others meant lesbian, but it wasn’t being said out loud yet, even in liberal bohemian circles.  The first meeting of WHO was held on Alan Watt’s houseboat.  The name COYOTE came from novelist Tom Robbins who dubbed me the COYOTE Trickster…Richard Hongisto, a liberal sheriff elected in San Francisco about that time attended my parties.  He had been a cop, and had a sociology degree.  I…asked him what it would take to get NOW, and Gay rights groups to support prostitutes’ rights…He said that we needed someone from the victim class to speak out…I decided to be that someone…and I hoped the hookers would join me.  The PR people responsible for getting the sheriff elected volunteered to help me with COYOTE…I started organizing internationally with…Jennifer James, an anthropology professor…[who] coined the word decriminalization and was responsible for getting NOW to make it a plank in their 1973 convention.  COYOTE published a newsletter from 1974-79 and the Hooker’s Ball became popular, attracting 20,000 people in 1978…

Let that sink in:  the largest mainstream feminist organization actually supported sex worker rights for a short time, though the neofeminists destroyed that within just a few years.  Still, it looked for a while as though there was nowhere to go but up.  COYOTE chapters sprang up in Sacramento and Florida, and similar organizations were formed elsewhere; there was PONY in New York, PUMA in Massachusetts, CUPIDS and PEP in Michigan, KITTY in Kansas City, PASSION in New Orleans, OCELOT in San Diego, KAT in Los Angeles, ASP in Seattle and DOLPHIN in Hawaii.  On June 2nd, 1975 French whores in Lyon held the protest which led to the formation of the French Collective of Prostitutes, and a sister organization soon formed in England; they and several others joined with COYOTE “to form the International Committee for Prostitutes’ Rights (ICPR), the organization whose work and example helped to win prostitution law reform in a number of European countries and provided an example which inspired similar campaigns in many other parts of the world.”  In 1976, COYOTE filed the lawsuit which led to decriminalization in Rhode Island, and by 1977 even well-known journalists and politicians were listening.

Had HIV not arrived on the scene a few years later, criminalization might have been merely a black period of history by now.  But arrive it did, swinging the balance of power to the neofeminists and their fundamentalist Christian allies.  Margo moved to Europe to help sex worker rights efforts there, and COYOTE was directed by Samantha Miller and Gloria Lockett, who worked to make the organization more responsive to the concerns of minority sex workers and those who weren’t escorts (including strippers, phone sex operators, etc).  During the AIDS panic of the ‘80s and the neofeminist ascendance of the ‘90s, COYOTE was too busy fighting disinformation and stigma to make any actual progress, and by the time new organizations like SWOP started to appear around the turn of the century it had run out of steam.St. James Infirmary logo  Margo (who had returned to the US in 1993) decided to concentrate on sex worker health, and in 1999 COYOTE became the St. James Infirmary, which provides free medical care and social services for sex workers.  The only other remaining chapter is the Los Angeles one, which has been inactive since about the same time.  But though the mother of all sex worker organizations has ceased to exist in its original form, every current activist group owes it – and Margo – a debt of gratitude for showing that it could be done.

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The good news is that Jesus is coming back.  The bad news is that he’s really pissed off.  – Bob Hope

Three new stories and six updates from the fifth week of 2012.

Good News, Bad News

Sometimes, reading stories about prostitution law is like the classic joke format.  GOOD NEWS:  77% of Canadians support decriminalization of prostitution and UNAIDS has condemned criminalization of sex work (including the “Swedish Model”, “end demand” schemes and the rescue industry) as a danger both to sex workers and to public health:

…Forced rescue and rehabilitation practices lower sex workers’ control over where and under what conditions they sell sexual services and to whom, exposing them to greater violence and exploitation…this leads to social disintegration and a loss of solidarity and cohesion (social capital) among sex workers, including reducing their ability to access health care, legal and social services.  Low social capital is known to increase vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections among sex workers and therefore has a detrimental impact on HIV prevention efforts…undermining sex worker organisations is one of the most important negative effects of law enforcement practices…anti-trafficking efforts typically ignore the possibility of engaging sex workers as partners…[even though they] are often best placed to know who is being trafficked into commercial sex and by whom, and are particularly motivated to work to stop such odious practices…Organised groups of sex workers are also best placed to establish safe working norms within the sex industry, and influence other[s]…to ensure that trafficked adults and children are not retained in sex work…

BAD  NEWS:  Western Australia is starting to buy into the “trafficking” narrative:

Federal police have launched an operation to rescue people trafficked into WA for forced labour, prostitution and servile marriages.  There are fears that an increasing number of women are being brought to Perth and forced into the city’s sex industry.  Supt Glyn Lewis…said human trafficking was insidious and abhorrent and many victims were never found…There have been only 14 convictions for human trafficking since legislation came into force in 2003.  People working in the area in Perth fear trafficking is a real and emerging issue “under the radar” of authorities and the public.  Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans said the problem had to be addressed…

None of these people stop to consider that maybe the reason that there are so few convictions and “many victims were never found” is that there was no crime in the first place.  But hey, we can’t let facts get in the way of hysteria and fear-mongering by cops and religious groups.

Scientific Detachment

The ability to look at sensitive subjects dispassionately and to present evidence without emotion is an admirable one, but as Professor G.S. Brindley (the doctor who developed the first medical treatment for erectile dysfunction) discovered in 1983, it’s probably best not to assume that the majority of one’s audience possesses that capacity to any great degree.  This January 27th article on the Discover magazine blog explains, and since synopsizing it in any way would do it a disservice, I’ll just leave you with the link.

Fundraiser for St. James Infirmary

I’ve been asked to publicize an online fundraiser for St. James Infirmary, which provides compassionate healthcare and social services for sex workers in San Francisco.  It will be held tomorrow (February 19th, 2012) at 3 PM EST on BlogTV; even if you can’t attend please spread the word!

Week 5 of 2012 Updates

Nothing in the Dark (August 8th, 2010)

This story demonstrates not only the reason for considering condoms a “safety net” against disease rather than a first line of defense, but also the reason I’m hesitant to entrust my health to a government bureaucracy:

…South Africa’s leading anti-AIDS group said…that…faulty condoms are among more than 1.35 million handed out at the African National Congress’ 100th birthday party…[they were] recalled but the Treatment Action Campaign said no warning has been issued to people that they may have carried away defective condoms…The third recall in less than five years raises questions about the quality of some of the 425 million-plus condoms that the government gives away each year, and the competence of the South African Bureau of Standards [SABS] that is supposed to ensure their quality…In 2007, the government recalled more than 20 million defective condoms…but recovered only 12 million…a [previous] recall…[resulted after] a testing manager at [SABS took] a bribe to certify the faulty contraceptives…

[AIDS activist Sello Mokhalipi] said people started coming with complaints about the condoms…three days after the celebrations ended…”We poured water into the condoms and they were leaking, not just in one place, they were leaking like a sieve,” he said.  Looking at them, “you can see there are small pores” like pinpricks…the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce, said many of the 10,000 to 15,000 prostitutes they work with often complain about the free government condoms…[so] they instead use a brand provided by an international charity…South Africa’s government sources its condoms from several companies and rebrands them with its colorful CHOICE packaging, in bright blue, red, yellow and green…

Any time there’s a lucrative government contract, there’s going to be graft.  And anything sourced out to the lowest bidder…

Who Did Your Tits? (October 1st, 2010)

Most women who have boob jobs feel they confer psychological and/or financial benefits, but I never considered this possibility:

A 41-year-old Florida woman says the breast augmentation surgery she had three months ago saved her life…her ex-fiancé’s new girlfriend…attacked her…stabbing her repeatedly in the left side of her chest…the knife had punctured the implant and she was soaked with saline.  Doctors say the salt water and walls of the implant prevented a deadly blow.

The Camel’s Nose (October 2nd, 2010)

Yet another spooge sneaker; this one is so reprehensible he constitutes a one-man argument in favor of sex offender registries:

…Mark Berndt, a third-grade teacher [at Miramonte Elementary School in California]…is charged with committing lewd acts on 23 boys and girls, ages 6 to 10, between 2005 and 2010…[he] was removed from classwork in January 2011 and fired within the month, but only parents of children identified as victims were told…some angry parents…complained that they only learned of the investigation through the media after Berndt’s arrest this week.  School officials and investigators said proper procedures were followed…but…two former students…said school officials were informed about [Berndt’s] odd behavior two decades ago

…Berndt is suspected of snapping nearly 400 photographs of…students, some with a giant Madagascar cockroach from a classroom terrarium on their faces.  Others were blindfolded or had clear tape over their mouths, and some were shown with a spoonful of milky liquid placed near their lips…The photo sessions were treated as a game and some children were given sperm-laced cookies to eat as treats…The investigation began in the fall of 2010 when a film processor became suspicious about the photographs and turned them over to…police…an investigator…found a blue spoon…in a trash can [in Berndt’s classroom] that appeared to be the one seen in the photographs, but it took months before analysis determined there was semen on the spoon and more time before DNA testing matched it to Berndt…Meanwhile, investigators kept trying to identify children in the photographs…

I would hope that prosecutors build their cases on photographic and DNA evidence, and that they, cops and parents have the sense not to question the children or (even worse) subject them to the ordeal of trial participation; adult eyewitness testimony is unreliable at best, and that of children is often worse than useless.  Alas, I fear that’s a vain hope; adults just can’t resist traumatizing young children by subjecting them to frightening and confusing interrogations and filling their heads full of horrible images, thus exploiting them just as monstrously as the criminal did.

Welcome To Our World (January 20th, 2011)

I think my readers can answer David Reber’s questions, which he seems to consider rhetorical:

…What could a teacher possibly know about education?  Countless arguments used to denigrate public school teachers begin with the phrase “in what other profession…” and conclude with practically anything the anti-teacher pundits find offensive about public education…In what other profession, indeed.  In what other profession are the licensed professionals considered the LEAST knowledgeable about the job?  You seldom if ever hear “that guy couldn’t possibly know a thing about law enforcement – he’s a police officer”, or “she can’t be trusted talking about fire safety – she’s a firefighter.”  In what other profession is experience viewed as a liability rather than an asset?  You won’t find a contractor advertising “choose me – I’ve never done this before”, and your doctor won’t recommend a surgeon on the basis of her “having very little experience with the procedure”.  In what other profession is the desire for competitive salary viewed as proof of callous indifference towards the job?  You won’t hear many say “that lawyer charges a lot of money, she obviously doesn’t care about her clients”, or “that coach earns millions – clearly he doesn’t care about the team”…For no other profession do so many outsiders refuse to accept the realities of an imperfect world.  Crime happens.  Fire happens.  Illness happens…People accept all these realities, until they apply to public education…

Well, Mr. Reber, there is at least one other…

The Enlightenment Police (October 1st, 2011)

One would think the usually-sensible Dutch would have waited to see what the European High Court will do with the French version of this first:

The Dutch…government plans to ban Muslim face veils…”People should be able to look at each other’s faces and recognize each other when they meet,” the interior affairs ministry said…The ban will also apply to balaclavas and motorcycle helmets when worn in inappropriate places, such as inside a store, Deputy Prime Minister Maxime Verhagen told reporters, denying that this was a ban on religious clothing…The face-veil law, which still needs to win approval in both houses of parliament, excludes clothing worn for security reasons such as that worn by firemen and hockey players, as well as party clothing such as Santa Claus or Halloween costumes.  The ban does not apply to religious places, such as churches and mosques, nor to passengers on airplanes or en route via a Dutch airport…

Hark, Hark, the Dogs Do Bark (January 11th, 2012)

Since neofeminists insist that all gendered behavior is “socially constructed”, I’m sure they’ll deny these findings just as creationists deny fossils and carbon dating:

Testosterone makes us overvalue our own opinions at the expense of cooperation, research from…University College London has found…Problem solving in groups can provide benefits over individual decisions as we are able to share our information and expertise.  However…collaborating too closely can lead to an uncritical groupthink, ending in decisions that are bad for all…research has shown that people given a boost of the hormone oxytocin tend to be cooperative.  Now…researchers have shown that…testosterone has the opposite effect — it makes people act less cooperatively and more egocentrically.

Dr Nick Wright and colleagues…[tested] 17 pairs of female volunteers who had previously never met…On one…day…[they] were given a testosterone supplement; on the other day, they were given a placebo.  [Men were not used because supplements can trigger a drop in their own testosterone production, invalidating the results]…as expected, cooperation [in a task] enabled the group to perform much better than the individuals alone…but, when given a testosterone supplement, the benefit of cooperation was markedly reduced.  In fact, higher levels of testosterone were associated with individuals behaving egocentrically…”Most of the time, this allows us to seek the best solution to a problem, but sometimes, too much testosterone can help blind us to other people’s views,” [said Dr. Wright.]  “This can be very significant when we are talking about a dominant individual trying to assert his or her opinion in, say, a jury”…

One Year Ago Today

Not the Same Tree” showcases a Detroit reporter’s excellent and very perceptive article about the federal persecution of an escort service.

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Justice will only exist where those not affected by injustice are filled with the same amount of indignation as those offended.  –  Plato

One year ago today I pointed out that though the still-contested Himel decision striking down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws in Ontario was “only one tiny crack in a very large and solid dam,” that “many such tiny cracks can weaken even the toughest structure so that one day it may yield to other pressures upon it.”  That column reported another such crack:  a judge in British Columbia allowed a similar challenge to the prostitution laws to proceed despite the efforts of prohibitionists to block it on a technicality.  And now just in time for the anniversary of that decision, I’m happy to report yet another constitutional challenge, as reported on October 7th by CTV:

Canada’s prostitution laws are facing another constitutional challenge from a woman charged with keeping a bawdy house.  And the lawyer mounting the case says other charges laid against sex workers in BC are in trouble because anyone can use a charter challenge as a defense in court.  “It’s the same experts, the same evidence…the constitutional challenge is not out of reach the way it was two years ago,” said Joven Narwal…[who] represents a woman who was charged with keeping a bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution, and procuring a person into the sex trade after Vancouver police raided…[her business just] days after an Ontario judge ruled that Canada’s prostitution laws are unconstitutional…In B.C., former sex worker Sheryl Kiselbach challenged the same laws, though the case is tied up in legal delays.

Putting those two cases together means anyone has access to the research and arguments to build a charter challenge, said Narwal.  “It’s easier now to the extent that you know which evidence is necessary, which experts will be necessary,” he said.  There are some 90 solicitation charges being prosecuted right now in B.C., and two groups of bawdy house charges.  “They’re all compromised to the extent that anybody who is going to fight is going to sue constitutional arguments,” said SFU Criminologist John Lowman.  B.C. prosecutors admit this will mean a harder fight in court, but they won’t be deterred.  “If a charter challenge is raised, that will be more complicated,” said Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie.  “If that happens more often, we’ll just deal with it on a case by case basis.”

Obviously, prosecutors “won’t be deterred”; it isn’t their own money they’re wasting, and the fight is at least half of the sadistic fun for them.  But that struggle is about to get a lot more difficult (and probably less fun) as the cracks in their prohibitionist dam keep multiplying.  Remember Insite, the Vancouver harm reduction project the Canadian government was trying to close down?  Well, the Canadian Supreme Court has unanimously decided in Insite’s favor, and legal experts are already predicting that this will undoubtedly help the sex worker rights case (thanks to Kelly Michaels for calling this October 7th Vancouver Sun story to my attention):

Canadian courts could strike down the country’s anti-prostitution laws if judges follow the logic of a landmark Supreme Court ruling on drug policy that came out last week.  Experts say the biting unanimous decision preventing the closure of North America’s only safe-injection site for drug addicts has implications for a challenge to Canadian adult prostitution laws that is working its way through the courts.  The court said closing the Insite clinic violated addicts’ basic rights to life and security, given evidence that the clinic reduced the risks from drug addiction.  “I think it’s going to be cited in many, many cases,” said Errol Mendes, law professor at the University of Ottawa.  He said the ruling’s logic can apply in a prostitution case that is likely to end up at the Supreme Court…Ontario’s Court of Appeal is expected to rule on the case soon.  If it and then the Supreme Court uphold Himel’s decision, the federal government will have to find another way to restrict prostitution, or perhaps accept legalized brothels of the sort found in Nevada.

Both Himel’s ruling and the Insite ruling found government actions did not meet the “principles of fundamental justice” that underpin Canadian legislation…A lawyer in the prostitution case agreed that the Insite case was significant for his challenge…Canada’s Supreme Court is less politicized than the U.S. court, and few lawyers expect that to change even after Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper names two new judges, probably within months.  Experts said the Insite decision showed that the government could not ignore scientific evidence to push a legal agenda that opposes drug use or prostitution.  Significantly, the Supreme Court did not examine whether the trial judge was right to conclude that Insite saved lives, focusing on how the government had to react to that evidence.  This might make it easier for the Ontario court to dismiss requests from government lawyers to reexamine the facts of the prostitution case…

Those cracks aren’t just legal, but social as well; as I reported in last year’s column and several other places, public support for criminalization in Canada is rapidly eroding and a number of newspapers have taken a pro-decriminalization stance.  I’m willing to bet that ad campaigns like this one from Nova Scotia have helped by showing that prostitutes are “regular people”, thus fighting police propaganda that we’re all criminals and prohibitionist propaganda that we’re all damaged victims.  Thus, I’m very pleased to see that St. James Infirmary has launched an ad campaign along very similar lines, and considering the story was featured on Huffington Post it may even find its way into the mainstream media:

…St. James Infirmary’s new media campaign promoting the rights of local sex workers…[is] a collaboration between [the infirmary]…and artists Rachel Schreiber and Barbara DeGenevieve…[and] features portraits of sex workers and supporters — spouses, partners, family members and health care professionals — putting faces to the people who work in the industry…”We wanted to make visible the workers who tend be invisible,” said Schreiber…”Sex workers aren’t people hanging out in a dark alley somewhere; they are nurses, teachers and mothers.  Our goal is to demystify sex workers.  They are just everyday people.”  Schreiber believes that because of the mystery and invisibility surrounding the sex industry, workers have trouble accessing the resources they need — an issue she’s hoping the campaign will bring to light…the recent controversy surrounding Ashton Kutcher’s anti-sex trafficking campaign caught her eye…“When the focus of so much media attention is on the trafficking, it doesn’t leave room for anything else — like the resources to keep those who choose to work in this industry safe and healthy, and to give those who feel like they don’t have a choice a way out.”  According to Schreiber, the problem with the media attention is that it fuels enforcement rather than support.  “Many of the sex workers we assist at St. James choose to do what they do.  And they have needs and rights just like everyone else,” said Schreiber.  “And for those who feel stuck due to financial situation, the answer is in getting them the help they need, not in having them arrested.”

The result of the project:  an honest, sincere and informational campaign across San Francisco.  Schreiber originally planned to house the campaign on billboards across the city, but both Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor rejected the campaign, telling Schreiber that “sex worker [is] not a family friendly term”…But Titan 360, the ad company that supports BART, Muni and AC Transit, happily agreed, posting Schreiber’s photographs on Muni busses all over San Francisco.  “We’re hoping this starts a dialogue,” said Schreiber.  “And we want sex workers to be a part of that dialogue.”

Furry Girl’s sex worker rights billboard was similarly rejected by ad companies, but she finally located one who would take it.  As in so many areas, the United States lags behind the rest of the developed world on sex worker rights.  But when the prohibitionist dam crumbles in Canada,  the cracks are bound to spread south; it’s good to see a few of them are already appearing.

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