New blog

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Thursday, November 20

Wednesday, November 19

Lost and frightened

Is there blood on your mobile phone?

Congo harbors the biggest world reserves. The coltan, a mix of niobite and tantalite, is also found in 6 other African countries. Children work in the coltan mines (only they can reach the narrowest galleries) and also Hutu prisoners and adults. They all must face semi-slavery conditions. On the ground, women cook and prostitute. The benefits from the coltran smuggling are directed to financing armies and guerilla forces of the confronting countries.

Congo also harbors 70 % of the world's cobalt reserves, 30 % of diamonds, and 10 % of copper.

Seven foreign armies were attracted in the civil war by the treasures of a country as big as Western Europe, the third in Africa. On one side, there is the Republic of Congo, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe; on the other side Rwanda, Uganda and the Congolese rebels, in a conflict qualified by some as "the First African World War".

Want to do something? Support Amnesty International's actions for the Congo.

The sexiest man in the world ...

... according to People magazine.

And here he is! As Peter Allen.

Love it! Australia should be proud.

But I am having Bob Downe flashbacks ...

Of course it's the brain which attracts:

It's easy with my wife. She loves the idea of me coming home in costume because it makes her feel like she's having an affair in a good way. When we met, I was cast as a prisoner with tattoos and she'd say, "Don't take your tattoos off tonight!" and I'd be like, "All right!" But what works best with her is the stockbroker look. She also says, "Do your sexy dance for me," [an '80s-like, hip-swiveling number] and that works for me.
N'kay, back to the boring serious/egov/internet stuff. But first!

Yes, it's a fake from Google images ...

Tuesday, November 18

"I think we should kill Obama"

Not a good sign. The election is bringing out the racists. As black people feared, way back in the primary.

From Mudflats, reporting from a town next to Palin's Wasilla:

The event was supposed to be for all parties, for all people, but it didn't feel like it. I was shocked and offended. The event was supposed to be for supporters of Senators Obama and McCain and no one paid respect to President-elect Obama's historic moment. Finally, another step toward complete equality and it seemed no one cared.

So the next day I borrowed my mother's Obama shirt and walked into school wearing my pride on my chest. Finally the campaign was over and I was actively supporting our new president, even though I knew I would be vastly out numbered at school. I expected complaints and qualms about the new president, but I was not prepared for the flat-out racist remarks said openly in the halls and classrooms. I was appalled. While I sat at my desk trying to do my work I could hear my fellow classmates:

"I think we should kill Obama," one said.

"I hope someone comes up and shoots him in the head," another would say.

"I hate Obama ... he's black."

On went the racist words for the full 80 minutes of that class. Angered, I began to think of the injustice of it all and the ignorance of the students I was surrounded by. I wondered where they learned to be so hateful, and I wondered why the teacher never stepped in - why no adult, no student, including myself, had the guts to cut in and say it was not OK. Because it's never OK for intolerance. It is never OK to cut someone down and dehumanize them because they do not look like you, or think like you, or talk like you, or worship the way you do.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
The election of America's first black president has triggered more than 200 hate-related incidents, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center – a record in modern presidential elections. Moreover, the white nationalist movement, bemoaning an election that confirmed voters' comfort with a multiracial demography, expects Mr. Obama's election to be a potent recruiting tool – one that watchdog groups warn could give new impetus to a mostly defanged fringe element.

Most election-related threats have so far been little more than juvenile pranks. But the political marginalization of certain Southern whites, economic distress in rural areas, and a White House occupant who symbolizes a multiethnic United States could combine to produce a backlash against what some have heralded as the dawn of a postracial America. In some parts of the South, there's even talk of secession.

"Most of this movement is not violent, but there is a substantive underbelly that is violent and does try to make a bridge to people who feel disenfranchised," says Brian Levin of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. "The question is: Will this swirl become a tornado or just an ill wind? We're not there yet, but there's dust on the horizon, a swirling of wind, and the atmospherics are getting put together for [conflict]."

At least two white nationalist websites – Stormfront and the Council of Conservative Citizens – report their servers have crashed because of heavy traffic. The League of the South, a secessionist group, says Web hits jumped from 50,000 a month to 300,000 since Nov. 4, and its phones are ringing off the hook.

"The vitriol is flailing out shotgun-style," says Mr. Levin. "They recognize Obama as a tipping point, the perfect storm in the narrative of the hate world – the apocalypse that they've been moaning about has come true."

"We're not looking at a race war or anything close to it, but ... what we are seeing now is undeniably a fairly major backlash by some subset of the white population," says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report in Montomgery, Ala. "Many whites feel that the country their forefathers built has been ... stolen from them, so there's in some places a real boiling rage, and that can only become worse as more people lose jobs."

In an election in which barely 20 percent of native Southern whites in Deep South states voted for Obama, the newly apparent political clout of "outsiders" and people of color has been unnerving to some.

"In states like Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, there was extraordinary racial polarization in the vote," says Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. "Black Americans really do believe that Obama is going to represent their interests and views in ways that they haven't been before, and, in the Deep South, whites feel exactly the opposite."

But for nonviolent secessionist groups like the League of the South, the hope is for a more vigorous debate about the direction of the US and the South's role in it, says Michael Tuggle, a League blogger in North Carolina.

Mr. Tuggle says his group isn't looking for an 1860-style secession but, rather, a model that Spain, for one, is moving toward, in which "there's a great deal of autonomy for constituent regions" – a foil to what is seen as unchecked, dangerous federal power in Washington.

"To a lot of people, the idea of secession doesn't seem so crazy anymore," says Tuggle. "People are talking about how left out they feel, ... and they feel that something strange and radical has taken over our country."
Don't say you weren't warned ...

Eric Schmidt on Obama's Internet plans

Monday, November 17

Gays, Smith, Harman and other Labour 'feminists'

News that Jacqui Smith - bless - has found a compromise and will outlaw hiring prossies who have pimps.

This is a somewhat watered down version of what was being pushed by various Labour 'feminist' MPs - the so-called Swedish model of 'prostitution law reform', which completely outlaws paying for sex.

I'm indebted to blogging colleague Cosmodaddy who has dug up research showing that this ain't working:

Again it’s a seductive argument, but bear in mind (which Prostitution Reform do not) that although the criminalisation of men using female prostitutes in Sweden (the model being adopted by Jacqui Smith) was accompanied by legislation decriminalising the selling of sex, there have been undesirable outcomes:

When the prostitution market disappears underground it is harder for the authorities to intercept the persons that really need help. In Gothenburg many young women seek help to detoxify because of their addiction to heroin and almost all of them have sold sexual services. But the city’s prostitution group (social workers) seldom comes in contact with these women because they don’t show up on the streets today.

The risk of infection have gone up because if a sexseller gets infected with a sexually transmitted disease, and the authorities advise customers to the sexworker to contact them, many are afraid to do so.

If a client meets a sexworker that he/she suspects is in need of help the client is scared to contact for example the social services. Anf if a customer meets a sexworker that he/she suspects is the victim of sexual trafficking that person is today scared of going to the police. Before you could obtain evidence against traffickers and pimps based on customer’s testimony. These days they aren’t likely to participate in trials and if they are forced to testify as the same time they are prosecuted for buying sex their testimony are not credible in the same way.

I used to work in HIV prevention, OF COURSE driving sex underground isn't a good idea! Any HIV worker worth their salt will tell you this.

If you want to stop trafficking of women the answer is policing of criminals. Full, stop. Anything else ('let's make a law!') is showboating.

But further, I found the original proposals from Harman et al anti-gay. Yes, anti-gay. Not 'good for the gays' as the Jews might put it.

I immediately thought when the Labour 'feminists' trumped up this idea - they're forgetting the gays. Again.

Gay male prostitution is not generally pimp-driven, it's a small business. Of course there are issues (self esteem and body fascism to name but two) but just as with Andrea Dworkin and her 80s fantasies about what gay male porn was it's not the equivalent of the heterosexual version.

Largely from my Australian experience, I had numerous friends who dabbled or supported themselves for a while or did it for a one-off. It didn't make them community outlaws. The experience wasn't damaging, as it might be with women. Yes, some guys on heroin do it but they weren't even gay. Gay male prostitution is part of a sexualised culture which many feminists plain don't like.

Just as with Dworkin the collateral oppression of gays passed Harman et al by. That they actually have 'oppressive' power - despite being supposedly power-less women, despite being cabinet members - passed them by.

Must be the gay=male thing.

And they were trusting that Laura Norder will play fair (if they were thinking of us at all, which I doubt). When experience tells us otherwise (just look at Terror law misapplication).

Feminists are not always the allies of gay men. Lesson.

Postscript: I note that this proposed law apparently has something about funding 'drug dealers' in it - that is. it's not just about pimps. Laura Norder will make a meal of gay prossies using this 'law'. Bless Ms. Harman + Smith et al for creating this ... not.

Postscript: Harman and Smith's incompetence gets more obvious:

Human trafficking police unit to close

Britain's only specialist police human trafficking unit is to be shut down after two years because of a lack of funding, the government said today.

A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed that money for the Metropolitan police team, which totalled £1.8m in the first year and £700,000 in the second, would no longer be available after April.

Experts and campaigners reacted to the move with dismay. Denise Marshall, the chief executive of the Poppy Project, which helps trafficked women after they have been rescued, said she was appalled at the decision, which would have a "hugely detrimental impact".

"This is at best foolhardy and at worst discriminatory," she said.

Postscript: I shall be continuing this meme on pinknews. In the meantime, my friend Tania Hurst has a few thoughtful comments (nod, well worth quoting in full):
At the moment in this country it's widely seen as socially acceptable for men to pay for sex (whether with women or other men). In current law it is the prostitute selling sex who is viewed as the criminal - not the person buying the sex.

Whether a prostitute has "freely chosen" a sex industry profession, or has been forced into it (by pimps or traffickers) is largely seen as irrelevant and unimportant by the customer.

The question is: how does one change the perception that having sex with a man or woman who has been "forced" into prostitution is wrong - and that this is effectively rape? One way is to make a law against it.

This law is making a distinction between prostitutes who've "chosen" to work in the sex industry from those who are being "forced" to have sex (by pimps or traffickers).* [see note below]

The new law isn't criminialising everyone who pays for sex, but it is saying buying sex from women (or men) who have been "forced" to have sex (by pimps or traffickers) is not acceptable. This woman (or man) has not freely chosen to have sex with you - you are raping them. You have a responsibility to recognise this and to know the difference when you go out to purchase sex.

I'm in agreement with (what I think is) the motivation behind this law: 1) making it socially unacceptable to purchase sex from someone who's been forced into it. 2) reducing the demand for and ultimately the numbers of prostitutes who are being forced to have sex.

The real question is whether this law is the right way to achieve the objectives? Can the negative impacts that your article has highlighted, be mitigated? For example, maybe customers could be exempt from prosecution if they report to police that they believe a woman they had paid-for-sex with was trafficked or pimped? Are there other ways of getting HIV and substance-abuse services to prostitutes?

Or are there other better forms or combinations of legislation? Closing down the Human Trafficking police unit doesn't seem particularly helpful if you're trying to reduce the numbers of trafficked women. But prosecuting traffickers alone hasn't changed the perception that it doesn't matter whether the prostitute you pay for has been "forced" to have sex with you or not.


I have a couple of issues with your original article:
1. The UK law appears to be different from the Swedish law: the Swedish law is criminialising everyone who pays for sex; the UK one criminalises the purchase of sex from a prostitute who's been forced to have sex. This is very different - and you can't assume that the negative impacts will be the same.

2. I don't see how this law is prejudicial against gay prostitution (although I accept that the original proposals criminialising all paid-for sex may well have been). If a man buys sex from a male prostitute who isn't being forced into having sex, then no criminal offence will have taken place. If gay male prostitution is not generally pimp-driven as you say, then this law doesn't sound like it's going to have any impact on gay prostitution and their customers at all!

* [I've put "chosen" and "forced" in quotes: I'm not going to get into a debate about whether a heroin addict and/or a previous victim of child abuse is really making a free choice when they sell themselves; nor am I going to discuss the varying levels of exploitation/protection that may occur in prostitute-pimp relationships]
As I said in discussion with Tania this, (my point) isn't about heterosexual prostitution (which I may have an opinion about), it's about the 'collateral impact' of law on the gay 'community'. Tania's point "it's widely seen as socially acceptable for men to pay for sex" is worth quoting because I don't think this is true and another example of something I don't think is true in the gay community!

This idea underlines the gulf in understanding of how this issue relates in these two worlds.

And this community isn't going to give much of a s**t about people like prostitutes - there is zero comment already on this proposed law. There are a lot of issues here, but it's unlikely that many of them in relation to gay prostitutes are being even vaguely considered. That's my point.

When gays riot

We're going to have to wait to see it until January but Shaun Penn's next Oscar winner will be 'Milk'.

The long-awaited biopic of the San Francisco gay supervisor Harvey Milk, assassinated alongside Mayor George Moscone in 1977, has just opened in the US.

Here's the trailer:

Harvey was an icon for the gay rights movement. He came just before my time but I still remember when I saw the biopic 'The Times of Harvey Milk' in the early eighties and came to learn more about him. Harvey changed the world.

It's just wonderful that Gus van Sant is the one to finally make this movie and all the reviews are great. It's extra great because the history will come back and people will get to see what was sacrificed to make the world we live in today.

This is especially good for young LGBT.

Here's some videos about that history.

Milk and Moscone's assassin, fellow San Francisco Supervisor (councilor) Dan White, got a very light sentence. This was 1977! Following this there was a candlelight parade and then a riot (the gay movement started with a riot at Stonewall).

Now California State Senator Carole Migden speaking so movingly about Harvey.

I'm such an old fart. I can totally relate to this aging queen, Cleve Jones, who worked with Harvey (and then went on to start the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt).

He speaks wisdom:

If your generation of young people do not know our history you will not be prepared to fight. History is full of examples of people who thought they were free and woke up and discovered they were not.

It's important for people to understand that Harvey Milk was an ordinary faggot. He was not a genius, he was not a saint. His personal life was in disarray. He was poverty stricken. He was an ordinary man and yet because he was honest. because he had courage and because he really did love his people and love his city he was able to change the world. And I want all young people to understand that they have the power to do that.
Just like Rosa Parks.

Gay San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano adds to this point - Harvey was just like you and me:
Harvey was a mensch. He could also be a diva. He would have loved knowing that Sean Penn would be playing him.
At the moment there's a riotous anger in California because of the passage of Prop 8, blocking gay marriage.

Harvey's spirit lives on.

HT: This post is for Darren.

Sunday, November 16

That elusive second hit

It's an old story. Your first record is a smash, your first novel wins the Booker - then what? Can you top that or forever live in its shadow.

So it is with viral video and after hitting the sweet spot with a 10m views message about watching out for cyclists, Transport for London is getting diminishing returns.

Here's their latest. Smart but too smart.

And here's their massive hit:

Just how viral? This viral:

And this (from a New York Critical Mass demo):