Bush Is A Liar, But ...
A liar? Sure.
Bush's radio address last week: "We're making steady progress in implementing our five-step plan toward the goal we all want: completing the mission so that Iraq is stable and self-governing."
Compare this with....
Faiza, in Baghdad: "The situation is difficult…and it is getting worst ... the security conditions are in constant deterioration."
A U.S. government official who reads the intelligence analyses on Iraq: "Things are definitely not improving."
A former intelligence officer who maintains contact with CIA officials: "There's no obvious way to fix it. The best we can hope for is a semi-failed state hobbling along with terrorists and a succession of weak governments."
Secretary of State Colin Powell: "[We] are fighting an intense insurgency ... it's getting worse."
So, Bush is clearly a liar, and doesn't mind lying to the American people ... .. and yet 50% or more of the American electorate still think he is the best choice. Says a lot about Kerry and the Democrats doesn't it?
Prostitution: Desire and Reality
Prostitution as the oldest profession? Maybe. The exchange of sex for something else of value (money, food, protection, religious favour) has certainly existed in just about every society we know about. In a refreshingly frank essay in The Observer, Sebastian Horsley explains the reasons that some men prefer their sex with prostitutes:
"The problem with normal sex is that it leads to kissing and pretty soon you've got to talk to them. Once you know someone well the last thing you want to do is screw them. I like to give, never to receive; to have the power of the host, not the obligation of the guest. I can stop writing this and within two minutes I can be chained, in the arms of a whore. I know I am going to score and I know they don't really want me. And within 10 minutes I am back writing. What I hate are meaningless and heartless one-night stands where you tell all sorts of lies to get into bed with a woman you don't care for...Unfortunately, Horsley goes on to argue that prostitution should be kept illegal because "crime and risk are part of the texture of life ... Risk is what separates the good part of life from the tedium." This is fair enough, I suppose, for the johns who like that kind of thrill, but I don't see how that helps a working woman in any way. More, he goes on to suggest that prostitution involves no exploitation:
What I want is the sensation of sex without the boredom of its conveyance. Brothels make possible contacts of astounding physical intimacy without the intervention of personality. I love the artificial paradise; the anonymity; using money, the most impersonal instrument of intimacy to buy the most personal act of intimacy. Lust over love, sensation over security, and to fall into a woman's arms without falling into her hands ...
The big difference between sex for money and sex for free is that sex for money usually costs a lot less."
"Of course, the general feeling in this country is that the man is somehow exploiting the woman, but I don't believe this. In fact, the prostitute and the client, like the addict and the dealer, is the most successfully exploitative relationship of all. And the most pure. It is free of ulterior motives. There is no squalid power game. The man is not taking and the woman is not giving."Compare this, if you will, with the following passage from a searing article about prostitution in Vancouver:
"Walking along the back wall of the balcony [in a Vancouver porno theatre], behind rows of seats, it's impossible to miss a man and woman having sex in a stairwell leading up to the projection room. Several male patrons stand or sit nearby and watch the action. When the couple finish, the woman pulls down her skirt and slips back into a leather jacket, which hangs loosely from astonishingly thin shoulders. She stands unsteadily and her skin is pale, but she quickly heads down the stairs from the balcony area and pushes through the back door leading to the alley. The man, who's obviously well-fed, white, in his 50s and wearing clean dark pants and a bomber jacket, also heads out to the alley, but through a different door. "These drug-addicted girls are treated like garbage by the customers," says [sex-trade activist Jamie Lee] Hamilton. "And when one man pays for sex the others all crowd around thinking they can have a go for free" ...
Hamilton says one woman recently told her that management charges her and the other sex workers $10 each time they enter and re-enter the theatre-customers pay $8 admission and are allowed to leave and return the same day without paying an additional fee. Couples can also rent one of two "VIP" private rooms where they can watch movies in private, for about $20 an hour. The woman told Hamilton that when she can't afford the $10, management will give her credit until she makes enough to pay them. The woman claims that on a good day she can make up to $200. She makes an average of $10 to $20 per trick, but because she leaves often during the day to buy and use drugs, a large percentage goes back to the theatre when she pays the $10 entry fee
In Canada, it was long ago recognised that prohibiting a woman from selling her body could never pass muster under modern civil rights codes and, therefore, prostitution is technically legal. However, under "soliciting" provisions, it is illegal to discuss the business in public, and the police -- while claiming a shortage of officers to handle serious crimes -- seem always eager to harass hookers under these regulations. This situation
"puts street workers at risk because it puts them under constant pressure to avoid police by rushing through negotiations with potential clients. Sex workers often get into cars without having adequate time to screen a client or ensure that they are going to be adequately compensated for the service they agree to provide. The law also effectively forces sex workers to work in areas of the city that are isolated and out of public view, leaving them vulnerable to violence and predators with little chance of receiving help if needed."The current status of prostition legislation positively encourages crime, disease, exploitation by both clients and pimps, and the degredation of women. This must end. How can it possibly hurt anyone should these women be allowed to set up self-supporting brothels? They would get the sex off the streets -- there are blocks and blocks of Vancouver's downtown eastside where these poor girls openly trade today -- and contribute to an increase in self-esteem, self-support, and good health among the workers.
What is stopping us doing this? I don't fully understand, but it must have something to do with our truly perverted sense of values. We encourage young boys (and girls, these days) to pull themselves out of the ghettos by selling their bodies to be used as punching bags in boxing contests (top ranked heavyweights are among the highest paid individuals on the planet), and yet the sale of an intimate and pleasurable experience is actively persecuted. We see hundreds of deaths and mutilations on TV every day, and yet two seconds of Janet Jackson's nipple earns record fines and sanctions.
I have no idea how this reversal of reasonable values came about, but I do know it is perverted.
I have on several occasions written about the Talebanization of US society promoted and encouraged by fundamentalist rightwingers such as John Ashcroft and Michael Powell. Now I can report that the British Columbia administration of neocon-lite Gordon Campbell is not free of this dangerous fascism.
Of course, being BC and being Gordon Campbell, we are not talking weighty matters such as personal privacy or the freedom to protest. No, here it is the type of shoes that female lawyers are allowed to wear to work. According to a story at the always entertaining The Tyee, this "summer, the staff at the Vancouver-Main Street Crown Counsel offices were sent an e-mail declaring that certain shoes were not acceptable to wear in the office."
Of course, being Liberals, and therefore programmed to be helpfully intrusive, the memo included a handy-dandy chart illustrating the good, the bad and the ugly.
According to the women affected
"this small slice of office wear politics is both disturbing and humorous. None are willing to go on the record with their opinions. But they grumble about managers spending time compiling pictures of acceptable shoes, and ask why only women’s shoes are depicted in the illustrations. According to the government employee directory, at least two men work in the office.This is, of course, just foolishness. But I don't expect people being paid out of my pocket to be spending their time creating picture lists of "acceptable" clothing with which to intimidate other public servants. More importantly, it is little things like this which, if left unchecked, become the horror of life under an Ashcroftian Taleban.
No Missile Defence For Canada
For years now, Canada has been under pressure by the Empire to join in their fanciful and stupid missile defence system. Our previous Prime Minister Jean Chretien -- whatever his other faults and shortcomings -- managed to hold them off, although even he wasn't able to just say "No!" Unfortunately, the new Prime Minister, Paul Martin, came into office vowing to "repair the damage" in Canada-Empire relations caused by Chretien's obstinate position that Canada would not support the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq. Ever since, the talk about missile defence has grown steadily louder and more insistent. And, even though Martin had pledged that there would be a debate and a vote before Canada joined anything approaching the militarization of space, the Minister of Defence now says that isn't going to happen. In fact, there won't even be a discussion in Parliament about it. That probably means Martin is about to capitulate to the masters in Washington.
I have no objections to the US wanting to defend itself. Go ahead. Build a huge wall around the country, if you like, I don't care. Just leave us alone to defend ourselves. We know there is no country with ballistic missiles that is likely to want to attack Canada. And even if there was, it is up to us to make our own arrangements for that contingency. Therefore, we need no part of any continent-wide "defence" (even if the Reaganite fantasy was technically feasible).
Joining the US in a new defence pact will simply draw us further into the Empire. It will erode confidence in Canada's independence when we undertake political, diplomatic and military forays overseas. It will weaken if not entirely destroy Canadian soveriegnty over its own defence and foreign policies. Unless we actually want to become part of the Empire (a genuine 51st State) -- and I know very few Canadians who do -- we must stand outside any new military entanglements with our imperialist southern neighbours.
Beyond missile defence, I believe it is vital that we remove ourselves as quickly as possible from the existing North American Air Defence system (NORAD) entirely. These systems are there to support the defence of the continental US only. They do nothing to protect Canada (from whom, I ask again?) If the US can only defend itself by trampling on Canada's rights, then let them do it openly by invading us, taking us over like they did the rest of the continent (manifest destiny indeed!) and take the political consequences.
Until then, Canada must say no. We must say it loudly and clearly. We want no part of the Empire's murderous schemes to militarize the entire globe.
When I wrote that last post, I hadn't planned on developing pneumonia and spending 4 days in hospital!
Now, I'm back at home with a fistful of heavy duty drugs and an order "not to exert myself" for a few more days. That means I can sit here and catch up with all the news and start posting again -- tonight or tomorrow.
To my small but loyal group of daily visitors, I have to apologize for the lack of new material. I am swamped by work commitments right now and just don't have the energy to do much else.
Therefore, I will not be posting again until this Saturday, the 25th.
Screw The Troops
This Administration has done a lot of bad things for its military personnel. It has cut pensions and it has massively cut programs for the Veterans Administration. It has put its people in harms way without the proper equipment (or right to be there), and it has forced servicemen and women to remain in Iraq well beyond their de-mobilisation dates. Now they are threatening them:
"Soldiers from a combat unit at Fort Carson say they have been told to re-enlist for three more years or be transferred to other units expected to deploy to Iraq, the Rocky Mountain News reported Thursday ... "They said if you refuse to re-enlist with the 3rd Brigade, we'll send you down to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is going to Iraq for a year, and you can stay with them, or we'll send you to Korea, or to Fort Riley (in Kansas) where they're going to Iraq," said one of the soldiers, a sergeant. [A] second soldier, an enlisted man, echoed that view: "They told us if we don't re-enlist, then we'd have to be reassigned. And where we're most needed is in units that are going back to Iraq in the next couple of months. So if you think you're getting out, you're not."Remember, that both Bush and Cheney ran away from active duty when their country called on them. No wonder they have no respect for the poor patriotic fools who actually sign up.
False Promises To Those Living In Hope
This is building up to be the age of the Phoney Philanthropist. The Phoney Philanthropists are people who take very public credit for giving away huge sums, people who get all the glory and celebrity for doing it, but who pay zero towards it – because it is always someone else’s money. I was reminded of this most forcefully this week with the scale of the excess of Oprah Winfrey’s giveaways.
As publicity for her new season, Winfrey gave away a car to each of the 276 members of the studio audience.
"Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car!" Winfrey yelled as she jumped up and down on the stage. The audience members screamed, cried and hugged each other - then followed Winfrey out to the parking lot of her Harpo Studios to see their Pontiacs, all decorated with giant red bows.Not only that, but she also gave away a four-year major college scholarship, a makeover and $10,000 of new clothes to one woman, and a $130,000 house makeover to another. And all that on the first day! This morning, my local morning radio show was talking about it. One of the hosts said: "Well, she can afford it." And there you have it -- Oprah Winfrey personally getting credit for the $8 million extravaganza even though she didn't contribute a single penny.
"The Pontiac G6, built in Orion Township, starts at $21,300, but audience members will be permitted to customize their cars with all the options, pushing the price of the car to an estimated $28,400 and the cost of the giveaway promotion to at least $7.8 million. GM's Pontiac division is covering all of the costs, including the tax and licensing fees ... "It's a marketing stunt."You can bet every farthing in your grandkid's piggybank that the college scholarship and the home makeover didn't come out of Oprah's pocket either. Not only that, but Oprah and her production company make tens of millions of dollars on the syndication of each of her shows. So, she is being paid millions to pretend to give away millions. And she's praised as a saint for it. Bizarre.
Of course she isn't the only one. It sure isn't Donald Trump who pays for the paycheck that "The Apprentice" winner takes home. And if Mark Cuban is really out of pocket after "The Benefactor" airs, I'll eat a roomful of hats.
What's wrong with all this? A couple of things. First, while people like Winfrey and Trump and the others are gaining wealth and celebrity giving away other people's money, genuine benefactors like Bill and Melinda Gates are villified even though they genuinely donate billions of dollars of their own money. Given my views on capitalism, I don't like the way any of them make their money; but at least Bill Gates tries to do something with his wealth while the others are feeding off their fraudulent images.
More importantly, this whole giveaway commercialism for the very lucky few feeds a Micawberish expectation in some people's minds that a miracle will come along to magically "fix" everything for them. Why plan and save for a house repair -- why not just wait for Ty Pennington to burst through your living room wall and give you a deluxe makeover courtesy of ABC's money? Your car barely clunking along? -- maybe Oprah will leap out of the bushes and hand you a new set of keys! You think this is crazy? A few years ago there was a public opinion survey conducted in Canada. Something over 60% of British Columbians had "win the lottery" as a significant part of their retirement planning.
The greater the expectations, the greater the diappointments. Bread and circuses won't cut it for long when the odds of winning are stacked against the majority. Fifty years ago and more Erich Fromm wrote of the searing alienation felt by those failing to keep up with the broad and slow sweep of middle class economic expansion. Imagine then the desperate alienation fomented in neighbourhoods where one in a thousand or less are struck with excessive good fortune, and the rest are left to wallow in the mire of shrinking social services, failing education standards, and nothing but $9 an hour jobs. No wonder our prisons are bursting at the seams.
The Corrosive Power of Inequality
In my catch-up of reading from the last few days, I was pleased to discover that Project Censored's number one censored story of 2003 was the destructive power of inequality on democracy and the economy.
Hopefully, the publicity of Project Censored can keep this topic in the foreground of public perception.