Monday, November 27, 2006

For those of you who didn't know the star spangelled banner was initially a British pub song, the tune of which was later adapted for the Americans as their anthem. Check out this groovy video and song here.

Dirty Blonde......

Back in London I couldn't resist getting a copy of 'Dirty Blonde' - the published snippets of the diaries of Courtney Love, my fave rock goodess along with PJ Harvey.

A few reviewers expressed the belief that the item was too personal to be published. But then she's always been a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, it's part of her whole persona. A creative mind is revealed, intelligent and thoughtful although rather confused and messed up at times, as you'd expect.

It can be said about rockers that they are not simply musicians but works of art in their entire persona. Their lives can be read as works of art.

A cynic may dispute this, and believe me to be a dupe of the consumer celebrity culture when I say this. But I believe there to be a difference between musicians with some talent (although we may dispute which rockers have talent and those who lack it) and the mindless celebrities who are famous for simply being idiots on reality shows. That kind of celebrity is instant, but the celebrity of a serious rocker is not.

The personality of celebrity side by side with the talent (of art, music literature) appeared to have been first personified by Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter with her endless self portraits in her floral dresses. Although I'm not her greatest fan, it would be wrong to suggest she was talentless or broke no ground in the way of art. Her self revealing paintings were a new trend in the sense that they directly attempted to depict what was in her psyche.

It appears that Courtney Love gets slammed quite often for doing through music what Kahlo did via art. The feminist movement has claimed Frida, regardless of the fact that she was not herself a political feminist. Nor was Sylvia Plath, another feminist heroine. Love does in fact describe herself as such, but the movement does not quite know what to do with her, for obvious reasons.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Hitch and Mother Teresa...

I read Xtopher Hitchens' exposure of the arch reactionary Mother Teresa of Calcutta yesterday (see link). I know it is a few years old but it's still worth a read for those who still harbour any illusions of the saintliness of this character.

I had long disliked her brand of Christianity - one that proclaims itself 'apolitical', one that advocates the giving of charity yet never questions a system which allows so many people to starve or die of treatable diseases, while others have many times what they need. This type of Christianity is in fact not 'apolitical' but is in fact deeply conservative, as Hitchens stresses.
It rests nicely with the status quo and big capitalists have no issue with it - in fact they actively praise and encourage it. At times they donate to its adherents to assuage their guilt, to salvage their reputations, or to buy favour from the Lord.

However, the crimes of MT go further than this. Her 'apoliticism' proved itself to be a sham when on a visit to Nicuagara in the 1980s she criticised the Sandinistas while remaining silent on the crimes of the US backed Contras. Despite the existence of weapons of mass destruction, racism and all the other ills in the world she explicitly believed that abortion and contraception were 'the greatest threats to world peace'. Although I deem it extreme and untrue to hold abortion to be *the* greatest threat to world peace, I can somewhat see the logic behind such an idea. But contraception?? Yet MT's opposition to birth control did not spur her to oppose Indira Ghandhi's coercive population control policy, which involved forcible sterilisations. You'd think someone who believed birth control to be such an evil would have something to say about such a practice going on in the very region where they work. But not MT. Clearly her desire to curry favour and praise from her host government (one of this world) was stronger than her professed ideals.

Not just this but she accepted money from white collar thieves while she ran her shelters on an ethos not unlike that of the Victorian workhouses. Money lay in her bank account while orphans under her care led an existence not unlike that of Oliver Twist. She refused painkillers to the terminally ill in her 'shelters for dying destitutes' due to her belief that suffering was holy, those dying in agony from cancer being united with Christ's sufferings on the cross. However, the Christian religion teaches that holy pains such as poverty and fasting should be voluntary. Jesus could have avoided death on the cross but he chose not to as he believed it to have been part of his mission. Jesus healed the sick and relieved them of pain, he didn't tell them to accept it and suffer as it would somehow purify their sin and hence unite them with his future suffering on the cross.

Hitchens is a declared atheist but that doesn't discredit his arguments. The paragraph above should show it to be possible to be a believing Christian while opposing the hypocrisy and obnoxious theology of Mother T.

Meet the Feebles.........

Lord of the Rings this aint. Nor is it suitable for children. But anybody interested in the career of Peter Jackson should check out his production of Meet the Feebles.

It is, to sum it up in one sentence, a very dark take on the Muppets. A strong stomach, a black humour with a taste for the macabre or the degenerate is required. Meet Heidi the Hippo, the Miss Piggy equivalent. Tragically in love and ever faithful to her husband Bletch the Walrus, a criminal adulterer whose only true love is money. Now our poor hippo has a weight problem, which is excacerbated by the heartlessness of the walrus (she addresses her pain via her sweet tooth) In turn her weight gain makes him use the pleasures of his new girlfriend, a slinky, model thin feline, even more. A catty cat who takes open pleasure at the pain of the hippo. Vicious and tragic circle.

Meanwhile the rest of the cast have their own problems. The playboy rabbit Harry has some ghastly illness which his doctor thinks is AIDS. Wynard the frog is a Vietnam veteran with a severe drug addiction.

The show reaches its climax when Heidi the Hippo decides she can take no more. After a failed suicide attempt when Bletch finally decides to ditch her because she is past her prime, her feline rival makes one last jibe at her while she has a gun in her mouth. That mistake costs the cat her life - and most of the other feebles! Heidi turns the gun on her and proceeds with a massacre of the entire studio.

Great fun if you like this kind of thing (and I do). You may enjoy it simply if you are a fan of the original muppets (as I am).
Lets hope Kermie stays faithful to Miss Piggy is all I can say for now.......

Update/note: A few years back I wrote a spoof rap involving Kermie, Miss Piggy and Kermie's new girlfriend, in which Miss Piggy's reaction was not unlike that of Heidi the hippo! Kermie lapped up the attention and was ultra laid back in his classic style while the girls were at each other's throats threatening blue murder. I'll try to dig it out. Not sure if the Muppet presenters will want it though. I'd like to know what Jackson thinks though.
10 Things I'd never do....

Political Umpire tagged me on this so I'll have a think....

1. Buy to a coldplay cd.
2. Live in the home counties.
3. Go to a Pinkfloyd concert.
4. Eat in Macdonalds.

Thinking on it......

5. Some of it which enters my mind is rather too filthy to mention so I'll lay off the smut.
6. Take certain drugs which are known to have a link with madness.
7. Listen to any daft conspiracy theories
8. Make excuses for people who insist on behaving like jerks.
9. Have an affair with someone else's husband ( I cannot make promises about one night stands, I lack the moral confidence to express any certainity about this matter!!). Hope you at least appreciate my honesty here!
10. Let the bastards grind me down (at least I'll try there!)

I think I should tag someone, so I'll try Maria. I know he doesn't have a blog but I'll tag Paddy nonetheless. And neprimye (sorry for the misspelling!!). Other friends of this blog have already been tagged. There are a few others but I forget their address and I'm having a bit of trouble with this machine (cannot seem to open a new window without losing this one, have to check out why and how...) But if they are reading this I'll tag Kris and David Duff too.....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Men Will be Men.....

A short note to follow on from my post on youth and sexuality.

A few years ago I bought into the myths promoted by a large section of the feminist movement. I believed my sexist and abusive father was the way he was not because of his individual character but because a system called 'patriarchy' planted the idea in his brain that women were inferior and it was the mark of a real man to be a misogynist arsehole. I did not realise that I was doing what my long suffering mother had always done throughout the course of her marriage - I was making excuses for him. If the thesis was true then all men would be like him. The fact is they are not. Sexism simply gives men like him a rationale for their behaviour. If it wasn't sexism it would be something else.

I also had other views. While I supported the rights of sex workers (as I still do), I also believed there would come a day when men would no longer feel the need for pornography. I swallowed the patronising attitude promoted towards women in the porn industry. I just failed to grasp the fact that visual stimulation is a legitimate aspect of male sexuality. I failed to recognise that men need their privacy, their fantasies, just as women do. I fell into the trap of politicising the differences between male and female sexuality, and hence demonised aspects of male sexuality I did not understand or relate to. But guess what? My male partners have found it extremely difficult to relate to aspects of my sexuality and fantasies. Sometimes they expressed boredom, other times they felt as disturbed by my theme based fantasies as I was by their visual ones.

It is true that women do often feel uncomfortable if their male partners use porn. They often complain about feeling unattractive, not good enough etc. Having had such feelings myself in relationships I can readily empathise with this. But what is at play here is our own insecurity in ourselves, which often manifests in sexual jealousy. It is not porn that is really the problem here but our own lack of self esteem. We can criticise the sex industry for promoting one standard of female beauty but that is as far as we should take it. It is wrong, so wrong, of the feminist movement to capitalise like this on women's insecurities and tell us that we must continue with the thankless task so typical of the female sex - trying to make men change. Trying, in other words, to make them more like us. It won't happen.

We can't plead with men to be 'nice'. We have to fact the fact that there is an aspect of male sexuality that is predatory, and of course it has it's mirror image in the submissive aspect of female sexuality. So how does this relate to my post on youth?

Teenage boys are walking barrels of testostorone, ruled by their hormones. So, of course, are teenage girls ruled by their hormones but it expresses itself differently. Boys will say anything to get sex. So will some full grown men who lack scruples to know any better. So rather than hopelessly dream of the day men will change we should learn to respect ourselves and not put ourselves in vulnerable situations where we may get hurt. This is what we should be telling our daughters.

In relation to the current issue of binge drinking and date rape - women do not 'get themselves raped'. We are entitled to go out drinking without fear of being molested or having our drinks spiked. On the other hand we should still be cautious and not get so out of it we don't know what the hell we are doing, drink ourselves unconscious and hence put ourselves at risk. It is foolish. But then I'd encourage nobody to drink themselves to that stage due to the great amount of other accidents caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

I hope none of this has sounded like male bashing. I simply believe that men and women are different, with their respective strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes these traits compliment each other but other times they appear to clash, leading to distrust between the sexes. Rather than seeking to change men it would be far more productive if feminists could make the effort to understand them (and asking them to understand us better of course). That would go a long way to improving relations between the sexes.
Anglo Youth - 'Respect' and Sexuality

It has been interesting to note that New Zealand seems to have the same issues with the youth of today as does Britain. I read a column yesterday in which a Kiwi journalist (Pamela Stirling) was praising Britain's approach with the use of Asbos for anti social youth. The column was titled 'It's all about Respect', and the word was used more than once. Not very subtle in her admiration of the British prime minister.

Meanwhile the same magazine had an article on teenage pregnancy. Evidently New zealand has the third highest rate in the world, Britain being second, and the highest I believe is the United States.

I have long wondered as to why English speaking countries seem to have this problem and have yet to come to any firm conclusions. Conservatives tend to blame it on too much liberalism while liberals tend to blame it on too much....Conservatism!

I think this is far too simplistic from either view. The Netherlands is often praised by liberals and pro choicers for it's liberal approach to youth sexuality and it's sex education programme, and they point to the fact it has a low rate of teenage pregnancy. But again, I don't quite see this. Why does Britain's rate of teenage pregnancy continue to rise in spite of the programmes of the last few years? Surely if the assertions made about the Dutch stats were true the opposite would be happening!

The reasons behind the Dutch stats are most probably of a cultural nature. For one thing - The Netherlands have a stronger family structure in their society than does Britain. The reasons behind the phenomena in the English speaking nations may also be economic - the monetarist policies they have been subjected to has contributed to greater social atomisation and weakened traditional family structures, families which help children grow through puberty and become adults. Children in lower socio economic groups also tend to have sex at an earlier age.

I'm a cynic about the usefulness of sex education as is currently constituted. If it is failing in it's aim it is simply not working and another approach needs to be taken, the format needs to change. Perhaps schools should also recognise the pressure children are often under to have sex before they are emotionally mature enough. Negative sexual encounters can emotionally scar youth and sometimes blight their adulthood (needless to say girls being more affected by this then boys, some of whom are taken advantage of by older men). It is difficult what with the sexualisation of children in our culture, but teachers and parents should try to express firmly that children should not capitulate to the pressure if they do not feel ready to have sex.
Many young girls have sex not because they want to but because they wish to placate their male partners, fearing the relationship may end otherwise. This is one area in which feminism has made no impact and I am doubtful if it ever will, experience telling me that men will always be men. So it may simply be down to women and girls to be firm and give boys and men a message that will be clear enough for them to hear.
The Crisis of Anglo Conservatism

An interesting snippet here about the involvement of the elusive brethren sect with the New Zealnd National Party (equivalent of the British Tories). But I personally don't see any difference between this and accepting help or funding from any self interested body on the part of a political party. Businessmen and media barons spring readily to mind so I don't see the big fuss about a religious sect.

I notice that the British Tories, meanwhile, are contemplating no longer drawing inspiaration from their national hero Winston Churchill but rather from Guardian journalists!. The gap between New Labour and the Tories hence closes even further. In the absence of proportional representation Britain could come to resemble a one party State. Worrying. What does it say about the Graunistas though?
Posting has been a little sparse this past week, precisely because I'm out of the country.

My partner and I are in Wellington, New Zealand for the next few months. It's a very scenic coastal city (built upon hills), far far smaller than London with a much slower pace of life. The pace of life is similiar to that on the South coast of England, somewhat like Brighton. There is also plenty of greenery around, and I'm staying just by a nature reserve in an outer suburb (which is not very far from the city centre, a short bus ride in fact!). After just ten minutes in town Mr Contraire (he was born and grew up here) bumped into an old schoolfriend of his outside the city library (which by the way has a great selection of books, I found a few rare Emile Zola translations).

The pattern of my blogging will be pretty much the same (apart from late next week and the following fornight when I'll be touring the South island). Posts may focus more on international affairs and I will of course be commenting on politics here, as well as the occasional comment on Britain from what I can glean on the web and on BBC news.

I would upload a picture for you but I'm using an apple mac and am not sure how to save it yet.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Queens Speech

Like much of the population I am extremely cynical and almost apathetic about the contents of yesterday's Queen's Speech. The only thing that really bothers me right now are the proposals for police to be able to evict troublesome tenants almost immediately, and after that they become 'intentionally homeless'(see link). Anti social neighbours are indeed a problem for some people, but what does turfing them out onto the street do to address the issues behind their behaviour?

But what always springs to my mind is the uselessness of the monarchy. It is a farce as we all know these policies are not the invention of the monarch but of the government.

Yet those who are in favour of a Republic must think of viable alternatives. We do not want a US- style presidential system in which the prime minister has unlimited powers (he already has too much as it stands). It would also be pretty useless and a waste of resources having any Head of State that is a mere figurehead, as with some countries. A modern republic would need a whole new constitution. It would need an elected second chamber and decentralisation of political power, voting reform and a proper chance for citizens to participate in an active democracy. Not the sham we have now.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Now I'm one angry girl. My numerous posts sum up my feelings about the so called 'pro choice' lobby. But I get even sicker when men (who don't know as they are not likely to ever be in such a position) repeat that drivel and tell me I am a brainwashed reactionary.

To sum it up - I met a friend for a drink on Saturday. He's a nice enough man, but regarding certain things he does not have a clue. I have long asked him that we agree to differ about the abortion issue - but he always manages to sneak it in, somehow.

According to him having an abortion should be just like having a tooth out (note - what does he possibly know??). Any woman whose experience is somewhat deeper than this is affected by 'religious propaganda'. I have heard him sprout this garbage more than once so I'm no longer affected by it, any more than I am affected by his ludicrous assertions that a human foetus is nothing but a piece of dead matter.

But what really make me angry was his claim (which of course he could not back up) that more women are pro abortion than men, as we are 'directly affected by it'.

Exactly. We are directly affected it and this will just as likely make as anti as pro. Like the woman who cried as she told me of her good for nothing ex who emotionally blackmailed her into the procedure. She is not the only one. What of the women who become pro life when they deeply regret their abortions?

According to this gentleman women who differ from his line are brainwashed by 'Catholic propaganda' - while women who are proud of their abortions, like the obnoxious Zoe Williams, are right on. The pro choice (sic) lobby never lie, while pro lifers lie with every breathe they exhale.


How dare he tell me, as a woman, what I should feel? He can argue all he wants with me about legislation, but how dare he tell me my feelings are wrong and a result of brainwashing?.

He backed up his assertions about women being more numerically in favour of abortion than men by citing that more women in Westminster are pro abortion than the men. Firstly he had no data to prove this, as secondly, what made him think that the views of the political caste in Westminster are representative of the population on this issue?

Other data tells a different story (see link). So did a YouGov poll last year, where more men were in favour of unlimited abortion than women. And more women were anti.

It doesn't surprise me if more men than women are in favour of unlimited abortion. Makes sense, doesn't it? If you don't want the responsibilities of fatherhood you can easily shirk them by paying for the 'operation'. If she doesn't want it? Say you will walk out and leave the child with no father.

Men have no right to lecture me, especially when they get their facts blatantly wrong.

Note: This also shows that the feminist movement do not represent the views or feelings of most women, especially due to the way that it ignores the feelings of women who are not happy with their experiences of abortion. Rather it only seems to represent the views of a self proclaimed 'sisterhood' whose views are only representative of themselves.

I won't deny that I am sick to death of the consumerist rhetoric of 'choice'. I am sick of being labelled 'anti choice' by hypocrites who cannot stand to be labelled what is usually the descriptive term in their case of 'pro abortion'. I am sick of being told that my view on this matter is 'anti woman', with the implication that I am some kind of a self hater who doesn't know what is good for me. I am sick of being told that unrestricted foeticide is a necessary condition for the liberation of my gender. I am sick of seeing people express moral outrage over prostitution but have no problem at all with unlimited abortion. Most of all I am sick of the neglect of the feminist and 'pro choice' (face it, they are not really pro choice as they are only interested in one choice - abortion) movements over the issue of forced abortions in China, coercive family planning policies in the third world, and of course the social and economic pressure that exists in the West for women to abort. Along with the emotional blackmail by relatives and most of all the male partners who have impregnated them in the first place.

On the other hand I would like to point to the good pro choicers who do recognise the ethical dilemma regarding abortion. The ones who do recognise the issue of coercion, and who do not resort to name calling and derogatory labels. They can relax, this post is not about them. It is about the disingenous characters described above, who parrot lies as well as offend.
The Guardian seems to do a great disservice to female writers. Instead of employing journalists of integrity it pays airhead hacks like Zoƫ Williams to write the most banal and trivial gossip about their middle class lifestyles, who have as much sensitivity in their small minds as does a pebble.

This woman has a couple of preoccupations, one of which is abortion. It isn’t enough for her just to be pro choice, you have to be in favour of unlimited abortion up until birth. Reducing the time limit, to her is just ‘a new way of saying you are anti abortion’. Never mind the people who are strongly pro choice yet are still not opposed to reducing the limit be a couple of weeks (Britain’s being among the highest in Europe). In an edition of the paper earlier this year she spoke of a ‘mawkish sentimentality over the foetus. Not only this but she manages to offend and alienate even the supporters of a liberalisation in the law (see link). A fanatic if ever there was one.

A few good responses to that article:

November 10, 2006 10:49 AM
I agree with Evan Harris 100%. I fear that it won't be enough for Zoe Williams though. Until we're all laughing and joking about abortion and treating it as though it were no different from having a tooth removed, I don't think she's going to be happy.

November 10, 2006 12:02 PM
Evan said, Ms Williams laments the lack of open debate in Parliament about liberalising a 39-year-old rule. But if the response of the pro-choice lobby is to attack their allies, then it is hardly surprising that politicians are not willing to go there.
Free choice is only possible to the extent that one appreciates the nature and consequences of one’s actions.
The quickest and most effective way to remove someone’s freedom of choice is to lie to them.
In a parliamentary democracy, lying is frowned upon, so the next best way to remove someone’s freedom of choice is to keep the truth from them.
This is hard to do when there is open debate, since open discussion of facts educates and informs people’s choices.
If the pro-choice lobby are pressuring politicians into keeping quiet then they are undermining everybody’s freedom of choice, but most importantly, the freedom of choice of women who cannot make an informed choice without all of the facts.
That makes the pro-choice lobby hypocrites, and those who are really interested in freedom of choice should not listen to them, but should make up their own minds …. after listening to the debate.
When you deify something like free choice, it gets corrupted.

November 10, 2006 11:07 AM
I have always wondered why a woman miscarries a baby at five weeks, but aborts a foetus at 24! What is the difference? - therein lies the moral issue in abortion. No matter where ons stands on it, there, but for a mishap (whether by abortion or miscarriage), is a human being. Pro-choice ignore this completely, along with the pain of many women who have had abortions lawfully. I am definitely pro-life, but neutral about the legal position, because whatever the law says, as humans we always have a choice to make and/or exercise, (whether legally or not). E.g. I have a choice to beat up a person that I do not like, or even to kill them, but the law prevents me from doing so. Therefore abortion being legal does not remove the dilemma of the effect of the act on the foetus, and whether or not it (foetus) requires protection from harm just as I, a fully formed and visible human being, do. For every woman proud of her abortion, there are 8 who are not. This is an issue that just will not go away, as medical science pushes the frontiers even further.

People like Ms Williams and the 'abortion rights' group she supports have an audacity labelling their opponents as 'anti choice'. Indeed they are the ones who oppose an informed choice. They oppose a public inquiry, blatantly ignoring the existence of women who are not so proud of their abortions. They knowingly lie and mislead, denying any medical facts that are not so favourable to their support for unrestricted abortion. Indeed they will not be happy until we are all laughing and joking about foeticide.

Leaving that aside her witterings about genealogy and the derision of those who are interested in tracking their ancestry as being on a par with those who view ‘animal porn’ sum up the bigotry and shallowness of this loathsome individual. Earlier this year she made infantile comments about the eating of ready meals (what the Americans call ‘TV dinners’) as being a result of ‘social progress’ – namely her beloved and oh so bourgeois ‘feminism’. Glad that one shallow person is so content and smug in a shallow capitalist society where people have no time to prepare a proper meal.

Journalists were once supposed to be public servants. The smug and privileged Williams, on the other hand, is nothing but a public menace.
Decline of the Novel

It’s not a question of being a literary snob. I am sure that plenty of highbrow types scout the latest in contemporary fiction and dissect the latest fads in prose.

But nobody writes a novel the way they used to. I spent hours of pleasure reading the classics of the 19th and early 20th century – Thomas Hardy, Dickens, the Brontes. Besides English literature I have taken great pleasure in Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, alongside the works of Emile Zola. Nothing beats the great American novel written by John Steinbeck.

The description these novels gave could transport you back to the English countryside in the mid 19th century, or the slums of London or Paris. Or California at the turn of the century. Or the lives of the Russian aristocracy. Dostoyevsky’s characters were the most complex in literature, extreme yet so human.

What has happened? I don’t mean to knock all modern fiction, indeed some of it I find witty and entertaining at times. But the description is not there, neither are the characters so rounded. There are a few exceptions but I can count them on fewer fingers than I can the great classics. Surely the format of the novel hasn’t really exhausted itself so, as is sometimes claimed? Why do they no longer write books the way they were once written?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Seems it has been an interesting week in American politics. Although nothing drastic will change the Democrats in office will at least be able to hold the Bush presidency in check. Perhaps they will also be able to make minor social reforms (such as raising the minimum wage) that Bush will be hard pressed to oppose.

Something noted in the media has been the rise of conservative Democrats - anti abortion, pro gun etc. I see little wrong in this. It is possible to be socially conservative while holding left or liberal economic policies, and the two are not inherently inconsistent. Likewise it is possible to be socially libertarian while being economically right wing (the Thatcherite Federation of Conservative Students springs to my mind). If anything the socially conservative conservatives look inconsistent at times, bemoaning the breakdown of the traditional family at the hands of economic forces they themselves support and prop up.

I myself am anti abortion, and will say that I will be glad if *pro choice* ceases to be a litmus test of one's liberal credentials, in this country as much as in the US. I can also say in all honesty that I have mixed feelings over the issue of gun control. In an essay on the atom bomb George Orwell commented that guns were a democratic weapon at the times of the democratic revolutions, empowering citizens rather than the State (adding that large weapons which are expensive to produce and the most destructive are undemocratic, the atom bomb being the prime and most obvious example). The American revolution was won with the help of firearms, and the right to hold them was a constitutional right, in theory giving the citizens the power to topple an oppressive government. It is therefore not surprising that it is a hot issue.

I have met communists who oppose gun control for similiar reasons to this.

However, when some conservative Democrats are also described as 'fiscally conservative' it does beg the question as to what the terms liberal and conservative restrospectively mean, and what views should be associated with the terms if they are not to become meaningless. Political parties need at least some distinct characteristics that differ them from their opponents.

However, in the United States there is a tradition of voting for 'the candidate and not the party'. This tradition that does not exist here. But with the two main parties losing their distinction it may yet come to pass. Perhaps it may be that politics will come to being led more by consensus of cross party special interest groups on single issues. If this is to be the case then it will have wide implications for the future, both for the left and the right. It has already been argued by some (the ex trotskyist Christopher Hitchens is one such example) that the old left/right categories have broken down. If the trend outlined is to continue this will become more noticable, at least in the famous 'centre ground'.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A good rebuttal today to Polly Toynbee in yesterdays Graun. Interestingly Toynbee noted that the middle classes and the wealthy are the least likely to be under surveillence. Yet she failed to draw the obvious conclusion - that those who are to most likely be victimised by the State machinery are the poor, ethnic minorities and the working class. Hence this is far from a 'middle class obsession'. Money currently spent on surveillence (and the military) could well be spent on social justice.

What makes her so trustful of this present government anyway? What makes her so sure that surveillence powers will not be abused by them? New Labour has shown scant regard for democracy, even in its own ranks. How she thinks it can be trusted with extra powers is a mystery. But perhaps a government friendly middle class hack like herself need not worry.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Saddam Death Penalty

We like to think we are more civilised than our ancestors who viewed public hangings. But are we really? A look at today's tabloid headlines made me think twice. 'Saddamned to Hell' read the front page of the Daily Mirror, taking obvious relish in the outcome. Aren't we a country that has renounced capital punishment? But while it takes place far from home and is therefore sanitised it appears that our collective desire for vengeance can safely be exorcised via a media spectacle.

Meanwhile Tony Blair voices his opposition to the death penalty. But he is a hypocrite to invoke Iraqi sovereignity to justify the verdict of death by hanging. That was not on his mind when he sent British troops to help the Americans invade the country.

It is necessary to add that this was a victor's court, put in place by what is a US client regime (Bush need have no hang ups as does Blair as he presided over death row while governor of Texas). There appear to have been irregularities in the trial, and dispute as to whether it has been a fair one.

However, if the death penalty was to be reserved for war criminals (and if such trials were to be in any way 'fair') Bush and Blair would also have been in the dock.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

This proposition was voted against by MPs in parliament on Tuesday:

Ten Minute Rule Bill: TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY, Mrs Nadine Dorries
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to reduce the time limit for legal termination of pregnancy from 24 to 21 weeks; to introduce a cooling off period after the first point of contact with a medical practitioner about a termination; to enable the time period from the end of the cooling off period and the date of termination to be reduced; and for connected purposes.

This proposal was nothing very radical. Reducing the upper time limit by three weeks is not a great restriction, it would simply bring it on a par with most of Europe.
A cooling off period may be a slight inconvenience for those who have firmly made up their minds and are determined, but for a significant vulnerable minority (who are in quite a few cases coerced) it could make all the difference - between giving birth and and having to live with a decision that you will regret for the rest of your life.

I suspect that the Tories and Lib Dems were divided on the issue and voted according to their consciences. The Labour Party, on the other hand, have been known to be intolerant towards pro life members. So much that the Labour Life Group are not allowed to hold fringe meetings at their conferences. The only grounds for being on 'Emily's list' (the all woman short list) was that one supports 'a woman's right to choose'. Therefore it is disputable as to how many Labour MPs would actually vote with their consciences on the issue rather than that of the whips.

Meanwhile this came from the 'Abortion Rights' Pressure group:

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has launched a parliamentary campaign to drive back women’s abortion rights. Dorries has tabled a Ten Minute Rule Bill calling both for a reduction in the time limit for abortion and the introduction of a mandatory delay in service provision. This is in the context of a concerted campaign by the anti-choice lobby to confuse opinion over a woman’s right to make her own abortion decisions and to build support for successive restrictions in abortion rights.

Please email or phone your MPs office and ask them to be in the Chamber on Tuesday 31st October, from 2.30, to vote against this attack on women’s crucial reproductive rights. MP's email addresses follow the following pattern: Their office can also be contacted via the House of Commons switchboard on 020 7219 3000.
Please let us know what responses you get.

I have said what I will about the 'mandatory delay in service provision'. But I will point out that nobody is trying to 'confuse opinion'. The facts, medical and scientific, are there for people to make up their own minds accordingly. If you believe that foetal development is irrelevant to the availability of abortion provision then so be it. But please do not lie and claim that any inquiries into the matter are 'anti choice' (sic) nor dismiss any findings which are not to your liking as pseudo science (which is what this lobby does repetitively).

'Crucial reproductive rights' are also a subjective matter. Not every woman (or every feminist for that matter) holds unlimited abortion to be such a crucial right as does this group. As their propaganda is so full of distortions I strongly dispute this groups professed concern for women. They don't even represent the views of all feminists, let alone all women, as I've mentioned before.

But what grates on me is their constant promotion of scaremongering and hysteria. Their campaigning always manages to bring their supporters screaming in full blast at the selected time. Their 'week of action' coincided with this bill, and their postcard campaign to MPs had been leading up to the issue being raised in parliament.
They and their supporters regard any restriction or compromise, however mild, as being an all out assault on women's rights and a victory for the so called 'anti choice' lobby. They are only able to see in black and white. Such has been the climate in America for ages and I fear that it may be getting this way here, if the rantings of the Graun's Zoe Williams and other hacks are anything to go by. And especially if the left continues to unconditionally support what is essentially an extremist and one sided group, the propaganda of whom shows no respect for the feelings of women whose experience has not been so positive.

Pole Dancing Kit

What should I make of this 'toy'?. I was initially under the assumption that it was a doll, having recalled seeing a pole dancing doll elsewhere, and got called a 'sectarian moron' and an illiterate (sob) for my error! A careless mistake maybe but not one that warranted that kind of hostility. Anyway, enough for that for the time being.

I would tend to view the sexualisation of childhood as being wrong, and that Tesco were wrong to market the product as a toy. An item of such a description probably belongs in Anne Summers or a similiar shop.

All the same though, is it any different from the constant promotion of sex that children see all the time, in teen magazines and elsewhere? I think not, so it is not something I'd make a big deal over. But I'm sure on this particular issue Scottish Socialist Voice would be in one voice with the Daily Mail.

It is also baffling as to how a group which give condoms (and information on how to obtain abortions) to schoolchildren reconcile this. Perhaps they don't mind children having sex, it's just the association of pole dancing with sex workers that they can't abide. Never mind the fact that this sex toy is not designed for commercial gain, but appears to be designed as an erotic plaything. If you don't mind children having sex then why object to them using toys with it? Say what you will about the commodification of sex etc, but there was a strong sense of moral outrage in the passage quoted on that blog. I am sure that the images children see on television of pop stars and in advertising have more of an impact on them than does any pole dancing toy. Sexualised clothing aimed at children seems to be purely a reflection of a culture they already are subjected to. It is the market finding its niche. The hyper sexualised culture in the West after the commodified sexual revolution is problematic in many ways, but save for jumping on the moral majority bandwagon and asking the State to censor media or ban the sale of items there is little one can do. The State has no right to censor material nor curb sexuality.

Capitalism makes a commodity out of everything. Sex especially perhaps because it is a primal instinct that obviously sells very well. The market works very well in this regard. Ask anyone who works in advertising. It does strike me as being more of a problem when children are targetted - but then I am not of the opinion that children under the age of 16 (or 18-19 in some cases) are really old enough to be having sex anyway. Sex ideally should not be a commodity sold to them. But it is even slightly unrealistic for me to say this, as sex is everywhere in advertising anyway. The only way you could possible keep kids away from it would be to teach them at home and never let them watch tv or read magazines. While parents will do what they can it is probably inevitable that some children will have sex, so if they do it is better they be given access to protection than not. Removing a daft toy from a supermarket will make no difference.

Most objectionable to me is the blanket assertion by the Scottish Socialist Party that all strippers have been or are being sexually abused. But with their latest resolution which advocates the continuation of criminalisation of the sex industry (on the Swedish model, albeit, targetting the 'demand' rather than the 'supply') such nonsense becomes explicable. The text of that resolution and my comments are in the next post down.

Scottish Socialist Party's Prostitution Resolution

Here is the text (note they state their position is 'radical'. It is not radical in the slightest, it is conservative. I also love their use of the patronising term 'prostituted women' - as if they are all being forced!):

Mhairi McAlpine of the SSP Women's Network explains the background to the debate on prostitution in the SSP

The issue of prostitution was first raised at SSP conference in 2003, in response to Margo McDonald’s proposal to establish “tolerence zones” – effectively legalising prostitution in a limited way. There were three proposals on the table – decriminalisation; support for tolerance zones, and the Swedish model of targeting the demand. The issue was remitted for further debate and discussion. The motions were remitted for further discussion, education and debate in the party.

In the three years that have passed, the issue has been debated throughout the party, in branches, at platform meetings and in the Socialist Women’s Network. Following this discussion, this proposal to follow the Swedish model, once a minority position, was brought back for ratification.

The SSP after much debate and discussion concluded that prostitution by definition was violence against women and therefore harmful to them. There can be no tolerance of it. Drug addicted women, migrant women and adult survivors of child sexual abuse make up the vast majority of prostituted women. Those women enslaved by the industry, whether by traffickers, by addiction problems, by poverty, violent partners and pimps or poor mental health must be given support to escape.

Violence towards them even if they consent? But we'll see soon their patronising dismissal of women who do choose to work in this profession as suffering from 'false consciousness' or something of the like. But then what does a 'sectarian idiot' like myself know? I note that no statistics are cited in their assertion about who makes up the majority of prostitutes, as data regarding the sex industry is notoriously unreliable. I agree that women who want to leave the profession should be given help (indeed so should workers in low paid menial jobs which they hate, or migrant workers enslaved by criminal gangs in a number of industries. All should be given benefits, help if they are in need of accomadation and access to education or training). I don't make a special case for sex work, I support help for any workers to leave jobs that they are unhappy in. Nobody should be stuck in any job that they hate. And it is naturally the case that I abhore the stigmatisation of women who have been sex workers, which can require lying on a CV.

Alongside this their position is coercive - criminalisation ensures they will have no choice but to leave. Such 'exit strategies' will possibly end up pressuring these women into taking low paid menial work. Just like the Victorians who advocated 'better employment opportunities' for women - probably in domestic service. The same Victorians whose hearts bled over women involved in prostitution but shed few tears over those exploited by the drugery of the 12 or 14 hour shift in the factory or textile mills.

However, even supposing the traditional data was reliable (and it tends not to be as it is often self serving, taken from mainly street prostitutes in bad beats). But even if almost all women in prostitution were either exploited migrants, drug addicts or survivors of child abuse would even this justify criminalisation? Would this justify infantilising them so and getting the State and it's allies to rescue them 'for their own good'? It would not, as at the end of the day it is not the State's business to regulate sexual behaviour.

The writer of this bilge may not wish to know it but not every migrant sex worker is trafficked or forced either. And many human beings are enslaved by various industries via poverty or other related problems. Asian sweatshop workers are 'enslaved by poverty' to accept work in the conditions they do. Should textile factories therefore be banned?

"Economic coercion to perform sex acts is a violation of women’s integrity and can only be understood within the context of ongoing social and economic discrimination. To criminalise prostituted women is to criminalise the victim."

Economic coercion of anybody into wage slavery is a violation of their intergrity. I don't know why these people claim to be Marxists. I dig the blanket definition of 'victims' too.

"Nonetheless decriminalisation is not the answer, for this is not a victimless crime. Those who use prostituted women are party to a system of enslavement, which brings women from poorer parts of the world to be multiply raped on a daily basis, which keeps women drug addicted to blot out the realities of their experiences, and which causes adult victims of sexual abuse trapped in a cycle of negative sexual relations."

This is true in some cases, but not all. Yet these people can only see in black and white. Sexual slavery involving rape is not even the same thing as a drug addict turning a trick or two for a fix. It's not the same for men on heroin, they tend to do other things to supply their expensive habits as they do not having this option.

The phenomena of human trafficking for sexual slavery of course needs to be addressed. But it should be done from the framework of fighting all forms of forced or debted labour that migrant workers endure, not only sex slavery. Along with this should come opposing the immigration controls that encourage criminals to transport and exploit vulnerable economic migrants. Tackling trafficking should not be used as an excuse to clamp down on all sex workers by painting them all as slaves, as is done so often. This is a classic example of where the lines are blurred between consensual sex and what is effectively rape.

This group makes little noise about the migrant workers enslaved in other industries who have zero resources and and no recourse to the authorities as they may face deportation. Such was the case with the Chinese cockle pickers who died, most of whom were working under debted labour for a gangmaster. Yet nobody is calling for a clampdown on the fishing industry.

I also note that no mention is made of gay male prostitutes or rent boys. Typical. Just like victim feminist dicussions on porn never mention gay porn, or they know their position would come flying down.

Those prostituted women who believe that they are freely “choosing” to sell sex are not criminalised by the SSP’s position but can access the resources they need to stay safe and reduce ill health. Therefore there needs to be resources in place so that all prostituted women can access the required resources they need without fear of reprisals or criminalisation.

Now this is my favourite. Those 'prostituted' (sic) women who 'believe' that they are freely "choosing" to sell sex? This in effect means that they are not really choosing freely, they only believe they are. In which case either they are stupid, mentally ill or suffering from some severe false consciousness, unlike their enlightened and liberated sisters in the Scottish Socialist Party. Women are miracously able to consent to having an abortion (not even just adult women, but also teenagers I will add), yet they cannot consent to accepting money for sex.

What bilge, and how insulting to the intelligence. If their thesis was true groups like the International Sex Workers Union or Coyote would not exist, if sex workers were really so downtrodden and/or dumb. Neither would the CIS.

This is not feminism, nor is it empowering in the slightest. It is profoundly disempowering. Those who accept the victim label will be rendered inert by self pity, and those who don't will surely risk inciting the wrath of these would be redeemers (as Claudia once stated).

Resources are already in place under the current system - they can access health services and support groups already without being prosecuted, so they are stating nothing new. All criminalisation of clients will do would be to rip the women of their livelihood, regardless of their wishes. This is why this approach is so elitist and condescending.

The SSP has taken a ground breaking step. While our internal discussions were going on, the Scottish Executive was also debating the issue through a public consultation. While all of the submissions highlighted the vulnerability of prostituted women and the dangers inherent in the industry, the premise of the final report was that the duty of the state was to manage prostitution. In contrast we believe that the paid abuse of women is intolerable and, far from being “managed”, must be eradicated.

Yes, prostitutes are so dumb. They are not only being abused without their knowlege by men they associate with but are also accepting money for this privilege (paid abuse!). Yes, it is the 'duty' of the State to keep these slags in line by criminalising the perverts who they allow to abuse them.

It has always been debated on whether or not prostitution would exist in the socialist society the SSP supposedly dream of and fight for, but to eradicate prostitution under capitalism? Give me a break. Poverty can never be eradicated under capitalism, for starters. The only way you can eradicate poverty is to eradicate capitalism. And without eradicating poverty it would be impossible to eradicate prostitution. And even if you did eradicate poverty - in a money system it is very likely that there would still be a market ofr the purchase of sex. Some men will not stop being alienated and lonely, and some women will see nothing wrong in exchanging sex acts for money. They may like the flexible hours and may not want a regular job. It would probably only be possible for prostitution to be eradicated if the total transformation of human relationships came about that is dreamt of by some socialists. I used to believe in this dream but I now think it is rather utopian.

We want to see a Scottish wide education programme to highlight the realities of the industry and of the experiences of women trapped within it and send a clear signal to anyone contemplating purchasing sex that it is unacceptable by bringing in legislation aimed at outlawing the purchase of sex.

What about the experiences of women who choose to stay within it? No chance of that, as they would demolish the theory and the sickening attitude behind it. Why don't the consult the IUSW branch in the GMB?

It is sickening. The only policy a left wing party should have is the decriminalisation of prostitutes (and support any attempt by sex workers to fight back by unionising). Anything more than that, positive or negative, is just too private a matter to have a party line on. I do not deny that there are many problems in the sex industry. But unlike these moralisers I believe that they can be lessened by decriminalisation of the industry. Criminalisation creates a situation where women are vulnerable to abuse due to the illegal nature of their work. Prostitution laws are similiar in a sense to the drug laws, an essentially victimless crime being made more dangerous by prohibitive policies. The picture drawn of sex workers by the SSP is a stereotype, encouraged by the government and it's allies in the media. Clearly the organised wing of the sex industry has much to do in challenging this stereotype.

Think what you will of the sex industry, it has been shown that criminalising women does not stop it. And what about the proposals to criminalise men for purchasing sex? For a critique of the Swedish prostitution laws go here. Demonising a whole industry where women work and writing off the women who choose to work in it as being stupid or mad if not coerced is not feminist. It is moralistic and conservative crap.

I say no to any prohibitive policies that will only continue to socially stigmatise prostitutes for the work they do and endanger them - and no the moralising politicians who propose them, be they of the left or right.

Meanwhile there are good sources here and here on the attitude of the Victorians towards prostitution. It seems little has changed in some quarters. The SSP seem to have their own ideas about building modern day Urania Cottages, shelters that will reclaim the fallen women for lives of virtue (their proposed 'safe houses' and 'exit strategies' suggested previously).
Hence anybody who reads between the lines will see there is nothing 'radical' about these ideas - they are simply a rehash of the patronising morality of the Victorians.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mother Tried for 'Familial Homicide'

This mother can well be criticised for having let domestic abuse continue to such a point, and for not having seeked help. But she should not be imprisoned. I am inclined to believe her when she says she was scared by the threats of her partner to kill her. Like all victims of domestic violence she believed she loved the abuser, and seemed to have been blinded emotionally (she claimed she did not believing he had killed her child until she heard him admit it in court).

Her crime has been to have gotten involved with a man who was highly unpleasant and seriously disturbed, to put it mildly. Her inaction over the abuse of her child is detrimental, but she should not be treated as a murderer. If anything she is a victim too, even if she is not blameless for the event.

Pornography, Erotica and L'Histoire d'O

Laura may be right, I tend to go with the view that abusers are made, not born. But I doubt it is down to pornography.

I got thinking a little when one of the contributers to that thread on her blog differentiated porn from erotica. I pointed out that the lines are often blurred, but there also appears to be an implicit snobbery in arguments which are pro erotica but anti porn. Erotica tends to be highbrow material while what tends to be classified as porn tends to be cheaply produced and lacks artistic merit. One person's porn may well be another's erotica. Where, for instance, do Black Lace novels fit in? Are they porn for women or erotica? I wouldn't like to say really. Or what of the French movie 'Baise Moi', containing graphic scenes of sex and violence? It was not generically porn as it was not designed soley for titillation, yet you would be hard pressed to define it as 'erotica'. It's simply a violent film with images of real sex. But those who support banning pornography of any description would be inconsistent if they did not apply it to this movie. This is what makes the proposed law, banning people from holding 'extreme violent pornography' look subjective and almost impossible to impliment (leaving aside the issue of civil liberties). The fact that 'Baise Moi' was made by a woman makes no difference to it's contents.

I had to mention the Story of O as that is one particular work where the boundaries are somewhat blurred. The novel was written by a woman, yet when the author of the piece was unknown her gender was disputed, often by feminists. Part of this was obviously due to the masochism of the fantasies and the totally submissive nature of the female character, whose will ended up being totally broken by libertines of the Sadean nature. But I also suspect it was due to the prurient and Victorian view that a woman could never write such 'depravity', that such fantasies were the province of the male. The virtue of womankind dictates that she must be sexually pure.

This is obviously false as women do have submissive fantasies. Some feminists seemed to buy into the Victorian view of female nature and idealised women the same way that some Marxists (especially of the Leninist nature) idealised the working class. It was a naive and patronising view which was also elitist in nature, implicitly laying down a restrictive code of sexual conduct.

The author of the novel did write it for her partner Jean Paulhan, who was a fan of Sade's literature. This does raise a few questions about how 'in control' she was when creating the novel, but it does not mean she was under duress or suffering any kind of 'false consciousness'. Paulhan himself claimed to have felt slightly disturbed by some of the scenes. I am not easily shocked but I couldn't help but cringe a little, and it was not a comfortable read. But such literature is interesting due to what it may say about fantasy and the subconscious in relation to sexuality.

Such a novel could not have been written in English. It's surrealistic tone the whole way through, along with it's Sadean ethos, put it firmly in the French tradition of erotic literature.
What a nightmare vision of the future. Neither unrealistic nor the first such article, though.

Hug a Hoodie....

I never thought I would see the day when the Tories attack a Labour government seemingly from the left, even if it is just spin.