Live from the Zoo

What they think of us

Another day, another young black man dead.

Saturday afternoon, Michael Brown was walking home with a friend in Ferguson, Missouri, a predominantly black suburb of St Louis. According to the friend, a cop pulled up to them in a truck and yelled at them to get back on the sidewalk, to which they replied that they were close to home anyway & weren’t holding up any traffic. Since going by the pictures of the area it’s a residential neighborhood, this makes obvious sense. However, rather that swallow his pride & head to the nearest donut shop, the cop according to multiple witnesses — the friend with Mike and others — got enraged enough to swerve his vehicle in front of them, fling open his door so quick it hit Brown & bounced back, then reach out the window & grab Brown attempting to choke him.

Now, naturally when someone is trying to strangle you, you try to get away, which he did.  The cop reacted by firing multiple times at someone running away, unarmed. Hit but still alive, Mike stopped, threw his hands up, & proclaimed that he was not armed. With ones hands up in the air, and already with a bullet wound, you would think that the idea of being a threat would be absolutely Looney Toons. Well, not to that cop: he stood over Michael Brown and fired several more times.

Michael Brown, 18, was merely walking in the street. For that, he was executed in public, then his corpse was left exposed in the road for several hours. Like roadkill. Try to imagine the psychological effect of that, the message it sends about the perceived worth of their lives.  I’ve literally seen squashed armadillos picked up faster.

A protest & vigil came up, as tends to occur whenever this happens (and it does happen a lot). The reaction of the police to this was to run their vehicles over the vigil & threaten the protesters. By the way: you may have heard from some media sources that the protesters were chanting “kill the police” — this has already been debunked by others who were there. Though honestly I wouldn’t blame them if they did.

Amidst images of cops wielding dogs at peaceful protesters with their hands up, SWAT vehicles rolling around and the deployment of pretty much military gear, somewhere along the line some rioting and looting took place. I admit, I used to be more skeptical of such things. I had partially internalized the view that concerned itself with Sending The Wrong Message, the view that playing ball with respectability politics was the thing to do. That was a long time ago though. I see how people that follow that idea are treated no different, and have concluded that to the police, to the system, to the state, dissent is in and of itself seen as a violent act regardless of the actual behavior conducted. If we are going to be brutalized regardless, why bother with the distinctions? Desperate times an’ all that…

To just be brutally honest here, only bone I have to pick with those that did the rioting aspect was their target. I recall reading about a situation in Mexico awhile back where a town long abused by a corrupt police force actually armed themselves and ran the cops out. If the ostensible point of the 2nd Amendment is indeed as tea party types describe it, as defense against tyranny at the hands of the state, then surely they’d sympathize if the people of Ferguson did such thing, maybe even support them, right?

(insert sound effect of crickets here)

In the days since, the police state has ramped up in its visibility like a giant moth emerging from a cocoon. Cops are waving around automatic weapons and in full gear for war:

occupied america

They’ve taken to threatening, then banning media from the area (so much for that 1st Amendment, huh…). Ferguson, Missouri even has its airspace restricted for the benefit of the police. You know, the terrain may be different, but this whole thing shrieks echos of the IDF invasion of Gaza, or the US invasion of Iraq. When hawkish politicians speak of places overseas as training areas for violent extremists though, I strongly doubt this is what they had in mind, despite its truth. Even torture is a line that has long been crossed, as the case of former Chicago police commissioner Jon Burge proves. The streets of America are treated like war zones, and people are beaten or slaughtered for approaching someone with a badge & uniform with anything beyond “Yes, massa”… yet police act puzzled when Stop Snitching is a thing. Well, who wants to be seen as a collaborator with the occupying forces, with the enemy?

The scene at the top, with the officer’s quote to the protesters, is illuminating. Animals. That’s what they think we are. We’re animals in a cage, & they are the zoo keepers. Well, Mr zoo keeper, here’s our response: we’re getting hungry.

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Posted in fevered barking, law | 1 Comment

On Necessity

Due to unfortunately not heeding a hint about concentration of power so clear that it shows up in Americas Finest News Source, it is still considered to be important what people like Paul Ryan think about things. Taking advantage of that position, Ryan has been holding hearings in the house of representatives, the subject of which has been poverty. In an unexpected twist, Tianna Gaines-Turner (an actual poor person) testified at the hearing held this past Thursday.

A House GOP rep from Indiana, Todd Rokita, made a remark about government spending on the poor to her, one which he thought was a Reductio Ad Absurdum. What she said in response is basically being treated as Prog Soundbite Gold — which is why the link preceding these words goes to Think Progress. After she agrees with what the rep saw as absurd, this exchange followed:

He followed up saying, “But the cycle of dependency would certainly still be there which you also don’t like… The cycle of dependency, you wouldn’t be independent.”

“I’m independent now on the program,” Gaines-Turner told him. “You’re independent on this?” Rokita asked.

“Yes, I consider myself to be very independent. I work just as hard as anybody in this room,” Gaines-Turner replied. “I’m very independent.”

I’d say in terms of hard work if anything Tianna was being way too modest. With the exception of if a janitor for the building had wandered in during the hearing, it is safe to say that she was the only one in the room that provides a useful service. Yet though I sympathize with her situation, I’m admittedly puzzled of her meaning of independence. While I don’t subscribe to the myth of everyone being nothing more than an island unto themselves, and see cooperation as a vital and necessary part of society, I would not define a condition of needing assistance as being independent, whether the aid were administered by the state or not. Needing the generosity of others to survive seems to me rather on its face synonymous with depending on them, with dependence. To be independent, in my view, is to not have such constraint due to need.

There is a fear I now have that this may be misinterpreted. I do not mean to denigrate her or anyone else for merely needing help. I know this position well, as I’m only caught up on my rent & about to get my car fixed because of the generosity of friends & followers. If I were at that hearing then it would’ve had two poor people participating instead of one. What I seek about her side of this is understanding, as her use of term honestly sounds alien to me.

Todd, on the other hand I have no such care about. He does not deserve mercy.

A brief search on Mr Rokita shows he voted in support of a bill that would effectively ram through Keystone XL and any other cross border oil & gas pipeline projects, in total ignorance & unconcern about the use of eminent domain to steal land for the oil industry. He also voted in favor of the “farm bill” that was notable for maintaining extensive subsidies to agribusiness while cutting the SNAP program*, and was a Yea vote on the National Defense Authorization Act despite $600,000,000,000 being cartoonishly shameless overkill for any sane concept of “defense” — but no doubt lucrative to arms manufacturers. It appears that the “dependence” Todd rails against is A-OK for Monsanto, oil companies, and Boeing, as is usually the case with politicians who drag out that cliche.

The problem here goes further than Todd however, he’s just a symptom of the constant misdiagnosis of who takes & who makes. The contradictions of capitalism the reality versus capitalism the myth shine with the extensive state backing of wealth, meanwhile use of revolt insurance is a mass thing and people like Tianna find that employment isn’t enough to feed her kids. I strongly doubt this is coincidence.

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Posted in economics, fevered barking | 4 Comments

Alito and the expected pretzel

First, for any newcomers, a primer on my view of public government sector unions:

-I am staunchly pro-labor. At the same time, I oppose the existence of the state. A look at how workers have been treated by governments over time, and how regularly states back up capital in several ways, disproves the commonly peddled idea that the two are a contradiction.

-That said, there are some things that workers currently defined as government employees do that would not — indeed could not, on basic reality grounds — simply go *poof*. To oppose the government school is not to oppose education or educators, and trash disposal would still be necessary, for examples. To the extent an actual service is provided that is not predicated on force & intimidation, that would be sought out voluntarily in a post-state society, I’m with them on that.

-Much of the rage currently directed at government sector organizing that fits the above criteria (that is, NOT COP UNIONS) is based on a misreading of the total labor landscape: private sector labor power got thoroughly crushed first.

Why this is relevant is because today the ruling in Harris v Quinn came out from, from… what’s that group of people in the robes in the fancy building with a huge security zone around it called again? Right, the Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court dealt a blow to public sector unions Monday, ruling that thousands of home health care workers in Illinois cannot be required to pay fees that help cover the union’s costs of collective bargaining.

In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with the positions that unions take.

On principle I agree, no one should be able to force you to contribute to a cause you oppose. Yet there is a sleight of hand in how they describe what’s going on. See, the union is required to represent and bargain for non-members whether they pay or not, thanks to the organizing system imposed by the government. So what is portrayed as a matter of conscience and freedom of association is instead the mandating of a free rider problem. Why is it not the case that one can, if they for some reason oppose the union, cease dues paying while the union ceases the activity for them that the dues paying funds? Why is it not seen as equally injurious to free association to force providing free benefits?

Try to imagine if there were a law that said 7-11 had to give out free slurpies to people who prefer other convenience stores. Or free lottery tickets to people that opposed gambling. Ridiculous, no?

Such is the logic of the state. The most reasonable answer is never an option.

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The Floor is open

As little as popular sentiment has to do with what the State does — and really, it has precisely squat to do with it unless particular interests agree already — I do at times find the results of polling amusing. I do so both for futility plus amusement reasons & for what messages they may say (if anything) about how the masses interpret their predicament and Where To Go Next.

Recently, a Gallup poll result showed a large gap between approval of the US Congress and the police/military — who get their orders from the same entity that according to the poll people disapprove of. For reference, I’ve included an image of such below*. On its face, this is illogical — soldiers get their orders from congress, after all, and what the cops do is to enforce the laws that the US congress and the executive branch have decided should be enforced.  Yet, I’m of the mind that due to how little influence the average person has, that they’re discouraged from the start from rationality when it comes to decisions. When ones view doesn’t matter, incentive to have an informed one evaporates, y’know?

So, what I am curious about is the following: why the contradiction? Why do people, according to this survey, separate so neatly that which the view of the system we’re commonly taught says is incorrect? Why do Americans ascribe such confidence to pigs & soldiers while withholding confidence from who tells pigs and soldiers what indeed to do?

*Here’s the result image:


I made a remark about this on Twitter the other day, resulting in a bit of something that could be seen as snark from our old Stopped Clock friend Matt Yglesias.

My initial thought is that this is a paradox of crossing the ideological fable of oligarchical pluralism equaling “democracy” with the decisions of such being more hidden when it comes to police & military action, combined with the proto-fascist desire of some for “Decisive ACTION!” against what they see as the flaws of public debate# (read: semblance of actual functioning democracy). But I don’t post this time for what I think, rather what you think. Holler.

(# – I get the feeling a particular person may find that angle interesting…)


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Observation Gumbo

Of no particular theme…

-Blaring from the Huffington Post’s front page today was this:


Oh no! Nearly 1/3rd of the global human population is obese! PANIC!! And since this is HuffPo we’re talking about, the likely assumption is this as a problem for politics to step into. However, click to the article and you’ll notice a fudge — the number refers to being obese or overweight, which refer to a quite broad range if their frame of reference is the Body Mass Index. BMI has been subject of criticism over the years for leading to some absurdities like labeling muscular people as obese & drastically downplaying individual factors. More practically speaking, expecting conformity of body type to what is considered by some experts “normal” is about as realistic as expecting your cat to lead a discussion about Bitcoin. People are different, they’re going to be different, some of us like our food and dislike exercise as well as have a slow metabolism, ok?
There is a brief hint in the piece about globalization and availability of processed foods, to which I’ll say to extent this has been encouraged via subsidy & rents to those raking in the money from such of course I don’t find it kosher, but beyond that hey, sometimes people don’t feel like cooking.

By the way, at the other end 12.5% of the world population is actually starving. So maybe this concern for the love handles is a bit misplaced. Maybe. Mull it over?

-Obama campaign, Fall 2012: “Want the war in Afghanistan ended by 2014? Vote for us!!”
Obama administration, damn near halfway through 2014: “Uh… we wanna keep those troops there a couple more years”
Remember when forces finally left Iraq? It wasn’t because of opposition to them being there Obama touted in his first presidential campaign, but because an attempt to keep them there longer fell through due to Iraqi refusal to not prosecute those suspected of abuses. Unless similar spike of base-playing spine arises in Afghanistan, those soldiers are going nowhere. If you’re the religious type, pray for a total fall through.

-A team of chemical weapons inspectors in Syria came under assault yesterday. I’m wondering by which side, to be honest, since the area they were headed for had the Assad regime and the rebels pointing fingers at each other with regard to the initial chemical weapon attack being investigated. The typical fog of civil war blends with reports of who some of the elements on the opposition are, and guess what? The U.S. is going to butt in even further, backing the opposition even more. Now, considering the original stated reason for involvement was Assad regime use of chemical weapons, and the reason those inspectors are even there is because of an agreement to get rid of them, doesn’t this look like steps towards provocation? If U.S. picking of a side continues (they’re already getting arms & training), then doesn’t any incentive to stick to the agreement fall to pieces? What would stop Bashar Assad from concluding Screw It & handing out chemical arms to his forces like skittles?

-A pattern of abuse by cops in Seattle prompted some new guidelines on use of force to be handed down by the feds. In response, a hundred of the pigs are crying, filing a lawsuit claiming the rules put them in danger.
One hundred. That’s a nice round number. In fact it just so happens to be equal to the number of cops that died last year — across the entire country. Click that, there’s even a helpful breakdown of just how they died. To put it bluntly, the depth of fear by cops expressed towards pretty much everyone not in possession of a badge has no grounding in reality. It is simply a dodge for their claim of exemption from the most basic human decency, an excuse to be able to brutalize, even murder you and walk off like it’s nothing.

-Slight revelation the other day concerning Operation Zero Sum… you know those highs that keep getting yakked about in the stock market? As if being completely divorced from ANY semblance of gains for the average person wasn’t enough, here’s some more indication of just how rigged that whole thing is: Q1 numbers are in, and the bulk of stock purchases was… share buybacks. Specifically, share buybacks disregarding price, serving as basically a mass Pump & Dump operation for executives since their compensation is tied to stocks. Corporate bosses are rigging their own pay ever higher on mythical numbers, meanwhile striking fast food workers are met by riot cops. Funny how that works…

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Bloodsuckers World

Some items I feel demonstrative of a whole:

-While Ukraine burns due to the triggering of a (U.S. backed) Fascists versus (Russian state) Fascists proxy fight, amid jockeying over natural gas supplies to the country & further into Europe, Joe Biden’s son just so happens to land position on the board of Burisma — the largest private gas producer in Ukraine. Demand shift due to Russian pressure stands to get him (as well as his dad’s campaign manager) quite a chunk of change.

-Previous revelations in the NSA leaks of economic espionage by the U.S. government on behalf of connected domestic corporations via trade policy advantage are back in the news again due to their holder releasing a book.

-Along with the above, a reminder has been given of just how deeply & broadly complicit in the global dragnet the tech sector is, regardless of how much they may now gripe in public about it. A veritable Who’s Who among the very backbone of modern communications technology sell us up the river for the pleasure of their real client: the surveillance state.

What is it that Hunter Biden’s new job, spying for trade advantage, & 80 global communications corporations acting as buddies to U.S. surveillance regime demonstrate? Just the simplest principle, the most direct application, of What Capitalism Is: the synthesis of government claim to authority and the interests of wealth in order to rob the rest of humanity, be it by fraud or by arms. Screw your customers by loopholing their security! Break your products to obtain inflated government contracts! Sow chaos & shortage then position yourself to profit! What are they gonna do about it, go somewhere else? The conglomerates & their triggermen are calling dibs on the whole planet, so have fun on Mars.


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Tools for the job


The situation in Nevada between Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management is, at least for the moment, at a lull. On that issue, regardless of Bundy’s own general views on politics*, I’m inclined to side with him based on my view that commonly held property and “government property” are not the same thing, the latter being a myth. If the complaint towards him comes from the feds and not the other ranchers in the area — that is, the claimed violation is of authority and not shared access — it is bunk.

There is additional background already out there about the land itself, though at the moment that’s not what brought me to talk about this. In the process of other responses to this case being posted, a larger issue has been touched by those siding against Bundy in a way I find highly contradictory. Over at, prog columnist Elias Isquith, who accepts the government’s case against Bundy, nonetheless takes the pivoting tactic of suggesting of the rancher’s general politics He’s Got A Point. First noting a video that drew attention, he muses about the tactic used to guard against government agents on the scene:

What drew these fine gentlemen to Bundy’s cause? The video of a federal official using a stun-gun on one of the rancher’s adult children surely didn’t help. But police brutality and abuse of power is a normal occurrence in America today, and you don’t see a dozen armed and stone-faced guys show up to the rescue every time someone in the Bronx makes a “furtive movement” and suddenly finds themselves slammed against a brick wall with a police baton jammed into the small of their back. So that’s not it, not really.

Considering the most likely targets of such abuse in NYC are also the most heavily scrutinized in enforcement of “gun control”, as well as the response to past similar attempts at armed resistance to police abuse in urban areas, the rarity of this scenario didn’t exactly emerge from a vacuum. We do however nowadays have the likes of CopBlock, albeit armed with cameras instead of shotguns. Response by the police to this development has been predictable: people attempting to film cops have been threatened, robbed & assaulted even when the letter of the law states people have a right to do so. So much for The Law…

So, if the animating principle behind those that went to that ranch in Nevada and made federal agents back away isn’t reaction to police abuse, what is? I don’t profess to know, but Elias expresses it as simple ideology signifying, that they take up similar worldview as Bundy (which Elias describes as “anti-government libertarian populism”) and say so with their presence. Citing a Gallup poll about distrust of the government in the U.S., he goes into a bit of a tailspin:

[...] one of the reasons this intensifying mistrust is so worrisome is that it’s so obviously justified. Indeed, anyone who’s lived through the past 15 years of American politics — with the secret spying, the secret incarcerations, the secret torture, the secret drone strikes, and the secret indifference to the economic fortunes of the 99 percent — and still trusts their government wouldn’t just be naïve. They’d be a fool.

Only the past fifteen years? Seriously? The only real difference is we find out about things faster today, largely because of technology. As for the dominance of concentrated wealth and immobility of the elite — they’re called “the ruling class” for a reason after all — a time when this was not the case is somewhere with Sasquatch and the Easter Bunny. A few people of means hold control because a few people of means held control before. It’s what they did, it’s what they do.

Following that part is mention of the much talked about Princeton study concluding that the U.S. is an oligarchy, and an anecdote from Elizabeth Warren, the Great Prog Hope. On the first, frankly I find it depressing that such is considered so oddball of a view that it’s thought to need scholarly confirmation for safe airing. Just a sign of how deeply propaganda penetrates when you start young, formalities mistaken for meaning with no regard for what is in front of your eyes. The latter… let’s just cut the crap, she is an insider because she got inside, the fact that she’s in the U.S. Senate and not off in an activist group having her phone tapped & computer bugged marks just how unafraid the elite are of her.

These sentiments sum up to a stance, describable as Angry Progressivism, that doesn’t add up in my mind at all. Consider the depth of the problem as Elias himself admits it: Representative government is a myth, the poor mean squat, the authorities run rampant, the common people are under the foot of oligarchy and a pervasive surveillance state, and empire falsely claimed as our will screams along with no breaks… does this sound like something that can be solved in a voting booth to you?

If the fear with embracing a systemic critique and no longer assuming legitimacy is There Will Be Chaos, I say look around you. The order is chaos.

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Mars demands sacrifice!

Earlier today at a news conference in Brussels, Barack Obama lamented the “diminished” military budgets of other members of NATO, invoking the situation in Ukraine as reminder that “freedom is not free”. This turn of phrase, typically used for domestic sloganeering to the glory of militarism, here is being effectively re-purposed to state an addendum to the usual war cries that arguably further poisons an already toxic view of the world: Empire as Favor, the mighty eagle soaring to carry the slacker deadbeats of Earth above the snake pits they blissfully ignore.

As insulting as this formulation is on face value alone, it leaves open a question that pulls the rug out from under its logic. The statement of U.S. military spending as a thankless burden implies possibility of threat to cease carrying it should the slackers refuse to carry their fair share, does that possibility present itself? With the only argument in D.C. being how much to raise the military budget, rather than whether to do it at all (or, FSM Forbid, actually cut it), the mere thought is laughable. The burden of course in reality lies on the U.S. public in being expected to pay for this in the first place, as well as the populations overseas tending to receive “our” generous gifts in the form of fire raining down on their neighbors, but such talk is UnSerious in the halls of congress.  One cannot claim to be Atlas and close off all possibility of shrugging.

To further muddy the waters, the insistence on global dominance by the U.S. itself in a way actually explains the current balance of military spending by NATO members. Consider the scope of their expected goals, largely basic invasion defense & the occasional logistic aid vs seeking to be able to fight multiple conflicts at once anywhere on the planet. Empire simply costs way more than the basics. Past and ongoing attempts to stretch the defensive concerns of Europe by waving in the general direction of Iran fall apart with slightest attempt to find reason for Iran to do such, and lately decent chunks of the continent have had internal issues involving conflict between a single flawed monetary policy and scattershot fiscal policy far more immediately pressing than future phantoms.

Speaking of claiming threats of beasts on the borders, Obama’s nod towards Ukraine* and what Russia is currently doing there gives a throwback flair: “The Soviets Shall Rise Again!”, with Putin dressed in the Eastern European analog to Confederate garb. Yet, there lays quite obvious reason why his excursions have been so limited: Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty claims attack on one member as attack on all, & calls for backup. Which would mean the U.S. Which would likely mean WW3, possibly even the end of the world. Which even Vladimir Putin is not dumb enough to trigger. In other words, Crimea was a target at least in part because no one is expected to nor wants to actually fight over it. Another part of that has been the expansion post-Cold War of NATO into the former Soviet Bloc, an action which when you think about it makes no sense considering the original point of NATO to begin with. The fear at the birth of NATO was of Soviets invading the West for conquest & resources, yet the first — and to date only – invocation of Article 5 was by the U.S. in response to (largely Saudi-backed) multinational radical Islamists attacking due to blowback from previous American intervention. It seems to me that the response has outlived its challenge so long that it struggles to scream at the slightest thing “see, told ya so!” when Russia is if anything demonstrating its weakness in Ukraine.

Surely there is some incentive to Barack Obama making the complaint that he did that makes sense, if the ones spoken of do not. Call it cynical, but I can’t help but wonder who the governments of those NATO countries, if inspired to pay for “freedom”, would be buying all those Freedom Bombs from…

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Compound Stupidity

So I hear next week the health care “reform” law is going back before the Supreme Court. This time it’s due to claims of religious exemption by employers — Hobby Lobby being the largest party to this — to a mandate for insurance policies to cover contraception. What follows is what I think of all that, point by point:

  • A moment of history: the employer based insurance system is a relic created by an old quirk in New Deal era state/corporate collaboration. Wages for a time were capped, so to get around that benefits in non-wage forms were offered. This calcified over time into an expectation, then into a form of indirect control (workers don’t exert as much mobility if they’re constantly afraid they’ll lose something in the process). Rather than obliterate this piece of boss-empowering nonsense, the “reform” formalized it by way of mandate. For something so cheered in the shriveled pragprog corners, it sure whiffed right past consideration that it’d be weaponized against labor via culture war crap…
  • Due to the system described above, IMO the insurance portion should be seen as additional compensation, basically deferred payment. Try to imagine with a straight face your employer setting rules on what you can and cannot spend your paycheck on & the logic problem shows itself. Since such restrictions on money aren’t feasible, then this marks the insurance benefit as a lesser class of compensation & suggests a direct method to get around it if the U.S. labor movement would only seize it: screw the benefit, demand the wages that would’ve covered it.
  • As the article describes, the point of the legal corporation is to be an entity separate from those that run it. The increasing commonality of claiming strong bonds between one person’s religious beliefs & how the corporation deals with its workers smacks of having ones cake & eating it too: is the company just a profit seeking beast or is it Your Special Baby? Pick one.
  • While we’re at it, let’s remember that corporate status itself as we know it is a government grant of privilege. That is, with its legal benefits in the form of liability limit and sharper division between capital and labor, it is not a structure inherent to market order that’d exist in lieu of the state. Technically, the terms of such can be rewritten, and in this case it was rewritten as a semi-ameliorative matter to a consequence of its existence (selling ones labor to large corporations being the enforced economic norm). Their argument effectively being that it is an injustice to add qualifying terms to a state benefit is quite curious when you consider the types politically on their side are the same ones screaming for food stamp recipients to be drug tested…

In short, we have within a Rube Goldbergian law that enshrines a ridiculous & archaic system a hypocritical conflict from a creature chafing against the rules of its creator. Rather than endure such bickering over control of our lives while we stand helplessly at the sidelines, the goal of labor in this country should be to make this entire damn mess irrelevant.

Posted in law, random shots | 1 Comment

Culture as Straitjacket

Belle Knox on her previous job

Ruth Marcus, opinion columnist for the Washington Post, has heard about Belle Knox, the Duke student that took up a career in pornography to pay her way through college. Upon doing so, she promptly wrote a scathing piece about the cost of higher education, credentialism as an ineffective response to increasing struggle in the U.S. economy, and how the indignity of the kind of low-wage labor Belle was in prior to taking up sex work itself undermines the “dignity of work” sewage spilling forth from conservative corners.

Actually, I’m kidding, she did no such thing.  Instead she wrote a faintpiece about What Our Culture Is Coming To due to a woman having the nerve to not only like sex but enter a profession based on it. In the course of the column, Ruth basically denies Belle being an adult, calls rejection of slut-shaming “faux-feminist” (cuz apparently embrace of ones body & sexuality by a woman is anti-woman?), and laments “hookup culture” as if casual sex & sex work — note the inclusion of the term “work” there — are the exact same thread. All this, while completely whiffing, perhaps even sneering at, a line of argument that would fit into cultural critique while having the added benefit of being correct: if in order to make a remotely decent living as adults we are expected to start our adult life going deeply into debt for credentials, the value of which are plummeting due to basic supply and demand, with us throwing a fit when some take up ways to exit the debt cycle deemed distasteful while the economics we expect everyone to follow actually suggest it’s a great idea, what does THAT say about our culture??

The remark at the top, which Ms Knox provided in an interview after being identified about comparing her past employment experience with her porn work, Ruth uses as the “punchline” to her cultural scold talk about confusing “relative merits” of sex work to waitressing. To this I would like to remind Ruth that with any employment there is a tangible quality to measure, which we in the real world call “money”, and on that measure I find it difficult to imagine even the best waitress touching with tips what the average adult film actress can make. Maybe in Vegas some get close, maybe.

While we’re on the subject of pluses v minuses of porn and waiting tables, the column also contains reference to a common practice in pornography that probably made the author blush when typing it, and which I’m somewhat surprised the Washington Post let remain in description. Of course, what she completely ignores is the aspect of consent: if one lets a sexual partner express their satisfaction in such manner, then that is what they deemed themselves to be okay with, so the view of 3rd parties going “eww, that’s degrading!” is irrelevant. For the record, I am actually not a fan of the practice myself*, but I’d have to imagine due to the consent aspect it beats the routine misogyny and groping that many waitresses across the country endure for $2.13 + tips. Yet she’s expected to continue the latter for the duration of her college life?

For as much as Ruth Marcus detests the choice Belle Knox has made, her ignorance of the context of that choice emerges from a worldview that Ruth has internalized which defines sexuality as inherently offensive and holds that women must be effectively sexless to be “respectable”, the act only considered in hushed tones, behind closed doors, and only for the fulfillment of men. That erasing the agency of women is not seen as an insult while women reclaiming said agency is frowned upon is a sign of just how far we have to go as a society, regardless of how enlightened we claim to be. In trying to point at what she calls sign of a cultural abyss, Ruth Marcus effectively points at herself.

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Posted in fevered barking | 1 Comment