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Nederlog

August 17, 2015
Crisis: Amnesty, Pentagon, Unemployed Brits, Ecuador, US Department Stores

 "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction

1.
Amnesty International: Protecting the ‘Human Rights’ of
     Johns, Pimps and Human Traffickers

2. It’s Not The First Time Military Reporters Have Fought
     The Pentagon Over Wartime Reporting

3. Unemployed young people will be sent to work boot
     camp, says minister

4. Ecuador hits back at UK criticism over Julian Assange
5. DEPARTMENT STORE RESULTS IMPLODING



This is a Nederlog of Monday, August 17, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges I don't quite agree with; item 2 is about an article about the Pentagon's new "Law of War Manual", that seems pretty sick to me; item 3 is about a British conservative proposal to degenerate and punish all 18-21 year olds by "dedicated job coaches" (according to The Guardian); item 4 reports Ecuador's fine and valiant criticism of the sick British government's approach to Julian Assange; and item 5 is an interesting article that outlines that the U.S. depart- ment stores' results are much worse than one would have expected in "a booming economy" with a mere "5.9% unemployment".

1. Amnesty International: Protecting the ‘Human Rights’ of Johns, Pimps and Human Traffickers

The first article of today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

The decision by Amnesty International’s decision-making forum, the International Council Meeting, to call for the decriminalization of prostitution is another in a long line of triumphs for heartless neoliberal economics and the grotesque commodification of human beings that defines predatory capitalism.

Salil Shetty, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said: “Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse. Our global movement paved the way for adopting a policy for the protection of the human rights of sex workers which will help shape Amnesty International’s future work on this important issue.”

In the sickness of modern culture, the ability to exploit with impunity is distorted into a human right even by a renowned and respected humanitarian organization. That is quite a card trick.
I like Chris Hedges, but I disagree, although I know the issue - which is in the end: should prostitution be legalized - is very difficult, very problematic and surrounded with lots of hypocrisies of many kinds.

But first as to prostitution. I am a heterosexual male of 65 who never had sex for money, never went to a prostitute, and never will: I completely disapprove of getting sex for money, and always have. It's obscene and sick, in my schema of moral values.
[1] It is possible I am a bit abnormal and it is also true that I had no trouble finding women who wanted sex when I was younger, but these are the facts.

Then again, I live in a city where there are lots of prostitutes since more than 500 years, and where their legal position has been nearly all that time rather murky. The probably best description is that it was "tolerated-but-forbidden", that is, it was illegal-but-allowed, with large liberties for the mayors, the police and the courts to interpret the law and its failures.

The fact that this murky legal status for prostitutes lasted more than 500 years in the city I live in (Amsterdam) shows it is a genuine problem. Now as to Amnesty's decision. It seems to me one realistic question Chris Hedges does not consider is this: Will criminalizing prostitution help the prostitutes? This is related to another question: What about the pimps and human traffickers? Are these activities legalized if prostitution itself is legalized?

For in fact, I take it the main problem with prostitution are not the women who prostitute themselves, but the men who generally command them and take most of the money they make. How can you loosen the bonds that bind them and the
women they send out to sell themselves?

It would seem to me that decriminalizing selling oneself for money, while keeping pimping and human trafficking illegal (and indeed raising punishments for these), overall is the best policy, and that - mostly - because criminalizing prostitution as well as pimping and human trafficking gives the women even less chances. And again, the main problems are the pimps and the human traffickers, much rather than the women who are forced to prostitute themselves.

Chris Hedges seems to agree with - at most - half of this. He argues thus:

Women and girls who are prostituted should be treated not as criminals but as victims. The criminals are the johns and the pimps and traffickers who profit from the sale of human flesh. Decriminalizing prostitution, which allows these modern slave masters to openly ply their trade, means the exploitation will grow explosively. We must work to create a world where those who are dispossessed of their human rights are not forced into this dilemma.
I agree prostitutes are not criminals, and are best regarded as victims. But who said that decriminalizing prostitution does or should make pimping or human trafficking legal? Why not make prostitution legal and make or keep pimping (taking money from a girlfriend who made money having sex with others) and
human trafficking illegal? [2]

Chris Hedges also has this line of argument:
The world has been turned upside down. Every sentence uttered by the pro-prostitution lobby—that prostitution is about choice, that prostitution is about empowerment, that legalizing prostitution protects women—is a lie. But we are a culture awash in lies, and amid this flood it is hard for many to separate illusion from reality.
I agree I live in "a culture awash in lies", but I definitely did not say and do not think that prostitution "is about choice" or "is about empowerment" - but I should
like to know how criminalizing prostitution would help the women who have to prostitute themselves. (Again, I am sttongly for criminalizing pimping and human trafficking.)


Here is the last argument by Chris Hedges, which indeed is considerably better, and also - but implicitly - broaches an idea that Hedges did not mention (in the last link, from which I will quote):
Prostituting women and girls is a lucrative business. Germany, which legalized prostitution in 2002, is now being called “Europe’s biggest brothel.” It has industrialized sexual exploitation with a terrifying corporate efficiency. Over a million men a day engage in these transactions, sexually exploiting women and girls who come mostly from poor countries in Africa and Eastern Europe. These women and girls have been shipped to Germany to satiate the physical desires of the affluent and enrich the pimps and traffickers who control them. The women and girls do not do this because it is a choice. They do this because they are desperate and poor. The German magazine Spiegel published an investigative piece that lays out this abuse in detail, “How Legalized Prostitution Has Failed.”
This last linked article (in Spiegel On Line of 2013) is indeed quite interesting. I will quote two bits from it.

First, about the situation in Germany, where prostitition was legalized:
Has Germany's prostitution law improved the situation of women like Sina? Five years after it was introduced, the Family Ministry evaluated what the new legislation had achieved. The report states that the objectives were "only partially achieved," and that deregulation had "not brought about any measurable actual improvement in the social coverage of prostitutes." Neither working conditions nor the ability to exit the profession had improved. Finally, there was "no solid proof to date" that the law had reduced crime.
I accept that. But then the Swedes are mentioned, who did something quite unexpected in 1999:
In 1999, when Sweden made it illegal to buy sexual services, its European neighbors could hardly believe it. For the first time, it was the customers and not the prostitutes who were being punished.
(...)
Sweden punishes the customers, pimps and human traffickers, not the prostitutes. This approach is intended to stifle demand for sex for money and make the business unprofitable for traffickers and exploiters.
That seems a sensible idea to me: Prostitution is legal, but being a paying customer of a prostitute is not. Again, this program also has difficulties, but
it seems the least irrealistic, so to speak. (And yes, I agree morally with it,
for I think you simply should not buy sex. Period.)

2. It’s Not The First Time Military Reporters Have Fought The Pentagon Over Wartime Reporting

The next article is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

The Pentagon’s massive new Law of War Manual drew criticism from the New York Times editorial board on Monday for its section on how to treat journalists, which the Times said would “make their work more dangerous, cumbersome and subject to censorship.”

The manual delineates the military’s power to embed journalists with U.S troops, censor their work, and even deem them “unprivileged belligerents” should they be suspected of somehow spying for, or supporting the work of, the enemy. Legally, people deemed “unprivileged belligerents” are no longer considered civilians, and are afforded even fewer protections than actual combatants.

The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern that the manual would allow for arbitrary detention of journalists as well as lower the bar on freedom of the press internationally, in a time when a record number of reporters are being murdered and captured abroad. In particular, for reporters who write critically of U.S. efforts, the line between spy or insurgent and journalist might become blurred.

Organizations representing military and foreign correspondents are also raising concerns about the new legal guidelines. The Military Reporters and Editors Association announced this week that it intends to contact the Pentagon to urge them to revise the guidelines.

This seems a totalitarian law. The military should have no power "to censor their work" ("their" = "journalists'"); the "embedding" of journalists seems mostly a sick way to take away many of their means of reporting; and it is insane and very totalitarian to demand that journalists should agree to the many crazy wars the Pentagon thinks it is entitled to.

There is more in the article.

3. Unemployed young people will be sent to work boot camp, says minister

The next article is by Rowena Mason and Frances Perraudin on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock has denied that a government plan to send young unemployed people to boot camps to prepare them for work was a form of punishment.

“We are penalising nobody because nobody who does the right thing and plays by the rules will lose their benefits,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday. “In fact this is about giving more support to young people.”

The senior Conservative, who heads David Cameron’s earn or learn taskforce, will set out plans for jobseekers aged between 18 and 21 to be placed on an intensive activity programme within the first three weeks of submitting a claim.

They will get an initial three-week intensive course of practising job applications and interviews, which will then be regularly reviewed by a dedicated job coach.

"Dedicated job coaches"?! Why does The Guardian reproduce this sick Tory propaganda?! I know Holland is not Great Britain, but I have had 31 1/2 years of experience with the Dutch dole, in which I met just two (2) civil servants who did not behave as if they were sado-fascists (that is: compared to my father and grandfather, both of whom were locked up as "political terrorists" in German concentration camps, that my grandfather did not survive; compared to their own bureaucratic colleagues this may be quite different).

Anyway (those who read Dutch can read my "
Moorddreiging Amsterdamse ambtenaren" i.e. the many threats with murder I received from two Amsterdam civil servants, who also offended my mother as "a dirty cunt-whore", and myself as a "fucking, stinking queer", who went completely unpunished, though they clearly behaved as sadists and fascists to many of the Surinams and Muslims who wanted dole, in 1984)...

Here is the response of the only man I know of (including females) I can take at least halfway serious in the British Labour Party:

Responding to the announcement, a spokesman for the Corbyn campaign said: “This is another punitive turn by this Conservative government that is failing young people. They have cut further education places, driven a punitive welfare regime that has failed to reduce youth unemployment, and are raising university fees and taking away grants.

“As it takes away opportunities for young people to earn or learn, this government is blaming young people rather than addressing the real problems. It proposes more free labour from the young with fewer rights, and will be resisted by young people and Labour MPs.”

Yes, indeed.

4. Ecuador hits back at UK criticism over Julian Assange

The next item is by Press Association on The Guardian:

This continues yesterday's article on Julian Assange, to which I refer first. Here I will only quote Ecuador's reply:

Ecuador’s acting foreign minister, Xavier Lasso, said he categorically rejected the accusations. “It is not acceptable to try to place the responsibility for the lack of progress in this area over the last five years on Ecuador.”

If diplomatic relations had been abused it was the British government that had done so, he said, recalling that it had threatened to “violate the immunity of diplomatic premises” and maintained a police cordon outside the embassy in London.

“The British government has the sole responsibility for such an invasive and unnecessary police deployment,” Lasso said.

“The republic of Ecuador will not take lessons from any foreign government, least of all those that are unaware of the institution of political asylum, its legitimacy, attached and enshrined in international law, and its humanitarian nature based on the sovereign equality of nations.”

Bravo!

5. DEPARTMENT STORE RESULTS IMPLODING

This last item is by JimQ on Washington's Blog:

This starts as follows (and I am sorry for the capitals, but they are in the original):

The government issued their monthly retail sales this past week and four of the biggest department store chains in the country announced their quarterly results. The year over year retail sales increase of 2.4% is pitifully low in an economy that is supposedly in its sixth year of economic growth with a reported unemployment rate of only 5.3%. If all of these jobs have been created, why aren’t retail sales booming?

The year to date numbers are even worse than the year over year numbers. With consumer spending accounting for 70% of our GDP and real inflation running north of 5%, it’s pretty clear most Americans are experiencing a recession, despite the propaganda data circulated by the government and Fed. The only people not experiencing a recession are corporate executives enriching themselves through stock buybacks, Wall Street bankers using free Fed Bucks while rigging the the markets in their favor, politicians and government bureaucrats reaping their bribes from billionaire oligarchs, and the media toadies who dispense the Deep State approved propaganda to keep the ignorant masses dazed, confused, and endlessly distracted by Cecil the Lion, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, Ferguson, and blood coming out of whatever.

In fact, this is the beginning of a fairly long article that does support its title. Here is a bit from near the end:

The truly disturbing revelation from the Census Bureau data and the terrible financial results being reported by some of the biggest retailers in the world is that it is occurring with unemployment at 5.3%, the economy in the sixth year of a recovery, and a Fed who has pumped $3 trillion into the banking system while still keeping interest rates at 0%. What happens when we roll back into the next official recession, unemployment soars, and consumers really stop spending?

What is revealed when you look under the hood of this economic recovery is that it is a complete and utter fraud. The recovery is nothing but smoke and mirrors, buoyed by subprime auto debt, really subprime student loan debt, corporate stock buybacks, and Fed financed bubbles in stocks, real estate, and bonds.
I fear that is mostly true, though I would probably have said that this holds for the 90% and possibly not for the 10% of the richest: There is some growth in the economy - but any benefits go to the richest 10%.

--------------------------------------
Notes
[1] I am aware of the argument that, as a male, who lived with women, I "must have effectively paid them", but I am sorry: that is utter baloney. I lived with them because I loved them and they loved me; I never married; and I also never lived with a woman I didn't love. Also, I never paid women, for they made or had their own money, and all the time I lived with a woman I also had a less-than-legal income.

[2] Giving legal proof that a pimp pimped will be difficult, but it will be even more difficult if prostitution itself is illegal. Or so it seems to me.

Then again, as the end of the article (at least: in Nederlog) makes clear, there is another alternative, namely the Swedish one, where prostitution is legal, but buying prostitutes is illegal. This seems best to me.

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