Rape, reporting and retribution

The tone of comments on news articles about rape can seem pretty arbitrary. Far too often they tear into the victim, detailing what she (for simplicity I’m going to refer to non-prisoner victims as female and offenders as male, as that’s not only the most common pattern, but even moreso the most common reported pattern) should have done differently or accusing her of lying. Occasionally, however, the tide turns against the rapist. I suspect part of the difference (as this definitely isn’t universal) stems from the slant of the article itself – when it focuses on the victim/s, commenters blame the victim/s, and when it discusses the rapist/s, commenters blame the rapist/s. Which, really, leads into a long discussion about media responsibility… or perhaps it’s a very short one, namely that they should have more of it.

However this doesn’t mean that the comments blaming rapist/s aren’t pretty ugly themselves. A very common trend is to focus on the assumption that when he goes to jail he, in turn, will be the victim of rape himself.

Even putting aside the radical notion that no one deserves to be the victim of rape there’s a problem here. Rape necessarily requires at least two people – for every person who gets raped, there is at least one person who raped them. So the idea that rape is just part of the punishment for sexual offenders who go to prison requires that you consider who, exactly, is going to be meting out this punishment. The only two viable options are prison wardens and other prisoners, and both are incredibly disturbing when you consider the implications. Because the sort of person willing to rape is someone who gets off on power and control, someone who is able to dehumanise the victim, to treat them with contempt and a complete lack of basic respect. That is not a person you want in a position of authority. You do not want to give that person access to weapons and a job where they are elevated above those around them. Even if you think prisoners deserve it, very few people are able to compartmentalise so effectively that that attitude won’t leak out in other places – and suddenly you have groomed a sociopath who is walking around freely in society, having been told that he’s allowed to use rape as a weapon.

The second option is no less horrifying. It means not only that not all “deserving” prisoners are not being punished in the way these commenters seem to think is appropriate, but that some of them are continuing their crimes in prison, and being told that this is okay. Because we must all know that it is the violent offenders who will be committing this crime. You don’t go to jail for insurance fraud and start acting that way. And let’s be clear – there are many, many, non-violent offenders and innocent people in prisons in Western countries. In the world of the commenters where prison rape is endemic and taken for granted, it’s unlikely that all of them escape being either a victim or an offender, and if they’re unlikely to rape, then that only leaves being raped. Are we saying that someone sentenced for growing marijuana deserves to be raped? Are we really comfortable with the idea that anyone who goes to prison could be victimised? And on the flipside, are we actually okay with some prisoners going to jail not to be punished or rehabilitated, but so they can continue to be violent and abusive until they’re released back into society, with the full implied support of anyone who repeats the prison rape meme?

This is not a world I’m okay with. Personally, I don’t think anyone deserves to be raped, so the whole point is moot, but the implications still add an extra layer of horror for the simple fact that if it’s okay for certain people to be raped, then it must also be okay for people to rape, and this is already a crime where the victims are all too often judged and found wanting. If you make the case that one person deserves to be raped, you open the door to justifying it anywhere, for anyone, whether it’s collateral damage in the form of the wrongly accused and non-violent offenders in prisons or women who dare to step outside the place society has made for them.

Thought and insight from the Herald? Fat chance.

Deborah Coddington is an amazing woman. With no real education in the field whatsoever, she has decided to prove once and for all that nevertheless she is a true expert on nutrition. In fact, she knows far more than those silly researchers with their silly studies using that silly scientific method.

The truth is, fat people are just stupid animals who eat too much.

Sadly, comments are restricted to 1000 characters, so I couldn’t give a very good reply, but needless to say I disagreed. The market has a huge influence on diet. So do other factors. I brushed on epigenetics, for example, a field that studies how environmental factors during pregnancy can actually change the genetic structure of offspring. A particular kind of mouse that’s typically chubby and yellow, fed a particular diet while pregnant, will have skinny grey babies. A lack of required nutrients in the mother’s diet will create offspring who pile on the weight – their bodies believe that they’re in a hostile environment where food is scarce. Interestingly, even people whose maternal grandmothers smoked while pregnant showed a consistently increased likelihood for overweightness.

Putting science aside, there are plenty of social factors as well. The people most likely to be overweight are at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. They’re short on money, high on stress, more likely to be single parents, and for the working poor have little spare time. They may not live in an area with a decent supermarket; access to farmer’s markets is likely to be nonexistent. Produce is expensive, the price of dairy is skyrocketing, good meals take time and effort to cook that a lot of poor people simply don’t have. They don’t have the space or time to grow their own food. Emotional reserves are often exhausted by the time they start thinking about dinner because of all the weighty decisions that need to be made during the day – do I have enough money to fill the car all the way? Will I get fired if I lose my cool with this shitty customer? Did I remember to pay the power bill? – and the small stressors which, ironically, include the very shaming that Deborah Coddington seems to think is some kind of solution to the so-called “obesity epidemic”. These people are more likely to smoke, too, another thing with its own complicated social factors, many of which are interlinked with those behind diet.

Speaking of diet, the cold, hard facts are that the odds of success are (no pun intended) slim. At least 85% of people who go on a diet fail (defined as regaining the weight within a year or not losing it to start with). Run a search on “diet success rate“. Skim down the results that aren’t advertising a particular diet.

Google results for 'diet success rate'

The numbers you see are pretty clear. The diet industry makes a huge amount of money selling the idea that you can slim down and be happy and social and successful like the people in their ads, but in the end they probably do more harm than good.

In the real world, it’s just plain easier to resort to frozen meals and takeaways. You may know they’re unhealthy but don’t see a better choice, or you may be fooled by the packaging – the market spends an awful lot of money on asking experts how best to pretend their food is good for you to draw in customers. Does anyone really think they would do that if it wasn’t effective? You may literally not have access to fresh ingredients because the stores in your range just don’t stock them, or have extremely limited opening hours. (When I lived on Madras St, the nearest supermarket closed at 5pm on a Saturday. Five o’clock.)

We may not be America with the massive government subsidies on corn that lead to the ubiquitous, eternal, constant presence of high fructose corn syrup in everything everywhere, but that doesn’t make us some paradise where everyone can get the perfect diet simply by waving their wand and spinning round in a circle while wishing on a star. One thing that would help, though? Shutting up people like Deborah Coddington.

In politics today

Big news from Australia first – as they celebrate Invasion Day, Tony Abbott stood metres away from the Aborigine tent embassy and made a comment that it needed to be moved on. In response, protesters got pissed. He and Julia Gillard got trapped in a restaurant for about half an hour and she was tripped (not tackled) to the ground, but was eventually hustled out by the riot squad and driven off. For extra reading, a survey about displaying patriotism and racism and a piece about Captain Cook’s theft of the east coast. Things between Aborigine and non-native Australians are pretty fucking tense. (IMO, the tent embassy could well be moved on – to a permanent structure in a prominent location with plenty of funding, with all decisions made by the people running it.)

Incidentally, Waitangi Day’s coming up.

Back in New Zealand, John Key gave his state of the nation speech at Waitakere. Shockingly, it was pure economics. He’s still pushing austerity despite the fact that it doesn’t work and many economists say it just prolongs recessions, while saying that hmm, maybe we won’t be in surplus by 2015 like he said after all, but if we aren’t it’s Europe’s fault, not ours. Meanwhile, nothing about poverty, the environment, the Treaty… For extra reading, a story about someone who found herself $40 better off when she got off the benefit and into full-time work.

Sexism everywhere

A little while ago, I bought a bumper book of logic puzzles – you know the ones? You get a list of clues like “Donald’s holiday wasn’t in France” and “Aroha’s morning jog took her two kilometres further than Jan’s but wasn’t as long as Hemi’s” and you graph them out to figure out who did what when etc.

You would not think such a book would make me want to bang my head against a wall so often. It’s logic puzzles. And yet… the overweight Musketeer’s secret vice is that he eats too much. One puzzle asks you to find the three word translations of the names of five American Indians, with possibilities like Running Mountain Storm. And the sexism. Oh, the sexism.

Things women do: gossip, show off pictures of their grandchildren, read horoscopes, do gymnastics, write fan letters to guys in rock bands, work at salons, pose scantily-clad-ly on cars for a photographer, sell jewelry, visit men in jail, send flower-decorated birthday cards.

Things men do: take their girlfriends on dates for which they pay the bill, fish, have agricultural business meetings, train for marathons, go to sports games, play in tree houses, drive in car races, form rock bands, attend university on sports scholarships, take photos of cars (as a professional photographer), join rowing teams, compete in tennis competitions, go to jail.

And everyone is in a heterosexual relationship. Everyone. If there’s eight people somewhere, chances are about 90% that it’s four straight couples. (It only isn’t if one of the things you have to figure out is the relationship between each pair, such as in the jail puzzle.)

No wonder every so often I feel compelled to flick through and do the ones that have no sociological information whatsoever. Domino searches and battleships and such are something of a relief after being instructed to figure out what scandalous secret Mrs Annie Gossip was telling her neighbour over the fence.

Make love not war

Yesterday I came across this article on Buzzfeed about a gay teen whose screen print order was turned down because it was too positive about the notion of two men fucking. The text she wanted to use was “Why is it that as a culture we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?”

The thing that strikes me though, is that even if you think that homosexuality is wrong, you shouldn’t really have a huge objection to this question. Here’s why:

Holding hands has more than one purpose. While the immediate implication in the quote is that the two men are romantically involved, there are other reasons to hold hands. They could be friends. (In this extremely homophobic society it’s unlikely, but possible.) They might want to avoid losing each other in a crowd. One could be helping the other up off the ground, or they’re clinging to each other for support climbing a steep slope. None of these things are “wrong”, and a few of them are to be lauded.

Holding guns is different. A gun is purpose-built to kill things. They do do more than that, admittedly – the men could have intent to injure only, or merely to threaten or intimidate. Or they could be going hunting for food. But the express purpose of a gun is violence, and the quotation seems to want us to come to the conclusion that this violence is to be against other people.

The Bible says that all commandments hold the same weight, though the Big Ten are often regarded as more important. There’s nothing about homosexuality in the Ten. There is something about killing. You can read the Bible as saying that homosexuality is as bad as gun violence, but you cannot possibly read it as saying that it’s worse.

So, to focus specifically on the two men holding hands part of this quote is to give homosexuality a weight that you’re not giving to violence and murder. You are showing that you are more bothered by something that gets only one or two lines in the long list of rules laid down by your religion than by something that comes up repeatedly, over and over.

Murder is not less important than homosexuality. Even if you think homosexuality is bad, that is an objective fact, and to say otherwise is completely unsupported by anything in the apparently holiest of holy texts.

Decision time again

So, my power supply is pretty much packing it in. I could get a replacement one, which would run me about $50, which isn’t an insignificant amount, and since I want to get a whole new computer I’m sort of loathe to buy replacement parts.

However a new computer of the model I want would be $919 (with education discount).

Advantages – vastly more powerful, it’s a desktop (the lower end MacMini) so it doesn’t have the notorious problem with the power supplies, the video card will be able to run the few games I want to play. I already have a nice monitor for it as well as keyboard and mouse so I wouldn’t need to also buy peripherals. When traveling I could borrow a power cord off someone else since most of my family probably has a compatible one, and bring my laptop still.

Disadvantages: I don’t actually have nine hundred dollars.

On the other hand, I do have $1000 course related costs available. I can source the textbooks I need for a bit less than what the uni bookshop sells them at, and apart from that I need to fly to Palmerston North twice, but I have family there and won’t have to pay accommodation, so if I’m careful I might be able to squeeze nearly $500 out of that to go towards a computer. Considering I’m doing my papers extramurally and a computer is important, it’s easily justifiable. Probably the easiest way would be to draw the computer costs first out of what I have at the moment and then out of the course related costs, and then mark down in my year planner exactly when I have other bills to pay and make sure I’m putting money aside each week – something I want to do anyway. And half the flight costs won’t be until about October, which is forever away. My Westpac account is actually still open, so I’m thinking about setting up an automatic payment for, say, $20-$30 a week.

Relatedly, I put a couple of summer scarves and a super cool tote bag up in my Felt store. I’ve also finished a pale yellow beret (the yarn is apparently 70% acrylic and 30% milk, and it’s got an amazing texture and since it’s single ply it’s pretty durable and resistant to fraying – I’m planning to pick up more if there’s still some on clearance next time I’m at Spotlight, I absolutely love it) and I’m making a stuffed baby seal toy that I’ll try to get up soon, though after that I think I’m going to start working again on my Cathedral vs Starry Night cross-stitch, which has been sadly neglected.

Unrequited love, Downton Abbey, My Little Pony and dudebros

This may seem like an odd combination of topics, but I promise, it all ties in. First though I’m obliged to warn you that this post contains significant spoilers for season two Downton Abbey, episodes 1-5, so if you haven’t seen them and prefer not to know in advance what happens, you might want to close the window now.

Something I’ve talked about before (though I can’t recall if it was here or not) is the message in mainstream media that women owe it to men to return their romantic feelings. It might not come out and say it, but watch a few shows where a male character (who isn’t a “bad guy”) decides he’s in love with a female character. Overwhelmingly, there seems to be an assumption that she will return the feelings, and if she doesn’t at first he just needs to be persistent until she does. The Mentalist (Rigsby/van Pelt) and House MD (Chase/Cameron) are two offenders that come to mind immediately.

So, now that I’m spending a fair amount of time working on crochet, I decided I could catch up on tv programs while I’m doing it. One of the ones I picked was Downton Abbey. Very early on, I admit, I was gunning for William/Daisy. They were both shy and adorable and picked on, so they had this woobly “awwwwwww!” factor. Where I started losing sympathy for William though was when he started to press their relationship. She gives him a friendly kiss on the cheek (if I recall correctly) which he interprets as romantic/sexual. This could easily be cleared up, except for the fact that though he does ask her questions, he doesn’t really pay attention to the answers because they’re not verbal and up-front.

Now, I am aware you can’t necessarily take these things out of context. Daisy’s body language could, in that time frame, be easy to confuse – avoiding eye contact, fidgeting, etc, could be modesty and inexperience. But in combination with her frequent silence when he talks about their “relationship” and the way she constantly makes excuses to leave, I can only hope I’d notice something like that if I was in William’s place, especially once he starts talking marriage and she starts saying things like “I can’t”.

So in season two I stopped hoping they’d get together, and started hoping that Daisy wouldn’t realise in a moment of tragic self-awareness at the last minute that no, actually, she does love him. And to the show’s credit, as of episode five that hasn’t happened, and considering it ended with his death that really doesn’t leave much more room for it. As a result this whole storyline has left me totally crushing on Daisy. (Relatedly, I should really pick either “queer” or “trans” to describe myself and stick with it, because otherwise I confuse people terribly.)

And here’s where My Little Pony comes in. My sister loves that show. I’ve also been involved in a couple of discussions about some of the drama in the fandom, particularly as regards to male fans – “bronies” – and their attitudes. One thing my sister’s told me is that it’s pretty common for the more creepy bronies to pick Fluttershy as their favourite, and conversation has centered on the reasons why, suggesting that one of them might be that she’s, well, shy, and non-threatening, not likely to be “bitchy” and stand up for her own opinions and feelings. In short, she’s the sort of mare that would be easy to coerce and control.

Knowing this, and seeing a similarity in the characters of Daisy and Fluttershy (not a sentence I thought I’d be typing), makes me feel a little skeevy, to be honest. However I think the things I like about Daisy are actually the opposite of what these guys might see in Fluttershy. Despite the enormous pressure on her from everyone else, she never once stops insisting that she does not love William, that it’s not right to let him think so, that saying she’ll marry him if she doesn’t intend to is dishonest and that actually marrying him is even worse. The fact that she does go through with it doesn’t, I think, take away from that. She’s a young girl in the 1910s and no one is making any effort to listen to her point of view. That she does like William as a friend makes it worse, because she doesn’t want to hurt him, but she doesn’t know how to put a stop to things once they’ve started.

Unfortunately a lot of women are still put in this position today. It’s not something that we, as a society, have grown out of. Women are still told that their feelings don’t really matter, it’s what men want that’s important, and above all they can never say “no” because that’s rude, and snobby, and bitchy, not nice. Women and men are socialised to communicate very differently, and if there’s any lesson to learn in this storyline it’s that men need to realise that. But first, sadly, they need to decide they want to.

Google becomes yet more insidious

It seems that if you want to sign up for one of Google’s products – say, Google Docs – you’re now required to also get an email address and a G+ account. There’s a TechCrunch article on it here with the details, but it does leave out one thing that occurred to me immediately:

G+’s war on pseudonyms. If they decide you’re using a name which isn’t your “real” name (usually non-Western names, incidentally; I’ve come across cases of American Indians and people whose cultures only use single names, among other things), they can delete your account. They’ve also been known to ban your account – not just on G+, but on all Google services. Use a name they don’t think is real enough on G+? Yeah, you’ve just lost access to all your Docs files.

And now, you’re required to create a G+ account, creating a Catch 22 for people with unusual names or long-term pseudonyms. Effectively they’ve made “real names” a requirement for all services, even those for which the requirement is utterly baffling because there’s no interaction with other users – so why should it matter which name you use?

Has the Talibomb infiltrated America?

This… is marvelous. I’m sort of in awe at the kind of mind that could come up with this screed. Context doesn’t even help, but it’s a comment on this article about Newt Gingrich and Rupert Murdoch.

“Has the Talibomb infiltrated America?

With the health care crisis and the gasoline prices “we the people” need to look at if the Talibomb hasn’t affected our economy. The Arabs have approximately one trillion dollars for investment, thanks in part to the high gas prices that we pay. While the American farmer could bring us $0.55 a gallon gas, if grown from hemp yet we wage a drug war against the people, as they criminalize us for barring arms against their harms. Criminalizing the people for using the first page of the Christian bible, “the power over the plants and animals”. The medical monopoly with its foreign owned pharmaceutical companies has led us to believe that its just the immoral movie stars that get hooked to their drugs, or the undesirables who end up locked away in their prisons for what they claim they need. That certain business just can’t seem to profit in America, as the small business of the 1960s all seem to have shut down because of bad management or they just decide to join the 700 club and gave up drinking and smoking and all that other so called immoral behavior. Time magazine points out the true science of weed is being subverted, Rolling Stones magazine points out their drug war is totally illogical until you realize that they control the crave. From their nicotine patch to their Parkinson drug they ignore the people voice from California to Columbia Mo. and have tried to justify attacking cancer and scoliosis patience for their genetic, neurological, historical or ancestral rights. They cant even keep drugs out of their prisons or tell a geese brain yet we are to believe these gods in white coats as they tell us “it doesn’t matter how hard one works” or all the science and technology in the world according to these gods who worship Apollo and swear to hypocrites, nothing can make a building safe for a smoker and nonsmoker to peacefully coexist. We have seen them make designer steroids for their athletes. They make the test, they make the machine, they pay the FDA to tell us what’s safe and what not safe. Only a select few can join their organization as they encourage their bounty hunters to criminalize us for the cheap and the free. From their air powered needles injectors to micro waves and light waves with the push of a button they can destroy the goodness of the plant .We know sound technology is classified information. We know they can use thermal imaging photography to see through walls, are we really to believe that the medical monopoly or oil companies don’t know about this? Or that the Arabs with their trillions of dollars haven’t invested some of their money to eliminate the immoral American or used their aroma therapy and sensory depravation to control the crave? They can wage this war against the defenseless American claming that such technology needs to be kept classified so they can go after the next American business owner. Whether it’s the modern day Thomas Edison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington or Henry ford how long are we suppose to believe that we are criminals for honoring the first page of the Christian bible the power over the plants and animals, While these talibomb try to tell us pot is too dangerous for us to study or grow and bring the American people the $0.55 a gallon gas they deserve all the while our movie stars get hooked to their drugs and run broke, are we really to believe that these immoral who justify attacking cancer and scoliosis WHO make billions off our old and sick cant make someone allergic to something as simple as peanuts ( or an undetectable bug bite) and then chase him around the world with their peanut oil pushing their latest drug as a cure for what the medical monopoly cant find or explain as anything being wrong. Weather its their meth, crack whatever as long as they can keep them from the natural plant there is no where that the movie star or undesirable can run and escape these talibomb as they criminalize the free and eliminate the immoral movie star , small business, or who ever gets in their way or challenges their fraudulent science.

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NZ police arrest Megaupload founder

If you have cause to visit MegaUpload you’ll find a blank page. It’s been shut down by the US on charges of copyright infringement.

That’s not all, though. The founder, Kim Dotcom, and a couple of other staff, have been arrested – in Auckland, by NZ police. Though copyright infringement is not an extradition offense under our treaty with the US, No Right Turn suggests, “Ah, they’ll be relying on the general “extradition offence” definition in s4. But that assumes hosting file sharing would be criminal in NZ”. Other smartarses like me and @GraemeEdgeler pointed out that “piracy” is listed. :)

(Incidentally, you’ll note that both abortion and solicitation are extradition offenses. The treaty is from 1970 – could do with updating, though no doubt they would add things like copyright infringement when doing so.)

There’s also a clause stating that an extradition may not be granted: “If the offense for which his extradition is requested is of a political character, or if he proves that the requisition for his surrender has in fact been made with a view to try or punish him for an offense of a political character.”

However, given that we were apparently willing to arrest them, I somehow doubt that they’ll manage to successfully argue that this shit is politics. Because…. well. National.

Further information from Forbes: “The 7 individuals were indicted by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on January 5 and charged with racketeering conspiracy and conspiring to commit copyright infringement, among other charges. Each person faces up to 55 years in prison.” It also seems that Kim Dotcom, at least, is only a resident in NZ and thus not covered by the clause stating that we have no obligation to offer up NZ citizens (but can still choose to do so).