Louisiana Oppresses Sex Workers

So, in 2003, in the case Lawrence vs. Texas, the US Supreme Court struck down all sodomy laws still existing (in 2003! What is wrong with people?). The basis of the majority opinion was that the 14th amendment provides the right for adults to engage in consensual, private sexual conduct. However, while the state of Lousiana had to give up parts of its Crimes Against Nature law, it continues to enforce harsher penalties against sex workers convicted of engaging in oral or anal sex for money than those convicted of engaging in vaginal sex. Repeat offenders of SCAN (Solicitation of Crimes Against Nature), among other things, must register as sex offenders. As Jordan Flaherty at Colorlines reports,

People convicted under the Louisiana law must carry a state ID with the words “sex offender” printed below their name. If they have to evacuate because of a hurricane, they must stay in a special shelter for sex offenders that has no separate facilities for men and women. They have to pay a $60 annual registration fee, in addition to $250 to $750 to print and mail postcards to their neighbors every time they move. The post cards must show their names and addresses, and often they are required to include a photo. Failing to register and pay the fees, a separate crime, can carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison

(emphasis mine)

As the article goes on to explain, this law, like so many others, disproportionately hurts people of color and LGBTQ people. It’s a perfect storm of slut-shaming, anti-trans, anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-poor, anti-black ridiculousness. First of all, there’s no good reason the police should be going after sex workers (or people who patronize sex workers either), in the first place, and there’s really no good reason that giving someone a blowjob for money should be punished more harshly than having vaginal intercourse. And putting people on the sex offender list, making everyone assume they’re pedophiles or rapists or people who actually hurt the innocent, making it very difficult for them to keep a job or just to live in peace, is disgusting. Plus, as Cara at The Curvature points out, many people convicted under SCAN have been raped themselves because they are part of marginalized populations or get raped in the prison the state put them in for engaging in sex work, thus defeating the entire goddamn point of sex offender registries, which is to prevent people from being sexually abused:

Because of the way that sex workers are generally made vulnerable to violence, as well as the ways that prisoners face frequent sexual assault, the most callous part of this practice may be the fact that such large numbers of those forced to register as sex offenders for non-violent offenses are victims of sexual violence themselves. Most of the women and men profiled in these articles talk about having been raped, whether as adults or children, whether by clients or family members, by prison guards or fellow prisoners. They must register as sex offenders, be unable to find employment or residences, face harassment and assault, and bear scarlet letters on their identification while at the same time, probably all of their actual rapists do not have to do the same. They have not only been raped, but been given their rapists’ punishments. They have not only been raped, but told that they are like, or perhaps worse than, their actual rapists.

Anyway, a federal civil rights suit is being filed by Women With a Vision and the Center for Constitutional Rights; let’s hope it succeeds, and kudos to those two organizations for working so hard to get these sex workers justice and bringing attention to an ignored issue. A commenter on The Curvature says the Department of Justice is favorable to overturning the law, which is good news too.

Via The Curvature, who found the story at Colorlines, the Third Wave foundation (linked to above), and INCITE blog.

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Posted in class, feminism, race, slut-shaming, trans | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bradley Manning

Adam Serwer (who is awesome, by the way) has a good (and depressing!) post up about the new developments with the detention of Bradley Manning, as does Glenn Greenwald. I am disappointed to see Obama’s descent into condoning maltreatment of prisoners and then firing civil servants who complain about the policy, although it’s one of those shocked-but-not-surprised things. Serwer is worried that the left might start defending Obama and “embrace the moral legitimacy of torture,” thus making inevitable “this country’s voyage to Dick Cheney’s Dar Side,” which I find wrongheaded in three ways: 1) I doubt it matters whether or not leftish pundits condemn Obama as far as public opinion goes, and, more importantly, as far as the national security apparatus’s actions go; 2) as far as I can tell, liberals who haven’t spoken out are either choosing not see what’s going on or trying to get Obama off the hook, which is willful apathy and blindness but at least acknowledges that torture is a bad thing (let me be clear, this is a damn low standard); and 3) the US has always abandoned some forms of civil liberties during (actual and perceived) national crises, from the Alien and Sedition Acts through the Espionage Act all the way through to today. The country isn’t descending anywhere; the potential for abuse of civil liberties has been and always will be there. And that’s why, looking back, this whole episode seems inevitable; but of course it wasn’t, it was a result of deliberate choices of the ruling class, Obama included. And how we’re going to climb out of this hole, I have to admit I have no idea.

Posted in civil liberties, Obama, Wikileaks | Leave a comment

Speaking of Immigrant Groups Participating in Violence

While I disagree with Keith Humphreys about the merits of the Supreme Court case that vindicated the Westboro “Baptist” Church”‘s right to make asses of themselves outside people’s funerals (I think the other eight justices were right in holding that the WBC’s protests were legitimate political speech that shouldn’t be prohibited), I found this story interesting:

A most respectable friend told me recently of his discovering, in mid-life, that his kind, loving, hard-working Italian-American father was on friendly terms with the Mafia. Although there had been hints throughout his childhood of such an association, it did not become clear until his father’s funeral. At the very end of the service, a single black limo drove up and a single capo came out of the back seat, walked up to him and said quietly “I want you to know how much we respected your father, and that we share your grief”. The capo then turned around and just as quietly left. As my friend put it “Sure, they kill people and they engage in extortion, graft and loansharking, but even La Cosa Nostra knows not to make a spectacle at someone’s funeral.” Indeed.

Anyway, this got me to thinking about the Mafia and Italian immigrants. People in the US talk all the time about how we’re a nation of immigrants when they’re exhorting people like King to be more tolerant, and that’s true, but what I think’s underrated is just how much everyone’s ancestors were also the wrong kind of immigrants: Papists slavishly obedient to the Vatican and bent on destroying every freedom good Protestant Americans hold dear; mafiosi bringing corruption, prostitution, drugs, theft, and murder to our shores; ignorant masses corrupting the democratic process with their thuggish unions and their Tamany Hall and so on and so forth, und so weiter, on and on it goes.

Ta-Nehisi Coates recently brought up the parallel between Muslim and Catholic immigrants on this excellent blog, which got me thinking along these lines.

Posted in immigration, Italian | 1 Comment

I feel obligated to point out

… that Peter King’s ‘hearings’ are nothing more than glorified racism and religious intolerance, that his obsession with ferreting out The Terrorists Among Us is very likely to alienate the very Muslim community that he’s so worried is harboring TTAU, that I’m having a hard time getting outraged because I can’t quite believe such a thing is really happening, and that you could learn more about all this ridiculosity here.

Posted in immigration, religion, terrorism | Leave a comment

Well, My Plans to Post Regularly Here Certainly Withered Quickly

I suppose spring break will be a good time to start getting in the habit of posting regularly. In any case, fact of the day: Ezra Klein recently complained that no one knows what ‘stochastic’ means, so economists should stop using it when communicating to the public. So here I am to tell you that stochastic refers to random processes, which are determined by random variables, as opposed to deterministic processes, which contain no randomness. Stochastic processes, therefore, require descriptions based on probability; i.e., a stochastic process could develop in many different directions as time goes by, some more likely than others. Stochastic calculus provides a way to integrate the functions describing stochastic processes. Analysis of stochastic processes is often used by financial experts and insurance companies, and the underlying theories have applications in physics, music, etc. There, I just saved you ten minutes of checking Google and Wikipedia. I could tell you more, but I haven’t got any formal economics education so I’m not sure you’d want me to.

Posted in economics, math | Leave a comment

Arrrgghh

Gaah, need to rant about the Texas government’s current shenanigans :
Here’s some good links:
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7393242.html
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7405269.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+houstonchronicle%2Fmetro+%28chron.com+-+Houston+%26+Texas%29
*So, like most states, Texas has a big budget shortfall – forecasted to be 15 to 27 billion dollars over the next two years.
*Also like most states, Texas has a rainy day fund, currently totalling 9.4 billion, to help pay off budget shortfalls in bad times like the current recession.
*For reasons best known to himself, Gov. Perry continues to insist the rainy day fund is off-limits.
*Non-wholly incompetent lawmakers point out that this kind of situation is exactly what the rainy day fund is for, and that using part of the funds could help save a few billion dollars so social services wouldn’t have to be cut so drastically.
*Huge cuts in education, public health, and food stamps are being proposed. Because how could helping kids go to college or helping families buy food possibly benefit the state or the economy?
*Perry declares it an emergency item to pass voter ID legislation, when voter fraud is a) a minor issue b) mostly committed through mail-ins anyway and c) voter ID laws disproportionately affect the poor (and thus also black people and Latin@s), students, and the elderly. Guess which one of those three groups regularly votes Republican. Now guess which one of them gets an exemption from the voter ID law. Yeah.
*Other emergency legislation: forcing women to look at ultrasounds and listen to the fetus’s heartbeat before they get abortions, as well as requiring them to go through a 24-hour waiting period, because women are fickle, flightly creatures; a federal balanced budget amendment (yeah, the stimulus money Perry hates so much that the federal government gave to the states is one of the reasons Texas isn’t even more in the shit); eminent domain reform (one of the only halfway decent things the legislature wants to do, but not really emergency material); and reform of ‘sanctuary cities’ that don’t require police to check the immigration papers of people who are arrested.

Lisa Falkenberg has a nice takedown in the Houston Chronicle.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My First Post of Substance . . .

From the old blog, because I liked it, as a mission statement of sorts:

These old posts by Lisa Harney are excellent. I especially liked this part:

The other problem with this is that it conflates our desire to live our lives with political goals. Real lesbians do not declare themselves lesbian to transgress heteronormative society. Real lesbians declare themselves lesbians because we want to live our lives and not suppress who we are. This does affect our politics, but our politics do not drive this. People who practice BDSM do not practice BDSM as a political statement. They do this because that is the kind of sex they enjoy. We do not choose these things to transgress, but society punishes us for doing so because they are transgressions.

The desire to be able to live as a full person comes first. People adopt transgressive sexual politics in order to oppose the kind of society that sees them as freakish and unworthy. The important thing is to build a decent society where people can live in peace – feminist theory should always be just a means to that end.

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