Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lady Bunny: The Ballad of Sarah Palin

Oh, Lady Bunny! You gotta love, love, love, love her! The lyrics are brilliant!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Love at Work, HA! [I still prefer sex at work]

I thank Blair over at Gay in the City for posting this video that made my day. Ah, it feels good to laugh! Of course, laughter is to be shared, so here we go: let this video land on this blog too!

I think I will sign up for this website. Of course, I am NOT looking for another starving writer/academic/artist. A plumber to clean my pipes then? *hem*ahem* All puns aside, at the moment, I would quite fancy a CEO with a black leather throne of a chair and a thick wallet in this pocket. No, I mean a real wallet. A thick one. With loads in it. Loads of money is what I mean. I'm serious. No pun intended. I got bills to pay!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chris Colfer at the Golden Globes!

Not only because I am a gleek, but also because a young man can't be more charming, witty, funny and adorable as is Chris Colfer. Well-deserved!

From Online to Underground: On Craigslist's Erotic Services, Human Trafficking and Sex Work

[This article of mine is being published in our local independent press this week. I just thought I'd post it here too.]

On the week-end of December 18-19, 2010, the “erotic services” section of the Canadian Craigslist sites were taken down. This measure came after the Federal Government, along with the Attorneys General from five provinces (including Ontario) lobbied abreast anti-human trafficking groups to have Craigslist remove its “erotic services” section, as it had done in the U.S. in September 2010. The underlying rationale for removing the “erotic services” listings is that these classifieds were being exploited to coerce women and children into sex trade.

Whether the removal of the “erotic services” actually hurts or helps the cause of anti-human trafficking is subject to questioning. Craigslist has a history of having cooperated with law enforcement services to track illegal human trafficking, particularly under-aged sex trade. In the U.S., Craigslist had closed the “erotic services” listings back in May 2009, to run them under the rubric of “adult services.” One of the innovative aspects of the “adult services” listings was that each classified post costed 10 U.S. dollars, making each traceable to a credit card owner. Moreover, the website had imposed more stringent rules regarding the types of ads that could be posted and each listing was individually screened before it appeared on the list. 

In “Manual Screening Matters,” an article published on the Craigslist blog on August 18, 2010, Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, claimed that the company “is committed to being socially responsible, and when it comes to adult services ads, that includes aggressively combating violent crime and human rights violation, including human trafficking and the exploitation of minors.” He further explained that since May 2009, Craigslist had implemented a manual screening of adult services ads whereby “before being posted each individual ad [was] reviewed by an attorney licensed to practice law in the US, trained to enforce Craigslist’s posting guidelines, which, [were] stricter than those typically used by yellow pages, newspapers or any other company that we [at Craigslist] are aware of.” On numerous occasions, Craigslist’s authorities have cooperated with the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in screening calls for child prostitution, and have consequently reviewed, removed and tracked suspicious ads.

Craigslist has been the centre of a few sex scams and scandals: in August 2009, Philip Markoff, popularly known as the “Craigslist killer,” murdered Julissa Brisman in a hotel-room in Boston, Massachussets. Markoff had met Brisman through a Craigslist classified. In Brampton, Ontario, Imani Nakpangi was convicted in 2008 for selling two teenagers aged 14 and 15 for sex services on Craigslist. Nakpangi was the first human trafficker to be convicted in Canada. However, it remains unclear whether removing the “erotic services” listings of Craigslist will in any way contribute to the eradication of human trafficking and child prostitution. Closing down such a central and large-scale service for erotic services of different sorts will only drive sex trade to more dangerous, less transparent and less visible locations. Unlike the services of Craigslist, the new locations may not have the same degree of accountability to the posters of the ads, and the latter may not even be traced back to their origins.

The Internet has rendered sex work safer in many ways. To start with, sex workers are not obliged to be roaming the streets for clients. The web has also made it easier and safer for sex workers to screen and track their clients: many sex workers demand that new clients provide referrals from existing clients and/or references from other sex workers. According to Nadia (name changed for the purpose of confidentiality), who has done numerous years of sex work off Craigslist in Peterborough, Ontario, “Craigslist goes far out of their way to ensure every poster is an adult. When ads were posted online, there were IP addresses, email accounts and telephone numbers to trace individuals . . . This development is going to hurt the case of sex workers in Ontario. We are now pushed to either pay huge fees for paper ads, return to the streets or continue to use Craigslist in covert ways.” For Nadia, the biggest anxiety is to be forced to go back to working on the streets, where competition is fiercer and where unpleasant and undesirable encounters are more frequent.

On the other hand, in a statement to the Canadian Press, Canadian Federal Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson, expressed his satisfaction that Craigslist’s listings were removed, for, such advertisements could “facilitate serious criminal offences, such as living on the avails of child prostitution and trafficking in persons.” These thoughts were also echoed by Benjamin Perrin, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law at University of British Columbia and author of Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking. Perrin is a leading anti-human trafficking activist in Canada. Having initiated a national campaign called “End Modern Day Slavery,” he had been in the front line in making appeals to the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan to urge Craigslist to shut down its “erotic services” section.

According to Perrin, Craigslist was the most popular website used for human trafficking in Canada. However, some of the key findings of his research also demonstrate that most of the victims of foreign sex trafficking that occur in Canada can also be found in massage parlours, strip clubs and escort agencies. One cannot help but ask whether removing Craigslist “erotic services” listings really helped in eradicating human trafficking or did it instead only drive illegal sex trade underground, disguised under the thin veil of massage parlours and bath-houses? If from April, 2007, to April, 2009, only about thirty people have been charged with human trafficking in Canada, and only five have been convicted to date, will closing down Craigslist’s “erotic listings” really ensure better law enforcement? Will this move create further dismantling of human trafficking and actually increase the number charges and convictions?

There are other questions yet to be answered regarding further action across the web: while Perrin claims that “Canadian women and girls as young as 13 [can be] recruited by sex traffickers” through Facebook and MySpace, it remains to be determined what will be done about these other sites. Indeed, the web is full of other “adult listing” sites, escort agency links, personal ads, which cannot be as easily monitored and controlled as was Craigslist’s “erotic services.”

In many ways, the anti-Craigslist campaign was symptomatic of a backlash against recent developments aiming at decriminalizing sex work and related activities. For Nadia, this is an attempt at taking away the work of many, work that they need to make a living: “with the human rights challenge in the Court system, we are now entering a period where the laws regulating our experiences and legal livelihood will be in the hands of politicians.” Concerns regarding exploitation of “women and children” seem to mask a larger attempt of eradicating sex work per se. In representing sex workers as coerced women and children, the anti-prostitution lobby leaves out a diverse industry that includes consenting adult men, women and transgendered persons. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

From Guerilla to First Female President: Why Dilma Rousseff Matters

[I wrote this article for publication in our independent press this week. I thought I'd share it here too.]

On January 1, 2011, Mrs. Dilma Rousseff, aged 63, was inaugurated as the President of Brazil after receiving the presidential sash from the outgoing President, Mr. Lula da Silva. Being the 36th President in line, Mrs. Rousseff made history by being the country’s first female president. 

Dilma Rousseff is a fighter, and when I say a fighter, I mean it in every sense of the word. Rousseff did not only triumph over lymphoma, a serious form of cancer in 2009, but during the 1960s and 70s, she was a guerilla involved in the armed struggle against Brazil’s military dictatorship. She was imprisoned in January 1970 and served for almost three years. During her time in jail, Rousseff suffered repeated torture that included electric abuse, and following her trial, her political rights were suspended for eighteen years.

Upon her release, Rousseff went on to obtain a degree in economics. When she became involved with national politics from the 1980s onwards, she developed a reputation for being an exceptional economist and administrator. Her forte, however, was to work around energy issues: first as the State Secretary of Energy, and then as the Minister of Energy, Rousseff refused to privatize the production and distribution of energy by reiterating that energy is a common and public good. She strengthened public infrastructure while keeping environmental issues in mind. Indeed, Brazil is currently the largest producer of biofuel and Rousseff has always encouraged sustainable development by giving priority to the use of biomass, wind and solar energy and assuring the preservation of natural reserves and forests. During her appointment as Minister of Energy, Rousseff was also involved in overseeing the functioning of Petrobas, Brazil’s public oil company. In June 2005, Rousseff became Brazil’s Chief of the Presidential Staff.

Dilma Rousseff succeeds Mr. Lula da Silva as President of Brazil. Lula da Silva (popularly known as Lula) leaves office after an eight-year run that saw him become the most popular Brazilian president in the country’s history. A former trade unionist, he was the first presidential nominee to win for the Workers’ Party in Brazil, and the first working-class leader of Brazil. During his two terms, some 20 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty, and Brazil’s minimum wage increased by more than half. What is of further interest, however, and going by the saying that “behind every successful man, there is a woman,” Dilma Rousseff has been Lula’s right-hand woman for years, and she was also Lula’s handpicked successor. In her inaugural speech, Rousseff paid tribute to Lula and repeated her pledge to eradicate chronic poverty from Brazil: “the task of succeeding President Lula is challenging. I will know how to honor this legacy... I will fight for the necessary changes in education, in health and security, and, above all, I will fight to end poverty and misery.” 

The social program put forward by Lula’s government to eradicate poverty—program that will be carried forward by President Rousseff—has been efficient in numerous ways. If Brazil’s level of economic inequality is dropping at a faster rate than almost any other country, and if between 2003 and 2009, the income of poor Brazilians has grown seven times as much as the income of the rich Brazilians, and if the line of poverty in Brazil has fallen from 22 percent to 7 percent of the population, it is, amongst many other factors, thanks to a program called Bolsa Familia (Family Grant). The generic term for the program is “conditional cash transfers” and it involves giving regular payments to poor families if they can meet certain requirements. While the requirements themselves may vary, they generally include keeping children in school, going for regular medical checkups, or having parents attending workshops on disease prevention and nutrition. The payments almost always go to women, trusting that they are more likely to spend the money on their families than men.

Bolsa Familia in Brazil covers about 50 million Brazilians, almost a quarter of the country. While a monthly stipend of roughly 13 US dollars is given to poor families for each child aged 15 or younger who is attending school, families can get additional payments of roughly 19 US dollars a month for each child aged 16-17 still in school. Families who live in extreme poverty get a basic benefit of roughly 40 US dollars without any conditions. While these stipends double the income of Brazilian families living in extreme poverty, they also help reducing economic inequality while increasing the overall quality of health and education within these families. 

Coming to head Brazil as President while having been a torture victim herself, Rousseff also represents roughly 20,000 Brazilians who were also tortured during the dictatorship. While other countries such as Uruguay, Chile and Argentina have confronted their past (Argentina presently has about 400 trials going on), Brazil has in no way acknowledged this part of its traumatic history, and in many ways, President Rousseff brings to light all those victims. During her inauguration ceremony, Rousseff was accompanied by eleven other women with whom she had been imprisoned in the 1970s. 

In terms of foreign policy, Rousseff has a few challenges facing her. Brazil is one of the few countries that almost-always held ground in steering an independent course outside the policies of the United States on a host of issues—particularly on war, armament and energy. Brazil is also one of the few countries in the world that recognizes Palestine as a state and even has a Palestinian Embassy in Brasilia. All these represent challenges that Rousseff will now have to live up to.

In a world where the sphere of politics and decision-making is still largely dominated by men, and where, on a global scale, women still comprise less than 20 percent of parliamentary positions, a woman is now heading one of the largest economies in the world, the largest in Latin America. Dilma Rousseff is a fighter, a survivor and a heroine facing a new decade locally and globally. She represents hope for the future, for a green revolution, for social and economic equalities, and for fairer policy making. In many ways, President Dilma Rousseff represents a victory not only for Brazil, but for the world, which is why Dilma Rousseff matters. 

Little Taiko Boy / リトル太鼓ボーイ [video]

Little Taiko Boy: Watch here

Little Taiko Boy combines Western holiday traditions, Shinto mythology and Japanese gay culture to advocate a very different way of wrapping gifts for a loved one.

Little Taiko Boy's soundtrack is a safer-sex parody of the American Christmas carol "The Little Drummer Boy" interspersed with the slow rumble of a traditional Japanese taiko drum that sounds like a massive throbbing heart beat. Against this backdrop, several men meet in Tokyo's bathhouses, love hotels and cruising spots for intimate encounters, watched over by a glamorous drag version of Amaterasu Omikami, the Shinto goddess of the Sun played by Japanese activist and artist MADAME BONJOUR JOHNJ. Like a queer Santa Claus, the goddess leaves each couple a condom in a bejeweled wrapper as a gift and blessing for the night.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Untitled Poem [or three Haikus in English]

[I leave this poem untitled. I just want to point out that the Haiku in English (link here) is not to be confused with the Haiku (link here). They're both two different genres, at least according to me.]

Tin foil, havocked roof
Cold body exposed, shameless
Run-down hut, dark night.

Red toes, muggy tongue
Shapeless burn of alcohol
Wretched navel, pain.

Dead cat, fiery hair
Broken bottle, scattered ash
He tiptoes away.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gay Vintage! [on tumbler]

Mae Callen recently sent me a note to bring my attention to a tumbler-blog that she'd thought I'd like... And she is right: I not only like, but I love!

It's called Fuck Yeah, Gay Vintage and it brings together a collection of queer vintage iconography. For those like me who are fascinated by vintage visual culture and fashion in general and/or who share my passion for queer history, please click on this link to check it out. And even if you don't give a damn about anything that does not belong to the present generation, still click on the link! You'll find an extremely interesting archive of images that comprises of such things: