Draft petition to human rights orgs re Ukraine

I would appreciate corrections and suggestions for the following draft. I will probably create the petition mid-week. Note that I am trying to keep many evaluations neutral so that people of various political positions could support the petition.

Since the Maidan events and the ascension of the new government in Kiev, there was a sustained attack on freedom of speech in Ukraine. Recently, international human rights have reacted to a new development in this attack, the blanket ban on certain social networks. Amnesty International has also criticized some arrests made during the Victory over Nazism celebrations on May 9, 2017, for displaying Communist symbols that are inextricably linked to the actual victory.

This reaction is very welcome. However, it is limited to recent developments. As far as international human rights defenders are concerned, a wall of silence seems to exist around the people who are now detained in Ukraine for extended periods solely for the act of disseminating political information.

Moreover, at least in one case, a Ukrainian human rights defender has openly exonerated the government. In a May 2017 press conference, Evgeny Zakharov, the leader of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, has claimed that there are no political prisoners in Ukraine at present.

Also, the most recent report by Reporters Without Borders notes imprisonment of journalists and bloggers in Russia but fails to note the very same issue in Ukraine.

This is not a new issue; some people have been imprisoned for words alone for over a year now. Their rights require an urgent response. Given the current government’s pro-European declarations, a clear position of international human rights bodies can be a material deterrent. Note that in the one case where they did speak up loudly, that of Ruslan Kotsaba, the prisoner was eventually exonerated and released.

We call upon Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and other international human rights organizations and bodies to provide a speedy initial assessment of the cases, followed by an impartial investigation that would not be hindered by any ideological attachment to the Maidan revolution or by revulsion towards Russia or pro-Russian separatists. None of the actions of Russia or the separatists can justify the widespread repression of people for their opinions and for disseminating information in Ukraine, especially while Ukraine is not, according to its own legal system, in a state of war.

Some of the people currently detained by Ukraine for extended periods solely for the dissemination of information are:

  • Dmitry Vasilets and Evgeny Timonin. They are Ukrainian journalists who published online videos exposing government politicians under the name “media lustration” (note that “lustration” is actually a pro-Maidan term). As a part of their research they visited the separatists in Donetsk for three days. The official accusation is that they have provided technical assistance in starting and running a separatist television channel. As the separatists are labeled “terrorists”, this is described as “terrorist activity”, but nothing except dissemination of information is involved, even according to the accusing side. A widely held suspicion is that “working with separatists” was only a pretext for their arrest, while publications strongly hostile to key government persons were the actual reason. These two people are detained since November 2015; they have not, at present, been convicted, but are kept detained with endless delays.
  • Roman Kolesnik. He is a private citizen who has relatives in Slovyansk, which was under separatist control for a few months. He expressed his private opinion online that Ukraine is likely to split up and that people of some territories have a right to self-determination. For that alone, without any claims of him ever engaging in violence, Roman was arrested in May 2015. In September 2015 he was sentenced to four years of imprisonment and is currently serving the sentence.

There have also been reports of arrests of numerous bloggers for “propaganda” where their real names were not published. Sometimes, online nicknames were published. In a notable case, a woman who signed her name as “Muza Pronkina” was reported as arrested in 2015 for a blog post where she, as a private citizen, expressed a personal desire for a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Further information about her fate is absent.

Yet other people were detained and prosecured for words, but were exchanged for prisoners taken by the separatists. They are now unable to return to Ukraine. For example, Maxim Grindiuk was arrested solely for posting anti-government leaflets (with no calls for violence on them), and later exchanged. He was held incommunicado for some months before the exchange.

When people on the other side of this conflict see that the present Ukrainian government can persecute political opposition for mere words withoug causing any international human rights outcry, these people understandably believe that human rights defenders have a double standard, that human rights as an idea are not extended to them. This sadly causes disdain for the idea of human rights itself, contributing to deterioriation of conditions in separatist-controlled territory.

To protect people who are being persecuted and to restore respect for human rights as such, it is essential that international human rights organizations speak up on this issue as a matter of urgency.

References (in Russian):

Information about Mr. Vasilets, Mr. Timonin, Mr. Kolesnik, Ms. “Pronkina” and other people who are being persecuted for political reasons can be found at http://www.politvyazni.in.ua/politzakluchennie/ (some other cases do involve accusations of violence)

Information about Maxim Grindiuk: http://antifashist.com/item/zhitel-zaporozhya-popal-za-reshetku-iz-za-listovok-o-cenah-i-pensiyah.html (the article was penned before he “disappeared” for some months and was then exchanged).

The claim of a Ukrainian human rights defender that there are no political prisoners in Ukraine can be found here:


How US conservatives brought Obergefell on themselves

There is that peculiar US trend when people expand the scope of government, then get very surprised and indignant when it is brought to bear on them.

The Super Example is, of course, the South in the middle of the nineteenth century. They expanded the federal government dramatically with their Fugitive Slave Law and their Dred Scott ruling.

Then, when the other side got hold of that shiny new machine, the Southern Ascendancy, instead of living with the fruit of their labours and adjusting as best they could, decided to secede. The newly mighty Feds kicked their backside. And that should have been a lesson! But it was never learned.

Even when it was no longer possible for governmentto support some people enslaving others, they still had to push government into the very heart of a person’s private life. The bedroom. Laws against “sodomy” and “miscegenation” proliferated. In that way, the government was made a bizarre arbiter of what is legitimate and not legitimate between consenting adults in the privacy of a home. And thus, the foundation for the Obefgefell v Hodges decision, requiring all US states to license and recognize same-sex marriage irrespective of the will of their peoples, was laid.

Without “sodomy” and “miscegenation” laws, what licenses each state issues would be a simple matter – what kind of privileges are the state’s people willing to give to what kinds of couples? People’s fundamental rights would not be affected What one states denies, another state could grant.

But as things went, marriage licenses became licenses for the kind of private activity that should never be subject to licensing. This also led to perverse state laws criminalizing getting married in other states. And all these things started to come to fruition in Virginia vs. Loving.

Richard and Mildred Loving were a usual couple by any objective measure. Just a man and a woman. But failed nineteenth-century theories assigned them to different so-called “races” (though it was never really clear what “race” Mildred was assigned to, it was definitely not “white”, to which Richard was assigned). Based on that, the state of Virginia would not give them a marriage license, so they acquired one elsewhere. However, the peeping tom state would not eave it at that – the police raided their house and charged them with sleeping in the same bed!

If this were not to happen, if there was never a chance of this happening, states might still have the freedom to define marriage in whatever way they darn please. Some would probably have same-sex marriage, some would not, some could perhaps have polyamorous marriage. (Look at the European Union, where Ireland voted to have same-sex marriage and Croatia voted to not have it; in both cases the peoples made their decisions without a court hanging over them).

But the government of Virginia had the nerve to violate the sanctity of the family home for no good reason. Things eventually came to the Supreme Court. And that is how federal judicial regulation of who can get married was born. Marriage, originally a public institution that had to do with inheritance, was intertwined with the very private right to intimate choice.

And eventually, that intertwining found its logical expression in Obergefell vs Hodges. Sodomy laws were overturned in 2003, and with the legacy of the Loving case tying permission for sexual relations with permission for marriage, things slowly worked up to same-sex marriage. The SCOTUS decision does not recognize anything about “orientation”; it simply affirms the right of personal choice, which is natural, and the link of marriage to that choice, which is by now well established. Established originally by conservatives, not liberals.

What now? Now there is a clearly proclaimed right to choice in intimate identity and beliefs. I believe conservatives should use it to their advantage, notably when overreaching anti-discrimination laws require them, in a totally unreasonable way, to use artistic expression in support of ideas or relationships they do not personally approve of.

(The peak of foolishness, I think, is extending non-discrimination requirements to marriage photographers; a photographer’s results depend on personal feelings in a way that can not be quantified. At any event of mine, I would ideally want a photographer who is genuinely enthusiastic about it – or genuinely sad about it if it is a funeral. So for best results, photographers should be able to discriminate on any reasons at all, and simply by personal taste too.)

And perhaps they are learning that the state is best kept out of things where it is not essential (“save lives” kind of essential). *Perhaps*. Or perhaps not. They are so much into free speech, except when the free speech goes against what they believe – see how they dumped Milo for suggesting the age of consent is not set in stone and *some* teenagers *might* be able to consent earlier. (Given that the age of consent in the Western world varies from 14 to 18, his words were really pretty trivial – not necessarily correct, but trivial).

“Gender-critical” is not gender-critical

Wrote a comment in someone else’s blog then realized it’s probably important enough for a post of its own.

There are some radfems and their allies who define themselves as “gender-critical” or even “gender abolitionist”. I think the self-definition is simply false, at least using universally accepted definitions, so I always put the terms in quotes.

They are only “critical” of “gender” in an uncommon definition. a definition that they have basically made up. They are actually supportive of gender in its WHO definition. They will deny this, but look at the facts.

WHO: “Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. http://apps.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/

Now, “gender critical” people say that males should be in the men’s bathrooms and females should be in the women’s bathrooms. Is going into a bathroom “behaviour”? Yes. So they assign appropriate behaviour to males and females – thus, they support gender!

Next, many of them will claim that males and fdemals should use “biologically appropriate” pronouns. But this is, again, behaviour. So, again. gender! (The original meaning of the word, too).

How about “only females can be feminists”? Obviously gender! (Disclaimer: I am not female and do not claim to be a feminist).

There is a *part* of gender, a *part* of “roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women”, that actually involves hierarchical oppression of women by men. What “gender critical” authors do is define “gender” as just that part, while keeping the sex-linked behaviour distinction that is not oppressive (or even protective of females, in ways they recognize) out of the term “gender”. But this is not the academic definition of their term, it is their very own invention.

Real gender abolition would mean a total destruction of all difference in “roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes” that would be in any way assigned to biological sex. And they are fighting *against* such gender abolition by insisting on the distinctions they like – even while claiming to want to abolish gender.

Whether gender abolition is a realistic aim, and to what degree it is a desirable aim, is an interesting discussion, involving reproduction, social resilience to adverse factors, the need for protection of females in certain situations (including protection from male violence – yes, sex-specific protection can be good, but it still is undeniably a part of gender) and what not.

But gender abolition is certainly not happening tomorrow. So the question then is how to accommodate maximum individual liberty in a world that is, as a given, gendered – and way too gendered for all of our liking, too.

Freedom of activity choice and of self-identification – including change, and unlinked from reproductive characteristics – appears to be one way of doing it. What do the “gender criticals” propose instead? Pretty much the same regarding activities, but with an insistence on “correct labels”, because they help their beloved class analysis.

News flash: real people don’t exist for the sake of somebody’s class analysis. News flash two: just because you call something “sex class”, it does not cease to be gender, and in fact identifying as a part of a “sex class” is by definition a part of “gender”.

P.S. I hope to be adding a series of posts soon, where I describe my current view on how the current gender setup arose and also discuss the thorny issue of religion, sexual identity (including orientation), and gender identity. My positions in the secular world and in the religious world might not seem to align so I need to get through that apparent difference before I can blog about the religious side here. (But first things first –  I defend the right of every person to choice of religion and abhor any attempt to default people into religion, including the one I follow, which happens to be Anglicanism. The Church of England must be disestablished forthwith, as the Church of Ireland, which I am a member of, thankfully is, otherwise I don’t think I would have joined with a clear conscience).

Scott Anderson, or how an academic mistake can ruin your life

I’ve just encountered the big debates around the experiences of Scott Anderson. Currently an esteemed, and happily married, computer science professor, he spent school years as an unhappy nerd. A big part of that was that he was.. not even rejected by girls, but rather, ashamed to ask them out for fear of being labeled a monster.

He mentioned feminism as a cause for such labeling, and mentioned reading Andrea Dworkin (and I suspect his list would also include McKinnon etc).

He got loads of flak for loads of things, many of those patently untrue. His response at http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=2119 (and yes I am hoping for a trackback) seems to have caused more waves. Some people made him out to be a misogynist, conflated his statement with the “nice guy fallacy” despite key factual differences (“Nice Guys TM” claim they are rejected while Scott was ashamed to ask to start with), and there were a lot of other things. There was also a generally awesome response by Laurie Penny, and they apparently agreed to work together.

But I still think something here is missed. And given that Scott is a professor I think I should mention it – if only because it might ultimately help with that advice post he seems to be still working on with Laurie.

WARNING: the following text is PERSONAL OPINION based on LIMITED information FROM INTERNET POSTINGS. This is in NO WAY a complete analysis and VERY WELL can miss facts. I’m only writing about it because I feel it’s a seriously dangerous intellectual “trap”.

I feel that young!Scott may have contributed to ruining his personal life at school by something that professor!Scott would probably be horrified with if he saw it from the outside. Academic bias, of all things!

He admits that he was “drawn” to the likes of Andrea Dworkin. But these are not toys we’re talking about, nor political journalists where you go pick a party and follow its pundits. This is research. And so the high school nerd has committed a nerdy mistake. He failed to read up on the opposing views.

There were, by the time, two coherent intellectual strands in opposition to Dworkin, and each would have provided its own pathways out of the impasse Scott had.

One was conservatism. Not the modern-day MRA radicals with their “game” and stuff – I think these were, thankfully, still not there – but good old conservatism with family values etc. It had an answer: that you just don’t “ask” for sex because sex outside of marriage is not a Good Thing. You get *yourself* ready for marriage while you also seek marriageable, as opposed to sex-able, female contacts. There are ways to do that. He mentioned the shtetl, but guess what – match-making still very much exists in Judaism. I am a Christian myself – of Jewish lineage but Christian by choice – separate discussion though; whatever religion he chose, he could have followed its arrangements to seek women interested in courtship towards marriage, while skipping the secular dating scene entirely. Or else one could just seek out friendship and companionship, with an outlook to “propose” the status of a “fiancee” (if not outright marriage) in *good* time – without bothering to compete with the “neanderthals” who want a quick bang. Wait with sex, all the way until marriage, because it’s the Right Thing To Do. I’m not sure if it would be less miserable (though it actually worked for me, more or less). But at least it was a different and coherent option.

The other strand opposing Dworkin was early feminist sex-positivism. Oh, the big feminist split, the world-shaking (well, America-shaking) censorship battles – I am rather baffled how one could research Dworkin and miss those. For the sex-positivists, consent was key. Their solution, as far as I can understand it, would be basically “ask but be ready to step back”. The “creepiness” is not the asking but the persistence. No means no, maybe means no. In words from a very different field (and apparently penned later, so not available to young!Scott), “fail early, fail often”. While “fail-readiness” might take some training it was still a coherent alternative. For the modern nerd, the obvious and funny similarity to Agile software development might be of help.

It appears – though I might very well be wrong – that young!Scott did not work out either of these pathways because he latched on to the Dworkin view without examining the alternatives. But Dworkin was writing in her own context. For many other people, mostly women, her words had, and still have, immense therapeutic meaning. And she did not set herself up to be The Only Voice.

She did try to push for a level of censorship, but not in the social sciences; so she never intended her works to be the only source of someone’s viewpoint. And it was not drummed into him at school, either.

Radical feminism, which I do NOT agree with, is still not to blame for someone choosing to read just its stuff and getting life lessons from it that it was just not designed to give. The radfems did not close the libraries to him. He should have checked the other viewpoints. And I am sure that Professor Scott would not make such a mistake when reading up on a subject these days. I hope he can advise new generations to be wider in their outlook.

And if Scott thinks he had it bad, he can just imagine – yeah, that argument again – someone transgender in his time and his situation with his reading preferences. If a transgender person made the same mistake of being drawn into collectivist radfem literature exclusively, suicide would have been a very likely outcome. They shamed Scott for any idea of asking girls out, but they would shame the transgender person for existing. (Not Dworkin herself but many of her colleagues).

TL;DR: Don’t choose to read just one academic strand in a relevant area of the social sciences. It will feck up your life. If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, unfortunately including your own head.

#Ukraine Kiev government fires road police for not engaging in #war against #Donbass #SaveDonbassPeople

Kiev government in Ukraine fires 13 road police for refusing to go fight “separatists”

According to UNIAN, a pro-Kiev Ukrainian news source, the Kief internal affairs minister Avakov as fired 13 members of the road police for refusing to accept assignment to the “zone of the antiterrorist operation”, that is, the war zone.

The road police members are from the Volyn region of Western Ukraine. They refused reassignment into the Donbass resion, where pro-Russian insurgents have declared independent republics in the Donetsk and Lughansgk regions.

Road police are not trained fighters. Forcibly eassigning them from peaceful areas into a war zone appears to be a unique feature of the current Kiev government; for all I know, Russia did not do it, nor the United States.

Yet, according to UNIAN, Avakov has openy admitted this reason for firing the officers. “To serve the country is to have bravery, not just wave a stick [to stop cars]”, Avakov said. He did not appear to mention that not all Ukrainians agree with his militant views on what is best for the country.

UNIAN reference: http://www.unian.net/politics/923947-avakov-uvolil-13-gaishnikov-za-otkaz-ehat-v-zonu-ato-slujit-strane-eto-ne-mahat-palochkoy.html

My LJ post about the conflict (has screenshots, in case UNIAN decided to pull the news): http://ramendik.livejournal.com/253033.html

“Anti-prostitution” texts invisibilize sex workers, “pro sex worker” texts invisibilize clients. Or so it seems to me.

(This post is intentionally free of moral judgements on sexual matters. Different discussion, different day. Also this post has a lot of “I think” and “I feel” because it is written into a personal blog. I know my feelings don’t matter in the issue. I still can write them in a little blog of my own).

I’ve recently been reading up on debates on prostitution/sex work. I tried to read a fair amount of reasoning on both sides. I do not have a fixed position of my own – don’t feel entitled to one as this is very much “not my war” as I have never ever used the services of a sex worker/prostitute (and don’t plan to). I have not even chatted to one at any length (I would want to do that – chat, I mean). My general individualist liberal leanings, and my general aversion to anything Janice Raymond says, tend to the sex worker side of the debate, but I see problems on it too; I’m trying to stay objective and get educated. And I feel that texts on both sides have large, well defined blind spots.

With “anti-prostitution” the blind spot is obvious – those sex workers who actually do choose the profession, and some of whom blog for the other side. They are generally dismissed as frauds, or else somehow blamed for legitimizing the slavery of others by advertising their own choice. This is discussed in loads of places already, but for me personally, it is the largest weakness of the anti-prostitution side. Dismissing a set of those disagreeing with you as frauds and liars is just not on. (I don’t do that about Communists!).

The blind spot on the “pro sex worker” side is far from that obvious. And no, it is not those enslaved, commonly described as “trafficked” (though it seems “enslaved” would be a better word, as some women are actually forced in their own countries, while some others do travel, but of their own free and informed choice – I guess the sides are avoiding it because for some people slavery is a turn on, rather improper in this case…) . Anyway, pro sex worker texts do cover those enslaved/trafficked/forced, generally stating that it will be easier for such people to get help if they are not seen as criminals or as abetting criminals.

The invisible group are, strangely enough, the clients. They are mentioned sometimes, but as a force of nature or something. Not as human beings making choices. At least in the texts I have read!

Consider this fine guide on how to be an ally to sex workers: http://web.archive.org/web/20131220013744/http://www.chezstella.org/docs/StellaInfoSheetAllies2013.pdf?PHPSESSID=0003e023984a5a4cba2b00ec80c48a4e . It mentions dating one, being a friend, a family member, and has ideas what a responsible person would do in such situations. Somehow it never mentions being in a “professional relationship”.

Perhaps the author thinks that an ally should never be a user? It would be quite a valid view, but that statement is not included either. Besides it would not fit the general “pro sex work” narrative. It says that the non-forced sex worker is in it either to survive economically or out of career interest. So following from their logic, a responsible client either helps the woman survive (like, not being scrimpy) or, for a career lady, is working with her to expand the horizons of both sides.

But this is just my speculation. They don’t seem to write about clients and FOR clients at all. The anti side does, here is a post from presumably Rachel Moran intended to explain to the “good punters” the gross abuse they are guilty of: http://theprostitutionexperience.com/?p=193

Yet what shall the pro side say in this regard? Ehere is the “how to be a good client to a sex worker” post? Even on the very basics – how to make sure someone is not forced – I did not notice anything. And if I ever wanted to become a client, that would be the first thing I would want to know. I mean, if I were to choose to pay for sex, I would accept being pleased because the person needs to pay her bills; but if there is a gun to her head, I’d much rather spend the time in the police station prodding them to action.

So prospective “sex worker allies”, for whom there is a wealth of very interesting blogs, and the actual clients seem to be two very different crowds. And, honestly, I feel uneasy about it. The sex work narrative starts to break down at the client point (in my own little personal view, of course).

In that narrative, sex workers are service providers. But consider other providers. In software developer and network admin communities one can learn a lot about how to be a good user, to ask the right questions etc. A patient can learn a lot from doctor communities. A passenger, from railway worker ones (including the fact that trying to ride outside trains hurts real people a lot).

Yet with sex workers, community and professional interaction seem to exist in different worlds – why is that? Or am I reading the wrong places?

P.S. Of course, no sex worker or pro sex worker blogger owes me or any other random reader anything. This post is about my personal reaction and my personal observations..