Voting No : As the least bad options (plus, my list of demands)

I voted no to independence because it was the least bad option (and my friend voted yes because she thought it was the least bad option).

I voted no because Holyrood already has devolved power over education, healthcare, law, social work and housing and has had the ability to make a real difference in terms of poverty and the health and wellbeing of its citizens. It has never chosen to use any of those devolved powers to make a real difference for the lives of its citizens and I don’t believe independence would change that. Far too many children in Scotland live in poverty and the long-term health outcomes for our children is awful. Our children deserve better than this – they deserve better than either Holyrood or Westminster.

Our children deserve to be educated in buildings which are water-tight, properly insulated and with access to good quality resources like libraries, gyms, art rooms, music, specialist math and language teachers and proper, clean toilets. They deserve to be appropriately supported according to their individual needs. They deserve to have playgrounds big enough to run about it and local councils should be legally prohibited from selling off playgrounds to build housing.

All people, regardless if they own their homes, rent or live in social and council accommodation deserve the right to live in water-tight, fit-for-purpose housing which exceeds the minimum standards set out by the European Union (a standard which the vast majority of Edinburgh council properties have not met until recent legal requirements). Our children deserve to grow up in houses without mould, asbestos and inadequate sanitation.

I voted no because prisoners in Scotland had to go to the EU human rights court to have basic access to a toilet – losing immediate EU membership and the right to access that court is what turned my vote despite my belief in the right of self-determination.

I voted no because Edinburgh city council didn’t bother to invest money in housing until it was legally forced to do so by the EU.

I voted no because a child in Edinburgh was killed this year after an internal school wall fell  on her.

I voted no because Edinburgh city council knew in December 2013 that Duncan Place Resource Centre required an immediate intensive survey of its safety following a brief survey of all assets belonging to dept. of children and families and that this survey wasn’t undertaken until September and only then because the council happened to be surveying a different building. Duncan Place Resource Centre has now been closed and is awaiting a survey for asbestos before any repairs (or replacement) of facilities could happen. But, it was completely acceptable for children to be in a building with a potential asbestos problem.

I voted no because the Scottish Parliament was built using labour from illegal immigrants who were paid well-below the minimum wage and lived in substandard accommodation but no wants to talk about that.

I voted no because Alex Salmond had the power to over-turn the democratic process to sell land to Donald Trump to build a golf card that the actual residents voted against (again and again).

I voted no because we need membership of the EU to ensure that all our citizens are treated as humans.

I voted no because I don’t believe Holyrood is a better proposition than Westminster. They are equally bad options – and independence requires either a sound economic base or the desire to fundamentally reshape society. Neither side could promise either.

 

What I want to see immediately:

  • extending the right to vote to 16 & 17 year olds in all local elections
  • free fruit and milk to all primary aged children
  • extending free school meals to include children whose parents receive working tax credits
  • immediate ring-fenced investment in school assets, particularly buildings which are rated “c” or “d”
  • immediate ring-fenced investment in all community buildings
  • immediate ring-fenced investment in local parks
  • immediate investment in mental health services via the NHS and through departments of education, children and families and social services.
  • immediate investment in health and wellness clinics for women and babies
  • increased funding to dental health care
  • increased funding to the NHS – particularly in regards to mental health and life-limiting illnesses
  • investment in care homes for the elderly or people living with disabilities
  • better funding for programs in the violence against women and girls sector
  • more community, preemptive policing working with young people as opposed to criminalising them
  • a complete overhaul of the legal system as it pertains to domestic and sexual violence and abuse – including mandatory specialist training for all attorneys, judges, police, politicians, teachers and social workers.
  • a ban on the use of rape myths as a defence
  • a named support worker for all victims of violence going through the court process – especially in sexual violence and domestic abuse

And, this is just to start.

#DickheadDetox : The Entire Cast of the Expendables 3

I knew about Mel Gibson’s history of misogyny and racism. Hell, who hasn’t heard the video tape of Gibson shouting racist vitriol at a police officer several years ago.  I had absolutely no idea that most of the male main cast of the Expendables have histories of domestic violence.  – not until I read Kate Harding’s article in Dame Magazine:

The Expendables 3, featuring Mel Gibson, is currently in theaters. The successful movie franchise has also starred Mickey Rourke, who was charged with spousal abuse in 1994; Wesley Snipes, who allegedly beat one of his girlfriends until she was mostly deaf in one ear; Sylvester Stallone, whose late half-sister accused him of abuse; Stone Cold Steve Austin, accused more than once of assaulting an intimate partner; Eric Roberts, ditto; Jean-Claude Van Damme, whose third wife charged him with spousal abuse; and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, as governor of California, repeatedly blocked spending on domestic-violence programs and shelters. Just in case you were tempted to think of Gibson as some kind of anomaly.

As Harding says, it doesn’t matter what they’ve done. We will ignore it and keep celebrating these “great” men.

Ray Rice, Domestic Violence and the Importance of Specialist Refuge Services

American footballer Ray Rice has been fired from the Baltimore Ravens following gossip-site TMZ’s release of the video of Rice punching his then partner (now wife) Janay Palmer unconscious and dragging her from the lift of a hotel by the hair. This “altercation”, as the media then labelled it, was covered by mainstream press with photographic stills from the CCTV in the hotel. Yet, in the 24 hours since TMZ has released the full footage of the assault, the media and a number of pundits have chosen to proclaim their total surprise at just how violent the assault committed by Rice was. And, people are watching the video as if its part of the WWE Saturday night showcase.

Let’s be very clear here: Rice was arrested directly after the incident. It was very clear in the media reports that Palmer was punched so hard as to render her unconscious and then she dragged from the lift by her hair. Almost every article was accompanied by a still taken from the video.The police investigating arrested both Rice and Palmer.

This is the reality of domestic violence: a victim is held as responsible as the perpetrator even when the victim is knocked unconscious.  People are blithely claiming shock and surprise about a violent altercation in which all the details were made public months ago. What is the difference between watching a video and reading the words “punched unconscious and dragged from a lift by her hair”. Do people genuinely not understand those words or the images that accompanied them that they needed the video to understand the full brutality of the attack?

The Baltimore Ravens certainly seem to claim so since they waited until today to fire Ray Rice. The police and prosecutor certainly didn’t, since Rice just ended up on some domestic violence awareness program. And, the NFL certainly are pretending ignorance since they only suspended Rice for two games. The fact that the NFL had to change their policy on players involved in domestic violence in August because of protests about Rice’s lenient sentence is evidence that claims of little to no knowledge are utter horseshit – although, it’s pretty telling that many of the complaints taken seriously were about players being given longer sentences for drug use than for violence. The NFL’s policy change isn’t so much about their stance on domestic violence than it is on their stance on illegal steroid use.

This is why our specialist refuge services are so very important and must be saved. When even the police arrest women for being a victim of domestic violence, we cannot depend on the system to protect women. We need these safe spaces so that women can live free from domestic violence within a supportive environment with qualified, professional staff who understand the coercive control which is the basis of domestic violence. Giving the contract to run refuges to non-specialised services like housing associations puts the lives of women and children at risk.

We need to do better to protect victims of domestic violence and this needs to start with saving our refuges.:

PETITION

Help us save refuges, save lives

 Our world leading national network of refuges is facing an urgent crisis. Across England, more and more specialist refuges are experiencing massive funding cuts and being closed down. This crisis will cost lives.

SOS women and children turned away

We risk losing this life-saving network of services if we do not act now.

We are calling on the government to Save Our Services by committing to preserving the national network of specialist refuges by exploring a new model of national refuge funding and commissioning.

What is happening to specialist refuges across England?

SOS specialist services

Specialist refuges are services which are designed to meet the needs specifically of women domestic violence survivors and their children. The specialist and woman-only nature of services ensures that women and children feel safe, secure and supported and removes any barriers to them finding a safe place when they are escaping domestic violence. Specialist refuges help women and children escape, cope and rebuild their lives after domestic violence.

Being in a refuge might be the first safe space that children and young people may have had in a long time. Specialist provision for children and young people from refuge staff is vital as it allows them to have their health and educational needs addressed individually. Children and young people can also explore the impact of the abuse they have experienced in an understanding environment, which can minimise long term negative cognitive, behavioural and emotional effects, enabling them to reach their potential. To find out more about what a refuge is like inside take a tour around our Virtual Refuge on The Hideout website.

Our national network of specialist domestic violence refuges is in crisis like never before:

• Between 2010 and 2014 (July) the number of specialist refuge services decreased from 187 to 155.

In England, according to Council of Europe recommendations, there is a shortfall of 1,727 refuge bedspaces (32%).

• In one day in 2013, 155 women and their 103 children were turned away from refuge because they could not be accommodated.

•  48% of 167 domestic violence services in England said that they were running services without funding. Six refuge services were being run without dedicated funding and using up their reserves to keep their services going.

• Between April and July 2014, ten specialist domestic violence services across England lost funding for services they were providing. All but one of these nine services lost their services to a non-specialist service provider.

• Our world leading national network of refuges is facing an urgent crisis. Please help us Save Our Services.

PETITION

#DickheadDetox XVALA for sexual violence

XVALA is apparently an “artist” – in the loosest possible definition of the word who has somehow managed to get himself a show at the Cory Allen Contemporary Art (CACA) in Florida. Personally, I’ve never heard of either of them but that’s because I prefer my artists not to engage in or perpetrate sexual violence.

Now, I’m sure XVALA (whoever or whatever that is) will be having absolute kittens about me suggesting they are engaged in sexual violence but his latest “show” (if you can call it that) is called Fear Google and will feature images of Jennifer Lawrence, stolen from iCloud  in the latest hacker crime, and Scarlett Johansonn, whose images were stolen several years ago. Supposedly showing life size images of women naked, taken without consent, is to demonstrate how people are “used”.

Let’s be perfectly clear here: taking images without consent is a violation of privacy. Stealing images (and not leaking FFS) of women naked or having sex is part of the spectrum of sexual violence. Selling or viewing these stolen images is sexual violence.

XVALA’s use of these images isn’t art. It’s participating and encouraging the sexual assault of women. He has no right to pretend the use of these images is art. He has no right to use these images. The gallery has no right to display these images. This is sexual exploitation.

Every single person who looks at these images is engaged in the sexual assault of the women.

XVALA is on the #DickheadDetox for participating in rape culture and sexual violence.

 

Ceelo Green: Still Fighting to be #1 on the #DickheadDetox

Ceelo Green’s been on the #DickheadDetox for a while now what with his history of violence against women and inability to take responsibility for his own actions.

His latest foray into proving he’s a violent asshole involves the following tweets:

ceelo-green CeeLo-Green-tweets

I can’t say anything new from what I’ve said before about Green’s perpetuation and perpetration of rape culture but I love the following graphic which I first saw via Ultraviolet

BwrVZeGCIAEtuGe

Jennifer Lawrence is a victim of sexual violence.

Jennifer Lawrence is a victim of sexual violence – so is every single person who has had a photograph or video of them naked or engaged in sex. This runs the gamut from Vanessa Hudgens, Prince Harry, and every single teenage girl who has had images of them passed about the internet.

This isn’t a subject open to debate or which has ‘nuances': sharing these images is sexual assault. Viewing these images is sexual assault. As I’ve said many times before, publishing these types of images is sexual assault.

There have been some incredibly important blogs written on this “leak of images” today, all of which make it very clear that accessing images you are not given permission to see is, at the very least, immoral – and a crime if the images are used to humiliate, denigrate or abuse. Sharing, distributing or viewing images involving nudity or sex are a crime of sexual violence.

If you are looking at these images or sharing them, you are committing sexual assault. You are perpetrating rape culture. YOU are the problem – not the women in the photos.

Some reading:

Jennifer Lawrence Doesn’t Need to Laugh This One Off at The Daily Beast

Stealing Intimate Photos is a Sex Crime, and Should Be Treated As Such. at Belle Jar

Reports on ‘Leaked Nude Photos‘ — Just Another Form of Victim-Blaming at Crates & Ribbons

Peter Nunn is not an “Internet Troll”

Peter Nunn is not an internet “troll”. He is a violent and abusive man who sent abusive messages and rape threats to multiple women, although his conviction today was only for his campaign against Caroline Criado-Perez and Stella Creazy. Nunn’s account was suspended by Twitter following his abuse of multiple women. He then set up multiple accounts continuing the abuse, many of which were also suspended.

Nunn’s tweets were not “jokes” – and any suggestion that sending rape threats and suggesting women in the public sphere deserve the abuse – is misogyny. Nunn is a misogynist. Those who defend his actions as “free speech” or the fault of his wife for “nagging” (as suggested on twitter today) or because he was “drunk” are perpetuating misogyny. Nunn is the ONLY person responsible for the crimes he committed – and sending threats of rape, physical violence or death to individuals is not protected by free speech (especially as we live in the UK where free speech isn’t a part of British law).

Nunn is just like every other abusive, controlling. misogynistic man. He thought he could say whatever he wanted to women without being held at all accountable for his actions. Just like every other man who commits violence against women and children: from those sharing the images of Jennifer Lawrence to men who commit domestic violence to those who think it’s acceptable to ‘catcall’ women in the streets.

Excusing Nunn or using words like “troll” to define his behaviour minimises the crime and the harm committed by Nunn. Trolls are pathetic little dickheads who think it’s funny to use demeaning language about women – Nunn was deliberately and maliciously causing harm by sending rape and death threats. He isn’t pathetic – he’s a dangerous man who deserves a custodial sentence.

We need to stop referring to men who send rape and death threats as trolls and start recognising them as the abusive dangerous men they are.

Just Donate: Don’t Waste Water on “Stunt Activism”

ALS have now raised more than $100 million dollars through their Ice Bucket Challenge. This is an absolutely phenomenal amount of money and ALS do need the money but I’m just can’t support this level of stunt activism which results in millions of litres in clean water being used in this manner. This kind of stunt, like that of supporting people to climb Kilimanjaro or to walk the length of the Great Wall of China do raise money but I wonder how much more would have been given directly to the charity if the participant did the same amount of walking around their home town.

I did like Matt Damon’s use of (clean) toilet water from his   house to make the point that those living with access to indoor plumbing have cleaner water in their toilets than most people do across the globe. This kind of stunt activism raised a lot of money for ALS but also puts strain on our ecosystems. If you genuinely want to support ALS, don’t bother with the ice challenge. Just set up a monthly direct debit or a one-off payment to them. If you have done the Ice Bucket Challenge, then make a donation to Water Aid to help the millions of people who have no access to clean water.

What would help more is campaigning to force our governments to spend more on healthcare, research and basic human rights rather than wasting billions on nuclear submarines we can never  use or destroying our environment by extracting oil from tar sands rather than supporting long-term financial stability by ensuring that everyone on our planet has access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare.

Synthia China Blast: convicted for the rape, murder and abuse of the corpse of thirteen-year-old Ebony Nicole Williams

Let me be perfectly clear here: I do not like the US judicial system. They have sent generations of communities to prison for the crime of being poor or not white. The entire judicial system is racist, misogynistic, homophobic and simply not fit for purpose. The death penalty is barbaric and the three strikes rule inhumane. Incarcerating people for non-violent crimes is an asinine position – as is incarcerating juveniles with adult men. Hell, I’m not sure incarcerating men with other men, considering the sheer number of rapes which happen daily in US prisons, is anything but a human rights abuse.
That said, I am very concerned with the ways in which the media is covering Laverne Cox’s support of Synthia China Blast and the campaign to have safer housing for transgender people in US prisons. Blast, born Luis Morales, was convicted of the 1993 rape, murder and the abuse of the corpse of Ebony Nicole Williams who was only 13 years old. The campaign for safer housing writes this:
Synthia China Blast, an SRLP client and Prisoner Advisory Committee Member, has been incarcerated in New York for twenty-one years. Synthia identifies as a transgender Latina woman and proud native of the Bronx. Prior to incarceration, she experienced family rejection, lack of access to safe education, homelessness, police profiling and violence because she is transgender. The violent gender policing and various forms of trauma she experienced as a youth have only been reproduced and exacerbated while being held in various men’s prisons operated by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) over the past seventeen years.
There is no mention of Blast’s final conviction for child rape and murder – instead the coverage suggests that the Blast was incarcerated for being a transwoman.
Did Blast grow up surrounded by structural violence – absolutely. He was a member of a gang and had a history of violence. But, recognizing the violence within the system which results in boys like Blast perpetuating the very violence which harmed them does not mean we can ignore the crimes they commit.
We absolutely do need to talk about the criminal justice system and it’s gross failures to rehabilitate prisoners. We need to fight to spend our defence budgets on our own communities to prevent generations of children growing up experience poverty and violence. But, this doesn’t mean that we absolve people of their responsibility in committing crimes. We can believe the system is inherently corrupt and that prisoners deserve better treatment whilst holding individual people responsible for the crimes they committed.
Blast committed child rape and murder. We cannot ignore these facts.
You can read more here.

 

*As I was writing this blog, the video of Laverne Cox reading Synthia China Blast’s letter has been sent to private and is no longer visible on Buzzfeed. These are the chunks of the video published on Buzzfeed:

“I was born and raised in the South Bronx, however since age 15 I’ve been raised in prison. In fact – since age 16 – I’ve only been home once, in 1993, for three months. I’ve been in prison ever since. I’m 38-years-young.”

“I am a political transgender woman ‘slash’ prisoner. I strongly support the rights of LGBT brothers and sisters in the community who are imprisoned also.”

“They may not live in a cage 23 to 24 hours a day like I do, year after year, with no fellow prisoner contact, but they too face the constant torment that LGBT prisoners face in here.”
“Lack of adequate medical care, abusive and evasive treatment by law enforcement officials, denial of basic human rights, the freedom to live among the straight society without fear of retaliation.”

“As a whole, in or out of prison, we all suffer,” Cox reads.

“My members consist of one voice. I want my voice to be heard, I want my dreams to matter, I want people to know who I am because tomorrow is not promised.”

“We each have to be an example for one another, we are minorities in here. If you are part of PAC, you are either directly or indirectly part of the LGBT family.

The letter concludes: “So when I’m asked why did I join the Prisoner Advisory Committee, I smile because I didn’t join anything. I found my family.”

UPDATE:

The Sylvia Rivera Law project has released a formal statement in response to the removal of the video of Laverne Cox reading Synthia China Blast’s letter. Apparently, they didn’t bother to tell Cox what Blast was incarcerated for and don’t think it’s important. I’m glad Cox has demanded they remove the video,  although the lesson here in checking shit out before signing your name to it is one a whole lot of celebrities might want to familiarize themselves with.

I am very disturbed by the message within the SRLP which effectively states that it doesn’t matter why a transwoman is in prison, they must be supported regardless. Prejudice is a common reason for incarceration in the US and many people within the system should not be there, particularly those incarcerated for substance misuse, prostitution and petty theft. But, there is a huge difference between a transwoman incarcerated for prostitution and one incarcerated for rape, murder and abuse of a corpse – just as there is with any other group of  people incarcerated. We can understand that the carceral system is built on racism, poverty etc and that young men and women living in ghettos end up in gangs for millions of reasons which have nothing to do with personal choice whilst still holding them accountable for their actions. Understanding the system and campaigning to destroy it doesn’t mean that people who commit rape and murder should be forgiven because of the violence they grew up with. Lots of people grow up in families and communities ravaged by poverty and structural violence who do not go on to commit child rape and murder. Whatever we think of the system itself (and it’s a massive failure), the crimes committed by individuals within it need to be spoken about. Failing to address Blast’s actual crimes undermines the SRLP.

UPDATE TWO: 

Laverne Cox has posted a response on her tumblr.