The UN in Haiti

The reports of the “Cholera Riots” in Haiti are ubiquitous now. A lot of them touch on the many issues that lead to this, but most of them seem to want to say that it’s street gangs, or it’s because “It’s a tradition in Haiti to have violence before the elections”, with the claim that MINUSTAH is responsible for the cholera outbreak being treated as if it was the same as the claims by African witchdoctors that polio vaccines were meant to sterilize the population. The articles seem to all focus on the (rather undisputable) fact that the riots and barricades are blocking or hindering supplies of medicine, fresh water, and water filters.

This line of reporting misses the entire context of the situation. Would you trust an organization that was brought into your country with the official mission to “restore a secure and stable environment, to promote the political process, to strengthen Haiti’s Government institutions and rule-of-law-structures” at the same time that the most powerful country in the world, and undeniably the most powerful force in the UN, kidnaps and deposes your democratically elected president, after having destabilized your country in the first place? Would you trust an organization that was supposed to “promote and to protect human rights”, but instead has been guilty of , among other things, violently suppressing protests, massacres, individual killings, and rape? Would you trust an organization of “peacekeepers” from countries with similar or higher homicide rates (Jamaica 54 per 100 000; Brazil 25.2; Sri Lanka 6.69; Argentina 5.45; USA 5.0) than Haiti itself (estimated at around 5.6 per 100 000 according to the UN’s own data), and which have at least as bad a Human Rights record as Haiti?

Would you really trust that organization now to actually want to help? Even if we assume that this is indeed what MINUSTAH is doing, the average Haitian has very little reason to believe that this time, they’ll really be there to help, or that accepting this help will make things better instead of worse, regardless of whether this is actually true.
Now add to that already untrustworthy mix the story about the origin of the cholera outbreak. Like I said, the news seems to want to make look like the anti-polio rumors that had been spread by religious leaders in some African countries. However, this one is different. Cholera isn’t endemic to the Caribbean (as a matter of fact, I couldn’t find any information about cholera outbreaks in that region at all, not even in the WHO report(pdf file) on cholera), and some outside sources seem to have confirmed that the strain came from Nepal. At the very least then, there’s reasonable cause to believe that the disease came from the troops. It certainly didn’t magically appear in the region by itself, so if not MINUSTAH, then some other outsider must have dragged it in.

In that context, I think, the protests no longer look like what a lot of the media wants to portray them as. And in any case, if the world really wanted to help Haitians as well as other places in which cholera has been pandemic for ages, they’d push for funding for increased production and distribution of the cholera vaccine. But the world doesn’t care THAT much about Haitians, or the other 100,000-130,000 people who die from it every year worldwide


Get them while they’re young

Once upon a time, Lego’s were a genderneutral toy. Now they are no longer, as exemplified by the fact that Scheels has a set of children’s winter coats, with the “boys” coats having a lego design, while the “girls” coats have a butterfly design; or the fact that Lego now has “girls” sets, that come in pink boxes and have pink bricks, and are designed to make girly things.
And it’s not just Lego. The visit to almost any children’s toy site asks, as the first question before you can see the products, whether you’re shopping for a girl or a boy, or at the very least sorts all its toys into a “boy” and a “girl” category; the categories are usually non-overlapping, too. Because boys and girls are just SO different that they wouldn’t ever play with each other’s toys, and just picking from a general selection of toys might result in buying a toy for the “wrong” gender? And ads are just as bad, as This video explains (And looky there, Sweden comes out as the most progressive country again :-p). I’m sure the banning of ads to kids is helpful, but until stores stop gendering their toy-sections, and adults stop buying such highly gendered toys for their kids, the stupid gender stereotypes will continue, and will give adults an excuse to perpetuate the stereotypes; after all, all little girls naturally like to be told they’re pretty, right? Can’t be that they’ve been socialized from birth into this, right?


***today’s post is almost entirely made up from the gender: children/youth tag as Sociological Images. I encourage everyone to go look through the rest of it, because it’s really a fascinating topic.***

Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 20th and 21st are set aside to remember the victims of transphobia. Today is the day of remembrance for those who have been murdered. here is a list with details and links to the news stories. but those who have committed suicide need to be remembered too, just as much as the gay teens who have killed themselves because they weren’t able to deal with the levels of shit society threw at them.

We’ve got a long way to go before we can call ourselves civilized.

The glories of the US Healthcare System

So I went to my appointment at the “poor people’s clinic” (i.e. the university-affiliated clinic) to get the test to see if I still have immunity against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. I’m fairly certain I do, but without my Immunisation Record, I figured getting the blood test would be easiest.

Well, turns out doing the test is $300, while the vaccine itself is subsidized and apparently free (I don’t get itemized receipts, and I also got the flu vaccine and a tetanus shot, plus the visit itself costs money, but AFAICT the MMR was free). So I got one round of MMR today, and will have to go back for another round just before Christmas, because I don’t have any record of previous immunization.

So, due to the fucked up way the US subsidizes medicine, I’m about to potentially waste two rounds of MMR vaccine. Whee.

America: fighting the long hard battle against redundancies

Remember when I wrote about how important redundancies were to a functioning system?

The stimulus bill included a fuckload of projects that were meant to provide these redundancies: windfarms, railroads, urban public transportation, etc. But now that the Republicans have swept into office, they’re trying to undo this. And here’s the kicker: doing so won’t even save any tax money, since the funds will simply go somewhere else, rather than be returned to taxpayers. Something similar already happened when New Jersey’s governor cancelled the construction of a tunnel connecting NJ to Manhattan (where a fuckton of people from NJ work). On more local levels, many public transportation projects were either voted down or defunded.

So, facing a future transportation crisis as we move closer to feeling the consequences of Peak Oil, the US is doing the exact opposite of what’s necessary: it’s letting its currently existing infrastructure crumble away (in some cases quite literally so), while stopping all alternative infrastructure projects. And if the Bush Administration is a good guide for what a future Republican administration would do, then defunding what little America has in terms of alternative infrastructure is also very much on the table.

It’s almost as if the USA are trying to commit suicide the long way. Are republicans really this delusional, or do they simply not care, as long as the corporate money keeps rolling in?

Femininity links and thoughts

Typology of Apology — depressingly accurate description of the different types of rape apology. but we don’t live in a rape culture, no sir [/sarcasm]

feminism is a lie of the devil — pretty much every article in there is an example of “that’s a feature, not a bug”: feminism is making women divorce men who want them to go back to the kitchen! feminism will lead to communism! (not actually true for any real definition of “communism”, but certainly for the wingnut definition, and certainly some Marxist analysis of women’s oppression is quite accurate)

feministe on reporting about O’Donnell’s hypocrisy — and this is a good explanation of how NOT to write about conservative women. Because really, the sort of sexism used against O’Donnell, and Paling, and Coulter doesn’t really help the feminist cause, and just promotes the really damaging trope that only good women deserve to be protected. I.E. this is just a liberal version of the “innocent vs guilty victim” bullshit. And it’s just all sorts of not helpful to be committing hypocrisy while writing about someone else being hypocritical.

Masculinity links and thoughts

Fighting is so manly— this reminds me if some of the cultural narratives that lead to WWI. It was a war that was caused by a flimsy excuse, because the men in power at the time (most notably Willie II) were feeling emasculated by the peace they had been born into. And the same urge to become a “man” was visible in many of the young men who were also itching for a war to fight in. And even abroad, as far as the US, young men were itching to join the war-effort to become “men”. because according to the cultural narrative, that’s what being a soldier did: making men out of boys. Interestingly, this is a form of toxic masculinity that has been dying in many places, even to some degree in the US (though the narratives of how joining the military will make you a better “person” are still very much present). Unfortunately though, in some ways, the narrative still exists. Wilhelm II of Germany started a war to prove his manliness. And so did George II of America, since it’s very hard to interpret the Afghanistan war and especially the Iraq war as anything other than posturing to not look weak “in the face of terrorism”.

The Boy Code — this one made me think of the “be stupid” Diesel Jeans campaign. I’ve written before about how there’s always been a conflict in the Patriarchy about where educated men stand in the Manly Man competition, but it was always a conflict tempered by the fact that women weren’t allowed in higher education, thus at least making being highly educated a masculine domain. Now that women are all over higher education, and slowly gaining more ground even in the most masculine disciplines, being smart and educated has lost the battle to the “Wolverine” kind of masculinity completely. being stupid and aggressive and impulsive and perpetually angry is now the only way to be a Real Man. But the MRA’s still insist that it’s the feminists’ fault that boys now fall behind in many academic subjects.

Oh yeah, and also reminds me of a line from the movie Gran Torino, in which the actress playing a young Hmong woman says something along the lines of “our girls go to college, our boys go to jail”.

Colbert on telling candidates to “man up” — no comment on this one; just an apology to my non-american readers since IIRC Comedy Central can’t be watched without an American proxy.