One reader's rave

"Thanks for the newspaper with your book review. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this terrific piece of writing. It is beautiful, complex, scholarly. Only sorry Mr. Freire cannot read it!" -- Ailene

Cassie Jaye, the day before I met her at the _Red Pill_ world premiere

Friday, December 28, 2018

Chinese Bureaucracy Represses Young Marxists

Actually it's not at all unlikely, coming from a bureaucracy that's spent the past few decades busily trying to convert itself into a bourgeoisie.

And, as a survivor of a political cult myself, I object to Zhang Lifan's misuse of the term "brainwashing," which originated in China and properly refers to coercive persuasion or "thought reform." Its victims are rendered dependent on the cult leader for interpretation of the doctrine. Clearly these young Chinese Marxists aren't brainwashed -- they're thinking for themselves!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

City Hall Sam Needs to Read His Constitution

In the latest edition of the Philadelphia Public Record, the columnist using the pen name "City Hall Sam" mentions the calls for the dismissal of Temple Professor Marc Lamont Hill over his  recent remarks at the UN, claiming, "Hate speech is not constitutionally protected nor is speech that can invoke [sic] violence, so it's difficult to understand how the anti-Semitic anti-Israel remarks of this professor are constitutionally protected."

CHS gets it wrong on both counts. As I've written the Record,

In his comments on the attempts to penalize Professor Marc Lamont Hill for recent remarks at the United Nations, City Hall Sam misrepresents both what Hill said, as well as what the First Amendment says. As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has noted, “Hill’s speech is political expression afforded the most robust protection under the First Amendment. Because Hill spoke as a private citizen on a matter of public concern, the question turns to whether the content of his speech is protected by the First Amendment. Hill’s speech falls far short of any of the recognized categorical exceptions to the First Amendment, including incitement, and [Temple board chair] O’Connor’s invocation of a ‘hate speech’ exception is at odds with every American court to confront the question, including the Supreme Court of the United States.” (FIRE Letter to Temple University, December 3, 2018 - FIRE) Further, they note, “Federal courts have consistently protected public university faculty expression targeted for censorship or punishment due to subjective offense.”

Subjective is the operative word here, as Hill didn't say what CHS attributes to him anyway. As he has made clear,
"I do not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to my speech. I have spent my life fighting these things... My reference to ‘river to the sea’ was not a call to destroy anything or anyone. It was a call for justice, both in Israel and in the West Bank/Gaza. The speech very clearly and specifically said those things. No amount of debate will change what I actually said or what I meant.”
It's pretty embarrassing that a Philadelphian who actually calls himself "City Hall Sam" would be so ignorant about the document that got its start here. Oh, well -- I guess it would be even worse if he called himself Constitution Hall Sam.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Patreon problem

Here, Diana Davison addresses the problem of censorship on creator platforms:

Actually porn is fundamentally just as fuzzy a category as hate speech. Alfred Kinsey found that the single most reliable predictor of whether a subject categorized an image as pornographic wasn't any objective characteristic, but whether it induced in that particular viewer a response he dubbed "visceral clutch," in which certain muscles contracted involuntarily. And of course which images had this effect varied from subject to subject.

And, while Patreon may currently have the legal right to censor users, it doesn't have to stay that way. I agree with John Stuart Mill that not only censorship by the government, but also that by powerful private interests or mobs (often, in practice, it's the latter operating through the former through pressure groups like WAM), is inimical to maintaining freedom of discourse. The ultimate solution is making such platforms, like other essential public utilities, public property so that the First Amendment applies to them.

Friday, December 14, 2018

ERA Campaigners Need to Improve Their Game

The other day I received an update about the effort to get the Equal Rights amendment added to the US Constitution. It linked to a video which, it was promised, would explain the legal strategy planned.

The good news is that it does so. The bad news is that the campaigners are doing a piss-poor job of educating the public about this, which I believe hampers their efforts. Here's what I wrote to my Less Wrong meetup group about it.

I mentioned at a recent meetup that I had yet to see an explanation of how ERA campaigners expected to overcome the deadline attached by Congress to the version of the amendment it passed in 1972.

Yesterday I received an email from Equal Means Equal, linking to the video below, in which it was stated that the legal strategy is explained therein. So I started watching the video with some hope, but also with a wait-and-see attitude, since the text of the email went on to remind the reader of the centuries-long delay between Congress' proposal of the Madison amendment proscribing them from raising their pay during their own term, and its ultimate addition to the Constitution.

I expect any critically thinking reader would immediately think, as I did, "Why are you telling me this about the Madison amendment? Isn't the reason it could be adopted after such a long delay simply that it had no deadline attached to it, whereas the ERA did?" And, as a natural follow-up, "Is the reason you're mentioning this that you don't actually have a better, more relevant argument?"

Well, it turns out the first speaker at the event which this video records does mention the same fact about the Madison amendment -- but she also goes on to explain the actual legal argument they intend to use. That argument is that the purported deadline appears in the preamble Congress attached to the ERA when they  passed it, but not in the text that the states actually ratified.

Assuming this is factually true, and reviewing the language of Article V, it does indeed appear the "deadline" in the Congressional preamble has no legal force, and therefore the campaigners' strategy is a sound one.

Which prompts the question: why the heck wasn't this explained in the email in the first place? Why, instead, does it tell me something completely irrelevant about the Madison amendment?

In fact, in all the many months I've been receiving information from EME, not once has the legal strategy been explained, leaving me, until now, skeptical that, once the thirty-eighth ratification actually happens, it will have any Constitutional effect or be more than a symbolic victory.

Why don't EME and other groups involved in this campaign seem to understand that, if they want to build the maximum public engagement to put pressure on politicians, they need to explain as clearly and prominently as possible why this is constitutionally doable and won't turn out to be waste of effort? It makes me scratch my head.

Manipulative Group Makes Another Appearance at Penn

The group calling itself the Christian Union is at 37th Street and Locust Walk again today, the first time I've seen them since March. In a previous post, I described my abusive though brief experience with them, in which they made evident that their method is to disingenuously use relativist arguments to try to undermine someone's sense of objective reality, merely so they can insert their own dogma in its place -- the old cultic "break down to build up" strategy.

I didn't engage them when I saw them again today. Once was more than enough.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"I Accidentally Joined a Cult"

There's a saying in the cult awareness movement: no one ever joins a cult. People join a group of friendly people who seem to be doing interesting, important things, and only later find that they're in a cult. The way I like to put it is that saying there's something wrong with someone because they joined a cult is like saying there's something wrong with someone because they stepped in quicksand. 
I definitely second the notion of some of the commenters that he shouldn't go back to that group -- for any reason.

Langston Hughes described a similar experience in this essay:

Friday, December 07, 2018

Quote of the Day

"The only time I'm offended by a comedian is when they apologise." -- Ricky Gervais

Tuesday, December 04, 2018


The Universe that began as a moral nullity has, by evolving us, given itself meaning and purpose. That's the miracle of reality.

And it will complete its redemption through us as we fulfill our potential as a species-being.