Monday, February 19, 2018

Understanding Abusive Spiritual Systems and Relationships

The International Cultic Studies Association is holding a conference on Understanding Abusive Spiritual Systems and Relationships which qualifies as continuing education.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Patriarchy, or Self-Responsibility?

So, this morning I was hanging out in the lobby of Planned Parenthood, where a number of volunteer patient escorts were waiting to see if any protesters would show up and oblige us to go out into the freezing cold to escort patients (none did). The conversation turned to the choices people make about changing their names, and naming their children, after getting married. And one woman complained about how, when she'd gotten a divorce, the law had required her to get her husband's permission to get her maiden name back after the divorce.

She described this as "patriarchy," and thought she should be able to do this all on her own -- even though she acknowledged that she could have done so anyway once the divorce was completed; she just couldn't get it done as part of the divorce process by a unilateral choice.

I sensed that her logic was flawed, but didn't feel like trying to argue the case on the fly. But, upon reflection, I'd point to at least two problems with it:

I haven't read the law in question, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that it applies exactly the same to men and women; after all, if it didn't I surely would have heard it mentioned as a feminist talking point by now. I expect that if this women's ex-husband had taken her name when they married, and not she his, it would have been he that needed her permission to get his family name back as part of the divorce process. If that doesn't happen much, it's just because wives take their husband's names far more often than vice versa, not because there's anything sexist about the law.

The other symmetry she's overlooking is that between the marriage and the divorce. She got her husband's name not by unilateral action, but a mutual agreement resulting from a negotiation (at least an informal one) between the parties. Why, then, does she think undoing the results of that agreement shouldn't also require negotiation -- especially as part of a process that in its entirety is negotiated?

It strikes me that this is a very typical example of how feminism induces women to refuse responsibility for the consequences of their own choices. No one forced her to take her husband's name when she married; she presumably did so because it was agreeable and convenient for her. Yet, she doesn't accept that making that choice logically also meant that, if she later decided to divorce, she'd have to negotiate to undo all the same things she'd negotiated to do -- simply because that wasn't convenient for her.

Instead of acknowledging that she'd brought this inconvenience on herself by her earlier choice, feminism gave her an easy out from that responsibility, by blaming "patriarchy" instead. And that could be seen as a microcosm of what a lot of feminism is about these days.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

"I Lost My Son to the Alt-Right Movement"

Sad story but with an unfortunate admixture of misinformation. For one thing, it links to a piece claiming without evidence that the men's rights movement, like the alt-right, "appeal[s] to men with fantasies of violent, sometimes apocalyptic redemption."

Here are a few of the main men's rights websites:,, You'll be hard put to find anything about violent redemption on them; the second, in fact, is run mostly by women and was created by one. Nor do all their posters even claim that men are "THE true victims of oppression" (emphasis added) -- only that we have issues that are being neglected.

Additionally, although I'm no fan of Stefan Molyneux, the article's claim that he's "alt-right" is widely contested and appears to be based on very thin evidence.

Defend Free Speech at Acadia University

I'm signing this petition in spite of the misleading and divisive language describing the opposing campaigners as "Marxist and Socialist." Their sort of authoritarianism can be found everywhere on the political spectrum, and falsely tying it to one ideological perspective can only needlessly limit support for the petition by repelling Marxists and socialists like me who agree with the arguments in libertarian Marxist Hal Draper's classic essay "Free Speech and Political Struggle."

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Return to HOME

This evening, for only the second time, I took part in one of Project HOME's Potlatches.

The first time was about a quarter century ago, at the invitation of my friend Carolyn Jacobs, and I sang three antiwar songs by Fred Stanton.

This time was again at Carolyn's invitation, and I sang my filk song "Trinity," based on Lois McMaster Bujold's fantasy novel The Curse of Chalion.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Mark Segal Smears Chelsea Manning for Having Principles

At a Liberty City Democrats meeting I attended a few years ago, I heard one member remark derisively, "Mark always supports the party" -- by which he meant the Democratic leadership vs. internal challengers. Oh, how true we can now see this is.

In his most recent column in the Philadelphia Gay News, Segal accuses Chelsea Manning of being "divisive" by choosing to run in the Democratic primary against incumbent Senator from Maryland Ben Cardin, asking why she doesn't run against a "right-winger" instead. Never mind that residency requirements might not make that possible -- Segal implies it must be about narcissism on Manning's part. I commented as follows:

"In her first-tweeted video, she opted not to say anything bad about Cardin, but used video of Trump. What a great way to divide us." Wth?!! Not criticizing her fellow Democrat, and instead focusing on the man all Democrats are united in hating -- that's "a great way to DIVIDE us"? In what universe?

"Why pick a member of the resistance [sic]?" Who defines "resistance"? Does it refer to anything principled, or just partisan affiliation? For Segal, evidently it's the latter.

His question is clearly rhetorical, since with a modicum of research he could have found a real answer to it. As Glenn Greenwald noted, "Cardin’s crowning achievement came last year when he authored a bill that would have made it a felony to support a boycott of Israel — a bill that was such a profound assault on basic First Amendment freedoms that the ACLU instantly denounced it and multiple senators who had co-sponsored Cardin’s bill (such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand) announced that they were withdrawing their support."

By contrast, Chelsea Manning is running as a self-described radical anti-authoritarian. Obviously, if that's how you define The Resistance, Ben Cardin isn't part of it -- he's part of the problem. And, by the way, there's nothing unitive about him either -- you unite progressives by standing without compromise on progressive principles like freedom of speech, not squelching it on behalf of inherently divisive ethnic nationalism. And it's ironic that Segal conveniently overlooks Cardin's anti-civil-liberties stance when, only a few months ago, he was denouncing the Chicago Dyke March for censoring a Jewish contingent's Stars of David (an editorial I endorsed on my blog, by the way). Is he only for freedom of speech when it suits his demographic?

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

A Double Header of Deception on NPR

Well, Morning Edition outdid themselves today, airing not one, but two stories containing defamatory misinformation.

First they have an interview with Brianna Wu, who's been building her personal brand for the past three years by slandering the #Gamergate "consumer uprising" (as Christina Hoff Sommers has described it -- watch this starting at 42:23) as a harassment campaign against women in gaming in general and her in particular. The specific function and purpose of this lie has been to divert attention from the movement's legitimate grievances about corrupt and authoritarian practices in video game journalism.

And then, in introducing a story on the class-action discrimination suit against Google being brought by its former employee James Damore, they repeat the lie that he wrote an "anti-diversity memo." If you read the memo for yourself you can easily see that that's not what it is; in fact, Damore specifically proposes new, evidence-based approaches to help make Google's diversity efforts more successful. And here's one female engineer's response to the canard that the memo "promotes gender stereotypes":

I encourage others to join me in complaining to NPR about these libelous stories.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The First Amendment, Without Exceptions! (Indonesian Baker Won’t Write “Merry Christmas” on Cake for Religious Reasons)

This is an interesting story, but the comparison with the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is inaccurate. As noted in an amicus curiae brief filed by the First Amendment Lawyers Association (, "The Colorado Civil Rights Commission held that Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner, Jack C. Phillips, violated the Colorado Anti-DiscriminationAct (“CADA”), § 24-34-601(2), C.R.S. 2014, for declining to create a custom-designed wedding cake for the same-sex marriage of Charlie Craig and David Mullins." (Emphases added.) 

The same kind of misrepresentation appeared in an email I received from the ACLU a couple weeks ago, falsely claiming the plaintiffs in the American case "just wanted to buy a cake."

As an out bisexual, I obviously wouldn't (if I were a baker) decline to make a cake on the grounds that Phillips is stating (opposition to same-sex marriage). On the other hand, were I approached by an adult evangelical Christian who asked me to create a cake for a celebration marking his graduation from an ex-gay "conversion therapy" program, I very likely would refuse rather than participate in celebrating something I consider fraudulent and pernicious. And if, in response, this would-be customer hit me with a discrimination suit claiming I was refusing his business on the basis of his religion, I would vigorously defend myself, explaining that I wasn't discriminating against him -- I'd be perfectly willing to sell him something off the shelf -- but, rather, discriminating against an idea that I don't agree with. Unlike discrimination against people, discrimination against ideas is protected by the First Amendment.

Applying the Golden Rule (which is supported by secular humanists and a variety of religious traditions in one form or another, and not only Christians), clearly I can't deny Jack Phillips a liberty I claim for myself: the liberty to be free from compelled speech, clearly stated in the brief linked above and completely irrespective of whether the beliefs involved have a religious basis (which they wouldn't in the hypothetical case of the last paragraph).

Not only has Phillips stated his willingness to sell the plaintiffs anything they want off the shelf, but I think it perfectly clear that, had they opted for a low-key wedding sans cake, but some straight friend decided to surprise them with a cake ordered without their knowledge -- and tried to commission this cake from Jack Phillips --  the latter would have refused this prospective customer's business notwithstanding his heterosexuality. Because this case is about discriminating against ideas, not people.

In fact , what the plaintiffs are asking for is to have a special exception carved out (no pun intended) from the First Amendment's protections against compelled speech -- an exception based not only on subject matter (same-sex unions) but on one particular opinion about that subject (pro). This is in defiance of a long and very well established principle of First Amendment jurisprudence, namely that viewpoint discrimination by government is impermissible.