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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pro-porn activist site launched

And about time!

For a while now I've maintained a Google alert for "Robert Jensen" + "readings" so I can take some sort of action to expose his hypocrisy next time he's in my neighborhood.

As a kinky, sub-leaning male, I'm most affected by the fact that his discourse denies my existence. By insisting he knows what people can consent to, he silences and "invisibilizes" us kinksters as well as sex workers.

Though he may not be as aggressive about it, unfortunately Noam Chomsky falls into this category too, given his response to learning about Hustler's content after giving them an interview. When I emailed him about this, he responded that in his view it was unquestionably degrading to women. Inasmuch as the images accompanying the interview had a spanking theme, which happens to be my biggest fetish, I take particular umbrage and doubtless will focus on that point when he comes around.

I'll post announcements of such appearances here as I learn of them, as well as on kink-related lists I'm subscribed to.

Eric Hamell

Block party to raise green for Greens

This Saturday, from 8am to 8pm, a day of fun for all ages will be held at the Wharton community center and gym at 22nd Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, a facility maintained by Lewis Harris Jr. Proceeds will benefit the center, Harris' campaign for City Commissioner and Jacinth Brown Roberts' for City Councilmember at large, and the Green Party of Philadelphia. Harris and Roberts are GPOP nominees. I'll be running the voter registration table.

Also upcoming: On Friday at 7:30, science fiction author and scholar Camille Bacon-Smith will be reading from her omnibus novel Daemon Eyes at Barnes & Noble, 1805 Walnut Street.

This just in:

REFUSING TO KILL IS NOT A CRIME
STOP PERSECUTING CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS AND REFUSERS

ACTION ALERT:
Conscientious objector OSMAN MURAT ÜLKE
in danger of re-imprisonment

OSMAN MURAT ÜLKE, THE FIRST TURKISH CO TO BE IMPRISONED, IS AGAIN
THREATENED WITH A 17-MONTHS SENTENCE ALTHOUGH THE MILITARY COURT
DECISION WAS EIGHT YEARS AGO.

ON 1 SEPTEMBER 1995 MR ÜLKE BURNED HIS MILITARY CALL-UP PAPERS,
SAYING: "I AM NOT A SOLDIER AND I WILL NEVER BE . . . I WILL NEVER
PERFORM MILITARY SERVICE."

From October 1996-March 1999 he was repeatedly arrested, charged,
convicted and jailed for refusing conscription.

On 9 March 1999 Mr Ülke was released from military prison and
ordered to present himself again to his military unit: instead, he
went home and has since lived a semi-legal life, officially a
deserter, but not arrested.

On 24 January 2006 the European Court of Human Rights found that:
" The clandestine life amounting almost to "civil death" which
[he] had been compelled to adopt . . . constituted degrading
treatment within the meaning of Article 3 [of the Human Rights Act]."

On 13-14 February 2007 the Committee of Ministers of the Council
of Europe "deplored that the Turkish authorities had as yet taken
no individual measure to put an end to the violation found by the
Court."

On 6 June 2007 the Turkish authorities told the Council of Europe
that a draft law to prevent repeated punishment of conscientious
objectors was under way.

YET ON 14 JUNE 2007 THE TURKISH MILITARY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE
ORDERED MR ÜLKE TO SERVE A 17-MONTHS SENTENCE. HE RISKS ARREST
AND RE-IMPRISONMENT DESPITE THE JUDGEMENTS OF THE EUROPEAN COURT OF
HUMAN RIGHTS, THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS, AND THE (SO FAR) EMPTY
PROMISES OF THE TURKISH AUTHORITIES.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
WE DEMAND THAT THE TURKISH AUTHORITIES:

*COMPLY WITH THE JUDGEMENT OF THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN
RIGHTS IN THE CASE OF OSMAN MURAT ÜLKE

*RECOGNISE THE RIGHT TO CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION AND EXEMPT COs
FROM MILITARY SERVICE

*END NOW THE PERSECUTION AND "CIVIL DEATH" OF CONSCIENTIOUS
OBJECTORS

*RELEASE IMPRISONED KURDISH CO HALIL SAVDA IMMEDIATELY.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
The 5 June 2007 INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION (http://www.refusingtokill.net/5JuneFlyer.htm) - organized by the Conscientious Objection Platform (Turkey), Global Women's Strike, Greek Association of Conscientious Objectors, and Payday men's network - highlighted in particular the persecution of Osman Murat Ülke.

We called especially on anti-war organizations to recognize the contribution of COs and other refusers to the anti-war movement and to organize actions to demand recognition of their right to refuse to kill, and thus to CO status and an end to their persecution.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
* SIGN THE PETITION-ON-LINE TO DEFEND OSMAN MURAT ÜLKE
http://www.petitiononline.com/ossi/petition.html
co-sponsored by:
German Peace Society - United War Resisters www.deutsche-friedensgesellschaft.de/php/index.php?id=66
Global Women's Strike www.globalwomenstrike.net
Greek Association of Conscientious Objectors www.antirrisies.gr
Payday men's network www.refusingtokill.net
War Resisters International www.wri-irg.org.

* WRITE TO YOUR COUNTRY REPRESENTATIVE ON THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE
The current Chair of the Committee of Ministers is Vuk Jeremic of Serbia msp@smip.sv.gov.yu. The UK representative is Secretary of State David Miliband MP (email milibandd@parliament.uk. The US observer at the Council is Ambassador Craig Roberts Stapleton (Fax 011 33 1 42
66 97 83). Please cc Payday, to forward to MEPs.

ACTION ALERT ISSUED BY PAYDAY MEN'S NETWORK (UK and US)
www.refusingtokill.net
payday@paydaynet.org
For information, call (US) 215-848-1120

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A bumper sticker made me laugh out loud today. White on red, it said, "APS: If this sticker is blue, you're driving too fast." (If you don't get it, you may be a mundane. Hint: APS stands for American Physical Society.)

Recently I've noticed 7-11 is selling half-size hoagies as "little subbies." This tickles me no end. (Come to think, that can be taken more than one way ;-) )


Eric Hamell

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"THERE IS A GOD!"

That's how a Bulgarian paper headlined the news that five of the country's nurses, along with one Palestinian doctor, had lost only eight years of their lives being imprisoned, tortured, and threatened with death in Libya for a crime they didn't commit. Way to go, all-powerful, all-loving Supreme Being! Yay, yay, Yahweh!

Eric Hamell

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sheehan coming to Philly

On Tuesday the 24th Cindy Sheehan's Caravan for Humanity will be in town. From 1:30 to 3:30 they'll be rallying at the tombstone display by the Independence Visitors Center, on Market between 5th and 6th Streets. From 4 to 5:30 there'll be a Honk to Impeach rally on Broad Street between Arch and Vine. Participants are encouraged to wear orange to show solidarity.

Endorsers include afterdowningstreet.org, Brandywine Peace Community, the Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition, the International Action Center, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Main Line Citizens for Impeachment, Peace Action Pennsylvania, Grannies for Peace, the Philadelphia Regional Anti-War Network, South Jersey Progressive Democrats of America, and Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A surprise breakthrough in Artificial Intelligence?

This was what I wondered when I saw the following sign: "STEAK DBL CHEDDAR BURGER WITH AI." But when I went inside, the Checkers personnel informed me that it was meant to read, "A1." Oh well.

A
gold star goes to the Philadelphia Weekly for last week's "Cultural Report Card" column. They gave the Daily News a C- for "[p]reviewing the 'lucky' day of 07/07/07 in Friday cover story. Look for future cover stories on unicorns, hobgoblins, the new Scientology building on Chestnut Street, the Eagles winning the Super Bowl and of course Friday the 13th. ('Inside: Will Jason kill you today?')"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Introducing... the World's First Critical Thinking Tract!

At least, as far as I know it is.

Here's the draft:

How Can We Avoid Snares and Delusions?

Every day we face urgings to buy something or believe something. "Buy this and you will be sexy." "Believe this religion and you will find peace." "Support this candidate and he will make your life better." How can we know what to believe?

Many people choose to believe something because believing it makes them feel good. Doug Henning, the famous magician, wanted to believe that Transcendental Meditation could cure his cancer. So rather than get scientific medical treatment, which would almost certainly have let him live a long life since his disease was discovered at an early stage, he relied on TM to cure it. His belief made him feel better, but ultimately it killed him, because it wasn't true.

Sometimes a group of people adopts a belief because a leader with a very persuasive personality tells them something that makes them feel special. In the 1930s, the German people believed Adolf Hitler when he told them they were destined to rule the world if they followed him. Instead they got a wrecked economy, millions dead, and an occupied country. Their belief had made them feel special, but ultimately it ruined them because it wasn't true, either.

Often people believe something simply because it's traditional, and they've been taught that it's wrong to question it. The people of Easter Island thought that whatever problems they faced, they had to please their gods to get their assistance, by building huge stone figures of them. In the process they used up all the trees on the island, and subsequently starved to death. They had stuck to their belief because it was traditional and they thought it was wrong to question it, but it ended up killing them because it wasn't true either.

So we can see that believing something simply because it makes us feel good can be a terrible mistake. So can believing something because it makes us feel special. And so can believing something because it's a tradition that we've been taught not to question.

So, how can we tell what's true? Sometimes we can tell just by looking for ourselves. In the Middle Ages, people believed the Earth was flat, because that was (they thought) what people had always believed. But all they had to do was watch a ship disappear over the horizon, with the topsail disappearing last, to see that the world was curved. Most didn't do this simply because they weren't in the habit of looking for themselves. The Church told them the world was flat, and they weren't supposed to question the Church.

When we can't check something for ourselves, that doesn't mean we have to rely on one person's word for it. We can see whether other people are saying the same thing, or whether there are different opinions out there. Then we can ask ourselves, Why does that person say what she does? Has she had the chance to see something I haven't, or is she just saying it because it makes her feel good, or because it's her family's tradition, or because she can make money off of me by getting me to believe it?

Another way to avoid snares is to look for counterexamples to something we believe, or are being asked to believe. For instance, you may have been told there are more murders on nights with a full moon, and you may have heard stories to support this. But rather than assume this is true, we can ask ourselves: If a murder occurred on a night with a half moon or a new moon, would anyone have noticed? Or would they only remember the times murder was committed under a full moon, because that's what we always hear about? And then we can check for ourselves in the newspaper archives and discover that just as many murders occur under each phase of the moon!

So now we've seen how dangerous it can be to believe things for bad reasons, and we've seen some of the ways we can test the many claims we encounter in life, or may even find ourselves repeating to others without ever having checked them out for ourselves. Above all, the single best defense against these mental snares is to acknowledge that it's okay to not know. No one can know everything about this huge world of ours, and because there are so many bad -- yet tempting -- reasons to believe things, we often can't rely on what others seem to know either. And that's all right!

If you now see the importance of protecting yourself from snares and delusions, try making this pledge to yourself right now: "I understand that I can only see a little bit of my world, but what I can see for myself is what I can know most reliably. I will try never to believe something just because it makes me feel good or special, or because people tell me it's wrong not to believe it. I will try always to check what I believe or what others want me to believe for myself if I can, and if I can't, to see whether others believe differently and whether they have better reasons for believing what they do, than I have for believing what I do. I will never be afraid to admit that I don't have all the answers. And no matter how strongly I believe something, I will always be open to evidence that I'm wrong, and will search out such evidence as a way of resisting the temptation to only see things that confirm my beliefs. Finally, seeing the value of these critical thinking skills, I will encourage others to learn them too, will offer my assistance in practicing them, and will likewise ask for their assistance. In this way we can help protect each other from the temptations of mental snares and delusions."

Anticopyright -- Feel free to reproduce and distribute this tract, so long as this paragraph is included.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hear Susan Abulhawa read from her first novel

My friend Susan Abulhawa, founder of the charity Playgrounds for Palestine, will be reading from her novel The Scar of David 7pm on Wednesday, 11 July, at the Langhorne Borders at 2343 E. Lincoln Highway.

The latest Labor Notes has some excellent articles on the struggles of Iraqi workers to protect their national patrimony and overcome obstacles to organizing posed by both the US occupation and political Islam. They aren't available online, but you can order the July issue from the magazine's website or, better yet, subscribe.

Eric Hamell

Monday, July 02, 2007

I've got a part!

(See 4 August entry for update.)

As in, a part in the Cheezy Chunks Variety Hour, a recreation of a '50s TV variety show, which will be performed as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Shows will be 4-6 September, 8pm at the Rotunda. It's projected that I'll be playing a folksinger.

Also last weekend, I saw some clever advertising on a coffee cup from a sex shop. One side read, "ROMANTIC SOFTWARE -- EROTIC HARDWARE," and the other side, "Body-Language.com: Building a Better Fucking America." I could see why my hosts had had to get it!

Eric Hamell