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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sunday, March 16, 2008

New meeting, reading set for Psychology and Social Change study group

Hello people,

I have arranged with Larry Robin, owner of Robin's Book Store, to hold the next meeting of our study group there on Sunday, 6 April, from 6 to 8pm. We will meet on the first floor.

For a change of pace, we'll turn our attention to a narrative, Alexandra Stein's Inside Out: A Memoir of Entering and Breaking Out of a Minneapolis Political Cult. This especially interests me since realizing, only year before last, that I belonged to such a group for part of my adolescence. But probably everyone has had some experience with them.

Incidentally, I've learned that Stein will be speaking at the International Cultic Studies Association's annual meeting this June at Penn.

Robin's is located at 108 S. 13th St.

Eric Hamell

The Trouble with Spikol's Column (Against Dualism)

If I tried to respond every time I saw or heard someone taking philosophical dualism for granted, I'd probably have no time left for anything else. But when a whole opinion piece is organized around this assumption, it's a good occasion to try and straighten out some people's thinking. Such an occasion arose the other day in the form of Liz Spikol's latest column for the Philadelphia Weekly. Here's my response:

Liz Spikol's column typifies a sort of muddled thinking about mental illness that unfortunately is very common. This can be illustrated by considering the following sentence: "Equating circulatory illnesses with physical illnesses tells us that circulatory illnesses are biological illnesses whose primary treatment lies in medication." This statement is plainly false, as it overlooks the importance of non-pharmacological treatments for circulatory problems such as diet and exercise. Yet it's a paraphrase of what Spikol wrote, with "circulatory" simply substituted for "mental."

My point? Recognizing the physical nature of the brain, and therefore of its function (mind) and malfunctions (mental illnesses), does not imply the primacy of drugs as a treatment, because there are lots of other possible inputs to a physical organ besides synthetic compounds.

The remedy for public policies that are skewed by the power of drug companies and other corporations is not to perpetuate false distinctions of mind vs. body -- or "me" vs. "my brain" as Spikol puts it -- but to create a material force that would be stronger: a working-class party based on the power of the labor movement. The potential seed of such a political organ, a party that refuses corporate money, already exists: the Green Party.

Eric Hamell

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Free the MOVE 8

Parole hearings are approaching for the surviving members of the MOVE 9. You can get the facts of their case and sign a petition on their behalf here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/move9parole/.

160 Area People Hail Xenu

It was part of a global day of protests against the Church of Scientology, and that's how many participants local organizers counted. It was probably the most theatrical demonstration I've ever been part of. Many of those in attendance wore suits and "V for Vendetta" or other masks, while carrying signs like "Audit $cientology" (an apparent effort to fit in with St. Patty's festivities), "Battlefield Earth sukked. I want my 8.50 back," and "McCult: I'm Leavin' It." We also sang songs such as "When the Thetans Come Marching In." There's more info at http://www.xenu.net/.

Eric Hamell

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"What's the Harm?"

That's the title of a new site mentioned in the latest PhACT newsletter. It's dedicated to documenting instances where the publishers believe people have come to harm because of failure to apply critical thinking skills. The URL is www.whatstheharm.net

In related news, the James Randi Education Foundation is now selling a James Randi doll, with stainless steel pins included in case you're in a bad mood. Another interesting item in their catalog is a children's-size Critical Thinking wristband.

Eric Hamell

Rogers Changes Ballot Line

Marakay Rogers, who last month accepted the Green Party's nomination for state Attorney General, has announced that she will instead seek this office as part of Ralph Nader's Populist Party ticket. While I disagree with her decision, I am still supporting her candidacy.

You can learn something about her by viewing the website for her gubernatorial bid in 2006. I'll supply new contact information when I find it.

Eric Hamell

Tell Spitzer: Do NOT Resign

In light of the current pressures on New York's governor Elliot Spitzer to resign, I just sent him the following message:

Dear Governor Spitzer,

I am troubled by the simultaneously vague and sweeping character of your recent statement -- especially when you said your actions violated "any" sense of right and wrong, without specifying which actions did so.

To make plain what concerns me, let me ask: If you had had an affair with someone who was not a prostitute, would anyone be calling for your resignation? Similarly: if you had blown the same amount of money at a race track, would anyone be calling for your resignation?

I must suspect that in both cases the answer is no. What the public reaction -- including yours -- to this news reeks of is sexual puritanism.

For you to resign without further explanation would reinforce public intolerance toward prostitutes and their clients -- even those who aren't in sexually exclusive relationships. For this reason, I urge you not to do so.


His web form and other contact info can be found at http://www.ny.gov/governor/contact/index.html.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Quotes for the Day

Lem Sharkko! It's so good to see you again after all these years -- especially here, where there are no cops or courts! -- Peter Jairus Frigate, in Philip Jose Farmer's novel To Your Scattered Bodies Go.


The similarity between science and religion is that both enjoy the occasional "Eureka!" moment. The difference between them is that science also enjoys the occasional "Oops!" moment. -- Albert Fonda, at the PhACT solstice party.


Love your enemies. It really messes with their heads. -- seen on a button for sale at the PA Green Party convention last month.