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

Help the Honey Badgers in their fight for freedom of speech and thought!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

NPR Forgets Definitions Again

This happens too often when the term in question is terrorism. The error committed by Weekend Edition Saturday consisted, as usual, in using it to mean any irregular warfare whose targets are Western, even though that's not the actual definition of the word. Here's what I wrote NPR:

In today's interview with the commander of the Marine barracks in Beirut bombed in 1983, your anchor accepted the guest's description of this event as beginning the period of "terrorist suicide car and truck bombings." This is a seriously inaccurate statement.

It is accepted that the reason terrorism is particularly heinous is that, by definition, it targets civilians. But the Beirut bombing did not target civilians. To blur the meaning of this word undermines the moral position against terrorism.

I urge WESat to run a correction.

You can write NPR as well by going to and clicking on "Contact Us."

Eric Hamell

Can a girl sexually abuse herself?

That's the question asked by Tracy Clark-Flory in column for (at She writes:

This is unbelievable: A 15-year-old Ohio girl currently faces juvenile child pornography charges for allegedly taking and distributing nude photos of herself.

After Licking Valley High School officials discovered the photos on the girl's phone and tipped off police last Friday, she was arrested, held in jail over the weekend and charged with possession of criminal tools and illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, ABC reports. If convicted, she could spend several years in juvenile detention and be forced to register as a sex offender for the next 20 years of her life (although, since she is a first-time offender and a minor, the judge could decide against making her register).

What's more, charges might still be filed against the students who received the photos, regardless of whether they received them unwillingly. State law holds that "anyone possessing material that shows a minor in a state of nudity is guilty of a fifth-degree felony," according to the Newark Advocate. If convicted, they could face registration as a sex offender for 10 years....

[C]alling this girl a sex offender for distributing pornographic images of herself is crazy-talk. We have to acknowledge that, however unprepared she was to make the decision, she does have ownership over her own body; her sexual choice is not the same as an adult making a sexual choice for her.

I'm as outraged as Clark-Flory is, and I've written the prosecutor. His name is Kenneth Oswalt and he can be contacted at:

Licking County Prosecutor's Office
20 S. Second St, Newark, Ohio 43055
Hours of Operation (M-F, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
General Telephone number: (740) 670-5255 - Fax 740-670-5241

Eric Hamell

Put Children's Needs Before Adults' Bigotry -- Stop Arkansas's Initiated Act 1

I just received the message below from BiUnity of Philadelphia's listserv. I've made a donation and hope you will too.


This is Laura Bellows, Field Coordinator from Arkansas Families First, the campaign against Initiated Act 1 in Arkansas. Initiated Act 1, which Arkansas voters will decide on this November, would prohibit unmarried co-habitating couples from adopting or fostering children. Although this act is intended as an attack on the LGBT community, it also would prevent unmarried opposite-sex couples from adopting or fostering.

I am asking for your help and contributions because, although Act 1 has not received a lot of national attention, we believe that our campaign is very important. This is the first ballot initiative to threaten adoption/foster care rights of unmarried couples. If it passes, right-wing groups across the country may try to replicate its success.

Luckily, the campaign against Initiated Act 1 is working. Arkansas press coverage of the issue has been overwhelmingly positive, partially thanks to our extensive coalition of child welfare organizations, such as Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

I am asking for your contribution because we still need an extra push. To do that, we need your organization's help. At this point, all of the money we raise will go directly to advertising.

Please share information about the campaign in Arkansas with your members. I am pasting a message below that you can email to your listserv, post to your blog, or use in a publication.

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. You may reach me at or on my cell phone at 832-489-6465. Our website is Thank you for your time and for your assistance!

Laura Bellows
Field Coordinator
Arkansas Families First


____________ _________ _________ __
Arkansas Initiated Act 1 is the first ballot measure of its kind: if it were to pass, it would bar unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children. The only other state to have such a restrictive law is Utah. Arkansas Family Council, an offshoot of Focus on the Family, would rather deny loving homes to needy children than have committed unmarried couples raise children.

Luckily, Arkansas Families First, a coalition group made up of a variety of child welfare groups and progressive organizations, has been working to defeat this ban. Last week, the Arkansas Department of Human Services overturned a previous policy that barred unmarried couples in favor of case-by-case foster care:
read more here. Governor Mike Beebe, who enjoys very high approval ratings in Arkansas, has stated that he opposes Initiated Act 1 and supports case-by-case adoption and foster care.

This week, Arkansas Families First released a video asking voters to vote NO on Act 1. This short video features adult former foster children and experts in the fields of child protection, psychology, psychiatry, pediatrics, and clergy who explain the negative consequences if the initiative were to pass. Watch the video here:

We need to get this information out to more people in Arkansas; our research shows that voters are very likely to vote NO on Act 1 once they hear our message. Please help us defeat this ballot measure: go to our webpage at and make a donation.

To defeat this measure, Arkansas Families First needs your help:
go to the website now.

Monday, October 06, 2008

On Being Asked to Be a Spokeperson

Today I was confronted by an issue that I hadn't encountered for several years -- since before I realized that I had belonged to a cult.

A friend I encountered asked me to help her with something important. She said there's going to be a tenants' rights protest Thursday morning, and she asked if I knew anyone who could take part in it, or could refer anyone. This probably concerns her personally, since I know she was in court with a complaint against her landlord recently.

I was made very uncomfortable by her request. I hesitated in responding, and ultimately said I don't know anyone with a special interest in housing issues.

I understand where this is coming from. It's the same issue that arose in 2002, while I was preparing to volunteer with ISM. Another friend (Jewish) asked if I could take some item from her, such as a toy, to give to a Palestinian child while I was over there. I was similarly made uncomfortable by this request, and declined. At the time I couldn't really articulate why I felt this way; I only knew that for some reason it was important that what I was doing be entirely "my own," and that fulfilling my friend's request would compromise that.

More recently I've come to understand what this was about. In the cult, an effort was made to make me entirely into a vehicle for ideas and formulations that came from others, totally eliminating my autonomy. As a result, I'm made uncomfortable when I'm asked to act as someone else's representative, even though the context is no longer cultic. This was perhaps especially true in the 2002 incident, since a major motive for my volunteering to put myself in harm's way was to strengthen my sense of self, and overcome the fear that questioning any of the convictions I then held would just be a cowardly "retreat from revolutionary positions." If anything, my sensitivity to this kind of thing is probably greater now than it was then, as I've become conscious of where it comes from.