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, July 17, 2010

I've somewhat belatedly posted an additional reply to a comment on one of my posts a few months ago, concerning The Hunger Project. You can read the original post and replies at: The gist is that the very speed with which the comment appeared supports my contentions.

To avoid any misunderstanding, I should acknowledge here that not all Large Group Awareness Trainings -- the general category into which est and its successor, Landmark Forum, fall -- are hardcore cults. Many people have been involved in them at a low level without apparent psychological harm. At the same time, several cases of acute responses to such trainings, involving psychotic breaks and requiring emergency psychiatric medication, have been reported, as described in chapter 13 of the book Recovery from Cults. At the very least, one can say that it appears such groups often fail to have mental health professionals present at trainings who can and will recognize when someone has been adversely affected and will intervene in a timely fashion.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fun with Fortune Cookies

This evening I attended an event at which Democratic committeeman Bill Morris endorsed Green Party candidate for state representative Hugh Giordano. Afterwards I went with the two of them and several of Hugh's supporters to a Chinese restaurant.

As the meal was ending I introduced Hugh to the Fortune Cookie Game. For anyone who doesn't know this game: before someone opens and reads his fortune, another person at the table asks him a question, to which the fortune will serve as an answer. The object is to pose a question that guarantees the answer will be funny.

Hugh and Bill had been talking a good deal about another Democrat in their neighborhood, Lou Agre, whom they clearly don't care for. So it was obviously with tongue in cheek, and manifesting a good understanding of the Fortune Cookie Game, when Hugh chose to ask me, "Will I get Lou Agre's endorsement?"

The answer I read from the fortune was so apt that I could hardly finish reading it without cracking up: "Stop searching forever, happiness is just next to you." I commented that that sounded like a "No." It might be interpreted further as saying Hugh shouldn't want Agre's endorsement, but mine (or alternatively that of his girlfriend, who was sitting on his other side).

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tom Tomorrow hits the nail on the head. I drive it in further.

Tom Tomorrow hits the nail on the head with his latest strip, The Sensible Liberal's Guide to Sensible Liberalism in the Age of Obama." I think one of his points could use some elaboration, however.

He satirizes "sensible liberals" as saying, "Either we politely overlook [Obama's] record on habeas corpus, rendition,...[etc., etc., etc] -- or Sarah Palin wins in 2012 -- guaranteed!" He properly derides this craven attitude, but doesn't explain why it's so very, very wrong.

Here are the political mechanics: When progressives protest Obama's not-so-progressive policies, the effect is to shift the axis of debate to the left. This makes Obama look more moderate by comparison with the protesters, and thereby helps him with the centrist "swing voters" in 2012. Call it the Martin/Malcolm effect, if you will.

To be sure, such protest may also allow (or push) Obama to adopt more progressive policies than he otherwise would have — but only to the extent that the shift in political climate that the protests have effected lets him do so without losing political ground. So the notion that the GOP's chances will be improved is completely baseless. Just the opposite is actually the case.

Great political thinkers have understood this principle. The father of modern liberalism, John Stuart Mill, for instance, was not a political socialist (although he did favor cooperatives). Yet he supported the socialist movement anyway, as he explained in his autobiography, because he saw that the fear of socialism was what would motivate the middle classes who held political sway to enact reform measures that he did support.

Principled progressives have no reason to fear that protesting Obama'a bad policies will help the Right. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Quote of the Month

"The cult problem is so prevalent, the chances of a family member joining a cult are greater than a family member catching chicken pox, 4 times greater than contracting. AIDS, 90 times greater than comtracting measles, and 45,000 times greater than comtracting polio." -- the late Dr. Paul. Martin, quoted on a poster at the International Cultic Studies Association meeting under way in Ft. Lee, New Jersey