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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bradley Manning No Longer in Solitary!

Just got this great news about Pfc. Bradley Manning, who's been persecuted for blowing the whistle on "collateral murder" by US armed forces:

I have some great news from Bradley Manning. He has been moved from his abusive solitary confinement in Quantico to a new cell in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Yesterday Bradley's lawyer released this statement to his supporters:

PFC Manning's overall mood and demeanor has greatly improved. PFC Manning is able to maintain regular contact with his defense team. He receives weekly written updates, phone calls and visits from defense counsel. In addition, he receives regular visits from family. Finally, PFC Manning also receives hundreds of letters from supporters every week. He wishes to extend his sincere appreciation to those who have taken the time to send along their thoughts and well-wishes.
You did this. Thanks to you, Bradley went from being forced to strip naked nightly at Quantico to a new life in Fort Leavenworth. We disrupted the government's campaign of abuse and intimidation, and with your support, we won this fight for Bradley.

There's still so much more to be done in our fight for justice. Can you help Firedoglake continue our important work by chipping in $5 now?

Nearly 60,000 Firedoglake activists like yourself spoke out and rallied for the humane treatment for Bradley Manning. Along the way, we had to fight the Pentagon, the State Department, and even the President himself.

Together, we picked apart claims by government witnesses, doggedly pursued reporters to debunk official propaganda and helped organize actions online and offline that made the difference for stopping the abuse of Bradley Manning.

Bradley is now free to exercise, socialize with other detainees, write and receive letters, and even go outside. He sleeps with a normal pillow and blanket without interruption, and he can keep his clothes on at night.

How do we sustain this kind of campaign? Firedoglake has served as a forceful counterweight to entrenched corporate insiders and ineffective DC groups on issues from Bradley Manning, to auditing the Federal Reserve, and winning student loan reform. But it's hard to sustain our current path when we're up against a corrupt political establishment that is determined to abandon the rule of law.

Can you help us continue our fight for justice and the rule of law? Please chip in $5 to support our work.
This incredible turn of events for Bradley Manning was possible thanks to your continuous support. There's much more to do for Bradley Manning and the pursuit of justice across our country. With your help, we can continue to succeed.

Thanks for all you do.

- Brian
Brian Sonenstein
Digital Strategy Director

Saturday, June 25, 2011

At the Green Party of Philadelphia meeting Thursday evening, I met the nominee for City Commissioner, Richie Antipuna. I'd been present at the previous meeting where he was endorsed, but hadn't introduced myself to him. I explained that I'd like to help petition to put him on the ballot, but prefer not doing so for the Sheriff candidate, Cheri Honkala, about whom I have some concerns based on my experience in the Labor Party in the '90s. Though he said he was sorry to hear that, he was understanding, evidently having encountered this issue before. He said he'd arrange for me to get petitions with only his name on it.

Although I circulated a modified petition in 2008 too, I seem to remember raising the question with a lot more trepidation then, even though I did so with Hilary Aisenstein (now Kane), whom I knew already, and she already had some idea I might want to do so. So I feel the ease with which I acted on my concerns this time reflects the greater comfort I've attained in exercising my political autonomy even within a group setting.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Last night I saw the documentary Two Spirits, about a Navajo teen named Fred Martinez who was murdered because he expressed both masculine and feminine personae -- a characteristic described in some Native cultures as having "two spirits." Traditionally such people were treated with reverence because they were believed able to cross boundaries of other sorts as well in ways other people couldn't.

It's instructive to see how cultures can differ not only in the attitudes they take toward gender-variant people, but even in how they classify them -- "two spirits" is sometimes translated as "transgender" but it may also be applied to those who are simply homosexual, for instance. I think this points to the fact that the map is not the territory, and all our labels are fundamentally conventions which may help us communicate about the world, but nonetheless carve it up in ways that are always somewhat arbitrary.

The film was screened at WHYY's headquarters as part of the Community Cinema series, and one of the panelists discussing it afterward is organizer of the campaign to end SEPTA's policy of requiring gender stickers on Transpasses, which have resulted in denial of service and other forms of harassment for transgender people. During Q&A I elicited some laughter from the audience by pointing out that ironically, this policy also discriminates against heterosexual couples because its purported purpose is to prevent pass sharing between significant others, which only works if they're of the opposite sex.

I've started practicing limited daily fasting, as advocated by Paul McGlothin and Meredith Averill in their book The CR Way, as a means of inducing the physiological state of hormesis, which switches on longevity-promoting SIRT genes. My current circumstances allow me to fast longer during the day than overnight, so I'm simply skipping lunch. Yesterday I fasted over 16 hours, and the day before nearly 17. As I noted previously, it's not very hard to endure a little hunger when you understand that it's beneficial.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

...Getting Better All the Time

Two weeks ago, as I reported previously, I finally found myself able to ask people to play with me at the Purgatory party. Last night I did so again, and this time someone agreed. Turned out our interests complimented almost perfectly, and we had a very good time. I'll be friending her on Fetlife.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dangerous Talk » Atheists as a Political Force

This post by Staks Rosch looks like an excellent idea:

Dangerous Talk » Atheists as a Political Force

It really bothers me that we can’t come together to form a strong voter block. I keep hearing excuses why we can’t do it and that just seems silly and lazy to me.

Atheists are a very diverse group and we are fiercely independent. Yeah, I get that and yes, the only thing we have in common is our lack of belief. I get that too. But I think those within the greater community of reason have other things in common too. We tend to be humanistic, we support reason over faith, education, critical thinking, science, and surprise, surprise most of us are pretty liberal and even down right progressive.

While we are independent thinkers and organizing atheists is comparable to herding cats, I think most of us are smart enough to realize the advantages of electing reasonable atheists to public office. This alone should be incentive enough to work together and get reasonable atheists elected to public office.

I am tired of the excuses. I know that many atheists groups can’t endorse candidates, but as the religious people have shown, there are ways around that. There really is no excuse for the inaction of the greater community of reason.

I am calling for all atheist bloggers, facebook uses, twitter uses, reddit uses, etc. to join together and help to get Cecil Bothwell elected. Leaders of atheist organizations can help too just by using their e-mail list to let people know an atheist is running. They don’t have to endorse a candidate. In fact, they can even talk about the other candidate and let their members choose for themselves who the reasonable candidate is.

In politics, money matters. If we all can donate a little bit to his campaign and that of other reasonable atheists running for office, we can show that we are a political force. Other politicians will start to think twice about invoking religion and some politicians might even come out of the closet and try to get our support.

What we can’t have is this negativity. No more excuses! No more of this “atheists can’t win” nonsense. We have to spread the meme that we can win and that we will do it together. So if you really want to change the overly religious politics in this country, then you have to put in some effort. Not praying is not enough.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I lost my weekly Transpass today, but didn't know this till I got a call from the man who'd found it. He waited several minutes for me to come and retrieve it and declined the dollar bill I offered him for his trouble.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Trumka Running for President?

He hasn't said so, but it's encouraging how blunt he's been lately about his dissatisfaction with Democratic leaders, as described in this article:

They're already trying to preempt a challenge from the left: today I saw a sticker on a light pole reading "2012" with the Obama logo inside the "0," and below in smaller letters, "I'm in!" So I wrote "TRUMKA FOR PREZ" on a blank label and placed it directly above; and above that, by way of partial explanation, a leftover sticker for the 9 April antiwar march.

I'm thinking of trying to spread the meme "Trumka running for president" on the Web in hopes of getting it reported as "trending." I heard of someone who successfully did that, merely in a spirit of mischief, for "Muslim leader converts to Christianity."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Being called a socialist is a step up for me." -- AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, speaking to Bloomberg News. Works for me, too!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The "Myth" of Repressed Memory

I was perusing the Skeptical Inquirer the other day, where it reported on Elizabeth Loftus' having received an award for defending her work on the creation of false memories. I took the occasion to write the following to the editor:

I was reading your coverage of Elizabeth Loftus's recent award for demonstrating the malleability of memory. She certainly deserves recognition for the courage with which she defended her findings and testified to their relevance in many legal cases.

That said, it's problematic that so many skeptics seem willing only to acknowledge the alterability of memory in the direction of its artificial creation, and not its intentional suppression.

For several years I remembered the following: at age 12 I became curious about my family's past, so my mother showed me where some old documents were. One of these was my father's curriculum vitae. Suddenly, midway through reading it, I said loudly, "Why are you wasting your time looking at all these stupid old papers? You have more important things to do with your time!" I hastily put them away and left the room. Even as I did so, I realized my behavior was strange, but I didn't look back.

When I was seventeen, my mother told me something I hadn't known: she'd had another husband before my father, named Harold Diamond. Almost immediately I felt that something seemed familiar about that surname, but I couldn't place it. Within a few years, the whole name also seemed familiar, but I still didn't know why. Finally, while again pondering it, I saw the printed words in my mind's eye: "Married Alma Diamond in 1951." And immediately remembered where I'd seen them: in my father's c.v.! Now I recalled the split second that had been missing before: seeing that sentence and immediately averting my eyes and chiding myself on "wasting my time." A little later I visited my mother and asked to look at the c.v. again. There the sentence was, just as I remembered.

My brother, similarly, has over the years recalled several incidents he'd forgotten, clearly not because they were insignificant but because of how significant, in a disturbing way, they were. (He recently wrote about one of these on his blog.) To the best of my knowledge all of his repressed memories, like mine, were recovered without the use of hypnosis, and in at least one case his memory, like mine, received some independent verification.

Can I, in a scientifically rigorous sense, prove that the above is a true account of the history of my memory? Probably not, since life isn't a controlled experiment. I can only attest — and will solemnly affirm, on a stack of Skeptical Inquirers if you like — that had anyone asked me, between the ages of 12 and 17, whether my parents had previously been married, I would have answered in all sincerity, "No, not to my knowledge." And there is, after all, no reason to regard this as any less plausible, a priori, than the creation of false memories. It's just harder, for practical and ethical reasons, to demonstrate in a laboratory.

Now, there may be some specialist sense in which these memories don't meet some technical definition of "repression." But I'm pretty darn sure they are exactly what the average person in the street thinks of when te hears that phrase. So to have a book titled The Myth of Repressed Memory, without the author even making some sort of cavil about it when giving speeches or interviews, is very problematic. When the term "myth" is being applied to something that millions of people have firsthand experience with, I suspect the effect is not so much to discredit false memories, as to discredit the skeptics who are trying to make people aware of this issue.
Years ago the Skeptical Inquirer bore this cover line: "Hypnosis Is Not a Truth Serum." This is quite true and of great importance where abuse allegations are concerned. But from this factual statement, to baselessly calling repressed memories a "myth," is a huge leap of logic — one which consistent skeptics will refrain from.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Yesterday someone called to me from her car. It was a receptionist I'd invited to an evening of spoken word a few weeks ago, but had never given me a confirmation call. It turns out she'd lost my number. I'd nearly given upon her but now am again optimistic it may come to something.

Monday, June 06, 2011

I've got to admit, I'm getting better...

And Saturday night was another breakthrough. I went to one of The Black Phoenix Club's Purgatory play parties, asked or told several people I was interested in playing with them, and exchanged contact info with a few. I hadn't done this with more than one or two people in the 8 1/2 years I'd been involved in the kink community. I also, before the night was out, developed the will to "dress down" in the hope of attracting more interest; it somehow hadn't occurred to me previously that I might do this even if I wasn't already playing with someone. It's also true I hadn't been to this type of party for a couple years, so this may reflect progress I'd been making incrementally over that whole period which only now had the opportunity of expressing itself.

Particularly nice was that, near party's end, I got in a conversation with a woman who turned out also to have serious social anxiety problems. It was stimulating to exchange perspectives and talk about coping mechanisms etc. with someone who shares this as a personal interest.