Sunday, July 31, 2011

What a weekend! Yesterday I tried to do my laundry but couldn't finish drying it because Friday without warning a new management took over my building that's no longer opening the office on Saturday so I couldn't reload my laundry card. So today I had to take the still damp clothes to another place a few blocks away and squeeze in a little petitioning on the nominating paper for Richie Antipuna I only got Thursday, then had just enough time to get the clothes home and the papers downtown for notarizing before they're due tomorrow, then back on SEPTA to get to the PhillyCOR picnic. Whew! And after that it was straight to South Philly for the ICSA meeting!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Comments on a Talk by Milt Rosen

A member of the Left Book Group to which I belong has posted a speech by Milt Rosen, a founder of the Progressive Labor Party, on the occasion of his recent death. This has given me a welcome opportunity to expound on some of my thinking on the relations between politics, philosophy, and psychology. You can read the original speech at Here are my comments:

There are some valid points here about the importance of developing relationships with people, even outside of politics, and really listening to them. But I think the implementation of this idea is hampered by the Leninist framework, which tends to lead people to interpret reality more on the basis of what the party (leaders) say, and less on their own experience and that of coworkers and neighbors. This is because of the cognitive dissonance effects that Dennis Tourish (among others) has discussed in his paper, "Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism, and Cultism."

It's interesting that he gives the Chinese Army (pre-Revolution) as an example of how it's possible to incorporate discussion in the context of action. As we now understand, a lot of that "discussion" was probably what the Maoists called thought reform, which they started practicing even before they took power. This involves "struggle," all right, but there's nothing really scientific about it since it involves a high level of psychological coercion. This is also the context in which they developed the concept of "criticism and self-criticism." This doesn't prove that every group employing these terms is a cult, but when they're applied in conjunction with other concepts like democratic centralism that are also conducive to conformity pressure, the hazard to intellectual (and emotional) autonomy is particularly high.

Another key difference with scientific method is that the latter requires controlled experiments. Coming up with a "scientific plan" based on a "correct line" means you are acting on a single hypothesis — not on two or more hypotheses. This means you are not able to compare the relative merits of different ideas, which is fundamental to science. (True, you can compare the relative efficacy of your group's ideas to those of other groups; but you are unlikely either to have unbiased information on which to base such an evaluation, or the psychological ability to evaluate it in an unbiased way, since your group identity is invested in your own hypothesis and you likely regard the other groups as opponents if not class enemies.)

Rosen is doubtless right that sometimes people express differences for selfish reasons and not out of deep conviction. But it's disturbing how readily he attributes some people's "falling away" to an unwillingness to intensify struggle. He claims they had no fundamental differences, but doesn't quote them to prove that they would agree with that statement. On the other hand, this kind of explanation is extremely characteristic of how every cult describes those who leave — it's never for valid reasons, always because the individual was weak or had some flaw. For that matter, one can't even tell from the text that these people actually dropped out of politics; they may simply have chosen to join a different group or continue their activism without an affiliation.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Seen on a bumper sticker: "VERMONT: What happens here, stays here. (But nothing ever really happens.)"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Revolutionary Answer to the Crisis

At the urging of others, I've sent some messages to our political leaders about not throwing workers and the oppressed under the bus in the name of a budget deal. But these pre-formatted messages don't suggest any way around the impasse. So I decided to send my own message addressing the radical danger of financial catastrophe with a radical solution. This is what I wrote on the White House Web comment form:

The President must put an end to Republican budget terrorism by declaring a state of emergency. He should use emergency powers to:

1) Raise the debt ceiling by Executive Order;

2) Implement the People's Budget proposed by members of the House Progressive Caucus, which would create millions of new jobs while reducing the deficit with a deep cut in military spending;

3) Mandate that all US-based corporations offer living-wage jobs with benefits to any who apply for them, as a condition for keeping their corporate charters; and

4) Repeal or modify antitrust laws so that companies can coordinate to achieve greater efficiencies and, in particular, so that they can raise prices as needed to cover increased labor costs resulting from the previous measure.

President Lincoln addressed an earlier national crisis with revolutionary economic measures, expropriating the entire planter class of the rebel states. President Obama can and must do likewise to resolve the present crisis.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

On my after-dinner stroll I encountered someone whose wireless account had run out. I texted his mother that he was at the door.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

These Magnets Are Repulsive

I read today on a screen that Crowne Plaza hotels are now offering "no-snore" rooms, one of whose features is "magnetic pillows" whose embedded magnets supposedly keep sleepers' airways open. This is of course complete nonsense since magnets have no effect on anything but iron, nickel, and cobalt (and moving electric charges). This hotel chain is shamelessly exploiting some people's scientific ignorance.

I looked for contact information for Crowne Plaza hotels, and the only thing I could find that's not specifically for guest feedback is this address for the Americas office of InterContinental Hotels Group LLC,
of which Crowne Plaza is a part:

InterContinental Hotels Group
3 Ravinia Drive Suite 100
Atlanta, GA 30346-2149

I'm writing them today to call on them to stop promoting pseudoscience!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Speak Up Already!

One area in which I've worked to cease being unduly constrained by social anxiety is interaction with fellow pedestrians. As I've started to overcome this problem myself, I've seen in the City Paper's I Love You, I Hate You that others are still mired in self-righteous/helpless blame-someone-else mode. In response to a 7 July ILUIHU titled "Walk Already," I've submitted the following:

Why do some people rant here when they could address a problem for themselves? If someone is walking too slowly for you, why not just ask them to make way? It's really simple -- just say, "Excuse me, could I get past?" They may not even know there's someone behind them. If you find yourself unable to do this, see a therapist!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Last night I went to my third Purgatory party and played with two people -- the one I played with last time, plus another I met and asked for the first time. The second called me "fearless." What a change from just a couple years ago!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

I put a check in the mail this morning for Bothwell for Congress. Cecil Bothwell ( is the strong progressive challenging the Blue Dog incumbent in next year's Democratic primary to represent North Carolina's 11th district. If elected, he'll be the first person to join Congress as an open atheist, laying to rest the notion that this isn't possible.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Today I saw a table whose banner announced "The Truth About Drugs." Even from a distance something about the design told me this was a Scientology banner. So as I passed I informed a bunch of people who'd taken pamphlets that they were "Scientology cult literature."

Saturday, July 02, 2011

At last week's ICSA meeting, I learned about an unethical dominant who's running a BDSM cult. I'm consulting with someone prominent in the community on how best to spread an alert about this person.