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!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hello Again

I've decided that I'm now able to manage my time on the Web, and so will resume blogging. Unfortunately I have little time to post anything now, except that I won my election. I'm Majority Inspector for my division for the next four years.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Meet the Elected Official

I won my campaign for ward 59, division 21's election board. I will be Majority Inspector for the next four years. This also makes me the Green Party's first elected official in Philadelphia.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Deny Deni Again

I wrote six years ago about the effort (unfortunately unsuccessful) to unseat slut-shaming judge Teresa Carr Deni from Philadelphia Municipal Court. Well, she's up for retention again next Tuesday, so I've moved that the Green Party of Philadelphia call again for a "NO" vote. The party endorsed my proposal and asked me to write a letter to the local papers. Here's what I submitted to the Inquirer and Daily News:

On Election Day next Tuesday, Philadelphia voters have the chance to take a stand against sexual violence and send a clear message that everyone's human rights must be respected.
Six years ago, in what the chancellor of the Bar Association called "an unforgivable miscarriage of justice," Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni threw out sexual assault charges in a multiple rape, at gunpoint and without protection, simply because the victim was a sex worker. Foreshadowing the recent outrageous comments of some politicians, she said to do otherwise would be a disservice to the victims of "true rape."
Judge Carr Deni has never repudiated her actions in this case. While she may prefer to forget the matter, Philadelphia voters have no reason to either forget or forgive. Let's all vote NO on Judge Carr Deni's retention November 5th.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rape-Enabling Judge Up for Retention Again

Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni, who infamously ruled in 2007 that sex workers can't be raped, is up for retention again. On November 5, voters will get to say "yea" or "nay" on giving her another six years on the bench. (If nay, a replacement will be appointed.) Last night the Green Party of Philadelphia approved my motion to call for a no vote. You can follow the link below for more details on the case.

When Is It All Right for the State to Break Its Promises?

In response to an item reported in this week's Public Record, I've submitted this comment to my state senator, Leanna Washington:

I understand the State House has just passed HB162, which would abrogate the confidentiality of sealed adoption records.

I have no personal stake in this issue, as I am neither a birth parent, adoptive parent, nor an adoptee. I care deeply, however, about honoring commitments. Birth parents who gave up their children for a sealed adoption did so based on the state's promise to keep their identity a secret. If this bill becomes law, the state will be breaching its trust with those citizens.

No matter how understandable and how intense adoptees' curiosity may be, it cannot trump the state's obligation to keep its commitments. The public's confidence in government is already at an all-time low; an abrogation of its commitment to birth parents would only push it lower still.

Please also bear in mind that the public debate on this issue is inherently skewed, because one side's interest is based on a desire for confidentiality, which could be jeopardized by speaking out about this. If the mail you receive is one-sided, that doesn't mean public opinion really is.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Conventional Prejudice Isn't Reality -- and Neither Is "Reality"

NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday (5 October) featured an interview with Erica Jong concerning her classic book Fear of Flying. For the most part it was good, but I had a couple comments which I'm submitting in the letter below.

Thank you for the interview with Erica Jong. But no thank you for the way you prefaced it.

Your statement that it was "not appropriate for children" flies in the face of all scientific evidence. Nowhere has it been demonstrated that there is any age before which hearing about sex is harmful to people. In fact, clinical history-taking has indicated that people with violent psychosexual disorders come disproportionately from families which denied them information about sex. You do the public a great disservice when you repeat this harmful antisexual superstition.

For further information, I recommend that you read the National Coalition Against Censorship's amicus brief concerning the Child Online Protection (sic) Act, which can be found at; and Susan Levine's book Harmful to Minors: The Hazards of Protecting Children from Sex.

On another point, Jong did not make clear on what she based her notion that young women aren't getting any satisfaction from hookups. The only fact she cited is that what she sees on hookup "reality" shows doesn't turn out well.

I don't watch "reality" shows, but one thing I know about them is this: they're not reality. Individual lines may be improvised, but the story lines are scripted, and the scripts are based on conventional social assumptions. Since it's a conventional social assumption that women can't get satisfaction from casual sex, it's no surprise that they don't do so on these shows. That's because they aren't reality but "reality."

Further, particularly in connection with casual sex, "discretion" tends to be more important to women, because of the sexual double standard. So, a woman who would enjoy casual sex under real-life conditions may well not do so when a camera crew is following her around.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

An Example of Why We Can All Use a Refresher Sometimes

Yesterday I started rereading Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change by Humane League founder and president Nick Cooney. And just now I got a reminder of why such refreshers can be important.

In my last post I copied a letter I'd sent correcting misinformation in a newspaper article about 9/11. Unfortunately I forgot one of the clearest lessons of the research on persuasion: one should never use the "Facts/Myths" format. The reason is that, in doing so, one must repeat the myths one means to refute, and people will often remember these as true even more than the corrective information, and even newly associate them with you as a trustworthy source. This is especially often true of older readers. The better approach, therefore, is simply to present the truth without making reference to the misinformation.

I had, in fact, initially meant to do that in my letter, but unfortunately forgot to when I was actually writing it. If I were writing it now, it would look something like this:

To the editor:

I appreciate your interest in helping the public understand the events of 9/11. Here are a few additional points not mentioned by the author of the article you published in your most recent issue:

1) The destruction of World Trade Center building 7 began when pieces of one of the much taller Twin Towers, only a block away, fell on it. This started a conflagration whose heat ultimately weakened the building's steel structure to the point where it collapsed -- in much the same way that the impact of planes started the fires that led to the Twin Towers' collapse.

2) Because WTC7 was hit by pieces of a building to one side of it, the fire started and remained primarily on that side of the building. The resulting asymmetric collapse is the reason that the rubble stretched over the width of a four-lane highway on that side.

3) Thanks to "a thorough internal study of the WTC collapses," the designers of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Beijing  avoided a similar catastrophe. "For example, instead of the steel-only structural framework of Building 7, ARUP used a combination of concrete and steel framing." Also, "[t]he firefighters were able to gain control of the blaze in about an hour, fully extinguishing the fire six hours after it began. By contrast, the fires in Building 7 were never fought, because what access the FDNY had to water could not reach the building." (http://ae911truth.INFO) Both these differences meant that where fire had been able to destroy WTC7, the Mandarin Oriental was spared this outcome.

This information and much else is documented at http://ae911truth.INFO. Click on "WTC7" under Categories and on "Mandarin Oriental" under Pages for articles about those buildings.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Theory That Collapses in Its Own Footprint

The latest issue of The Independent Voice -- successor to The Germantown Chronicle -- contains a story by a 9/11 "inside-jobber." I felt moved to correct some misinformation, as follows:

There are some errors in your article "Questions Still Linger About Official Version of 9/11."

It's misleading to say, as Sabina Clarke does, that World Trade Center building 7 "was not hit by a plane." More to the point is that it was hit by one of the Twin Towers, which was much taller than the distance between the two buildings. It was this impact that started the fire in WTC7, in the same way the impact of planes started fires in the first two buildings, leading to their catastrophic collapse.

Also inaccurate is the statement that WTC7 "fell in its own footprint." Photos actually show the rubble covering a four-lane highway.

This information and much else is documented on the website "Answers to Architects for 9/11 Truth's Questions," at http://ae911truth.INFO. Click on "WTC7" under Categories for articles about that building.

I'll try to post an update if it's printed. Strangely, my earlier letter about misconduct I witnessed at my polling place last year never was, even though it was prompted by a piece they'd printed alleging election fraud.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Meet the Candidate

After canvassing my entire division with the help of fellow Greens Chris Robinson and Dave Houck, I've submitted nominating papers bearing thirty-four valid signatures to be placed on the ballot as our party's candidate for Inspector of Election. The legal requirement is five.

Consulting election results on the City Commissioners' and PhilaDems websites, I observe that this past primary, just like four years ago, no one bothered running for Judge or Inspector of Election in either "major" party for my division. This means I'll be the only candidate on the November ballot for our election board!

I'm also pleased to note that while Shoshana Bricklin, the progressive candidate for Municipal Court who ran in the Democratic primary with the support of Greens like myself and Chris Robinson, didn't win citywide, she came in third (out of three openings) in my division, and #1 in his!

Notwithstanding this special update, what I wrote in the previous post still applies if you wish to get in touch with me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Signing Off

I have determined that the Web is too tempting a distraction for me as I strive to become more present to my physical surroundings, and in particular opportunities to make more human connections. Consequently it is my intention not to go online for the forseeable future (say, at least a year). If anyone wishes to reach me, they can email me at my Yahoo! address (same username as this blog), and they will receive an auto-response including alternate contact information.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Friend Joe Szimhart Has Written a Novel

Looks interesting.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Girl in Movement by Eva Kollisch

I'm adding this book to my Powell Partner Bookshelf. I saw a review of it several years ago in the magazine Against the Current, but only got around to reading it more recently. I've also posted a comment which you can read on  Powell's page for it. It's the coming-of-age memoir of a woman involved in the early Forties in Max Schachtman's Workers Party.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Joke That "Spoiler Alerts" Have Become

Have you noticed how it seems that these days, when someone on radio or TV says "spoiler alert," they immediately follow that phrase with a spoiler? Do they not understand that most people don't have their hands perpetually on the radio, and will need more than a split second to turn it off to avoid hearing something?

Done in this absurd way, a so-called spoiler alert might more accurately be called a "spoiler taunt," as in, Don't want to learn the ending before reading the book? Screw you -- I'm telling you anyway!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Disability Program Hides True Unemployment Level

The latest This American Life is devoted to an examination of why beneficiaries of the Social Security Disability program have exploded over the past couple decades. It turns out that, in large measure, this is how states have offloaded the cost of supporting people for whom capitalism can't actually provide living-wage employment by transferring them from state-financed welfare programs to the federal Social Security system. While this keeps these people from starving or becoming homeless, it has the big disadvantage of not doing anything to assist them in getting out of poverty -- at the same time it erases them from unemployment statistics by no longer counting them as "looking for work."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bound and Gagged: pornography and the politics of fantasy in America, by Laura Kipnis

That story about Iceland reminded me of a great book I read several years ago, before I started my Powell Partner Bookshelf. I've added it now.

Bound and Gagged

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Stop Iceland from Banning Internet "Violent Pornography"

As recently reported on FetLife, the government of Iceland is considering a ban on online "violent pornography," in the name of protecting children from its putative harm, of course. You can read the UK Guardian article here:

And here's what I've written the Prime Minister of Iceland at

Dear Minister:

I am greatly concerned by the news that you are considering a law to ban Internet "violent pornography" in the name of protecting children.

In the first place, contrary to your statements, there is no consensus among researchers about this alleged harm. Consider, for instance, this statement by US scholars:

In the second place, this is unquestionably an issue of free expression. Efforts to "protect" children with computer algorithms have had notoriously imprecise results -- including, for instance, the censoring of any and all gay-positive material -- so the only way to implement such a law would be to use human screeners, guaranteeing that those screeners' biases would come into play. Even terms like "violent" or "hateful" are construed in very different ways by different people. What one woman may call misogynistic, another finds arousing.

Thirdly, this goes beyond the desire of lone individuals to view erotica on their computers. Many people network online on the basis of shared erotic interests, such as BDSM (bondage and discipline/dominance and submission/sadomasochism). I belong to one such network based in the US. I am appalled at the thought that Icelanders with similar interests would become unable to find one another if this proposed law went into effect.

With a view to protecting their civil rights, I am determined that if this legislation is adopted, I will not buy any products from Iceland.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Cognitive Dissonance Is and Is Not

In recent years I've been irritated by how often people misuse the phrase "cognitive dissonance." Understood correctly, it's a powerful and important theory about one of the things that can drive people to change their beliefs and/or their behaviors -- and which can be exploited by others for this purpose, including in underhanded and unethical ways, as often is practiced by cults for instance. But the colloquial usage completely fails to capture this dynamic aspect of the concept, reducing it instead to a sort of highfalutin insult.

I saw another example of this in the latest Savage Love column, and submitted this comment:

While the column may be a rerun, unfortunately an inaccurate idea expressed therein seems to be as widespread now as when it was first published: the definition, "cognitive dissonance: the holding of mutually exclusive beliefs."

As Wikipedia explains, "In modern psychology, cognitive dissonance is the feeling of discomfort when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions." Note the operative phrase, "feeling of discomfort." It's irrelevant whether SOMEONE ELSE perceives you to be holding mutually exclusive beliefs; what matters is whether YOU feel discomfort because YOU perceive a discrepancy. Leon Festinger, the author of the theory of cognitive dissonance, considered this effect important because people have a drive to REDUCE cognitive dissonance. You can't be driven to reduce a discrepancy that only other people, not you, perceive. Without this ingredient, it's reduced to an epithet, a pseudoscientific way of saying, "I think you're inconsistent!"

On the (Key)Spot

Today I'm writing from the Urban Affairs Coalition's KeySpot location, the first step to signing up for Wilco Electronics' low-cost home Wi-Fi service. That means soon, hopefully, I can blog, read email etc. from home for the first time in a couple years, and for the first time ever with a fast connection.

Friday, March 15, 2013

ICSA special event - Abuses in the Troubled Teen Industry

One of the participants in this event, Sunny Linkfield, has described her own experiences at the hands of this "industry" at ICSA-Philadelphia meetings. A couple political connections to this issue: the recent "kids for cash" scandal in PA involved a judge's railroading teens to a facility of this sort. And Mitt Romney has personal connections with Straight, Inc.

From: Michael Langone
To: International Cultic Studies Assoc.
Sent: Friday, March 15, 2013 1:48 PM
Subject: {ICSA Members:77} [ICSAMail:70] DC ICSA special event - Abuses in the Troubled Teen Industry

PDF Flyer:

Abuses in the Troubled Teen Industry

Saturday, April 20, 2013—10:00 AM – 5:30 PM

Comfort Inn, Pentagon City, 2480 South Glebe Rd., Bldg. 2, Arlington,
VA, US, 22206. Phone: (703) 682–5500 Fax: (703) 682-5505 Exit 7B
(Glebe Rd.), I-395. Free parking.

International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) and Community Alliance
for the Ethical Treatment of Youth (CAFETY) are cosponsors of a one-
day conference that will bring experts together with individuals
harmed in teen treatment programs.

Some teen treatment programs have used psychological control
techniques commonly associated with manipulative, high-demand groups,
often called “cults.” Sometimes such techniques have contributed to
the psychological, physical, or sexual abuse of teens that the
programs were supposed to help.

The conference will include the following talks, followed by

Overview of the Cultic Influences in the Troubled Teen Industry
(William Goldberg)
Clips from Surviving Straight Inc., a Documentary (Kelly Matthews)
The Great Drug War (Arnold Trebach)
Survivor Interviews: Surviving Straight Inc., a Documentary
Personal Story (Sunny Linkfield and Ethel Linkfield)
Cultic Practices in Residential Care and Applicable Human-Rights
Conventions (Katherine Whitehead)
How Do We Really Help Troubled Teens? What Science Tells Us (Steve
Overcoming and Healing After the Abuse (William Goldberg)
Healing Through Advocacy (Kathy Moya)

Space is limited, so please REGISTER ASAP. The registration fee is
$30, payable to ICSA.

To register, send:





E-mail (Important!):

Payment: [ ] Check [ ] Visa
[ ] MasterCard

cc No: Exp. Date:

Register Online:

Mail: ICSA Box 2265, Bonita Springs, FL 34133 E-mail: Fax: 305-393-8193


Steve K. D. Eichel, PhD, ABPP, President of ICSA, is past President of
the American Academy of Counseling Psychology and the Greater
Philadelphia Society of Clinical Hypnosis. He is a licensed and Board-
certified counseling psychologist whose involvement in cultic studies
began with a participant-observation study of Unification Church
training in its eastern seminary (in Barrytown, New York) in the
spring of 1975. His doctoral dissertation, an intensive, quantified
observation of a deprogramming, earned him a John G. Clark Award for
Distinguished Scholarship in Cultic Studies in 1990. In 1983, along
with Dr. Linda Dubrow-Marshall and clinical social worker Roberta
Eisenberg, Dr. Eichel founded the Re-Entry Therapy, Information &
Referral Network (RETIRN), one of the field’s oldest continuing
private providers of psychological services to families and
individuals harmed by cultic practices. He also served as Clinical
Director of the St. Francis Homes for Boys from 1989 to 1994, and
subsequently as a consulting psychologist from 1994 to 2006. From 1993
to 1996 he was a family psychologist with Community Centered
Treatment, a multisystemic family-therapy program for delinquent

William Goldberg, LCSW, PsyA, is a clinical social worker and
psychoanalyst with more than forty years’ experience working with
former cult members. He and his wife, Lorna, colead a support group
for former cult members. This group has been meeting for more than
thirty-five years and is the oldest group of its kind in the world. In
2007 Bill retired from the Rockland County, New York Department of
Mental Health, where he directed several programs and clinics. He is
presently an adjunct professor in the Social Work and Social Science
departments of Dominican College, and he is on the faculty of the
Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies. Bill is a frequent speaker at
ICSA conferences, and he and Lorna have been the recipients of the
Authentic CAN Hall of Fame Award, and of the Leo J. Ryan Award. In
2010, Bill was the recipient of ICSA's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sunny Linkfield, President of CAFETY, is a survivor of Straight Inc.,
where she was a client from 1982 to 1984. This abusive teen “rehab”
center convinced thousands of parents that normal behavior was a sign
of “druggie” behavior. Sunny was an overachiever but became a moody
teenager, experimenting with pot, alcohol, and a few other drugs.
After her parents read an article in Reader's Digest, they dropped her
off in a warehouse called Straight Incorporated. Straight, Inc. was an
abusive, mind-control cult that practiced on youth torture techniques
formerly used in Communist China and North Korea. These techniques
were ostensibly employed to help Straight’s victims overcome the
problems and addictions that Straight claimed they had. Spin-offs
still exist today. Sunny is now a make-up artist/esthetician and a
trainer in retail cosmetics. She was recently interviewed in the new
movie, Surviving Straight Inc., a Documentary. Sunny was also the lead
make-up artist for the film. Ms. Linkfield is active with the
International Cultic Studies Association and serves on the Board of
Directors of the Community Alliance For the Ethical Treatment of

Kathy Moya, BA (Psychology) is a former 15-year-old client of the
Straight, Inc. program in 1982. In 1999, Kathy helped spearhead the
online movement against institutional child abuse. Her personal
efforts began with a forum and Web site called Straight Inc.
Survivors, in an effort to share her research about the Straight, Inc.
program and speak to others who had been there so they could share
their stories and viewpoints about their experiences. In 2001, she
helped organize the Saving Our Children from Drug Treatment Abuse
conference presented by the Trebach Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.
Her research led to her discovery that an entire troubled-teen
industry existed within and beyond the United States. By 2004, she had
created the Fight Institutional Child Abuse (FICA) Web site, which
served as an informational campaign and forum for families considering
a residential program for their child(ren), as well as for families
who had already been affected by child abuse within a variety of
institutions for children. She authored two reports in 2006,
“Understanding the Con Game,” and “Understanding Brainwashing, Mind
Control & Aggression,” as part of the Fight Institutional Child Abuse
educational campaign. She attended the congressional hearings on Child
Abuse and Neglect at Residential Treatment Programs in 2007 and has
participated in several conferences over the years regarding this

Arnold Trebach, JD, PhD, is the founder, Chairman of the Board of
Directors, and Chief Executive Officer of The Trebach Institute. He
has had a long and varied career in the worlds of academia,
scholarship, teaching, writing, government service, and business
enterprises. He personally led the Institute on Drugs, Crime, and
Justice, an international seminar on drug treatment and policy, from
1974 to 1998. He founded the nonprofit Drug Policy Foundation (DPF) in
1986 and served as its first chairman and president until 1997. DPF
has been recognized as one of the leading forces for rational drug
policy reform in the world. He has been the subject of an
international campaign that sought his nomination for a Nobel Peace
Prize on the basis of his drug-policy-reform efforts. Also, he has
been called the Father of the Modern Drug Policy Reform Movement and
the Shadow Drug Czar, along with some much-less-favorable appellations
by some of those who support the status quo in drug control. He
retired from the American University, where he now holds the rank of
Professor Emeritus, and also from the Foundation at the end of 1997.
His books include The Rationing of Justice (Rutgers University Press,
1964); The Heroin Solution (Yale University Press, 1982); The Great
Drug War (Macmillan, 1987); and Legalize It? Debating American Drug
Policy (American University Press, 1993), which he coauthored with
James Inciardi. Dr. Trebach has edited or coauthored many other books
and has published numerous original articles in scholarly journals and
the popular press. He has appeared in hundreds of television and radio
programs. American University conferred on him its highest award for
scholarship for the academic years 1978–79 and 1983–84. He holds a JD
degree from the New England School of Law (1951) and a PhD in Politics
from Princeton University (1958). Since 1951 he has been a member of
the Massachusetts Bar.

Katherine Whitehead, JD, is a children’s-rights advocate and the
founder and director of Community Alliance for the Ethical Treatment
of Youth, CAFETY. The organization’s mission is to promote and secure
the human rights of youth in, or at risk of residential placement,
through education and advocacy led and driven by those with direct
experience in harmful residential placement and our allies. Ms.
Whitehead is a survivor of a therapeutic boarding school called
Mission Mountain School, and she formed CAFETY in an effort to give
voice to residential-care alumni and survivors concerned with human-
rights violations in residential programs for youth. A graduate of
Hunter College with a BA in Political Science, Ms. Whitehead dedicates
much of her time to civic engagement. She volunteers her time for
various organizations and working groups such as the Bazelon Center
for Mental Health Law and Policy’s Leadership 21 Initiative, and
Alliance for the Safe, Therapeutic and Appropriate Use of Residential
Treatment (ASTART).

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Today I resumed going door to door in my neighborhood with the Green Party of Philadelphia's anti-fracking petition (I started two weeks ago), which will be presented on Earth Day, 22 April, to the head of the DEP regional office in Norristown. I'm doing this as a way of getting to know my neighbors and increasing the visibility of  GPOP, and with a view to further developing my capacity for extroversion/overcoming social anxiety. While I've done door-to-door things a few times before, this time it's my own initiative.

I saw in the City Paper that Tuesday night, Woodmere Art Museum is screening The Ipcress File, a film from 1965 in which "Michael Caine stars as an intelligence agent investigating the brainwashing of British scientists." Seeing an opportunity to offer some information about the reality behind the fiction, I've printed out Margaret Singer's article "Thought Reform Exists" from ICSA so I can make copies to hand out.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Who Do I Think I Am -- Some Kind of Einstein?

Well, not quite. I understand he had an IQ of 160. I do have a friend like that.

But it occurred to me recently that I might find more people to get romantically excited about -- and, at the same time, whom I could relate to on other levels as well -- if I spent more time around those on a similar intellectual level. So I contacted Mensa and learned when their next test for membership eligibility is.

I was never told my IQ as a child, but later self-administered a test I got at a bookstore. Though I was allowed 90 minutes to complete it, I got through it and reviewed my answers in less than an hour. When I scored myself I got 146. So I'm fairly confident I'll pass the test being administered next Saturday.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

I just listened and commented on this edition of *Voices in the Family* from a month ago on a particularly fascinating topic. If you read the comments, you'll notice how conspiracist listeners heard the show selectively so that they could justify dismissing it as just "part of the conspiracy," completely ignoring that host and guests alike acknowledged the existence of actual conspiracies and the importance of maintaining a degree of suspiciousness toward official as well as toward dissident views.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Flawed Reasoning About Hookups

In his interview on WHYY's Morning Edition today, Dr. Dan Gottlieb talked about "hookup culture." Unfortunately his remarks evinced a biased attitude toward the subject, as I discussed in this message I sent the station:

While Dan Gottlieb is right to say parents should tell their children that casual sex can be physically pleasurable (if only so they won't lose credibility), that's only half the story. His suggestion that it compares unfavorably in other respects with dating suffers from a fatal flaw: none of the figures he cited actually makes such a comparison. In the absence of corresponding numbers for dating, the findings about hookups that he reports are of little practical relevance.

In particular I would dispute the claim, for which he doesn't even cite any study data, that hookups involve "an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections." Quite the opposite, I think: because people who are hooking up do so for the explicit, unambiguous purpose of having sex, it's pretty certain that they'll bring protection. In a dating situation, by contrast, women in particular may tell themselves that they don't really intend to have sex -- especially if it's one of their first dates with someone -- while secretly hoping that something might "just happen." This sort of romantic fantasy often results in someone's coming to a date without birth control or, even if they bring it, failing to use it because they're "carried away by the moment," or because they're afraid showing they came prepared for sex (instead of relying on the man for birth control) will make them seem "slutty."

In a hookup situation this isn't an issue, since by agreeing to it a woman makes clear she's not ashamed about wanting sexual pleasure. So she not only will come prepared, but is highly likely to use what she brought.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Class Participation

I find my face has again appeared in the Philadelphia Public Record, this time in connection with one of Commissioner Stephanie Singer's classes for candidates (which was sponsored by the local chapter of the National Organization for Women and the Coalition of Labor Union Women). If you click on the image under "Our latest issue" for 28 February, you'll find the picture on page 11. Though you probably can't see it, the sign I'm holding says "Independent." They didn't have one for "Green."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Real Beliefs Have Consequences

Yesterday a coworker told me that very shortly, on a date I won't quote here, "they're going to be putting chips in us." He was speaking of microchip implants that will be "the Mark of the Beast," without which we won't be able to engage in commerce.

Of course I'd heard such predictions before, but without a specific date attached. I told him I think this is nonsense: "Humanity is a chaotic system. No one is in control." I added, "I'm quite certain that no one will be putting any chip in me on [the date]." He insisted, "Just you wait. A year from now, I'll be telling people  'I told you so.'"

Finally I asked, "So, do you want to put some money on it?" His answer? "Well, I'm not that sure."

Note that there were actually two testable claims here. The first was that we'd all be forced to get implants on a certain date. The second was that my coworker believes we will be. If the second were true in any empirically meaningful sense, he'd have jumped at the chance to make some money on it  -- especially since I hadn't specified how much I wanted to bet, or even what odds. The fact that he backed down as soon as I suggested a wager tells me he doesn't really believe what he's saying.

To be consistently empirical, one must define all one's terms of discourse, including those pertaining to the discourse itself, in an empirical way. Only in this way can one distinguish true beliefs -- the kind that induced some people to give away all their possessions and euthanize their pets ahead of 21 May 2011, for instance -- from meaningless cocktail party (or office) chatter. For that matter, one can't even define lying without this distinction.

A real belief makes someone act differently, not just talk differently.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Thanks to my friend and neighbor, fellow Green Chris Robinson, I learned of somewhere else to send my account of my Election Day experience that for whatever reason the Germantown Chronicle didn't print. It turns out the Mayor's office is soliciting people's stories about that day, so I copied mine to his web page created for this purpose.

Also thanks to Chris, I learned that City Commissioner Stephanie Singer is holding classes for people seeking neighborhood leadership positions such as block captain, committeeperson, and election board. I've attended two of them and she knows my face now. She says she's glad there's an effort to build the Green Party in this city. She herself was a Democratic ward leader before voluntarily resigning that post after her election to the Commission, but perhaps appreciates that her party would function better with a more credible opposition than the GOP has much chance of becoming here.

On another front, I attended a speed dating event at the central library Monday, where I selected about half of the thirteen women I met and was matched with two of them. I'd attended a commercial speed dating event in 2002, where I selected four out of ten women but didn't match anyone.

I invited one of them to a Valentine's Day Dessert Party and Buddhist Love Panel last night, of which I'd learned after attending a free meditation class at the PCI library off Rittenhouse Square. (Even prior to the class, I'd started getting results practicing mindfulness on my own.) I only invited one to avoid any awkwardness, but she didn't show and hasn't responded to my email as of about 6:30 yesterday evening.

The people were friendly and the practical advice from the panel (answering written questions submitted in advance) seemed psychologically sound, but I don't subscribe to the metaphysical aspects like belief in reincarnation. A couple people to which I mentioned this said I could just take the parts I find useful.

P.S. Singer says that the best thing to do in view of improper conduct such as I witnessed would be to call the district attorney. A call from him to the Judge of Election would probably stop the problem behavior. She pointed out to me that since election board workers are elected, they haven't necessarily attended the trainig and so may not realize what's permitted and what isn't.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Literary speed date

The Free Library held a speed dating event Monday evening. I'd only participated in one such event previously, over ten years ago, and though I'd picked four women I got no matches that time. Since I don't suppose I was any less intelligent or physically attractive then than now, I must assume my greatly reduced social anxiety and improved self-confidence are the reason that this time there were two.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Reminding Elected Officials That They're Human

The other day I heard city councilmember Bill Green on the radio indignantly rejecting the idea that a large contribution might influence him. I left this message on his website:

As someone who has voted for you in the past, I am dismayed by the facile way you in which you dismiss the idea that $30,000 could influence you. That's an incredibly naive statement, and suggests that you need to study some psychology.

The classic work in the social influence field is Influence by Robert Cialdini. In it, on the basis of both experimental research and his own undercover investigation among "compliance professionals" such as marketers, Cialdini identified six major tools of influence. One of these is "reciprocity," the principle that if someone does something for you, you feel obliged to return the favor. You can't simply turn this off, because it operates on an unconscious as well as a conscious level. Pure intentions are no guarantee against it.

Because this effect can't be negated by an act of will (and public disclosure requirements prevent reliably shielding yourself from knowing contributors' identities), the only protection lies in declining donations from those whom you don't wish to influence you.

Understanding that everyone is susceptible to bias, scientists have instituted the system of peer review to keep each other's errors in check. This same principle of critical thinking applies to everyone, not just professional researchers. To minimize the risk that even seemingly benign contributors could exercise an unwholesome influence, it's important to make their role well-known or at least easily knowable.

Richard Feynman, the Nobelist who uncovered the cause of the Challenger disaster, defined science as "a set of techniques we've developed to avoid fooling ourselves" -- techniques that presuppose we have the humility to recognize our capacity for self-deception. In my view, assisting each other in this regard is one of the most important forms of human solidarity. I hope you will receive what I've written in that spirit and take it on board as you continue your public service.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Today I took part in Brandywine Peace Community's monthly anti-drones protest on the Penn campus, where drone warfare research is taking place. You can learn more about this issue at

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Today I started reading Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point by Huw Price, which was recommended to me by my friend, time freak John Ashmead.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Election Day Experience

I've retitled an earlier post to make its subject matter apparent.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Roots of 9/11: A Concise Explanation

In a 1998 Le Monde [actually it was Le Nouvel Observateur -- stripey7] interview, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbignew Brzezinski had bragged about how he conceived of arming Islam-extremist militants against the Afghan government as a ploy to draw in the Soviet Union more deeply and thus help destroy their system.[8] What Brzezinksi proudly proclaimed as his contribution to defeat the Soviet Union in the Cold War appears in retrospect as a highly problematic U.S. intervention in the late 1970s that intensified civil war in Afghanistan. Overthrow of the secular and modernizing regime in Afghanistan by Islamic fundamentalists helped mobilize and empower the forces that would turn on the U.S. and institute a reign of global terrorism in the current situation.U.S. intervention in the Afghan conflict, that now appears as the last great clash of the Cold War, helped create the context for the current crisis. As a response to U.S. intervention, the Soviet Union sent increased aid and personnel to prop up the moderate modernizing Taraki regime that was opposed by Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan. When Taraki was killed by Afghan army officers in September 1979, the Soviets invaded in force in December 1979 and set up a government to avoid a fundamentalist Islamic and U.S.-backed takeover.

In the 1980s, the U.S. began more aggressively supporting Islamic fundamentalist Jihad groups and the Afghan project was a major covert foreign policy project of the Reagan-Bush administration. During this period, the CIA trained, armed, and financed precisely those Islamic fundamentalist groups who later became part of the Al Qaeda terror network who are now the nemesis of the West, the new “evil empire.” In the battle to defeat Soviet Communism in the Cold War, the U.S. poured billions of dollars into Afghanistan to train “freedom fighters” that would overthrow the purportedly communist regime. This was a major project with overt and covert aid from the U.S., Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. The military aid went into training and arming radical Islamic groups who would emerge with a desire to fight other wars for Islam in the countries that had earlier supported them in their Jihad against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan administrations. These groups included Osama bin Laden and those who would later form his Al Qaeda network.

from "Theorizing September 11" by Douglas Kellner,