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!

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.