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

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

I joined several members of the Philadelphia Area Atheist Meetup Group and the Peace Advocacy Network to protest an event by the anti-gay "conversion" "therapy" group misnamed Courage. My hand-made sign read, "True Courage Is Accepting Who You Are."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Medieval Monk?

I was rather appalled by an episode of *Monk* aired last night on MNT, in which he becomes distressed by his childhood TV idol's autobiography, about which his chief, if not only, complaint is that it reveals her as a "whore." I've written the following to the originating USA Network at

"I generally love the show, but am dismayed at the regressive sexual attitude expressed in your recently aired episode about the former child star of Monk's favorite TV show. It's bad enough that Monk himself feels betrayed by his idol's "promiscuity"; that might be chalked up to an idiosyncrasy of his, perhaps related to his OCD.  Far worse is that it seems that everyone else in the show feels the same way.  The implicit prudery and sexism in this was quite off-putting."

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cosmos: There's No Place Else Like It

I just saw and loved the first episode of the new Cosmos. A particularly favorable impression was made when, right in the opening, Neil deGrasse Tyson outlined the rules of scientific method as the key to the Universe. Also noteworthy was that, even with all the snazzier special effects, there were some features of the original that couldn't be improved on -- like using a calendar to illustrate comparisons in cosmic time. Or directly quoting Sagan's line, "We are all made of star stuff." So it came as no surprise that he concluded by citing an early meeting with Sagan as an inspiration.

One quibble: Tyson presents, but doesn't critique, Giordano Bruno's argument for the infinity of the Universe. Although he later calls it only an educated guess, he never actually explains what's wrong with it. This is unfortunate inasmuch as it's an example of the sort of "argument from intuition" that people often need to resist in order to accept the counterintuitive findings of modern science.


Saturday, March 08, 2014

15 Now! Campaign Comes to Philly

For International Women's Day, thirty or forty people rallied this afternoon in Center City for a $15/hr. minimum wage. It was the first such action locally for this movement, which got started in Seattle. In addition to comments by various speakers interspersed with chants, we broke up into groups that went into low-wage establishments to bring the message of the movement and give flowers to the women workers. My group chose a McDonald's.

Particularly gratifying was the way a meme I generated got copied by one of the speakers. He was making reference to "the so-called job creators" running corporations. I piped up, "We're the job creators. They're the job excluders!" referring to the ideological fiction whereby capitalists, who use their property  rights to limit who can work, are credited with creating that work, when it's really the working class that builds all the equipment making productive activity possible. When I'd barely started my second sentence,  the speaker repeated the fIrst one. He followed up with an off-the-cuff explanation of why it was true, which got it more or less right. Hopefully it also got him and others thinking, since, if fully appreciated,  this insight may help people overcome the dependency psychology that limits people's horizons to what's possible under capitalism.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Putting a Human Face on an Inhuman System

Weekend Edition Sunday had an interview today with a federal prosecutor misleadingly described as "an attorney for young victims." Here's the comment I left:

"The problem is as time goes on, people start to want to heal."

What does it say about someone's job when their "success" depends on other people's being emotional rather than rational? Add to this that such proceedings often *delay* a family's healing. The guest disguises this issue by calling herself an "advocate for the child." But in reality nothing can be done for someone who's already dead.

However she may see herself, objectively she's an advocate for a state that parasitically manipulates and feeds off people's grief and rage to expand the resources and people under its carceral control.