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, September 30, 2016

Urge Your University to Preserve Due Process

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) is urging its supporters to write their alma maters about the worrying trend toward so-called "victim-centered investigations." I've written a letter to Penn's President Gutman laying out the case against this approach:

I am very concerned about the threat to due process rights and the presumption of innocence posed by the trend toward so-called "victim-centered" investigations, primarily being promoted in connection with accusations of sexual assault on college and university campuses.

By substituting partiality toward the accuser -- even to the point of deliberately refraining from gathering evidence in some circumstances -- this approach not only increases the likelihood of false convictions, but ultimately can only undermine the public's confidence in judicial processes, and make it more skeptical even of true accusations.

Indeed, inasmuch as the push for this approach is mostly restricted to the context of sexual assault investigations, it could end up making the public even less willing to believe these allegations than those of other crimes.

Please commit Penn to maintaining neutral fact-finding as the standard for all its judicial processes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Leaving and Recovering from Cultic Groups and Relationships: A Workshop for Families and Former Members

Posting this for anyone to whom it may pertain -- and you or someone close to you may have been involved in a cultic group without realizing it yet:

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

So... Now I Know What to Do with Myself

I've been wrestling with which way to take the rest of my life since I was laid off a few months ago. Today I attended an Idealist Grad Fair, half not believing it could do me any good, and fully undecided about which of numerous fields I might pursue. By partway through, after mentioning to one rep that psychological issues had got in the way of pursuing post-baccalaureate education or even a suitable job, it hit me: the one area I can make the most  difference is helping people dealing with the same issues that got in my way, especially the aftereffects of cult involvement. So now I am going to pursue a career in psychology where I can specialize in that, as a too-small handful currently do.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

We're Here, We're Queer, and We Like to Say Hello

That was one of the chants by a crowd on Gollege Green today as I was heading toward Penn's Van Pelt Library.

When I first saw it I worried it might be part of the recent neo-puritan reaction to the "scandal" about a sexually oriented email sent to some freshwomen inviting them to a hookup party. It turned out instead to be a pro-LGBT protest in response to a handful of fundamentalist street preachers. The latter had a sign reading, "No one is born homosexual." After the chant under way as I approached, "Love trumps hate," died down, I volunteered through cupped hands, "No one is born a bigoted fundamentalist!" Another protester commented, "No, they have to be brainwashed!"

Speaking of brainwashing, while the term is probably apt for most homophobic street preachers, it isn't so much for people who are simply propagandized by right-wing talk radio. So, in preparation for an event this evening featuring a documentary about the rise of such media, I've printed out a number of copies of Margaret Singer's article "Thought Reform Exists: Organized, Programmatic Influence," incorporating a table comparing and contrasting the different varieties of social influence and persuasion programs, and will make them available at the event.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Of Paranoids and Pollsters

A friend made a point today that hadn't occurred to me: because paranoid people are apt not to answer pollsters -- and because, for the first time, a major-party Presidential nominee is aiming his message largely at paranoid people -- it's likely Trump will do better in November than the polls indicate.

He also noted that prediction markets, which historically have done better than polls, are predicting a closer race as well.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

A Tale of Two Docs

This being the first day of school in Philadelphia, it seemed a fine time to put up some posters for Cassie Jaye's documentary The Red Pill. And where better to put them than where they'll be seen by fresh, bright young minds just turning back to academic studies, possibly just starting to take an interest in social issues, but not yet indoctrinated? So I started this morning with the environs of Central and Girls' High Schools, both of them geared to the academically gifted. I'll try hitting others in the coming days.

I got news yesterday about another film I'd taken an interest in, Kamala Lopez's Equal Means Equal. Between the trailer and the reviews I've seen, unfortunately, it looks as if this one is shaped by a deeply ingrained, totally un-self-aware gynocentrism. For instance, one question we hear in the trailer, apparently intended as an example of why we need the Equal Rights Amendment, is, "How is it that the United States has more homeless women and girls than any other developed country?" Where to begin? How about, "Because we have more homeless people than any other developed country"? That, in turn, is because we have much less of a social safety net -- but most of those many homeless we have are men. Indeed, the ERA might help us address this problem, because arguably much homelessness is caused by public laws and policies biased against men, which that amendment would prohibit. But that's not what the film is evidently suggesting, unless the trailer is intentionally misleading. I was holding some hope for the latter when I saw earlier versions of it, but those hopes are dashed by the fact there's no hint at any surprise twist in either of the reviews I've read.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Quote for the Day

Beware of "anti" formulas. They are always inadequate because they are purely negative. One cannot conquer a principle except by opposing to it another principle -- a superior principle.

This statement by Daniel Guerin appears in the 1945 preface to his Fascism and Big Business. I've chosen to read this for the next meeting of my left book group, at which fascism will be the topic.

Guerin may here be seen as anticipating frame theory, whose application to politics has been expounded on in recent years by cognitive linguist George Lakoff. Of course Lakoff is a social democrat whose political perspective remains within the horizons of capitalism and statism, whereas Guerin was a libertarian Marxist. But the psychological principle expressed is similar -- with Lakoff's version actually being somewhat more robust in that he suggests "anti formulas," by implicitly restating and thereby reinforcing the nominally opposed frame, are not merely inadequate but directly counterproductive.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Logically, One Shouldn't Need to Trade Votes to Be Pragmatic

All one need do is weigh the trade-off between the instrumental vs. expressive value of one's own vote, and choose accordingly. I came to that conclusion about fifteen years ago, but the argument is summed up well in this recent piece:

But I suppose some people may need to frame it as trading votes with a fellow citizen to allow them to be pragmatic without feeling they're "selling out."

At the same time, we can continue to work for proportional representation (PR) and instant runoff voting (IRV), which would render such trade-offs unnecessary.