Friday, October 13, 2017

*The Pulse* Gets It Wrong on #Gamergate

WHYY's The Pulse aired a show today about nerds, which is good. One of the segments relied on Brianna Wu for information about #Gamergate, which isn't. I submitted the following comment on their Facebook page:

Great that you've done an episode on nerds. But you shouldn't have relied on Brianna Wu for information on #Gamergate -- she's very much an interested party and has been a major part of the disinformation campaign about this movement, which feminist scholar Christina Hoff Sommers has described as "a consumer uprising" against unethical and authoritarian practices in video game journalism and criticism. (You can hear her discuss it at length here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6e_jTwA_rg0) Contrary to the disinformation, Gamergaters are video gamers from all walks of life and of all genders, ethnicities, and political persuasions. They've received just as much harassment on line as opponents of #Gamergate, and quantitative studies have shown that tweets associated with the hashtag are no more likely to be abusive than tweets are overall. A particularly common form of abuse is anti-Gamergaters' "silencing" female, POC, and GBT Gamergaters by accusing them of not being who they say they are. A group of GGers targeted by this kind of abuse put together a video in response: "Giving Voice to the Voiceless: The #NotYourShield Project": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzwGIHUCtjU

Saturday, September 30, 2017

To Enable, or Not to Enable?

There was a rally today at the corner in Mt. Airy where I often sell One Step Away newspapers. P'nai Or Philadelphia gathered to promote anti-hunger efforts in the community. I stood with them for a while as they took turns speaking, singing, chanting, and reading certain lines about social justice from scripture.

As they started to head toward another destination, one of them asked if I could take some pictures of the procession before it was gone, adding that she couldn't as she lent me her camera phone. As I was in a good mood I obliged her.

Not long after she thanked me and joined the procession, I started to feel some resentment. When she'd said she couldn't take the pictures herself -- and I could see that her hands weren't full -- I'd inferred that this was for religious reasons. In retrospect I felt a little used and started thinking I should have insisted in getting the photo credit if I was taking the pictures.

Then I recalled a line of thought I'd had a few years ago after hearing someone on the radio recount how, as a boy, he'd been a paid "goy" for an elderly Jewish man in his neighborhood. I'd felt that if the man chose to believe something that inconvenienced him, he should experience its full consequence himself, rather than paying someone who didn't share his belief to relieve of him of it. It  seemed hypocritical, and I imagined that if I were in that boy's position, I would decline the job.

So I started having the same feelings again in the wake of today's experience. If I accommodate someone in this way, am I enabling irrationality? Would I be doing that person a better turn if I said to her, "No, I want you to experience the inconvenience you've chosen for yourself, so I'll leave you to it"? That's the way I'm leaning right now.

Friday, August 25, 2017

KSU Earns FIRE’s Highest Free Speech Rating

MANHATTAN, Kan., Aug. 25, 2017 — The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is pleased to announce that Kansas State University has earned FIRE’s highest, “green light” rating for free speech. In consultation with FIRE, the university revised its speech-related policies to fully reflect the university’s commitment to free speech. Kansas State University further affirmed its commitment to free expression by adopting a statement similar to the University of Chicago’s laudable statement on academic freedom. 
“This is an important, reaffirming moment for our university,” said Cheryl Strecker, general counsel for the university. “We are committed to our values of inclusion, diversity, anti-discrimination and nonviolence. At the same time, our principles and policies reflect the university’s longstanding commitment to free speech, a commitment that now is also formally expressed in our Statement on Free Speech and Expression. I hope that we can serve as a leader on this front as we and other institutions face the challenges of our day.”
The university became the 33rd green light institution in FIRE’s Spotlight database of nearly 450 colleges and universities, and the third institution to earn a green light this summer. This positive trend is the result of increased cooperation between students, faculty, administrators, and FIRE. In August, Strecker informed FIRE not only that the university had reworded its policies, but also that it had adopted a robust statement of commitment to free speech.
Kansas State University joins a growing list of colleges and universities that have adopted free speech policy statements that closely mirror the University of Chicago’s “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression,” better known as the “Chicago Statement.” Kansas State University’s version expands upon the Chicago Statement, acknowledging not only that “the ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict,” but also that “some individuals’ ideas will even conflict with the University’s values and principles.” 
The university’s statement further provides that freedom of speech is “one of our most cherished rights, protected by the United States Constitution. Without unwavering protection of that right, our society would suffer, and the vulnerable in our society would suffer the most. Progress such as civil rights movements and the resulting gains would not be possible.”
“With its robust new free speech statement and its other policy revisions, Kansas State has established itself as a leader in championing the free speech rights of its students and faculty,” said Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research. “We could not be happier to welcome Kansas State University to our list of green light institutions.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses.
Daniel Burnett, Communications Manager, FIRE
215-717-3473; media@thefire.org
Jennifer Tidball, Director of Communications and Marketing, Kansas State University: 785-532-2535; jtidball@k-state.edu
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
510 Walnut Street | Suite 1250 | Philadelphia, PA 19106

Good Video on Stephan Molyneux and Defooing

I discovered this video today and think it's an excellent introduction to what's wrong with Stephan Molyneux and why I advise people to keep their distance from him and refrain from giving him publicity. The group that produced it, FDR Liberated, is a place people can explore anarchocapitalist ideas without being subject to cultic manipulations.

In the International Cultic Studies Association, I've known two couples who were defooed by their children at Molyneux's instigation. Fortunately one subsequently escaped his influence and has resumed relations with her family. I like to think it may have something to do with her having eagerly received the information on mind control I brought to their discussion of Anthem.

Rick Ross on Cultism and the Trump Movement

In this recent interview, Cult Education Institute founder Rick Ross discusses cult-like aspects of the Trump movement:

Two comments:
1) Like a number of others lately, Ross misuses the term "cognitive dissonance." What he's actually describing is cognitive dissonance *avoidance*; if hardcore Trump followers actually experienced cognitive dissonance (as defined here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance), their loyalty wouldn't be so stable.
2) He mentions the option of ordering things through amazon. If you care about labor rights, don't. Best is powells.com, the online store of Powell's City of Books in Portland, OR, a union shop; if you order through ILWU Local 5's portal powellsunion.com, a commission will go to their strike fund. If you set up as a Powell Partner (where state regulations make that feasible -- unfortunately they don't in PA), you'll get a commission when someone orders through your portal.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

CREDO Too Credulous

Today I received an email from CREDO Mobile asking me to sign a petition titled "Betsy DeVos: Stand with survivors of sexual assault." I responded by contacting CREDO with this message:

You should remove this petition because it misrepresents both proposed policy changes and the facts on which those proposals are based.

Contrary to the accompanying
text, no one at DEd is considering taking any rights away from those making complaints of sexual assault on college campuses. Rather, the proposed changes would simply restore Constitutional protections traditionally enjoyed by the accused which have been drastically eroded by the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter issued by President Obama's Education Department Office of Civil Rights. There have now been no fewer than 53 cases in which colleges and universities, acting under the pressure of the DCL out of fear of losing Title IX funds, have been ruled by courts to have violated accused students' due process rights (http://www.star-telegram.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/cynthia-m-allen/article162774733.html). In the process, actual victims of sexual assault have also suffered, because these mishandled cases promote cynicism about all such accusations, including the true ones.

Part of the means by which such unconstitutional policies have been promoted has been bogus statistics, such as the "1 in 5" figure cited on the petition page (http://www.saveservices.org/sexual-assault/ten-myths/). Leaving aside purely ethical questions, such fearmongering does college women a disservice by creating needless anxiety, and potentially even dissuading some from attending college.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New Civil Liberties Group Launched

Announcing FIRE Student Defenders

By July 17, 2017 
After noticing an alarming number of due process injustices across the nation in university conduct hearings, FIRE decided to take action. We are thrilled to launch the FIRE Student Defenders program, which will help students start groups dedicated to defending student rights on campus.

The judicial process provides a great opportunity to teach students about why their rights are important. Often in campus disciplinary proceedings, there is no guarantee that students will be notified of the allegations against them, have sufficient time to prepare their defense, have the opportunity to present their case to an impartial hearing officer or panel, obtain access to exculpatory evidence, or be able to hire a lawyer. These and other elements are necessary to ensure accused students receive a fair hearing. It is essential to have students on campus who can help their fellow students advocate for a fair process.
Student Defenders will be able to provide each student with a comprehensive overview of their rights and options within the campus conduct process. They will serve as allies to students — providing explanations of each step of the process, answering questions, and oftentimes just being there to listen. By offering this assistance to all students, Student Defenders will make each university community a better, fairer place.
FIRE is pleased to provide students with the resources they need to start a Student Defenders group of their own, including a comprehensive start-up guide, sample constitution, tips for recruiting and training members, logos, templates for flyers, and much more. FIRE is also able to offer $150 grants to assist with starting a group on campus, and $50 grants for advertising 

While these groups have no formal connection to FIRE and will vary in size and structure, they will be united in their mission to promote legal equality and protect due process for their fellow students.
To learn more about our new program or how to start a Student Defenders group on campus, visit us at studentdefenders.org or email us at studentdefenders@thefire.org.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I don't know what excuse Anya Kamenetz can possibly offer for relying on a blatantly biased intermediary source like _Slate_ for this story. One of the most egregious falsehoods is the claim that SAVE "lobbies against domestic violence protections," for which no evidence whatever is offered, nor even a source. And it tries to stir up outrage over their pointing out that much DV is initiated by women -- a claim treated as self-evidently malicious -- even though the US government itself is the source on which the claim is based: http://www.saveservices.org/wp-content/uploads/Seven-Facts-Every-American-Should-Know-About-DV.pdf


Thursday, July 13, 2017

This morning I attended a Certified Peer Specialist Information Session at the Department of Behavioral Health, 801 Market St. My friend Maria Pupo, who first made me aware of opportunities like this by telling me about PRO-ACT, also attended and we sat together. I'll be reviewing the information I received to determine if I can apply for the next CPS training.

For my participation today, I got three tickets for the Recovery Idol and Fashion Show at the Dell Music Center on August 25.

Friday, July 07, 2017

I Reach Out and (Hopefully) Make a Difference

Eight days ago I went along with a door-to-door fundraiser for an organization with which I was considering employment. I found some of his conduct quite offensive and decided to communicate my concerns with the charity on whose behalf he was acting. I wrote them as follows:

Inappropriate conduct by fundraiser

To whom it may concern:

Last Thursday I shadowed an employee of one of the contractors who go door-to-door to enroll support for your organization, [company's name deleted]. I decided not to take the job because of conduct on his part that I found disturbing and inappropriate.

More than once, when a prospect told him they didn't want to sign up at the door but would look Child Fund up online, this [company] employee, T---- J------ , responded by repeating to them that only one out of ten thousand people seeing the TV ads responds by sponsoring a child. Whether or not this is true (and I'm a bit skeptical since he seemed to state a higher figure to me between doorbells), how could it be relevant to the prospect in question? Since they just told him they were going to research your organization online, they are in an utterly different situation. Not responding to a TV ad you've passively watched is obviously different from breaking a promise you've just made to someone in person, face-to-face. And, since any reasonably intelligent person can see this, they can also see that he's 1) calling them a liar, 2) blatantly trying to blackmail them emotionally, and 3) by acting as if they won't notice 1) and 2), insulting their intelligence.

While it's possible that, in spite of all this, those individuals nonetheless went online and enrolled, Mr. J------'s obnoxious behavior surely left a bad taste in their mouths that made them less likely to do so. In fact, since he did this more than once, he may have cost Child Fund Inc. more enrollees than the two he actually signed up at the door during the period I shadowed him.

After we returned to the [company] office, I tried to convey this to him, saying if someone behaved this way toward me I would shut the door in their face. And I'm not someone lacking in social concern; one reason he thought me a promising potential employee is that I've often done door-to-door canvassing and other work for causes as a volunteer. But soft-hearted isn't the same as soft-headed.

Mr. J------ defended himself by saying he was the top performer at his office (Philadelphia). But how is his performance measured? Only by enrollments at the door. Those who decline to do so but say they'll look up Child Fund online aren't tracked, so there's no way of telling how many potential enrollees he's turned off. What I can tell you is that the two people he did enroll that afternoon didn't do so because of his obnoxious behavior. In both cases they were eager to enroll as soon as they heard who he was representing, since they'd heard of it from people close to them who were already enrolled. So, his offensive behavior accomplished nothing on behalf of Child Fund, but may well have cancelled out the enrollments he did get.

The other thing he said in his defense was that he was simply doing what [the company] had trained him to do. All that means is that it's not just T---- J------, but a whole organization of people who may be costing Child Fund many potential supporters.

While I decided not to be part of that organization, I felt it behooved me to inform you of this troubling situation. Thank you for your attention.


[my name]
I received this reply today:

That was a very difficult email to read. From the bottom of my heart thank you so much for taking the time to compose and send us the account of your experience.

I have forwarded your full email to our department that handles the face to face vendors and they will ensure that this is addressed immediately.

We want you to know that the behavior you outlined is not acceptable behavior for our representatives and we deeply apologize to you for your unpleasant experience having to witness it. Unfortunately, it seems that we have missed out on the opportunity to have you represent us, but perhaps another opportunity will arise. For now, suffice it to say, that you have assisted enormously by sharing this information and I, personally, am grateful.

Thank you again for your support of our work and please let me know if there's anything we may assist you with.

All my best,

For additional information regarding ChildFund International and our programs to help children in need around the world, please visit our website at http://www.ChildFund.org.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Quote of the Day

This poster can currently be seen in the office of PRO-ACT (Ambassadors for Recovery) in North Philadelphia: "This Printer Shall Be Called Bob Marley... Cause It Be Jammin"

Sunday, July 02, 2017

"Chicago Dyke March: Full of Shame!"

That's the title of publisher Mark Segal's opinion piece in the latest Philadelphia Gay News, concerning the expulsion from that event of a contingent carrying rainbow flags with a Star of David superimposed on them. The reasons Segal gives for condemning this action are pretty much word-for-word the same ones I would make, centering on the wrongness of politically stereotyping people on the basis of their ethnicity or religion.

Anti-Zionism isn't and shouldn't be an excuse for anti-Semitism -- and I say this as an anti-Zionist and a past volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement.

The fact it even needs to be said is a sad comment on the pathological evolution of much identity politics in recent times. The symptoms are manifest in the rationale for the expulsion given by one of the march organizers, that the flags "made people feel unsafe." It's funny how, as the number of incidents escalates in which this phrase is used, it's almost never the people who use it who seem to be the ones actually experiencing physical force or violence.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

New Master's Degree Program in Coercive Control Announced

This news from the International Cultic Studies Association:

Surprise! CNN Producer Caught Admitting Corporate Media Aren't All About High-Minded Journalistic ideals

You read it here first: it turns out cable news coverage is "all about ratings," according to a CNN supervising producer secretly recorded by Project Veritas: www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/06/26/project-veritas-undercover-investigation-cnn-producer-admits-network-hyping-mostly-bullsht-trump-russia-scandal-for-ratings/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=daily&utm_content=links&utm_campaign=20170627

John Bonifield admits the scrutiny they're giving covering President Trump reflects what they think their audience wants to believe. Of course the same thing goes for every other media outlet -- and not just "mainstream" media as the PV narrator puts it, but non-mainstream sources too, including Breitbart which is publicizing this story.

And for those who've forgotten, during the campaign CBS's Les Moonves admitted to giving Trump tons of free advertising -- without which he may well have never become President -- for the exact same mercenary motive: http://www.weeklystandard.com/les-moonves-donald-trump-is-good-for-cbs/article/2001329. Note also Bonifield's remark about how they only spent a day and a half on the climate accords, then were told to go back to Russia. This is just more evidence that they're only interested in ratings, not "ideological" motives like keeping our planet habitable.

The corporate media's loyalty is only to their own bottom line, not any kind of political agenda.

Quote of the Day

   Cassie, I want to thank you. You could have gone the easy route. You could have gone back to being comfortable, blocking everything out. You could have cut and edited the movie to try and make them look bad.
   But you didn't. You sat down, you listened, and in the end, you even examined and changed your entire world view based on all the new information you had gathered.
   I respect you very much.

-- MuseHijinks, commenting on The Red Pill movie trailer on Youtube.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

FIRE Seeks Sponsors for Its Student Interns

The following message came the other day from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Please help if you can.


Niklas Vakil
Good morning,
I’m excited to introduce you to Niklas Vakil. Nik joined
the FIRE team this week as part of our annual Internship
Program. Along with eight other undergraduate students
and three law school students, Nik will spend his summer
learning about free speech, due process, religious liberty,
free thought, and legal equality from FIRE staff and other
First Amendment experts and free speech advocates.
Back on campus, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,
Nik is the solicitor General for the Associated Students of
Madison. In this role, Nik has represented fellow students
in numerous cases in front of the Student Judiciary,
including the defense of two student council members who,
after voicing criticism of affirmative action policies and
university sponsored “safe spaces,” were charged with
malfeasance in office and subject to removal from their
positions. In both of these cases, Nik won unanimous
Nik also serves on the Student Misconduct Panel on
campus. Participating in misconduct cases, Nik has
gotten a close-up look into the troubling lack of pro-
cedural protections for accused students. For example,
at UW-Madison — and most other institutions of higher
education nationwide — students’ cases are decided
using the low “preponderance of the evidence” standard.
(An unlawful mandate by the Department of Education
that nearly all colleges and universities use this standard
in adjudicating sexual misconduct cases is currently
being challenged in court through a lawsuit sponsored
by FIRE.)
These experiences have ignited Nik’s passion for civil
liberties and brought him to intern at FIRE. By completing
an internship at FIRE, Nik will get the hands-on training
he needs to better address free speech and due process
concerns on his campus. In total, it will cost $5,120 to
host Nik all summer. This cost completely covers his
stipend, books, materials, fees to attend our activism-
focused summer conference, and more, like a tour of the
National Constitution Center.
Would you consider sponsoring Nik?
You can sponsor Nik by making a donation to FIRE’s
Internship Program today. Our Internship Program lies
at the heart of our efforts to empower student activists.
It is one of our longest-standing and most successful
programs, and in a time when so many of today’s college
students are demanding “protective” speech codes, “safe
spaces,” and trigger warnings, it is also one of our most
important. Now more than ever, we need to make sure
that students who care about free speech and due process
rights are given the opportunity to gain the knowledge and
tools needed to fight for them on campus. This summer,
FIRE has 12 brilliant and dedicated students who want
that opportunity. Our interns are committed to the free and
robust exchange of ideas and have each chosen to spend
the summer learning strategies to change the culture on
Given your help, Nik and his fellow interns can become
effective advocates for liberty back on campus. Your
donation affords them the unique opportunity to gain the
experience they need to translate their passion into action.
It will also give them a lifelong appreciation for the First
Amendment, which they will carry into careers in law, public
policy, service, and education!
I hope you will think about this request and consider saying
yes! Thank you in advance for supporting this important
FIRE’s 2017 intern class
Kendall Burchard, University of Virginia
School of Law
Sam Foer, University of Rhode Island
Michael Frazier, University of Kentucky
Ethan Greist, Johns Hopkins University
Jacob Hill, The College of William &
Katherine Hung, Harvard College
Veronica Joyce, Pennsylvania State
Julia Kothmann, University of Virginia
Isaac Smith, University of Cincinnati College
of Law
Niklas Vakil, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Qi Xu, Swarthmore College
Lyndsey Wajert, Boston University School
of Law
FIRE Summer 2017 Interns
Molly Nocheck
Director of Campus Outreach, Internship Coordinator
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
510 Walnut Street | Suite 1250 | Philadelphia, PA 19106

Friday, June 09, 2017

Quote of the Day

The most common justification for studying women without studying men is that "history is men's studies." True? No.... To a boy, history is pressure to perform, not relief from that pressure. Feminism is relief from the pressure to be confined to only the traditional female role. To a boy, then, history is not the equivalent of women's studies; it is the opposite of women's studies.

       --- Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power, Introduction

Today I completed a video interview for a position as a freelance math tutor. As qualifications, I cited my bachelor's degree in physics as well as favorable reviews as a personal or volunteer tutor in various subjects, and having several articles published.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Manchester and the Problem of Social Homelessness

I get rather aggravated with all the focus in the news on the question of whether Salman Abedi "acted alone" or in coordination with ISIS. I mean, it's pretty obvious that he acted under their social influence, whether or not there was practical coordination.

Okay, I understand there's a short-term concern that there might be more incidents, and understanding whether there was an actual conspiracy in this case could help prevent them. But I feel this is distracting people from the more important question. Someone's practically coordinating with ISIS isn't a prerequisite to their committing highly destructive acts like this; but their being under its social influence is. So, could we please have some discussion of how and why some people come under the influence of a group like this, and how it might be prevented?

For BBC listeners, there was a story this morning about the Prevent program in the UK, which is aimed at preventing Muslim youth from being fanaticized (a term I prefer to "radicalized," since one can be socially and politically radical without being violent). It was claimed that this has been successful in many cases, but also that some think such a program can make people in the targeted community feel stigmatized.

There could be some truth to both of these statements. But, even allowing that it may have done some good, I think focusing only on one community is a mistake, for two reasons. First, acts of mass violence come from people of all backgrounds, for various (stated) ideological motives or none at all. Think Sandy Hook, or abortion clinic bombers. Although they may seem to have little to do with Manchester, there's evidence that people who commit such acts tend to have similar psychological profiles. In many cases, even when an act is committed in the name of Islam, it's done by a convert who appears to have a sketchy knowledge of the religion. This suggests that, rather than being the actual cause of such actions, religious beliefs are often an ad hoc explanation latched onto by someone driven by demons they don't understand themselves. So, if you have a program aimed exclusively at preventing Muslim youth from becoming fanaticized, you're failing to protect non-Muslims who are equally at risk of recruitment by cults (Islamic or otherwise) and, for that matter, probably failing to help Muslim youth resist recruitment by non-Islamic cults as well.

And, of course, the other problem is that such a program may in fact make someone feel stigmatized based on their cultural and religious background and have a boomerang effect.

Let's instead recognize that cultism fundamentally isn't about doctrine, but social psychology. Especially under certain sorts of life circumstances, people become susceptible to psychological manipulation by whichever abusive group they're unlucky enough to come across. This is mainly a matter of situation rather than innate disposition; saying there must be something wrong with someone because they joined a cult is like saying there must be something wrong with someone because they stepped in quicksand. Cults can reference any religious tradition, be theologically orthodox or heterodox, or may reference a non-religious ideology (my own adolescent experience was with a political cult, for instance).

The life circumstances that are conducive to cult recruitment are typically those in which a person has limited social ties, such as because of a life transition. Much as outreach efforts are sometimes made to people who are visibly homeless, it would behoove us similarly to try and identify and reach out to those who are socially homeless, so to speak.

There's the cliche of rural communities' bringing pies to newcomers, but this kind of thing doesn't seem to usually happen any more, at least where I've lived. I learned about my neighborhood association from signs posted in advance of the annual Memorial Day potluck; at the potluck, which always includes a membership meeting, various activities are mentioned, but welcoming new neighbors with a visit hasn't been one of them.

What if every neighborhood or block association regularly visited every resident and tried to engage them in community activities that are meaningful as well as fun? If people who have difficulty making social connections on their own initiative are approached proactively in this way, it might greatly reduce the dange rof their being drawn into a manipulative group that will at best exploit them and keep them isolated, and at worst may lead them to engage in (self-)destructive violence. This is something that government could actively promote and even subsidize where necessary.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Green Party of Philadelphia's Statement on Primary Election Results

Friday, May 19, 2017 

Green Party of Philadelphia's Statement on Primary Election Results

      With preliminary results of the 2017 Primary Election now in, and given the Democratic Party's stranglehold on our city's politics, it is clear that Larry Krasner will be Philadelphia's next District Attorney. It is the Green Party of Philadelphia's hope that Krasner will abandon the longstanding pattern of corruption established by our city's elected officials, as most recently exemplified by our present District Attorney, Seth Williams.

      The Green Party of Philadelphia (GPOP) calls upon Krasner, if elected District Attorney, to bring an end to a criminal justice system that criminalizes poverty and race while letting white-collar corporate crimes go unpunished. The Green Party recognizes that Krasner's platform includes many reforms which are in line with our party's key values, and we hope that he honors these pledges in office, specifically:

***   In a city that is 43% African American, the Green Party calls for a District Attorney who reflects the truth that "Black lives matter" not only in his rhetoric, but also in his actions.
***   In a city where (according to the ACLU of Pennsylvania) 25% of pedestrian stops by police are made without reasonable suspicion and 80% of those pedestrians are people of color, the Green Party calls for a District Attorney who will push for an end to stop-and-frisk and who will refuse to bring cases resulting from these illegal, racist practices.
***   Only a few weeks after Philadelphia police arrested 22 people in Frankford for marijuana, the Green Party calls for an end to the failed War on Drugs and for the legalization of drug possession.
***   Only days after Philadelphians raised nearly $58,000 for the "Mama's Bail Out Day" campaign, the Green Party calls for the elimination of a cash bail system that is designed to keep low-income people behind bars.
***   Finally, the Green Party calls for a District Attorney who will never pursue the death penalty – a barbaric practice that brings neither closure nor healing, but only more pain and victims.

      In addition to restoring the idea of "justice" to our criminal justice system, Philadelphia's next District Attorney must guarantee voters' right to fair elections. We witnessed an astonishing attack of this right in March's special election in PA House District 197, which was rampant with election fraud and voter intimidation.The Green Party demands that the next District Attorney continues the investigation into the special election and takes concrete steps to ensure election integrity.

      Finally, we must highlight the urgent need for electoral reform as demonstrated by this election.
***   Krasner won the primary with 38% of the vote, representing only 6% of the city's registered voters. A system where a candidate can win office, despite only a minority of voters casting their ballots for him, is an insult to democracy. Therefore, the Green Party calls for Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), where voters rank candidates in their order of preference and a candidate only wins if they obtain majority support.
***   We must also acknowledge the legalized bribery that is our campaign finance system. Total spending in this election is expected to double what was spent in Philadelphia's last competitive primary for District Attorney. Indeed, Krasner's campaign was supported both by grassroots efforts and by a super PAC funded by George Soros; we hope that his actions as District Attorney will be influenced by the people of Philadelphia and not by an outside billionaire. Therefore, the Green Party calls for the full public financing of elections and for stricter limits on campaign spending and contributions.

      The Green Party is an independent political party founded on the four pillars of grassroots democracy, nonviolence, ecological wisdom, and social justice. For information about the Green Party of Philadelphia, please call 215-843-4256 or emailgpop@gpop.org. Follow us on Twitter at @GreenPartyofPHL and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GreenPartyOfPhiladelphia.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Quantico Scaremongers Against Popular Sovereignty

This week's season-penultimate episode of Quantico promulgated a typical elitist dread of radical democracy by painting a Constitutional Convention as something scary that an authoritarian villain would use to get his way. I posted this to their Facebook page:

Very disappointed at your antidemocratic scaremongering about a Constitutional Convention. The Framers had the unprecedented wisdom to realize they couldn't anticipate the needs of future generations, and so incorporated procedures for amendment into their document -- piecemeal through submission by Congress but also, when time came for a thorough overhaul, through submission by a Convention called by Congress. Your script falsely suggests such a Convention might change the Constitution behind the country's back, when in reality nothing it proposes would become law unless ratified by three-fourths of the states, making majority popular support a prerequisite. Further, while Congress -- not the President -- is charged with setting the rules, it's politically inevitable they would call fresh elections for the delegates to such a convention. The whole procedure concretizes the principle stated in the Declaration of Independence: "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of [life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness], it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such forms, as shall to them seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." This is the revolutionary-democratic idea at the founding of our country -- yet you find it not inspiring, but scary? And it's noteworthy that, while you portray this mechanism of popular sovereignty as the machination of a Trump-manquee villain, in real life it's not Trump, but the left-wing Justice Democrats who are calling for it in their platform. (If you haven't heard of them, they're the faction seeking to primary all corporatist Democrats in Congress and replace them with progressives.) For more information on the Article V Convention and why it's not only politically but legally overdue, check out Friends of the Article V Convention.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

As a Survivor of a Political Cult Myself, I Had to Watch This Video

As a survivor of a political cult myself, I had to watch this video when I saw it on YouTube: BAMN Are A Violent Cult

The descriptions are chillingly reminiscent of what I've heard about other groups, and some of what I experienced in my own. (In fact I'd already heard of the cult-within-the-cult, the RWL, and knew it was ultra-sectarian, so the connection came as no surprise.) There's a private website on WordPress called Secret Survivors of BAMN, and I've submitted a request for access to its administrator. Below is the written version of the video, which includes a link to the private group:

As is quoted from one of the ex-members, like other political cults BAMN either turns people into "drones" incapable of autonomous political thought or action, or tends to burn them out and make them give up on activism altogether. Hence it is both personally and politically destructive.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Visibility, Disruptiveness, and Effectiveness: What Actually Counts in a Demonstration

NPR ran this story the other day about research on which intuitions are correct about what makes a demonstration effective:


A couple notes: while this research shows the importance of protesters' not putting themselves in a negative light, it doesn't mean they should never do anything that could make people uncomfortable. As Nick Cooney points out in his book Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change, disturbing images (as of animal abuse, for instance) may move people to action more effectively than warm-and-fuzzy ones. The key is whether the context makes viewers associate the unpleasant images with what's being protested or with those doing the protesting.

Another point: it's stated in the interview that sometimes there's a trade-off between visibility and effectiveness, with the latter being the bottom line that should determine protesters' choice of tactics. But there's also a sense in which they correlate, since the expectation of disruptive or violent tactics can reduce participation in an action. And, all other things being equal, a smaller action is a less visible one, as well as probably less effective.

Monday, April 17, 2017

An Unfunny Satire on "the MRA" Is Taken Down

After also reading the original written version of the piece, and the post on r/exredpill it was largely based on -- and as someone who has a particular interest owing to my adolescent involvement with a political cult -- I think it's important to make a distinction. People in the cultic studies field say there as many groups as there are people in the group; one member may have a cultic relationship with it while another doesn't at all. And the groups themselves are on a continuum. This is why those in the cult awareness field prefer to speak of cultic processes rather than of "cults" as a discrete category of groups.

The r/exredpill poster in question evidently developed a relationship with r/redpill (which, by the way, has basically nothing to do with actual MRAs or men's rights activists -- a common conflation in the feminist milieu) that had significantly cultic characteristics. But, as Alison and Karen point out here, this wasn't because anyone at r/redpill was using deceptive/manipulative recruitment tactics -- as are characteristic of "cults" in the strong , distinctly negative sense of that term -- but simply because he was desperate to find something that would make him feel like less of a loser. The cultic aspect of the relationship came mostly from him and not from conscious, covert manipulation by the group, as you would find in something more deserving of being called a destructive cult.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Greens Play by Our Rules, Not the Establishment's

There's a story in the most recent Public Record on how some people are pushing the city Democratic Party to devolve endorsements from ward leaders to committee people, among other reforms, to address endemic corruption. I sent this letter in response:

As part of his exercise in denial about Democratic Party dysfunction, Bob Brady made this false statement: "The Republicans have the same rules, the Greens have the same rules."
In fact the Green Party does not have the same rules. Unlike Democrats and Republicans, the Green Party has no ward leaders, only a City Committee, which as a matter of policy does not endorse candidates for party nomination. The party's philosophy is that the individual Greens who attend monthly membership meetings are capable of deciding on nominations for themselves, without any need for "guidance" from party officers. All the City Committee does is inform the members in attendance of who is seeking nomination, as well as invite the candidates to appear and make their own case.
If you're a progressive who doesn't think party apparatchiks are entitled to be protected from competition with grassroots activists, as former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz openly stated, then you should consider joining the Greens.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Save Dina Ali Lasloom!

A Saudi woman who sought asylum in Australia was taken off her plane in the Philippines and is now being returned to Saudi Arabia where she faces execution for traveling without a male companion. Please join me in signing the petition to stop this!

You only need to put your email address in the circled area.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Pinky Agrees with Me

No, not the mouse. I just watched this video by Steven Pinker on why some fear the rise of Artificial Intelligence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gimu5nXWaWU

This is pretty much identical to what I wrote on my blog a couple years ago: http://stripey7.blogspot.com/2015/09/extant-has-gotten-entirely-too-silly.html One criticism: it's too sweeping a generalization to say women are a counterexample to the idea that high intelligence goes along with megalomania. I'm not even sure that it's statistically true, and there are certainly counterexamples: female cult leaders like Marlene Dixon and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, for instance.

Friday, March 31, 2017

I Try -- and Fail -- to Get a Straight Answer from My State Representative

Last night my state representative, Stephen Kinsey, held a town hall meeting featuring representatives of various government departments and agencies.

For the past couple months I've been researching the question of whether there are any shelters for battered men in Pennsylvania. A public assistance form I filled out last summer made reference to "a state program for abused women and children," but made no mention of abused men. This was not long after I had confirmed that PA has an equal rights amendment, so the failure to provide for some victims based on their sex would clearly be unconstitutional as well as unfair.

I brought a clipboard and sign-up sheet to the Philadelphia-area premiere of  The Red Pill, Cassie Jaye's documentary on the men's rights movement, on which several people supplied their contact info to stay in touch. By the first ensuing group meeting in January, I had decided the apparently non-existent services for battered men would be a good issue around which to organize, if I could confirm my suspicions about it.

What I had ascertained by last night's town hall is that, of the four agencies listed by the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence as providing services in Philadelphia county, only two provide shelter, and in both cases it's only for women and children. At this point I should compare what's provided to the level of need: according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and the Psychological Bulletin, over half of those experiencing domestic violence in a given year, and about a third of those requiring medical attention, are male. So, even if Philly had only three shelter beds, one of these ought to be for a man. And Philly is the most populous county in the state, so even if services aren't evenly distributed, we should expect to find at least some of those for men here.

So, I related these concerns to the person speaking when I arrived at the town hall, a police captain. Her response was that shelter exists that moves from place to place, but locations aren't disclosed out of safety considerations. I explained I didn't need to know locations, but would just like to know how many of these shelters there are. She said they wouldn't tell me that either.

Rep. Kinsey spoke up at this point to explain that he didn't know that he wanted to engage his staff in looking into this if it was only for research as opposed to constituent service, and also repeated the point about safety considerations. My repeatedly pointing out that safety considerations obviously weren't preventing the existence of shelters for women from being publicized on the Web seemingly didn't register with them; they just repeated the same language without acknowledging the logical inconsistency of their statements.

A moment later, when the captain had moved on to another constituent's question, a staffer handed me a note saying, "The federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) protects information not being disclosed regarding shelters." While she was still within earshot I commented, "Inconsistently, it would appear. They're not hiding the existence of shelters for women." She offered no reply.

It appears overwhelmingly likely to me that the reason they wouldn't give me any information about the purported shelters for battered men is that they actually don't exist. Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that they do, the rationale for not publicizing their existence makes no sense; you're not going to convince me that they're actually more careful about men's safety than women's. Rather, the only practical effect hiding the existence of such shelters could have is to make it less likely those who need them would know to look for them -- especially when combined with how all the advertising about this issue relentlessly frames it in terms of male perpetrators and female victims. The message an abused man gets in these circumstances can only be that he doesn't exist, or doesn't count. It's invalidating.

I will want to spend a little time checking on whether there are men's shelters in other counties than Philadelphia. If not, that makes it a statewide issue. But even if there are, it's a serious misallocation of resources to have none of them here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ottawa SheForHe: Four Women Discuss Men and Boys' Issues

Real-life gender privilege, heard on a playground and related by panelist Meg Warren: "I can punch you, and you can't punch me back!"

Something that particularly interested me as someone who's had personal experience with a cultic group was her observation, as someone who's experienced both psychological and physical domestic abuse herself, that many women exert subtle, incremental control over their male partners in a way that wouldn't be tolerated if a man tried to do it to a woman. This gradual process of entrapment sounds remarkably like the brainwashing of a high-control group.

One criticism: here, as in many other egalitarian/men's rights forums, I hear some participants describe what they're up against as "cultural Marxism." This is the sheerest nonsense and only tells me that these people know nothing about Marxism. Radical feminism is based on a kind of ahistorical, idealist sociology that has nothing in common with Marxist dialectical materialism. In terms of program, they advocate treating people as representatives of a group assumed to have a uniform experience, whereas the Marxist dictum, "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need," starts from the understanding that everyone is an individual. I hope that more Marxists will get involved in groups like this not only on the merits of their issues, but to educate the activists in a better understanding of what Marxism is; the current faulty usage is doubtless putting off some people on the left who would otherwise be open to the information they're discussing.


Thursday, March 09, 2017

Gender as Moloch?

Recently, my Less Wrong meetup group (affiliated with the "community blog dedicated to cultivating the arts of human rationality") used as a discussion prompt Scott Alexander's "Meditations on Moloch." That essay uses a section of Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" -- in which the demon Moloch serves as a personification of industrial capitalism -- as the takeoff point for a consideration of  how competition between agents to maximize some single value results in the inevitable ultimate sacrifice of all other values.

It occurs to me now that the same kind of analysis might be applied to the social system of gender. Notwithstanding variation between cultures, a similar sexual division of labor can be seen in all human societies, and many before me have cogently argued that this division reflects the interest, over evolutionary time, of each community in maximizing its reproductive fitness by putting priority on protecting females as the limiting factor of reproduction, and on a willingness to sacrifice the relatively overabundant males to this end.

This can be seen as an example of Scott Alexander's generalization of Moloch: the end result of the competition for communal reproductive fitness is, averaged over all societies, a wash with respect to their relative position, but a reduction of their absolute well-being in the sense that everyone's options are limited by the gender role to which they're assigned based on their sex.

One weakness I see in Alexander's essay is that he doesn't reckon with the way evolutionary competition has favored the growth of cooperation; the rise of eukaryotes, then multicellular organisms, then ever-higher levels of social organization as ways one aggregate of replicators (genes/memes) gains an advantage over others. In fact the beginning of consciousness, whereby our ancestors transitioned from experiencing mere pain, to suffering, is what makes it possible for us to conceive and coordinate strategies to overcome it, ultimately by evolving a unitary consciousness transcending internecine competition, as previously occurred on lower biological levels.

In the same way, we can imagine that the conscious awareness we are now starting to develop, of gender as a system that developed unconsciously in conditions of intercommunal competition, will allow us to collectively decide to transcend it through a cooperative project to that end -- that is, if we consciously decide to do so. I hope this essay may serve as part of that process.

A friend to whom I sent the above objected that sex roles have been around for a long time and so we should expect to have genetically adapted to them. I replied as follows:

I'm not claiming there's no organic basis for sex differences in behavior. But since memes can evolve much faster than genes -- and especially since we've been through a bottleneck or two -- I posit that we've developed socially/legally enforced norms that are often more extreme and rigid than is comfortable for many individuals. Now that we're in a period of relative abundance and safety, and especially with the much freer and more abundant flow of information apprising people of the existence of more than one way of life, people acquire growing consciousness of the ways gender roles act as fetters on their individual aspirations, and start acting individually and collectively to break out of those fetters. I think that's precisely why we now see men's and women's rights movements.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

The "ATO Incident" Revisited

At a candidates' forum in Fishtown last night, I met Councilwoman Helen Gym, whose campaign I had supported. I expressed my appreciation for her role in initiating the protests at the Philadelphia airport, but also my disagreement with the fact that one of her criticisms of Betsy DeVos was for supporting FIRE's advocacy for due process in university adjudication of sexual assault allegations. She cited former Penn President Sheldon Hackney's conduct in a case while she was there as an example of why changes in procedure had been necessary. Here's the rejoinder that I've posted to her Facebook page:

In our conversation yesterday at the Fishtown candidates' forum, you cited the so-called "ATO incident" at Penn as an example of what motivated policies like the "Dear Colleague letter," which has skewed adjudication in campus sexual assault cases against the accused. You claimed that President Hackney "sided with" the alleged rapists in that case.

Well, I was an undergrad at the time and I clearly remember that claim's being made. I wrote a letter to the Daily Pennsylvanian explaining why it was nonsense: Hackney didn't ask the accused to his mansion; they came uninvited, and all he did was make himself accessible. And all he told them was that he would assure they'd be treated fairly. There's no reason to think he'd have done any differently if their accuser had shown up at his doorstep.

And, by the way, he didn't even keep his promise: they were punished despite the faculty adjudicator's NOT finding them guilty of rape, simply based on his paternalistic judgment that "multiple seriatim sexual intercourse" wasn't "appropriate conduct" -- applying the concept of in loco parentis quite literally by treating those involved, including the accuser, like children who couldn't decide for themselves what sexual activities they wanted to engage in.

What the "ATO incident" actually shows is that many universities were running roughshod over due process rights even back then [in 1983]; the "Dear Colleague letter" has only made it worse.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Disability Rights Protest Requested

My friend Deborah Kosak has been facing repeated denial of service to her as a disabled person by SEPTA at their Swarthmore regional rail station. It's supposed to be a handicap-accessible stop, yet trains persistently fail to stop where a person can board from the handicap platform -- even, in the most recent case, when she was accompanied by a reporter. She's been on WPEB's Jasper Jones show twice and hopes people and groups concerned about disability rights will organize a protest at the Swarthmore station.