Topics in this week’s edition of Recommended Reading include: the ongoing eating of everybody else by the wealthy elite; the crisis in America’s education system; the continued rise of online and real-world surveillance; the clash between scientistic reductionism and more humane views of human consciousness and psychology; and a recent UFO sighting.
* * *
Capitalism’s Dirty Secret: Corporations Don’t Create Jobs, They Destroy Them
Lynn Parramore, William Lazonick, and Ken Jacobson, AlterNet, April 3, 2012
For the last four decades, U.S. corporations have been sinking our economy through the off-shoring of jobs, the squeezing of wages, and a magician’s hat full of bluffs and tricks designed to extort subsidies and sweetheart deals from local and state governments that often result in mass layoffs and empty treasuries. We keep hearing that corporations would put Americans back to work if they could just get rid of all those pesky encumbrances — things like taxes, safety regulations, and unions. But what happens when we buy that line? The more we let the corporations run wild, the worse things get for the 99 percent, and the scarcer the solid jobs seem to be. Yet the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants us to think that corporations — preferably unregulated! — are the patriotic job creators in our economy. They want us to think it so much that in 2009, after the financial crash, they launched a $100 million campaign, which, among other things, draped their Washington, DC building with an enormous banner proclaiming “Jobs: Brought to you by the free market system.” But the truth is that unfettered corporations are just about the worst thing for creating decent jobs. Here’s a look at why, and where the good jobs really come from.
* * *
Pensioner suicide in Greece triggers violent clashes
Nicholas Paphitas, The Independent, April 5, 2012
A Greek retiree has shot himself dead in Athens’ main square, blasting politicians over the country’s financial crisis in a suicide note that triggered violent clashes hours later between police and anti-austerity protesters. Riot police fired tear gas and flash grenades after protests attended by some 1,500 people turned violent on Wednesday, and youths hurled rocks and petrol bombs outside Parliament. Authorities reported no injuries or arrests…The 77-year-old retired pharmacist drew a handgun and shot himself in the head near a subway exit on central Syntagma Square which was crowded with commuters, police said…Police said a handwritten note was found on the retired pharmacist’s body in which he attributed his decision to the debt crisis…By Wednesday evening, dozens of written messages had been pinned to the tree under which the man shot himself, some reading: “It was a murder, not a suicide,” and “Austerity kills.” Hundreds of protesters made their way across the street from the square to outside Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, chanting: “This was not a suicide, it was a state-perpetrated murder” and “Blood flows and seeks revenge.” Dozens of riot police stood guard.
* * *
Legal Drug-Pushing: How Disease Mongers Keep Us All Doped Up
John-Manuel Andriote, The Atlantic, April 3, 2012
Teaser: “By manipulating our fear of suffering and death, big pharmaceutical companies are able to keep us coming back for expensive medications.”
These “disease mongers” — as science writer Lynne Payer in her 1992 book of that name called the drug industry and the doctors, insurers, and others who comprise its unofficial sales force — spin and toil “to convince essentially well people that they are sick, or slightly sick people that they are very ill”…Changing the metrics for diagnosing a disease is one reliable technique…Entirely new diseases can be, and have been, invented to extend a manufacturer’s patent on a highly profitable drug…The fact is you may not need chemical enhancement for the E.D. or the baldness. The best remedy for both may be to reexamine your beliefs about why hair or hardness are so important. A shot of redefined meanings can do wonders to restore normal functioning.
* * *
To Fix America’s Education Bureaucracy, We Need to Destroy It
Philip K. Howard, The Atlantic, April 2, 2012
Teaser: “Successful schools don’t have a formula, other than that teachers and principals are free to follow their instincts.”
America’s schools are being crushed under decades of legislative and union mandates. They can never succeed until we cast off the bureaucracy and unleash individual inspiration and willpower…[W]e must bulldoze school bureaucracy. It is a giant diversion, focused on compliance to please some administrator far away. Every minute spent filling out a form or worrying about compliance interferes with the human interaction that is the essence of effective teaching…This requires scrapping the current system — all of it, federal, state, and local, as well as union contracts. We must start over and rebuild an open framework in which real people can find inspiration in doing things their own way.
* * *
Hyper-public spaces: Finding clues to managing the Internet by using design principles
Colleen Walsh, Harvard Gazette, June 14, 2011
Teaser: “The Berkman Center’s conference ‘Hyper-Public: A Symposium on Designing Privacy and Public Space’ brought a number of perspectives to bear on design issues concerning the line between public and private spaces in the connected world, uniting computer scientists with ethnographers, architects, historians, artists, and legal scholars in discussions.
The digital revolution is storming the barricades of privacy. In today’s interconnected world, we are tracked, surveyed, watched, and followed at every turn. Our movements both inside and outside cyberspace are constantly monitored, often with — but also without — our consent. Marketers pounce on our web habits. Cameras on street posts or affixed to vans roaming city streets capture daily life with increasing frequency…Yet for the many millions who are part of the social media explosion, virtual connectedness and the sharing of detailed, personal information via the Internet is a normal, willing endeavor…At an early morning session, Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School and co-director of the Berkman Center, offered the crowd a sobering piece of advice: “If what you are getting online is for free, you are not the customer, you are the product.”
* * *
It’s Not All about You: What Privacy Advocates Don’t Get about Data Tracking on the Web
Alexander Furnas, The Atlantic, March 15, 2012
Teaser: “People condemn targeted advertising for its “creepiness” but the real issue is that we are giving private companies more power.”
Privacy critics worry about what Facebook, Google or Amazon knows about them, whether they will share that information or leak it, and maybe whether the government can get that information without a court order. While these concerns are legitimate, I think they are missing the broader point. Rather than caring about what they know about me, we should care about what they know about us. Detailed knowledge of individuals and their behavior coupled with the aggregate data on human behavior now available at unprecedented scale grants incredible power. Knowing about all of us — how we behave, how our behavior has changed over time, under what conditions our behavior is subject to change, and what factors are likely to impact our decision-making under various conditions — provides a roadmap for designing persuasive technologies. For the most part, the ethical implications of widespread deployment of persuasive technologies remains unexamined.
* * *
Life-changing experiments: The biological Higgs
Heidi Ledford, Nature, March 28, 2012
Teaser: “Biologists ponder what fundamental discoveries might match the excitement of the Higgs boson.”
[W]hat fundamental discoveries in biology might inspire the same thrill [as the field of physics is experiencing over the imminent discovery of the Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle"]? We put the question to experts in various fields…[O]ur informal survey shows that the field has no shortage of fundamental questions that could fill an anticipatory auditorium. These questions concern where and how life started — and why it ends…Is there life elsewhere?…Is there foreign life on earth?…How did life start?.. And can we delay its end?
* * *
Beware the Fausts of Neuroscience
George Walden, Standpoint, April 2012
The problem is that many neuroscientists are materialists and reductionists for whom it is axiomatic that man is no more than an animal with a more evolved brain: mind, consciousness and religion are figments of his intemperate imagination. The brain is the man and that is that — which handily shuts off competing explanations. Soon, we are told, we shall be able to read our own thoughts, motives, sexual desires or social behaviour so accurately, and to prescribe remedies so radical, that we can look forward to “a millennial future, perhaps only a few decades away.”
* * *
Who Are We Really? C.G. Jung’s “Split Personality”
Stephen A. Diamond, Evil Deeds, Psychology Today, July 29, 2010
This so-called No. 2 personality was Jung’s original experience and conceptualization of the “other,” his soul, his essential, innate, true self. This transpersonal, archetypal and congenital daimon, that inner representative of his “higher self,” became his “guardian angel, inner sage, “good (or god) father,” and his undeniable, indomitable “genius,” and had a great deal to do with Jung’s later discoveries and descriptions of the “shadow,” “anima/animus” and the “Self.” As Jung himself explains, “I have had much trouble getting along with my ideas. There was a daimon in me, and in the end its presence proved decisive. It overpowered me, and if I was at times ruthless it was because I was in the grip of the daimon.. . . A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon.” Which was Jung’s true self? And which is ours? Who are we really? This is the fundamental question many wrestle with in psychotherapy. And also in spiritual practices such as Buddhism. For Jung, both personalities were real, but represented different, split-off aspects of himself which needed to be integrated.
* * *
The Psyche Is Real: Materialism, Scientism, and Jung’s Empiricism
The C.G. Jung Society of Vermont, September 16, 2010
Jung struggled throughout his life to be understood for what he was — a true scientist — and for what his empirical method told him was true — that the psyche is real. Why was this? Why such a struggle? And why is this? Why is it that many people (especially in academia and science) still regard Jung as a “mystic,” not a scientist? Why do so many still fail to understand Jung when he spoke of the psyche as real?…Jung was not sanguine about the future of the world, as I have noted in earlier blog essays. He [warned]: “The present situation [of global conflict and crisis] is so sinister that one cannot suppress the suspicion that the Creator is planning another deluge that will finally exterminate the existing race of men.” If we want to rise to the challenge facing us in these critical times, Jung would ask us to turn within, to our souls, to the psychic reality that is at the root of our being. Stand up to the foolishness of materialism and the life-killing stupidity of scientism! These features of our contemporary world are the most fearsome weapon of mass destruction we face now, all the more threatening because they are unrecognized as such.
* * *
Psychology and the Quest for Ontological Understanding
David Thompson, MacMurray College, 1998
Submitted to Drury University’s online archives on December 1, 2011
For this paper, I will focus on the epistemological conflict between the values of mainstream psychology and those of alternative approaches. The essence of the dispute is this: What is the proper ground of knowledge and/or understanding on which a psychology of and for human beings should be based?…Psychology, as it developed in America, follows the approach of science for answering these questions. As the absolute measuring-method for truth, science insists on the objectification of our existence through our behavioral and cognitive “tendencies.” This did not go unnoticed by critics who realized the severe consequences of a method that seeks to objectify and thereby tends to treat human existence as determined, measurable, and meaningless…[T]he scientific ideals that have dominated our thinking simply neglect the meaning and possibilities of life. At this level we discover that we are alienated from ourselves, from our fellow human beings, and from the Earth. Science presupposes these connections between life, then ignores them, and, as a result, prevents their development (in understanding). Therefore, through its method, mainstream psychology is part of the problem with the state of understanding in America today.
* * *
Omniscient Gentlemen of The Atlantic
Maureen Tkacic, The Baffler 19, April 2012
[NOTE: Three of the pieces I've linked to above come from The Atlantic, which I find to be one of the more consistently interesting and worthwhile magazines of ideas. But in this newly published piece from The Baffler, prolific journalistic take-downer Maureen Tkacik writes at length about what she regards as the patent "degeneration of a magazine that once published Henry James and Mark Twain." Her main angle of attack is to deconstruct the life and psyche of David Bradley, the magazine's owner, and argue that his peculiar worldview -- that of the fatuous "omniscient gentleman" or so-called Thought Leader -- infects not only the magazine but its internal culture and societal role. And not only that:]
The Atlantic is a turgid mouthpiece for the plutocracy, a repository of shallow, lazy spin, and regular host of discussion forums during which nothing is discussed. It is, in every formal trait, a CIA front…[It provides a] soothing IV drip of frictionless, borderless, culturally agnostic thought-output.
* * *
Were space invaders drawn to the Strip in March?
Conor Shine, Las Vegas Sun, April 1, 2012
A cluster of mysterious luminescent orbs above the Las Vegas Strip caught on tape last month have some wondering if the city that draws millions of tourists a year might also have some extraterrestrial visitors. The video, titled “Recent UFO footage over Las Vegas Blvd,” was recorded March 21 by a visitor from Ohio and posted to the video-sharing site YouTube three days later. It has since been viewed more than 44,000 times and spread to other social networking sites such as Facebook. In it, several bright spots of light can be seen rotating in a fixed pattern high above the Strip near the Luxor’s famous beam of light.
[NOTE: The video of the event shows it to be one of the cooler looking unidentified aerial phenomena to be captured on film/video in recent years. See especially the configuration the "lights" begin to assume at about the 3 minute point.]