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Teeming Links – July 18, 2014


William Binney, the ex-NSA code-breaker and whistleblower, says the NSA’s ultimate goal is total population control: “Binney recently told the German NSA inquiry committee that his former employer had a ‘totalitarian mentality’ that was the ‘greatest threat’ to US society since that country’s US Civil War in the 19th century.”

“New research finds having a mobile device within easy reach divides your attention, even if you’re not actively looking at it.” (This explains a lot about an increasing number of my daily interactions with people who literally cannot maintain interpersonal attention for more than 30 seconds.)

There just has to be a Ligottian corporate horror story buried somewhere in this: Financial Times reports that businesses are increasingly using big data, including social media footprints, plus complex algorithms to make hiring decisions.

You can still be a passionate reader, but it’s getting ever harder to make a career of it: “A less-heralded casualty of the digital age is the disintegration of the lower rungs of the [publishing] ladder that have long led young, smart readers into the caste of professional tastemakers.”

Steven Poole says that, whereas the disciplined cultivation of spontaneous, effortless action along the lines of Taoism’s wu wei is a great thing, the counterfeit cult of consumer “spontaneity” encourages psychological and social chaos and numbs us to morally reprehensible sociopolitical conditions.

John Michael Greer lays out, in his characteristic elegant prose and with his characteristic lucidity, a vision of the deindustrial dark age that may await us.

Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli argues cogently that science, philosophy, and the humanities in general all need each other: “Restricting our vision of reality today to just the core content of science or the core content of the humanities is being blind to the complexity of reality, which we can grasp from a number of points of view.”

Astrophysicist, author, and NPR science blogger Adam Frank reflects on the “science vs. religion” debate in light of Eastern philosophy.

If you “hear voices,” is it brain disease, communication from discarnate spirits, or perhaps the very voice of God? Tanya Luhrmann and three co-authors of a new study observe the profound impact of cultural assumptions on the subjective experience of voice hearing.

The ancient history of dream interpretation points to humanity’s insatiable hunger for the divine. For the ancients, every slumber held the promise of the numinous.”

Speaking of dreams, a recent study published in the journal Human Brain Mapping finds that psychedelic mushrooms put the brain in a waking dream state, with profound worldview-altering effects: “[T]he mushroom compounds could be unlocking brain states usually only experienced when we dream, changes in activity that could help unlock permanent shifts in perspective.”

David Luke reflects on psychedelics, parapsychology, and exceptional human experience: “Psychedelic researchers since the time of Huxley and Osmond have been fascinated by exploring the apparently parapsychological affects of these drugs. Rightly so, because the implications of such research for understanding our capabilities as a species and for understanding reality itself are deeply profound.” (I’m happy to report that David will be contributing an article on the relationship between drugs and the paranormal to my paranormal encyclopedia.)

Finally, it looks like my adolescence (and also a significant portion of my twenties) wasn’t so egregiously misspent after all, since Dungeons and Dragons has now influenced a generation of writers: “As [Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot] Díaz said, ‘It’s been a formative narrative media for all sorts of writers.’ ”


“Fire Head” image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /

Jimmy Carter speaks out on NSA scandal and more: “America has no functioning democracy”

I just caught wind of this, and I find it to be entirely worth bringing to the attention of anybody who hasn’t heard about it. In a word: wow.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter is so concerned about the NSA spying scandal that he thinks it has essentially resulted in a suspension of American democracy. “America does not at the moment have a functioning democracy,” he said at an event in Atlanta on Tuesday sponsored by the Atlantik Bruecke, a private nonprofit association working to further the German-U.S. relationship.

. . . Carter’s remarks didn’t appear in the American mainstream press but were reported from Atlanta by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, whose Washington correspondent Gregor Peter Schmitz said on Twitter he was present at the event. The story doesn’t appear in the English-language section of the Spiegel website and is only available in German.

MORE: Jimmy Carter: US “has no functioning democracy”

The piece is at Salon. It also says Schmitz wrote in his Der Spiegel piece that Carter expressed deep pessimism about the overall state of global affairs, saying he sees “no reason to be optimistic at this time” and citing Egypt’s new military dictatorship as an example. Carter also mentioned the influence of Internet technology and social media on current events, and said that while these things have had some positive effects, such as the Arab Spring uprisings, the NSA scandal counters and endangers any positive developments “as major U.S. Internet platforms such as Google or Facebook lose credibility worldwide.”

Note that Carter also recently talked to CNN about Edward Snowden’s NSA whistle-blowing activity and said, “He’s obviously violated the laws of America, for which he’s responsible, but I think the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far. I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial.”

Amen, anyone? Carter was always an anomaly among American presidents. Now he’s increasingly an anomaly among American ex-presidents.

The NSA is building America’s biggest spy center, and “Everybody’s a target”

Recently, in response to Google’s Orwellian collapsing and combining of 60 separate privacy policies (the better to construct a Master Profile of its users for selling and surveilling), I took pains to extricate myself from the tentacular grasp of its many products. I’m now Google Free and Loving It (although I did, yes, include three YouTube videos in a post I published here yesterday; YouTube is the only Google service I’m going to maintain some — limited — contact with). I’m also presently in preparation to shut down my Facebook account, since it, too, has recently taken, and is taking, and will continue to take, giant strides toward realizing its destiny as a watcher and seller of people. (Now that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has officially filed for the company’s initial public offering, valued at sixty hundred million bazillion dollars, he and they are officially the target of every hopeful advertiser on the planet, and you and I are the product that he and they are selling.) Read the rest of this entry