Around the web

Cognitive psychologist explains why Bill Maher is one of our best weapons against ISIS…

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From Raw Story

What makes young people give up their lives and join ISIS? Over the past week, we’ve seen reports of troubling new examples of the Islamic State’s hold on some people, who leave from various parts of Europe and even the United States to become volunteers for the brutal war zone in Syria and Iraq. Repeatedly, these stories express the frustration experts feel trying to understand what motivates recruits, some of whom are well off or have college degrees. Why are they giving up their lives in the West for one of the most dangerous places on Earth?

Hungry for answers, we went looking for someone who could explain the situation and stumbled on the work of Glasgow University cognitive psychologist Gijsbert Stoet. His explanation for how ISIS appealed to some young people cut through the confusion, and we were intrigued that he said we’re not going to stem that tide until we start getting more serious about questioning religious ideas in the public sphere. Wanting more detail, we gave him a call, telling him that we hadn’t seen anyone else give such a concise, convincing explanation of who was joining ISIS and why.

How The US Government and US Military Became Murder, Inc….

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From Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Global Research, March 26, 2015

 Andrew Cockburn has written a must-read book. The title is Kill Chain: The Rise Of The High-Tech Assassins. The title could just as well be: How the US Government and US Military Became Murder, Inc.

The US military no longer does war. It does assassinations, usually of the wrong people. The main victims of the US assassination policy are women, children, village elders, weddings, funerals, and occasionally US soldiers mistaken for Taliban by US surveillance operating with the visual acuity of the definition of legal blindness.

Cockburn tells the story of how the human element has been displaced by remote control killing guided by misinterpretation of unclear images on screens collected by surveillance drones and sensors thousands of miles away. Cockburn shows that the “all-seeing” drone surveillance system is an operational failure but is supported by defense contractors because of its high profitability and by the military brass because general officers, with the exception of General Paul Van Ripper, are brainwashed in the belief that the revolution in military affairs means that high-tech devices replace the human element. Cockburn demonstrates that this belief is immune to all evidence to the contrary. The US military has now reached the point that Secretary of Defense Hagel deactivated both the A-10 close support fighter and the U-2 spy plane in favor of the operationally failed unmanned Global Hawk System. With the A-10 and U-2 went the last platforms for providing a human eye on what is happening on the ground.

Wendell Berry: Climate Change  — To Save the Future, Live in the Present…

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From Wendell Berry

Editor’s note: This excerpt consists of two numbered parts. The first was written in 2013 and the second in 2014.

I. [2013]

So far as I am concerned, the future has no narrative. The future does not exist until it has become the past. To a very limited extent, prediction has worked. The sun, so far, has set and risen as we have expected it to do. And the world, I suppose, will predictably end, but all of its predicted deadlines, so far, have been wrong.

The End of Something—history, the novel, Christianity, the human race, the world—has long been an irresistible subject. Many of the things predicted to end have so far continued, evidently to the embarrassment of none of the predictors. The future has been equally, and relatedly, an irresistible subject. How can so many people of certified intelligence have written so many pages on a subject about which nobody knows anything? Perhaps we need a book— in case we don’t already have one—on the end of the future.

None of us knows the future. Fairly predictably, we are going to be surprised by it. That is why “Take…no thought for the morrow…” is such excellent advice. Taking thought for the morrow is, fairly predictably, a waste of time.

I have noticed, for example, that most of the bad possibilities I have worried about have never happened. And so I have taken care to worry about all the bad possibilities. I could think of, in order to keep them from happening. Some of my scientific friends will call this a superstition, but if I did not forestall so many calamities, who did? However, after so much good work, even I must concede that by taking thought for the morrow we have invested, and wasted, a lot of effort in preparing for morrows that never came. Also by taking thought for the morrow we repeatedly burden today with undoing the damage and waste of false expectations—and so delaying our confrontation with the actuality that today has brought.

Wendell Berry: Think Little

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From Wendell Berry

A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural & Agricultural reprinted in the Whole Earth Catalog 1969

First there was Civil Rights, and then there was the War, and now it is the Environment. The first two of this sequence of causes have already risen to the top of the nation’s consciousness and declined somewhat in a remarkably short time. I mention this in order to begin with what I believe to be a justifiable skepticism. For it seems to me that the Civil Rights Movement and the Peace Movement, as popular causes in the electronic age, have partaken far too much of the nature of fads. Not for all, certainly, but for too many they have been the fashionable politics of the moment. As causes they have been undertaken too much in ignorance; they have been too much simplified; they have been powered too much by impatience and guilt of conscience and short-term enthusiasm, and too little by an authentic social vision and long-term conviction and deliberation. For most people those causes have remained almost entirely abstract; there has been too little personal involvement, and too much involvement in organizations that were insisting that other organizations should do what was right.

The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous…

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From The Atlantic

Its faith-based 12-step program dominates treatment in the United States. But researchers have debunked central tenets of AA doctrine and found dozens of other treatments more effective.

J.G. is a lawyer in his early 30s. He’s a fast talker and has the lean, sinewy build of a distance runner. His choice of profession seems preordained, as he speaks in fully formed paragraphs, his thoughts organized by topic sentences. He’s also a worrier—a big one—who for years used alcohol to soothe his anxiety.J.G. started drinking at 15, when he and a friend experimented in his parents’ liquor cabinet. He favored gin and whiskey but drank whatever he thought his parents would miss the least. He discovered beer, too, and loved the earthy, bitter taste on his tongue when he took his first cold sip.

His drinking increased through college and into law school. He could, and occasionally did, pull back, going cold turkey for weeks at a time. But nothing quieted his anxious mind like booze, and when he didn’t drink, he didn’t sleep. After four or six weeks dry, he’d be back at the liquor store.

By the time he was a practicing defense attorney, J.G. (who asked to be identified only by his initials) sometimes drank almost a liter of Jameson in a day. He often started drinking after his first morning court appearance, and he says he would have loved to drink even more, had his schedule allowed it. He defended clients who had been charged with driving while intoxicated, and he bought his own Breathalyzer to avoid landing in court on drunk-driving charges himself.

An Animated Buckminster Fuller Tells Studs Terkel About “the Geodesic Life”…


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Fierce Assaults on the ‘Attentional Commons’…

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From David Bollier

People in tech circles often talk about the “attention economy” with knowing nonchalance.  Instead of things being scarce, they note, the real shortage these days is people’s attention.  Hence the ferocious drive to capture people’s attention.

This analysis is true as far as it goes.  What it fails to address is that the “attention economy” is not really an “economy.”  It is a predatory invasion of our consciousness. Sellers are using every possible technique to colonize our minds and emotions at the most elemental levels in a relentless attempt to prod us to buy, buy, buy.

Author Matthew B. Crawford made an eloquent case for the “attentional commons” in an opinion piece, “The Cost of Paying Attention,” in Sunday’s New York Times (March 8).  “What if we saw attention in the same way that we saw air or water, as a valuable resource that we hold in common?” he asks.  “Perhaps, if we could envision an ‘attentional commons,’ then we could figure out how to protect it.”

A Global War on Nature…

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From TomDispatch

The Politics of Extinction
An Introduction to the Most Beautiful Animal You’ll Never See 
By William deBuys

Maybe baby steps will help, but the world needs a lot more than either the United States or China is offering to combat the illegal traffic in wildlife, a nearly $20-billion-a-year business that adds up to a global war against nature. As the headlines tell us, the trade has pushed various rhinoceros species to the point of extinction and motivated poachers to kill more than 100,000 elephants since 2010.

Last month China announced that it would ban ivory imports for a year, while it “evaluates” the effectiveness of the ban in reducing internal demand for ivory carvings on the current slaughter of approximately 100 African elephants per day. The promise, however, rings hollow following a report in November (hotly denied by China) that Chinese diplomats used President Xi Jinping’s presidential plane to smuggle thousands of pounds of poached elephant tusks out of Tanzania.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has launched its own well-meaning but distinctly inadequate initiative to curb the trade. Even if you missed the roll-out of that policy, you probably know that current trends are leading us toward a planetary animal dystopia, a most un-Disneyesque world in which the great forests and savannahs of the planet will bid farewell to the species earlier generations referred to as their “royalty.” No more King of the Jungle, while Dorothy’s “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” will truly be over the rainbow. And that’s just for starters.

Hear John Lennon’s Final Interview, Taped on the Last Day of His Life (December 8, 1980)…

(Note: The clip above is the first of six parts. Hear the remaining parts here: 2345, 6)

From Open Culture
[You can also listen to a streamlined version of the interview at the Open Culture link]

John Lennon’s last days were filled with professional and domestic routines characteristic of both a typical wealthy New Yorker and a legendary rock star and activist: making breakfast and watching Sesame Street with his son Sean, going on epic shopping sprees, spending late nights in the studio, staging demonstrations, arguing with his retinue of servants and hangers-on. After five years in semi-retirement, or “siegelike retreat,” spent raising Sean, John Lennon seemed ready to emerge from seclusion and renew his career. On his final day, December 8, 1980, he was feeling hopeful about his creative future. He had just learned that his album with Yoko, Double Fantasy, had gone gold, and he and Yoko were engaged in promotion, and were looking forward to their next musical endeavor.

The Trickle Down Economics of Credit Unions…



From Shareable

As the U.S. continues to recover from the financial crisis started over seven years ago, the prospect of “too big to fail” banks still lingers because no real reforms have been made in the financial sector.

But what if that change started at the grassroots level? What if average citizens took their money out of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citibank and put it in local credit unions?

Well, this is already happening. Last year saw the largest increase in credit union membership in 25 years. Why? Because unlike big banks, credit unions are not-for-profit, cooperative, tax exempt organizations that are owned by their depositors. They exist to serve their depositor-owners, not shareholders as in the case of big banks. This enables them to offer lower fees and higher interest rates than big banks all while offering the same services.

This makes credit unions the one place where trickle down economics actuallly work. In addition to the better deal they can give depositors, credit unions also loan money to local people and businesses sometimes with a specific focus on supporting low-income communities. Bottom line, credit unions are better for people and local economies than big banks.

Yes, credit unions lack the brand awareness of big banks, but together they’re a mighty force. There are over 6,000 credit unions serving 43% of the economically active population in the U.S. Most credit unions belong to the CO-OP ATM network, which has nearly 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs and 5,000+ shared branches across the country to serve your banking needs.
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Richard Dawkins on Evolution as a Fact…


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The Roots of your Health: the Science of Soil…

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From Sustainable Food Trust

Earlier this year, US soil microbiologist Elaine Ingham, of Soil Foodweb Inc. fame, caused several gasps at the Oxford Real Farming Conference with her controversial lecture, ‘The Roots of your Profits’. I recommend anyone interested in joined-up thinking about health to listen to this and view her slide presentation.

Put bluntly, Ingham’s message is that if you are interested in health, you have to be interested in soil. This lecture, and her work in general, brilliantly explains why.

Time to take a deep breath, prepare to have conventional thinking about soil turned on its head and find out why soil biology should matter to you.

How to Become a Conservative Jerk in Four Embarrassing Steps…

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From Alternet

Not that we’d want to. But many Americans, perplexingly, have taken that path in the last ten years, as 27 percent of those polled now consider themselves ‘mostly’ or ‘consistently’ conservative, up from 18 percent in 2004. (Conservatives were at 30 percent in 1994. Liberals increased from 21 to over 30 percent in the 1990s and have remained approximately the same since then.)

The language of true conservatives often turns to denial, dismissal, and/or belligerence, without verifiable facts of any substance. There is also evidence for delusional thinking and a lack of empathy. Here are four ways to be just like them.

Peak Meaninglessness…

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From John Michael Greer

Last week’s discussion of externalities—costs of doing business that get dumped onto the economy, the community, or the environment, so that those doing the dumping can make a bigger profit—is, I’m glad to say, not the first time this issue has been raised recently.  The long silence that closed around such things three decades ago is finally cracking; they’re being mentioned again, and not just by archdruids.  One of my readers—tip of the archdruidical hat to Joe McInerney—noted an article in Grist a while back that pointed out the awkward fact that none of the twenty biggest industries in today’s world could break even, much less make a profit, if they had to pay for the damage they do to the environment.

Now of course the conventional wisdom these days interprets that statement to mean that it’s unfair to make those industries pay for the costs they impose on the rest of us—after all, they have a God-given right to profit at everyone else’s expense, right?  That’s certainly the attitude of fracking firms in North Dakota, who recently proposed that  they ought to be exempted from the state’s rules on dumping radioactive waste, because following the rules would cost them too much money. That the costs externalized by the fracking industry will sooner or later be paid by others, as radionuclides in fracking waste work their way up the food chain and start producing cancer clusters, is of course not something anyone in the industry or the media is interested in discussing. 

Bird Bird Bird, Well ‘a Bird is the Word…


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Burn After Reading…

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From Harpers

In 1971, William Powell published The Anarchist Cookbook, a guide to making bombs and drugs at home. He spent the next four decades fighting to take it out of print.

While the captain notified air traffic control, Busic entered the cockpit wearing what looked like three sticks of dynamite attached to a battery. He told the captain that TWA Flight 355 was now headed to Europe. When members of the N.Y.P.D. bomb squad investigated the subway locker, they found a bomb inside, along with two lengthy tracts in favor of Croatian independence from Yugoslavia. Busic demanded the declarations appear in several newspapers the next day, including the New York Times and Washington Post.

Onboard with Busic were four accomplices, including his wife, who spent her time chatting up passengers and passing out leaflets. After multiple refueling stops, the Boeing 727 finally touched down at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, near Paris, where Busic finally surrendered. Surprisingly, the passengers—none of whom were hurt—emphasized the courtesy of the hijackers. “There was almost an excess of politeness,” one man told the Associated Press. “They were so polite it was ridiculous,” another told Newsweek. It turned out that the bombs onboard consisted of cooking pots, Silly Putty, and tape.

Why I’m Saying Goodbye to Apple, Google and Microsoft and Putting More Trust in Communities than Corporations…

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From Dan Gilmour
Backchannel

I’m done sending my money and data to corporations I don’t trust…

When I became a technology columnist in the mid-1990s, the public Internet was just beginning its first big surge. Back then, I advised my readers to avoid the semi-political, even religious battles that advocates of this or that technology platform seemed to enjoy. Appreciate technology, I urged, for what it is — a tool — and use what works best.

So why am I typing this on a laptop running GNU/Linux, the free software operating system, not an Apple or Windows machine? And why are my phones and tablets running a privacy-enhanced offshoot of Android called Cyanogenmod, not Apple’s iOS or standard Android?

Because, first of all, I can get my work done fine. I can play games. I can surf endlessly. The platform alternatives have reached a stage where they’re capable of handling just about everything I need.

More important, I’ve moved to these alternative platforms because I’ve changed my mind about the politics of technology. I now believe it’s essential to embed my instincts and values, to a greater and greater extent, in the technology I use.

Those values start with a basic notion: We are losing control over the tools that once promised equal opportunity in speech and innovation—and this has to stop.

Control is moving back to the center, where powerful companies and governments are creating choke points. They are using those choke points to destroy our privacy, limit our freedom of expression, and lock down culture and commerce. Too often, we give them our permission—trading liberty for convenience—but a lot of this is being done without our knowledge, much less permission.

Sea level “jumps” 5 inches. Probably nothing to worry about…

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From Grist

Climate change is a disaster in slow-motion: The global temperature creeps up by fractions-of-a-degree each year, the seas rise inches every decade. Except, apparently, when they do much more.

Exhibit A: In just two years, 2009 and 2010, sea levels along the Atlantic coast north of New York City jumped up by more than 5 inches, according to a paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications. That might not seem like much on its own, but consider that, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global sea levels are rising at a rate of less than a half an inch each year, and that’s causing all sorts of havoc.

Transfusion by Nervous Norvus…


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Written By Women…

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On the eve of Vela’s launch in September 2011, Sarah Menkedick sat down and wrote out her vision for the magazine. Vela has grown and evolved tremendously since then, but the fundamental purpose and spirit of the publication have remained unchanged. As Sarah hoped, we are still and will continue to be “a space to maneuver freely without having to either set one’s work apart as distinctly female or suck it up trying to prove that women can do what men do and that what men do is the best and the norm.”

Try this with The Best Magazine Articles Ever: Go down the list, and say out loud to yourself the gender of each writer as you go. You’ll say: man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, woman, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man.

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