Around the web

The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous…

a

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”…


~~

Fierce Assaults on the ‘Attentional Commons’…

c

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…

b

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.
~~

Richard Dawkins on Evolution as a Fact…


~~

The Roots of your Health: the Science of Soil…

r

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…

c

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…

m

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…


~~

Burn After Reading…

0000405496-002

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…

1

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…

g

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…


~~

Written By Women…

w

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.

A Wilderness of Waiting…

w3

From Vela

In the eighth month of my nine-month human pregnancy, I go on a binge-Googling of animal gestation periods. Frilled sharks, I discover, gestate for 42 months. Elephants take 22 months. Sperm whales: 16. Walruses: 15. Rhinos: 14. Horses: 11. I am seeking solidarity and comparative comfort in the realm of beasts, seeking to place my experience on a spectrum of waiting. I think of going on into month eleven, twelve, twenty, thirty-five: days into months into years of pregnancy. I find a kind of horror in it, and fascination, and reverence, and ultimately a question: what does it mean to exist in waiting, to wait so long that the line between life and waiting blurs?I am 32 and living in a 19th-century cabin on my parents’ Ohio farm. The cabin is approximately 40 feet wide, with walls and floors of sturdy wood planks, a wood-burning stove, and a pioneer feel. “Is there anything in here that’s not ancient?” my nine-year-old niece asks with mild distaste when she visits. Everywhere are the artifacts of antiquated domesticity: baskets, hand-painted serving platters, crocks. The cabin has been decorated and prepared for weekend visitors to the farm, not full-time living, but when I finish grad school my husband and I move in, setting mousetraps and putting up storm windows as we navigate this murky penniless period before our next move.

Lies and Fabrications: The Propaganda Campaign in Support of Genetically Modified Crops (GMO)…

g

From Global Research

According to Mathew Holehouse in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper (here), former UK Environment Minister Owen Paterson will this week accuse the European Union and Greenpeace of condemning people in the developing world to death by refusing to accept genetically modified crops. Speaking in Pretoria, South Africa, on Tuesday, Paterson will warn that a food revolution that could save Africa from hunger is being held back and that the world is on the cusp of a green revolution, of the kind that fed a billion people in the 1960s and 1970s as the world’s population soared.

After talking about a growing global population and the pivotal role of GMOs in feeding it, Paterson will assert:

Vanishing water, fewer jobs, but still hope in the Central Valley…

f

Joe Del Bosque of Firebaugh shows an organic field at his farm last month. Central Valley residents are dealing with the results of a multiyear drought that has caused many farmers to stop planting row crops in favor of almonds and pistachios.

From Sacramento Bee
Thanks to Ron

MENDOTA In this region that calls itself “The Cantaloupe Center of the World,” vast fields that once annually yielded millions of melons lie fallow. And, for some farmers, planting tomatoes and other traditional row crops may now constitute acts of courage.

America’s largest agriculture economy is changing because of a lack of water. Amid a prolonged drought and an anticipated third straight year of cutbacks in federal water supplies, the one assured constant is stress.

Farmers who can afford them are sinking wells, extracting groundwater that works for groves of almonds and pistachios. But the groundwater is generally too salty for crops of vegetables and grains that have made the Central Valley the nation’s food basket. And questions persist over how long the groundwater supplies will last – and whether growers will get enough of the reservoir water they crave.

In California’s $40 billion agricultural sector, farmers face hard choices on what to plant and how much. They weigh crop losses and the costs of acquiring new ground or surface water supplies against cutting labor or selling off their farms.

9 Surprising Industries Getting Filthy Rich From Mass Incarceration…

p

From Alternet

Private prison companies aren’t the only ones benefiting from America’s prison-industrial complex

It’s no coincidence that the United States now imprisons more of its people than any other country in the world: mass incarceration has become a giant industry in the U.S., resulting in huge profits not only for private prison companies, but also, for everything from food companies and telecoms to all the businesses that are using prison labor to cut their manufacturing costs. The prison-industrial complex even has its own lobbyists: according to a 2011 report from the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), the U.S.’ largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), and their competitor the GEO Group have both spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying for longer prison sentences. And the American Bail Coalition has been lobbying for the bail bond industry for 23 years.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,597 other followers