Month: March 2014

Terry Bell says that Capitalism is sick

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Political/economic analyst and labour columnist, Terry Bell.
Political/economic analyst and labour columnist, Terry Bell.

“Capitalism is not dead. But it is severely ill and its chronic contagion is spreading through the economic and social fibres of the world. However, it can be saved and resurrected, but only at the cost of a massive transfusion of blood, sweat, suffering and destruction. Such is the nature of a system based on competition and where material profit is the over-riding priority.” – Terry Bell in A democratic answer to escape from crisis, from his blog Terry Bell Writes.

One of SA’s top journalists and labour columnists, Bell writes regularly for GroundUp. Read:

Voting every five years is not enough – direct democracy is possible.

Who are the real illegal miners?

Strikers refuse to be misled.

Terry Bell on Twitter: @telbelsa

The Brilliant, Unnerving Meta-Marketing of ‘The Lego Movie’

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Heather Havrilesky on Lego’s ‘imperial domination’:

 lego_movie_ver9“Branding may have finally reached its Mannerist phase. Where the old-fashioned brand earnestly embraced a core message that verged on religious doctrine (Apple’s “Think Different,” Nike’s “Just Do It”), the new brand is aggressively self-aware, exaggerated and self-referential to the point of collapsing in on itself; rather than imbuing the product with magical qualities, it embraces and undercuts those qualities in one swift gesture. The effect is to subvert consumer prejudices and preconceptions and make us forget that we’re caught in a commerce-focused undertow.

It’s a counterintuitive sleight of hand: By acknowledging that their central message is unbelievable or at least exaggerated, the branding masterminds gain our trust and bolster our faith in the brand. Will Ferrell, for example, promoted “Anchorman II” and Dodge at the same time by appearing on talk shows as Ron Burgundy and declaring that Dodge’s cars were “terrible.” Dodge sales spiked. (Ferrell also voices President Business.) In New Zealand, Burger King ran YouTube ads of two guys eating Burger King while complaining about YouTube ads. Nearly every Super Bowl ad this year referred to the fact that it was a Super Bowl ad. The brand — and the TV ad, the movie and the fictional spokesman — is hyperaware of its own fictionality and thus earns the right to simultaneously denigrate and elevate itself as divine.”

Read Havrilesky’s piece in The New York Times Magazine.

 

Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir ‘Disaster Preparedness. Follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

“We don’t read newspapers because the journalism is so boring”

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English filmmaker, Adam Curtis.
English filmmaker, Adam Curtis.

“Newspapers might come back if they could do some good journalism. I mean the reason we don’t read newspapers these days is because the journalism is so boring.” – Adam Curtis in an interview with The New Statesman. Curtis is the producer of the BBC documentaries The Power of Nightmares and The Century of the Self.

The New Statesman on Adam Curtis: “Adam Curtis remains at the forefront of documentary filmmaking. He began in the early 80s, but his first major breakthrough came in 1992 with Pandora’s Box, a film which warned of the dangers technocratic politics and saw him pick up his first of six career BAFTAs.”

Adam Curtis’ blog at the BBC.

All things Adam Curtis at The Guardian.

Adam Curtis at ThoughtMaybe – a website designed to provoke thought on globalisation; technology; advertising and why we’re here.

The essential Joseph E. Stiglitz primer

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Uber economist, Joseph Stiglitz.
Uber economist, Joseph Stiglitz.

One of the world’s most influential economists – Joseph E. Stiglitz – is in Johannesburg, South Africa. A University Professor at Columbia University and recipient of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in economics, Stiglitz’s most recent book is The Price of Inequality. Stiglitz will be speaking at the 2014 Discovery Leadership Summit in Sandton on Wednesday 05 March 2014.

Here then, an essential primer to keep you in the know on all things Stiglitz:

“Those at the top have learned how to suck out money from the rest in ways that the rest are hardly aware of,” says Stiglitz, in The Price of Inequality, adding: “that is their true innovation.”

Separate and Unequal – a review of The Price of Inequality at The New York Times.

The 1 Percent’s Problem –  In a Vanity Fair adaptation of The Price of Inequality, Stiglitz talks about the steep costs of inequity. All of Stiglitz’s writing at Vanity Fair.

In no-one we trust – In The New York Times Stiglitz writes about how inequality is eroding people’s faith in institutions and in their way of life. News and commentary about Stiglitz at The New York Times.

The current economic malaise is the result of flawed policies, writes Stiglitz in The Guardian. Find all of Stiglitz’s articles in The Guardian, here.

Stiglitz touts the merits of an increased minimum wage for the US at CNBC.

Find all of Stiglitz’s articles at Slate.com.

Information and the Change in the Paradigm in Economics 2001 – Stiglitz’s lecture at NobelPrize.org

A bio of Stiglitz at The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics at the US Library of Economics and Liberty.

Stiglitz’s home online – JosephStiglitz.com

Stiglitz on Twitter: @JosephEStiglitz

The War on Reason

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Scientists and philosophers argue that human beings are little more than puppets of their biochemistry. Writing in The Atlantic,  professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University, Paul Bloom, explains why they’re wrong.

Paul Bloom
Paul Bloom

“Another attack on rationality comes from social psychology. Hundreds of studies now show that factors we’re unaware of influence how we think and act. College students who fill out a questionnaire about their political opinions when standing next to a dispenser of hand sanitizer become, at least for a moment, more politically conservative than those standing next to an empty wall. Shoppers walking past a bakery are more likely than other shoppers to make change for a stranger. Subjects favor job applicants whose résumés are presented to them on heavy clipboards. Supposedly egalitarian white people who are under time pressure are more likely to misidentify a tool as a gun after being shown a photo of a black male face.

In a contemporary, and often unacknowledged, rebooting of Freud, many psychologists have concluded from such findings that unconscious associations and attitudes hold powerful sway over our lives—and that conscious choice is largely superfluous. “It is not clear,” the Baylor College neuroscientist David Eagleman writes, “how much the conscious you—as opposed to the genetic and neural you—gets to do any deciding at all.” The New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt suggests we should reject the notion that we are in control of our decisions and instead think of the conscious self as a lawyer who, when called upon to defend the actions of a client, mainly provides after-the-fact justifications for decisions that have already been made.”

Read the full article by Bloom in The Atlantic.

Find Paul Bloom on Twitter.

More from Paul Bloom:

The Case Against Empathy in The New Yorker.

Paul Bloom talking at TED about the origins of pleasure.

Paul Bloom speaking about The Psychology of Everything at The Big Think.

Hatchet Job of the Year goes to AA Gill for Morrissey broadside

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The Guardian in the UK reports on how Sunday Times critic, A. A. Gill, was  honoured for the ‘expert caning’ of rock star, Morrissey’s recent autobiography

140212-morrissey-autobiography“A cacophony of jangling, misheard and misused words … a sea of Stygian self-justification and stilted self-conscious prose … ” AA Gill‘s caustic review of Morrissey‘s Autobiography has been named the Hatchet Job of the Year. Gill was revealed as winner of the prize, set up by The Omnivore websiteand going to the writer “of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review” of the past year.”

“Morrissey’s Autobiography was published by Penguin, under its Classics imprint – a decision with which Gill takes great issue in his review, calling it the singer’s “most Pooterishly embarrassing piece of intellectual social climbing”. Gill concludes that putting the book, “a potential firelighter of vanity, self-pity and logorrhoeic dullness”, in Penguin Classics “doesn’t diminish Aristotle or Homer or Tolstoy; it just roundly mocks Morrissey, and this is a humiliation constructed by the self-regard of its victim”.

His review, which can be read in full on the Omnivore’s website, also lays into Morrissey’s take on his early life – “laughably overwrought and overwritten, a litany of retrospective hurt and score-settling that reads like a cross between Madonna and Catherine Cookson” – before dismissing the memoir as a book which should never have been written.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Why the case against Al-Jazeera is about journalism not the network

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Azad Ezza writes about why Al-Jazeera is only one part of a puzzle of the growing restrictions on the freedom of expression of ordinary Egyptians.

 

Al-Jazeera journalist and author, Azad Essa.
Al-Jazeera journalist and author, Azad Essa.

“Egypt has traditionally been a difficult country to operate as a journalist. Under Hosni Mubarak, the country’s president for almost three decades, the media were forced to exist under the shadow of harassment and imprisonment.

Editors were often charged with “insulting the president” or “insulting public institutions”. The evidence however suggests conditions were never as bad as they currently are. One Egyptian colleague who has been advised not to return home in fear of being arrested told me that “this is Egypt’s worst period for freedom of speech and expression since Abdel Nasser’s era in the 1950s”.

Al-Jazeera is only one part of a puzzle of the acute political polarisation and mob violence restricting the freedom of expression of ordinary Egyptians daily.

And though thousands of journalists from Nairobi, London and New York taped their mouths and held up placards with the #FreeAJStaff over the past few weeks in a bid to raise more awareness of our plight in the country, we are certainly not the story here.”

Read the full story in Mail & Guardian.

Follow Azad Essa on Twitter: @azadessa