Archive for March 4th, 2010

Measuring subjective happiness

| March 4, 2010 | 1 Reply
Measuring subjective happiness

In the January 29, 2010 issue of Science (available online only to subscribers), Richard Layard considers whether subjective reports are valid ways of measuring the well-being of a population. After all, we’ve been hearing some rather extraordinary findings of studies over the years based upon subjective happiness. For instance, studies consistently show that higher national income does not increase “quality of life,” (defined by subjective happiness). In fact, based on studies relying on subjective judgment, there has been no increase in happiness over the past 50 years in the United States.

Layard asks a fundamental question: “Can subjective well-being really be measured well enough to be used in policy analyses?” Even though the science of measuring happiness is “very young,” Layard indicates that subjective measures of happiness are well correlated with at least five relevant sets of variables:

The reports of friends; the possible causes of well-being; some possible effects of well-being; physical functioning, such as levels of cortisol; and measures of brain activity.

There is good reason to be optimistic that we will get better at measuring happiness. “Fifty years ago, there was considerable debate on how to measure depression, but by now this has become much less controversial in all likelihood, the measurement of happiness will become similarly less controversial.”

As we fine-tune our methods of measuring of subjective happiness, Layard believes we will be better able to monitor trends of happiness, we will deal to identify problem groups within populations and we will be better able to determine why some people are happy and others are not. Better measurements will certainly allow us determine quality of life better than the many efforts to do so in terms of money.

What’s at stake according to Layard? As we leave behind our crude financial measurements of the quality of life and continue to develop better methods of measuring subjective happiness, “it will produce very different priorities for our society.”

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Who is crazy?

| March 4, 2010 | Reply
Who is crazy?

The mainstream media is going after anyone who dares to stray from what they consider to be the proper boundaries of discourse. He dares to treat mainstream political discourse “as the political freak show that it is.” That’s why Alan Grayson, who is one of the few people in Congress who is really working hard to get to the bottom of serious problems, has a big target on his back–he is being labeled as crazy by a mainstream media that doesn’t know what to do when someone asks real questions about real issues.

Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com explores this problem at length, pointing out the other side of the coin, that in Media-World, those who are certifiably insane are being labeled as “sane” as long as they stay within predesignated boundaries. For example:

Just consider who is supported and embraced by those who slap the “crazy” label on the forehead of every perceived dissident. Hillary Clinton — the ultimate embodiment of Democratic Party Seriousness and Sanity — supported the invasion of Iraq by warning of scary weapons and Al Qaeda ties that did not exist . . . and she spent her campaign beating her chest and doing things like threatening to “totally obliterate” Iran. While in office, Barack Obama has endorsed putting people in cages with no charges, assassinating American citizens with no due process, eavesdropping on Americans en masse with little oversight, increasing military spending beyond its shockingly inflated levels while searching for ways to cut Medicaid and Social Security, and blocking judicial review of presidential felonies and war crimes on the ground that those criminal acts constitute vital “state secrets” and must be protected. Most Serious, Sane Democrats have supported all of that insanity.

What honest person can argue with Greenwald’s list? But he was just getting warmed up. There’s a lot more, including this:

Meanwhile, the GOP establishment from top to bottom spent a decade cheering on torture, disappearances, abductions, unprovoked wars, chronic presidential lawbreaking and truly sick McCarthyite witch hunts. Both of the Sane Parties conspired to transfer, with little accountability, massive amounts of public wealth to the very Wall Street firms which virtually destroyed the entire world economy, while standing by and doing very little about tragic levels of joblessness or the future risk of Wall-Street-caused financial crises; kept us waging war for a full decade in multiple countries (while threatening others) even as we near the precipice of bankruptcy, the hallmarks of under-developed nation status and the disappearance of the social safety net; and are so captive to the corporate interests which own the Government that they viciously compete with one another over who can be a more loyal servant to those interests.

Greenwald is not suggesting that those who step out of the mainstream are always correct about everything they say. But he does give credit to Alan Grayson, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul for not buying into most of the rubbish that we are being fed by the media. We live in world painted upside-down by a media that is largely not about traditional Fourth Estate values. Rather than feed us information that will allow a democracy to thrive, the mainstream media, based on its constant miserable failures over the past ten years, is clearly more interested in destroying those who dare to ask questions that might threaten our corporate-military-prison-industrial-Complex.

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Joseph Stiglitz weighs in on the Federal Reserve

| March 4, 2010 | 1 Reply
Joseph Stiglitz weighs in on the Federal Reserve

Joseph Stiglitz is one of the greatest economists in the world. He’s held professorships at Yale, Stanford, Duke, Princeton and Oxford Universities, and now teaches at Columbia University. He was the chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors under Clinton. He served as Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the World Bank from 1997 to 2000. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001. There should be no disputing that he is eminently qualified in the field of economics, which is all the more reason for you to pay attention to what he says about the Federal Reserve.

Speaking at a conference held by the Roosevelt Institute, he said that if a country had come to the World Bank under his tenure seeking aid, while maintaining a financial regulatory system like the Federal Reserve, it would have raised very big alarms:

“If we had seen a governance structure that corresponds to our Federal Reserve system, we would have been yelling and screaming and saying that country does not deserve any assistance, this is a corrupt governing structure,” Stiglitz said during a conference on financial reform in New York. “It’s time for us to reflect on our own structure today, and to say there are parts that can be improved.”

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How to fail the media

| March 4, 2010 | Reply
How to fail the media

Free Press has had another good idea. This one is called “MediaFail.” The project is just now launching. What is Media Fail?

MediaFAIL is a user-powered project of Free Press that exposes the worst in American media. Just find a link, post it, fail it, and share it with friends. The top-rated submissions will migrate to the site’s front page for all the world to see.

We don’t just want to give the media a failing grade — we want it to pass. That’s why we’re featuring links to actions on important Free Press campaigns, so that you can help build a better media system.

Here’s a sample post to the new site, regarding an article irresponsibly published by ComputerWorld:

Article on the Broadband Plan written entirely from the opinions of two professional telecom analysts-for-hire, declaring the broadband plan “impossibly broad” although no portions of the plan are yet publicly available for “analysts” to inspect.

This is a great opportunity for all of us to be media watchdogs, and to strike back at the the constant flow of trite garbage, the drummed up conflict and the dishonest and lazy announcements that all purport to be “news.”

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Another anti-gay reaction formation – a growing list.

| March 4, 2010 | 19 Replies
Another anti-gay reaction formation – a growing list.

Here’s the report from Huffpo (with video):

Early Wednesday morning, State Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Calif.) was pulled over and arrested for drunk driving. Sources report that Ashburn — a fierce opponent of gay rights — was driving drunk after leaving a gay nightclub; when the officer stopped the state-issued vehicle, there was an unidentified man in the passenger seat of the car.

Based on the constant stream of incidents like this, we ought to just assume that men who disparage gays are gay. Freud calls this type of situation a reaction formation.

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FOX has questions on health care reform; Congressman Anthony Weiner has clear answers

| March 4, 2010 | Reply
FOX has questions on health care reform; Congressman Anthony Weiner has clear answers

Congressman Anthony Weiner fields health care reform questions from FOX’s panel of right-wingers:

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