In other news, Queen Elizabeth II became a Bond girl, Mr.Bean played ostinato in his inimitable style with the London Symphony Orchestra, Danny Boyle presented a fantastic spectacle of the transformation of Bucolic to Belligerent Industrial Britain, and highlighted the NHS that every Brit loves to complain about, but no one wants to lose.
Too bad, there are no official online replays of the whole Olympics opening ceremony to be found, it would have been nice to have a BBC version to compare against the dreadful and inane commentary of Bob Costas, Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera that US viewers were forced to endure, and pointless ad breaks.
(For those who missed it, here at least is a playful liveblog play-by-play of the event, with additional Brit-wit to delight the reader. I missed the bucolic baaing of the sheep, and started to watch only as the smokestacks went up.)
Matthew Yglesias at Slate makes the case that Romney should simply shrug and say offshoring is a Good Thing, instead of making silly claims about "retroactive retirement." He says basically that it is good for jobs to be located where it's most efficient, that in terms of wealth creation this is positive sum, that the problems it causes in the US are distributional, and that the preferred way of handling these is via taxation, welfare and job training. It's a good article (I'm not convinced it's good politics, another reason to support this :) ), in the 'lets infuriate the NAFTA-bashing portions of the electorate' genre. I do agree with most of what's said, but what provokes this post is the following:
A couple of hundred of years of catastrophic misgovernment and imperialist exploitation left billions of Asians languishing in dire poverty. When Asian governance started improving, Asian workers’ productive capacity and earnings potential skyrocketed. This has been a triumph for human welfare but a disaster for Americans whose skills have been radically devalued in the process.
The reason I like this is that captures a certain zero-sum logic, and I want to write about the ethics of that situation. Far too many on the American left act as if globalization and trade hurt everyone instead of just first-world workers as workers, and it is important (if rhetorically inconvenient) to mark the distinction. As I see it, anti-outsourcing rhetoric from the left is basically anti-humanitarian for reasons of patriotism. Patriotism here might well be acceptable - no doubt most Americans want their president to benefit fellow Americans, not the globe at large. What's not right is not even acknowledging, or thinking about the tradeoffs. Some examples of the unexamined patriotic view follow:
1. The patriotic argument against globalization is unthinkingly extended to a sort of amorphous first-world solidarity. I've had plenty of well-meaning American friends speak with casual dismay of Canadian or French or UK jobs going to China or India or Vietnam. Few have managed to explain (to their own satisfaction, forget mine) why jobs going from rich French people to poor Vietnamese should make Americans sad instead of happy, or why this isn't a huge increase in global utility. Mind you, none of these people actually believe whites/Christians/Westerners count more, it's just they've never really made themselves consider, you know, the rest of the globe in their thoughts about globalization. Most people I've made this argument to have managed to see the point that Americans should rejoice in Canadian or Australian jobs going to raise third world standards , reducing global inequality, even if they as Americans, they have a patriotic reason not to want American jobs to do the same. I am not quite sure if that argument works, but they've typically never even thought about it before.
2. Especially with the increased outsourcing of white-collar jobs (where it's hard to say believably that your customer service guy with a thick accent is being exploited) some of the rottenness that's always been at the heart of the anti-sweatshop movement is made clear: to a substantially under-acknowledged extent, anti-sweatshop is about labor protectionism, not humanitarian concern for the world's poor. Globalization and sweatshops have been basically good for China, not bad. And don't pretend to me that American labor unions are motivated principally about giving the Chinese good jobs, and not to 'keep American jobs American.' The recent media interest in Apple and Foxconn (never mind that the suicide rate at Foxconn is actually lower than even that for the US) similarly was carried out, for the most part, without mentioning that the Chinese benefit from their iJobs, and that "bringing the jobs back home" would help Americans workers and hurt the Chinese. Which is fine, if that's what you want, but remains a pretty sketchy thing to sell as humanitarian benevolence.
3. Even if it's defensible for a private American citizen (or company) to care more about Americans, it's not obviously ethically obligatory. It seems morally permissible to lack the patriotic jobs preference. To give an intuition jogger, few, even those who're very patriotic, would say Bill Gates is being wicked to spend his foundation money fighting malaria in Africa instead of trying to improve American high school education. The idea that firms moving jobs offshore are being immoral is actually rather harder to justify than the claim that they are merely not immoral not to. Indeed, leftist ideologies tend to value in-group preference less, which is to my mind as unambiguous a reason for preferring them as any.
Again, I don't really think trade-with-redistribution (or even trade-without-redistribution, it's just worse that what might be) is zero-sum. But it's useful to think about what kinds of moral arguments follow, at least if you're uncomfortable with explicitly parochial perspectives. Hell, considering the existence of absolute poverty, or even just the decreasing marginal utility of money, trade could be substantially negative sum and still be a net moral positive for humanity.
The right wing recklessly charges its opponents of harboring socialist / communist sympathies whenever there is a disagreement on taxes, spending or war. Democrats in congress as also Democratic presidents and presidential candidates since FDR have been targets of such scurrilous attacks. President Obama is no exception. But in his case, the additional suspicion of un-Americanness is repeatedly voiced. It may be meant as a dog whistle aimed at the conservative base but most of us understand that "un-American" here is but a thinly veiled reminder of Obama's skin color. Here is John Sununu, the mostly forgotten White House chief of the first President Bush taking Obama to task for not understanding American capitalism and values. In doing so, he brought up Obama's childhood in Hawaii, smoking pot as a young man and beginning his career in Chicago as sure indicators of alien roots. (Really? Hawaii, Chicago and pot smoking?) He forgot to mention Columbia, Harvard and a pair of white midwestern grandparents who played a major stabilizing role in Obama's upbringing. How soon we forget the brickbats thrown at us when we are hurling them at someone else. Sununu himself was born in a foreign country (Cuba, for heaven's sake!) to foreign born parents (both) and was suspected of having anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian sympathies by some American supporters of Israel.
Then there is the ever despicable Michele Bachmann whose McCarthyist tendencies have been on shameless display for a long time. She sees enemies of America under every table, behind every bush and among her ideological opponents, especially if there is a whiff of "foreignness" about them, be it their skin color or non-Christian religious background. In her latest outburst she accused Huma Abedin, a long time aide of Hillary Clinton of being a possible Muslim Brotherhood plant in the Obama administration. She was appropriately upbraided by Senator John McCain for her ignorant mean hearted campaign. I suspect Bachmann's disgraceful slander against Abedin is a back handed way of suggesting that since Obama is a secret Muslim, he has appointed a Muslim mole in his administration to undermine America's security. Never mind that Abedin became Hillary Clinton's trusted aide as a very young woman, before she was anywhere near Obama. Interestingly, Bachmann's own foreign connections recently came to light. She never considered disclosing the fact while she shrilly paraded as the All American patriot. But the omission is understandable; Switzerland after all, is not Pakistan.
Beatrice is a woman in her mid-thirties, and a smart, sharp attorney for a major law firm. She and three other women had been together in group therapy for two years. Each woman experienced severe childhood sexual abuse. In one very emotionally difficult session Bea put a question to her therapist. In tears, and with a voice of anger, pleading, and despair she asked, “What is the point of all this [experience of abuse]?” Her therapist, Francine, answered, “There is no point to it, except what you can give to it. And you have learned so much, and gained a compassion and a wisdom that few have. You can now tell the truth to people who need to know.”
I was extremely fortunate to observe this group for a significant period of time, with the permission of all involved. I was doing research of my own on child sexual abuse. During the time I was observing I had regular individual therapy sessions with Francine. This is an absolute necessity, in my opinion, for anyone doing research on abuse from first-person accounts.
Louis Breger, author of Psychotherapy, Lives Intersecting
While reading Louis Breger's new book, Psychotherapy: Lives Intersecting, I kept going back to that difficult session when Bea asked her question. Yes, her question moved me, deeply. Equally significant, for me, was Francine's response. Francine is a therapist that Breger describes as having 'the touch.' Others might refer to it as 'the gift.'
My experience with Bea's group and with Francine in individual sessions, gave me a perspective on this book. In a way, Louis Breger, PhD is the complement to a patient like Bea. As a therapist, teacher, researcher, husband, and father he has learned many things and gained much wisdom in a 50 year career. In this professional memoir, he is passing it on, and telling the truth to people who need to know.
Who needs to know?
Certainly, Psychotherapy: Lives Intersecting is a book for psychotherapists, counselors, and others in the helping professions in psychology, social work, and psychiatry. It is for students in mental health and related majors from upper-class students at the undergraduate level to Masters and Doctoral programs. Beyond the academic and training institutions, faculty, and students, this book belongs in the hands of all friends of psychotherapy, those considering therapy for themselves, and those who are trying to help family or friends make a decision about psychotherapy. Though a professional memoir covering professional subjects, it is still accessible to an educated and interested layperson.
If the reader can set aside preconceptions of the usual and obligatory book-jacket blurbs, they will discover that Psychotherapy: Lives Intersecting IS unique in its field. As a professional memoir he discusses substantive matters like the history of psychoanalysis, and varied schools of thought and theories of personality. Breger is as clear as he can be in his criticism of methods of psychotherapy based upon a dominating guru, inflexible dogma, and cult-like followers. He is equally clear about what is most important to a successful therapeutic outcome for the patient – Hint: It may be a surprise for many. What makes this book stand apart from others in his field are two things:
In a comment on my last post on the Higgs boson discovery, Dean asked why scientists are okay with cocktail party and other trivial analogies in describing scientific phenomena, but evoking God is an "allergen." The reason certainly is that most scientists are not in the business of explaining god although the temptation arises whenever a hugely significant finding that sheds light on the workings of the universe excites the scientific community. Take for example, the theories of evolution and relativity, nuclear fission / fusion, the structure of DNA. The enthusiasm to dress up a scientific discovery with a godly label is quickly curbed because scientists know from long experience the complications that arise by going down that path. Similarly it would be advisable for religion to steer clear of science because the results of mixing the two has so far been not just a bit ludicrous but quite dangerous. Here are two reports from Louisina whose ultra conservative religious governor Bobby Jindal has taken it upon himself with help from like minded legislators, to teach school children in private schools that a beguiling Scottish myth may explain the theory of evolution better than Darwin did. But introducing god and religion into science is always a messy enterprise because one never knows what other mythical beasts may demand equal time.
On an otherwise slow news day (CNN's Anderson Cooper is gay, the US apologized to Pakistan so the war in Afghanistan can go on, another high profile banker resigned) physicists at CERN confirmed the discovery of the elusive subatomic particle Higgs boson. Now, this was no ordinary scientific event. Decades of speculation, ambitious nomenclature (God Particle) and gigantic collisons inside the Large Hadron Collider came to an exciting climax with the acknowledgment of its existence. Yet they tell us that the discovery is not really a discovery.
Anyway, for us laypersons here is a video that may explain the whole phenomenon. (link via 3 Quarks Daily) Also, our own Prasad is at CERN. Perhaps he will describe to us what went on there during the days and hours leading up to the media splash. And to think all this could have happened in Texas! Happy Fourth of July.