Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Foreign aid and sanctions

  Amidst all the political brouhaha regarding foreign aid, it is important that we keep in mind the nature and purposes of this particular federal program, as well as its related program, sanctions.

  Foreign aid is money that the U.S. government sends to certain foreign regimes. The purpose of the money is to secure loyalty to the U.S. Empire. That loyalty comes in the form of votes in the United Nations or support for U.S. imperialist escapades abroad.

  There is hardly ever a formal quid pro quo involved in foreign aid. That is, U.S. officials do not expressly say to a foreign leader, “If you will agree to become a loyal member of the U.S. Empire and support whatever the Empire does, we will send you hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars.”

Monday, November 18, 2019

New FBI report shows increase in violent hate crime

  Although the FBI report released last week shows a minuscule decline in all hate crimes in 2018, it also shows a 12 percent rise in hate crimes involving violence.

  The overall decline was due to a decrease in hate crimes involving property, such as bias-related vandalism.

  This uptick in violent hate crimes comes on the heels of FBI Director Christopher Wray’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in July, when he said the majority of domestic terrorism investigations are connected to white supremacy.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Personal data isn’t the ‘new oil,’ it’s a way to manipulate capitalism

  My recent research increasingly focuses on how individuals can and do manipulate, or “game,” contemporary capitalism. It involves what social scientists call reflexivity and physicists call the observer effect.

  Reflexivity can be summed up as the way our knowledge claims end up changing the world and the behaviors we seek to describe and explain.

  Sometimes this is self-fulfilling. A knowledge claim — like “everyone is selfish,” for example — can change social institutions and social behaviors so that we actually end up acting more selfish, thereby enacting the original claim.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

WTF? Slurs offend young adults more than swearing

  In 1972, the comedian George Carlin performed a comedy routine in which he listed the seven words you couldn’t say on television. He opined that profanity related to sexual activities, body parts, and bodily functions wasn’t inherently good or bad. All words, he would say, are “innocent.”

  But reciting those seven words in public got him arrested, and when a New York radio station aired Carlin’s performance, a man listening with his young son sued. The case led to the Supreme Court ruling six years later that broadcasting profanity can constitute a public nuisance.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Five milestones that created the internet, 50 years after the first network message

  Fifty years ago, a UCLA computer science professor and his student sent the first message over the predecessor to the internet, a network called ARPANET.

  On Oct. 29, 1969, Leonard Kleinrock and Charley Kline sent Stanford University researcher Bill Duval a two-letter message: “lo.” The intended message, the full word “login,” was truncated by a computer crash.

  Much more traffic than that travels through the internet these days, with billions of emails sent and searches conducted daily. As a scholar of how the internet is governed, I know that today’s vast communications web is a result of governments and regulators making choices that collectively built the internet as it is today.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Inequality is higher in some states like New York and Louisiana because of corporate welfare

  Income inequality made big headlines recently after the U.S. Census Bureau released new data showing that the gap between the richest and poorest Americans is at its highest level in at least half a century.

  Less reported was the significant variation among the states. New York and California had the highest inequality in 2018, while Utah and Alaska had the lowest. In addition, states as diverse as Alabama, Texas, and New Hampshire experienced large increases from the prior year.

  Why are some states more or less equal than others?

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Alabama Legislature not a very good stepping stone

  Early speculation on the 2020 U.S. Senate race had Alabama state Sen. Del Marsh listed as a potential GOP aspirant. He had considered making a plunge into the Special Election contest for Jeff Sessions’ seat in 2017 but opted out.

  Most astute observers never thought he would ultimately pull the trigger then or this year. Unlike others who have run and won statewide, Marsh is essentially unknown outside of the Capitol and is known only around his Anniston senate district. His best asset was probably that he had his own money to spend rather than his state senate influence.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Criminalizing homelessness in the Heart of Dixie

  Jonathan sleeps under a bridge at night or on a friend’s porch. During the day, he holds up a “homeless” sign in the grassy area near a highway exit and asks for money.

  Some motorists are kind and give him money. Others are cruel. They accuse him of pretending to be homeless, tell him to get a job or threaten to call the police.

  Jonathan – who suffers from pancreatitis, uncontrolled diabetes, and kidney failure, making it extremely difficult for him to find a job and thus to afford housing – was in his usual spot recently, holding up a sign that read: “HOMELESS. Today it is me, tomorrow it could be you.”

Monday, November 11, 2019

Commemorating the ‘Great War,’ America’s forgotten conflict

  World War I was still a living memory for most Americans when I was growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s.

  Aging doughboys who had fought on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918 still marched on Veterans Day. These World War I enlisted men often referred to this holiday by its original name, Armistice Day.

  My mother invariably bought and wore an artificial red poppy on Veterans Day. I learned much later the poppy signified the blood and sacrifice of those who died on Flanders Field, a Belgian battle site that was the subject of the war’s most famous poem.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

It is good to honor our veterans, but it is better to take action

  The word “sacrifice” gets used a lot, but it can be difficult to truly appreciate the full meaning of that word. For one group of people, “sacrifice” takes on a special meaning.

  This weekend we honor our nation’s veterans. While Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who died in military service, Veteran’s Day was created to honor all those who currently or previously served in the military.

  And those who served certainly know a lot about sacrifice. They sacrifice time with their children and families – often longer than a year – to serve our country. Many sacrificed their bodies to injuries and wounds sustained on foreign battlefields. Some sacrificed their very lives so that we can enjoy the peace and prosperity we have today.