“The only things that interest me in the US are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.” – Vladislav Surkov, top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, mocking U.S. sanctions against him after Russia announces plans to annex Crimea
“Vladimir Putin’s top aide Vladislav Surkov mocks US sanctions.” (The Independent, 2014/03/18)
In late February 2014, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the Pentagon would reduce the size of the United States Army “to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets,” according to the New York Times. The current spending proposal, Pentagon officials say, seeks to “aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001.” In other words, there will be a reduction of the military budget.
However, there are two areas given special attention: Special Operations forces and cyberwarfare. The latter point has been unmistakably underscored through the Snowden leaks since last summer. U.S. aircraft carriers will remain at 11.
As it seems, the future of war will continue to involve special forces, drones, and hacking, not the mass armies of World War Two.
But any reduction of the military budget will prompt those working in the interest of the military-industrial complex to cry wolf.
war criminal former Vice President Dick Cheney. In an interview with Fox News, Cheney claimed that the real reason President Barack Obama wanted to cut the defense budget was because “he would rather spend money on food stamps.”
Here is a quick reminder about the U.S. military budget:
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS),
[t]he United States remained by far the world’s biggest defence spender in 2013, with a budget of $600.4 billion, [. . .] followed by China ($112.2 billion), Russia ($68.2 billion) and Saudi Arabia ($59.6 billion).
Infographic from the AFP (2014) (via Digital Journal)
Here is an older infographic from 2010 (via the Guardian)
If you look at the data, you cannot help but think that the notion that cutting back on the military budget to some extent would render the U.S. militarily incapable is pure propaganda. The magnitude by which U.S. military spending currently trumps all other states in the world is just so vast.
Finally, another point why it might be worth considering to reduce some military spending is that there is some serious waste going on in the Pentagon.
“President Obama and the defense budget: a factoid that falls short.” (Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, 2012/01/12) – Comparing military spending is fuzzy, but nevertheless the U.S. leads, Glenn Kessler shows.
“Does America Spend More Than Next 10 Nations Combined on Defense?” (James Joyner, Outside the Beltway, 2012/01/12) – Joyner comments on Kessler’s criticism and concludes that “[the U.S.] and our allies absolutely dwarf and potential foe in military power.”
“‘[T]he hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities,’ especially the women’s studies departments, ‘should all be taken out and shot.'” – Austin Ruse of the ultraconservative Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-Fam) expressing his violent fantasies on American Family Association talk radio
Where to start with this? I do not share the assessment that most American universities are in the business of promoting “human-hating” or that ‘the hard left’ runs them. There are certainly many who are not Christian fundamentalists and socially liberal in higher education. But the idea of a communist takeover of American universities is insane.
And then there is the obvious: Fantasizing about murdering people you disagree with is clearly not the best way to show your own love of humanity. Take note, Catholic fundamentalists!
“In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer.” – The Intercept
“How the NSA Plans to Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware.” – (Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, 2013/03/12)
Eine neue Studie von statista zeigt, dass seit den Snowden-Enthüllungen im vergangenen Sommer die Anzahl der Suchanfragen in der Suchmaschine DuckDuckGo deutlich angestiegen ist:
Hier ist die Infografik dazu:
New study: political polarization in American presidental elections is indeed fueled by the Culture War
As an interested student of American politics, it almost seems like a truism to me that the culture war is driving the current political polarization in American elections. Social liberals usually vote for Democrats while social conservatives usually vote Republican. Yes, there are of course also libertarians who are economically conservative and socially liberal. But they fall somewhere in between the two camps on the simplified left-right one-axis model of the political spectrum.
The wedge issues are well-known: the separation of church and state and the connected conflicts around abortion and LGBTI rights, regulation of firearms, taxes and how they should be spent (healthcare, social safety net in general), but also civil rights and immigration. Or, to put it bluntly, ‘god, guns, and gays’.
But now there is more empirical evidence for this wide-spread assumption of the culture war’s influence on electoral politics. In a recent study, economist Stefan Krasa and economist/political scientist Mattias Polborn—both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, examined voter behavior since the late 1970s “by combining a theoretical model of voters’ decisions with data from the American National Election Survey.”
Their research confirms that cultural issues are of greater significance in American politics today than they were back in the late 1970s, when Carter campaigned against Ford in 1976.
[i]n 1976 [. . .], a voter’s social liberalism or conservatism played only a minor role for his vote choice [. . .].
Three decades later, a very different picture would emerge:
In 2004, however, [. . .] social and economic preferences play an approximately equal role in determining the vote [emphasis mine].
Krasa and Polborn are also able to assign a number to the growing importance of cultural issues in American electoral politics. And is it quite staggering:
The cultural policy differences between Democratic and Republican are about 300 percent larger for the elections in the 2000s than they were in 1976. In contrast, economic policy differences in the 2000s increased only by between 15 and 45 percent relative to 1976 [emphasis mine].
Who went from voting Democrat to voting Republican since 1980? The Reagan Democrats—”disproportionately white, low-to medium skilled workers, and considerably more religious than the average.”
Vice versa, those who went from voting GOP to voting Democrat were “disproportionately well-educated, secular and non-white.”
“Party realignment on cultural issues is responsible for increased political polarization in presidential elections.” (Stefan Krasa and Mattias Polborn, USAPP Blog, London School of Economics and Political Science, 2014/03/03)
“You don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers. [. . .] Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick.” – Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on the false balance in American media when covering science
“Neil deGrasse Tyson tells CNN: Stop giving ‘equal time to the flat Earthers.’” (David Edwards, The Raw Story, 2014/03/09)
Dianne Feinstein is outraged by the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee because of a torture probe
Senator Dianne Feinstein of the Senate Intelligence Committee recently accused the CIA of intimidating Senate staff over investigations of CIA involvement in torture.
Her outrage about the alleged violations of privacy and unconstitutional spying on Senate staff is nonetheless a bit surprising. Mind you, throughout the revelations of the Snowden leaks about NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens, not to speak of everybody else on the planet, Feinstein has been one of the chief defenders of the NSA, never seeing anything wrong with the apparent blanket surveillance, or “full take,” as the spooks like to call it.
Here is a clip from progressive news show The Young Turks with a montage of Feinstein’s pro-NSA statements:
But now that the spying hits closer to home, this time by the CIA against the Senate Intelligence Committee, surveillance is all of a sudden an outrage.
Here is a clip from DemocracyNow!:
I smell hypocrisy.
“Dianne Feinstein’s CIA charge scrambles Senate.” (Burgess Everett and Manu Raju, POLITICO.com, 2014/03/11) http://ow.ly/uwOlD
Massachusetts High Court declares ‘upskirt’ photographs legal, lawmakers react quickly
In what looks like an insane victory for creepy peeping tom types, the Massachusetts High Court has recently ruled that it is not illegal to secretly take pictures up a woman’s skirt, according to a report by Think Progress.
But why in the world would they decide like this, you may ask yourself?
According to the report, the court concluded that
[a] female passenger on a MBTA [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is `partially nude,’ no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing,
It seems that current laws are not keeping up with developments in technology, above all the ubiquity of camera-equipped smartphones.
Current “Peeping Tom” laws in Massachusetts “only protect women from being photographed in dressing rooms or bathrooms when they are undressed.” And because “upskirt photos are taken of fully clothed women in public, they don’t count,” reasons the Massachusetts court.
I think that it is not ok to take such pictures. I do think that this is a form of sexual harassment.
Update: Massachusetts lawmakers thought so, too, and passed a bill outlawing taking unconsensual upskirt pictures, including people of all genders.
Adolph Reed Junior on the surrender of America’s liberals
If we understand the left to be anchored to our convictions that society can be made better than it actually is, and a commitment to combating economic inequality as a primary one, the left is just gone. – Adolph Reed
There is an interesting recent article (paid subscription at Harper’s magazine) by political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. about the decline of the American Left and the Democratic Party’s embrace of neoliberalism.
Bill Moyers interviewed him on his show and has a video on his website. In the interview, Moyers points out as an example of this trend the Obama administration’s fast-tracking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
Reed argues that the Democratic Party is too fixated on winning elections and appeasing Wall Street and the Right—the Clinton campaign’s triangulation comes to mind.
Reed sees in American politics today a “bipartisan neoliberalism [. . .] at the center of gravity of the American government.” And as its two core components, he identifies two things: a “free market, utopian ideology [a]nd [. . .] a concrete program for intensified upward redistribution.”
The interview is well worth watching, I think.
New Pictures Of NSA Buildings
The Intercept has new pictures of NSA buildings from artist Trevor Paglen, who has released them into the public domain. I am tempted to say that this is the most beautiful face of a most unpleasant beast.
The NSA Headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland:
The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Headquarters at Chantilly, Virginia.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Headquarters at Springfield, Virginia
Hipster beard hilarity: facial hair transplants in NYC
There is a new trend in plastic surgery, facial hair transplants, to be precise. Among the hipster population of NYC (and probably elsewhere, too!), men in their thirties and forties are getting them to grow “fuller beards,” according to a report by abc News. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons have noticed an increase of four percent in the demand for such procedures since 2012.
You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Russia’s flexing of its military on Crimea
While I also find the events in Ukraine, particularly on Crimea, in the last days quite disturbing, there is nonetheless a certain hypocrisy in Kerry’s grandiose statement. The twenty-four hours news cycle may cater to short attention spans, but I still remember the fallacious rationale for the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: Saddam Hussein’s imaginary mobile laboratories for biological weapons. This arguably “completely trumped up pre-text” for war was based on faulty intelligence by Iraqi informant “Curveball”—interestingly passed on to the U.S. by the German BND—and propagated by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in his infamous presentation before the UN Security Council on February 2, 2003.
You might say that I am not fond of any state’s war propaganda. The amoral nature of such deceptions lies in the fact that it is almost never the decision-makers who bear the consequences of their warmongering. Those who die in these wars die in vain, for lies, as pawns in geopolitical games, and for the profits of the military-industrial-complex. It is just horrible.
A new documentary covers the infiltration of the Civil Rights Movement by the Mississippi state government in the 1950s and 1960s
The new documentary Spies of Mississippi, which airs on PBS, covers the clandestine activities of the little-known Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. During the 1950s and 60s, the group sought to subvert and destroy the Civil Rights Movement and efforts at desegregation by using espionage tactics, including employing black informants and agents provocateurs to discredit Civil Rights activism.
Here is a clip from DemocracyNow! featuring an interview with producer/director Dawn Porter and investigative journalist Jerry Mitchell:
Stranger than fiction: serpent-handling pastor dies of snakebite
A zeal for the Holy Spirit, reality TV, and venomous snakes. What could go wrong if these three ingredients are combined? As it turns out, it is a recipe for disaster.
As CNN reports, a snake-handling pastor of a Kentucky Pentecostal church, who had lately been the star of National Geographic reality TV show Snake Salvation, has died after being bitten by a snake and then refusing treatment at a hospital.
Despite earlier accidents including
‘losing half of his finger to a snake bite and seeing others die from bites during services,’ Coots ‘still believe[d] he must take up serpents and follow the Holiness faith [emphasis mine],’
according to National Geographic’s channel website.
A religious tradition of rural southern Appalachia
Snake handling as a test of faith is a tradition among some Pentecostal churches across the Appalachian region, mostly in the rural South.
The origins of the practice lie in “a passage in the Bible [that] suggests poisonous snakebites will not harm believers as long as they are anointed by God.”
In the Gospel of Mark (Mark 16:17-18), it says
And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover [emphasis mine].
And thus, the faithful not only take up deadly snakes, but also
ingest a mixture of strychnine – a highly toxic powder often used as a pesticide – and water, often from a Mason jar.
That, however, is still not enough for some, who also
will bring Coke bottles with oil-soaked wicks to the church so they can hold flames to their skin.
A deadly faith for over a century
But despite the unwavering faith of its practitioners, the tradition, which started “in the east Tennessee hills in 1909,” has repeatedly claimed its victims, thus far around a hundred “serpent handlers.”
For instance, in 2012, pastor Mack Wolford of West Virginia died of a snakebite. His father, also a Pentecostal serpent handler, had suffered the same fate before him in 1983.
According to CNN, experts estimate the number of “serpent handlers” at several thousand people.
Poll: Americans are divided about the Afghanistan War in 2014
A new Gallup poll found that in 2014, Americans are approximately evenly divided on the Afghanistan War.
49 percent now think that it was a mistake to send troops, 48 percent think it was not a mistake.
This is a significant shift in popular opinion after twelve years of war.
In 2001, when Gallup asked the same question, only 9 percent thought sending troops to Afghanistan was a mistake while 89 percent did not.
Despite popular opinion, the Obama administration attempted to pressure Afghan President Karzai to sign an agreement allowing U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan much longer and now considers waiting until Karzai leaves office to find a successor more friendly to U.S. plans of keeping a military presence in the country.
Horrible Politicians: Texas Democrat Downplays Domestic Violence
When I read about reactionary politicians in America, these days it is almost a sure bet that the latest horrible thing uttered about women, LGBTI people, non-white Americans, poor people, foreigners, or anyone who is not of their particular brand of fundamentalist Christianity, comes straight outta GOP. But not this time!
As the Huffington Post reports, Lloyd Oliver, a candidate for District Attorney in Harris County, Texas, frequently says absolutely terrible things when it comes to the issue of domestic abuse.
For instance, he thinks that domestic violence is “overrated” and that it should be prosecuted less.
To that effect, he gave ‘helpful’ advice to victims of domestic abuse during a call-in show in 2012, encouraging them to “maybe learn how to box a little better.”
In that same show, he also downplayed domestic violence as a problem, claiming that it was a part of “some couple’s sexual routine.”
Statistics see serious domestic violence problem
Be that as it may in a tiny fraction of cases, but as the HuffPo article notes,
Harris County has the highest rate of domestic violence homicides in the state. According to a report by the Texas Council on Family Violence, 30 women were murdered by intimate partners in 2012.
Taking this into consideration, domestic violence is certainly not a non-issue, something that maybe a few kinky BDSM afficionados engage in consensually. It is, instead, a serious social problem.
But Mr. Oliver seems quite ignorant of that fact.
Here’s a clip from the progressive news show The Young Turks with some more details:
Over a quarter of U.S. presidents were involved in slavery
President Obama recently invited French President Francois Hollande on a tour of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation estate in Virginia.
Jefferson—No. 3—was not the only slaveowning president.
As Clarence Lusane, professor of political science at American University writes in his book The Black History of the White House and talks about in this interview with Amy Goodman on DemocracyNow!, six of twelve slave-owning presidents kept slaves in the White House.
“Missing From Presidents Day: The People They Enslaved.” (Clarence Lusane, The Zinn Education Project, Huffington Post, 2014/02/13)
The NSA created a “manhunt timeline” to get Julian Assange and destroy WikiLeaks and its supporters.
New revelations from The Intercept, the new publishing venture of Glenn Greenwald:
The NSA apparently planned a covert action campaign together with the British GCHQ to destroy Assange and the network of supporters around WikiLeaks.
As part of the effort, the GCHQ tracked in real-time any visitors to wikileaks.org, monitoring what they were searching for on the website.
The NSA also considered to designate WikiLeaks and other websites such as thepiratebay.org as “malicious foreign actors,” which would lift restrictions on spying on institutions and individuals inside the U.S that work with them. This might include international press agencies working in the U.S.
Watch an interview with Assange’s legal council Michael Ratner on DemocracyNow! here (it is the correct video, despite the image of Assange in the first frame):
In Ratner’s view, the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists parallels the U.S. government’s COINTELPRO program targeting radicals and “subversives” (such as Martin Luther King) between the late 1950s and the 1970s.
And here is Assange, from the same broadcast on DemocracyNow!:
Germany reverses tuition fees
Interesting article in the Times of Higher Education about Germany’s reversal on introducing tuition fees for attending university.
“Germany’s great tuition fees U-turn.” (Times Higher Education, 2014/02/14)
Apple drops objections to app visualizing U.S. drone strikes
Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) Wants Heroin Users To Die
How can heroin addicts be helped, according to Maine Governor Paul LePage (R)? By cutting funding for medication that can reverse fatal overdoses. As the Huffington Post reports, fatal heroin overdoses in his state have quadrupled between 2011 and 2012. But LePage, who wants to be seen as tough on drugs, has taken the approach of
cut[ting] funds for substance abuse treatment, limit[ing] the amount of time Mainers can spend on heroin replacement therapies [. . .] , and requested money to add 14 agents to the state Drug Enforcement Agency.
Such replacement drug programs, claims LePage, would not help addicts and give them a “feeling of invincibility.”
Darn you, facts, I am the Governor!
Never mind that public health experts have the following to say, according to the article:
LePage’s assertions are not supported by current medical research.
So instead of relying on research-based medical experts’ suggestions for useful treatments, LePage rather wants to punish drug addicts.
Die, junkie, die!
What a Christian thing to do of him.
Pope Francis recognizes the problem of the filter bubble
The current spiritual leader of the Catholic Church is aware of the Internet, at least he does not sound as if he considers it to be ‘a series of tubes.’ He recently called for a “culture of encounter” which would be facilitated by the Internet. In his view, the opportunities for communication on the Internet are “something truly good, a gift from God.”
More worldly scholars of Internet history would surely add that engineers and scientists had a bit of a hand in this, too. But he’s the Pope, so I should probably not be too nitpicky, after all. I agree that the Internet has that positive potential.
But he also recognizes to important problems or challenges of the flow of information as we know it online.
Real-time news makes reflection more difficult
First, a flood of information is rushing at us so quickly that it is difficult to pause and reflect on a complex topic. Twitter, so to speak, is the anti-book. There is something to that, I believe. The experience of picking up a monograph at a university library and taking meticulous notes is very different from the constant flows of information we expose ourselves to on social networking sites. One mode of information consumption is for gaining a deeper understanding, the other is rather a way to keep up-to-date with current events.
Filter bubbles narrow our thought
Second, the Pope recognizes what Eli Pariser has described at length in his book by the same name as the “filter bubble.”
“The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests [emphasis mine].”
I think that he is right there, too. Everyone taking in a lot of information has to filter sources to some degree. You can never read the whole Internet. Not even on one single day. Because the next day, there are a gazillion new articles to read and updates to check. It is just impossible.
But of course there is also the phenomenon he is talking about. People tend to screen out opinions which they disagree with quite often. And except for professional news and politics junkies, we are probably all more or less guilty of this.
If, in the American context, you are a person who agrees with the outlook on the world put forward by the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Fox News as a whole, you are unlikely to be also an avid follower of commentators who tend to disagree strongly with almost anything they say.
And this is understandable to some degree. On the one hand, dispute and disagreement can be fun. On the other hand, being outraged all day long can also be quite exhausting.
On the Internet, you can often just delete people or websites from your news feeds and they seem to magically disappear.
This is all fair and well to get rid of people who are verbally abusive online. There is not exactly a scarcity of those on the Internet. But regarding discourse on any number of subjects, just having one (fact-based) opinion to draw conclusions from, is really risking intellectual poverty.
On the positive potential of the Internet and the challenge of filter bubbles, I find myself agreeing with the Pope for once.
“Pope Francis tells the Internet to chill out.” (Audra Schroeder, The Daily Dot, 2014/01/23)
Flappy Bird ist Geschichte (und ich habe es nicht mitbekommen)
Ich gebe zu, das Thema hier ist komplett an mir vorbei gegangen: Ein leicht bescheuertes, extrem frustrierendes Spiel mit einem Vogel, der durch Super Mario-Röhren fliegen muss. Wahrscheinlich habe ich in den letzten Wochen einfach zu wenig Spiele auf meinem Telefon gezockt.
MOOC-Trend: Hasso-Plattner-Institut öffnet Plattform für Unis
Das Hasso-Plattner-Institut betreibt eine MOOC-Plattform namens openHPI, bei der sich bislang ca. 100.000 Leute eingeschrieben haben, was am Ende zu 10.000 Abschlüssen führte—also ein Verhältnis von 10:1. Die Plattform wird jetzt anderen Unis für ihre MOOCs zugänglich gemacht.
Bald könnte Twitter wie Facebook aussehen:
Ich glaube, ich halte das eher für eine schlechte Idee. Mir gefällt die unterschiedliche Nutzung der beiden Plattformen. Mal schauen, was da noch so kommt.
“Twitter Testing Major Profile Redesign That Looks a Lot Like Facebook.” (Mashable, 2014/02/11)
International Protests Against Mass Surveillance
TODAY, February 11, 2014:
“International Community Unites to Protest Big Brother.” (Katitza Rodriguez, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2014/02/11)
“Protesters rally for ‘the day we fight back’ against mass surveillance.” (Adam Gabbatt, Guardian, 2014/02/11)
“The Day the Internet Didn’t Fight Back.” (Nicole Perlroth, NYTimes.com, 2014/02/11) – Major web sites did not participate. But I think the effort is still worth it.
U.S. state life expectancy compared to countries around the world [map]
Over at the Atlantic, there is an interesting map [not the one to the right in this article]. It compares the life expectancy in U.S. states and imposes the the names of countries around the world with a similar life expectancy onto the respective state. Thus, Mississippi becomes Syria (75 years and I am not sure whether this takes into account the ongoing bloody civil there) and California becomes Liechtenstein (81 years).
The best thing about the map: You can go to http://www.measureofamerica.org/maps/, a project of the Social Science Research Council, and see how well individual states fare by a variety of measures, such as the Human Development Index (HDI), education, health, or income.
Suchmaschinen: Yahoo zielt mit Bewertungsportal Yelp gegen Google
Die Suchmaschine Yahoo arbeitet jetzt mit dem Bewertungsportal Yelp zusammen, um Konkurrent Google das Fürchten zu lehren. Hauptsächlich soll es wohl darum gehen, in den Suchergebnissen von Yahoo lokale Geschäfte zu präsentieren. via Spiegel Online
The George Zimmerman – Trayvon Martin case is devolving even more into an absurd media spectacle
Just when I thought that the tragic case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin could not become any more bizarre, I am proven wrong again.
After we saw Zimmerman posing at a gun manufacturer shortly after being acquitted of murder charges for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman selling ‘patriotic art’ of dubious originality, and Zimmerman being arrested for threatening his ex-wife and her father with a gun, there is now this: a boxing match in the making between rapper/actor DMX and George Zimmerman.
The aggressive politicization, the racial circling of wagons stoked by polemic media in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s death now seems to culminate in the ultimate absurdity–a celebrity boxing match based on the premise of symbolically pitting black America in the form a (former) gangsta rapper against Zimmerman, the light-skinned Hispanic defended by a large swathe of trigger-happy conservative white males.
All of the above merely adds insult to injury.
Whereas Zimmerman, now walking as a free man, clearly lacks any tact and tries to make a quick buck off his new-found celebrity paid for by the death of an unarmed black teenager, boxing promoters are circling like vultures over the tragedy in order get theirs, too.
And does rapper DMX think that if he were to knock out Zimmerman, in reality, but at the same time symbolically, like in the cartoonish heroes and villains portrayed in American wrestling, that would counter the black thug stereotype that was at the heart of the developments leading to Trayvon Martin’s death?
I think that this celebrity boxing match, if it actually take place, is death-sploitation of the worst kind.
Check out this clip from TheLipTV:
Facebook ist 10 Jahre alt
Ist die Zeit wieder einmal so schnell vergangen? Irgendwie scheint es der Fall zu sein, denn die wohl bekannteste Social Networking Site Facebook ist eine Dekade alt geworden.
Hier sind ein paar Links zum Thema:
“Facebook, 10 years after.” (Christina Pazzanese, Harvard Gazette, 2014/02/03)
“Facebook As An Online Dating Site.” (Caroline Moss, Business Insider, 2014/02/05)
“Mark Zuckerberg’s Secret IMs From College.” (Nicholas Carlson, Business Insider, 2014/02/04)
Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s new Minister of Defense under Chancellor Angela Merkel, recently argued in favor of more frequent military interventions by the German armed forces in the world. A demand to that regard has repeatedly been made by governments of other allied countries in military alliances like NATO, for instance the U.S.
However, the German population as a whole is not so keen on participating in more wars. According to a recent poll by German public TV network ARD, 61% are against sending German troops to crisis-stricken regions around the world, while 30% are for more such involvement.
“Germany to play bigger military role.” (The Local Germany, 2014/01/27)
Der Chaos Computer Club, die Internationale Liga für Menschenrechte, digitalcourage e.V. und weitere Personen haben Strafanzeige gegen die Bundesregierung wegen Untätigkeit nach der Veröffentlichung der Snowden-Leaks erstattet. via netzpolitik.org
Insane Nazi comparisons, delusional billionaire edition
“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” – Godwin’s Law, 1990
And now to one of my favorite subjects: inappropriate comparisons of something one does not like to the horrors of the Nazi regime (Hint: They are inappropriate almost all of the time). When a person claims that something they experience is “just like in Nazi Germany” or that politician X is “just like Hitler,” it is a sure recipe for disaster.
This time it is American billionaire Thomas Perkins, who whines in a letter to the Wall Street Journal about the treatment of his class, the “one percent” or super-rich, by “progressive radical[s].”
On planet Perkins, criticism and calls for tax increases are just like antisemitic pogroms
Notably disgusted by the idea of being surrounded by a leftish counter-culture vibe, he starts his rant with this:
Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.”
In all seriousness, Perkins writes:
Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?
First of all, the claim about a direct connection between Nazism and what he calls “progressive radicalism” seems quite dubious to me.
Mind you, he compares criticisms of the financial industry and demands for a higher marginal tax rate to the eliminatory antisemitism of the Nazis. And this guy went to Harvard and MIT. I do not know if this is more embarrassing for these institutions or the man himself. Assuming that he actually believes what he is saying, Perkins must suffer from a serious persecution complex.
There might be valuable things to be said about a regressive strain of anti-capitalism, but Mr. Perkins has none of these to offer.
In ‘communist America,’ you can still own $150 million yachts
Second, the last time I checked, radical progressivism/fascism/communism—these are interchangeably thrown around— had not exactly taken over America. To claim otherwise is either pure propaganda or plain delusional.
Consider this: In the imagined country that is supposedly as hostile towards the wealthy as the Nazis were towards the Jews, Perkins is still able to enjoy his extravagant $150 million yacht without being dragged from it and murdered by jackbooted thugs or pitchfork-wielding peasant mobs. Being a billionaire in today’s America is not exactly the same experience as being a Jew in Nazi Germany, after all.
You might dislike the idea of having to pay slightly higher taxes (even though it certainly would not hurt you), but if you seriously claim that this is in any way comparable to the suffering caused by the Nazis, then you, Sir, are an idiot.
Things not to do on social media (or anywhere else): rape threat edition
More from the never ending genre of people doing inappropriate/disgusting things on social media: In the UK, a couple has been arrested because they repeatedly threatened to rape a Labour politician on twitter, using several different accounts.
In the meantime, Twitter users have asked the social network for easier options to report such abuse.
In my opinion, rape threats are beyond the pale. Rape is not funny. Threatening sexualized violence on a person because of a disagreement is just wrong—it is never justifiable. In the offline world, it is a real problem causing massive suffering and traumatization every day for its survivors.
Please people, do not threaten to rape people on Twitter (or anywhere else) if you are a decent human being.
Social Publishing für eBooks mit ‘Page Pusher’
Die Social Publishing Plattform Page Pusher hat sich vorgenommen, Autor*innen mithilfe
Sozialer Medien zu einer zahlungsbereiten Leser*innenschaft für ihre eBooks zu verhelfen. Man lädt sein Werk als eBook hoch, dann werden alle Fans auf Sozialen Netzwerken über die Neuerscheinung benachrichtigt. Das Ganze finanziert sich über eine Provision. via Matthias Matting, netzpiloten.de
New post: Snowden: U.S. Officials Want Me Killed bit.ly/1nhQXWO
Steile These aus Princeton: Facebook wird 2017 80% seiner Nutzer*innen verlieren
Zwei Doktoranden der Ingenierswissenschaften haben kürzlich in einem Artikel die Ausbreitung des sozialen Netzwerks Facebook mit Modellen der Ausbreitung von Infektionskrankheiten verglichen. Ihre Vorhersage lautet: 2015 wird der steile Abstieg des populärsten sozialen Netzwerks beginnen. Ich bin mal sehr gespannt, aber es wäre nicht das erste mal in der Geschichte des Internets, dass eine extrem populäre Seite untergeht.
Update: Facebook schlägt zurück
Und zwar hier, mit eigenen Grafiken und der Kritik, dass die Studie im Wesentlichen darauf basierte, die Google-Anfragen nach “Facebook” zu zählen, nicht das Engagement auf der Seite. Und dann haben sie noch eins obendrauf gesetzt und die Aktivität auf Facebook mit der auf der Princeton-Website verglichen. Das sah im Vergleich nicht so gut für Princeton aus.
“Princeton researchers say Facebook will lose 80 percent of its users by 2017.” (The Daily Dot, 2014/01/21)
A quarter of Americans did not read a book in 2013, study finds
A new study by the Pew Research Center found that in 2013, almost a quarter of Americans
did not read a book. And this included e-books and audiobooks.
I wondered how bad it is over here, in Germany. Well, not much better, actually. According to a study by statista.de (in German), it was around fifteen percent in 2013.
As a general advice for life, I would recommend picking up a book from time to time.
Facebook jetzt mit Spenden-Button für Nonprofits
Das dürfte Nonprofits, die Facebook nutzen, freuen. Seit kurzem gibt es nämlich einen Button, mit dem man direkt auf Facebook für die jeweilige Organisation spenden kann. via Mashable
“Facebook Adds ‘Donate Now’ Button for Non-Profits.” (Kurt Wagner, Mashable, 16.12.2013)
Are NSA bureaucrats in general downright anti-democratic authoritarians or do they think they will ultimately protect democracy? #AskSnowden
Neue Studie zu Social Media Nutzertypen in der Wissenschaft
Der Bibliotheksverbund goportis hat eine neue Studie zur Nutzung sozialer Medien in der Wissenschaft veröffentlicht.
Dabei kamen vier Nutzertypen heraus, die sich in Ihrem Verhalten deutlich unterscheiden.
Was sich hinter exemplarischen Charakteren wie “Mr. Nerd”, “Ms. Maker”, “Mr. Tech” oder “Mr. Classic” verbirgt, kann man in der Studie nachlesen.
Obama’s great NSA reform speech of 2014: Don’t Believe The Hype
Last Friday (January 17, 2014), Barack Obama gave a speech that was designed to appear as if he actually took into consideration the global outrage over the NSA’s mass surveillance practices.
Here is the full speech, from the Wall Street Journal’s YouTube channel:
A transcript from the Washington Post can be found here.
From my point of view, as a strong advocate for civil liberties, it was not at all satisfactory.
What did Obama actually say?
- He used to be skeptical of US surveillance programs, but now he generally he sees nothing wrong with them. The logic of the national security state prevails.
- He wants more control of the gathered information—inside the US. No blanket surveillance but warrants by a judge of the FISA court.
- Close allied leaders (such as Angela Merkel) are not to be spied on, except for “compelling national security purpose[s]”—whatever that means. But nonetheless the US will continue to spy on even allied governments.
- We, the U.S. government, are not going after you everyday foreigners, but we will still vacuum up all your data, just in case. – Note how Obama does not say anything about the exposed NSA programs in his speech.
- The FiSA court gets one voice for civil liberties.
- IT companies who are forced to hand over customer data to US intelligence will get temporary gag orders through National Security Letters instead of indefinite gag orders.
- The NSA will continue to weaken cryptographic standards on the Internet – Obama did not say a word about this important reform point proposed by a panel of experts.
There are many issues with Obama’s views on American surveillance, even if we assume that this speech actually reflects his genuine views.
First, Obama seems to have bought into the idea that the American surveillance bureaucracy is different from any other comparable institution in the history of the world. He sounds as if he believes that by the virtue of character of the people working for it, the NSA is free from all the deformities that have been known to exist in other times and places in similar settings.
He wants us to believe that American spooks are so exceptional that they can defy human nature. But the point of the revelations about the NSA’s mass surveillance is not that its employees are evil as individuals. The mere fact that the NSA as an institution has the structural potential for “turnkey totalitarianism,” as one commenter put it, is the alarming fact.
Second, the FISA court has been known to be a rubber stamp court. So far, the U.S. government has almost never been denied a request there.
Third, the term “national security” is so vague that almost anything can be connected to it and hence spying can be justified almost all of the time.
“Global Privacy Leaders React to Obama’s NSA Reform Proposals.” (Katitza Rodriguez, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2014/01/17)
“Obama bans spying on leaders of U.S. allies, scales back NSA program.” (Steve Holland, Mark Hosenball and Jeff Mason, Reuters, 2014/01/17)
“Sicherheitsexperte: “Jeder Überwachungsapparat kann leicht missbraucht werden”. (Patrick Beuth, ZEIT ONLINE, 15.01.2014) – Ein Interview mit dem Google-Softwareingenieur Morgan Marquis-Boire über das Missbrauchspotenzial staatlicher Überwachungsapparate.
“Obamas NSA-Vorschläge – Viele Worte, ein wenig Reform.” (Johannes Kuhn, Süddeutsche, 17.01.2014)
“ZDF-Interview zur NSA: Wie Obama die Maßstäbe verschiebt.” (Johannes Kuhn, Süddeutsche, 19.01.2014).
Sachsen will dienstliches Facebook-Verbot für Lehrer*innen
Es ist ein nicht enden wollendes Thema: der Umgang mit sozialen Medien im öffentlichen Dienst in Deutschland, speziell an Schulen.
Wie golem.de berichtet, will Sachsen es nun Bayern und Baden-Württemberg nachtun und zunächst die dienstliche Kommunikation zwischen Lehrer*innen und Schüler*innen auf Facebook, Google+ und anderen beliebten Plattformen aus datenschutzrechtlichen Gründen verbieten.
What happens if someone actually tries to delete their past facebook activity to hide it from friends, colleagues, and employers?
How tiresome is it do delete your facebook activity? In short: very tiresome! Jennifer Golbeck from Slate magazine tried that experiment and found it very exhausting to do it by hand. But there are also scripts for your webbrowser that can do the job.
Note that this will only hide old posts from your ‘audience’ but neither from Facebook nor the NSA.
The NSA tries to secure most surveillance powers before Obama makes a statement about the future of American surveillance
As the Guardian reports, the Obama White House wants to (or at least pretends that it does) reform the NSA’s surveillance apparatus.
Obama recently met with privacy advocates, among them the ACLU, to discuss American mass surveillance.
Guess who is launching a charm offensive targeted at the American public against limiting the scope of mass surveillance in any substantial manner.
If you do not let us spy on all of you at all times, then the terrorists win
The NSA recently argued in an interview on NPR that if they do not continue indiscriminate mass surveillance, then, loosely paraphrased, the terrorists win.
Speaking about the surveillance of the phone records of all Americans (non-Americans are fair game anyway for the NSA), outgoing NSA deputy director John C. Inglis said that one money transfer from San Diego to militant islamists al-Shabaab in Somalia had been prevented. Note that he talked about a money transfer that might have financed that group’s activities, but not a specific terrorist attack.
Let that sink in for a while. To prevent one unspecific terrorism-related activity, the private communication of all Americans (not to mention everybody else on the planet) has to be destroyed, according to the NSA. I think that the price Americans and other citizens of the world have to pay for this illusion of security is too high.
Freedom and absolute security are mutually exclusive
It is a truism that in a free society, there can never be one hundred percent security against all risks of life, including terrorism. Attempting to watch and predict every individual’s next move at all times inescapably leads towards an authoritarian dystopia.
It would be a shame if the country whose national imagination prides itself to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave” would end up as ‘democratic’ as the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was.
One Stasi was enough. Please America, stop this madness.