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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Polarized Views of HIgher Education

Kim Parker at Pew:
A new Pew Research Center survey finds that only half of American adults think colleges and universities are having a positive effect on the way things are going in the country these days. About four-in-ten (38%) say they are having a negative impact – up from 26% in 2012.
The share of Americans saying colleges and universities have a negative effect has increased by 12 percentage points since 2012. The increase in negative views has come almost entirely from Republicans and independents who lean Republican. From 2015 to 2019, the share saying colleges have a negative effect on the country went from 37% to 59% among this group. Over that same period, the views of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic have remained largely stable and overwhelmingly positive.
Gallup found a similar shift in views about higher education. Between 2015 and 2018, the share of Americans saying they had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in higher education dropped from 57% to 48%, and the falloff was greater among Republicans (from 56% to 39%) than among Democrats (68% to 62%).1

Monday, August 19, 2019

Walmart Nation

At Visual Capitalist, Nick Routley reports:
 When we exclude direct government and military employment, a few trends emerge. Universities and hospitals – there is often some overlap between the two – are top employers in nearly half of the states. In a handful of cases, the top employer reflects an industry that is well known in the region. General Motors, for example, is still the top employer in Michigan. In Nevada? MGM Resorts International, with over 55,000 employees. When it comes to large-scale employment, there’s one regional trend that stands out the most – the broad blue expanse of Walmart country.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Attacking Reputations

As a journalist who has covered corporate America for more than 30 years, very little shocks me about the propaganda tactics companies often deploy. I know the pressure companies can and do bring to bear when trying to effect positive coverage and limit reporting they deem negative about their business practices and products.

But when I recently received close to 50 pages of internal Monsanto communications about the company’s plans to target me and my reputation, I was shocked.

The company records I’ve obtained show a range of actions. One Monsanto plan involved paying for web placement of a blogpost about me so that Monsanto-written information would pop up at the top of certain internet searches involving my name. The correspondence also discussed a need to produce “third party talking points” about me. In addition, Monsanto produced a video to help it amplify company-engineered propaganda about me and my work.
Many other posts have discussed white supremacists and conspiracy theorists.

Brennan Gilmore recorded the viral video of Heather Heyer's murder by a white supremacist in Charlottesville.  He writes at USA Today:
But I had no concept at the time of the conspiracy theory network that was about to be ginned up to maximum effect against me and others already traumatized by the events in Charlottesville, including Heather’s own mother. This online community has a terrifying capacity to warp perceptions of an event and mangle it into something unrecognizable, while also inflicting lasting damage on the victims of a heinous act and the bystanders who document it.
Alex Jones and InfoWars comprise perhaps the most powerful conspiracy factory of them all. Pointing to my work with the State Department, they and other online conspiracy theorists militantly propagated a narrative through their online channels that I was a CIA operative. They said I was part of a plot to orchestrate the Charlottesville events, and convinced untold numbers of people.

As a result, my family and I were doxed and I was incessantly harassed online and even in person, in what has become a sadly predictable pattern for online targets.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Social Media and Silence

David Winston at Roll Call:
In a survey done earlier this year, we asked people whether they keep quiet about their political views online to avoid conflict with friends and family. Almost half, 49 percent, said that’s exactly what they did to duck what they had come to expect would be personal attacks in response to their political posts.

Republicans and independents were more likely to downplay their views than Democrats. Women were also more likely than men to downplay their views online, especially Republican and independent women. That fear of online retribution is antithetical to the concept of freedom of speech and as social media grows, it threatens to undermine the legitimacy of our political system writ large.
Venture capitalist and technology guru Mary Meeker issues an annual report on internet trends that is must-read for anyone trying to understand where new technology is going and its future potential impact on society. In her most recent analysis, released in June, she tells us that in 2019, people will spend more time on mobile devices than watching TV. They spend an average of 6.3 hours a day online between mobile devices and computers.
Twenty-six percent of people overall and 39 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds say they are online “almost constantly.” Forty-three percent of Americans get news from Facebook, 21 percent from YouTube and 12 percent from Twitter (according to a Pew study cited in the Meeker report).
But perhaps Meeker’s most important insight is this: “Owing to social media amplification, reveals/actions/reactions about events can occur quickly — resulting in both good & bad outcomes.” That’s why acting responsibly online with the good of the country in mind, matters.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Despair, Illness and Death in Rural America

Stef W. Kight and Juliet Bartz at Axios:
Let’s say you were born, grew up and now reside in rural America. Throughout your life, you have been more susceptible to poverty, lower education, illness and even death than your urban counterparts.
  • As a kid, chances are, you lived farther away from a doctor or hospital and got less exercise.
  • You were more likely to live in a school desert — having to travel long distances to make it to school, if you were able to attend at all. Your school might have shuttered, as school consolidation has become more common in many rural areas, per the New York Times.
  • You had a greater likelihood of getting your high school diploma than the national average, but were far less likely to go straight to college than your urban and suburban counterparts, as The Atlantic reported.
  • If you did graduate with a college degree, you'd likely end up so saddled with student debt that returning to your rural hometown wouldn't be an option if you hoped to get a job that would enable you to pay it off, according to research by the Federal Reserve.
  • Even if you stay, some of the brightest people you grew up with would leave, contributing to the rural "brain drain."
  • As an adult, you’re more likely suffer from obesity, mental health issues, diabetes, cancer and opioid addiction. You are more likely to know people who took their own lives.
  • If you keep working in your hometown, your job is more likely to be taken over by AI, according to a study by the Brookings Institution — especially if you live in Indiana, Kentucky, South Dakota, Arkansas or Iowa.
  • Your community's economy still hasn't fully recovered from the 2008 recession, according to Fed data.
  • As you get older, you are more likely to die from a preventable death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • If you do make it into old age, you may not have a place to grow old near your friends, family and the place you called home your whole life.
At Bloomberg Business Week, Monte Reel quotes Dr. Joan Dickson of Glendive, Montana:   “If you look at a map of the United States,” she says, “I am the only psychiatrist between Bismarck, North Dakota, and Billings, Montana.” That’s 400-plus miles. It’s like having one psychiatrist between New York City and Akron, Ohio.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Not Yet a Field of Blood

Brian Alexander at LegBranch;
In a forthcoming book on congressional norms I am writing, I argue that, despite what we may think about congressional dysfunction and partisan bickering, the norm of courtesy is surprisingly alive and relatively well in the modern Congress. This is echoed in interviews with current and former members and staff who often point out that, despite what makes news headlines, members generally treat each other with courtesy on and off the floor. Events on Tuesday were indeed dramatic and they made for riveting moments on C-SPAN. But they were dramatic and riveting because they were so unusual — exceptions that prove the rule.
Further evidence of the norm of courtesy comes across in analysis of the words taken down process. I have gathered data on every instance in which the words taken down process was invoked for the 80th through the 112th Congresses, including the identity of both the accused and the accuser, as well as the resolution of each case. If we allow calls for words to be taken down to serve as a measure of breaches of the norm of courtesy, we can arrive at some striking findings regarding the resilience of this norm over time.
In the data we see a total of 251 demands for words taken down during the 80th through the 112th Congresses; an average of 7.67 cases per Congress and a range from a low of zero cases in the 90th Congress to 28 in the 104th. During this period, there were a total of 14,574 individual congressional terms served and yet only 231 individual members whose words were ever so challenged, for a total rate of 1.59% of members among all members who ever served in each of the 33 Congresses. This suggests that such breaches of the norm of courtesy in the House of Representatives are extremely rare.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Weapons Crossing State Lines

Philip Bump at WP:
The rifle used to kill three people at a food festival in Gilroy, Calif., on Sunday[7/28]  was not legal to own in that state. The man police have accused as the gunman apparently evaded security by cutting through a fence to enter the venue. To obtain the weapon, he did much the same thing, purchasing it from a retailer in Nevada, where buying and selling the model that was used doesn’t violate the law.
This is not uncommon. Particularly in states where gun laws are more strict, firearms recovered by law enforcement are often found to have originated in other states. For example, several years ago, we looked atdata on firearms recovered in Chicago. About a fifth of those weapons were purchased in nearby Indiana.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives collects annual data on the points of origin of firearms recovered in every state. In 2017, most of the guns recovered in California originated in that state, which is normally the case. Of the 9,654 weapons that originated outside the state, 1,554 came from Nevada. An additional 2,185 came from Arizona. (ATF lists the 15 states that were the most common source for recovered weapons.)