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The Morning Grumpy – 2/22/2012

22 Feb

All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.


A photo of Rick Santorum made entirely from images of gay pornography

1. The internet makes dumb people dumber and smart people smarter.

Just as globalization and de-unionization have been major drivers of the growth of income inequality over the past few decades, the internet is now a major driver of the growth of cognitive inequality.

The article is intended to be entertaining, but a key question in education today is how we’re teaching our kids to synthesize all the information they have at their disposal. Are they becoming more reliant on machines than on their own cognitive skills? Can they process information or simply search for it? I’m certain similar questions were raised when Funk & Wagnall put out their first encyclopedias, but this issue deserves consideration as we develop new primary and secondary curricula.

2. How much time do Americans spend on Facebook? Way too much.

From posting status updates to consuming news, the collective time Americans spend on Facebook amounts to more than 100,000 years each month.

The eye-popping figure comes by way of statistics portal Statista. The company pulled data from comScore, Compete, and Google Ad Planner on social network usage in the United States.

Is that number correct? The sample seems unscientific, but the larger point is that Facebook has radically altered how we  consume news, share information, and relate to one another. In many ways, social media has made us more connected, built social movements in “meat space“, and radically altered the balance of power in media. But, there is a downside to consuming the frequent updates your “friends” post on Facebook. Typically, people post the highlights of their day; thoughts, photos, events, and links that affirm their personal “brand”…a Sportscenter highlight reel of their day-to-day existence, if you will.

Meanwhile, consumers of this news feed are trapped in the reality show of their own existence and find themselves dealing with issues of insecurity and wondering why their reality doesn’t measure up. Those people then often work harder to establish their own highlight reel to redefine perceptions of self-worth while broadcasting to their “audience” the person they want to be, not the person they are. Of course, there are millions of people who use Facebook and other social media who don’t deal with these issues, but it’s a growing concern as our online personas grow more intertwined with our offline personality. 

There has been some fascinating research performed at the University at Buffalo on Cyberpsychology and the effect social media plays in our lives. Dr. Michael Stefanone (disclosure: a high school classmate of mine) is a national leader in the field and you should check out his work. And maybe, give some thought to how you use social media.

3. Tonight, CNN will air yet another Republican Presidential debate. Thus far, most questions at these debates have done little to explore much ground beyond the horserace, personal politics, hot button issues, and campaign maneuvering. The Columbia Journalism Review has some ideas for how to use this debate to actually inform the voters.

In previous debates, the biggest categories of questions were about “Improving the economy and creating jobs,” about the candidates’ “Background and records,” and about “Fixing the government and reducing the debt” (some questions fit into more than one category). Still, the next two largest categories, were “Campaign strategy and maneuvering,” and “How conservative are you?” These two categories each beat out the categories of foreign policy, national security, immigration, and health care.

So, what specific questions do the CJR suggest to make the debate more informative and substantive?

Senator Santorum, you’ve referred in these debates to the “global warming hoax.” Really, Senator? Are you seriously suggesting that the 255 members of the National Academy of Science who recently signed a letter about climate change and the integrity of science have no integrity, that they are engaged in a kind of fraud?

Mr. Gingrich, can you list the potential outcomes in the Middle East —both the good ones and the bad ones, please—of an attempt by Israel to take out what it believes to be Iran’s bomb-making capability with military force?

Asking these candidates to suss out the details of their proposals would open them up to the same scrutiny the President deals with as he formulates policy with the Congress. It would be fair to ask these candidates to explain their positions in a manner that informs how they will actually govern. Is that asking too much?

4. The Sunlight Foundation has taken on the cause of tracking SuperPAC fundraising and spending. Thus far in this election cycle, the SuperPACs have raised $52,012,617.78. They are tracking (as best they can) who donates, how the money is spent and which SuperPACs support which candidate.

Click on each super PAC’s name in the left column to see breakdowns of their spending, including aggregate amounts spent supporting or opposing individual candidates, and a chronological list of all their individual independent expenditure filings with the Federal Election Commission.

It will be frequently updated through the remainder of the year which makes it absolutely essential reading until election day.

5. More on SuperPACs as America continues its inexplicable march towards plutocracy. 25% of super PAC money is coming from just 5 rich donors.

Harold Simmons, a Texas billionaire who pumped $3 million into “Swift Boat” ads in 2004 challenging Democrat John Kerry’s Vietnam War record, is the largest super PAC donor of the 2012 election, the analysis shows.

He and his holding company, Contran, gave $12 million to American Crossroads, a super PAC affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove. He donated $2.2 million more to three super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidates.

When the rich control the political discourse…your country is becoming a plutocracy. They drive the narrative, the media amplifies, candidates respond, voters evaluate the rigged game with ambivalence. America 2012!

Fact Of The Day: When taught to use money, Capuchin monkeys will pay for sex.

Quote Of The Day: “There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory… Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.” – Elizabeth Warren

Video Of the Day: “You want punched out?!” – This is what happens when an insane right wing christianist moon landing denier steps to Buzz Fucking Aldrin

Cartoon Of The Day: “Bugsy and Mugsy” – Bugs Bunny

Song Of The Day: “Don’t Let Me Me Be Misunderstood” – Santa Esmeralda (From the Kill Bill, Vol.1 Soundtrack)

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