If You don’t Trust the News, then You May be Looking in the Wrong Places

Mark Thiessen, contributer to FowNews

Among the “Top News” stories in my news app yesterday, there was an opinion piece [https://fxn.ws/2V6JIaH] from FoxNews, written by Mark Thiessen, a FoxNews contributor from the Washington Post (plus a former speech writer for George W. Bush). He introduced a recent Columbia Journalism Review poll that found that half of Americans have “hardly any confidence at all” in the media. That’s less confidence than we have in congress. Then he goes on to use this bit of information to attack CNN and The New York Time’s coverage of the continuing debate over the legitimacy of Brett Kavanaugh’s right to be a Supreme Court Judge. 

Thiessen’s attack may have a valid basis. I don’t know. But my concern, as one who wants to be able to trust the news, is that the author did not have the courtesy of providing us with a link to the original CJR report. In fact every link that he did provide pointed to other FoxNews stories, — a giant red flag when evaluating online sources.  

With little effort, I found the CJR report [http://bit.ly/2NoPcfS ], and found it interesting that most of the people who have “hardly any confidence..” in the media are Republicans, white, have little or no college and are retired or self employed. The CJR’s poll also indicated that 80% of the respondents get their news from television, the Internet or social media. Only 6% get their news from news print, and 5% from news apps.

Where we go to get our news seems a more critical issue to our condition today, than Brett Kavanaugh’s “ding-donging phase.”

The Next Technology Revolution: Not in my Neighborhood

Fiber, the New Technology Revolution

This is a personal issue to me since our neighborhood in Cherryville is still waiting for wired Internet. There are only seven homes, which are not profitable to warrant bringing in the infrastructure.

I just listened to a podcast interview with Susan Crawford, a Harvard law professor and author of Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution… For the book, she researched the conditions of fibre optic networking in Asia (Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Korea), comparing what she learned with conditions here in the U.S., as revealed by interviews with citizens and government officials at the local, state and federal levels.

Among her surprising statements were that,

  • OECD adoption of Fibre, the U.S. ranks 25th of 36 nations.
  • The World Economic Form ranks the U.S. as 27th among nations regarding their technical preparedness for future industries.

She says that we are suffering from a number of digital divides, among them are divides between urban and rural, rich and poor, and the gap between the U.S., and Asian and Nordic countries.

To Blame

First it was deregulation of the telecommunications industry in 2004. The competition has concentrated on profitable urban areas, especially affluent sections where high priced services are sold.

Second is big-money oriented governments, such as my state’s General Assembly, who passed a law in 2010 preventing municipalities from creating and running their own fibre networks. This was a response to the town of Wilson establishing their celebrated GreenLight network, which I wrote about here: /?p=4329

Links

While Trump Defends the National Anthem, He Threatens our National Symbol

A bald eagle, our national symbol

A few days ago, while walking around Shelley Lake in Raleigh, I saw a bald eagle flying high over the water. I pointed up, trying to get the attention of a group of teens who were walking toward me. Finally I yelled to them, “There’s a bald eagle!” They turned, looked up then turned back around and continued walking and talking.

This puzzled me, until I realized that they are not aware that several decades ago, the majestic birds were almost extinct. Some of you may remember when you’d never seen a bluebird? So many people simply do not know how badly these birds and other occupants of our planet were driven to the brink in the first half of the 20th century.

What brought eagles, bluebirds and so much else back from the precipice was a government that started to regulate the industries that were polluting the environment of all living inhabitants of the Earth. This is why I want to share that..

while Trump has been focusing the attention of his base on immigration and respect for the national anthem, he and his administration has been dismantling those environmental regulations at the behest of billionaire industrialists who are tired of environmental protection cutting into their profits.

Here is an article from Bloomberg Environment on the Trump’s activities behind the smoke and mirrors – 26 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back in the Trump Era

Another Giant Step Backward

CC BY-SA 2.0

If you think that America’s future energy should be burning coal and other fossil fuels, then you should be happy with Trump. According to a Bloomberg report, the Trump administration plans to use two Federal laws “to order (electrical) grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants in an effort to extend their life…”

Further reversing our country’s progress, Reuters has learned that Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels is forcing renewable energy companies to cancel or freeze investments of $2.5+ billion in large installation projects. According to developers, it also cancels thousands of jobs.

All of this while Britain regularly announces increasing numbers of hours and days that their entire grid is powered without coal. The BBC reported on April 24 that the nation had gone three days without coal – the first time since the 1880s.

Sources:
Bloomberg Article – https://goo.gl/noeSrN
The memo – https://goo.gl/1SqfZx
Reuters Report – https://goo.gl/FveFPd
BBC – https://bbc.in/2HrRyn0

Trust, Media & Democracy Survey

Graph 1

I recently ran across a Gallup/Knight Foundation survey entitled American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy.  The poll of more than 19,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older attempts to measure how our changing information landscape has affected media trust in the U.S. and made it harder for the news media to fulfill their democratic responsibilities.  It is important to note that Trust, Media and Democracy was a nationally representative mail survey.  So a back-of-your-mind question should be, “Who took the trouble to share their views by mail?”

That said, a couple of things especially caught my attention.  First, it seems that younger respondents were more likely to consider the intentional spread of inaccurate information over the Internet and bias in the media to be a “Major Problem.”  See graph 1.

It leads me to wonder if we (educators) did a better job than we thought, over the past 10 to 15 years, of teaching our students to be critical media consumers.  Or perhaps it’s a result of a generation who is, unquestionably, more net-savvy than their elder.  Regardless, we have more work to do.

Graph 2

What disturbs me is how many people do not really know what “Fake News” is.  Wikipedia defines it as

..a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines.. (Wikipedia)

That pretty much aligns with my own understanding of “Fake News.” Yet 20% of Democrats believe that an accurate news story that casts a politician or political group in a negative light is “Fake News.” The percent is higher for Independents and Republicans. See graph 2

Graph 3

This one surprised me, that the more conservative a person is, the more likely they are to consider “Fake News” to be a serious threat to democracy. See graph 3 and please explain this to me.

There is much more available through the PDF report, which you can download at: https://goo.gl/emk1EM

I created the graphs from the survey data using Create a Graph from the Department of Education web site.

Are blue states financing red states?

I heard something on a podcast the other day that surprised me.  So I found the data and crunched the numbers myself, so that I would know (I love playing with spreadsheets).

It works like this.  Our southern neighbor, South Carolina, pays $24 billion in federal taxes.  However, the state receives in federal spending (benefits, grants, contracts, and salaries and wages) $48.8 billion.  That comes to $4,978.26 per South Carolinian that comes in from the federal government.  It becomes spending money.

In the other direction a northern neighbor, Delaware, payed about $22.6 billion in taxes but received only a little more than $9 billion in federal spending.  That comes to a deficit of $14,278.28, that’s not being spent in that state.

What’s interesting is that of the 30 states that benefit from federal spending, 21 voted to elect Trump as President, 14 of them by more than 10 percentage points.  Of the remaining states that are paying more in federal taxes than they are receiving, 9 voted to elect Hillary Clinton by more than 10 percentage points – that’s 9 of only 13.

When you put it all together, citizens of red states gain $915.70 from the federal government, and deep red states get $1,874.60 to spend.  Blue staters pay $176.84 and people living in deep blue states give up $2,101,84.

So where’s the logic in voting for a candidate who promises to reform federal taxes?

Sources:

The PEW Charitable Trusts: https://goo.gl/iFxBAp

The New York Times: https://goo.gl/6OkmXX

 

Only Four Countries do not Provide for Paid Parental Leave.

While researching for this article, I ran across a 2013 NYT piece on Pew’s finding that in 40% of U.S. families the sole or primary earner is the Mom. In a quarter of married households, the woman is the sole or primary wage earner.

I was surprised recently when I learned that almost every country has federal laws that require paid parental leave.  Apparently, there are only four that do not.  They are Suriname, Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and The United States.  I’m including here the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of each country and their Gini coefficient, both of which seem relevant for considering the U.S. position on this issue.

Suriname

Per Capita GDP: $16,623

Gini: 52.9

Lesotho

Per Capita GDP: $1,091

Gini: 54.2

Papua New Guinea

Per Capita GDP: $2,517

Gini: 50.9

United States

Per capita GDP: $57,220

Gini: 40.8

The Gini coefficient is a mathematical measure of a nation’s wealth distribution. The lower the value, the more equitable their economy. Higher values indicate an economy that favors people who are already wealthy at the expense of the poor.  

Here is a list of the eleven top ten developed countries with their Gini indexes. Canada and the U.S. are tied for #10. The graph compares the wealth distribution of these eleven countries by their standard deviations from the mean.

 

  Gini Index
1.Norway23.5
2.Australia33.6
3.Switzerland29.5
4.Germany30.7
5.Denmark27.5
6.Singapore46.4
7.Netherlands26.2
8.Ireland30.0
9.Iceland24.0
10.Canada33.7
10.United States40.8

TopCountriesGINI 2.jpg

 

Sources:

https://statisticalfuture.org/?p=24
http://wikipedia.org/
http://pewrsr.ch/10ycfVX

“The Best Deal that We could Get”

NC Protester

I don’t blame our Governor for signing H.B. 242, which repealed our “Bathroom Law.” But it should concern us that the repeal continues to support a major move by our ultraconservative-leaning General Assembly, starting with the Republican takeover in 2010 – that of stealing or attempting to steal political power from the Executive Branch, the state’s regulatory bureaucracy and especially from local governments. Specifically, the repeal prevents the state’s municipalities from establishing their own nondiscrimination ordinances through 2020.

One example of this preemption of local power was provisions to S.B. 279, slipped into the bill on the last day of 2015’s 76-day extended legislative session. Those provisions prevented city governments from passing higher minimum-wage laws, establishing affordable-housing mandates, or instituting rules about landlord-tenant relations. Other examples were wrestling from cities their control of local airports, waste and water systems, local redistricting, utilities and fracking. Fortunately, many of these legislative take-overs have been blocked by the Judicial Branch. But it all points to a political ideology that seems intent on stretching or breaking the founding principals of our government in order to further the interests of the campaign contributing class – the moneyed-elite.

Sources: https://goo.gl/DckpkD, https://goo.gl/UiVDx3, https://goo.gl/Uw79QG, https://goo.gl/v6Lv4m

What Does AI Mean to Education

It seems to me that the biggest part of our conversations among educators about how AI may affect us regards our own job security. I’m not worried about that. It won’t make teaching obsolete, in my opinion, in spite of the list below. We’ll just spend less time teaching stuff to our students and more time teaching how to use stuff – essentially, how to use information to solve problems and accomplish goals.

This was all brought back to mind when I ran across this FastCompany article today about brick laying machines and other jobs that AI/Automation may replace. Thinking more about the implications, especially to education, I sought out similar articles. Here’s a list of jobs that some have suggested can be done by machines.

ChefsFactory WorkersSurgeons
Retail Sales PeopleSecurity GuardsFarmers
Cattle RaisersPharmacistsDelivery Drivers
JournalistsSoldiersReceptionists
Telephone Sales PeopleConstruction WorkersAccountants
Tour GuidesMixologists & Bar OperatorsLibrarians
Hospital AdministratorsTeachersTruck Drivers
Taxi DriversInsurance AdjustersConstruction Workers
Customer Service Representatives

I doubt that all chefs will be replaced nor that all factory work with be done by robots. The FastCompany article suggested that a brick laying machine would do what three humans can do in a day, but one person would be needed for the more nuanced work. But autonomous vehicles alone will likely mean the jobs of 5 million Americans, who currently make a living driving taxis, buses, vans, trucks and e-hailing vehicles. According to Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard, most of these drivers are not dissimilar to the millions of factory workers who have lost their jobs since 2000 – men without college degrees. Like drivers, manufacturing jobs did not go to China, but to Fanuc, Yaskawa, ABB and Kawasaki, the top producers of industrial robots. While factories were laying off millions of American workers, U.S. manufacturing output has actually grown by almost 18% since 2006.

What will be the consequences of this much unemployment, not to mention this much uncertainty. Nearly every article suggested that the effect on society will be HUGE and that the direction of policy makers will determine whether those consequences were bad or good.

Are we assuring ourselves of leadership that is creative enough to turn what seems horrible to most of us today into something that could actually be quite wonderful.

The sources: MSN, Quartz Media, Forbes, Futurism, The Guardian, LA Times, Fortune

Links to some of the articles

A Couple of Observations about the Election

“Playing with data is as fun as playing with Legos”

Even though I suspect that most Americans, Republican and Democrat, believe in mostly the same things.  The political gap seems to have much to do with your neighborhood – that is to say, how far you live from your neighbors.

I did a little figuring with the population density of each state and the percent of votes cast by its residents for Donald Trump.  The correlation coefficient (yes, I’m college educated) was -.46, which apparently is a moderate downhill or negative relationship (see chart #1). In other words, the higher the population density (urban) the less likely you and your neighbors were to vote for Trump. The lower the density (rural), the more likelihood of Trump votes in your neighborhood.

Chart #1

But this gap seems to have been magnified by the U.S. Constitution, as the document describes the Electoral College. North Dakota, 47th in density ranking, cast 216,133 votes for Trump. That amounted to only 72,044 votes for each of the state’s 3 electoral votes for the Republican candidate. In Massachusetts, the 3rd most densely populated state, it took over 100,000 more votes for Clinton (178,615) to earn one of the state’s 7 electoral votes for the Democrat (see chart #2).

Chart #2

What surprises and disturbs me is the education gap. The graph below, from Pew Research Center, indicates that among all voters, those with college degrees or more voted for Hillary Clinton by 9 points, while voters with some college or less chose Donald Trump by 8 points. The education gap widens when looking at white voters only, a gap of 35 points.1

There are many ways to read meaning into this, and I’m going to be thinking pretty hard about it. But we might assume that free college education, as provided in many European countries, is pretty much off the table here at home.

Education Gap

1  Tyson, A., & Maniam, S. (2016). Behind Trump’s victory: Divisions by race, gender, education. Retrieved from Pew Research Center website: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/behind-trumps-victory-divisions-by-race-gender-education/