Category Archives: Politics

Pew’s Report on Millennials and Political News

(Note: This post first appeared on the Voce blog)

pew millennials politicsWhat Is It: The Pew Research Center is out with a new study showing 61% of Millennials – broadly defined as anyone born after 1980 – get political news primarily from Facebook, almost exactly the opposite proportion of those in the Baby Boom generation, for whom local TV news still dominates.

What Does This Mean: There are all sorts of interesting data finds in the study that are well worth reading, particularly those that deal with how trusting members of the various demographic groups are of media. But the question that should cause the most discussion isn’t raised until the end and it’s roughly this: What does it mean that so many people are getting their news through social media?

The answer is incredibly complex and requires consideration of a multitude of factors, but at the core it comes down to how some social networks, particularly Facebook, are filtering the user experience in ways that sometimes can’t be controlled and are invisible to the audience, who often aren’t even aware there are filters being applied which a vast swath of people aren’t.

Facebook recently released a study where they essentially washed their hands of responsibility and said people themselves for whatever diversity they were or weren’t seeing in their Newsfeeds. While that may be true (to an extent…Facebook is still ultimately the one that governs the algorithm that creates the Newsfeed), the results of getting your news from a system that’s almost uniquely designed to reinforce your own point of view and limit outside opinions is felt well outside of Facebook and informs people’s behavior on a local, state and federal level.

Facebook plays a unique role in today’s information ecosystem, as this new study shows starkly. But the impact of that role is, I’d wager, only beginning to be felt.

A non-neutral net may be coming soon

Between Stacey Higgenbottom’s piece at GigaOm and John Herman’s at Buzzfeed, I’m pretty much just counting the moments until my cable operator sends a note saying my internet fees are going up because I watch too much Netflix for their liking.

Not that I’m a huge fan of more and more government regulation, but it’s not just consumers at stake, it is, as many have pointed out, the start-ups who want to take on Twitter, Amazon and others but who won’t be able to pay for preferred access along the last mile to people’s homes. And that’s where government needs to make sure existing businesses don’t have policies in place that are meant almost solely to protect their own interests at the expense of innovation.

Light bulbs as political beanbag

Congress has decided fully enacting the energy regulations that would phase out electricity-wasting light bulbs is just too darn inconvenient. It’s a stupid move that’s grounded in politics and not good thinking. The Ars story is worth reading, but here’s the nut:

By repealing the standards, Congress has ensured that the waste will go on even longer.

Yep.

Personally, I’ve been incredibly happy with the switchover to LED bulbs around the house. Yes, trying to find the right one that matches the lamp or whatever is sometimes frustrating. But once they’re in they’re in and it’s one less thing to worry about. Price, though, may lead me back to cheaper and less efficient bulbs, which will ultimately be even more frustrating.

via As part of budget deal, Congress blocks light bulb efficiency standards | Ars Technica.

Copyright is broken

A must-read.

The result is a copyright system that’s impossible to defend on economic or policy grounds. While copyright itself is a good thing — it helps artists and writers make a living — the repeated posthumous term extensions make no sense. No author, including Ayn Rand and Dr. Seuss, has made a decision on whether or not to write based on what will happen decades after they’re dead.

via No books for you: U.S. starves public domain for another year — Tech News and Analysis.

Because sure, who needs the environment or a functional food chain

This seems problematic:

Tea Party senators introduced a bill last week that would effectively end the protection of most endangered species in the U.S. by gutting some of the most important provisions of the Endangered Species Act. Senate Bill 1731, introduced by Tea Party members Sen. Paul (R-KY), Sen. Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Heller (R-NV) would end protections for most of the species that are currently protected by the act and make it virtually impossible to protect new species under the law. It would also eliminate protection for habitat that’s critical to the survival of rare and struggling animals and plants around the country.

via Tea Party Bill Would Gut Endangered Species Act | EcoWatch.

Ahh, the belief that business is an inherent and total good. That’s led to so many great decisions. Asshats.

The analogy continues to someone soiling an area rug

nihilists

It seems The Big Lebowski can be used as a metaphor for everything, including the Fiscal Cliff debacle in Washington, DC.

The basic text for understanding this situation, as with so many situations, is The Big Lebowski. A woman has allegedly been taken hostage by nihilists (nihilists conveniently being a common point of comparison with the House Republican caucus.) Jeffrey Lebowski, the Jeff Bridges character, fears they will kill her. Walter, the John Goodman character, has already figured out that there is no hostage. Lebowski here is Obama, and Walter is Harry Reid:

Walter is right. There is no hostage. The Republican Party was actually terrified of the no-deal scenario. Policy-wise, the alternative to a small tax hike that they agreed to was a huge tax hike that they didn’t agree to. The politics were even worse: Republicans would be blamed for higher taxes on the middle class in order to defend the rich, deepening an already severe image problem.

Now go read the whole thing.