Advertisers Should Pay You

 “Advertising is a natural resource extraction industry, like a fishery. Its business is the harvest and sale of human attention. We are the fish and we are not consulted. […]

Commercial speech has traditionally been seen as merely instrumentally, and hence contingently, valuable (for economistic reasons I discuss below). However – despite the rather obvious fact that corporations are not people who burn to speak their mind, and can suffer no indignity from censorship – commercial speech has increasingly usurped the moral halo of free speech between persons. Commercial speech used to be understood straightforwardly as a privilege that could be legitimately regulated and constrained to meet society’s interests. It is now being seen as a right, something which trumps all ordinary considerations of social welfare. […] Continue reading

The Geopolitical Implications of the Iran Deal

Both President Obama and Ayatollah Khomeini have said that the Iran deal does not represent a general rapprochement between their countries, and that their foreign policies will remain unchanged. However, the agreement will have several important impacts.

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First, at least for the short term war will be avoided. War has been avoided, that is unless Israel takes Senator John McCain’s advice and “goes rouge,” and bombs Iran. (C-SPAN)

Secondly, the deal will have political and economic impacts within Iran. Iran has suffered through over ten years of increasingly withering sanctions. These sanctions have devastated the Iranian economy and severely devalued the Iranian Rial. This deal may prevent the economic collapse of the region’s largest country. This in itself is good for the people of Iran, however it may also benefit political moderates. Reaction in Iran to the deal with the United States is roughly divided between moderates and hardliners: “Reaction to the deal highlighted the splits between moderates and hardliners in Iran. Conservative politicians and news outlets expressed skepticism about both it and the intentions of the world powers, while moderate politicians and news outlets portrayed it as a big opportunity for the country.” (Reuters) If the economy improves as a result of the sanctions having been lifted, President Hassan Rouhani and his moderate allies could earn much political capital that could then be used to push some of the reforms that they want. (Huffington Post) Although, economies are complex systems and it is no guarantee that the economy will improve as a result of sanctions being lifted. If there is no marked improvement in the economy, moderates who support the deal could be punished in the polls. The real test will happen in 2016 during the parliamentary elections. According to one analyst, “The moderates have now delivered a massive victory that had not been possible before. The question is – can they translate this into victory in upcoming polls in Iran?” (Reuters) If there is no improvement in the daily lives of the people, the moderates could be discredited and the hardliners may benefit in the end.

Thirdly, this deal will likely lead to shifting interests and alliances within the region. Continue reading

Is it Time to Redraw the Borders Between the States?

The blog Maps on the Web recently posted this: 51st U.S. state called North Colorado. It is an article with a map of a hypothetical new state called North Colorado; it also includes a link to an article explaining the situation. The gist of it is that people in certain counties of Colorado are upset with the policies being implemented by the legislature in Denver, which they feel are detrimental to their interests. Additionally, these counties feel that their interests are diverging from the rest of the state. The solution that some have devised is to separate themselves into a new state so they can be free to pursue their own path.

There are a number of proposed states similar the one in this article. Usually it involves a part of an existing state that wishes to become independent, examples are: southern Illinois wants to separate from the Chicago dominated north, northern California wants little to do with the southern part of their state, southern Virginia wants to be separate from the increasingly liberal north, and now northeastern Colorado can be added to this list. The driving factors here are usually the same: dissatisfaction with a government that people feel does not represent them or look after their best interests. Continue reading

Re-Balancing Federalism

Heather Gerken published an article in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas titled “A New Progressive Federalism.” Gerken puts forth some interesting ideas and backs them with compelling arguments. She argues that progressives should embrace federalism and state power for the potential it has to empower minorities (racial and political). She argues that federalism can empower national minorities to rule in areas where they are the majority and thus prevent then from becoming marginalized in the central government. Having a strong central government that is becoming increasingly pervasive in American society, even legislating down to the level of school districts, ensures that policy is enacted by a political body that, at best, mirrors the United States as a whole thereby ensuring the minorities are marginalized at the state or local levels where the may actually be a majority. Continue reading

Democracy and Egypt: Is There a Good Way Forward?

Egyptian_Revolution_protests_(25_January_2011)_-_03_-_Flickr_-_Al_Jazeera_English

Al Jazeera recently posted this article by Emad Mekay: “Exclusive: US Bankrolled Anti-Morsi Activists,” in it Mekay accuses the USA of playing a role in the recent coup against President Morsi.

“The State Department’s programme, dubbed by US officials as a “democracy assistance” initiative, is part of a wider Obama administration effort to try to stop the retreat of pro-Washington secularists, and to win back influence in Arab Spring countries that saw the rise of Islamists, who largely oppose US interests in the Middle East.

Activists bankrolled by the programme include an exiled Egyptian police officer who plotted the violent overthrow of the Morsi government, an anti-Islamist politician who advocated Continue reading

Cyber War and Military Response

B2 Stealth Bomber

B2 Stealth Bomber (Photo credit: naathas)

The National Interest recently published a thought provoking piece on cyber warfare. In the article, author Elbridge Colby, a former START treaty negotiator, asks if a cyber attack would ever warrant a nuclear response. Colby was writing in response to this Washington Post article by Richard Clarke (cyber security advisor and counterterrorism ‘czar’ under George W. Bush) and Steve Andreasen (National Security Council adviros under Bill Clinton).

Clarke and Andreasen argue that to reduce the treat of nuclear war, the US should declare that under no circumstance would the US retaliate to a cyber attack using nuclear weapons. Continue reading

Child Poverty and Academic Performance

On his blog Class Warfare, Stephen Pruis reblogged an excellent comment from Diane Ratvitch’s blog. The comment was about the purpose of education and the impact of poverty on academic performance. This blog post is made up of two posts that I wrote a while ago but never posted. I am posting them now because I feel that they may be relevant to the discussions happening regarding educational reform that has been sparked by the adoption of the Common Core.


Physicist Dr. Michael Marder conducted a series of studies on U.S. student performance and demonstrated that academic performance is a function of poverty. At each socio-economic level students in the US did as well as, or better than kids in other countries. The problem, according to Dr. Marder, is that the US has much higher levels of child poverty than other developed countries. Continue reading

The Nicaragua Canal

(Video via: Fareed Zakaria: GPS¹)

Chinese companies are planning to build a canal through Nicaragua to connect the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. The canal will be a boon to global trade and help increase the interconnectedness of the planet’s economies. As mentioned in the video above the canal in Nicaragua will not only increase capacity for shipping by providing another route, it will also be able (if built as planned) to accommodate much larger ships than the Panama Canal currently can.

Continue reading

Robotics and Social Change

In a  recent article in Quartz about robotics, Illah Nourbakhsh writes:
“[Erik] Brynjolfsson and [Andrew] McAfee argue that these are signs of a true sea change in the dynamics of productivity and employment. Contrary to popular conceptions that all we need is more technological innovation to increase employment, they argue, technological innovation is itself among the forces behind the change. […]
It is time for not just economists but roboticists, like me, to ask, “How will robotic advances transform society in potentially dystopian ways?” My concern is that without serious discourse and explicit policy changes, the current path will lead to an ever more polarized economic world, with robotic technologies replacing the middle class and further distancing our society from authentic opportunity and economic justice.”

Much has been written about the rise of robots. The field of robotics is advancing quickly, and more and more robots are being incorporated into our economy. Increasing automation is posing a direct challenge to current employment patterns. Increasing automation and productivity have many positive effects but they are also threatening to produce chronic high unemployment. Continue reading