Googling and Spending in Washington, D.C.

Maybe a better title for this post would be: “Technology Companies are Now Biggest Spenders in Lobbying Congress.” It just all seems to make sense when you consider how wealthy all these companies have become, i.e., Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, etc. “These are companies that are touching so many parts of the economy . . . So it’s inevitable that they are going to engage in a host of political and policy issues (Washington Post, 1/24/18).”

Amazon, for example, spent nearly $13 million in lobbying last year, a 16 percent increase from 2016. The tech industry’s ballooning lobbying budgets may also be an indication that the companies will fight hard to protect the data they collect on Americans. Some experts now worry that the government will struggle to pass new and meaningful consumer protection laws. Others say that the increase in lobbying simply coincides with the tech sector’s rapid growth and larger role in society. Any way you look at it, the tech industry is now the biggest lobbying machine in Washington.

I just worry about whose lobbying for the technology consumers?

Ray Myers

P.S.

I will be taking a “winter break” next week. Back on Monday, February 5th

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Happy Teens Have More In-Person Interactions

Please allow me to explain. A long-awaited report with a lengthy title that tries to say it all has finally been published: “Decreases in Psychological Well-Being Among American Adolescents After 2012 and Links to Screen Time During the Rise of Smartphone Technology.” I hope that clears things up, but let me quote a paragraph from Tuesday’s Washington Post that might also help.

“Adolescent self-esteem, life satisfaction and happiness, having risen since the early 1990s, plunged after 2012, the year smartphone ownership reached the 50 percent mark in the United States, the report said. It also found that adolescents’ psychological well-being decreased with the more hours a week they spent on screens, including the Internet, social media, texting, gaming and video chats . . . The report’s findings were not all dire: Teenagers who get a small amount of exposure to screen time, between one to five hours per week, are happier then those who get none at all. The least happy ones were those who used screens for 20 or more hours per week.”

Looks like face time is back, and I don’t mean the FaceTime on your computer screen.

Ray Myers

We Still Have Football!

As we all know, Trump and company have shut down the federal government, but we still have Super Bowl football and all its hype to entertain us over the next few weeks. I am not sure which is more entertaining over the long run, but we shall find out. But what can I say about all the technological tools involved in informing us about these “winter spectacles.”

Will we all be better informed this time around? Will Twitter be overloaded with barbs and updates about our political and football fanaticisms? I am afraid so. Depending on your personal or political view, are we now headed for a “winter of our discontent” or content for some?

I am sure there are parts of New England where there are many people happier to be watching Tom Brady on the football field than follow all the tweets from the so-called president in the Oval Office, when he is not in Mar-a-Lago.

Ray Myers

Fake News in Print and Online – a Threat to Democracy

So the title of this post may be a little misleading, but let’s face it, we now have a president who has learned to use the power of our digital media to propagandize his agenda and belittle those who dare to oppose him. And this has all happened over the course of his first year in office.  He has apparently raised a very successful anti-press campaign.  He has recently issued “fake news” awards.

“The buzz around the president’s latest anti-press stunt has contributed to a shift in American attitudes towards the press.  In a study released this week by Gallup and the Knight Foundation, 66 percent of Americans who were surveyed  said most news organizations blurred opinion and fact, up from 42 percent in 1984.  ‘Fake news’ was deemed a threat to democracy by a majority of the respondents (NY Times, 1/18/18).” Now who are the real fake news purveyors?

Senator John McCain has risen to the occasion: “We cannot afford to abdicate America’s longstanding role as the defender of human rights and democratic principles throughout the world. Without strong leadership in the White House, Congress must commit to protecting independent journalism, preserving an open and free media environment, and defending the fundamental right to opinion and expression.”

Ray Myers

Keep the Net Neutral!

Twenty-one States and the District of Columbia, and several public interest groups, filed the first major lawsuit Tuesday to block the repeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Net Neutrality rules, marking the start of a high-stakes legal battle over the future of the Internet. New York Attorney General Eric Sneiderman, who is leading the suit, said the FCC’s repeal of the net neutrality rules was “arbitrary” and “capricious” and violates federal law.

The FCC’s rules had prohibited internet providers from slowing down or blocking websites. The lawsuits came just a day after Senate Democrats said they were inching closer to the votes needed for a legislative measure to help overturn the FCC’s rules. Their resolution aims to reverse the FCC’s decision and block the agency from passing similar legislation in the future. It has garnered the support of all 49 Democratic Senators as well as one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Long live America’s Net Neutrality!

Ray Myers

Cyber Security – Mueller Learning on the Job

This is not meant to be a critique of the Special Counsel’s performance in his investigation of the Russian involvement in the election of the so-called President. It’s more a commentary on “why did it take so long? “Some in the legal world have wondered why Mueller had not previously tapped a cyber prosecutor to join his team.”

Legal analysts have said that one charge Mueller might pursue would be conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if he can demonstrate that members of Trump’s team conspired in Russia’ s hacking efforts to influence the election. So now we have gone long past the days of scrutinizing “hanging chads” in efforts to determine the intentions of American voters. Those were the “good old days.” Now we are probing those dark corners of cyber space controlled by international “evil doers.”

From Russia with Love?

Ray Myers

P.S. I will be back on Wednesday, January 17th. Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Expanded AP Classes Draw More Girls, Minorities to Programming

AP (Advanced Placement) classes are now attracting a more diverse student population than in years past. Computer Science in particular may be the subject area that is creating the most interest. Ten years ago, girls were so scarce in American high school computer science classes that the number of female students taking AP tests in that subject could be counted on one hand in nine states. In five others, there were none. Latino and African American students were also in short supply, a problem that has bedeviled educators for years and hindered efforts to diversify the high-tech work force.

Now, an expansion of AP computer science classes is helping to draw more girls and underrepresented minorities into a field of growing importance for schools, universities and the economy. Testing totals for female, black and Latino students all doubled in 2017, following the national debut of an AP course in computer science principles. It joined a longer-established AP course focused on the programming language Java.

Maybe this growing interest in computer coding is driven by something more social in nature? One young female student said that the AP Computer Science Principles course had deepened her understanding of the powers of software to make objects come to life. “An iPhone, for example,” she said. “A block of metal, in all honesty. But when you add coding, it becomes something more.”

Ray Myers

Chris Christie and Amazon – You’ve Got a Friend in New Jersey!

Poor Chris Christie, soon-to-be former Governor of New Jersey. He didn’t get to be Vice-President after Trump picked Pence, but you never know? There do still seem be a large number of vacancies in the Trump administration in Washington, and he will be looking for a new job after January 16th. But he still seems to be trying to build a political legacy for himself in the Garden State. How about if he gets Amazon to build its second headquarters in New Jersey. What’s not to like?

Here’s the latest on the Amazon legislation package under consideration by the NJ legislature. It would expand the tax credits available from the state Economic Development Authority to entice large companies to bring their corporate headquarters to New Jersey. To be eligible, a business would need to make a minimum $3 billion capital investment in its headquarters and create a minimum of 30,000 jobs that would create a net benefit for the state over 50 years. His administration has endorsed Newark as a headquarters location, but other New Jersey cities, including Camden, have submitted bids.

Newark is a “ferry boat” ride from Manhattan. There’s a building there called the Trump tower. How convenient this all would be. And the so-called President does like to play golf in northern New Jersey. Hmmmmm!

Ray Myers

Just Deserts: Fire and Fury in the White House!

I have been waiting and hoping to write this blog for nearly a year. How sweet it is! The “fake news” Master himself is now accusing others (Michael Wolff, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”) of writing falsified accounts of the inner workings of his White House during his first year in office. He has continually maintained that he can post anything he wants to say on Twitter with impunity – no need for fact-checking or censorship when he wants to go on the attack. So far he has been able to hide behind a tortured definition of “newsworthiness.” Twitter, please stop this madness. Let’s take a look at the Twitter official explanation.

“In this latest incident with Trump’s tweets, Twitter doesn’t believe that the tweet Tuesday night about the size and effectiveness of the President’s “Nuclear Button” broke its rules. In a statement to Business Insider, Twitter said the tweet was not a “specific threat” and therefore wasn’t banned by its rule against “specific threats of violence or wishing for serious physical harm, death, or disease to an individual or group of people.”

I just can’t wait to read all the “fake news” in Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” I don’t think it contains any “specific threats of violence or wishing for serious physical harm, death, or disease to an individual or group of people.” It just might be “real news.”

Ray Myers

Expanding Power of Social Media #metoo

I know that the so-called President likes to use social media to advance his own agenda, but most of the time he is lying. Unfortunately, his true believers don’t really care. Other people can play this game as well and actually tell the truth. They are the women of #metoo. They are not hiding in the shadows tweeting out their grievances against powerful Hollywood magnates. They are famous, media-savvy and mostly white actors with collectively more star power than the accused. Now women from all walks of life are joining this crusade.

Maybe it’s reflective of a specific period in American history, in which working women of a new generation – those who had grown up with working mothers – decided that enough was enough. Certainly the endlessly expanding power of social media plays a role: The #metoo hashtag has been used in millions of post over the past few weeks; been translated into Italian (#Quella-Voltache, or “that time when”) and French (#BalanceTonPorc, or “out your pig”); and inspired a congressional spin-off.

Social media has now grown into a powerful politically liberating force.

Ray Myers