By Yamaguchi Yoshiaki from Japan [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
This year marks one century of commercial flying. On New Year’s Day in 1914, a large crowd gathered in St.Petersburg, Florida, as an airboat named ‘Benoist’ (after its creator, Thomas Benoist), took to the sky for a 23-minute flight over the Tampa Bay, carrying a single passenger (Abram Pheil, who won his $400 ticket in an auction). This maiden flight soon became a regular route, thus marking aviation’s birth as a viable industry. In the following decades, transnational routes, jet engines and global airlines became fixtures of modern life.
What a difference a century makes. Today, 52 aircraft take off every minute, and an incredible half a million people are in the air above us at any one time. Flying now facilitates family visits, holidays, business and academic conferences, and freight trade; it’s made the world smaller, and the global economy bigger. (more…)
This month the 22nd Winter Olympic Games began in Sochi, Russia. The spectacle of the event has captivated persons from around the world to tune into watch their favorite sport or favorite athletes. Russia spent over $50 billion to prepare for the Olympics by building hotels, roads, stadiums, and to bring in artificial snow into the Southern resort town. The Sochi Olympics are the first mega-sporting event to occur this year, but will likely be trumped by the upcoming World Cup in Brazil over the summer. Brazil’s price tag for hosting the World Cup is considerable less at around $9 billion dollars. Nonetheless, the cost of both of these events and the emphasis by the respective countries to show the world the capabilities of their nation reveal the increasing globalization of these world sporting events. The Olympics and the World Cup are two global sports spectacles that have considerable cultural and economic ramifications, and are a product of intense politicking to bring the events to one’s national home.
By movie studio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
In January, President Obama became the latest in a long list of politicians and high profile public figures in taking a shot at academic disciplines perceived to be ‘useless’ from a labor market perspective. Talking about manufacturing and job training, Obama (who has since apologized
for his remarks) said
: “I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.”
This attack on disciplines, fields and degrees that do not tie in directly to what is perceived to be the workplace of today and tomorrow are nothing new. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory made similar, albeit much more explicit and vicious, remarks
about higher education just last year, lashing out against the (inter)discipline of women’s and gender studies: “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine. Go to a private school, and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”
These and similar remarks point to two related notions that dominate in the debate about (higher) education: 1. The idea of a “skills gap” – that is the idea that workers and college graduates do not possess the right skills to fill vacant jobs in growing economic sectors. And 2. The idea that some academic disciplines are simply useless pursuits, as they do not help graduates secure employment. But do these ideas have empirical ground?
West Virginia citizens wait in line to retrieve clean water.
On January 9, 2014 government officials in West Virginia discovered that over 7,500 gallons of chemicals used to clean coal had leaked out of a Freedom Industries’ chemical facility and into the nearby Elk River. The location of the leaking storage facilities was just upriver from the largest treatment facility in West Virginia affecting over 300,000 residents throughout the state. Immediately discovering the leak, government officials notified the residents of Charleston and surrounding areas to stop using tap water. The government warned against water usage for drinking, cooking, and bathing. The chemicals spilled caused skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, and wheezing to several residents. (more…)
As the saying goes ‘the jury’s in’; human activity is causing global temperatures to rise unnaturally and catastrophically quickly. The IPCC’s international panel of more than 800 scientists compiled over 9,200 peer-reviewed research papers to reach this verdict. As a result, we are said to be initiating a mass extinction event analogous to one that annihilated the dinosaurs. Yet, climate change, once a totemic issue for politicians attempting to appear progressive, is becoming one of their marginal concerns. For example, David Cameron, when he was working to detoxify the Conservative Party, went dog-sleighing in the Artic to signify his green credentials and commitment to address global warming. In the new era of perpetual austerity he has deprioritised the environment; Downing Street appointed a climate sceptic as Enviroment Secretary and reportedly recently referred to environmental levies as ‘green crap’.
Politicians in precarious states of power are notoriously sensitive to a construct known as ‘public opinion’. Public opinion is an analogue, shape-shifting beast only temporarily captured by various combinations of: opinion polls, newspaper columns, phone-ins, Tweets, blogs, emails, petitions, TV vox-pops, and whatever people in power imagine it is. Climate change’s deprioritisation reflects the reality politicians are not under pressure from public opinion to address it. There is probably a variety of complex psychological, sociological, economic, and political reasons that could tell us how and why how we’re arrived at point. I am going to suggest some reasons for this shift by applying Foucault to my PhD research data. (more…)
Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/12/ethan_couch_affluenza_defense_critique_of_the_psychology_of_no_consequences.html
The prosecution of 16 year old Ethan Couch has garnered considerable media attention in the past two weeks. Couch was accused of killing four pedestrians while high on valium and under the influence of alcohol. With a truck full of friends, Couch crashed into a group of pedestrians. The outcry from this case is twofold. First, Couch’s defense attorney argued that he could not be held fully responsible for his actions because he suffered from “affluenza.” Second, this defense worked and Couch was found guilty but only sentenced to 10 years under correctional probation. Couch, 16, was sentenced to 10 years under correctional probation for his actions. Couch never denied his actions, rather his defense argued that Couch’s dysfunctional upbringing was the reason for his actions and he deserves therapy over incarceration. (more…)
Black Friday shoppers at WalMart
The holiday season is officially upon us as thousands of individuals woke up early on this Black Friday to score the best deals of the season. This time of year brings joy to the hearts of many, but also exposes one of the greatest contradictions in American society. Along with the excitement of holiday shopping and purchasing a 50 inch TV for half-price, this time of year is also supposed to be about giving. From Thanksgiving through Christmas more people volunteer and donate food and/or money than any other time of year. In 2012, to combat the popularity of consumption during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, more and more people are participating in Giving Tuesday (the day after Cyber Monday), a day to give to those in need. While we can certainly see the merits and benefits of giving a toy to a child who has none or a coat to someone who is cold, we should also ask ourselves why charity is needed in the first place and why charity is so intimately linked with consumption. (more…)
The wide world of sports has had a bad week for public relations. First, the Miami Dolphins hazing fiasco occurred, which was analyzed by my colleague Cliff Leak in “Man up: NFL Hazing and Jonathan Martin’s ‘Man Card’.” Next, the Atlanta Braves announced they would be vacating Turner Field, their stadium of 17 years, to move into a new stadium in 2017. The Braves are leaving downtown Atlanta to move North to the suburbs in Cobb County. The Atlanta Braves move is particularly surprising because they are leaving a relatively new stadium and they are taking baseball to the suburbs, making it difficult for the lower class to enjoy a game. But the real issue with the Braves’ move is associated with their reason to move. The Atlanta Braves organization is moving because the city of Atlanta will not provide taxpayer money to upgrade the current stadium. The Atlanta Braves are the latest team, owned by millionaires or billionaires, to threaten to move or actually move if the taxpayer does not provide them with a new home. (more…)
How close are we to the dystopian world outlined in 1984? Following on from my colleague bschaefer’s article ‘Volunteering for surveillance: Consumerism, fear of crime, and the loss of privacy’, this article discusses the latest challenges to our consumer privacy rights.
The concept of surveillance raises significant social questions, especially in relation to how far technologies constitute an unacceptable degree of intrusion into our private lives. This week Tesco announced their plans to introduce targeted advertising through facial recognition technologies to all 450 of its UK based petrol stations. The OptimEyes screen, developed by Lord Alan Sugar’s company Amscreen, scans the eyes of customers to determine specified categories of age and gender before running tailored advertisements. Although most of us in advanced western states are already subject to a vast array of data collection fuelled by the desire to obtain our interconnected life experiences information. This latest attempt to monitor and influence our consumer behaviour automatically sets a number of alarm bells ringing, namely to do with the social issues of surveillance, in particular power relations, spaces, and categorisations. (more…)
The recent contention over the United States budget has pitted the Democrats against Republicans and in doing so has hardened political ideologies for many but has also opened the minds of many to the hypocrisy of Congress. One central narrative in this battle is whether citizens should continue to receive entitlement programs such as Social Security or be allowed to get health care under the Affordable Care Act. The right considers anyone in poverty as lazy and handouts as a disincentive to work. Narratives were abound regarding individuals who are perceived as undeserving of healthcare and that people need to work for a living in order to receive healthcare. Fox News went so far as too post a horrifically misrepresented graph suggesting that more Americans receive benefits than work. Of course the graph is extremely flawed with contradictory measures for those that receive benefits and those that work, and the Y axis makes the difference appear greater than what it is. The notion that Americans can pick themselves up by the boot straps and make something for themselves is a sensationalized myth at this point in time. The reality is that it is difficult to win the economic race when you are not even allowed on the track. The 99% moniker of the Occupy movement is indicative of the gap between the rich and the poor, and the difference between the rich and the poor cannot be whittled down to work ethic. Rather, income inequality is a product of social structures that exploit the working class. (more…)