Smartphones are heavily used for checking social media, taking pictures, and playing games. Now it appears that they are also being used to increase our health and wellness. The Pacific Standard website has an interesting article about a new app for those who have survived heart attacks. The app reduces those patients’ hospital re-admission rates, which creates the potential to save lives, improve outcomes, and reduce expenses. Hopefully many more apps like this are in development!

In a recent Pacific Standard article — “How to Immunize Yourself Against Fake News” — author Tom Jacobs argues, “it’s imperative that citizens become more media savvy, and learn to distinguish between authentic information and dubious material designed to sow discord.” The articles discusses, a new online game that invites users to assume the role of a fake news disseminator. “This gives users insight into both the mindset of such propagandists, and the techniques they use,” Jacobs notes.  A pilot study of the game played by 95 high school students in the Netherlands produced encouraging results. Hopefully other studies will provide confirmation!

The new movie Black Panther is breaking records at the box office, and generating lots of commentary online. The article that has most resonated with me is “Why ‘Black Panther’ is a Defining Moment for Black America.” Author Carvell Wallace begins with “the Grand Lake Theater — the kind of old-time movie house with cavernous ceilings and ornate crown moldings — is one place I take my kids to remind us that we belong to Oakland, Calif. Whenever there is a film or community event that has meaning for this town, the Grand Lake is where you go to see it.” My wife, mother-in-law, and I saw the movie at the Grand Lake Theater the day after it was released. The jam-packed multicultural crowd roared when the opening scene was identified as being set in Oakland, and many other scenes generated thunderous applause. I experienced the movie again the next day at a special screening for SJSU students. I’ll probably go view the movie a third time soon!

Carvell begins the analysis of the movie by contrasting it with earlier films with Black superheroes, which were either comedies or action films with the hero’s blackness being incidental.

Black Panther, by contrast, is steeped very specifically and purposefully in its blackness. “It’s the first time in a very long time that we’re seeing a film with centered black people, where we have a lot of agency,” says Jamie Broadnax, the founder of Black Girl Nerds, a pop-culture site focused on sci-fi and comic-book fandoms. These characters, she notes, “are rulers of a kingdom, inventors and creators of advanced technology. We’re not dealing with black pain, and black suffering, and black poverty” — the usual topics of acclaimed movies about the black experience.

“Black Panther is a Hollywood movie,” Carvell continues, “and Wakanda is a fictional nation. But coming when they do, from a director like Coogler, they must also function as a place for multiple generations of black Americans to store some of our most deeply held aspirations.” The movie sits squarely in the Afrofuturism artistic movement:

Afrofuturism, a decidedly black creation, is meant to go far beyond the limitations of the white imagination. It isn’t just the idea that black people will exist in the future, will use technology and science, will travel deep into space. It is the idea that we will have won the future. There exists, somewhere within us, an image in which we are whole, in which we are home. Afrofuturism is, if nothing else, an attempt to imagine what that home would be. Black Panther cannot help being part of this.

Carvell closes with “we hold one another as a family because we must be a family in order to survive. Our individual successes and failures belong, in a perfectly real sense, to all of us. That can be for good or ill. But when it is good, it is very good. It is sunlight and gold on vast African mountains, it is the shining splendor of the Wakandan warriors poised and ready to fight, it is a collective soul as timeless and indestructible as vibranium. And with this love we seek to make the future ours, by making the present ours. We seek to make a place where we belong.” Indeed!


February 14 is recognized around the world as Valentine’s Day to celebrate romance and romantic love. It’s also International Quirkyalone Day (IQD), “a celebration of romance, freedom and individuality. It celebrates true romance (as opposed to the fake versions presented to us in reality dating shows), independence, creativity, friendship and all kinds of love,” according to a blog post by IQD founder Sasha Cagen. Read the blog post for more information about a wonderful alternative to the more traditional celebration that causes so many people angst. Happy Quirkyalone Day!

The Urban Institute recently released a report about how three million Americans are disconnected from higher education. The report notes, “this study demonstrates what many Native Americans, rural Americans, and other Americans living in education deserts already knew: the internet has not untethered all of us from our geographic location. As long as broadband access depends on geography, place still plays an important role in access to higher education.” There is still a lot of work left in closing the digital divide.

The Pacific Standard website has published a fascinating story about using data to help migrants find work. In the article the authors of a Science magazine article are interviewed; they discuss their study of applying an artificial intelligence algorithm to analyze historical data to predict where to best settle refugees upon their arrival in a new country. The authors note,

Refugee policies, like immigration policies generally, are dominated by ideology rather than sound evidence. We haven’t seen a lot of innovations in this space. Cash assistance, language instruction, training programs: These turn out to be very expensive and difficult to scale. The nice thing is, from a policy perspective, [using artificial intelligence algorithms] doesn’t really cost you anything more. It’s just a smarter way of doing the allocation. Rather than doing it in a haphazard, quasi-random fashion, as we’re doing it right now, we might as well do it in a more data-driven way, where we send people to the places they’re more likely to succeed.


Amazon Books editors have chosen a list of 100 books to read in a lifetime. I’ve only read half of them. Over spring break I’ll have to lock myself in a room and catch up…

Today (January 16, 2018) is the second annual National Day of Racial Healing (NDORH). The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) asked colleges and universities across the country to engage in activities, events, and/or strategies that promote healing and foster engagement around the issues of racism, bias, inequity, and injustice in U.S. and/or global societies. The AACU&U notes, “this is an opportunity for people and organizations to come together in their common humanity and take collective action to create a more just and equitable world.” NDORH is an initiative in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) effort, a national community-based process to promote transformational and sustainable change that addresses historical and contemporary effects of racism. We did not plan any NDORH activities in the College of Social Sciences this year; that will have to change next year.

Last week on San José State’s campus Sociology Professor Scott Myers-Lipton spoke at a Martin Luther Luther King, Jr. commemoration about “The Kingian Legacy For Today.” Today on MLK Day I thought that it would be appropriate to reproduce Professor Myers-Lipton’s speech as a blog post.

The Kingian Legacy For Today
by Scott Myers-Lipton

I teach a class here at San Jose State on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. During this class, we trace the events of Dr. King’s life from the bus boycott of Montgomery to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC where he spoke of his dream, to the slums in Chicago where he lived for a time, from Marks, Mississippi, which was to be the starting point for King’s Poor Peoples Campaign, to Memphis, where he went to support garbage workers, and sadly, tragically, where he was murdered.

As you can imagine, Martin’s journey and struggle to build a just society is rich and full of incredible stories of bravery, courage, and sacrifice, and it easily fills up the 30 class sessions over a 4-month semester. Unfortunately, we don’t have 30 class sessions to talk about why Dr. King’s legacy is so critical for us today. I only have 10 minutes, so I will keep it brief, but hopefully memorable.

Let me start by saying that some intellectuals are Marxists, others are Weberian…as for me, I am a Kingian! I am a Kingian because I think Dr. King has the correct analysis of American society, the correct solutions, and the correct method to bring his solutions into being.

First, let me explain King’s analysis of American society. King’s analysis of the US was that racism, economic exploitation, and militarism were inter-related problems that undermined the Beloved Community. King called these 3 inter-related problems “the Giant Triplets” or the triple evils. King would state that, “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the ‘giant triplets’ of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are incapable of being conquered”.

To see how King saw how economic exploitation and racism were interconnected, King argued that there was a “curious formula”, which dated back to the writing of the U.S. Constitution, which defined a black person as 60% of a human being when determining taxation and representation. Martin would say that this “curious formula” still existed in his times, but it declared Blacks 50% of a person since of the good things in life, Blacks had approximately 1/2 of those of Whites. Of the bad things, Blacks had twice those of Whites.

Now, some people today claim that we live in a color-blind or a post-racial society but I am here today, as a Kingian, to say that the relationship between racism and economic exploitation still exists in these United States, as the “curious formula” still describes today’s America. For example, in 1968, the year King was murdered, the unemployment rate was 5% for Whites and 10% for Blacks. Today: White unemployment is 3.4%, while Black unemployment is 7%. In 1968, 10% of Whites lived in poverty compared to 35% African Americans (a bit more than 3x as much poverty). Today, 8.8% of Whites live in poverty compared to 22.8% African Americans (a bit less than 3x). And right here, in Santa Clara County, the Infant Mortality Rate–widely accepted as an accurate indicator of general health– is 2.9% for Whites and 7% for Blacks while median household income is $101,000 for Whites and $60,000 for Blacks (almost 2x).

As I stated earlier, I am a Kingian, because his analysis of U.S. problems, and the tools that he gave us to analyze it, are still accurate today. King’s “curious formula” gives us an important conceptual tool to understand the interconnection between racism and economic exploitation.

But Dr. King didn’t stop at the relationship between racism and economic exploitation. He also saw how both were connected to militarism. For King, militarism was an ideology and framework of action based on large military spending and a willingness to use the military to protect the economic interests of the elite. When speaking of militarism, and its connection to racism and poverty, Dr. King said, “A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will thingify them—make them things. Therefore, they will exploit them, and poor people generally, economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have foreign investments and everything else, and will have to use its military to protect them. All of these problems are tied together.”

I believe that Dr. King would look at today’s military spending, which in 2018 will be $824 billion dollars, and he would question why we are spending so much when the US government spends just $50 billion on low-income housing assistance, or $70 Billion on food for low-income families. As King stated, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

So to be a Kingian, we must embrace King’s analysis of the problem, and at the heart of his analysis are the Giant Triplets and the Curious Formula. But to be a Kingian also means to embrace King’s solutions to America’s problems, which means we need to implement an Economic Bill of Rights. Dr. King had concluded that American Capitalism was flawed since it did not provide enough living wage jobs for its people. King called the historic 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voter Rights Act superficial changes, since they had done little to change the economic conditions of Black Americans. King said that that the movement needed to evolve from Civil Rights to Human Rights.

In response, King proclaimed: “Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. For we know now, that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at the swankest integrated restaurant when he doesn’t even earn enough money to take his wife out to dine? What does it profit one to have access to the hotels of our cities, and the hotels of our highways, when we don’t earn enough money to take our family on a vacation?”

King felt that the best solution to solve the problems caused by racism and economic exploitation was an Economic Bill of Rights. First put forward by President Franklin Roosevelt in his State of the Union Address in 1944, an Economic Bill of Rights is composed of several important economic rights, most importantly, the right to a job, the right to a living wage, and the right to housing. In his last book, Dr. King argued that we needed a contemporary Economic Bill of Rights to supplement the Constitution’s Political Bill of Rights.”

In an article published 8 days after his assassination, King stated, “We need an Economic Bill of Rights. “This would guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work. It would also guarantee an income for all who are not able to work.” In fact, the demands for full-employment through a massive public works program, a guaranteed income at middle-class levels and the creation of 5 million low-income homes were the 3 demands of King’s Poor People’s Campaign that was about to start when he was assassinated.

Today, 43 million people are living in poverty. In California, 23% of Blacks live in poverty, and 19% of Latinos, compared to 10% white. The “curious formula” still exists, and thus, King’s demand for an Economic Bill of Rights is still the correct solution to our nations problems.

Finally, King had the correct method to bring about change. Of course, we all know that King was dedicated to non-violence. But more of us must become knowledgeable about how King focused his non-violent actions on targets to create an environment that allowed for change to take place.

On a personal note, this is what I have dedicated the past decade to. Understanding the “change process”, so as to take the policy ideas that SJSU students have, and to help the students implement them. The title of my new book, Change, A Student Guide to Social Action, has just been released, and it explores how SJSU students have won 12 campaigns in my Social Action class from the minimum wage campaign, to getting air conditioning in Dudley Moorhead Hall, and from getting more printers here at the MLK Library to the student’s most recent victory, which was to get President Papazian to join the Workers Rights Consortium, which will guarantee that our SJSU apparel is not made in sweatshops. Importantly, the book provides a non-violent framework, strategies and tactics on how to bring about change. I tell my friends that the book is Kingian, with a feminist flair!

In conclusion, King’s call to us is clear: we need to engage people in a massive assault on poverty, racism, and militarism by implementing an Economic Bill of Rights, and paying for it by reducing our military spending. I encourage you to become engaged in this great Kingian work!

The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) website recently posted a chart on the 2018 College and University Rankings for Federal Social and Behavioral Science Research & Development funding. Covering fiscal year 2016, San José State ranks 22nd on the list of combined federal research and development expenditures for social sciences, psychology, law, communications, and social work. This is ahead of our neighboring research powerhouses, Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley. We have amazing researchers on the faculty!