Net Neutrality: A Win for the Open Internet

Net Neutrality has been a hot topic recently, and with good reason. Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a new net neutrality policy that will help keep the Internet openly available to all.

The Open Internet Order helps to decide an essential question about how the Internet works, requiring service providers to be a neutral gateway instead of handling different types of Internet traffic in different ways — and at different costs. (NPR)

Essentially, this will prevent Internet Service Providers like Verizon, Time Warner Cable, etc., from being allowed to restrict internet speeds or block certain content from users. It also means that the Internet will be treated like a public utility. A nice quote from an NY Times article sums it up pretty nicely, in that “no content is blocked and that the Internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for Internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else.” 

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WordStream.com

The 2 Republicans voting against the policy claim that these regulations are unnecessary and are “likely to deter investment, undermine innovation and ultimately harm consumers.” Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t follow that logic. I believe that the Internet is a public good which should be available to everyone. Taking regulatory steps to ensure that it is treated as such and is not exploited by huge private corporations isn’t going to stop people from continued innovation. Free speech and open access to the Internet is frankly more important than some theoretical opinion that this will hurt businesses.

I’m pretty sure Verizon will be okay – I’m more concerned about that puzzled little YouTube face over there up on the right and hoping we never actually see a message like that.

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Social Commentary from the Oscars

It seemed like every other acceptance speech at this year’s Oscars involved some sort of social/political commentary. Some commentators are wondering if it might be the most politically-charged Oscars ceremony ever. Which makes sense as it seems like every year acceptance speeches at these award shows are becoming more and more political. And they aren’t always out of place either – most of the time the topics are related to themes portrayed in their respective work. Issues of civil rights and race, equal pay, sexual orientation, immigration, treason, mental and physical health, to name a few. 

While some may be put off by the bombardment of these political messages, to me it seems like a pretty important indication of the state of the world today. Here we have a group of people being honored for their work in entertainment, and they choose to use that time in the spotlight to highlight and bring awareness to meaningful issues. Personally, I don’t think we have enough discussions exploring these problems – so more power to them if these actors and actresses get us talking. And raising awareness is a great use for that celebrity status.

And probably the most moving speech of the night, Graham Moore’s stay weird.

Hopefully these speeches are an indication of what’s to come in the future – more and more people talking about all these important issues.

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Oklahoma Thinks AP US History “Unpatriotic”

Earlier this week, a committee within the Oklahoma state House of Representatives voted to approve a bill that would stop funding AP US History courses unless the curriculum is changed. Republicans in favor of the bill are claiming that the APUSH curriculum promotes a “consistently negative view of American history.” They are saying that students are learning “unpatriotic” things in their history courses that make the US look bad, and they are trying to take away funding from schools in order to get their way. Is it just me, or does that seem crazy?

The whole point of education is to broaden your perspectives and be exposed to new ideas. Why would we ever try to limit the education of future generations by picking and choosing what they are allowed to learn? And how would we determine what is “safe” to learn? Bills like this only perpetuate the global stereotype of the dumb American and continue to fuel our decline in education ranking worldwide (where, by the way, our high-schoolers weren’t even among the top-20 nations in 2013).

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Dumb Questions We Ask Women

This week’s Parks and Recreation episode (“Pie-Mary”) played on a very timely topic relating to today’s media culture – the absurd questions that we ask female celebrities. In the episode, Amy Poehler’s character is constantly bombarded by the media criticizing her for not behaving in a way that they feel a political candidate’s wife should behave. Not only are they often stupid questions or comments, but they are usually not presented to their male counterparts. Things like:

What are you wearing?

How do you balance work and being a mother?

What’s your workout routine?

etc. . .

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Masculinity According to Superbowl Ads

Let’s face it, sometimes the Superbowl advertisements are more entertaining than the game itself (although this year was nice enough to give us an entertaining game with a shocking finish). And nearly every single ad still seems to be marketed towards men, even though the audience has been split nearly 50/50 even back in 2012.

These ads provide us with a very interesting look into how men and masculinity are portrayed in the media during one of the year’s most popular television events. Unfortunately, even today we still see big name companies resorting to tired tropes of what it means to “be a man.”

Early on in the game, we’re presented with an ad from Chevy, showing a group of women claiming that a man standing next to a truck is sexier and more desirable than that same man standing next to a sedan.

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The “Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp” Defense

In case you haven’t seen the latest politician doing mental gymnastics to try and defend their anti-gay marriage stance, here is a link to Republican Mike Huckabee comparing marriage equality with forcing Jews to serve “bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli.” Earlier this week Huckabee claimed that:

“We’re so sensitive to make sure we don’t offend certain religions, but then we act like Christians can’t have the convictions that they have had for over 2,000 years.”

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Guinness: An Encouraging Portrayal of Masculinity

When you think of beer commercials, there are probably a few stereotypical themes that come to mind, most of which reinforce a narrow definition of what it means to be a successful man in our culture. Guinness, however, recently came out with a new commercial for their beer, which, contrary to many typical beer commercials, is actually promoting a more genuine and healthy display of masculinity.

In their new ad, we see a group of guys playing a competitive game of wheelchair basketball (yes, the sports/competition theme is still present). But we soon see the game end, and all but one of the guys gets up out of their chair while making their way out of the gym. Cut to a shot of the guys at a bar while the voice-over states that, “The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.” They were aware of the needs of one of their friends and took extra effort in order to include everyone in their game.

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Trouble in Syria

It has been nearly two weeks since the chemical weapons attack in Syria. According to a BBC article, many Western nations such as the United States, France, and Britain believe that the Syrian government is responsible for the attacks, while other nations like Russia (and possibly China) claim that the attack was the fault of Syrian rebel groups. What is certain, however, is that hundreds, if not thousands, of people have died as a result, including many children.

Courtesy of StarTribune

What seems to be so frightening to the world is not that countless numbers of people killed during Syria’s Civil War, but the introduction and use of chemical weapons. Not to say that the world should overlook all the innocent people who have died previously, but the use of chemical weapons is certainly a turning point that demands a response from the global community.

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A Living Wage in Capitalism

As I now find myself out of school and looking for full-time work, certain issues, especially those revolving around the economy, have taken on a more personal significance for me. Just finding a job can be hard enough, let alone trying to find one that pays enough to live on. In 2011, the US Census Bureau stated that 15% of Americans, or 46.2 million people, live in poverty. That is a huge number of people. (Here is a link to what the National Poverty Centers classifies as poverty.)

One of the problems I see here is that even though someone may have a job, there is no guarantee that job will pay enough for them to live on. This concept of the living wage and its absence is part of the issue in this widening gap between rich and poor in our country. Today, however, I came across an article that discussed fast food workers organizing together to strike in hopes of bumping their wages up to $15 per hour (double the $7.25/hour minimum wage in New York). The strike involves thousands of fast food workers and is taking place throughout 60 cities across the country.

But will they get what they want? Probably not.

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Right to Life Hypocrisy

For me, there have always been a number of issues in politics that tend to draw in hypocrites – abortion and women’s freedom over their bodies has been a big one in particular. Thankfully, I am not the only one bothered by this. Last year, a segment aired on The Daily Show that discussed the prospective Oklahoma Personhood Act (basically a bill that would grant embryos full rights as people, and ultimately failed to pass).

During an interview on this segment, Democratic State Senator Constance Johnson talked about how she proposed an amendment to this act outlawing the depositing of sperm anywhere other than a woman’s vagina. She argued that, “If we’re talking about protecting life, then let’s talk about life at its very basic beginning.” Seems fair.

Enter Ralph Shortey, Replublican State Senator for Oklahoma. Shortey responded to Johnson’s amendment with the following:

I think the Johnson Amendment is an egregious attack on personal liberties from the government. And quite frankly it’s embarrassing that this was even brought up because it’s a ridiculous notion. One, it would be a huge free choice issue. Basically, the government is telling a man what he can and cannot do with his body.

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