We’ve Got Issues: A Weekly News & Politics Column

This week I want to start by thanking all the individuals and websites (including our very own site) that participated in the internet blackout. Last week, all kinds of forces on the internet helped send a strong message to out of touch politicians that censorship of the web would not be tolerated.  If only people made their voices heard the way that they did on the day of the internet blackout, the world could be a much better place.

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Internet Blackout

What web users around the world witnessed on Wednesday, Jan 18 was unlike anything else in the history of the internet. The day of protest, which featured few real life protests but lots of internet buzz saw prominent websites like Wikipedia and Google come together to protest congressional plans for a vote on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Google blacked out its logo and Wikipedia users were prevented from using the website’s English encyclopedia, instead seeing this message urging users to join in protesting the bill.Both websites and many others, including Reddit, helped raise awareness of the bill, and discussion of SOPA reached a critical mass on Twitter, where more than 2.4 million legislation related tweets were posted between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. It remains to be seen whether Congress will introduce similar bills in the future, but for the time being it looks like SOPA has been defeated, with 18 senators having withdrawn their support for the bill.

Colbert and Herman Cain

Politics makes for strange bedfellows.  There seems to be no better way to explain a South Carolina rally featuring Stephen Colbert and Herman Cain side by side.  Stephen Colbert has gotten his hands dirty with politics, by exploring the idea of a presidential run and starting his own Super PAC, (officially called “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow”) which is now run by fellow satirical news anchor Jon Stewart.  Colbert was unable to have his name included on the ballot in South Carolina, so he instead urged voters all the rally to give their vote to Cain, who, despite having exited the Republican primaries, is still featured on the state’s ballot.  In what has been a campaign season full of bickering and fear-mongering (come to think of it, what election season isn’t full of both things?), seeing Colbert dance and Herman Cain sing (not his first time doing so, by any means) offers a pleasant distraction.

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The Republicans Primaries

Like most news junkies, I enjoy reading a good election story.  The drama is addictive, and, like a novel or a movie, over the course of nearly two years, major themes and quotes come to color the campaign season.  John Kerry’s “flip flopping.”  Barack Obama’s “Muslim faith.”  Sarah Palin’s claim that she could “see Russia from her window” (a quote which was falsely attributed to the governor and instead can be traced to Tina Fey’s imitation of her).  But this year’s Republican primaries have devolved from an exciting roller coaster of poll numbers into a predictable path for Romney to win his party’s nomination.  The most interesting characters in the race — Perry, Cain, Bachmann — have all ended their campaigns.  And at this point, Ron Paul, no matter what his supporters say, has little to no chance of winning. Besides the upset by Newt Gingrich in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, it appears relatively certain that Romney, who leads second place contender Gingrich by 10% nationally, will win the nomination.  This makes me feel that all the money and energy being pumped into the Republican primaries is, well…a big waste.  The Republicans may as nominate Romney and already begin their national campaign against Barack Obama.

iPad Textbooks

Maybe I’m a little old fashioned, but this week’s announcement by Apple that they would start offering textbooks on iPads left me somewhat wary.  Sure, textbooks are heavy and can easily get dusty and dirty.  But the idea of releasing textbooks on the iPad hinges on teachers using the devices in their schools.  I see two problems with this.  The first is that by using these devices in schools, the learning experience will be heavily mediated by the experience of using an Apple product.  Schools have had computers in the classroom for decades now.  But the downloading of interactive textbooks exclusively onto iPads suggests a more integral role for the device in teachers’ curricula, which will now be controlled by Apple: the company will choose which textbooks are offered.  The second problem is that the amount of time that kids spend in front of screens has been increasing.  With students growing up spending hour upon hour on computers, mobile phones and tablets, a little time using paper and engaging with real materials could be beneficial.  Electronics and the internet will continue to revolutionize classroom learning, but this does not mean that they have to dominate it.

Until next time, enjoy surfing our precious, uncensored web of information

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