Russia and Saudi Arabia, due to an agreement brokered by the major oil producing countries to cut global oil production, appear to be largely responsible for a steady decline in global crude supplies and subsequent uptick in fuel prices. Because the need for transportation makes gasoline and diesel fuel a necessity, rising prices tend to hurt the wallets of average consumers. Lacking a nationwide public transportation system, gasoline-powered vehicles offer Americans a sense of freedom and empowerment, thus a rise in gasoline prices is particularly enraging to Americans. Donald Trump’s so-called oil rant certainly plays into those sentiments, even if the oil industry receives such price increases as positive developments. Clearly, perception plays a big role in how shifts in energy prices are received and analyzed, but what actually matters is the real world consequences.
Debating Authorization for Use of Military Force: Congress Needs To Provide Real Oversight of the Military and Executive Branch
The US military is both the strongest war power in the world and one of the more influential economic players in the global economy. It, along with the US national security apparatus, fall under the command of the US President while the actions of the US military are supposed to be constrained by the US Congress. Since the Cold War and the rise of the United State as the world’s only superpower, however, Congressional oversight has waned. While the US military’s budget has steadily grown and the US has become increasingly involved in a rising number of conflicts, Congress has ceded more and more of its oversight authority to the President. Politicians do, however, periodically raise concerns over whether or not Congress should afford the President such broad powers, which is happening now with the potential passage of a new bill.
Long before the Information Technology Age established a firm grip on the world, math and science students of all ages, abused calculators in their quest to finish their homework as quickly as possible. Generations of children and young adults would punch numbers into their calculators then jot down whatever was displayed on the screen. The sight of a student using a calculator was a pet peeve for most STEM teachers. These educators used calculators and other mathematical aids themselves, but they used them as tools. They knew how to do the math without the calculators and they knew how to use the calculator to arrive at a correct answer. Today, a “hello, Google,” or a “hey Cortana,” or maybe a quick “Siri,” or “Alexa,” will deliver an immediate answer to pretty much any question, but human nature alone dictates this technology is being abused just as calculators have always been.
The internet has become a target of government. Events, including the passage of FOSTA-SESTA and the Congressional testimony of Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, signal a shift away from US government’s liberal treatment of the internet. In practical terms, this likely means increased regulation of the world wide web through the regulation of technology companies. Because US citizens enjoy broad Constitutional protections, including the right to free speech and freedom of expression, the US government will be limited in what action it can take against US citizens, though public officials are likely to test how far individual protections extend into the cyberworld. Because there is no international bill of civil rights, the US government will be free to impose penalties, such as targeted sanctions, against foreigners who run afoul of US interests. For other governments, how they treat their citizens and foreigners will depend on their laws, but the US government’s move to shape internet regulation will certainty inspire them to take greater regulatory action.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before a joint session of the US Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees, as well as his appearance before the US House Energy and Commerce Committee, shined a light on the dark side of social media. Although Zuckerberg’s testimony was a result of the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, which involved the for-profit misuse of data from nearly 100 million Facebook users, the occasion was an opportunity for political leaders to directly and publicly interact with an internet leader. It was also a rare occasion for a leader of a largely unregulated industry to meet with policymakers seeking solutions to emerging social issues created by information technology. It is an interaction that should happen on a regular basis in order to foster a meaningful discussion between technologists, social scientists, policymakers, legal experts, and all those who have insights to offer.
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