Sirota appeared on CNN’s “The Lead” to discuss the new National Geographic miniseries about the 1990s. Sirota was a consultant on the series and appeared in it. Watch the CNN interview.
Sirota appeared on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show to discuss his reporting on a pension scandal involving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Click here to watch the clip.
Credit where credit is due: Conservative activists, business groups and politicians such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have successfully sold the idea that public pensions are unsustainable.
In their mythology, greedy government workers are bankrupting states and pension-slashing politicians are saving the day. But there’s a big problem with this: It is inaccurate.
States do confront a $757 billion pension funding gap. But this gap was created mostly by losses associated with the 2008 Wall Street collapse, not by unsustainable benefits.
Dissecting media bias is now a lucrative cottage industry in American politics. From Media Matters to the Media Research Center, there are multimillion-dollar think tanks whose entire mission is to prove that the media serves one of the political parties, and unduly persecutes the other.
Let’s just state up front that it is certainly true that Democratic and Republican party biases exist in the corners of the mediascape that are explicitly partisan—places like talk radio and party-aligned cable television, to name a couple. It is also true that polls suggest this niche media’s effort to recast every political issue as a purely red-versus-blue affair has unfortunately helped convince more Americans to base their own positions purely on party affiliation rather than on principle. And it is true that because of its affinity for shock, spectacle and sensationalism, hyper-partisan media outlets get lots of residual media attention, which ends up depicting these outlets as far more significant cultural forces than they actually are.
Back in 1982, the Violent Femmes urged a generation not to get so distressed about something being put on our permanent records. To the band’s young followers, it was a comforting reminder that for all the vice principal’s rage and all of the demerits in our file, most of our elementary school antics, tween outbursts, and adolescent trouble-making probably wouldn’t condemn us to an adulthood of suffering and punishment.
But, then, that was before the rise of Big Data—before the era when “permanent” went from a somewhat figurative to a truly literal description of our personal information. Yes, today because they are electronic, our records are truly permanent. They live in perpetuity and in a forever searchable state. And with data storage costs continuing to drop, the marginal price of indefinitely keeping them is no longer prohibitive. That brings up a big moral question: Is it OK to subject even young children to this brave new world by creating permanent records of their behavior that can electronically follow them for their entire lives?
Becoming a guinea pig is the unspoken consequence of living in this, the second Industrial Revolution. Whereas the human guinea pigs in the first Industrial Revolution were indiscriminately subjected to new chemical compounds and air pollutants from recently built factories, we are immersed in new light wavelengths, electromagnetic clouds, radiation, and pathogens.
Those previous guinea pigs were calmed by cheery slogans like “Better Living Through Chemistry” while we are pacified by the existence of alphabet-soup agencies like the FCC, FDA and USDA. But while regulators are certainly more reassuring than empty corporate slogans, it doesn’t change the fact that the long-term impacts of new technologies can only be determined over time. And that means whole populations become test subjects—whether they choose to participate or not.