Category Archives: Economy

Three Cheers for Financial Repression

By Tom Streithorst – “Financial repression.” It sounds terrifying, right? It smacks of authoritarian bureaucrats sucking the life-blood out of hard-working, innovative makers and doers.

Umm, no. That’s not even close. It’s about bondholders. Economists started using the term in the 1970s when bondholders were losing money because inflation exceeded the interest rate.

These days, it’s market forces more than government policy that push real interest rates below zero. Whether you call it a savings glut or secular stagnation, our collective desire to save far exceeds our collective desire to invest. Savers want safe assets more than borrowers want to invest in productive capacity.

Don’t cry for the rentier class. For the past forty years (ever since Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker manufactured a brutal recession in order to eliminate 1970s inflation) economic policymakers have concentrated on ensuring the profitability of the bond market more than just about anything else. They focused their attention on financial stability and low inflation rather than the traditional goal of promoting full employment.

Consequently, the financial sector has quadrupled in size relative to the rest of the economy, the rich absorb most of the benefits of growth, and workers’ real wages have stagnated or even declined. Financialization has made wealthholders richer than ever, but it hasn’t done much for the rest of us.

What is good for the bankers has not been good for the economy as a whole. more>


America has a broken political system our leaders need to fix

By Former Rep. Tom Ridge (R-Pa.) and Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) – According to a recent poll by the American Psychological Association, the future of the country is a significant source of anxiety for nearly two-thirds of Americans.

We elect leaders to place country above party, address the most critical issues plaguing the nation and prevent future crisis from taking root. But Washington needs to face the facts: The political system itself is broken, wearing down too many leaders with endless fundraising demands and turning the job of elected representative into a never-ending campaign whose purpose is to vilify the other party. We used to have to arrange schedules around fundraisers for senators. It was considered the exception, and now it is the rule.

Leadership in Congress focuses more on the capacity of lawmakers to raise money, rather than their policy expertise and merit on legislative issues. The political parties and system supporting them have come to care more about majorities in the legislative branch than governing.

Our experience tells us that if America lacks the will and moral strength to elect leaders who will repair the divisions in the country, then dysfunction in government will continue to be the greatest threat facing the nation. Our leadership on the global stage will diminish. Democracy as a way of life, and the freedoms only it can offer, will suffer. We must strengthen our bonds, not deepen our divisions. more>


Four things that matter more than the Paris Agreement

In a new report, “Undiplomatic Action: A practical guide to the new politics and geopolitics of climate change,” David Victor and Bruce Jones write:

“Without confidence in new technologies and the policy and investment support that follows from that confidence, even the most advanced and elaborated global diplomatic agreements can only produce an ever-wider chasm between stated goals and realistically achievable outcomes.”

They contend that “real world” actions on the ground, not global goals, will drive energy transitions at the local level and in the private sector.

In the paper, they outline four key factors they believe matter even more than the global agreement:

  1. Facilitate leadership through small groups
  2. Focus on near-term emissions reductions
  3. Invest in technological innovation
  4. Demonstrate success and enable better governance


Source: Four things that matter more than the Paris Agreement


Updates from GE

Leading The Charge: As Battery Storage Sweeps The World, GE Finds Its Place In The Sun
By Tomas Kellner – The “duck curve” has two distinct peaks — one in the morning and the other after sunset — connected by a sagging belly pulled down by the deluge of renewable energy generated by the millions of solar panels sprinkled across California’s roofs and fields.

On a sunny Sunday, this glut of input could even lead to oversupply, a situation where wholesale energy prices drop so much that producers pay utilities to take their energy.

The problem reverses when the sun sinks into the Pacific. Power producers must quickly crank up their plants – many of them burning gas or coal – to replace those missing solar electrons with 11,000 megawatts to keep the state’s homes and businesses humming.

“The peak for solar power generation is at noon,” says Eric Gebhardt, vice president of strategic technology for GE Power. “What if you could store this energy and release it six hours later when the sun goes down and people come home, start cooking dinner and watch TV?” Gebhardt asks.

That’s precisely the point of GE’s Reservoir, a new grid-scale energy storage system the company unveiled today. The grid has to be perfectly balanced, meaning that power supply and demand match, to prevent it from crashing.

The Reservoir will allow producers to “decouple when energy is produced and when it is consumed,” Gebhardt says. “Without it, if you have too much solar during the day, the only option you have is to curtail production.”

The rise of the electric car unleashed innovation in the battery space, and the spread of solar power has brought costs down 50 percent over the last four years, says Keith Longtin, product breakout leader at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, New York. “You are now getting to a point where energy storage starts to make sense,” he says. more>


Updates from Ciena

What is Fiber Densification?
By Helen Xenos – The term “network densification” is being used more often in relation to wireless network deployments, and more recently, “fiber densification” has become a hot a topic of discussion. So, what exactly is densification?

Densification simply describes the goal or end state of supporting more capacity within the same area or footprint. It is borne from the need of network providers to not only keep up with the increase in bandwidth demand they are seeing, but also grow their competitive edge in delivering a better end user experience for their customers.

Cable or Multi-Service Operators (MSOs) are undergoing a multi-year upgrade of their Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC) access infrastructure. To provide a better quality of experience to subscribers, they are delivering higher capacity to smaller groups of homes and pushing fiber closer to the edge of the network.

HFC Fiber nodes, which on average service 500 homes per node, are being replaced with 10 to 12 Digital Fiber nodes. These nodes will now service 40 to 64 homes, be pushed deeper into the access, and increase per-user capacity.

An incredible amount of digital fiber nodes are expected to be deployed in the next few years, from tens to hundreds of thousands globally in 2018 and 2019. Fiber densification, the ability to pack as much capacity as possible over the limited fiber resources available, is of critical importance to achieve business objectives.

Finally, the simplest example of fiber densification is the hyperscale data center interconnect application. Global content providers are deploying huge amounts of fiber between massive data centers to maintain their aggressive pace of innovation and keep up with the doubling of bandwidth they are seeing on a yearly basis. more>


The People vs. Democracy?


What is Populism?, Author: Jan-Werner Mueller.

By Jan-Werner Mueller – The election result in Italy, where populists and far-right parties topped the polls, following the twin disasters of Brexit in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump’s election in the United States, seems certain to harden a common liberal belief: the people brought these calamities on themselves. “Ordinary citizens,” according to this view, are so irrational and ill-informed that they make terrible choices.

Such diagnoses are deeply mistaken. By focusing on individual citizens’ beliefs, they miss the structural reasons for today’s threats to democracy. As a result, they are also bound to yield the wrong practical lessons. If one really believes voters are incompetent or illiberal, the obvious next step is to take even more decision-making power away from them.

The problem starts when citizens view every issue purely as a matter of partisan identity, so that the credibility of climate science, for example, depends on whether one is a Republican or a Democrat. It gets worse when partisan identity becomes so strong that no arguments from or about the legitimacy of the other side ever get through.

Trump was not elected as the candidate of a grassroots movement of globalization’s angry white losers, but as the leader of an establishment party. Long before Trump, that party – and its cheerleaders in the right-wing media – had started to demonize its opponents and effectively told its followers that they could never opt for “European-style socialists” and other un-American abominations under any circumstances. Thus, Republicans who readily admitted that Trump was not qualified to be president voted for him anyway.

In the US, polarization is not an objective reflection of given cultural differences; it has at least partly been a conscious elite project to divide the country for political advantage and sometimes even personal profit. more>


How Bitcoin Ends

By Douglas Rushkoff – Bitcoin was a clever idea. Idealistic, even. But it isn’t working out quite as its developers imagined. In fact, once all the coin has been mined, bitcoin will simply reinforce the very banking system it was invented to disrupt.

Watching the bitcoin phenomenon is a bit like watching the three-decade decline of the internet from a playspace for the counterculture to one for venture capitalists. We thought the net would break the monopoly of top-down, corporate media. But as business interests took over it has become primarily a delivery system for streaming television to consumers, and consumer data to advertisers.

Likewise, bitcoin was intended to break the monopoly of the banking system over central currency and credit. But, in the end, it will turn into just another platform for the big banks to do the same old extraction they always have. Here’s how.

Central currency is not the only kind of money that ever existed. For many centuries, gold and other precious metals served as money.

In essence, bitcoin is money built and maintained by nerds, based on the premise that good nerds will outnumber the bad nerds. Sure, bad actors can dedicate all of their processing power to fake transactions, but they will be outnumbered by those who want the token to work properly.

What is the incentive for people to spend millions of dollars on computers and power once there’s no more kickback of coin? more>


The future of political warfare: Russia, the West, and the coming age of global digital competition

By Alina Polyakova and Spencer Phipps Boyer – The Kremlin’s political warfare against democratic countries has evolved from overt to covert influence activities. But while Russia has pioneered the toolkit of asymmetric measures for the 21st century, including cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns, these tools are already yesterday’s game. Technological advances in artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and machine learning, combined with the growing availability of big data, have set the stage for a new era of sophisticated, inexpensive, and highly impactful political warfare.

In the very near term, it will become more difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between real and falsified audio, video, or online personalities. Malicious actors will use these technologies to target Western societies more rapidly and efficiently. As authoritarian states such as Russia and China invest resources in new technologies, the global competition for the next great leap in political warfare will intensify.

As the battle for the future shifts to the digital domain, policymakers will face increasingly complex threats against democracies. The window to mount an effective “whole-of- society” response to emerging asymmetric threats is quickly narrowing. more>


More Democracy At Work? Do We Need That?

By Peter Scherrer – It is, in my view, more necessary now than ever before to put the fight for more democracy at work on the political agenda. But at the same time, it is an issue to which neither the general public nor the EU political élite pays much, if any, attention, even though it is of great importance for millions of working people. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), at its Executive Committee meeting this week, went ahead in that spirit and adopted the strategy.

ETUC members are deeply convinced that a European approach to democracy at work can directly improve working life, collective labor rights and the concrete participation of workers in society and the economy.

The performance of EU Member States like Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Austria demonstrates that extending workers’ participation rights in companies and in administration is not an obstacle to a productive and profitable economy.

Many EU member countries have developed fair rights to information and consultation and a significant number have workers’ representation on company boards. The active involvement of trade unionists and workers’ representatives contributes to economic success and employment stability.

A glance at the current situation shows that democracy at work is being eroded by e.g. increasing centralization of company decision-making in all areas and increased concealment of real ownership etc. This widening gap could be partly closed by European legislation on workers’ participation.

But a huge danger to the options for more democratic labor/industrial relations comes from the rapid growth in the proportion of ‘digital’ workers and employees in the so-called sharing economy. more>


Updates from Ciena

Densifying the Network, One Small Cell at a Time

By Wayne Hickey – Mobile network usage is growing at an astounding rate of 42% CAGR, as data rates rise driven by an insatiable customer appetite for video, gaming, social media, and live streaming. With the omnipresence of smartphone technology, advancement towards 5G, and mobile data as the major use cases – MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) struggle to maintain with growing customer demands.

There are three primary ways that MNOs can add capacity to their wireless network:

  1. Buy more spectrum
  2. Make spectrum utilization more efficient by optimizing spectral efficiency
  3. Densify the network, by adding more cell sites, while reusing available spectrum

A mobile network must be designed to physically reach the intended number of subscribers and adapt to the changing capacity needs of those subscribers. To do so, MNOs segment their networks by base station coverage by using macro cells and small cells (ex. micro cells, pico cells, nano cells, femtocells, and even WiFi cells, or hotspots).

Macro cells cover large geographic areas while the various types of small cells cover much smaller and varied geographic areas serving fewer end-users, both indoor and outdoor.

Macro cell sites use high powered radios, generally for large coverage areas. Small cells use much lower power radios, require less space, and increase data capacity by proliferation or densification of the network. Densification of the network means deploying lots of small cells to enable more overall users, lower latency, better mobile device battery life, and expanded coverage. The approach is to basically reuse spectrum over and over again, by keeping the coverage area small, and managing the interference between cells using a variety of techniques. more>