Tag Archives: Government

A goal realized: Network lobbyists’ sweeping capture of their regulator

By Tom Wheeler – “Here’s how the telecom industry plans to defang their regulators,” a September 12, 2013 Washington Post headline announced. “[T]elecom giants including Verizon, AT&T and Comcast have launched multiple efforts to shift regulation of their broadband business to other agencies that don’t have nearly as much power as the FCC,” the article explained.

The companies’ goal: to move regulatory jurisdiction from the Federal Communications Commission to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Strategically, it is a brilliant sleight of hand since the FTC has no rulemaking authority and no telecommunications expertise, yet the companies and the policymakers who support them can trot out the line that the FTC will protect consumers.

With this vote, the FCC walked away from over a decade of bipartisan efforts to oversee the fairness and openness of companies such as Comcast, AT&T, Charter, and Verizon. These four companies control over 75 percent of the residential internet access in America, usually through a local monopoly. Henceforth, they will be able to make their own rules, subject only to very limited after-the-fact review.

The assertion that the FTC will be able to provide that protection adequately is an empty promise. The people at the FTC are good people, but they have neither network expertise, nor the authority to make rules. more>

The Fraying of the Trump Brand

Experts say President Trump is damaging his party and its candidates’ election prospects
By Susan Milligan – Trump is regarded as a master brander in the commercial arena, building real estate and entertainment businesses heavily attached to his name. More like a Martha Stewart than, say, a Kraft Foods, Trump personifies the product he is selling. And when Trump – now suffering from historically low approval ratings in the low-to-mid 30s – struggles, so does the GOP brand he effectively took over when he became the party’s presidential nominee and then commander-in-chief, political and branding specialists say.

“When you’ve got a brand that is tied to a personality, it can be incredibly strong and incredibly vulnerable. It is tied to a human being, and that human being’s actions and people’s feelings about it, as opposed to the performance of a standardized product or service,” says Jason Karpf, a marketing and public relations consultant based in Minnesota. What Trump is attempting now, Karpf says, is what I known in the marketing world as a “brand extension,” this one, into the political world. But the effort has been sloppy at best and offensive at worst, experts say, threatening to do serious damage to the GOP brand as a whole.

And perhaps most troubling for the GOP, there have been ominous signs that suburban voters are moving away from Trump’s party.

Those are ominous signs for Republicans, whose party is being branded by an outsider president who prefers provocative remarks about sexual harassment complainants, protesting NFL players and white supremacist demonstrators to the blue-chip GOP agenda of smaller government and lower taxes. more>

Our enemies are human: that’s why we want to kill them

BOOK REVIEW

Virtuous Violence, Authors: Alan Fiske and Tage Rai.
Out of Character, Authors: David DeSteno and Piercarlo Valdesolo.

By Tage Rai, Piercarlo Valdesolo and Jesse Graham – Ever since Rohingya militants attacked Myanmar police outposts, resulting in a dozen deaths in August 2017, Myanmar security forces have begun a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

This process of dehumanisation has been invoked to explain acts of violence ranging from the Holocaust and the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib to the ethnic violence against the Rohingya people. However, our recent research suggests that this explanation is mistaken.

To understand the active desire to cause pain and suffering in another person, we have to look to a counter-intuitive source: human morality.

We show in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2017, dehumanization allows us to commit instrumental violence, wherein people do not desire to harm victims, but knowingly harm them anyway in order to achieve some other objective. However, dehumanization does not cause us to commit moral violence, where people actively desire to harm victims who deserve it. We find that moral violence emerges only when perpetrators see victims as capable of thinking, experiencing sensations and having moral emotions. In other words, when perpetrators perceive their victims as human.

What we found was that dehumanizing victims predicts support for instrumental violence, but not for moral violence. For example, Americans who saw Iraqi civilians as less human were more likely to support drone strikes in Iraq. In this case, no one wants to kill innocent civilians, but if they die as collateral damage in the pursuit of killing ISIS terrorists, dehumanizing them eases our guilt. Dehumanization might not cause a white supremacist to kill, but it does enable the rest of us to stand aside and do nothing. more>

A Nobel laureate explains why we get the bad economic policies we deserve

BOOK REVIEW

Economics for the Common Good, Author: Jean Tirole.

By Eshe Nelson – The relationship between economics and politics is starting to unravel. Over the past year, many have sought to explain Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and the rise of far-right and far-left politics in Europe using economic arguments. But it’s becoming clear that economics alone does not explain the situation. If the questions at the root of public life are no longer answered by the famous political dictum, “It’s the economy, stupid,” where does that leave economists?

First we have to make sure people respect intellectuals. For that, the intellectuals have to do the right thing. Then, you have to limit frustrations. People who voted for Trump, or Brexit, or Le Pen and Mélenchon in France are by and large very concerned about their future with robots, with rising debts, with inequality and unemployment. We have neglected some people, the losers of globalization, and we have a society that’s more and more unequal. It might get worse, unfortunately, with new technology.

When people are afraid or upset, they also tend to dismiss their current governments and the experts. They want a big change, which is often supplied by populists who offer fairytales and the wrong policies. People are trying to grab something that will give them hope.

.. No, we are not moving in the right direction. more>

Network industry is operating on flawed foundational principles


By George Mattathil – In a nutshell, the current situation with cyber security [2] is the direct result of the developments during the the “internet bubble,” in the 1990s. Collapse of the Bell Labs permitted the unchecked growth of the “internet bubble” and related hype.

The divestiture and the collapse of the Bells Labs left a vacuum for network technology leadership, that was substituted by hype that surrounded the “internet mania.” As a result, current network industry is operating on flawed foundational principles.

This added to the deficiencies in economic decision systems for (network) technology adoption, with the results we are seeing today: cyber security [2] challenges, internet malware [2] attacks and political controversies [2].

One of the consequences of the flawed network foundations is that the Broadband [2] adoption (which includes IoT) is progressing much slower than it could.

Another side effect is that ongoing network deployments are architecturally incoherent, resulting in enhanced complexity and cost. more>

An Economic Sugar High


By Andrew Soergel – As recently as Wednesday, President Donald Trump was quoted during a Cabinet meeting as saying he sees “no reason why we don’t go to 4 percent, 5 percent and even 6 percent” gross domestic product expansion in the months and years ahead.

Economists have broadly doubted these claims – though few quibble with the idea that the GOP-constructed tax plan would have a modestly positive impact on markets and the economy over the near term. Analyses from the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Tax Policy Center and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Budget Model have all predicted a final bill, in a best case scenario, would add a few fractions of a percentage point to the country’s GDP growth rate over the course of the next 10 years.

A growing number of experts are using the term “sugar high” to describe what the tax bill is likely to do to the U.S. economy – provide some short-term energy for growth before petering out or, even worse, pushing the country toward a crash. more>

The Costly Zero Sum Game That’s Fueling The Skills Gap

By Jake Schwartz – Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates suggest, for example, that there will be 1 million more computing jobs than applicants to fill them by 2020.

Of course, the skills gap is about more than just supply and demand. It stems from what economists call “friction,” exacerbated by megatrends like the shrinking shelf life of skills and persistent equity gaps in K-12 and higher education systems struggling to keep up with the pace of change. But it also reflects decades of self-inflicted wounds within corporate America.

I’ve observed three troubling drivers of the economic friction fueling the skills gap:

  1. a surprising lack of visibility and long-term planning around concrete skill and talent needs within the enterprise;
  2. incredible inertia around and adherence to old-school hiring practices that perpetuate growing equity gaps through a search for new skills in conventional places; and
  3. a tendency to misplace hope that our higher education and workforce development systems can somehow “solve” the problem with minimal corporate involvement or responsibility.

Imagine the possibilities if just a fraction of that spending was allocated to investments in re-skilling existing workers.

And yet, corporate training fads, from an obsession with online training (it’s cheaper), to a belief that all employees should spend their off-hours being “self-guided learners,” only exacerbate the delta between average investments in talent acquisition ($20,000 to $40,000 per head) and corporate training ($1,000 per person per year). more>

Fake news and botnets: how Russia weaponized the web

By Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus – Estonia boasts the most technologically advanced system of government in the world.

Every citizen possesses a digital identity – an identification number and login code for access to completely digitized interactions with the state. Estonians can vote online, file their taxes, check medical records, access the national health care system, and receive notifications of most government attempts to access their personal records. About 97% of the country uses digital banking. The Estonian national ethic is built on the idea that every citizen is transparent and the state is too. This makes Estonia extremely efficient – and extremely vulnerable.

“We live in the future. Online banking, online news, text messages, online shopping – total digitization has made everything quicker and easier,” Jaan Priisalu said. “But it also creates the possibility that we can be thrown back centuries in a couple of seconds.”

The question is how the west can maintain its core values of freedom of speech and the free flow of information while protecting itself from malevolent geopolitical actors? For centuries, eastern European countries such as Estonia relied on walls, watchtowers, and fortresses to keep out invaders. The US became the world’s most powerful country in part because it was insulated from foreign threats by vast oceans on two sides. In the internet age, traditional borders are less effective.

To survive in the era of information warfare, every society will have to create ways of withstanding cyber-attacks. more>

Don’t be fooled by China’s grand plan to rule the world

By Gwynn Guilford – The “China is taking over the world” meme is a perennial one.

As usual, this argument overlooks what’s happening within China’s borders. That includes: a credit-driven growth model that has left debt growing faster than the economy, the continued dominance of inefficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs) at the expense of dynamic private firms, and a fiscal system that depends on a housing bubble to sustain it.

David Ignatius bemoans the rail line buildout connecting China to Europe and Eurasia while bypassing US-controlled sea lanes, but by exporting its short-term growth formula for wasteful investments abroad, Xi Jinping is compounding the already huge risk that befouls China’s financial system.

Thanks to China’s size, running even a slight surplus means foisting massive deficits on its trade partners, as well as the debt and unemployment that accompany those, as we’ve argued before. And as Xi’s goal of self-sufficiency and manufacturing-export dominance—articulated in the Made in China 2025 plan, which focuses on Chinese dominance of artificial intelligence, robotics, and other high-tech sectors—makes clear, it’s not just BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) countries that will be on the receiving end of Chinese mercantilism.

The core problem for China is: Power doesn’t guarantee competence. And Xi’s handling of the domestic economy in the past half-decade suggests a dearth of the latter. more>

The Missing Role Models

Public officials used to be worthy of being looked up to – not anymore.
By Kenneth T. Walsh – Where have all the role models gone?

They certainly are vanishing from politics and government, at least based on the seemingly endless series of accusations and admissions involving famous politicians and public officials who have been engulfed in the swamp of alleged sexual misbehavior.

Now the media are investigating public figures more thoroughly than ever, and are more willing than ever to expose the flaws they find. And people with grievances against public figures are increasingly willing to go public.

Trump, at the top of the political pyramid, has been widely condemned for failing to live up to the standards of civility, decency and honesty that have been expected of presidents for many years. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told CNN recently: “The president has great difficulty with the truth on many issues….I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country in the way that he does, but he does.”

Questioning Trump’s “stability,” Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Trump is not a “role model” for the world and for America’s children, and added: “I think at the end of the day when his term is over, I think the debasing of our nation, the constant non-truth-telling, just the name calling, I think the debasement of our nation will be what he’ll be remembered most for, and that’s regretful.” more>