Saturday, February 4, 2023

Somehow stopping the military-industrial complex

It's one of the great socio-political questions of our time, though it's rarely treated as such in mainstream discourse.
Yet I also urge antiwar forces to see more than mendacity or malice in “our” military. It was retired general and then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, after all, who first warned Americans of the profound dangers of the military-industrial complex in his 1961 farewell address. Not enough Americans heeded Ike’s warning then and, judging by our near-constant state of warfare since that time, not to speak of our ever-ballooning “defense” budgets, very few have heeded his warning to this day. How to explain that?

Well, give the MIC credit. Its tenacity has been amazing. You might compare it to an invasive weed, a parasitic cowbird (an image I’ve used before), or even a metastasizing cancer. As a weed, it’s choking democracy; as a cowbird, it’s gobbling up most of the “food” (at least half of the federal discretionary budget) with no end in sight; as a cancer, it continues to spread, weakening our individual freedoms and liberty.

Call it what you will. The question is: How do we stop it? - TomDispatch

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Bad maps could hurt broadband initiative

This is a complex and challenging effort, and as always bad data isn't helping.
(January 13) was a major milestone in the process of moving $42.5 billion from the federal government to states to distribute mostly to rural areas to build new, modern Internet access networks. January 13th marked the deadline for error corrections (called challenges) to the official national map that will be used to determine how much each state will get.

As an organization that has worked in nearly all 50 states over the past 20 years on policies to improve Internet access, we spent the last few weeks struggling to understand what was actually at stake and wondering if we were alone in being confused about the process. Despite the stakes, almost no expert we talked to actually understood which challenges – if any – would fix errors in the map data before it was used to allocate the largest single federal broadband investment in history.

This article will explore what is going wrong with the distribution of that $42.5 billion, the mapping process, and continued failure of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to show competence in the broadband arena. And it offers ways to fix these important problems as every jurisdiction from Puerto Rico to Hawaii feels overwhelmed by the challenge. - ILSR

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Do we have the Davos "elites" on the run?

Not yet. But there are signs.
The transnational corporate and political elite were back in Davos, Switzerland, from January 16-20 for their annual conclave amid the most severe crisis of global capitalism since the founding of the World Economic Forum half a century ago. In earlier years, participants in the exclusive gathering jet-setted into the Swiss resort town exuding confidence in the hegemony of global capitalism. But this time around, uncertainty over their ability to manage the crisis, maintain control, restabilize global capitalism and rebuild fractured consensus in their ranks was on full display.

The World Economic Forum served as a premier clearinghouse and planning body of the transnational capitalist class and its political allies during the heyday of capitalist globalization. But now the ruling groups appear to be in permanent crisis management. The Davos elite are acutely aware that global capitalism faces a series of interlinked crises — what the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Risks Report for 2023 termed a “polycrisis.” The world is facing “inflation, cost-of-living crises, trade wars, capital outflows from emerging markets, widespread social unrest, geopolitical confrontation and the spectre of nuclear war,” warned the report. These risks are “amplified by comparatively new developments in the global risks landscape, including unsustainable levels of debt, a new era of low growth, low global investment and deglobalization, a decline in human development after decades of progress, rapid and unconstrained development of dual-use (civilian and military) technologies, and the growing pressure of climate change impacts.” Together, “these are converging to shape a unique, uncertain and turbulent decade to come,” it concluded. - Truthout

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Democratic Visions January 2023

Democratic Visions is a project that's been going on for a while. You can click on the YouTube icon, and go from there, for more info.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Biden administration may have to cut some of the bullying, sanctions crap, like it or not

Stupid and ineffective sanctions, fomenting a new Cold War with China...while he's been much better than I expected on domestic issues overall, in foreign policy, except for Ukraine, Pres. Biden has been horrible. Hopefully he'll get it together, at least bit by bit.
Iran, the oil exports of which the US had devastated, seems to have increased its sales abroad by about a third, with volume rising from 669,000 mn bpd in 2021 to 900,000 mn bpd in 2022, a 35% increase, according to VOA. Most of Iran’s oil goes to China, which will need even more of it as its economy opens back up. The Iran sales to China evade US sanctions.

I conclude that virtually the only way for the US to keep economic pressure on the Kremlin in the second half of 2023 is to turn a blind eye to an even bigger expansion of Iranian exports, which could help offset the expected 0.9 million barrels a day shortfall.

In short, in the real world Washington may have to choose which country to put under maximum pressure sanctions, and it just may not be possible to do both.

Many social scientists believe that, anyway, harsh sanctions on a country devastate the middle class and make it weaker vis-a-vis the government, and so actually harm civil society activism. Iran’s protest movement would do better with fewer, not more, U.S. sanctions — especially broad ones targeting civil institutions such as the Central Bank. - Informed Comment

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Regulators are preventing a crypto-fueled economic meltdown

I'd prefer to see the stuff just banned, already. But what's going on is righteous, especially if you think about what would be happening with right-wingers in charge.
The implosion of what’s been unmasked as a criminal enterprise at FTX has created a chain reaction, where lost faith, pullbacks on trading volume, and potentially similar schemes at FTX competitors are devastating the nascent asset class. It should reinforce the fact that the government’s success in keeping crypto out of the broader financial system was the most important regulatory action of the past decade. We rarely give enough credit to agencies that prevent something from happening; it’s hard to prove a negative, as they say. But if we manage to get out of this cycle without a recession, we will have the banking regulators, primarily Gary Gensler at the Securities and Exchange Commission, to thank...

Hedge funds that have done business with Binance are receiving subpoenas related to federal investigations around compliance with anti–money laundering laws. Meanwhile, the SEC, along with securities regulators in Texas, has filed objections to Binance’s acquisition of assets from a bankrupt lender named Voyager Digital.

Perhaps the most important move by the banking regulators did not involve a specific crypto firm or token. The Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (in early January) issued a joint statement that essentially told large banks to rethink any inkling of holding crypto assets in their portfolios. After detailing the numerous risks from crypto—including fraud and scams, misrepresentations and poor risk management from crypto companies, high volatility, legal uncertainties, and the potential for digital versions of old-time bank runs—the regulators stated: “It is important that risks related to the crypto-asset sector that cannot be mitigated or controlled do not migrate to the banking system.”

While the joint statement went on to say that banks aren’t legally prohibited or discouraged from providing any permitted services to customers, you didn’t have to read between the lines to get the regulators’ point. They don’t want to see major banks investing in a bunch of crypto at this point, and they will be watching closely any transactions of that type. “Issuing or holding as principal crypto-assets … is highly likely to be inconsistent with safe and sound banking practices,” the regulators wrote. - The American Prospect

Thursday, January 12, 2023

The community college system needs a student-oriented overhaul

I had not been aware of these numbers.
On paper, starting at a community college is a great idea. Community colleges typically have open admission and are comparatively cheap or even free. Four out of five students who begin at a community college say they plan to transfer and eventually earn a bachelor’s degree or higher.

But in one of the most persistent failings of the higher education system, only about one in six of them actually succeed...

They get lost in a process for which colleges and universities often offer little guidance, causing students to waste time and money earning credits that don’t count toward a bachelor’s degree. That not only thwarts the aspirations of students and their families; it also adds costs for the state and federal taxpayers who subsidize their educations.

And new figures show that, rather than improving, the problem has been getting worse. - Hechinger Report