Archive | Corporate Skeptics

The Triumph of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Ashton Carter’s predecessor, greets Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain, at right in the blue and red ties, respectively. Photo via Wikipedia

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Ashton Carter’s predecessor, greets Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain, at right in the blue and red ties, respectively. Photo via Wikipedia

Via Ben Cohen & Winslow Wheeler at Medium:

In his farewell address in January 1961, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower famously cautioned the American public to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Today it’s routine for critics of wasteful military spending to cite Eisenhower’s warning. Unfortunately, Eisenhower did not warn us that the military-industrial complex would become increasingly malignant as it morphed into less obvious forms.

The “complex” is no longer just “military” and “industrial,” and it has extended far beyond just its congressional branch, which Eisenhower also intended to include.

It’s now deeply embedded in the fiber of the American political system, academia, the civilian leadership of the Defense Department and—increasingly—the White House itself.

• • •

The military-industrial-complex was on display—but passed without wide notice—on Dec.

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How the CIA made Google

Patrick Barry (CC BY 2.0)

Patrick Barry (CC BY 2.0)

Nafeez Ahmed writes at Medium:

INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project, breaks the exclusive story of how the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. Seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, Google was merely the first among a plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority.’

The origins of this ingenious strategy trace back to a secret Pentagon-sponsored group, that for the last two decades has functioned as a bridge between the US government and elites across the business, industry, finance, corporate, and media sectors. The group has allowed some of the most powerful special interests in corporate America to systematically circumvent democratic accountability and the rule of law to influence government policies, as well as public opinion in the US and around the world.

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An Hereditary Meritocracy

Images Money (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Images Money (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via The Economist:

The children of the rich and powerful are increasingly well suited to earning wealth and power themselves. That’s a problem.

“MY BIG fear,” says Paul Ryan, an influential Republican congressman from Wisconsin, is that America is losing sight of the notion that “the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life.” “Opportunity,” according to Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, “is slipping away.” Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida, thinks that “each element” of the sequence that leads to success “is eroding in our country.” “Of course you have to work hard, of course you have to take responsibility,” says Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, “but we are making it so difficult for people who do those things to feel that they are going to achieve the American dream.” When discussing the chances of ordinary Americans rising to the top, politicians who agree about little else sound remarkably similar.

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Pesticides just got a whole lot smaller. Is that a good thing?

Liz Core writes at Grist:

Nanoparticles are basically the X-Men of the molecular world, in that they are unpredictable, elusive, and come in a dizzying array of forms.

So it should come as no surprise that scientists are now researching a new type of nanotechnology that could revolutionize modern farming: nanopesticides. (Cue: Ooo, ahh) Recentstudies have suggested that the nano-scale pesticide droplets could offer a range of benefits including raising crop durability and persistence, while decreasing the amount of pesticide needed to cover the same amount of ground. But they’re also looking at the hefty potential for trouble: No one knows if the nanopesticide particles will seep into water systems, and, if they do, if they will harm non-pests like bees, fish, and even humans.

As we’ve written before, nanotechnology involves engineering particles that are tinier than the tiniest tiny. (More technically, we’re talking anything measured in billionths of a meter.) Scientists find this useful, since most substances behave much differently at that scale.

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The Davos oligarchs are right to fear the world they’ve made

wef-logo

Seumas Milne writes at The Guardian:

The billionaires and corporate oligarchs meeting in Davos this week are getting worried about inequality. It might be hard to stomach that the overlords of a system that has delivered the widest global economic gulf in human history should be handwringing about the consequences of their own actions.

But even the architects of the crisis-ridden international economic order are starting to see the dangers. It’s not just the maverick hedge-funder George Soros, who likes to describe himself as a class traitor. Paul Polman, Unilever chief executive, frets about the “capitalist threat to capitalism”. Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, fears capitalism might indeed carry Marx’s “seeds of its own destruction” and warns that something needs to be done.

The scale of the crisis has been laid out for them by the charity Oxfam. Just 80 individuals now have the same net wealth as 3.5 billion people – half the entire global population.

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Davos Says: 7 Reasons Why Elon Musk Is Wrong To Believe Intelligent Robots Will One Day Kill Us All

Maurizio Pesce (CC BY 2.0)

Maurizio Pesce (CC BY 2.0)

Jim Edwards writes at Business Insider:

A panel at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland has just completely dismantled the idea — currently trendy in the tech sector — that artificially intelligent robots, lacking morals, may one day independently decide to start killing humans.

The idea has been spread, somewhat tongue in cheek, by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who has even suggested that the robots may even thwart any humans who try to escape them by blasting off to Mars.

AI research is advancing rapidly inside private companies right now like Facebook and Google. That R&D is mostly a secret, which is why people like to speculate about it. Plus, everyone loves the Terminator movies, in which killer AI robots are the main protagonists.

The panel was hosted by two UC Berkeley professors, Ken Goldberg (who studies robotics) and Alison Gopnik (who studies psychology).

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Imagining an America Without Sports

Sam Riches writes at The Pacific Standard:

What if we eliminated the institution of sport—from the high school level to the pros? Ten academics from around the country weigh in.

The National Football League, despite a reported dip in fan support this year, remains the most popular and profitable sports league in America. Though it generates in the range of $10 billion annually, it’s heavily subsidized by its fans, American taxpayers, who provide 70 percent of the capital costs in stadium construction. NFL headquarters, meanwhile, enjoys tax-free status as a non-profit organization and the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, earned more than $40 million last year.

The athletes that make the league a viable business—the majority of them having worked their way up to the professional level after years of labor exploitation in the NCAA—have an average career length of just over three years, according to the NFL Players Association.

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Obama Wants Companies to Stop Stealing Your Data. Good Luck.

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Jenna McLaughlin writes at Mother Jones:

President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address, which he will deliver on Tuesday, will focus on cybersecurity, according to a speech he gave last Monday at the Federal Trade Commission. Protecting our government and corporations from foreign threats will not be Obama’s only focus—he’s also pushing for a bill that would protect internet consumers. But online privacy advocates are far from optimistic. They say Obama’s new consumer privacy bill will need to be very strong and specific to fill all the existing holes in consumer privacy law. Even then, they warn, the bill is likely doomed, because tech-industry lobbyists will spend millions to block it.

Right now, there are now very few restrictions on what data companies are allowed to scoop up from our digital apps and how they are allowed to use it. Companies routinely gather information and use it in ways consumers’ didn’t know about, much less sanction.

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USDA Approves New Monsanto Seeds While Kidneys Fail in Sri Lanka

Donna Cleveland (CC BY 2.0)

Donna Cleveland (CC BY 2.0)

Via St. Louis Biz Journal:

St. Louis Biz JournalMonsanto Co. has won approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for new soybean and cotton seeds resistant to specific herbicides, including dicamba and glyphosate, which is marketed by the company under the Roundup brand.

The decision Thursday clears another hurdle for Monsanto’s genetically modified products, with the Environmental Protection Agency expected to make a decision on the seeds in the coming months.

Monsanto applied for deregulation of the plants with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in 2013. In its decision Thursday, APHIS said Monsanto’s new technologies “are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk and, therefore, should not be regulated” under the agency’s rules on dissemination of plant pests.

The seeds are part of what Monsanto has branded as its Roundup Ready 2 Xtend system, which combines tolerance to both dicamba and glyphosate herbicides and is aimed in part at tackling glyphosate-resistant weeds.

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NSA Cyber War Will Use Internet of Things as Weapons Platform; Your Home is the Battlefield

Martin Beek (CC BY 2.0)

Martin Beek (CC BY 2.0)

Daniel Taylor at Activist Post writes:

World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” – Marshall McLuhan, Culture is Our Business, 1970

New Snowden documents recently revealed that the NSA is getting ready for future digital wars as the agency postures itself in an aggressive manner towards the world. “The Five Eyes Alliance,” a cooperation between United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, is working hard to develop these weapons of Cyber Warfare.

So called “D” weapons, as reported by Der Spiegel, will paralyze computer networks and infrastructure that they monitor. Water supplies, factories, airports, as well as the flow of money are all potential targets.

The Der Spiegel report does not mention the wider issue of the expanding network of everyday objects and appliances that are connected to the Internet. According to CIA chief David Petraeus the Internet of Things will have a monumental impact on “clandestine tradecraft.” Richard Adhikari writes for Tech News World that the Internet of Things is “…ripe for exploitation by the NSA.”

Consumer appliances are now becoming activated and “smart.” RFID chips and wireless Internet connections enable devices like televisions, refrigerators, printers, and computers to communicate with each other and generally make life easier for us.

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