Published: Sunday 6 January 2013
As to globalization of technology servitude: Is this worldwide progress what is best for humanity?

Everywhere I look outside my home I see people busy on their high tech devices, while driving, while walking, while shopping, while in groups of friends, while in restaurants, while waiting in doctor offices and hospitals, while sitting in toilets – everywhere.  While connected electronically, they are inattentive to and disconnected in physical reality.

People have been steadily manipulated to become technology addicted.  Technology is the opiate of the masses.

This results in technology servitude.  I am referring to a loss of personal freedom and independence because of uncontrolled consumption of many kinds of devices that eat up time and money.  Most people do not use independent, critical thinking to question whether their quality of life is actually improved by the incessant use of technology products that are marketed more aggressively than just about anything else.

I for one have worked successfully to greatly limit my use of technological innovations, to keep myself as unconnected as possible and to maximize my privacy and independence.  I do not have a smart phone; I do not participate in social networking; I do not have any Apple product, nothing like an IPod, IPad and similar devices.  I have never used Twitter or anything similar, or sent a text message.  I do use the Internet judiciously on an old laptop. Email is good and more than enough for me.  I very rarely use an old cell phone.

So what have I gained?  Time, privacy and no obsession to constantly be in touch, connected, available, informed about others.  Call me old fashioned, but I feel a lot more in control of my life than most people that I see conspicuously using their many modern devices.  They have lost freedom and do not seem to care about that.  When I take my daily long walks I have no device turned on, no desire to communicate, nor to listen to music; I want to be in the moment, only sensing ...

Published: Sunday 16 December 2012
The new FTC report will be voted on in the next few weeks, which will bring about big changes to the Internet, prohibiting the use of behavioral marketing techniques to track children without their parent’s consent.

Nowadays parents aren’t the only ones monitoring their children’s whereabouts. Several cellphone applications are collecting data about them while they’re online.  Many software companies, who develop the apps, gather personal information from a child’s cellphone without parental consent and sell it to third party advertisers and data brokers.  While the Center for Digital Democracy filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in August stating a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1988, the government began their investigation of several companies on this basis.


From a child’s physical location to other such personal information including their friends’ names and numbers, these are just some of what these apps are collecting from children. But according to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection, Section 1302 states that “any person who operates a website located on the Internet or an online service and who collects or maintains personal information from or about the users of or visitors to such website or online service, or on whose behalf such information is collected or maintained, where such website or online service is operated for commercial purposes, including any person offering products or services for sale through that website or online service, involving commerce” from a person under the age of 13 is in violation of the law.


The FTC recently reported that of the 400 children apps, which the commission will not name, the privacy agreement failed to inform parents of the information that it was intending to collect and who they would share such information with. It went on to say that some of the apps included “questionable” advertisement and even links to social media platforms encouraging children ...

Published: Sunday 2 December 2012
Published: Thursday 22 November 2012
Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
“Many libraries have deals with sister libraries in other states and countries, so you have access to regionally specific content that you would not otherwise.”

1. Google doesn’t have all the information (not even close)


Google is an amazing tool, unmatched in its size and methods, but even the best search engine cannot find what is not on the internet. This content includes books, magazines, old newspapers, and much more. There are services that have attempted to fill this gap, like Google Books, but unfortunately the red tape involved in scanning in post-copyright era materials has severely limited their efforts. Additionally, many libraries have deals with sister libraries in other states and countries, so you have access to regionally specific content that you would not otherwise.


2. Google gives you a lot of what you don’t want


Whenever you type some keywords into the Google search engine, you are given a jumbled mess of results that can be unusable for any kind of learning of research. Google is trying to give us everything it can find, but it works against us when we are looking for a particular topic that shares a name with something else. In your public library, locating your subject of interest is as easy as asking a trained librarian for help. Professional librarians are lifelong researchers and can save you hours and days of searching.


3. Google doesn’t fact check your results


This seems obvious, but in an age where the majority of news and information we get on a daily basis comes from the web, it seems worth mentioning here. With traditional media, there is a system of checks and balances that ensure, to the best of their ability, that the content is reliable. Turning to a book in your nearest library on the topic that interests you, will be infinitely more beneficial than reading a wikipedia article on it, that may have been modified by ten people, all with differing ideas.

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
The challenge – not only for our president and representatives in Washington but for all of us – is to rediscover the public good.

The vitriol is worse is worse than I ever recall. Worse than the Palin-induced smarmy 2008. Worse than the swift-boat lies of 2004. Worse, even, than the anything-goes craziness of 2000 and its ensuing bitterness. 

It’s almost a civil war. I know families in which close relative are no longer speaking. A dating service says Democrats won’t even consider going out with Republicans, and vice-versa. My email and twitter feeds contain messages from strangers I wouldn’t share with my granddaughter. 

What’s going on? Yes, we’re divided over issues like the size of government and whether women should have control over their bodies. But these aren’t exactly new debates. We’ve been disagreeing over the size and role of government since Thomas Jefferson squared off with Alexander Hamilton, and over abortion rights since before Roe v. Wade, almost forty years ago. 

And we’ve had bigger disagreements in the past – over the Vietnam War, ...

Published: Tuesday 23 October 2012
While targeting firms promise a wealth of individual detail, it's hard to know how much information most campaigns are actually using.


If you're a registered voter and surf the web, one of the sites you visit has almost certainly placed a tiny piece of data on your computer flagging your political preferences. That piece of data, called a cookie, marks you as a Democrat or Republican, when you last voted, and what contributions you've made. It also can include factors like your estimated income, what you do for a living, and what you've bought at the local mall.

Across the country, companies are using cookies to tailor the political ads you see online. One of the firms is CampaignGrid, which boasted in a recent slideshow, “Internet Users are No Longer Anonymous.” The slideshow includes an image of the famous New Yorker cartoon from 1993: “On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.” Next to it, CampaignGrid lists what it can now know about an Internet user: “Lives in Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District, 19002 zip code, Registered primary voting Republican, High net worth household, Age 50-54, Teenagers in the home, Technology professional, Interested in politics, Shopping for a car, Planning a vacation in Puerto Rico.”

The slideshow was online until last week, when the company removed it after we asked for comment. (Here is the  READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
The amount of damage being inflicted on countries around the world by bad economic policy is astounding.

There is an old story from the heyday of the Soviet Union. As part of their May Day celebrations they were parading their latest weapon systems down the street in front of the Kremlin. There was a long column of their newest tanks, followed by a row of tractors pulling missiles. Behind these weapons were four pick-up trucks carrying older men in business suits waving to the crowds.

Seeing this display, the Communist party boss turned to his defense secretary. He praised the tanks and missiles and then said that he didn’t understand the men in business suits. The defense secretary explained that these men were economists, and “their destructive capacity is incredible.”

People across the world now understand what the defense secretary meant. The amount of damage being inflicted on countries around the world by bad economic policy is astounding. As a result of unemployment or underemployment, millions of people are seeing their lives ruined. The current policies have led to trillions of dollars of lost output. From an economic standpoint this loss is every bit as devastating as if a building had been destroyed by tanks or bombs. And people have lost their lives, due to inadequate health care, food and shelter, or as a result of the depression associated with their grim economic fate.

If an enemy had inflicted this much damage on the United States, the countries of the European Union, or the countries elsewhere in the world that have been caught up in this downturn, millions of people would be lining up to enlist ...

Published: Tuesday 9 October 2012
As more and more people begin sharing and renting out their cars and homes, insurance issues have begun to emerge. Sharing communities are taking the lead in finding solutions.


Liz Fong-Jones joined car sharing program Relay Rides because her car was sitting parked most of the time. An environmentally-minded M.I.T student and one-time Google employee, she saw that by renting it out, she could maximize the car’s use and potentially lessen the number of cars on the road. What she didn’t see was that she was about to become the subject of a debate about insurance and liability in the sharing economy. The man who rented Fong-Jones’s car was found at fault in an accident in which he was killed and four people in the other car were seriously injured. Insurance claims may exceed Relay Rides’ million-dollar policy.

Commercial use of a personal vehicle is generally not covered by basic auto insurance, and in most places companies reserve the right to cancel or non READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Tuesday 28 August 2012
“In the absence of a stimulus program that was 2-3 times the size of the one President Obama put forward and considerably longer lasting, the economy was doomed to a prolonged period of unemployment.”


Washington is the mecca for people across the country and around the world who have difficulty seeing the obvious. The economy tanked because the country had a huge housing bubble that burst. The collapse sent the economy into a long and severe recession because there was nothing that could replace the $1.4 trillion in annual demand that was generated by the housing bubble.

In the absence of a stimulus program that was 2-3 times the size of the one President Obama put forward and considerably longer lasting, the economy was doomed to a prolonged period of unemployment. None of this is 20-20 hindsight; some of us said it repeatedly as clearly as possible in advance (e.g. herehere and here).

So, naturally, in Washington, when events turn out exactly as predicted, leading policy wonks turn to alternative explanations. Hence we have 

Published: Friday 10 August 2012
“Cookies are small files used by online advertisers to track browsing activity and send targeted ads to consumers.”


The Federal Trade Commission today announced a $22.5 million fine against Google for circumventing settings on Safari Internet browsers and planting advertising cookies without user consent — a subject we wrote about in June.

The size of the fine — a record amount for an FTC privacy case — had been reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal, so the settlement was no surprise. But in a conference call with reporters, senior FTC official David Vladeck once again criticized our story, which was co-published with Wired and focused on whether the agency had adequate means to aggressively police online privacy.

"There was almost nothing in the Wired article that was correct," Vladeck said. The FTC did not take our questions during the call; we already have addressed the agency's specific criticisms at length.

Among other things, our story reported that Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer had scooped the FTC by discovering how the Google cookies worked, then publishing the findings on his blog the same day — Feb. 17 — on which The Wall Street Journal wrote that Mayer had spotted them.

The FTC disputed that it had been scooped, but the agency declined to say what it knew before Mayer. Officials previously said they were unable to comment because that might reveal whether there was an ...

Published: Wednesday 8 August 2012
“Whatever hardships befall the victims of such occasional mischief, it’s not clear that we should be any happier when the programs are working as planned.”

The Knight Capital debacle last week gave us yet another example of the financial system run amok. The company’s computers were apparently misprogrammed. As a result, they caused wild gyrations in the price of several major stocks. This incident naturally brings back memories of the “flash crash” two years ago, when programmed trading sent stock prices plummeting by close to 10 percent for no reason whatsoever. In the era of high-speed trading, it seems that such events are inevitable.

Whatever hardships befall the victims of such occasional mischief, it’s not clear that we should be any happier when the programs are working as planned. After all, many of these programs are designed to pick up large trades and effectively jump in ahead of the trader.

For example, if a major investor or mutual fund was in the process of selling a large amount of G.E. stock, a high-speed program may detect the movement. The high-speed trader could then short G.E. stock and buy it back immediately after the big sale and get a guaranteed profit. This has the same effect on the stock market as insider trading. Insider trading is bad for markets because it means that normal investors will get a smaller share of the gains. The same holds true with the high-speed trading platforms that now dominate the market.

A modest financial speculation tax can go a long way to putting an end to such practices and bringing the markets back to earth. It can also raise large amounts of money. A bill proposed by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Peter DeFazio would impose a tax of just 0.03 percent on trades. According to the Joint Tax Committee of Congress, it would raise more than $350 billion in its first nine years. A set of taxes more in line with the 0.5 percent tax that the United Kingdom imposes on stock trades could raise 

Published: Friday 27 July 2012
Published: Sunday 22 July 2012
Published: Wednesday 11 July 2012
“While we do see a slight spike to 6% of firms in June 2009, perhaps reflecting increased attention and media hype over the approaching minimum wage hike, the share of firms citing labor costs as their most serious problem abruptly fell back to 3% in July when the policy was actually enacted.”

Lawmakers at the federal and state level are talking seriously about increasing the minimum wage.  Business interests have been vocal in their opposition.  In a May 17 press release, for example, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), an organization that often acts as a front for larger corporate interests, stated: “[The] NFIB is strongly opposed to raising the minimum wage, especially in the midst of an unemployment crisis. Small business owners warn that . . . there’s no way for them to absorb higher mandatory wages without cutting jobs.”  Even a brief analysis of the NFIB’s own survey reveals a very different picture.

While the NFIB warns that minimum wage increases would create serious cost problems for small businesses, few of their members list "labor costs" as their "most important problem."  Instead, what we see from the NFIB survey results is that the percentage of small businesses listing labor costs as their most important problem has hovered consistently between 3% and 5% since the beginning of the recession in December 2007.  In the most recent data, the percentage fell to 2%, its lowest level since the start of the recession. 

As the following figure shows, while exhibiting expected small random fluctuations, the percentage of firms reporting labor costs as their major concern has shown no upward trend, despite minimum wage hikes both in July 2008 and July 2009.  While we do see a slight spike to 6% of firms in June 2009, perhaps reflecting increased attention and media hype over the approaching minimum wage hike, the share of firms citing labor costs as their most serious problem abruptly fell back to 3% in July when the policy was actually enacted.


Published: Sunday 8 July 2012
The “Legalize Love” campaign officially launches in Poland and Singapore on Saturday, July 7th.

Google has announced an ambitious effort to legalize same-sex marriage across the globe. The project, called “Legalize Love,” was annouced earlier today at an event in London focusing on LGBT issues in the workplace. has the details:

The “Legalize Love” campaign officially launches in Poland and Singapore on Saturday, July 7th. Google intends to eventually expand the initiative to every country where the company has an office, and will focus on places with homophobic cultures, where anti-gay laws exist.

Google’s Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe outlined the initiative at a Global LGBT Workplace Summit in London earlier today. “We want our employees who are gay or lesbian or transgender to have the same experience outside the office as they do in the office. It is obviously a very ambitious piece of work.
Their strategy involves developing partnerships between companies and organizations to support grass-roots campaigns.

The project will initially focus on Poland and Singapore before expanding to other countries. Palmer-Edgecumbe explained that Google will impress on these countries that “being a global center and a world leader means you have to treat all people the same, irrespective of their sexual orientation.”

The initiative was immediately praised by representatives from Citi and Ernst & Young.

Published: Friday 6 July 2012
“One of the issues arose when Mr. Maass asked Ms. Poss about the difficulty she and others have in monitoring consumer hardware and software, because FTC rules and budget limitations constrain their access to such tools as Androids and iPhones.”

On June 28, ProPublica published a story by Peter Maass about the Federal Trade Commission and its efforts to protect the online privacy of consumers. The headline of the story was "How a Lone Graduate Student Scooped the Government and What It Means for Your Online Privacy." The 5,500 word article opened with an explanation of how a Stanford computer science student, Jonathan Mayer, conducted research through which he discovered earlier this year that Google was circumventing the privacy settings on a large number of iPhones and placing tracking cookies on them. The story credited Mr. Mayer with figuring this out before the FTC did. The bulk of the story focused on how well or how poorly the FTC is dealing with privacy issues as the data-mining industry explodes and its own budget remains relatively flat.

On June 29, FTC Director of Public Affairs Cecelia Prewett emailed a letter to us, taking sharp issue with our work. We have reviewed the story and her comments, and we have corrected the spelling of the FTC chairman's name (it is Leibowitz, not Liebowitz). Otherwise, we believe that no correction is appropriate.


Published: Monday 2 July 2012
Some kinds of media, for instance, seem to work better when paired with particular kinds of subjects, and some networks are better-suited to certain tasks than others.


The idea for Occupy Wall Street began with an email and a hashtag that spread around the Internet. Once the Zuccotti Park occupation began, it captured national attention through photos and videos that spread online, and new occupations followed. Over the course of the past year, the movement’s visibility has risen or fallen in large part thanks to its ability to capture the attention of social networks online.

What has worked? What hasn’t? How can the movement learn lessons from its past and carry them into the future?

According to’s Justine Tunney, Harrison “Tesoura” Schultz is the movement’s “anti-market research analyst.” He has produced reports on how various Occupy websites and social media accounts have fared in order to discover patterns and extract lessons. Some kinds of media, for instance, seem to work better when paired with particular kinds of subjects, and some networks are better-suited to certain tasks than others.

Schultz is a graduate student finishing his dissertation in sociology at the New School for Social Research. He has spent four years working as a market research and business intelligence analyst for a global advertising agency and a direct pay-per-click marketing company. We’ve known each other since the initial planning meetings before September 17, and here we discuss what online analytics has taught him about Occupy and other movements hoping to use online media to their full potential.

What is “analytics” to you, and what does it have to do with a movement like Occupy?

According to Wikipedia, analytics is ...

Published: Thursday 28 June 2012
Occupiers from around the country will gather to discuss the future of the movement.


Since the end of 2011, when police shut down most encampments, the Occupy movement’s future has been uncertain. Without the long-term occupations that gave the movement its name, where would participants meet and make their presence felt? Would the movement be able to sustain itself without these rallying points? Would it release policy demands or try to bring down a big bank?

The upcoming five-day Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia will address some of these questions, but without attempting to speak for Occupy Wall Street, the Occupy movement as a whole, or anyone beyond those in attendance.

“I think this could ...

Published: Wednesday 27 June 2012
“The data show permits for single family homes were up 4.0 percent in May from their April level and were 19.9 percent above their year-ago level.”

Latest indicators and developments in the housing sector show more evidence that the housing market is on the mend. Prior to May, the market had seen unusually high levels of sales due to unusually good winter weather across much of the country. For this reason we should have expected a sharp falloff in sales in May. Instead, May sales were down by only 1.5 percent from their April level. They were 9.6 percent above the May 2011 level.

The data also show permits for single family homes were up 4.0 percent in May from their April level and were 19.9 percent above their year-ago level. This is the highest rate of construction since early 2010 when the first-time buyers’ credit was temporarily boosting the market. Also, new home sales in May were at their highest level since the end of the first-time buyers’ tax credit caused a surge in April of 2010.

Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012
Graduating the Class of 2012 Onto Our Overheated Planet.


Class of 2012, greetings! It’s a deceptively glorious day, even under this tent in the broiling heat of an August-style afternoon in mid-June on this northeastern campus.  Another local temperature record is being set: 98 degrees.  And yes, let’s admit it, the heat, the sun, the clearness of the azure blue sky stretching without a cloud to the horizon, the sense of summer descending with a passion, it’s not quite as reassuring as it might once have been, is it?  I suspect that few of you, readying yourselves to leave this campus, many mortgaged to your eyeballs (some for life no matter what you do), and heading into a country on edge, imagine personal clear skies to the horizon.

And while we’re admitting things, let’s admit something else about the heat today, as you bake under your graduation gowns: whether or not you have the figures at your fingertips, whether or not you know the details, who doesn’t sense that this planet is on edge, too?  I mean, here you are, the class of 2012, and like the classes of 2011, 2010, and so on, you are surely going to spend your first months out of college enduring one of history's top ten heat years.


Published: Friday 1 June 2012
“Radical homemakers are scrappy survivors who employ their creativity and ability to learn new skills to build a life outside the destructive confines of the conventional ecologically and socially extractive economy.”

“Today, I will do one thing at a time.”

These are the words I’ve been saying to myself each morning lately as I leap from my bed. I mindlessly repeat them while working through when to teach homeschool lessons to my daughters, which emails I need to respond to, when I’m going to make soap, how much beeswax I need to rinse and render, when we’re going to photograph and upload our newest farm products to the online shopping cart, which websites need to be updated, whether I’m needed or not at the farm this day or this week, what spices I need to order for sausage making, whether I’ll find time this day to get the weeds out of the raspberries, if I’ve got enough change for this Saturday’s farmers’ market, when I’m going to get to the dairy farm up the road to pick up butter for making pate to sell, what needs to happen to complete the start up of our new yarn business, which essays and articles need to be written, how I’m going to steer my newest book into publication by September, which photographs still need to get taken for the insert, which presentations need to get written for the fall speaking season, whether or not the blueberry bushes need fertilizing, when I’m going to find the time to take the girls into the woods to gather ramps.

In short, as soon as I utter that morning promise, I begin the daily process of failing to honor it as I work myself into a frenzied whirlwind of activity. My life is unusual in that nearly every item on my to-do list is something that I love. But rather than being in-the-moment to enjoy these myriad pleasures, my brain rattles me into a frenzied state, where I am constantly distracted by what else I want to accomplish. Thus, even the act of perpetually doing things I love can leave me cranky, ...

Published: Tuesday 29 May 2012
“The richest individuals and corporations are really good at building up fortunes. They’re even better at building up their job creator myth.”

In his "Gospel of Wealth," Andrew Carnegie argued that average Americans should welcome the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, because the "superior wisdom, experience, and ability" of the rich would ensure benefits for all of us. More recently, Edward Conard, the author of "Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You've Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong, said: "As a society, we're not offering our talented few large enough rewards. We're underpaying our 'risk takers.'"

Does wealthy America have a point, that giving them all the money will ensure it's disbursed properly, and that it will create jobs and stimulate small business investment while ultimately benefiting society? Big business CEOs certainly think so, claiming in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that an increase in the capital gains tax would reduce investment "when we need capital formation here in America to create jobs and expand our economy."

They don't cite evidence for their claims, because the evidence proves them wrong. Here are the facts:

1. The Very Rich Don't Like Making Risky Investments


Published: Sunday 27 May 2012
“Just 60 years ago, the average American had 291 square feet of living space. Now it’s close to 1,000 square feet.”

Just the Facts Graph 1


Just the Facts Graph 2

For many people, “doubling up”—moving in with family or friends—is the last step on the way to homelessness.  But doubling up has benefits for people and for the planet.

1. Less Poverty

Just the Facts Graph 4

In 2010, that 3.1% difference could have meant 1.4 million people kept out of poverty.

2. Security and ...

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2012
“We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation and indeed in the language of traditional patriotism are traitors.”

In Robert E. Gamer’s book “The Developing Nations” is a chapter called “Why Men Do Not Revolt.” In it Gamer notes that although the oppressed often do revolt, the object of their hostility is misplaced. They vent their fury on a political puppet, someone who masks colonial power, a despised racial or ethnic group or an apostate within their own political class. The useless battles serve as an effective mask for what Gamer calls the “patron-client” networks that are responsible for the continuity of colonial oppression. The squabbles among the oppressed, the political campaigns between candidates who each are servants of colonial power, Gamer writes, absolve the actual centers of power from addressing the conditions that cause the frustrations of the people. Inequities, political disenfranchisement and injustices are never seriously addressed. “The government merely does the minimum necessary to prevent those few who are prone toward political action from organizing into politically effective groups,” he writes.

Gamer and many others who study the nature of colonial rule offer the best insights into the functioning of our corporate state. We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation and indeed in the language of traditional patriotism are traitors. They strip us of our resources, keep us politically passive and enrich themselves at our expense. The mechanisms of control are ...

Published: Monday 7 May 2012
“The stock market has doubled since March 2009, while corporate profits and exports have surged to records.”

A remarkable story appeared in Newsweek recently, a celebration by author Daniel Gross of America's re-emergence as the strongest economy and best darn nation in the world. An underlying theme in the article, implicit in the grandiose descriptions of our post-recession growth, is that all American lives must be improving because of the magic of our "resilient and nimble private sector." The Newsweek reader might have been reminded of the wisdom of Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein: "Everybody should be, frankly, happy...the financial system led us into the crisis and it will lead us out."

It sure is nice to feel good about ourselves. But it's more important to be thorough with the facts. Only a small percentage of Americans have benefited from the economic resurgence. The people with money are congratulating themselves while remaining disdainfully isolated from the real world all around them.

The article starts with the prideful assertion that "The stock market has doubled since March 2009, while corporate profits and exports have surged to records." That's all good for about 1% of us. The Americans in this elite group captured a stunning 93% of the income gains in the first year of recovery.

The 'recovery' itself is largely a resumption of the pattern seen over the past twenty years, during which the richest 5% of Americans have steadily increased their already sizable (70% of the total) stock market holdings.

And how about those corporate profits? Something to be proud of? Here are the disturbing

Published: Saturday 5 May 2012
As the Los Angeles Times reported, Google’s announcement of its “Google Drive” came with the promise that users will “retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content.”


When you hear the phrase "property rights," you probably think of farmers fighting environmental regulators and homeowners arguing with oil drillers. But in the Information Age, you should also be thinking about your computer — and asking, how much of you is really yours? It's not a navel-gazing rumination from a college Intro to Existentialism class — it's an increasingly pressing question in the brave new world of social networking and cloud computing.

Last week's big technology announcement spotlighted the thorny issue. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Google's announcement of its "Google Drive" came with the promise that users will "retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content." But when you save files to Google's new hard-drive folder in the cloud, the terms of service you are required to agree to gives Google "a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute (your) content" as the company sees fit.i

When asked about this, Google argued that its provisions merely "enable us to give you the services you want - so if you decide to share a document with someone, or open it on a different device, you can."

As reassuring as that seems, though, it's not that simple when considered in a larger context.

In the last few years, major technology companies have become integral to interpersonal communication and information management. At the same time, many of these firms have tweaked user agreements in exactly the way Google has, helping the industry legally position itself for a mass intellectual property grab. That means whether you are using a photo-sharing site or a web-based email account, you may have signed off on letting one of these corporations do whatever it wants with your data.

As ...

Published: Sunday 29 April 2012
The bill has faced widespread opposition from online privacy advocates and even the Obama administration, which has threatened a veto.

As it heads toward a House vote, critics say the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) would allow private internet companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft to hand over troves of confidential customer records and communications to the National Security Agency, FBI and Department of Homeland Security, effectively legalizing a secret domestic surveillance program already run by the NSA. Backers say the measure is needed to help private firms crackdown on foreign entities — including the Chinese and Russian governments — committing online economic espionage. The bill has faced widespread opposition from online privacy advocates and even the Obama administration, which has threatened a veto. We speak with Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A legislative battle has erupted on Capitol Hill over a controversial House bill that critics say would allow private internet companies to hand over troves of confidential customer records and communications to the National Security Agency and other agencies. In a letter on Monday, 18 Democratic House members warned that unless specific limitations were put in place, the bill, quote, "would, for the first time, grant non-civilian federal agencies, such as the National Security Agency, unfettered access to information about Americans’ internet activities and allow those agencies to use that information for virtually any purpose." The bill is titled the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or simply CISPA.

Backers of the legislation say it is needed to help private companies crack down on foreign entities—including the Chinese and Russian governments—committing online economic espionage that is stealing trade secrets from U.S. ...

Published: Sunday 22 April 2012
“The Internet as the Toy With a Tin Ear”

But in which language does one speak to a machine, and what can be expected by way of response? The questions arise from the accelerating data-streams out of which we’ve learned to draw the breath of life, posed in consultation with the equipment that scans the flesh and tracks the spirit, cues the ATM, the GPS, and the EKG, arranges the assignations on and the high-frequency trades at Goldman Sachs, catalogs the pornography and drives the car, tells us how and when and where to connect the dots and thus recognize ourselves as human beings.

Why then does it come to pass that the more data we collect -- from Google, YouTube, and Facebook -- the less likely we are to know what it means?

The conundrum is in line with the late Marshall McLuhan’s noticing 50 years ago the presence of “an acoustic world,” one with “no continuity, no homogeneity, no connections, no stasis,” a new “information environment of which humanity has no experience whatever.” He published Understanding Media in 1964, proceeding from the premise that “we become what we behold,” that “we shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”

Media were to be understood as “make-happen agents” rather than as “make-aware agents,” not as art or philosophy but as systems comparable to roads and waterfalls and sewers. Content follows form; new means of communication give rise to new structures of feeling and thought.

To account for the transference of the idioms of print to those of the electronic media, McLuhan examined two technological revolutions that overturned the epistemological status quo. First, in the mid-fifteenth century, Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type, which deconstructed the illuminated wisdom preserved on manuscript in monasteries, encouraged people to organize their perceptions of the world along the straight lines of the ...

Published: Sunday 22 April 2012
“According to the Government Accountability Office, 2.3 million people took advantage of the credit, at a cost to the government of $16.2 billion.”

One of the items that Congress added to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, President Obama’s stimulus package, was a first-time homebuyer tax credit. The tax credit gave people buying their first home, or who had not been homeowners for at least three years, a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the purchase price of the home, up to $8,000. The intention was to spur home buying and put an end to the plunge in home prices, which were dropping at an annual rate of close to 20 percent at the time. According to the Government Accountability Office, 2.3 million people took advantage of the credit, at a cost to the government of $16.2 billion.

This delayed the deflation of the bubble, but did not stop it. By the end of 2011, nationwide home prices had fallen by 8.4 percent since the credit-induced peak reached in the second quarter of 2010. They are continuing to fall into 2012. The temporary boost to the market from the credit allowed many homeowners to sell their homes at prices that were still partially inflated by the bubble. This was good for these homeowners, as well as their creditors, who might have otherwise been forced to accept short sales. However, it was bad news for homebuyers who were persuaded to buy homes at prices that were often still above trend values

This paper briefly outlines the impact of the homebuyer credit. The first part produces a set of calculations of the amount of wealth transferred to sellers and creditors as a result of the credit. These calculations are intended to determine the additional ...

Published: Sunday 22 April 2012
“What CISPA will do, if passed, is remove all the legal barriers that currently stop internet service providers, government agencies, and others from arbitrarily spying on internet users.”

Just because SOPA and PIPA, the infamous internet "kill switch" bills, are largely dead does not mean the threat to internet free speech has become any less serious. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), also known as H.R. 3523, is the latest mutation of these internet censorship and spying bills to hit the U.S. Congress -- and unless the American people speak up now to stop it, CISPA could lead to far worse repercussions for online free speech than SOPA or PIPA ever would have.

CNET, the popular technology news website that was among many others who spoke up against SOPA and PIPA earlier in the year, is also one of many now sounding the alarm about CISPA, which was authored by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.). Though the bill's promoters are marketing it as being nothing like SOPA or PIPA, CISPA is exactly like those bills, except worse.

What CISPA will do, if passed, is remove all the legal barriers that currently stop internet service providers, government agencies, and others from arbitrarily spying on internet users. In the name of "cybersecurity," a term that is undefined in the bill, CISPA will essentially allow internet users to be surveilled by the government without probable cause or a search warrant, which is a clear violation of users' constitutional civil liberties.

Additionally, it will allow websites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to intercept emails, text messages, and other private information that might be considered a threat to "cybersecurity." The government can then demand access to this information, even if it has nothing to do with copyright infringement, which is one of the excuses being used for why such a bill is needed in the first place.


Internet users are already required to abide by the same laws as everyone else

"Just because ...

Published: Sunday 15 April 2012
A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research examines the impact of raising the Social Security retirement age and its effect on the distribution of wealth from loss of future Social Security benefits.

Social Security remains the most important source of income for most Americans in their retirement. Nonetheless, there are many proposals for cutting benefits that get serious consideration, including increasing the normal retirement age. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research examines the impact of raising the Social Security retirement age and its effect on the distribution of wealth from loss of future Social Security benefits.

“The full retirement age for Social Security is already scheduled to increase to 67 over the next 10 years,” said Dean Baker, a co-director of CEPR and an author of the report. “Despite the fact that each year of increase in the normal retirement age is equal to a cut in benefits of 6 to 7 percent, some policy makers are calling for raising the retirement age as high as 70.”

The report, “The Impact on Inequality of Raising the Social Security Retirement Age,” projects the impact of a gradual increase of the normal retirement age on various demographic groups, looking at each quintile of the wealth distribution, as well as the richest 1 percent. The paper also contains separate projections for homeowners and non-homeowners, single individuals and couples in several age cohorts. These projections demonstrate that Social Security wealth is a much larger share of wealth for the bottom four of the five groups. As a result, an increase in the retirement age would cause an increase in inequality.

“Since those in the top income quintile have vastly more wealth than those in other quintiles, a loss of 7 percent of Social Security benefits will not ...

Published: Wednesday 14 March 2012
“Google has also made headlines recently regarding its new privacy policy, which Consumer Watchdog reports is a blatant misnomer, and actually describes the new invasive ways Google wants to gather information about individuals internet usage.”

On March 1 Google and Cape Air announced that Cape Air would be migrating its Passenger (PNR) to a new computerized reservation system (CRS) developed by Google’s ITA Software division.  In combination with Google’s controversial new privacy policy, this move could set a potentially dangerous standard for what kinds of information US Customs and Border Protections (CBP) and US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may access in determining the fly or no-fly status of travelers.

While most have never seen their PNRs, it is an important assemblage of data that determines whether or not a passenger is permitted to fly.  Each individual has his or her own PNR, which are stored with millions of other passengers in CRSs. Governmental agencies then have access to these files and place restrictions on those passengers they deem to be a credible threat to national security.

Google has also made headlines recently regarding its new privacy policy, which Consumer is a blatant misnomer, and actually describes the new invasive ways Google wants to gather information about individuals Internet usage.  Many of these techniques include methods for circumventing the privacy policies of Internet browsers such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Apple’s Safari, which is used on iPhones and iPads around the country.  This information will then be stored in virtually permanent digital dossiers so that Google may target ads based on individuals’ personal information.  Contrary to its name, this new privacy agreement essentially outlines Google’s “spy” policy.

These two issues, on their own, should be enough to concern any person who uses the Internet.  However, these two issues combined should raise serious questions about what kind of information Google ...

Published: Wednesday 7 March 2012
“A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research sheds light on the demographics of the millions of workers struggling with unemployment and under-employment.”

Overall unemployment has ticked down slightly from the peaks of the recession, but long-term unemployment remains historically high, threatening the long-term economic security of workers and the country as a whole. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research sheds light on the demographics of the millions of workers struggling with unemployment and under-employment.

 “Long-term Hardship in the Labor Market” breaks out workers considered long-term unemployed by the official BLS standard according to race and gender, education, and age. The authors also expand the conventional concept of long-term unemployment and capture further dimensions of long-term hardship including discouraged workers, workers marginally attached to the workforce, and workers who are part-time for economic reasons.

The report shows that under the standard measure of long-term unemployment, half of all unemployed black men have been jobless for more six months or longer, followed closely by roughly 49 percent of unemployed Asian men, black ...

Published: Saturday 18 February 2012
“The challenge is to show people, in one form or another, that something like a general strike is even possible, and to practice what taking part in it would actually mean.”

At the General Assembly meeting last night, Occupy Wall Street’s dreamer contingent got a very special valentine: the GA endorsed the Direct Action Working Group’s proposal to call for a general strike on May Day—May 1, 2012. Occupiers celebrated with cheers and Valentine’s Day balloons.

The text approved by the GA is as follows:

May Day 2012 Occupy Wall Street stands in solidarity with the calls for a day without the 99%, a general strike and more!! On May Day, wherever you are, we are calling for: *No Work *No School *No Housework *No Shopping *No Banking TAKE THE STREETS!!!!!

The prospect of an Occupy general strike has been circulating for a while already. One of the several Facebook event pages devoted to it has more than 10,000 attendees. Occupy Los Angeles began calling for a May 1 general strike as early as last November, and Occupy Oakland joined 

Published: Friday 10 February 2012
“In political terms, once a service like Twitter becomes subject to oversight from every government in the world, it is a crippled one.”

Last month, Internet users and companies rallied together to defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, two proposed U.S. bills that sought to give media corporations the tools to combat illegal file-sharing but would have potentially had chilling effects on free speech. It was an innovative protest waged almost exclusively online, and American Internet users rightfully celebrated the despised bills’ demises. However, two of the very same companies which pushed hard to maintain a free and open Internet in the U.S. gave indications that they would not do the same for users in the rest of the world.

On January 26, Twitter noted on its blog that, as it expanded overseas into regions with more restrictive Internet policies than our own, it would be willing to censor tweets on a country-by-country basis when requested by legal authorities. This unfortunately timed announcement, coming on the heels of the anniversary of the start of the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, for which Twitter received much credit for at the time and after, was widely panned. Twitter itself once proudly asserted, “Our position on freedom of expression carries with it a mandate to protect our users’ right to speak freely.”


Published: Thursday 2 February 2012
“How an old business model is finding new relevance all over the world.”

What do coffee growers in Ethiopia, hardware store owners in America, and Basque entrepreneurs have in common? For one thing, many of them belong to cooperatives. By pooling their money and resources, and voting democratically on how those resources will be used, they can compete in business and reinvest the benefits in their communities.

The United Nations has named 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, and indeed, co-ops seem poised to become a dominant business model around the world. Today, nearly one billion people worldwide are cooperative member-owners. That’s one in five adults over 15 — and it could soon be you.

Why Cooperatives?

Cooperatives have been around in one form or another throughout human history, but modern models began popping up about 150 years ago. Today’s co-ops are collaboratively owned by their members, who also control the enterprise collaboratively by democratic vote. This means that decisions made in cooperatives are balanced between the pursuit of profit, and the needs of members and their communities. Most co-ops also follow the Seven Cooperative Principles, a unique set of guidelines that help maintain their member-driven nature.

From their beginnings in England, cooperatives have spread throughout the world. In Ethiopia, cooperation helps women and men rise above poverty. In Germany, half of renewable energy is owned by citizens. In America, 93 million credit union member-owners control $920 billion in assets. In Japan, a sixth of the population belongs to a consumer co-op. And in Basque Country, a 50-year-old worker co-op has grown to become a multinational, cooperative corporation.

If a “multinational ...

Published: Wednesday 1 February 2012
“The more I learn about Anonymous, especially in light of the offline, on-the-ground praxis of the Occupy movement, the more I’ve been wondering whether we’re seeing a glimpse of the future for all of us.”

The enigmatic Internet-driven collective Anonymous, thank goodness, has an anthropologist in its midst. For a few years now, Gabriella Coleman has been arduously participant-observing in IRC chat rooms, watching Anonymous turn from a prankster moniker to a herd of vigilantes for global justice. In an extraordinary new essay at Triple Canopy, “Our Weirdness Is Free,” she summarizes what Anonymous is all about this way:

Beyond a foundational commitment to anonymity and the free flow of information, Anonymous has no consistent philosophy or political program. Though Anonymous has increasingly devoted its energies to (and become known for) digital dissent and direct action around various “ops,” it has no definite trajectory. Sometimes coy and playful, sometimes macabre and sinister, often all at once, Anonymous is still animated by a collective will toward mischief—toward “lulz,” a plural bastardization of the portmanteau LOL (laugh out loud). Lulz represent an ethos as much as an objective.

The more I learn about Anonymous, especially in light of the offline, on-the-ground praxis of the Occupy movement, the more ...

Published: Thursday 19 January 2012
“As the Internet blackout protest progressed Jan. 18, and despite Dodd’s lobbying, legislators began retreating from support for the bills.”

Wednesday, Jan. 18, marked the largest online protest in the history of the Internet. Websites from large to small “went dark” in protest of proposed legislation before the U.S. House and Senate that could profoundly change the Internet. The two bills, SOPA in the House and PIPA in the Senate, ostensibly aim to stop the piracy of copyrighted material over the Internet on websites based outside the U.S. Critics, among them the founders of Google, Wikipedia, the Internet Archive, Tumblr and Twitter, counter that the laws will stifle innovation and investment, hallmarks of the free, open Internet. The Obama administration has offered muted criticism of the legislation, but, as many of his supporters have painfully learned, what President Barack Obama questions one day he signs into law the next.

First, the basics. SOPA stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act, while PIPA is the Protect IP Act. The two bills are very similar. SOPA would allow copyright holders to complain to the U.S. attorney general about a foreign website they allege is “committing or facilitating the commission of criminal violations” of copyright law. This relates mostly to pirated movies and music. SOPA would allow the movie industry, through the courts and the U.S. attorney general, to send a slew of demands that Internet service providers (ISPs) and search-engine companies shut down access to those alleged violators, and even to prevent linking to those sites, thus making them “unfindable.” It would also bar Internet advertising providers from making payments to websites accused of copyright violations.

SOPA could, then, shut down a community-based site like YouTube if just one of its millions of users was accused of violating one U.S. copyright. As David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer and an opponent of the legislation, blogged, “Last year alone we acted on copyright takedown notices for more than 5 million webpages.” ...

Published: Wednesday 18 January 2012
Changing the way the internet is governed, especially after a year when free access to it played a major role in critically important liberation movements, is a hugely momentous thing to propose, even if you feel that your industry is at stake.

Many organizations, most notably among them Wikipedia, are going dark or gray for today to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act. When they come back, a lot more Americans will likely be aware of the now substantially altered legislation. And my hope, however unlikely, is that after this day of action, we can reset the conversation, especially now that DNS blocking and rerouting appear to be out of play.

It might help for both sides to acknowledge the legitimate fears held by powerful interests on both sides of the SOPA debate. Changing the way the internet is governed, especially after a year when free access to it played a major role in critically important liberation movements, is a hugely momentous thing to propose, even if you feel that your industry is at stake. It may be difficult to quantify the economic impact of piracy, but that doesn’t mean that there is none, or that it’s illegitimate for the people who work in an industry to feel insecurity about its transformation and their prospects for stable employment in it. Tech companies could do more to sell themselves to legacy content providers as beneficial partners. And legacy media companies could spend more time talking to consumers about customer service and cross-platform accessibility than scolding them.

Content and technology companies are not inextricably enemies, and there’s likely to be less and less daylight between them in the future. Netflix is making investments in shows like mob drama Lillyhammer and a remake of the classic British series House of Cards. On a smaller scale, Hulu is doing the same with its unscripted series from Morgan Spurlock and Richard Linklater and its first scripted ...

Published: Monday 9 January 2012
“It’s time that we replaced our country’s global military overreach with a posture more deserving of the name ‘defense.’”

President Barack Obama ordered up yet another strategic review last year. This one explicitly aimed at bringing the nation's military posture into line with something we can afford.

In response to that review, his administration forged a plan, unveiled during the first week of the year, which takes a few modest steps in the right direction. The job description for our self-appointed role as world policeman will be trimmed a bit. We won't be patrolling everywhere all the time, but we'll be doing something more like check-ins in places like Latin America and Africa. Some of those U.S. troops that have been guarding Europe since World War II will probably come home. The Army and Marine Corps will shrink modestly. There's a verbal commitment, at least, to share more responsibilities with allies. And we'll cut a few more Cold War weapon systems. That's probably a safe move, now two decades since the Cold War ended.


But we're not stepping down from being the planet's top cop. We're holding onto the idea that we need to maintain a global presence and the ability to "confront and defeat aggression anywhere in the world." And we'll be projecting more power in China's direction.

Published: Sunday 8 January 2012
New contenders are entering the field to fight against SOPA after widespread online opposition failed to sway legislators away from bipartisan support of the bill.

The Stop Online Piracy Act is proposed legislation which threatens to restrict and regulate streaming video, music, and other copyrighted content on the internet. It would potentially make some common online activities, such as video streaming of copyrighted content, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. It would also allow the Department of Justice and copyright holders themselves to seek out court orders to take down or censor websites and other online content providers who they accused of acting in violation of the new measures. Industry lobbies that support the bill argue that it will provide much needed improvements over law enforcement’s existing ability to enforce the law on the internet and will bolster intellectual property protections in the entertainment industry.

Online activism against the Stop Online Piracy Act has been widespread since it was introduced as legislation in October. Opponents argue that SOPA would constitute internet censorship and would be in violation of first amendment free speech guarantees. Groups of internet users have come together to boycott pro-SOPA corporations like - who supported SOPA and simultaneously ensured itself exemptions from the law. So far Congress seems set to pass the legislation quietly despite the public outcry against it.

Grassroots opposition to SOPA has not been fruitless, and has been joined in protest by some big corporate allies. Markham Erickson, the head of the NetCoalition trade association, confirmed that tech industry giants like ...

Published: Wednesday 4 January 2012
“Google Books are a potentially major change in our reading lives, and the Google Books app for smartphones and tablets gives the reader access to a wide range of out-of-copyright works for free.”


I’m a bibliophile of the first water. I have spent what seems half my life in bookstores all over the world. Some readers praise the creamy texture of a well-bound volume published on good paper. But it is less noted that old books smell—of the places they’ve been, of dust, molds and fungi, of the hand sweat of former owners. Opening one is sort of like lifting the lid on a tantalizing curry still being cooked. But I am making the switch to e-books even so, and they are changing the way I read and even what I read.

For those baby boomers in their 60s, old-style books do have substantial drawbacks. Print books are often big and heavy. I’ve had back problems and find it difficult to sit for hours with a doorstop in my lap. Carrying a tome on an airplane is literally a pain. As you age, your vision declines, and all the bifocals in the world won’t necessarily let you read small type comfortably. And then, the bane of the bibliophile is the bulkiness of the thousands of volumes you accumulate in a lifetime. You run out of room at home, or at least room your spouse will let you dedicate to yet more bookcases. Some collectors may be so obsessive that they carefully catalog their own private libraries at home, but mine is strewn haphazardly across bookshelves purchased over 30 years, and I can’t always find what I’m looking for.

An e-book reader such as an iPad equipped with a 

Published: Saturday 24 December 2011
Fishman, who is stepping down as chairman of the pain foundation this month, said he often receives honoraria for teaching medical education courses but doesn't discuss them with drug-company funders and completely controls the content.

Google Dr. Scott Fishman, chairman and president of the American Pain Foundation, or Dr. Perry Fine, a prominent board member, and it's quickly clear that their ties to the world of pain are legion.

Here (and at right) is a photo of Fishman at a forum with U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin.  READ FULL POST 6 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 3 December 2011
What if you could weigh in on how your city’s money is spent? In some districts of New York City, you can.

For the first time in history, some New York City residents have been given the opportunity to be directly involved in allocating the city’s budget—more than $6 million of it. Council members in four districts are trying out participatory budgeting, a grassroots democratic system that allows anyone to present proposals for improvements in their communities. The process fosters transparency, equality, and inclusion, words not always associated with municipal governments.

Council member Brad Lander, whose council district is in Brooklyn, learned about participatory budgeting about a year ago; he’s been anxious to try the process ever since.

a“I instantly thought it would be a great way to get people involved in the process of governing our communities at a time when faith in government is at an all-time low,” Lander says, citing a September poll revealing that only 15 percent of Americans say they trust the federal government most of the time. Lander is committing at least $1 million of discretionary funds for participatory budgeting over the next year.

It has restored faith in government for some New Yorkers who have been involved.Participatory budgeting was first practiced in Brazil in 1989. Today, more than 1,000 places across the world implement participatory budgets, mostly at the municipal level.

Published: Thursday 24 November 2011
The company was able to negotiate with its current insurance providers to remove exclusions and to affirm that coverage is available for all services that a doctor has deemed medically necessary for a transgender employee.

Internet trend-setter Google has joined the ranks of those leading another trend: offering fully inclusive health care benefits to transgender employees. Effective immediately, the company’s employee benefits policies will cover all medically necessary procedures and services for transgender employees in accordance with the Standards of Care maintained by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). These procedures include treatments commonly related to gender transition, such as hormone therapy, reconstructive chest and genital surgery, and mental health services.

In addition to WPATH, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the Endocrine Society, and other major medical professional associations have determined that transition-related care is safe, effective, and medically necessary. However, access to these medically necessary services is limited for many transgender people by insurance exclusions that specifically deny coverage for care related to being transgender.

The vast majority of medically necessary services denied to transgender people by insurance industry exclusions are routinely covered for non-transgender people and are all likely to be part of the list of essential benefits to be determined by the Department of Health and Human Services in the spring. These services include:

– ...

Published: Friday 18 November 2011
“Republican lawmakers continue to aid and abet corporate tax avoidance by protecting offshore profit deferral, which allows corporations to claim domestic tax credits for profits they earn overseas.”

With income inequality in the U.S. at its highest level since the Great Depression, Americans from every end of the income spectrum are clamoring for corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes. But because of the numerous tax loopholes and credits worked into the tax code, corporate taxes are at historical lows.

Bank of America paid nothing in federal taxes in 2009. While earning billions in profit, companies like Boeing, Exxon-Mobil, and Wells Fargo also paid nothing in recent years. Other corporations, like Google and Pfizer, dramatically lower their tax rates by deferring profits they make overseas. After making more than $14 billion in profits last year, General Electric not only got a pass on paying any corporate income ...

Published: Thursday 17 November 2011
“The One Percent are not only the bankers and traders on Wall Street — they’re alive and thriving in Silicon Valley. And yet no one is encamped outside of Google in Mountain View or in front of Facebook.”

The One Percent are not only the bankers and traders on Wall Street — they're alive and thriving in Silicon Valley. And yet no one is encamped outside of Google in Mountain View or in front of Facebook. The protestors have rather targeted Wall Street and the government. But the new super rich of Silicon Valley have managed to come up in an economy that has shed jobs and houses and social safety nets — and their money allows them to set its rules.

President Obama flies to Silicon Valley and is flattered by the company of the valley's One Percent. Steven Jobs even famously criticized the way the president was doing his job. And the president took it.

At the southern end of Silicon Valley, in front of San Jose's City Hall, there are dozens of Occupy San Jose protesters, championing the call to action that originated with New York's Occupy Wall Street. But at the Martin Luther King Library around the corner, a young rapper named Ookie is showing a photo essay on the impact of closing youth centers and libraries. It's the image of a baggie stuck on a fence of a closed city community center that raises the most anger in the audience. They held an event called "Growing Up Poor" where young people — through photo, video, spoken word — are sharing to a group of policy-makers, advocates, and media what their Silicon Valley looks like in a time when family poverty has climbed to unprecedented levels, and in a place with such a high cost of living, the impact is even more acute.

In San Jose, the city that used to promote itself as the capitol of Silicon Valley, city budget cuts have either eliminated or dramatically slashed hours for youth sanctuaries like libraries and community centers. And for young people, libraries had been the only public spaces left where they could shelter themselves from the fall out of the economy — the escalating violence on the streets, cops, the cold — and as ...

Published: Sunday 6 November 2011
“This map and corresponding study gives the geothermal industry another great tool for evaluating resources, particularly in areas on the East Coast where developers haven’t ventured.”

You’re looking at a whole lot of heat.

Southern Methodist University’s Geothermal Laboratory recently released a map that proves once again how much potential energy is locked beneath America. SMU’s resource map, which took years to develop with funding from, shows that there are enough technically recoverable resources throughout the U.S. to equal 10 times the amount of coal capacity in place today.

Other maps have shown similar data. Last year, SMU issued a map (also funded by Google) that showed massive geothermal potential under West Virginia, an area not typically seen as suitable for the technology. In 2007, MIT Researcher Jeff Tester analyzed deep “hot rock” resources, showing that the U.S has 100 GW of potential for Enhanced Geothermal Systems [EGS] — an emerging type of plant design in which a developer creates an artificial well by pumping water through deep rocks, rather than using direct steam from hot water reservoirs closer to the surface.

So big deal, right? Another map shows we have tons of resources. Why is this so different from the others?

Well, geothermal exploration ...

Published: Wednesday 2 November 2011
“When the holiday was granted once before, in 2004, some of the wealthiest corporations had their taxes cut by billions of dollars.”

Almost 70 members of Congress co-sponsoring legislation for a massive tax holiday have received almost a million dollars in campaign contributions from the corporations that would benefit most.

Among the leading advocates for a bill that would allow the firms to pay cut-rate taxes on a trillion dollars these firms have stashed offshore is the WIN America campaign, a coalition of trade groups and companies like Apple, Pfizer and Google. An iWatch News analysis of campaign finance data has found that 68 of the 80 sponsors of the legislation in the House and Senate have received donations from WIN-affiliated companies since the start of 2009, taking in more than $940,000.

In addition to contributions to lawmakers, the WIN affiliates gave huge amounts to the two national political parties. The national committees for the Republicans got at least $576,000 while their Democratic counterparts collected at least $408,000 during this period.

For a select group of companies that would benefit most from the tax holiday, the stakes are high. When the holiday was granted once before, in 2004, some of the wealthiest corporations had their taxes cut by billions of dollars. Pfizer profited to the tune of $37 billion; Merck by $15.9 billion, Hewlett-Packard by $14.5 billion and IBM and Johnson & Johnson by some $10 billion each.

Given the number of tech firms that stand to benefit from the tax holiday, it is no surprise California Democrats with Silicon Valley connections are among the top recipients. Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren, who both claim part of Silicon Valley in their districts, are among the 11 Democrats to co-sponsor the House bill. They ranked first and second in funds received from WIN affiliates among co-sponsors of the bill, with Eshoo receiving more than ...

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