The United States is the most influential country in the world. Although not all nations will copy what America does, our policies and cultural practices seriously influence what the rest of the world can and will do. When the United States embraces policies and practices that serve the rights and interests of the American People, it makes it far more affordable and sustainable for other nations to support the rights and interests of their Peoples.
The decisions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to treat internet service providers as utilities is one recent example where individual rights and interests are being protected by the United States government. By treating all internet traffic equally, ISPs will be required to improve internet access for all instead of forcing consumers to compete on ever increasing prices for slow growing bandwidth. That is, if they want to compete with their fellow telecommunications companies as they must now do, they will have offer better services at competitive prices.
Abandoning the notion of “net neutrality” would have created a perverse incentive for telecommunications companies to limit their investment in additional bandwidth, i.e. they would have been able to pressure consumers who need faster internet access to pay more by limiting the access of those who are not willing, or able, to pay a premium . That said, critics are correct when they proclaim increased regulation will add costs. The costs associated with enforcement and adherence to regulations are real; however, the benefits of regulations are also real.
The impending shutdown of the US Department of Homeland Security at the end of the week may not immediately endanger the lives of most Americans. Over time, unpaid employees would eventually stop coming into work, but most people, except for the President as the Secret Service is part of DHS, would probably remain safe.
Ironically, the failure of the Department of Homeland security to unite all branches of the US national security apparatus under one branch as was originally envisioned following the September 11th attacks means this latest example of government dysfunction is not as big of a threat to US national security as it could have been.
Absent a major disaster, organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Communications System will not be missed. Unfortunately, the reality that the US Coast Guard , the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) , and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does create a major blockage for travelers and those in need of rescue on the water. In the long-term, the broad mission of DHS will mean a whole host of preventative measures to ward off everything from bug infestations to terrorist attacks will be put on hold.
Even if a shutdown is avoided or short-lived, the reality that Republicans are willing to risk a key element of America’s national security demonstrates how much the GOP has changed in recent years and how toxic the political system has become. Republicans have long portrayed themselves as the party of national defense. For decades, the political consequences of even challenging questionable defense spending helped create the bloated, inefficient disaster that is the Defense Department budget.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has been showered with unending praise and criticism since she left Google to save the iconic tech giant. Fortunately for Mayer, Yahoo appears to be growing stronger, at the moment, thanks to its investment in recent success story Alibaba and Mayer’s drive to grow into the mobile app market. Unfortunately for Mayer, activist shareholders are still trying to force Yahoo to merge with AOL and they have some very compelling reasons for doing so. With that in mind, the Yahoo drama offers the world some powerful insights as we struggle with economic realities that are not meeting the needs of more and more people across the globe.
Google is a success story, because it entered a market where there was a clear deficit, i.e. information across the internet needed to better organized, and it happened to come across a revenue generating method that has worked extremely well. There is, however, an important lesson in business that many people never learn: just because someone has been successful does not mean they know how to continue to be successful or make someone else successful. The debacle of Google Glasses boldly exemplifies the shortcomings of a culture, which seeks to make fantasy reality with little regard for cost restraints.
Marissa Mayer was extremely successful in the Google environment, but that had a great deal to do with the success of Google’s products. When oil is up, only the most incompetent of businessmen are going to tank an oil company; when oil is down, only the most competent of businessmen can save an oil company. Looking at the way Ms. Mayer started her tenure at Yahoo by expending copious amounts of cash on acquisitions, it appears her strategy was to throw her whole plate of spaghetti against the wall and hope enough of it stuck to call it done. Clearly, this is a strategy that could have easily failed and may well still fail.
With the vicious terrorism of groups like the Islamic State and Boko Haram drawing the attention of the world, other threats to the International Community seem to, at best, briefly make it into the headlines. One such story is the so-called “Equation Group” and its toolkit of malware that allows it to hack the firmware of most hard drives on the planet. If the report of the Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab can be trusted, as well as the sequent reporting that links the NSA to the use of the malware described in the report, it probably represents the one of the greatest security threat to the developed world, as well as the developing world.
Unfortunately, hackers are not the easiest bunch of people to locate while the Ukraine Crisis and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-West PR campaign creates a perverse incentive for Russian firms to cast undue suspicion onto the United States and its allies. Given the Edward Snowden NSA Revelations elevated Putin’s standing on the world stage at the expense of US soft power months before the Ukraine Crisis developed, reviving that story is an advantage for the Russian government. It is, therefore, important to take this news with a grain of salt and recognize its release will be used to manipulate people.
That said, the ability of hackers, any hacker for that matter, to infiltrate the code of hardware, circumvent detection methods, and permanently infect any computer system in the world is a serious issue. There are individuals who will not create an online banking account, because they fear their personal data with be stolen. The truth is that their data is already online. After all, banks do everything electronically. In fact, almost every aspect of our lives is being digitalized, thus the ability to control hardware creates a situation where all personal and professional data is thoroughly insecure.
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