Blog Archives

Google is coming after critics. It’s time to stop them

The search engine giant is forming into a government of itself, and it seems incapable of even seeing its own overreach

By Zephyr Teachout

Published: 16:49 August 31, 2017

About 10 years ago, Tim Wu, the Columbia Law professor who coined the term ‘network neutrality’, made this prescient comment: “To love Google, you have to be a little bit of a monarchist, you have to have faith in the way people traditionally felt about the king.”

Wu was right. And now, Google has established a pattern of lobbying and threatening to acquire power. It has reached a dangerous point common to many monarchs: The moment where it no longer wants to allow dissent.

This summer, a small team of well-respected researchers and journalists, the Open Markets team at the New America think tank (where I have been a fellow since 2014), dared to speak up about Google, in the mildest way. When the European Union fined Google for preferring its own subsidiary companies to its rival companies in search results, it was natural that Open Markets, a group dedicated to studying and exposing distortions in markets, including monopoly power, would comment. The researchers put out a 150-word statement praising the EU’s actions. They wrote, “By requiring that Google give equal treatment to rival services instead of privileging its own, [the EU] is protecting the free flow of information and commerce upon which all democracies depend.”

They called upon the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice and state attorneys general to apply the traditional American monopoly law, which would require separate ownership of products and services and the networks that sell products and services.

Google has been funding New America for years at high levels. Within 24 hours of the statement going live, Google representatives called New America’s leadership expressing their displeasure. Two planned hires for the Open Markets team suddenly were cancelled. Three days later, the head of the Open Markets team, the accomplished journalist Barry Lynn, received a letter from the head of the think tank, demanding that the entire team leave New America. The reason? The statement praising the EU’s decision against Google was, according to New America President Anne-Marie Slaughter, “imperiling the institution.” (As of this writing, Slaughter has denounced the story as false, claiming that Lynn was dismissed for failures of “openness” and “collegiality.”)

When Google was founded in 1998, it famously committed itself to the motto: “Don’t be evil.” It appears that Google may have lost sight of what being evil means, in the way that most monarchs do: Once you reach a pinnacle of power, you start to believe that any threats to your authority are themselves villainous and that you are entitled to shut down dissent. As Lord Acton famously said: “Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.” Those with too much power cannot help but be evil. Google, the company dedicated to free expression, has chosen to silence opposition, apparently without any sense of irony.

Google did not always operate this way in relation to think tanks, even those it funded. The head of Google’s parent company, Eric Schmidt, served on the board of New America starting 2000 and was chairman from 2008 through May 2016. The Open Markets institute has long studied excessive corporate power and argued for the importance of anti-monopoly laws. They were not previously punished for their work.

But in recent years, Google has become greedy about owning not just search capacities, video and maps, but also the shape of public discourse. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, Google has recruited and cultivated law professors who support its views. And as the New York Times recently reported, it has become invested in building curriculum for our public schools, and has created political strategy to get schools to adopt its products.

This year, Google is on track to spend more money than any company in America on lobbying. In 2015, it was the third biggest corporate spender, paying more than ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin or the Koch brothers on lobbying. Much of what it is spending its money on has nothing to do with technical details regarding its search engine and everything to do with using its power in its search engine to shut out some competitors and build power over others.

It is time to call out Google for what it is: A monopolist in search, video, maps and browser, and a thin-skinned tyrant when it comes to ideas. The imperial overreach of Google in trying to shut down a group of five researchers proves the point that the initial release from Open Markets was trying to make: When companies get too much power, they become a threat to democratic free speech and to the liberty of citizens at large.

In 1948, in the Supreme Court case US vs Columbia Steel Co., Justice William Douglas explained that the traditional philosophy of American antitrust law is that “all power tends to develop into a government in itself. Power that controls the economy … should be scattered into many hands so that the fortunes of the people will not be dependent on the whim or caprice, the political prejudices, the emotional stability of a few self-appointed men”.

Google is forming into a government of itself, and it seems incapable of even seeing its own overreach. We, as citizens, must respond in two ways. First, support the brave researchers and journalists who stand up to overreaching power; and second, support traditional anti-monopoly laws that will allow us to have great, innovative companies — but not allow them to govern us.

Google’s actions forced the Open Markets team to leave New America. But, thankfully, it did not succeed in silencing them entirely. Open Markets will continue on as a separate organization, which I will chair. Their work exposing corporate monopolies and advocating for regulation is more important than ever. Google shows us why.

— Washington Post

Zephyr Teachout is an associate professor of law at Fordham University.

Source

Obama’s Assassination Drones

by Jacob G. Hornberger

(FFF) – The Power to Assassinate a Compliant and Submissive People

President Obama’s nomination of John Brennan is being held up over Brennan’s refusal to state whether the president’s power to assassinate Americans (and others) extends to American soil. The controversy is summed up in a great article by Glenn Greenwald.

The fact that Brennan could not bring himself to immediately say that the president doesn’t have the power to assassinate Americans (and others) right here within the United States is revealing. He undoubtedly knows that the president does claim to wield such power and that the president just doesn’t want to alarm Americans by informing them that he now wields the power to assassinate anyone he wants, including Americans here in the United States.

I can’t see how there’s any room for doubt here. Ever since President Bush claimed extraordinary powers after the 9/11 attacks, we here at The Future of Freedom Foundation have been pointing out that the powers were not limited to foreigners or to foreign lands. When U.S. forces, both military and CIA, were kidnapping people, torturing them, and incarcerating them without trial, we kept emphasizing that such powers were not limited to foreigners. By following the logic employed by Bush and his associates, it was clear that those extraordinary powers extended to Americans as well, both abroad and here at home.

But all too many Americans comforted themselves by thinking that those extraordinary powers applied only to foreigners and that the powers were necessary to keep them “safe.” Therefore, they endorsed what was going on with much enthusiasm, simply blocking out of their minds that they were also endorsing the most revolutionary change in the relationship between the federal government and the American citizenry in U.S. history.

Then came the case of Jose Padilla. He was an American who was accused of conspiracy to commit terrorism. Rather than have him indicted and then prosecute him in federal court, the feds whisked him away to a military dungeon, where the Pentagon tortured him and threatened to keep him incarcerated for the rest of his life as an “enemy combatant”  in the “war on terrorism.”   We took a leading role in opposing that extraordinary exercise of military supremacy over the American citizenry. We continually pointed out that what they did to Padilla, if upheld, they could then do to all other Americans. But because Padilla was not the most sympathetic character in the world, all too many Americans were happy over what the feds were doing to him, blocking out of their minds that the feds could now do the same thing to all other Americans.

And sure enough, the federal courts, in the fear-ridden environment of post-9/11, upheld what the president and the Pentagon did to Padilla, which means that they can now do the same to every American — and some 12 years after the 9/11 attacks!   And now we have the president’s assassination program, in which the president, along with his military and CIA, now wield the power to assassinate anyone they want, no questions asked. They’ve already killed countless foreigners as well as at least three Americans, including a 16-year-old boy. They do it all in secret and are not required to answer any questions as to who they have assassinated or why. Their power to kill people is omnipotent.

Do they claim the power to assassinate Americans right here at home? How can there be any doubt about it? From the very beginning, they simply converted a standard federal crime — terrorism — into an act of war. They called it “the war on terrorism,” and said that this war was just like World Wars I and II. They said that in war, they have the right to take captives, torture them, and execute illegal enemy combatants, and also to assassinate the enemy.   They also said that this war would go on forever or for at least the lifetimes of everyone living today, given that there were so many terrorists in the world. As part of that war, the president, the military, and the CIA would have to assume extraordinary powers, they said, ones that were inherent to the most extreme dictatorships in history.

Significantly, they repeatedly emphasized that in this war, the battlefield wasn’t limited to the Middle East or surrounding regions. Instead, in this war the entire world constituted the battlefield. That, of course, included the United States.   Thus, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to draw the logical conclusion — whatever extraordinary powers were being exercised against foreign “enemy combatants” in the “war on terrorism” could be applied against people right here on American soil, including Americans.   Of course, as we have also been pointing out since 9/11, the entire matter is just one great big sham and fraud.

They took a federal criminal offense — terrorism — and used it a ruse to claim that America was now “at war” and then claimed extreme dictatorial powers in the process. It would be no different if the president used another federal war — the “war on drugs” — as a ruse to assume extraordinary dictatorial powers, such as the power to kidnap, torture, execute, and assassinate suspected drug users and dealers.   Our American ancestors tried their best to prevent this dictatorial nonsense. That’s why they used the Constitution to bring into existence a government of limited, enumerated powers. Notice that the dictatorial powers claimed by Bush and Obama are not among those enumerated powers.

To make sure that federal officials got the point, our ancestors demanded the enactment of four separate amendments to the Constitution — the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments. Those amendments stated that with respect to federal crimes, people would be guaranteed the protections of criminal indictments, due process of law, trial by jury, freedom from cruel and unusual punishments, and other protections.   And there is another important thing to note about those four amendments. Notice that the protections and guarantees apply to people in general, not just to Americans. That’s because our ancestors understood that justice requires that the rules apply to everyone equally, not one set of rules for foreigners and another set of rules for Americans.

Thus, under our system of justice, President Obama has no right to be assassinating anyone or torturing anyone or incarcerating anyone without due process of law and trial by jury.   And it must be emphasized: terrorism is, in fact, a federal crime. That’s why they ultimately made Padilla a criminal defendant. That’s why terrorism is listed in the U.S. Code as a criminal offense. That’s why they have terrorism cases in federal court all the time.

The truth is that there is no real war and there has never been one, any more than there has been a real war in the “war on drugs.” After all, how is the enemy supposed to surrender in this “war”? Where are the transport ships bringing invading troops to America? Where are the supply lines?   And let’s not forget something else of equal importance — the only reason that people are killing U.S. troops over there is because they’re over there interfering with the affairs of other countries.

That’s what the killing is all about on both sides —not because people are trying to conquer America and enslave Americans but simply because they want the U.S. government, especially the U.S. military and CIA, out of their countries. And the more the Pentagon and the CIA continue to kill people in the process, the more they generate an endless supply of terrorists, which they then use to perpetuate their dictatorial powers. As I have long pointed out, the U.S. government is the greatest terrorist-producing machine in history.

It’s all been a sham, a fraud, and a ruse to enable the U.S. national-security state to adopt the same powers of dictatorship that it has long supported and trained, such as Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile, the military dictatorships in Guatemala, the Shah’s dictatorship in Iran, Mubarak’s dictatorship in Egypt, and many more.

But Brennan shouldn’t been concerned about alarming Americans about Obama’s power to assassinate them on American soil. As we have learned since 9/11, the American people are among the most compliant, cooperative, and submissive people on the planet.

All the feds have to do is say that they are doing it to keep them safe, and except for libertarians and (a few liberals and conservatives), unfortunately all too many Americans continue to fall for anything and agree to anything the government wants to do to them.

The Future of Freedom Foundation

Source

Germany: Siemens Postpones Launch of Subsea Power Grid

image

Siemens has unveiled the postponement of first subsea grid after revealing the purchase of Expro’s Connectors and Measurements division for $630 million, which will provide the final engineering for the project, the Reuters reported.

CEO of Siemens Oil and Gas Division, Adil Toubia, stated that the proto-type subsea power grid would be implemented at the end of 2013 and would be available to the market at the end of 2014.

Atle Stromme, Global Head of Subsea, said to Reuters that Expro’s C&M business would complete what Siemens needs to create the subsea power grid, a first ever for water depths of minimum 3,000 meters in the oil and gas processing business.

Reuters citied him as saying: “We now have in-house to develop the power grid.”

Siemens’ subsea power grid — which consists of transformers, converters, switchgears and adjustable speed drives — will supply the power to carry the oil and gas from the wellhead to a processing facility.

Source

Norway to Power Offshore Platforms from Land?

image

The operators and licence holders for the Johan Sverdrup, Dagny, Draupne and Luno fields in the North Sea will study setting up a hub for the supply of electrical power from land. The study will form the basis for a decision on electrification.

The study, which has been initiated by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, is headed by Statoil and involves the operators Lundin and Det norske oljeselskap, as well as the other licence holders. The work will comprise technical studies, such as concept planning, as well as commercial solutions for the electrification of the fields on the Utsira High. The intention is to create a framework for potentially setting up a company or partnership to own and operate the facilities that will feed the receiving platforms with power.

It is primarily the gigantic Johan Sverdrup discovery – together with Luno, Draupne and Dagny, including Eirin – that makes such a shared power solution possible. Preparations will be made for the possible subsequent tie-in of other installations on the Norwegian continental shelf.

The study will take in an offshore distribution platform located near Johan Sverdrup, with DC cables from land to the distribution platform and AC cables on to the receiving platforms. An analysis of the power situation at the potential land-based connection points will also form part of the study.

There will be the additional requirement for converters and transformers on the distribution platform and on land. AC cables will also be necessary and the existing switching station will need to be extended for connection to the grid network.

The progress plan for study will, to a large extent, be governed by the plans of those who will be in receipt of the power.

A concept will be selected, and the investment decision made,at the earliest in the fourth quarter of this year.

The decision to electrify will be taken by the licence holders/owners, on the basis of profitability, the official specifications and the conditions stipulated . Utsira Height can be well suited for electrification due to its considerable power needs, as well as the favourable distances and water depths involved.

Source

Taiwan: Gas-Fueled Power Generation Capacity to Grow by 2030

image

Taiwan’s gas-fueled power generation capacity will increase 67% by 2030, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang said last Saturday, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

Shih Yen-shiang, speaking at a ceremony in Taichung Harbor to mark the 100th shipment of LNG delivered to the port, said gas-fueled power generation would reach 15 GW this year, or 35% of total power generation capacity, the news agency said.

By 2030, the installed natural gas generating capacity will grow to 25,000 megawatts [25 GW],” he added.

Shih said the government has developed plans to build more natural gas storage tanks and transport pipelines on the island as part of its 30-year energy development plan, the report said.

Shih’s ministry has made sourcing, transporting, and storing natural gas top priorities in its energy policy, to support the increased usage of natural gas to reduce carbon emissions and global warming.

Taiwan’s Council of Economic Planning and Development approved a plan in September by state-owned CPC Corp​. to add three 160,000-cubic meter LNG storage tanks at its Taichung LNG receiving terminal in central Taiwan.

The additional storage tanks would boost the capacity of the Taichung receiving terminal to 5 million mt/year from the present 3 million mt/year.

The project now has one final hurdle to clear — the environmental impact assessment. The expansion is due to start in July 2012 and slated for completion by end-2018.

CPC owns another 7.44 million mt/year LNG terminal at Yung An, in Kaohsiung city in southern Taiwan.

CPC imports all the LNG Taiwan consumes, with 70% of the cargoes going to state power generators such as Taiwan Power Company​. Consumption by seven independent power producers, domestic and industrial users account evenly for the outstanding 30%.

Taiwan imported a total 8.01 million mt of LNG through to August this year, an 8.64% increase from the 7.37 million mt it imported in the first eight months of 2010. Taiwan imported a total 11.14 million mt of LNG in 2010, according to data from Taiwan’s Directorate General of Customs.

By  Max Gostelow ( platts )

Original Article

%d bloggers like this: