Aug 042021
 


René Magritte The son of man 1946

 

Fauci and the NIH Knew Covid-19 “Vaccines” Could Lead to ADE (Ghion)
Informed Consent Disclosure To Vaccine Trial Subjects Of ADE Risk (Wiley)
How Much Spike Protein Is Being Made (Lincoln)
Unvaccinated People Need to Bear the Burden (Atl.)
Covid-19 Natural Immunity Compared To Vaccine-induced Immunity (Attkisson)
My Own Country Kicked Me Out Because My Immunity Was Acquired Naturally (RT)
A Plea To Allow The Use Of Ivermectin As Covid-19 Treatment (Biz)
Biden Message For DeSantis On Covid Mask Opposition: ‘Get Out Of The Way’ (MH)
Mayor De Blasio And Governor Cuomo Are Pushing Hard For Vaccinations (F.)
Vaccine Cards Are Just The Beginning (Whitehead)
We Stand in Solidarity with Dr. Peter McCullough MD (Change)
Julian Assange: Peering Through The Murk (Rozenberg)
America Has Become Its Own Worst Enemy (Unherd)
Meet Your New Feudal Overlords (Weems)
2020: A Propaganda Masterpiece (Perspectives on the Pandemic)

 

 

To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles—this they name empire;
and where they make a desert, they call it peace.

— Tacitus (quoting Calgacus), Agricola 30.

 

 

Vaccine safety under Trump

 

 

 

 

“..over 160 million Americans and more than 2 billion people around the world were never told about the distinct possibility that they could end up developing a disease called Antibody-Dependent Enhancement (ADE).”

Fauci and the NIH Knew Covid-19 “Vaccines” Could Lead to ADE (Ghion)

Late last night, an anonymous source forwarded a screenshot of a report attributed to Timothy Cardozo and Ronald Veazey that is found at the bottom of NIH’s website. The report specifically warned of the distinct possibility that people who are injected with Covid-19 “vaccines” could develop the very Antibody-Dependent Enhancement that Dr. Malone keeps ringing the alarm about. Not only was this information suppressed from the public, the government-media-corporate complex went out of their way to censor—in the case of Dr. Malone destroy—anyone who questions the safety and efficacy of these boosters that are still undergoing clinical trials. Even though I knew all along that the US government, and governments around the world, were lying through their teeth about the origins of Covid-19 and were likewise peddling medical misinformation about the scientific integrity of the “vaccines”, it was still shocking to read the following paragraph right on NIH’s website:

“The specific and significant COVID-19 risk of ADE should have been and should be prominently and independently disclosed to research subjects currently in vaccine trials, as well as those being recruited for the trials and future patients after vaccine approval, in order to meet the medical ethics standard of patient comprehension for informed consent.” [source NIH] Despite Cardozo and Veazey’s explicit instruction that NIH must disclose the full risks of the “vaccines” to test subjects in the clinical trials that were conducted last year as well as to all recipients once the “vaccines” garnered approval for general use, over 160 million Americans and more than 2 billion people around the world were never told about the distinct possibility that they could end up developing a disease called Antibody-Dependent Enhancement (ADE).

A significant percentage of the world’s population is now at risk of contracting an ailment that could lead to their body’s natural immune system getting compromised and attacking their vital organs. If that sounds familiar, that is because ADE is an autoimmune disease that is very similar to HIV/AIDs. [..] This is not some fluke occurrence that could not have been foreseen, “vaccines” that produce spiked proteins by way of mRNA or adenovirus were studied on lab animals—specifically ferrets and cats because they are more susceptible to Coronavirus—for over twenty years. Though the test subjects initially acquired synthetic antibodies, once their immunization window expired and they were challenged with SARS-CoV-1, the lab animals that were injected with the “vaccines” were wiped out.

The warning on NIH’s website was alluding to this very real possibility but the very authorities we entrust to protect us instead concealed this information and conditioned billions of people to get jabbed without informed consent. Every plutocrat, politician and opinion leader who took part in this conspiracy of silence should be frogmarched and tried before an international tribunal similar to the trials Nazis faced after World War II for violating the Nuremberg codes and committing brutalities that will once day be judged to exceed the evils of Hitler.

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This from October 2020 is the basis for the article above, both referenced by Dr. Robert Malone.

Informed Consent Disclosure To Vaccine Trial Subjects Of ADE Risk (Wiley)

Vaccine-elicited enhancement of disease was previously observed in human subjects with vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), dengue virus and measles.1 Vaccine-elicited enhancement of disease was also observed with the SARS and MERS viruses and with feline coronavirus, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, the causative pathogen of COVID-19 disease. The immune mechanisms of this enhancement have invariably involved antibodies, from direct antibody-dependent enhancement, to immune complex formation by antibodies, albeit accompanied by various coordinated cellular responses, such as Th2 T-cell skewing. Notably, both neutralising and non-neutralising antibodies have been implicated.

A recent study revealed IgG-mediated acute lung injury in vivo in macaques infected with SARS that correlated with a vaccine-elicited, neutralising antibody response.8 Inflammation and tissue damage in the lung in this animal model recapitulated the inflammation and tissue damage in the lungs of SARS-infected patients who succumbed to the disease. The time course was also similar, with the worst damage occurring in delayed fashion in synchrony with ramping up of the immune response. Remarkably, neutralising antibodies controlled the virus in the animal, but then would precipitate a severe, tissue-damaging, inflammatory response in the lung.

This is a similar profile to immune complex-mediated disease seen with RSV vaccines in the past, wherein vaccinees succumbed to fatal enhanced RSV disease because of the formation of antibody-virus immune complexes that precipitated harmful, inflammatory immune responses. It is also similar to the clinical course of COVID-19 patients, in whom severe COVID-19 disease is associated with the development of anti-SARS-CoV-2 serum antibodies, with titres correlating directly with the severity of disease. Conversely, subjects who recover quickly may have low or no anti-SARS-CoV-2 serum antibodies.

The elicitation of antibodies, specifically neutralising antibodies, is the goal of nearly every current SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate. The prior evidence that vaccine-elicited, antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) of disease is likely to occur to some degree with COVID-19 vaccines is vertically consistent from controlled SARS studies in primates to clinical observations in SARS and COVID-19. Thus, a finite, non-theoretical risk is evident in the medical literature that vaccine candidates composed of the SARS-CoV-2 viral spike and eliciting anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, be they neutralising or not, place vaccinees at higher risk for more severe COVID-19 disease when they encounter circulating viruses.

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Fun with numbers. Much more at the link.

How Much Spike Protein Is Being Made (Lincoln)

This thread is to shed a bit of light on the mysteries of how much spike protein is being made, where it is going and how is it going there. Sadly our captured regulatory agencies did not insist the mfr do so
1/ I start by estimating how much spike protein is being created by the mRNA vaccines
2/We know there is 30 microgram for Pfizer
3/Molecular weight is estimated at > 1.25 x10^6 gm/mole. (~330 gm per mole of nucleotide). This comes out to 30 x 10^-6 grams/ 1.25 x 10^6 gm/mole =24 x 10^-12 moles. 6 x 10^23 molecules/mole x 24 x 10^-12 moles =14.4x 10^12 molecules mRNA (14.4trillion)
4/14.4 trillion spike protein if 1 mRNA produces 1 spike protein. A more reasonable number is 1000 spike per mRNA X1000 14,400 trillion spikes
5/So basically 30 micrograms of mRNA will theoretically produce about 14,400 trillion individual spike proteins (if 100% efficient)
6/Now we ask this. How many cells are transfected by the vaccines. In other words, how many mRNA molecules are in each LNP
7/Since we can estimate how many mRNA molecules there are (14.4 trillion for Pfizer), we must estimate how many LNP’s
8/First we must estimate the size of LNP “Together with the mRNA, these components form particles of about 60–100 nm in size by using a rapid mixing production technique (Evers et al., 2018).”
9/So lets call it 80 nm and assume a spherical shape.
10/So LNP particles of 80 nm have a total weight of about 0.5 mg. Lipids are typically less dense than water but using the density of water we may estimate the volume of 0.5 mg as 5 x 10^17 cubic nm

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These people have lost their connection to the world. This girl wants unvaccinated on a no-fly list. But not because of the flying, no, the problem occurs when they leave the airport:

“..air-filtration systems and mask requirements make transmission of the coronavirus unlikely during any given passenger flight, infected people can spread it when they leave the airport and take off their mask…”

Unvaccinated People Need to Bear the Burden (Atl.)

When you go to the airport, you see two kinds of security rules. Some apply equally to everyone; no one can carry weapons through the TSA checkpoint. But other protocols divide passengers into categories according to how much of a threat the government thinks they pose. If you submit to heightened scrutiny in advance, TSA PreCheck lets you go through security without taking off your shoes; a no-fly list keeps certain people off the plane entirely. Not everyone poses an equal threat. Rifling through the bags of every business traveler and patting down every preschooler and octogenarian would waste the TSA’s time and needlessly burden many passengers. The same principle applies to limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

The number of COVID-19 cases keeps growing, even though remarkably safe, effective vaccines are widely available, at least to adults. Many public agencies are responding by reimposing masking rules on everyone. But at this stage of the pandemic, tougher universal restrictions are not the solution to continuing viral spread. While flying, vaccinated people should no longer carry the burden for unvaccinated people. The White House has rejected a nationwide vaccine mandate—a sweeping suggestion that the Biden administration could not easily enact if it wanted to—but a no-fly list for unvaccinated adults is an obvious step that the federal government should take. It will help limit the risk of transmission at destinations where unvaccinated people travel—and, by setting norms that restrict certain privileges to vaccinated people, will also help raise the stagnant vaccination rates that are keeping both the economy and society from fully recovering.

Flying is not a right, and the case for restricting it to vaccinated people is straightforward: The federal government is the sole entity that can regulate the terms and conditions of airline safety. And although air-filtration systems and mask requirements make transmission of the coronavirus unlikely during any given passenger flight, infected people can spread it when they leave the airport and take off their mask. The whole point of international-travel bans is to curb infections in the destination country; to protect itself, the United States still has many such restrictions in place. Beyond limiting the virus’s flow from hot spots to the rest of the country, allowing only vaccinated people on domestic flights will change minds, too.

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A long list of articles about natural immunity.

Covid-19 Natural Immunity Compared To Vaccine-induced Immunity (Attkisson)

Hard data counters widespread public misinformation that claimed “virtually all” patients hospitalized and dying of Covid-19 are unvaccinated. Pfizer and Moderna had claimed their vaccines were “100% effective” at preventing serious illness. Many in the media even popularized a propaganda phrase designed to push more people to get vaccinated: “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Not so, says CDC and other data. Recent CDC data found that 74% of those who tested positive for Covid-19 in a Massachusetts analysis had been fully-vaccinated. Equally as troubling for those advocating vaccination-for-all: four out of five people hospitalized with Covid were fully-vaccinated. And CDC said “viral load” — indicating how able the human host is to spread Covid-19 — is about the same among the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Contrary to the infamous misinformation by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky last May, vaccinated people can— and are— spreading Covid. (CDC officials later corrected Walensky’s false claim.) CDC’s newest findings on so-called “breakthrough” infections in vaccinated people are mirrored by other data releases. Illinois health officials recently announced more than 160 fully-vaccinated people have died of Covid-19, and at least 644 been hospitalized; ten deaths and 51 hospitalizations counted in the prior week. Israel’s Health Ministry recently said effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has fallen to 40 percent. Last month, 100 vaccinated British sailors isolated on a ship at sea reportedly came down with Covid seven weeks into their deployment.

In July, New Jersey reported 49 fully vaccinated residents had died of Covid; 27 in Louisiana; 80 in Massachusetts. Nationally, as of July 12, CDC said it was aware of more than 4,400 people who got Covid-19 after being fully vaccinated and had to be hospitalized; and 1,063 fully vaccinated people who died of Covid. But health officials still argue that vaccinated people make up only a small fraction of the seriously ill. Critics counter that CDC’s recent Massachusetts data calls that into question.

[..] As of May 29, CDC estimated more than 120 million Americans— more than one in three— had already battled Covid. While an estimated six-tenths of one-percent died, the other 99.4% of those infected survived with a presumed immune status that appears to be superior to that which comes with vaccination. If doctors could routinely test to confirm who has fought off and become immune to Covid-19, it would eliminate the practical need or rationale for those protected millions to get vaccinated. It would also allow them to avoid even the slight risk of serious vaccine side effects. Unfortunately, virologists say no commonly-used test can detect with certainty whether a person is immune.

A common misconception is that antibody tests can make that determination. But experts say immunity after infection or exposure often comes without a person producing or maintaining measurable antibodies. Because of that reality, people who have had asymptomatic infections — infections where they suffered no symptoms — have no easy way to know that they’re immune. However, a growing body of evidence indicates that the millions who know they got Covid can be assured they’re unlikely to suffer reinfection, for at least as long of a time period that scientists have been able to measure. Possibly far beyond.

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Rachel Marsden. Canada. Vying for first place in idiocy with Australia.

My Own Country Kicked Me Out Because My Immunity Was Acquired Naturally (RT)

I went home to visit my mother. Canada tried to force me into a Covid detention facility threatening fines and police action as they don’t recognize my natural immunity. I had no choice but to immediately fly back to Europe.
At the time of writing, I’m at an altitude of exactly 11,277m, 5,230km away from Vancouver, Canada, and 3,159km from my stopover in Munich, Germany, en route back to Paris, France. Where I really should be is relaxing on the backyard patio or in the jacuzzi at my home near Vancouver with a cold drink on a hot summer day. Instead, I’m on a Lufthansa flight heading back to Paris – just a few hours after arriving across the ocean on a 10-hour flight – because my own country’s officials kicked me out.

All because I committed the apparent violation of trying to re-enter my own country with proof of naturally acquired Covid-19 antibodies made by my own immune system post-recovery rather than those generated by the manmade Covid-19 vaccine about which much is still to be learned. Daily life for a Covid-19 survivor with natural immunity from the disease is not for the faint of heart. As someone with a high level of laboratory tested antibodies whose levels have yet to drop even after several months post-illness, my doctor has advised against vaccination. Much is obviously still to be learned about the Covid jabs, still in stage 3 of clinical trials and considered experimental by health authorities – particularly with reports abounding of breakthrough cases of vaccinated people catching and spreading Covid.

To protect and preserve my acquired immunity by opting out of vaccination that risks interfering with it or causing a risk to my health, France now requires me to succumb to nasal swab antigen tests every 48 hours if I wish to continue accessing everyday venues like public transit, gyms, restaurants, some shopping malls, and bars. But it’s a price that I’m willing to pay for my health.

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From South Africa.

A Plea To Allow The Use Of Ivermectin As Covid-19 Treatment (Biz)

Twenty countries are using Ivermectin to treat Covid-19. They include Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Nigeria, and Egypt. In South Africa doctors are allowed to prescribe Ivermectin, but it is not being rolled out everywhere and in hospitals and clinics. According to Jackie Stone, a doctor in Zimbabwe, since January – when Ivermectin began to be used – it has cut COVID hospital admissions and deaths over 70%. “The death rate rose sharply in January and peaked on the 25th at 70 deaths per day. Official authorisation for the use of Ivermectin was granted on 26th January. Just one month later, on 26th February, the COVID death rate had fallen to zero”.

A meta-analysis gold standard review of 24 randomised trials conducted in 15 countries among more than 3400 people worldwide of clinical trials – just released by the BIRD group in the UK – showed that deaths are dramatically reduced when Ivermectin is administered. Published in the American Journal of Therapeutics the most rigorous statistical standards were applied by world-leading biostatistician, Mr Andrew Bryant, and medical doctor and researcher Dr Tess Lawrie. The results concluded that Ivermectin has an over 70% success in preventing deaths in hospitalised patients. Mexico City authorities created a home-treatment-kit, including Ivermectin, for its 22 million-strong population in December 2020 and cut hospitalisations by over 70%.

Those Indian states that adopted Ivermectin policies saw their cases fall far more than 80%; Uttar Pradesh – down 98% [37,944 to 596], Uttarakhand – down 97% [9642 to 287] and Goa – down 90% [4195 to 423]. Delhi saw a 99% drop [28,395 to 238]. The bottom line is that Ivermectin works, and it works extraordinarily well. You do not need to be a scientist to understand these numbers, as they are self-evident. If South Africa had a policy of testing and treating – as does Mexico City, which has emptied its hospitals since they implemented it, does – and of using Ivermectin for prevention for health workers and those not vaccinated – we could end the effects of the pandemic here.

Besides cutting hospitalisations and deaths Ivermectin can also be used as a preventative. In Argentina, 788 health workers took Ivermectin weekly and 407 did not. After ten weeks, 58% of those not taking Ivermectin had become sick – but not one of those who took it became sick. The use of Ivermectin has been restricted because the WHO says that further clinical trials are needed before they can recommend it. When asked about this, Dr Stone replied, “I find it very hard to understand how they can say that there is not sufficient evidence. There are three thousand patients plus in, I think, twenty-four trials where they demonstrate an over 75% reduction in mortality. Those figures fit exactly with what we have seen.”

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Of course Florida is mostly fine, but you already guessed that. This is about raw power, and about DeSantis being popular.

Biden Message For DeSantis On Covid Mask Opposition: ‘Get Out Of The Way’ (MH)

President Joe Biden delivered a stern message on Tuesday to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the Republican’s opposition to mask mandates: “Get out of the way.” DeSantis has attributed the state’s uptick in COVID-19 cases to seasonal factors and rejected calls to impose a mask mandate. He last week signed an executive order threatening to withhold state funds from school districts that put mask mandates in place to follow federal health guidance for areas experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases.

“Look, we need leadership from everyone. If some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it,” Biden said in remarks about the pandemic. “I say to these governors please help. But if you are not going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.” For the third consecutive day, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida reached a pandemic high at 11,863 patients. Federal health officials said on Monday that one in three cases of coronavirus nationwide occurred in Florida and Texas last week. [..] DeSantis has likened the recent surge to the spike in cases last summer.

“These things have a pattern,” he said last month. “We saw the pattern last summer. It’s similar. I think it started a little later. I think people should just be prepared for that.” At a news conference in the Everglades on Tuesday, DeSantis repeated his belief that the surge will subside soon, saying: “These things come — you know we have summer season for whatever reason in the Sunbelt and particularly Florida, you know. It will probably come back in the winter, just like last year, not as much as the Northeast, but we’ll see.” DeSantis also downplayed the surge in hospitalizations and did not address the increasing strain on hospital staff. “Our hospitals are open for business,” he said, adding that in hospitals with high COVID cases, those patients “represent a fraction of the overall hospital beds.”

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They should both go.

Mayor De Blasio And Governor Cuomo Are Pushing Hard For Vaccinations (F.)

The surge of the Delta variant has prompted New York City and state officials to take swift action. This week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recommended that residents of the city wear masks when inside with crowds, even if you’re vaccinated. De Blasio said, “We want to strongly recommend that people wear a mask in indoor settings, even if you’re vaccinated.” The mayor added, “This is particularly true of course if you might be around anyone unvaccinated.” De Blasio emphasized, “Vaccination, vaccination, vaccination, that’s the ballgame.” He offered a $100 financial incentive for people to get their shots. City workers won’t have a choice, and will be mandated to get vaccinated. Additionally, all new government hires will have to show proof of vaccination or else they can’t start their jobs.

The Mayor will also be initiating a “Key to NYC Pass,” which is like the Covid-19 passport talked about a few months ago. It’s a carrot-and-stick approach, as people will be required to show that they are vaccinated if they want to go to restaurants, gyms and other events. No vaccinations, no entrance. “If you want to participate in society fully, you’ve got to get vaccinated,” de Blasio proclaimed. “If we’re going to stop the Delta variant, the time is now,” said the mayor. “This is going to make clear, you want to enjoy everything great in this summer of New York City? Go get vaccinated.”

In an interview with MSNBC, de Blasio dialed up his frustration over the unvaccinated. “We’ve got to shake people at this point and say, ‘Come on now.’ We tried voluntary. We could not have been more kind and compassionate. Free testing, everywhere you turn, incentives, friendly, warm embrace. The voluntary phase is over,” de Blasio said last week. “It’s time for mandates, because it’s the only way to protect our people.” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, similar to de Blasio, is pushing for people to get vaccinated. He’s requesting private businesses, such as bars and restaurants, to show proof of vaccination against Covid-19, as a condition for admission to their establishments. The governor also called for a vaccine mandate for employees of the state’s MTA and Port Authority, similar to his previous order for state hospital employees.

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Once you do them, they’re impossible to undo.

Vaccine Cards Are Just The Beginning (Whitehead)

It used to be that “we the people” had the right to come and go as we please without the fear of being stopped, questioned by police or forced to identify ourselves. In other words, unless police had a reasonable suspicion that a person was guilty of wrongdoing, they had no legal authority to stop the person and require identification. Unfortunately, in this age of COVID-19, that unrestricted right to move about freely is being pitted against the government’s power to lock down communities at a moment’s notice. And in this tug-of-war between individual freedoms and government power, “we the people” have been on the losing end of the deal.

Now vaccine passports, vaccine admission requirements, and travel restrictions may seem like small, necessary steps in winning the war against the COVID-19 virus, but that’s just so much propaganda. They’re only necessary to the police state in its efforts to further brainwash the populace into believing that the government legitimately has the power to enforce such blatant acts of authoritarianism. This is how you imprison a populace and lock down a nation. It makes no difference if such police state tactics are carried out in the name of national security or protecting America’s borders or making America healthy again: the philosophy remains the same, and it is a mindset that is not friendly to freedom.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t live in a constitutional republic if you allow the government to act like a police state. You can’t claim to value freedom if you allow the government to operate like a dictatorship. You can’t expect to have your rights respected if you allow the government to treat whomever it pleases with disrespect and an utter disregard for the rule of law. If you’re tempted to justify these draconian measures for whatever reason—for the sake of health concerns, the economy, or national security—beware: there’s always a boomerang effect. Whatever dangerous practices you allow the government to carry out now, rest assured, these same practices can and will be used against you when the government decides to set its sights on you.

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Click link, sign petition.

We Stand in Solidarity with Dr. Peter McCullough MD (Change)

We the undersigned stand in deep support and gratitude of Dr. Peter McCullough MD. We recognize his unwavering commitment to upholding his fiduciary responsibility to his patients, the highest standards of science and to the Hippocratic Oath. Most notably Dr. McCullough has and continues to be a forerunner and promoter of early ambulatory treatment of covid symptoms. Due to Dr. McCullough’s contribution, protocols such as those described in Pathophysiological Basis and Rationale for Early Outpatient Treatment of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Infection, countless lives have been saved. Going further, Dr. McCullough, with other respected researchers and physicians developed an early treatment plan for senior care facilities as well as raised valid concerns over both the safety and efficacy of the covid vaccines, especially considering the increasing number of breakthrough cases being experienced the world over, as well as the number of adverse events reported.


Instead of commending Dr. McCullough and backing these lifesaving discoveries, Baylor Scott and White has initiated a law suit, claiming that Dr. McCullough is falsely associating with their organization, and is demanding 1,000,000 in monetary aid as well as non monetary aid. We the undersigned strongly and emphatically urge that the individuals working on behalf of Baylor Scott and White dismiss this case. Your time and energies are much better spent in supporting Dr. McCullough in saving lives. Let it be known that the scientific, medical and lay communities are watching this development very closely and resolutely stand with Dr. McCullough.

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Murky indeed, even the article itself.

Julian Assange: Peering Through The Murk (Rozenberg)

Assange remains in prison. The district judge refused him bail after the US government said it would seek to appeal to the High Court against her decision. And on 5 July Mr Justice Swift granted the US permission on three of the five grounds set out in its application for permission to appeal. What were those? This is where the story becomes murky. The judge’s two-page order, which has not been published but is readily available from the court, explains briefly why he refused the US permission to appeal on grounds 3 and 4. It says nothing about Swift’s reasons for granting permission on grounds 1, 2 and 5. That’s not a problem as far as the parties are concerned: they know what the grounds of appeal were. And when the appeal is heard – this autumn or next year – we shall find out too.

But if, as Swift has held, the US has raised ‘arguable issues that should be considered at a final hearing’, lawyers with clients currently facing extradition to the US need to know – now – precisely what these are. Foreign governments seeking extradition are represented by the Crown Prosecution Service. I asked the CPS for a copy of the application they had filed for permission to appeal. They refused to let me see it. Instead, they suggested I asked the High Court. The court told me I needed to make a written application to the judge and pay a fee of £255. I was not willing to do so – it raises concerns about access to justice data that were the subject of an important report by the Legal Education Foundation last month – and I have not been able to get hold of a copy in any other way.

After further requests, the CPS agreed to send me an informal briefing note that had been supplied to other journalists shortly after Swift’s ruling. This note, which includes a minor inaccuracy, is the source of all media reports and legal commentaries on the judge’s ruling. The first arguable ground, according to this note, was that Baraitser had made errors of law in applying the test under section 91 of the Extradition Act 2003. This says that if the physical or mental condition of a suspect ‘is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him’, the judge must either order his or her discharge or adjourn the hearing until he or she is better. We don’t know what Baraitser’s alleged errors were. The second arguable ground is that, having decided that the threshold for discharge was met, Baraitser should have notified the requesting state of her provisional view and given the US a chance to offer assurances.

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Following the Soviet model of falling apart.

America Has Become Its Own Worst Enemy (Unherd)

Back in the 1970s, Russian women marvelled at how their American equivalents could afford to leave work while they had children. As the New York Times reported, they “express astonishment when they learn that an American father can support a family of two, three or four children without his wife’s working. Many are also surprised that American women would willingly have more than one child.” For them, it was a huge struggle to raise just one. The Soviet Union’s main adversary in the Cold War was also defined by ideology, to some extent. Many western nations had embraced liberalism, but no other was created with the words of John Locke enshrined in its foundation. Yet liberalism, too, faced its challenges in the late 20th century, not from the obviously failing Soviet Communism, but from rival ideas within the democratic tradition.

Starting in the 1960s, a new way of thinking began to predominate in the US that was not really liberal, although its opponents confusingly still referred to it as such. This new way of thinking was more hostile to freedom of speech, and its adherents began the process of chasing deviant thinkers out of academia that began in the late 1960s and would massively reduce political diversity by the 21st century; it supported not just personal sexual freedom, as did liberalism, but radical ideas about sex, including hostility to the family; it was anti-religion and would become more so when religion clashed with sexual rights. As for freedom of association, the “master freedom” in Christopher Caldwell’s words, this was also incompatible with a worldview that prioritised equality over liberty.

This new way of thinking — progressivism is probably the fairest term — is far less tolerant than liberalism. Indeed, in its hostility to freedom of speech, its Manichean worldview, its suspicion that its opponents are fascists, and the belief that politics should be inserted into everything — from science to children’s books — it is closer to the totalitarian tradition. American progressivism is not communism, obviously, anymore than its opponents are Nazis; the market is perfectly capable of achieving most progressive goals, and America has become more culturally Left-wing as Right-wing economic policies have dominated, globalisation being the common theme that links the two. But globalisation came with a price, with millions of jobs lost after the 2001 trade deal with China, made two months after George W. Bush had followed the Soviet example by invading Afghanistan.

It was in those former industrial heartlands where people first began to notice an epidemic of drug-related deaths that now constitutes one of the greatest social disasters in history. Four decades on from its superpower rival, the United States had now become a country in which people were dying younger, driven by overdoses and suicides. That this epidemic took so long to register may have been the solitary and often legal nature of the drug problem; unlike Aids, it did not affect too many celebrities, Prince being the exception. But it could also be who the victims were — predominantly rural white Americans, neither powerful themselves nor championed by powerful supporters.

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All your base do belong to us.

Meet Your New Feudal Overlords (Weems)

Classic feudalism was a system where a wealthy land-owning nobility (the 1%) controlled the peasant class of workers known as serfs (everyone else). The elites provided serfs with a small piece of land on which to live. Although they paid taxes, generally, serfs owned no property, had no economic power or upward mobility. During the Middle Ages, as much as 90% of Europe’s population fell into this category. Sound familiar? I admit it’s not a perfect comparison, but it’s something worth considering — especially given what’s happening not just with housing but with land ownership in general. In our system, owning real estate is the most common vehicle for wealth accumulation. So what happens when only the wealthiest Americans can afford to own property?

Before you answer, you should know that billionaires are buying up land like it’s going out of style. Do you know who owns the most farmland in the United States? Bill Gates and his soon-to-be ex-wife Melinda, that’s who. With 242,000 acres of cropland plus nearly 30,000 additional acres of land in their real estate portfolio, they’re playing real-life monopoly. According to The Land Report, 100 families own 42 million acres across the country. The Gates family barely breaks the top 50. Former TCI chief John Malone is at the top of the list with 2.2 million acres. While billionaires snatch up the country’s ranches and farmland, Wall Street is buying up all the houses they can get their hands on.

I wrote last August about my personal experience with renting a house in North Carolina. In 2013, we searched for a home in a town just outside of Raleigh. We noticed corporations owned almost all the houses. Every rental sign had a QR code in one neighborhood, so you never actually saw a real estate agent. The company, American Homes 4 Rent (AMR), was the landlord for most of the single-family rental properties in the area, including the one we ultimately rented. Interestingly, the same billionaire, an investor named B. Wayne Hughes controls both the company where we stored our furniture and American Homes 4 Rent. At the time, tapping Wall Street investors made sense. In the wake of the housing crisis of the early aughts, a wave of foreclosures devastated the real estate markets.

By 2010, the housing market was in free fall. Across the country, the glut of empty homes numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Faced with the risk of stalling an already sluggish economic recovery, the government looked to Wall Street. In 2012, the Obama administration launched a program making it easier for private investors like AMR and Blackrock to acquire foreclosed homes by the hundreds. The plan worked. According to The Atlantic, institutional investors jumped into the housing market, buying foreclosed properties then renting them out. The billions in transferred middle-class wealth made inequality worse. At the time, there were few good options.

In the same piece last August, I wrote about how hedge funds and private equity firms like Blackrock and AMH scooped up single-family foreclosures left and right: From 2011 to 2017, the largest global investors bought over 200,000 homes in the U.S., spending over $30 billion. In Atlanta, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and hedge funds bought almost 90% of homes sold from January 2011 to June 2012. By February of last year, institutional investors owned one-fifth of all single-family rentals in the Atlanta area. Until late 2019, Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, owned 40% of Invitation Homes (INVH), capitalizing on the glut of foreclosures following the housing crisis. American Homes 4 Rent (AMH), a REIT founded by billionaire B. Wayne Hughes, currently owns 52,052 homes across the country. AMH owns nearly 10% percent of all single-family homes in Atlanta.

Read more …

Very interesting man.

2020: A Propaganda Masterpiece (Perspectives on the Pandemic)

“Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government,” wrote Edward Bernays, the father of modern propaganda. In part one of Episode 17, Mark Crispin Miller, professor of Media Studies at New York University, discusses the propaganda onslaught that defined the year 2020, when what was dismissed one week is confirmed the next, and why questioning official narratives “necessarily means taking ‘conspiracy theory’ seriously.”

Read more …

 

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Feb 072019
 


René Magritte The Pleasure Principle (Portrait of Edward James) 1937

 

Led By Donkeys (G.)
Tusk: Special Place In Hell For Brexiteers Without Even Sketch Of A Plan (Ind.)
Corbyn Lays Out Labour’s Terms For Backing May On Brexit (G.)
Not Opposing Brexit Could Lose Labour 45 Seats (G.)
Yellen: Next Fed Move May Be A Rate Cut (CNBC)
Fed’s Quarles Sees 2019 As An ‘Interim’ Year For Bank Stress Tests (R.)
Press Needs More Than Super Bowl Ad To Fix Its Plunging Credibility (ZH)
Homo Credulus (Bowman)
French, German Farmers Must Destroy Crops After GMOs Found In Monsanto Seeds (RT)
The Killing Of Large Species Is Pushing Them Towards Extinction (G.)
Global Warming Could Exceed 1.5ºC Within Five Years (G.)

 

 

50 days to Brexit. Don’t be surprised if that whole country dissolves before our eyes.

Perfect name, good actions.

Led By Donkeys (G.)

At 5.55am, Talgarth Road, one of the major arteries into west London, is just beginning to clog up with early rush-hour traffic. A man named Dave, his white van pulled over into a loading bay, is putting up a billboard poster by the side of the carriageway. The previous one was an advert for Calvin Klein featuring the model Lara Stone. Over the course of 20 minutes, Dave covers Stone up, expertly pasting rectangles of paper over her, using a ladder for the high ones, then sweeping over with his brush. The first rectangle, in the top left corner, contains a headshot of Jacob Rees-Mogg and the beginning of his Twitter handle. As Dave lines up edges, pastes and brushes, and Stone disappears, a quote emerges from Rees-Mogg.

This one wasn’t a tweet; he said it in parliament. “We could have two referendums. As it happens, it might make more sense to have a second referendum after the renegotiation is completed.” There are three other men here, dressed in hoodies, lumberjack shirts and beanies, lurking around and admiring the work. Their work – because Richard, Adam and Chris are three of the four key people behind Led By Donkeys, the remainer guerrilla activists highlighting the hypocrisy and lies of politicians by posting their damning quotes on billboards around the country. Less guerrilla now, actually: they’ve gone legit, this hoarding is paid for. Before, they just took them over.

[..] It all began, as most good ideas do, in the pub. They were talking about the infamous David Cameron tweet – “Britain faces a simple and inescapable choice – stability and strong government with me or chaos with Ed Miliband” – which was doing the rounds again after Theresa May cancelled the vote on her deal in December. And someone said: why don’t they slap it on a billboard, make it the tweet you can’t delete? The next day, on the WhatsApp group, one of them said they had found someone who would print it out for them. They all agreed: “Let’s just fucking do it.” It was cheaper to do five, so they cobbled together four more tweets – from Michael Gove, David Davies, John Redwood and Liam Fox – not really thinking they’d ever put them up. Initial outlay was about 200 quid, plus £90 on a ladder from B&Q.

Read more …

Tusk is an idiot, but he was right when he said thet as both May and Corbyn want to Leave, there is no political leadership for Remain. But the majority of Britons by now want to Remain. Don’t underestimate the danger of this.

Tusk: Special Place In Hell For Brexiteers Without Even Sketch Of A Plan (Ind.)

A war of words has further undermined Theresa May’s mission to Brussels to rescue her Brexit deal, after the EU warned of a “special place in hell” for politicians who botched the project. Downing Street and Tory politicians hit back angrily after the extraordinary attack by Donald Tusk on those who triumphed in the referendum “without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it safely”. The prime minister’s spokesman urged people to ask whether such language was “helpful” – before noting, sarcastically, that was impossible “because he didn’t take any questions”. Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, condemned the comments by Mr Tusk, the European Council president, as “disgraceful” and “spiteful”, saying such behaviour “demeans him”.

Sammy Wilson, Brexit spokesman of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up the Tories in power, went further – branding him a “devilish, trident-wielding, Euro maniac”. But pro-EU Tory Anna Soubry backed him and named Boris Johnson, David Davis and Nigel Farage as among his likely targets, for having “abdicated all responsibility”. The fury overshadowed the tough message for Ms May before she lands in Brussels on Thursday morning – that the EU will never agree to reopening the divorce deal, as she has vowed to do. The prime minister will again demand either an end date for the Irish backstop or an exit mechanism from it for there to be any hope of the Commons passing the deal. Ms May appeared to drop her third option – replacing the backstop with ill-defined “alternative arrangements”, based on unproven technology – to the anger of some Brexiteer Tories.

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Vote Corbyn, get May.

Corbyn Lays Out Labour’s Terms For Backing May On Brexit (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn has written to the prime minister, offering to throw Labour’s support behind her Brexit deal if she makes five legally binding commitments – including joining a customs union. The Labour leader held private talks with Theresa May last week for the first time since her deal was rejected by a historic margin of 230 votes in January. In a follow-up letter sent on Wednesday, he laid out in the clearest terms yet what commitments he is seeking in exchange for offering Labour support. His intervention will dismay backbench Labour MPs and grassroots activists still hoping he will switch the party’s policy towards demanding a second Brexit referendum – which is not mentioned in the letter.

And it comes as No 10 prepares to publish legislation underpinning workers’ rights, perhaps as early as next week, in an attempt to win support from Labour backbenchers. In his letter, Corbyn calls for the government to rework the political declaration setting the framework for Britain’s future relationship with the EU – and then enshrine these new negotiating objectives in UK law, so that a future Tory leader could not sweep them away after Brexit. He says the changes to the political declaration must include:

• A “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union”, including a say in future trade deals.
• Close alignment with the single market, underpinned by “shared institutions”.
• “Dynamic alignment on rights and protections”, so that UK standards do not fall behind those of the EU.
• Clear commitments on future UK participation in EU agencies and funding programmes.
• Unambiguous agreements on future security arrangements, such as use of the European arrest warrant.

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Britain can no longer manage with two parties. Same as so many countries.

Not Opposing Brexit Could Lose Labour 45 Seats (G.)

A trade union affiliated with the Labour party has claimed that Jeremy Corbyn’s party could lose an additional 45 seats in a snap election if it fails to take an anti-Brexit position, in a leaked report. The report, drawn up by the transport union TSSA and including extensive polling, was sent to the leftwing pressure group Momentum. It appears to be an attempt to pile pressure on the Labour leader over Brexit. It claims that “Brexit energises Labour remain voters” disproportionately, and warns: “There is no middle way policy which gets support from both sides of the debate.” The Guardian understands that while the report was sent to Momentum, it was not commissioned or requested by the group.

Sources inside the party stressed that there were risks from turning either way on Brexit – and other polls showed a different picture. The document – marked strictly confidential – says: “There can be no disguising the sense of disappointment and disillusionment with Labour if it fails to oppose Brexit and there is every indication that it will be far more damaging to the party’s electoral fortunes than the Iraq war. “Labour would especially lose the support of people below the age of 35, which could make this issue comparable to the impact the tuition fees and involvement in the coalition had on Lib Dem support.” The document starts by pointing out that the TSSA has “supported Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership from the very beginning”.

It says that the party’s supporters view Brexit as a “Tory project”. It adds that four-fifths of them believe the current deal will hurt the British economy and 91.4% of Labour voters do not trust the government to deliver a good Brexit for people such as them.

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Only in hindsight will Americans see the damage done by these people.

Yellen: Next Fed Move May Be A Rate Cut (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve’s next move may well be an interest rate cut if weakening growth around the world starts infecting the U.S. economy, former central bank Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday. Weakening economies in China and Europe are posing danger to an otherwise strong U.S. economy, Yellen told CNBC’s Steve Liesman during a “Power Lunch” interview. “Of course it’s possible. If global growth really weakens and that spills over to the United States where financial conditions tighten more and we do see a weakening in the U.S. economy, it’s certainly possible that the next move is a cut,” she said. “But both outcomes are possible.” The former central bank head cited “slowing global growth” as the biggest threat to the economy she once watched over. “The data from China has been recently weak, the European data has also come in weaker than expected,” she said.

Read more …

The very last people who should conduct such tests.

Fed’s Quarles Sees 2019 As An ‘Interim’ Year For Bank Stress Tests (R.)

U.S. bank stress tests conducted during an “interim” period this year will help the Federal Reserve decide what permanent changes to make to the closely followed examinations, the Fed’s point person on financial supervision Randal Quarles said on Wednesday. On Tuesday the Fed said it would make its stress testing of large banks more transparent in 2019, providing financial firms significantly more information about how their portfolios would perform under potential economic shocks. The changes respond to long-running bank complaints that the current stress-testing process is cumbersome and opaque. Less complex banks with assets between $100 billion and $250 billion, such as SunTrust Banks and Fifth Third Bancorp, do not have to face 2019 stress tests, as the Fed is moving to a two-year cycle for testing those firms.

“Our challenge now is to preserve the strength of the test, while improving its efficiency, transparency, and integration into the post-crisis regulatory framework,” Federal Reserve Vice Chairman of Supervision Randal Quarles said in remarks prepared for delivery at a Council for Economic Education event in New York. “Our experience with this ‘interim’ year will inform the move to a permanently longer testing cycle – a change that would, of course, be subject to a full notice and comment process.” The 2019 tests also include factoring in a jump to 10 percent unemployment from the current 4 percent rate, as well as elevated stress in corporate loan and commercial real estate markets in the most severe scenario.

Read more …

The press, including WaPo, have changed tactics. They no longer try for a larger audience, they make their existing readers more faithful. More subscribers, much ‘better’ targeted ads.

Press Needs More Than Super Bowl Ad To Fix Its Plunging Credibility (ZH)

Media Bias: While journalists are getting pink slips across the country, the Washington Post decided to dump a boatload of cash for a Super Bowl image ad that tried to portray the news media as national heroes. Here’s a better, and much cheaper, idea to restore the industry’s shattered reputation: Be less blatantly partisan. In the 60-second ad, Tom Hanks intones about the importance of journalists against the backdrop of historic events. Thankfully, during these times, the ad says, “There’s someone to gather the facts. To bring you the story. No matter the cost. Because knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free.” The problem with journalists today, however, is that they aren’t interested in gathering facts or empowering the public with knowledge.

Instead, they are interested mainly in pushing their agenda — a basic failing of the profession brought into high relief over the past two years. The latest IBD/TIPP Poll makes this abundantly clear. The poll asked several questions to gauge the public’s perception of the mainstream news media. What did it find? First, that fully half the country says its trust in the media decreased over the past two years. A tiny 8% say it’s increased. That includes a plurality of independents (49%). Even among Republicans, who’ve long grown accustomed to media bias, 81% say their trust in the press has dropped over the past two years. Geographically, those in the Midwest and the South are mostly likely to say their trust in the press has declined (52% and 57%, respectively) since Trump took office.

Men are far more likely than women (54% vs. 47%). And those with incomes over $75,000 (51% of home distrust the media more) more than lower-income households. These findings alone should be alarming. After all, as any corporate executive knows, you can’t run a successful business when a vast and increasing share of your customer base doesn’t trust the product you are selling. It gets worse. The poll found that more than two-thirds of the public (69%) think the news media “is more concerned with advancing its points of view rather than reporting all the facts.” Only 29% of the public disagrees with that statement. In other words, nearly seven out of 10 adults in the country think the Post ad’s blather about “gathering the facts” is bull. That includes 72% of independents, 95% of Republicans, and — surprisingly enough — 43% of Democrats.

Read more …

And how can the press pull off its tricks? Easy as pie. Edward Bernays and Goebbels.

Homo Credulus (Bowman)

Given the right circumstances… a little programing… and enough time for it all to marinate in his soft, mammalian brain… there is almost nothing Homo Credulus will not learn to embrace. Don’t believe us? Take a look at the historical record; you’ll soon wonder how we ever got this far. Sure, you’ll discover gizmos and flying contraptions… art and agriculture… music and mathematics. You’ll witness spectacular scientific breakthroughs, the number “0” and a man’s footprint on the moon. You’ll also find automobiles with so many cup holders, you won’t know where to holster your oversized 7/11 Big Gulp. But you’ll also scratch you head. Perhaps you’ll even weep. And if you think hard enough, you’ll put a few things to serious question…

“Central banks?” “Modern democracy?” “The Rosie O’Donnell Show?” How has mankind survived such atrocities? Self inflicted, no less! And why, moreover, does he rush so earnestly to repeat and replay his worst mistakes? Don’t be too hard on yourself, Dear Reader. After all, repetition is nothing new… You’ll recall that it was the Greeks who first gave the world democracy – from the Greek, demokratia, literally “Rule by ‘People’”. (And yes, it was those very same Greeks who put their own beloved Socrates to death… by a majority vote of 140-361.) Today, democracy is a cherished tenet of “the West.” It is woven into the civic religion, sewn into the social fabric. Men march off eagerly to fight for it, to proselytize it … and to die in forgotten ditches defending it. At least, that’s what they believe they’re doing. As usual, the poor saps have been duped.

The phrase “Making the world safe for democracy” was actually a marketing slogan, coined back in the 1910s, as a way to sell “The Great War” to America. Weary from their own disastrous Civil War just a few decades earlier, in which hundreds of thousands gave up the ghost, Americans were mostly inward looking at the time. That is to say, they wanted little to do with what they largely saw as a “European affair.” Polls might have indicated no appetite for battle… but the nation’s politicians were nonetheless starved for military misadventure. They sensed big profits abroad, both in manufacturing armaments and making onerous bank loans to foreign lands. Sure, “the nation” would have to fill tank and trench with warm young bodies… but very few soldiers would carry senatorial surnames along with their rifles.

Read more …

Too late already. A deliberate Monsanto policy.

French, German Farmers Must Destroy Crops After GMOs Found In Monsanto Seeds (RT)

French and German farmers have been forced to dig up thousands of hectares of rapeseed fields after authorities found an illegal GMO strain mixed in with the natural seeds they’d bought from Bayer-Monsanto. Authorities discovered the illicit seeds in three separate batches of rapeseed seeds last fall, but the public has only just been notified. While Bayer issued a recall, by the time the farmers learned of it some of the seeds had already been planted, covering 8,000 ha in France and 3,000 ha in Germany. Bayer-Monsanto estimated the number of rogue seeds at just about .005 percent of the total volume of rapeseed seeds sold to both nations under the brand name Dekalb, but each country has a ban on GMO cultivation, with strict penalties for “accidental” contamination of standard crops.

The agrochemical giant refused to estimate the total cost of the GMO contamination, which knocks out not only this season’s crop but also the next season’s, as farmers will be barred from growing rapeseed next year “to avoid re-emergence of the GMO strain,” according to Bayer-Monsanto’s French COO Catherine Lamboley. They offered to compensate farmers €2,000 per hectare, which would work out to about €20 million between both countries. The cause of the contamination is unknown, Lamboley said, claiming the seeds were produced in Argentina “in a GMO-free area” and declaring that the company “has decided to immediately stop all rapeseed production in Argentina.” The rogue GMO seeds were of a variety grown in Canada that is banned in Europe, although imported food made with the modified rapeseed is permitted for human and animal consumption as long as it is adequately labeled.

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Except those farmed.

The Killing Of Large Species Is Pushing Them Towards Extinction (G.)

The vast majority of the world’s largest species are being pushed towards extinction, with the killing of the heftiest animals for meat and body parts the leading cause of decline, according to a new study. While habitat loss, pollution and other threats pose a significant menace to large species, also known as megafauna, intentional and unintentional trapping, poaching and slaughter is the single biggest factor in their decline, researchers found. An analysis of 362 megafauna species found that 70% of them are in decline, with 59% classed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Direct killing by humans is the leading cause across all classes of animals, the study states.

A range of maladies including intensive agriculture, toxins and invasive competitors are also helping to trigger these declines. This situation adds to the “mounting evidence that humans are poised to cause a sixth mass extinction event”, according to the research, published in Conservation Letters. It adds that “minimizing the direct killing of the world’s largest vertebrates is a priority conservation strategy that might save many of these iconic species and the functions and services they provide.” Humans cause the deaths of large creatures in a variety of ways, from snares that entangle mountain gorillas and the poaching of elephants for ivory to the killing of the Chinese giant salamander, which can grow up to 6ft long and is considered a delicacy in Asia.

Read more …

So what are you going to do about it? Appeal to your politicians?

Global Warming Could Exceed 1.5ºC Within Five Years (G.)

Global warming could temporarily hit 1.5C above pre-industrial levels for the first time between now and 2023, according to a long-term forecast by the Met Office. Meteorologists said there was a 10% chance of a year in which the average temperature rise exceeds 1.5C, which is the lowest of the two Paris agreement targets set for the end of the century. Until now, the hottest year on record was 2016, when the planet warmed 1.11C above pre-industrial levels, but the long-term trend is upward. Man-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are adding 0.2C of warming each decade but the incline of temperature charts is jagged due to natural variation: hotter El Niño years zig above the average, while cooler La Ninã years zag below.

In the five-year forecast released on Wednesday, the Met Office highlights the first possibility of a natural El Niño combining with global warming to exceed the 1.5C mark. Dr Doug Smith, Met Office research fellow, said: “A run of temperatures of 1C or above would increase the risk of a temporary excursion above the threshold of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Predictions now suggest around a 10% chance of at least one year between 2019 and 2023 temporarily exceeding 1.5C.” Climatologists stressed this did not mean the world had broken the Paris agreement 80 years ahead of schedule because international temperature targets are based on 30-year averages.

“Exceeding 1.5C in one given year does not mean that the 1.5C goal has been breached and can be redirected towards the bin,” said Joeri Rogelj, a lecturer at the Grantham Institute. “The noise in the annual temperatures should not distract from the long-term trend.”

Read more …

Mar 212018
 
 March 21, 2018  Posted by at 2:21 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) German artist, philosopher, composer, mystic Cosmic Tree

 

All of a sudden, politicians in the EU, UK, and USA all want to talk to Mark Zuckerberg. That’s a bad enough sign all by itself. It means they all either have been asleep, complicit, or they’re not very bright. The media tries to convince us the Facebook ‘scandal’ is about Trump, Russia (yawn..) and elections. It’s not. Not even close.

If Zuckerberg ever shows up for any of these meetings with ‘worried’ politicians, he’ll come with a cabal of lawyers in tow, and they’ll put the blame on anyone but Facebook and say the company was tricked by devious parties who didn’t live up to their legal agreements.

After that, the argument won’t be whether Facebook broke any laws for allowing data breaches, but whether their data use policy itself is, and always was, illegal. Now, Facebook has been around for a few years, with their policies, and nobody ever raised their voices. Not really, that is.

And then it’ll all fizzle out, amid some additional grandstanding from all involved, face-saving galore, and more blame for Trump and Russia.

 

The new European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani said yesterday: “We’ve invited Mark Zuckerberg to the European Parliament. Facebook needs to clarify before the representatives of 500 million Europeans that personal data is not being used to manipulate democracy.”

That’s all you need to know, really. Personal data can be used to manipulate anything as long as it’s not democracy. Or at least democracy as the Brussels elite choose to define it.

First: this is not about Cambridge Analytica, it’s about Facebook. Or rather, it’s about the entire social media and search industry, as well as its connections to the intelligence community. Don’t ever again see Google or Facebook as not being part of that.

What Facebook enabled Cambridge Analytica to do, it will do ten times bigger itself. And it sells licences to do it to probably thousands of other ‘developers’. The CIA and NSA may have unlimited powers, but prior to Alphabet and Facebook, they never had the databases. They do now, and they’re using them. ‘Manipulate democracy’? What democracy?

Then: 50 million is nothing. Once the six degrees of separation giant squid gets going, there’s no stopping it. The Cambridge Analytica thing supposedly started with a few hundred thousand people who consented to having their data used for ‘academic’ purposes. From there it’s easy to get to 50 million. It’s harder to stop there than it is to go to hundreds of millions. It’s the six degrees of separation.

Facebook allegedly has over 2 billion user accounts, and their algorithms don’t stop there either. If anything, 50 million is a bit of a failure. What you should understand in this is that Cambridge Analytica are a bunch of loose cannons (yeah, yeah, those dark videos look so incriminating..) and nobody knows what they ever captured.

The real issue lies elsewhere. And we can figure it out. All we need is a few glances into the past. This first article is from June 30 2014. It contains all you read today, and more. Just a bit less Russia and Trump.

 

Facebook Reveals News Feed Experiment To Control Emotions

It already knows whether you are single or dating, the first school you went to and whether you like or loathe Justin Bieber. But now Facebook, the world’s biggest social networking site, is facing a storm of protest after it revealed it had discovered how to make users feel happier or sadder with a few computer key strokes. It has published details of a vast experiment in which it manipulated information posted on 689,000 users’ home pages and found it could make people feel more positive or negative through a process of “emotional contagion”.

In a study with academics from Cornell and the University of California, Facebook filtered users’ news feeds – the flow of comments, videos, pictures and web links posted by other people in their social network. One test reduced users’ exposure to their friends’ “positive emotional content”, resulting in fewer positive posts of their own. Another test reduced exposure to “negative emotional content” and the opposite happened.

The study concluded: “Emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks.”

The question is simple, isn’t it? Do you want to provide a bunch of, well, geeks, with the ability to change how you feel, just so their employers can make -more- money off of you? That is 1984. That is thought control. And Facebook is some modern honey trap.

Lawyers, internet activists and politicians said this weekend that the mass experiment in emotional manipulation was “scandalous”, “spooky” and “disturbing”. On Sunday evening, a senior British MP called for a parliamentary investigation into how Facebook and other social networks manipulated emotional and psychological responses of users by editing information supplied to them.

Jim Sheridan, a member of the Commons media select committee, said the experiment was intrusive. “This is extraordinarily powerful stuff and if there is not already legislation on this, then there should be to protect people,” he said. “They are manipulating material from people’s personal lives and I am worried about the ability of Facebook and others to manipulate people’s thoughts in politics or other areas. If people are being thought-controlled in this kind of way there needs to be protection and they at least need to know about it.”

Um, so 4 years ago, there was a call for a parliamentary investigation in Britain and a member of the Commons media select committee proclaimed there should be legislation to protect people. Wonder how that panned out? Read the news today. Time stood still.

But there’s of course much more going on. You can claim that people should know about their thoughts being controlled, but that’s nonsense. Nobody in their right mind would, provided the arguments are honestly laid out, permit any such thing.

Moreover, it’s not just their own emotions that are being manipulated, it’s those of their friends and family too. If you are deeply unhappy, they may not see you expressing your distress; it can be easily filtered out so you appear in great spirits. Your friends feel good but someone wants you sad? No problem.

And there’s yet another aspect, one that Facebook may try to use for legal reasons: ever since the days of Edward Bernays, advertisements, and media in a broader sense, are shaped to influence what you think and feel. It sells soda, it sells cars, and it sells wars.

So yeah, people should know about all this, but the role of politicians and parliaments must also be to eradicate it altogether and forever from the societies that vote them in power. Or to tell their voters that they think it’s acceptable, and by the way, they too use deception to get more votes.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the research, published this month in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US, was carried out “to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible”. She said: “A big part of this is understanding how people respond to different types of content, whether it’s positive or negative in tone, news from friends, or information from pages they follow.”

But other commentators voiced fears that the process could be used for political purposes in the runup to elections or to encourage people to stay on the site by feeding them happy thoughts and so boosting advertising revenues. In a series of Twitter posts, Clay Johnson, the co-founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Barack Obama’s online campaign for the presidency in 2008, said: “The Facebook ‘transmission of anger’ experiment is terrifying.”

He asked: “Could the CIA incite revolution in Sudan by pressuring Facebook to promote discontent? Should that be legal? Could Mark Zuckerberg swing an election by promoting Upworthy [a website aggregating viral content] posts two weeks beforehand? Should that be legal?”

The ‘transmission of anger’ experiment. This is the world you live in.

Well, no, none of it should be legal. And none of it would be if people knew what was going on.

It was claimed that Facebook may have breached ethical and legal guidelines by not informing its users they were being manipulated in the experiment, which was carried out in 2012. The study said altering the news feeds was “consistent with Facebook’s data use policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research”.

But Susan Fiske, the Princeton academic who edited the study, said she was concerned. “People are supposed to be told they are going to be participants in research and then agree to it and have the option not to agree to it without penalty.”

James Grimmelmann, professor of law at Maryland University, said Facebook had failed to gain “informed consent” as defined by the US federal policy for the protection of human subjects, which demands explanation of the purposes of the research and the expected duration of the subject’s participation, a description of any reasonably foreseeable risks and a statement that participation is voluntary. “This study is a scandal because it brought Facebook’s troubling practices into a realm – academia – where we still have standards of treating people with dignity and serving the common good,” he said on his blog.

Ah, academia, you unblemished child. We never knew you. Incidentally, what appears to be creeping through between the lines here is that Facebook’s data use policy was prepared from the start, 14+ years ago, for exactly these kinds of ‘experiments’. Which gives a whole new dimension to the discussion today.

It is not new for internet firms to use algorithms to select content to show to users and Jacob Silverman, author of Terms of Service: Social Media, Surveillance, and the Price of Constant Connection, told Wire magazine on Sunday the internet was already “a vast collection of market research studies; we’re the subjects”.

“What’s disturbing about how Facebook went about this, though, is that they essentially manipulated the sentiments of hundreds of thousands of users without asking permission,” he said. “Facebook cares most about two things: engagement and advertising.

If Facebook, say, decides that filtering out negative posts helps keep people happy and clicking, there’s little reason to think that they won’t do just that. As long as the platform remains such an important gatekeeper – and their algorithms utterly opaque – we should be wary about the amount of power and trust we delegate to it.”

Robert Blackie, director of digital at Ogilvy One marketing agency, said the way internet companies filtered information they showed users was fundamental to their business models, which made them reluctant to be open about it.

“To guarantee continued public acceptance they will have to discuss this more openly in the future,” he said. “There will have to be either independent reviewers of what they do or government regulation. If they don’t get the value exchange right then people will be reluctant to use their services, which is potentially a big business problem.”

Feel a bit more awake now? Remember, that was a 2012 study. Let’s move on to 2016, when Shoshana Zuboff penned the following for German paper Franfurter Allgemeine. Just in case you thought it was all about Facebook. This is a bit more abstract, but worth it, in all its length (which I don’t have space for).

 

The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism

[..] The game is no longer about sending you a mail order catalogue or even about targeting online advertising. The game is selling access to the real-time flow of your daily life –your reality—in order to directly influence and modify your behavior for profit. This is the gateway to a new universe of monetization opportunities: restaurants who want to be your destination. Service vendors who want to fix your brake pads.

Shops who will lure you like the fabled Sirens. The “various people” are anyone, and everyone who wants a piece of your behavior for profit. Small wonder, then, that Google recently announced that its maps will not only provide the route you search but will also suggest a destination.

This is just one peephole, in one corner, of one industry, and the peepholes are multiplying like cockroaches. Among the many interviews I’ve conducted over the past three years, the Chief Data Scientist of a much-admired Silicon Valley company that develops applications to improve students’ learning told me:

“The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale. When people use our app, we can capture their behaviors, identify good and bad behaviors, and develop ways to reward the good and punish the bad.

[..] There was a time when we laid responsibility for the assault on behavioral data at the door of the state and its security agencies. Later, we also blamed the cunning practices of a handful of banks, data brokers, and Internet companies. Some attribute the assault to an inevitable “age of big data,” as if it were possible to conceive of data born pure and blameless, data suspended in some celestial place where facts sublimate into truth.

I’ve come to a different conclusion: The assault we face is driven in large measure by the exceptional appetites of a wholly new genus of capitalism, a systemic coherent new logic of accumulation that I call surveillance capitalism. Capitalism has been hijacked by a lucrative surveillance project that subverts the “normal” evolutionary mechanisms associated with its historical success and corrupts the unity of supply and demand that has for centuries, however imperfectly, tethered capitalism to the genuine needs of its populations and societies, thus enabling the fruitful expansion of market democracy.

[..] the application of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data science for continuous algorithmic improvement constitutes an immensely expensive, sophisticated, and exclusive twenty-first century “means of production.” [..] the new manufacturing process converts behavioral surplus into prediction products designed to predict behavior now and soon.

[..] these prediction products are sold into a new kind of meta-market that trades exclusively in future behavior. The better (more predictive) the product, the lower the risks for buyers, and the greater the volume of sales. Surveillance capitalism’s profits derive primarily, if not entirely, from such markets for future behavior.

And then we get to today. For more examples of the same, and for confirmation that even though all of this stuff was known -let alone knowable- years ago, nothing has changed.

 

Ex-Facebook Insider Says Covert Data Harvesting Was Routine

Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.

Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach. “My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,” he said.

[..] That feature, called friends permission, was a boon to outside software developers who, from 2007 onwards, were given permission by Facebook to build quizzes and games – like the widely popular FarmVille – that were hosted on the platform. The apps proliferated on Facebook in the years leading up to the company’s 2012 initial public offering, an era when most users were still accessing the platform via laptops and computers rather than smartphones.

Facebook took a 30% cut of payments made through apps, but in return enabled their creators to have access to Facebook user data. Parakilas does not know how many companies sought friends permission data before such access was terminated around mid-2014. However, he said he believes tens or maybe even hundreds of thousands of developers may have done so. Parakilas estimates that “a majority of Facebook users” could have had their data harvested by app developers without their knowledge.

[..] During the time he was at Facebook, Parakilas said the company was keen to encourage more developers to build apps for its platform and “one of the main ways to get developers interested in building apps was through offering them access to this data”. Shortly after arriving at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters he was told that any decision to ban an app required the personal approval of the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg…

OK, to summarize: Mark Zuckerberg will be fine, apart from some stock losses. Facebook’s data use policies may not conform to every single piece of legislation in every country Facebook operates in, but they’ve been there since 2004. So lawmakers are as culpable as the company is.

There’ll be big words, lots of them. And there may be people leaving Facebook. But the platform is addictive, and 2 billion addicts is a very large target group. Some other company may develop a competitor and promise ‘better’ policies and conditions, but the big money is in the very thing discussed today: manipulating people’s data, and thereby manipulating their behavior.

Perhaps if news media and advertizers were so inclined, they’d explain to their readers and viewers exactly that, but in the end they A) all do it to some extent, and B) are all connected to Facebook and Google to some extent.

But the main driving force is and will remain the intelligence agencies, who have come to depend on ‘social media’ for the one thing they themselves were incapable of providing, but saw Alphabet and Facebook incite gullible people themselves to provide: an artificial intelligence driven database that knows more about you than you know yourself.

That the intelligence community today is powered by artificial intelligence is pretty out there to start with. That AI would give it the means to predict your future behavior, and manipulate you into that behavior seemingly at will, is something that warrants reflection.

George Orwell could not have foreseen this.

 

 

Nov 112017
 
 November 11, 2017  Posted by at 9:15 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Jean-Léon Gérôme Truth Coming Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind 1896

 

An entire library of articles about Big Tech is coming out these days, and I find that much of it is written so well, and the ideas in them so well expressed, that I have little to add. Except, I think I may have the solution to the problems many people see. But I also have a concern that I don’t see addressed, and that may well prevent that solution from being adopted. If so, we’re very far away from any solution at all. And that’s seriously bad news.

Let’s start with a general -even ‘light’- critique of social media by Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan for the Guardian:

 

How Did The News Go ‘Fake’? When The Media Went Social

Social media force us to live our lives in public, positioned centre-stage in our very own daily performances. Erving Goffman, the American sociologist, articulated the idea of “life as theatre” in his 1956 book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, and while the book was published more than half a century ago, the concept is even more relevant today. It is increasingly difficult to live a private life, in terms not just of keeping our personal data away from governments or corporations, but also of keeping our movements, interests and, most worryingly, information consumption habits from the wider world.

The social networks are engineered so that we are constantly assessing others – and being assessed ourselves. In fact our “selves” are scattered across different platforms, and our decisions, which are public or semi-public performances, are driven by our desire to make a good impression on our audiences, imagined and actual. We grudgingly accept these public performances when it comes to our travels, shopping, dating, and dining. We know the deal. The online tools that we use are free in return for us giving up our data, and we understand that they need us to publicly share our lifestyle decisions to encourage people in our network to join, connect and purchase.

But, critically, the same forces have impacted the way we consume news and information. Before our media became “social”, only our closest family or friends knew what we read or watched, and if we wanted to keep our guilty pleasures secret, we could. Now, for those of us who consume news via the social networks, what we “like” and what we follow is visible to many [..] Consumption of the news has become a performance that can’t be solely about seeking information or even entertainment. What we choose to “like” or follow is part of our identity, an indication of our social class and status, and most frequently our political persuasion.

That sets the scene. People sell their lives, their souls, to join a network that then sells these lives -and souls- to the highest bidder, for a profit the people themselves get nothing of. This is not some far-fetched idea. As noted further down, in terms of scale, Facebook is a present day Christianity. And these concerns are not only coming from ‘concerned citizens’, some of the early participants are speaking out as well. Like Facebook co-founder Sean Parker:

 

Facebook: God Only Knows What It’s Doing To Our Children’s Brains

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, gave me a candid insider’s look at how social networks purposely hook and potentially hurt our brains. Be smart: Parker’s I-was-there account provides priceless perspective in the rising debate about the power and effects of the social networks, which now have scale and reach unknown in human history. [..]

“When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, ‘I’m not on social media.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be.’ And then they would say, ‘No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.’ And I would say, … ‘We’ll get you eventually.'”

“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'” “And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments.”

“It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” “The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.”

Early stage investor in Facebook, Roger McNamee, also has some words to add along the same lines as Parker. They make it sound like they’re Frankenstein and Facebook is their monster.

 

How Facebook and Google Threaten Public Health – and Democracy

The term “addiction” is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing. In terms of scale, Facebook and YouTube are similar to Christianity and Islam respectively. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, 1.3 billion check in every day. More than 1.5 billion people use YouTube. Other services owned by these companies also have user populations of 1 billion or more.

Facebook and Alphabet are huge because users are willing to trade privacy and openness for “convenient and free.” Content creators resisted at first, but user demand forced them to surrender control and profits to Facebook and Alphabet. The sad truth is that Facebook and Alphabet have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. They have consciously combined persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry with technology in ways that threaten public health and democracy.

The issue, however, is not social networking or search. It is advertising business models. Let me explain. From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users “what they want,” content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on. “If it bleeds, it leads” has guided editorial choices for more than 150 years, but has only become a threat to society in the past decade, since the introduction of smartphones.

Media delivery platforms like newspapers, television, books, and even computers are persuasive, but people only engage with them for a few hours each day and every person receives the same content. Today’s battle for attention is not a fair fight. Every competitor exploits the same techniques, but Facebook and Alphabet have prohibitive advantages: personalization and smartphones. Unlike older media, Facebook and Alphabet know essentially everything about their users, tracking them everywhere they go on the web and often beyond.

By making every experience free and easy, Facebook and Alphabet became gatekeepers on the internet, giving them levels of control and profitability previously unknown in media. They exploit data to customize each user’s experience and siphon profits from content creators. Thanks to smartphones, the battle for attention now takes place on a single platform that is available every waking moment. Competitors to Facebook and Alphabet do not have a prayer.

Facebook and Alphabet monetize content through advertising that is targeted more precisely than has ever been possible before. The platforms create “filter bubbles” around each user, confirming pre-existing beliefs and often creating the illusion that everyone shares the same views. Platforms do this because it is profitable. The downside of filter bubbles is that beliefs become more rigid and extreme. Users are less open to new ideas and even to facts.

Of the millions of pieces of content that Facebook can show each user at a given time, they choose the handful most likely to maximize profits. If it were not for the advertising business model, Facebook might choose content that informs, inspires, or enriches users. Instead, the user experience on Facebook is dominated by appeals to fear and anger. This would be bad enough, but reality is worse.

And in a Daily Mail article, McNamee’s ideas are taken a mile or so further. Goebbels, Bernays, fear, anger, personalization, civility.

 

Early Facebook Investor Compares The Social Network To Nazi Propaganda

Facebook officials have been compared to the Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels by a former investor. Roger McNamee also likened the company’s methods to those of Edward Bernays, the ‘father of public’ relations who promoted smoking for women. Mr McNamee, who made a fortune backing the social network in its infancy, has spoken out about his concern about the techniques the tech giants use to engage users and advertisers. [..] the former investor said everyone was now ‘in one degree or another addicted’ to the site while he feared the platform was causing people to swap real relationships for phoney ones.

And he likened the techniques of the company to Mr Bernays and Hitler’s public relations minister. ‘In order to maintain your attention they have taken all the techniques of Edward Bernays and Joseph Goebbels, and all of the other people from the world of persuasion, and all the big ad agencies, and they’ve mapped it onto an all day product with highly personalised information in order to addict you,’ Mr McNamee told The Telegraph. Mr McNamee said Facebook was creating a culture of ‘fear and anger’. ‘We have lowered the civil discourse, people have become less civil to each other..’

He said the tech giant had ‘weaponised’ the First Amendment to ‘essentially absolve themselves of responsibility’. He added: ‘I say this as somebody who was there at the beginning.’ Mr McNamee’s comments come as a further blow to Facebook as just last month former employee Justin Rosenstein spoke out about his concerns. Mr Rosenstein, the Facebook engineer who built a prototype of the network’s ‘like’ button, called the creation the ‘bright dings of pseudo-pleasure’. He said he was forced to limit his own use of the social network because he was worried about the impact it had on him.

As for the economic, not the societal or personal, effects of social media, Yanis Varoufakis had this to say a few weeks ago:

 

Capitalism Is Ending Because It Has Made Itself Obsolete – Varoufakis

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has claimed capitalism is coming to an end because it is making itself obsolete. The former economics professor told an audience at University College London that the rise of giant technology corporations and artificial intelligence will cause the current economic system to undermine itself. Mr Varoufakis said companies such as Google and Facebook, for the first time ever, are having their capital bought and produced by consumers.

“Firstly the technologies were funded by some government grant; secondly every time you search for something on Google, you contribute to Google’s capital,” he said. “And who gets the returns from capital? Google, not you. “So now there is no doubt capital is being socially produced, and the returns are being privatised. This with artificial intelligence is going to be the end of capitalism.”

Ergo, as people sell their lives and their souls to Facebook and Alphabet, they sell their economies along with them. That’s what that means. And you were just checking what your friends were doing. Or, that’s what you thought you were doing.

The solution to all these pains is, likely unintentionally, provided by Umair Haque’s critique of economics. It’s interesting to see how the topics ‘blend’, ‘intertwine’.

 

How Economics Failed the Economy

When, in the 1930s, the great economist Simon Kuznets created GDP, he deliberately left two industries out of this then novel, revolutionary idea of a national income : finance and advertising. [..] Kuznets logic was simple, and it was not mere opinion, but analytical fact: finance and advertising don’t create new value, they only allocate, or distribute existing value in the same way that a loan to buy a television isn’t the television, or an ad for healthcare isn’t healthcare. They are only means to goods, not goods themselves. Now we come to two tragedies of history.

What happened next is that Congress laughed, as Congresses do, ignored Kuznets, and included advertising and finance anyways for political reasons -after all, bigger, to the politicians mind, has always been better, and therefore, a bigger national income must have been better. Right? Let’s think about it. Today, something very curious has taken place.

If we do what Kuznets originally suggested, and subtract finance and advertising from GDP, what does that picture -a picture of the economy as it actually is reveal? Well, since the lion’s share of growth, more than 50% every year, comes from finance and advertising -whether via Facebook or Google or Wall St and hedge funds and so on- we would immediately see that the economic growth that the US has chased so desperately, so furiously, never actually existed at all.

Growth itself has only been an illusion, a trick of numbers, generated by including what should have been left out in the first place. If we subtracted allocative industries from GDP, we’d see that economic growth is in fact below population growth, and has been for a very long time now, probably since the 1980s and in that way, the US economy has been stagnant, which is (surprise) what everyday life feels like. Feels like.

Economic indicators do not anymore tell us a realistic, worthwhile, and accurate story about the truth of the economy, and they never did -only, for a while, the trick convinced us that reality wasn’t. Today, that trick is over, and economies grow , but people’s lives, their well-being, incomes, and wealth, do not, and that, of course, is why extremism is sweeping the globe. Perhaps now you begin to see why the two have grown divorced from one another: economics failed the economy.

Now let us go one step, then two steps, further. Finance and advertising are no longer merely allocative industries today. They are now extractive industries. That is, they internalize value from society, and shift costs onto society, all the while creating no value themselves.

The story is easiest to understand via Facebook’s example: it makes its users sadder, lonelier, and unhappier, and also corrodes democracy in spectacular and catastrophic ways. There is not a single upside of any kind that is discernible -and yet, all the above is counted as a benefit, not a cost, in national income, so the economy can thus grow, even while a society of miserable people are being manipulated by foreign actors into destroying their own democracy. Pretty neat, huh?

It was BECAUSE finance and advertising were counted as creative, productive, when they were only allocative, distributive that they soon became extractive. After all, if we had said from the beginning that these industries do not count, perhaps they would not have needed to maximize profits (or for VCs to pour money into them, and so on) endlessly to count more. But we didn’t.

And so soon, they had no choice but to become extractive: chasing more and more profits, to juice up the illusion of growth, and soon enough, these industries began to eat the economy whole, because of course, as Kuznets observed, they allocate everything else in the economy, and therefore, they control it.

Thus, the truly creative, productive, life-giving parts of the economy shrank in relative, and even in absolute terms, as they were taken apart, strip-mined, and consumed in order to feed the predatory parts of the economy, which do not expand human potential. The economy did eat itself, just as Marx had supposed – only the reason was not something inherent in it, but a choice, a mistake, a tragedy.

[..] Life is not flourishing, growing, or developing in a single way that I or even you can readily identify or name. And yet, the economy appears to be growing, because purely allocative and distributive enterprises like Uber, Facebook, credit rating agencies, endless nameless hedge funds, shady personal info brokers, and so on, which fail to contribute positively to human life in any discernible way whatsoever, are all counted as beneficial. Do you see the absurdity of it?

[..] It’s not a coincidence that the good has failed to grow, nor is it an act of the gods. It was a choice. A simple cause-effect relationship, of a society tricking itself into desperately pretending it was growing, versus truly growing. Remember not subtracting finance and advertising from GDP, to create the illusion of growth? Had America not done that, then perhaps it might have had to work hard to find ways to genuinely, authentically, meaningfully grow, instead of taken the easy way out, only to end up stagnating today, and unable to really even figure out why yet.

Industries that are not productive, but instead only extract money from society, need to be taxed so heavily they have trouble surviving. If that doesn’t happen, your economy will never thrive, or even survive. The whole service economy fata morgana must be thrown as far away as we can throw it. Economies must produce real, tangible things, or they die.

For the finance industry this means: tax the sh*t out of any transactions they engage in. Want to make money on complex derivatives? We’ll take 75+%. Upfront. And no, you can’t take your company overseas. Don’t even try.

For Uber and Airbnb it means pay taxes up the wazoo, either as a company or as individual home slash car owners. Uber and Airbnb take huge amounts of money out of local economies, societies, communities, which is nonsense, unnecessary and detrimental. Every city can set up its own local car- or home rental schemes. Their profits should stay within the community, and be invested in it.

For Google and Facebook as the world’s new major -only?!- ad agencies: Tax the heebies out of them or forbid them from running any ads at all. Why? Because they extract enormous amounts of productive capital from society. Capital they, as Varoufakis says, do not even themselves create.

YOU are creating the capital, and YOU then must pay for access to the capital created. Yeah, it feels like you can just hook up and look at what your friends are doing, but the price extracted from you, your friends, and your community is so high you would never volunteer to pay for it if you had any idea.

 

The one thing that I don’t see anyone address, and that might prevent these pretty straightforward ”tax-them-til they-bleed!” answers to the threat of New Big Tech, is that Facebook, Alphabet et al have built a very strong relationship with various intelligence communities. And then you have Goebbels and Bernays in the service of the CIA.

As Google, Facebook and the CIA are ever more entwined, these companies become so important to what ‘the spooks’ consider the interests of the nation that they will become mutually protective. And once CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, aka the aptly named “George Bush Center for Intelligence”, openly as well as secretly protects you, you’re pretty much set for life. A long life.

Next up: they’ll be taking over entire economies, societies. This is happening as we speak. I know, you were thinking it was ‘the Russians’ with a few as yet unproven bucks in Facebook ads that were threatening US and European democracies. Well, you’re really going to have to think again.

The world has never seen such technologies. It has never seen such intensity, depth of, or such dependence on, information. We are simply not prepared for any of this. But we need to learn fast, or become patsies and slaves in a full blown 1984 style piece of absurd theater. Our politicians are AWOL and MIA for all of it, they have no idea what to say or think, they don’t understand what Google or bitcoin or Uber really mean.

In the meantime, we know one thing we can do, and we can justify doing it through the concept of non-productive and extractive industries. That is, tax them till they bleed. That we would hit the finance industry with that as well is a welcome bonus. Long overdue. We need productive economies or we’re done. And Facebook and Alphabet -and Goldman Sachs- don’t produce d*ck all.

When you think about it, the only growth that’s left in the US economy is that of companies spying on American citizens. Well, that and Europeans. China has banned Facebook and Google. Why do you think they have? Because Google and Facebook ARE 1984, that’s why. And if there’s going to be a Big Brother in the Middle Kingdom, it’s not going to be Silicon Valley.

 

 

Nov 092014
 
 November 9, 2014  Posted by at 7:56 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Wyland Stanley Peerless touring car, Bay Area 1923

As I was writing The Broken Model Of The Eurozone yesterday, I already knew there would have to be a sequel, because doing everything in one go would have been too much. And then, considerably less than two seconds later, it dawned on me that if I wanted to cover broken models and systems, a book would be the very least. But I don’t want to write a book, or, certainly, not here and now. Therefore, the best I think I can do is to sit down and let it flow, train of thought, stream of consciousness, probably the approach that suits me best to begin with.

There’s no question that the eurozone is by no means the only broken model, design, system, structure, in our world, though its built-in fatal flaws are perhaps easier to pinpoint than they are in other models. Everyone can see why having no mechanism to keep poor member nations from getting poorer must of necessity doom the eurozone, and the euro. Everyone, that is, but the people with the most vested interests.

That said, when you get to think about it, it’s hard to find a model, a system, in our ‘modern’ societies that is not broken, through similar design flaws. Just the past few days, we had the US midterm elections, and it doesn’t come more broken than that. As Ron Paul stated once again, US politics is a monopoly system, not a democracy. That part exists only in people’s dreams and in media stories. In reality, it’s pick your favorite identical twin. Yet for some reason, people still vote. Go figure.

Then there was the BLS unemployment report, which is no longer even a joke, but such an outright insult to Americans that it’s difficult to see why anyone looks at it anymore, other than for propagandistic reasons. A model designed to ignore the combined erosion in labor participation, wages and benefits that has taken place in the US since 2007, and the number of people who can’t make enough to pay their bills and feed their kids, is useless as a gauge for the American economy.

What these, and just about any other model I can think of that we use to run our world, have in common, is/are a number of flaws:

First, they were designed to operate exclusively in growing economies. Perhaps not even on purpose, but they sure don’t function in less glorious days, if only because no provisions were made for such days. It’s at least one reason why protagonists are so eager to point to growth even where there is none.

Second, whether in days of growth or of non-growth, they offer no protection from destructive exploitation of the natural world, either by nations, by corporations or by ourselves. A self defeating model.

Third, they are so far removed from the ‘human scale’ that we can’t internalize the ways they work and don’t work, other than perhaps in abstract theory. We can’t understand how the systems work that govern our lives, and therefore not why they fail.

These three characteristics guarantee inherent self limitation, self defeat and eventual self destruction. Sort of like the spy message that destroys itself 10 seconds after being read.

I was reading John Michael Greer’s recent Dark Age America: The End of the Market Economy, in which he reiterates how an increase in complexity of a society means ever more intermediaries take position in between productive economic participants, skimming off the fruits of other people’s daily labor. And how a decrease in complexity, such as the one we’re seeing today in our world, forced by diminishing economic returns, will lead to those intermediary positions disappearing, and a renewed form of feudalism taking the helm.

There are many shapes and sizes of these intermediaries active in our present societies, but none are more powerful, in more than one way, than politicians and traders/investors. The political world and financial world don’t produce anything of value, they owe their wealth and power solely to others who do.

The past century – or two – of ultra cheap fuels, which have enabled one single human being to produce as much as a thousand of her ancestors, created the space in which the financial and political intermediate powerholders operate. The debt machine gone haywire of the last few decades either created even more of that space or made up for what was lost due to rising fuel prices. Both fossil fuels and debt now stumble on their last legs, and society will need to be remolded, along principles that may indeed well resemble feudalism more than anything else.

To be sure, Greer doesn’t define feudalism along the lines of the bad rap it has gotten, but simply as a system in which rights and obligations for both lords and servant are clearly defined.

What he doesn’t specify, but I will, is that the feudal model operates on a human scale. That points to another aspect: the servant – for lack of a better word – in a balanced feudal system knows his master. We, today, do not. We only know a bunch of people pushed forward for their gift of gab and telegenic faces. The way our leaders are (pre-) selected is not much different from seeing how many second hand cars or tupperware bowls they can sell on a TV sales channel.

But then those leaders are (s)elected to head entities so far beyond the human scale it should be obvious to anyone that they cannot function properly no matter how much growth there is. Leaders of entities like the US, the EU or China have little in common with the people they supposedly represent, and they don’t have to, nobody expects them to. The US midterms were mostly a a battle of the bulge, as in candidates’ bulging wallets.

And on top large scale national politics we have created yet another, even more anonymous layer of power. UN, World Bank, IMF, NATO, there’s an ever growing collection of supra-national organizations that keep on guzzling up more power and more money every single day.

Like ‘smaller’ entities such as the US and EU, only more, the supra-nationals attract a certain kind of people, those that like to assert power without being held directly accountable. In structures that far exceed the human scale, they are like fish in water. And that’s why we should never accept having them in those positions. IMF and World Bank have a history of at best disputable and at worst very bloody interventions in nations across the globe.

We should have today celebrated the end of NATO along with that of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago. But it’s still there, and playing an active role in the flaring up of the Ukraine civil war. As for the UN, there should be a place for an organization like it, but not with the money gobbling corporate structure, serving shady interests, that it has today.

Our political systems don’t work. Our economic systems don’t work. We live on a steady – but hardly nutritious – diet of debt and propaganda. Our societies are no longer productive enough to allow for the numbers of intermediaries they have given birth to. But it’s the intermediaries who have more often than not taken up the most powerful positions in our societies. So they will fight, and initially often successfully, to keep their positions, at the cost of the more productive segments. It’s a mechanism that’s much easier to understand than it is to fight.

I tend to think that it’s easier to make the effort to get rid of things like models and systems and structures when you know they will need to go soon anyway. But that’s without counting in propaganda. Without including Freud and spin doctors and Edward Bernays and why detergent commercials work so well. When you do take all those into account, things don’t look so easy anymore.

What the EU has in common with all present day political and financial structures, bar none, is that it can, and indeed was built to, function only in times of growth. Take away growth and inherent flaws become exposed. Take away growth and panic ensues. Well, we no longer have growth, other than in our dreams and spin.

Or more accurately, there is indeed one thing that does still grow: our debt. It’s all we have left to keep up the pretense that we’re still growing. That and a pack of lies that grows more outrageous as time goes by. We run our societies on debt and propaganda. To a large extent, propaganda about why and how debt, and more debt, can’t hurt us.

Because as long as we believe that, we’ll leave our political and financial structures and power holders keep their plush seats. And as long as we believe it, they’re free to take more and more away from us. Something we feel powerless to stop, because we’re scared of what may happen when we stop believing. In broken models.