Mar 302023
 March 30, 2023  Posted by at 9:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  88 Responses »

Roy Lichtenstein Woman With Flowered Hat 1963


Lies, Nuttery & Craziness Everywhere in America – James Howard Kunstler (USAW)
Musk, Wozniak Call For Pause In Developing ‘More Powerful’ AI Than GPT-4 (ZH)
The Government Is Fomenting Mass Hysteria (Whitehead)
Moscow Outlines Ukraine Peace Demands (RT)
Kremlin Only Sees Military Solution To Ukraine Conflict (RT)
West’s War Against Russia Is Bound To Last – Peskov (TASS)
Ukrainian Army ‘Almost Destroyed’ – Wagner Chief (RT)
Zelensky Explains Why He Won’t Withdraw From Bakhmut (RT)
Zelensky: “If They Stop Helping Us, We Will Not Win” (ZH)
Only 20% Of US Financial Aid For Ukraine Goes To Kiev, Lawmaker Says (TASS)
Kiev Discloses Its Military Spending (RT)
China Is Winning The Diplomatic Struggle Against The US (Fomenko)
Rosneft Announces Major Oil Deal In India (RT)
ASEAN Looking To Dump Dollar And Euro, Use Local Currencies (RT)
Why You Should Destroy Your Smart Phone Now (OffG)










Norm McDonald, 2016









Ron Johnson





Jim lays it out very well. Maybe because he’s an avid reader of the Automatic Earth.

Lies, Nuttery & Craziness Everywhere in America – James Howard Kunstler (USAW)

Renowned author and journalist James Howard Kunstler (JHK) has been complaining and pointing out that the American public is told one lie after another by the Lying Legacy Media (LLM), the government and the medical community. This kind of lying, according to JHK, is pure treason by all parties, from the 600 million CV19 bioweapon/vax injections, to the crumbling banking system, to the war in Ukraine. Let’s start with the genocide of the CV19vax. JHK says, “They are pretending that they didn’t cause any damage, and they are ignoring their own assembled statistics, and they don’t want to paint a realistic picture for the American public to see what the consequences were for their vaccination program. . . . I don’t think they can suppress the reality of it that much longer. There are just too many people who know too many people who have been injured or killed by the vaccines.

The basic problem is dishonesty puts you in a place of weakness, and the truth puts you in a position of strength. Eventually, if you are not being honest with yourself and the other people around you, you are going to be found out. . . . They have to keep doubling and tripling down on narratives that are manifestly untrue, and pretty soon I think people are going to be super pissed off about how all this went down.” With the banking crisis, JHK says the lie that everything is under control is going to be exposed too. JHK says, “When you are compelled to liquidate like Silicon Valley Bank, they are liquidating their assets below their supposed value and they become insolvent. I would imagine there is a great deal of damage waiting to express itself out there, and we haven’t seen much action in the derivatives racket so far, and that’s going to be a big deal when that happens because of the completely reckless contracts that are made. . . .

It’s really a bad bet, and the people taking the bet can’t pay off the bet, and the whole thing is really a disaster waiting to happen.” JHK says the so-called reset is going to happen, but not the way Klause Schwab wants it to happen. All will go extremely local, and JHK says, “Social discourse will make it all much worse.” The lies about Ukraine and the losing war started by NATO are summed up by JHK, “In retrospect, we could see why Donald Trump would want to have a phone call with Zelensky over the Biden family activities in Ukraine. . . . The whole Ukraine portfolio is just a big bag of crap. . . . Because of those activities, there is a war against the people, and that includes a war against Donald Trump. They are trying every way possible to shove him off the playing field. . . . I think it is safe to say the U.S. government is not your friend.”

In closing, JHK says, “This is an extremely socially and politically perverse period of history. . . .I grew up in the hippie period. . . .It was quite based compared to the baseless nuttery and lunacy that this country is involved in now. The fact that there has to be any debate about drag queen story hour for children is amazing. . . . That’s okay? Deliberately, demonstrable male imitation of a female. That’s supposed to be good for kids and not scare them? . . . There is a uniform craziness across the culture, and people are being asked to swallow increasingly absurd propositions. That’s where we are now. We are being asked to swallow absurd ideas one after another.”

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“Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth?”

My take is: instead of doing the exact same ourselves?

Musk, Wozniak Call For Pause In Developing ‘More Powerful’ AI Than GPT-4 (ZH)

Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, AI pioneer Yoshua Bengio and others have signed an open letter calling for a six-month pause in developing new AI tools more powerful than GPT-4, the technology released earlier this month by Microsoft-backed startup OpenAI, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Contemporary AI systems are now becoming human-competitive at general tasks, and we must ask ourselves: Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders. Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable.”

“We’ve reached the point where these systems are smart enough that they can be used in ways that are dangerous for society,” said Bengio, director of the University of Montreal’s Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, adding “And we don’t yet understand.” Their concerns were laid out in a letter titled “Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter,” which was spearheaded by the Future of Life Institute – a nonprofit advised by Musk. “The letter doesn’t call for all AI development to halt, but urges companies to temporarily stop training systems more powerful than GPT-4, the technology released this month by Microsoft Corp.-backed startup OpenAI. That includes the next generation of OpenAI’s technology, GPT-5. OpenAI officials say they haven’t started training GPT-5. In an interview, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said the company has long given priority to safety in development and spent more than six months doing safety tests on GPT-4 before its launch.” -WSJ

“In some sense, this is preaching to the choir,” said Altman. “We have, I think, been talking about these issues the loudest, with the most intensity, for the longest.” Goldman, meanwhile, says that up to 300 million jobs could be replaced with AI, as “two thirds of occupations could be partially automated by AI.” So-called generative AI creates original content based on human prompts – a technology which has already been implemented in Microsoft’s Bing search engine and other tools. Soon after, Google deployed a rival called Bard. Other companies, including Adobe, Salesforce and Zoom have all introduced advanced AI tools.

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24/7. Who needs AI?

The Government Is Fomenting Mass Hysteria (Whitehead)

We have become guinea pigs in a ruthlessly calculated, carefully orchestrated, chillingly cold-blooded experiment in how to control a population and advance a political agenda without much opposition from the citizenry. This is mind-control in its most sinister form. With alarming regularity, the nation is being subjected to a spate of violence that terrorizes the public, destabilizes the country, and gives the government greater justifications to crack down, lock down, and institute even more authoritarian policies for the so-called sake of national security without many objections from the citizenry. Take this latest shooting in Nashville, Tenn. The 28-year-old shooter (a clearly troubled transgender individual in possession of several military-style weapons) opened fire in a Christian elementary school, killing three children and three adults.

Already, fingers are being pointed and battle lines are being drawn. Those who want safety at all costs are clamoring for more gun control measures (if not at an outright ban on assault weapons for non-military, non-police personnel), widespread mental health screening of the general population, more threat assessments and behavioral sensing warnings, more CCTV cameras with facial recognition capabilities, more “See Something, Say Something” programs aimed at turning Americans into snitches and spies, more metal detectors and whole-body imaging devices at soft targets, more roaming squads of militarized police empowered to do random bag searches, more fusion centers to centralize and disseminate information to law enforcement agencies, and more surveillance of what Americans say and do, where they go, what they buy and how they spend their time.

This is all part of the Deep State’s master plan. Ask yourselves: why are we being bombarded with crises, distractions, fake news and reality TV politics? We’re being conditioned like lab mice to subsist on a steady diet of bread-and-circus politics and an endless spate of crises. Caught up in this “crisis of the now,” the average person has a hard time keeping up with and remembering all of the “events,” manufactured or otherwise, which occur like clockwork in order to keep us distracted, deluded, amused, and insulated from reality. As investigative journalist Mike Adams points out: “This psychological bombardment is waged primarily via the mainstream media which assaults the viewer by the hour with images of violence, war, emotions and conflict. Because the human nervous system is hard wired to focus on immediate threats accompanied by depictions of violence, mainstream media viewers have their attention and mental resources funneled into the never-ending ‘crisis of the NOW’ from which they can never have the mental breathing room to apply logic, reason or historical context.”

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“Moscow will simply not tolerate “an openly anti-Russian state, whatever its borders..”

Moscow Outlines Ukraine Peace Demands (RT)

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin has offered a ten-point list of things the government in Kiev needs to do in order for hostilities to cease. In an interview on Wednesday, Galuzin said the future of Ukraine itself will depend on how soon Kiev and its Western backers come to grips with reality. For Ukraine to bring about peace, its military forces must stand down and the West must halt all deliveries of weapons to Kiev, Galuzin told the outlet RTVI. Several other conditions he listed have been on the table since the hostilities escalated in February 2022, such as Ukraine’s demilitarization and “denazification,” a pledge to never join the EU or NATO, and the affirmation of Kiev’s non-nuclear status. Another was added in October 2022, and involves the recognition of “new territorial realities” – commonly understood to mean the decision of Kherson, Zaporozhye and the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk to join Russia.

Ensuring the protection of the Russian language and the rights of Russian-speaking citizens, as well as all other ethnic groups in Ukraine also made Galuzin’s list. Moreover, he said Ukraine needs to reopen the border with Russia and restore the legal framework of relations with Moscow and other ex-Soviet republics, which it renounced following the US-backed coup in 2014. For the first time, Moscow has demanded the lifting of all anti-Russian sanctions and the “withdrawal of claims and termination of prosecutions against Russia, its individuals and legal entities,” presumably including the recent International Criminal Court (ICC) warrants for President Vladimir Putin and the children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova. The last demand on Galuzin’s list was for the West to pay for the reconstruction of civilian infrastructure destroyed by Ukraine’s military since 2014.

Ukraine’s peaceful future depends on respecting the rights of its Russian population, restoring friendly relations with all neighbors, and returning to its founding principle of neutral and non-bloc status, enshrined in the 1990 declaration of independence, Galuzin said. “The future of the territories of present-day Ukraine should be determined by the inhabitants of this country themselves,” Galuzin told RTVI, noting that this includes “Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Hungarians, Moldovans, Bulgarians, Romanians, Poles, and Greeks.” Moscow will simply not tolerate “an openly anti-Russian state, whatever its borders,” as a neighbor, said Galuzin. “Neither Russia, nor any other state, would accept this from the standpoint of security.” The “peace platform” adopted by the government in Kiev includes Russia’s total withdrawal from all territories Ukraine claims as its own, payment of reparations, and war crimes tribunals for the military and political leadership in Moscow.

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“These are politico-diplomatic or – if politico-diplomatic are currently impossible, and in the case of Ukraine, they are impossible, to our regret – through military means..”

Kremlin Only Sees Military Solution To Ukraine Conflict (RT)

There’s no political or diplomatic solution for the ongoing conflict with Ukraine at the moment, with Moscow seeking to resolve it through military means, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said. Speaking to Russian journalists on Wednesday, Peskov reiterated Moscow’s resolve to reach its goals, which were outlined by President Vladimir Putin at the start of the military operation over a year ago. “We have repeatedly said that Russia’s goals … can be achieved in various ways. These are politico-diplomatic or – if politico-diplomatic are currently impossible, and in the case of Ukraine, they are impossible, to our regret – through military means, that is, through the special military operation,” Peskov stated. The spokesman did not provide any estimates on when exactly the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev might end, re-addressing the question to the country’s Defense Ministry.

At the same time, he said the broader conflict – a “hybrid war” between Russia and its adversaries – is likely to drag on for a long time. “This confrontation with hostile states, with the unfriendly countries, this is a hybrid war that they unleashed onto our country, it’ll be there for a long time,” Peskov said. Separately, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin confirmed that the goals of Moscow in the Ukraine operation are unchanged, and reaching them is the only way to achieve a “comprehensive, just and sustainable peace in Ukraine and Europe.” They include a neutral, non-aligned status of Ukraine, Kiev dropping its plans to join NATO and the EU, confirmation of its non-nuclear status, as well as the demilitarization and denazification of the country, he explained in an interview on RTVI on Wednesday.

Apart from that, Kiev and the international community must recognize the new “territorial reality” on the ground, Galuzin stressed, apparently referring to the incorporation of the four former Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye, as well as of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics into Russia following referendums held last September. Moscow has repeatedly expressed its readiness for a diplomatic solution to the ongoing hostilities, blaming the lack of any diplomatic efforts on Kiev and its Western backers, who are seeking to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Russia. “Washington, European capitals, but first of all, Washington is filled with the desire not to let, under any pretext, [Kiev] enter into peace negotiations. They simply do not let Kiev even think about it,” Peskov said earlier this month.

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“..a hybrid war that they have unleashed against our country – it is bound to last..”

West’s War Against Russia Is Bound To Last – Peskov (TASS)

Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that Russia’s struggle with the West is a war in the broad sense and warned that it is bound to last. “If you mean, let’s say, war in a broad context – a confrontation with hostile states, with unfriendly countries, a hybrid war that they have unleashed against our country – it is bound to last. We need to stay firm, confident, self-concentrated and united around the president,” he told a news briefing on Wednesday in response to a question about how long the special military operation might take and if there was any chance it might end this year. As for progress in combat operations, Peskov said, only the authorities concerned, such as the Defense Ministry, were in a position to comment.

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“The Russian army alone will be left on the chessboard, and all other pieces will be removed..”

Ukrainian Army ‘Almost Destroyed’ – Wagner Chief (RT)

The head of the Wagner Group private military company (PMC) Evgeny Prigozhin has described Ukraine’s losses in the battle for the city of Artryomovsk as almost fatal to Kiev’s entire military. The sacrifices made by his force for the sake of Russia were worth it, he added. “As of today, the battle for Bakhmut has almost destroyed the Ukrainian army,” Prigozhin said in a statement on Wednesday, using the name by which Kiev calls the city. The clash also “gave a serious beating to PMC Wagner,” he acknowledged. He called the battle the “general engagement” of the entire conflict and said that in it Wagner troops got pitted against Ukrainian armed forces and “foreign units installed into them.”

A victory by his troops would be “a turning point” and a historic event, securing a Russian victory, Prigozhin predicted. “The Russian army alone will be left on the chessboard, and all other pieces will be removed,” he forecast. “Even if PMC Wagner is destroyed in the Bakhmut meat grinder but takes the Ukrainian army with it … it would mean that we have accomplished our historic mission.” The fight for Artyomovsk has emerged as one of the most intensive and bloody engagements of the armed conflict in Ukraine, with both sides reportedly suffering significant casualties.

Western officials said that the city poses no strategic military value, but Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky pledged to defend it as long as possible after proclaiming the city a fortress. The Ukrainian leader explained his refusal to withdraw in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week. He claimed that if Russia were to capture Artyomovsk, his government would come under international and domestic pressure to seek peace with Moscow. “Our society will feel tired,” he told the news agency of this scenario. “Our society will push me to have compromise with them.”

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“Our society will feel tired [if the Russians gain victory in Bakhmut]” “Our society will push me to have compromise with them.”

Zelensky Explains Why He Won’t Withdraw From Bakhmut (RT)

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has said that if his troops were to surrender the city of Artyomovsk, known as Bakhmut in Ukraine, his government would come under domestic and international pressure to seek peace with Russia. “Our society will feel tired,” he told the Associated Press (AP) in an interview released on Wednesday. “Our society will push me to have compromise with them.” Western officials have described Artyomovsk, the scene of fierce fighting for several months, as lacking in military importance. Behind closed doors, they – along with Zelensky’s own military leadership – have reportedly urged the president to order a withdrawal, so that his forces can focus on preparing a counteroffensive with heavy weapons provided by the US and its allies.

Speaking to AP mostly in English, during what the agency described as a “morale-building journey” by train across Ukraine, Zelensky suggested that Russia would be emboldened if it were to capture Artyomovsk. Russian President Vladimir Putin would “sell this victory to the West, to his society, to China, to Iran,” he predicted. “If he will feel some blood – smell that we are weak – he will push, push, push.” “We can’t lose the steps because the war is a pie – pieces of victories. Small victories, small steps,” Zelensky added. The battle for Artyomovsk, a key logistics hub, has been one of the fiercest and bloodiest in the Ukraine conflict so far. According to media reports, Kiev has lost some of its most experienced troops while holding the city. It has also allegedly been pouring in newly conscripted, untrained soldiers, to shore up the defensive line, leading to significant casualties.

In the interview, Zelensky also complained about his lack of contact with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who visited Moscow last week. The Ukrainian leader claimed that as president he chose to “unite” the country rather than divide it. Zelensky was elected in 2019 on a promise to end ongoing hostilities in Donbass and reintegrate the then-breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics into a federalized Ukrainian state. However, while in office, he maintained the policy of his predecessor Pyotr Poroshenko by stonewalling the so-called Minsk Agreements. Poroshenko later admitted the accords were used by Kiev to buy time to rebuild its military.

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“The loss of Bakhmut would mean a political defeat, could lead to a general defeat in conflict.”

Zelensky: “If They Stop Helping Us, We Will Not Win” (ZH)

President Volodymyr Zelensky is deeply concerned over ‘Ukraine fatigue’ taking over the West, and especially among the populace of his government’s biggest supporter, funder, and weapons supplier – the United States. “The United States really understands that if they stop helping us, we will not win,” he told the AP in a fresh interview published Wednesday. Waning support has been especially noticeable among Republican voters, according to recent polls, and as we recently reviewed in an article, “The Trump, DeSantis, Tucker Effect: New Polls Show Republicans Increasingly Done With Ukraine.” He issued the words specifically in reference to the still raging battle for the strategic city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. Russian forces have it nearly surrounded, even as Kiev has continued to throw additional manpower and weaponry into the city’s defense at a huge cost and amid mounting casualties.

Zelensky described that the capture of Bakhmut will mean that Putin will smell weakness. According to the Ukrainian leader’s words: Speaking with The Associated Press, Zelenskyy said that if Bakhmut were to fall, Putin could “sell this victory to the West, to his society, to China, to Iran,” as leverage to push for a ceasefire deal that would see Ukraine agree to give up territory. “If he will feel some blood — smell that we are weak — he will push, push, push,” Zelensky continued.

“Our society will feel tired” if the Russians gain victory in Bakhmut, he said. “Our society will push me to have compromise with them.” Implicit in these words are perhaps a first-time admission that significant sectors of the Ukrainian population are ready for compromise and peaceful negotiations to end the war. And tellingly, CBS commentary on the AP interview included the following observation: “He appeared acutely aware of the risk that his country could see its vital support from the U.S. and Europe start to slip away as the 13-month war grinds on.” Zelensky: “The loss of Bakhmut would mean a political defeat, could lead to a general defeat in conflict.”

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“..with about 60% of this money being received by the US side itself..”

Only 20% Of US Financial Aid For Ukraine Goes To Kiev, Lawmaker Says (TASS)

Washington hands over only about 20% of financial aid allocated for Ukraine directly to Kiev, with about 60% of this money being received by the US side itself, head of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Michael McCaul said during Committee hearing Wednesday. “Of the $113 billion appropriated across four supplementals, approximately 60% is going to American troops, American workers and modernizing American stockpiles. In fact, only 20% of the funding is going directly to the Ukrainian government in the form of direct budgetary assistance,” the lawmaker said. He pointed out that, when the Republicans gained majority in the House after mid-term elections in November last year, they made it clear that accountability would have key importance for continued aid to Ukraine. The current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) warned last fall that the Republicans would not allow allocation of unlimited and not thoroughly justified aid to Ukraine.

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“Only 20% Of US Financial Aid For Ukraine Goes To Kiev”, and they still spend $3.5 billion a month on their military?!

Kiev Discloses Its Military Spending (RT)

Ukraine spends 130 billion hryvnia ($3.5 billion) a month on its military, Finance Minister Sergey Marchenko has revealed. The minister, who was meeting with the country’s European Business Association (EBA) on Wednesday, also disclosed that Ukraine’s budget receives 80 billion hryvnias in revenue (almost $2.2 billion) monthly. “The key task is to create conditions for financing the military,” Marchenko reportedly said while disclosing the numbers, according to EBA’s press service. He stressed it’s important to collect the anticipated taxes this year, adding that no major tax changes have been planned. Last week, the Ukrainian Parliament, the Verkhovnaya Rada, adopted a law on increasing budget spending on defense by more than $14.6 billion.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denis Shmygal had previously specified that the Cabinet of Ministers proposed to allocate additional funds for payments to the military, as well as the purchase of military and special equipment. According to him, the money will be allocated through the support of Western partners. While approving the 2023 draft budget last November, the parliament set aside more than a trillion hryvnias ($31 billion) to the armed forces and national security, which is 43% of all spending, or 18.2% of the country’s GDP. Ukraine’s budget deficit this year is expected to be a record $38 billion. The government plans to cover the deficit using Western foreign aid.

Last month, the US announced $12 billion in additional aid for Kiev, including a $2-billion arms package and $10 billion more to support energy costs and the Ukrainian government’s budget. According to US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Washington has provided nearly $50 billion in support since last year, much of it devoted to weapons. Meanwhile, the European Union in February approved another €545 million ($590 million) in military aid to Ukraine, bringing its total support for Kiev’s forces to €3.6 billion ($3.8 billion). Since the beginning of war, the EU and its member states have reportedly provided €50 billion ($54 billion) in direct support to Ukraine.

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“..a potential consequence of China’s strategic partnership with Russia, down the line, could be the weakening of American influence over the EU, which Washington is trying to strengthen by fanning the flames of the Ukraine war..”

China Is Winning The Diplomatic Struggle Against The US (Fomenko)

The past few weeks have seen a comprehensive show of diplomatic force by China. Shortly after Xi Jinping completed a successful trip to Moscow, where he met with Vladimir Putin, Beijing announced it had brokered a deal to normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The breakthrough was widely regarded as a blow to US influence in the Middle East. Then China persuaded Honduras to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing, and now high-ranking Western politicians and EU officials, including French president Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and the Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez, are piling in to visit Beijing.

When viewed as a whole, the last several weeks have seen China enjoy massive diplomatic gains at the expense of the US, pouring freezing water on Washington’s attempts to isolate Beijing ‘Cold War-style’ on the global stage and on a relentless propaganda campaign steeped in negativity and fear-mongering. But in spite of it all, the reality continues to shine through that China is simply too big and too globally significant to isolate, illustrating that Biden’s strategy of creating overlapping multilateral alliances in a bid to contain Beijing, isn’t going to work. China has demonstrated that it is a superpower with the ability to steer global affairs in its own direction, a privilege which the US believed was its own exclusive entitlement. Beijing’s peace proposal for Ukraine and the Saudi-Iran normalisation deal caused a shock to the system in Washington.

Xi’s visit to Moscow in particular has brought a new balance to the dynamic around the Ukraine conflict and jeopardized hubris-led US miscalculations that it can escalate the conflict to the point of forcing a zero-sum outcome in favour of its own strategic objectives. As noted above, European leaders have responded to Xi’s visit, not by turning against China as was hoped, but by intensifying their diplomatic engagement with Beijing and scrambling to remain on board. But what is China’s response going to be? It is reasonable to expect an element of “Then stop siding with the United States against us”. Thus, a potential consequence of China’s strategic partnership with Russia, down the line, could be the weakening of American influence over the EU, which Washington is trying to strengthen by fanning the flames of the Ukraine war. Beijing is thus bringing some much-needed balance to the equation.

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“..oil purchases by New Delhi surged more than 20-fold last year..”

Rosneft Announces Major Oil Deal In India (RT)

Moscow and New Delhi have agreed to “substantially increase” the supply of crude oil to India and diversify its grades, Russian energy major Rosneft announced on Wednesday. A deal was reached with the Indian Oil Company during a trip by Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin to the Asian country, the Russian firm said in a press release on its website. Sechin also met with the heads of some of India’s largest oil and gas companies and discussed wider cooperation in the energy sector, the press release states. Possible trade settlements in national currencies were also on the agenda. Russia has for the first time become one of India’s top five trading partners, with turnover reaching $38.4 billion in 2022, according to statistics from India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, as cited by Rosneft.

Energy accounts for a major portion of bilateral trade. According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak, oil purchases by New Delhi surged more than 20-fold last year. India, the world’s third-largest crude importer, began to boost purchases of Russian oil shortly after the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine and the ensuing Western sanctions. New Delhi, which has repeatedly stressed that energy security is its top priority, chose not to succumb to Western pressure and continued to stock up on Russian supplies even after the G7 price cap on Russian oil came into force late last year.

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Local currencies are the future. Backed by gold?!

ASEAN Looking To Dump Dollar And Euro, Use Local Currencies (RT)

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is set to discuss dropping the US dollar, euro, yen and pound sterling from transactions and moving to settlements in local currencies, according to the news magazine Tempo. An official meeting of ASEAN finance ministers and central bank governors kicked off on Tuesday in Indonesia. A regional grouping that aims to promote economic and security cooperation among its members, ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. “Efforts to reduce dependence on major currencies through the Local Currency Transaction (LCT) scheme will be discussed. This is an extension of the previous Local Currency Settlement (LCS) scheme that has already begun to be implemented between ASEAN members,” said the report.

Tempo specified that a digital cross-border payments system, allowing ASEAN member states to use local currencies in trade, would be expanded further. An agreement on such cooperation was reached between Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Thailand in November 2022. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has urged regional authorities to abandon Visa and Mastercard payment systems and start using credit cards issued by local banks. Moving away from Western payment systems is necessary to protect transactions from “possible geopolitical repercussions,” Widodo said. Board member of the Indonesian Credit Cards Association (AKKI), Dodit Proboyakti, told RIA Novosti that Indonesia would apply the experience of Russia and its Mir payment system in promoting its own domestic financial network.

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“..within the next few years, smartphones will become the digital wallet through which the Bank of England will have complete control over how much, on what and where we spend its Central Bank Digital Currency.”

Why You Should Destroy Your Smart Phone Now (OffG)

In the imminent future, smartphones are the instrument onto which, in the guise of the digital verification of our identity — the Government’s ‘consultation’ on which closed this month — the compliant will upload their biometric data (fingerprints, photograph and DNA swab) to a centralised database to which the 32 public authorities presiding over the UK biosecurity state will have access.=

Under the Digital Economy Act 2017, these public authorities include the Cabinet Office; the Home Office; the Department for Defence; HM Treasury; the Ministry of Justice; the Department for Education; the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; the Department for Work and Pensions; the Department for Communities and Local Government; the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; the Department for Transport; the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs; Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs; all county, district and London councils; the Greater London Authority; the Council of the City of London; all fire and rescue authorities; all police authorities; all education authorities; all gas and electricity authorities; HM Land Registry; and, under Section 35, any other public authority, or private agent providing a service for a public authority, designated for a specific purpose justifying access to that data.

Smartphones are the instrument that will monitor whether their owners are up-to-date with what the UK biosecurity state decides is fully ‘vaccinated’ with whatever our Government and its partners in the pharmaceutical industry decide we must inject into our bodies as a condition of access to the rights of citizenship. Smartphones are the instrument that will monitor and record how many times we leave or enter our 15-minute grazing range currently being implemented by our public authorities to restrict and limit our freedom of movement on the justification of ‘saving the planet’.

Smart phones are the instrument that will track our carbon footprint in order to monitor and control the quantity of meat, dairy products, energy, oil, petrol and other products to which the UK biosecurity state — under the terms of the agreements of Agenda 2030 signed by the UK Government in 2015 — will progressively cut off our access between now and 2030. Smartphones are the means by which our compliance with lockdowns, masking mandates and programmes of gene therapy dictated by the World Health Organization’s Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response Treaty and enforced by the UK biosecurity state will be monitored, recorded and enforced by, among other recourses, cutting off our access to the electronic and digital grid. And, within the next few years, smartphones will become the digital wallet through which the Bank of England will have complete control over how much, on what and where we spend its Central Bank Digital Currency.

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Mar 182019

Albert Gleizes The football players 1912-13


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Smartphone Shipments In China Collapse To Six Year Low (ZH)
Apartment Values Tipped To Plunge As Much As 50% In Some Sydney Areas (DM)
Ultra Low Wage Growth The Intended Outcome Of Government Policies (Quiggin)
Deutsche Bank And Commerzbank Go Public On Merger Talks (R.)
Saudi Crown Prince Allegedly Stripped Of Some Authority (G.)
Dead Whale Washed Up In Philippines Had 40kg Of Plastic Bags In Stomach (G.)



As I said on March 15: “If I were New Zealand’s government, and Australia’s, I’d say this is not the time for the countries’ white populations to speak. Let the Maori do the talking instead. It’s their land.”



Maybe not the kind of thing we should want to be swept under the carpet. But don’t underestimate Boeing’s political power. A series of tweets from a pilot and software engineer sheds a lot of light on what happened with the 737-MAX: one corner cut led automatically to the next one being cut. Until there were no more corners left. Dominoes. Zero Hedge has that series here.

Mike -Mish- Shedlock adds this: “If the above analysis by Trevor Sumner is correct, the planes were too complicated to fly because Boeing cut corners to save money, then did not even have the decency to deliver them with needed warning lights and operation instructions. There may be grounds for a criminal investigation here, not just civil. Regardless, Boeing’s decision to appeal to Trump to not ground the planes is morally reprehensible at best. Trump made the right call on this one, grounding the planes, albeit under international pressure. [..] By the way, if the timelines presented are correct, the FAA got in bed with Boeing, under Obama.”

How Boeing, FAA Certified The Suspect 737 MAX Flight Control System (ST)

As Boeing hustled in 2015 to catch up to Airbus and certify its new 737 MAX, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers pushed the agency’s safety engineers to delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the resulting analysis. But the original safety analysis that Boeing delivered to the FAA for a new flight control system on the MAX — a report used to certify the plane as safe to fly — had several crucial flaws. That flight control system, called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), is now under scrutiny after two crashes of the jet in less than five months resulted in Wednesday’s FAA order to ground the plane.

Current and former engineers directly involved with the evaluations or familiar with the document shared details of Boeing’s “System Safety Analysis” of MCAS, which The Seattle Times confirmed. The safety analysis: • Understated the power of the new flight control system, which was designed to swivel the horizontal tail to push the nose of the plane down to avert a stall. When the planes later entered service, MCAS was capable of moving the tail more than four times farther than was stated in the initial safety analysis document. • Failed to account for how the system could reset itself each time a pilot responded, thereby missing the potential impact of the system repeatedly pushing the airplane’s nose downward. •Assessed a failure of the system as one level below “catastrophic.” But even that “hazardous” danger level should have precluded activation of the system based on input from a single sensor — and yet that’s how it was designed.

The people who spoke to The Seattle Times and shared details of the safety analysis all spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their jobs at the FAA and other aviation organizations. Both Boeing and the FAA were informed of the specifics of this story and were asked for responses 11 days ago, before the second crash of a 737 MAX last Sunday. Late Friday, the FAA said it followed its standard certification process on the MAX. Citing a busy week, a spokesman said the agency was “unable to delve into any detailed inquiries.” Boeing responded Saturday with a statement that “the FAA considered the final configuration and operating parameters of MCAS during MAX certification, and concluded that it met all certification and regulatory requirements.”

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Nice story, but he seeks to blame Trump instead of the FAA, and that doesn’t go anywhere.

Boeing’s Doomed 737 Max’s (Margolis)

I don’t like flying. I consider it unnatural, unhealthy and fraught with peril. But I do it all the time. For me, it’s either fly or take an ox cart. In fact, I’ve been flying since I was six years old – from New York to Paris on a lumbering Boeing Stratocruiser, a converted, double-decker WWII B-29 heavy bomber. I even had a sleeping berth. So much for progress. Lots can go wrong in the air. Modern aircraft have thousands of obscure parts. If any one of them malfunctions, the aircraft can be crippled or crash. Add pilot error, dangerous weather, air traffic control mistakes, mountains where they are not supposed to be, air to air collisions, sabotage and hijacking.

I vividly recall flying over the snow-capped Alps in the late 1940’s aboard an old Italian three-motor airliner with its port engine burning, and the Italian crew panicking and crossing themselves. Some years ago, I was on my way to Egypt when we were hijacked by a demented Ethiopian. A three day ordeal ensued that included a return flight to New York City from Germany, with the gunman threatening to crash the A-310 jumbo jet into Wall Street – a grim precursor of 9/11. My father, Henry Margolis, got off a British Comet airliner just before it blew up due to faulty windows.

Which brings me to the current Boeing crisis. After a brand new Boeing 737 Max crashed in Indonesia it seemed highly likely that there was a major problem in its new, invisible autopilot system, known as MCAS. All 737 Max’s flying around the world should have been grounded as a precaution. But America’s aviation authority, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), allowed the Max to keep flying. The FAA is half regulator and half aviation business promoter, a clear conflict of interest. The crash of a new Ethiopian 737 Max outside Addis Ababa under very similar circumstances to the Lion Air accident set off alarm bells around the globe.

Scores of airlines rightly grounded their new Max’s. But the US and Canada did not. The FAA continued to insist the aircraft was sound. The problem, it was hinted between the lines, was incompetent third world pilots. It now appears that America’s would-be emperor, Pilot-in–Chief Donald Trump, may have pressed the FAA to keep the 737 Max’s in the air. Canada, always shy when it comes to disagreeing with Washington, kept the 737 Max’s flying until there was a lot of evidence linking the Indonesia and Ethiopian crashes. Trump finally ordered the suspect aircraft grounded. But doing so was not his business. That’s the job of the FAA. But Trump, as usual, wanted to hog the limelight. By now, the 737 Max ban is just about universal.

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Mess. 11 days left.

The EU Has Never Had More Power Over Britain (G.)

It is easy to assign all the blame to Mrs May, the control freak who lost control. The charge list against her is certainly a lengthy one. She triggered article 50 before her government had an agreed strategy for withdrawal and her senior team then wasted months squabbling with itself rather than advancing the negotiations with the EU. Ignoring advice to the contrary and without advance discussion with her cabinet, she made a prison for herself by laying down red lines that made the negotiations more difficult and set her up for a string of ignominious subsequent reversals. When she threw away her majority at an election she didn’t have to call, she carried on as if nothing had changed rather than trying to reach out to other parties to forge a broad consensus about a way forward.

That made her the hostage of the Democratic Unionist party and the Brexit ultras on the right of her party. Mrs May has one quality that is of value in a political crisis. She has resilience. She lacks all the other ones, such as imagination, advocacy and agility. True, all true, and yet not the whole truth. Any account of this nightmare that holds Mrs May solely culpable is not a complete explanation for how we got here. In a dark corner of what remains of its political brain, the Tory party knows that it is collectively guilty of driving the country it professes to love into this shaming mess. With a few prescient exceptions, the Conservatives all backed David Cameron when he promised a referendum on the cynical basis that he might not have to deliver it and with the arrogant assumption that, if he did have to, he would easily win it.

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“She reminds me occasionally of that character from Monty Python where all the arms and legs are cut off but he then tells the opponent: ‘Let’s call it a draw.’

Dutch PM Compares Theresa May To Monty Python Limbless Knight (G.)

Theresa May is like the knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who loses his arms and legs in a duel and calls it a draw, the Dutch prime minister has said. Mark Rutte, who appeared visibly irritated last week at the failure of MPs to pass the Brexit deal, admitted feeling “angry” at the impasse in Westminster. He said his frustration was focused on the posturing of those seeking to make party political points during a major national crisis but praised May’s “incredible” resilience in the face of repeated knock-backs in the House of Commons. “Look, I have every respect for Theresa May,” Rutte said in an interview with the Dutch broadcaster WNL on Sunday.

“She reminds me occasionally of that character from Monty Python where all the arms and legs are cut off but he then tells the opponent: ‘Let’s call it a draw.’ She’s incredible. She goes on and on. At the same time, I do not blame her, but British politics.” The black knight sketch in the 1975 Monty Python film had John Cleese playing the role of the deluded swordsman who could not admit defeat, even as Graham Chapman’s King Arthur cut off all his limbs. Rutte said of the prime minister’s predicament: “You can see what happens when a country puts everything on the roulette wheel and takes a risk, and the whole thing collapses. That is what is happening. Economic, financial, politically, England is in a very bad position right now.”

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After 40 years of EU membership, the UK stands to plunge into chaos when 1000s of laws and regulations evaporate. Very predictable, but mostly ignored.

100,000 Children in UK ‘Could Become Undocumented’ Overnight After Brexit (G.)

Thousands of children of EU nationals risk becoming a new “Windrush generation”, a children’s legal charity has said. They are concerned that vulnerable children could become undocumented in the same way as the Caribbean children who came to the UK decades ago only to suffer at the hands of the Home Office’s hostile environment decades later. An estimated 900,000 EU national children are in the UK with about 285,000 born in the country. Coram Children’s Legal Centre fears that children in foster care, in care homes, and others from vulnerable families could slip through the net of the new Home Office registration scheme for EU nationals after Brexit.

The Home Office estimates that between 10% and 20% of all applicants will be vulnerable, unable to provide documentary evidence of their time in the UK. “If just 15% of the current population of EU national children fail to ‘regularise’ their status before the cut-off point, 100,000 children would be added to the UK’s undocumented child population overnight, nearly doubling it [the numbers of existing undocumented children],” said Kamena Dorling, group head of policy and public affairs at Coram. About 5,000 children of EU nationals are separated from their parents and are in care and Coram is calling on the government to force local authorities to identify them now in order to get their settled status before the cut-off point in 2020 or 2021.

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Dumb headline from BBC for a very real issue: schools care for poor pupils, and then see their funding cut.

‘Pupil Poverty’ Pressure On School Cash (BBC)

Schools in England are having to “pick up the pieces” for families in poverty, including giving food and clothes to children, head teachers warn. But, they say, that is unsustainable when schools are facing “funding cuts”. Heads will raise their concerns at the Association of School and College Leaders’ (ASCL) annual conference. Education Secretary Damian Hinds will tell the conference he is setting up an expert advisory group to help teachers with “the pressures of the job”. The advisory group, including the mental health charity Mind and teachers’ representatives, will look at ways to improve wellbeing among teachers and to tackle stress. [..]

Edward Conway, head of St Michael’s Catholic High School in Watford, says: “Pupil poverty has increased significantly over the past eight years, with us providing food, clothing, equipment and securing funds from charitable organisations to provide essential items such as beds and fridges.” The head teachers’ union has canvassed the views of school leaders, whose comments include: “When schools have to buy shoes for children to wear to school on a regular basis, we must have a problem.” Another head said: “In 24 years of education, I have not seen the extent of poverty like this. “Children are coming to school hungry, dirty and without the basics to set them up for life. “The gap between those that have and those that do not is rising and is stark.”

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Where Britain is: “sitting in the EU departure lounge.”

With Brexit Approaching UK’s Voice In Brussels Grows Quiet (G.)

For years a British foreign minister has shuttled once a month to Brussels or Luxembourg to meet their European counterparts. The crises of the world have crowded the agenda: from the Arab spring to the annexation of Crimea, coups, stolen elections and intractable wars. Monday, in theory, could be the last time the United Kingdom name plate is on the table. While a Brexit extension is a near-certainty, the official departure date is still 29 March. Uncertainty over exit day requires careful diplomacy. On Monday the British minister will have the chance to weigh in on the EU’s China strategy, ahead of a summit with Beijing on 9 April.

While British officials remain involved in discussions, the UK will hang back on strategic questions about how the EU should approach China. Nobody wants to be seen as lecturing European allies, while sitting in the EU departure lounge. A government spokesperson said: “The UK will continue to take a full part in discussions at the [Foreign Affairs Council], focusing on those issues that matter most to the UK and EU.” Other day-to-day EU business provides a jarring contrast with the government’s Brexit strategy: one of Theresa May’s last acts as an EU leader will be to sign a routine communique on strengthening the single market – the one she insists Britain must leave.

Meanwhile, the UK’s 73 MEPs do not know if they will be out of a job in a fortnight, or in three months. “It is really unsettling, but we are the least people to worry about,” said the Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, speaking just outside the chamber in Strasbourg under the strident ring of a voting bell. The uncertainty facing MEPs is nothing, she adds, compared with the unknowns confronting business. “A politician’s life is always uncertain, you never know if you are going to come back for the next mandate.”

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Smartphone Shipments In China Collapse To Six Year Low (ZH)

Months after Apple stunned the market by announcing it would no longer be reporting quarterly iPhone unit sales, we have some insight as to the reason. February saw smartphone shipments in China collapse to their lowest levels in six years, indicating that the super-saturated industry has failed to turn around amidst a global economy that is grinding slower. Shipments to China came in at 14.5 million units for February, down 19.9% from last year, according to Reuters, who cited the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology. It’s the lowest total since February 2013.

February is traditionally a tough month for Chinese consumer purchases, as the Chinese spend a majority of the month celebrating the new year. However, this year’s drop was more concentrated than past years, as a result of both a slowing economy and the ongoing U.S./China trade war. When Apple recently cut sales forecasts this year, it blamed China for weighing on its results. To try and stimulate demand, the company paired with China-based Ant Financial to offer interest-free iPhone financing. Other retailers in China have tried similar promos to try and spur demand. This has some manufacturers, like Huawei, looking to corner the higher margin end of the market instead. Huawei saw its market share of China’s $500 to $800 device segment rise to 26.6% from 8.8% in 2018, according to data from Counterpoint Research. Apple, on the other hand, saw its share fall to 54.6% from 81.2%.

As an added bonus, we recently reported on Chinese smartphones also emitting the most radiation of any smartphones worldwide. The current smartphone creating the highest level of radiation is the Mi A1 from Chinese vendor Xiaomi. Another Chinese phone is in second place – the OnePlus 5T. In fact, the two companies are represented heavily in a list of “Phones Emitting the Most Radiation” that was recently released by Statista. 8 of the top 16 handsets being made by one of these two companies. Premium Apple phones, such as the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8 are also here to be seen, as are the latest Pixel handsets from Google.

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But there’s no bubble.

Apartment Values Tipped To Plunge As Much As 50% In Some Sydney Areas (DM)

Apartment values in Australia’s big cities are set to plunge, with prices in one suburb to plummet as much as 50 per cent according to one industry observer, as Chinese buyers abandon off-the-plan residential tower projects. Ryde, in Sydney’s north, is Australia’s second-worst performing property market with dwelling values diving by 14.8 per cent during the past year, CoreLogic data showed. Digital Finance Analytics founder Martin North, an economist, feared apartment values there could be sliced in half during the next three years before stagnating for a decade. ‘We’ve got massive oversupply in those areas but you’ve just got no demand,’ he told Daily Mail Australia on Friday.

‘Some of the central high-rise apartments in the inner urban areas, like Ryde, 40 per cent now is certainly feasible. ‘In the worst case, you could see unit prices nearly halve.’ Starr Partners chief executive Doug Driscoll, who specialises in the Sydney real estate market, said Mr North’s forecasts were far fetched. He did, however, blame councils for approving too many developments. ‘We had an influx of foreign investment. We had an environment of record low interest rates, money was easily available – these things don’t last forever,’ he told Daily Mail Australia. ‘In some suburbs, in some pockets, we have seen an oversupply.’

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From Australia, but applicable worldwide.

Ultra Low Wage Growth The Intended Outcome Of Government Policies (Quiggin)

The long debate over the causes of wage stagnation took an unexpected turn last week, when Finance Minister Matthias Cormann described (downward) flexibility in the rate of wage growth as “a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture”. It was a position that was endorsed in a flurry of confusion 16 seconds after it had been rejected by Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds. Cormann had said policies aimed at pushing wages up could cause “massive spikes in unemployment”. The ease with which Reynolds was trapped into at first rejecting and then accepting what her ministerial colleague had said flowed from the fact that Cormann had broken one of the standing conventions of politics in Australia, and for that matter, the English-speaking world.

For more than forty years, both the architecture of labour market regulation and the discretionary choices of governments have been designed with the precise objective of holding wages down. These policies have been quite successful, as can be seen from the graph. However, at least until recently, there has been bipartisan agreement on at least one aspect of them – that no one should mention their role in holding back wages. Instead, the decline in the wage share of national income has been variously blamed on • technology • immigration • imports from China and, more recently, • the end of the mining boom. None of these explanations stand up to scrutiny.

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The lame and the blind. Reports should look at the size of Deutsche relative to the German economy, and the nerves that touches in Berlin.

Deutsche Bank And Commerzbank Go Public On Merger Talks (R.)

Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank confirmed on Sunday they were in talks about a merger, prompting labor union concerns about possible job losses and questions from analysts about the merits of a combination. Germany’s two largest banks issued short statements following separate meetings of their management boards, a person with knowledge of the matter said, indicating a quickening of pace in the merger process, although both also warned that a deal was far from certain. “In light of arising opportunities, the management board of Deutsche Bank has decided to review strategic options,” Deutsche said in its statement.

Christian Sewing, Deutsche Bank’s chief executive, told employees that Deutsche still aimed “to remain a global bank with a strong capital markets business… with a global network.”A merged bank would likely be the third largest in Europe after HSBC and BNP Paribas, with roughly 1.8 trillion euros ($2.04 trillion) in assets, such as loans and investments, and a market value of about 25 billion euros. [..] However, skeptics questioned the wisdom of a merger. “We do not see a national champion here, but a shaky zombie bank that could lead to another billion-euro grave for the German state. Why should we take this risk?” said Gerhard Schick, finance activist and ex-member of the German parliament.

While the banks had not publicly commented on merger talks until Sunday, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz last Monday confirmed that there were negotiations. On Sunday, the ministry acknowledged the announcement and said it remained in regular contact with all parties. However, there were signs of political opposition. Hans Michelbach, a lawmaker from the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), urged the government to sell its 15 percent stake in Commerzbank before a deal. “There may not be an ownership by the federal government in a merged big bank indirectly through an old stake. We do not need a German State Bank AG,” he told Reuters.

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Hearsay report.

Saudi Crown Prince Allegedly Stripped Of Some Authority (G.)

The heir to the Saudi throne has not attended a series of high-profile ministerial and diplomatic meetings in Saudi Arabia over the last fortnight and is alleged to have been stripped of some of his financial and economic authority, the Guardian has been told. The move to restrict, if only temporarily, the responsibilities of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is understood to have been revealed to a group of senior ministers earlier last week by his father, King Salman. The king is said to have asked Bin Salman to be at this cabinet meeting, but he failed to attend.

While the move has not been declared publicly, the Guardian has been told that one of the king’s trusted advisers, Musaed al-Aiban, who was educated at Harvard and recently named as national security adviser, will informally oversee investment decisions on the king’s behalf. The Saudi embassy in Washington has declined multiple requests for comment since the Guardian approached it on Tuesday. The relationship between the king and his son has been under scrutiny since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which was alleged to have been ordered by Prince Mohammed and provoked international condemnation of the crown prince. This has been denied by the Saudi government.

Experts on the Middle East are divided over whether the murder, and concern over the kingdom’s role in the conflict in Yemen, have led to tension at the heart of the notoriously secretive royal court. But while most observers expect Prince Mohammed to accede to the thrown, there are some signs that the king is seeking to rein in his controversial son at a time when Saudi Arabia is under the spotlight. The Guardian has been told Prince Mohammed did not attend two of the most recent weekly meetings of cabinet ministers, which are headed by the king. The crown prince has also not attended other high-profile talks with visiting dignitaries, including one last week with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

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And this is just what we see, what washes up on beaches. “16 rice sacks. 4 banana plantation style bags and multiple shopping bags” in the whale’s stomach..”

Dead Whale Washed Up In Philippines Had 40kg Of Plastic Bags In Stomach (G.)

A young whale that washed up in the Philippines died from “gastric shock” after ingesting 40kg of plastic bags. Marine biologists and volunteers from the D’Bone Collector Museum in Davao City, in the Philippine island of Mindanao, were shocked to discover the brutal cause of death for the young curvier beaked whale, which washed ashore on Saturday. In a damning statement on their Facebook page, the museum said they uncovered “40 kilos of plastic bags, including 16 rice sacks. 4 banana plantation style bags and multiple shopping bags” in the whale’s stomach after conducting an autopsy. Images from the autopsy showed endless piles of rubbish being extracted from the inside of the animal, which was said to have died from “gastric shock” after ingesting all the plastic.

[..] The use of single-use plastic is rampant in south-east Asia. A 2017 report by Ocean Conservancy stated that China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam have been dumping more plastic into the ocean than the rest of the world combined. Marine biologist Darrell Blatchley, who also owns the D’Bone Collector Museum, said that in the 10 years they have examined dead whales and dolphins, 57 of them were found to have died due to accumulated rubbish and plastic in their stomachs.

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Jan 092019
 January 9, 2019  Posted by at 7:27 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »

Pablo Picasso Massacre in Korea 1951


In the New Year, after a close to the old one that was sort of terrible for our zombie markets, do prepare for a whole lot of stories about China (on top of Brexit and Yellow Vests and many more windmills fighting the Donald). And don’t count on too many positive ones that don’t originate in the country itself. Beijing will especially be full of feel-good tales about a month from now, around Chinese New Year 2019, which is February 5.

And we won’t get an easy and coherent true story, it’ll be bits and pieces stitched together. What will remain is that China did the same we did, just on steroids. It took us 100 years to build our manufacturing capacity, they did it in under 20 (and made ours obsolete). It took us 100 years to borrow enough to get a debt-to-GDP ratio of 300%, they did it in 10.

In the process they also accumulated 10 times more non-productive assets than us, idle factories, bridges to nowhere and empty cities, but they thought that would be alright, that demand would catch up with supply. And if you look at how much unproductive stuff we ourselves have gathered around us, who can blame them for thinking that? Perhaps their biggest mistake has been misreading our actual wealth situation; they didn’t see how poorly off we really are.


Xiang Songzuo, “a relatively obscure economics professor at Renmin University in Beijing”, expressed some dire warnings about the Chinese economy in a December 15 speech. He didn’t get much attention, not even in the West. Not overly surprising, since both Beijing and Wall Street have a vested interest in the continuing China growth story.

But with the arrival of 2019, that attention started slowly seeping through. Former associate professor of business and economics at the Peking University HSBC Business School in Shenzhen, Christopher Balding, left China 6 months ago after losing his job. At the time, he wrote: “China has reached a point where I do not feel safe being a professor and discussing even the economy, business and financial markets..”. And, noting a change that very much seems related to what is coming down the road:

”One of my biggest fears living in China has always been that I would be detained. Though I happily pointed out the absurdity of the rapidly encroaching authoritarianism, a fact which continues to elude so many experts not living in China, I tried to make sure I knew where the line was and did not cross it. There is a profound sense of relief to be leaving safely knowing others, Chinese or foreigners, who have had significantly greater difficulties than myself. There are many cases which resulted in significantly more problems for them. I know I am blessed to make it out.”

A few days ago, Balding wrote this on Twitter:

“Most experts dismissed the speech by Xiang Songzuo (claiming Chinese GDP growth could be as low as 1.67%) as implausible…”. No, we didn’t. The GS PE guy and the PKU dean have every reason to deny it. Car and mobile phone shipment down 2% and 16% are not a 6.5% growth economy.”

That certainly sets the tone of the discussion. GDP growth of 1.67% vs the official 6.5%; smartphone shipments down 16%, car sales slumping. Not the kind of numbers you’ll hear from Beijing. And Balding does know China, whether they like it or not. On Monday, Bloomberg, where he was/is a regular contributor, published this from his hand:


China Has a Dangerous Dollar Debt Addiction

Officially, China lists its outstanding external debt at $1.9 trillion . For a $13 trillion economy, that’s not a major amount. But focusing on the headline number significantly understates the underlying risks. Short-term debt accounted for 62% of the total as of September, according to official data, meaning that $1.2 trillion will have to be rolled over this year .

Just as worrying is the speed of increase: Total external debt has increased 14% in the past year and 35% since the beginning of 2017 . External debt is no longer a trivial slice of China’s foreign-exchange reserves, which stood at just over $3 trillion at the end of November, little changed from two years earlier. Short-term foreign debt increased to 39% of reserves in September, from 26% in March 2016.


The true picture may be more precarious. China’s external debt was estimated at between $3 trillion and $3.5 trillion by Daiwa Capital Markets in an August report. In other words, total foreign liabilities could be understated by as much as $1.5 trillion after accounting for borrowing in financial centers such as Hong Kong, New York and the Caribbean islands that isn’t included in the official tally. Circumstances aren’t moving in China’s favor.

The nation’s companies rushed to borrow in dollars when there was a 3% to 5% spread between Chinese and U.S. interest rates and the yuan was expected to strengthen. Borrowing offshore was cheaper and offered the additional bonus of likely currency gains. Now, the spread in official short-term yields has shrunk to near zero and the yuan has been depreciating for most of the past year. Refinancing debt in dollars has become harder, and more risky.


Beijing’s policies have exacerbated the buildup of foreign debt. To promote Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, the president’s landmark foreign policy endeavor, China has been borrowing dollars on international markets and lending around the world for everything from Kenyan railways to Pakistani business parks. With this year and 2020 being the peak years for repayments, China faces dollar funding pressure.

To repay their dollar debts, Chinese firms will either have to draw from the central bank’s foreign-exchange reserves (a prospect Beijing is unlikely to allow) or buy dollars on international markets. This creates a new set of problems. There are only 617 billion yuan ($90 billion) of offshore renminbi deposits in Hong Kong available to buy dollars . If China was to push firms to bring debt back onshore, this would necessitate significant outflows that would push down the yuan’s value against the dollar.


The Xiang Songzuo speech was also noted by the Financial Times this week. Their conclusions are not much rosier. Recent US imports from China look good only because both buyers and sellers try to stay ahead of tariffs. And whole some truce or another there may smoothen things a little, China must launch a massive stimulus against the background of twice as much investment being needed for a unit of GDP growth.


Nervous Markets: How Vulnerable Is China’s Economy?

A relatively obscure economics professor at Renmin University in Beijing sparked a minor furore last month when he claimed a secret government research group had estimated China’s growth in GDP could be as low as 1.67% in 2018 — far below the officially published rate of 6.7% for the year up to September. 

Most experts dismissed the speech by Xiang Songzuo as implausible, despite longstanding doubts about the reliability of China’s official GDP data. Yet although discussion of his claims was quickly scrubbed from the Chinese internet, the presentation has been viewed more than 1.2m times on YouTube — an indication of the raw nerve Mr Xiang touched with his doom-laden warnings.

[..] the question that is hanging over global markets is just how vulnerable is China to a much sharper slowdown? Ominously, the recent downturn has occurred even though the expected hit to Chinese exports from the trade war has not yet materialised. In fact, analysts say exports probably received a one-off boost in recent months as traders front-loaded shipments to beat the expected tariff rise from 10% to 25% that US president Donald Trump threatened would take effect in January. That rise is now on hold due to the 90-day truce that Mr Trump agreed with Chinese president Xi Jinping at the G20 meeting in Argentina last month.

[..] The amount of new capital investment required to generate a given unit of GDP growth has more than doubled since 2007 , according to Moody’s Analytics. In other words, investment stimulus produces little bang for Beijing’s buck, even as it adds to the debt levels.

[..] “They [Beijing] will soon have no choice but to launch massive stimulus,” says Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief Asia Pacific economist at Natixis in Hong Kong. “They do not want to give away their credibility because they said they wouldn’t do it, but there is no time to be cautious any more. Not having growth is ultimately the worst outcome of all.”


Christopher Whalen picks up on Xiang Songzuo’s speech as well, and quotes him saying that “Chinese stock market conditions resemble those during the 1929 Wall Street Crash”. Whereas the China Beige Book states that sales volumes, output, domestic and export orders, investment, and hiring fell on a year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter basis. Which leads to the conclusion that deflation is, or should be, Beijing’s main worry.

Oh, and Chinese consumer demand has weakened, something we’ve seen more off recently. Reuters headlines “China To Introduce Policies To Strengthen Domestic Consumption” today, but that headline could have come from any of the past 5 years or so. Domestic consumption is precisely China’s problem, and they can’t achieve nearly enough growth there.


China’s Stability Is at Risk

Foreign investors have convinced themselves that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is superior in terms of economic management, this despite ample evidence to the contrary, thus accepting the official view is easy but also increasingly risky. In a December 15 speech , Renmin University’s Xiang Songzuo warned that Chinese stock market conditions resemble those during the 1929 Wall Street Crash. He also suggested that the Chinese economy is actually shrinking.

China growth, Tesla profitability, or the mystical blockchain all require more credulity than ever before. For example, in the first half of 2016 global capital markets stopped due to fear of a Chinese recession. Credit spreads soared and deal flows disappeared. But was this really a surprise? In fact, the Chinese government had accelerated official stimulus in 2015 and 2016 to counter a possible slowdown and, particularly, ensure a quiet domestic scene as paramount leader Xi Jinping was enshrined into the Chinese constitution.

Today western audiences are again said to be concerned about China’s economy and this concern is justified, but perhaps not for the reasons touted in the financial media. The China Beige Book (CBB) fourth-quarter preview, released December 27, reports that sales volumes, output, domestic and export orders, investment, and hiring fell on a year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter basis. CBB is a research service that surveys thousands of companies and bankers on the ground in China every quarter.

Contrary to the positive foreign narrative about “growth” in China, CBB contends that deflation is the bigger threat compared to inflation. “Because of China’s structural problems, deflation has very clearly emerged as the bigger threat in a slowing economy than inflation. Consumer demand has weakened, and you see that reflected in retail and services prices,” CBB Managing Director Shehzad Qazi said in an interview.


So, China phone shipments are down 16%, as per Balding. But Tim Cook says Apple’s never done better. Still, if that 16% number is correct, either Apple or its Chinese suppliers are doing worse, not better. And 16% is a lot.


Despite Recent Battering, Tim Cook Says Apple’s ‘Ecosystem Has Never Been Stronger’

Apple Inc. stock has taken a beating in recent months, but Chief Executive Tim Cook defended his company Tuesday, and expressed optimism that trade tensions with China would soon ease. Apple shares have fallen by more than one-third since their peak on Oct. 3, and tumbled further last week after the tech giant warned of disappointing iPhone sales in its holiday quarter. But in an interview Tuesday with CNBC’s Jim Cramer, Cook said the company was still going strong, and its naysayers were full of “bologna.” “Here’s the truth, what the facts are,” Cook said about reports of slow iPhone XR sales, according to a CNBC transcript.

“Since we began shipping the iPhone XR, it has been the most popular iPhone every day, every single day, from when we started shipping, until now. . . . I mean, do I want to sell more? Of course I do. Of course I’d like to sell more. And we’re working on that.” Slower sales in China also contributed to Apple’s lowered forecast, and Cook said Tuesday he believes that situation to be “temporary.”

“We believe, based on what we saw and the timing of it, that the tension, the trade-war tension with the U.S. created this more-sharp downturn,” he said. Cook said he’s “very optimistic” a trade deal between the U.S. and China will be reached . “I think a deal is very possible. And I’ve heard some very encouraging words,” he said.


16% fewer phones, that gets you the second production cut at Apple and its ‘magnificent ecosystem’ in short order. Now sure, Cook can try and blame the tariffs. but Samsung’s Q4 2018 sales fell 11%, and its operating profit fell by 29%. It’s a bigger and wider issue, and China is at the heart of it.


Apple Cuts Q1 Production Plan For New iPhones By 10%

Apple, which slashed its quarterly sales forecast last week, has reduced planned production for its three new iPhone models by about 10% for the January-March quarter, the Nikkei Asian Review reported on Wednesday. That rare forecast cut exposed weakening iPhone demand in China, the world’s biggest smartphone market, where a slowing economy has also been buffeted by a trade war with the United States.

Many analysts and consumers have said the new iPhones are overpriced. Apple asked its suppliers late last month to produce fewer-than-planned units of its XS, XS Max and XR models, the Nikkei reported, citing sources with knowledge of the request. The request was made before Apple announced its forecast cut, the Nikkei said.


And very much not least there was this graph of Chinese investments in Africa. What are the conditions? At what point will they call back the loans? And when countries can’t pay back, what’s the penalty? How much of this has been provided by Beijing in US dollars it doesn’t have nearly enough of?



It’s like the much heralded Belt and Road project, or Silk Road 2.0, isn’t it, where the first batch of participating nations have started sounding the alarm over loan conditions. Yes, it sounds great, I admit, but I have long said that in reality Belt&Road is China’s ingenious scheme to export its industrial overcapacity and force other countries to pay for it. It’s like the model Rome had, and the US still do, just all in one single project. And this one has a name, and it can be expanded to Africa.

But no, I don’t see it. I think China’s debt, combined with the vast distance it still has from owning a global reserve currency, will call the shots, not Xi Jinping.

China won’t be taking over. At least, not anytime soon.



Jan 102018

Giorgione The Tempest 1508


Happy belated new year. Belatedly. Thought I’d sit out a few days, since there wasn’t much news to be expected. And it did pan out that way, other than Trump bogarting the limelight; but then, that isn’t really news either. Anything he says or does triggers the expansive anti-Donald echo chamber into a daily frenzy. And frankly, guys, it’s not just boring, but you’re also continuously providing him with free publicity. At least make him work for some of it.

Then, however, the big microprocessor (chip) security ‘flaw’ was exposed. And that’s sort of interesting, because it concerns the basic architecture of basically every microchip produced in the past 20 years, even well before smartphones. Now, the first thing you have to realize is that we’re not actually talking about a flaw here, but about a feature. We use that line a lot in a half-jokingly version, but in this case it’s very much true. As Bloomberg succinctly put it:

All modern microprocessors, including those that run smartphones, are built to essentially guess what functions they’re likely to be asked to run next. By queuing up possible executions in advance, they’re able to crunch data and run software much faster. The problem in this case is that this predictive loading of instructions allows access to data that’s normally cordoned off securely..


Spectre fools the processor into running speculative operations – ones it wouldn’t normally perform – and then uses information about how long the hardware takes to retrieve the data to infer the details of that information. Meltdown exposes data directly by undermining the way information in different applications is kept separate by what’s known as a kernel, the key software at the core of every computer.

As I said: feature, not flaw (or two really, Spectre and Meltdown). And that makes one wonder: fixing a flaw is one thing, but how do you fix a feature? Several quotes claim that software patches would mean the performance speed of affected chips (that would be all of them) would go down by 25-30% or so. Which is bad enough, but the problem is not -limited to- software. And patching up hardware/firmware issues with software can’t be easy, if even viable.

That would make one suspect that even if a software patch can suppress this feature, as long as the architecture doesn’t change, it can still function as a backdoor. Apple may say there are no known exploits of it, but would they tell if for instance intelligence services used it? Or other parties that cannot be labeled ‘hackers’?


All that ties in seemingly seamlessly with Apple shareholders expressing their worries about the effect of their investments. Though you might want to wonder if their worries would be the same if Apple shares plummeted tomorrow.


Two Major Apple Shareholders Push for Study of iPhone Addiction in Children

..activist investor Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System urged Apple to create ways for parents to restrict children’s access to their mobile phones. They also want the company to study the effects of heavy usage on mental health.

There are a few things off with this. First, there’s the risk of these kids’ iPhones being hacked through the flaw, feature, backdoor mentioned above. That’s potentially a lot worse for them. Then, there’s the obvious fact that parents can simply take their children’s phones away, there’s no better way to restrict access. Why should that be Apple’s responsibility?

But most of all, children are addicted to their phones because of the content, and Apple, though they would wish it were different, are not the major content providers. That role is played by Alphabet/Google/YouTube and Facebook/Instagram, and to a lesser extent Snapchat and Twitter. And they are a much bigger threat than Apple is.


There has been a lot of talk about hate speech, fake news and election interference over the past year and change -and it won’t stop anytime soon, because it’s political gold dust. Germany, France, the UK, US and a whole slew of smaller nations have all tried to implicate Russia in all of these issues, and for good measure opposition parties to incumbent governments have been fingered too.

There are perhaps very obvious examples of all three topics, but the issue as a whole is far from clear. In Germany, Twitter accounts of the Alternative für Deutschland party have been blocked, but given that they now have seats in parliament, that is a tricky problem. Likewise, much of what the US MSM has been writing about Trump and his organization has proven unsubstantiated, and could therefore be labeled fake news. It isn’t to date, other than by the president himself, but who draws the line where?

The US election interference narrative is shaky, since it largely appears to rely on $100k or so in Facebook ads bought by some mysterious party, ads that are supposed to have been much more effective than many billions of dollars in campaign funding. The kind of thing that makes you think: if the Russians are so much better at this than we are, we might as well hand it all over to them right now.

The main problem with the election interference stories is that none of it has ever been proven. Not even the $100k+ in Facebook ads; they might just as well have originated in Langley and we only have Langley’s word for any alternative claims. Overall, defining what is hate speech and what is fake news seems to come down far too much to opinions rather than facts, and that has us sliding down a supremely slippery slope, not exactly a place to build solid policy on.

So how and why can Facebook and Google be trusted to provide objective assessments on what is fake news and hate speech vs what is not? That is what they are being tasked with at present. They hires tens of thousands of people to do that ‘job’. But what are these people’s qualifications? How do these companies make sure political bias is kept out of the process? Do they even want to keep it out, or do Zuckerberg, Brin, Schmidt want to confirm their own bias?

It’s hard to see how the decision making process, fake vs real news, hate speech, political meddling, will not inevitably become one guided and goaded by intelligence services, because they are the ones who claim to have both the knowledge and the evidence upon which these decisions must be based. But US intelligence is not politically neutral, and they don’t share the sources of their ‘evidence’.



Still, none of that is the main problem here either. Though we’re getting closer.

Over the holidays, I saw a movie in which there was a teachers’ Christmas party at some highschool. All the teachers were bored and sat or stood in silence looking at nothing. And I realized that kind of scene no longer exists today. Though the movie was just 10-15 years old, there have been some profound changes. At a party like that, or at a busstop, in a bus or train, a waiting room or even a family dinner, everyone is now glued to their smartphone. Even people walking down the street are. And those driving down the street.

What all these people seem to do most is look at their Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat etc. accounts. And apart from the profound changes to human interaction in public spaces, there are other things that deserve attention. Like for instance that while you think you’re having private conversations with your friends and family, there’s nothing private about it. Everything you tell your ‘friends’ de facto becomes property of the owners of the app you’re sharing it on.

When your friends read what you just wrote, they see not only that but also ads that the app displays alongside it. That means Facebook makes money from your friends’ attention for your words. Since Facebook reached 2 billion active users in 2017, that adds up. And they don’t have to do anything for that, other than keep the channels open.

But that is not the worst part. Facebook not only makes money off your contact with family and friends, something most people would probably find comparatively innocent, it also ‘spies’ on you. At the very least, its algorithms actively scour its databases to suggest possible additional friends, and/or people you might know. That can lead to unexpected and potentially undesirable results:


Facebook Figured Out My Family Secrets, And It Won’t Tell Me How

Rebecca Porter and I were strangers, as far as I knew. Facebook, however, thought we might be connected. Her name popped up this winter on my list of “People You May Know”, the social network’s roster of potential new online friends for me. The People You May Know feature is notorious for its uncanny ability to recognise who you associate with in real life. It has mystified and disconcerted Facebook users by showing them an old boss, a one-night-stand, or someone they just ran into on the street.

These friend suggestions go far beyond mundane linking of schoolmates or colleagues. Over the years, I’d been told many weird stories about them, such as when a psychiatrist told me that her patients were being recommended to one another, indirectly outing their medical issues.

What makes the results so unsettling is the range of data sources – location information, activity on other apps, facial recognition on photographs – that Facebook has at its disposal to cross-check its users against one another [..] . People are generally aware that Facebook is keeping tabs on who they are and how they use the network, but the depth and persistence of that monitoring is hard to grasp. And People You May Know, or “PYMK” in the company’s internal shorthand, is a black box.

To try to get a look into that black box – and the unknown and apparently aggressive data collection that feeds it – I began downloading and saving the list of people Facebook recommended to me, to see who came up, and what patterns might emerge. On any given day, it tended to recommend about 160 people, some of them over and over again; over the course of the winter, it suggested more than 1400 different people to me. About 200, or 15% of them, were, in fact, people I knew, but the rest appeared to be strangers.

And then there was Rebecca Porter. She showed up on the list after about a month: An older woman, living in Ohio, with whom I had no Facebook friends in common. I did not recognise her, but her last name was familiar. My biological grandfather is a man I’ve never met, with the last name Porter, who abandoned my father when he was a baby. My father was adopted by a man whose last name was Hill, and he didn’t find out about his biological father until adulthood.

The gist of the tale is clear: Someone being introduced by Facebook to someone (s)he never knew, and may not have wanted to know, or know about him/her.

But we’re still skirting the real problems. Though by now you may want to give it all another thought. The real problem is that by giving out the information on Facebook, even if it all seems completely harmless and innocent to you, you have become Big Brother.

That may sound over the top, and I wouldn’t want to go into popular innuendo that the NSA has started either Facebook or Bitcoin, but it’s obvious that when Google’s and Facebook’s algorithms can dig up so much information on people and the links between them, the intelligence community wants a piece of that. Google/Alphabet’s CEO (he’s leaving that post soon) Eric Schmidt is the head of DOD’s Defense Innovation Board for a reason, and he has been close to the Democratic Party core for years.

It all fits too well to be discarded. It’s inevitable that the NSA, the CIA have recognized the potential of Big Tech for spying on Americans -and everyone else- for a while now. What you write on Facebook may seem harmless, but the algorithms can do more with it than -quite literally- is ‘dreamt of in your philosophy’.

And so Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde is accurate in recognizing the symptoms, but not in diagnosing the underlying affliction. Mark Zuckerberg is not the dictator, and Trump is not in control of the data. They are mere conduits, and the buck stops elsewhere. We’ve centralized all our data to Big Brother.


We’ve Centralized All Of Our Data To A Guy Called Mark Zuckerberg

“Everything has gone wrong. That’s the thing, it’s not about what will happen in the future it’s about what’s going on right now. We’ve centralized all of our data to a guy called Mark Zuckerberg, who’s basically the biggest dictator in the world as he wasn’t elected by anyone. Trump is basically in control over this data that Zuckerberg has, so I think we’re already there. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong and I don’t think there’s a way for us to stop it.”

One of the most important things to realize is that the problem isn’t a technological one. “The internet was made to be decentralized,” says Sunde, “but we keep centralizing everything on top of the internet.” To support this, Sunde points out that in the last 10 years, almost every up-and-coming tech company or website has been bought by the big five: Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. The ones that manage to escape the reach of the giants, often end up adding to the centralization.

We don’t create things anymore, instead we just have virtual things. Uber, Alibaba and Airbnb, for example, do they have products? No. We went from this product-based model, to virtual product, to virtually no product what so ever. This is the centralization process going on. Although we should be aware that the current effects of centralization, we shouldn’t overlook that it’s only going to get worse. There are a lot of upcoming tech-based services that are at risk of becoming centralized, which could have a huge impact on our daily lives.

[..] Feeling a bit optimistic, I asked Sunde whether we could still fight for decentralization and bring the power back to the people. His answer was simple. “No. We lost this fight a long time ago. The only way we can do any difference is by limiting the powers of these companies – by governments stepping in – but unfortunately the EU or the US don’t seem to have any interest in doing this.”

The model is absolutely perfect, and it’s not even one that was built on purpose. When Facebook started, Zuckerberg et al were not thinking about 2 billion active users. Nor were they aiming for algorithms that could so pervasively document people’s lives and their connections to others across space and time, or that these people themselves would provide them with the information that can be used to build files on them that can at some point in their lives be used against them, if that is deemed necessary.

And this is just early innings. This is before artificial intelligence and virtual -and/or augmented- reality have really taken off. But when AI is truly unleashed upon the internet, everyone’s seemingly innocent everyday stories as told to family and friends will be a treasure trove when it comes to building the pictures of their lives that are useful to governments and their intelligence agencies.

These platforms are labeled social media, and we might want to think about that label. It’s nice to be able to communicate with people who are not where you find yourself at a given point in time, but there’s a price to pay for that; actually, multiple prices. We’ve likely all found ourselves in situations by now where people act less, not more sociable precisely because of social media; they’re just communicating with their phones, not their immediate surroundings.

Somehow at times that feels a whole new -big- step for mankind: you’re together but you’re not. We are social animals but we attempt to transfer our social lives across space and time to moments and places we’re not at. And we have a gadget that does that for us. That is a puzzling development, and from where I’m sitting a worrying one as well. Somewhere along the same lines as being able to watch ever better photography from ever more remote nature scenes as that nature is being destroyed.


Still, few of us would have imagined that when 1984 finally happened, we would ourselves turn out to be Big Brother, but that’s what we are. Or if you want you can insist we’re merely feeding the monster. Same difference. But maybe that too is just a small step for man and a giant leap for mankind. Just like the never before seen quality footage of animals about to go extinct.

Who is anyone of us to judge any of it? It’s confusing, it throws us off everything we were taught is normal and lasting, and that’s only when we pay attention, and it all happens at lightning speed.

One thing we can say though: none of this is innocent. Whatever it is mankind is leaping into, we left innocence behind for good.