Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Zuckerberg’s Recent Hires Tell Us A Lot About His Worldview and It’s Not Good

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by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:

Increasingly, a number of influential people in Silicon Valley seem to think that Mark Zuckerberg will likely run for president of the United States one day. And some people, including myself, believe that he could indeed win. “He wants to be emperor” is a phrase that has become common among people who have known him over the years.

From January’s Post: “He Wants to be Emperor” – How Mark Zuckerberg is Scheming to Become President

Mark Zuckerberg wants to be President. That much is obvious, and it’s been obvious for quite some time. I’ve written a couple of articles about it, as have countless others. Then yesterday, there was a lot of chatter about the Facebook CEO hiring Joel Benenson to advise him and his wife on their charitable giving. Most of these articles focused on the superficial “does this really mean he’s running?” angle. In contrast, I want to dig into why his recent hires tell you all you need to know about who Zuckerberg is, and why his worldview is nothing more than technocratic neoliberalism.

Let’s start off by examining a few excerpts from yesterday’s article from Politico about the hiring of Joel Benenson:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have hired Democratic pollster Joel Benenson, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama and the chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign, as a consultant, according to a person familiar with the hire.

Benenson’s company, Benenson Strategy Group, will be conducting research for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the couple’s philanthropy. The organization — whose mission statement, according to its website, is “advancing human potential and promoting equality” — is endowed with the couple’s Facebook fortune.

In January, the couple hired David Plouffe, campaign manager for Obama’s 2008 presidential run, as president of policy and advocacy. Plouffe had previously worked at Uber. Ken Mehlman, who ran President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, also sits on the board.

 

And earlier this year, the couple also brought on Amy Dudley, a former communications adviser to Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.

Benenson’s involvement in the group gives them access to someone who was one of the top lieutenants of Clinton’s doomed campaign and Obama’s longtime pollster, just as speculation about Zuckerberg’s political ambitions is mounting.

Even before his is-he-or-isn’t-he road trip, Zuckerberg had shown an interest in politics and social issues. In 2010, he announced during an appearance on “Oprah” that he was donating $100 million to help fix the Newark City public school system in New Jersey. The influx of Facebook cash, however, didn’t generate the desired results, and the gift became a nationally recognized failure of good intentions.

The above is a great indicator of what a Zuckerberg presidency would look like.

But the hiring of Benenson is sure to fuel speculation that Zuckerberg is getting more serious about how he plays in the political and policy worlds.

Let’s start the analysis with Joel Benenson, since he was the topic of the above post. His made quite a name for himself during the Democratic primary by blasting Bernie Sanders and defending the bailed out, welfare queen TBTF Wall Street mega-banks. As reported by David Sirota in the International Business Times:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign held a conference call Thursday with reporters to deride Bernie Sanders for airing an ad that criticized Wall Street firms and the politicians who accept their donations. Though the ad did not mention Clinton by name, the conference call featured her top strategist Joel Benenson portraying the spot as an inappropriate attack on Clinton, whose 2016 campaign has accepted$5.7 million from executives in the financial industry.

On the call, Benenson accused Sanders of going negative, assertingthe U.S. senator from Vermont had “decided to do something that he had said so proudly he would never do.” What the Clinton campaign did not say when announcing the call is that Benenson’s firm not only consults for Clinton — it also lists as clients the kind of Wall Street banks that Sanders’ ad assails, as the Intercept’s Lee Fang pointed out.

According to its website, the Benenson Strategy Group lists Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase among its clients. In a 2012 press release, Benenson listed JPMorgan Chase — whose executives are collectively among Clinton’s top 2016 donors — as an example of how the firm “has guided many Fortune 500 companies and leading advocacy groups through critical strategic and communication challenges.” The section of Benenson’s website listing the banks as clients says the firm is focused on “delivering strategies corporations need to stay ahead of the curve.” Other clients listed include McDonald’s, Pfizer and Walmart — the last of which once had Hillary Clinton on its board of directors when she was first lady of Arkansas.

Read More @ LibertyBlitzkrieg.com

What if Some Spies Are Bad Guys?

by Andrew P. Napolitano, Lew Rockwell:

What if the federal government captures in real time the contents of every telephone call, email and text message and all the fiber-optic data generated by every person and entity in the United States 24/7/365? What if this mass surveillance was never authorized by any federal law?

What if this mass surveillance has come about by the secret collusion of presidents and their spies in the National Security Agency and by the federal government’s forcing the major telephone and computer service providers to cooperate with it? What if the service providers were coerced into giving the feds continuous physical access to their computers and thus to all the data contained in and passing through those computers?

What if President George W. Bush told the NSA that since it is part of the Defense Department and he was the commander in chief of the military, NSA agents could spy on anyone, notwithstanding any court orders or statutes that prohibited it? What if Bush believed that his orders to the military were not constrained by the laws Congress had written or the interpretations of those laws by federal courts or even by the Constitution?

What if Congress has written laws that all presidents have sworn to uphold and that require a warrant issued by a judge before the NSA can spy on anyone but Bush effectively told the NSA to go through the motions of getting a warrant while spying without warrants on everyone in the U.S. all the time? What if Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have taken the same position toward the NSA and ordered or permitted the same warrantless and lawless spying?

What if the Constitution requires warrants based on probable cause of criminal behavior before surveillance can be conducted but Congress has written laws reducing that standard to probable cause of communicating with someone who has communicated with a foreign national? What if a basic principle of constitutional law is that Congress is subject to the Constitution and therefore cannot change its terms or their meanings?

What if the Constitution requires that all warrants particularly describe the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized? What if the warrants Congress permits the NSA to use violate that requirement by permitting a federal court to issue general warrants? What if general warrants do not particularly describe the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized but rather authorize the bearer to search indiscriminately through service providers’ customer data?

What if most Americans have offered the view that they have nothing to hide from the government? What if the government has no moral, constitutional or legal right to personal information about and from all of us without a valid search warrant consistent with constitutional requirements?

Read More @ LewRockwell.com

Keiser Report: Mergers & Monopolies (E1105)

from RT:

Holding the show at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas, Max and Stacy discuss mergers, monopolies and antitrust.  Max interviews early bitcoin adopter Charlie Shrem about the state of play in the bitcoin market. This interview took place a week before the hard fork.

How The Fed Enabled Corporate Kingpins To Scalp Billions

by David Stockman, Daily Reckoning:

Here’s a comparison that is surely vertigo inducing. On the one hand, the financial system is implicitly held to be so incredibly stable and healthy that volatility on the S&P 500 has been driven to 50-year lows.

Indeed, that lovely condition is apparently expected to persist indefinitely as signaled by implied volatility. During the last 6,000 trading days (since the early 1990s), the VIX Index closed below 10 on 26 occasions or just 0.4{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} of the time. No less than 16 out of those 26‘below-10’ closes occurred in the last three months!

Yet this insensible bullish calm is happening even as Wall Street is showing itself to be in the throes of unhinged leveraged speculation.

With respect to the unhinged part, consider an incisive post by Wolf Richter on the present carnage in the retail sector. His point was that virtually every one of the rash of companies filing bankruptcy in the sector during the recent past had been strip-mined by private equity operators:

Nearly every retail chain caught up in the brick & mortar meltdown is an LBO queen – acquired in a leveraged buyout by a private equity firm either during the LBO boom before the Financial Crisis or in the years of ultra-cheap money following it.

But Richter’s real point is that the private equity operators in the retail space brought down a double-whammy of leverage on the companies they ransacked. That is, they first loaded up the companies with buyout debt, and then came back for second and third helpings.

Accordingly, since 2010, retail chains controlled by private equity firms issued $91 billion in junk bonds and leveraged loans.

Needless to say, in drastically falsifying debt prices in order to stimulate housing and other investments, the Fed had no clue about the collateral effects of its massive and persistent intrusion in the delicate clockwork of capital markets pricing.

So when Janet Yellen & Co profess to see no bubbles they prove their own clueless incompetence. Do they actually think that this would happen in a free market with honest money and market-clearing interest rates?

The question answers itself.

In fact, the asset stripping pattern is every bit as irrational and toxic as were the slicing and dicing of subprime mortgage pools in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

Needless to say, so-called “investors” piled into the flood of dodgy paper because they were desperate for yield. In the dollar fixed income markets, $3.5 trillion of the Fed’s U.S. Treasury and other securities purchases after September 2008 drove real interest rates so low that it virtually forced money managers to scramble out the risk curve in order to find minimally attractive yields.

So doing, they enabled strip-mining transactions that resulted in the eventual destruction of the debt issuers and vast windfall distributions to a few hundred corporate kingpins.

What possessed institutional investors such as state pension funds to invest in such shaky operations?

The answer to this seeming mystery is simply that institutional investors have been completely corrupted by the casino environment that has resulted from three decades of Bubble Finance. In clamoring for yield, institutions have been induced to embrace sweetheart deals for the kingpins that would be laughed out of court in an honest market.

For example, Payless Inc, which was a shoe retailer with 22,000 employees and 4,000 stores, filed for bankruptcy last April. That was less than five years after its original $670 million LBO in 2012. But it was not at all surprising since the company was heading for the wall from the get-go.

But the Payless bankruptcy was apparently dismissed as a victim of bad luck and timing.

I don’t think so. The two LBO firms that did the deal — Golden Gate Capital and Blum Capital Partners — are serial asset strippers and crony capitalist rip-off outfits.

The latter was founded in 1975 by one Richard Blum of San Francisco. He is a classic crony capitalist who parlayed his contacts in the world of California and national democratic politics — ranging from Jimmy Carter to his wife, Senator Diane Feinstein, into billions of funding from political controlled institutions.

Thus, upwards of $1 billion in capital was supplied to Blum’s fund by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the Los Angeles County Employee Retirement System, among others. That Blum served as a long-time regent of the giant University of California System is surely not coincidental.

Nor is the fact that his fund was among a pack of hedge fund jackals that ran up the stock prices of for-profits education companies to absurd heights based on growth momentum that was totally unsustainable. In fact, these outfits harvested hundreds of billions of student loans from hapless enrollees — of which 33{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} of the tuition proceeds went to selling bonuses and expenses, 33{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} to operating profits and the left-overs to the purported cost of education.

Read More @ DailyReckoning.com

Facebook in bed with the DNC, hires Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist

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by Dawn Luger, Intellihub:

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg has publicly claimed many times that he is not preparing to run for president.  But then why on earth would he hire Hillary Clinton’s former chief strategist?

Remeber, Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in November of 2016. Hiring her chief campaign strategist may not be the best “strategy.” Politico reported that Zuckerberg has secured the services of Democratic pollster Joel Benenson, one of Barack Obama’s chief advisers and chief strategist to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s disastrously failed 2016 campaign. But Zuckerberg probably just wants to compile in-depth statistics on the party affiliations and political views of people across the nation for completely normal, regular person reasons.

Zuckerberg has hired other people for average and regular dude purposes too. They include former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine’s communications adviser Amy Dudley and 2008 Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. It’s becoming clear that Zuckerberg thinks the best people to examine whatever it is he hired them for, are closely affiliated with the elitist Democratic political establishment that was ruinously discredited last year and in desperate need of better ideas.

Benenson’s company, Benenson Strategy Group, will be conducting research for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the couple’s philanthropy. Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have vowed to give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares, worth an estimated $45 billion, to charity. The organization (whose mission statement, according to its website, is “advancing human potential and promoting equality”) is endowed with the couple’s Facebook fortune. But the timing of this hire is leading to speculations that the Facebook czar will be running for president in 2020 and this has little to do with philanthropy and more to do with a political future.

Bringing on Benenson is the latest sign that Chan and Zuckerberg are pushing their philanthropic work more heavily into the political and policy world.  Oh goody, just what we all need.  More policy and laws and regulations from rich elitist leftists.

Read More @ Intellihub.com

Is it About Time to Introduce International Sanctions Against US?

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by Martin Berger, New Eastern Outlook:

In recent years, unilateral sanctions pushed forward by Washington have become one of the main geopolitical trends. The United States, it seems, has grown accustomed to the fact that a handful of international players cannot provide it with an adequate response, which results in Washington getting increasingly inclined to advance its foreign policy interests through this tool of pressure at the expense of other countries.

To support this notion, one can remember the role that US economic sanctions introduced against Japan in 1932 under Herbert Hoover played in the creation of preconditions for a war in the Far East. Or one can bring up the US sanctions against Cuba, introduced in 1958, which Washington tried to use to undermine the Cuban government in a bid to “teach a lesson” to all the states that sought independence from the United States.

The United States has also tried to “punish” China after the controversial events in the Tiananmen Square back in 1989. Those sanctions, according to Washington’s strategists, must have hampered China’s economic development.

Event the sanctions that the UN Security Council introduced against Iran in 2011 weren’t enough for the White House that pushed for the ban on Tehran’s ability to access the SWIFT financial network, prohibit investments along with the supply of equipment that could assist Iran in developing its oil and gas infrastructure. The US would use those sanctions not just to dishearten Iranian authorities and citizens, but to advance its own interests in the Middle East.

Russia, as the “main political opponent” of Washington, has been repeatedly threatened with sanctions, as the White House would introduce the Jackson–Vanik amendment, the Magnitsky Act, and the new anti-Russian trading restrictions. Those are just a part of a larger picture.

In an bit to preserve its role of the sole “international gendarme” Washington is not only trying to frighten individual international players with the strength of its weapons and secret services. With the largest economy in the world, the US with a yearly GDP amounting to some 18 trillion dollars, abuses a wide array of tricks to persuade other countries into supporting the sanctions Washington unilaterally imposes. However, the states with weak economies and armed forces are not the only ones that fall victims to such trickery on the part of the White House. The European Union, which could have demonstrated an independent policy from the United States, seems to be unable to do so due to the deep political ties it has with Washington. That why it has been quickly drawn in America’s sanctions games even though these games do not compliment its own interests. There’s a good reason the US is pushing its allies so hard, since sanctions is a loser’s game when you are unable to get your “partners” to support them.

This has been confirmed by Richard Morningstar, the head of the Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council, who would note that:

We have to recognize that unilateral sanctions generally don’t work. It’s necessary to have the support of allies. The 2014 energy sanctions against Russia have worked, he said, because the US negotiated them in partnership with the European Union. The current measure under consideration would expand those sanctions but would be put into force only by the United States.

Indeed, the latest US sanctions against Russia provoked a wave of outrage across a number of European countries that recognize the fact that by introducing them Washington is trying to brute force its way into the European energy market. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has recently noted that Brussels will be taking protective measures if the US, under the pretext of anti-Russian sanctions, will try to bring its “America First” policy to existence at the expense of European taxpayers.

The unilateral sanctions policy is an instrument of direct economic pressure, that why the US has been trying to get away with an ever increasing number of restrictions introduced against other international players with the aim of seizing a larger share of various trade markets.

For instance, US officials have recently announced that they’re going to introduce sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela due to the fact that its authorities would hold the Venezuelan Constitutional Assembly election.

At the same time, Tehran has recently accused Washington of violating the Iranian nuclear program deal signed back in July 2015 in Vienna, filling a complaint to the UN Security Council for it to address this situation.

Senior advisers to President Trump are trying to devise economic sanctions against China “behind the scenes”, against the backdrop of the situation around the DPRK, writes Politico, citing two officials in the US administration.

Read More @ NEO,org

GOLD RECOVERS FROM LAST NIGHT’S 7 PM FLASH CRASH BUT STILL DOWN $3.65/SILVER DOWN 10 CENTS

by Harvey Organ, Harvey Organ Blog:

DESPITE THE DROP IN PRICE OF GOLD YESTERDAY, OPEN INTEREST RISES BY OVER 7,000 CONTRACTS/WAR OF WORDS BETWEEN INDIA AND CHINA INTENSIFY AS INDIAN TROOPS ARE STATIONED ON DISPUTED CHINESE LANDS/TRUMP TO ANNOUNCE A TRADE WAR WITH CHINA TOMORROW: CHINA IS FURIOUS!

In silver, the total open interest FELL BY A TINY 1023 contracts from 207,258 DOWN TO 206,233 WITH THE FALL IN THE PRICE THAT SILVER TOOK WITH RESPECT TO YESTERDAY’S TRADING (DOWN 5 CENT(S). WHEN YOU COMPARE THE HUGE GAIN IN OI FOR GOLD THEN YOU MUST ADMIT THAT IT SURE LOOKS LIKE BOTH THE SPECULATOR SHORTS AND THE BANKER SHORTS ARE HAVING SEVERE PROBLEMS TRYING TO COVER THEIR SHORTFALL WHICH CANNOT COME TO FRUITION. THE LONGS REMAIN STOIC AND NOTHING WILL BUDGE OUR SILVER LEAVES FROM DEPARTING OUR SILVER TREE. YESTERDAY’S TRADING IS EVIDENCE OF THAT.

 In ounces, the OI is still represented by just OVER 1 BILLION oz i.e.  1.030 BILLION TO BE EXACT or 147{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} of annual global silver production (ex Russia & ex China).

FOR THE NEW FRONT MAY MONTH/ THEY FILED: 2 NOTICE(S) FOR 10,000OZ OF SILVER

In gold, the open interest ROSE by A MONSTROUS 6,896 despite the FALL in price of gold ($0.65 yesterday.)  The new OI for the gold complex rests at 455,605. Yesterday we had the bankers supplying a major amount of short paper to newbie longs who entered the arena again like gangbusters.  The specs shorts covered what they could. .No wonder a flash crash was orchestrated at 7.01 pm last night with the intention of cooling gold’s jets. It seems that the raid failed again.  The bankers are losing control over the precious metal markets

we had: 73 notice(s) filed upon for 7300 oz of gold.

Read More @ HarveyOrganBlog.com

This New Piece Of Legislation Could Demolish State Gun Control Laws Across The Country

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from Mac Slavo, SHTFPlan:

Over the past century there has been one undeniable trend working against gun rights. Put simply, as time goes on, it’s harder for a law abiding citizen to own and use a firearm, largely due to the proliferation of state and federal gun laws. A hundred years ago, one could own pretty much any firearm without restriction, and buy a firearm without even a background check (though of course one argue could that a few of these laws are a good idea). Now it’s a heavily regulated industry.

And sure, there have been some victories for the Second Amendment. A few decades ago there were only a handful of states where it was fairly easy to attain a concealed carry permit, and even many deeply conservative states didn’t issue these permits at all. Now that situation has completely reversed, and continues to improve. However, when you look at gun rights on a long enough timeline, it’s obvious that the Second Amendment has lost more than it has won, as state and federal laws have chipped away at our rights little by little.

Fortunately there is a new piece of legislation that could significantly roll back the worst of these laws on the state level, in particular the laws that were put in place under the Obama administration. The Second Amendment Guarantee Act, which was recently proposed by New York Congressman Chris Collins, could prove to be the most significant attack on gun control laws that we’ve seen in generations. According to a press release issued by Collins’ office:

“This legislation would protect the Second Amendment rights of New Yorkers that were unjustly taken away by Andrew Cuomo,” said Collins. “I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and have fought against all efforts to condemn these rights. I stand with the law-abiding citizens of this state that have been outraged by the SAFE Act and voice my commitment to roll back these regulations.”

SAGA would provide an intimidating bulwark against gun control advocates in blue states. In a nutshell, it would prevent these states from passing restrictive laws that exceed the scope of federal gun laws.

In the Collins’ bill, States or local governments would not be able to regulate, prohibit, or require registration and licensing (that are any more restrictive under Federal law) for the sale, manufacturing, importation, transfer, possession, or marketing of a rifle or shotgun. Additionally, “rifle or shotgun” includes any part of the weapon including any detachable magazine or ammunition feeding devise and any type of pistol grip or stock design.

Under this legislation, any current or future laws enacted by a state or political subdivision that exceeds federal law for rifles and shotguns would be void. Should a state violate this law, and a plaintiff goes to court, the court will award the prevailing plaintiff a reasonable attorney’s fee in addition to any other damages.

For decades, gun owners living in certain states have had their rights slowly stripped away by legislative bodies that repeatedly passed laws which are in violation of the Second Amendment, and they’ve done so almost completely unopposed. It’s the perfect example of what the Founders hoped to prevent in our society. They feared that the rights of the minority could be taken away by the majority, which is exactly what gun owners in leftists states have had to contend with.

Read More @ SHTFPlan.com

Our European Tour – Part II – Seizing All Bank Accounts Throughout EU

by Martin Armstron, Armstron Economics:

Many financial firms in London claim to be looking to move to Frankfurt or Paris with BREXIT. They are going to have a very rude awakening. The proposition to demand all euro clearing takes place inside the EU will be the death of Europe – not the rebirth. The dominating position in Brussels among the majority is control the financial markets to prevent any free market movement against the designs of the EU Commission. Additionally, this position of draconian absolute dictatorial control over European markets includes a pan-European freezing of all bank accounts in the event of an impending banking crisis. The EU Commission is deeply concerned what happens when the EU stops its life-support for Eurozone government debt. They are actually considering the way in which multi-day cash disbursements can be practically implemented in order to resolve emergency measures for banks. Their plan is looking at a prolonged banking and financial crisis that would be 20 to 30 days in duration. If government debt crashes with rising rates, then the reserves of banks will decline and this could result in a banking crisis unleashed when the EU stops its life-support program.

The EU Commission will freeze al bank accounts for one week and up to one month if the crisis continues. When Banco Popular went into crisis in Spain, there was a Bankrun which unfolded as a contagion against other banks in Spain. In Greece, accounts were frozen and cash withdrawals were limited for extended periods. This is an ongoing proposition since not all EU members agree. Some countries already have legislation allowing for a total bank freeze such as Germany. Instead of bailouts, we have now move even beyond bail-ins, and into the realm of just total seizure. It is more likely that such a freeze will not preserve banks, but will result in more bank failures.

Clearly, people should be fully aware of the thinking process in government. Brussels will become authoritarian when the free markets rain on their parade. I strongly recommend that everyone should keep 30 days worth of cash to cover your basic needs.

Read More @ ArmstrongEconomics.com