Archive for the ‘Selling Us Out’ Category

https://theintercept.com/2019/03/04/google-ongoing-project-dragonfly/
Ryan Gallagher 3/4/19 [Op-Ed By R Andrew Ohge: https://randrewohge.wordpress.com/?p=3621

GOOGLE EMPLOYEES HAVE carried out their own investigation into the company’s plan to launch a censored search engine for China and say they are concerned that development of the project remains ongoing, The Intercept can reveal.

Late last year, bosses moved engineers away from working on the controversial project, known as Dragonfly, and said that there were no current plans to launch it. However, a group of employees at the company was unsatisfied with the lack of information from leadership on the issue — and took matters into their own hands.

The group has identified ongoing work on a batch of code that is associated with the China search engine, according to three Google sources.

The development has stoked anger inside Google offices, where many of the company’s 88,000 workforce previously protested against plans to launch the search engine, which was designed to censor broad categories of information associated with human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest.

Google Dragonfly
Read Our Complete Coverage: https://theintercept.com/collections/google-dragonfly-china/

Google Dragonfly

In December, The Intercept reported that an internal dispute and political pressure on Google had stopped development of Dragonfly.

Google bosses had originally planned to launch it between January and April of this year.

But they changed course after the outcry over the plan and indicated to employees who were working on the project that it was being shelved.

Google’s Caesar Sengupta, an executive with a leadership role on Dragonfly, told engineers and others who were working on the censored search engine in mid-December that they would be allocated new projects funded by different “cost centers” of the company’s budget.

In a message marked “confidential – do not forward,” which has been newly obtained by The Intercept, Sengupta told the Dragonfly workers:

Over the past few quarters, we have tackled different aspects of what search would look like in China.

While we’ve made progress in our understanding of the market and user needs, many unknowns remain and currently we have no plans to launch.

Back in July we said at our all hands that we did not feel we could make much progress right now.

Since then, many people have effectively rolled off the project while others have been working on adjacent areas such as improving our Chinese language capabilities that also benefit users globally.

Thank you for all of your hard work here.

As we finalize business planning for 2019, our priority is for you to be productive and have clear objectives, so we have started to align cost centers to better reflect what people are actually working on.

Thanks again — and your leads will follow up with you on next steps.

Sources with knowledge of Dragonfly said staff who were working on the project were not told to immediately cease their efforts.

Rather, they were instructed to finish up the jobs they were doing and then they would be allocated new work on other teams.

Some of those who were working on Dragonfly were moved into different areas, focusing on projects related to Google’s search services in India, Indonesia, Russia, the Middle East, and Brazil.

“I just don’t know where the leadership is coming from anymore.”

But Google executives, including CEO Sundar Pichai, refused both publicly and privately to completely rule out launching the censored search engine in the future.

This led a group of concerned employees — who were themselves not directly involved with Dragonfly — to closely monitor the company’s internal systems for information about the project and circulate their findings on an internal messaging list.

The employees have been keeping tabs on repositories of code that are stored on Google’s computers, which they say is linked to Dragonfly.

The code was created for two smartphone search apps — named Maotai and Longfei — that Google planned to roll out in China for users of Android and iOS mobile devices.

The employees identified about 500 changes to the code in December, and more than 400 changes to the code between January and February of this year, which they believe indicates continued development of aspects of Dragonfly. (Since August 2017, the number of code changes has varied between about 150 to 500 each month, one source said.)

The employees say there are still some 100 workers allocated to the “cost center” associated with Dragonfly, meaning that the company is maintaining a budget for potential ongoing work on the plan.

Google sources with knowledge of Dragonfly said that the code changes could possibly be attributed to employees who have continued this year to wrap up aspects of the work they were doing to develop the Chinese search platform.

“I still believe the project is dead, but we’re still waiting for a declaration from Google that censorship is unacceptable and that they will not collaborate with governments in the oppression of their people,” said one source familiar with Dragonfly.

The lack of clarity from management has resulted in Google losing skilled engineers and developers.

In recent months, several Google employees have resigned in part due to Dragonfly and leadership’s handling of the project.

The Intercept knows of six staff at the company, including two in senior positions, who have quit since December, and three others who are planning to follow them out the door.

Colin McMillen, who worked as a software engineer at Google for nine years, quit the company in early February.

He told The Intercept that he had been concerned about Dragonfly and other “ethically dubious” decisions, such as Google’s multimillion-dollar severance packages for executives accused of sexual harassment.

“I think they are going to try it again in a year or two.”

Prior to leaving the company, McMillen said he and his colleagues had “strong indications that something is still happening” with Google search in China.

But they were left confused about the status of the China plan because upper management would not discuss it.

“I just don’t know where the leadership is coming from anymore,” he said. “They have really closed down communication and become significantly less transparent.”

In 2006, Google launched a censored search engine in China, but stopped operating the service in the country in 2010, taking a clear anti-censorship position.

At the time, Google co-founder Sergey Brin declared that he wanted to show that the company was “opposing censorship and speaking out for the freedom of political dissent.”

Pichai, Google’s CEO since 2015, has taken a different position.

He has a strong desire to launch search again in China — viewing the censorship as a worthwhile trade-off to gain access to the country’s more than 800 million internet users — and he may now be waiting for the controversy around Dragonfly to die down before quietly resurrecting the plan.

“Right now it feels unlaunchable, but I don’t think they are canceling outright,” McMillen said. “I think they are putting it on the back burner and are going to try it again in a year or two with a different code name or approach.”

Anna Bacciarelli, a technology researcher at Amnesty International, called on Google “to publicly confirm that it has dropped Dragonfly for good, not just ‘for now.’”

Bacciarelli told The Intercept that Amnesty’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo had visited Google’s Mountain View headquarters in California last week to reiterate concerns over Dragonfly and “the apparent disregard for transparency and accountability around the project.”

If Google is still developing the censored search engine, Bacciarelli said, “it’s not only failing on its human rights responsibilities but ignoring the hundreds of Google employees, more than 70 human rights organizations, and hundreds of thousands of campaign supporters around the world who have all called on the company to respect human rights and drop Dragonfly.”

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Ric/Rex Suggests: A Chinese Google With Its Growing Business Base PLUS A Heady Wireless Market IS TOO Big For Google To Walk Away From.

With the censorship and tracking tech wanted by the Chinese, having Google Plus remain operating-ESPECIALLY with its former “Freedom of Speech”, Artistic expression, and broad global reach would be an anathema to the Chinese government, and a definite deal breaker…a deal worth ongoing BILLIONS.

Even with the “safeguards” built in required by the Chinese for “Dragonfly”, the remaining operation of G+ would be a customer service nightmare for the CHINESE, and those billions of Yuan are just TOO ATTRACTIVE.

SOOO…Google Plus users, if you’re wondering what made Google shut down the most effective global community ever imagined, NONE of the explanations offered comes through very clear, as it’s too hard to make out through the “googling mumbles” caused by the presence of a giant dragonfly appendage in the mouths of the Google boardroom sellouts and traitors to the cause of Free Speech.

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via The most perilous time in world history got worse

The Most Perilous Time In World History Just Got WORSE! Posted By Luther Blissett: By Stephen Lendman: Intrepid Report 03/19/18: https://desultoryheroics.com/2018/03/19/the-most-perilous-time-in-world-history-got-worse/ Or: https://randrewohge.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/the-most-perilous-time-in-world-history-just-got-worse/

Events ongoing should terrify everyone—things likely heading for greater war than already.

Most Americans, Brits, and others in NATO countries are unaware of the danger posed by hardline Western extremists in charge of policy-making—notably in Washington, London and Israel, the Jewish state an alliance Mediterranean Dialogue member.

Businessman Trump was co-opted to be a warrior president—neocon generals in charge of geopolitical policies, their agenda hardened by Mike Pompeo replacing Rex Tillerson at State, along with torturer-in-chief Gina Haspel appointed new CIA director.

An unholy alliance of US extremist policymakers allied with like-minded ones in partner countries risks war winds reaching gale force, a terrifying prospect if confrontation with Russia, Iran or North Korea occurs—the possibility increased by recent events.

Earlier this week, US Defense Secretary Mattis and UN envoy Haley threatened Russia and Damascus.

Russia vowed to retaliate against US attacks on Syrian forces in East Ghouta or elsewhere endangering its personnel in the country.

Anti-Russia hysteria in Britain over the Sergey Skripal poisoning affair, most certainly Moscow had nothing to do with, soured bilateral relations more than already.

In response to British PM Theresa May demanding swift Russian answers to questions posed about the incident, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman (speaking for her government) replied sharply saying, “One does not give 24 hours notice to a nuclear power,” adding the “Skripal poisoning was not an incident but a colossal international provocation,” adding not a “single international legal mechanism [exists] to probe the Skripal case.”

Russia’s embassy in London said “Moscow will not respond to London’s ultimatum until it receives samples of the chemical substance to which the UK investigators are referring.”

“Britain must comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention which stipulates joint investigation into the incident, for which Moscow is ready.”

“Without that, there can be no sense in any statements from London. The incident appears to be yet another crooked attempt by the UK authorities to discredit Russia.”

“Any threat to take ‘punitive’ measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that.”

“Not only is Russia groundlessly and provocatively accused of the Salisbury incident, but apparently, plans are being developed in the UK to strike Russia with cyber weapons.”

“Judging by the statements of the prime minister, such a decision can be taken at tomorrow’s meeting of the National Security Council.”

Given the gravity of the situation, the above comments by Russian diplomats were uncharacteristically strong.

Sergey Lavrov warned Washington that “[i]f a new [US] strike . . . takes place [against Syrian forces], the consequences will be very serious,” adding, “I simply don’t have any normal terms left to describe all this.”

What’s coming remains to be seen. Hostile rhetoric from US and UK officials, along with hawkish extremists Pompeo in charge at State and Haspel appointed new CIA chief likely signal more war, not less.

What’s ongoing assures no possibility of improving dismal bilateral relations with Russia, China, Iran and other sovereign independent countries.

Talks with North Korea could either be scuttled or confrontational if they take place.

Given very disturbing ongoing events, the perilous state of world conditions reached a new low.

Be scared about what may follow—be very scared!

via The Military Industrial Complex Strikes Again: War Spending Will Bankrupt America

The Military Industrial Complex Strikes Again: War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Posted By Luther Blissett By John W. Whitehead: The Rutherford Institute 03/06/18: https://desultoryheroics.com/2018/03/06/the-military-industrial-complex-strikes-again-war-spending-will-bankrupt-america/ OR: https://wordpress.com/post/randrewohge.wordpress.com/3574

“Why throw money at defense when everything is falling down around us? Do we need to spend more money on our military (about $600 billion this year) than the next seven countries combined?

Do we need 1.4 million active military personnel and 850,000 reserves when the enemy at the moment-ISIS-numbers in the low tens of thousands?

If so, it seems there’s something radically wrong with our strategy.

Should 55% of the federal government’s discretionary spending go to the military and only 3% to transportation when the toll in American lives is far greater from failing infrastructure than from terrorism?

Does California need nearly as many active military bases (31, according to militarybases.com) as it has UC and state university campuses (33)?

And does the state need more active duty military personnel (168,000, according to Governing magazine) than public elementary school teachers (139,000)?”— Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times

Mark my words, America’s war spending will bankrupt the nation.

For that matter, America’s war spending has already bankrupted the nation to the tune of more than $20 trillion dollars.

Now the Trump Administration is pushing for a $4.4 trillion budget for fiscal year 2019 that would add $7 trillion to the already unsustainable federal deficit in order to sustain America’s military empire abroad and dramatically expand the police state here at home.

Trump also wants American taxpayers to cover the cost of building that infamous border wall.

Truly, Trump may turn out to be, as policy analyst Stan Collender warned, “the biggest deficit- and debt-increasing president of all time.”

For those in need of a quick reminder:

“A budget deficit is the difference between what the federal government spends and what it takes in.

The national debt, also known as the public debt, is the result of the federal government borrowing money to cover years and years of budget deficits.”

Right now, the U.S. government is operating in the negative on every front: it’s spending far more than what it makes (and takes from the American taxpayers) and it is borrowing heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government operating and keep funding its endless wars abroad.

This is how military empires fall and fail: by spreading themselves too thin and spending themselves to death.

It happened in Rome.

It’s happening again.

Not content to merely police the globe, in recent decades, America has gradually transformed its homeland into a battlefield with militarized police and weapons better suited to a war zone.

Since taking office, President Trump—much like his predecessors—has marched in lockstep with the military.

Now Trump wants $716 billion to expand America’s military empire abroad and billions more to hire cops, build more prisons and wage more profit-driven war-on-drugs/war-on-terrorism/war-on-crime programs that eat away at the Fourth Amendment while failing to make the country any safer.

Even the funds requested for infrastructure will do little to shore up the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, railways, highways, power grids and dams.

No matter how your break it down, this is not a budget aimed at perfecting the Union, establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting general welfare, or securing the blessings of liberty for the American people.

No, this is a budget aimed at pandering to the powerful money interests (military, corporate and security) that run the Deep State and hold the government in its clutches.

So much for Trump’s campaign promises to balance the budget and drain the swamps of corruption.

The glaring economic truth is that at the end of the day, it’s the military industrial complex—and not the sick, the elderly or the poor—that is pushing America towards bankruptcy.

As investigative journalist Uri Friedman puts it, for more than 15 years now, the United States has been fighting terrorism with a credit card, “essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”

The illicit merger of the armaments industry and the Pentagon that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us against more than 50 years ago has come to represent perhaps the greatest threat to the nation’s fragile infrastructure today.

Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour)—and that’s just what the government spends on foreign wars.

That does not include the cost of maintaining and staffing the 1000-plus U.S. military bases spread around the globe.

Incredibly, although the U.S. constitutes only 5% of the world’s population, America boasts almost 50% of the world’s total military expenditure, spending more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined.

In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety.

War is not cheap.

Although the federal government obscures so much about its defense spending that accurate figures are difficult to procure, we do know that since 2001, the U.S. government has spent more than $1.8 trillion in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (that’s $8.3 million per hour).

That doesn’t include wars and military exercises waged around the globe, which are expected to push the total bill upwards of $12 trillion by 2053.

Mind you, these ongoing wars—riddled by corruption, graft and bumbling incompetence—have done little to keep the country safe while enriching the military industrial complex—and private defense contractors—at taxpayer expense.

Just recently, for example, a leading accounting firm concluded that one of the Pentagon’s largest agencies “can’t account for hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of spending.”

Just consider the fact that it costs American taxpayers $2.1 million per year for each soldier deployed in Afghanistan.

Imagine what you could do with that money if it were spent on domestic needs here at home.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen anytime soon, not as long as the money interests in Washington keep calling the shots and profiting from the spoils of war.

War has become a huge money-making venture, and America, with its vast military empire, is one of its best buyers and sellers.

Not only does the U.S. have the largest defense budget, it also ranks highest as the world’s largest arms exporter.

The American military-industrial complex has erected an empire unsurpassed in history in its breadth and scope, one dedicated to conducting perpetual warfare throughout the earth.

For example, while erecting a security surveillance state in the U.S., the military-industrial complex has perpetuated a worldwide military empire with American troops stationed in 177 countries (over 70% of the countries worldwide).

In the process, billions have been spent erecting luxury military installations throughout the world.

For example, the U.S. Embassy built in Iraq, dubbed “Fortress Baghdad,” covers 104 acres and boasts a “city within a city” that includes six apartment buildings, a Marine barracks, swimming pool, shops and 15-foot-thick walls.

Camp Anaconda in Iraq, like many U.S. military bases scattered across the globe, was structured to resemble a mini-city with pools, fast food restaurants, miniature golf courses and movie theaters.

While most Americans can scarcely afford the cost of heating and cooling their own homes, the American government spends $20 billion annually just to provide air conditioning for military installations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In essence, what we’re doing is “we’re air conditioning the desert over there in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places,” noted retired brigadier general Steven Anderson, a former chief logistician for Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq.

Think about that for a minute.

There’s a good reason why “bloated,” “corrupt” and “inefficient” are among the words most commonly applied to the government, especially the Department of Defense and its contractors.

For instance, a study by the Government Accountability Office found that $70 billion worth of cost overruns by the Pentagon were caused by management failures.

To put that in perspective, that equates to one and a half times the State Department’s entire $47 billion annual budget.

Fraud is rampant.

A government audit, for example, found that defense contractor Boeing has been massively overcharging taxpayers for mundane parts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in overspending. As the report noted, the American taxpayer paid:

$71 for a metal pin that should cost just 4 cents;

$644.75 for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price.

$1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within DoD for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase.

$71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that DoD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent.

Price gouging has become an accepted form of corruption within the American military empire.

And if you think gas prices at home can get high, just consider what the American taxpayer is being forced to shell out overseas: once all the expenses of delivering gas to troops in the field are factored in, we’re paying between $18-30 per gallon for gas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Incredibly, despite reports of corruption, abuse and waste, the mega-corporations behind much of this ineptitude and corruption continue to be awarded military contracts worth billions of dollars.

The rationale may keep changing for why American military forces are in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, but the one that remains constant is that those who run the government are feeding the appetite of the military industrial complex.

What began in 2001 as part of an alleged effort to root out al Qaeda has turned into a goldmine for the military industrial complex and its army of private contractors.

Just consider: the Pentagon in 2008 spent more money every five seconds in Iraq than the average American earned in a year.

Yet Congress and the White House want taxpayers to accept that the only way to reduce the nation’s ballooning deficit is by cutting “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and Medicare?

As Martin Luther King Jr. recognized, under a military empire, war and its profiteering will always take precedence over the people’s basic human needs.

Simply put, we cannot afford to maintain our over-extended military empire.

“Money is the new 800-pound gorilla,” remarked a senior administration official involved in Afghanistan.

“It shifts the debate from ‘Is the strategy working?’ to ‘Can we afford this?’

And when you view it that way, the scope of the mission that we have now is far, far less defensible.”

Or as one commentator noted, “Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it.”

Inevitably, military empires collapse.

As Cullen Murphy, author of Are We Rome? and editor-at-large of Vanity Fair writes:

A millennium hence America will be hard to recognize.

It may not exist as a nation-state in the form it does now—or even exist at all.

Will the transitions ahead be gradual and peaceful or abrupt and catastrophic?

Will our descendants be living productive lives in a society better than the one we inhabit now?

Whatever happens, will valuable aspects of America’s legacy weave through the fabric of civilizations to come?

Will historians someday have reason to ask, Did America really fall?

The problem we wrestle with is none other than a distorted American empire, complete with mega-corporations, security-industrial complexes and a burgeoning military.

And it has its sights set on absolute domination.

Eventually, however, all military empires fail.

At the height of its power, even the mighty Roman Empire could not stare down a collapsing economy and a burgeoning military.

Prolonged periods of war and false economic prosperity largely led to its demise.

As historian Chalmers Johnson predicts:

The fate of previous democratic empires suggests that such a conflict is unsustainable and will be resolved in one of two ways.

Rome attempted to keep its empire and lost its democracy.

Britain chose to remain democratic and in the process let go its empire.

Intentionally or not, the people of the United States already are well embarked upon the course of non-democratic empire.

I would suggest that what we have is a confluence of factors and influences that go beyond mere comparisons to Rome.

It is a union of Orwell’s 1984 with its shadowy, totalitarian government—i.e., fascism, the union of government and corporate powers—and a total surveillance state with a military empire extended throughout the world.

As we have seen with the militarizing of the police, the growth of and reliance on militarism as the solution for our problems both domestically and abroad affects the basic principles upon which American society should operate.

We must keep in mind that a military empire will be ruled not by lofty ideals of equality and justice but by the power of the sword.

Those in the military are primarily trained to conduct warfare, not preserve the peace.

Here’s the kicker, though: if the American empire falls and the American economy collapses—and with it the last vestiges of our constitutional republic—it will be the government and its trillion-dollar war budgets that are to blame.

Of course, the government has already anticipated this breakdown.

That’s why the government has transformed America into a war zone, turned the nation into a surveillance state, and labelled “we the people” as enemy combatants.

For years now, the government has worked with the military to prepare for widespread civil unrest brought about by “economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

Having spent more than half a century exporting war to foreign lands, profiting from war, and creating a national economy seemingly dependent on the spoils of war, the war hawks long ago turned their profit-driven appetites on us, bringing home the spoils of war—the military tanks, grenade launchers, Kevlar helmets, assault rifles, gas masks, ammunition, battering rams, night vision binoculars, etc.—and handing them over to local police, thereby turning America into a battlefield.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America:

The War on the American People, this is how the police state wins and “we the people” lose.

More than 50 years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower warned us not to let the profit-driven war machine endanger our liberties or democratic processes.

We failed to heed his warning.

As Eisenhower recognized in a speech given to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, on Apr. 16, 1953, the consequences of allowing the military-industrial complex to wage war, exhaust our resources and dictate our national priorities are beyond grave:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people…

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense.

Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

via Globalists weaponize the stock market to control presidents

Globalists Weaponize The Stock Market To Control Presidents-Anatomy Of A Fake Reality By Jon Rappoport 03/04/18: https://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/globalists-weaponize-the-stock-market-to-control-presidents/ OR:  https://wordpress.com/post/randrewohge.wordpress.com/3566

The economy is on the rise.

No, it’s sinking.

There are very good indicators.

No, all the signals are catastrophic.

We’ve seen pundits on television hawking their version of the near future.

Many of them represent organizations who have political and financial agendas.

For example, Globalist forces and their mouthpieces would have you believe that laying tariffs on imports will sink the stock market.

However, since the stock market is a rigged game for insiders, here is a proper translation of the above paragraph:

“If tariffs are laid on, Globalist insiders will MAKE the stock market sink, and characterize that as a natural consequence of the new tariffs.”

In turn, then, a diving stock market will be PROMOTED (by the Globalist press) as a sign that the overall economy is in big trouble.

Trump surrounded himself with Goldman Sachs people because they could give him a rising stock market.

This is not an ironclad agreement.

If Goldman decides Trump’s policies are wandering off-track, they can bail on him and send the stock market down.

This is how the economic game is played.

The return of some corporations from overseas, to set up factories in the US again?

Fine. No problem.

But Trump’s statement, several days ago, that he would lay a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum—that’s an anti-Globalist earthquake.

Globalist leaders in foreign countries are lining up to say they’ll retaliate.

They’ll lay tariffs on imports from America.

Bourbon, jeans, motorcycles, orange juice, rice.

But is this the end of the world?

No.

It should be the first step in sorting out unfair and ruinous trade policies that have eaten into the US economy for decades.

The stock market is hyped as the prime indicator that passes judgment on what Trump (or any president) is doing.

If it falls precipitously, that means he’s wrong and very badly wrong.

But in truth, the stock market is a separate giant Vegas casino.

Investment funds’ algorithms move billions in and out of trades, minute by minute.

Individual speculators bet on rises and falls.

Claiming the condition of the entire US economy is reflected in the stock market is like saying the Powerball lottery reveals the financial health or sickness of the US automobile industry.

The stock market and the precious Dow are set up as a very profitable playground for insiders.

That’s the beginning and the end of that story.

Imagine we have a company, X, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Its price is very low, and has been low for quite some time.

It crawls along, doing nothing.

Quietly, insiders are buying up the stock.

When they’re ready, they take the price up.

Then the rubes, seeing the rise, buy the stock, too.

THEN there is a shakeout: the insiders momentarily take the stock price down.

The rubes, frightened, sell—and the insiders scoop up those shares.

Now they’re really ready.

They take the stock for a long ride.

Up.

They make a bundle.

When they’ve had enough, they put out news that company X’s stock is a terrific buy.

The rubes buy in—but this the top.

The insiders unload their shares on the rubes and take stock price down.

The insiders also sell short (bet against a rise) and profit on the way down. It’s a piece a cake, a very handsome piece of cake.

This is the game. It really has nothing at all to do with the condition of the economy.

But—there is another game.

The insiders, through their minions in the press, continue to promote the illusion that the overall condition of the stock market reveals “how the economy is doing.”

Therefore, by being able to control the stock market, the insiders can control THE PERCEPTION of how the economy is doing.

If they decide it’s time to give the impression the economy is in deep trouble—and therefore the economic policies of a president sitting in the White House are disastrous for the country—they take the stock market down.

Every president faces this situation.

He’s at the mercy of forces beyond his control—unless he tries to expose the game and show the American people what’s really going on.

But most presidents are unaware of the overall op.

If they do know the score, they’re reluctant to blow the whistle on it, in part because they believe the public is too ignorant to grasp the mechanics of how the op works.

And the howling press, firmly in the pocket of the insiders, would call the president a conspiracy nutcase in a hundred different ways, day and night, 24/7.

The stock market is a casino.

The economy is the economy.

They are two separate realities.

But shills and operatives and propagandists and sold-out economists and idiot financial reporters forever connect the two realities and make it seem as if they are entangled in an intimate cause-and-effect relationship.

They aren’t.

Many people believe the sale of stock benefits a company.

This is true when a privately held company goes public by issuing stock in what’s called an initial public offering (IPO).

During the limited time period of the IPO, money from the sale of stock does go back to the company issuing it, and that money can used for company growth.

Yes.

Later, the company can issue more stock in what’s called a follow-on offering, and then, too, money from the sale of the stock goes back to the company.

But…by far the greatest amount of activity in the stock market is the simple buying and selling of shares…and none of the ensuing profits and losses accrue to the companies whose shares are being traded.

It’s a pure casino operation.

This casino operation does nothing to benefit the companies in the way of adding cash to their assets.

Consider what can happen to a large retirement pension fund.

The fund takes in money from employees.

It will later pay back that money, plus “add-ons.”

How?

The pension fund invests a great deal of the money it is holding in the stock market.

It buys a variety of stocks and sells them and buys them and sells them.

So if those stocks plummet and stay down, and the pension fund isn’t willing to ride out the storm in hopes that the fall will eventually turn into a rise, the pension fund will sell off those stocks and end up losing much money.

It gambled in the casino with other people’s money, and it lost.

But even here, the reason for the loss was an incorrect perception/prediction about what was going to happen in the casino.

It wasn’t about actualities of the economy.

Getting the picture?

Fake reality.

Top to bottom.

via Time To Make Life Hard For The Rich

Time To Make Life Hard For The Rich 03/01/18
Posted By Luther Blissett By Hamilton Nolan: Splinter: https://desultoryheroics.com/2018/03/01/time-to-make-life-hard-for-the-rich/ Or: https://wordpress.com/post/randrewohge.wordpress.com/3562

It is time for polite, respectable, rational people to start saying what has become painfully obvious: It is time to stop respecting the rich, and start stealing from them. In earnest.

Inequality is eating America alive. It has been growing for decades.

To say that “the American dream is dead” is no longer a poetic exaggeration—it is an accurate description of 40 years of wage stagnation and declining economic mobility that has produced a generation that cannot expect to live better than their parents did.

Not because of devastating war or plague, but because of a very specific set of rules governing a very specific economic system that encourages the accumulation of great wealth among a tiny portion of the population, to the detriment of the vast majority of people.

Our political and business leaders have chosen to embrace a system that favors capital over labor.

A system in which the more you already have, the more you make, and the less you have, the harder it is to build wealth.

It is a system designed to increase inequality.

It is functioning exactly as designed. And now, it is about to get worse.

How long are people supposed to tolerate being smacked in the face?

By the rich?

Who already have more than enough?

It is not as though the fact that inequality is a crisis is a fact that snuck up on anyone.

Economists have seen the trend for decades, and the general public has been well aware of it since at least the financial crisis.

Obama called it “the defining challenge of our time.”

Thomas Piketty became a rock star by writing a very dry book about it.

It’s not an underground thing.

It is well known and well understood by the people in control of the institutions with the power to change it.

The response to this dire situation by the Republican Party, which a wholly owned subsidiary of the American capital-holding class, has been to pass a tax bill that will horribly exacerbate economic inequality in this country.

It is a considered decision to make a bad situation worse.

It is a deliberate choice—during a time when the rich already have too much—to take from the poor in order to give the rich (including members of Congress and the President) more.

That is not a metaphor.

That is the reality.

That is what the Republican party is about to accomplish on behalf of the donor class, calling it “middle class tax relief” in the face of mathematical proof to the contrary.

Even to my cynical ass, the sheer fuck you-ness of this action towards the majority of the country is breathtaking.

This is not just a failure to solve a severe problem; it is the expenditure of vast amounts of political capital to make the severe problem worse so that a tiny handful of people will get wealthier than anyone needs to be.

Ideally, in a democracy, elected leaders reflecting the interests of the people would pass taxes and regulations to reverse the growing inequality here.

For that to happen, we would need to end gerrymandering and reform campaign finance and probably abolish the Senate and the Electoral College, and that’s just for starters.

It is not imminent, in other words.

Our broken political system, which is designed to reward money with political power, is actually moving in the opposite direction of a solution.

Who is suffering because of this?

Most Americans.

Certainly the bottom 50% are acutely suffering—money that would have been in their paychecks has been instead funneled upwards into the pockets of the rich.

Every desperate family that has found themselves coming up short for rent or food or medicine, every American who has downgraded her dreams and aspirations because they became financially implausible, has been directly harmed by the political and economic class war perpetuated by the rich, even if they cannot see the perpetrators with their own eyes.

I think that people have been more than patient in the face of this slow-moving crisis.

In 2009, when the markets crashed and millions were laid off, nobody rioted and kidnapped the financiers and burned their homes.

The outcome of that lack of direct action is the situation we find ourselves in today.

Violence against people is morally wrong and a bad way to solve problems.

But capital is different.

One thing that would help to create the political environment conducive to solving the inequality problem would be to make the cost of accumulating all that capital too high to be worth it.

In other words, to create a downside to being too rich.

I have personally stood in a room full of hedge fund titans and billionaire investors warning one another explicitly that inequality must be addressed lest the U.S. become a place like Latin America, where rich people are forced to live behind walls, surrounded by armed guards, because of the very real risks from the rage of the poor.

Rich people in this country do not want to live like that.

If they see that they must stop being so greedy in order to enjoy their own freedom, they will stop being so greedy.

Those conditions have to be created by people who want justice.

Our situation is absurd.

Not since the Gilded Age has it been more clear that a few people have too much.

Furthermore, the people with too much are investing in political clout to give themselves more.

It’s just wrong.

If the government won’t help, we have to help ourselves.

Sticking up a billionaire on the street for $100 is not going to do it.

But one can imagine other ways that angry Americans might express their dissatisfaction with our current division of wealth:

A large-scale online attack against the holdings of the very rich; yachts sunk in harbors; unoccupied vacation homes in the Hamptons mysteriously burned to the ground.

Sotheby’s auctions swarmed by vandals, Art Basel attacked by spraypaint-wielding mobs, protests on the doorsteps of right-wing think tanks, venomous words directed at millionaires as they dine in fancy restaurants.

People have a right to life and safety, but property does not.

A life spent screwing the little people so that you can acquire lots of stuff loses its allure when you know that all that stuff will be smashed to pieces by angry little people.

It is not hard to put together a list of those who should be targeted—Forbes publishes it every year.

Likewise, public campaign finance records give us a pretty good idea of exactly who is funding the politicians who are perpetuating this economic war on behalf of the rich.

It is nice to imagine a grand, well-targeted computer hack that would neatly transfer billions of dollars out of the accounts of, say, the Walton family and into a charity account that would disburse the money to the poor in untraceable ways.

That seems far-fetched.

Realistically, what people can do now is to start thinking about ways to make it uncomfortable to be too rich.

Socially uncomfortable and otherwise.

When the accumulation of great wealth ceases to be a praiseworthy endeavor and instead becomes viewed as a sick, greedy pastime whose only reward is the hatred of your fellow citizens and the inability to live comfortably without fear of your excessive property being destroyed, rich people will rethink their goals.

Until then, inequality will keep rising, and everything, for most people, will continue to slowly, slowly get worse.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin pills, gave $4.7 million to advocacy groups that have promoted the medications’ use, according to a new report from U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. Toby Talbot/AP

The Senator’s report cites Center for Public Integrity/AP series on how drug companies relied on allied patient advocacy groups to help fight state opioid limits

By Matthew Perrone & Geoff Mulvihill  02/13/18  https://www.publicintegrity.org/2018/02/12/21567/opioid-makers-paid-millions-advocacy-groups-promoted-their-painkillers-amid Or https://wordpress.com/post/randrewohge.wordpress.com/3543

Companies selling some of the most lucrative prescription painkillers funneled millions of dollars to advocacy groups that in turn promoted the medications’ use, according to a report released Monday by a U.S. senator.

The investigation by Missouri’s Sen. Claire McCaskill sheds light on the opioid industry’s ability to shape public opinion and raises questions about its role in an overdose epidemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives.

Representatives of some of the drugmakers named in the report said they did not set conditions on how the money was to be spent or force the groups to advocate for their painkillers.

The report from McCaskill, ranking Democrat on the Senate’s homeland security committee, examines advocacy funding by the makers of the top five opioid painkillers by worldwide sales in 2015.

Financial information the companies provided to Senate staff shows they spent more than $10 million between 2012 and 2017 to support 14 advocacy groups and affiliated doctors.

The report did not include some of the largest and most politically active manufacturers of the drugs.

A report from Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill outlined $10 million paid to advocacy groups by five major opioid makers.

The findings follow a similar investigation launched in 2012 by a bipartisan pair of senators.

That effort eventually was shelved and no findings were ever released.

While the new report provides only a snapshot of company activities, experts said it gives insight into how industry-funded groups fueled demand for drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin, addictive medications that generated billions in sales despite research showing they are largely ineffective for chronic pain.

“It looks pretty damning when these groups were pushing the message about how wonderful opioids are and they were being heavily funded, in the millions of dollars, by the manufacturers of those drugs,” said Lewis Nelson, a Rutgers University doctor and opioid expert.

The findings could bolster hundreds of lawsuits that are aimed at holding opioid drugmakers responsible for helping fuel an epidemic blamed for the deaths of more than 340,000 Americans since 2000.

McCaskill’s staff asked drugmakers to turn over records of payments they made to groups and affiliated physicians, part of a broader investigation by the senator into the opioid crisis.

The request was sent last year to five companies: Purdue Pharma; Insys Therapeutics; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, owned by Johnson & Johnson; Mylan; and Depomed.

Fourteen nonprofit groups, mostly representing pain patients and specialists, received nearly $9 million from the drugmakers, according to investigators. Doctors affiliated with those groups received another $1.6 million.

Most of the groups included in the probe took industry-friendly positions.

That included issuing medical guidelines promoting opioids for chronic pain, lobbying to defeat or include exceptions to state limits on opioid prescribing, and criticizing landmark prescribing guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Doctors and the public have no way of knowing the true source of this information and that’s why we have to take steps to provide transparency,” said McCaskill in an interview with The Associated Press.

The senator plans to introduce legislation requiring increased disclosure about the financial relationships between drugmakers and certain advocacy groups.

A 2016 investigation by the AP and the Center for Public Integrity revealed how painkiller manufacturers used hundreds of lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions to fight state and federal measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids, often enlisting help from advocacy organizations.

Bob Twillman, executive director of the Academy of Integrative Pain Management, said most of the $1.3 million his group received from the five companies went to a state policy advocacy operation.

But Twillman said the organization has called for non-opioid pain treatments while also asking state lawmakers for exceptions to restrictions on the length of opioid prescriptions for certain patients.

“We really don’t take direction from them about what we advocate for,” Twillman said of the industry.

The tactics highlighted in Monday’s report are at the heart of lawsuits filed by hundreds of state and local governments against the opioid industry.

The suits allege that drugmakers misled doctors and patients about the risks of opioids by enlisting “front groups” and “key opinion leaders” who oversold the drugs’ benefits and encouraged over-prescribing.

In the legal claims, the governments seek money and changes to how the industry operates, including an end to the use of outside groups to push their drugs.

U.S. deaths linked to opioids have quadrupled since 2000 to roughly 42,000 in 2016. Although initially driven by prescription drugs, most opioid deaths now involve illicit drugs, including heroin and fentanyl.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, contributed the most to the groups, funneling $4.7 million to organizations and physicians from 2012 through last year.

In a statement, the company did not address whether it was trying to influence the positions of the groups it supported, but said it does help organizations “that are interested in helping patients receive appropriate care.” On Friday, Purdue announced it would no longer market OxyContin to doctors.

Insys Therapeutics, a company recently targeted by federal prosecutors, provided more than $3.5 million to interest groups and physicians, according to McCaskill’s report.

Last year, the company’s founder was indicted for allegedly offering bribes to doctors to write prescriptions for the company’s spray-based fentanyl medication.

A company spokesman declined to comment.

Insys contributed $2.5 million last year to a U.S. Pain Foundation program to pay for pain drugs for cancer patients.

“The question was: Do we make these people suffer, or do we work with this company that has a terrible name?” said U.S. Pain founder Paul Gileno, explaining why his organization sought the money.

Depomed, Janssen and Mylan contributed $1.4 million, $650,000 and $26,000 in payments, respectively. Janssen and Mylan told the AP they acted responsibly, while calls and emails to Depomed were not returned.

Perrone and Mulvihill report for The Associated Press.

via Corporate giant Unilever demands crackdown on oppositional Internet content

Corporate Giant Unilever Demands Crackdown On Oppositional Internet Content
Posted 02/15/18 By Luther Blissett By Will Morrow: WSWS.org [https://desultoryheroics.com/2018/02/15/corporate-giant-unilever-demands-crackdown-on-oppositional-internet-content/; https://wordpress.com/post/randrewohge.wordpress.com/3541%5D

The drive to censor the Internet took another step this week with a public statement by Keith Weed, the chief marketing officer for the London-based multinational Unilever, threatening to withdraw advertising from social media platforms if they fail to suppress “toxic content.”

Weed reportedly told an annual leadership meeting of the Interactive Advertising Bureau in Palm Desert, California that the company “will not invest in platforms or environments” that “create divisions in society, and promote anger or hate.”

He added, “We will prioritize investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society.”

Excerpts of Weed’s remarks—the most explicit of their kind from a major corporate executive—were leaked to several media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian.

They were immediately featured on NBC News and other major American news outlets on Sunday.

The Journal’s report was accompanied by an interview with Weed.

The coordinated release was designed to escalate the propaganda offensive by the Democratic Party and US intelligence agencies, together with the corporate media, for Internet censorship.

The fraudulent premise for this assault on freedom of speech, both in the US and across Europe, is the claim that political opposition and social tensions are the product not of poverty, inequality and policies of austerity and militarism, but of “fake news” spread by Russia through social media.

Weed’s statements preceded yesterday’s US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing, which witnessed a series of hysterical denunciations of Russia by politicians and intelligence agents.

The Democratic vice-chairman of the committee, Mark Warner of Virginia, declared that Russia “utilized our social media platforms to push and spread misinformation at an unprecedented scale.”

Facebook responded to Weed’s threats by declaring, “We fully support Unilever’s commitments and are working closely with them.”

The Journal stated that Unilever “has already held discussions” with Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snap and Amazon “to share ideas about what each can do to improve.”

Weed absurdly framed his demand for censorship, made on behalf of a multibillion-dollar global corporation, as the expression of popular anger over the supposed spread of “fake news.”

He referred to research showing a decline in trust in social media and a “perceived lack of focus” in the form of “illegal, unethical and extremist behavior and material on” social media platforms.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, he claimed to be articulating the concerns of consumers over “fake news” and “Russians influencing the US election.”

In reality, the intervention by Unilever—a consumer products behemoth with a market capitalization of $157 billion and annual revenues of $65 billion, more than the gross domestic product of many countries—only highlights the economic and political forces driving the censorship campaign: an alliance of the military/intelligence apparatus, giant technology firms and the corporate-financial oligarchy.

Unilever’s annual marketing outlays of nearly $9 billion place it in the top five companies in that category globally.

It owns dozens of brands used by some 2.5 billion people around the world, including Dove soap, Rexona deodorant and food products Cornetto, Magnum and Lipton.

Weed’s statements amount to a declaration that Unilever will use this economic power to filter what the world’s population can and cannot read online.

This is in line with a long and reactionary tradition.

Large advertisers played a significant role in enforcing the McCarthyite witch hunt of socialist and left-wing figures in the US during the late 1940s and 1950s. General Motors, DuPont, Reynolds Tobacco and other major companies were backers of the notorious anticommunist periodical Counterattack, which published names of suspected communist sympathizers and forced the removal of targeted performers and critical content from programs they sponsored.

In one of many such cases, the blacklisted Jean Muir was dropped from the television show “The Aldrich Family” after General Foods, the program’s sponsor, told NBC it would not sponsor programs featuring “controversial persons.”

In another development, Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube (owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet), told a Code Media conference in Los Angeles that Facebook “should get back to baby pictures and sharing.”

The statement is a reference to Facebook’s announcement last month that it is deprioritizing news content on its News Feed in favor of “personal moments.”

The change is one of a number of recent measures to prevent Facebook users from accessing news and analysis outside of officially sanctioned corporate outlets.

UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd on Tuesday released a government-developed application that uses machine-learning algorithms to automatically detect ISIS-related content in videos so that it can be censored.

The BBC wrote that the tool was seen by the government as a way to demonstrate that its “demand for a clampdown on extremist activity was not unreasonable.”

Rudd stated, “The technology is there. There are tools out there that can do exactly what we’re asking for,” i.e., identifying and censoring video content. The new application will be provided free of charge to smaller video hosting companies, and the government will consider making its use legally mandatory.

The Washington Post, which along with the New York Times has been at the forefront of the censorship campaign, linked the UK government’s announcement to the intervention of Unilever, writing that it came “amid mounting pressure on social media companies to do more to remove extremist content from their platforms.”