Saturday, September 15, 2018

These Four Predicted The Global Financial Crisis; Here's What They Think Causes The Next One


A different kind of hurricane slammed into the American East coast, the nation and ultimately the world ten years ago today. 

Amidst the multiple introspective columns and soul searching that naturally occurred this week, which looked back on the missed warning signs behind the 2008 financial collapse exactly a decade ago this weekend, there is a small group of people whose opinions are actually worth paying attention to.

Though arguably no single individual accurately called all aspects of the crisis in its entirety, precipitated by the implosion of Lehman Brothers, some did very publicly predict key facets with prophetic clarity. As Market Watch's Howard Gold explains in his profile of four analysts the world should have been listening to: "People warned about subprime mortgage loans, derivatives, and too much leverage, but nobody, to my knowledge, said a bursting housing bubble would cause a global crisis that would lead to the demise of venerable financial firms, require trillion-dollar taxpayer bailouts, and cause a recession that rivaled only the Great Depression in its magnitude."

Trouble is like many religious prophets of ancient history, they were rejected at the time, cast as dour harbingers of gloom and doom.

Clockwise from upper left: Gary Shilling, Jim Stack, Raghuram Rajan and John Mauldin. Via MarketWatch

Here are four names and their very public warnings that attempted to jolt the financial and banking sectors out of their sleepy stroll toward the abyss before 2008, as well as their predictions for the next big one, and what to look out for. 

Howard Gold interviewed each, and laid out the key quotes summarizing then and now...

Economist A. Gary Shilling

President of consultancy A. Gary Shilling & Co., he started writing about a housing bubble in the early 2000s which Greg Lippmann (of "The Big Short" fame), credits with giving him the idea to bet against subprime mortgages. Describes Gold, "he warned his newsletter subscribers about a housing bust and wholesale deleveraging of household debt that would hobble the economy for years."

And this epic anecdote from the interview

John Paulson contacted Shilling in August 2006. “He talked about credit default swaps. I didn’t know what they were,” Shilling recalled.

Shilling did some consulting for Paulson’s hedge fund and even invested what “was for the Shillings a major piece of money in this.” Paulson, of course, loaded up on CDS’s and made $4 billion in what has been called “the greatest trade ever.” “We made 15 times our money,” Shilling says.

His predictions pre-2008: 

“Subprime loans are probably the greatest financial problem facing the nation in the years ahead.” —January 2004

“The [speculative housing] bubble’s break will cause widespread pain...and be much worse economically than the 2000-2002 bear market.”—June 2006

“We continue to forecast a 25% fall in median single-family house prices nationwide.” —November 2006. 

What he says now: 

“The ultimate thing that brings down financial markets is excess leverage … So, you look where’s the big leverage, and right now I think it’s in emerging markets.”

Shilling is particularly worried about the $8 trillion in dollar-denominated emerging-market corporate and sovereign debt, especially as the U.S. dollar rises along with interest rates. “The problem is as the dollar increases,” he said, “it gets tougher and tougher for them to service [that debt] because it takes more and more of their local currency to do so.” Of that, $249 billion must be repaid or refinanced through next year, Bloomberg reported.

* * *

Money manager Jim Stack

President of Stack Financial Management, which manages $1.3 billion, and InvesTech Research, a newsletter he launched in 1979, Jim Stack as a young analyst first gained some notoriety for calling the 1987 stock market crash. Describes Gold, "As housing prices kept rising, Stack built a proprietary tool called the Housing Bellwether Barometer. He called housing a bubble a year before it peaked and warned of bigger problems ahead for the economy and the markets."

His predictions of a new bear market coming were issued even as stocks were hitting all-time highs. 

His predictions pre-2008: 

“We are officially calling it a dangerous bubble...I see a trillion+-dollar government bailout of the mortgage industry at some point over the next decade.”—July 2005

“Our Housing Bubble Index has dropped into a freefall that rivals the dot-com bust of the late 1990s… We are moving to a full bear market defensive mode.”—July 2007

“We are nowhere near the bottom…It’s only a matter of time…until the housing debacle and credit crisis adversely impact the overall economy, increasing the likelihood of a recession.”—Interview with Equities magazine, November 2007

What he says now: 

That housing-related stocks “saw a parabolic run-up” in 2016-17, but in January his index "peaked and now it’s coming down hard.” And this spells “bad news on the housing market looking 12 months down the road."

Per Howard Gold's interview:

But the biggest danger, Stack told me, is from low-quality corporate debt. Issuance of corporate bonds has “gone from around $700 billion in 2008 to about two and a half times that [today].”

And, he added, more and more of that debt is subprime. Uh-oh.

In 2005, he pointed out, companies issued five times as much high-quality as subprime debt, but last year “we had as much subprime debt, poor quality-debt issued, as quality debt on the corporate level,” he said, warning “this is the kind of debt that does get defaulted on dramatically in an economic downturn.”

Banker Raghuram Rajan

Previously the IMF’s chief economist and former head of the Reserve Bank of India, Rajan famously presented a paper at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual retreat at Jackson Hole, in August 2005. To illustrate the general obsequiousness and self-congratulatory atmosphere of those times, Rajan recalled that some papers at the conference “focused on whether Alan Greenspan was the best central banker in history, or only among the best.”

Per Howard Gold: 

Rajan turned out to be a party pooper, questioning whether “advances” in the financial sector actually increased, rather than reduced, systemic riskFormer Treasury Secretary Larry Summers called him a Luddite. “…I felt like an early Christian who had wandered into a convention of half-starved lions,” he wrote. But though delivered in genteel academic lingo, his paper was powerful and prescient.

His predictions pre-2008: 

“Managers…have greater incentive to take risk…because the upside is significant, while the downside is limited.”

“Moreover, the linkages between markets, and between markets and institutions, are now more pronounced. While this helps the system diversify across small shocks, it also exposes the system to large systemic shocks…”

“The financial risks that are being created by the system are indeed greater… [potentially creating] a greater (albeit still small) probability of a catastrophic meltdown.”

What he says now: 

“There has been a shift of risk from the formal banking system to the shadow financial system.” He also told me the post-crisis reforms did not address central banks’ role in creating asset bubbles through accommodative monetary policy, which he sees as the financial markets’ biggest long-term challenge.

“You get hooked on leverage. It’s cheap, it’s easy to refinance, so why not take more of it? You get lulled into taking more leverage than perhaps you can handle.”

And what might be coming:

Rajan also sees potential problems in U.S. corporate debt, particularly as rates rise, and in emerging markets, though he thinks the current problems in Turkey and Argentina are “not full-blown contagion.”

“But are there accidents waiting to happen? Yes, there are.”

* * *

Writer John Mauldin

Best known for his free weekly e-letter “Thoughts from the Frontline,” the Dallas-based chairman of Mauldin Economics, John Mauldin began worrying about housing very early, sometimes featuring commentary from Gary Shilling during the run-up to the crisis. Described by Gold, he "said a housing bust would lead to a drop in consumer spending, a bear market, and a recession (though at first he thought it would be a mild one), and that credit default swaps (CDSs) posed a systemic risk."

His predictions pre-2008: 

“A slowing of the housing market, and thus the economy, is in our future… This in turn suggests that as growth in consumer spending slows, a bear market in equities is a high-probability outcome.”—March 2006

“…The stock market is going to be under considerable pressure next year. The average drop of the markets is about 40% before and in a recession….Dow 9,000 is a real possibility, if not probability”—December 2006. (The Dow bottomed at 6,547.05 in March 2009.)

“The one true risk that is simply not knowable at this point is in the Credit Default Swap (CDS) market….The CDS market is huge, in the hundreds of trillions of dollars and growing dramatically… There is no agency overseeing counter-party risk. This is the one true systemic risk that I see.”—July 2007.

What he says now: 

“I think the choice of Europe is… going to have to put [all the debt] on the balance sheet of the European Central Bank. If they don’t, then the euro zone breaks apart and we’re going to get a 50% valuation collapse.”

“ a rounding error. Italy is not…. And Brussels and Germany are going to have to allow Italy to overshoot their persistent debt, and the ECB is going to have to buy that debt."

"If it doesn’t happen, the debt triggers a crisis in Europe, [and] that triggers the beginning of a global recession" but... “there are so many little dominoes, if they all start falling, one leads to the next.”

Comments Howard Gold,

Mauldin estimates the world has almost “half a quadrillion dollars,” or $500 trillion, in debt and unfunded pension and other liabilities, which he views as unsustainable.

But the flashpoint for the next crisis is likely to be in Europe, especially Italy, he maintains.


Seth Klarman: These Are The 20 Forgotten Lessons From The 2008 Crisis


On the 10 year anniversary of the Lehman bankruptcy, a cottage industry of crisis experts, historical apologists, and generally freelance reminiscers (sic) had emerged, opining on what happened, what should have happened, what changed in the interim ten years, and what will happen in the future.

Most of these opinions are worthless with many of them coming from those who were either responsible for the financial crisis or never saw it coming in the first place. So instead, we have chosen to go with the far more actionable and erudite take of investing legend Seth Klarman who many years ago, one the 1 year anniversary of Lehman's failure, described the 20 lessons from the financial crisis which, he said "could and should have been learned from the turmoil of 2008" but instead "were either never learned or else were immediately forgotten by most market participants."

The Forgotten Lessons of 2008

One might have expected that the near-death experience of most investors in 2008 would generate valuable lessons for the future. We all know about the “depression mentality” of our parents and grandparents who lived through the Great Depression. Memories of tough times colored their behavior for more than a generation, leading to limited risk taking and a sustainable base for healthy growth. Yet one year after the 2008 collapse, investors have returned to shockingly speculative behavior. One state investment board recently adopted a plan to leverage its portfolio – specifically its government and high-grade bond holdings – in an amount that could grow to 20% of its assets over the next three years. No one who was paying attention in 2008 would possibly think this is a good idea.

Below, we highlight the lessons that we believe could and should have been learned from the turmoil of 2008. Some of them are unique to the 2008 melt-down; others, which could have been drawn from general market observation over the past several decades, were certainly reinforced last year. Shockingly, virtually all of these lessons were either never learned or else were immediately forgotten by most market participants.

Twenty Investment Lessons of 2008

  1. Things that have never happened before are bound to occur with some regularity. You must always be prepared for the unexpected, including sudden, sharp downward swings in markets and the economy. Whatever adverse scenario you can contemplate, reality can be far worse.
  2. When excesses such as lax lending standards become widespread and persist for some time, people are lulled into a false sense of security, creating an even more dangerous situation. In some cases, excesses migrate beyond regional or national borders, raising the ante for investors and governments. These excesses will eventually end, triggering a crisis at least in proportion to the degree of the excesses. Correlations between asset classes may be surprisingly high when leverage rapidly unwinds.
  3. Nowhere does it say that investors should strive to make every last dollar of potential profit; consideration of risk must never take a backseat to return. Conservative positioning entering a crisis is crucial: it enables one to maintain long-term oriented, clear thinking, and to focus on new opportunities while others are distracted or even forced to sell. Portfolio hedges must be in place before a crisis hits. One cannot reliably or affordably increase or replace hedges that are rolling off during a financial crisis.
  4. Risk is not inherent in an investment; it is always relative to the price paid. Uncertainty is not the same as risk. Indeed, when great uncertainty – such as in the fall of 2008 – drives securities prices to especially low levels, they often become less risky investments.
  5. Do not trust financial market risk models. Reality is always too complex to be accurately modeled. Attention to risk must be a 24/7/365 obsession, with people – not computers – assessing and reassessing the risk environment in real time. Despite the predilection of some analysts to model the financial markets using sophisticated mathematics, the markets are governed by behavioral science, not physical science.
  6. Do not accept principal risk while investing short-term cash: the greedy effort to earn a few extra basis points of yield inevitably leads to the incurrence of greater risk, which increases the likelihood of losses and severe illiquidity at precisely the moment when cash is needed to cover expenses, to meet commitments, or to make compelling long-term investments.
  7. The latest trade of a security creates a dangerous illusion that its market price approximates its true value. This mirage is especially dangerous during periods of market exuberance. The concept of “private market value” as an anchor to the proper valuation of a business can also be greatly skewed during ebullient times and should always be considered with a healthy degree of skepticism.
  8. A broad and flexible investment approach is essential during a crisis. Opportunities can be vast, ephemeral, and dispersed through various sectors and markets. Rigid silos can be an enormous disadvantage at such times.
  9. You must buy on the way down. There is far more volume on the way down than on the way back up, and far less competition among buyers. It is almost always better to be too early than too late, but you must be prepared for price markdowns on what you buy.
  10. Financial innovation can be highly dangerous, though almost no one will tell you this. New financial products are typically  created for sunny days and are almost never stress-tested for stormy weather. Securitization is an area that almost perfectly fits this description; markets for securitized assets such as subprime mortgages completely collapsed in 2008 and have not fully recovered. Ironically, the government is eager to restore the securitization markets back to their pre-collapse stature.
  11. Ratings agencies are highly conflicted, unimaginative dupes. They are blissfully unaware of adverse selection and moral hazard. Investors should never trust them.
  12. Be sure that you are well compensated for illiquidity – especially illiquidity without control – because it can create particularly high opportunity costs.
  13. At equal returns, public investments are generally superior to private investments not only because they are more liquid but also because amidst distress, public markets are more likely than private ones to offer attractive opportunities to average down.
  14. Beware leverage in all its forms. Borrowers – individual, corporate, or government – should always match fund their liabilities against the duration of their assets. Borrowers must always remember that capital markets can be extremely fickle, and that it is never safe to assume a maturing loan can be rolled over. Even if you are unleveraged, the leverage employed by others can drive dramatic price and valuation swings; sudden unavailability of leverage in the economy may trigger an economic downturn.
  15. Many LBOs are man-made disasters. When the price paid is excessive, the equity portion of an LBO is really an out-of-the-money call option. Many fiduciaries placed large amounts of the capital under their stewardship into such options in 2006 and 2007.
  16. Financial stocks are particularly risky. Banking, in particular, is a highly lever- aged, extremely competitive, and challenging business. A major European bank recently announced the goal of achieving a 20% return on equity (ROE) within several years. Unfortunately, ROE is highly dependent on absolute yields, yield spreads, maintaining adequate loan loss reserves, and the amount of leverage used. What is the bank’s management to do if it cannot readily get to 20%? Leverage up? Hold riskier assets? Ignore the risk of loss? In some ways, for a major financial institution even to have a ROE goal is to court disaster.
  17. Having clients with a long-term orientation is crucial. Nothing else is as important to the success of an investment firm.
  18. When a government official says a problem has been “contained,” pay no attention.
  19. The government – the ultimate short- term-oriented player – cannot withstand much pain in the economy or the financial markets. Bailouts and rescues are likely to occur, though not with sufficient predictability for investors to comfortably take advantage. The government will take enormous risks in such interventions, especially if the expenses can be conveniently deferred to the future. Some of the price-tag is in the form of back- stops and guarantees, whose cost is almost impossible to determine.
  20. Almost no one will accept responsibility for his or her role in precipitating a crisis: not leveraged speculators, not willfully blind leaders of financial institutions, and certainly not regulators, government officials, ratings agencies or politicians.

Below, we itemize some of the quite different lessons investors seem to have learned as of late 2009 – false lessons, we believe. To not only learn but also effectively implement investment lessons requires a disciplined, often contrary, and long-term-oriented investment approach. It requires a resolute focus on risk aversion rather than maximizing immediate returns, as well as an understanding of history, a sense of financial market cycles, and, at times, extraordinary patience.

False Lessons

  1. There are no long-term lessons – ever.
  2. Bad things happen, but really bad things do not. Do buy the dips, especially the lowest quality securities when they come under pressure, because declines will quickly be reversed.
  3. There is no amount of bad news that the markets cannot see past.
  4. If you’ve just stared into the abyss, quickly forget it: the lessons of history can only hold you back.
  5. Excess capacity in people, machines, or property will be quickly absorbed.
  6. Markets need not be in sync with one another. Simultaneously, the bond market can be priced for sustained tough times, the equity market for a strong recovery, and gold for high inflation. Such an apparent disconnect is indefinitely sustainable.
  7. In a crisis, stocks of financial companies are great investments, because the tide is bound to turn. Massive losses on bad loans and soured investments are irrelevant to value; improving trends and future prospects are what matter, regardless of whether profits will have to be used to cover loan losses and equity shortfalls for years to come.
  8. The government can reasonably rely on debt ratings when it forms programs to lend money to buyers of otherwise unattractive debt instruments.
  9. The government can indefinitely control both short-term and long-term interest rates.
  10. The government can always rescue the markets or interfere with contract law whenever it deems convenient with little or no apparent cost. (Investors believe this now and, worse still, the government believes it as well. We are probably doomed to a lasting legacy of government tampering with financial markets and the economy, which is likely to create the mother of all moral hazards. The government is blissfully unaware of the wisdom of Friedrich Hayek: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”)



"They Just Evacuated Us": Conspiracy Theories Run Wild After FBI Shuts Down Solar Observatory


The National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico was raided and shut down by the FBI on September 6 over an undisclosed national security issue, stirring up a wide array of conspiracy theories on YouTube and social media and in tabloid publications.

"There was a Blackhawk helicopter, a bunch of people around antennas and work crews on towers, but nobody would tell us anything," Otero County Sheriff Benny House told the Alamogordo Daily News. "I don't know why the FBI would get involved so quick and not tell us anything."

An anonymous 4chan user who called both nearby Apache Point Observatory and the local sheriff was told that they were "locked out" of the Sunspot observatory and had no idea what was going on. 

Located near both White Sands Missile Range and infamous Roswell New Mexico, speculation over the observatory's abrupt closure has ranged from an alien mothership using the sun to "refuel", to a devastating sun disaster such as the 1859 Carrington Event - a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) which would have undoubtedly blown out most satellites and electronics had they been invented yet. 

Despite unusually high sunspot activity and a minor CME ejection which hit Earth last week, it appears that threat has passed, for now - as a CME takes anywhere from one to three days to hit, which brings us back to aliens and other theories. It doesn't help that several public solar observatory cams have gone offline, including NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) which will be offline "for several weeks" in order to update the "code infrastructure that provides access to SOHO data."  

Screenshots Sep. 15, 2018

Others have pointed to the fact that NASA launched a new solar probe last month - the first-ever mission to "touch" the sun, while the space agency will (or has) shot it's Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager (FOXSI) 190 miles into space for a 15-minute "peek" at the sun. 

The FOXSI mission will take its third flight from the White Sands Missile Range in White Sands, New Mexico, no earlier than September 7, the agency said in a statement. Derived from the nautical term "to sound", meaning to measure, FOXSI rockets make brief 15-minute journeys above the Earth's atmosphere for a peek at space before falling back to the ground. -TimesNowNews

One anonymous contributor has a few theories, including why other solar observatories haven't been raided and locked down: 

The many thousands of telescopes world wide are normally looking at the night sky, not at the sun. Additionally, most telescopes are looking at things at distances of 100,000's of light years. They won't "see" a UFO hovering right if front of them, or even a few light minutes away. Only solar scopes are looking at as short a distance as 8 light minutes

The FBI swooping in on a Blackhawk means that "time" was a factor in the "effectiveness" of their response

That the FBI shut down the post office is really interesting. Makes me think someone (unidentified) was trying to get the word out, about something, and the FBI was called in to rapidly shut down efforts to communicate beyond the observatory. Shut down the post office and check all the mail, shut down RF comms (guys on the antenna) and go over the facility with a fine tooth comb to find any memory stick or any "virus" program hiding in a computer somewhere ready to send data out to the web when reactivated.

It also wouldn't surprise me to learn that every solar observatory in the world has someone, like their director, who's job is to erase such data. What would it look (to the outside world) like if this designated person at Sunspot AZ contacted the "authorities" and said "we got a 'rogue' trying to get the word out, I need help to shut this thing down"? 

How about this: what if data collected from the preeminent solar telescope did show we're heading into a Maunder Minimum; mini ice-age for next 100 years or so? I just read before this FBI episode that solar astronomers had discovered a new solar feature deep in the Sun. Don't remember the details, something about a new, big convection cell or something. 

What are the locals saying? 

ABC-7 Monday spoke with Shari Lifson, who is with AURA, the company that co-manages the Observatory with NMSU.

“The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy who manages the facility is addressing a security issue at this time. We have decided to vacate the facility at this time as precautionary measure. It was our decision to evacuate the facility.”

Lifson told ABC 7 there is no timetable for the Observatory to be re-opened.

ABC-7 also reached out to the FBI, but did not hear back from the federal agency in time for the deadline. The FBI did speak with local law enforcement about the length of the observatory closure.

“The FBI is refusing to tell us what’s going on. We’ve got people up there (at Sunspot) that requested us to standby while they evacuate it. Nobody would really elaborate on any of the circumstances as to why.

The FBI were up there. What their purpose was nobody will say. But for the FBI to get involved that quick and be so secretive about it, there was a lot of stuff going on up there.

There was a Blackhawk helicopter, a bunch of people around antennas and work crews on towers but nobody would tell us anything.”

The observatory's location, near multiple military bases two hours’ drive from the town of Roswell, has sparked massive speculation on social media. Roswell was the area of a famous 1947 sighting of UFOs which government officials said were high altitude weather balloons.

For the conspiracy-minded, Tyler Glockner, who operates the YouTube conspiracy channel secureteam10, speculates that the evacuation could be part of a government effort to cover up a discovery involving aliens, an imminent solar flare, and or something outer space related. Glockner then said one Reddit user suggested a national security issue threat was discovered involving a foreign power attempting to use the observatory's antennas to spy on nearby White Sands Missile Range.

New amateur drone footage shows the observatory is a "ghost town," said Glockner. When the drone first lifts off, the camera shows the White Sands Missile Range in the distance (25 to 30 miles).

Hilariously, the box for a 1997 X-Files video game called "Unrestricted Access" was found in the trash: 

Until the FBI can explain why they swooped in on a Blackhawk helicopter and shut down both the observatory and the local post office, endless conspiracy theories will continue to emerge - unless of course we're all dead from alien invasion, or enslaved to do their bidding. 


The lies propagandists tell to get support for bombing Syria



The propaganda mills of the British and American governments - spokespersons, media, think tanks - are working overtime churning out 'talking points' to justify the upcoming large scale bombing of Syria on the pretext of use of prohibited weapons. Here is a guide from a former insider to the top dozen of these lies. 1. There are more babies than jihadis in Idlib. As it happens this gem of moral blackmail is untrue. There are twice as many jihadis (about 100,000) as babies (0-1 year) (55,000). What is this factoid meant to say anyway? Don't try to free an area of jihadis because you might harm a lot of children? The Western coalition scarcely heeded that consideration in razing Mosul and Raqqa in order to crush ISIS. They are still pulling babies out of the rubble in Raqqa. 2. The reports [of the imminent chemical weapons 'attack'] must be true because Assad has done it before. False. Since 2013 when Asad gave up chemical weapons under supervision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) the OPCW have not visited the sites of alleged attacks in jihadi-controlled areas but have accepted at face value 'reports' from pro-jihadi organisations like the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society, along with 'evidence' from hostile intelligence agencies. In the case of the one site the OPCW did visit, Douma, their report said they found no evidence of sarin, no untoward traces in any of the blood samples taken from 'alleged victims' (their term), no bodies and only ambiguous evidence of use of chlorine.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Alex Jones Was Banned By Twitter For Mean Words, Yet Antifa Groups Calling For Assassination Thrive


Submitted by FarLeftWatch

Antifa groups are using Twitter and Facebook to advocate for the assassination of President Trump

While social media companies collude to silence right-of-center influencers, violent far-left extremist groups appear to be given a pass. This NYC based antifa group has been using their “leftist privilege” to freely violate Twitter and Facebook Terms of Service. In another glaring example of “non existent social media bias”, this extremist group is apparently allowed to use their social media account to advocate for murder.

The Base is a NYC based “anarchist center” that is run by the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement, a violent extremist group that we have covered extensively. The extremist group is currently offering downloadable poster and stickers that include images of guns and other calls to violence but the most concerning was an image that depicted the murder of President Donald Trump.

Advocating for the murder of your political opposition is very prevalent in far-left circles. Another prominent antifa website, It’s Going Down, is also currently using Twitter and Facebook to distribute a poster that depicts the murder of President Trump. We published a detailed report about this poster almost a year ago and have reported this tweet to Twitter multiple times but it is still live and the extremist group that created it is still free to recruit and radicalize new members on both Twitter and Facebook.

Another prominent far-left website that uses Twitter and Facebook to advocate for political violence is Crimethinc. This “decentralized anarchist collective” designed a distributed a poster that compares Donald Trump supporters to Nazis and encourages their followers to use violence against them.

In this example, a Seattle antifa group is using their Twitter account to distribute the personal information of ICE agents as well as their family members. Just like other Tweets we have referenced in this report, this one is still live even though we have reported it to Twitter multiple time.

There are endless examples of far-left extremist groups using their social media accounts to advocate for political violence but one more that warrants a mention is Redneck RevoltThis paramilitary organization claims to have over 30 active cells nationwide and until recently they offered a downloadable guerrilla warfare manual on their website that included sections on “kidnapping”, “executions”, and “terrorism”.

Why is this important? Firstly, it demonstrates the institutional bias of the giant tech companies that allow these accounts to actively violate their Terms of Service. And secondly, far-left extremist are escalating their violence. Just over the last seven days a GOP office was attacked by an arsonist, there was an assassination attempt of a GOP candidate, and a Democratic Socialist threatened to carry out a mass shooting against Trump supporters in D.C. These violent attacks are the predictable outcome of a media-industrial complex that constantly misrepresents the facts and gaslights Trump and his supporters as “fascists”. “racists”, “bigots”, etc.

The mission of Far Left Watch is to investigate, expose, and combat the far-left. Please share this article via Twitter, Facebook, etc. and encourage friendly media and YouTube content creators to report on this information. 

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Amazon bans Michael Hoffman's books - interview



A couple of months ago I did an interview with one of the foremost scholars of rabbinical Judaism, Michael Hoffman. The occasion was the release of his latest book The Occult Renaissance Church of Rome. At the time I did not expect to have to ask for a follow-up interview with him, but then I learned that Amazon had censored his books (please see Hoffman's own account of this here). Specifically, the ban is on three of his books. A complete ban (Kindle + printed book) on Judaism's Strange Gods: Revised and Expanded, as well as The Great Holocaust Trial: Revised and Expanded, while his textbook, Judaism Discovered, has been removed from the Kindle. I felt that I had to talk to him again and he kindly agreed to reply to my questions. I submit to you the full text of our Q&A which I will follow-up with a short commentary.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

"Unbelievable": Facebook Bans Ex-Democrat #WalkAway Founder Weeks Before March On Washington


Facebook has banned Brandon Straka, the former Democrat who founded the "Walk Away" campaign and its viral hashtag #WalkAway, after he linked to - which has been banned from the platform. 

He says that the ban has "devastated" his ability to reach people ahead of an October 26 march on Washington, all because of a Facbeook post that read: "Hey, Patriots! I’m going live on  in 15 minutes."

Straka tweeted on Wednesday: "FACEBOOK JUST BANNED ME AS I AM PLANNING THE #WalkAway March on Washington!!! I have been banned from posting leading up to the March. This is devastated for our ability to reach people!!! I was banned for mentioning my interview with Alex Jones. Can anybody help???"

FACEBOOK JUST BANNED ME AS I AM PLANNING THE #WalkAway March on Washington!!! I have been banned from posting leading up to the March. This is devastated for our ability to reach people!!! I was banned for mentioning my interview with Alex Jones. Can anybody help???

— Brandon Straka (The Unsilent Minority) (@usminority) September 12, 2018

Just to be safe, Straka has now deleted any mention of Alex Jones or Infowars from his Twitter feed:  

1. I just went through my twitter feed and deleted tweets that contained the name of the man who was recently banned on all platforms and the name of his show- all of them except the tweet I just put out which contained his name along with the message that I’ve been banned.

— Brandon Straka (The Unsilent Minority) (@usminority) September 12, 2018

2. This is where we are now. You can have your voice taken away 4 saying a NAME that they don’t want you to say. I will never disappear from Twitter for a day. So if you don’t hear from me for a day or two- they got me on here, too. It is so unbelievable that this is real life.

— Brandon Straka (The Unsilent Minority) (@usminority) September 12, 2018

Straka founded the #WalkAway campaign in late May, creating a Facebook page and posting a video explaining his views. 

It is my sincere hope that you will join me in this campaign and that we may start a movement in this country- which not only encourages others to walk away from the divisive left, but also takes back the narrative from the liberal media about what it means to be a conservative in America. It is up to all of us to make our voices heard and reclaim the truth. 

The Democratic Party has taken for granted that it owns racial, sexual, and religious minorities in America. It has encouraged groupthink, hypocrisy, division, stereotyping, resentment, and the acceptance of victimhood mentality. And all the while, they have discouraged minorities from having independent thought, open dialogue, measured and informed opinion, and a motivation to succeed

Watch below: 

This isn't the first time Straka and his movement have come under fire from the left. In July, CNN claimed that the #WalkAway movement was being promoted by Russian bots - uncritically citing propaganda website "Hamilton 88" as evidence. 

#WalkAway has also now been connected to Kremlin-linked Russian bots, and it is now the seventh most popular Russia-influenced hashtag as of this writing, according to the website Hamilton 68, which tracks Russian influence on Twitter -CNN

In the same month, Straka was also denied service by an employee at a New York electronics store after he was recognized from an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. 

Brandon Straka, a gay hairdresser and the founder of the "Walk Away" campaign using the viral hashtag #WalkAway, had spent over an hour on Thursday carefully choosing equipment at electronics superstore Adorama in Manhattan following a week of media appearances, reported the Epoch Times.

After an employee sent Straka to a different department to buy a microphone, a customer in front of him exclaimed "I saw you on Tucker!" - before asking for a picture with the "Walk Away" founder.

The exchange was overheard by a store employee, who then refused to sell him the mic. 

“He stared at me with this kind of dead-pan expression,” Straka told The Epoch Times. “And he said: Are you planning to use this equipment for alt-right purposes?’

As Straka struggled to comprehend what was happening, the clerk, whom Straka asked not be named, said: “I’m sorry I just don’t feel comfortable selling to you. I can’t sell to you.” -Epoch Times

A shocked Straka reeled from what he says was his first experience of a public shunning over his political views - though he said that friends had done so in private.

I’m shaking right now. I just went into a camera store to buy a camera and a light and mic, etc. and they recognized me from tv. I was refused service because they said it was for “alt right” purposes. That literally just happened.

— Brandon Straka (The Unsilent Minority) (@usminority) July 5, 2018

"It kind of took my breath away,” he said. “I said to him, ‘Listen, if you can’t sell to me, that’s fine, but, you know, person to person, I’d like to talk to you, because I don’t think you know what Walk Away is about. And he said, ‘Well, you know, I’m done. I’m not comfortable selling to you. You’re welcome to talk to someone else in the store but I’m not going to sell to you.’"

Seems like one of those "you know you're over the target when you're taking the most flack" moments. 


"This Will Be The Mother Of All Minsky Moments"


Submitted by John Mauldin, via Thoughts from the Frontline

We have all had the fun as kids of going to the beach and playing in the sand. Remember taking your plastic bucket and making sandpiles? Slowly pouring the sand into ever bigger piles, until one side of the pile starts to collapse?

In his very important book Ubiquity, Why Catastrophes Happen, Mark Buchamane wrote about an experiment with sand that three physicists named Per Bak, Chao Tang, and Kurt Wiesenfeld conducted in 1987.

In their lab at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, they started building sandpiles, piling up one grain of sand at a time. It’s a slow process, so they wrote a computer program to do it. Not as much fun but a whole lot faster.

During this experiment, they learned some interesting things that can help us understand how all sorts of calamities, including market crashes, unfold.

Critical State

What is the typical size of an avalanche? After a huge number of tests with millions of grains of sand, they found out there is no typical number:

Some involved a single grain; others, ten, a hundred, or a thousand. Still others were pile-wide cataclysms involving millions that brought nearly the whole mountain down. At any time, literally anything, it seemed, might be just about to occur.

The pile was completely chaotic in its unpredictability.

Now, let’s read this next paragraph. It is important, as it creates a mental image that helps us understand the organization of the financial markets and the world economy. (emphasis mine)

To find out why [such unpredictability] should show up in their sandpile game, Bak and colleagues next played a trick with their computer. Imagine peering down on the pile from above and coloring it in according to its steepness. Where it is relatively flat and stable, color it green; where steep and, in avalanche terms, “ready to go,” color it red. What do you see? They found that at the outset, the pile looked mostly green, but that, as the pile grew, the green became infiltrated with ever more red. With more grains, the scattering of red danger spots grew until a dense skeleton of instability ran through the pile. Here then was a clue to its peculiar behavior: a grain falling on a red spot can, by domino-like action, cause sliding at other nearby red spots. If the red network was sparse, and all trouble spots were well isolated one from the other, then a single grain could have only limited repercussions. But when the red spots come to riddle the pile, the consequences of the next grain become fiendishly unpredictable. It might trigger only a few tumblings, or it might instead set off a cataclysmic chain reaction involving millions. The sandpile seemed to have configured itself into a hypersensitive and peculiarly unstable condition in which the next falling grain could trigger a response of any size whatsoever.

Scientists refer to this as a critical state. The term critical state can mean the point at which water would go to ice or steam, or the moment that critical mass induces a nuclear reaction, etc.

But to physicists, [the critical state] has always been seen as a kind of theoretical freak and sideshow, a devilishly unstable and unusual condition that arises only under the most exceptional circumstances [in highly controlled experiments].... In the sandpile game, however, a critical state seemed to arise naturally through the mindless sprinkling of grains.

So, they asked themselves, could this phenomenon show up elsewhere? In the earth’s crust, triggering earthquakes… in wholesale changes in an ecosystem… or in a stock market crash?

Fingers of Instability

The scientists found that the size and timing of an avalanche depend on what they refer to as “fingers of instability”:

[A]fter the pile evolves into a critical state, many grains rest just on the verge of tumbling, and these grains link up into “fingers of instability” of all possible lengths. While many are short, others slice through the pile from one end to the other. So, the chain reaction triggered by a single grain might lead to an avalanche of any size whatsoever, depending on whether that grain fell on a short, intermediate, or long finger of instability.

Now we come to a critical point in our discussion. Read this next excerpt with the markets in mind (again, emphasis mine, and this is critical to our understanding of markets and change. Maybe you should read it two or three times.):

In this simplified setting of the sandpile, the power law also points to something else: the surprising conclusion that even the greatest of events have no special or exceptional causes. After all, every avalanche large or small starts out the same way, when a single grain falls and makes the pile just slightly too steep at one point. What makes one avalanche much larger than another has nothing to do with its original cause, and nothing to do with some special situation in the pile just before it starts. Rather, it has to do with the perpetually unstable organization of the critical state, which makes it always possible for the next grain to trigger an avalanche of any size.

Growing Sandpile

Now, let’s couple this idea with a few other concepts.

First, economist Dr. Hyman Minsky points out that stability leads to instability. The more comfortable we get with a given condition or trend, the longer it will persist. And then when the trend fails, the more dramatic the correction.

Long-term stability produces unstable financial arrangements. If we believe that tomorrow will be the same as last week, we are more willing to add debt or postpone savings in favor of current consumption.

Thus, says Minsky, the longer the period of stability, the higher the potential risk for even greater instability when market participants must change their behavior.

Relating this to our sandpile, the longer a critical state builds up in an economy, the greater the potential for a serious “avalanche.”

As I wrote in my “Train Wreck” series, (recap here). We are adding sand to not just one inevitably collapsing sandpile, but dozens and maybe hundreds of them. They will not keep growing forever.

I explained in Part 1 of that series, “Credit-Driven Train Wreck,” how a liquidity crisis will probably set off the chain of events that end in the Great Reset.

Which particular sandpile will fall first? It could be many, but I think high-yield corporate debt is the most likely. Millions of investors think they can collect those juicy yields and then be able to sell when trouble appears.

I think the mother of all Minsky moments is building. It will not be an instant sandpile collapse, but instead take years because we have $500 trillion of debt to work through.

Remember, that debt just can’t be pooped away. It is both money somebody owes and an asset on somebody else’s balance sheet. We can’t just take that away without huge consequences to culture and society.

But the fingers of instability, the total credit system, are seemingly growing with more red sand dots every month. All are inextricably linked. One day, another Thailand or Russia or something else (it makes no difference which) will start the cascade.


"Panic And Dismay": Leaked Video Reveals Distraught Google Execs Grappling With Hillary Clinton's Loss


Days after Google was exposed trying to help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 election, a leaked "internal only" video published by Breitbart Senior Tech correspondent Allum Bokhari reveals a panel of Google executives who are absolutely beside themselves following Hillary Clinton's historic loss. 

The video is a full recording of Google’s first all-hands meeting following the 2016 election (these weekly meetings are known inside the company as “TGIF” or “Thank God It’s Friday” meetings). Sent to Breitbart News by an anonymous source, it features co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, VPs Kent Walker and Eileen Naughton, CFO Ruth Porat, and CEO Sundar Pichai. -Breitbart

In the video, Brin can be heard comparing Trump supporters to fascists and extremists - arguing that like other extremists, Trump voters suffered from "boredom" which has, he claims, historically led to fascism and communism.

He then asks his company what they can do to ensure a "better quality of governance and decision-making." 

And according to Kent Walker, VP for Global Affairs, those who support populist causes like the MAGA movement are motivated by "fear, xenophobia, hatred and a desire for answers that may or may not be there." 

He later says that Google needs to fight to ensure that populist movements around the world are merely a "blip" and a "hiccup" in the arc of history that "bends towards progress." 

The video can be seen below, however scroll down for a list of timestamped segments to note, courtesy of Breitbart

  • (00:00:00 – 00:01:12) Google co-founder Sergey Brin states that the weekly meeting is “probably not the most joyous we’ve had” and that “most people here are pretty upset and pretty sad.”
  • (00:00:24) Brin contrasts the disappointment of Trump’s election with his excitement at the legalization of cannabis in California, triggering laughs and applause from the audience of Google employees.
  • (00:01:12) Returning to seriousness, Brin says he is “deeply offen[ded]” by the election of Trump, and that the election “conflicts with many of [Google’s] values.”
  • (00:09:10) Trying to explain the motivations of Trump supporters, Senior VP for Global Affairs, Kent Walker concludes: “fear, not just in the United States, but around the world is fueling concerns, xenophobia, hatred, and a desire for answers that may or may not be there.”
  • (00:09:35) Walker goes on to describe the Trump phenomenon as a sign of “tribalism that’s self-destructive [in] the long-term.”
  • (00:09:55) Striking an optimistic tone, Walker assures Google employees that despite the election, “history is on our side” and that the “moral arc of history bends towards progress.”
  • (00:10:45) Walker approvingly quotes former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s comparison between “the world of the wall” with its “isolation and defensiveness” and the “world of the square, the piazza, the marketplace, where people come together into a community and enrich each other’s lives.”
  • (00:13:10) CFO Ruth Porat appears to break down in tears when discussing the election result.
  • (00:15:20) Porat promises that Google will “use the great strength and resources and reach we have to continue to advance really important values.”
  • (00:16:50) Stating “we all need a hug,” she then instructs the audience of Google employees to hug the person closest to them.
  • (00:20:24) Eileen Noughton, VP of People Operations, promises that Google’s policy team in DC is “all over” the immigration issue and that the company will “keep a close watch on it.”
  • (00:21:26) Noughton jokes about Google employees asking, ‘Can I move to Canada?’ after the election. She goes on to seriously discuss the options available to Google employees who wish to leave the country.
  • (00:23:12) Noughton does acknowledge “diversity of opinion and political persuasion” and notes that she has heard from conservative Google employees who say they “haven’t felt entirely comfortable revealing who [they] are.” and urged “tolerance.” (Several months later, the company would fire James Damore allegedly for disagreeing with progressive narratives.)
  • (00:27:00) Responding to a question about “filter bubbles,” Sundar Pichai promises to work towards “correcting” Google’s role in them
  • (00:27:30) Sergey Brin praises an audience member’s suggestion of increasing matched Google employee donations to progressive groups.
  • (00:34:40) Brin compares Trump voters to “extremists,” arguing for a correlation between the economic background of Trump supporters and the kinds of voters who back extremist movements. Brin says that “voting is not a rational act” and that not all of Trump’s support can be attributed to “income disparity.” He suggests that Trump voters might have been motivated by boredom rather than legitimate concerns.
  • (00:49:10) An employee asks if Google is willing to “invest in grassroots, hyper-local efforts to bring tools and services and understanding of Google products and knowledge” so that people can “make informed decisions that are best for themselves.” Pichai’s response: Google will ensure its “educational products” reach “segments of the population [they] are not [currently] fully reaching.”
  • (00:54:33) An employee asks what Google is going to do about “misinformation” and “fake news” shared by “low-information voters.” Pichai responds by stating that “investments in machine learning and AI” are a “big opportunity” to fix the problem.
  • (00:56:12) Responding to an audience member, Walker says Google must ensure the rise of populism doesn’t turn into “a world war or something catastrophic … and instead is a blip, a hiccup.”
  • (00:58:22) Brin compares Trump voters to supporters of fascism and communism, linking the former movement to “boredom,” which Brin previously linked to Trump voters. “It sort of sneaks up sometimes, really bad things” says Brin.
  • (01:01:15) A Google employee states: “speaking to white men, there’s an opportunity for you right now to understand your privilege” and urges employees to “go through the bias-busting training, read about privilege, read about the real history of oppression in our country.” He urges employees to “discuss the issues you are passionate about during Thanksgiving dinner and don’t back down and laugh it off when you hear the voice of oppression speak through metaphors.” Every executive on stage – the CEO, CFO, two VPs and the two Co-founders – applaud the employee.
  • (01:01:57) An audience member asks if the executives see “anything positive from this election result.” The audience of Google employees, and the executives on stage, burst into laughter. “Boy, that’s a really tough one right now” says Brin.

oddly creepy especially when the CFO begins to sob for Hillary. But the underlying message makes it obvious that Google does not share any traditional American values but is all-in for "Globalism" and one world government. These are "Google values." A shame really.

— John C. Dvorak (@THErealDVORAK) September 12, 2018


ThinkProgress Censored By Facebook After Cheerleading Facebook Censorship


Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via,

In an article last month titled “Facebook announces that fake accounts are now coming not just from Russia”, fauxgressive establishment apologia firm ThinkProgress falsely reported that I have been writing for an outlet that is alleged to be part of an Iranian propaganda campaign. I repeatedly broughtthis false claim to the attention of Casey Michael, the article’s author, telling him that ten seconds of research or any attempt to contact me would have shown him that the articles published by the outlet in question were just reblogs of earlier publications from my platform, but Michael ignored the many notifications he received from myself and my Twitter followers and went on merrily interacting with other posters. As of this writing, the article remains uncorrected.

In the article, Michael documented Facebook’s heroic efforts to shut down alleged Iranian propaganda outlets, ominously warning his readers that “Russia is by no means the only foreign adversary exploiting social media’s inherent openness.” In other articles for ThinkProgress, Michael is repeatedlyseen wagging his finger at Facebook and Twitter for not doing more to censor “Russian propaganda”, and in a July article titled “Facebook says both sides share fake news, defends Infowars’ presence on its platform  -  Mark Zuckerberg has an interesting way of prioritizing ‘high quality news’” another ThinkProgress author criticized Facebook for not censoring Alex Jones. Jones was censored by Facebook the following month.

So I think it’s understandable that those of us who have been warning of the dangers of internet censorship find it a bit funny to see ThinkProgress now complaining that it has been censored by Facebook.

Congratulations to everyone who 1) held up Bill Kristol and the Weekly Standard as a responsible, serious, admirable voice; and 2) urged Facebook to become the arbiters of who could & couldn't be heard on the internet. This is just the start of your work:

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 11, 2018

ThinkProgress reports that its traffic from Facebook has been slashed by eighty percent due to a “fact check” by the Weekly Standard which, through a series of moronic mental contortions, found ThinkProgress guilty of reporting fake news about Brett Kavanaugh of all things. In a twist of irony which would be delicious if it weren’t so disgusting, the Weekly Standard is one of Facebook’s authorized “fact checkers”, and happens to be the brainchild of none other than bloodthirsty psychopath and rehabilitated #Resistance hero Bill Kristol.

ThinkProgress is part of a very large and diverse branch of progressive punditry whose ultimate job is to help centrist empire loyalists feel like leftist revolutionaries, and since 2016 one of the many appalling consequences of this bizarre environment has been the embracing of Iraq-raping neoconservatives like Kristol and Max Boot by Democratic Party loyalists. In a bid to stay relevant despite having been consistently wrong about literally everything in foreign policy for the last two decades, these murderous ghouls have repackaged themselves as a woke, cuddly alternative to the Trumpian faction of the Republican Party, and have been rewarded for their efforts with regular platforms on MSNBC and the Washington Post.

So with ThinkProgress getting censored by Facebook, you really couldn’t ask for a more clear-cut case of reaping what you sow. Nevertheless, it is wrong for anyone to be deprived of political speech, even if much of their political speech consists of attempts to silence the political speech of others.

And if there is anything more gross than political speech being regulated by Silicon Valley plutocrats and a NATO psyop factory, it’s political speech being regulated by Silicon Valley plutocrats, a NATO psyop factory, and Bill Kristol. ThinkProgress should not have its audience restricted.

It’s pretty simple: Facebook has a conservative media outlet serving as a fact checker of progressive content.

Alex Jones wasn’t the hill to die on. This is.

— Benjamin Dixon🌹 (@BenjaminPDixon) September 11, 2018

All the “let me help you cheer for the establishment while pretending to oppose it” pundits who celebrated Alex Jones’ coordinated de-platforming last month are falling all over themselves to spin this new development in a way that allows them to feel as though they aren’t being proven wrong day after day after day, but of course they are. Facilitating the censorship of anyone’s speech is facilitating the censorship of your own speech in the long run, and we’re not even having to wait long to see it this time around. In a corporatist system of government, corporate censorship is state censorship; the massive new media corporations being implored to regulate which political speech gets an audience and which doesn’t have extensive ties to secretive government agencies and a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

I do not expect ThinkProgress to remain on Facebook’s restricted list for long; the real targets of internet censorship are not partisan outlets which prop up establishment politics and help legitimize America’s two-headed one party system. But that isn’t the point. The point is that Silicon Valley plutocrats, the NATO propaganda firm Atlantic Council, and the Weekly Standard should not be determining who gets an audience in the new media environment and who doesn’t. Nothing that has anything to do with Bill Kristol should ever have any power over anyone. If our choices are between letting people think for themselves and letting the guy who’s always wrong about everything determine what shows up in people’s news feed, the choice is obviously the one which doesn’t involve placing faith in the man who helped deceive America into butchering a million Iraqis.

*  *  *

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Employment Report Has Become Orwellian In The Extreme


Via Investment Research Dynamics,

“Today’s job numbers might be the biggest disaster I’ve ever seen reported. This Fall could get real ugly real fast. The deterioration of the participation rate is so big it makes me suspicious of earlier numbers.” – John Titus, producer of Best Evidencevideos.

Titus goes on to say, “”The Household Survey” is showing a net loss of 1.47 million jobs year-over-year and a Labor Force reduction north of 2 million [YoY].

CNBC headline:

‘Economy adds more jobs than expected.'

The employment report is unquestionably the most manipulated economic report issued by the Government. The content of the the headline on which the mainstream media bases its  broadcast and analysis of the report is entirely disconnected from the actual data contained in the report. The damning data that no one in the financial media or Wall Street seems to be able to find is at the top of the BLS’ report:

As you can see, the “civilian labor force”declined by 469,000 people in August from July. The number of “employed” dropped 423,000. The “not in labor force” increased by nearly 700,000.

With these facts in mind (“facts” at least as far as the BLS numbers contain any shards of credibility),  how can the Government claim that 201,000 “jobs were created” in August? How can CNBC say the “economy created more jobs than expected?”  Based on the numbers in the details of the BLS report, it looks like, between the decline in the number of people employed and the decline in those not counted as part of the labor force, the economy shed over 1 million jobs.

Titus remarked to me that, in terms of manipulating the data to make the headline report look positive, this is the worst report he’s ever scrutinized:

“In terms of people leaving the labor force, it sure looks like earlier data was was manipulated to hell and back and the BLS just couldn’t hide it any longer. The deltas are f***ing crazy.”

By the way, has anyone besides me noticed that the BLS calls this report the, “Employment Situation Report?”  What does that even mean?


Americans Need Constitutionally-Compliant Social Media


Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.

– Potter Stewart, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

This past Friday, Alex Jones was de-platformed from the last couple of third party tools he had been using to publicly communicate his message after Twitter and Apple permanently banned him and his website Infowars. This means an American citizen with a very large audience who played a meaningful role in the 2016 election, has been banned from all of the most widely used products of communication of our age: Twitter, Facebook, Google’s YouTube and Apple’s iTunes.

You can point out he still has his radio show and website, and this is unquestionably true, but when it comes to the everyday tools most people interact with to receive information and communicate in 2018, Alex Jones has been thrown down the memory hole. Not because he was convicted of a crime or broke any laws, but because corporate executives decided he crossed an arbitrary line of their own creation.

To prove the point that tech oligarchs are acting in a completely arbitrary and subjective manner, let me highlight the following tweet.

As I wrote last month:
"They're not terrified about what Alex Jones says, they’re terrified that it’s popular."

— Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) September 6, 2018

It’s not against the law to be crazy or say crazy things in this country. It’s also not against the law to say hateful things. It’s pretty obvious the main reason Alex Jones was deleted from public discourse by Silicon Valley executives relates to his impact and popularity. As highlighted in the tweet above, unabashed bigots like David Duke and Louis Farrakhan continue to have active presences across social media, and rightly so. The difference is neither David Duke nor Louis Farrakhan played a major role in the election of Donald Trump, whereas Alex Jones did. Jones and Infowars were having an outsized impact on the U.S. political discourse in a manner tech giant executives found threatening and offensive, so they collectively found excuses to silence him.

When the outrage mob consisting of politicians, corporate media outlets like CNN, and even his own employees, complained to Twitter’s Jack Dorsey on the issue of Alex Jones, he couldn’t hold the line on free speech because his company’s own policies are junk. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube should have a clear policy when it comes to speech, and it should be this:  If it isn’t breaking the law - in other words, if it’s protected speech under the First Amendment - it stays up. Period. When you have corporate rules against “hate speech,” you’re relying on a concept that doesn’t really have any sort of legal standing when it comes to free speech in this country. There is no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution.

As such, when Twitter, Facebook or Google executives throw someone off their platforms for hateful speech, this isn’t because someone broke the law, but because the individuals in charge of these platforms decided such speech wasn’t something they wanted on their products. If these products are the primary ones used for communication in this country, then we lose our speech rights in practice, even though they remain protected under the law.

Americans like to talk a big game about how proud they are of their country and how exceptional it is, but what in fact are we so proud of? Is it GDP growth, a booming stock market, or is it something else? For me, it’s the Bill of Rights. The civil liberties enshrined in the U.S. Constitution are non-negotiable as far as I’m concerned, but we as a people have been dangerously complacent as these rights have been systematically eroded since the post 9/11 power grab. Despite all the anti-freedom trends that have transpired in 21st century America, free speech rights remain quite expansive and very much in place. In theory that is.

I say in theory because in practice we’re learning how easily speech can be marginalized to the point of becoming erased from public discourse. We’ve allowed the digital public square to be dominated by corporations focused on profit maximization and whose policies quite explicitly do not reflect the law of the land and values that we supposedly hold dear.

If you’re like me and you think the civil liberties enshrined in the U.S. Constitution are fundamental to who we are as a people, it must necessarily be unacceptable that a handful of private technology corporations that do not adhere to these principles have dominated the rails of public communication to the point a handful of executives get to decide what acceptable speech is.

This has ushered in suppression of free speech by other means, and reminds me of a 1975 quote by Henry Kissinger:

Kissinger: Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, “The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.” [laughter] But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that. 

As such, we now find ourselves in a situation where we as Americans continue to have expansive free speech rights under the law, but face subjectively minimized free speech rights in practice. So what are we supposed to do about it?

First, we need to recognize and accept that this problem exists, and then admit that it will only get worse the longer we rely on these tech giants to provide the rails of public communication.

Second, we need to understand that creating digital public squares that adhere to constitutional principles is not a luxury, but a necessity at this point if we want to actually flex our civil liberties in the digital world.

Third, we need to think about why the tech giants are so vulnerable to pressure when push comes to shove on free speech. It’s this last point I want to discuss further.

If we’re going to create and embrace communications platforms for both video and text dedicated to protecting the civil liberties defined by the constitution, I don’t think they can be structured as for-profit corporate entities focused on making shareholders happy. Facebook, Twitter and Google rely on advertisers for their revenue, so if big business starts to get uncomfortable with certain types of speech they can effectively pressure these entities to censor. Likewise, if these companies become concerned that “hate speech” could affect expansion into lucrative overseas markets that have laws against such behavior, they will typically make the best business decision as opposed to the best civil liberties decision. As such, in order to create successful, anti-fragile communications platforms guided by constitutional civil liberties, such platforms must be driven by principle instead of profit. Profit focused entities are far more likely to quickly fold under pressure.

The other fundamental problem with our current suite of social media companies is their use of proprietary algorithms. Hidden code can conceal all sorts of practices you wouldn’t want at work in a genuine free speech focused platform. Corporations can use such algos to suppress content from certain people, while promoting that of others. When code is secret, users can only guess what’s going on behind the scenes, while the companies can just brush off concerns as conspiracy theory and claim the code must stay hidden for proprietary business purposes. Speech and human communication is too important to leave in the hands of profit-focused tech oligarchs. Code must be open source.

Let me wrap up by sharing an interesting video on the dangers of our growing acceptance of censorship, by Canadian organic farmer Curtis Stone. While the points he brings up aren’t anything we haven’t discussed before, I find it meaningful when people not hyper-focused on politics begin to get seriously concerned about the existential dangers of allowing tech oligarchs to control the public square of human communication.

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Google colluded with Clinton campaign with 'silent donations' - Personal Liberty®

Monday, September 10, 2018

Nearly Half Of All Teens Wish They Could Travel Back In Time To An Era Before Social Media


It should come as no surprise to anybody who hasn't been living under a rock for the past decade that teenagers' lives now revolve around social media and texting. Instead of interacting face-to-face, most teenagers now conduct most of their socializing using smartphone screens as their intermediaries.


And while studies have shown that the advent of social media has been, overall, detrimental to the mental health of young people, a study conducted by a nonprofit called Common Sense Media has revealed some interesting new details about the social lives of the modern-day American teenager. While their parents have probably long been aware of the myriad ills of their childrens' digital lives, teenagers are also beginning to realize that all of this time spent on Instagram simply isn't healthy. To wit, the study found that today's teens overwhelmingly believe that social media interferes with homework, personal relationships and sleep.

Here's Axios with more:

Today's teens prefer texting over in-person communication, use social media multiple times a day, and admit that digital distractions interfere with homework, personal relationships and sleep, according to a new survey of 13- to 17-year-olds.

Why it matters: Concerns over the negative impact of social media use have increased recently with reports of teen depression, suicide and cyberbullying on the rise. The study by Common Sense Media, a non-profit group focused on tech and media's impact on kids, shows teens have a complicated relationship with technology.

In what was perhaps the study's most surprising finding, roughly 40% of the teens surveyed said they wish they could go back in time to an era before social media.

The impact: Interestingly, despite the increased use of social media, teens are more likely to say that social media has a positive effect on them. For instance, 25% say using social media makes them feel less lonely, compared to 3% who say it makes them feel more lonely.

Yes, but: Still, more than two-thirds of teens agree with the statement, "social media has a negative impact on many people my age."

And 40% agree with the statement, "I sometimes wish I could go back to a time when there was no such thing as social media."

Here's a roundup of some of the study's other key findings, courtesy of Axios:

  • 81% of teens use social media, with 70% saying they use it multiple times a day, up from 34% in 2012. And 89% have their own smartphone, more than doubling since 2012.
  • 72% of teens believe that tech companies manipulate users to spend more time on devices.
  • The proportion of teens who prefer in-person interaction has plummeted from 49% in 2012 to 32% in 2018. Texting is now the favorite mode of communication.
  • 13% of teens say they've been cyber-bullied.
  • 33% of teens say they wish their parents would spend less time on their devices, up from 21% in 2012.
  • In 2012, 68% said their go-to social site was Facebook. That number fell to 15% in 2018, with Snapchat and Instagram the new favorites.

The study also revealed an interesting conundrum: 54% of teens say they agree that social media distracts them during social interactions, and 44% say they get frustrated when their friends whip out their phones while they're hanging out. However, 55% say they rarely put their phones away when hanging out.

The 1990s really were a kinder, simpler time.