Saturday, December 22, 2018

IceCap Asset Management: An Entire Generation Of Investment Professionals Has No Idea What's Coming

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Submitted by Keith Decker of IceCap Asset Management

Asymmetrical Risk-Return Relationships

Want to know why the house always wins in Vegas? It’s because the odds, or probable outcomes are always in favour of the house, or put another way – the gambler always has the deck stacked against him. This concept is called the asymmetrical risk-return relationship, and it also exists in the investment world.

The average investor is told that stocks always go up over the long-run.

Although the long-run is rarely defined, and it’s never the same for every person or every market; this expression is effectively trying to describe an asymmetrical risk return relationship. This relationship is one where the expected positive returns from the stock market significantly exceed the expected negative returns from the stock market.

The same is also true for the bond market.

When bonds are paying you interest payments of 3% a year – you expect to receive at least 3% as your return, and never anything less than that – after all, it’s a BOND and bonds are safe.

And THIS is the key concept that the majority are missing, fail to understand, or are simply not allowed to discuss.

What we mean by this is that in the bond world, virtually every investor has been told that bonds are always safe, you’ll always get your money back, and they are meant for conservative investors, and investors who want to keep a little somethin’-somethin’ for a rainy day.

Of course – IceCap is telling you, this is wishful thinking. 2018 is not the same as 2008, 1999, 1989 or even 1982 for that matter.

The financial world we live in today is COMPLETELY different than any other moment in time ever experienced by anyone in the investment world.

For two reasons.

First over the last 38 years, long-term interest rates have steadily declined from nearly 20% all the way to 0%. This is important, because as long-term interest rates decline steadily – bond market returns increase steadily. This trend has reversed, and so too will the investment experience for everyone investing in the global bond market.

Second, the debt super cycle borrowing binge was all enabled by unchallenged, free wheeling governments fueled by low interest rates on borrowed money.

Yet these two, very easy to see and very easy to understand facts are completely missing from the investment industry, the investment media and most disappointing of all – the universities and colleges who are churning out CFA seeking millennials by the boat load. Recently, we’ve had several conversations with larger pension funds who all recounted how increasingly their bond fund managers have turned into 30 year olds. While there’s nothing wrong with a little youth movement every now and then – there is something wrong when these young guns are charging through fixed income presentations extorting their 10 years industry experience and pounding the table on the incredible opportunities they expect to occur in the land of bonds.

To be clear – there’s now an entire generation of investment professionals around the world who’s entire career (both professional and academic) has occurred during a period dominated by:

  • 0% interest rates
  • negative% interest rates
  • QE and money printing
  • bank bailouts
  • and sovereign debt bailouts

Why is this important?

This is important because the industry as a group creates, forms and distributes risk-return expectations for every dollar in the investment universe.

When markets are charging dead ahead into an all-certain event, the investing public looks for leaders. It looks for dynamic wisdom. It looks for 5-dimensional thinking. Instead, the industry is increasingly being lead by fearless leaders who’ve earned exactly zero stripes, no investment scars, and who are not compensated to see the investment world for what it is – a complex, interconnected relationship between and amongst multiple factors which always move in sync (positive and negative correlations) during significant turning points.

While everyone today is closely watching equity markets – and justifiably so from a daily movement perspective, the majority do not realize the market magician is using the oldest trick in the book – distraction with the slight of hand. In the world of magic – there really isn’t any magic. Instead, the slight of hand, moves just enough to distract the audience from what is really happening.

And yes, corrections in equity markets are very unsettling and as described earlier, IceCap certainly does takes them seriously. Yet, unlike the majority, we have not taken our eye off the ball, nor have we become distracted by the emotional market churning noise. And we most certainly, have not been lulled into a sleeping comfort by the new generation of bond managers.

Instead, we share with you the market trick at hand – the asymmetrical risk-return relationship currently offered to every investor in the world.

Our diagram on this page illustrates the return expectations for the bond market.

The “A” column is representative of current global fixed income markets.

The upside to investing in low-risk bond strategies is approximately 3%. Yet, as IceCap’s expectation for a crisis in sovereign debt escalates, the expected losses will be 20% or more. We tell you with certainty – these are the kind of odds you normally would only find in Vegas. In bond markets today, the sellers of bonds are pulling the wool over the eyes of the buyers of bonds.

And we’re sorry to tell you, everyone today including mutual fund investors, target date funds, life cycle funds, and especially pension funds are set-up for long-term losses in their fixed income strategies. We’ll next show you why this fixed income market environment cannot be avoided. It will happen. That’s the bad news.

Read the full presentation below



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Friday, December 21, 2018

This Was The Worst Week For The Stock Market Since The Financial Crisis Of 2008

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Just when you thought that things couldn’t get any worse, they did.  During normal times, a Friday before Christmas is an extremely boring trading session, but these are not normal times.  On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down another 414 points, and that brought the total drop for the week to 1,655 points.  The marketplace has been completely gripped by panic, and CNN’s Fear & Greed index has just registered the highest “fear rating” that we have ever seen.  I keep saying that we have not witnessed anything like this since the last financial crisis, and the numbers clearly back that assessment up.  In fact, this was the largest weekly percentage drop for the Dow since October 2008

The Dow just suffered its deepest weekly plunge since 2008 and the Nasdaq is officially in a bear market.

The miserable performance reflects deepening fears on Wall Street of an economic slowdown and overly-aggressive Federal Reserve.

Apprehension about a looming government shutdown and anxiety over higher interest rates were two of the major factors that pushed stocks down on Friday.

Normally trading volume is very, very light in the days leading up to Christmas, so what we just witnessed was extremely unusual.  Trading volume on Friday was “really heavy” with “more than 12 billion shares” changing hands…

In a bad sign on Friday, volume was really heavy. More than 12 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges on Friday, the biggest volume in at least two years.

When I have warned about a “rush for the exits” in the past, this is the kind of thing that I am talking about.

Many investors were panic-selling on Friday because they wanted to be out of the market before things closed down for the holidays, and stock prices just kept getting hammered lower and lower.

For the week, the carnage was absolutely colossal.  The following is how CNBC summarized what happened…

  • The Dow lost 6.8 percent and 1,655 points on the week. It was its worst percentage drop since October 2008.
  • The Nasdaq lost 8.3 percent on the week and is now 22 percent below its record reached in August, a bear market.
  • The S&P 500 lost 7 percent for the week and is now down 17.8 percent from its record.
  • The Dow and S&P 500, which are both in corrections, are on track for their worst December performance since the Great Depression in 1931, down more than 12 percent each this month.
  • Both the Dow and the S&P 500 are now in the red for 2018 by at least 9 percent.

It should also be noted that the number of stocks hitting 52-week lows right now is at historically high levels.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

Since 1984, there were only eight days when a bigger proportion of shares did so, according to Sundial Capital Research. Two of them were in 1987 — during the famous Black Monday crash, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 23 percent in one day, and then again during the following session. The rest were in the aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in October and November 2008.

And it isn’t just stocks that are getting hammered.  In fact, at this point 93 percent of all asset classes are down for the year.

As so many have already said, 2018 is a year when literally nothing is working.

A similar thing is happening over in Europe, where stocks are on pace for their worst year since 2008.  We are watching a truly global meltdown take place, and trillions upon trillions of dollars of paper wealth is being washed away.

Of course not everybody has lost money.  Those that sold before this stock market crash started made out like bandits, and it is very interesting to note that over the past couple of months “the smart money” has been getting out of stocks at a pace that we have never seen before.

So what happens next?

For now, there will be a pause.  The stock market will be closed for the weekend, then it will open for half a day on Monday, and then it will be closed for Christmas on Tuesday.

Hopefully this “cooling off period” will help things to be much calmer by the time the markets open on Wednesday.

But even if things do calm down during the holidays, the truth is that this crisis is far from over.

The largest financial bubble in U.S. history is starting to burst, and a great deal of pain is ahead.

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally-syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including Get Prepared Now, The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.  His articles are originally published on The Economic Collapse Blog, End Of The American Dream and The Most Important News.  From there, his articles are republished on dozens of other prominent websites.  If you would like to republish his articles, please feel free to do so.  The more people that see this information the better, and we need to wake more people up while there is still time.

The post This Was The Worst Week For The Stock Market Since The Financial Crisis Of 2008 appeared first on The Economic Collapse.



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Appeals court rules colleges must censor and block online services if they offend someone

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The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has resurrected a lawsuit against the University of Mary Washington for not meddling enough in its students’ lives... Title IX may sometimes require colleges to censor or block all students’ access to certain internet sites or services based solely on anonymous statements made in an online forum that the university does not control, by people who may not be on campus, or even affiliated with the university at all.



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Facebook Has Officially Lost The Public's Trust

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Out of the major tech companies, people trust Facebook the least with their personal information. Amazon and Twitter come in a distant second and third, with 8 percent of people saying they trust these companies the least with their personal information.

As Statista's Sarah Feldman shows below, five times more people place Facebook as the least trustworthy company to handle their personal information when compared to Amazon and Twitter.

Infographic: Facebook Loses the Public's Trust | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

Reports recently revealed that Facebook had hired a communications firm to do opposition research against George Soros to traffic anti-Semitic attacks against the progressive philanthropist after he made disparaging remarks against the company, and just this week, Facebook was accused of providing private user data to some of America's, China's, and Russia's largest technology firms.



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Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Psychological Warfare Behind Economic Collapse

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Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.com,

The concept of using the economy as a weapon is not an alien one to most people. Generally, we understand the nature of feudalism and how various groups can be herded onto centralized plantations to be exploited for their labor. Some people see this as a consequence of “capitalism,” and others see it as an extension of socialism/communism. Sadly, many people wrongly assume that one is a solution to the other - meaning they think that crony capitalism is a solution to communist centralization or that communism is a solution to the corruption of crony capitalism. The reality is that this is just another false paradigm.

What is most disturbing is that the majority of the public have no grasp whatsoever of the true solution to the problem of corrupt or totalitarian economies: free markets.

Free markets have not existed within the global economy on a large scale for at least the past 100 years. The rise of central banking has eroded all vestiges of freedom in production and trade. Crony capitalism with its focus on corporate power and monopoly has nothing to do with free markets, despite the arguments of rather naive socialists who blame “free markets” for the problems of the world. If you ever hear anyone making this claim, I suggest you remind them that corporations and their advantages are a creation of governments.

The protections of corporate personhood, limited liability, unfair taxation of small business competition and legislation shielding corporations from civil lawsuits are all generated by government. Therefore, corporations and crony capitalism are much more a product of socialist-style systems, not free markets. In a true free market devoid of constant government interference and favoritism, corporations could not exist and would be obliterated over time by the competitive environment. And without limited liability, business moguls that violate the rule of law and harm others would be subject to personal prosecution and jail time instead of simply paying a fine. The cost/benefit ratio for corrupt business would disappear and thus corrupt businesses would flounder.

At the very core of the combination of corporate power and government protection (what some might say is the classical definition of fascism), rest the central banks, globalist institutions and the banking elites behind them. Central banks are the stewards of the various plantations (nations) and oversee the exploitation of these societies and their labor. Major globalist constructs like the IMF or the Bank for International Settlements are the policy makers for the national central banks. They hand down the strategy, and the central banks implement that strategy in concert. At the top of the pyramid sit the round table groups and the international bankers themselves, reaping the rewards of the cycle of theft.

As noted scholar, globalist insider and mentor to Bill Clinton, Carroll Quigley wrote in his book Tragedy And Hope:

“The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank … sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world.”

This is an easy notion to understand, I think. That is to say, the idea of oligarchs, the 1% if you will, controlling the other 99 percent through economic leverage is something that most people can agree exists, whether they identify with the political Right or the political Left. They may only have a vague notion of the facts behind this conspiracy, but they have seen it in action in their daily lives and they know it is real. Here is where most of them start to lose sight of the bigger picture, though…

Many see the conspiracy as merely a product of profit motive. That is to say, they don’t see it as a conscious and organized effort so much as unconsciously motivated greed. This reminds me of the most famous line from the movie The Usual Suspects:

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist.”

All the evidence overwhelmingly assures us that the conspiracy is fully conscious, organized and deliberate. It is not an ugly or random byproduct of “profit motive.” This is absurd when you consider the amount of coordination that is required or the number of think tanks and secretive conferences that occur yearly, from the Council on Foreign Relations, to Tavistock, to the Trilateral Commission, to the Brookings Institute, to Davos, to Bilderberg and to even weirder circles like Bohemian Grove. These are very real centers of power that can have far reaching influence in our daily lives.

To ignore this and reduce it all down to a “natural” extension of greed is to stupidly rest one’s soft spongy head in the jaws of organized evil while pretending you can’t smell the stench of its gingivitis.

The control mechanisms of the globalists are far more complex though than simply exploiting the flow of money or the accumulation of debt. Numerous liberty activists that have accepted the reality of institutionalized control of the economy still refuse to acknowledge another very real control mechanism — the use of economic collapse. I’m not sure why this idea is taken as farfetched by people who are already versed in the facts behind globalism. Their biases just won’t allow them to look at the environment objectively and see the usefulness of collapse as a tactic to gain more leverage and influence.

I believe the key to understanding economics and the world at large is to embrace the truth that almost everything that is done in the world of politics and finance is done to manipulate public psychology toward certain ends.  That is to say, the true battlefield is the human mind; everything else is secondary.

But what ends am I referring to? To be more specific, the masses are constantly being pressured into more dependency, more fear, less self-sufficiency and less awareness of the grand scheme. We are encouraged to box with our own shadows, to produce for the system but not for ourselves, to struggle for minimal gains spent haphazardly on meaningless objectives, to fight with each other for scraps while remaining blind to the enormous parasites attached to our backs, to affiliate with pointless causes led by puppet politicians and controlled opposition, to never build anything ourselves, always waiting for some hero on a white horse to come and save us.

In essence, we are consistently being distracted or admonished from our natural inclination to establish free markets - free markets in thought, in trade, in information, in government, etc.  The globalists are even willing to collapse entire economic systems to prevent this outcome and to keep us trapped in centralization.  This prison is a mental one, for the most part.  At any time, we could walk away from the totalitarian model and build our own free market systems.  Getting to this point psychologically, getting people to take the first steps, is the hard part, however.

Economics as the globalists implement it is not about profit. It is sometimes about milking the population for labor or hard assets, but this is a side benefit. What economics is really about is molding minds; it is about changing the psychology of millions of people. It is about erasing inborn conscience and moral compass. It is about destroying long held societal principles and heritage. And sometimes, it is about erasing history altogether, killing most of a generation, and then writing a new history that is more suitable to the globalist ideal, which is much easier when there are so few people who remember the truth left to argue about it.

Globalists exhibit most, if not all, the traits of narcissistic sociopaths, who sometimes organize into cooperative groups as long as there is a promise of mutual gain and a structure of top down dominance. Narcissistic sociopaths are notorious for using crisis as a means to keep the people around them off balance and serving their interests. Their ultimate goal is rarely profit. Instead, they seek power; power over every aspect of every life of every person around them. A modicum of power is not enough. They want total control, and they will use any means to get it, including engineering threats and disasters to elicit compliance or to paint themselves as a necessary hero or “protector.”

A sociopath is not content to control people through fear or violence alone. They want their victims to love them; to view them as saviors instead of tyrants.

To reiterate, the goal of economic subversion is to break down the human mind and change it into something else; something less human or, at the very least, something less rebellious. One can only control people through debt and false rewards for so long before they start to recoil and revolt. Economic collapse, on the other hand, can change people fundamentally through persistent terror and through tragedy. Through trauma, the globalists hope to make men into monsters or robots.

The current system was never built to last. Our economy is designed to fail, yet few people seem to question why that is? They tell themselves that this is because greed has led the money elite to self-sabotage, but this is a fantasy. It is not just that the system is designed to fail, but that it is designed to fail according to an organized timetable.

The globalist magazine The Economist announced in 1988 the coming of a one-world currency system, one that would be launched in 2018 and that would require the decline of the U.S. economy and the dollar to open the door to the reset. It is no coincidence that we are now witnessing the beginning of a major financial crash in the last quarter of 2018. This crash was engineered starting in 2008 by central banks first through the inflation of a historic bubble encompassing almost all asset classes using stimulus measures and near zero interest rates, and it is being imploded today by the same central banks using tightening measures into economic weakness.

It is also no coincidence that the globalists have announced in 2018 that their intention is to adapt to a digital monetary system using blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. That is to say, the one world currency system predicted in The Economist is already here. They are only waiting for a crisis large enough to pressure society to accept total global centralization as a solution.

Forcing the public to embrace worldwide centralization would require several measures.

First, the current system, which as stated is designed to fail, would have to be allowed to crash.

Second, the crash would have to be blamed on someone other than the globalists and their ideology of globalism.

Third, philosophical opponents of globalism (i.e., conservatives, nationalists and decentralization activists) would have to be demonized or eliminated so that the globalists can build their new world order without opposition.

Fourth, the population would need to be sufficiently traumatized to the point of psychological submission and desperation, so that when the new system is introduced, they will be grateful for it, thus preventing future rebellion by making the public a willing cooperator in their own enslavement.

The success of such a plan is not guaranteed. In fact, I believe the globalists will ultimately fail in their endeavor as I have outlined in past articles. This does not mean though that they aren’t going to try. Liberty activists must accept the fact that the plan of the globalists involves the deliberate destruction of our current economy. Those who refuse will find themselves bewildered by the outcome of future financial developments, instead of being prepared. They will find themselves easily subdued, instead of ready to rebel. And they will wonder after it’s all over why they didn’t see it coming when the end game was so obvious.

*  *  *

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Twitter Locks @WikiLeaks And Multiple WikiLeaks Staff Accounts

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WikiLeaks staff are unable to access or post from the organization’s primary Twitter account or other accounts used by its staff and legal team, according to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson.

“These accounts are locked @wikileaks @assangedefence @wltaskforce @assangelegal and cannot be accessed,” Hrafnsson recently tweeted. “They also seem to have been shadow banned. Should we be worried in these critical times?”

“To clarify, these accounts cannot be accessed and new tweets posted,” Hrafnsson added. “Attempts to get this fixed through normal methods, when tech error have happened, have not worked. No replies to DM´s addressed to people who should be worried that accounts with 6 mill followers are frozen.”

These accounts are locked @wikileaks @assangedefence @wltaskforce @assangelegal and cannot be accessed. They also seem to have been shadow banned. Should we be worried in these critical times?

 — @khrafnsson

The primary WikiLeaks Twitter account has 5.4 million followers and for years has been the primary means by which the organization has made public announcements, going so far as to say it is the only account authorized to make statements on behalf of WikiLeaks. The Assange Defence account, which is run by the legal campaign to free its founder Julian Assange from arbitrary detention and persecution, has 747,000 followers. The WikiLeaks Task Force account, which has been used to correct disinformation and combat corporate media smears about WikiLeaks, has 142,000 followers. The @AssangeLegal account, the account of justice4assange editor Hanna Jonasson, has 12,000 followers. All four of these accounts have per Hrafnsson been locked to prevent the use of those platforms and shadow banned.

Now, Twitter has claimed that it does not engage in shadow banning as a practice, but its denial took the form of redefining shadow banning to mean “deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster,” while acknowledging that in order to find a blacklisted account’s content “you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile,” which is what most people mean when they talk about shadow banning on Twitter. When asked about shadow banning, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey let loose an nonsensical word salad somewhere along the lines of “Well I think the statements behind the statement and the question behind the question is the me behind the me and the you behind the you and it’s a blibba blabba zim zam hey look over there.”

We do not look at content with regards to political viewpoint or ideology," @Jack told me. But he knows some people do not believe him. "I think we need to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit is left, is more left-leaning," he says...

 — @brianstelter

It is worth noting here that Dorsey has an established record of lying to Twitter users about the social media outlet’s censorship practices. In the lead-up to the 2016 election, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was asked point-blank if Twitter was obstructing the #DNCLeaks from trending, a hashtag people were using to build awareness of the DNC emails which had just been published by WikiLeaks, and Dorsey flatly denied it. More than a year later, we learned from a prepared testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism by Twitter’s acting general counsel Sean J. Edgett that this was completely false and Twitter had indeed been doing exactly that to protect the interests of US political structures by sheltering the public from information allegedly gathered by Russian hackers.

And indeed, @wikileaks, @assangedefence, @wltaskforce, and @assangelegal are as of this writing so aggressively shadow banned that an advanced search for tweets by those accounts turns up not one single post by any of them.

Even if Twitter does end up restoring access to all or some of these accounts, the fact that the site would shut them down at all is deeply disturbing. A massive Silicon Valley giant’s willingness to operate as an extension of the national security state to an even limited extent does not say good things about the future of free information access.

So in answer to Hrafnsson’s question “Should we be worried in these critical times?”, I think the answer is yes. Twitter has already actively helped shrink WikiLeaks’ voice and facilitated fake accounts and disinformation by refusing to verify the account of Julian Assange back when he had unrestricted internet access, and it appears to now be censoring the entire organization. At a time when the Trump administration is known to be pursuing Assange’s arrest, at a time when the now-Secretary of State has waged a war on WikiLeaks, at a time when narrative control has become a primary focus of the ruling power establishment as the US and its allies hurtle toward a military confrontation with Russia and/or China, yes, we should be worried. Very worried indeed.

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Democrats Posing As Russians Executed "Elaborate 'False Flag' Operation" Against Roy Moore

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A group of tech experts working as Democratic operatives were paid $100,000 to orchestrate an elaborate "false flag" disinformation campaign during the hotly contested 2017 special election between Roy Moore and Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. 

The group, funded by liberal billionaire Reid Hoffman, created over 1,000 Russian-language Twitter accounts that followed Roy Moore overnight in order to link the embattled Republican candidate to Russian influence campaigns, according to a Wednesday report in the New York Times

Reid Hoffman bankrolled the scheme

Roy Moore just picked up a whole bunch of twitter followers. But they ain't from around here, comrade. pic.twitter.com/vJBPVxqWIW

— The Ostrich (@ALostrich) October 16, 2017

"We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet," reads an internal report on the Alabama effort obtained by the Times, which aimed to experiment "with many of the tactics now understood to have influenced the 2016 elections." 

The project’s operators created a Facebook page on which they posed as conservative Alabamians, using it to try to divide Republicans and even to endorse a write-in candidate to draw votes from Mr. Moore. It involved a scheme to link the Moore campaign to thousands of Russian accounts that suddenly began following the Republican candidate on Twitter, a development that drew national media attention. -New York Times

One of the participants in the scheme, Jonathan Morgan, is the CEO of cybersecurity firm New Knowledge. Morgan wrote a blistering account of Russian social media operations during the 2016 election released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

Another angle to this big @nytimes story... Guess who participated in using a Russian style disinformation campaign to influence the Alabama Senate election AND hoped to frame Russia for it? The CEO of the company that wrote the Senate Intel report on 2016 election meddling. https://t.co/uSu8HYCl15

— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) December 20, 2018
Jonathon Morgan, New Knowledge

Morgan denied knowledge of the Russian ruse in a recent interview, saying it "does not ring a bell," and that the project only sought to "enrage and energize Democrats" and "depress" Republican turnout by emphasizing accusations that Moore had pursued teenage girls when he was a young prosecutor in his 30s. 

"The research project was intended to help us understand how these kind of campaigns operated," said Morgan. "We thought it was useful to work in the context of a real election but design it to have almost no impact."

We're not so sure it had "almost no impact." As the Daily Caller's Peter Hassan notes: 

Media outlets — both in Alabama and nationally — fell for the ploy and amplified the false narrative in October 2017.

...

The Montgomery Advertiser, an Alabama affiliate of USA Today, was the first to run with the story. Brian Lyman, the reporter on that story, did not immediately return The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. National media outlets quickly seized upon Lyman’s story.

“Roy Moore flooded with fake Russian Twitter followers,” read the headline on a New York Post story, which cited the Advertiser.

Left-wing publication Mother Jones cited the same report in a story titled, “Russian Propagandists Are Pushing for Roy Moore to Win.” That report didn’t rely exclusively on the fake Twitter followers, citing Russian media’s favorable coverage of Moore.

The Washington Post focused its story on the fact that Moore blamed Democrats for the fake accounts. -Daily Caller

Democrats involved in the scheme have likened it to fighting fire with fire. 

"I know there were people who believed the Democrats needed to fight fire with fire," said Renée DiResta, who would later join New Knowledge and was lead author of the report on Russian social media operations released this week, according to the Times. "It was absolutely chatter going around the party."



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Reactions To Trump’s Syria Withdrawal Plan Say More Than The Plan Itself

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President Trump has ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, which is reportedly expected to take 60–100 days or 30 days depending on who you ask. According to Kurdish forces in eastern Syria the withdrawal of American as well as French troops is already underway, though France is saying it’s staying. The number of troops to be withdrawn which keeps getting repeated in the news is 2,000, but there’ve been reports that the actual number of US ground troops in Syria is closer to 4,000. The US-led airstrike campaign against Islamic State will reportedly continue.

Trump says the withdrawal is because ISIS has been defeated in Syria, but others are pointing to the conspicuous timing of his recent chat with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan, who has announced a coming military operation against Kurdish forces in Syria east of the Euphrates in the near future, as the more likely reason. An anonymous senior US official has told Reuters that the two leaders didn’t discuss a US withdrawal from Syria, but the timing of the conversation as well as a recent $3.5 billion arms deal with Turkey indicates the the US withdrawal and Erdoğan’s planned military assault could very well be related. The Kurds put all their eggs in the basket of US support out of a desire to create their own nation, and a US withdrawal means they’ll be forced to either court an alliance with Damascus, as some analysts believe will happen, or risk being trapped between hostile Turkish forces and hostile Syrian coalition forces as the Assad government races to reclaim Syrian territory.

Beyond that, it’s hard to tell what’s actually happening. I’ll be astonished if there is an actual US withdrawal from Syria without any residual or proxy forces left behind, and it remains extremely possible that US troops won’t leave at all, especially if another conveniently timed “chemical weapons attack” gets attributed to Damascus. This administration has been going back and forth and back and forth about what its Syria policy actually is ever since Trump took office, and it won’t be the least bit surprising if we end up seeing very little change in US military presence. Things could very well just get shuffled around a bit and then re-settle as power struggles are sorted out within an administration that is endlessly in conflict with itself.

Everything I’ve just typed is basically a jumbled information salad of possibilities and speculation; it’s just me saying “Here’s what little we know, now we wait and see” and then shrugging. The real information that we can look at right now is the absolutely bizarre bipartisan response that Trump’s announcement has elicited.

Trump gave Putin a big Christmas present this year: Syria.

 — @JoeNBC

As soon as Trump announced via Twitter his intent to withdraw troops from Syria, everyone has been losing their minds. Virtually every liberal media outlet has reacted hysterically, with the New York Times editorial board condemning the decision, along with multiple CNN and MSNBC releases and Rachel Maddow going full Rachel Maddow but with Turkey this time. Senators Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Jeanne Shaheen, Tom Cotton, Angus King and Joni Ernst wrote Trump a bipartisan letter warning that a US withdrawal “may embolden Bashar al Assad to take further actions to solidify his power” inside the country he is the president of. Hollywood celebrities like Bette Midler, Mia Farrow and Cher burst out of their dust pods of irrelevance to scream at everyone that limitless US military expansionism is glorious and desirable. Max Boot, the legendary Man Who Is Always Wrong About Everything, declared that Trump is giving a “gift to Iran, Russia, ISIS, and Assad” by exiting.

That word “gift” appeared again and again and again and again. The New York Times editorial board declared “An American withdrawal would also be a gift to Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, who has been working hard to supplant American influence in the region, as well as to Iran, which has also expanded its regional footprint.” Victoria Nuland in the Washington Post declared that “With his decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria, President Trump hands a huge New Year’s gift to President Bashar al-Assad, the Islamic State, the Kremlin and Tehran.” The New York Times’ Bret Stephens called it “A gift to Iran, Hezbollah, and Putin.”

And all the rank-and-file consumers of mass media are now parroting that talking point at every opportunity. Do a Twitter search for the words “gift” and “Syria” together as of this publishing and you’ll come across not just blue-checkmarked establishment mouthpieces teaching that slogan to their followers, but countless ordinary people regurgitating it as well. Not because they believe in endless US military expansionism, not because they truly understand what’s going on and take issue with it, but because they hate Trump and they were taught to repeat a specific line in order to criticize him.

Trump's Syria strategy as a house sale: "Great, we are negotiating our departure from the house in hopes of protecting our interests in the neighborhood. Ok, the house is yours. We are moving out. Once we are gone, we'll start negotiating price." Art of the Idiotic Deal.

 — @kurteichenwald

The thing about this “gift” idea, and really with all the criticisms that are being leveled against Trump’s supposed troop withdrawal, is that they all have as their premise the assumption that Syria belongs to America. #Resistance pundit and tentacle porn aficionado Kurt Eichenwald even compared the withdrawal to a homeowner giving away their home without negotiating a price first. All across the board in these criticisms there is this one bizarre assumption that is going completely unquestioned: that Syria is America’s property, and ceasing to treat it as such would be giving that property away to someone else, whether it be Russia, Iran, or Syria’s own government.

But Syria is not America’s property, and the US has never had any right to be there at all. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, unlike the US, are in Syria at the invitation of the nation’s only legitimate government. They are there fighting back the extremist forces which had captured large territories with the backing of the US and its allies in an attempted regime change intervention which was planned long before violence erupted in 2011. All these pundits pontificating from their armchairs about retaining control of Syrian land in order to “counter the influence” of Iran or Russia are claiming that an invading, occupying force should retain control of a third of Syria in order to control what a sovereign nation does with its own allies.

And that just says so much about the mentality of the American elite class and its lackeys. For the thought leaders of the US global order, and for the unthinking human livestock who follow their decrees, America is the only sovereign nation on earth. If China invaded the US and occupied a third of its territory in order to counter Canadian and British influence we’d be looking at World War Three that very day, but doing exactly that in a disobedient Middle Eastern country is looked at as so normal and routine that any apparent deviation from that strategy is regarded with shock and outrage. And the only thing that keeps this obvious discrepancy from being treated like the ridiculous power-serving double standard that it is is a claim to moral authority by a government which literally armed terrorists in Syria.

Syria is not a "gift" that can be "given" to Putin, despite the blinkered American political climate which places everything in that asinine context. It's a country over which the United States has no legal authority, and never did, despite years of casualties and billions spent

 — @mtracey

So while the jumble of information and speculation about Trump’s possible Syria maneuverings doesn’t necessarily tell us a whole lot, the reaction to it tells us why the world looks the way it looks. The most powerful military force in the history of civilization inflicts violence and domination with total impunity and total disregard for national sovereignty, demanding total respect for its own borders and total compliance from all nations outside its borders. Nations which obey are absorbed into an alliance that is so tight and streamlined it can effectively be called an empire, while nations which disobey are invaded, occupied, disrupted and destroyed.

I write about the United States so much partly for the same reason I’d keep an eye on a guy at the bar who was always walking around knocking people off their chairs and drinking their beer, and partly because a conscious relationship with the concept of sovereignty is so very, very important if we’re to learn to survive the troubles we’re facing as a species. Sovereignty is what personal, political, and societal problems all ultimately boil down to. Becoming conscious of all the myriad ways we extend beyond our own sovereign boundaries and intrude into the sovereignty of others, be they personal, ideological, national, or ecosystemic, is the path toward creating a world wherein we can all collaborate with each other and with our environment in the interests of the greater good.

We’ve got to evolve beyond this mentality of intrusive domination which is so aggressively promoted as normal by the mass media. The idea that it’s okay for a powerful nation to insert its military force into a weaker nation in order to manipulate geopolitical dynamics to its advantage is a sickness, and we need to heal it.

______________________

That was fun. So, the best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My articles are entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet new merchandise, buying my new book Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone, or my previous book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

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Trump Publicly Admits His Mideast Policy Puts Israel, Not America, First

https://theantimedia.com/trump-middle-east-policy-israel-first/

McCain Responsible For Steele Dossier Leak

ORIGINAL LINK

A longtime associate of late Arizona Senator John McCain leaked a copy of the infamous Steele Dossier to BuzzFeed News, according to a Wednesday court filing, according to the Daily Caller's Chuck Ross. 

McCain dispatched former State Department official David Kramer to London on November 28, 2016 where Dossier author Christopher Steele reportedly allowed Kramer to see it, while a copy was later provided to McCain through Kramer. McCain then provided a copy of the document to former FBI Director James Comey during a December 9 meeting, according to an October 2017 Daily Caller report.

On Wednesday, thanks to a filing by US District Court Ursula Ungaro as part of a final report ahead of her ruling in BuzzFeed's favor in a defamation lawsuit, we learn that Kramer provided BuzzFeed a copy of the dossier during a December 29, 2016 meeting. As the Caller notes, it is unclear whether Kramer actually gave BuzzFeed's Ken Bensinger a copy, or if Bensinger took photos of the document - or both. 

"Kramer testified that Bensinger took photos of the Dossier when Kramer was out of the room, even though he asked Bensinger not to," wrote Ungaro, who added that "in a later declaration, Kramer stated that he had no objection to Bensinger taking a hard copy and had provided hard copies to other journalists."

"The parties dispute whether Kramer gave Bensinger a copy or whether Bensinger took photos of the Dossier when Kramer was not looking," reads a footnote in the ruling. 

Kramer met Nov. 30, 2016, with McCain and McCain’s chief of staff, Christopher Brose, to review Steele’s reports.

Kramer advised McCain to share the reports with the FBI and the CIA,” according to Ungaro.

Days later, Kramer met at McCain’s behest with Victoria Nuland, who served then as assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs and the State Department, and Celeste Wallender, the top Russian affairs official at the National Security Council.

Nuland and Wallender were aware of the dossier and Steele, according to Ungaro. -Daily Caller

According to the filing, "Kramer reviewed with Bensinger what he knew about the Dossier and explained that he took the allegations seriously."



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Climate Change Blamed For Doubling Of Winter-Related Deaths In Wales - Here's Why People Are Really Dying

ORIGINAL LINK

Authored by Meadow Clark via Daisy Luther's Organic Prepper blog,

Winter-related deaths in Wales – called excess winter deaths – almost doubled in just one year. Could the same thing happen in the United States?

Experts are blaming a couple things for this unfortunate phenomenon but are they really just pushing an agenda? And, what is the “elephant in the room” that the media is clearly ignoring?

Excess winter deaths in Wales

“Excess winter death” numbers are the ratio of deaths from the months of December through March with the idea that they are attributed to winter. It’s a term I see more in European reports than in North America.

BBC recently reported:

Excess winter deaths in Wales almost doubled in 2017-18 – rising from 1,850 the year before to 3,400.

Public health experts said adverse weather and influenza were to blame for the increase, hitting older people in particular.

Experts said it was the highest number of excess deaths since the winter of 1975.

But officials said spikes in winter deaths were not uncommon – with eight peaks over the past 40 years.

Across England and Wales, there were 50,100 excess deaths last winter.

However, this is half the number of excess deaths recorded in the winter of 1950 – when there were 106,400 extra winter deaths. (source)

Keep in mind that the 2010s, 1970s, and 1950s ALL have something in common as it relates to winter deaths, but it’s not necessarily climate change or influenza.

The elephant in the room – Why People Are Dying

Unfortunately, the increase of deaths during winter months has been politicized and exploited for two major agendas: pro-vaccine pushing and climate change fanatics.

The loud cries of these frenetic and urgent agendas snuff out the cries of those who need help in the winter.

The simple reason being…

People cannot afford to provide heat for themselves!

Shelter is one thing, but it can only reduce exposure from the elements so much. Whether a vulnerable person dies through sickness or extreme temperature, these deaths may have been indirectly caused by the inability to pay energy costs.

In fact, this old report from The Guardian nails it.

It came out when UK excess winter deaths rose by a third in 2012-2013. The emphasis was on poverty and the inability to provide heat.

Perhaps that report came out before climate change bullying reached a fever pitch.

1950 was the worst year for excess winter deaths

As the BBC report pointed out, the winter of 1950 was among the worst for excess deaths.

According to Economics Help, national debt, austerity, and rationing were peaking during that time.

Source: EconomicsHelp.org

Interestingly, the graphs provided by Economics Help show a correlation between national debt and the rise of winter deaths. Correlation does not equal causation nor does national debt necessarily mean abject poverty for everyone. It’s just an informational puzzle piece to gain context for what was going on at the time.

2010 saw economic changes – and excess winter deaths

And here, we see the same pattern where the economic changes match the rise of excess winter deaths in the 2010s.

Source: EconomicsHelp.org

I’m just speculating, but the 1950s graph could be a sign that in an effort to tackle debt, perhaps many government programs were cut or bursting at the seams, or taxes spiked dramatically and thus, it could have been a very hard winter when national debt in the UK was at its highest. Employment was reportedly starting to go back up in 1950 but there are other reasons why times were still difficult.

1975 was also a record time for excess winter deaths.

The BBC noted that 1975 was also a record time for excess winter deaths. Again, check out these graphsshowing the inflation and economic instability right at that time:

Source: EconomicsHelp.org

Source: EconomicsHelp.org

Do you see a pattern??

Dear UK readers – please feel free to chime in about this topic since I’m looking at it from the outside.

I’m just pointing these things out, however, to show that there is more depth to the problem of winter deaths than the broad brush of “climate change did it!”

The media is reporting that climate change will continue to take more lives in the future, but…

“Climate Change” is not a roving murderer…

Times are a-changin’ all right, but not necessarily because of the climate…

It is radically changing job landscapes, unemployment, economic hardship, evaporating pensions, anti-woodstove laws and exorbitant energy costs that are fueling these unnecessary and tragic deaths. I’m assuming taxes are burdensome, too.

So it’s a little frustrating when I see reports blaming the inanimate climate change for causing deaths or “failed flu jabs” when readers may see a pattern if they look at the post-War economy and rising winter deaths.

It is a shame that many elderly people are shivering in unheated houses and unsurprisingly wind up with pneumonia.

Pneumonia, by the way, is the main reason for puffed up flu death numbers in the United States. Check out our report where we thoroughly debunked the claims that 80,000 Americans died from the flu. The UK government notes that pneumonia is among the largest contributor to excess winter deaths.

But, an undernourished immune system of someone who can’t even keep warm under the blankets is honestly an emergency survival situation that many people live through every day.

This is a long way to go just to say that it would seem that the government is fully aware of the rise in cold weather-related deaths during times when economic hardship and energy costs are obscenely high.

Preventing Winter-Related Death, The Prepper’s Way

First, make sure you have a winter bug-out bag in your vehicle at all times. Make sure it includes supplies for the possibility of being stuck inside your vehicle as well. Always carry spare socks and if you’re spending extended periods outdoors, some toe warmers.

Additionally, take every measure possible to remain warm inside the house. Similar to the UK, energy prices in the U.S. and Canada are unbearable. So it’s almost impossible to have the heat on at a comfortable level, yet there are other things to do to remain warm. Flannel lined jeans, thermal wear, leggings, doubling up on socks and fingerless gloves are all options that I have frequently utilized. Here are some more ideas for staying warm with less heat.

I don’t take the same chances I did in my 20s. It may sound insignificant but I blow dry my washed hair in the winter no matter what time of day and I even change my socks to keep dampness from setting in. I actually only wash my hair 1/2 or 1/3 as much as in the summer. But I do wash my hands like a fiend and as a result, I keep the flu at bay.

Be sure to check out these rockin’ Flu Preventatives and Flu Remedies and stay tuned for more winter survival help!



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UK Bans Ads Featuring Stereotypically Stupid Women And Moronic Men

ORIGINAL LINK

The UK is set to outlaw ads depicting negative gender stereotypes, such as women who can't park a car or men who don't know how to change a diaper, according to Reuters

Britain's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that some stereotypes are harmful - particularly those which belittle men for carrying out traditionally female tasks, or which suggest that young mothers should prioritize looking good over their emotional wellbeing. 

"Our new rule calls time on stereotypes that hold back people and society," said Shahriar Coupal, director of the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) - the body which sets the advertising guidelines the ASA follows. 

From next June, adverts featuring a depiction of gender roles that could cause offence or harm will be axed, it said.

The ban will apply to broadcast and non-broadcast media, including TV, radio, newspapers and social media.

It follows a campaign for weight loss products featuring a bikini-clad model with the tag line "Are you beach body ready?" that drew a barrage of complaints.

In November, retailer Marks and Spencer came under fire for a window display juxtaposing men in suits and women in knickers, while two months earlier Sweden's advertising watchdog said a viral meme showing a man staring at another woman was sexist. -Reuters

"Harmful gender stereotypes in ads contribute to how people see themselves," said CAP's gender stereotyping project lead Ella Smillie, who added "They can hold some people back from fulfilling their potential, or from aspiring to certain jobs and industries, bringing costs for individuals and the economy."

"Our most recent research on public trust has shown the public particularly appreciates advertising when it takes a progressive stance," said Stephen Woodford, head of the UK's Advertising Association.

The move was predictably applauded by women's rights groups. 

"Our society and our economy pays a heavy price for the constraints we place on boys and girls from our earliest moments of life. It has to change," said Sam Smethers, CEO of the Fawcett Society.

Others weren't so sure about the new rules. 

"What next, the politically correct going for our comedy shows!," tweeted conservative lawmaker Andrea Jenkyns. 

Two weeks ago a comedian and free speech advocate, Konstantin Kisin, pulled out of an event at the University of London after they sent him a "behavioural agreement" which forbade him from discussing any topic not "respectful and kind." 

 



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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Guardian fabricated, altered and stealthily retracted their Wikileaks-Manafort story to muted criticism from the ‘fake news’ obsessives

ORIGINAL LINK

On the 27th of November 2018 the Guardian posted a story claiming that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on three occasions in 2013, 2015 and 2016.Almost immediately one of the co-authors named Fernando Villavicencio had his name removed from the online article, but still remains on the print copy. In less than four hours they had reworded the article without declaration, adding ‘alleged’ and ‘supposed’ to the central claims. By the end of the day they had quietly disowned the story, and have not promoted nor followed up on any of the claims since.



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After 2-Year Legal Battle, School Lets Students Pass Out US Constitutions

ORIGINAL LINK

Authored by Celine Ryan via Campus Reform,

After a two-year battle, the Los Angeles Community College District has agreed to abolish a policy that limited student expression to “free speech zones,” available only through application. 

Pierce College student Kevin Shaw was handing out Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution in November 2016 when an administrator told him that he would have to confine his activity to the school’s “free speech zone.” The school told Shaw that he would have to apply for access to the 616-square foot zone and that his failure to comply would result in his removal from campus.

After the incident, Shaw sued the school for violating his First Amendment rights with the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The Department of Justice then filed a statement in support of his case.

Pierce College filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in January 2018 but a California district court ultimately rejected the school’s assertion that the public campus was a “non-public forum.”

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Community College District agreed to settle the lawsuit, as well as to revoke the unconstitutional policy that recognized all campuses within the district as “non-public forums,” effectively removing free speech restrictions placed on 150,000 students, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

"I wish it hadn’t taken two years for my school to conclude I had a right to free expression,” Shaw told Campus Reform.

"All the same, I’m thankful to know future students won’t have to worry about being harassed for expressing political opinions.”

“More than two years ago, administrators wrongly told Kevin he was not allowed to hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution in the center of his public college campus,” FIRE Director of Litigation Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon said in a statement.

“He’s been standing up for his First Amendment rights every day since, and in the process has vindicated the rights of every student in the district."



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Why Everything That Needs To Be Fixed Remains Permanently Broken

ORIGINAL LINK

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

Just in case you missed what's going on in France: the status quo in Europe is doomed.

The status quo has a simple fix for every crisis and systemic problem:

1. create currency out of thin air

2. give it to super-wealthy banks, financiers and corporations to boost their wealth and income.

One way these entities increase their wealth and income is to lend this nearly free money to commoners at much higher rates of interest. I borrow from central banks at 1% and lend it to you at 4.5%, 7% or even 19% or more. What's not to like?

If a bank is insolvent, it can borrow money at 1% from central banks. If Joe Blow is insolvent, the only loan he can get is at 23%, if he can get any credit at all.

3. China has a variant fix for every financial crisis: build tens of millions of empty flats only the wealthy can afford as second or third "investment" flats. If the empty flats start dropping in price, government entities start secretly buying flats to support the market.

4. Empty malls, bridges to nowhere and ghost cities are also a standard-issue fix in China. Built it and they will come, until they don't. But who cares, the developers and local governments (i.e. corrupt officials) already pocketed the dough.

You see the problem: making rich people richer doesn't actually fix what's broken, it only makes the problems worse. So why can't we fix what's broken?

It's a question that deserves an answer, and the answer has six parts:

1. Any meaningful systemic reform threatens an entrenched, self-serving interest/elite which has a tremendous incentive to squash, co-opt or water down any reform that threatens their monopoly, benefits, etc.

2. It's far cheaper in cash and political capital to block something than it is to push through a reform that reduces the skims and scams of entrenched, self-serving interests.

3. Entrenched, self-serving elites are disconnected from the real world of the commoners; they live in protective bubbles, from you-can't-fire-me job security to gold-plated healthcare to generous pensions to access to central bank credit lines-- all of which is unavailable to the commoners wearing yellow vests. As a result, their grasp of the real problems is unrealistic, as the real-world experience of the bottom 90% is an abstraction.

4. Entrenched, self-serving elites are protected from the disastrous consequences of their policies and self-serving greed. In Taleb's terminology, they have no skin in the game: policies can be complete failures but nobody's fired, and nobody's pay is cut.

5. The Neofeudal "fix" to all crises, and social and financial problems--enriching the already rich and empowering the already powerful--signals the entrenched elites that the system is working just fine: if it's working great for me and my cronies, so clearly it's working great for everyone.

6. The corporate media and the social media giants are entrenched interests, and so it serves their interests to ceaselessly promote the status quo Neofeudalism as the cat's meow and marginalize dissenters, skeptics and reformers.

Just in case you missed what's going on in France: the status quo in Europe is doomed. The status quo fixes of enriching the already rich as the solution to every problem have gutted the social contract and destabilized the economy. Giving more nearly free money to banks, financiers and corporations is only going to speed the dissolution of the Eurozone and the existing social order.

What's broken? Nothing, from the perspective of those at the top of the wealth-power pyramid:

*  *  *

My new book Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic is discounted ($5.95 ebook, $10.95 print): Read the first section for free in PDF format. My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is a ridiculously affordable $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF). My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format. If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.



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CNN's "Journalist Of The Year" Committed Journalistic Fraud "On A Grand Scale" At Der Spiegel

ORIGINAL LINK

German news magazine Der Spiegel has admitted that one of its top reporters has faked stories for several years.

Award-winning journalist Claas Relotius had "made up stories and invented protagonists" in approximately 14 out of 60 articles which appeared both in print and online editions. He had worked for Der Spiegel for seven years, winning numerous awards for his investigative journalism - including CNN's Journalist of the Year award in 2014, according to the Guardian.

Relotius, 33, tendered his resignation after admitting to the fraud.

Earlier this month Relotius won Germany's Reporter of the Year (Reporterpreis) honor for his story about a young Syrian boy. Since the report was written, it has emerged that all of the sources were hazy at best, and most of what he wrote was completely fabricated.

Claas Relotius: Er hat sein Talent missbraucht https://t.co/W7htj1oOJQ pic.twitter.com/KtZAsHwMOZ

— WELT (@welt) December 19, 2018

The falsification came to light after a colleague who worked with him on a story along the US-Mexican border raised suspicions about some of the details in Relotius’s reporting, having harboured doubts about him for some time.

The colleague, Juan Moreno, eventually tracked down two alleged sources quoted extensively by Relotius in the article, which was published in November. Both said they had never met Relotius. Relotius had also lied about seeing a hand-painted sign that read “Mexicans keep out”, a subsequent investigation found.

Other fraudulent stories included one about a Yemeni prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, and one about the American football star Colin Kaepernick. -Guardian

The Spiegel - which has an online readership of over 6.5 million and sells around 725,000 print copies per month, admitted to the fraud in a lengthy article in which they said they were "shocked" by the discovery - apologizing for anyone deceived by Relotius's "fraudulent quotes, made-up personal details or invented scenes at fictitious places." 

The magazine added that Relotius had committed journalistic fraud "on a grand scale," and has described the incident as "a low point in Spiegel’s 70-year history." 

Relotius worked for several other outlets, including Germany's taz, Welt and the Frankfurter Allgemeine's Sunday edition. 

Relotius told Spiegel that he was deeply ashamed for his fabrications, claiming "I am sick and I need to get help."

Moreno, who has worked for the magazine since 2007, risked his own job when he confronted other colleagues with his suspicions, many of whom did not want to believe him. “For three to four weeks Moreno went through hell because colleagues and those senior to him did not want to believe his accusations at first,” Der Spiegel wrote in an apology to its readers. For several weeks, the magazine said, Relotius was even considered to be the victim of a cunning plot by Moreno.

Relotius cleverly rebuffed all the attacks, all of Moreno’s well-researched pieces of evidence … until there came a point when that didn’t work any more, until he finally couldn’t sleep any more, hunted by the fear of being discovered,” the magazine wrote. -Guardian

After being confronted by a senior editor, Relotius finally caved and admitted to the fraud. In his confession, he said "It wasn’t because of the next big thing. It was fear of failing. My pressure to not be able to fail got ever bigger the more successful I became."



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America's "Neo-Feudal" System Is "Both False & Precarious"

ORIGINAL LINK

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via The Daily Reckoning,

The conventional definition of a Bear is someone who expects stocks to decline. For those of us who are bearish on fake fixes, that definition doesn’t apply: we aren’t making guesses about future market gyrations (rip-your-face-off rallies, dizziness-inducing drops, boring melt-ups, etc.).

No, we’re focused on the impossibility of reforming or fixing a broken economic system.

Many observers confuse creative destruction with profoundly structural problems. The technocrat perspective views the creative disruption of existing business models by the digital-driven 4th Industrial Revolution as the core cause of rising income inequality, under-employment, the decline of low-skilled jobs, etc. — many of the problems that plague the current economy.

I get it: those disruptive consequences are real. But they aren’t structural: crony capitalism and the state-cartel system is structural, because cartels can buy political protection from competition and disruptive technologies. Just look at all the cartels that have eliminated competition: higher education, defense contractors, Big Pharma — the list is long.

The fake fixes to the structural dominance of cartels and entrenched elites come in two flavors:

  1. political reforms that add complexity (oversight, compliance, etc.) but never threaten the insiders’ skims and scams.

  2. And monetary policies such as low interest rates and unlimited liquidity that enrich the already-wealthy by funneling whatever gains are being reaped to them rather than to labor.

I explain how this neo-feudal economy is the inevitable result of our system in my new book Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic.

Our political system, dependent on campaign contributions and lobbying, is easily influenced to protect and enhance the private gains of corporations and financiers. Combine this with the gains reaped by those with access to cheap credit and you have a financial nobility ruling a class of debt-serfs.

Cartels and quasi-monopolies eliminate competition by buying start-ups and political protection, raising barriers to entry for upstarts. This kills innovation and productivity, which are corralled to serve existing cartels.

The wealthy own productive assets, the poor own debt. Debt accrues interest which flows to those who own the debt — student loans, auto loans, mortgages, etc.

Wages have stagnated for the bottom 80% for decades for a variety of reasons. But quantitative easing and zero real interest rates haven’t fixed this structural problem — rather, they’ve exacerbated wealth and income inequality:

Meanwhile, the highly profitable credit machine is no longer boosting growth. It took $4 in new debt to create $1 in GDP in 2016, for example. Needless to say, that’s not a lot of bang for the buck.

Our neo-feudal system has offered perverse incentives to borrow vast sums to buy back stocks and other unproductive uses benefit the few at the expense of the economy as a whole.

Beneath the bullish narrative of eternal growth and ever-rising profits, the financial system’s buffers have been thinned. As I explain in my book, the global financial system is now “hyper-coherent,” meaning that instability in one corner of the system quickly spreads to the entire system.

This systemic vulnerability is largely invisible, and so the inevitable contagion will surprise most observers and participants.

A funny thing happens in a fast-spreading financial contagion: markets go bidless, meaning there’s no buyers at any price. The entire global financial system rests on this one assumption: markets will always be liquid, but liquidity vanishes in contagions.

The fake-fix of the past decade is for central banks to buy impaired assets to create an artificial market. That works if you throw trillions of dollars, yuan, yen and euros into the artificial market, but that process destroys organic markets.

Fake fixes don’t fix what’s actually broken. They’re duct tape holding together a broken system.

The basic idea here is the socio-economic-political system is structured such that the only possible output is neo-feudalism. In other words, neo-feudalism isn’t a flaw in the system that can be changed with policy tweaks or electing a new president or prime minister — it’s the result of the system working as designed.

Neo-feudalism is a peculiarly invisible hierarchical structure of power: The New Nobility (or aristocracy if you prefer) wields vast concentrations of political, social and financial power, and does so without the formalized aristocrat-serf relationships and obligations of classic neo-feudalism.

We appear to be free but we’re powerless to change the power asymmetry between the New Nobility and the commoners. This reality is reflected in social relations that form just appearances of actual power, pantomimes acted out in media-theaters to instill the belief that the old myths of democracy and social mobility are real rather than misleading shadows.

Neo-feudalism is fundamentally a financial-political arrangement, marketed and managed by cultural elites who strive to convince us that we still have some shreds of power. These elites have a variety of tools at their disposal. One has been described by filmmaker Adam Curtis as pantomime: Trump says or does something outrageous, the Democrats cry “impeachment,” and so on.

This theater of pantomime serves two purposes: it projects a simulation of functional democracy that makes us believe impeaching one president and getting another one in office will change anything about the neo-feudal power structure; it won’t.

The theater of pantomime also distracts us from the remarkably stable asymmetry of power in our social-political-financial construct:

Various ambiguities are blown into “the most important issue of today,” a revolving performance in which virtue-signaling has replaced actual action to remedy the vast imbalances of power, and appeals to myths that no longer manifest in the real world (democracy and social mobility). They are used to suppress and marginalize the search for new structures that would upend the cozy incest of neo-feudalism’s financial and political power.

Again, I discuss the structure of neo-feudalism in my new book Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic at some length. One key takeaway is this:

$100 million invested in influencing the central state guarantees $1 billion in private-sector profits. Or $10 billion. The point is the return on investment is unbeatable, and so is the security of the gains.

This marriage of state power to create credit and its monopoly on force with private-sector financial power is the core relation of neo-feudalism. The only possible output of this structure is a mass of powerless debt-serfs enriching the New Nobility, who are slavishly served by a class of “liberal” technocrats and managers tasked with promoting pantomimes passing as “the real thing.”

Despite the ubiquity and sophistication of this marketing and management machinery, the debt-serfs sense the entire system is both false and precarious, two intimately related realities, for fakery is always precarious: the truth about the asymmetries of power might slip out and spread like wildfire.



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