Category Archives: Global Elite/TCC

How Peter Thiel and Alex Karp’s Palantir Helped the NSA Spy on the Whole World

Sam Biddle reports for The Intercept:

Image result for Thiel and KarpDonald Trump has inherited the most powerful machine for spying ever devised. How this petty, vengeful man might wield and expand the sprawling American spy apparatus, already vulnerable to abuse, is disturbing enough on its own. But the outlook is even worse considering Trump’s vast preference for private sector expertise and new strategic friendship with Silicon Valley billionaire investor Peter Thiel, whose controversial (and opaque) company Palantir has long sought to sell governments an unmatched power to sift and exploit information of any kind. Thiel represents a perfect nexus of government clout with the kind of corporate swagger Trump loves. The Intercept can now reveal that Palantir has worked for years to boost the global dragnet of the NSA and its international partners, and was in fact co-created with American spies. 

Peter Thiel became one of the American political mainstream’s most notorious figures in 2016 (when it emerged he was bankrolling a lawsuit against Gawker Media, my former employer) even before he won a direct line to the White House. Now he brings to his role as presidential adviser decades of experience as kingly investor and token nonliberal on Facebook’s board of directors, a Rolodex of software luminaries, and a decidedly Trumpian devotion to controversy and contrarianism. But perhaps the most appealing asset Thiel can offer our bewildered new president will be Palantir Technologies, which Thiel founded with Alex Karp and Joe Lonsdale in 2004.

Palantir has never masked its ambitions, in particular the desire to sell its services to the U.S. government — the CIA itself was an early investor in the startup through In-Q-Tel, the agency’s venture capital branch. But Palantir refuses to discuss or even name its government clientele, despite landing “at least $1.2 billion” in federal contracts since 2009, according to an August 2016 report in Politico. The company was last valued at $20 billion and is expected to pursue an IPO in the near future. In a 2012 interview with TechCrunch, while boasting of ties to the intelligence community, Karp said nondisclosure contracts prevent him from speaking about Palantir’s government work.

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Silicon Valley Super-Rich Head south to Escape from a Global Apocalypse

Hayden Donnell reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Global Apocalypse new zealandAt the Republican party convention in Cleveland last July, Trump donor Peter Thiel declared himself ‘“most of all, proud to be an American”. So it came as something of a surprise for New Zealanders to discover that the PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member had become an honorary Kiwi – joining a growing band of wealthy Americans seeking a haven from a possible global apocalypse.

Thiel was recently revealed to have bought a £4.5m lakeside property near the New Zealand town of Wanaka in 2015. When New Zealand Herald reporter Matt Nippert asked why Thiel had been allowed to buy land that appears to fit the classification of “sensitive” without permission from the country’s Overseas Investment Office, he was told it wasn’t necessary – Thiel was already a citizen.

The revelation was met with confusion. By the time of his appearance at the Republican convention, Thiel had already bought 193 hectares of pristine South Island land using his rights as a Kiwi. Politicians asked why a billionaire most famous for adamantly supporting Donald Trump and bankrolling the lawsuits that bankrupted Gawker Media had been allowed not only to buy land in New Zealand, but to make the country part of his future and identity. Winston Peters, leader of the New Zealand First party, accused the National government of “selling citizenship” to foreigners.

Thiel, who retains his American citizenship, in fact became a joint US-New Zealand citizen in 2011 and has described the country as “Utopia”, investing heavily in business start-ups.

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The Koch Brothers Oppose President Trump’s Immigration Ban

Philip Elliott reports for Time:

Image result for The Koch Brothers Oppose President Trump's Immigration BanThe powerful policy and politics network organized by the billionaire Koch brothers made official what many had expected: an opposition to President Trump’s ban on visitors from seven countries with Muslim majorities.

In a statement provided to reporters covering the Kochs’ twice-a-year retreat, top official Brian Hooks said Sunday that the groups under his umbrella would not support Trump’s move, which has drawn thousands of protesters against the ban on immigrants and refugees.

“We believe it is possible to keep Americans safe without excluding people who wish to come here to contribute and pursue a better life for their families. The travel ban is the wrong approach and will likely be counterproductive,” said Hooks, the co-chairman of the Koch network. “Our country has benefited tremendously from a history of welcoming people from all cultures and backgrounds. This is a hallmark of free and open societies.”

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Nobody Speak: New Documentary Probes Billionaire Peter Thiel’s Destruction of News Outlet Gawker

Amy Goodman speaks to Brian Knappenberger, the director of the new documetary Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press, which is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. Last year, the digital media outlet Gawker declared bankruptcy and put itself up for sale after it was ordered to pay $140 million in a lawsuit for publishing the sex tape of wrestler Hulk Hogan. Hogan’s lawsuit was financially backed by Silicon Valley billionaire and Trump supporter Peter Thiel, who was outed as gay by a now-defunct Gawker blog. Knappenberger previously directed The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz and We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, about the hacker collective Anonymous. (Democracy Now!)

Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich

Evan Osnos reports for The New Yorker:

An armed guard stands at the entrance of the Survival Condo Project, a former missile silo north of Wichita, Kansas, that has been converted into luxury apartments for people worried about the crackup of civilization.[…] Survivalism, the practice of preparing for a crackup of civilization, tends to evoke a certain picture: the woodsman in the tinfoil hat, the hysteric with the hoard of beans, the religious doomsayer. But in recent years survivalism has expanded to more affluent quarters, taking root in Silicon Valley and New York City, among technology executives, hedge-fund managers, and others in their economic cohort.

Last spring, as the Presidential campaign exposed increasingly toxic divisions in America, Antonio García Martínez, a forty-year-old former Facebook product manager living in San Francisco, bought five wooded acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest and brought in generators, solar panels, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. “When society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos,” he told me. The author of “Chaos Monkeys,” an acerbic Silicon Valley memoir, García Martínez wanted a refuge that would be far from cities but not entirely isolated. “All these dudes think that one guy alone could somehow withstand the roving mob,” he said. “No, you’re going to need to form a local militia. You just need so many things to actually ride out the apocalypse.” Once he started telling peers in the Bay Area about his “little island project,” they came “out of the woodwork” to describe their own preparations, he said. “I think people who are particularly attuned to the levers by which society actually works understand that we are skating on really thin cultural ice right now.”

In private Facebook groups, wealthy survivalists swap tips on gas masks, bunkers, and locations safe from the effects of climate change. One member, the head of an investment firm, told me, “I keep a helicopter gassed up all the time, and I have an underground bunker with an air-filtration system.” He said that his preparations probably put him at the “extreme” end among his peers. But he added, “A lot of my friends do the guns and the motorcycles and the gold coins. That’s not too rare anymore.”

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Everyone Seems to Agree That Globalisation Is a Sin

Fareed Zakaria writes for The Washington Post:

Image result for Everyone Seems to Agree Globalisation Is a SinThe World Economic Forum this year feels like an exercise in ritual self-flagellation, which — as with the old Christian practice of fasting and whipping one’s own body — is supposed to purify the sinful nature of man. The sin, of course, is globalization, which everyone now seems to agree has been lopsided, inequitable and dangerous. In fact, most of the flaws attributed to globalization are actually mistakes in national policy that can be corrected.

It took a Chinese billionaire to speak frankly on this topic. Jack Ma, the founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, estimated that over the past three decades the U.S. government spent $14.2 trillion fighting 13 wars. That money could have been invested in America, building infrastructure and creating jobs. “You’re supposed to spend money on your own people,” he said. He pointed out that globalization produced massive profits for the U.S. economy but much of that money ended up on Wall Street. “And what happened? Year 2008. The financial crisis wiped out $19.2 trillion [in the] U.S.A. alone. . . . What if the money [had been] spent on the Midwest of the United States developing the industry there?” he asked. “It’s not [that] the other countries steal jobs from you guys — it is your strategy,” he concluded.

You don’t have to accept Ma’s specifics and statistics to recognize the validity of his general point. Globalization created huge opportunities for growth, many of which were taken by U.S. companies. The global economy is still dominated by large American firms; 134 of Fortune’s Global 500 are American. And if you look at those in cutting-edge industries, the vast majority are American. These companies have benefited enormously by having global supply chains that can source goods and services around the world, either to lower labor costs or to be close to the markets in which they sell. Since 95 percent of the world’s potential consumers live outside the United States, finding ways to sell to them will have to be a core strategy for growth, even for a country with a large domestic economy such as the United States.

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Donald Trump Is Not the Problem – He’s the Symptom

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Open Democracy:

The inauguration of Donald Trump is a historic day, not just for the United States, but for human civilization.

But it is a mistake to believe that Trump is the problem who must be resisted. Trump is not the problem. Trump is merely one symptom of a deeper systemic crisis. His emergence signals a fundamental and accelerating shift within a global geopolitical and domestic American political order which is breaking down.

In order to know how to best respond to the incoming Trump era, we must understand how we arrived here.

In 2014, a Princeton University study quantified just how badly US democracy is broken. Using a database of 1,779 policy issues, the study found that when a majority of Americans disagree with “economic elites” or “organised interests”, they “generally lose.”

The authors noted that when average citizens and affluent classes want the same policies from government, they usually get them. But when they disagree, the rich almost always win out. The study did not, contrary to numerous headlines, define the US as an oligarchy, but it did conclude that US democracy is in fact a system of “economic elite domination”.

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Joe Biden to Davos: The Top 1% Must Pay Its Fair Share or Else…

Jay Yarow reports for CNBC:

Image result for Joe Biden to DavosIn his final speech as vice president, Joe Biden warned that the top 1 percent needed to pay their fair share, or else.

Biden delivered his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, which is attended by world leaders, top executives, investors and members of the press.

The outgoing vice president started his speech by noting that there is a “palpable sense of uncertainty about the state of the world,” and we need to ask ourselves, “What kind of world are we going to leave for our children?”

The main theme of his speech was that the “liberal international world order” is at risk of collapse, as bad actors like Russia meddle in elections and try to undermine the progressive values of the United States and Europe.

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Davos Elite Seeks Fixes to Defend the System From Populists

Jeff Black and John Follain report for Bloomberg:

Image result for Davos Elite Seeks Fixes to Defend the System From PopulistsThe great and the good of Davos agree they have a problem with populism. Finding a solution is the hard part.

On the second day of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the Swiss Alps, delegates disagreed on how best to address the upending of the western political order, a debate made doubly urgent by the string of elections in Europe this year where anti-establishment parties could gain more ground.

While International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde urged a list of policies from programs to retrain workers to more social spending, others fretted that the turbulence is only starting. Hedge Fund billionaire Ray Dalio warned on a panel chaired by Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua that “we may be at a point where globalization is ending, and provincialization and nationalization is taking hold.”

That leaves technocrats trying to patch together potentially expensive remedies to make the current system of global trade, banking and business links that the Davos club represents acceptable to the public at a time when newcomers like U.S. president elect Donald Trump threaten to dismantle it by scrapping trade deals and introducing tariffs.

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Anthony Scaramucci: Meet Donald Trump’s Emissary to the Superrich

Heater Digby Parton writes for Salon:

Meet Donald Trump's emissary to the superrich: Anthony Scaramucci tells the Davos elite his boss is on their sideA long time ago in an alternate universe far, far away, I wrote a Salon column about how the Republican Party was in trouble because rich gadflies had decided to get personally involved in electoral strategy and that could only spell their doom. These were foolish wealthy donors for the most part, people who believed the size of their bank accounts meant they were renaissance geniuses who can do anything.

Needless to say my prophesy didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. One of those gadflies is going to be inaugurated president of the United States in two days. And it turns out that the central focus of my long-ago column has been named a top adviser to that new president.

His name is Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci, and he could be a character out of an Elmore Leonard novel. In fact, in my 2014 article I wrote, “the man’s hijinks make Donald Trump look like a prince by comparison.” (I didn’t know the extent of Trump’s high jinks at the time.) Scaramucci has a big mouth and a big wallet and he has been ostentatiously rubbing elbows with the political elite for quite some time.

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Water and Climate Dominate World Economic Forum Risk Report

Brett Walton reports for Circle of Blue:

Image result for Water and Climate Dominate World Economic Forum Risk ReportEnvironmental risks, steadily rising in importance, are recognized as authentic and relentless obstacles to peace, wealth, and health, according to the World Economic Forum’s global risk report, an annual survey of business, academic, and political leaders.

The report analyzes the strength and likelihood of 30 risks and 13 trends that shape global society. Four of the five environmental risks in the report, all related to climate change and extreme weather, are judged to be large impact and high likelihood threats.

Water crises, deemed a “societal risk” because of their broad reach, ranked third in the high-impact category, the third consecutive year in the top three. Harsh droughts last year in India, South Africa, and Vietnam slashed farm production and cut hydropower generation. Meanwhile, depletion of India’s groundwater reserves could squeeze long-term economic growth and flush rural residents into already jammed cities. These and other environmental threats to social well-being “are more prominent than ever,” the report states.

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World’s Eight Richest People Have Same Wealth as Poorest 50%

Larry Elliott reports for The Guardian:

Image result for World's Eight Richest People Have Same Wealth as Poorest 50%The world’s eight richest billionaires control the same wealth between them as the poorest half of the globe’s population, according to a charity warning of an ever-increasing and dangerous concentration of wealth.

In a report published to coincide with the start of the week-long World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam said it was “beyond grotesque” that a handful of rich men headed by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates are worth $426bn (£350bn), equivalent to the wealth of 3.6 billion people.

The development charity called for a new economic model to reverse an inequality trend that it said helped to explain Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.

Oxfam blamed rising inequality on aggressive wage restraint, tax dodging and the squeezing of producers by companies, adding that businesses were too focused on delivering ever-higher returns to wealthy owners and top executives.

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Davos Wonders If It’s Part of the Problem

Matthew Campbell and Simon Kennedy report for Bloomberg:

Davos illustration: Alpine disconnectKenneth Rogoff can pinpoint the moment he started to grow concerned Donald Trumpwould be the next U.S. president: It was when Rogoff’s fellow attendees at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting last January said it could never happen. “A joke I’ve told 1,000 people in the months since leaving Davos is that the conventional wisdom of Davos is always wrong,” says the Harvard professor and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. “No matter how improbable, the event most likely to happen is the opposite of whatever the Davos consensus is.”

The repeated failure of business and political elites to predict what’s coming—last year, that included the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union—doesn’t strike those returning this month to the Swiss Alps as very funny. After a year in which political upsets roiled financial markets and killed off the careers of once-dominant Davos-going politicians, the concern for delegates attending this year’s meeting isn’t that their forecasts are often wrong, but that their worldview is.

In its four decades of existence, the WEF has nurtured a broad consensus in favor of globalization and open markets. At its core is the notion that capital, goods, and people should be able to move freely across borders, a principle that can deliver huge benefits to those with education and money but seems terrifying to those without either. For the 3,000 people who will convene in the small Swiss town from Jan. 17 to 20, the 2017 event could be a moment of reckoning. At speakers’ podiums, coffee bars, and the ubiquitous late-night parties, they’ll be asking themselves whether Davos has become, at best, the world’s most expensive intellectual feedback loop—and, at worst, part of the problem.

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The Long and Painful Journey to World Disorder

Martin Wolf, influential journalist and regular attendee at Bilderberg and Davos, writes for The Financial Times:

It is not true that humanity cannot learn from history. It can and, in the case of the lessons of the dark period between 1914 and 1945, the west did. But it seems to have forgotten those lessons. We are living, once again, in an era of strident nationalism and xenophobia. The hopes of a brave new world of progress, harmony and democracy, raised by the market opening of the 1980s and the collapse of Soviet communism between 1989 and 1991, have turned into ashes.

What lies ahead for the US, creator and guarantor of the postwar liberal order, soon to be governed by a president who repudiates permanent alliances, embraces protectionism and admires despots? What lies ahead for a battered EU, contemplating the rise of “illiberal democracy” in the east, Brexit and the possibility of Marine Le Pen’s election to the French presidency?

What lies ahead now that Vladimir Putin’s irredentist Russia exerts increasing influence on the world and China has announced that Xi Jinping is not first among equals but a “core leader”?

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Donald Trump Faces Senate Backlash Over ‘Cabinet of Billionaires’

Rupert Neate reports for The Observer:

Earlier this month, Donald Trump used a “thank-you” rally in Des Moines, Iowa, to give his supporters further insight into the “deal-making” team he intends to build in Washington. As president-elect, Trump has so far nominated a number of billionaires, three Goldman Sachs bankers and the chief executive of the world’s largest oil firm to senior positions. Responding to liberal consternation at the sheer wealth of the prospective appointees, Trump told his audience: “A newspaper [the New York Times] criticised me and said: ‘Why can’t they have people of modest means?’ Because I want people that made a fortune. Because now they are negotiating for you, OK? It’s no different than a great baseball player or a great golfer.”

Trump’s cabinet, which is not yet fully filled, is already said to be worth a combined $14bn – the richest White House top table ever assembled. His team – if all are confirmed by the Senate – will be worth 50 times the $250m combined wealth of George W Bush’s first cabinet, which the media at the time dubbed the “team of millionaires”. For Trump, those figures are simply a confirmation of competence: in Trumpian politics, the richer you are, the better you must be at cutting a deal. And “deal-making” is what the next White House will be all about.

Throughout his campaign, Trump repeatedly returned to the theme of the “terrible deals” cut by previous administrations, from the North American Free Trade Agreement trade deal to the nuclear deal with Iran.

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Trump’s Tax Plan: Massive Cuts For the 1% Will Usher ‘Era of Dynastic Wealth’

Rupert Neate reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Trump’s tax planPresident Donald Trump is set to give America’s richest 1% an average annual tax cut of $214,000 when he takes office, while more than eight million families with children are expected to suffer financially under his proposed tax plan.

On the eve of the election, Trump promised to “massively cut taxes for the middle class, the forgotten people, the forgotten men and women of this country, who built our country”. But independent expert analyses of Trump’s tax plan show that America’s millionaire and billionaire class will win big at the expense of struggling low- and middle-income people, who turned out in large numbers to help the real estate billionaire win the election.

Experts warn that Trump’s tax plan will exacerbate America’s already chronic income inequality and herald in a “new era of dynastic wealth”.

“The Trump tax plan is heavily, heavily, skewed to the most wealthy, who will receive huge savings,” said Lily Batchelder, a law professor and tax expert at New York University. “At the same time, millions of low-income families – particularly single-parent households – will face an increase.”

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The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance into Harvard

Daniel Golden reports for ProPublica:

Image result for The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance into HarvardI would like to express my gratitude to Jared Kushner for reviving interest in my 2006 book, “The Price of Admission.” I have never met or spoken with him, and it’s rare in this life to find such a selfless benefactor. Of course, I doubt he became Donald Trump’s son-in-law and consigliere merely to boost my lagging sales, but still, I’m thankful.

My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their under-achieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of twenty.)

I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.

“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”

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Globalisation Is Dead, and White Supremacy Has Triumphed

Paul Mason writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Globalisation Is Dead[…] This is not some two-dimensional revolt against poverty and wage stagnation. It is a three-dimensional revolt against the impacts of neoliberalism – both positive and negative.

Freemarket economics unleashed two forces that have now collided: the rapid rise in inequality, and a route to the top percentile for the talented female, black or gay person. As long as it delivered not just growth but a growth story, a foreseeable better future, those disempowered by neoliberalism could stand it.

But neoliberalism no longer works. It is broken. If it survived it would have delivered at best zombie growth fuelled by central bank money and at worst stagnation. But it will not survive. Last summer I predicted that if we do not break with the economics of high inequality, high debt and low productivity, populations will vote to dismantle the global order. With Brexit and Trump that process is inexorable – and the next wave of the tsunami will hit Italy and Austria in their plebiscites on 4 December.

In the next weeks, our denial reflexes will be in full swing. Like Auden’s generation we will “cling to our average day”. But one set of people now faces a moment where only honesty will suffice. It is the economists, journalists, civil servants, bankers and policy wonks who have rubbished the idea of the existential threat.

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It Was the Rise of the Davos Class That Sealed America’s Fate

Naomi Klein writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Davos Class[…] Here is what we need to understand: a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. They have lost pensions. They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening. They see a future for their kids even worse than their precarious present.

At the same time, they have witnessed the rise of the Davos class, a hyper-connected network of banking and tech billionaires, elected leaders who are awfully cosy with those interests, and Hollywood celebrities who make the whole thing seem unbearably glamorous. Success is a party to which they were not invited, and they know in their hearts that this rising wealth and power is somehow directly connected to their growing debts and powerlessness.

For the people who saw security and status as their birthright – and that means white men most of all – these losses are unbearable.

Donald Trump speaks directly to that pain. The Brexit campaign spoke to that pain. So do all of the rising far-right parties in Europe. They answer it with nostalgic nationalism and anger at remote economic bureaucracies – whether Washington, the North American free trade agreement the World Trade Organisation or the EU. And of course, they answer it by bashing immigrants and people of colour, vilifying Muslims, and degrading women. Elite neoliberalism has nothing to offer that pain, because neoliberalism unleashed the Davos class. People such as Hillary and Bill Clinton are the toast of the Davos party. In truth, they threw the party.

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Meet Peter Thiel: Donald Trump Taps Silicon Valley Billionaire Who Helped Bankrupt Gawker

Amy Goodman speaks to Sam Biddle, technology reporter at The Intercept, formerly of Gawker, who has followed Peter Thiel closely. (Democracy Now!)

 

Donald Trump, Peter Thiel and the death of democracy

Ben Tarnoff writes for The Guardian:

[…] Most of the media is baffled by Peter Thiel’s endorsement of Donald Trump. And it’s true that at first glance the two men aren’t an obvious match. Trump is an authoritarian populist who promises to abolish free trade. Thiel is a self-described libertarian who worships capitalism. Thiel is also one of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley – and Silicon Valley hates Trump.

So why would Thiel embrace Trump? So far, observers have offered two explanations. One is Thiel’s contrarianism; another is his lifelong crusade against “political correctness”. Thiel certainly enjoys courting controversy, whether it involves funding a lawsuit to destroy Gawker or funding a fellowship to induce kids to drop out of college. And Thiel shares Trump’s antipathy to the “politically correct” rhetoric of diversity and multiculturalism, as well as to affirmative action.

But neither of these reasons speak to Thiel’s deeper affinities with Trump. What Trump offers Thiel isn’t just an excuse to be contrary and politically incorrect. Trump gives Thiel something far more valuable: a way to fulfill his long-held ambition of saving capitalism from democracy.

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Donald Trump: The Raw and Naked Face of a System That Showers Speculators with Obscene Riches and Political Power

Paul Jay says the enablers of this surge in far right populism are the leaders of both major parties and the corporate media. (The Real News)

How Jeff Bezos Is Hurtling Toward World Domination

Alexander Nazaryan reports for Newsweek:

“The clouds surrounding Amazon.com are thickening,” began the Washington Post article by David Streitfeld on February 21, 2001. In the previous year, stockholders had suddenly learned that the internet was not immune to the boom-and-bust cycles of more earthbound forms of economic endeavor, and it seemed the Seattle-based bookseller was going to go the way of Pets.com, the most infamous example of late 1990s cyberhubris. Streitfeld noted that one detractor of Amazon “expects the Internet retailer to run out of money to adequately fund its operations later this year.”

Amazon did not run out of money—nor was it subsumed into a bigger competitor like Wal-Mart—but it wasn’t until 2003 that it ended a year with a profit. That milestone led The Wall Street Journal to call it “one of the most powerful survivors on the Internet.”

Today, the question is not whether Amazon can survive but whether we can survive without Amazon. It is in the pantheon of corporations we need more than we need most federal agencies. Just as you can search for updates on Drake’s romantic life on Bing instead of Google or post updates about your own romantic life on Ello instead of Facebook, you can buy beef jerky in bulk on Overstock instead of Amazon. But why would you? Entirely credible reasons exist to dislike Amazon: its treatment of workers, its alleged evasion of taxes, a tendency toward monopoly. But you can’t escape it. The company is lodged deep into our culture, a complex creature that engenders equally complex emotions, much like turkey bacon and the Kardashians.

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Some Pundits Think the Solution to Right-Wing Populism Is Less Democracy

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Foreign Policy: It's Time for the Elites to Rise UpThe core orthodoxies of neoliberalism are under attack by populist forces, and commentators are scrambling for a response. Some are suggesting more left-wing red meat. Others, a moment of self-reflection. But a number of pundits are doing that most noxious of political commentary pastimes—equating right and left responses to the failures of globalization and advocating that “elites” should fight back against the forces of inconvenient democracy.

First was Foreign Policy contributing editor James Traub (6/28/16), whose piece bore this cartoonishly Dickensian headline:

It’s Time for the Elites to Rise Up Against the Ignorant Masses

Magazine writers aren’t generally responsible for their headlines, but this one captured the flavor of Traub’s screed, which declared:

It is necessary to say that people are deluded and that the task of leadership is to un-delude them. Is that “elitist”? Maybe it is; maybe…it is now elitist to believe in reason, expertise, and the lessons of history.

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Goldman Sachs Hires Former European Commission Chief Jose Manual Barroso

Reuters reports:

Goldman Sachs has hired former head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso to be an advisor and non-executive chairman of its international business, as the U.S. bank grapples with the fallout from Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Barroso served as president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, from 2004 to 2014 and was prime minister of Portugal from 2002 to 2004.

Goldman Sachs and other U.S. investment banks are seen as particularly vulnerable to Brexit since they rely on the EU’s “passporting” regime that allows them to offer services across the bloc while basing most of their staff and operations in the UK. Banks have warned that if their British outposts lose their “passports” they will have to move some employees and business units to alternative bases in the EU.

Goldman Sachs International, which Barroso will chair, is headquartered in London and of its roughly 6,000 staff fewer than 1,000 are based outside Britain.

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Leaker, Speaker, Soldier, Spy: The Charmed Life of David Petraeus

Nick Turse writes for TomDispatch:

Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, center, during an address at the University of Southern California's annual ROTC dinner, in Los Angeles, March 26, 2013. (Photo: Monica Almeida / The New York Times)

[…] Celebrity generals like Petraeus and fellow former four-star generals Stanley McChrystal (whose military career was also consumed in the flames of scandal) and Ray Odierno (who retired amid controversy), as well as retired admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, don’t even need to enter the world of arms dealers and defense firms. These days, those jobs may increasingly be left to second-tier military luminaries like Marine Corps general James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now on the board of directors at Raytheon, as well as former Vice Admiral and Director of Naval Intelligence Jack Dorsett, who joined Northrop Grumman.

If, however, you are one of the military’s top stars, the sky is increasingly the limit. You can, for instance, lead a consulting firm (McChrystal and Mullen) or advise or even join the boards of banks and civilian corporations like JPMorgan Chase (Odierno), Jet Blue (McChrystal), and General Motors (Mullen).

For his part, after putting his extramarital affair behind him, Petraeus became a partner at the private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR), where he also serves as the chairman of the KKR Global Institute and, according to his bio, “oversees the institute’s thought leadership platform focused on geopolitical and macro-economic trends, as well as environmental, social, and governance issues.” His lieutenants include a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and campaign manager for President George W. Bush, as well as a former leading light at Morgan Stanley.

KKR’s portfolio boasts a bit of everything, from Alliant Insurance Services and Panasonic Healthcare to a host of Chinese firms (Rundong Automobile Group and Asia Dairy, among them). There are also defense firms under its umbrella, including TASC, the self-proclaimed “premier provider of advanced systems engineering and integration services across the Intelligence Community, Department of Defense, and civilian agencies of the federal government,” and Airbus Group’s defense electronics business which KKR recently bought for $1.2 billion.

KKR is, however, just where Petraeus’s post-military, post-CIA résumé begins.

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The Billionaire Pedophile Who Could Bring Down Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Brandy Zadrozny reports for The Daily Beast:

For Jeffrey Epstein and his famous friends, the Aughts were a simpler time, when the businessmen, academics, and celebrities who counted themselves among the playboy philanthropist’s inner circle could freely enjoy the fruits of his extreme wealth and connections.

Epstein’s little black book and flight logs read like a virtual Who’s Who: Bill Clinton,Donald Trump, Larry Summers, Kevin Spacey, Prince Andrew, and Naomi Campbell all hitched rides on Epstein’s private planes. Socialites and distinguished scientists went to visit Epstein’s island in St. Thomas, and cavorted at epic dinner parties at his palatial townhouse—then the largest privately owned residence in New York, as he liked to brag. There, they picked at elaborate meals catered by celebrity chefs like Rocco DiSpirito, marvelled at Epstein’s opulent decor, and noted the pack of very, very young model-types with whom Epstein always seemed to surround himself.

But a darker story was going on underneath the glamour. In 2008, Epstein was convicted of soliciting sex from an underage girl and quietly paid settlements to scores of alleged victims who said he serially molested them. But the girls kept coming out of the woodwork—in 2014, another young woman filed a lawsuit claiming that Epstein used her as a sex slave for his powerful friends—and that she’d been at parties on his private island with former President Clinton.

And just last week, yet another “Jane Doe” filed a suit in New York accusing Epstein andDonald Trump of raping her at a series of sex parties when she was only 13.

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George Soros: Brexit Makes EU Disintegration Practically Irreversible

George Soros writes for Project Syndicate:

[…] Now the catastrophic scenario that many feared has materialized, making the disintegration of the EU practically irreversible. Britain eventually may or may not be relatively better off than other countries by leaving the EU, but its economy and people stand to suffer significantly in the short to medium term. The pound plunged to its lowest level in more than three decades immediately after the vote, and financial markets worldwide are likely to remain in turmoil as the long, complicated process of political and economic divorce from the EU is negotiated. The consequences for the real economy will be comparable only to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

That process is sure to be fraught with further uncertainty and political risk, because what is at stake was never only some real or imaginary advantage for Britain, but the very survival of the European project. Brexit will open the floodgates for other anti-European forces within the Union. Indeed, no sooner was the referendum’s outcome announced than France’s National Front issued a call for “Frexit,” while Dutch populist Geert Wilders promoted “Nexit.”

Moreover, the UK itself may not survive. Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, can be expected to make another attempt to gain its independence, and some officials in Northern Ireland, where voters also backed Remain, have already called for unification with the Republic of Ireland.

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The Real Brexit “Catastrophe”: World’s 400 Richest People Lose $127 Billion

Tyler Durden reports for Zero Hedge:

For all the scaremongering and threats of an imminent financial apocalypse should Brexit win, including dire forecasts from the likes of George Soros, the Bank of England, David Cameron (who even invoked war), and even Jacob Rothschild, something “unexpected” happened yesterday: the UK was the best performing European market following the Brexit outcome.

This outcome was just as we expected three days ago for reasons that we penned in “Is Soros Wrong“, where we said “in a world in which central banks rush to devalue their currency at any means necessary just to gain a modest competitive advantage in global trade wars, a GBP collapse is precisely what the BOE should want, if it means kickstarting the UK economy.”

On Friday, the market started to price it in too, and in the process revealed that the biggest sovereign losers from Brexit will not be the UK but Europe.

Not only, though. Because as we noted yesterday in “Who Are The Biggest Losers From Brexit?”, there is an even bigger loser than the EU: Britain and Europe’s wealthiest people.

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Brexit is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

The decision by UK voters to leave the EU is such a glaring repudiation of the wisdom and relevance of elite political and media institutions that – for once – their failures have become a prominent part of the storyline. Media reaction to the Brexit vote falls into two general categories: (1) earnest, candid attempts to understand what motivated voters to make this choice, even if that means indicting one’s own establishment circles, and (2) petulant, self-serving, simple-minded attacks on disobedient pro-leave voters for being primitive, xenophobic bigots (and stupid to boot), all to evade any reckoning with their own responsibility. Virtually every reaction that falls into the former category emphasizes the profound failures of western establishment factions; these institutions have spawned pervasive misery and inequality, only to spew condescending scorn at their victims when they object.

The Los Angeles Times‘ Vincent Bevins, in an outstanding and concise analysis, wrote that “both Brexit and Trumpism are the very, very wrong answers to legitimate questions that urban elites have refused to ask for thirty years”; in particular, “since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt.” The British journalist Tom Ewing, in a comprehensive Brexit explanation, said the same dynamic driving the UK vote prevails in Europe and North America as well: “the arrogance of neoliberal elites in constructing a politics designed to sideline and work around democracy while leaving democracy formally intact.”

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