Monday, July 13, 2020

How Do We Change The Leadership Of Our Quasi-Sovereign Big-Tech Neofeudal Nobility?

You better bow low and pay up, peasant, or your voice in the digital world will disappear just as quickly as your democracy's control over Big Tech.
Who's the junior partner in global hegemony, Big Tech or the U.S. government? The question would have been laughable just a few years ago, but now it's a viable debate when we ask questions like: which one plays a larger role in your daily life, Big Tech platforms or the government? If controlling the flow of data is now the primary means of production, then who owns control of data flows? As we all know, the answer is Big Tech platforms: Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, Netflix et al.
As Mark, Jesse and I discuss in our latest salon, The Rise and Fall of the Neo-Feudal Network State, these platforms have become defacto sovereign states with global hegemony over surveillance, censorship, data collection and behavioral influence--what Jesse calls network states.
Since the leadership of these private-sector sovereign entities is effectively monarchical, it is also effectively neofeudal: these platforms are private, closed source systems, managed by black-box algorithms hidden from users and regulators. This is the acme of neofeudalism: there is no democratic control at all by users or citizens.
Whether Facebook will ever hit upon a more coherent approach to protecting the free expression of the powerless as well as the powerful depends on whether it ever comes to grip with its own role as the largest censor in the history of the world. (emphasis added by CHS)
"Facebook is governing human expression more than any government does or ever has," said Susan Benesch, a faculty associate at Harvard University's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. "They have taken on the task of defining hate speech and other unacceptable speech, which is a quasi-sovereign power... and we the public have no opportunity to contribute to the decision-making, as would be the case if the decisions were being made by a government."
Indeed, despite company executives' paying lip service to the concept of democracy from time to time, Facebook is structurally monarchical.
To the University of Virginia media studies professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, campaigners against Facebook need to come to grips with the global nature of its threat.
"The US got off easy in 2016-- the same year that Rodrigo Duterte took over the Philippines by riding Facebook to victory, and two years after Narendra Modi took over India by riding Facebook to victory. Much of the world suffers from all of the Facebook maladies much worse than the US."
Vaidhyanathan argued that solutions to Facebook's ills cannot be achieved with oversight from above but will require a more fundamental shift from below. "The root of Facebook is the fact that it is a global intrusive surveillance system that leverages all that behavioral data to target both ads and non-ad content at us."
In other words, the lords of Big Tech control the digital means of production, and the peasants and serfs are powerless. That is the perfection of neofeudalism. As Mark and Jesse posit, this has effectively flipped the central states (governments) into the junior partners of the privately owned network state/central state global hegemony.
In response, governments now view the quasi-sovereign Big Tech platforms domiciled in their borders as key allies in the struggle for global hegemony. Hence we are witnessing pushback against Chinese social-media giant TikTok, which as Jesse points out, is indeed a global platform for propaganda just like Facebook, Google, et al.
Recall that propaganda isn't just what you're allowed to see, it's also what you're not allowed to see and also what's being promoted on Page One in your feed and what's been buried on Page 23 (to use an old-media analogy).
Meanwhile, these privately owned quasi-sovereign networks are immensely profitable, as they sell the data they collect to advertisers and marketers, including political campaigns. Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook etc. wield more political power and influence than traditional political advocacy groups because their cash hoards are so stupendous.
The feedback loop is ominous: as government regulators are throttled or marginalized by political pressure bought by privately owned quasi-sovereign Big Tech platforms, the platforms are in effect protected from any democratic control exerted by the citizenry in their nominal "home nation," not to mention the citizenry they influence in other nations.
Unlike the old monopolies like Standard Oil, the quasi-sovereign Big Tech platforms are the media, so there's nothing left to balance their skyrocketing power. As we discuss in the podcast, their control is (in Jesse's term) molecular, so they've effectively dismantled the legacy social-political structures such as working class, middle class, etc.
With mass media replaced by Big Tech's data-flow / behavioral-control molecular media, political coherence has been lost, and so divide-and conquer control mechanisms are now essentially infinite: any group, no matter how coherent, can be splintered into warring fragments by the Big Tech Neofeudal Nobility.
After all, they have the data and they can use it however they want, with no limits or controls by users, citizens or nominally democratic governments.
How do we change the leadership of our Neofeudal Nobility, the privately owned, quasi-sovereign Big Tech platforms? The short answer is: we don't. There is no mechanism left for influencing anything in the monarchies of Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, etc al.
Meet the new boss, worse than the old boss. You better bow low and pay up, peasant, or your voice in the digital world will disappear just as quickly as your democracy's control over Big Tech.
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Mobile Trading Surges In India As Retail Joins Stock Market Party

From Zero Hedge:

The rise of mobile daytraders has been a global phenomenon during the pandemic. From the US to Europe to China to India, pajama traders swinging stock and options positions from their smartphones steadily increased as global central banks printed trillions of dollars and ignited a historic rally in world stocks. 
Central bank balance sheets expanded rapidly as pandemic began. 
World stocks drop on the pandemic, but V-shaped recovered as central banks unleashed trillions of dollar into global markets. It was the run-up when retail decided to download mobile apps for trading and join the stock market party. 
More recently, daytraders in China have seen a chaotic melt-up catapult the tech-heavy ChiNext index 40% in the last 30 trading sessions. 
US daytraders using the Robinhood mobile app bored during virus lockdowns with no sports and confined to their homes, panic bought shares of bankrupted companies, outpaced hedge funds in returns over the last several months.   
The rise of daytraders using smartphones has also become popular in India. Mobile trading recently overtook internet-based trading in cash markets. 
Nitin Kamath, founder, and CEO of Zerodha, told BloombergQuint, inexpensive smartphones have made mobile trading more accessible to the masses who don't have access to a desktop computer or traditional stockbroker. 
Official data via the National Stock Exchange of India shows mobile trading turnover in cash markets increased 9-percentage-points to 23% since February, compared against the 4-percentage-point rise to 13% for internet trading during the period. 
As of June, the mobile share of trading on the National Stock Exchange was about a quarter of all traders. 
Upstox, an Indian discount brokerage firm operated by RKSV Securities India Pvt., which has a mobile app for trading - has seen a rapid increase in users this year: 
"Over the last year, Upstox has on-boarded a large number of digitally savvy traders from non-metro cities," Ravi Kumar, co-founder, said in a statement. "Over 80% of the total customer base acquired by the company is from tier-2 and tier-3 cities like Nashik, Jaipur, Guntur, Patna, Kannur, Tiruvallur & Nainital and among others. Currently, almost 75% of the total customer base is below the age of 35." 
BloombergQuint notes, "as more investors flock to equity markets, shares of listed brokerages surged in the last three months. ICICI Securities, IIFL Securities Ltd., 5paisa Capital Ltd. and Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd. jumped 33-101% during the period." 
NIFTY's rising wedge broke - can't get too excited about this pattern's downside break. 
Retail is going all-in into equity markets during a global pandemic, worldwide recession, and central banks juicing stock markets with trillions of dollars will ultimately end in tears.
We've already outlined Robinhood traders blowing up their accounts by taking out too much leverage. 
And how will this all end for inexperienced daytraders using mobile apps to panic buy stocks across the world at record high valuations? Well, Leon Cooperman recently said it 'won't end well'. 

Bill Ackman's New "The Simpsons"-Inspired Investment Raises $4BN In "Largest IPO For A SPV"

From Zero Hedge:

Bill Ackman's "The Simpsons"-inspired "blank check" investing vehicle, known as "Pershing Square Tontine Holdings", is set to raise between $3 billion and $4 billion during its upcoming IPO after Ackman increased the size of the offering by $1 billion.
The deal, which will be the largest-ever IPO by a special purpose vehicle, a legal entity created to fulfill a specific, narrow purpose, will go public by offering 200,000,000 units, each 'unit' including one share of common stock and 1/9th of one redeemable warrant, plus a warrant that comes with special restrictions, at a price of $20.
Typically, a tontine is an investing arrangement where buyers are paid an annuity until they die. As holders die, the annuity paid to everyone else grows, until the last surviving investor receives whatever is left in the pot. It experienced peak popularity in 18th and 19th-Century France.

Ackman's fund won't function like a traditional tontine, but the Ackaman name has allowed him to offer 200 million units for $20 a piece.
As WSJ explained in a piece published on Monday, these "blank-check" companies are essentially big pools of cash that are listed on an exchange. Their sole purpose is typically to acquire a private company. Once that happens, the private firm essentially takes the 'blank check' firm's place on the exchange. The IPO market still hasn't recovered from last year's string of embarrassments (though several companies that debuted in the class of 2019 are now trading far above their offering levels), and the 'blank check' is a backdoor for companies looking to list, but don't feel confident about market conditions for an IPO. So, instead, they can work out a deal with somebody like Ackman, with the idea that he can use his credibility to raise more capital.
The fund hasn't stipulated what sector it's supposed to be targeting, though filings have stated that "mature, VC-backed unicorns" are an area of interest. The fund has also cited large IPO candidates, PE-backed companies in need of capital and private and family owned businesses worth more than $10 billion.
Deals like these have been on the rise lately as investors grow increasingly skittish of IPOs despite the market's recent comeback.
Source: WSJ

According to BBG, the fund could eventually raise as much as $7 billion with additional funds from other Ackman-controlled vehicles.
"We will have the largest amount of committed capital of any blank check company upon the completion of this offering," the company stated in the filing. Reuters reported on the initial confidential filing alerting the SEC to the deal earlier this month. 
As WSJ explained on July 13, it could eventually raise as much as $7 billion, including contributions of between $1 billion to $3 billion from funds associated with Pershing Square.
That's a risky proposition for an investor whose major wins have been huge, and whose failures have been disastrous. Though his lifetime earnings are still respectably in the green, Ackman has taken his share of "L"s, from investments in JC Penney, to Valeant to his infamous campaign against Herbalife, which he eventually abandoned.
While the esoteric nature of Ackman's new vehicle might, at first blush, seem only of interest to hard-core finance nerds, it's worth noting that the concept of a "tontine", the form that Ackman is using for this new vehicle, was made popular by one of the most popular episodes of "The Simpsons": "The Flying Hellfish".

Netflix's "Unsolved Mysteries" Reboots Mysterious 2006 Death Of Stansberry Research Employee

Netflix has rebooted the once popular series Unsolved Mysteries, where various unexplained phenomena are highlighted and the show asks viewers for tips and information that could help lead to answers. The reboot has been a resounding success since it has been re-released, with internet sleuths flooding message boards and Reddit threads with their theories about each episode. 
Many of the cases revolve around murder mysteries, disappearances and occasionally the UFO or ghost story. In the streaming service's first episode of the reboot, now available on Netflix, well known stock newsletter tycoon Porter Stansberry, of Stansberry Research, is discussed extensively after the mysterious death of his former best friend and one of his former employees.
Episode one of the series highlights the case of a 32 year old newlywed named Rey Rivera, who picked up his life to move across the country to Baltimore and to work for his friend Porter Stansberry. Rivera was doing video editing for Stansberry's company at the time he died. 
Rivera was seen alive on May 16, 2006, but his body "was found six days later in an abandoned room in the second-story annex of the Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore," according to Radio Times.
The last phone call that he received, before rushing out of the house, "was tracked to the switchboard of Stansberry & Associates, though who it was from remains a mystery." The area Rivera was found dead was nearby to Stansberry's offices. 
A mysterious hole was found in the roof of the annex, suggesting that Rivera may have fallen through the roof. But his personal belongings, including his glasses and his cell phone seemed to be in good working order. Additionally, he had fractures in his shin bones and other areas that made it difficult for the medical examiner to pinpoint a cause of death. 
Ultimately, Baltimore Police ruled his death a suicide, despite the medical examiner calling it "inconclusive". As Netflix points out, he would have had to have jumped outward 45 feet from the nearest roof to land where he did. 
Thus, the mystery of the case is how Rivera wound up plunging through the roof, if he even did.
Rivera also left behind a mysterious sounding note that included language with ties to Freemasonry. At one point, it said: “brothers and sisters, around the world right now volcanoes are erupting, what an awesome sight,” a line with ties to Freemasonry.
Porter Stansberry didn't actively participate in the Netflix show and the documentary alleges he put his company under a gag order just hours after Rivera was found dead. That claim was disputed by Stansberry on July 3.
According to Esquire: 
The Netflix documentary claims that Porter Stansberry refused to speak to or cooperate with investigators or media following Rey Rivera’s disappearance and death, and gag ordered his company’s employees from doing so as well.
On July 3, a spokesperson for the company disputed claims made in the Netflix episode, denying that Stansberry’s employees had ever been barred from speaking about Rivera's case.
“There was no gag order or direction given to employees to not speak to the press, law enforcement or any other party," a spokesperson for Stansberry Research told the Baltimore Sun last week.
You can watch the trailer for the episode here:

The internet is replete with theories and analysis about this episode, like this video, as well. 

'People Are Going To Be Shocked': Bannon Claims Wuhan Lab Employees Have Defected, Are Working With FBI

From Zero Hedge:

One day after a report that a respected Chinese virologist fled Hong Kong to accuse Beijing of a COVID cover-up, former Trump strategist Steve Bannon told the Daily Mail that scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other labs have defected to the West and are "turning over evidence" against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for their role in the COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed over 560,000 lives worldwide since last December.
"People are going to be shocked," Bannon told the  Mail ("from a yacht off the East coast of America," the Mail would like us to know).
The 66-year-old then said that defectors are cooperating with intelligence agencies in America, Europe and the UK, which have been assembling evidence to challenge the CCP claim that the pandemic originated in a wet market - not in a lab home to scientists who have come under fire for manipulating bat coronavirus to be more transmissible to humans.
"I think that they [spy agencies] have electronic intelligence, and that they have done a full inventory of who has provided access to that lab. I think they have very compelling evidence. And there have also been defectors," he said. "People around these labs have been leaving China and Hong Kong since mid-February. [US intelligence] along with MI5 and MI6 are trying to build a very thorough legal case, which may take a long time. It’s not like James Bond."
Mr Bannon even suggested that the French government, which helped to build the institute, had left behind monitoring systems after Beijing shut them out of the project before it opened in 2017. -Daily Mail
"The thing was built with French help, so don’t think that there aren’t some monitoring devices in there. I think what you are going to find out is that these guys were doing experiments which they weren’t fully authorized [for] or knew what they were doing and that somehow, either through an inadvertent mistake, or on a lab technician, one of these things got out," Bannon continued. "It’s not that hard for these viruses to get out. That is why these labs are so dangerous."
"You essentially had a biological Chernobyl in Wuhan, but the center of gravity, the Ground Zero, was around the Wuhan lab, in terms of the casualty rates. And like Chernobyl, you also had the cover-up – the state apparatus reports to itself and just protects itself."
Mr Bannon, who has close links to Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese billionaire, told this newspaper: ‘Regardless of whether it came out of the market or the Wuhan lab, the Chinese Communist party’s subsequent decisions hold them guilty of pre-meditated murder.
‘We know this because Taiwan formally informed the WHO on December 31 that there was some sort of epidemic coming out of Hubei province [where Wuhan is]. The CDC in Beijing was informed on January 2 or 3, and they decided to withhold that information and then sign a trade deal [with the US on January 15].
If they had been straightforward and truthful in the last week of December, 95 per cent of the lives lost and the economic carnage would have been contained. -Daily Mail
Bannon continues:
"That is the tragedy here. They used the time to scoop up all the world’s personal protective equipment. This is a murderous dictatorship. The blood is [also] on the hands of the world’s corporations – the investment banks, the hedge funds and the pension funds – and it is time to start calling it out before it leads to the destruction of the West," Bannon elaborated. "We are in the most extraordinary crisis in modern American history, more than Vietnam, the Cold War, even the Second World War. A global pandemic and an economic inferno. I have no faith in the WHO, the leadership should face criminal charges and be shut down."
One has to wonder if China will respond with whistleblowers from Ft. Detrick to support their narrative?