Dave Emory’s entire lifetime of work is available on a flash drive that can be obtained here. (The flash drive includes the anti-fascist books available on this site.)
Note that this description contains material not included in the original broadcast.
Introduction: Bringing up to date our massive For The Record series on “L’Affaire Snowden,” the program opens with discussion of the CV of Plato Cacheris, Snowden’s latest attorney. Specializing in intelligence-related cases, Cacheris has been on the scene during past investigations of covert operations and domestic political destabilization efforts, having represented Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell during Watergate, Oliver North’s secretary Fawn Hall and Monica Lewinsky.
Next, we note that NSA critic and Snowden supporter Rand Paul enjoys the support of Joe Lonsdale, a co-founder of Palantir and an associate of Peter Thiel. (The company’s disclaimers to the contrary notwithstanding, the available evidence suggests strongly that Palantir makes the PRISM software at the center of the brouhaha around Snowden.)
A long-standing fellow traveler of fascists, white-supremacists and neo-Confederates, Rand Paul is the Presidential candidate of choice of Ralph Nader, whose Green Party candidacy was instrumental in handing George W. Bush the Presidency in 2000 (with the pivotal assistance of the Supreme Court). This as Jeb Bush, Dubya’s kid brother, is looking more and more like the Presidential candidate for GOP in 2000.
Basically, Nader is now a fellow-traveler of the Tea Party.
With Lewinsky attorney Plato Cacheris now representing Snowden, and Whitewater players Richard Leon and Larry Klayman also reappearing in L’Affaire Snowden, elements of the Bush destabilization team that helped install Dubya (with the help of Darth Nader) appear to be coalescing.
In past programs, we have noted that L’Affaire Snowden and WikiLeaks appear to be part of the same operation. Both Assange and Snowden have related “hacker nicknames/handles.”
Of great significance is Assange’s endorsement of the need for unregulated financial markets, placing him in the company of the cyber-libertarian fascists.
Snowden’s latest media interview, with NBC’s Brian Williams, was arranged by EBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media. Omidyar has been a financier of fascist causes and individuals, and has links with numerous agencies and institutions that serve as vehicles for U.S. covert operations.
Underscoring in a dramatic way, our caveat: “Fear the tech companies, not the NSA, Facebook is introducing a new feature that will permit the company to turn on the microphones of their customers’ smart phones and listen in on them at any time!
Program Highlights Include:
- Review of the fascist/white supremacist links of Ron and Rand Paul.
- Review of Julian Assange’s support for “The Paulistinian Libertarian Oranization.”
- Review of Omidyar’s financing of Nazi fellow-traveler Glenn Greenwald.
- Review of Omidyar’s role in financing the coup in the Ukraine, bringing to power the OUN/B successor organizations Swoboda and Pravy Sektor.
- Review of Omidyar’s behind-the-scenes support for Narendra Modi’s election.
- Omidyar’s use of an organization headed by Roy Prosterman, a veteran of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam and similar programs in places like El Salvador.
- Omidyar’s view that philanthropy should be a profit-generating undertaking.
- Omidyar’s apparent involvement in financial wrongdoing.
- Omidyar’s impending entry into the Indian e-commerce market, courtesy of his political selectee, Narendra Modi.
- Julian Assange’s endorsement of Bitcoin, touted by the same cyber-libertarian fascists that underlie the Snowden “op.”
- A story not included in the original broadcast about Facebook harvesting data about customers’ shopping habits.
1. Snowden’s latest choice of lawyers is a veteran of espionage cases, and has appeared on the scene in connection with domestic covert operations.
Edward Snowden has retained a new attorney who is well-versed in the world of espionage, but Plato Cacheris is also well known for being a stealth legal navigator for those who find themselves suddenly notorious. In some instances, like Snowden, the two go hand-in-hand.
But a New York Times story published Tuesday morning about Cacheris taking on Snowden’s case leaves out perhaps the lawyer’s most famous clients: Monica Lewinsky, President Bill Clinton’s mistress; and Fawn Hall, of the Iran-Contra scandal. Cacheris helped Lewinsky receive immunity from prosecution, freeing her to testify about her sexual relationship with Clinton. He also got immunity for Hall, who was secretary to Oliver North, so she could speak freely. . . . .
. . . . The mega-lawyer has been the go-to defense lawyer for most D.C. scandals since representing Attorney General John Mitchell during the Watergate crisis. . . . .
2. Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale is a backer or Rand Paul. He is also a close associate of Peter Thiel.
Sen. Rand Paul, the libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican and likely presidential contender, sat down with Fortune’s Tory Newmyer in April after his latest swing through Silicon Valley to talk about his efforts to build a base there. Edited excerpts:
What have you learned from your conversations with entrepreneurs like Peter Thiel and others in Silicon Valley?
Almost everybody I talk to out there from Peter on will say, “You know what? We think Silicon Valley is a little more libertarian than it is Democrat, even though 80 to 90% of the money went to President Obama.” And it’s been a deterrent to some Republicans going out there. Many more of them are libertarian-leaning Republicans than they are Democrats, and they may not know it yet. But actually most of them do know it. Frankly a lot of people who supported President Obama will say, “You know what? It turns out I am a lot more fiscally conservative than President Obama on taxes and regulation.” They’re not happy about either one of those. But they’re more moderate on social issues than the Republicans are.
You’ve got an apparent supporter in Joe Lonsdale. A company he co-founded, Palantir, got startup funding from the CIA venture fund to enhance the surveillance agencies’ ability to sort data. What would you say to civil libertarians who look at the capacity they’ve developed and say it presents the potential for problems?
I’m not afraid of technology. So I’m not like somebody who’s afraid of the loom. I’m not afraid of the light bulb. I’m not afraid of things like that. I am conscious of the fact the more technology you have, it could be abused, but I’m not against spying. I’m for spying if it is done within the confines of the Fourth Amendment. Which means you have to name the person, name what you want, ask a judge, and present probable cause. . . .
3. Shades of 2000–Darth Nader is stumping for Rand Paul.
This week, Ralph Nader returned to the political stage with a new book, Unstoppable, whose triumphant subtitle is The Emerging Left-Right Allianceto Dismantle the Corporate State. To kick off his publicity tour, he has argued that liberals should “definitely” impeach President Barack Obama, abandon the “international militarist” Hillary Clinton, and instead embrace Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) as a possible leader of his dream coalition. . . .
4. Next, the program reviews Ralph Nader’s political hypocrisy, excerpting material from FTR #264 (Recorded in January of 2001.)
The first part of the excerpt features an article about the hypocritical investment policy that Ralph Nader has executed. (“How Nader Profits While He Preaches” by Jeff McMahon; bushwatch.net/nader.htm; 10/27/2000.)
In a pre-script to the McMahon article, Nader expressed his preference for George W. Bush over Al Gore (in a radio interview excerpted at the beginning of the article.)
. . . . Of more immediate interest, at least to Al Gore, are Nader’s respectable poll numbers: 7 to 10 percent in California as of June, 6 percent nationally. If California tips Green enough, Bush could win the state and the whole damn election. Which, Nader confided to Outside in June, wouldn’t be so bad. When asked if someone put a gun to his head and told him to vote for either Gore or Bush, which he would choose, Nader answered without hesitation: “Bush.” Not that he actually thinks the man he calls “Bush Inc.” deserves to be elected: “He’ll do whatever industry wants done.” The rumpled crusader clearly prefers to sink his righteous teeth into Al Gore, however: “He’s totally betrayed his 1992 book,” Nader says. “It’s all rhetoric.” Gore “groveled openly” to automakers, charges Nader, who concludes with the sotto voce realpolitik of a ward heeler: “If you want the parties to diverge from one another, have Bush win.”
Nader owns up to $250,000 worth of shares of Fidelity Magellan Fund, a firm that is heavily invested in many of the corporations that Nader has been most vocal in criticizing.
Among those firms that Fidelity invests in are Halliburton oil, headed by Dick Cheney up until recently. Fidelity also invests in Occidental Petroleum, a firm that has been criticized by environmentalists. Al Gore’s mother’s trust owns a significant block of Occidental stock. Gore’s populist credentials have been impugned Nader Vice-Presidential candidate Winona La Duke because of that stock.
We also highlight disturbing aspects of Nader’s anti-labor activities, and his avoidance of social issues. (“1.75 Cheers for Ralph” by Doug Henwood; Left Business Observer; 10/1996 [#74].)
. . . . After initially communicating with reporters under the pseudonym “Verax”–the Latin antonym of Assange’s Mendax–Snowden chose to reveal his real name . . .
6a. While not at all surprising at this point, it’s worth noting that Julian Assange just gave an interview where he hails the virtues of Bitcoin and unregulated financial markets in general:
Julian Assange: Bitcoin Could Establish a New Global Consensus [Net Prophet] by Michelle Atagana; memeburn; 5/21/2014.
“Bitcoin is the most intellectually interesting development in the last two years,” said Julian Assange via a WeChat Livestream at Net Prophet— the annual technology and trends conference. According to the Wikileaks founder, the next great innovation that is headed our way will be in the finance sector.
He reckons that the technological innovation behind Bitcoin is establishing a new global consensus.
Usually, we need laws to establish and enforce the way financial transactions take place, but Bitcoin is changing that. Cryptographically enforced agreements, like the ones coming out of Bitcoin, are different from the norm in as much as the code behind them enforces how transactions are done.
Assange, who is still being granted asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, suspects that in the next few years we’ll see a level of innovation in financial services that far outstrips those of the past. The way he sees it, the current traditional model of the finance industry isn’t working and Bitcoin is disrupting it in a good way.
Responding to a question on the rise of one dominant player in some aspects of the internet (think Google with search), the weather-worn whistleblower reckons the age of single dominance is problematic.
“I think that is a serious question — whether most things that most people use most of the time will be eaten up by a few dominant players,” said Assange, who again turned to the example of Bitcoin to illustrate his point.
You can quickly form a full financial system with hedge funds and other such financial services where there is no regulation, where the regulation is a cryptographic agreement, he points out. The benefit of such a system is that people have to be part of this agreement in order to talk to each other.
Another benefit is that there is no regulation, because it is all done through computation. Financial services running over the top of cryptographic protocols such as Bitcoin therefore tend to evolve and innovate incredibly quickly.
Assange reckons that when it comes discussing innovation within the finance industry, we must understand that what we are talking about is the interaction of finance. He explains this concept as “the abstraction of relationships”.
“What we are talking about is the interaction of finance: the abstraction of relationships between organisations and individuals and the quantifications of those relationships.”
For the renowned hacker, cryptographic agreements involve the need to agree. In turn, he says, we are talking about a way of creating new orders and new societal agreements that include all of society, not just new orders that only apply to those who chose to come in and agree to a particular aspect or cryptographic.
Assange argues that current structures around finance from political and economic points of view mean that the people in control can often get pushed around by the state. This is why Bitcoin is important, he says, as it brings about diversity, which is needed in any organization. . . .
6b. Assange is a bird of the same feather as Ralph Nader, Snowden, Rand Paul and his father Ron Paul.
The strong turn of Julian Assange and Wikileaks toward partisan electoral politics continued this weekend, as Assange told an online audience that he’s “a big admirer of Ron Paul and Rand Paul for their very principled positions in the U.S. Congress on a number of issues” and insisted that the libertarian wing the Republican Party represented the “only hope” for reform in American politics.
The praise for the conservative Paul wing of the Republican Party in the U.S., aligned with Tea Party and anti-government activists, comes on the heels of the establishment of the Wikileaks Party in Australia, where Assange is standing for election to the Senate from Victoria. . . . .
7. In the long FTR series on L’Affaire Snowden, we noted that all of the players were outright fascists and/or exponents of corporatist economic theory. That includes Pierre Omidyar, Nazi fellow-traveler Glenn Greenwald’s financial angel and backer of First Look media. Touting the laissez-faire economics of the GOP and other corporatist elements around the world, Omidyar has also helped to finance the rise of fascist elements abroad, including assisting in the ascent of the OUN/B successor forces in the Ukraine, as well as Narendra Modi, heir to the RSS Hindu fascists that spawned his BJP.
Omidyar’s “philanthropy” is cast in the laissez-faire economics to which he is wed. Building on the lethal record of his SKS microfinance project in Andhra Pradesh state in India, Omidyar Networks has utilized the Rural Development Institute, the child of Roy Prosterman, a counterinsurgency veteran of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam and similar projects in places like El Salvador.
Omidyar and his then-CEO Meg Whitman (of EBAy) also were under investigation: “. . . . in return for giving Goldman Sachs the lucrative eBay IPO, the “vampire squid” bank set up private secret accounts for Omidyar and CEO Meg Whitman letting them spin dozens of tech IPOs before they went to market — ripping off both retail investors and startup investors. Omidyar settled a shareholder fraud lawsuit in 2005 without admitting wrongdoing, ironic for a visionary who believes so deeply in accountability.
Omidyar and other EBay executives are currently being investigated for another alleged scam: “Omidyar was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury criminal investigation into his and other eBay executives’ alleged roles in stealing Craigslist’s “secret sauce” for eBay’s profit.”
What a swell guy Omidyar is. Read the article below for details on his (and other corporatists’) vision for the mutating of micro-finance into a profit-making vehicle, often at the lethal expense of the poor who are supposed to benefit from those programs.
This week, India’s newly-elected ultranationalist leader Narendra Modi unveiled his cabinet, three-quarters of whom come from a fascist paramilitary outfit, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) — including one minister accused by police last year of inciting deadly Hindu-Muslim violence that left over 50 dead.
The RSS was founded in 1925 by open admirers of Mussolini and Hitler; in 1948, an RSS member assassinated pacifist Mahatma Gandhi. In 1992, it was the RSS that organized the destruction of the Ayodha Mosque, leaving 2000 dead, mostly Muslims; and in 2002, the RSS played a key role in the mass-murders of minority Muslims in Gujarat, according to Human Rights Watch, when the state of Gujarat was ruled by Narendra Modi — himself a product of the RSS.
Earlier this week, Pando reported that Modi’s election received help from unlikely sources in Silicon Valley including Google, and to a much more serious extent, Omidyar Network, the philanthropy fund of eBay billionaire and First Look publisher Pierre Omidyar.
From 2009 through February of this year, Omidyar Network India Advisers was headed by Jayant Sinha, a longtime Modi adviser and newly-elected MP in Modi’s ultranationalist BJP party ticket. The Omidyar Network partner and managing director played a double role, investing funds in Indian nonprofits and for-profits, some with distinctly political agendas; while privately, the Omidyar man “worked in Modi’s team” in 2012-13, and served as director in the ultranationalist BJP party’s main think tank on security and economic policy, the India Foundation. This week, Modi appointed the head of the India Foundation, former intelligence chief Ajit Doval, as his National Security Advisor.
Modi was the “hi-tech populist” candidate: London techies managed Modi’s 3-D hologram campaign, beaming 10-feet-tall Modi holograms to rallies across India. And India’s techies played a key role both in campaigning for Modi and voting for Modi.
Despite the sunny progressive Silicon Valley gloss we’ve been fed these past few decades, Modi’s appeal shows that the tech industry is as prone to far-right authoritarian politics as any other industry.
And that is what makes the Omidyar Network story so revealing: Perhaps no other figure embodies the disconnect between his progressive anti-state image, and his factual collaboration with the American national security state and the global neoliberal agenda, than Pierre Omidyar.
The role of Omidyar Network in so many major events of the past week — helping elect India’s ultranationalist leader Narendra Modi; co-funding Ukraine regime-change NGOs with USAID, resulting in a deadly civil war and Monday’s election of Ukrainian billionaire oligarch Petro Poroshenko; and now, this week’s first-ever sit-down TV interview with Edward Snowden, through an arrangement between NBC News and Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media — shows how these contradictions are coming to the fore, and shaping our world.
Omidyar’s central role in the US national security state’s global agenda may still come as a shock to outsiders and fans of First Look media’s roster of once-independent journalists. But to White House foreign policy hawks, Pierre Omidyar represents the new face of an old imperial tradition. . . .
. . . . . By taking a closer look at Omidyar Network’s investments in India, we gain insight into where the common interests between Big Tech, the US national security state, and neoliberalism align — and Omidyar’s strategic thinking aligning eBay/PayPal with Omidyar Network and First Look media.
Let’s start with Omidyar Network’s investments in the Rural Development Institute, founded by one of the godfathers of American counterinsurgency strategy: Roy Prosterman.
“Property Rights”: Omidyar and “Phoenix Program” guru Roy Prosterman
Omidyar Network identifies “property rights” (or “property titling”) as one of its five areas of focus. One of Omidyar’s personal heroes and largest grant recipients is neoliberal economist Hernando de Soto, the former right-hand man to jailed dictator Alberto Fujimori. De Soto is the world’s leading peddler of “property titling” as the answer to global poverty: rather than giving aid, De Soto says we should give the world’s poor private property titles, which slum dwellers can presumably collateralize into microloans for their slum-based startups. The results have often been catastrophic — but that hasn’t stopped De Soto from being admired by the world’s ruling elite, ranging from Bill Clinton, to the Koch brothers — to Pierre Omidyar, who gave $5 million to De Soto’s neoliberal think tank . . .
. . . .India, like many developing countries around the world, has what Anglo-Americans consider a weak legal structure on property rights. In particular, local indigenous peoples lay ancient claims to lands they live on, and have resisted state attempts to forcibly evict them to make way for industry, mining, and other powerful interests. The Naxal Maoist insurgencies raging in parts of India are fueled in part by displaced, landless peoples. Since Modi’s election landslide, global investors have been hopeful that India’s land will now be made easier to buy and sell. Omidyar Network’s longtime top man in India, Jayant Sinha—now an MP in Modi’s far-right ruling party — told CNBC that Modi’s first job should be making land acquisition easier:
We have to start with land acquisition. We have to make land acquisition a lot better in terms of both the people that are acquiring the land from the farmer’s and so on as well as for industry.
So perhaps it’s little surprise that Omidyar’s first major India grant, in 2008, went to the Rural Development Institute’s (renamed “Landesa”) program “to help secure land rights for the rural poor” in India’s Andhra Pradesh state. By 2009, Omidyar Network had committed $9 million to the RDI land rights program, the largest grant in the outfit’s history.
And what a history: The Rural Development Institute was founded in 1967 by Roy Prosterman, whose land reform programs were a key element in the Vietnam War counterinsurgency strategy, the “Phoenix” assassination program. The Phoenix program became the template for modern American counterinsurgency — violent terror, combined with soft-power land “reforms” cooked up by Prosterman’s Institute.
During the Vietnam War, Prosterman teamed up with USAID to implement his “land-to-the-tillers” reforms, granting land to peasants as the carrot, while at the same time CIA death squads assassinated tens of thousands of Vietnamese village leaders and terrorized restive regions into submission. The result, Prosterman later boasted, was that Viet Cong recruitment dropped 80 percent.
A decade later, Prosterman sold the same land reform program to El Salvador’s junta, just as the junta was ramping up its deadly attacks on rural civilians that left 75,000 killed by US-backed government forces. Prosterman also served as “land reform” advisor to Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos. And in the 1990s, Prosterman was contracted by Booz Allen to advise land reforms in Moldova, according to journalist Tim Shorrock. . . .
. . . . . A few years ago, Prosterman’s Rural Development Institute changed its name to Landesa. But Prosterman’s Cold War outfit hasn’t changed its close cooperation with USAID, or its core strategic mission, tying land ownership to security (and counterinsurgency) — neatly summed by Landesa’s India director’s article: “Connecting the Dots Between Security and Land Rights in India.”
Leaving aside the alleged benefits to India’s poor of giving them land title to the commons — 400,000,000 Indians live on less than $1.25 a day — for the more powerful interests funding land titling programs, there are endless advantages. It helps create a mass tax base for governments that want to shift more taxes onto the masses; it formalizes and legalizes transfer of property from the commons to the strongest and richest; it makes foreign investors happy; it helps the government and businesses track and keep data on its citizens; and, to quote Omidyar Network managing partner Matt Bannick — recently appointed by the Obama White House to a special task force — Prosterman’s land reforms made Omidyar “excited about how micro-land ownership can empower women and help them to pull themselves out of poverty.”
That’s because micro-land ownership helps create the real focus of Omidyar Network investments in India: Microfinance.
“Financial Inclusion”: Omidyar, Microfinance & Suicide-By-Pesticide
Omidyar Network’s ugliest disaster — besides co-funding Ukraine regime-change groups with USAID — was its role in funding SKS Microfinance, whose predatory lending and debt collecting practices led to a rash of gruesome suicides in rural Andhra Pradesh.
First, a quick word on the theory and practice of microlending. In theory, the original microfinance concept — a nonprofit extending micro-loans to the poor, under favorable terms, below market rates — could be beneficial, and under the right circumstances, it often was. But to the neoliberals, the original microfinance concept smacked of do-gooder state socialism — so microfinance floundered in the margins of the development community until 1992. That year, USAID commercialized a Bolivian microfinance nonprofit called Prodem, creating a new for-profit micro-lender, BancoSol in its place. BancoSol ballooned overnight — both in loans and in profits, making millionaires of the former nonprofit directors before BancoSol nearly collapsed at the end of the decade.
USAID liked the for-profit neoliberal model for microfinance, and it persuaded the World Bank and other global financial institutions to load in and sing its praises. That brought microfinance to the attention of Wall Street funds, eventually pushing out “old” “unsustainable” nonprofit microfinance institutions, and seducing the likes of Nobel Peace Prize winner and microfinance industry guru Muhammad Yunus into the for-profit sector as well. As we now know, it ended in disaster — particularly in India’s Andhra Pradesh state, where Omidyar-funded land title programs had been busy creating legions of rural poor “micro-land owners” now ready to load up on Omidyar-funded microfinance loans. The result would be scores of women driven to grisly suicides, forced prostitution, and despair.
It’s hard to overstate just how central the for-profit microfinance model is to Pierre Omidyar’s “vision.” In a 2006 New Yorker article detailing Omidyar’s near-religious zeal for commercializing microfinance, we learn that the eBay billionaire not only rejected the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s appeals to soften his monomaniac focus on profiting off the world’s poor — we also learn that Omidyar was committed to wiping out whatever remained of charitable non-profit microlending, so as not to “distort the market.” Omidyar rejected on principle entreaties from his fellow billionaires to invest in a nonprofit microfinance fund. Because on principle, Omidyar refused to believe that good could come from anything but the self-interested profit motive. Here’s the New Yorker:
[Omidyar] often cites Adam Smith’s doctrine that unrestrained market forces and self-interest drive the most efficient—and socially beneficial—use of resources. Omidyar sees Smith’s principles at work in eBay; he believes that eBay’s commercial success was linked to a profound social good.
Omidyar’s faith in the eBay model is so great that he is convinced that it can be applied to solving humanity’s problems, including poverty — and that is why Omidyar singled out for-profit microfinance as his life’s mission. After rejecting Yunus as an “old thinker” wedded to old do-gooderism non-profit thinking, Omidyar announced a $100 million donation to Tufts University, the largest in school history, with the stipulation that the Omidyar-Tufts Microfinance Fund went “specifically” into “investments that would promote microfinance’s commercialization.”
To manage the fund, Omidyar hired a Senior Credit Officer from USAID — the agency that originally commercialized microfinance in 1992 — who channeled Joseph Schumpeter to the New Yorker:
“One of the things we need and we will get is a cycle of creative destruction,” said Tryfan Evans, the director of investments at the Omidyar-Tufts fund, who previously worked at U.S.A.I.D. “If you’re inefficient, you will get overtaken by competitors.”
What is rather shocking in hindsight is how fanatical Omidyar’s faith is in the free market, to the point that he’s willing to risk exploiting the most vulnerable poor on earth to prove that Adam Smith is right. The dangers of for-profit microfinance lending to India’s poor were no secret: the New Yorker article references a string of microfinance related suicides in Andhra Pradesh back in 2006, before Omidyar’s millions poured oil on that fire. . . .
. . . . And so Omidyar tested his theory: plowing millions into India’s SKS Microfinance via investments into murky microfinance outfit Unitus. In 2010, SKS Microfinance listed a $350 million IPO that netted insiders and early investors like Unitus obscene profits. The murky, interlocking nonprofit/for-profit structures ensured that only those on the inside knew whether Omidyar made money on his investment.
The only sure thing was that the explosion of microfinance lending in the state of Andrah Pradesh, led by SKS Microfinance, wound up saddling the world’s poorest and most vulnerable village women with debts they could not pay, causing a wave of suicides. An AP investigation directly implicated Omidyar-funded SKS Microfinance agents in several suicides:
One woman drank pesticide and died a day after an SKS loan agent told her to prostitute her daughters to pay off her debt. She had been given 150,000 rupees ($3,000) in loans but only made 600 rupees ($12) a week.
Another SKS debt collector told a delinquent borrower to drown herself in a pond if she wanted her loan waived. The next day, she did. She left behind four children.
One agent blocked a woman from bringing her young son, weak with diarrhea, to the hospital, demanding payment first. Other borrowers, who could not get any new loans until she paid, told her that if she wanted to die, they would bring her pesticide. An SKS staff member was there when she drank the poison. She survived.
An 18-year-old girl, pressured until she handed over 150 rupees ($3) – meant for a school examination fee – also drank pesticide. She left a suicide note: “Work hard and earn money. Do not take loans.”
In all these cases, the report commissioned by SKS concluded that the company’s staff was either directly or indirectly responsible.
After the report, Omidyar Network scrubbed SKS Microfinance from its website. An old cached webpage shows Omidyar hailing SKS Microfinance for “serving the rural poor in India” and claiming that the murky Unitus private equity fund’s IPO “exit strategy” will “attract more capital to the market.”
Instead, Unitus dissolved its microfinance NGO, a wave of resignations and murky millions moved hands, SKS Microfinance became a pariah, and Andhra Pradesh passed laws regulating microfinance institutions. A tiny handful of insiders and investors pocketed obscene millions, over 200 killed themselves, and entire Indian rural communities were devastated. Self-interest and profit motive did not create the greatest social good that Omidyar believed in; and yet, Omidyar Network continues to expand its portfolio of microfinance — or “financial inclusion” — investments.
“Omidyar stopped talking about microfinance as a way to end world poverty, and instead described its mission in a way congruent with the eBay experience.” —New Yorker
The key to understanding the enigmatic eBay billionaire and his many contradictions — an active participant in Washington’s global empire on a scale unrivaled in publishing, while also founder of a quarter-billion dollar “adversarial journalism” startup and privatizer of the Snowden NSA files, the largest cache of leaked national security secrets in US history — is understanding Omidyar’s eBay-centric vision.
Omidyar is a vision man, as his star employee Jeremy Scahill constantly reminds us. And his vision was shaped, for understandable reasons, by his experience making ten billion dollars overnight off of eBay, which Omidyar believes is proof of a larger philosophical and moral structure at work, rather than a combination of smarts, luck, privilege… and other less savory factors.
In 2000, Omidyar confided to his New York Times biographer, Adam Cohen, that he founded eBay to create a “perfect market” after feeling cheated by the way tech IPOs in the early 1990s let insiders “spin” IPOs for a quick profits before dumping them onto the market to regular investors — like the pre-eBay Omidyar. Cohen writes:
When 3DO announced plans to go public in May 1993, Omidyar placed an order for stock through his Charles Schwab brokerage account…. 3DO went public at $15 a share, but when Omidyar checked his account, he learned that the stock had soared 50 percent before his order had been filled…. it struck him that this was not how a free market was supposed to operate—favored buyers paying one price, and ordinary people getting the same stock moments later at a sizeable markup.
Omidyar’s solution was an online auction.
Cohen, a member of the New York Times editorial board, found Omidyar’s story convincing. There was only one problem: At the very time Omidyar spun this yarn to Cohen, Omidyar was under investigation in the largest IPO stock spinning scandal in history. According to a House investigation, in return for giving Goldman Sachs the lucrative eBay IPO, the “vampire squid” bank set up private secret accounts for Omidyar and CEO Meg Whitman letting them spin dozens of tech IPOs before they went to market — ripping off both retail investors and startup investors. Omidyar settled a shareholder fraud lawsuit in 2005 without admitting wrongdoing, ironic for a visionary who believes so deeply in accountability.
8. Omidyar’s “overt covert operation” participation in India has paid off, with his successful candidate of choice Narendra Modi opening up that huge county to e-commerce. That figures to benefit Omidyar enormously.
Well that was fast. Two weeks ago, we reported that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s top man in India had secretly helped elect controversial ultranationalist Narendra Modi, implicated by Human Rights Watch and others in the gruesome mass killings and cleansing of minority Muslims. As we also revealed, shortly after Omidyar’s man publicly joined the Modi campaign in February, Modi suddenly began warming up to the idea of letting global e-commerce companies into the world’s third largest economy. Omidyar’s eBay, which draws the majorityof its revenues from overseas operations, has been champing at the bit to get into India.
Now, just weeks after Modi’s election, it seems their prayers have been answered.
Today, Reuters is reporting that Modi is planning to open India up to global e-commerce firms like eBay next month, and that Modi’s industry minister has been drawing up the new guidelines with input from top eBay officials, along with their e-commerce counterparts from Google, Amazon, Wal-Mart and others.
Calling the move to allow foreign e-commerce into India “one of the first tangible signs of economic reform by the business-friendly government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Reuters reports that the sector is expected to quadruple its share of the overall economy by 2020. India’s e-commerce industry is growing at 40–50% annually. Those numbers, and Modi’s accommodating behavior, is making Pierre Omidyar’s underlings salivate:
“Deepa Thomas, spokeswoman for eBay in India, said it was excited about the opportunity and believed in the need for a carefully calibrated approach to opening up the sector.
“The industry ministry that drafts FDI rules recently met officials from companies including Amazon, Google, eBay Inc, Wal-Mart and Indian e-tailer Flipkart to finalise the investment guidelines, the people said.
“Global online retailers like Amazon and eBay are currently banned from selling products they have sourced themselves, and must rely on third-party suppliers. Their platforms, which they own fully, are marketplaces for these outside suppliers.
“The government is likely to end this ban, paving the way for global retailers to bring their formidable supply chain, and cheaper goods, into India, potentially boosting consumption and benefiting small manufacturers and traders.”
As we reported, the longtime managing director and partner for Omidyar Network India Advisors, Jayant Sinha, began working to help elect Modi since at least 2012, while publicly doling out tens of millionsof Omidyar’s money to for-profits and to non-profits, at least one of which was involved in an anti-corruption campaign campaign that undermined the center-left ruling government, and benefited Modi’s far-right BJP party.
Omidyar’s top India man also concurrently served as a director in a powerful BJP think tank, the India Foundation, chaired by Modi’s hardline National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval— according to the Hindustan Times. After stepping down from Omidyar Network in February of this year, Sinha worked full-time for Modi, the India Foundation, and for his own successful run as a BJP candidate for parliament.
Another NGO that Omidyar invested in, the Institute for Policy Research Studies (IPRS), was accused of illegally trying to lobby India’s parliamentarians to vote for opening up India’s e-commerce market in late 2012. The IPRS nonprofit ran a program in which their staffers provided India MP staffers with “nonpartisan” research. In 2012, India’s intelligence bureau accused the IPRS of ““compromising national security”” and described it as “shrouded in mystery.”
Omidyar Network had pledged $1 million to the IPRS, and the Ford Foundation pledged half a million more — but the Indian government rejected the IPRS’s application to register as a foreign-funded NGO, deeming it a threat to India’s parliamentary integrity, and its national security. Google’s corporate philanthropic arm, Google.org, had previously given $880,000to the same NGO program, under Sheryl Sandberg’s watch.
The co-founder of this controversial never-registered NGO, CV Mudhakar, is now, you might not be shocked to learn, Omidyar Network India’s director of investments in “government transparency.”
. . . .
9. One of the major points of our Eddie the Friendly Spook series was the emphatic thesis that people should fear the tech companies, NOT the NSA. The NSA is a military agency and its members are NOT going to move up to GS-12 or whatever by finding out who’s farting in their cubicle at work. They are NOT interested in the turgid details of the insignificant lives of the average citizen.
The tech companies, on the other hand, ARE interested in EVERYTHING concerning EVERYONE–it is (arguably) their most important capital asset, behind their patented software.
Facebook now has a feature that will enable them to turn on the microphone of users’ cell phones at any time and listen in on their customers and everyone around them!
Be aware that Facebook “optional” features have to be “opted” out of, something many of Facebook’s users (particularly teen and pre-teen customers, of whom there are MANY) might not be aware of.
Pterrafractyl notes: “In addition to being a creepy reminder of the creeping surveillance capacity that technology inherently facilitates, part of what’s going to make the roll out of this kind of technology interesting to watch is that the sound matching algorithms are probably going to have to yield “fuzzy” matches, at best, since the application is designed to run passively in a noisy environment with lots of random noises and conversations overlaying the music or tv shows playing in the background. And with multiple seasons for 160 television stations getting stored as the audio database, users’ everyday random conversations that might get picked up by the app are going to be matched against a pretty massive database of conversational audio content. It raises the question of whether or not that database is going to be small enough to store on individual phones and tablets or if it’s going to be sending all that hashed audio content back to Facebook in real-time where it gets matched. This was this statement from Facebook:
“We’re not recording audio or sound and sending it to Facebook or its servers…We turn the audio it hears into a code — code that is not reversible into audio — and then we match it against a database of code.”
That sure sounds like the plan is for the audio content to get “coded”on the phone and sent to Facebook for real-time analysis. That’s service! A creepy service, but service!
So how often will people get “false positives” where they’re inadvertently creating a “close enough” hit to a segment of some random TV show? It seems like it might happen every once in a while and it raises the possibility of a rather neat new type of survey: if users click a little “this isn’t what I was listening to or watching” button every time the app makes a “matching” mistake it could be a method of sampling the extent to which life imitates art in everyday conversations a whole new way. Kinda neat, eh?
That said, we really don’t need fancy new ways of surveilling every last bit of our lives in order to measure how life is imitating art these days. Direct observation is enough.”
Never lose sight of the fact that Peter Thiel is the largest stockholder in Facebook, as well as Palantir that, their disclaimers notwithstanding, almost certainly makes the PRISM software.
Facebook had two big announcements this week that show the company’s wildly divergent takes on the nature of privacy. One announcementis that the company is encouraging new users to initially share only with their “friends” rather than with the general public, the previous default. And for existing users, the company plans to break out the old “privacy dinosaur” to do a “ check-up” to remind people of how they’re sharing. Facebook employees say that using an extinct creature as a symbol for privacy isn’t subtle messaging, but simply an icon to which their users respond well. Meanwhile, Facebook’s second announcement indicated just how comfortable they think their users are in sharing every little thing happening in their lives. Facebook is rolling out a new feature for its smartphone app that can turn on users’ microphones and listen to what’s happening around them to identify songs playing or television being watched. The pay-off for users in allowing Facebook to eavesdrop is that the social giant will be able to add a little tag to their status update that says they’re watching an episode of Games of Thrones as they sound off on their happiness (or despair) about the rise in background sex on TV these days.
The feature is an optional one, something the company emphasizes in its announcement. The tech giant does seem well-aware that in these days of Snowden surveillance revelations, people might not be too keen for Facebook to take control of their smartphone’s mic and start listening in on them by default. It’s only rolling out the feature in the U.S. and a product PR person emphasized repeatedly that no recording is being stored, only “code.” [NSA only harvests metadata–D.E.] “We’re not recording audio or sound and sending it to Facebook or its servers,” says Facebook spokesperson Momo Zhou. “We turn the audio it hears into a code — code that is not reversible into audio — and then we match it against a database of code.”
If a Facebooker opts in, the feature is only activated when he or she is composing an update. When the smartphone’s listening in — something it can only do through the iOS and Android apps, not through Facebook on a browser — tiny blue bars will appear to announce the mic has been activated. Facebook says the microphone will not otherwise be collecting data. When it’s listening, it tells you it is “matching,” rather than how I might put it, “eavesdropping on your entertainment of choice.”
It reminds me of GPS-tagging an update, but with cultural context rather than location deets. While you decide whether to add the match to a given Facebook update, Facebook gets information about what you were listening to or watching regardless, though it won’t be associated with your profile. “If you don’t choose to post and the feature detects a match, we don’t store match information except in an anonymized form that is not associated with you,” says Zhou. Depending on how many people turn the feature on, it will be a nice store of information about what Facebook users are watching and listening to, even in anonymized form.
Sure, we’re used to features like this thanks to existing apps that will recognize a song for us. But usually when you activate those apps, you’re explicitly doing so to find out the name of a song. Facebook is hoping to make that process a background activity to composing a status update — a frictionless share that just happens, the real-world version of linking your Spotify account to your social media account allowing playlists to leak through. Facebook spent a yearhoning its audio sampling and developing a catalog of content — millions of songs and 160 television stations — to match against. It’s obvious that it wants to displace Twitter as the go-to place for real-time commenting on sporting events, awards shows, and other communal television watching. “With TV shows, we’ll actually know the exact season and episode number you’re watching,” says Zhou. “We built that to prevent spoilers.”. . . .
10. An article not included in the original broadcast notes that Facebook is manifesting what one Silicon Valley CEO sees as a trend in corporate data harvesting.
Facebook sent out a notice Thursday about its intention to begin sharing the browsing data of its members with its advertising partners.
It’s a move that most observers saw coming, but one that Facebook has always denied — with vigor.
Facebook can’t capture data about you visiting just any site, only those that have partnered with it. Basically, any site that has a “like” button (such as this one) or that permits you to log in with your Facebook credentials will store data about your visit in your browser, which can later be read by Facebook.
Here’s how Facebook describes it in its Terms of Service:
“We and our affiliates, third parties, and other partners (“partners”) use these technologies for security purposes and to deliver products, services and advertisements, as well as to understand how these products, services and advertisements are used. With these technologies, a website or application can store information on your browser or device and later read that information back.”
Facebook also released a video to advertisers and users Thursday morning explaining the company’s targeting practices. A common mantra among web marketers is that they’re actually doing consumers a favor by collecting the information they need to serve more relevant ads.
What to do (and not bother doing)
If you don’t want Facebook to collect and transmit your browsing data, you can take some steps to prevent it from doing so.
But first, here’s what not to do.
The advertising industry has put up a site called Your Ad Choices, which offers consumers a way to “opt out.” But the site lets you opt out of receiving ads that have been targeted at you based on your browsing data. But it will not let you “opt out” from companies harvesting your browsing data.
Nor can you expect to get any real relief by trying to tweaking your Facebook Privacy settings. Facebook announced today that it would be rolling out “ad preferences,” a new tool accessible from every ad on Facebook that “explains why you’re seeing a specific ad and lets you add and remove interests that we use to show you ads.” Of course, Facebook is not offering you a way to stop them from collecting your browsing data in the first place.
Several browser plug-ins will block sites like Facebook from dropping lines of code into your browser allowing it to track you.
One of the good ones is Do Not Track Mefrom Abine.com. This is a Washington, D.C.-based firm that focuses on building browser tools to secure browsing data and other personal information.
Other solid recommendations that will work on Chrome and Firefox browsers are Ghostery and Disconnect.
Abine CEO Rob Shavell says he isn’t surprised by the news about Facebook.
“I think you’re going to see a lot more companies doing this,” Shavell told VentureBeat. “Having worked at a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, I think there’s a data bubble going on. There’s been so much money invested in ad tech companies, including Facebook, and so much hype around them, they are going to have to collect more and more personal data. There’s just too much pressure to make all that money back.”
Shavell says investors have put $6.5 billion behind advertising tech companies in the past two years.
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment on this story.