Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

News & Supplemental  

Peter Thiel Becomes a Trump Delegate

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash drive that can be obtained here. The new drive is a 32-gigabyte drive that is current as of the programs and articles posted by early winter of 2016. The new drive (available for a tax-deductible contribution of $65.00 or more.)  (The previous flash drive was current through the end of May of 2012.)

WFMU-FM is podcasting For The Record–You can subscribe to the podcast HERE.

You can subscribe to e-mail alerts from Spitfirelist.com HERE

You can subscribe to RSS feed from Spitfirelist.com HERE.

You can subscribe to the comments made on programs and posts–an excellent source of information in, and of, itself HERE.

Peter Thiel

One of our haircraft is missing . . .

COMMENT: Guess which Sil­i­con Val­ley bil­lion­aire just ended up on the list released by California’s sec­re­tary of state of the Trump campaign’s list of selected GOP con­ven­tion del­e­gates. Hint:  He really, really likes Ted Cruz.  And called Trump “symp­to­matic of every­thing that is wrong with New York City,” back in 2014.  But is appar­ently totally fine with Trump now.

“. . . . Peter Thiel, the bil­lion­aire Pay­Pal co-founder, hedge-fund man­ager, and L.G.B.T.-rights advo­cate, is listed on the Cal­i­for­nia bal­lot as a del­e­gate for Trump at the upcom­ing Repub­li­can con­ven­tion, accord­ing to a list of del­e­gates sub­mit­ted to California’s sec­re­tary of state by the front-runner’s cam­paign. He is listed as one of three rep­re­sen­ta­tives from California’s 12th con­gres­sional dis­trict. State elec­tion law dic­tates that del­e­gates are selected by the can­di­dates them­selves, not the party, and the Trump cam­paign has been vet­ting poten­tial del­e­gates for sev­eral weeks. . . . “

Yes, the guy who once penned a piece for Cato Unbound explain­ing why democ­racy and cap­i­tal­ism are incom­pat­i­ble now that women can vote is now a Trump del­e­gate.

Recall that Thiel is the principal stockholder in both Facebook and Palantir (which, their disclaimers to the contrary notwithstanding, makes the PRISM software at the core of Snowden’s “revelations”)

He also funded most of Ron Paul’s 2012 Presidential super PAC.

“Which Bil­lion­aire Sil­i­con Val­ley V.C. Is a Don­ald Trump Delegate?” by Tina Nguyen; Van­ity Fair; 5/10/2016.

The Face­book board mem­ber is break­ing ranks with the tech world by pub­licly back­ing the pre­sump­tive G.O.P. nominee.

Most of Sil­i­con Valley’s Repub­li­can elite may hate Don­ald Trump, but at least one major tech-industry ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist is throw­ing his sup­port behind the G.O.P.’s pre­sump­tive pres­i­den­tial nominee.

Peter Thiel, the bil­lion­aire Pay­Pal co-founder, hedge-fund man­ager, and L.G.B.T.-rights advo­cate, is listed on the Cal­i­for­nia bal­lot as a del­e­gate for Trump at the upcom­ing Repub­li­can con­ven­tion, accord­ing to a list of del­e­gatessub­mit­ted to California’s sec­re­tary of state by the front-runner’s cam­paign. He is listed as one of three rep­re­sen­ta­tives from California’s 12th con­gres­sional dis­trict. State elec­tion law dic­tatesthat del­e­gates are selected by the can­di­dates them­selves, not the party, and the Trump cam­paign has been vet­ting poten­tial del­e­gates for sev­eral weeks.

Thiel’s pol­i­tics are com­pli­cated. The Sil­i­con Val­ley power­bro­ker donated heav­ily to both Ted Cruz and his later run­ning mate, for­mer H.P. exec Carly Fio­r­ina, despite both can­di­dates not sup­port­ing gay mar­riage. (Thiel’s name did not appear on a list of Cruz del­e­gates the Texas sen­a­tor sub­mit­ted before drop­ping out last week.) The out­spo­ken lib­er­tar­ian has also been a close ally and adviser to Ken­tucky sen­a­tor and for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Rand Paul, and pre­vi­ously donated mil­lions to his father, for­mer con­gress­man Ron Paul, who ran for pres­i­dent in 2012. Thiel may be more closely aligned with Trump on the social-issues front: Thiel, who is gay, is an ardent sup­porter of L.G.B.T. causes (Trump, while echo­ing some social con­ser­v­a­tive rhetoric, recently opposed North Carolina’s anti-transgender “bath­room bill,” say­ing some­one like Cait­lyn Jen­ner could use what­ever restroom she saw fit). More impor­tantly, how­ever, he is an avowed anti-elitist, despite his per­sonal wealth, telling the New Yorker in 2011that the world­view of America’s elites was “skewed in an opti­mistic direc­tion” due to luck and priv­i­lege. “[Their] story has been one of incred­i­ble, unre­lent­ing progress for 61 years,” he said at the time. “Most peo­ple who are 61 years old in the U.S.? Not their story at all.” Thiel is well-known for the fel­low­ship he set up in 2010 to encour­age entre­pre­neur­ial teenagers to drop out of col­lege to start their own com­pa­nies instead of pur­su­ing a tra­di­tional education.

 

Discussion

11 comments for “Peter Thiel Becomes a Trump Delegate”

  1. PRISM software??? That goes all the way back to Danny Casolaro! Oh wow…

    Posted by D.K. Wilson | May 14, 2016, 9:33 am
  2. @D.K. Wilson–

    The software that overlapped the Casolaro investigation was PROMIS, not PRISM.

    Both begin with a “P” and both were developed by NSA, but they are distinct.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | May 15, 2016, 12:23 pm
  3. Hulk Hogan was also given 10mil for his attorney fees (against gawker) by the generous Theil!!

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BzQlbhR1UUE

    Posted by jen.x | May 27, 2016, 11:38 am
  4. So that’s where Thiel is going to be speaking this September. And Hoppe is reportedly going to be speaking there too. Sounds like a great conference for the anarcho-monarchist community:

    Southern Poverty Law Center
    Hatewatch

    PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel to Address White Nationalist-Friendly “Property and Freedom Society” Conference in September

    PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, in the news recently for his role financing the Hulk Hogan lawsuit against Gawker, is scheduled to travel to Bodrum, Turkey, in September to address the annual meeting of the ultra-libertarian Property and Freedom Society.

    Steven Piggot
    June 09, 2016

    Founded in 2006 by libertarian academic Hans-Hermann Hoppe, the Property and Freedom Society is dedicated to what it calls “uncompromising intellectual radicalism: for justly acquired private property, freedom of contract, freedom of association—which logically implies the right to not associate with, or to discriminate against—anyone in one’s personal and business relations—and unconditional free trade,” according to its website.

    But beyond the libertarian academics, economists, and business leaders from across Europe and the U.S. who attend and speak at its conferences, the Property and Freedom Society has welcomed white nationalists, including several of the most prominent white nationalists in America.

    The Society’s inaugural meeting featured Paul Gottfried, the American white nationalist who founded the H.L. Mencken Club, along with Tom Sunic, another white nationalist and an ex-Croatian diplomat who spends his time speaking at racist gatherings on both sides of the Atlantic. Sunic also serves as a director with the American Freedom Party, the most visible American white nationalist political party.

    In 2013, the Society invited Jared Taylor, head of the New Century Foundation, which hosts the annual white nationalist American Renaissance conference, traditionally the largest annual racist gathering in the U.S. Taylor once wrote, “Blacks and whites are different. When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilization — any kind of civilization — disappears.” In 2010, Richard Spencer, head of the white nationalist think tank National Policy Institute (NPI) spoke on the “Alternative Right in America,” long before the Alt-Right became the racist internet phenomenon it is today.

    Joining Thiel in Turkey in September will be Hoppe, and in Hoppe one can see the connection between the ultra-Libertarians and white nationalists. Hoppe has called immigration to the U.S. and Europe “forced integration” and once wrote, “if only towns and villages could and would do what they did as a matter of course until well into the nineteenth century in Europe and the United States: to post signs regarding entrance requirements to the town, and once in town for entering specific pieces of property (no beggars or bums or homeless, but also no Moslems, Hindus, Jews, Catholics, etc.); to kick out those who do not fulfill these requirements as trespassers…”

    Thiel’s scheduled appearance is troubling if not surprising. The Economist recently profiled his political evolution from an anti-multiculturalism campus activist, whose tactics James O’Keefe (who Thiel once funded) could appreciate, to the heroic libertarian tech icon, to where he is now, declaring that he no longer believes that “freedom and democracy are compatible.” The Economist concluded: “He is now not so much a libertarian as a corporate Nietzschean, who believes in the power of gifted entrepreneurs to change the world through the sheer force of will and intellect.”

    The Alt-Right connection to Thiel is also worth noting. Many white nationalists who consider themselves part of the Alt-Right are big fans of Thiel and his attack on Gawker, which white nationalists see as part of the “cucked” mainstream media. On May 31, Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor for Breitbart News, which in the past year has functioned as the media arm of the Alt-Right movement, praised Thiel calling him “the hero Silicon Valley needed.”

    “Thiel’s scheduled appearance is troubling if not surprising. The Economist recently profiled his political evolution from an anti-multiculturalism campus activist, whose tactics James O’Keefe (who Thiel once funded) could appreciate, to the heroic libertarian tech icon, to where he is now, declaring that he no longer believes that “freedom and democracy are compatible.” The Economist concluded: “He is now not so much a libertarian as a corporate Nietzschean, who believes in the power of gifted entrepreneurs to change the world through the sheer force of will and intellect.””

    Yes, it is rather troubling conference for the founder of Palantir, the CIA-funded intelligence community’s Big Data service provider, to not just attend a conference started by Hoppe but actually speak at. Considering his extensive past financing of Ron Paul, Ted Cruz, and now his status as a California Trump delegate, it seems like a potentially big media story. Especially after he recently successfully managed to sue Gawker Media into oblivion in an act of revenge.

    So it will be interesting to see much exposure this story about a prominent Silicon Valley Billionaire and Trump delegate speaking at Herman Hoppe’s “ultra-libertarian” conference gets across the media. Very interesting.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 10, 2016, 2:42 pm
  5. Peter Thiel has a message to share about Donald Trump: “What Trump represents isn’t crazy and it’s not going away.” And since Trump’s crazy supporters like Thiel obviously aren’t going anywhere if he loses, Thiel is at least half right:

    The Washington Post

    ‘What Trump represents isn’t crazy and it’s not going away.’ Peter Thiel defends support for Donald Trump.

    By Steven Overly
    October 31, 2016

    Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel reiterated his support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump Monday morning, telling a room of journalists that a Washington outsider in the White House would recalibrate lawmakers who have lost touch with the struggles of most Americans.

    Thiel said it was “both insane and somehow inevitable” that political leaders would expect this presidential election to be a contest between “political dynasties” that have shepherded the country into two major financial crises: the tech bubble burst in the early 2000s, and the housing crisis and economic recession later that decade.

    The support Trump has enjoyed is directly tied to the frustration many across the country feel toward Washington and its entrenched leaders, and they shouldn’t expect that sentiment to dissipate regardless of whether Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton wins at the ballot box on Nov. 8, he said.

    “What Trump represents isn’t crazy and it’s not going away,” he said.

    Thiel was clear Monday, as he has said in the past, that he does not support all of Trump’s actions and words. In particular, he called the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump made remarks about unwanted sexual advances on women “clearly offensive and inappropriate.” He said he didn’t support Trump’s words about Muslims “in every incidence.”

    But Thiel also criticized the media’s coverage of Trump’s bombastic remarks. He said that while the media takes Trump’s remarks “literally” but not “seriously,” he believes Trump supporters take them seriously but not literally. In short, Trump isn’t actually going to impose religious tests on immigrants or build a wall along the Mexican border, as he has repeatedly said, but will simply pursue “saner, more sensible” immigration policies.

    “His larger-than-life persona attracts a lot of attention. Nobody would suggest that Donald Trump is a humble man. But the big things he’s right about amount to a much needed dose of humility in our politics,” Thiel said.

    While the Silicon Valley tech corridor and suburbs around Washington have thrived in the last decade or more, many other parts of the country have been gutted by economic and trade policies that closed manufacturing plants and shipped jobs overseas, Thiel said, reiterating a previous talking point.

    “Most Americans don’t live by the Beltway or the San Francisco Bay. Most Americans haven’t been part of that prosperity,” Thiel said Monday. “It shouldn’t be surprising to see people vote for Bernie Sanders or for Donald Trump, who is the only outsider left in the race.”

    Thiel later said he had hoped the presidential race might come down to Sanders and Trump, two outsiders with distinct views on the root cause of the nation’s economic malaise and the best course of action to fix it. “That would have been a very different sort of debate,” he said.

    Thiel’s prepared remarks seemed more of an admonishment of the state of the country today than a ringing endorsement of Trump’s persona and policies. He decried high medical costs and the lack of savings baby boomers have on hand. He said millennials are burdened by soaring tuition costs and a poor outlook on the future. Meanwhile, he said, the federal government has wasted trillions of dollars fighting wars in Africa and the Middle East that have yet to be won.

    Trump is the only candidate who shares his view that the country’s problems are substantial and need drastic change to be repaired, Thiel said. Clinton, on the other hand, does not see a need for a hard reset on some of the country’s policies and would likely lead the U.S. into additional costly conflicts abroad, he said.

    A self-described libertarian, Thiel amassed his fortune as the co-founder of digital payment company PayPal and data analytics firm Palantir Technologies. He has continued to add to that wealth through venture capital investments in companies that include Facebook, Airbnb, Lyft and Spotify, among many others.

    Thiel offered a full-throated endorsement of Trump at the Republican National Convention in July. During a six-minute prime-time speech, Thiel told millions of television viewers to disregard social issues that “distract” from the flagging U.S. economy and government’s lack of innovation, which he described as more pressing concerns. “[Trump] is a builder, and it is time to rebuild America,” Thiel said at the time.

    He backed up that support earlier this month with a $1.25 million donation to political groups supporting Trump, putting Thiel among the largest single donors to the Republican nominee. In August 2015, Thiel gave $2 million to then-Republication candidate and fellow tech executive Carly Fiorina.

    Thiel’s remarks took place at the National Press Club in Washington, perhaps an odd choice of venue for a businessman whose relationship with the media is somewhat tenuous. The billionaire secretly bankrolled wrestler Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media, which Thiel called a “sociopathic bully” during Monday’s talk.

    The lawsuit and resulting judgement helped push the company to bankruptcy earlier this year as retribution for a 2007 blog post that publicly outed Thiel as gay. The case caused much consternation in journalism circles about the ability of a wealthy man with a vendetta to take down a news outlet. Thiel said the circumstances of the Gawker case — a sex tape published without Hogan’s consent — are unique and that he doesn’t expect other wealthy individuals to follow his lead.

    “Wealthy people shouldn’t do that. I think if they tried they won’t succeed,” Thiel said.

    “But Thiel also criticized the media’s coverage of Trump’s bombastic remarks. He said that while the media takes Trump’s remarks “literally” but not “seriously,” he believes Trump supporters take them seriously but not literally. In short, Trump isn’t actually going to impose religious tests on immigrants or build a wall along the Mexican border, as he has repeatedly said, but will simply pursue “saner, more sensible” immigration policies.”

    So Thiel’s big criticism of the media’s coverage of Trump is that they take Trump at his word? Huh. Well, when you consider that Politifact study that found only 9 percent of what Trump says to be true or mostly true, perhaps Thiel does have a bit of a point. It’s not the kind of point that should make one more inclined to vote for Trump, but it’s still valid. Perhaps this perspective explains why Thiel felt comfortable suggesting that his lawsuit against Gawker are unique that he doesn’t expect other wealthy individuals to follow his lead. Maybe Thiel is assuming that when Trump pledges to reform libel laws to make it easier for powerful people to sue media organizations he’s just being bombastic.

    It’s also worth noting that Thiel and others are correct that a lot of Trump’s supporters – specifically those in his working class workers who are railing against and economic paradigm that pulled the rug out from under them and cruelly relegated them to a life of stress and poverty (and aren’t simply voting for Trump out of Deplorable Solidarity) – really do have valid reasons to be upset with long-standing US policies and a political system that’s largely left them behind. But it’s also important to point out that having valid reasons for being upset isn’t actually a validation of one’s response to your valid anger and frustration. Especially if that response is to vote for Republicans. After all, if you’re really upset about how the economy has changed and left you behind without any consideration, you probably don’t want to vote for the party that has led the way in preventing anything from being done to help you. And if its a party dedicated to pleasing Big Business, billionaires, and views any government help for chronically struggling individuals and communities as un-American and a disincentive to work and really don’t want to support that party’s presidential nominee. That would just be crazy. Unless you happen to believe that Trump is somehow going to completely rewrite and redefine the GOP’s core principles of trickle-down economics, gutting the safety-net, and billionaire fealty. Which would, of course, also be crazy.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 2, 2016, 2:42 pm
  6. Did Donald Trump win the 2016 election due to Facebook? Well, there were surely a number of other factors involved, like a maelstrom of lies and disinformation and a media establishment incapable of making sense of it. Still, with Facebook board member Peter Thiel now on the Trump transition team, and given that Facebook is one of the most effective mediums in the modern age for spreading lies and disinformation, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Facebook really, really, helped Donald Trump and it’s important to understand how and why that happened:

    New York Magazine

    Donald Trump Won Because of Facebook

    By Max Read
    November 9, 2016 2:37 p.m.

    A close and — to pundits, journalists, and Democrats — unexpected victory like Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s is always overdetermined, and no one particular thing pushed Trump over the edge on Tuesday night. His chosen party’s lately increasing openness to explicit white nationalism, the still-recent global-scale failure of the liberal economic consensus, the apparently deep-seated misogyny and racism of the American electorate, Hillary Clinton’s multiple shortcomings as a candidate, or even the last-minute intervention of FBI director James Comey might each have been, on its own, sufficient to hand the election to a man who is, by any reckoning, a dangerous and unpredictable bigot.

    Still, it can be clarifying to identify the conditions that allowed access to the highest levels of the political syste a man so far outside what was, until recently, the political mainstream that not a single former presidential candidate from his own party would endorse him. In this case, the condition was: Facebook.

    To some extent I’m using “Facebook” here as a stand-in for the half-dozen large and influential message boards and social-media platforms where Americans now congregate to discuss politics, but Facebook’s size, reach, wealth, and power make it effectively the only one that matters. And, boy, does it matter. At the risk of being hyperbolic, I think there are few events over the last decade more significant than the social network’s wholesale acquisition of the traditional functions of news media (not to mention the political-party apparatus). Trump’s ascendancy is far from the first material consequence of Facebook’s conquering invasion of our social, cultural, and political lives, but it’s still a bracing reminder of the extent to which the social network is able to upend existing structure and transform society — and often not for the better.

    The most obvious way in which Facebook enabled a Trump victory has been its inability (or refusal) to address the problem of hoax or fake news. Fake news is not a problem unique to Facebook, but Facebook’s enormous audience, and the mechanisms of distribution on which the site relies — i.e., the emotionally charged activity of sharing, and the show-me-more-like-this feedback loop of the news feed algorithm — makes it the only site to support a genuinely lucrative market in which shady publishers arbitrage traffic by enticing people off of Facebook and onto ad-festooned websites, using stories that are alternately made up, incorrect, exaggerated beyond all relationship to truth, or all three. (To really hammer home the cyberdystopia aspect of this: A significant number of the sites are run by Macedonian teenagers looking to make some scratch.)

    All throughout the election, these fake stories, sometimes papered over with flimsy “parody site” disclosures somewhere in small type, circulated throughout Facebook: The Pope endorses Trump. Hillary Clinton bought $137 million in illegal arms. The Clintons bought a $200 million house in the Maldives. Many got hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of shares, likes, and comments; enough people clicked through to the posts to generate significant profits for their creators. The valiant efforts of Snopes and other debunking organizations were insufficient; Facebook’s labyrinthine sharing and privacy settings mean that fact-checks get lost in the shuffle. Often, no one would even need to click on and read the story for the headline itself to become a widely distributed talking point, repeated elsewhere online, or, sometimes, in real life. (Here’s an in-the-wild sighting of a man telling a woman that Clinton and her longtime aide Huma Abedin are lovers, based on “material that appeared to have been printed off the internet.”)

    Profit motive, on the part of Macedonians or Americans, was not the only reason to share fake news, of course — there was an obvious ideological motivation to lie to or mislead potential voters — but the fake-news industry’s commitment to “engagement” above any particular political program has given it a terrifyingly nihilistic sheen that old-fashioned propagandists never displayed. (Say what you will about ratfuc king, dude, at least it’s an ethos.) And at the heart of the problem, anyway, is not the motivations of the hoaxers but the structure of social media itself. Tens of millions of people, invigorated by insurgent outsider candidates and anger at perceived political enemies, were served up or shared emotionally charged news stories about the candidates, because Facebook’s sorting algorithm understood from experience that they were seeking such stories. Many of those stories were lies, or “parodies,” but their appearance and placement in a news feed were no different from those of any publisher with a commitment to, you know, not lying. As those people and their followers clicked on, shared, or otherwise engaged with those stories — which they did, because Trump drives engagement extremely bigly — they were served up even more of them. The engagement-driving feedback loop reached the heights of Facebook itself, which shared fake news to its front page on more than one occasion after firing the small team of editorial employees tasked with passing news judgment. Flush with Trump’s uniquely passionate supporter base, Facebook’s vast, personalized sewer system has become clogged with toxic fatbergs.

    And it is, truly, vast: Something like 170 million people in North America use Facebook every day, a number that’s not only several orders of magnitude larger than even the most optimistic circulation reckonings of major news outlets but also about one-and-a-half times as many people as voted on Tuesday. Forty-four percent of all adults in the United States say they get news from Facebook, and access to to an audience of that size would seem to demand some kind of civic responsibility — an obligation to ensure that a group of people more sizable than the American electorate is not being misled. But whether through a failure of resources, of ideology, or of imagination, Facebook has seemed both uninterested in and incapable of even acknowledging that it has become the most efficient distributor of misinformation in human history.

    Facebook connected those supporters to each other and to the candidate, gave them platforms far beyond what even the largest Establishment media organizations might have imagined, and allowed them to effectively self-organize outside the party structure. Who needs a GOTV database when you have millions of voters worked into a frenzy by nine months of sharing impassioned lies on Facebook, encouraging each other to participate?

    Even better, Facebook allowed Trump to directly combat the hugely negative media coverage directed at him, simply by giving his campaign and its supporters another host of channels to distribute counterprogramming. This, precisely, is why more good journalism would have been unlikely to change anyone’s mind: The Post and the Times no longer have a monopoly on information about a candidate. Endless reports of corruption, venality, misogyny, and incompetence merely settle in a Facebook feed next to a hundred other articles from pro-Trump sources (if they settle into a Trump supporter’s feed at all) disputing or ignoring the deeply reported claims, or, as is often the case, just making up new and different stories.

    None of this is, in particular, new; the structures of political power have been challenged frequently in the past century, mostly by the arrival of new media — radio, television, cable — that changed the scale of the audience, and, consequently, the political and social culture of the country. Every time a new medium expands the possible audience of mass media, and opens up new spaces for new voices to be heard, it upsets the delicate balances of power that rested upon the previous media structure. You know: If you thought radio changed politics, just wait till television. And if you thought television changed politics, just wait until Facebook really hits its stride. Or. Well. I guess it just did.

    “Profit motive, on the part of Macedonians or Americans, was not the only reason to share fake news, of course — there was an obvious ideological motivation to lie to or mislead potential voters — but the fake-news industry’s commitment to “engagement” above any particular political program has given it a terrifyingly nihilistic sheen that old-fashioned propagandists never displayed. (Say what you will about ratfuc king, dude, at least it’s an ethos.) And at the heart of the problem, anyway, is not the motivations of the hoaxers but the structure of social media itself. Tens of millions of people, invigorated by insurgent outsider candidates and anger at perceived political enemies, were served up or shared emotionally charged news stories about the candidates, because Facebook’s sorting algorithm understood from experience that they were seeking such stories. Many of those stories were lies, or “parodies,” but their appearance and placement in a news feed were no different from those of any publisher with a commitment to, you know, not lying. As those people and their followers clicked on, shared, or otherwise engaged with those stories — which they did, because Trump drives engagement extremely bigly — they were served up even more of them. The engagement-driving feedback loop reached the heights of Facebook itself, which shared fake news to its front page on more than one occasion after firing the small team of editorial employees tasked with passing news judgment. Flush with Trump’s uniquely passionate supporter base, Facebook’s vast, personalized sewer system has become clogged with toxic fatbergs.”

    The bigger the BS factor in the hoax article, the more people click on it, and the more it spreads. Facebook’s algorithm actually appears to operate as a BS avalanche.

    And what is Facebook’s response to these charges that it helped swing the election for Trump by poisoning the public’s knowledge base? Some BS about how there’s almost no fake content and …blah, blah, blah…it’s not really Facebook’s responsibility because it’s not a media company and therefore not responsible:

    Ars Technica

    Zuckerberg claims just 1% of Facebook posts carry fake news
    Facebook boss on defensive about misinformation in the wake of Trump’s election.

    Kelly Fiveash (UK) – 11/14/2016, 8:03 AM

    Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has claimed that only one percent of posts on the free content ad network carry fake news reports.

    Critics have said that Facebook influenced the outcome of the US election—in which voters propelled Donald Trump to the White House—by allowing bogus news stories to be shared on the site.

    Late on Saturday, Zuckerberg continued his efforts to dampen Facebook’s influence on the hugely divisive election campaigns. He said:

    After the election, many people are asking whether fake news contributed to the result, and what our responsibility is to prevent fake news from spreading. These are very important questions and I care deeply about getting them right. I want to do my best to explain what we know here.

    Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.

    Zuckerberg’s carefully-worded post, however, fails to address a key reason behind Facebook’s hands-off approach: it doesn’t want to be seen as a publisher, because doing so opens the company up to a raft of legal headaches, such as libel claims. Which is why it relies so heavily on users to report fake news, or links to videos of beheadings, or indeed misplaced outrage over an iconic photo.

    The Facebook chief noted in his post that the 1.79 billion-strong community of users now have the tools to police “hoaxes and fake news” on the service—which to your correspondent sounds like an impossible task.

    “Identifying the ‘truth’ is complicated,” Zuckerberg added. “While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted.

    It’s worth noting, though, that while Zuckerberg stands by his claim that Facebook didn’t have undue sway over the outcome of the US election, he is quick to big up its influence over users’ lives to advertisers—its real customers.

    “Zuckerberg’s carefully-worded post, however, fails to address a key reason behind Facebook’s hands-off approach: it doesn’t want to be seen as a publisher, because doing so opens the company up to a raft of legal headaches, such as libel claims. Which is why it relies so heavily on users to report fake news, or links to videos of beheadings, or indeed misplaced outrage over an iconic photo.”

    That’s right, Fakebook…err, Facebooks wants to avoid doing much of anything about its fake news content in part because acknowleding a responsibility for allowing fake news onto its “news feed” might create a legal headache. So the cost of Facebook getting to avoid a legal headache is post-fact world where people like Donald Trump can hoax their way into higher office. Oh, and media outlets like Breitbart.com that generate the most outrageous content get to ride the BS avalanche to a surge in readership:

    Yahoo Finance

    Studies contradict what Mark Zuckerberg is saying about Facebook

    Daniel Roberts
    November 14, 2016

    In the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, Facebook has become a major focus—for all the wrong reasons.

    Throughout the campaign cycle, fake news headlines appeared on Facebook, especially after the company fired its Trending Topics team in August; headlines like “Pope Francis endorses Donald Trump,” to name one example. (To be sure, fake news is not only a problem on Facebook; at the moment, Google’s top election story says Donald Trump won the popular vote, , which is not true.)

    Now media outlets from the New York Times to the MIT Technology Review are wondering just how much those fake headlines influenced the election. New York Magazine put it more bluntly than most, with the headline “Donald Trump won because of Facebook.”

    It’s hard to prove that definitively. But the noise got loud enough quickly enough that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg felt compelled to post a long statement about it (on Facebook, obviously) on Saturday.

    “After the election, many people are asking whether fake news contributed to the result, and what our responsibility is to prevent fake news from spreading,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”

    So, Zuckerberg is suggesting that less than 1% of content on Facebook is fake (if his term “authentic” does in fact mean factually correct); that it doesn’t come from one political side more than the other; and that it is “extremely unlikely” it had an impact on voters.

    But a number of different studies call Zuckerberg’s stance into question.

    Sources of misleading news: right-wing or left-wing

    Before the election, a Nov. 1 report from social analytics firm EzyInsights showed that Trump’s campaign utilized Facebook much more successfully than Clinton’s. Trump posted live video and native video to Facebook more frequently (and, interestingly, more erratically, which worked), and saw higher engagement on those videos. After Trump’s win, it’s hard to argue his use of Facebook didn’t help.

    Now EzyInsights has shared new data with Yahoo Finance on the frequency of Facebook posts from certain media outlets. The data shows a “dramatic rise,” as the election neared, in the frequency and popularity of posts from Fox News, Breitbart, Conservative Tribune, and other overtly right-wing outlets. There was not as much of an upswing in content from left-wing publishers, though Steve El-Sharawy of EzyInsights cautions, “There aren’t necessarily the equivalent number of staunch left-wing publications that we’re aware of or perhaps even exist.”

    EzyInsights also discovered that Breitbart was the No. 3 biggest gainer during the election cycle in Facebook engagement. USA Today grew the most, followed by Yahoo News. The only publisher to lose engagement during this time was CNN. “Facebook amplifies the more extreme news sites on both ends of the spectrum,” notes El-Sharawy. “We are seeing those publishers further to the left and right of mainstream getting the larger gains.”

    It’s also not unrelated that an Anti-Defamation League report on the rise of anti-Semitic abuse on Twitter concluded that “a disproportionate volume” of the abuse came from Trump supporters.

    Yes, social media users are influenced by social media posts

    Two days after the election, on Thursday (before he eventually posted the longer statement on Saturday), Zuckerberg said at a Q&A that the idea Facebook could influence voters is “pretty crazy.”

    But in a Nov. 7 Pew Research report, 20% of adults said that a post on social media has changed their view on a certain issue. Of those, 17% said social media has changed their view of a specific candidate.

    What that shows is that a segment of Facebook users who look to the social media giant for news can indeed be influenced politically by the news stories they see, whether those stories are false or true.

    FB + Twitter cannot take credit for changing the world during events like the Egyptian Uprising, then downplay their influence on elections— this is not normal. (@karenkho) November 13, 2016

    As data scientist Patrick Martinchek writes on Medium, “Most headlines are browsed, not clicked… Because of this, the headlines frame our positions on topics without even having to read the content… with respect to politics, this news feed browsing behavior creates an electorate that can become dangerously uninformed.”

    And many, many people get their news on Facebook.

    44% of adults get news on Facebook

    Another recent Pew Research report from May 26 showed that 62% of US adults get their news from social media—maybe not all of their news, but at least some portion of it. Within that group, 66% of Facebook users get news from Facebook, and 59% of Twitter users get news from Twitter.

    With Facebook’s user base having ballooned to 1.8 billion monthly active users, that 66% translates to 44% of all US adults, a staggering figure.

    So: 44% of all adults look to Facebook for news; 20% of them say social media posts are capable of changing their views on a political issue; and more of the stories posted on Facebook this cycle, real and fake, came from right-wing outlets.

    Taken together, it all suggests Facebook had a much larger role in the election than Mark Zuckerberg would like to admit.

    And it also underscores that Facebook has become a media company; the fact that Facebook is not the creator of the content it distributes doesn’t negate that.

    Last month, speaking at a conference, COO Sheryl Sandberg was asked “if Facebook is acknowledging that it is a media company, and not just a technology platform.” Sandberg avoided, saying, “Facebook’s a platform for all ideas and it’s really core to our mission that people can share what they care about on Facebook.”

    During the election cycle, it was also a platform for some fake ideas, unfortunately. And even if the fake stories were only 1% of all stories (a figure many people doubt), 1% of all stories on Facebook represents quite a lot of stories.

    Poynter writes that it’s impossible for Zuckerberg to know how much of the content on Facebook is real or fake anyway. “The claim that 99 percent of content on Facebook is authentic is itself a fake,” Walter Quattrociocchi, a professor at the IMT School for Advanced Studies in Italy, told Poynter.

    Zuckerberg, in his Facebook post, appeared to say Facebook will do more to cut down on fake news, but the promise was noncommittal: “We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further… We hope to have more to share soon, although this work often takes longer than we’d like in order to confirm changes we make won’t introduce unintended side effects or bias into the system.”

    On Monday, citing anonymous sources, Gizmodo reported that Facebook has the ability to cut down on fake news, but hesitated to enact it because it did not want to upset conservatives and look politically partisan. Facebook executives, Gizmodo says, “were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public.”

    If that is true, Facebook must make that update immediately.

    “As data scientist Patrick Martinchek writes on Medium, “Most headlines are browsed, not clicked… Because of this, the headlines frame our positions on topics without even having to read the content… with respect to politics, this news feed browsing behavior creates an electorate that can become dangerously uninformed.”

    Yeah, dangerously uninformed electorates seem like a pretty obvious outcome of allowing a media that 44 percent of adults use to get their news to get filled with hoaxes. But, hey, at least Facebook didn’t upset conservatives!


    On Monday, citing anonymous sources, Gizmodo reported that Facebook has the ability to cut down on fake news, but hesitated to enact it because it did not want to upset conservatives and look politically partisan. Facebook executives, Gizmodo says, “were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public.”

    Yes, if that Gizmodo report is true, Facebook had a method for cutting down on the fake news but concluded that the implementation of this fix would enrage the right-wing. And yet Mark Zuckerberg is confident that only 1 percent of Facebook stories were fake and it all had a minimal impact. Uh huh….suuure:


    Poynter writes that it’s impossible for Zuckerberg to know how much of the content on Facebook is real or fake anyway. “The claim that 99 percent of content on Facebook is authentic is itself a fake,” Walter Quattrociocchi, a professor at the IMT School for Advanced Studies in Italy, told Poynter.

    So we have Facebook denying there’s a problem while issuing vague non-binding promises to do something about it, which means it’s problem a good time to remind ourselves that if Facebook actually provided some transparency on how its news feed algorithm worked we could all study how disinformation spreads and how to counteract it:

    CBC News

    Only Facebook knows how it spreads fake election newsOnly Facebook knows how it spreads fake election news
    Secret algorithms make it hard to judge how too-good-to-be-true stories influence voters

    By Matthew Braga, CBC News Posted: Nov 11, 2016 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Nov 11, 2016 5:38 AM ET

    If Facebook is to be believed, Hillary Clinton has deep ties to satanic rituals and the occult.

    The post in question has nearly 3,000 shares, and links to a story on a conspiracy-laden political site. It is most definitely fake. But like many of the stories that were posted to Facebook in this U.S. election cycle, it was written specifically for those with a right-leaning partisan bias in mind. For this particular group of voters, it just begged to be shared.

    And share they did. In an election dominated by the sexist, racist, and generally outrageous invective of America’s president-elect Donald Trump, Facebook proved the perfect social platform for the sharing of fake, too-good-to-be-true style news.

    At the end of August, The New York Times’ John Herrman reported on the subtle shift in Facebook feeds across America, many of which were increasingly filled with questionable news sources and fake stories specifically designed to be shared. More recently, BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman took on the daunting task of debunking fake news stories in near-real time.

    Democrats and Republicans alike clicked and shared on what they hoped to be true, whether or not there was any underlying truth.

    In both the run-up to the election and its immediate aftermath, there have been arguments that Facebook helped make a Trump presidency possible — that, by design, Facebook helps breed misinformation and encourage the spread of fake news, and that it can shape voter opinion based on the stories it chooses to show.

    Whether or not this is true is practically impossible to say because of how little insight we have into how Facebook’s myriad algorithms work.

    “I think that if we were to learn how, for example, networks of disinformation form, that would give people a lot more information of how to create networks of information,” said Frank Pasquale, a law professor at the University of Maryland, and author of The Black Box Society, a book on algorithms. “But because the algorithms are a black box, there’s no way to study them.”

    Facebook is notoriously tight-lipped about how its algorithms are designed and maintained, and has granted only a handful of carefully controlled interviews with journalists. We know that signals such as likes, comments, and shares all factor heavily into what Facebook shows its users, but not which signals contribute to a particular post’s appearance in a user’s feed, nor how those signals are weighted.

    “Anything that gets clicks, anything that gets more engagement and more potential ad revenue is effectively accelerated by the platform, with very rare exceptions,” Pasquale said.

    Algorithmic transparency

    Inevitably, posts that hewed to partisan beliefs proved especially popular, whether or not they were true. And how much of an impact these voices had on the voting public, only Facebook knows.

    For us to have any insight would require a level of algorithmic transparency, or algorithmic accountability into systems that few understand, though they increasingly shape the way we think.

    “Election information is one of those domains where there’s a pretty clear connection between information that people are being given access to and their ability to make a well informed decision,” says Nicholas Diakopoulos, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland’s journalism school.

    He says algorithmic transparency is “one method to increase the level of accountability we have over these platforms.”

    Both Diakopoulos and Pasquale believe that Facebook is actually a media company — despite its repeated claims otherwise — and as such needs to take more responsibility for the quality of news that appears on its site.

    One concern is that Facebook has so much power and influence over the content its nearly 1.2 billion daily users see that it could conceivably influence the outcome of an election. In fact, Facebook actually did something to this effect in 2012, assisting academic researchers with a “randomized controlled trial of political mobilization messages delivered to 61 million Facebook users during the 2010 U.S. congressional elections.”

    The study’s authors concluded that, both directly and indirectly, the Facebook messages increased voter turnout by 340,000 votes. Without more insight into how Facebook places news stories in its users’ feeds, no one would ever know if a viral political hoax site was responsible for doing the same.

    “”I think that if we were to learn how, for example, networks of disinformation form, that would give people a lot more information of how to create networks of information,” said Frank Pasquale, a law professor at the University of Maryland, and author of The Black Box Society, a book on algorithms. “But because the algorithms are a black box, there’s no way to study them.””

    This is something important to keep in mind: because Facebook is the only entity with the information about how its algorithm works, any algorithmic solutions are entirely up to Facebook to develop and implement. Not only that but any insights into how disinformation forms on Facebook’s networks (and social networks in general) are also going to be insights potentially held exclusively by Facebook. So not only has Facebook become a leading propagator of fake news, it’s also inevitably going to be a leading researcher in the propagation of fake news with key insights that few other entities will be able to possess. And how Facebook uses that knowledge will be up to Facebook.

    In other news, Alex Jones is reporting that Donald Trump called and thanked him and the Infowars readers for all the help. The report is based solely on Jones’s account so we have no idea of its true. But it’s not unbelievable. Should we believe it? Who knows? This is where we are.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 15, 2016, 8:25 pm
  7. Here’s a quick reminder that the Trump administrations unprecedented and jaw dropping conflicts of interest aren’t limited to the Trump clan:

    Politico

    Thiel could gain from Trump transition

    The Silicon Valley venture capitalist has backed companies that could benefit at least indirectly from his role.

    By Tony Romm

    12/06/16 05:09 AM EST

    Updated 12/06/16 12:30 PM EST

    NEW YORK — Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has poured money into efforts to boost the digital currency bitcoin, funded startups that aid insurance enrollment under Obamacare and invested in big-data technology that powers new surveillance tools at agencies like the CIA.

    Now many of the companies he’s supported over the years stand to benefit, at least indirectly, as Thiel works to shape Donald Trump’s emerging Cabinet as a member of the president-elect’s transition executive committee.

    Since he arrived here at Trump Tower last month, Thiel has worked behind the scenes alongside his close, longtime aides to identify potential candidates for key tech-facing jobs in Trump’s new government. That’s a boon to Silicon Valley, where many tech giants hope to spare themselves from new regulation in Washington. But it’s an even bigger coup for Thiel, 49, whose vast corporate web touches companies like PayPal and Palantir, both of which he co-founded, and Facebook, where he sits on the board of directors.

    As a result, experts say Thiel’s unique role raises serious ethical red flags, a conundrum not unlike the conflicts of interest that the president-elect himself faces.

    Thiel should “disqualify himself from any transition matter, [and] one would assume that would include appointments … which may directly conflict with his financial interests,” said Norm Eisen, former ethics czar for the Obama White House. “For me, it raises some very substantial concerns.”

    Thiel officially joined the transition team Nov. 11 as a member of Trump’s executive committee. Five days later, the president-elect unveiled an ethics agreement that required anyone joining the transition or administration to refrain from lobbying for five years after serving. That restriction ultimately led to an exodus — some by force, others by choice — of current and prospective lobbyists from the transition’s early ranks throughout November.

    But the contract also requires participants to “disqualify myself from involvement in any particular transition matter which to my knowledge may directly conflict with a financial interest of mine, my spouse, minor child, partner, client or other individual or organization with which I have a business or close personal relationship.” Thiel, despite his many investments, has not revealed if he or one of his top aides on the transition, Blake Masters, has signed the agreement, which only has invited further criticism.

    “I think this is going to be an administration ridden by conflicts of interest, starting with the president’s own,” Eisen said. “I think it’s fair to ask whether Mr. Thiel has signed the code, whether he’s following the code and how.”

    Thiel’s spokesman, Jeremiah Hall, did not respond to multiple questions about whether Thiel and his aides have signed the ethics agreement. In a statement, Hall merely said: “Peter’s team wants talented people to work in government. Everyone on the team abides by the rules in pursuing that goal.”

    Thiel visited Trump Tower again Monday afternoon, after joining the president-elect at a VIP-studded costume party last weekend in Long Island, dressed as Hulk Hogan, whose lawsuit against Gawker Thiel had helped fund. Asked about his role in the transition Monday, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said Thiel had “a number of meetings,” before adding: “He’s got a brilliant mind. He’s been a very valuable supporter of our efforts.”

    Thiel plans to join Trump’s senior aides — including Reince Priebus, the incoming president’s chief of staff, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s adviser and son in law — in a meeting next week with tech company leaders at Trump Tower, a source familiar with the effort told POLITICO on Tuesday.

    Palantir — which makes up about half of Thiel’s $2.9 billion net worth, as calculated by Bloomberg — may pose the most significant ethical headache for Thiel and the transition. The big-data giant was valued at more than $20 billion as of October and its customers include the Pentagon, CIA and other national security agencies. The privately held company has aggressively bid for new business in Washington, even suing the Army in a case over a $200 million contract that it won in October.

    Thiel is Palantir’s chairman, and his primary investment firm, Founders Fund, is one of the earliest, most prominent backers of the company, whose name is derived from J.R.R. Tolkien’s literature. Thiel remains close to Palantir’s co-founder, Joe Lonsdale, a prominent Republican fundraiser for the likes of House Speaker Paul Ryan and others, and the venture capitalist has consulted Lonsdale as part of his work on the transition, multiple sources told POLITICO.

    Adding to the overlap, Trump’s transition aides last week tapped Trae Stephens, another partner at Founders Fund who is focused on government startups, to join the team that’s plotting out the future of the Defense Department under the Trump administration. It’s also unclear if Stephens, who previously worked at Palantir, has signed the ethics agreement prohibiting him from focusing on areas related to his investments.

    A spokesman for Palantir — and aides for the other Thiel investments referenced in this story — did not respond to requests for comment. Founders Fund has 129 active investments, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and recently invested in an immunotherapy company and a logistics firm that coordinates local deliveries on demand.

    For Thiel, his position on the transition team is the culmination of yet another high-stakes investment bet. A longtime libertarian who backed the likes of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in the Senate and Carly Fiorina in 2016 for president, Thiel switched his allegiances last summer to Trump. By July, Thiel had endorsed Trump on stage at the Republican convention, and he later donated more than $1 million toward efforts to help elect him.

    Thiel long has maintained he does not want a role for himself in government. Asked at an event in Washington in October if he might ever enter politics, he said he would “occasionally get involved, but don’t want to make it a full-time thing.”

    Even in a part-time capacity now aiding Trump and his transition, however, Thiel has an unparalleled opportunity to advance his most ambitious technology gambits.

    Take Thiel’s primary investment arm, Founders Fund: It has led or participated in investment rounds in SpaceX, led by a fellow PayPal founder, Elon Musk. In an industry valued globally at more than $330 billion, SpaceX competes aggressively for key NASA contracts against longtime aviation giants, and it’s lobbied for years for new opportunities for commercial space providers to perform missions that long have been funded and completed by government. Demand for public-private partnerships in the space sector is likely to increase in the next administration, and that would benefit SpaceX, said Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, whose member companies include SpaceX.<

    So too has Thiel’s fund been a player in financial tech firms, like the mobile-payments company Stripe and the student-lending giant SoFi. Both companies this year hired their first Washington lobbyists, according to government ethics records, as agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Treasury Department under the Obama administration have eyed new regulation of the nascent “fintech” industry.

    And Founders Fund is an original backer of sharing-economy giants, like Airbnb and Lyft, which for years — and in multiple states, and even continents — have been fighting for the permission to operate, while warding off housing, labor and safety regulations that might raise their costs of business.

    In these and other instances, experts say there is unavoidable overlap between Thiel’s work on the transition and his vast investments in companies at the forefront of some of the most disruptive elements of the changing U.S. economy.

    “Given how unusual it is to have someone from this sector at this level of participation right now, it will give him enormous influence …. both to shape the policy but personally to emerge as a political figure in a way he hasn’t been,” said Julian Zelizer, a political analyst and political science professor at Princeton University.

    “The idea that he’s not going to make any policies that affect his financial interests [is] unbelievable,” said Lisa Graves, the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy who served as a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department during the Clinton administration. With Thiel, she explained, the benefit of his involvement — and his financial interests — also will “continue beyond the transition.”

    “The potential for rewards for changing policies, to benefit Thiel, are enormous,” she said.

    ““The idea that he’s not going to make any policies that affect his financial interests [is] unbelievable,” said Lisa Graves, the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy who served as a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department during the Clinton administration. With Thiel, she explained, the benefit of his involvement — and his financial interests — also will “continue beyond the transition.””

    Yeah, it does seem rather unbelievable that Peter Thiel, the “democracy and freedom are incompatible” guy, isn’t utilizing his powerful role in shaping the Trump team for self-enrichment. Especially since, you know, this is the Trump transition team we’re talking about.

    So, like so much with the Trump administration, we’ll see…mostly likely with a sense of shock and horror when we see it. For example, Jim O’Neill, the managing director at Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management, is reportedly under consideration for the head of the Food and Drug Administration. And he’s basically an ideological clone of Thiel (including sitting on the board of the Seasteading Institute). Cue the shock and horror:

    Bloomberg Politics

    Trump Team Said to Consider Thiel Associate O’Neill for FDA

    Drew Armstrong, Jennifer Jacobs, Robert Langreth
    December 7, 2016 — 11:01 AM CST
    Updated on December 7, 2016 — 3:09 PM CST

    * Jim O’Neill is a managing director at Thiel’s Mithril Capital
    * In speech, said FDA could approve drugs without efficacy data

    President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is considering a Silicon Valley investor close to billionaire Peter Thiel to head the Food and Drug Administration, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Jim O’Neill, the Thiel associate, hasn’t been officially selected, according to the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the decision process is private, and the Trump team could still go in another direction.

    O’Neill is a managing director at Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management, and last served in government during the George W. Bush administration as principal associate deputy secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services. He’s also a board member of the Seasteading Institute, a Thiel-backed venture to create new societies at sea, away from existing governments.

    Thiel’s spokesman Jeremiah Hall said O’Neill is a good candidate. “Jim O’Neill has extensive experience in government and in Silicon Valley. He is a strong candidate for any of several key positions,” Hall said in an e-mail. Separately, Politico and CNBC reported that O’Neill could be under consideration for various positions.

    Spokesmen for Trump didn’t respond to a request for comment. O’Neill also didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    He would be an unconventional pick, since he doesn’t have a medical background. The head of the FDA for the last five decades has either been a trained physician or a prominent scientific researcher.

    ‘Reform FDA’

    O’Neill also could push the agency in new directions. In a 2014 speech, he said he supported reforming FDA approval rules so that drugs could hit the market after they’ve been proven safe, but without any proof that they worked, something he called “progressive approval.”

    “We should reform FDA so there is approving drugs after their sponsors have demonstrated safety — and let people start using them, at their own risk, but not much risk of safety,” O’Neill said in a speech at an August 2014 conference called Rejuvenation Biotechnology. “Let’s prove efficacy after they’ve been legalized.”

    O’Neill has been a close associate of Thiel for nearly a decade. He first served as a managing director at Clarium Capital — Thiel’s hedge fund that made a mint by correctly predicting the housing bubble and then crumbled — and since 2012 has worked at Mithril Capital, Thiel’s late-stage venture firm, where he is a managing director. He also helped launch the Thiel Fellowship, which each year gives a small number of students $100,000 each to drop out of school and pursue entrepreneurial ideas.

    Medical Tests

    In the same 2014 speech, O’Neill said that when he was in the HHS he had opposed the FDA regulating some companies, such as 23andMe Inc., that perform complex laboratory-developed tests using mathematical algorithms.

    “In order to regulate in this space, FDA had to argue that an algorithm, a series of numbers that match up to things, is a medical device,” he said. “I found that really astonishing — astonishing that someone could say it with a straight face, and astonishing that someone could claim the ability to shut down companies that were never touching a patient but only accurately matching algorithms.”

    At the same conference, he advocated anti-aging medicine, saying he believed it was scientifically possible to develop treatments that would reverse aging, though the drug industry’s approach to the idea was “long overdue for innovation.”

    Broad Responsibilities

    The FDA has some of the government’s broadest regulatory authority. Responsible for food, drugs, medical devices, dietary supplements, cosmetics and tobacco, it touches many aspects of what Americans consume. It’s also a key part of the pharmaceutical industry’s research efforts, responsible for overseeing clinical trials. In recent years, changes at the agency have been made to speed approval of new therapies in everything from cancer to hepatitis C.

    In a talk at a 2009 conference, O’Neill touted the advantages of freer markets for a wide variety of health-care goods and services.

    “Basically, because there’s not a free market in health care, people are suffering very significant health consequences that in a free market they would not suffer,” he said in a talk at the 2009 Seasteading Conference. Among other advantages, a free market in health care “would drive prices much lower and allow innovation in cheaper delivery of care, both in terms of drugs and devices and better forms of delivery,” he said.

    Separately, Zenefits, the human resources startup, said its acting chief financial officer, Mark Woolway, will join Trump’s transition team. Woolway used to work for Thiel’s Clarium Capital and is another example of Thiel’s spreading influence.

    “Mark will continue to serve as acting CFO at Zenefits while he helps out on the transition team,” said Jessica Hoffman, a spokeswoman at Zenefits.

    Trump’s Plans

    Trump himself has offered few specifics on what he wants the FDA to do. His transition website says the administration will “reform the Food and Drug Administration, to put greater focus on the need of patients for new and innovative medical products” and advance research and development efforts in health care.

    O’Neill did his undergraduate studies at Yale University, where he was a member of the concert band and played the horn, and has a masters degree from the University of Chicago, both in the humanities. He joined the Health and Human Services Department under Bush in 2002, first as a speechwriter, rising in the final years of the administration to head some policy functions, according to his resume on LinkedIn.

    “O’Neill also could push the agency in new directions. In a 2014 speech, he said he supported reforming FDA approval rules so that drugs could hit the market after they’ve been proven safe, but without any proof that they worked, something he called “progressive approval.”

    FDA approval for drugs that don’t have to prove they actually work. Well, that’s one way to bring down drug costs: flood with market with “competition” in the form of drugs that don’t actually work. What a great “reform”.

    And that’s just one of the many grand ideas from Jim O’Neill over how to “reform” the FDA. You have to wonder how many other ideas of this nature he has in mind. Presumably quite a few given that Peter Thiel stated last year that the FDA would be the first government agency he would “reform” if it was up to him:

    Forbes

    Peter Thiel has never met a regulation he didn’t hate

    by Ben Geier
    February 10, 2015, 8:50 PM EST

    At least that’s how it seemed as the PayPal co-founder and investor went after pharmaceutical laws, dinged the federal government over surveillance and attacked FDR’s record.

    Everyone in the tech industry knows that PayPal cofounder and investor Peter Thiel is a libertarian. His disdain for regulation and his desire for a libertarian utopian city aboard a floating ship are infamous. At The Economist’s Buttonwood Gathering on Tuesday night, Thiel did nothing to change his reputation.

    In an interview with The Economist’s Globalization Editor Matthew Bishop, Thiel listed a number of industries in which he sees too much regulation.

    First, he homed in on the pharmaceutical industry, claiming that the regulation from the Food and Drug Administration made it too difficult for new drugs to be approved. “You would not be able to invent the polio vaccine today,” Thiel said.

    He agreed that the safety tests required by the government are a good idea, in theory. But he argued that they are too stringent and that pharmaceutical companies should be able to sell drugs that are inferior to the best one on the market.

    For example, the most effective drug for disease X may cost $10 per pill. But consumers should have the option to buy a drug that is 90% as effective for $1 per pill, he said. People should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to pay more for a slightly better product, just like in other industries.

    “You never develop drugs that are slightly worse, but much cheaper,” he said of the current environment.

    When asked about one major change he’d make to the federal government, Thiel said it would be to reform of the FDA — though he did stop short of saying it should be completely abolished.

    “He agreed that the safety tests required by the government are a good idea, in theory. But he argued that they are too stringent and that pharmaceutical companies should be able to sell drugs that are inferior to the best one on the market.”

    Yes, why not allow inferior drugs to compete with established drugs. How inferior, we’ll Thiel brings up an example of a drug that’s 90 percent as effective at 10 percent the cost. But as we saw from Jim O’Neill’s comments, that could also be ?!?!? as effective at ?!?!? percent the cost. Think of the competition this could create!

    And in case the potential conflicts of interest weren’t obvious, don’t forget: Thiel is an investor in a broad array of biotech companies. And now all those FDA “reforms” Peter Thiel has been dreaming about for years are poised to come to fruition.

    So with Donald Trump pleding to bring down drug prices, without giving any hint of how he’s planning on doing so, keep in mind that we’re already getting an idea of how he might go about it: appointing Team-Thiel to head up the FDA and gut the FDA’s regulatory powers followed up with prayer to the free-market fairies that somehow a explosion of new drugs and competition will do the job. Competition like the approval of new drugs with no evidence of efficacy, because why not let “the consumer patient” become “the guinea pig” too?

    Plus, even if the drugs don’t do anything, it’s not like the placebo effect isn’t real. Think of the savings!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 7, 2016, 4:10 pm
  8. Given the prominent role Peter Thiel is playing in the Trump transition team and the influence over positions like the next head of the FDA, it’s probably worth recalling Thiel’s debate in 2013 with technology investor Marc Andreessen where Thiel describes Silicon Valley companies like Cisco, Dell, HP, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, and Apple as part of a computer “rust belt” that’s poised for downsizing and layoffs and the only hope for humanity is massive deregulation of technology industries so people like Thiel can embrace high-risk/high-payoff technological gambits that will save us all. And we’re all doomed if we don’t follow this approach because society’s problems are unsolvable except with aggressive hyper-advances in technology (recall that Thiel doesn’t believe in democracy so he’s probably not a big fan of political solutions to humanity’s challenges). It was a presentation by Thiel that’s especially worth recalling these days in part because Thiel gave a similar presentation during a defense of Trump shortly before the election. But also because it doesn’t look like Thiel’s influence over the Trump administration’s health and science agenda is going to be limited to the FDA:

    STAT

    Peter Thiel said to be playing key role in filling health, science posts under Trump

    By Sheila Kaplan and Dylan Scott

    December 20, 2016

    WASHINGTON — Peter Thiel, the iconoclastic Silicon Valley mogul who has been advising President-elect Donald Trump on technology policy, has become deeply involved in vetting candidates for other health and science posts in the administration, according to individuals familiar with his role.

    Thiel, who has already advanced a candidate to lead the Food and Drug Administration, has been discussing possibilities with other prospective appointees about a variety of health and science jobs. Among others, he recently spoke with Elias Zerhouni, a former director of the National Institutes of Health and president of global research and development for Sanofi, about a top White House science job.

    Thiel has also been speaking to organizations pushing possible candidates, among them a working group that includes FasterCures, Research!America, and the Coalition for Life Sciences.

    “He’s got pretty broad influence,” said one individual close to the transition team, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The individual said Thiel was very focused in particular on the FDA, NIH, Health and Human Services, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. He has tapped Jim O’Neill, a libertarian member of his investment staff, as a possible candidate to be the FDA commissioner.

    Neither representatives for Thiel nor members of Trump’s transition team responded to request for comment. Zerhouni also did not respond to a request for comment.

    Thiel’s role has caused alarm among people who are concerned about his views on health and science, as well as potential conflicts of interest posed by his extensive investment portfolio in biotechnology businesses.

    Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who is also a close adviser to Trump, played down the notion that Thiel had an outsized role on the transition team, saying that the president-elect “listens to many and obeys none.” But he also acknowledged that Thiel’s role may not sit well with some people.

    Thiel is “one of the most brilliant, pro-innovation personalities I’ve ever met,” Gingrich said.

    “That can be very uncomfortable for people who believe in bureaucratic science, because his argument for pro-science would be the over-aged system actually discriminates against rising younger talent.”

    Thiel’s Founder’s Fund, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, has poured millions of dollars into companies such as Stemcentrx, which works on cancer treatment; Emerald Therapeutics, focused on DNA research; Collective Health, a health benefits firm; and Zocdoc, a website directory of doctors.

    One of Thiel’s biggest ventures is Palantir, the giant tech and software company that, in addition to its federal contracts in defense and other fields, sells software services to health care providers.

    “In this administration, conflicts of interest are a feature, not a bug,” said Henry Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford Law School.

    What worries Greely more, he said, are Thiel’s views on science, his focus on research to stop aging, and to achieve immortality.

    “He seems to me a worrisome outlier in terms of his views about science and research,” Greely said. “He seems quite impatient with the normal ways things get done. I worry that he is interested in shaking up the research establishment and doing it in ways that lead to higher risk activities that have potentially higher rewards, but lower probabilities of being successful. That can be catastrophic.”

    Thiel aides have helped convene meetings in San Francisco of experts in science and technology as recently as last week, according to one source who received an invitation.

    Aubrey de Grey, a scientist who studies aging and who has received funding from Thiel, suggested that the Silicon Valley investor will help the administration take more of a long-term approach on medical research.

    “Peter is a true visionary,” he said, “both in terms of how much better he sees that the future can be and in terms of creative ways to get there.”

    De Grey also said he hoped that research projects initiated by startups would receive backing from the new administration.

    “Startups and visionaries can take risks that government and government scientists often can’t, but at the same time if its policy is guided by the best long-term thinking, government can lubricate the passage of such new ideas and initiatives.”

    “Thiel’s role has caused alarm among people who are concerned about his views on health and science, as well as potential conflicts of interest posed by his extensive investment portfolio in biotechnology businesses.

    Yeah, there’s going to be no shortage of Thiel-related conflicts of interest in the Trump administration’s science and technology policies. But note the other big conflict that could be far more damaging: Thiel’s desire to see major technological breakthroughs is coupled with a disdain for the value of slow-and-steady basic scientific research. And it’s the federal government that provides the bulk of the funding for that slow-and-steady investment in basic research. So if Thiel’s views come to dominate the Trump administration’s thinking for federal policies of science and technology funding we should expect a lot more federal money going to private startups with a high-risk/high-reward model, like the longevity technology foundation run by Aubrey de Grey that Thiel has donated heavily towards, at the cost of federal money going to basic research:


    “In this administration, conflicts of interest are a feature, not a bug,” said Henry Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford Law School.

    What worries Greely more, he said, are Thiel’s views on science, his focus on research to stop aging, and to achieve immortality.

    “He seems to me a worrisome outlier in terms of his views about science and research,” Greely said. “He seems quite impatient with the normal ways things get done. I worry that he is interested in shaking up the research establishment and doing it in ways that lead to higher risk activities that have potentially higher rewards, but lower probabilities of being successful. That can be catastrophic.”

    Thiel aides have helped convene meetings in San Francisco of experts in science and technology as recently as last week, according to one source who received an invitation.

    Aubrey de Grey, a scientist who studies aging and who has received funding from Thiel, suggested that the Silicon Valley investor will help the administration take more of a long-term approach on medical research.

    De Grey also said he hoped that research projects initiated by startups would receive backing from the new administration.

    “Startups and visionaries can take risks that government and government scientists often can’t, but at the same time if its policy is guided by the best long-term thinking, government can lubricate the passage of such new ideas and initiatives.”

    ““He seems to me a worrisome outlier in terms of his views about science and research,” Greely said. “He seems quite impatient with the normal ways things get done. I worry that he is interested in shaking up the research establishment and doing it in ways that lead to higher risk activities that have potentially higher rewards, but lower probabilities of being successful. That can be catastrophic.”

    It was pretty much guaranteed that a Trump administration, or any GOP administration for that matter, would find a way to starve federal science research funding. But with Thiel guiding Trump’s science and technology thinking, those inevitable cuts could end up being extra savage simply because Thiel appears to have contempt for any research that isn’t somehow revolutionary and/or contributing to his personal desire to live forever on his own private sea colony. And when you consider how much Donald Trump’s psychological need for self-aggrandizement, it’s hard to see how Trump will resist Thiel’s calls for ditching the basic research in favor of throwing a bunch of money at Peter Thiel’s private sector companies of choice that he promises will create “great” new technologies. With Thiel calling the shots, a Trump administration agenda is probably going to revolve around pulling the rug out from under the feet of America’s publicly funded scientists in the hopes of creating a flying carpet. Great of that works out and we get those flying carpets but it’s probably not worth the cost.

    If there’s one form of “innovation” the GOP has excelled at in recent decades, it’s innovations in new ways to undercut the government’s ability to actually do all the useful things something like a government is perfect for doing like publicly funded basic research. That’s all part of why America’s science and research prowess could take a major hit in the coming years. And, in turn, that’s part of why US industry will end up suffering too under a Trump administration given the wealth of positive externalities that have emerged from publicly funded research and the incredible damage Trump and his team could do in just 4 to 8 years. Although even if Thiel wasn’t on board the Trump train it would still be looking pretty ominous for America’s scientist.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 27, 2016, 2:35 pm
  9. Peter Thiel has a little helper in the Trump transition vetting processes. And, surprise surprise, that little helper happens to be a notorious “Alt-Right” neo-Nazi troll: Charles C. Johnson:

    Forbes

    A Troll Outside Trump Tower Is Helping To Pick Your Next Government

    By Ryan Mac and Matt Drange
    Jan 9, 2017 @ 03:30 PM

    An internet troll, who was once called “the most hated man on the internet” and is banned from Twitter, is recommending candidates to serve in the Trump administration.

    Charles “Chuck” Johnson, a controversial blogger and conservative online personality, has been pushing for various political appointees to serve under Donald Trump, according to multiple sources close to the President-elect’s transition team. While Johnson does not have a formal position, FORBES has learned that he is working behind the scenes with members of the transition team’s executive committee, including billionaire Trump donor Peter Thiel, to recommend, vet and give something of a seal of approval to potential nominees from the so-called “alt-right.”

    The proximity to power is something new for Johnson, a self-described “journalist, author and debunker of frauds,” who has made a name for himself by peddling false information and right-wing conspiracy theories online. In the months leading up to the election, Johnson, 28, used social media and his website GotNews.com to stump for the President-elect while also publishing misinformation on Trump’s detractors. Now, Johnson is helping to pick some of the leaders who may run the country for the next four years.

    FORBES verified Johnson’s involvement with multiple people close to the transition team who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. When asked about his work with the transition team, Johnson said last month that he had “no formal role,” and was vague regarding his level of influence. Johnson agreed to multiple phone and email interviews with FORBES in December, but he declined to return repeated follow-up requests for comment this month.

    “Whether I am listened to or not remains to be seen,” Johnson wrote in an email to FORBES in December. “I am by and large pretty happy with the government selected thus far, though I am sorry to say that a lot of the candidates that I favor have not been selected.”

    Johnson’s statements came before his appearance on an online radio show with libertarian blogger Stefan Molyneux on Dec. 22 during which Johnson declared that he had been “doing a lot of vetting for the administration and the Trump transition.”

    The disclosure of Johnson’s involvement comes at a time of intense scrutiny for Trump’s transition team, whose cabinet picks will begin Senate confirmation hearings this week. Those hearings are moving forward despite the fact that, as of this weekend, the Office of Government Ethics had not completed its review of multiple appointees. It is unprecedented for the Senate to hold confirmation hearings for a President-elect’s nominees before formal background checks are completed.

    Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not return a request for comment. Jeremiah Hall, a spokesman for Thiel, declined to comment.

    While Twitter banned Johnson in May 2015 after threatening a Black Lives Matters activist, he made a name for himself as an internet troll, or an online personality who antagonizes others by posting inflammatory or misleading information. Among his exploits, Johnson has published the home addresses of New York Times reporters, wrongly identified a woman he thought was the source of Rolling Stone’s now-retracted story of an alleged rape at the University of Virginia and claimed that President Barack Obama is gay.

    “On Twitter, like, I have a certain kind of personality, a pugnaciousness, like an alter ego,” he said in 2014 to Mother Jones. “You know, like when Spider-Man puts on the costume, for instance, he’s no longer a mild-mannered photographer. He has an attitude. I do that because I want my content to really go viral.”

    Johnson portrays GotNews as an alternative to the “lying mainstream media.” He said it receives 2.5 million page views per month. (Quantcast estimated in the last 30 days that about 246,000 people have visited the site.) Recent stories include a piece on Senator Ted Cruz’s supposedly imminent Supreme Court nomination and another on Trump’s “biggest regret” in supporting John McCain’s 2016 Senate re-election run.

    Despite his disregard for facts and reckless approach to publishing, Johnson, who was recently photographed at a dinner attended by white supremacists in Washington, D.C., built a significant following among many who self-identified as being a part of the “alt-right.” Trump drew significant support from those same followers during the election.

    Mike Cernovich, another pro-Trump troll who is friends with Johnson, said that Johnson often has a hand in behind-the-scenes politics. “The media really likes to hate on [Johnson],” Cernovich said. “But if they knew how influential he has been–in ways they didn’t know–it would be kind of mind blowing.”

    Johnson, who boldly predicted against conventional wisdom and polls that Trump would win, and who was spotted in the VIP section at Trump’s election night party, began working with the transition team shortly after Nov. 8. Among his contacts within Manhattan’s Trump Tower, where the President-elect has set up camp, is Thiel, a member of the transition’s executive committee. A PayPal cofounder and Facebook board member whose vast network of Silicon Valley connections has made him invaluable to the President-elect, Thiel has overseen many of the science and technology appointments for the incoming administration.

    Johnson has helped in that effort, pushing for at least a dozen potential candidates to Thiel, including Ajit Pai, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, whom Johnson hopes will lead the organization under Trump. Pai declined to comment for this story. As a Republican member of the FCC, Pai is a natural candidate to be considered for the chairmanship of the agency, and Johnson’s recommendation suggests he’s also favored by a segment of the self-described “alt-right.”

    Beyond recommending candidates, Johnson has also helped set up meetings between potential appointees and transition team members. He has worked with Jim O’Neill, who is being considered to head the Food and Drug Administration and is currently employed by Thiel at San Francisco-based investment firm Mithril Capital. Johnson has tried to arrange for O’Neill to meet with conservative influencers and political groups in an effort to build support for his potential FDA nomination. O’Neill declined to comment.

    Johnson also helped create a database where potential political appointees could send in their resumes to be considered for government positions. He has access to the website ThePlumlist.com, and though the recently created website remains dormant, candidates have been told to send their information to an email account associated with that domain. In November, The Daily Mail reported that Thiel maintains a database called the “Plum List” to track potential hires and qualified applicants. Sources familiar with the situation described the list as an intake system for the team, and said it was separate from the version that Thiel and his closest associates use to track final selections that are forwarded to Trump.

    Johnson denied working with Thiel, and said the two had “only a passing familiarity.” Johnson added that he and Thiel “share some of the same enemies,” a reference to the now defunct news organization, Gawker Media. Thiel secretly bankrolled former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan’s landmark invasion of privacy lawsuit against the New York media organization, which ultimately led to the company’s bankruptcy. Separately, Johnson sued Gawker in a California court for defamation after the website published a series of critical and abrasive stories about him.

    FORBES previously reported that Johnson, while exploring representation for his case, had a phone discussion with lawyers at Harder Mirell & Abrams, the law firm that Thiel paid to represent Hogan, and that Johnson’s case had been pitched to other Los Angeles law firms as part of a wider legal strategy against Gawker. Johnson’s lawsuit remains on hold, pending a hearing later this month in federal bankruptcy court to determine the fate of Gawker Media’s remaining assets.

    If Gawker is Johnson and Thiel’s shared enemy, then Trump advisor and chief strategist Stephen Bannon is their most prominent mutual ally. Johnson worked for Bannon at Breitbart News, where Bannon served as executive chairman before joining Trump’s campaign last year. “I liked [Bannon], and was close to him,” Johnson said in a December phone interview.

    Last fall, Johnson and Bannon led an effort prior to the second presidential debate in October to stage a press conference with Trump and four women who have accused Bill Clinton of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment and Hillary Clinton of protecting an alleged sexual criminal. Johnson claimed to have helped raise more than $10,000 for one of those women, Kathleen Shelton–who alleged that she was raped in 1975 by a man who Hillary Clinton later represented as a public defender–to attend the event.

    While Johnson denied his recent work with Thiel, he freely discussed his efforts to influence the transition team through his old boss, Bannon. Still, Johnson insisted that while Bannon takes his opinion into consideration, his recommendations are sometimes ignored. “Imagine you had an ex-boss who became the consigliere to the President of the United States,” Johnson told FORBES last month. “You can’t be like, ‘Dude, you’re f***ing up.’”

    Alexandra Preate, a spokesperson for Bannon, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

    The full extent of Johnson’s involvement in the transition is not clear, though several of his associates have also interfaced with the team in recent weeks. FORBES has learned that Cernovich and Jeff Giesea, a Washington, D.C.-based entrepreneur who worked for Thiel in the past, have also been in contact with transition team members, according to sources. Giesea declined to comment, while Cernovich discussed the transition team’s agenda but remained vague when pressed for details of his own work.

    “I want to be free to say whatever I want to say. And in a way that limits what I can do officially,” Cernovich said, denying that he has had any direct communication with Thiel or other members of the transition team. “I don’t want anyone to get jammed up, vis-à-vis any association with me.”

    Cernovich and Giesea have also organized a party for Trump supporters in Washington, D.C. later this month dubbed the “DeploraBall.” Cernovich said that 1,000 tickets have been sold for the event, which is billed as “the biggest meme ever” and will take place at the National Press Club on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. Johnson said the event was about giving voice to a group of people who, until Trump’s landmark victory in November, were often ignored by the political establishment. When asked if he felt that he had gotten credit for his recent work, Johnson said, “Not as much as I deserve.”

    Johnson attributed much of the work that he and others have done in support of Trump to being able to tap into voters’ emotions through memes, such as the Pepe the Frog cartoon that became an informal mascot for Trump supporters. Johnson said that memes represent a new way for people to discuss national politics, which he said is dominated by a “white paper” mindset predicated on debating policy merits based on fact rather than emotion. To hear Johnson tell it, the success of this approach is evidenced by the visceral reaction to memes that generated widespread attention and influenced public perception during Trump’s rise to power, despite having little or no basis in fact.

    “Despite his disregard for facts and reckless approach to publishing, Johnson, who was recently photographed at a dinner attended by white supremacists in Washington, D.C., built a significant following among many who self-identified as being a part of the “alt-right.” Trump drew significant support from those same followers during the election.”

    Yes, Charles C. Johnson is now apparently secretly helping the Trump team staff the Executive Branch despite being an open white supremacist neo-Nazi troll. Or perhaps because of that. Either way, if this report is accurate he’s not just passing along a few suggestions to Peter Thiel. He helped create a database of potential appointees:


    Johnson also helped create a database where potential political appointees could send in their resumes to be considered for government positions. He has access to the website ThePlumlist.com, and though the recently created website remains dormant, candidates have been told to send their information to an email account associated with that domain. In November, The Daily Mail reported that Thiel maintains a database called the “Plum List” to track potential hires and qualified applicants. Sources familiar with the situation described the list as an intake system for the team, and said it was separate from the version that Thiel and his closest associates use to track final selections that are forwarded to Trump.

    While Charles C. Johnson may not technically be the Helene von Damm of the Trump administration (the Director of Presidential Personnel is John DeStefano), it sounds like he’s playing a similar role. And note that John DeStanfo was only named the Director of Presidential Personnel about a week ago, suggesting that the Trump team has probably been a lot more dependent on the recommendations of folks like Thiel and Johnson for the first couple months of the transition period than they want to admit.

    So if you were wondering if Trump really was going to be filling his administration with “Alt-Right” neo-Nazis, the answer appears to be that he already is and those neo-Nazis are helping him pick the rest of his staff.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 10, 2017, 7:27 pm
  10. Guess which major world leader is reportedly taking the advice of Curtis Yarvin, a.k.a. Mencius Moldbug, the pro-monarchy, pro-eugenics founder of the contemporary “Dark Enlightenment”. Here’s a hint: it’s not Kim Jong Un. That’s the only hint you should need:

    Politico

    What Steve Bannon Wants You to Read

    President Trump’s strategic adviser is elevating a once-obscure network of political thinkers.

    By Eliana Johnson and Eli Stokols

    February 07, 2017

    The first weeks of the Trump presidency have brought as much focus on the White House’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, as on the new president himself. But if Bannon has been the driving force behind the frenzy of activity in the White House, less attention has been paid to the network of political philosophers who have shaped his thinking and who now enjoy a direct line to the White House.

    They are not mainstream thinkers, but their writings help to explain the commotion that has defined the Trump administration’s early days. They include a Lebanese-American author known for his theories about hard-to-predict events; an obscure Silicon Valley computer scientist whose online political tracts herald a “Dark Enlightenment”; and a former Wall Street executive who urged Donald Trump’s election in anonymous manifestos by likening the trajectory of the country to that of a hijacked airplane—and who now works for the National Security Council.

    Bannon, described by one associate as “the most well-read person in Washington,” is known for recommending books to colleagues and friends, according to multiple people who have worked alongside him. He is a voracious reader who devours works of history and political theory “in like an hour,” said a former associate whom Bannon urged to read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. “He’s like the Rain Man of nationalism.”

    But, said the source, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about Bannon, “There are some things he’s only going to share with people who he’s tight with and who he trusts.”

    Bannon’s readings tend to have one thing in common: the view that technocrats have put Western civilization on a downward trajectory and that only a shock to the system can reverse its decline. And they tend to have a dark, apocalyptic tone that at times echoes Bannon’s own public remarks over the years—a sense that humanity is at a hinge point in history. His ascendant presence in the West Wing is giving once-obscure intellectuals unexpected influence over the highest echelons of government.

    Bannon’s 2015 documentary, “Generation Zero,” drew heavily on one of his favorite books, “The Fourth Turning” by William Strauss and Neil Howe. The book explains a theory of history unfolding in 80- to 100-year cycles, or “turnings,” the fourth and final stage of which is marked by periods of cataclysmic change in which the old order is destroyed and replaced—a current period that, in Bannon’s view, was sparked by the 2008 financial crisis and has now been manifested in part by the rise of Trump.

    “The West is in trouble. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, and Trump’s election was a sign of health,” said a White House aide who was not authorized to speak publicly. “It was a revolt against managerialism, a revolt against expert rule, a revolt against the administrative state. It opens the door to possibilities.”

    All of these impulses are evident in the White House, as the new administration—led by Bannon and a cadre of like-minded aides—has set about administering a sort of ideological shock therapy in its first two weeks. A flurry of executive orders slashing regulation and restricting the influx of refugees bear the ideological markings of obscure intellectuals in both form and content. The circumvention of the bureaucracy is a hallmark of these thinkers, as is the necessity of restricting immigration.

    Their thinking has a clear nationalist strain, and Bannon has considered hiring a staffer responsible for monitoring nationalist movements around the world, according to two sources familiar with the situation. French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s visit to Trump Tower in mid-January was his handiwork. Le Pen has devoted her political career to softening the image and broadening the appeal of the nationalist movement in France by marginalizing its most extremist members. Her views are typically nationalist: She is hostile to the European Union and free trade and opposes granting foreigners from outside the EU the right to vote in local elections. Bannon’s former employer, Breitbart News, has covered Le Pen obsessively, casting her as the French Trump.

    ***

    Many political onlookers described Trump’s election as a “black swan” event: unexpected but enormously consequential. The term was popularized by Nassim Taleb, the best-selling author whose 2014 book Antifragile—which has been read and circulated by Bannon and his aides—reads like a user’s guide to the Trump insurgency.

    It’s a broadside against big government, which Taleb faults for suppressing the randomness, volatility and stress that keep institutions and people healthy. “As with neurotically overprotective parents, those who are trying to help us are hurting us the most,” he writes. Taleb also offers a withering critique of global elites, whom he describes as a corrupt class of risk-averse insiders immune to the consequences of their actions: “We are witnessing the rise of a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, bankers, Davos-attending members of the I.A.N.D (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power and no real downside and/or accountability. They game the system while citizens pay the price.”

    It might as well have been the mission statement of the Trump campaign. Asked in a phone interview this week whether he’s had meetings with Bannon or his associates, Taleb said he could not comment. “Anything about private meetings would need to come from them,” he said, though he noted cryptically he’s had “coffee with friends.” He has been supportive of Trump but does not define himself as a supporter per se, though he said he would “be on the first train” to Washington were he invited to the White House.

    “They look like the incarnation of ‘antifragile’ people,” Taleb said of the new administration. “The definition of ‘antifragile’ is having more upside than downside. For example, Obama had little upside because everyone thought he was brilliant and would solve the world’s problems, so when he didn’t it was disappointing. Trump has little downside because he’s already been so heavily criticized. He’s heavily vaccinated because of his checkered history. People have to understand: Trump did not run to be archbishop of Canterbury.”

    Trump’s first two weeks in office have produced a dizzying blur of activity. But the president has also needlessly sparked controversy, arguing, for example, that his inauguration crowd was the biggest ever and that millions of people voted illegally in last November’s election, leaving even seasoned political observers befuddled.

    Before he emerged on the political scene, an obscure Silicon Valley computer programmer with ties to Trump backer and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel was explaining his behavior. Curtis Yarvin, the self-proclaimed “neoreactionary” who blogs under the name “Mencius Moldbug,” attracted a following in 2008 when he published a wordy treatise asserting, among other things, that “nonsense is a more effective organizing tool than the truth.” When the organizer of a computer science conference canceled Yarvin’s appearance following an outcry over his blogging under his nom de web, Bannon took note: Breitbart News decried the act of censorship in an article about the programmer-blogger’s dismissal.

    Moldbug’s dense, discursive musings on history—“What’s so bad about the Nazis?” he asks in one 2008 post that condemns the Holocaust but questions the moral superiority of the Allies—include a belief in the utility of spreading misinformation that now looks like a template for Trump’s approach to truth. “To believe in nonsense is an unforgeable [sic] demonstration of loyalty. It serves as a political uniform. And if you have a uniform, you have an army,” he writes in a May 2008 post.

    In one January 2008 post, titled “How I stopped believing in democracy,” he decries the “Georgetownist worldview” of elites like the late diplomat George Kennan. Moldbug’s writings, coming amid the failure of the U.S. state-building project in Iraq, are hard to parse clearly and are open to multiple interpretations, but the author seems aware that his views are provocative. “It’s been a while since I posted anything really controversial and offensive here,” he begins in a July 25, 2007, post explaining why he associates democracy with “war, tyranny, destruction and poverty.”

    Moldbug, who does not do interviews and could not be reached for this story, has reportedly opened up a line to the White House, communicating with Bannon and his aides through an intermediary, according to a source. Yarvin said he has never spoken with Bannon. During the transition, he made clear his deep skepticism that the Russians were behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, the source said—a message that Trump himself reiterated several times.

    ***

    If Taleb and Yarvin laid some of the theoretical groundwork for Trumpism, the most muscular and controversial case for electing him president—and the most unrelenting attack on Trump’s conservative critics—came from Michael Anton, a onetime conservative intellectual writing under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus.

    Thanks to an entree from Thiel, Anton now sits on the National Security Council staff. Initial reports indicated he would serve as a spokesman, but Anton is set to take on a policy role, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. A former speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush’s National Security Council, Anton most recently worked as a managing director for BlackRock, the Wall Street investment firm.

    “Moldbug’s dense, discursive musings on history—“What’s so bad about the Nazis?” he asks in one 2008 post that condemns the Holocaust but questions the moral superiority of the Allies—include a belief in the utility of spreading misinformation that now looks like a template for Trump’s approach to truth. “To believe in nonsense is an unforgeable [sic] demonstration of loyalty. It serves as a political uniform. And if you have a uniform, you have an army,” he writes in a May 2008 post.”

    Disinformation as a tribal gang sign/army uniform. Yeah, you can see why the White House might be interested in the thoughts of Mencius Moldbug. That, plus the whole Dark Enlightenment/We need a king thing, of course.

    You also have to wonder which individual is acting as the intermediary between Moldbug and Bannon:


    Moldbug, who does not do interviews and could not be reached for this story, has reportedly opened up a line to the White House, communicating with Bannon and his aides through an intermediary, according to a source. Yarvin said he has never spoken with Bannon. During the transition, he made clear his deep skepticism that the Russians were behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, the source said—a message that Trump himself reiterated several times.”

    Hmmm….who could it be…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 7, 2017, 3:40 pm
  11. Surprise! It turns out Peter Thiel got citizenship in New Zealand. In 2011. After spending just 12 days in the country. And he kept it a secret and still won’t talk about it:

    NZ Herald

    Controversial billionaire Peter Thiel made a Kiwi after two-week holiday

    By: Matt Nippert
    29 Jun, 2017 3:00pm

    The Minister who signed off on Peter Thiel’s New Zealand citizenship, despite the controversial billionaire having only spent 12 days in the country, today defended his decision.

    Nathan Guy, the Minister of Internal Affairs in 2011 who used an “exceptional circumstances” clause to make Thiel a citizen., told reporters the surprise Kiwi was only news because of his recent backing of US President Donald Trump.

    “This story got legs because of his connection to the Trump regime,” Guy told media at parliament this afternoon.

    “In 2011 I was unaware of that. I was presented with a file that was incredibly comprehensive. This individual was backed by Rod Drury, Sam Morgan, he’s made significant investments,” he said

    “And, ultimately, officials came to me with a recommendation that he should be granted citizenship, and I agreed with that.”

    Guy said citizen Thiel was a “great ambassador and salesperson for New Zealand,” but was unable to explain why the citizenship was kept secret and only came to light six years after it was granted, nor why the controversial billionaire had sought it in the first place.

    “I don’t know indeed why he’s kept it secret …. I can’t answer that, that’s something you’d need to get from Peter Thiel,” Guy said.

    Thiel has not commented publicly on his New Zealand citizenship since the story broke in January, and his representatives today again declined to respond to questions asked by the Herald.

    The revelation – showing surprise citizen Thiel met less than one percent of the typical residency requirement of 1350 days – led Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway to criticise the government’s use of an “exceptional circumstances” clause to grant citizenship.

    “It’s astonishing that someone who has only been in the country for such a short period of time should be offered citizenship. This goes beyond exceptional, almost to the point of unbelievable,” he said.

    The precise brevity of Thiel’s history in New Zealand was released by the Department of Internal Affairs today after a complaint by RNZ to the Ombudsman over what were claimed to be inappropriate redactions to his citizenship file.

    The Ombudsman agreed with RNZ, saying the public interest in the case outweighed any privacy concerns.

    Then-Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy invoked an exceptional circumstances clause in 2011, enabling normal requirements for a prospective citizen to have lived – and intend to live – in New Zealand to be waived.

    Guy initially said he was unable to recall the case – despite Thiel being the only adult in at least five years to be granted citizenship despite not intending to reside in New Zealand – but later reviewed the file and said he made his decision based on the billionaires’ local investments and philanthropic activity.

    The disclosure of Thiel’s citizenship – broken by the Herald as part of inquiries over his $13.5m purchase of a large farming block bordering Lake Wanaka – caused a domestic and international furore.

    The opposition Labour Party asked questions in Parliament about whether the matter meant New Zealand citizenship was for sale, with political criticisms intensifying after it was revealed Thiel’s local investments had also been given a generous government subsidy.

    A Herald investigation into Thiel’s local activity discovered his chief local investment vehicle, Valar Ventures, had exercised a little-known buyout clause in its partnership with the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund to reap massive profits at the taxpayers’ expense.

    The arrangement meant Thiel contributed $7m to the deal, but after its large stake in Xero skyrocketed in value was able to claim all profits from the venture. The move is understood to have led to profits of at least $23m for Thiel, while the NZVIF and taxpayers were left barely breaking even.

    Reports obtained under the Official Information Act showed the Government was warned as far back as 2014 about the potential for the Valar Ventures partnership to blow up in their faces.

    A consultant told the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that the arrangement “creates some difficult optics where, in the Valar Ventures example, the taxpayer is offering an American billionaire a loan at less-than-market rates”.

    The news of Thiel’s surprise Kiwi citizenship, and developments over the following months, landed the story on the front page of the Financial Times, as well as extensive coverage in the New York Times and the Guardian.

    Thiel has become an enormously influential and controversial figure in the United States over the past decade.

    He founded online transaction service Paypal, and used the proceeds to make more than US$1 billion from a 2004, US$500,000 investment in a little-known internet startup called Facebook. Thiel retains a seat on the board of the social media giant.

    His largest current business investment is in Palantir, a secretive big data analysis firm he co-founded in 2003. The company, backed early by the CIA, works primarily with intelligence agencies to sift through and find patterns in large datasets.

    The New Zealand Defence Force, the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications and Security Bureau were revealed by the Herald in April to have long-standing links with Palantir.

    The Herald has complained to the Ombudsman over government spy agencies’ refusal to confirm they contract to use Palantir software, and exactly how lucrative and long-running the contracts have been.

    The Ombudsman has provisionally indicated the NZDF would reveal more information about its ties to Palantir, but the SIS and GCSB were maintaining their position that releasing such information would prejudice national security.

    Thiel has in more recent years branched out into politics, promoting libertarian causes and being one of the first high-profile backers of then-Republican primary candidate Donald Trump.

    His support for life-extension technologies, including the possibility of transfusing blood from young people, has also raised eyebrows. (His New Zealand property holding vehicle, Second Star Ltd, appears to be derived from directions given in Peter Pan stories about how to find Neverland, a realm where children never have to grow old.)

    ———-

    “Controversial billionaire Peter Thiel made a Kiwi after two-week holiday” by Matt Nippert; NZ Herald; 06/29/2017

    “Guy initially said he was unable to recall the case – despite Thiel being the only adult in at least five years to be granted citizenship despite not intending to reside in New Zealand – but later reviewed the file and said he made his decision based on the billionaires’ local investments and philanthropic activity

    And what were those local investments and philanthropic activities if Thiel that so impressed the then-Interior Minister? Well, obvious ‘activity’ that the government would be most interested in is Palantir:


    His largest current business investment is in Palantir, a secretive big data analysis firm he co-founded in 2003. The company, backed early by the CIA, works primarily with intelligence agencies to sift through and find patterns in large datasets.

    The New Zealand Defence Force, the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications and Security Bureau were revealed by the Herald in April to have long-standing links with Palantir.

    The Herald has complained to the Ombudsman over government spy agencies’ refusal to confirm they contract to use Palantir software, and exactly how lucrative and long-running the contracts have been.

    The Ombudsman has provisionally indicated the NZDF would reveal more information about its ties to Palantir, but the SIS and GCSB were maintaining their position that releasing such information would prejudice national security.

    Yeah, it’s a good bet Palantir was the the deal-maker in this situation.

    And note how Thiel’s secret citizenship was actually revealed by a ‘local investment’ that apparently involving fleecing the local tax payers:


    The disclosure of Thiel’s citizenship – broken by the Herald as part of inquiries over his $13.5m purchase of a large farming block bordering Lake Wanaka – caused a domestic and international furore.

    The opposition Labour Party asked questions in Parliament about whether the matter meant New Zealand citizenship was for sale, with political criticisms intensifying after it was revealed Thiel’s local investments had also been given a generous government subsidy.

    A Herald investigation into Thiel’s local activity discovered his chief local investment vehicle, Valar Ventures, had exercised a little-known buyout clause in its partnership with the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund to reap massive profits at the taxpayers’ expense.

    The arrangement meant Thiel contributed $7m to the deal, but after its large stake in Xero skyrocketed in value was able to claim all profits from the venture. The move is understood to have led to profits of at least $23m for Thiel, while the NZVIF and taxpayers were left barely breaking even.

    Reports obtained under the Official Information Act showed the Government was warned as far back as 2014 about the potential for the Valar Ventures partnership to blow up in their faces.

    A consultant told the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that the arrangement “creates some difficult optics where, in the Valar Ventures example, the taxpayer is offering an American billionaire a loan at less-than-market rates“.

    “The arrangement meant Thiel contributed $7m to the deal, but after its large stake in Xero skyrocketed in value was able to claim all profits from the venture. The move is understood to have led to profits of at least $23m for Thiel, while the NZVIF and taxpayers were left barely breaking even.”

    But here’s the really scandalous part about that Lake Wanaka deal that is very directly related to Thiel’s secret citizenship: The property, which fits the classification of “sensitive land” under the Overseas Investment Act requiring foreign buyers to seek official permission before buying, didn’t actually require official approval. Why? Because Thiel was a citizen at the time:

    NZ Herald

    Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel a Kiwi citizen, owns Wanaka estate

    25 Jan, 2017 7:09am

    Controversial American billionaire, Trump donor and venture capitalist Peter Thiel has taken New Zealand citizenship and quietly acquired a Wanaka lakefront estate.

    Property records show that Thiel’s New Zealand-registered company Second Star bought a 193ha Glendhu Bay farm in 2015 described as a vacant lifestyle block.

    Thiel, who lists San Francisco as his residence in Companies Office records, is Second Star’s sole shareholder. Forbes magazine assessed his net worth recently at US$2.7 billion.

    The sprawling property adds to his local real estate portfolio, following the earlier purchase of a Queenstown mansion.

    The revelation comes as the New Yorker magazine reports New Zealand has become the destination of choice for rich Americans seeking a bolthole to hedge against natural or political disaster.

    The price paid for the Lake Wanaka property was not disclosed in documents, but the property had a rateable value of $7.8 million. The most recent previous sale of the section, in 2002, was for $10.1m.

    The property appears to fit the classification of “sensitive land” under the Overseas Investment Act requiring foreign buyers to seek official permission before buying. A spokeswoman for the Overseas Investment Office said the purchase did not need to follow this process.

    “Second Star and Mr Thiel did not need consent as he has New Zealand citizenship,” the spokeswoman said.

    The property, eight minutes’ drive from Wanaka, is on the Glendhu Bay-Mt Aspiring Rd, near the Glendhu Bay Motorcamp.

    Southeby’s International Realty advertised the 193ha Damper Bay property as being a “spectacular 477-acre freehold estate set on the western shores of stunning Lake Wanaka”.

    “A most beautiful and picturesque farm, the property offers a secluded and peaceful setting but is just eight minutes’ drive from the centre of Wanaka town centre. With Mt Aspiring National Park, a World Heritage Area set in the foreground, Damper Bay provides an outstanding vista from the consented building platform.”

    In October last year, Auckland-headquartered real estate agent Graham Wall told
    Mountain Scene he was doing a significant amount of business with wealthy Americans buying property in the Lakes District.

    Wall sold a $4.7m mansion on Belfast Terrace on Queenstown Hill to Thiel in 2011.

    Wall did not return calls this afternoon.

    Property records show the Glendhu Bay property was classed as a “pastoral-fattening” property and “uneconomic”. It is now listed as a stock finishing property.

    Thiel could not be reached for comment.

    ———-

    “Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel a Kiwi citizen, owns Wanaka estate”; NZ Herald; 01/25/2017

    “”Second Star and Mr Thiel did not need consent as he has New Zealand citizenship,” the spokeswoman said.”

    Peter Thiel gets secret citizenship and then uses it to buy up “sensitive” properties at tax payer expense. What a model citizen. Well done, New Zealand. Well done.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 29, 2017, 3:47 pm

Post a comment