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The Evolutionary Perspective
Daily Archives: September 15, 2020
Posted: September 15, 2020 at 3:08 pm
Barry Lynn is something of a canary in the coalmine for competition policy in the United States. He is the founder of the Open Markets Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank, and the author of several books on the topic many of which have become invaluable resources for legislators, regulators, and policymakers across the aisle. His latest book, Liberty from All Masters, will be published on September 29th.
A journalist by trade, Lynn first became involved with competition policy in the 90s while investigating supply chains for a magazine he ran called Global Business. An earthquake in Taiwan in 1999 shutdown the bulk of the worlds semiconductor companies that at the time supplied critical computer companies like Dell, Compaq, and IBM.
He wondered, how had we allowed such an important part of the supply chain to become so concentrated? The answer was U.S. policy changes toward competition and antimonopoly law here at home and internationally. His investigation led to a vital piece, Unmade in America, which was published in Harpers Magazine overseen by the editor at the time, Lewis H. Lapham.
This month, Lynn has dropped another bombshell investigative think-piece in Harpers Magazine, The Big Tech Extortion Racket. This time, Lynn sets his sights on the quickly evolving industry of big tech, specifically companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. It is a conversation that has grown louder in recent months as seen in Congressional hearings with the tech CEOs on market power concerns.
Lynn knows first hand this is an uphill battle. Prior to founding Open Markets independently, Lynn oversaw the antimonopoly program as a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. The foundation had received millions of dollars from Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, over the past decades, and in a move that shocked even the most established members of the press, Lynn and his entire team of seven was fired.
Undeterred, Lynn has continued to press for open markets and the enforcement of antimonopoly legislation. He argues in his books that these monopolies in many cases are harmful to innovation, undermine freedom and democracy, and destabilize entire industries and financial systems. We spoke with Lynn on his journey with the Open Markets Institute, how we should think about monopolies and big tech, the political will for coming legislation, and what we can do about it.
NOT YOUR TYPICAL BOARD GAME
Mark Benjamin: Thanks for speaking with me today. Your article in Harpers was incredibly eye opening. What is the monopoly and why are they bad?
Barry Lynn: A monopoly is not necessarily a company where you have 100% of the market share. You can be an effective monopolist if you have 50% or even 30% of the market. That means that you have sufficient power to shape the market to serve your interests.
The key is that you are not subject to the market, but have power over the market. If you have 30% of the market and every other player has 2%, you can shape that market in a way that no one else can and really harm sellers and buyers
What makes monopolies bad?
Not all monopolies are bad. We have many monopolies in our lives that are largely beneficial. The power within some monopolies has been curbed in a way that makes them safe for our democracy and for our liberty. Back in the day, AT&T was a true monopoly. They had control over pretty much every telephone in the United States, every long distance line, and every local line. Theoretically, that gives you immense power over different people for pricing, but also to determine who you connect with who gets to talk with whom.
Theres really two things you can do with a monopoly. You can break it up. Or if you dont want to break it up, for whatever reason, you neutralize it.
But we regulated AT&T to ensure that power was entirely neutralized. It became a corporation that served people. Transportation and communication networks should be regarded as a form of monopoly. We shouldnt be afraid of monopoly per se, but we want to make sure that anytime when you do decide that this monopoly is necessary or wise to have, you have special rules applied to that corporation to make sure it treats everyone it serves the same.
Theres really two things you can do with a monopoly. You can break it up. Or if you dont want to break it up, for whatever reason, you neutralize it. Those are your basic rules.
MB: I want to talk about how they form. At least in the modern sense, it looks like what happens is you have a group of investors, whether it be a bank like SoftBank or a sovereign wealth fund, come together and say, this is a great idea. Usually, its in the tech space. Then they fund these companies to expand their technology and can run losses for years, or in Teslas case, a decade. This creates a wide moat and makes it anti-competitive as they gain substantial market share. Then they eventually monetize it with plenty of price control. Is that right?
BL: Yeah. You got it.
Ill give you another example. This is an example of how you can do it in the real world and how it was done even before big tech. Mitt Romney used to be a principal at Bain Capital. One of the things that Bain did going all the way back to the early 80s was that all across America there were stationery and office supply stores. They were owned and run by families. In New York, they were all up and down Broadway. Usually, theyre run by one person or one family. This was true all across America.
What Bain Capital did, after a change in law that President Reagan put into place in the early 80s, is raise a big pot of money and give it to one company to roll up this whole business. They raised a bunch of money and gave it to the people that ran a small operation called Staples.
This second stage monopolization has resulted in a pyramiding of power where rather than having 500 super large corporations and banks in the United States, increasingly you have five.
The people who ran Staples then used that money to buy up or bankrupt hundreds and thousands of these independent stationary and office supply stores. At the end of the day, you end up with a corporation thats run by Wall Street capitalists in place of 5,000 or 10,000 independent stores that were owned by people in the community.
Its an economic revolution clearly. But its also a type of social revolution because suddenly it becomes essentially impossible for the independent entrepreneur to survive. That has effects on your community. It also affects all the people who want to start a business, who now find it much harder to do so.
Thats just one story about stationery stores and office supply stores, but this is true in every single corner of our political economy. Just about every part of our political economy has been radically concentrated over the last 35 years. Most sectors of the U.S. economy are now essentially owned by people on Wall Street.
THE AGE OF THE INTERNET CORPORATION
MB: And so how are the Internet and monopolies colliding at this point?
BL: One way to understand what happened in America and the world is that weve actually seen a two stage process of monopolization. In stage one, the Reagan folks came in the early 80s and overturned the traditional way we do anti-monopoly law. That unleashed the consolidation that led to the era of Walmart, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Staples, and Monsanto.
By 2005, around the time of the Iraq war, the American economy was dominated by these super giant corporations. These were real world corporations. For example, it takes a long time to monopolize retail the way Walmart has because if you have 5,000 stores, you have to physically control 5,000 pieces of property. That requires a vast amount of capital and its a lot of work. It took 25 years from the change in law for these corporations to capture control over just about every key sector of the political economy. That was stage one.
Then with the crash of 2008 we saw The Great Recession and the collapse of the financial system which to that point had supported the first stage of monopolization. Thats when you saw Google, Amazon, and the Internet corporations really start to take off.
We look around at Trump and say, Oh, hes a fascist. But actually, the kind of fascism that we should really fear is when you have a pyramid of power in which the super large investor and the super large corporation executives are afraid to speak out about what Google is doing, what Facebook is doing, what Amazon is doing.
What youve seen over the last 10 years is the second stage of monopolization in which Google, Amazon, Facebook, Uber, and others captured control over many of the super large corporations of the last generation. These technology companies have become the platforms through which other people do business. This second stage monopolization has resulted in a pyramiding of power where rather than having 500 super large corporations and banks in the United States, increasingly you have five.
MB: I read the other day that 17.5% of the S&P 500 is now in tech stocks like Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, and Facebook.
BL: I think its north of 20% at this point. The level of monopolization that we see today, its not good for even the largest capitalists of the last generation. Just to be clear, all of our money at the Open Markets Institute comes from philanthropy. We serve the public. What we do is we try to take money from places like the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers, and other bona fide philanthropies and use this money to study the effects of monopolization and what can we do about it from the point of view of the public.
We have had many corporations, very large corporations, come and try to give us money. Walmart will come to us and say, can you help us deal with Amazon? Well have NewsCorp come and say, can you help us deal with Google and Facebook? Our response is always, we cant take any money from you, but to the extent that our interests align, lets walk the path together.
What you see today is someone like Rupert Murdoch has now become afraid that someone is more powerful than he is, and that someone is Google and Facebook. Walmart used to be the all-powerful, the top-tier competitor. But now they look around and they see that every day and every year they lose ground to Amazon.
Thats one of the things that people should keep in mind. The concentration has gotten so extreme that even some of the biggest people out there are now afraid of somebody else. Thats a very dangerous point for our political economy.
We look around at Trump and say, Oh, hes a fascist. But actually, the kind of fascism that we should really fear is when you have a pyramid of power in which the super large investor and the super large corporation executives are afraid to speak out about what Google is doing, what Facebook is doing, what Amazon is doing. When Rupert Murdoch is afraid to speak out, thats a really dangerous place to be, politically. Thats where we are now.
One of the questions I wanted to answer in the Harpers piece is: what is the mechanism that Google, Facebook and Amazon use to capture control over and manipulate even some of the biggest of the big corporations in the world? The purpose was to show how bad it is, but also to show we actually have the tools we need to deal with this.
CAPITOL HILL, APPLE, AND FORTNITE
MB: A few weeks ago the big tech executives came out in front of Congress and addressed the antitrust subcommittee about questions of market share. Where is the political will currently to do something about this problem?
BL: Its one of the things that gives me real hope. Its been pushing twenty years since I realized that monopolization was a huge problem in America. Ten years ago, when I published Cornered, most people looked at me and said, Youre insane. This is cowboy capitalism here in America. We have no monopoly problem.
Now we have awareness of it on both sides of the aisle. We have people who are ready to fight. The hearings that you mentioned, thats the antitrust subcommittee in the House of Representatives. Thats run by a man named David Cicilline from Rhode Island.
Congressman Cicilline is a real hero. He has not just educated himself, but he and his staff have educated every member of that subcommittee. One of the things that we saw in that hearing was every single member of that subcommittee hammering on the CEOs. And they were largely in agreement, the Republicans and Democrats. They werent entirely in agreement, but they were largely in agreement about the nature of the problem and what to do about it.
Its reasonable to fear that its just showboating, but having watched this for as long as I have, I know that theyre moving towards doing something about it. The information that theyve published has already been used in this antitrust case that is being brought against Apple by Epic, the maker of the video game Fortnite.
When it comes to search, Google has north of 90% of search traffic. Through the entire ad technology chain Google, at every point you look, has between 60 and 90% control of the capacity.
Thats one of the things that has come out of the information that the subcommittee has brought forth. Theres going to be more information thats brought out, but this hearing and this report that theyre putting out this year, this is just the first stage. Assuming that the Democrats retain the house, Congressman Cicilline will remain in that seat and begin next year with a brand new investigation in which he takes this further.
If the Biden administration does not take this seriously, Congressman Cicilline has the power as a chair of an important subcommittee to force them to do so. Then you have Senator Warren. A Senator with seniority and an understanding of an issue and a willingness to fight for what she thinks is right. A Senator like that is an awesome power.
Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar have become very good on these issues. We have worked with both. If youve got a group of senators, including Republicans, and a strong committed subcommittee in the House, they can bring an awesome amount of power to bear on the administration and on the agencies, in ways that force them to actually enforce the law.
The thing about Congress is if the agencies dont do it, if they fail, for whatever reason, Congress itself can do whatever it wants. Congress tomorrow could break up Google. Thats the nature of popular sovereignty in America.
This is also happening in Europe. Its happening with the states Attorney Generals here in the United States. We have turned the corner on this. We still have a long way to go. But from my point of view, were in a good position. We need to fight, we need to fight every day. But I am very encouraged.
POWER OVER THE PRESS
MB: Just to play devils advocate for a minute, the arguments that the tech executives put forth, for example, Facebook will say they have plenty of competitors such as Chinas ByteDance with TikTok. Google will say, Facebook is a formidable competitor. Apple has tons of competitors
BL: For online advertising, Google and Facebook together control probably about 70 to 75% of all online advertising and that percentage is growing. Certainly, when it comes to social media, Facebooks dominance is growing to 70 to 75%. When it comes to search, Google has north of 90% of search traffic. Through the entire ad technology chain Google, at every point you look, has between 60 and 90% control of the capacity. By any reasonable definition, these are monopolies. In fact, what we see here are multiple monopolies tied together. Thats especially true for Google. Google is a whole array of monopolies that have been lashed together.
MB: I want to talk about Facebook for a minute because its almost like a social contract has formed between society and this platform. It carries so much weight of the free press today, which has always been a cornerstone of our democracy. What is your take on where these monopolies meet the free press?
BL: One area the Open Markets Institute focuses on is any time monopolies are taking control over industries where its going to affect our ability to communicate with each other and share information with each other. There are two areas weve really focused on over the years: the way Amazons power affects book authors and book sellers and book publishers. And how Google and Facebook, how their power affects the reporter, the news editor, and the news publisher.
We hosted an event two years ago, where we had the CEO of the New York Times and the CEO of News Corp. onstage together along with Senator Klobuchar and the head of antitrust enforcement, Makan Delrahim, talking about how Google and Facebook were destroying the news media industry. They are destroying it by stealing all the advertising. Whether we like advertising or not, the fact is that from the beginning of our country, newspapers and magazines have been supported by advertising. Thats one of the things that makes them free, because if you have many advertisers, then youre not beholden to anyone, and youre not beholden to the government.
It has actually worked pretty well for American society over the course of a couple of hundred years. Now Google and Facebook are stealing all the money. There are a couple of exceptions, like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, who are doing okay. But for every other newspaper or magazine it has become fantastically difficult to make a living.
Eight years ago, Buzzfeed was running around saying, were beating the pants off of News Corp. and now Buzzfeed has realized its extremely hard to sell advertising when Google and Facebook stand in between you and the advertiser and stand in between you and the reader.
You live on someone elses plot of land, and you are going to pay rent to those people. There are no rules about how much rent they can charge. They can charge rent up to the point where youre essentially bankrupt and thats whats happening to all of these different corporations that we rely on for the news that we depend on to have a democracy.
MB: My theory is that it has forced media outlets, especially news, to go into more extremist niches to capture loyalty. Why is the media so polarized? I think a big part of it is because of economics. Theyve had the advertising revenues stripped from them and so theyre forced to create more insular views so as to have a dedicated readership, whereas before they could have been more broad with the tone of their reporting.
BL: Oh, youre absolutely right. Thats a huge part of what we see taking place right now. Even worse is that Facebooks business model exacerbates the polarization. They make money by getting people angry. The writers who do a better job of getting people angry at other people, theyre the ones that are going to get more traffic. Theyre the ones that get rewarded by Facebook, especially by their business model. Its not just the market itself, its not just the way in which reporters and editors are responding to the market. Its also actually the way in which Facebook and Google are structuring the market.
YOU CANT VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLAR
YOU CANT VOTE WITH YOUR FORK
BL: We do a lot of work with authors, musicians, photographers, and filmmakers and their trade groups and associations that help to promote their interests. There are a few artists who are doing extremely well right now. But its become much harder for most creators to get to a point where theyre making enough money to live, just to pay their bills. Its becoming harder to make the next documentary, to write the next book, to get the money together to make the kind of album that you want to make because of Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, you know, these monopolies.
This is the key thing that we have to understand. None of this is inevitable. All of this can be fixed. All of this we will fix. Were in the process of fixing all this now. But in order for people like Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Cicilline and Keith Ellison, the state attorney general in Minnesota, to succeed, we have to support them. These people are smart enough and understand history well enough and understand law well enough that they know how to win.
Everyone who cares about art, everyone cares about journalism, everyone who cares about film, everyone cares about the local community, we have to get together and give these people the support that they need to push this through. We should understand that we will win, but the only way that we will win is to get out there and fight and give the support to the people who know what theyre doing.
MB: I think its probably too late to delete these services, right? So, how can the average person show support for these policy changes?
BL: The thing to remember is its not really through boycotts that we win. Michael Pollan once said, vote with your fork. Milton Freidman years ago said, vote with your dollar. If you dont like what someones doing, move your dollar. But in the world of monopoly, you cant vote with your dollar. You cant vote with your fork because youre stuck under the power of the monopolists. In large parts of this country theres really only one place to shop for certain things. Boycott if you can. But if you cant, dont fret about it. But do make sure that youre supporting the people who are fighting for democracy.
One way to learn about these folks is through our website, the Open Markets Institute. We are connected with a huge number of these fights. Encourage your Congressperson, encourage your local legislators to fight the monopolies and reward them for doing so. Thats how we win.
Posted: at 3:08 pm
When Google earlier this year announced that it would stop making AI products for the oil and gas industry, prompted by a revelatory report by Greenpeace, it was a signal that, like banks, Big Tech may start distancing itself from the fossil fuel industry. But not everyone has been so suggestible: IBM just announced a partnership with Schlumberger in cloud computing. Tech and oil may still have a future together, and that might be good for everyone, even Greenpeace. The IBM-Schlumberger partnership, which also includes Red Hat, is focused on cloud services and aims to accelerate the oil industry's shift to a more digital mode of operation.
"The energy industry is transforming as organizations look for efficient new ways to power their operations, adopt digital technologies to create a competitive advantage, and innovate and integrate workflows to make faster and better decisions," the chief executive of Red Hat said in the press release announcing the tie-up.
Indeed, the energy industry is transforming, and the pandemic has been a sort of a kick in the backside to accelerate this transformation. As Covid-19 cases sent platform and field workers packing and emptied offices, many day-to-day operations in the industry went remote. This was possible thanks to digital technology, including cloud. In fact, some of the trends that the pandemic created may become long-term as they save costs at a time where every dollar matters.
It seems that oil and tech go pretty well together. IBM is not the only tech giant to team up with an oil major recently. Just a month ago, Microsoft opened up its cloud platform to Petrobras. The Brazilian company had been testing the platform even before the crisis, but when it struck, and the company had to have staff work from home, it fast-tracked the deployment of the platform, an industry executive told Bloomberg in August.
What these partnerships basically do for oil is they make exploration drilling a lot more accurate and production much more efficient. This is, of course, good for the industry because it ultimately saves costs. But accurate exploration drilling and efficient production is also good from an environmental standpoint: it means less drilling and cleaner drilling.
Microsoft was also a target of Greenpeace criticism in May when the organization published its "How Tech Companies are Helping Big Oil Profit from Climate Destruction" report that led to Google'spartialpullout from the oil and gas industry. Unlike it, Microsoft stood its ground.
Related: Citi Bank Sees $60 Oil In 2021
"The significance and complexity of the task ahead is incredible and will require contributions from every person and organization on the planet," the tech giant said in a blog post in January this year, in which it pledged to become carbon negative by 2030.
"That's why we are committed to continuing to work with all our customers, including those in the oil and gas business, to help them meet today's business demands while innovating together to achieve the business needs of a net zero carbon future. Continued improvement in standards of living around the world will require more energy, not less. It's imperative that we enable energy companies to transition, including to renewable energy and to the development and use of negative emission technologies like carbon capture and storage and direct air capture."
Some might say this is simply a justification for Microsoft's continued business with the oil industry, but the company certainly has a point: global energy demand, despite the pandemic, will continue rising over the long term. Every authority on energy, including the IEA, agrees that this demand will be impossible to satisfy with solar and wind farms alone. It makes sense, then, to help oil and gas companies become cleaner.
The IBM-Schlumberger partnership promises "seamless access to a hybrid cloud platform in all countries across the globe for deployment in any basin, for any operator," according to Schlumberger CEO Olivier Le Peuch. This would certainly help streamline many operations, and streamlining operations tends to reduce carbon emissions by its very definition. And there are other things with which Big Tech can help Big Oil: carbon trackers, for example, are all the rage now that investors are pressuring oil companies into making their carbon footprint public.
Greenpeace applauded Google's decision to stop making AI products for Big Oil. But the move meant Google willingly gave up Big Oil's business. The company is large enough to not feel any negative effect from this, perhaps. Still, it appears that at least two of Google's peers are of a more pragmatic bend. The industry's shift to a lower-carbon footprint hinges on digital technology. Some of it Schlumberger and the rest of the majors can develop on their own, but it's always betterand things happen fasterif you have help. The marriage of Big Oil and Big Tech has the potential to benefit everyone, not just the two industries involved in it.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Posted: at 3:08 pm
Disneys new live-action film Mulan has become a global sensation, but not just for the reason the storied production company hoped.
Some viewers who paid to stream the movie on Disney+ last weekend found something troubling in the credits: Disney thanked eight government bodies in Xinjiang, a western province in China where around 2 million Uighur Muslims have been forced into concentration camps by the Chinese government. It turns out parts of Mulan were filmed in Xinjiang two years ago, well after the world knew about Beijings plan to reeducate Uighurs with Communist Party doctrine.
Thats simply shocking, as theres no excuse for Disney executives to have been unaware of the human rights abuses taking place just miles from the filming sites. Plus, the film had courted controversy for some time, as its lead actress last year supported Hong Kongs law enforcement over pro-democracy protesters, which led to the #BoycottMulan social media movement.
For several years now, China has been systematically repressing its Uighur Muslim minority in that region subjecting men, women, and children to torture, sexual abuse, forced sterilization, family separation, and brainwashing, among other horrors. They add to the Chinese governments other abuses, such as banning expressions of Islamic faith.
Even worse, the film credits specifically praise the police security bureau in Turpan, a city in eastern Xinjiang with a large Uighur population. That bureau is tasked with running some of the internment camps, experts say, and was blacklisted last year along with other Chinese law enforcement agencies by the US Commerce Department, prohibiting US companies from selling or supplying products to them.
Its unclear if Disney and Turpans police bureau or other similar agencies interacted much or at all during filming, but its still not a good look.
A spokesperson for Chinas foreign ministry this week insisted the camps are simply vocational skills education and training centers, even though ample evidence suggests that isnt true. Disney didnt respond to a request for comment.
Some whove seen the film say it also promotes Han supremacism (or Han chauvinism, as Mao Zedong, Chinas communist leader and the founder of the Peoples Republic of China, termed it), the idea that all parts of China including native Uighur and Kazakh lands, among others should be governed and dominated by ethnic Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in China. Many leaders in the ruling Communist Party, like President Xi Jinping, are Han.
The villain in the new Disney film leads a group of assassins clearly coded as Muslims, said Darren Byler, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado Boulder who studies the Chinese governments oppression of Uighurs. For instance, the characters are dark-skinned, wear turbans, and are dressed eerily like ISIS terrorists in their videos, some experts say.
The film traffics in Islamophobia, Byler argues, and presents Mulan, the protagonist, as a defender of the Chinese colonization of northwest China. He added: It was as if Xinjiang was simply a blank canvas, a land without an indigenous history.
Human rights activists and many regional experts are angry at all of this, with some using the hashtag #BoycottMulan to build a social media campaign around awareness about the film.
In Hollywood movies, they claim to embrace social justice. In fact, they kowtow to autocratic China disgracefully, Nathan Law, an activist pushing for a more democratic Hong Kong, tweeted on Monday. They shamed themselves by upholding values they dont even believe in. Movies, should be more than money.
Law has another reason to be upset about the film. Last year, Liu Yifei the Chinese-born American actress who plays Mulan in the movie came out in support of law enforcement officials in Hong Kong who were cracking down on pro-democracy demonstrators. I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now. What a shame for Hong Kong, she wrote in August 2019 on Weibo, a Chinese social media site. Her statement prompted the initial calls to boycott the film.
Its unclear if the social media campaign will doom the films success, which cost $200 million to make. Its reeled in upward of $6 million so far and will likely make much more when it premieres in China on Friday. Still, #BoycottMulan has shown that the Chinese governments human rights violations will no longer be ignored and even companies as powerful as Disney may need to change how they engage with China going forward.
There is clearly a cost now to companies who remain intentionally ignorant of whats going on in China, said James Millward, a Georgetown University world history professor.
Some major companies now find themselves enveloped in a firestorm, Millward said, whenever it becomes clear that they havent pushed back on Beijing for its mistreatment of the Uighurs.
In 2018, for instance, the consulting company McKinsey held a retreat in Kashgar, China just four miles from a Uighur internment camp. The New York Times reported on that event, calling out the famous firm:
At a time when democracies and their basic values are increasingly under attack, the iconic American company has helped raise the stature of authoritarian and corrupt governments across the globe, sometimes in ways that counter American interests.
Last year, the Japanese clothing companies Muji and Uniqlo promoted their use of Xinjiang cotton. Made of organic cotton delicately and wholly handpicked in Xinjiang, the mens Oxford Shirts of MUJI are soft and breathable with a clean design, Mujis website read. Uniqlos site at the time also boasted its clothes were Made from Xinjiang Cotton, famous for its superb quality.
Activists publicly shamed both companies. What! Theyre actually using that as a slogan? Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, told Australias ABC last year. Have they somehow missed two straight years of news about gross human rights violations in Xinjiang?
Now, says Georgetowns Millward, we can put Disney in an elite section of companies caught in this firestorm.
Instead of promoting anti-Uighur, pro-Chinese government narratives, companies like Disney could use their clout to pressure leaders in Beijing to end what Joe Bidens presidential campaign calls a genocide.
For a company like Disney, that could mean not filming in the country anymore, delaying releases for their viewers, or at the most extreme level completely cutting ties with the country. But any one of those options, from the smallest to the nuclear one, are hard for any corporation to take, mainly because China is such a large and lucrative market. And if companies do anything to anger Beijing, like not promote a government-friendly narrative in a movie about China, theres a chance Disney would lose access to that market.
They are caught between a rock and a hard place, Millward said.
Yet human rights groups have urged other major brands to cut ties with suppliers in Xinjiang. As Voxs Terry Nguyen reported, In March, the nonpartisan think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute published a report detailing how 82 foreign and Chinese companies have direct or indirect ties to the Xinjiang region and beyond based on their supply chain. Among those companies: Amazon, Apple, Dell, Nike, Nintendo, Uniqlo, Victorias Secret, and Zara.
Companies could also leverage the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. That kind of event provides a big boost to a nations image just like the 2008 games in Chinas capital did. Corporate sponsorships of the events provide even more international legitimacy. A company may see paying to have its logo featured at the games as just an endorsement of the competition, but others will see it also as an endorsement of the host country.
A lack of corporate sponsors would also mean a lack of funds, and a large public outcry could in theory force the Olympic Committee to pick a new country to host the games. Thats a long shot, experts told me, but those who want China to stop interning Uighurs and other minorities should take advantage of the high-profile event to put Beijing on notice.
For now, though, big movie companies might do better to avoid filming in Xinjiang and not help the Chinese government paper over human rights atrocities.
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Posted: at 3:08 pm
Battle royale evokes images of professional wrestlers engaged in a free-for-all brawl in which combatants eventually turn on one another until there is an eventual winner. With apologies to Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, Big Tech is taking on the same trappings as companies turn on one another amid multiple antitrust investigations and issues.
As the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission, Congress and state attorneys general dig deeper into their probes, and as Apple Inc. AAPL, -1.12% and Epic Games Inc. duke it out in court, some of the companies targeted are taking a page out of the squared circle and turning on one another.
A quick recap: Facebook Inc. FB, +1.80% is targeting Apple amid its fight with Epic over 30% fees on the App Store. In TV commercials and brand messaging, Apple repeatedly takes swipes at the privacy policies of Facebook in its pursuit of targeted advertising. High-profile names in tech, meanwhile, question business systems at Google and Amazon ahead of charges against those companies that are expected soon. All the while, Big Tech employees and executives increasingly are grumbling about Microsoft Corp. MSFT, +1.08% seemingly getting a free pass from the Trump administration.
In a closed-door meeting with Facebook employees in late August, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said Apple charge[d] monopoly rents which blocks innovation, blocks competition. He further upped the ante Tuesday, suggesting in an interview with Axios that the government should investigate the App Store. I think some of the behavior certainly raises questions, he said. And I do think its something that deserves scrutiny.
Not to be excluded, Microsoft claimed Apples threat to revoke Epics developer account would have far-reaching effects harmful to the videogame industry.
If Unreal Engine cannot support games for iOS or macOS, Microsoft would be required to choose between abandoning its customers and potential customers on the iOS and macOS platforms or choosing a different game engine when preparing to develop new games, Kevin Gammill, Microsofts general manager for Gaming Developer Experiences, said in a statement. Apples discontinuation of Epics ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers.
Read more: Microsoft says Apples threat against Fortnite maker would hurt entire videogame industry
Complicating matters, Apple on Friday imposed changes to its App Store that could severely hamper game-streaming services from Google Stadia and Microsofts xCloud. Among the revisions to iOS 14, the latest version of the iPhone operating system expected later this month, one would require games offered in the service to be downloaded directly from App Store not from an all-in-one app like Alphabet Inc. GOOGL, +1.53% GOOG, +1.28% and Microsoft are offering.
Even those who helped create some of techs most important properties are aghast at what they have become. In August, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley asked via Twitter if YouTube become the Amazon of video? If so, where is the Shopify of video?
What if I told you the obnoxiously high 30% App Store fee was a deal? This is the story of a video site that uses its size and power to take nearly double that, he wrote.
A long list of former Facebook employees and advisers among them, co-founder Chris Hughes, ex-Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos and venture capitalist Roger McNamee have commented with distress about the companys impact on society. Hughes went so far last year as to advocate breaking up the company.
A circular firing squad
The finger-pointing and name-calling belies long-simmering competition between four companies Apple, Google parent Alphabet, Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, +1.50% , and Facebook that are under scrutiny from a phalanx of investigative bodies over their business practices and vast influence in multiple markets. Antitrust experts jokingly refer to those under investigation as GAFA.
More important, the circular firing squad could portend a slew of forthcoming actions on the antitrust front: The Justice Department is expected to bring charges against Google as early as this month, a person familiar with the investigation told MarketWatch. The House Judiciary Committees antitrust subcommittee, meanwhile, could issue a report this month on its recommendations following its July 29 hearing on Big Tech, two people close to the situation told MarketWatch.
Fueling the acrimony is genuine concern from the far-right to the far-left. Big Tech is big oil. It is a bipartisan issue, Anurag Chandra, a partner at venture-capital firm Fort Ross Ventures, told MarketWatch. These guys have gotten massive. We have to get involved with public policy over privacy and use of personal data.
Google and Amazon would seem to be first in line for actions, he added. They create and operate forums, and then compete in them. By putting their thumbs on the scale, that sounds like grounds for antitrust actions.
Fueling the accelerated timetable is the increasing willingness among smaller companies to speak up against the Big Four.
You will also see non-GAFA companies air their grievances more publicly because they arent in danger of being punished with so much attention on their business practices, said Joel Mitnick, a former FTC trial lawyer who specializes in antitrust and global litigation. It is out in the ether now. What is more important is the entire regulatory machinery around the world is gearing up against the Big Four. The infighting is background noise.
A possible timeline
Google is likely to face charges as early as this month under the aggressive directive of U.S. Attorney General William Barr, according to a person familiar with the investigation and at least two recent reports.
The Justice Department and a group of state attorneys general may file antitrust lawsuits focusing broadly on how Google leverages its dominant search business to stifle competition, according to a Wall Street Journal report. At the same time, the Justice Department and state attorneys general are also investigating the pricing and operations of Googles Network division, a business that sells services that handle almost every step a digital ad takes, said a Bloomberg report.
Of course, the political calculus of such moves during a presidential election year could complicate matters, says V.C. Chandra. Im growing skeptical that we will see anything definitive regarding an antitrust action before the election, he said. The administration, despite its feelings about monopolization, needs a strong economy. A concrete action against Big Tech could drive down their stock and blunt market momentum that has been aided by tech companies.
Facebook is even more immune to imminent government activity between now and Nov. 3 because it is a political hot potato for both a get-out-the-vote push on its properties at the same time conservative groups and pages thrive on Facebooks digital platform, Chandra said. (In the same interview with Axios, Zuckerberg refuted a narrative that Facebook is an echo chamber for right-wing views.)
Despite the relatively civil relationship between Zuckerberg and President Donald Trump, it might only take a mild disciplinary action by Facebook over Trumps profile feed to raise his ire and prompt regulatory punishment, Chandra added. Last week, the company said it would ban new political ads in the week preceding Nov. 3.
Gaming the system
An already epic battle brewing in antitrust against Big Tech became downright Epic when the eponymous videogame maker sued Apple and Google in August. This has led to a pile-on of Apple by companies like Microsoft, Spotify Technology Inc. SPOT, -0.16% and Facebook over its App Store policies. Last week, Epic filed a preliminary injunction against Apple in its latest attempt to bring Fortnite back to Apple devices.
Many companies have huge components of their business reliant on mobile apps and the supporting toolsets, Adam Landis, CEO of mobile-analytics company AdLibertas Inc., told MarketWatch. Apple trying to block a major toolset should set anyone reliant on mobile apps on edge. Imagine waking up to find business operations halted or your apps no longer functional. I wouldnt be surprised if Facebook intends to lob a lawsuit of their own against Apple.
Apple countersued Epic on Tuesday, seeking punitive damages. The cases next hearing is Sept. 28.
Google, too, has been a lightning rod of criticism from longtime rivals.
Days after the congressional hearing in late July, Tripadvisor Inc. TRIP, -1.31% CEO Steve Kaufer called for further investigation into Googles search-ranking practices to rein in its deceptive efforts to [keep] users on Googles sites even if Google doesnt have the most relevant information.
Luther Lowe, senior vice president of public policy at Yelp Inc. YELP, +1.18% , told MarketWatch he was pleasantly surprised to see House members grill Google for allegedly stealing content from developers, such as restaurant reviews from Yelp.
Read more: Fortnites impact could be Epic on antitrust investigations of Big Tech
Why not Microsoft?
Through all the infighting and accusatory claims, Microsoft has been notably excluded from antitrust talk which is surprising given its long and tortured history with federal antitrust investigations. During the Microsoft investigation more than 20 years ago, the government dropped the effort to break up the tech giant before eventually settling the case with a consent decree.
For more: Big Tech was built by the same type of antitrust actions that could now tear it down
By the time the government reached a settlement with Microsoft, however, many years had passed and the tech market had seen the emergence of new markets for mobile and cloud, as well as the transformation of Microsoft into a cloud and gaming behemoth.
Ultimately, federal authorities were successful in changing Microsofts behavior toward competitors, prompting it to soften its ruthless ways and indirectly fomenting competition in the emerging fields of search, social media and e-commerce. The man leading the push acknowledged that historical record in a speech in June 2019.
The governments successful antitrust case against Microsoft arguably paved the way for companies like Google, Yahoo, and Apple to enter the market with their own desktop and mobile products, said Makan Delrahim, the Justice Departments antitrust chief, told MarketWatch in an interview late last year.
Which brings us to today, and Microsofts unique standing. The company last week was awarded a 10-year, $10 billion cloud-computing contract by the Defense Department over Amazon, and it is a favorite to acquire video-sharing service TikTok.
Those developments have left many in tech wondering if Microsoft, as well as Facebook and Oracle Corp. ORCL, +2.52% , have been favored by the Trump White House while Amazon and Google are punished for political reasons. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, a fierce critic of the president, while Google has largely ignored entreaties from lawmakers to testify until recently.)
Antitrust lawyer Paul Swanson points out Microsoft does not run big-time marketplaces for apps (like Apple and Google, for example) or for advertising (such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon) or for goods (like Amazon).
What makes the Big Four so interesting, he says, is they dont just have market power in the markets where they compete they created and control the forum for competition, and then (at least for Amazon and Google) they compete within those competitive spaces that they operate and control.
Its a little like Microsoft in the 90s, which controlled the forum (Windows) for competition among third-party software developers (Novell, Netscape) and used its control over the forum to favor itself in competition with those developers (WordPerfect, Explorer v. Navigator), Swanson said.
After taking on a lot of water in antitrust litigation back then, Microsoft seems to have charted a more careful course, he said.
A lone voice of dissent toward Microsoft, aside from Amazon over the government contract, is Slack Technologies Inc. WORK, +0.15% It filed a competition complaint in Europe in July.
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WASHINGTON The coronavirus was spreading around the world, and officials at the United States Agency for International Development were anxious to rush humanitarian aid to nations in need. But first, they had to settle a debate over American branding and whether it should be displayed on assistance headed to conflict zones.
Political appointees from the White House and the State Department wanted the aid agencys logo affixed to all assistance packages to show the world how much the United States was sending abroad, even as it grappled with its own outbreak.
Career employees at U.S.A.I.D. argued that the logo and other American symbols could endanger people who delivered or received the aid in countries that are hostile to the United States and where branding exceptions are usually granted.
At the end of the debate this spring, relief workers were allowed to distribute aid without the branding in a handful of countries in the Middle East and North Africa. But the discussion, as described by a half-dozen current and former officials at the aid agency and relief workers who were briefed on it, delayed assistance for several weeks to some of the worlds most vulnerable communities as the pandemic began to peak.
It was a cautionary example of the political intervention that has roiled an agency that prides itself as leading the humanitarian response to disasters, conflict and other emergencies around the world.
As far back as I go, working on these programs, U.S.A.I.D. has really been an extraordinary, respected leader in global health and humanitarian responses, said Representative Nita M. Lowey, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. To distort that mission is an insult, and its really outrageous to me.
In an interview, Ms. Lowey said she had never seen the aid agency as vulnerable to partisan politics as it was during the Trump administration. She cited the agencys accusation in May that the United Nations was promoting abortion in its coronavirus response fund as an example of the Trump administration politicizing a global pandemic to appeal to antichoice voters here in the United States.
The aid agencys acting administrator, John Barsa, was selected for the job on March 17, hours before the coronavirus was confirmed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Mr. Barsa, who declined to be interviewed for this article, took extra precautions to prepare for the hurricane season and was quick to assist victims of the deadly explosions in Beirut, Lebanon, last month that have left at least 300,000 people homeless.
But as President Trump campaigns for re-election and the coronavirus has claimed more than 193,000 lives nationwide, the aid agency has been micromanaged by the White House and the State Department. That has prompted critics to say the intervention has slowed pandemic relief efforts to some places, weaponized aid in other areas to chastise Trump administration adversaries and disengaged the United States from the World Health Organizations coronavirus response.
Pooja Jhunjhunwala, the aid agencys acting spokeswoman, said Mr. Barsa was uniquely qualified to lead U.S.A.I.D. during this period, given his past work at the Department of Homeland Security and NASA, dating to the George W. Bush administration.
His strength and experience are in knowing how the U.S. government functions, how the various parts of the executive branch interact with each other and how leadership can make a difference, Ms. Jhunjhunwala wrote in response to questions. He has increased U.S.A.I.D.s cooperation and coordination with other U.S. government entities and streamlined decision-making processes internally to improve our response to the pandemic.
Thomas H. Staal, who worked at the aid agency for 31 years before retiring in 2019, said its relationship with political appointees at the State Department and the White House had historically waxed and waned depending on the scope of a crisis and its effects on the United States.
In Iraq in 2003, for example, the State Department and the White House were very heavily involved in everything we did in the first years of the American-led invasion and occupation, he said.
But Mr. Staal, whose last job at the aid agency was senior counselor to Mr. Barsas predecessor, said he was very concerned about proposed budget cuts and contentious staff appointments at U.S.A.I.D. under the Trump administration. He also noted that the agency did not have a representative on the coronavirus task force that was set up by the White House.
Normally, U.S.A.I.D. would be a major player in that, as we were in all the other major health emergencies around the world, Mr. Staal said. That, to me, demonstrates the lack of the support and lack of understanding of the value of U.S.A.I.D.
Last month, the aid agency distributed a three-page memo to humanitarian aid organizations outlining Chinese government oppression of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. The information circular, published on agency letterhead, sought to raise awareness about challenges to democracy, human rights and other freedoms, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times.
It was sent as diplomatic tensions between the Trump administration and the Chinese Communist Party continued to escalate; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a frequent and sharp critic of Beijing.
Attached to the memo was a 19-page advisory, dated July 1, from the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security warning that businesses, academic institutions, investors and other entities that dealt with products linked to Xinjiang should be aware of reputational, economic and, in some cases, legal risks of doing so.
That concerned relief workers who feared that they could be cut off from U.S.A.I.D. funding or otherwise targeted for relying on products they had no way of knowing were connected to Xinjiang.
Relief organizations were confounded and worried, said Jenny Marron, the director of public policy and government affairs for InterAction, a Washington-based alliance of global aid and advocacy organizations. She noted that the memo had been distributed by grants teams for the aid agency. When confronted by relief workers, the agency later said it merely meant to provide information, not set new conditions for funding.
The circulars were factually accurate, Ms. Marron said. But the real question and concern was, was there a new requirement being asked of partners?
Some agency employees have raised alarms over other policies that appear to deviate from the norm.
In February, the agency released a 56-second video that directly challenged President Nicols Maduro of Venezuela. The video showed burning trucks at the Colombian border that were identified as having been forcibly stopped from delivering humanitarian aid to Venezuela, where widespread hunger and lack of medical supplies are a hallmark of Mr. Maduros authoritarian rule.
The video addressed Venezuelans in English and Spanish. Your perseverance is inspirational and freedom will overcome Maduros tyranny, it said in large type.
The Trump administration has sought Mr. Maduros ouster since his widely disputed re-election in 2018. While promoting democratic values is part of the aid agencys mission, Mr. Staal said it had usually been done quietly, with partners on the ground, to let somebody else in the U.S. government do the politicization, if you will, the public voice of that.
The administration is also considering centralizing efforts for pandemic preparedness under an outbreak response coordinator at the State Department, a role that critics say should be led by U.S.A.I.D.
The immediate response to the pandemic is a humanitarian and disaster response, said Conor M. Savoy, the executive director of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, a bipartisan coalition of international development experts. That knowledge rests with U.S.A.I.D. They dont reside at State.
Perhaps the most evident example of the oversight and demands from the White House is the recent parade of political appointees who have been tapped for senior positions at the aid agency.
Bethany Kozma, the agencys deputy chief of staff, spoke out in 2016 against President Barack Obamas transgender agenda. She has since helped draft an update to the agencys gender policy that eliminates mention of transgender people.
The new religious freedom adviser for the agency, Mark Kevin Lloyd, reportedly called Islam a barbaric cult while working as a Trump campaign staff member in 2016.
And before Merritt Corrigan joined the agency as its deputy White House liaison, she declared that the United States was in the clutches of a homo-empire that was advancing a tyrannical L.G.B.T. agenda. She left the agency in August, after three months on the job, saying she was targeted by congressional Democrats and the news media because of her Christian faith.
In June, Mr. Barsa said the criticism of the three staff members was unwarranted and malicious. He also said they were appointed by the White House to carry out the presidents foreign policy agenda at U.S.A.I.D.
Another political appointee at the agency, Peter Marocco, told colleagues he was under pressure from the White Houses Office of Management and Budget to cut U.S.A.I.D. spending, according to another agency official. Mr. Marocco has delayed funding to help Ukraines government ward off Russian interference, the official said, even though he oversees efforts to prevent conflict in countries facing political transition.
To load up an agency with political appointees who do not have the expertise, how then do you expect that agency to perform against its mission? said Gayle Smith, who was the aid agencys administrator during the Obama administration.
U.S.A.I.D. declined to comment about Mr. Maroccos actions, which were first reported by Foreign Policy.
For the first time, and in direct response to the coronavirus pandemic, the aid agencys Bureau for Global Health has begun to procure and distribute thousands of ventilators abroad. The ventilators have gone to at least 40 countries, including Uzbekistan, India, Colombia and South Africa.
Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, has demanded to know more about where the ventilators are being sent and the White Houses role in that decision.
Influence by the National Security Council circumvents longstanding U.S.A.I.D. procurement and accountability policies and interjects political agendas into aid delivery, Mr. Menendez said in a letter to Mr. Barsa in June.
At least 200 ventilators were sent in May to Russia, which is trying to interfere in the presidential election to help Mr. Trump, according to American intelligence assessments released last month.
An Interview with John Shipton, father of Assange: "Julian’s oppression is the great crime of the 21st century" – Bulatlat
Posted: at 3:08 pm
Photo from El Ciudadano
Julian Assange remains in HMP Belmarsh maximum security prison in London, UK.
By DENIS ROGATYUK El Ciudadano | Wire-Progressive InternationalReposted by Bulatlat.com
John Shipton has been at the forefront of defending his son, Julian Assange, from political persecution, false charges, harassment and slander by political figures, the corporate media and the U.S. Government. He shares with us his thoughts and feelings about the struggle to bring his son home.
Denis Rogatyuk: The struggle to bring Julian home has been a monumental challenge since his unjust conviction, but it has certainly become much more difficult since his expulsion from the Ecuadorian Embassy in March 2019. What are the main actions you and the campaign have undertaken since then?
John Shipton: Julian is a historical artifact. Never has a journalist, editor or publication faced an onslaught of this intensity. He was hit by the United Kingdom, Sweden, the United States and Australia, with all the forces they could muster.
They violated every human rights law and due process by trying to send Julian to the United States and destroying him [as a human being]. We have witnessed the gradual killing of Julian through psychological torture, relentless disruption of proceedings, and due process right before our eyes. This is what we are fighting against.
During the last hearing, Judge Baraitser asked Julian to prove that he was unwell because he did not appear on the video. This demonstrates a process that we witnessed over and over again, which is blaming the victim. In the case of Australia, they say they have offered consular assistance, which consists of offering last weeks newspaper and seeing if you are still alive and that is about the extent of it. DFAT maintains they have made 100 offers [in consular assistance]. Well, this is a profound testimony to failure.
It has now been eleven years. Julian has been arbitrarily detained for eleven years.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated that Julian was arbitrarily detained and that he should be compensated and released immediately. The last report was in February 2018. It is now 2020 and Julian remains in Belmarsh maximum security prison under 24-hour lockdown.
DR: How would you describe the relationship between the current campaign for his release and the Wikileaks organisation?
JS: WikiLeaks continues its work and maintains the most extraordinary library of American diplomacy since 1970. It is an extraordinary artifact for any journalist or historian, any one of us can search for the names of those who have been involved in U.S. diplomacy in their own countries or with the United States. This is a great resource which continues to be maintained.
WikiLeaks released another set of files, so WikiLeaks continues its work. The people who defend Julian and WikiLeaks include one hundred thousand people around the world who are constantly working to achieve Julians freedom and stop this oppression of the free press, of publishing, of editors and journalists. We are constantly working to do that. There are about 80 websites around the world that publish and agitate for Julians freedom and about 86 Facebook pages dedicated to Julian. So there are many of us and the increase in support will continue until the Australian and UK governments recognize that this is the crime, Julians oppression is the great crime of the 21st century.
DR: The latest accusation against Julian is regarding the alleged conspiracy with unidentified anonymous hackers, which appears to be another attempt to expedite his extradition. Do you think this is a symptom of desperation on the part of the Justice Department?
JS: No, I dont () People who work at the Justice Department get paid whether they succeed or not, if Julian is extradited they get paid, if he is not extradited they still get paid. They still go home, have a glass of wine, take the kids to the movies and then come to work the next day and think of another instrument of torture for Julian. This is their job.
The Justice Department would like to see the trial delayed until after the U.S. elections. So, the courts lawyers will appeal the fact that they have not had time and try to get the judge to change the hearing date. That is what I imagine. But I dont think its an act of desperation at all.
If anything, they are giving those of us who defend Julian more to worry about, so that our energies are not singularly focused on getting Julian out, while the conversation turns to this new charge and who is included in it. It is Siggy and Sabu who are not credible witnesses. Siggy is a famous sex offender or con man who stole $50,000 from Wikileaks, etc. There are no credible witnesses [to these allegations]. I guess its to delay the hearing or to make the conversation go away from whats important.
DR: A lot has been researched and published about Julians life and early days as a hacker in the 1990s. I would like to discuss the aspects of his life that have given him the resilience and strength to resist the challenges he faces now. Julian is incredibly committed to telling the truth in his interviews, is very articulate and very careful to communicate and choose the exact words to describe things. Is this something your family taught him or is it something special about Julian?
JS: You know its a gift that I would like to have myself. So I dont know where it came from. I guess youd have to ask the gods.
Julian is his own man entirely and the path he has forged is different and clearly his own. I admire him and am proud of him for his ability to adapt and his ability to continue to fight despite eleven years of relentless psychological torture, which doesnt come without cost.
However, we believe that we will prevail and Julian will be able to come home to Australia, and maybe live in Mullumbimby for a little bit, or in Melbourne; he used to live here down the corner.
DR: Julian displayed incredible physical and mental resilience over the past 9 years, particularly in the nearly 8 years he spent in the Ecuadorian Embassy and last year in Belmarsh Prison. Where do you think this strength comes from: his moral and political convictions or something he developed in his early life in Australia?
JS: I think its another gift he has. That he will continue to fight for what he believes in. And if there are elements of truth in what he is fighting for, well, then he never gives up. Its an aspect of character.
I dont mind a fight myself, but I am invigorated by fighting for Julian and each insult or offense against Julian increases my determination to prevail and the determination of Julians supporters to prevail. Each insult increases our strength. As when the second lot of indictments were brought down the week before last, his supporters around the world raised their voices in disbelief and began to raise awareness of Julians situation. So its really interesting, the Department of Justice might think one thing causes us to fracture, but what actually happens is that the upwelling of support continues unabated.
DR: John, I wish to ask you a personal question. How does it feel to be the father of a man like Julian, to see his son go through all this hardship and slander, and continue to travel and fight for his liberation all over the world?
JS: Well, some of it is hard to believe, what people say about Julian. Like those American politicians saying theyll shoot him, the UC Global employees in Spain who were supposed to look after the security of the Ecuadorian embassy who speculated on how to poison Julian at the behest of the CIA, the Mossad or Sheldon Adelson.
You know, I ignore it, I dont take the slightest notice of it. Im surprised that people put their energies into calling Julian names and theyve never met him. Theyve never seen him and yet some people find the time and energy to write scurrilous things.
I am very surprised that people put their energies into that kind of thing but I dont count the cost even for a minute. I do what Im doing here with you today, I do what comes before me and then I move on to the next thing, but I never count costs.
DR: Ever since the extradition hearings began, the US government, particularly Trump, Mike Pence, and Mike Pompeo, have been doubling down on their attacks against Julian and WikiLeaks. Pompeo even called it a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia. The US establishment appears to be dead set against them, and both major parties are playing along. So what do you think ought to be the strategy of activists and journalists in the US to challenge this?
JS: Well, first of all, Mike Pompeo is a failed Secretary of State, a failed CIA director, who declared war on WikiLeaks to get CIA support for his future ambitions to run for president.
The secretary of state is an important position. However, Mike Pompeo doesnt strike me as being a historically significant personality. The US establishment must fall in line with what the CIA wants and thinks.
In that address on April 23, 2017, Pompeo wanted to get to all his workers to support him in his bid for the presidency and also to intimidate journalists, editors and publications around the world. His sole aim is to ruin your capacity to bring ideas and information to the public, and our ability as members of the public to talk to each other and sort things out by talking to each other about what we should do and how we should live life. They just want to have it their way, declare war on anyone, kill another million people, destroy Yemen, destroy Libya, destroy Iraq, destroy Afghanistan, destroy Syria, the list goes on. Millions of refugees are flooding the world and moving to Europe.
The Maghreb in turmoil. The Levant in turmoil. Palestinians killed. This is their objective. So, for us, we depend on you to give us accurate information so that we can have fair opinions about how the world is moving around us. What Pompeo wants is for what he says to be believed.
You can see their story, they say there may be as many as five million people since 1991 who died as a result of the United States and its allies invading Iraq in an illegal war. You can watch Collateral Murder and you can see a good samaritan dragging a wounded man to his car to take him to the hospital, driving his children to school. Murdered before your eyes. The helicopter pilots asked for instructions so they could shoot a wounded man: two children and two good samaritans. However, we depend on you, journalists, publishers, publications, to bring us the crimes committed by the government, so that we have the energy to place our shoulders to preventing these murders with all the determination and energy we can muster to prevent the murder and destruction of an entire country.
If I may remind you, in Melbourne a million people marched against the war in Iraq. I think a total of 10 million people in the world. We dont want war. They lie to us to have wars, for whatever satisfaction. Who would want to see and hear the lamentation of the widows, the screams of the children. It is monstrous. And so we need the information to say no.
DR: The new Cold War between the United States (and the EU) on the one hand and China (and Russia) on the other threatens to pull the ordinary people of the world into another confrontation on behalf of the political and economic elites among these countries. From your experience of seeking international support for Julian, what are the best ways of forging solidarity across borders?
JS: I think the best way is to talk to your friends and discuss these things to become aware outside of what the mass media wants us to see and hear.
So, just face-to-face conversations and then conversations on social networks are sufficient. In the last two weeks Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as platforms removed certain discussion topics and certain channels. They are being removed because we are succeeding, not because nobody is watching them.
The Sochi World Cup was a great example of this, a fabulous success. Everybody who went to Russia came back full of admiration for Russia and Russian hospitality. Well, this is what is needed, just ordinary people getting to know each other and discussing important issues, without depending on CNN or anyone else talking about how they should feel about this or that topic. Just talk to friends, talk to groups of people, talk, exchange ideas, exchange where to get good information and things will change. I have an unwavering belief in the capacity and goodness of humanity in general, and I am proved right every time because ten million people marched against the war in Iraq, but a few hundred manipulated nations to destroy Iraq. Ordinary people dont want war. We want to be able to talk to our friends and take care of our families.
DR: The COVID-19 pandemic has not only revealed the inadequacies of the neoliberal economic order, but also its growing instability and desperation to sustain itself. This is also true of the prominent right-wing governments of the United States, Brazil and Bolivia that seek to silence journalists and reports regarding the mismanagement of the pandemic. We are seeing independent journalism under attack around the world, through censorship, intimidation, threats and assassinations. What should be the best way of fighting back against them?
JS: These governments cant even look after their own populations, let alone order the world in a decent way. And their ambitions are to order the world while they cant even look after the people of Seattle () Of course they oppress journalists. Of course they oppress publications. Of course they remove the warrants to allow you to broadcast on a certain spectrum. The platforms are eliminated because we continue to understand and expose their criminal shortcomings.
In fact, they actually consider the phrase herd immunity to be something scientific, they actually contemplate allowing hundreds of thousands of elderly people to die.
You dont get older and get better, you get older and you get a little sicker. The very contemplation of removing the steadying part of a society alters peoples stability the young are full of vigor and the old full of caution, this is a fair balance in society allowing them to die, for whatever reason we cannot discern. It no longer costs money to care for one section of society. You dont lose anything from it, in fact you gain access to the experience and judgment of the older section of your society. So its incomprehensible, like neoliberalism itself, nobody understands why weve got it, but its there. Reposted by
*Denis Rogatyuk is a journalist at El Ciudadano, a writer, contributor, and researcher with a number of publications including Jacobin, Tribune, Le Vent Se Leve, Senso Comune, and others.
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Paul Gallant, managing director of the Cowen Washington Research Group
H/O: Paul Gallant
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It's still anyone's guess whether and when U.S. law enforcement will bring antitrust charges against the nation's Big Tech companies, but Paul Gallant, a managing director of the Cowen Washington Research Group, has been trying to determine the odds.
Gallant has been closely tracking the tech scrutiny ofAmazon, Apple, Facebook and Google parent Alphabet as federal and state enforcers probe their businesses for potential violations of the U.S. antitrust laws. Along the way, he's analyzed the likelihood of enforcement action against the four giants. In a November report, Gallant and his colleagues predicted the chances of antitrust lawsuits from federal or state enforcers depending on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. What they found was:
Gallant's prediction that Google will face an antitrust lawsuit may soon pan out. The New York Times and Washington Post reported that Attorney General William Barr is pushing the Antitrust Division to announce a case against Google by the end of the month.
In a late August interview, Gallant said certain factors could still change the calculus of his predictions for the other tech companies. Epic Games' recent lawsuit against Apple alleging anti-competitive behavior, for example, could turn the tide against the smartphone maker if the suit serves as a "catalyst" for other opponents to air their own grievances, Gallant said.
Here's the full Q&A:
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Posted: at 3:08 pm
It seems that every week is a big week for Big Tech these days. Sometimes hitting record highs, sometimes taking a big hit.
But I wouldnt be worried about market jitters. The real Sword of Damocles for Big Tech could come as early as this week, when a supposedly free-market Trump administration could launch a landmark lawsuit against one of the biggest and most successful companies not just in technology, but in any industry ever created on American soil.
The company is Google, the worlds greatest search engine, which has been in the crosshairs of politicians of both parties. Barring something dramatic, it will soon be the target of litigation brought by the Trump Department of Justice and many states attorneys general for alleged antitrust abuses.
Google doesnt fit the classic definition of an antitrust target by costing consumer money its a free service for consumers that makes much of its money on advertising. But what makes Google enticing for class warriors is its size ($1 trillion market cap), massive profitability and omnipotence as everyones favorite search engine, which also allows it to allegedly play dirty.
Its been accused of skewing search results to advertisers and giving top billing to search results that favor progressive political thought, not to mention mining user data for its business.
Given the politics of the moment, Google may be the first, but probably not the last, tech company to get roasted at the hands of the government not for doing anything terribly wrong, mind you, but for simply being too big and successful and the latest whipping boy for politicians in both parties.
Ive seen this before with the banks after the 2008 financial crisis, though at least the banks created the financial crisis that led to the Great Recession some 10 years ago. Big Tech ushered in an economic renaissance and helped keep our economy from falling into another Great Depression during the pandemic.
I say this not as a Pollyanna about tech or any big company using its might to push for laws that benefit its bottom line (see the support Big Tech gave to net neutrality, which was essentially a free ride on cable operators backs). I have no doubt that there are plenty of lefty programmers out there working for Google or Facebook or Twitter who would love to push political commentary that seems to support their wokeness, though for some reason, Im never at a loss for commentary that appeals to my libertarian leanings.
And yes, I worry about my privacy, as any American who read Orwell would about centralized power keeping tabs on us all.
But Google or Facebook or Apple isnt the government; theyre tracking my web searches to sell me stuff, which is why I keep getting ads for chin-up bars and hairy-chest dad-bod hoodies. (I bought one as a birthday gift for my pal and Fox Business colleague Neil Cavuto.)
Sorry, Im more worried about politicians looking for an easy scapegoat to make us all forget the real problems we have to face in the months and years ahead and destroying an American business success story. It doesnt take a Karl Rove political genius to figure out that politicians on both sides of the aisle have screwed up stuff royally during the pandemic, and yet Im supposed to believe a crackdown on Google for showing preferences in its search engine to its advertisers will help cure COVID or get the economy running full steam ahead.
It will obviously do neither, and will make achieving the latter a lot more difficult. A little context: Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Googles parent), Microsoft and Facebook are the largest companies in the stock market and their strength and size only grew during the pandemic. Tech represents about 12 percent of GDP, and $1.3 trillion in wages, according to Price Waterhouse.
That may make them a monopoly in the eyes of Elizabeth Warren, but it also made them a massive employer, a payer of a lot of taxes and a useful and cheap tool for consumers during a difficult time.
The football season is now upon us, and like many fans of the sport, it couldnt come soon enough for me. But the games number crunchers are worried. COVID forcing many stadiums to go fanless is one concern with football being able to produce decent revenues this season. So are plans by the NFL to politicize the game.
I spoke with some football business executives and heres how they broke down the leagues difficult finances in 2020. Football is a $16 billion-a-year sport, with about $8 billion of its revenues coming from television rights, according to John Tatum, CEO of the Dallas-based Genesco Sports Enterprises.
So keeping decent television ratings is key. The lack of excitement from the crowds will likely turn away some viewers. Another likely turnoff: Decisions by the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to embrace social-justice slogans on the field and even on helmets as the season opens this week.
Football fans may be all in on social justice, but if history is any guide, they also hate politics being part of the game. The last time the NFL embraced political messaging, with widespread kneeling by players, TV viewership fell dramatically. But at least the league had fans in the stands to make up the difference.
Which means woke football could be a money-losing proposition.
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Posted: at 3:08 pm
Im more anti-China than you!
Thats a new theme of this election.
Joe Biden says, We will never again be at the mercy of China! Donald Trump replies, China would own our country if Joe Biden got elected!
Its strange to hear competition, because just a few administrations ago, presidents were eager to celebrate China. A future of greater trade and growth and human dignity is possible! said George W. Bush. Bill Clinton praised Chinas positive change and great progress.
What changed? Thats the subject of my new video.
Presidents Clinton and Bush were excited about China because its dictators had finally opened up Chinas economy. They got rid of price controls, broke up collective farms, allowed foreign investment and privatized state-run business. China, suddenly, prospered.
People were so happy to finally see China being set on this path, says Melissa Chen, who reports on China for the Spectator. The reforms lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty for the very first time.
Then, three years ago, Xi Jinping got himself named president for life.
He cracked down on speech, even jokes. After someone noted his resemblance to Winnie the Pooh, all mentions of the character were deleted from Chinas internet.
I had thought the internet couldnt be censored. Bill Clinton said it would be like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.
The Chinese figured out how to nail Jell-O to the wall, says Chen. They built an almost perfectly walled-in internet.
China does this by employing a million censors. They block Google, Facebook, Twitter and most Western news media. A few computer-savvy Chinese citizens use forbidden apps to get around the censorship, but most dont get to see the same internet that we see. People caught accessing banned sites are punished. Police may barge into your home, threaten your family or just restrict your choices.
You cant make doctors appointments, explains Chen. You cant travel... theyll block you from buying a train ticket or a plane ticket.
Life is far worse for religious minorities such as the Muslim Uighurs. The government is waging cultural genocide against them.
About a million Uighurs are locked up in reeducation camps, sometimes for years, says Chen. Their family never hears back from them.
China wont allow reporters near the camps, but drone footage shows rows of blindfolded people with their heads shaved and their hands tied behind their backs.
Radio Free Asia adds that Chinas reeducation methods even include having Chinese men replace the Uighur men in families. They come in and live with a family (and) sleep in the same bed as the wife, says Chen.
In short, todays China is, once again, a vicious communist dictatorship.
So, Im amazed to watch American protesters and hear them say, America is the worlds biggest problem.
Even a recent New York Times editorial board member wrote that it was difficult to know whether the United States is better, worse, or the same as China.
That equivalence is bonkers, replies Chen. There should be no doubt about the moral equivalence between the two countries.
For one thing, we Americans are free to criticize our government.
You can hold up a sign at a protest, saying, Screw Donald Trump; the United States sucks! explains Chen. You cannot do anything remotely similar in China.
People in Hong Kong tried. Millions attended protests, often waving American flags. Chen says it shows they have a hankering for American values. They crave this freedom that we take for granted.
Now they, too, have been silenced by Chinas government.
The American protesters who carry democratic socialism banners and wave Communist flags (Soviet Communists used to call people like them useful idiots) should know what people in Hong Kong know: Socialism leads to real government oppression.
Why would Americans want this? asks Chen. Why would they be waving these Communist flags, wanting socialism?
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