•June 12, 2010 • 25 Comments

Jeremy Bentham: Just hangin' out

“Just the good ole boys
Never meaning no harm
Beats all you ever saw
Been in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born”

-Dukes of Hazard theme, Waylon Jennings

Oh, sorry, that’s not Boss Hogg from Dukes of Hazard sitting in that box, all stuffed and waxy! But I sure thought it was when I was 9 or 10 and obsessed with the Guinness Book of Records and Ripleys Believe it or Not books. Then I read the stuffed guy’s name and found out he was a British social theorist from the 18th Century… which just wasn’t as cool as if it had been Boss Hogg. Either way, for most of my life, Jeremy Bentham was the “guy who had himself waxed, stuffed, and preserved in a box”. It was only in recent years that I learned of some of Bentham’s concepts and influences on the world. Also, I should point out that while I am focusing on his concept of the “Panopticon” and relating it to the modern world of social networking, Bentham was a generally progressive individual decades, if not centuries, ahead of his time, and supported notions like women’s equality and legal homosexuality.

However, it is his concept of the Panopticon, a prison in which prisoners are easily observed at all times, yet they are simultaneously unaware of their observation, that he is best known for.

“The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in 1785. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the incarcerated being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the “sentiment of an invisible omniscience.”

Here’s another take on it from the Journal of Business and Technical Communication:

“The architecture incorporates a tower central to a circular building that is divided into cells, each cell extending the entire thickness of the building to allow inner and outer windows. The occupants of the cells are thus backlit, isolated from one another by walls, and subject to scrutiny both collectively and individually by an observer in the tower who remains unseen. Toward this end, Bentham envisioned not only venetian blinds on the tower observation ports but also maze-like connections among tower rooms to avoid glints of light or noise that might betray the presence of an observer.”
—Barton, Ben F., and Marthalee S. Barton. “Modes of Power in Technical and Professional Visuals.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 7.1, 1993, 138-62.

Several years ago, somebody suggested to me that I join Facebook. “It’s great! You can know what’s going on with all your friends, and they can know what is going on with you. You can be in constant contact with your co-workers, boss, parents, friends, grandparents. People you haven’t seen in years will be able to easily find you! Friends can take pictures of you at parties, and tag the photo with your name so it will turn up in a web search. Your co-workers and employers will be able to see who your friends are and what they’re up to as well. It’s awesome!”

Me: “Um, is this supposed to be a GOOD thing? I thought you were trying to sell me on it?”

Needless to say, my experiences with Facebook have been rather limited. However, this is not to say that I haven’t felt the “peer pressure” that I am somehow missing out, that I am behind the times, that I must be simply ignorant or a Luddite to not jump on the “Social Networking” bandwagon, that I am crazy for missing out on things like cute baby pictures posted by ex-girlfriends I haven’t talked to in 20 years.

Turns out my Facebook skepticism may have been right on the money after all! For starters, let’s have Facebook tell you how they feel about your account and your privacy. It’s right there when you sign up:

“We may use information about you that we collect from other sources, including but not limited to newspapers and Internet sources such as blogs, instant messaging services and other users of Facebook, to supplement your profile.”

As we shall see, Facebook is alleged to be providing a bundleful of new opportunities not only for corporate marketers, but the government and organized crime as well. Is Facebook a form of a voluntary Panopticon? An opt-in prison or tool for social control? First we will take a look at some of the issues that have already bubbled to the surface in conjunction with the rise of Facebook, then we will look at some of the players behind the scenes…

The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer

Women are joining Facebook in droves, but Colleen Moss refuses to sign up.Too risky, says the head of the FBI’s North Carolina cybercrimes unit. Too many personal clues, she says, for shady characters to use for identity theft or worse.“People need to realize that the Internet is not their personal diary,” she says. “It is a public domain, and if they don’t want people to know things about themselves, they need to keep it to themselves.”

…Facebook recently made more user information public by default, requiring members to master complex privacy steps to shield their information. This sparked a strong debate about privacy online. Facebook officials say making more information public lets them give members a more personalized Web browsing experience and stronger connections with people and pages they like.

… New scrutiny has also spawned a host of websites aimed at demonstrating how widely available sensitive posts can be. One of them,, features a search engine that lets anyone type in a keyword or phrase – “lost my job,” for example, – and pull up every Facebook status update that contains the phrase.

… The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has at times overridden concerns from employees who believe Facebook should make more information private by default. He has said he believes people will, over time, grow comfortable sharing more of their information publicly. The whole issue makes some users uneasy.

…Police and Internet security experts, however, say they see cybercriminals putting more emphasis on trolling social networks for victims.The FBI’s Moss said she couldn’t talk about any ongoing cases, but she noted that the eight agents in her unit are handling an increasing number of cases where online criminals use social networks to pass malicious codes and viruses along social circles. Two years ago, she noted, there were no such codes targeting social networks. By last year, 19 percent of malicious viruses and codes focused on social networks.

…Criminals can use details from your page – where you work or live or hobbies you enjoy – to craft e-mails personalized to induce you to click on their malicious attachments. Often, Moss said, those attachments can copy personal data off your hard drive. “People have an image of unsophisticated hackers out there stealing their information,” said Adam Palmer, lead cyber-security adviser for Norton Security. “But organized crime realizes there’s big money” to be gained online.

Luckily, Mark Zuckerberg is on the case, and doing everything in his power to ensure the security of his users’ data.

Facebook Grapples With Privacy Issues


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes users should be more public.

A backlash over Facebook Inc.’s privacy practices has triggered disagreement inside the company that could force Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg to scale back efforts to encourage users to share more about themselves in public. Facebook’s practices have kicked off an intense debate over privacy at the company. Julia Angwin and Lauren Goode join us to discuss and tell us why it has spawned a number of new websites.

The social network has come under fire for a series of recent changes to its policies that have limited what users can keep private, as well as embarrassing technical glitches that exposed personal data. Privacy advocates have called on regulators to intervene. Some frustrated users, meanwhile, have created websites that highlight what they see as shortcomings in Facebook’s privacy controls.

…The site’s privacy travails have rattled Facebook employees and put pressure on Mr. Zuckerberg, who has argued for years that its users should be more open with their information. He has at times over-ruled employees who argue Facebook should make more information private, by default, according to people familiar with the matter. He has instead pushed to offer tools so users can control their information, these people said.

The privacy problems are piling up as the company, which is approaching 500 million users, grapples with how to build new services off all the data provided by users without offending users. The company is focused on ways to turn that vast amount of data into a multi-billion dollar ad-business.

500 million users?! That’s crazy…

In recent days, executives and other employees have hunkered down in Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters, debating how to address the backlash to two recently launched features. One encourages users to share more about their online activities with Facebook, while another personalizes other websites with information about users’ Facebook friends.

Participants are discussing whether to implement new controls that allow users to conceal their profiles more universally, according to people familiar with the matter. Such tools would represent a big shift from Facebook’s current approach of giving users multiple controls for specific parts of their profiles, and are an option Mr. Zuckerberg has resisted.

…The company can’t afford not to act. The Federal Trade Commission is taking a close look at how online social networks are using people’s data, and people close to the matter say it is increasingly focused on Facebook.

“We agree that social networks provide a valuable consumer service, but that they also raise privacy concerns,” an FTC spokesperson said, adding that it had already brought several cases against social networks. A Facebook spokesman declined to comment on the FTC scrutiny.

A cottage industry of programmers have taken to exposing Facebook privacy issues. A site called searches the public status updates of users, which have grown since Facebook began recommending users make their status updates public late last year. Any person, even someone without a Facebook account, can easily conduct searches with the tool and bring up users’ public photos and names along with what they wrote—a little-known feature within Facebook. The tool is based on technology that Facebook released to developers so third-parties can incorporate content from Facebook for their websites.

“People are sharing things they clearly don’t want to share with the entire planet,” said Will Moffat, a 32-year-old software engineer who helped build the site. Mr. Moffat said he built the site to pressure Facebook to switch its account settings so that such updates are private by default and wouldn’t be accessible to developers like himself.

…At the same time, the company previewed technology that would allow users logged into Facebook to view information about what their Facebook friends had done when they visited the same service—like music site Pandora—without indicating they wanted to see that information. A group of senators led by Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) called on Facebook to roll back the changes and more than a dozen privacy groups lodged a complaint with the FTC on grounds that Facebook was displaying user information without their consent.

Mr. Zuckerberg regularly argues in blog posts, speeches and private meetings that users have a right to control their own information. But he has made no secret that he believes users should and will want to make more information about themselves public over time.

….Facebook has accompanied the changes with new tools and has encouraged users to examine their account settings. But some privacy advocates and users argue that the approach isn’t sufficient. “Facebook needs to have a few very simple high-level controls” so users can keep data private, said Peter Eckersley, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The company, he said, should stop acting as if “they have a mission to make all of our private lives public.”

Well, that is of course the mission. Nobody is “acting”. What I find far more troubling than Facebook’s technology is the people behind this technology. Let’s take a further look at young Mark, child of the Eastern elite and prep school Phillips Exeter, and former Harvard student.

This Can't be the Man Behind the Curtain.. can it?

…Zuckerberg grew up in the well-to-do New York suburb of Dobbs Ferry, the second of four kids and the only son of a dentist (he has no cavities) and a psychiatrist (insert your own mental-health joke here). He began messing around with computers early on, teaching himself how to program. As a high school senior, at Phillips Exeter Academy, he and D’Angelo built a plug-in for the MP3 player Winamp that would learn your music listening habits, then create a playlist to meet your taste.

… Harvard didn’t offer a student directory with photos and basic information, known at most schools as a face book. Zuckerberg wanted to build an online version for Harvard, but the school “kept on saying that there were all these reasons why they couldn’t aggregate this information,” he says. “I just wanted to show that it could be done.” So one night early in his sophomore year, he hacked into Harvard’s student records. He then threw up a basic site called Facemash, which randomly paired photos of undergraduates and invited visitors to determine which one was “hotter” (not unlike the Web site Hot or Not). Four hours, 450 visitors, and 22,000 photo views later, Harvard yanked Zuckerberg’s Internet connection. After a dressing-down from the administration and an uproar on campus chronicled by The Harvard Crimson, Zuckerberg politely apologized to his fellow students. But he remained convinced he’d done the right thing: “I thought that the information should be available.” (Harvard declined to comment on the episode.)

NOTE: Gee, I can’t imagine why Harvard would have no comment on the illegal behavior of one its wealthiest former students?And while I generally want to keep my opinions to a minimum in this piece, I can’t help but point out how slimy his Student database/”hot or not” thing was: what a scumbag. And he never regretted it clearly. Why should he? It eventually made him a millionaire. Ain’t capitalism grand?

…So how does Facebook make its money? Advertising and sponsorships, mostly. Apple was an early backer, sponsoring a site for iTunes enthusiasts. JPMorgan Chase and Southwest, among others, pay for similar programs. “Flyers,” the online version of the paper ads that students use to publicize events, also provide a very modest source of revenue. And there is a nascent-but-growing local advertising business. The big money, though, comes from an ad-placement alliance with Microsoft in which the software giant will place banner ads on the site through 2011. It mirrors a deal MySpace inked with Google last year. (MySpace reportedly got $900 million over three years. Facebook hasn’t released the value of its program, and neither party will comment on the terms.) Facebook also just inked a deal with Comcast to create and Webcast an episodic show based on user-generated video content. Called “Facebook Diaries,” the series will be shown on both Facebook and, Comcast’s video-uploading site, as well as through Comcast’s video-on-demand service.

While some reading this post may think I am postulating a future “Facebook-enabled police state” or tossing out one of those heretical “conspiracy theories”, that is not the case. No, I’m merely pointing out what is happening RIGHT NOW. Honestly though, in some of these instances my contempt is higher for the stupidity of the crooks getting busted through Facebook than it is for the sneakiness of the Law who are simply utilizing the tools Facebook makes available to them.

Maxi Sopo was having so much fun “living in paradise” in Mexico that he posted about it on Facebook so all his friends could follow his adventures. Others were watching, too: A federal prosecutor in Seattle, where Sopo was wanted on bank fraud charges. Tracking Sopo through his public “friends” list, the prosecutor found his address and had Mexican authorities arrest him. Instead of sipping pina coladas, Sopo is awaiting extradition to the U.S.

Sopo learned the hard way: The Feds are on Facebook. And MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter, too. Law enforcement agents are following the rest of the Internet world into popular social-networking services, even going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects and gather private information, according to an internal Justice Department document that surfaced in a lawsuit.

The document shows that U.S. agents are logging on surreptitiously to exchange messages with suspects, identify a target’s friends or relatives and browse private information such as postings, personal photographs and video clips. Among the purposes: Investigators can check suspects’ alibis by comparing stories told to police with tweets sent at the same time about their whereabouts. Online photos from a suspicious spending spree – people posing with jewelry, guns or fancy cars – can link suspects or their friends to crime.

The Justice document also reminds government attorneys taking cases to trial that the public sections of social networks are a “valuable source” of information on defense witnesses. “Knowledge is power,” says the paper. “Research all witnesses on social networking sites.”

For me, it was just a gut feeling that Facebook was a bad idea that kept me out of the loop. However, until recently, I was unaware of much of the background of those powers behind not only Facebook, but apparently much of the venture capital networks behind the “social networking” phenomenon. Perhaps most intriguing is Peter Andreas Thiel. He has been described with many seemingly contradictory labels: “anti-immigration German immigrant”, “anti-privacy Libertarian”, “conservative intellectual”, etc. Bottom line as you read these next few pieces: is this the man the world wants in charge of massive chunks of the ever more important sphere of social networking? In other words, the bulk of the data that is becoming as valuable as physical resources like oil, gold, tin, etc. that wars have been fought over in the past?

PayPal’s Thiel Scores 230 Percent Gain With Soros-Style Fund

Date: Monday, December 4, 2006

Author: Deepak Gopinath,

(Bloomberg) — One morning in 1998, at Hobee’s coffee shop, near Stanford University, a young money manager named Peter Thiel decided to gamble on an Internet startup. Thiel ended up investing $240,000 in the company, which eventually became PayPal Inc., the giant of online payments. Thiel ran PayPal, took it public and, in 2002, sold it to EBay Inc. for $1.5 billion. Thiel, then 34, walked off with $60 million. He bought himself a Ferrari 360 Spyder and moved into a condo at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco.

Thiel had managed to pilot PayPal through the biggest financial bubble in history. And yet, the way he saw things, that bubble had never really popped. To Thiel, the Nasdaq Stock Market frenzy of the 1990s had simply morphed into a U.S. housing frenzy and other economic dangers. People still believed the good times could last forever.

So a few weeks after selling PayPal, Thiel set out to beat the bubble a second time. He opened a hedge fund firm called Clarium Capital Management LLC in his three-bedroom apartment at the Four Seasons.

Since then, Thiel, now 39, has emerged as one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the country. He’s parlayed an initial $10 million fund into a firm with $2.1 billion in assets under management — and more than tripled investors’ money.

As of Oct. 31, Clarium, now tucked away in futuristic, glass-walled offices near the Golden Gate Bridge, had returned a cumulative 230.4 percent.


A self-styled freethinker and avowed libertarian, Thiel has had a hell of a run. A graduate of Stanford Law School, he’s practiced securities law, traded derivatives, led PayPal and built a multibillion-dollar hedge fund — all before the age of 40. He’s also bought 7 percent of Palo Alto, California-based Facebook, a social-networking Web site for high school and college students that turned down a $1 billion offer from Yahoo! Inc. in September.

Along the way, Thiel has co-authored a book decrying political correctness at Stanford, backed a Nascar magazine (it failed) and executive produced the 2005 movie “Thank You for Smoking,” a satirical look at today’s spin culture in which the hero, Big Tobacco spokesman Nick Naylor, defends the rights of smokers and cigarette makers. In September, Thiel pledged $3.5 million to Aubrey de Grey, a Cambridge University-based gerontologist searching for the key to human immortality.

Remember that last name, we will return to Mr. De Grey later.

Now, Thiel has set out to concoct a 21st-century version of the Quantum Fund, the freewheeling macro hedge fund that George Soros used to run. Macro funds trade crude oil, Eurodollars, Japanese bonds, sugar futures — you name it. The macro part comes from managers’ attempts to use macroeconomic principles to spot winning trades.

Thiel has wagered all of his clients’ money on his conviction that aftershocks from the go-go ’90s will jar the U.S. His vision of the future isn’t pretty. The housing bubble will collapse and economic growth will stall, he says. An oil shock will add to the pain.Few money managers are prepared for the turbulence ahead, Thiel says. Clarium is ready, he says.

He called that one right. But hey he’s a hedge fund guy, he’s supposed to call it right….

… Thiel is a proponent of a geologic theory known as peak oil, which holds that global oil production is now at or near its apex. Among his picks was Calgary-based EnCana Corp., which wrings oil from the tar sands of Canada. EnCana stock rose 54 percent in 2005.

That is very interesting. Tangentially, keep your eye on this space for a piece I’m working on called “Think Globally, DIE Locally” on the Peak Oil movement and some of the movers and shakers behind it.

…It’s hard to say when Peter Andreas Thiel first decided that one person could outsmart the crowd. Born in Frankfurt in 1967, Thiel bounced among seven elementary schools — from California, to Namibia, to Ohio, to South Africa — as his father, Klaus, a chemical engineer, worked around the world. Klaus; his wife, Susanne; Thiel; and Thiel’s younger brother, Patrick, eventually settled in Foster City, California, north of Silicon Valley.

….When the time came for Thiel to head to college, he didn’t go far. He enrolled at nearby Stanford in 1985 and majored in philosophy. It was there, he says, that his politics tilted further toward free-market libertarianism. Thiel says people should be free to do as they please, provided they don’t abridge others’ freedoms.

….By the time Thiel arrived at Stanford, America’s culture wars, smoldering since the 1960s, were flaring on campus. Students were complaining the curriculum was skewed toward the European canon of great books — Aristotle, Shakespeare and the like — and gave short shrift to non-Western cultures, women and minorities. Students debated whether to impose a speech code prohibiting racist, sexist and homophobic remarks.

Thiel says the shift toward political correctness troubled him. Students weren’t just attacking Chaucer or Kant — they were undermining academic rigor and the freedom of speech, he says. So, in 1987, as a sophomore, Thiel founded the Stanford Review, now the university’s main conservative newspaper. The Review’s motto is Fiat Lux, which is Latin for Let There Be Light. Several of the paper’s former editors, including Ken Howery and David Sacks, later joined Thiel at PayPal. Clarium General Counsel Gibney was also a Review editor.

“The Review stood for free speech, no speech code, admission on merit and great works in the curriculum,” says Sacks, who later got Thiel to help him produce “Thank You for Smoking.” Sacks is now president of Los Angeles-based Room 9 Entertainment.

The Review set out to provoke and offend, says Rachel Maddow, a former Stanford activist who is now a host on Air America Radio, a progressive talk station. “They took a particularly mean-spirited and juvenile approach to the consequences of their actions,” Maddow says. “They were very good at generating an uproar.”

…In 1995, the pair wrote an op-ed essay in the Wall Street Journal poking fun at Stanford’s curriculum. The piece prompted a letter to the editor from then Stanford President Gerhard Casper and then Provost Condoleezza Rice, now U.S. Secretary of State. “[They] concoct a cartoon, not a description, of our freshman curriculum,” Casper and Rice wrote. Later that year, Sacks and Thiel made headlines with a book entitled “The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and the Political Intolerance on Campus.” One of the examples of political correctness that Thiel and Sacks cite in their book involves a law student named Keith Rabois.

Here is an example, apparently, of the type of employee Thiel prefers for his companies…

…In a misguided attempt to assert his freedom of speech, Rabois yelled “Faggot! Faggot! Hope you die of AIDS” outside a lecturer’s home. He was hounded out of Stanford, Thiel and Sacks say. Rabois later joined PayPal. Rabois’s behavior was offensive and stupid, Thiel says. He says he still thinks the incident was overblown. “The extreme reaction to it was not quite proportionate to what happened,” he says.

One of Thiel’s first jobs after leaving law school was with Sullivan and Cromwell, white-shoe law firm, and a name that should be familiar to any serious students of America’s hidden history. For starters, it was the law firm which employed Allen Dulles, longtime head of the CIA and the Bush family lawyer. Sullivan and Cromwell was used to hide away Prescott Bush’s economic alliances with the Nazis. After Sullivan and Cromwell, Thiel went on to work for a subsidiary of Credit Suisse, a company that was forced to settle a massive lawsuit for its role in the Holocaust. These are some VERY interesting first “career choices” for a right-wing German immigrant to be making, no?

After collecting his law degree, Thiel clerked for U.S. Federal Circuit Judge Larry Edmondson in Atlanta and then joined Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York. He lasted seven months and three days before quitting out of boredom, he says. He jumped to CS Financial Products, a unit of what’s now Credit Suisse Group, where he traded derivatives and currency options for a little more than a year. Then he went home to California, raised $1 million from his friends and family and started his first macro fund, Thiel Capital Management.

Truly a Horatio Alger story of an immigrant scraping his way up from the bottom…next, Thiel finds a way to create the international money transfer market of his dreams.

….“There were two desks and no windows, so Peter brought in pictures of outdoor scenes to put on the wall,” Howery, now 31, says. It was about this time that Thiel happened upon a young software engineer named Max Levchin. What followed would change both men’s lives forever.

PayPal Opportunity

It was a sweltering August day, and Levchin — who was dreaming about an Internet startup — was milling around campus looking for a place to escape the heat. He stumbled into an air- conditioned building where Thiel was lecturing students on international finance. The two hit it off and agreed to meet for breakfast at Hobee’s, a Palo Alto institution known for its blueberry coffeecake.

There, Levchin, then 23, asked Thiel to invest in his idea for a startup to develop a secure way for handheld computers to communicate. Thiel bought in.

“We thought we would only be there for six months to help the company raise additional financing,” Howery says.Instead, Thiel ended up putting his hedge fund career on hold and devoting the next four years to the company, which grew into PayPal.

…Thiel had grand ambitions for the company. “PayPal was the new currency for the world economy,” he says. Like many young dot- commers, he believed the Internet would empower the individual. For Thiel, PayPal was all about freedom: It would enable people to skirt currency controls and move money around the globe.

God’s gift to money launderers…Next we see how Peter is lots of fun at parties.

"Staring contest? Best two ouf of three?"

…The day PayPal stock began trading, Feb. 15, 2002, the shares soared 55 percent. Out in the parking lot of PayPal’s Palo Alto offices, Thiel and his crew celebrated by doing “keg stands.” That’s when you’re held upside down over a running beer keg and chug as much of the flowing brew as you can. Thiel raced around playing 10 games of speed chess simultaneously. He won all but one, against his Stanford buddy Sacks. Thiel, who says he hates to lose at anything, swept the pieces off the board. “Peter smashed the pieces,” Sacks recalls. Thiel doesn’t apologize for his competitive streak. When someone calls him a bad loser, he replies, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.”

Thiel won big with PayPal. Eight months later, in October 2002, EBay agreed to buy the company for $1.5 billion. The PayPal crew cashed-in and moved on. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim founded video-sharing Web site YouTube Inc. and sold it to Google Inc. in October for $1.65 billion. Levchin went off and founded Slide, a photo-sharing site.

Executive Vice President Reid Hoffman founded Linked-In Corp., a business networking site. Vice President Jeremy Stoppelman created Yelp, a site that helps people find restaurants, shops and other businesses in their area. And Thiel went back to hedge funds and founded Clarium.

This puts many of the world’s most significant online services into a very small nexus as we shall see further in this piece, thanks to some helpful charts. This is not “conspiracy theory”, it is networking. Social networking. It is how the powerful get things done.

…Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook with zero business experience, calls Thiel a mentor. “He helped shape the way I think about the business,” Zuckerberg, 22, says. When Thiel backed the startup in 2004, he told Zuckerberg to move to Silicon Valley. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard and did just that. If Facebook one day pulls off a deal like YouTube’s, Thiel would pocket about $100 million.

…“They only need to have one good idea a year,” Thiel says. Thiel’s alter ego at Clarium is a physicist named Kevin Harrington, who used to do mathematical research for the U.S. Department of Defense. The two sometimes talk strategy for five hours at a stretch.

“Peter is my foil, and I’m his foil,” Harrington, 37, says.

…Thiel’s homes look like stage sets, and it’s hard to tell someone actually lives in them. There are no photos, magazines or personal mementos. The San Francisco pad overlooks a swan-filled lake and the remains of the Exploratorium, site of the 1915 World’s Fair. From the penthouse lounge, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge. His New York apartment boasts an $8,000 armchair designed by 20th-century designer Tommi Parzinger, whose clients included Marilyn Monroe; a $15,000 sofa by Mattaliano; and $25,000 Neidermaier dining chairs.

…Thiel didn’t say much, until one of the guests mentioned someone who had made a religious slur. Thiel jumped in. “Was the statement offensive — or was it perceived as offensive?” he asked. He sounded like he was still editing the Stanford Review, zigging when everyone around him zags. It’s a habit that’s made Thiel millions. His hedge fund investors can only hope it will pay off for them, too.

Peter Can't Hang with Cheech

Apparently, Thiel is not “Down with Brown”. What sucks more than “anti-immigrant immigrants”? I have always found disturbing the lack of concern for the civil rights of minorities among so-called “libertarians”, particularly those who call themselves “paleo-Libertarians”. It is particularly appalling considering that Lysander Spooner, one of the founders of Libertarianism, was an abolitionist. Yet, there is a constant thread within Libertarianism that “Lincoln turned the Republic into dictatorship” and “the South was right”. Anyone who uses the words “liberty” and “the South was right” too often needs to get bitchslapped in the head. Paleolibs: you suck. This piece was written, however, by a Libertarian who still seems to understand the “liberte'” part of his political philosophy.

…Insiders at Clarium Capital, the $5.3 billion hedge fund run by Facebook investor Peter Thiel, are buzzing about their boss’s $1 million donation to NumbersUSA, an anti-immigrant group. The donation is an open secret within Clarium, and it has enraged several staff members who joined Clarium because they believed Thiel shared their libertarian ideals. When I asked Thiel if he’d made the donation, an underling passed on a nondenial saying the company didn’t comment on “gossip and heresy.” A typo — he meant to say “hearsay” — but a suggestive one. Thiel has fallen under the sway of Robertson “Rob” Morrow III, a Christian right-wing thinker who has personally donated to NumbersUSA, and persuaded Thiel to make his own, much larger donation.

Morrow is a controversial figure within Clarium, a hedge fund Thiel founded after leaving PayPal, the payments company he cofounded and sold to eBay for $1.5 billion. Morrow was once chief investment officer at the San Francisco-based company, but was pushed out of Thiel’s inner circle after he had a nervous breakdown on the trading floor. Morrow slowly worked his way back into Thiel’s good graces, and was assigned to run the company’s then-small New York office. Recently, his influence over Thiel and Clarium has grown.

Earlier this year, Morrow wrote a paper called “The Bull Market in Politics.” His thesis was that “government influence — over trade policy, social programs, decisions of war and peace — becomes much more important” to investors. One key policy area: immigration, where Morrow thinks there is a rising consensus for restrictions.

A politically driven drop in immigration has broad economic implications, especially on the housing market; with less population growth, housing prices will continue to suffer for much longer than most anticipate.

But Morrow is not merely forecasting the market. He has cajoled his influential boss to spend money to make his forecast a reality.

A NumbersUSA spokesman called me to deny that Thiel had made a donation. But the money trail out of Clarium is clear, insiders say, and it would be a simple matter for Thiel to have arranged to make his donation through a third party like DonorsTrust, a conservative foundation through which charitable grants can be directed. The reason why Thiel would want his donation to be anonymous is simple: Even while he’s betting against immigration with his hedge fund, he’s making money off of immigrant-run startups in Silicon Valley.

However Thiel is getting the money to NumbersUSA, it has specific goals: upgrading NumbersUSA’s computer system; hiring a full-time fundraiser to solicit large donations from the wealthy; and hiring Luntz Maslansky Strategic Research to run focus groups on public attitudes toward immigration.

So Thiel, like many wealthy sorts, is getting into politics. What’s interesting about this is his shift from outspoken Libertarian. At PayPal, he had ambitions of using his payments startup to undermine illiberal economies and create a new world financial order. Many of his employees, first at PayPal and then at Clarium, were attracted by this powerful (if outlandish) vision.

That he’s now fallen under the sway of a right-wing Christian conservative is a bit crushing to the true believers Thiel attracted to his cause. Thiel once aimed to overturn the system. Now he just wants to work within it. As much as his anti-immigration views render him noxious to the Northern California mainstream, his turning away from an embrace of freedom make him an enemy to the rebellious thinkers he’s hired.

The current conspiracy theories swirling around the nexus of social networking companies seem to focus mostly on the connections to InQTel, the venture capital wing of the CIA. I am agnostic on these theories. However, I would not be surprised if the government’s privatized data mining efforts to combat terrorism overlap with the social networking world. We do see some of this overlapping with the boards of In-Q-Tel and some of the companies within the Thiel network.

Here is In-Q-Tel’s description of itself:

In-Q-Tel was established in 1999 as an independent, private, not-for-profit company to help the CIA and the greater US Intelligence Community (IC) to identify, acquire, and deploy cutting-edge technologies. In-Q-Tel’s entrepreneurial strategic investment and technology advancement model gives it the agility – lacking within traditional government approaches – to help the IC benefit from the rapid pace of change in information technology and other emerging technology fields.

In-Q-Tel’s mission is to deliver leading-edge capabilities to the CIA and the IC by investing in the development of promising technologies. Because early-stage technologies are often unproven, In-Q-Tel takes the calculated risks necessary to develop, prove, and deliver them to the Intelligence Community.

This article from New Zealand takes a quick look at some of the overlapping…

…Facebook’s first round of venture capital funding ($US500,000) came from former Paypal CEO Peter Thiel. Author of anti-multicultural tome ‘The Diversity Myth’, he is also on the board of radical conservative group VanguardPAC.

The second round of funding into Facebook ($US12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. One of the company’s key areas of expertise are in “data mining technologies”. Breyer also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Technologies, which was one of those companies responsible for the rise of the internet.

Dr Anita Jones joined the firm, which included Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel’s board, and had been director of Defence Research and Engineering for the US Department of Defence.

This is probably the best editorial rant against Facebook I’ve ever read. Covers much of the territory I am looking at in this piece, yet tosses in some righteous anger as well. This was the toughest article to excerpt from, as the whole thing is worth reading. Read it in its entirety at the below link. From the British Guardian:

Facebook has 59 million users – and 2 million new ones join each week. But you won’t catch Tom Hodgkinson volunteering his personal information – not now that he knows the politics of the people behind the social networking site

…I despise Facebook. This enormously successful American business describes itself as “a social utility that connects you with the people around you”. But hang on. Why on God’s earth would I need a computer to connect with the people around me? Why should my relationships be mediated through the imagination of a bunch of supergeeks in California? What was wrong with the pub?

And does Facebook really connect people? Doesn’t it rather disconnect us, since instead of doing something enjoyable such as talking and eating and dancing and drinking with my friends, I am merely sending them little ungrammatical notes and amusing photos in cyberspace, while chained to my desk? A friend of mine recently told me that he had spent a Saturday night at home alone on Facebook, drinking at his desk. What a gloomy image. Far from connecting us, Facebook actually isolates us at our workstations.

Facebook appeals to a kind of vanity and self-importance in us, too. If I put up a flattering picture of myself with a list of my favourite things, I can construct an artificial representation of who I am in order to get sex or approval. (“I like Facebook,” said another friend. “I got a shag out of it.”) It also encourages a disturbing competitivness around friendship: it seems that with friends today, quality counts for nothing and quantity is king. The more friends you have, the better you are. You are “popular”, in the sense much loved in American high schools. Witness the cover line on Dennis Publishing’s new Facebook magazine: “How To Double Your Friends List.”

…Facebook is a well-funded project, and the people behind the funding, a group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, have a clearly thought out ideology that they are hoping to spread around the world. Facebook is one manifestation of this ideology. Like PayPal before it, it is a social experiment, an expression of a particular kind of neoconservative libertarianism. On Facebook, you can be free to be who you want to be, as long as you don’t mind being bombarded by adverts for the world’s biggest brands. As with PayPal, national boundaries are a thing of the past.

Although the project was initially conceived by media cover star Mark Zuckerberg, the real face behind Facebook is the 40-year-old Silicon Valley venture capitalist and futurist philosopher Peter Thiel. There are only three board members on Facebook, and they are Thiel, Zuckerberg and a third investor called Jim Breyer from a venture capital firm called Accel Partners (more on him later). Thiel invested $500,000 in Facebook when Harvard students Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskowitz went to meet him in San Francisco in June 2004, soon after they had launched the site. Thiel now reportedly owns 7% of Facebook, which, at Facebook’s current valuation of $15bn, would be worth more than $1bn. There is much debate on who exactly were the original co-founders of Facebook, but whoever they were, Zuckerberg is the only one left on the board, although Hughes and Moskowitz still work for the company.

Thiel is widely regarded in Silicon Valley and in the US venture capital scene as a libertarian genius. He is the co-founder and CEO of the virtual banking system PayPal, which he sold to Ebay for $1.5bn, taking $55m for himself. He also runs a £3bn hedge fund called Clarium Capital Management and a venture capital fund called Founders Fund. Bloomberg Markets magazine recently called him “one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the country”. He has made money by betting on rising oil prices and by correctly predicting that the dollar would weaken. He and his absurdly wealthy Silicon Valley mates have recently been labelled “The PayPal Mafia” by Fortune magazine, whose reporter also observed that Thiel has a uniformed butler and a $500,000 McLaren supercar. Thiel is also a chess master and intensely competitive. He has been known to sweep the chessmen off the table in a fury when losing. And he does not apologise for this hyper-competitveness, saying: “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”


But Thiel is more than just a clever and avaricious capitalist. He is a futurist philosopher and neocon activist. A philosophy graduate from Stanford, in 1998 he co-wrote a book called The Diversity Myth, which is a detailed attack on liberalism and the multiculturalist ideology that dominated Stanford. He claimed that the “multiculture” led to a lessening of individual freedoms. While a student at Stanford, Thiel founded a rightwing journal, still up and running, called The Stanford Review – motto: Fiat Lux (“Let there be light”). Thiel is a member of TheVanguard.Org, an internet-based neoconservative pressure group that was set up to attack, a liberal pressure group that works on the web. Thiel calls himself “way libertarian”.

TheVanguard is run by one Rod D Martin, a philosopher-capitalist whom Thiel greatly admires. On the site, Thiel says: “Rod is one of our nation’s leading minds in the creation of new and needed ideas for public policy. He possesses a more complete understanding of America than most executives have of their own businesses.”

This little taster from their website will give you an idea of their vision for the world: “TheVanguard.Org is an online community of Americans who believe in conservative values, the free market and limited government as the best means to bring hope and ever-increasing opportunity to everyone, especially the poorest among us.” Their aim is to promote policies that will “reshape America and the globe”. TheVanguard describes its politics as “Reaganite/Thatcherite”. The chairman’s message says: “Today we’ll teach MoveOn [the liberal website], Hillary and the leftwing media some lessons they never imagined.”

So, Thiel’s politics are not in doubt. What about his philosophy? I listened to a podcast of an address Thiel gave about his ideas for the future. His philosophy, briefly, is this: since the 17th century, certain enlightened thinkers have been taking the world away from the old-fashioned nature-bound life, and here he quotes Thomas Hobbes’ famous characterisation of life as “nasty, brutish and short”, and towards a new virtual world where we have conquered nature. Value now exists in imaginary things. Thiel says that PayPal was motivated by this belief: that you can find value not in real manufactured objects, but in the relations between human beings. PayPal was a way of moving money around the world with no restriction. Bloomberg Markets puts it like this: “For Thiel, PayPal was all about freedom: it would enable people to skirt currency controls and move money around the globe.”

Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries – and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.

Thiel’s philosophical mentor is one René Girard of Stanford University, proponent of a theory of human behaviour called mimetic desire. Girard reckons that people are essentially sheep-like and will copy one another without much reflection. The theory would also seem to be proved correct in the case of Thiel’s virtual worlds: the desired object is irrelevant; all you need to know is that human beings will tend to move in flocks. Hence financial bubbles. Hence the enormous popularity of Facebook. Girard is a regular at Thiel’s intellectual soirees. What you don’t hear about in Thiel’s philosophy, by the way, are old-fashioned real-world concepts such as art, beauty, love, pleasure and truth.

The internet is immensely appealing to neocons such as Thiel because it promises a certain sort of freedom in human relations and in business, freedom from pesky national laws, national boundaries and suchlike. The internet opens up a world of free trade and laissez-faire expansion. Thiel also seems to approve of offshore tax havens, and claims that 40% of the world’s wealth resides in places such as Vanuatu, the Cayman Islands, Monaco and Barbados. I think it’s fair to say that Thiel, like Rupert Murdoch, is against tax. He also likes the globalisation of digital culture because it makes the banking overlords hard to attack: “You can’t have a workers’ revolution to take over a bank if the bank is in Vanuatu,” he says.

Well put, Petey. Thiel is fairly clear about the world he wants: less smelly minorities, no taxes, and rich people have their brains uploaded into computers and live forever. Got it.

If life in the past was nasty, brutish and short, then in the future Thiel wants to make it much longer, and to this end he has also invested in a firm that is exploring life-extension technologies. He has pledged £3.5m to a Cambridge-based gerontologist called Aubrey de Grey, who is searching for the key to immortality. Thiel is also on the board of advisers of something called the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. From its fantastical website, the following: “The Singularity is the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence. There are several technologies … heading in this direction … Artificial Intelligence … direct brain-computer interfaces … genetic engineering … different technologies which, if they reached a threshold level of sophistication, would enable the creation of smarter-than-human intelligence.”

So by his own admission, Thiel is trying to destroy the real world, which he also calls “nature”, and install a virtual world in its place, and it is in this context that we must view the rise of Facebook. Facebook is a deliberate experiment in global manipulation, and Thiel is a bright young thing in the neoconservative pantheon, with a penchant for far-out techno-utopian fantasies. Not someone I want to help get any richer.

Note: Hear hear.

The third board member of Facebook is Jim Breyer. He is a partner in the venture capital firm Accel Partners, who put $12.7m into Facebook in April 2005. On the board of such US giants as Wal-Mart and Marvel Entertainment, he is also a former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). Now these are the people who are really making things happen in America, because they invest in the new young talent, the Zuckerbergs and the like. Facebook’s most recent round of funding was led by a company called Greylock Venture Capital, who put in the sum of $27.5m. One of Greylock’s senior partners is called Howard Cox, another former chairman of the NVCA, who is also on the board of In-Q-Tel. What’s In-Q-Tel? Well, believe it or not (and check out their website), this is the venture-capital wing of the CIA. After 9/11, the US intelligence community became so excited by the possibilities of new technology and the innovations being made in the private sector, that in 1999 they set up their own venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, which “identifies and partners with companies developing cutting-edge technologies to help deliver these solutions to the Central Intelligence Agency and the broader US Intelligence Community (IC) to further their missions”.

The US defence department and the CIA love technology because it makes spying easier. “We need to find new ways to deter new adversaries,” defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003. “We need to make the leap into the information age, which is the critical foundation of our transformation efforts.” In-Q-Tel’s first chairman was Gilman Louie, who served on the board of the NVCA with Breyer. Another key figure in the In-Q-Tel team is Anita K Jones, former director of defence research and engineering for the US department of defence, and – with Breyer – board member of BBN Technologies. When she left the US department of defence, Senator Chuck Robb paid her the following tribute: “She brought the technology and operational military communities together to design detailed plans to sustain US dominance on the battlefield into the next century.”

…Futhermore, have you Facebook users ever actually read the privacy policy? It tells you that you don’t have much privacy. Facebook pretends to be about freedom, but isn’t it really more like an ideologically motivated virtual totalitarian regime with a population that will very soon exceed the UK’s? Thiel and the rest have created their own country, a country of consumers.

Now, you may, like Thiel and the other new masters of the cyberverse, find this social experiment tremendously exciting. Here at last is the Enlightenment state longed for since the Puritans of the 17th century sailed away to North America, a world where everyone is free to express themselves as they please, according to who is watching. National boundaries are a thing of the past and everyone cavorts together in freewheeling virtual space. Nature has been conquered through man’s boundless ingenuity. Yes, and you may decide to send genius investor Thiel all your money, and certainly you’ll be waiting impatiently for the public flotation of the unstoppable Facebook.

Or you might reflect that you don’t really want to be part of this heavily-funded programme to create an arid global virtual republic, where your own self and your relationships with your friends are converted into commodites on sale to giant global brands. You may decide that you don’t want to be part of this takeover bid for the world.

For my own part, I am going to retreat from the whole thing, remain as unplugged as possible, and spend the time I save by not going on Facebook doing something useful, such as reading books. Why would I want to waste my time on Facebook when I still haven’t read Keats’ Endymion? And when there are seeds to be sown in my own back yard? I don’t want to retreat from nature, I want to reconnect with it. Damn air-conditioning! And if I want to connect with the people around me, I will revert to an old piece of technology. It’s free, it’s easy and it delivers a uniquely individual experience in sharing information: it’s called talking.

Peter Andreas Thiel is hardly the only member of the “social network” that has interesting political connections. For example, there is Roelof Botha of South Africa.

The Art of Selling Out
Erika Brown 02.12.07

….Roelof Botha has been a venture capitalist for three years, and he dreams of putting up the early money for a Google-scale success that is adored on Wall Street and feared by rivals. But Botha, 33, is one of the hottest dealmakers in Silicon Valley for taking the opposite tack: selling out.

Botha joined Sequoia Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s elite venture capital firms, in 2003; he had helped run the PayPal online outfit. In February 2005 two PayPal pals of his started a video Weblet called YouTube. Botha put up $8.5 million in Sequoia cash for a 30% stake. In November Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. Sequoia will reap a 65-fold return, catapulting Botha onto the Forbes Midas List of top tech dealmakers; he ranks 23rd (see p. 49; full list of 100 dealmakers, plus stories and video interviews, is at

…But Sequoia’s Botha clings to his big dream. He says high-tech upstarts must be built for longevity, not for speed of buyout. YouTube’s founders, Chad Hurley and Steven Chen, “were always talking about ways to draw people in and make it better, not how they could tweak it so they could get a better acquisition price. That is a hallmark of all the great companies.”

Sequoia just raised an $800 million fund, and Botha is deep into consumer Web plays like InsiderPages (a network of community guides) and Xoom (a new take on Western Union). They aim to expand their user ranks cheaply and virally, à la YouTube. “I think of myself as just another consumer,” he says.

Botha was born and bred in South Africa, the grandson of Roelof (Pik) Botha, a foreign minister (1977–94) in the apartheid government who supported the release of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela and later served in his government (1994–96). The grandson recalls the tense times and how his grandfather was besieged by people when the family went out to eat. “Part of why I came here was to not be someone’s grandson but to just be me,” he says.

He graduated college in South Africa in 1996, joined McKinsey & Co. and came to the U.S. in 1998 to attend Stanford Business School. He became chief financial officer of PayPal while finishing his M.B.A. Shortly after selling to Ebay, Botha was lured to Sequoia by Michael Moritz, who is number one on the Midas List for the second consecutive year.

Moritz put Sequoia into PayPal and Google, reaping huge payoffs by ignoring buyout offers and letting the companies make it through public offerings. “The [Sequoia] companies that have eventually become large,” says Moritz, “have all started with an idea which, at first, seemed small and tenuous.” Assuming no one sold too soon.

Roelof himself is less interesting to me than his grandfather, Pik Botha. Keep in mind that the South African National Party was a direct outgrowth of Nazism, and that ties between that government and fugitive nazis around the world lasted long after WW2. I found this article on one of Pik Botha’s good German pals rather interesting…

Times of Zambia

Franz Richter: Pioneer of game tourism in SA

Chris Barron Published:Dec 02, 2007

LIVING HIS DREAM: Franz Richter, who was born in Romania, always had a passion for Africa

Franz Richter, who was murdered this week in a robbery near his game ranch outside Johannesburg at the age of 80, was one of the pioneers of game tourism in South Africa. Richter, who was born in Romania on October 27 1927, was an orphan by the age of five. As a youth in communist-run Romania, all he dreamt about was having a full stomach. That and Africa. When he was 15, he made his way to Germany where he was promptly drafted into the Hitler Youth and forced to fight in the German army.

After all, every Romanian boy surely dreams about going to Africa by way of the Hitler Youth. Of course…

After the war, he worked in a coal mine, an experience which haunted him for years. Richter described the conditions on the mine as so horrifying that it was a job fit only for somebody who had killed his mother and father. He considered responding to advertisements offering jobs in Canada but his passion was always for Africa. When he saw jobs advertised for the Joburg gold mines, he wasted no time in applying.

As one of 80 chosen applicants (out of 1 000), he had to sign a contract with the South African government binding him to work in the mines for a minimum of four and a half years. Richter worked 3.5km underground for Crown Mines � and was eventually made a shift boss.

Before leaving Germany for South Africa, he had become a qualified motor mechanic. This equipped him for life after mining. When he left the mines, he took his tool box to a number of workshops before opening his own Richter Motors garage. Eventually he owned four garages in Johannesburg.

He had a team of mechanics at Kyalami race track and became close friends with racing legend Jackie Stewart and his boss Ken Tyrrell. Whenever they had mechanical problems, Richter would see them right at one of his garages. His reputation became widespread in the car industry and BMW in Germany approached him for help and advice when they came to South Africa.

In 1970 Richter realised a lifelong dream when he bought 1100ha of virgin bush infested with snakes and scorpions in Muldersdrift, northwest of Johannesburg.

His decision was not purely romantic; it also made good business sense. He saw that there was nothing much to offer tourists who wanted a taste of the bush and decided to exploit the gap. Today his ranch provides employment for 200 people from the surrounding community.

According to Pik, Richter was a “great philosopher”.

SA is at war: ‘Declare State of Emergency’ warns ex-Minister Pik Botha

Date Posted: Sunday 02-Dec-2007

The Afrikaans Sunday weekly “Rapport” newspaper interviewed the National-Party era Foreign Affairs minister Pik Botha after the assassination-style murder of his long-time friend, German-born hotelier Franz Richter (80) near the hugely popular tourist attraction, the “Cradle of Mankind’ (Sterkfontein caves).

And local residents want the SA government to send defence-force patrols to the crime-besieged semi-rural area to restore law and order. More than 32 armed attacks by well-organised large gangs have hit the area over the past ten months. Richter’s daughter, who runs a local top hotel, says a major international tour group cancelled a large number of bookings shortly afterwards.

“South Africa doesn’t have ‘normal crime and murderers’ — we are engaged in a form of warfare,’ commented an angered Pik Botha, who has known the murdered man for many years.

….Botha said the 80-year-old murdered Richter was a ‘great philosopher who added spiritual and material value to his new homeland.’ German-born hotelier and entrepreneur Richter’s brutal assassination-style murder, just like that of the Austrian soccer-player Peter Burgstaller on a KZN golf course shortly before FIFA’s high-publicity WC2010 draw event was about to take place in Durban – have hit the Germanic world’s headlines this week.

Recently, I asked a friend who is fairly well schooled in the history of fascism, nazism, apartheid, and the right in general what he knew of Pik Botha. His response: “oh yeah, that was the guy that got tipped off about Pan Am 103 that crashed over Lockerbie”. Gulp. I hadn’t known that. Now,Pan Am 103 is far too big a topic for this post. However, for those interested in it, and the fate of the “McKee Team” that many think was the target of this terror attack, here is an interesting article. There have been a swirl of “conspiracy theories” over the years that the flight was targeted as part of an internecine fight within the US government involving various MidEastern terrorist groups and heroin traffickers.,9171,975399,00.html

Mention of Botha… sure enough, my friend who is usually right on such matters was right again.

…Several pieces of evidence (see H and W) suggest that the authorities knew in advance that the Boeing 747 which blew up over Lockerbie in southern Scotland on December 21 1988 was in danger. The German newspaper Die Zeit claimed that the South African foreign minister, Pik Botha, intended to fly on Pan Am 103 but had been warned off. Mr Botha flew on an earlier flight, Pan Am 101, which, unlike flight 103, had special security checks at Heathrow. No one has been able to definitively confirm or refute the Die Zeit story.

For this next one, you really have to go to the link itself and view the networks that I have been discussing here. The guy who took the time to put these together gets a serious Wayne and Garth “we’re not worthy!”. Good work, man… I’m putting the text in here anyway, but don’t expect to understand it without going to the link and checking out the detailed charts of interrelations there.

I have to mention that the Mets just won to extend the series to it’s final game. Not that I’m such a huge baseball fan, nor a Mets fan, but including the word “Playoffs” in the title allowed it to roll off the tongue. On to the networking…

Miguel Helft, who used to be often read in the Mercury, is now a tech writer for the NY Times and had an article on the front page business section on Tuesday about the pals from PayPal and their microcosmic Silicon Valley networking effect, and how that small group has hatched and reared some of the most successful companies (and exits) in the tech world. However, Helft is not yet familiar with our LinkSViewer tool that does visual networking for Silicon Valley tech and VC networks. As such, I can’t blame him for the illustration from the times – a network of sorts, but I can credit him with the inspiration to put up some of my own constructed networks of this power cluster that has achieved the kind of success to which we all aspire.

…It is important to remember that in this network both Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman are represented twice; once as an investor with a yellow node, and once as a person (board or management team member) by a pink or purple node – as noted in the legend at the bottom of the full size map. In the center of the map, the three person nodes for Thiel, Hoffman, and Roelof are very central because of their involvement with companies across this entire network. The investor nodes for Hoffman and Thiel create the bottom section of the network because of their investments in companies like Wink, Facebook, SixApart, and LinkedIn.

…The bottom left of the image is dominated by PayPal and all of the people linked to it, but the center and top right portions of the map are populated by all of the newer adventures of the PayPal pals, including LinkedIn, Xoom, Facebook, Tagged, Wink, Friendster, and Grassroots Enterprise.

The next image focuses on just the newer adventures after PayPal. This network is constructed around the company LinkedIn; the people Roelof Botha, Peter Thiel, and Reid Hoffman; and the investors Reid Hoffman and Peter Thiel.

In this network you can see the powerhouse of company involvement around these individuals. Hoffman, Thiel and Botha are especially important because these networks only include board members and management team. Even though YouTube’s founders are no doubt going to assume more and more central roles in this network if they continue their involvement with new tech adventures, but they were not management team level employees at PayPal.

Here’s one last image which includes all of the pendants which were removed from the previous maps. This makes the network messier and a little bit harder to sift through for beginners, but it includes more information, including nodes for Steve Chen, Chad Hurley – two of the three co-founders for YouTube (Jawed Karim will be included the next time the data set gets updated, but I didn’t want to wait to post this).

Not only can we now see the connections for Chad Hurley and Steven Chen, but Sequoia Capital’s key involvement in many of these companies by way of Roelof Botha is also clear.

Ok, so I haven’t settled on one perfect representative network, but I stand by my claim that there is more information in these. What do you see in these networks?

I see power. I see networking. I see “social” networking. One of the strangest things in Thiel’s background is his support for the immortality movement. Whether Thiel is a true believer in Alcor and just another sucker like the family of baseball “immortal” Ted William, OR is in on the joke that this is all a bunch of pseudoscience remains to be seen.

You trust this guy?

Peter Thiel puts his weight behind Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s engineering blueprint for alleviating the debilities caused by aging

San Francisco’s Peter A. Thiel, co-founder and former CEO of online payments system PayPal, Founder and Managing Member of Clarium Capital Management, a San Francisco-based hedge fund, and angel investor in social networking site Facebook, has announced his pledge of $3.5 Million to support scientific research into the alleviation and eventual reversal of the debilities caused by aging, to be conducted under the auspices of the Methuselah Foundation, a charity co-founded and Chaired by Dr. Aubrey de Grey.

Mr. Thiel commented “Rapid advances in biological science foretell of a treasure trove of discoveries this century, including dramatically improved health and longevity for all. I’m backing Dr. de Grey, because I believe that his revolutionary approach to aging research will accelerate this process, allowing many people alive today to enjoy radically longer and healthier lives for themselves and their loved ones.

Mr. Thiel will donate a total of $500,000 over the next three years to fund pilot research projects intended to deliver early stage validation of the SENS approach to combating the debilitation caused by aging.

Additionally, from now until the end of 2009, Mr. Thiel promises to match every Dollar donated to the Methuselah Foundation for SENS research with a 50 cent matching contribution from himself, up to a maximum of $3 Million of matching funds.

Dr. de Grey said “I am extremely grateful to Peter for his bold and visionary initiative. I have been working with leading biologists and biochemists around the world in identifying promising research projects, and with this generous donation we will go to work straightaway.”

Alcor, like Pan Am 103, is just way too huge a topic to do justice right now. However, it is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever come across. A whistleblower named Larry Johnson came out with a tell-all expose last year that should have dismantled Alcor. Yet he seemed to get very little press for his claims. If you read this AMAZING thread (seriously, one of the coolest bits of collaborative web research I’ve ever come across), you will be blown away and asking yourself “how the hell are they getting away with this shit?” Well, when one sees folks like Thiel in the mix, among other Silicon Valley elites, it is less difficult to understand.,64749,page=1

Their board appears to have overlap with the Singularity Institute as well, including Ralph Merckle and Aubrey De Grey.

And Thiel is a speaker at the “Singularity Summit”. The “Singularity”, by the way, is a computer geek’s version of the New Age, a grand moment when artificial intelligence passes human intelligence, and makes the decision that we would be better off with our brains uploaded into a computer. Or some bullshit like that. Get this: according to much of the Silicon Valley elite, this is a good thing and highly desirable. But, shhh, they don’t want anybody to know that yet, so keep it quiet, will ya? Thanks…

Peter Thiel is President of Clarium Capital Management and the Chairman of the firm’s Investment Committee, which oversees the firm’s research, investment, and trading strategies.

We’ll finish up with this post from Nicholas Carr’s brilliant “Rough Type” Silicon Valley blog about the Singularity Summit. I particulary like his “New Age wing of the Military Industrial Complex” line. Go there for the picture of all the “posthuman” geeks…

This Post Will Self-Destruct in Five Minutes
October 2008

It was all very hush-hush. On Saturday, September 20, 2008, a carefully selected group of the tech world’s best and brightest assembled in a windowless conference room at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley – barely a mile from the Googleplex as the rocket flies – to discuss preparations for our impending post-human future. This was the founding meeting of Singularity University, an academic institution whose mission, as founder Dr. Peter Diamandis told the elite audience, would be “to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies (bio, nano, info, etc); and to apply, focus and guide these to the best benefit of humanity and its environment.”

Also speaking that day were Ames Research Center Director Dr. S. Pete Worden, inventor and chief singularitarian Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Google founder and co-president Larry Page, Dr. Aubrey de Grey of the Methuselah Foundation, Dr. Larry Smarr of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (his slides, misdated by a day, are here), Director of Cisco Systems Space and Intelligence Initiatives Rick Sanford, Dr. Dharmendra S. Modha of IBM’s Cognitive Computing Group, leading nanotechnologist Dr. Ralph Merkle, and artificial intelligence impresarios Bruce Klein and Susan Fonseca-Klein. Among the few dozen in the audience were Second Life’s Philip Rosedale, Powerset’s Barney Pell, and Wired editor Chris Anderson.

The day after the meeting, IBM’s Modha wrote a brief post about the event, but his words were quickly erased from his web site – not, however, before they were copied to the MindBroker site. “All in all,” wrote Modha, “a weekend day well spent in company of brilliant and sincere people trying to make a positive impact on the world!”

Modha’s post is one of the few public clues to the existence of Singularity University. (Another person who posted news of Singularity University was, he reports, “immediately contacted by people involved with the SU launch and asked [nicely and as a favor, nothing like cease and desist] to remove the post from the web archive, the reason being that the web sources quoted [not available anymore on the web, but still in Google cache and some blogs] had been posted without authorization and in breach of confidentiality.”) Attendees of the Ames meeting were asked to keep their lips zipped: “The Singularity University founding meeting and the details around the Singularity University are being held confidential until a public announcement is officially made. Please do not discuss or share this information publicly. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.” The last thing you want to do is frighten the humans.

Count me in as one of the frightened humans…


PWNED! Sad or Porno for Commies?

•June 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“Once upon a time you dressed so fine
Threw the bums a dime in your prime,
Didn’t you?
Yeah, people’d call, say “Beware doll, you’re
bound to fall”
You thought they were just kiddin’ you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out
And now you don’t walk so proud
Now you don’t talk so loud
About having to be scrounging
Your next meal”
-Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan

Here are some of the pieces from the archives that I had planned on making into a longer series on the economy… but just got too depressed to finish. Dumped some of the older ones, and added a new one. A couple of my “sad” ones were off the web now, including the Wayback Machine, but I found a new one to replace them.


Let’s start with the two flat-out SAD stories. This one is fairly dated, but I haven’t heard anything about a miraculous Las Vegas “recovery” yet and would imagine the jobs situation there is still fairly dire.

In-N-Out Burger on the Strip

…In the recent past, the expected opening of a casino is what drew reporters to long lines of prospective employees. This week it was the expected opening of an In-N-Out Burger. Las Vegas Sun reporter Timothy Pratt observed Monday the growing amazement of Grace Robinson, manager of the Holiday Inn Express where applications for entry-level jobs at the restaurant were being taken. She had not prepared for the steady inflow of so many people, most of them desperate. As Pratt reported, she scrambled to find extra rooms and chairs as jobless men and women kept arriving on a cold and rainy morning.

It was estimated that the two-day opportunity to apply for the at-most 50 jobs that pay $10 an hour to start would draw more than 1,000 people. Privately owned In-N-Out Burger turned 60 years old this year, and it has earned a reputation as a good place to work. But on Monday and Tuesday the people pouring in may not have known that. They were looking for work wherever they could find it. The local economy is getting worse, mirroring the national crisis that erupted last year and whose momentum seems unending.

In line Monday was a 42-year-old woman, Freda Beckwith. She has been jobless since Sept. 17, when she was laid off from the Bellagio where she was a cashier. Her dwindling hope rests with her work history that includes nine years as a cook at New York-New York. She carried documents showing she had once been employee of the month and that she had never been late or absent. Behind on her mortgage, she said she thinks the dozens of jobs she has applied for are going to younger people. “Sometimes I just want to sit down and cry,” she said. The federal government, whose rescue plans are focused on bailing out big financial institutions, should be more aware that good people who want to work are on the verge of tears.

You think? Next up, we find a horrifying tale of the latest trend in Human Resources: companies only accepting applications from those who already have jobs! No more sifting through the apps of the dirty, poor losers who somehow found themselves jobless in the biggest economic crash in 80 years. I mean, how can you expect to get a job if you don’t have one right now? Jeez, what’s wrong with you folks! Makes everything neat, tidy, and efficient for every beloved American HR hack.

Disclosure: as always, this is no endorsement for the Huffington Post, just this one article.

Next exit: Maybe a double entendre from the folks at "People Place"?

Still waiting for a response to the 300 resumés you sent out last month? Bad news: Some companies are ignoring all unemployed applicants. In a current job posting on People Place , a job recruiting website for the telecommunications, aerospace/defense and engineering industries, an anonymous electronics company in Angleton, Texas, advertises for a “Quality Engineer.” Qualifications for the job are the usual: computer skills, oral and written communication skills, light to moderate lifting. But red print at the bottom of the ad says, “Client will not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason.”

In a nearly identical job posting for the same position on the Benchmark Electronics website, the red print is missing. But a human resources representative for the company confirmed to HuffPost that the The People Place ad accurately reflects the company’s recruitment policies.

“It’s our preference that they currently be employed,” he said. “We typically go after people that are happy where they are and then tell them about the opportunities here. We do get a lot of applications blindly from people who are currently unemployed — with the economy being what it is, we’ve had a lot of people contact us that don’t have the skill sets we want, so we try to minimize the amount of time we spent on that and try to rifle-shoot the folks we’re interested in.”

Sony Ericsson, a global phone manufacturer that recently announced that it would be bringing 180 new jobs to the Buckhead, Ga. area, also recently posted an ad for a marketing position on The People Place. The add specified: “NO UNEMPLOYED CANDIDATES WILL BE CONSIDERED AT ALL.” When asked about the ad, a spokeswoman said, “This was a mistake, and once it was noticed it was removed.” Ads asking the unemployed not to apply are easy to find. A Craigslist ad for assistant restaurant managers in Edgewater, N.J. specifies, “Must be currently employed.” Another job posting for a tax manager at an unnamed “top 25 CPA firm” in New York City contains the same line in all caps.

A company’s choice to ignore unemployed applicants and recycle the current workforce ignores the effect of the recession on millions of highly-qualified workers and could prolong the unemployment crisis, said Judy Conti, federal advocacy coordinator for the National Employment Law Project. “In the current economy, where millions of people have lost their jobs through absolutely no fault of their own, I find it beyond unconscionable that any employer would not consider unemployed workers for current job openings,” she said. “Not only are these employers short-sighted in their search for the best qualified workers, but they are clearly not good corporate citizens of the communities in which they work. Increasingly, politicians and policy makers are trying to blame the unemployed for their condition, and to see this shameful propaganda trickle down to hiring decisions is truly sad and despicable.”

There is no law prohibiting discrimination against the unemployed, though advocates said the practice could be illegal if it had a “disparate impact” on minority groups. Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.), whose home state of Michigan has a 14 percent unemployment rate, was particularly disappointed to hear about the ads.
“While I appreciate that many employers are facing unprecedented competition for job openings, to close the door on such a large population of potential employees is shortsighted,” he said. “Being unemployed is not a choice many workers choose to make. I would hope that companies that are discriminating against the unemployed will take into consideration that this choice is only further contributing to long-term unemployment in our country.”


The above two stories illustrate the sadness, cruelty, and viciousness of a major economic downturn, and how it affects regular folk who simply want living wages, a roof over their head, and “three hots and a cot”. Now here’s the FUN part of an economic downturn: watching spoiled, entitled rich people pout, bitch, and whine about their newfound circumstances. You know, life like the rest of us! Pure schaudenfraude.

First, let’s start off with the “Baglady papers” of one Alexandra Penney, Daily Beast columnist and author of “How to Make Love to a Man”, who lost all her money to Madoff. I have very little sympathy for Madoff victims. They had zero moral qualms about where their money was going as long as they got 10% profit every year, and were stupid enough to risk their whole fortunes with him. Get your popcorn, hold the kleenex…

“Yeah, the princess on the steeple
All the pretty people
Drinkin’, thinkin’ that they
Got it made
Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts
But you’d better take that diamond ring,
You’d better pawn it babe”

-more Like a Rolling Stone

Brotha, can you spare a cabin in Palm Beach?

Last Thursday at around 5 p.m., I had just checked on a rising cheese soufflé in my oven when my best friend called. “Heard Madoff’s been arrested,” she said. “I hope it’s a rumor. Doesn’t he handle most of your money?” Indeed, he did. More than a decade ago, when I was in my late 40s, I handed over my life savings to Madoff’s firm. It was money I’d been tucking away since I was 16 years old, when I began working summers in Lord & Taylor, earning about $65 a week. Not a penny was inherited. Not one cent was from my divorce. I earned all of it myself, through a long string of jobs that included working as a cashier at Rosedale fish market in New York City in my 20s, and later, writing bestselling sex books.

When I hung up with my friend, I turned on the TV and began to scour Google for news until the message became nauseatingly clear: Forty years of savings—the money I’d counted on to take me comfortably through the next 30 years—had likely evaporated in Madoff’s scheme. THAT MOTHERFUCKER!! The soufflé fell.

I called Dennis, my consort of 16 years, and he canceled the dinner guests. I took half of a very strong tranquilizer that I’d been stashing for years in case of a death in the family.

….I began to think about my options: I’d have to sell the cottage in West Palm Beach immediately. I’d need to lay off Yolanda. I could cancel the newspaper subscriptions and read everything online. I only needed a cell phone. I’d have to stop taking taxis. And who could highlight my hair for almost no money? And how hard was it to give yourself a really good pedicure?

Then there is my jewelry. I’ve always collected nice watches and pearls. In the back of my mind I’d think, “Buy good stuff because if you’re ever a bag lady, you can sell it.” It might have been a rationalization then—but here I am now: The nightmare may be coming true.

Before I reached for a bedtime Tylenol PM that night, I Googled the Hemlock Society. I wanted to know a painless way to die. Would you believe the Hemlock Society no longer exists?

…In the early 1980s, needing more money, I came up with a book idea: How to Make Love to a Man. My parents told me I’d lost my dignity and didn’t speak to me for nine years. Lawyers have advised me not to speak in specific numbers, but the book sold millions of copies worldwide. Four others followed; all hit The New York Times bestseller list. Checks started rolling in. I bought a one-bedroom apartment on Fifth Avenue, the first thing I’d ever owned. A few years later, Si Newhouse offered me a job as editor-in-chief of Self Magazine. I worked there until the mid-1990s, when I left to pursue my art full time.

…I suddenly had a lot of money. I was in my late 40s, and I felt that I was just too old to have it in a plain old bank account. But I was a creative person, not a savvy investor, so I asked around and talked to my smartest friends with Harvard and Wharton MBAs. There appeared to be a secret society of Madoff investors. A friend who was older, wealthier, and more established somehow got me in. I’ve always had good luck, and I thought it was another stroke of good fortune to be invested with the legendary Bernard Madoff.

Every month I got detailed statements, and my money looked to be growing around 9 to 11 percent. It didn’t seem greedy because I knew other people who were making 15 or 20 percent. I thought, “This is just a very smart investor.”

….It is too painful to think I will lose my Florida cottage, maybe my studio. This is everything I have worked for. I started out life as a painter. Since those days, my dream has been to have a studio to do the work I want to do, to be my own boss, to make the smartest art I can conceive. I finally found my studio two years ago: a small SoHo space awash in light and sun and energy and hope. I will almost surely have to give it up: It is an amputation I may not be able to bear. Not hearing the click of the key to “AP Studio” room 803 makes my thoughts turn to those sweet almondy cyanide capsules.

….I wear a classic clean white shirt every day of the week. I have about 40 white shirts. They make me feel fresh and ready to face whatever battles I may be fighting in the studio to get the best out of my work. How am I going to iron those shirts so I can still feel like a poor civilized person? Even the no iron ones need touching up.

Yolanda makes my life work. She comes in three mornings a week, whirlwinds around, and voila! The shirts are ironed, the sheets are changed, the floors are vacuumed. She’s worked with me for seven years and is a big part of my life. She needs money. She sends it to her family in Colombia. I have more than affection for Yolanda, I love her as part of my family.

…The art market, as everyone pretty much knows, is dead. If I can’t sell my work, I am going to have to find some way to make money. I’ve lived a great and interesting life. I love beautiful things: high thread count sheets, old china, watches, jewelry, Hermes purses, and Louboutin shoes. I like expensive French milled soap, good wines, and white truffles. I have given extravagant gifts like diamond earrings. I traveled a lot. In this last year, I’ve been Laos, Cambodia, India, Russia, and Berlin for my first solo art show. Will I ever be able to explore exotic places again?

….Yesterday, I took my first subway ride in 30 years. Dennis came with me to show me how to get a MetroCard. The world looks very different from a crowded Lexington Avenue No. 6 train.

Yeah, it sure does, honey, it sure does. Hell, that would make a great plot for “Sex and the City Three: Baglady Carrie”. Mr. Big dumps her, pulls out a prenup that he had her sign after three or four drinks one night, and tosses her out on the street. This next one is great, though, yes, a little dated as well. But laughing at Lehman snobs who helped crash the American economy yet also burned up their own fortunes and lifestyle as well never gets old!

Party over in the Hamptons?

Only months ago, ordering that $1,950 bottle of 2003 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon at Craft restaurant or the $26-per-ounce Wagyu beef at Nobu, or sliding into Masa for the $600 prix fixe dinner (not including tax, tip, or drinks), was a way of life for many Wall Street investment bankers. “The culture was that if you didn’t spend extravagantly you’d be ridiculed at work,” says a former Lehmanite. But that was when there were investment banks. Now many bankers, along with discovering $15 bottles of wine, are finding other ways to cut back—if not out of necessity, then from collective guilt and fear: the fitness trainer from three times a week to once a week; the haircut and highlights every eight weeks instead of every five. One prominent “hedgie” recently flew to China for business—but not on a private plane, as before. “Why should I pay $250,000 for a private plane,” he said to a friend, “when I can pay $20,000 to fly commercial first class?”

The new thriftiness takes a bit of getting used to. “I was at the Food Emporium in Bedford [in Westchester County] yesterday, using my Food Emporium discount card,” recounts one Greenwich woman. “The well-dressed wife of a Wall Street guy was standing behind me. She asked me how to get one. Then she said, ‘Have you ever used coupons?’ I said, ‘Sure, maybe not lately, but sure.’ She said, ‘It’s all the rage now—where do you get them?’”

One former Lehman executive in her 40s stood in her vast clothes closet not long ago, talking to her personal stylist. On shelves around her were at least 10 designer handbags that had cost her anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 each.

“I don’t know what to do,” she said. “I guess I’ll have to get rid of the maid.” Why not sell a few of those bags?, the stylist thought, but didn’t say so.
“Well,” the executive said after a moment, “I guess I’ll cut her from five days a week to four

But the mid-30s or mid-40s Lehman banker who lived up to his high compensation—or beyond it—is reeling, hurting, and possibly bankrupt. One Sunday evening in October, a former Lehmanite in his mid-30s settles into a velvet banquette at the Gramercy Park Hotel’s elegant Rose Bar. At first he’s circumspect. But after a couple of Johnnie Walker Blacks on the rocks, he opens up.

“Let’s take a guy who makes $5 million a year,” the banker suggests. “He’s paid two and a half million dollars of that in equity compensation”—Lehman Brothers stock. Plus he gets to buy that stock at a 30 percent discount, so he’s really getting $3.25 million in stock. “Plus appreciation? Over five years? That’s $25 to $30 million!

“Then let’s say a guy in that position borrowed $5 million against the $30 million in stock. It would seem a very conservative loan, right? Until the $30 million goes down to zero, which is what happened. So now he’s negative $5 million.”

True, that same Lehman banker got the other half of his compensation in cash. The banker nods. “For five years, he made two and a half million dollars a year in cash. So that’s twelve and a half million dollars. But of course he’s had to pay more or less 50 percent in taxes, so divide that and he’s got six and a quarter million. He’s probably spent that money over those five years—$1 million a year, it’s not so hard to do, right? So he has nothing—and he has to repay that $5 million loan.”

A month before the bankruptcy, the banker muses, his peers were complaining about the $10,000 or $20,000 they had to pay for lifetime dibs on the best season tickets in the New York Giants’ new stadium. But they were paying. They were complaining about private-school tuitions. “But it was actually a way of saying, ‘I’m rich—rich enough to afford it.’

“The day Lehman went bankrupt, people realized they were going to get no bonuses, no severance, and no equity. Oh—and no health care. And no salary.”

…Before Lehman’s stock began to plummet, Lebenthal suggests, Blake’s annual compensation was $9.5 million—much of that in company stock. He was carrying a $2 million loan used for a house in the Hamptons, but felt perfectly able to afford his annual expenses: the Park Avenue apartment maintenance ($120,000); the Hamptons house mortgage ($75,000); the nanny and driver ($100,000); his wife’s clothing ($100,000); the personal trainer three times a week ($18,000); food, including restaurants ($30,000); charitable benefits and other nonprofit causes ($200,000); private school for three children ($78,000); Christmas in Palm Beach ($15,000); spring in Aspen ($15,000); and a wedding-anniversary diamond necklace for Grigsby ($50,000).

At least Blake has been hired on by Barclays. But his Lehman stock portfolio is now worthless. He and Grigsby have to cut their annual living expenses from about $1 million to a fraction of that, and do it in ways that don’t show, for the worst—the worst—would be the public disgrace of falling out of their social class.

First to go: vacations, the trainer, the driver, and entertaining. No restaurants, no shopping excursions, no new ball clothes for Grigsby (last year’s will have to do). But, for now—for appearances—the Somersets will scrimp to keep the kids in their schools, and the nanny, and the Hamptons house. For now.

… Greenwich estate manager Jacqueline de Bar describes how wealthy locals are cutting back: letting the pastures grow, canceling the leaf blowers, doing the storm windows themselves. At Betteridge Jewelers—known as Wall Street’s jeweler—third-generation owner Terry Betteridge says a lot more customers are coming in since the meltdown, to sell, not buy. “I’ve seen some bad ones in the last two months,” he says. “I know a Wall Street guy who’s literally been selling jewelry to make the mortgage payments. He and his wife came in together, bringing things to sell.… Just this morning, we took in a $2.7 million lot. An amazing collection, some of the best jewelry in the world, everything signed—extraordinary things I couldn’t buy before. No matter what I bid wasn’t enough. Now I can.”

… In this global economy, the age’s excesses and aftermath are spread wide, nowhere as vividly as in London. Notting Hill was the epicenter of London’s gilded age, where every driveway, it seemed, had a Maserati, every mansion a makeover, often including an underground pool. Now, says Sunday Times columnist Rachel Johnson, who chronicled the invasion of the financiers in her 2006 novel, Notting Hell, bankers are staggering around like lost souls, while their wives gather at 202, the stylish Westbourne Grove restaurant in Nicole Farhi’s boutique, to share their fears. “What they’re crying about is they’ve lost all their stock, and their houses are worth less than they were,” says Johnson of the wives, “but they’re really upset that on January 31 they have to pay huge tax bills. Even though they don’t have the cash anymore, the liability remains on what they earned before.”

Let’s finish off with a longtime figure on the New Age circuit, vegetarian activist and Baskin-Robbins heir John Robbins. I had always thought him to be a slightly pretentious, but generally harmless fellow, who talked a lot about “sustainability”, “right livelihood”, “alternative energy”, blah blah blah. Turns out he had ALL his money in with Madoff. And to top it off, he convinced our local paper to not only run this story on this “tragedy”, but even got them to add a plug for his “Save John Robbins” donation campaign! Pathetic. Now he is back on the circuit with a new book… more or less  “Surviving the Crash for Greedy New Age Hypocrites”. This article dates from when he first experienced poverty. I’m also including a short exchange I had with someone on the chat forum about this story.

“No one put a gun to his head to invest with Madoff. John should have put his money where his mouth was and invested in companies that were concerned with more than the bottom line.”

-No kidding! Total hypocrite. “Sustainable”, “socially conscious”, businesses don’t pull down 10% year after year. So he invested in the nastiest of hedge funds, not giving a **** what type of stuff they were invested in: 3rd world logging, sweatshops, who cares as long as I get my 10%? But, YOU all you New Age peons who buy my books: invest in a vegan restaurant! Recycle! Give up your interest in “material items”!
Unbelievable that the Sentinel would give him the little “donate” blurb. I think I’ll mail him a **** rock… an “organic, earthy rock!”
(Psychedelic Dungeon)

Six weeks ago, renowned vegetarian author and Soquel resident John Robbins was painfully reminded of what he’s always known to be true. Robbins, the Soquel resident who walked away from the Baskin-Robbins fortune to seek a simple life grounded in sustainable food practices, lost his entire life savings in the $50 billion Ponzi scheme allegedly headed by Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff.

“I know at this moment more than ever that our real wealth is in the love in our hearts, and the people we care about and who care about us, and in the quality of relationships to the spirit and natural worlds,” Robbins, 61, said in an interview Thursday.

Robbins, the best-selling author of “Diet for a New America” and “The Food Revolution,” said he and his wife of 42 years, Deo, lost 98 percent of their net worth in the vast investment sham that has sapped international banks, movie stars and charitable organizations. As a famous longtime resister of what he calls the “toxic mythology” that “self-worth is defined by net worth,” Robbins acknowledged the inescapable irony of losing more than $1 million in a market-driven scheme fueled by old-fashioned greed.

“We are all part of the system, I’ve always known that,” he said. “There is no truly cruelty-free lifestyle. We can minimize the damage, and increase the level of respect we manifest toward others, and, in our economic dealings, try to be as socially responsible as we can be. I believed I was doing that.”

Robbins, who has spoken at the United Nations and appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” said he began investing small amounts with Madoff Securities International Ltd. through a trusted friend and attorney in Marin County whose family had been Madoff clients for 35 years. Then, after several years of steady earnings from what he thought was a portfolio in line with his principles, Robbins decided to place all of his holdings from book royalties and speaking fees with Madoff, who faces a host of federal charges.

“This wasn’t a bad investment,” Robbins said. “This was a theft, a criminal action.” Robbins assumed his savings were safe because he knew much wealthier people were longtime investors with Madoff, a former Nasdaq chairman who had earlier been cleared by federal investigators.

“I’m not a financier, I’m an activist,” he said. “I took comfort that these people saw fit to invest.” On Dec. 11, the friend who had steered Robbins into the Madoff fund called with the bad news: They had both lost everything. Since then, Robbins has taken in tenants on the 8-acre property he and his wife share in the Santa Cruz Mountains with son Ocean, daughter-in-law Michelle and twin grandsons, River and Bodhi, who have developmental disabilities. “It’s just a shame — it’s a terrible thing to happen to anybody,” said Jeff Nelson, who along with wife Sabrina became vegetarian and founded the Web site after reading “Diet for a New America.”

The critically acclaimed 1987 book impeaching America’s meat-rich eating habits champions a vegetarian diet for the betterment of human health and animal welfare. Robbins followed it up with “The Food Revolution,” which argued against processed food, in 2001. The Nelsons are now friends with Robbins and are using their Web site to promote a fundraising effort launched by the author’s former agent, Patti Breitman of Fairfax, to help the Robbins family stay afloat. “He saved all this money from a lifetime of work and it’s been stolen,” Nelson said. “It’s like somebody burned his house down.”

Ever since Robbins left the legendary ice cream company started by father Irv Robbins and uncle Burt Baskin, Robbins said he has lived frugally, donating to charities and speaking for free in recent years. Robbins said he and his wife, who has gone back to work, nearly lost their home of 11 years last month, but were rescued by donations from supporters. Robbins said he also has submitted a proposal for a new book to his publisher.


•August 19, 2009 • 8 Comments

A Kucinich Man

” I don’t agree with Sideshow Bob’s Bart-killing policy, but I DO agree with his Selma-killing policy!”

-Homer Simpson

Turns out the popular “Obama Joker” poster is not the work of some shady GOP operative, but a Palestinian from Chicago! This may mean nothing at all. However, I have long believed that some of the power elite who built up Obama from the start will eventually be those who are enlisted to destroy him. George Soros and Talat Othman, for example. Othman is a GOP power broker and a Chicago Palestinian who also lurks in Obama’s background. Also, note that the artist didn’t add the “socialist” tag and claims to be a Dennis Kucinich supporter. Again, this may be all as he describes it, but he’s not exactly going to say “yeah, this was all a black op” nor is the LA Times going to dig too deep.

Alkhateeb’s original Flickr page surpassed 20,000 views. The Times found his Flickr site last week thanks to a tip left by a loyal reader of The Ticket. By Friday, the page had been taken down.

On Alkhateeb’s page, a manipulated image condemning fellow Chicagoan and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (captioned “epic fail”) was mixed in with parodies of the “Guitar Hero” game franchises — dubbed Quran Hero — and of Napoleon riding a motorcycle (pictured after the jump).

…Alkhateeb says he wasn’t actively trying to cover his tracks, but he did want to lay low. He initially had concerns about connecting his name with anything critical of the president — especially living in Chicago, where people are “very, very liberal,” he said.

….”I abstained from voting in November,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Living in Illinois, my vote means close to nothing as there was no chance Obama would not win the state.” If he had to choose a politician to support, Alkhateeb said, it would be Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

Interesting. Kucinich is a favorite target of mine. I went from actually supporting the guy in earlier years, until I figured out what he was really about.  He is not a liberal, but a fascist, and one with the most dire connections. His capacity for deception is incredible.  I don’t like to randomly tag politicians with the term “op” very often as it is generally redundant, but from personal, in-my-face experience, I will state that the whole Kucinich thing is an OP. Capitals intended.  Key to understanding him is his rise to power and how it was based upon his exploiting racial fears in Cleveland to bring out the Eastern European ethnic voters in key neighborhoods. That piece of his history is generally omitted from his bio, but can be found with a tiny amount of digging. Enough on Dennis for now… end tangent.

…Although Alkhateeb claims he was making no political statement with the artwork, he’s plugged into the Washington debate. Though born in the United States, his Palestinian family closely follows Middle Eastern politics. “I think he’s definitely doing better than Bush was,” Alkhateeb said of Obama. Alkhateeb’s views on foreign relations align with the Democrats, he said, while he prefers Republican ideals on domestic issues. Alkhateeb’s assessment of Obama: “In terms of domestic policy, I don’t think he’s really doing much good for the country right now,” he said. “We don’t have to ‘hero worship’ the guy.”

So his views on foreign relations align with the Dems, but he is a Republican on domestic issues AND follows Pali/Israel politics closely.  In other words, he agrees with the Dems increasing anti-Israel shift, but doesn’t give a crap about the poor. Got it, Mr. Alkhateeb! I suspect this is a more politically popular philosophy among American Muslims than is generally recognized. After all, Bush WON the Muslim vote in 2000 and part of Sharia law is a 2% flat tax! I remember somebody bringing this tax up on a generally anti-jihad blog and immediately the attitude among the teabaggers shifted pretty quick. “Well, converting wouldn’t be THAT bad…” Hilarious…

Principal Busted for Soka Gokkai War Chants Against Enemies

•March 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment
And you were worried about the Creationists?

And you were worried about the Creationists?

Soka Gakkai has to be top of the list of my “Most Under-rated Cults of All Time”.  Why? Well, for starters, unlike most well-known cults, in Japan, they are part of the governing coalition with the party that has ruled that country since WW2! Imagine for a moment, if  America had a parliamentary system like much of the world, but was dominated by one party that was in a coalition with Scientology or the Raelians. That is Soka Gakkai. Oh, and throw in some Amway-style multi-level marketing corporations into the mix and you have a one-stop mind control/religion/political/industrial machine. These folks ain’t screwing around! And they have Tina Turner and Quincy Jones as celebrity followers. For those familiar with the “Ike and Tina” TV movie (awesome, mandatory viewing for old-school R&B fans), you may recall that it was SG meditation that Tina credits with her 80s return to stardom.

For those interested in more on SG, here is Rick Ross’ database on this group:

Buddhism often gets placed into the category of “nonviolent religions” by starry-eyed Westerners.  However, anyone familiar with the history of Asia over the past few millennia knows that Buddhists know how to get their war on just like anybody else!  Also, considering the stealth campaign by Transcendental Meditation to sneak TM into American public schools, Americans should not just be wary of efforts like the Texas Schoolbooks creationism movement, but keep an eye on NON-Christian efforts to destroy the separation of church and state within public schools.  Like this one in Long Island…

From WCBS-TV in New York:

…A public school principal is facing charges of major misbehavior.  Education officials are looking into a reports that the man led religious chants against people he considered enemies.  CBS 2 HD spoke with outraged moms — and the principal.

Parents at P.S. 24 in Riverdale say their principal is unprincipled.  “It all comes down to his lack of competence as a leader,” said Unjoo Trebach of the school’s parents association.  Philip Scharper is under investigation by the city’s Department of Education for potentially crossing the line between church and state with Buddhism.

“He has tried to recruit staff members to be part of his faith and he has also hired a couple of people from his temple,” parent Tracy Shelton said.  The Department of Education is taking the allegations very seriously. Among them — that Principal Scharper handed out Buddhist chant cards while on school property.

The complaint, filed by someone at the school, said Scharper also led “Buddhist chants” against teachers on a “hate list.”

Harry Potter’s War On Islam

•March 28, 2009 • 1 Comment
The Not-So-Elder of Zion Receives His Satanic Instructions

The Not-So-Elder of Zion Receives His Satanic Instructions

Apparently, the Ziono-Hollywoodists are using Harry Potter as a Satanic tool to undermine Islam. Well, according to Iranian TV, that is…

According to the special, the “Ziono-Hollywoodists” are using Satanism and the Harry Potter movies to convince young viewers to “join us.”

In the documentary, the voiceover (with translation by MEMRI-TV) notes “the creation of new stories, based on mythical themes relating to witchcraft and devil worship, has always been a tool used by contemporary Zionists […] now, more visibly than ever, targeting innocent children and youth.” The documentary explains that the theory of witchcraft originates in the kabbalah, which itself originated “from a rabbi or magicians of ancient Egypt and were passed down to the Knights Templar.” (No worries, this is the closest thing to a “Da Vinci Cod”e reference in the documentary.)

“I call this a cultural crusader war…” says Ali Asghar Sa’adati, identified as an Iranian Expert on Religious Cinema. ” Their military expedition is currently in Afghanistan and Iraq, while their cultural expedition consists of these films and DVDs.”