April 20, 2018

Fun on Friday: Zucked!


Fun on Friday: Zucked!

APRIL 13, 2018  BY SCHIFFGOLD   0   1

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg experienced the big-boy version of getting called into the principal’s office this week. He spent about 10 hours testifying before Congress after news came out that a data firm accessed Facebook user information.

The iconic image from the hearing was Zuckerberg perched on a booster cushion. He looked like Dennis the Menace sitting in front of an entire room full of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson clones.

On a side-note, it was funny seeing Zuck in a suit. I wonder where he rented that? I have this image in my head of a hoodie hanging on a coat rack outside the Senate chamber.

Anyway, Congress roasted Zuckerberg and dropped some hints that they might just regulate Facebook if he’s not careful. I find it a bit ironic that the “deliberative body” that oversees and “authorizes” the most invasive, systematic and far-reaching surveillance state in the world spent 10 hours grilling the CEO of a social media site about privacy.

It also kind of amuses me because these people don’t understand the internet.

It reminds me a little of my late grandfather. He was 92 when he died, but he was extremely spry up until the end of his life. My grandfather was a retired Army colonel who enlisted just before World War II and served through the Vietnam War. I share this information just to give you an idea of his personality. He was old-school Army all the way. Before he passed away, we met for lunch about every other week. Now, my grandfather was curious about the world, but it had clearly passed him by. He used to show up to Wendy’s with a Post-It note tucked in his shirt pocket. During lunch, he would whip it out and regale me with questions he’d come up with over the last few days. “What is a tweet?” “What is Bitcoin?” “How do you save pictures on your phone?” “Why in the hell is the clock on my DVD player blinking.”

You get the idea.

The all-time best Gramps question was, “What is twerking?”

Picture for just a moment me explaining twerking to my at-the-time 91-year-old grandfather. God rest his soul.

At any rate, Gramps didn’t understand a lot about the modern world. But here’s the thing – he didn’t pretend to. That’s the difference between my grandfather and these dopes in Congress. He recognized the limits of his knowledge. The political class doesn’t possess that kind of self-awareness. Not only do these clowns fail to understand most of what goes on in the real world – they think they have the competence and divine right to control it.

This exchange between Zuckerberg and Sen. John Kennedy (courtesy of CNN) reveals the level of ignorance most of the Senate displayed.

Kennedy: “Are you willing to go back and work on giving me a greater right to erase my data?”

Zuckerberg: “Senator, you can already delete any of the data that’s there or delete all of your data.”

Kennedy: “Are you willing to expand my right to prohibit you from sharing my data?”

Zuckerberg: “Senator, again, I believe that you already have that control….”

Kennedy: “Are you willing to give me the right to take my data on Facebook and move it to another social media platform?”

Zuckerberg: “Senator, you can already do that….”

Some senators even made crap up. Sen. Deb Fischer asked “how many data categories” Facebook stores. Zuckerberg basically replied, “What in the f— is a data category you raving moron?” Of course, he didn’t put it that way. It’s hard to be belligerent when you’re sitting on a booster cushion. But I’m pretty confident that’s a reasonably accurate representation of what he was thinking.

Here’s the takeaway, these people have absolutely no clue how Facebook works, but by-golly they know how to regulate it! And millions of Americans think this is a great idea!

This is pretty much modus operandi for Congress. Politicians don’t generally know much about anything – other than how to get votes. And yet the vast majority of your fellow citizens trust these people to make them safer, richer and happier.

And then they wonder why they are not safer, richer nor happier.

Historian Kevin Gutzman summed things up beautifully in a Facebook post that was published at the Tenth Amendment Center.

The Senate committee members’ grilling of Zuckerberg put on full display what seems intuitive: that there is no way a legislative body can have adequate knowledge to manage every element of a society of 325,000,000 people (let alone the entire world).

These people are comparably ignorant of any particular issue or “policy area” that comes to mind: management of federal lands, the economy for agricultural products, the effect of illegal immigration on rural Texas towns, the Constitution’s implications concerning private firearms ownership, funding of urban schools, welfare’s effects on family formation, the consequences of easy access to capital for college funding…

So yes. Let’s put these people in charge of everything!

Or how about this. Let’s not.

Turkish President Fires Another Shot in an Escalating War Against the Dollar

Turkish President Fires Another Shot in an Escalating War Against the Dollar

Source: schiffgold.com 


Turkey went on a gold-buying spree in 2017and that trend continued in the first two months of 2018.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan likes gold and it’s pretty clear the president has been pushing Turkey’s central bank to buy gold and reduce foreign currency reserves in an effort to move away from dependence on the dollar and euro.

On April 16, Erdoğan got a little more overt in his apparent quest to dethrone the dollar, suggesting international loans should be made in gold instead of greenbacks in order to prevent exchange rate pressure on economies.

I made a suggestion at a G20 meeting. I asked, ‘Why do we make all loans in dollars? Let’s use another currency.’ I suggest that the loans should be made based on gold.”

According to a Turkish newspaper, Erdoğan confirmed making the suggestion at the G20 meeting during a speech at the opening ceremony of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Istanbul. Turkey’s president inferred that global dependence on the dollar was a “tool of oppression.”

With the dollar, the world is always under exchange rate pressure. We should save states and nations from this exchange rate pressure. Gold has never been a tool of oppression throughout history.”

Turkey is experiencing that exchange rate pressure firsthand. The Turkish lira hit a record low of 4.1920 against the dollar on April 11. According to the Hurriyet Daily, the lira lost 7% of its value last month, making it the second-worst performing currency in the world behind the Russian ruble.

Erdoğan has been trying to boost Turkish currency for months, and gold has played an important role in his strategy. Last year, the president urged Turks to use gold instead of dollars to help stem a drop in the lira. London-based Metals Focus Ltd. consultant Cagdas Kucukemiroglu said at the time that the president is also likely pushing the country’s central bank to buy gold.

The president has always been pro-gold and is against the dollar, and that’s informing the central bank’s decision as well.”

Turkey isn’t the only country working to dethrone the dollar. China recently launched yuan-based oil contract to directly compete with the petrodollar. Last June, China took the first step toward establishing a “petroyuan” when it launched a direct trade relationship with Russia, allowing oil purchases to be made strictly in the Chinese currency. Yuan-based oil contracts began trading in Shanghai in March. As  a Bloomberg report put it, “China’s hoping the yuan could challenge the dominance of the greenback in international trade.”

There have been reports that China may back some yuan-based oil contracts with gold. Last fall, the Chinese announced the launch of a gold-backed, yuan-denominated oil futures contract.  These contracts would be priced in yuan, but convertible to gold. As Alasdair Macleod, head of research at Goldmoney, told the Asian Review, including an option to have the contract paid in physical gold would ease some of the wariness oil exporters have about the yuan.

Dollar-dominance has given the US a great deal of leverage over other countries. Moves by Turkey, Russia, China and other countries with rocky relationships with the US to diminish their dependence on the dollar and even undermine its position as the global reserve currency makes sense. It also makes sense that gold would make up part of their plans. As we’ve reported in the past, Gold plays a key role in both China and Russia’s plans for economic independence. Gold cannot be easily controlled and manipulated like fiat currencies.

Erdoğan’s comments about using gold as the basis for international loans seem to be another shot in the escalating war against the dollar.

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Is PTM an ‘engineered protest’?

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpuron 20 Apr 20181 Comment

A statement from the Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said on April 12 that “engineered protests” would not be allowed to reverse the gains of counterterrorism operations and cautioned the nation against forgetting the sacrifices of “real heroes”. He, without naming the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), blamed it as something which was not indigenous but was being supported and guided by the usual suspects they have been accusing of guiding and supporting the Baloch (and the Bengalis in the past) for protesting against the injustices and the state terror being perpetrated against them.


The Baloch have been always labelled as agents of India and Afghanistan, though the injustices that they protest against are perpetrated by those who label them such. Oddly, often times these crimes of disappearances and mutilated bodies of Baloch people have been imputed against India and others.


Interestingly, on 19 December, 2016, in the session of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics Control, the Senate panel’s chairman, Rehman Malik (former Interior Minister), said he knew that the uniforms of law enforcement agencies were being used by RAW operatives, who abduct and kidnap people in Balochistan in order to bring a bad name to the forces and destabilize Pakistan. “It is no more a secret that RAW is actively working in Balochistan to incite sectarian and ethnic violence to replicate an East Pakistan-like situation,” he claimed.


So what can one say about the efficiency of their intelligence agencies or their blatant lies when they put the blame of all their evil work on others and proclaim their innocence.


But this is not the only instance that this preposterous excuse has been used to cover up their crimes. In May 2012, during a hearing by the Supreme Court on the issue of missing persons in Balochistan, a CCTV video of Frontier Corps personnel abducting a Baloch youth was shown to then Inspector General Frontier Corps, Major General Obaidullah Khan, who was dismissed for corruption in April 2016. Despite this irrefutable evidence the then IGFC denied the charge, saying that there existed the possibility that FC uniforms were being misused by unknown people.


They lie unashamedly to put the blame on RAW and others and expect people will believe them. They have maligned the Baloch so long and so often that many believe their version of events, and now they have started this maligning campaign against the PTM and hope that people will overlook the injustices that the PTM is protesting against and start accusing them of being an ‘engineered movement’.


Mama Abdul Qadeer Baloch and Farzana Majeed, with half a dozen Baloch women, 10-year-old Ali Haider, nine-year-old Beauragh Baloch, son of Mir Jalil Rekei, and four young men of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons Long March, walked braving cold and rain from Quetta to Karachi and then from Karachi to Islamabad in 106 days. They faced threats and hardships of not knowing where they would be spending the night, were accused of being agents of RAW and being funded by it. I had the honour of being with them for 26 days during this historic March.


Mama Qadeer refused to accept any donation from even the most ardent supporters and those who wanted to show support and goodwill. He didn’t want it to be tainted by allegations that it was an exercise in making money. But this did not stop the state and its supporters to allege that this was an ‘engineered protest’.


On March 1, 2014, the day the march ended in Islamabad, Air Vice Marshal Shehzad Chaudhry, quite blatantly lied on Capital TV program when he said that Mama Abdul Qadeer, the leader of the VBMP Long March, has a Thuraya satellite phone and that he wouldn’t be surprised if there were there three or four Land Cruisers with them. To put the record straight, Mama had a cheap Nokia phone and the only vehicle accompanying the marchers was an ambulance provided by the Edhi Foundation.


The TV One channel ran a ticker that Rs 2 million were being given to the marchers daily and that food for them came from five-star hotels. The fact was that the marchers ate whatever food was available from wayside hotels and quite a few times, in Sindh as well as Punjab, the owners refused to accept money for the food or tea taken.


The core group of marchers numbering 16 was housed for the night by different individuals who were friends of supporters and provided whatever dinner and breakfast they could manage. These individuals had to face harassment of the intelligence agencies for playing host to the marchers. Aslam Verraich, an artist and political activist, played host to them at his residence in Wazirabad for six nights. Mama Qadeer and other marchers stayed with me and my friends for six nights in Sindh.


The supposedly informed analysts and some TV channels lied unashamedly to malign the march and its participants because this march had taken the battle to the establishment’s heartland. The PTM has moved the Pashtun protest from the hinterlands of FATA to the establishment’s heartland and that is what is causing concern in all quarters of the establishment.


The maligning campaign against the PTM has just begun; we weren’t surprised when they maligned us because we knew that this is what they had done when Bengalis wanted their rights and protested against the establishment and elite of West Pakistan, which denied them their rights. Here, either you accept the injustices quietly without a murmur or be ready to face a vicious maligning campaign. The more potent your protest is, the more vicious and vociferous will their propaganda be, so the PTM will face even more viciousness and suppression now that the Army Chief has spoken against them.


This tirade should be considered as accolade for it means that the PTM is denting the narrative that has long been fed to people - that it is the Pashtun who are to blame while the Army and State are innocent. The PTM has challenged and changed the narrative and that is why it is being challenged and will be challenged even more viciously by the State in coming days and they should be prepared to face whatever is thrown at them, for without braving the odds, victories are hard to achieve.


A word of advice from this old man to Manzoor Pashteen and all the supporters of the PTM, who mostly seem to be young like Manzoor Pashteen himself: this will be a long struggle, so do not expect quick unhindered victory or daily victories for, as they say, the party has just begun. You should always keep in mind what Friedrich Nietzsche said is the defining quality of great men: “It is not the strength but the duration of great sentiments that makes great men”.  To put this in a practical perspective, take the example of South Africa and its Apartheid and its opponents. There must have been many who intensely hated Apartheid and there must have been many who struggled hard, but lost heart after a few years, a decade. However, it was Madiba Nelson Mandela who refused to give up despite 27 years of incarceration and it is he who eventually defeated the Apartheid.


You, my dear friends, will have to be steadfast, consistent and persistent if you want to win. The Baloch have been struggling since March 27, 1948 and will continue their struggle. Victories which change fates of Nations come at a much higher price than the price exacted by other struggles.


My respected father very often used to quote a couplet which saw me through a lot of difficult and desperate times in my life. Maybe it would be of some utility to those of PTM who struggle for their rights.


Insaan nahin woh jo darr jaaye, iss daur kay khooni manzar say

Jis haal main jeena mushkil ho, uss haal main jeena lazim hai


Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur ranks among the few who raise the issue of “missing people” or victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan


Clingendale Silk Road Headlines

Source: Louis Vest/flickr

 According to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, the embassies in Beijing of EU member states have compiled a joint report that criticizes the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) [EU ambassadors band together against Silk Road]. Of the 28 EU countries, Hungary was the only one whose ambassador to China has not signed the report. Handelsblatt quotes the report as stating that BRI “runs counter to the EU agenda for liberalizing trade and pushes the balance of power in favor of subsidized Chinese companies.” It is unclear what the status of the joint report is and for what purpose it has been written, as it is not publicly available. The fact that nearly all EU ambassadors are said to support the report is remarkable, since most countries in the eastern half of the European Union have signed a memorandum of understanding with China on BRI cooperation - a symbolic sign of support for the Chinese initiative. Interestingly, several Western European leaders who visited China in recent months - including Macron of France, May of the UK and Rutte of the Netherlands - have refused to sign similar MoU’s in spite of invitations from the Chinese government to do so [Netherlands keen on Chinese investment but wants belt and road to benefit foreign companies].

Meanwhile, the European Commission is preparing an EU strategy on ‘Europe-Asia connectivity’ which is likely to be perceived by many as a European answer to BRI. This new connectivity strategy will be aimed at contributing to greater economic integration across Europe and Asia, and cooperating with Asian countries to do so, while defining and promoting relevant EU interests and values. As such it appears to be an effort to counterbalance Chinese influence - in particular what the EU regards as the undermining of liberal economic norms - in the Europe-Asia economic sphere. After the European Commission’s proposal of September 2017 for an EU-wide investment screening framework, which is said to have been triggered primarily by Chinese investments in the EU, the connectivity strategy may turn out to be a further sign of growing worries in the EU about the rise of Chinese economic power. To which degree this is the case remains to be seen as the strategy will not be publicly available until later this year.

Frans-Paul van der Putten

This week's Silk Road Headlines

EU ambassadors band together against Silk Road [Handelsblatt]

Is China waging “Debt Trap Diplomacy” Against Its Neighbors? [China US Focus]

Poland Designated as Home to New BRI East European Logistics Hub [HKTDC]

Can a small German city reinvent itself as a gateway between Europe and Asia?[Belt and Road Blog]

Attracting foreign funding to build the BRI would be a capital idea [East Asia Forum]

Netherlands keen on Chinese investment but wants belt and road to benefit foreign companies [SCMP]

China and the EU in the Horn of Africa: competition and cooperation?[Clingendael]

Iran Planning Super-Highway to Connect with Mediterranean [Silk Road Briefing]

HSBC names veteran banker head of Asia belt and road initiative [Reuters]

Leadership in a Multipolar World: Can the United States Influence Cooperation between China and Russia? [NBR] 

To increase awareness of and facilitate the debate on China's Belt and Road Initiative, the Clingendael Institute publishes Silk Road Headlines, a weekly update on relevant news articles from open sources