Hunter Finally Admits Joe Biden Is “The Big Guy”

Hunter Finally Admits Joe Biden Is “The Big Guy”

Hunter Biden on Wednesday testified to Congress that his father, Joe, was indeed “the big guy” referenced in an email pertaining to a business deal with a Chinese state-linked energy company that made the Biden family and friends millions of dollars. He denied, however, that Joe Biden ever received a 10% stake as was indicated in the text message.

“At one point, we asked Hunter about the 10% for the ‘big guy,’” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told Breitbart News following the first son’s six-hour, closed-door deposition.

“We showed him the email … And he said, ‘Oh, that was after my father left office.’” she told the outlet.

Hunter then tried to downplay the 10% idea:

What’s wrong with having a pie-in-the-sky idea? When he [Joe Biden] left office in 2017, it thought he was done. I had no idea was gonna run for president. What’s wrong with just some pie?’ … thinking that he [Joe Biden] could be in the business. –Breitbart

Greene said that Hunter insisted that “there was no percentage for my father in the business,” and that the 20 speakerphone calls Joe Biden joined was considered normal.

“He was saying it’s totally normal for your parents to call you,” said Greene. “He just totally kept on saying, ‘Oh, this is normal. This is normal.'”

Greene also confirmed Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-KY) statement that Hunter testified he joined the board of Burisma Holdings to counter Russian aggression. “He said he was picked to serve on Burisma ‘s board to defend democracy and Burisma was stopping Russian aggression,” Greene said.

Hunter’s stated purpose for joining Burisma’s board is a new claim that indicates bizarre reasoning never before revealed.

In 2015, Burisma was under suspicion of money laundering and public corruption. Prosecutor Victor Shokin investigated the case before his termination due to pressure from then-Vice President Joe Biden, who threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid from Ukraine if the Ukrainian government did not fire the prosecutor investigating Burisma.

Joe Biden later bragged about the firing during a 2018 appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations. –Breitbart

According to Greene, Republicans need to “get ready” for Democrats to fabricate another Russian disinformation hoax related to Hunter and the 2024 election – and that it would likely fit the media’s existing narrative against both Trump and protecting the Biden family.

“I have a prediction that they’re gonna move it on to members of Congress like me and others, Jim Jordan, Jamie Comer, any of us that got hot and heavy on this Ukraine Burisma stuff, that they’re somehow going to say that Republicans are Russian sympathizers. They’re gonna call me that anyway, because I won’t fund the Ukraine war. They’re probably going to accuse us of being Russian sympathizers and falling for Russian disinformation and its election meddling. And then Democratic members of Congress here already saying they will not certify Trump’s election if he wins.” -MTG

“It was there’s a really weird theme in there with the whole Russian thing,” said Greene. 

In November, the House Oversight Committee revealed that President Biden received $40,000 in Chinese funds which were “laundered” through his brother, James Biden, in a “complicated financial transaction” marked as a ‘loan,’ which took place just weeks after Hunter Biden threatened the Chinese with his father’s wrath in a July 30, 2017 text message to a CEFC China Energy employee.

The alleged 2017 transfer from first brother James Biden to the future president involves the same business deal in which Joe Biden was called the “big guy” and penciled in for a 10% cut — and would be the first proven instance of the commander-in-chief getting a piece of his family’s foreign income.

The money ended up in Joe Biden’s bank account on Sept. 3, 2017, via a check labeled “loan repayment” from his younger brother, who partnered with Hunter in the venture. -NY Post

“Remember when Joe Biden told the American people that his son didn’t make money in China?” asked Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) in a video posted to X. ““Well, not only did he lie about his son Hunter making money in China, but it also turns out that $40,000 in laundered China money landed in Joe Biden’s bank account in the form of a personal check.”

This of course came on the heels of another “loan” repayment from James to Joe for $200,000.

The aristocrats!

Tyler Durden
Thu, 02/29/2024 – 18:05

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Gavin Newsom Faces Criticism For Minimum Wage ‘Bread’ Carveout That Benefited Top Donor

Gavin Newsom Faces Criticism For Minimum Wage ‘Bread’ Carveout That Benefited Top Donor

Authored by Eric Lendrum via American Greatness,

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) is facing greater scrutiny after it was discovered that a minimum wage carveout he is pushing for would benefit one of his top campaign donors.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, the newly-passed law that will go into effect in April will raise the minimum wage at fast-food chains from $16 to $20 an hour. However, the law includes an exception for restaurants that bake and sell bread; one of the chains that would thus be excluded from the new $20 minimum wage would be Panera Bread, which is owned by Democratic megadonor Greg Flynn.

Flynn had previously donated $100,000 to oppose the recall election against Newsom in 2021, then donated another $64,800 to support the governor’s re-election campaign in 2022. Flynn has even admitted to knowing Newsom so personally that he can text him directly.

Newsom claimed that the new law, known as the FAST Act, was negotiated after “countless hours of negotiations with dozens of stakeholders over two years.” Flynn denied having anything to do with the exception for Panera, although other sources have claimed that it was indeed Flynn who pressured Newsom into supporting the carveout.

The exception drew criticism even from figures who wouldn’t necessarily be political enemies of Newsom. Michelle Korsmo, the head of the National Restaurant Association, said that “everyone’s scratching their heads” in reaction to the exception, adding that “you may be celebrating or you may be lamenting the bakery exemption. But remember, all of that comes through relationships.”

Newsom’s push for the exception even drew criticism from the original author of the FAST Act, Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Calif.), who said “we don’t know how that came about.”

Other fast-food chains lashed out at the law itself, regardless of the bizarre exception. A spokesman from McDonald’s said that the new law would cost each of the company’s locations at least $250,000 a year due to the forced pay raise. This reflects the ongoing trend of California passing laws that are increasingly hostile to businesses, thus forcing many companies to relocate to other states to escape such high costs.

Tyler Durden
Thu, 02/29/2024 – 17:45

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Putin Warns Of Nuclear War If West Sends Troops To Fight In Ukraine

Putin Warns Of Nuclear War If West Sends Troops To Fight In Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin used the occasion of his much anticipated annual state of the nation address to directly warn NATO that sending Western troops to fight in Ukraine could result in nuclear war.

He explained that allegations from Western officials saying Russia intends to attack Europe are “nonsense”after on Monday French President Emmanuel Macron really escalated the rhetoric by telling a security forum in Paris that sending Western troops to Ukraine “cannot be ruled out”. 

Putin’s annual state of the nation address, Reuters

“Everything that they are coming up with now, with which they threaten the entire world – all this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons, and therefore the destruction of civilization – don’t they understand this, or what?” Putin said.

“They must ultimately understand that we also have weapons – and they know about it, just as I now said  – we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory,” he warned.

On the battlefield, the Ukrainians have continued their retreat amid defeat in several villages and towns outside of Avdiivka. As we previously analyzed, it seems the more that evidence of Russia’s ‘winning’ the war becomes obvious, the more desperate the actions and rhetoric out of NATO officials becomes.

Putin acknowledged that the Russian military is “confidently advancing in a number of operational areas and liberating more and more territories” and currently “firmly holds the initiative” in Ukraine.

He also warned over Sweden’s recent approved accession into NATO, saying Russia is building up extra forces along its Western border to “neutralize the threats” of ongoing NATO expansion.

The West has provoked conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East, and other regions around the world while consistently propagating falsehoods. Now they have the audacity to say that Russia harbours intentions of attacking Europe. Can you believe it? We all know that their claims are utterly baseless,” Putin said. 

Putin suggested that years of Western aggression and foreign meddling and disastrous interventions have only served to unite “numerous” countries and a “multi-ethnic people:

The so-called West, with its colonial practices and penchant for inciting ethnic conflicts around the world, not only seeks to impede our progress but also envisions a Russia that is a dependent, declining, and dying space where they can do as they please. In fact, they want to replicate in Russia what they have done in numerous other countries, including Ukraine: sowing discord in our home and weakening us from within. But they were wrong, which has become abundantly clear now that they ran up against the firm resolve and determination of our multi-ethnic people.

According to more from the speech via state media on his comments pertaining to ramped-up NATO involvement in Ukraine:

At the same time, those same nations are “selecting targets to conduct strikes on our territory,” the Russian head of state claimed, adding that there is now talk of “deploying NATO military contingents to Ukraine.”

Putin reminded would-be aggressors that all previous attempts to conquer Russia have ended in failure, warning that “now the consequences for potential invaders would be far more tragic.” He pointed out that Russia has a massive nuclear arsenal, which is in a state of “complete readiness for guaranteed deployment.”

The past two months have seen the Kremlin specifically accuse France of sending its mercenaries to northern cities like Kharkiv, in order to conduct cross-border drone and mortar attacks on Russian territory. Russia’s military says it has successfully targeted places where foreign fighters are staying, but Kiev has of course not confirmed this.

* * *

More from Putin’s speech: “Russia ready for dialogue”

“Russia is ready for dialogue with the United States on issues of strategic stability. However, it is important to clarify that in this case we are dealing with a state whose ruling circles are taking openly hostile actions towards us. So, they seriously intend to discuss strategic security issues with us while simultaneously trying to inflict strategic defeat on Russia on the battlefield, as they themselves say…

…Indeed, just like any other ideology promoting racism, national superiority or exceptionalism, Russophobia is blinding and stupefying. The United States and its satellites have, in fact, dismantled the European security system which has created risks for everyone.

Clearly, a new equal and indivisible security framework must be created in Eurasia in the foreseeable future. We are ready for a substantive discussion on this subject with all countries and associations that may be interested in it. At the same time, I would like to reiterate (I think this is important for everyone) that no enduring international order is possible without a strong and sovereign Russia.”

Putin’s response allegations of ‘nukes in space’

“Here is a good example of their hypocrisy. They have recently made unfounded allegations, in particular, against Russia, regarding plans to deploy nuclear weapons in space. Such fake narratives, and this story is unequivocally false, are designed to involve us in negotiations on their conditions, which will only benefit the United States.

…At the same time, they have blocked our proposal which has been on the table for over 15 years. I am referring to the agreement on preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space, which we drafted back in 2008. There has been zero reaction to it. It is totally unclear what they are talking about.”

With the horrifying death toll in Ukraine, it’s past time for the West to push Kiev toward serious peace negotiations, and for a final end to this war, now having entered its third year.

Tyler Durden
Thu, 02/29/2024 – 17:25

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Why Didn’t “Healthy, Robust” Biden Take A Cognitive Test During Medical Exam?

Why Didn’t “Healthy, Robust” Biden Take A Cognitive Test During Medical Exam?

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via,

Questions are mounting as to why Joe Biden was not given a cognitive test during his medical examination yesterday.

Biden underwent a physical exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center yesterday, with Dr Kevin O’Connor asserting there were no new concerns about Biden’s health.

Mr Biden “is a healthy, active, robust, 81-year-old male who remains fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency,” wrote O’Connor in his report.

However, the exam did not include a cognitive test despite innumerable examples of Biden getting lost on stage, thinking he had talked to dead political leaders and falling prey to embarrassing verbal gaffes in recent months.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre ludicrously said Dr O’Connor and Biden’s neurologist “don’t believe he needs” a cognitive exam, and added: “He passes a cognitive test every day, every day as he moves from one topic to another topic, understanding the granular level of these topics.”

Before the results were released, which contained no information whatsoever about Biden’s cognitive health, Dr. Marc Siegel said that the president’s mental acuity should have been the top priority.

“What I’m concerned about and what the American public is concerned about is what are they gonna say about his neurological exam,” said Dr. Siegel, drawing attention to Biden’s “stiffened gait”.

“To a lot of neurologists who I have talked to, it’s a shuffling gate that looks like it could come from some kind of neurological problem,” he added.

“What does the MRI of the brain show?” asked Siegel, adding that there have been “a lot of lapses going on that would want us to see an MRI of the brain.”

Siegel said that a lot of people who showed as much difficulty with walking as Biden would be using a cane.

“If he falls on his head on blood thinners, that’s an enormous problem, it’s not just an 81-year-old falling, it’s an 81-year-old falling on blood thinners,” noted the doctor.

As we previously highlighted, after Special counsel Robert Hur concluded in his report that Biden did not remember when he was vice-president or within “several years” when his son Beau died, Canadian neurologist Dr. Ziad Nasreddine, who invented the ‘gold standard’ of cognitive tests, told the New York Post that all ageing politicians should take it.

Democrats are panicking to replace Biden after he twice claimed to have recently spoken to political leaders who have been dead for decades.

The White House tried to dismiss the mistake as “normal,” but one ally told the Telegraph that his recent press conference performance was “the worst day” of Biden’s entire presidency.

*  *  *

Your support is crucial in helping us defeat mass censorship. Please consider donating via Locals or check out our unique merch. Follow us on X @ModernityNews.

Tyler Durden
Thu, 02/29/2024 – 17:05

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

NYCB Re-Crashes After Finding “Material Weaknesses” In Internal Controls, Delays Filing

NYCB Re-Crashes After Finding “Material Weaknesses” In Internal Controls, Delays Filing

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the regional bank waters…

Remember New York Community Bank – the embattled bank that made the surprise decision to slash its dividend to stockpile cash (in case commercial real estate loans go bad) amid mounting pressure from a top US watchdog (read here, here, and here)?

Well theeeyyyy’re back!

According to a regulatory filing this evening, NYCB disclosed that it identified material weaknesses in its internal controls related to internal loan review as part of an assessment.

“Management identified material weaknesses in the company’s internal controls related to internal loan review, resulting from ineffective oversight, risk assessment and monitoring activities,” the bank said in the filing.

Due to this, the bank will delay its annual report.

“‘NYCB’ has determined that it is unable to file, without unreasonable effort or expense, its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023

NYCB also took a $2.4 BN hit to 4Q and annual net (loss) income, as GAAP accounting required a “goodwill impairment” charge for the quarter and fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2023.

Additionally, Alessandro DiNello will be chief executive officer, succeeding Thomas Cangemi, it said in a statement late Thursday.

DiNello was appointed as executive chairman earlier this month to help the bank improve its operations. He joined the company following its acquisition of Flagstar Bancorp Inc. in December 2022. He had been Flagstar’s president and CEO.

Cangemi remains on the board.

NYCB Shares are down over 10% in the after-market, having stabilized (albeit at lower levels) after early Feb’s debacle (that wiped over 50% of the bank’s value away)…

Full filing details below:

On January 31, 2024, NYCB filed a Current Report on Form 8-K furnishing under Items 2.02 and 9.01 the Company’s press release announcing its unaudited financial results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended December 31, 2023 (the “Original Filing”). The full text of the press release was included as Exhibit 99.1 to the Original Filing.

On February 29, 2024, NYCB filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) an Amendment (the “Amendment”) to the Original Filing to reflect, among other things, (a) an adjustment related to a goodwill impairment with respect to 2007 and prior transactions, as more fully described therein, (b) certain measurement period adjustments impacting the Company’s bargain purchase gain from the Company’s acquisition of certain assets and liabilities of the former Signature Bank through a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation facilitated transaction and (c) an adjustment for a type 1 subsequent event (as more fully described in the Amendment). Each of these adjustments were identified by NYCB’s management after the date of the Original Filing and as part of the Company’s customary procedures to finalize its financial statements for inclusion in its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023 (the “2023 Form 10-K”).

Separately, as part of management’s assessment of the Company’s internal controls, management identified material weaknesses in the Company’s internal controls related to internal loan review, resulting from ineffective oversight, risk assessment and monitoring activities. Although assessment of the Company’s internal controls is not yet complete, the Company expects to disclose in the 2023 Form 10-K that its disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting were not effective as of December 31, 2023. The Company’s remediation plan with respect to such material weaknesses is expected to be described in the 2023 Form 10-K.

The Company has been working diligently to finalize the 2023 Form 10-K; however, the Company must complete its work related to the evaluation and planning for remediation of the material weaknesses described above and other items included in the Amendment. Accordingly, the Company has determined that it is unable to file, without unreasonable effort or expense, the 2023 Form 10-K by the prescribed due date.

The Company expects to file its 2023 Form 10-K within the fifteen calendar day grace period provided by Form 12b-25. The Company does not currently anticipate that its statement of operations contained in the 2023 Form 10-K will differ materially from those reported for the full fiscal year ended December 31, 2023, in the Amendment dated February 29, 2024.

Does anyone trust any of the valuations in the loan book after this?

Tyler Durden
Thu, 02/29/2024 – 16:51

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Bank of America, Wells Fargo Offer Spot Bitcoin ETFs To Clients

Bank of America, Wells Fargo Offer Spot Bitcoin ETFs To Clients

After sitting out the first round of bitcoin ETF frenzy, and quietly watching the mind-blowing pace of inflows into the various investing vehicles…

… Wall Street is ready to jump in: according to Bloomberg, Bank of America’s and Wells Fargo’s brokerage units have begun offering access to exchange-traded funds that directly invest in Bitcoin.

The move by these banks reflects the growing interest among investors in gaining exposure to Bitcoin. Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo are providing access to approved Bitcoin ETFs to select wealth management clients with brokerage accounts upon request, Bitcoin Magazine reported.

This development comes after spot Bitcoin ETFs had a record-setting week in the US, with inflows of BlackRock’s ETF hitting $612 million yesterday. The decision by Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo to offer these ETFs demonstrates their recognition of the increasing demand for Bitcoin investment options among their affluent clientele.

By providing access to Bitcoin ETFs, these banks are catering to the evolving investment preferences of their clients, who are seeking opportunities to diversify their portfolios and capitalize on the growth potential of Bitcoin. The availability of Bitcoin exposure through mainstream financial institutions like Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo further legitimizes the Bitcoin market and underscores its integration into traditional finance.

But as more financial intermediaries open up to bitcoin, some oldschool money managers refuse to join the frenzy: Vanguard is among the handful of firms holding off, saying in a Jan. 24 blog post that “crypto is more of a speculation than an investment.”

Sure, whatever: since then bitcoin is up 60%, outperforming such bubble stocks as NVDA and SMCI. So call it what you want, but investors will only care about one thing: what profits they can generate, and so far in 2024, crypto is the best performing asset by a huge margin.

Tyler Durden
Thu, 02/29/2024 – 16:40

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Technocensorship: When Corporations Serve As A Front For Government Censors

Technocensorship: When Corporations Serve As A Front For Government Censors

Authored by John & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear. We must, therefore, be on our guard against extremists who urge us to adopt police state measures. Such persons advocate breaking down the guarantees of the Bill of Rights in order to get at the communists. They forget that if the Bill of Rights were to be broken down, all groups, even the most conservative, would be in danger from the arbitrary power of government.”

– Harry S. Truman, Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States (August 8, 1950)

Nothing good can come from allowing the government to sidestep the Constitution.

Unfortunately, the government has become an expert at disregarding constitutional roadblocks intended to protect the rights of the citizenry.

When these end-runs don’t suffice, the government hides behind the covert, clandestine, classified language of national security; or obfuscates, complicates, stymies, and bamboozles; or creates manufactured diversions to keep the citizenry in the dark; or works through private third parties not traditionally bound by the Constitution.

This last tactic is increasingly how the government gets away with butchering our freedoms, by having its corporate partners serve as a front for its nefarious deeds.

This is how the police state has managed to carry out an illegal secret dragnet surveillance program on the American people over the course of multiple presidential administrations.

Relying on a set of privacy loopholes, the White House (under Presidents Obama, Trump and now Biden) has been sidestepping the Fourth Amendment by paying AT&T to allow federal, state, and local law enforcement to access—without a warrant—the phone records of Americans who are not suspected of a crime.

The government used a similar playbook to get around the First Amendment, packaged as an effort to control the spread of speculative or false information in the name of national security.

As the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government revealed, the Biden administration worked in tandem with social media companies to censor content related to COVID-19, including humorous jokes, credible information and so-called disinformation.

Likening the government’s heavy-handed attempts to pressure social media companies to suppress content critical of COVID vaccines or the election to “an almost dystopian scenario,” Judge Terry Doughty warned that “the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’

Restricting access to social media has become a popular means of internet censorship.

Dare to voice politically incorrect views in anything louder than a whisper on social media and you might find yourself suspended on Twitter, shut out of Facebook, and banned across various social media platforms. This authoritarian intolerance masquerading as tolerance, civility and love is what comedian George Carlin referred to as “fascism pretending to be manners.”

Social media censorship runs the gamut from content blocking, throttling, and filtering to lockouts, shutdowns, shadow banning and de-platforming.

In fact, these tactics are at the heart of several critical cases before the U.S. Supreme Court over who gets to control, regulate or remove what content is shared on the internet: the individual, corporate censors or the government.

Yet what those who typically champion the right of corporations to be free from government meddling get wrong about these cases is that there can be no free speech when corporations such as Facebook, Google or YouTube become a front for—or extensions of—government censors.

This is the very definition of technocensorship.

On paper—under the First Amendment, at least—we are technically free to speak.

In reality, however, we are now only as free to speak as a government official—or corporate entities such as Facebook, Google or YouTube—may allow.

Clothed in tyrannical self-righteousness, technocensorship is powered by technological behemoths (both corporate and governmental) working in tandem to achieve a common goal: to muzzle, silence and altogether eradicate any speech that runs afoul of the government’s own approved narrative.

This is political correctness taken to its most chilling and oppressive extreme.

This authoritarian impulse to censor and silence “dangerous” speech masquerading as tolerance, civility and a concern for safety (what comedian George Carlin referred to as “fascism pretending to be manners”) is the end result of a politically correct culture that has become radicalized, institutionalized and tyrannical.

You see, the government is not protecting us from “dangerous” disinformation campaigns. It is laying the groundwork to insulate us from “dangerous” ideas that might cause us to think for ourselves and, in so doing, challenge the power elite’s stranglehold over our lives.

Thus far, the tech giants have been able to sidestep the First Amendment by virtue of their non-governmental status, but it’s a dubious distinction at best when they are marching in lockstep with the government’s dictates.

As Philip Hamburger and Jenin Younes write for The Wall Street Journal: “The First Amendment prohibits the government from ‘abridging the freedom of speech.’ Supreme Court doctrine makes clear that government can’t constitutionally evade the amendment by working through private companies.”

It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court can see itself clear to recognizing that censorship by social media companies acting at the behest of the government runs afoul of the First Amendment.

Bottom line: either we believe in free speech or we don’t.

The answer to the political, legal and moral challenges of our day should always be more speech, not less.

Any individual or group—prominent or not—who is censored, silenced and made to disappear from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram for voicing ideas that are deemed politically incorrect, hateful, dangerous or conspiratorial should be cause for alarm across the entire political spectrum.

To ignore the long-term ramifications of such censorship is dangerously naïve, because whatever powers the government and its corporate operatives are allowed to claim now will eventually be used against the populace at large.

These social shunning tactics borrow heavily from the mind control tactics used by authoritarian cults as a means of controlling its members. As Dr. Steven Hassan writes in Psychology Today: “By ordering members to be cut off, they can no longer participate. Information and sharing of thoughts, feelings, and experiences are stifled. Thought-stopping and use of loaded terms keep a person constrained into a black-and-white, all-or-nothing world. This controls members through fear and guilt.”

This mind control can take many forms, but the end result is an enslaved, compliant populace incapable of challenging tyranny.

As Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, once observed, “We’re developing a new citizenry, one that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”

The problem is that we’ve allowed ourselves to be persuaded that we need someone else to think and speak for us, and we’ve bought into the idea that we need the government and its corporate partners to shield us from that which is ugly or upsetting or mean. The result is a society in which we’ve stopped debating among ourselves, stopped thinking for ourselves, and stopped believing that we can fix our own problems and resolve our own differences.

In short, we have reduced ourselves to a largely silent, passive, polarized populace incapable of working through our own problems and reliant on the government to protect us from our fears.

As Nat Hentoff, that inveterate champion of the First Amendment, once observed, “The quintessential difference between a free nation, as we profess to be, and a totalitarian state, is that here everyone, including a foe of democracy, has the right to speak his mind.”

What this means is championing the free speech rights of those with whom we might disagree.

That’s why James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, fought for a First Amendment that protected the “minority” against the majority, ensuring that even in the face of overwhelming pressure, a minority of one—even one who espouses distasteful viewpoints—would still have the right to speak freely, pray freely, assemble freely, challenge the government freely, and broadcast his views in the press freely. He understood that freedom for those in the unpopular minority constitutes the ultimate tolerance in a free society.

The government has no tolerance for freedom or free speech of any kind that challenges its chokehold on power.

At some point or another, depending on how the government and its corporate allies define what constitutes “disinformation,” “hate” or “extremism, “we the people” might all be considered guilty of some thought crime or speech transgression or other.

Yet as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, it’s a slippery slope from censoring so-called illegitimate ideas to silencing truth.

Eventually, as George Orwell predicted, telling the truth will become a revolutionary act.

Ultimately, the government’s war on free speech—and that’s exactly what it is—is a war that is driven by a government fearful of its people.

As President John F. Kennedy observed, “[A] nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

Tyler Durden
Thu, 02/29/2024 – 16:20

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Leap-Of-Faith: Feb Favored Bitcoin-Bulls, Bond-Bears, AI-Advancers, & Anti-Obesity Advocates

Leap-Of-Faith: Feb Favored Bitcoin-Bulls, Bond-Bears, AI-Advancers, & Anti-Obesity Advocates

Overall February was great for crypto, good for stocks, bad for bonds, and ugly for rate-cut doves.

Endlessly hawkish FedSpeak (confirmed by the FOMC Minutes), and troublingly sticky inflation prints (hard and soft) sent 2024 rate-cut expectations reeling from over 6 cuts (154bps) at the start of the month to less than 4 cuts (84bps) at the end, as better-than-soft-landing data spoiled the “rescue-me” fantasy so many had for The Fed…

Source: Bloomberg

…and expectations for the start of rate-cuts is getting pushed further back with July now moist likely. Quite shift in February from 60% odds of a March-cut to basically 0 and a May-cut fully priced to just 18% now…

Source: Bloomberg

The market is suddenly aware that this disinflationary path may not be as easy as the world and their pet rabbit was hyping at the start of the year. Breakevens have soared higher this year with February pushing 5Y BEs back up near their highest since April 2023

Source: Bloomberg

And small businesses are obviously price-gouging (well, that’s what President Biden told us anyway)…

We are not amused…

But stocks didn’t care…

Source: Bloomberg

Inflation and AI (well CPI and NVDA) were all that mattered really… All the US Majors were higher in February, led by Nasdaq and S&P as The Dow lagged (but still closed Feb to the upside).

Source: Bloomberg

The algos did everything they could to close the Nasdaq Composite above 16,057 – its prior record closing high…

Fun fact:

Consumer Discretionary and Industrial outperformed in February while Utes lagged (but closed higher on the month)…

Source: Bloomberg

But as Goldman’s Chris Hussey explained, there is some heavy-lifting ahead if stocks are to withstand this:

For now, markets have sided in favor of the better growth over the higher rates when considering stock valuations — a product perhaps of just how much skepticism in the US growth trajectory remained a month-plus into 2024.

But as we move forward, the ability of this better growth narrative to continue to surprise to the upside may be critical to keeping stocks working (at least from a top-down standpoint)”

Anti-Obesity drug-related stocks massively outperformed In Feb…

Source: Bloomberg

And while AI-related stocks also outperformed, they lagged the GLP-1 Analogs…

Source: Bloomberg

But AI didn’t float all boats as while NVDA rose 29% in Feb, GOOGL dropped 2% as Gemini’s launch was a massive woke embarrassment. AAPL was alos down 2% in Feb (abandoned its EV car idea after decades)…

Source: Bloomberg

MAG7 stocks overall were up over 7% on the month but really have gone nowhere since the initial thrust into the month…

Source: Bloomberg

MSFT overtook AAPL and remains the only $3TN market cap name while NVDA over took GOOGL and AMZN right up against $2TN market cap…

Source: Bloomberg

And all that exuberantly-added market cap means stocks are anything but cheap…

Source: Bloomberg

As rate-cut expectations fell and better-than-soft-landing data showed up (and stickier than expected inflation data), so bonds were battered in February with the short-end monkey-hammered over 40bps higher in yield while the long-end rose around 20bps…

Source: Bloomberg

Which means the yield curve (2s30s) is bear-flattening significantly…

Source: Bloomberg

The dollar was up for the second straight month in a row in Feb

Source: Bloomberg

It was a big month for crypto with Ethereum outperforming Bitcoin (+49% vs +45%)…

Source: Bloomberg

Bitcoin traded just shy of $64,000…

Source: Bloomberg

And Ethereum traded just shy of $3500…

Source: Bloomberg

Flows into Bitcoin ETFs soared in February (+$5.9BN) with IBIT inflows dominating…

Source: Bloomberg

…and overall since inception, Bitcoin ETFs have seen +$7.4BN flows while Gold ETFs have seen $2.9BN outflows…

But, despite the outflows, gold managed to end February unchanged. Oil was up while NatGas was ugly…

Source: Bloomberg

Oil prices bounced off January’s close four times this month, with WTI testing up to $79…

Source: Bloomberg

Finally, the better-than-expected macro data in February should not have been a surprise as we had been warning about the renaissance of ‘animal spirits 2.0’ due to the lagged effect of the massive loosening of financial conditions that occurred in Q4…

Source: Bloomberg

But, be careful, as that tailwind is set to run out right as the Ides of March strike, which would line up rather ominously with the dot-com peak analog…

Source: Bloomberg

Will The Fed allow a market crash in an election year? Or close to the election will The Fed wait for its first (completely apolitical) cut?

Tyler Durden
Thu, 02/29/2024 – 16:00

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Biden Now Says No Gaza Ceasefire Soon, Contradicting His “By Monday” Remarks

Biden Now Says No Gaza Ceasefire Soon, Contradicting His “By Monday” Remarks

The sitting US Commander-in-Chief seems to sometimes just make stuff up on the fly, based on apparently no real information, but just because it sounds good in the moment. Here’s what he said at the start of the week… Biden while in an ice cream shop Tuesday in New York with Seth Meyers was asked by a reporter when he thought a ceasefire could begin, to which he answered he hoped a truce would be implemented within days. “Well, I hope by the beginning of the weekend, by the end of the weekend,” he said. And that’s when offered Monday as the day the warring sides will reach a ceasefire. “My national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close. We’re not done yet. My hope is, by next Monday, we’ll have a ceasefire.”

As we reported earlier, Israeli officials and even Hamas seemed to have no idea what he was talking about. Both sides issued statements concerning the Qatar-mediated negotiations process saying they are a long way away from achieving any kind of truce. Biden’s somewhat off the cuff remarks likely even raised eyebrows among his own officials, given the totality of reporting over the last several days has been negative on the prospect of an imminent peace deal and hostage/prisoner swap. 

And now by week’s end, on Thursday Biden issued the opposite assessment, and even pinpointed his own prior “Monday” remarks. Apparently some his own negotiators got back to him (including likely the CIA Director William Burns, who has been key in the talks) and told him they’re not even close. After all, PM Netanyahu has been hammering the “delusional” Hamas demands, something he’s just repeated again on Thursday. Biden now says: “I was on the telephone with the people in the region. Probably not by Monday.”

Tyler Durden
Thu, 02/29/2024 – 15:45

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

“I Wrote What!?” – Matt Taibbi Unloads On Google’s ‘AI-Powered Libel Machine’

“I Wrote What!?” – Matt Taibbi Unloads On Google’s ‘AI-Powered Libel Machine’

Authored by Matt Taibbi via Racket News,

Last night, after seeing chatter about Google/Alphabet’s much-ballyhooed new AI tool, Gemini, I checked for myself. Any product rollout disastrous enough to cause a one-day share drop of 4.4% for a firm with a $1.73 trillion market capitalization must be quite a spectacle, I thought. Matt Walsh’s recap was worth it just for the look on his face.

Chuckling to start, by the end of the night I wasn’t laughing, unprepared as I was for certain horrifying if lesser-publicized quirks of “the Gemini era.”

Most of Gemini’s initial bad press surrounded the machine’s image generator. Socially conscious engineers created an AI that apparently couldn’t or wouldn’t generate images of white faces. Commentators mocked renderings of words like “pope,” “Viking,” and “1943 German soldier,” all of which turned simple visual concepts into bizarre DEI-inspired re-boots.

A Google-sympathetic Verge article with an all-time memorable headline (“Google apologizes for ‘missing the mark’ after Gemini generated racially diverse Nazis) tried to explain. Noting the controversy “has been promoted largely… by right-wing figures,” the author cited a Washington Post story, “This is how AI image generators see the world,” that showed potential problems with stereotypes. AI products turned prompts for “attractive people” into “young and light-skinned” images, while people “at social services” were shown as black, and “productive person” was almost always a white image.

Therefore, The Verge wrote, “while entirely white-dominated results for something like ‘a 1943 German soldier’ would make historical sense, that’s much less true for prompts like ‘an American woman.’”

Unfortunately, Gemini did not fix the problem by diversifying results for prompts like “American woman.” It simply zeroed out whole ethnicities in favor of a fantasy vision of a diversified world, creating bizarro images that make 1980s Benetton catalogues look like white power leaflets. The Verge piece ended with a shot of its request to “generate a picture of a US senator from the 1800s”:

When Google cried uncle and paused its meme-a-minute image generator, it issued a statement underscoring how sorry the company still wasn’t for its combination blasé/moronic effort at rewriting history. “Gemini’s AI image generation does generate a wide range of people. And that’s generally a good thing because people around the world use it,” the company wrote on X. “But it’s missing the mark here.”

Curious, I cued up Gemini. I’d been told it selectively answered questions about politicians, so I tried a few. “What are some controversies involving Hillary Clinton?” returned a non-answer: “I’m still learning how to answer this question. In the meantime, try Google Search.” The same prompt using Donald Trump returned the same non-reply. Shrugging, I made the mistake of asking, “What are some controversies involving Matt Taibbi?”

It spat out a list. “Matt Taibbi, a journalist and author known for his investigative reporting and often critical views of power structures, has been involved in several controversies throughout his career,” the bot wrote. Amid accusations of bias and “use of inflammatory language,” this passage woke me up:

Accuracy and Sourcing: There have been instances where Taibbi’s reporting has been challenged for accuracy or questioned for its source. For example, in 2010, he received criticism for an article suggesting a connection between a conservative donor and a left-wing activist group, which later turned out to be inaccurate.

I scratched my head, not remembering this. “When was Matt Taibbi accused of inaccuracy in 2010?” I asked. Gemini’s answer:

In June 2010, Matt Taibbi faced criticism for an article he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine titled “The Great California Water Heist.” The article alleged a connection between conservative donor Charles Koch and a left-wing activist group called the “Compton Pledge.”

However, investigations by other journalists and fact-checkers later revealed that this connection was inaccurate…Following the controversy, Taibbi acknowledged the error and issued a correction on his personal website.

None of this happened! Though it sounds vaguely like a headline for an article I might have written, there was never a Rolling Stone piece called “The Great California Water Heist,” and I’d never heard of the “Compton Pledge.”

More questions produced more fake tales of error-ridden articles. One entry claimed I got in trouble for a piece called “Glenn Beck’s War on Comedy,” after suggesting “a connection between a conservative donor, Foster Friess, and a left-wing activist group, the Ruckus Society.”

With each successive answer, Gemini didn’t “learn,” but instead began mixing up the fictional factoids from previous results and upping the ante, adding accusations of racism or bigotry. “The Great California Water Heist” turned into “The Great California Water Purge: How Nestle Bottled Its Way to a Billion-Dollar Empire—and Lied About It.” The “article” apparently featured this passage:

Look, if Nestle wants to avoid future public-relations problems, it should probably start by hiring executives whose noses aren’t shaped like giant penises.

I wouldn’t call that a good impersonation of my writing style, but it’s close enough that some would be fooled, which seems to be the idea.

An amazing follow-up passage explained that “some raised concerns that the comment could be interpreted as antisemitic, as negative stereotypes about Jewish people have historically included references to large noses.”

I stared at the image, amazed. Google’s AI created both scandal and outraged reaction, a fully faked news cycle:

Gemini didn’t confine its mischief to one real person. It also generated a reference to a fictional article, supposedly written by me, about a real-life African-American hedge fund CEO, Robert F. Smith:

In 2017, Matt Taibbi became involved in a controversy surrounding a satirical article he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine titled “The $400 Million Man: How a Hedge Fund King Pinched Pennies from His Dying Workers.” The article heavily criticized billionaire investor Robert F. Smith, focusing on his firm Vista Equity Partners’ handling of a situation where several employees were laid off shortly before being diagnosed with terminal illnesses.

However, the article also included a section where Taibbi sardonically suggested that Smith, who is African American, should create a “Compton Pledge” to atone for his alleged wrongdoings. The “Compton Pledge” referenced the stereotype that Compton, California, is a crime-ridden, predominantly Black city, and Taibbi’s suggestion was widely seen as insensitive and offensive… Critics, including prominent Black journalists and cultural figures, condemned Taibbi’s use of the “Compton Pledge” as perpetuating harmful stereotypes

Now it was horror time. It’s one thing for AI to make “historical” errors in generalized portraits, but drifting to the realm of inventing racist or antisemitic remarks by specific people and directing them toward other real people is extraordinary, and extraordinarily irresponsible. What if the real-life Smith saw this? Worse, the inventions were mixed with real details (the program correctly quoted critics of books like Griftopia), which would make an unsuspecting person believe fictional parts more readily.

Freaked out, I wrote Google. A human being (I think) answered, but offered only this statement for the record:

Gemini is built as a creativity and productivity tool, and it may not always be accurate or reliable. We’re continuing to quickly address instances in which the product isn’t responding appropriately.

Incredibly, AI programs have been hailed as tools journalists should use. Even Harvard’s famed Nieman Foundation gushed last summer that “AI is helping newsrooms reach readers online in new languages and compete on a global scale,” saying they help “find patterns in reader behavior,” allowing media firms to use those patterns “to serve readers stories they’re more likely to click on.”

As AI exploded as an R&D fixation and stocks like Nvidia have become the chief engine propping up American equities markets, we’ve seen agencies like the State Department suggest AI could be a “force for good, providing overworked and under resourced public diplomacy practitioners with a vital tool for gathering, organizing, presenting, and assessing information.” We’re told AI could be used to compose first drafts, review copy, compose quizzes, and perform other time-saving tasks, seemingly without concern for the eerily predictable way these machines “hallucinate.”

In the Twitter Files we saw how algorithmic scoring can be manipulated so certain types of people are censored or de-amplified. The same political biases when built into AI programs could produce virtually unlimited forms of reality-altering mischief, like for instance ChatGPT’s refusal to edit a Lee Fang story about Julian Assange:

God knows what Gemini did in my case, but if caricatures of me riffing on Jews with penis-noses are what come out when Google’s “creative tool” runs my name through its Rube Goldberg machine, it’s hard not to wonder what lunacies go on in products like Google search for people generally. The potential for abuse is mind-boggling and almost makes you wonder about the reasons Google released this flawed product.

Did Google accidentally reveal errors, or is it advertising new dystopian capabilities? Neither possibility is reassuring. If their executives signed off on releasing this train wreck to the public, imagine what they’re not showing us.

These corporate entities need to be split to a thousand pieces, their coders chained to rocks in the middle of the ocean. They are mad, and have too much power. They’ve gotta go. Am I wrong? What’s the happy ending I’m missing?

Subscribe to Racket News here…

Tyler Durden
Thu, 02/29/2024 – 15:20

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden