B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Kremlin Blocked Romney As Trump’s Secretary Of State, Requested Tillerson Instead

Mitt Zombie  900 W Randolph
Mitt Zombie – 900 W Randolph

Wow! Hope Mueller’s team has good evidence of this explosive claim because that’s cray-cray!

One subject that Steele is believed to have discussed with Mueller’s investigators is a memo that he wrote in late November, 2016, after his contract with Fusion had ended. This memo, which did not surface publicly with the others, is shorter than the rest, and is based on one source, described as “a senior Russian official.” The official said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but what he’d heard was astonishing: people were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney. (During Romney’s run for the White House in 2012, he was notably hawkish on Russia, calling it the single greatest threat to the U.S.) The memo said that the Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would coöperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy—and an incoming President.

As fantastical as the memo sounds, subsequent events could be said to support it. In a humiliating public spectacle, Trump dangled the post before Romney until early December, then rejected him. There are plenty of domestic political reasons that Trump may have turned against Romney. Trump loyalists, for instance, noted Romney’s public opposition to Trump during the campaign. Roger Stone, the longtime Trump aide, has suggested that Trump was vengefully tormenting Romney, and had never seriously considered him. (Romney declined to comment. The White House said that he was never a first choice for the role and declined to comment about any communications that the Trump team may have had with Russia on the subject.) In any case, on December 13, 2016, Trump gave Rex Tillerson, the C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, the job. The choice was a surprise to most, and a happy one in Moscow, because Tillerson’s business ties with the Kremlin were long-standing and warm. (In 2011, he brokered a historic partnership between ExxonMobil and Rosneft.) After the election, Congress imposed additional sanctions on Russia, in retaliation for its interference, but Trump and Tillerson have resisted enacting them.

(click here to continue reading Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier | The New Yorker.)

This entire Jane Mayer piece is worth reading, twice, so go ahead and read it now.

No Puppet No Puppet
No Puppet! No Puppet!

Written by Seth Anderson

March 5th, 2018 at 10:22 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , , ,

Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier


Forgive Yourself Trump Tower

Jane Mayer has written a deep dive into Christopher Steele and infamous dossier. We should all study it. I trust someone on Mueller’s team has a subscription to The New Yorker…

The dossier painted a damning picture of collusion between Trump and Russia, suggesting that his campaign had “accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It also alleged that Russian officials had been “cultivating” Trump as an asset for five years, and had obtained leverage over him, in part by recording videos of him while he engaged in compromising sexual acts, including consorting with Moscow prostitutes who, at his request, urinated on a bed.

In the spring of 2016, Orbis Business Intelligence—a small investigative-research firm that Steele and a partner had founded, in 2009, after leaving M.I.6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service—had agreed to do opposition research on Trump’s murky relationship with Russia. Under the arrangement, Orbis was a subcontractor working for Fusion GPS, a private research firm in Washington. Fusion, in turn, had been contracted by a law firm, Perkins Coie, which represented both Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Several months after Steele signed the deal, he learned that, through this chain, his research was being jointly subsidized by the Clinton campaign and the D.N.C. In all, Steele was paid a hundred and sixty-eight thousand dollars for his work.

Steele had spent more than twenty years in M.I.6, most of it focussing on Russia. For three years, in the nineties, he spied in Moscow under diplomatic cover. Between 2006 and 2009, he ran the service’s Russia desk, at its headquarters, in London. He was fluent in Russian, and widely considered to be an expert on the country. He’d also advised on nation-building in Iraq. As a British citizen, however, he was not especially knowledgeable about American politics. Peter Fritsch, a co-founder at Fusion who has worked closely with Steele, said of him, “He’s a career public-service officer, and in England civil servants haven’t been drawn into politics in quite the same way they have here. He’s a little naïve about the public square.”

And so Steele, on that January night, was stunned to learn that U.S. politicians were calling him a criminal. He told Christopher Burrows, with whom he co-founded Orbis, that the sensation was “a feeling like vertigo.” Burrows, in his first public interview on the dossier controversy, recalled Steele telling him, “You have this thudding headache—you can’t think straight, you have no appetite, you feel ill.” Steele compared it to the disorientation that he had felt in 2009, when his first wife, Laura, had died, after a long illness, leaving him to care for their three young children.

(click here to continue reading Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier | The New Yorker.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 5th, 2018 at 9:30 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

The Mitt-Hawley Fallacy and Trade Wars


F Trade
F Trade…

Since we discussed tariffs earlier, it is only fair to note that Dr. Paul Krugman disagrees with the premise that the Smoot-Hawley tariff act was a cause of the Great Depression, and with the idea that tariffs are by themselves a bad thing…

protectionism in general should reduce efficiency, and hence the economy’s potential output. But that’s not at all the same as saying that it causes recessions.

But didn’t the Smoot-Hawley tariff cause the Great Depression? No. There’s no evidence at all that it did. Yes, trade fell a lot between 1929 and 1933, but that was almost entirely a consequence of the Depression, not a cause. (Trade actually fell faster during the early stages of the 2008 Great Recession than it did after 1929.) And while trade barriers were higher in the 1930s than before, this was partly a response to the Depression, partly a consequence of deflation, which made specific tariffs (i.e., tariffs that are stated in dollars per unit, not as a percentage of value) loom larger.

(click here to continue reading The Mitt-Hawley Fallacy – The New York Times.)

The Trade Union Vow
The Trade Union Vow

…and on the Lord Little Hands Dotardo’s tariff threats in general:

 So what will happen when the Trump tariffs come?

 There will be retaliation, big time. When it comes to trade, America is not that much of a superpower — China is also a huge player, and the European Union is bigger still. They will respond in kind, targeting vulnerable U.S. sectors like aircraft and agriculture.

And retaliation isn’t the whole story; there’s also emulation. Once America decides that the rules don’t apply, world trade will become a free-for-all.

Will this cause a global recession? Probably not — those risks are, I think, exaggerated. No, protectionism didn’t cause the Great Depression.

What the coming trade war will do, however, is cause a lot of disruption. Today’s world economy is built around “value chains” that spread across borders: your car or your smartphone contain components manufactured in many countries, then assembled or modified in many more. A trade war would force a drastic shortening of those chains, and quite a few U.S. manufacturing operations would end up being big losers, just as happened when global trade surged in the past.

An old joke tells of a motorist who runs over a pedestrian, then tries to fix the damage by backing up — and runs over the victim a second time. Well, the effects of the Trumpist trade war on U.S. workers will be a lot like that.


(click here to continue reading And the Trade War Came – The New York Times.)

Emphasis mine.

Hmmm, so maybe I shouldn’t lay awake worrying about the upcoming conflagration? That Trump is not trying to sabotage the world economy so that totalitarian governments will rise around the world? I suppose we’ll see for ourselves, if Trump even follows through with his trade threats.

One Chromosome Too Many
One Chromosome Too Many


Trump has threatened to withdraw NAFTA pact since the 2016 campaign, saying the 24-year-old deal allowed manufacturers to relocate to Mexico and take advantage of cheaper labor. Even a number of Democrats have said NAFTA should be reworked, but Canada and Mexico have resisted Trump’s strong-arm tactics.


And a number of GOP lawmakers are apoplectic about what would happen if Trump withdrew from NAFTA, warning it could devastate the U.S. agriculture industry.


Tying NAFTA to the steel and aluminum tariffs shows that Trump is trying to use his new trade gambit as leverage, though it’s unclear if it will work.


Trump on Thursday surprised much of Washington — and his own staff — by announcing that he would impose a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum. A formal announcement is expected this week or next. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and top trade adviser Peter Navarro are both supportive of the tariffs, but even they were hard pressed to explain how the new restrictions would work.



(click here to continue reading Trump says Canada and Mexico will only escape new tariffs after NAFTA concessions – The Washington Post.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 5th, 2018 at 8:53 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

Dan Lipinski is a horrible Democrat, and deserves to lose in the primary

Bipartisanship Is An Anachronism
Bipartisanship Is An Anachronism

Dan Lipinski is a horrible Democrat, and deserves to lose in the primary.

As the midterm election season gets underway with races in Texas on Tuesday and Illinois on March 20, contests like this one illustrate the turmoil of the Trump-era Democratic Party. Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to take back control of the House and are hoping a surge of grass-roots energy, activism and fund-raising at levels unseen since the rise of Barack Obama can help play a crucial role.

Yet the backlash to President Trump’s divisive politics has also fueled a demand by the party’s progressive wing for ideological purity and more diverse representation, a tension that could reshape what it means to be a Democrat.

“This is part of the reason Donald Trump won,” Mr. Lipinski said in an interview, adding, “Democrats have chased people out of the party.”

(click here to continue reading As Primaries Begin, Divided Voters Weigh What It Means to Be a Democrat – The New York Times.)

I would strongly disagree with this spin. First, Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes1. He won the Electoral College because of gerrymandered districts, and via the stripping of many’s people right to vote using tools like Cross Check, and maybe with the aid of Russian hackers penetrating our electronic voting systems.

Second, fake Democrats like Dan Lipinski are also why Trump won. If the perception is that there is little to no difference between Democrats and Republicans, voters don’t come out to vote, because their vote doesn’t matter in terms of policy. The truth is there is more of a difference between Maxine Waters and Dan Lipinski than there is between Lipinski and his soul brother, Paul Ryan. If the Democratic party had less Lipinski types and more Jan Schakowsky types, voters would have a clear choice and would be more enthusiastic. For all the talk about the Democratic Party and its lack of clear ideas, the Dems do have a platform: $15/hour minimum wage, universal access to quality healthcare, reducing income inequality by taxing the 1% and corporations more, marriage equality, reproductive rights, cannabis law reform as part of a larger justice reform, participation in the Kyoto Accord, and a general belief that facts matter, science is not faith-based, etc. etc.

Dan Lipiniski voted against the Affordable Care Act, against the Equality Act, against the Dream Act, and is a staunch anti-abortionist. The only issue I know of where the Democratic Party and Lipinski overlap is with labor unions, and I strongly suspect Lipinski’s support for collective bargaining rights is more about the money he reliably collects from union bosses rather than ideological support.

But it is Mr. Lipinski who is testing just how much today’s voters in the Democratic primary contest are willing to accept in a safe seat. In addition to his deviation from orthodoxy on abortion and gay rights, he also opposed the Affordable Care Act and until recently did not support a $15 minimum wage or offering legal status to children brought to the country illegally.

“I am running with the district. I’m not voting against the district,” Ms. Newman said.

Mr. Lipinski, who makes no apology for opposing the health law, has embraced donations from anti-abortion Republicans helping fund a “super PAC” in his favor and says it is Ms. Newman’s ardent support for abortion rights that is “extreme” for the district.


  1. 2,868,691 to be precise []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 4th, 2018 at 9:15 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Trade wars: Tariffs on bourbon, Harleys and blue jeans

Col Sanders Day 1995
Col Sanders Day 1995

This does make me a bit nervous about the economic near-future of the US. We can hope that Trump chickens out again, letting one of his lackeys claim that Trump never meant to impose tariffs, but I’m not sanguine this Trump-train won’t keep steaming until we reach 1930s-era economics. After all, the rise of totalitarian governments soon followed in those times, perhaps Trump1 has a plan for emulation.

President Donald Trump declared Friday that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

But European Union officials are already planning retaliatory actions, targeting products from politically sensitive Republican-run states, including the imposition of tariffs on Harley-Davidsons made in Speaker Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin; duties on bourbon made in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky; and duties on orange juice from Florida, a critical swing state.

“We will put tariffs on Harley-Davidson, on bourbon and on blue jeans — Levis,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told German television. Commissioners from the EU’s 28 member countries plan to discuss the countermeasures on Wednesday.

Across the globe, Trump’s plan to impose a 25 percent duty on steel and a 10 percent duty on aluminum imports would alienate dozens of countries in Europe, North America and Asia, many of them longtime allies and trading partners, who could turn the tables by targeting key U.S. sectors such as agriculture and aircraft, based in states that elected him and fellow Republicans.

(click here to continue reading Trade wars: Tariffs on bourbon, Harleys and blue jeans – POLITICO.)

We can also take heart that perhaps the long-term effect of Trump nuking the world economy will drive historically GOP friendly corporations away from the Republican Party, sectors like agribusiness, automotive, manufacturing and the like.


Also amused at these targeted tariffs, that’s fairly clever, make the states that vote in these Republican monsters pay an economic price for their negligence and enabling behavior. 

Orange You Glad This Isn t A Banana
Orange You Glad This Isn’t A Banana?

Anyway, Hawley and Smoot, authors of the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill, don’t have many bridges or post offices named after them…


Willis Hawley and Reed Smoot have haunted Congress since the 1930s when they were the architects of the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill, among the most decried pieces of legislation in US history and a bill blamed by some for not only for triggering the Great Depression but also contributing to the start of the second world war.


Pilloried even in their own time, their bloodied names have been brought out like Jacob Marley’s ghost every time America has taken a protectionist turn on trade policy. And America has certainly taken a protectionist turn.

Hawley, an Oregon congressman and a professor of history and economics, became a stock figure in the textbooks of his successors thanks to his partnership with the lean, patrician figure of Senator Reed Smoot, a Mormon apostle known as the “sugar senator” for his protectionist stance towards Utah’s sugar beet industry.

Before he was shackled to Hawley for eternity Smoot was more famous for his Mormonism and his abhorrence of bawdy books, a disgust that inspired the immortal headline “Smoot Smites Smut” after he attacked the importation of Lady’s Chatterley’s Lover, Robert Burns’ more risqué poems and similar texts as “worse than opium … I would rather have a child of mine use opium than read these books.”

But it was imports of another kind that secured Smoot and Hawley’s place in infamy.

The US economy was doing well in the 1920s as the consumer society was being born to the sound of jazz. The Tariff Act began life largely as a politically motivated response to appease the agricultural lobby that had fallen behind as American workers, and money, consolidated in the cities.


Hawley started the bill but with Smoot behind him it metastasized as lobby groups shoehorned their products into the bill, eventually proposing higher tariffs on more than 20,000 imported goods.

Siren voices warned of dire consequences. Henry Ford reportedly told Hoover the bill was “an economic stupidity”.

Critics of the tariffs were being aided and abetted by “internationalists” willing to “betray American interests”, said Smoot. Reports claiming the bill would harm the US economy were decried as fake news. Republican Frank Crowther, dismissed press criticism as “demagoguery and untruth, scandalous untruth”.

In October 1929 as the Senate debated the tariff bill the stock market crashed. When the bill finally made it to Hoover’s desk in June 1930 it had morphed from his original “limited” plan to the “highest rates ever known”, according to a New York Times editorial.

The extent to which Smoot and Hawley were to blame for the coming Great Depression is still a matter of debate. “Ask a thousand economists and you will get a thousand and five answers,” said Charles Geisst, professor of economics at Manhattan College and author of Wall Street: A History.

What is apparent is that the bill sparked international outrage and a backlash. Canada and Europe reacted with a wave of protectionist tariffs that deepened a global depression that presaged the rise of Hitler and the second world war. A myriad other factors contributed to the Depression, and to the second world war, but inarguably one consequence of Smoot-Hawley in the US was that never again would a sitting US president be so avowedly anti-trade. Until today.


(click here to continue reading Anyone, anyone? What happened when the US last introduced tariffs | US news | The Guardian.)

Dusty bottle of Old Kentucky Tavern
Dusty bottle of Old Kentucky Tavern

  1. or someone wormtonguing Trump’s ear []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 3rd, 2018 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Business,government,politics

Tagged with ,

Kushner’s Family Business Received Loans After White House Meetings

225 W Randolph St
225 W Randolph St is owned by Kushner Co’s.

Speaking of the dimpled slumlord, Jared Kushner, apparently he is his father-in-law’s favorite for a reason: corruption comes as easily as breathing…

Early last year, a private equity billionaire started paying regular visits to the White House.

Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said three people familiar with the meetings. Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris.

The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. The loan was to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper.

Even by the standards of Apollo, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, the previously unreported transaction with the Kushners was a big deal: It was triple the size of the average property loan made by Apollo’s real estate lending arm, securities filings show.

It was one of the largest loans Kushner Companies received last year. An even larger loan came from Citigroup, which lent the firm and one of its partners $325 million to help finance a group of office buildings in Brooklyn.

(click here to continue reading Kushner’s Family Business Received Loans After White House Meetings – The New York Times.)

For the record, I walked by 225 W. Randolph today, currently the regional headquarters of AT&T, leased from Kushner, and the building looked pretty run-down from the outside.

Slightly Run Down Entrance to 225 W Randolph
Slightly Run Down Entrance to 225 W Randolph

Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post adds:


“Kushner represents a total failure in every possible dimension,” says ethics guru Norm Eisen. “His appointment was a violation of the federal anti-nepotism statute. We now know that he has the worst ethics and conflicts issues of anyone in the administration with the possible exception of his father-in-law. He could not even fill out his financial disclosures and security clearance forms properly, with dozens of amendments being required.” He adds, “His contacts with the Russians and other foreign governments are deeply problematic. His security clearance has been downgraded to the level of a White House intern, making it impossible for him to do the jobs for which he is purportedly there. He must go before he does any more damage.”


News this week that Kushner received jumbo loans from two banks after meeting with Citigroup and Apollo Global Management highlights the risk he poses. How many other suspect meetings have been taken? What ones are planned? Kushner apparently has no appreciation for the appearance of conflicts of interest, let alone actual conflicts. Because he is so heavily indebted and still operates his real estate company, we cannot be sure whether performance of his White House duties are for his own benefit or the country’s. If he meets with a bank executive, or representatives of one of the four countries attempting to influence there is at the very least the appearance of corruption. And because Kushner’s portfolio is so broad it seems unlikely he wouldn’t inevitably make some decision that affects his own financial interests and/or those of his lenders.


All of this goes to the legal and ethical implications of his continued presence in the White House. However, the political ramifications are nearly as bad, It’s now painfully obvious he is there solely by nepotism and that the president knew or should have known about the security risks and conflicts Kushner brought with him. To allow him to remain simply reaffirms the president’s comfort level with ethical malfeasance. Just as keeping Rob Porter for so long signaled the White House really didn’t think spousal abuse was that big a deal, Trump’s retention of Kushner suggests that the president doesn’t much care if his inner circle is beholden to foreigners.



(click here to continue reading The Jared time bomb – The Washington Post.)

Don t Say I Never Warned You
Don’t Say I Never Warned You

From NBC:

 Federal investigators are scrutinizing whether any of Jared Kushner’s business discussions with foreigners during the presidential transition later shaped White House policies in ways designed to either benefit or retaliate against those he spoke with, according to witnesses and other people familiar with the investigation.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has asked witnesses about Kushner’s efforts to secure financing for his family’s real estate properties, focusing specifically on his discussions during the transition with individuals from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, according to witnesses who have been interviewed as part of the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 election.

Kushner’s family real estate business, Kushner Companies, approached Qatar multiple times, including last spring, about investing in the company’s troubled flagship property at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York, but the government-run sovereign wealth fund declined, according to two people familiar with the discussion. Another discussion of interest to Mueller’s team is a meeting Kushner held at Trump Tower during the transition in December 2016 with a former prime minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, or HBJ, according to people familiar with the meeting.

HBJ had been in talks with Kushner Companies about investing in its Fifth Avenue property, which is facing roughly $1.4 billion in debt that is due in 2019, these people said. Those talks with the company continued after Kushner entered the White House and stepped away from the business, but last spring HBJ decided against investing, these people said.

In the weeks after Kushner Companies’ talks with the Qatari government and HBJ collapsed, the White House strongly backed an economically punishing blockade against Qatar, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, citing the country’s support for terrorism as the impetus. Kushner, who is both President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a key adviser, has played a major role in Trump’s Middle East policy and has developed close relationships with the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

 Some top Qatari government officials believe the White House’s position on the blockade may have been a form of retaliation driven by Kushner who was sour about the failed deal.


(click here to continue reading Mueller team asking if Kushner foreign business ties influenced Trump policy – NBC News.)

Trump Eventually We Will Get Something Done
Trump: Eventually We Will Get Something Done

From Newsweek:


New York’s banking regulator has reportedly requested loan information about Jared Kushner, his family and real estate business Kushner Companies, from three banks including Deutsche Bank AG, which is steeped in another controversy involving the presidential adviser.


New York State’s Department of Financial Services last week sent letters to Deutsche Bank, Signature Bank and New York Community Bank requesting loan applications and processes, and information about the institutions’ relationships with Kushner and his business assets, a person familiar with the correspondence told Bloomberg in a report published Wednesday.

Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, took on more debt over the past year from lenders including Signature Bank and New York Community Bank, recent government disclosures show. The couple had unsecured lines of credit of $5 million to $25 million from each of the three banks, according to a disclosures filing from late December.



(click here to continue reading Jared Kushner’s Loans From Deutsche Bank, Other Lenders Sought by Banking Regulator: Report.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 2nd, 2018 at 8:16 pm

P&G Slashed Digital Ad Spending by $200 Million Last Year

Be A Better Lover
Be A Better Lover

More signs that the bottom hasn’t yet been reached for the advertising industry, as we’ve mentioned previously…

The consumer products giant says that its push for more transparency over the past year revealed such spending had been largely wasteful and that eliminating it helped the company reach more consumers in more effective ways.

P&G , PG +0.18% whose brands include Crest, Tide and Pampers, says it cut its digital ad budget by more than $100 million from July through December. Those reductions were on top of the more than $100 million in digital marketing spending the company had already cut in the June quarter, which P&G said had little impact on the business.

The ad dollars were pulled back from a long list of digital channels but also included reducing spending with “several big digital players” by 20% to 50% last year, according to Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer. He has been leading the charge among marketers as a vocal critic of digital advertising clutter, ad fraud and brand safety issues on platforms like YouTube.

Once armed with more measurement data, P&G discovered that the average view time for a mobile ad appearing in a news feed, on platforms such as Facebook , was only 1.7 seconds. The Cincinnati-based company also realized some people were seeing P&G ads far too many times.

“Once we got transparency, it illuminated what reality was,” said Mr. Pritchard. P&G then took matters into its owns hands and voted with its dollars, he said.

Long the biggest advertiser in the world, P&G carries significant weight among marketers and its efforts are closely tracked.

(click here to continue reading P&G Slashed Digital Ad Spending by $200 Million Last Year – WSJ.)

Translated, Facebook and YouTube ads were fairly useless for P&G, so they cut back on spending on them, without noticing much of a difference on sales. If P&G, with its sophisticated marketing analysis teams thinks digital/mobile ads are missing the mark, what about other businesses? I’d assume many will follow in P&Gs footsteps, and the digital ad world is about to have revenues sliced drastically.

Prevent Cross Site Tracking
Prevent Cross-Site Tracking…

Large advertising holding corporation WPP is already feeling the pinch:


Advertising’s digital upheaval took a heavy toll on WPP LLC as the world’s largest ad company Thursday logged its worst performance since the financial crisis, triggering jitters among investors across the sector.


On Thursday, WPP said net sales fell 0.9% on a like-for-like basis last year, spooking investors who were expecting signs of recovery after the company cut its forecast three times, predicting a “broadly flat” 2017. The firm also said it is setting budgets for 2018 on the assumption of no growth in revenue and net sales.


WPP shares tumbled 9%, and the fallout quickly spread to rival ad giants like Publicis Groupe SA, which fell 4%.


Digital disruption is leading Unilever PLC, Procter & Gamble Co. and other consumer-goods giants that once splurged on ad agency-led campaigns to redirect their spending. That is saddling ad firms with their slowest revenue growth in a decade and pressuring agency holding companies to revamp organizational structures that are out of step with the digital age. Advertisers are demanding agencies provide services that target consumers relentlessly over the internet as well as coming up with traditional campaigns for print and TV.

The question is whether the big ad companies can evolve fast enough. P&G, long the biggest advertiser in the world, has said that it is looking to cut an additional $400 million in agency and production costs by 2021, having already saved around a combined $750 million in recent year. Unilever, meanwhile, has also been slashing agency fees and production costs, in part by reducing the number of traditional ads it makes and bringing more of its marketing work in-house.



(click here to continue reading Ad Industry’s Digital Upheaval Rocks WPP; Shares Fall 14% – WSJ.)



The packaged-goods sector, which accounts for close to a third of WPP’s sales, is the key problem. Big advertisers like Procter & Gamble have been driving hard bargains with their suppliers as they trim and reallocate ad budgets in response to new consumption patterns and new media.


This malaise could spread to other industries challenged by new tastes and technology. Car makers, for example, are trying to work out how their approach to advertising needs to adapt if, as many expect, individual car ownership gives way to “mobility as a service”—renting cars by the hour through tech platforms. They accounted for 12% of WPP’s revenue last year.


Then there is the question of whether the ad industry itself is challenged by new technology. This is far from clear in the data: WPP’s 19% margins in media buying—the ad business most vulnerable to a more digital approach—haven’t slipped. Such high margins could also be a reason to worry at a time when clients are seeking big savings.



(click here to continue reading Is WPP Cheap Enough to Own? – WSJ.)

Interesting times. And like the Chinese proverb says,1 to live in interesting times is not actually fun.

  1. or doesn’t actually say []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 1st, 2018 at 10:09 am

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with , ,

Kushner Cos. Claims Jared Is a Victim of Harassment

Absent the Human Voice bleached
Absent the Human Voice… 

For your chuckle of the day, check out Bess Levin’s “Jared Kushner, dimpled slumlord” piece in Vanity Fair, which begins…

Though we can’t say for certain, in all likelihood, Jared Kushner spent the afternoon rocking back and forth in a fetal position under his desk, emitting soft moans that left White House aides frantically searching for what they assumed was a wounded animal loose in the building. After entering the West Wing last year with a slate of modest goals that included solving America’s opioid epidemic, bringing peace to the Middle East, overhauling I.T. infrastructure, and more or less “re-invent[ing] the entire government,” and rounding out his first year there with approximately zero of these items accomplished, the First Son-in-Law on Wednesday found his downpour of a week upgraded to a Category 5 shit-storm.

Within a 48-hour period, Kushner had his interim security clearance downgraded; learned that his P.R. guru is quitting; and was the subject of a mortifying article in The Washington Post alleging that officials in at least four countries have discussed ways to manipulate him “by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.” To cap things off, on Wednesday, multiple outlets reported that the New York Department of Financial Services has requested information from several banks “about their relationship with Kushner and his finances,” among them Signature Bank, New York Community Bank, and Deutsche Bank, the latter of which Kushner has been a client for years, and from which he and the First Daughter have unsecured lines of credit between $5 million and $25 million, while Kushner and his mother, Seryl, reportedly have an unsecured line of credit valued at up to $25 million. In December, The New York Times also reported that the Kushner family business, Kushner Companies, had received a $285 million loan from Deutsche in 2016, and that Jared had “ordered up a glowing profile of [executive Rosemary] Vrablic in the real-estate magazine he owned,” with a disclosure about their connection at the very end of the article. According to The Wall Street Journal, the inquiries are “expansive” and “comprehensive,” meaning the senior adviser to the president can expect the equivalent a full-body cavity search of his finances.

Obviously, it’s a situation the boy prince never expected to find himself in, given that his life thus far has primarily involved working at institutions run by his ex-con father or his father-in-law, where he was accustomed to never being told no. And speaking of Charles Kushner, who went to prison for, among other things, setting up his brother-in-law with a prostitute, taping the encounter, and sending it to his sister as retaliation for cooperating with the government, perhaps he’ll have some fatherly words of wisdom to impart re: the big house, should things progress to that point.

(click here to continue reading Kushner Cos. Claims Jared Is a Victim of “Harassment” | Vanity Fair.)

Jared Kushner has been a wormtongue to Trump for a long time. If he had any self awareness, or perhaps paid attention to the history of other Trump sycophants, Kushner might have been aware of what being in Trumpland inevitably leads to – debasement, humiliation, degradation, and even possible jail time. 

Sad! Jarvanka might not get the last laugh at Bannon’s expense after all…

That Is The Way It Goes
That Is The Way It Goes

The polite term for slumlord is predatory capitalist, but it doesn’t have quite the zing. And since I had to refresh my memory:


In a feature for ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine, journalist Alec MacGillis shined light on the role of Jared Kushner—son-in-law and close adviser to President Trump—as a real estate developer and landlord. In 2011 and 2012, seeking a stable source of revenue, Kushner and his partners purchased thousands of units of working-class housing in the inner-ring suburbs of cities like Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Their largest holdings are in Baltimore County, Maryland, where they control 15 complexes that house up to 20,000 people in total. And in managing these properties, reports MacGillis, Kushner is a harsh and unforgiving landlord.


Kushner’s company is relentless in its pursuit of “virtually any unpaid rent or broken lease—even in the numerous cases where the facts appear to be on the tenants’ side.” Residents are slapped with thousands of dollars in fees and penalties, even if they had previously won permission to terminate a lease. All of this is compounded by poor upkeep of facilities. MacGillis describes one family that has had to deal with mold, broken appliances, and physical damage to their unit—even after paying the management company for repairs. In one complex, a resident “had a mouse infestation that was severe enough that her 12-year-old daughter recently found one in her bed.” In another, raw sewage flowed into the apartment.



(click here to continue reading Jared Kushner’s life as a predatory capitalist..)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 28th, 2018 at 8:32 pm

Posted in humor,politics

Tagged with ,

America’s Secret Ice Base in Greenland Won’t Stay Frozen Forever

Don t Get Crazy
Don’t Get Crazy. 

Ok, here’s a pretty weird story. The US started, then abandoned a top-secret military base under the ice of Greenland, called Camp Century aka Project Iceworm. The original goal was to have thousands of miles of underground tunnels and rail, and 600 nuclear missiles ready to be deployed against Moscow if they ever attempted to hack our elections. Ok, not that last part. But the tunnels, and nuclear weapons, that was real. The US didn’t even bother to ask the Danish government if it was ok with them to have nuclear weapons stored here, but in the end it didn’t matter because the ice turned out to be too unstable and the project was cancelled.

The Pentagon did what it often has done, left behind all the waste and garbage, even though much of it is toxic. Fast forward a few decades, and factor in climate change, and we have a real problem as Sarah Laskow of Wired writes:

Under the thick ice of Greenland, a scant 800 miles from the North Pole, the U.S. military built a hidden base of ice tunnels, imagined as an extensive network of railway tracks, stretching over 2,500 miles, that would keep 600 nuclear missiles buried under the ice. Construction began in 1959, under cover of a scientific research project, and soon a small installation, powered by a nuclear reactor, nested in the ice sheet.

In the midst of the Cold War, Greenland seemed like a strategic point for the U.S. to stage weapons, ready to attack the U.S.S.R. The thick ice sheet, military planners imagined, would provide permanent protection for the base. But after the first tunnels were built, the military discovered that the ice sheet was not as stable as it needed to be: It moved and shifted, destabilizing the tunnels. Within a decade, Camp Century was abandoned.

By the time the base was abandoned in 1967, it had its own library and theater, an infirmary, kitchen and mess hall, a chapel, and two power plants (one nuclear, one run on diesel). When the base closed, key parts of the nuclear power plant were removed, but most of the base’s infrastructure was left behind—the buildings, the railways, the sewage, the diesel fuel, and the low-level radioactive waste. In the 2016 paper, which Colgan worked on as well, the researchers suggested that the radiological waste was less worrisome than the more extensive chemical waste, from diesel fuel and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used to insulate fluids and paints.

Overall, the researchers estimated that 20,000 liters of chemical waste remain at the Camp Century site, along with 24 million liters of “biological waste associated with untreated sewage.” That’s just at Camp Century; the military closed down bases at three other sites in Greenland, too, and it’s unclear how much waste is left there. Over the next few decades, the researchers found, melt water from the ice sheets could mobilize these pollutants, exposing both the wildlife and humans living in Greenland.

(click here to continue reading America’s Secret Ice Base Won’t Stay Frozen Forever | WIRED.)

It s Symbolic Of Course
It’s Symbolic Of Course

Written by Seth Anderson

February 28th, 2018 at 11:01 am

NSA chief: Trump has not ordered disruption of Russia election meddling

Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley by Barry Blitt  newyorker  trump
Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley by Barry Blitt The New Yorker

This is not good. Speaking of traitors to America, Trump is happy to twiddle his liddle Twitter thumbs, watch Fox and Friends in his bathrobe, and let Putin do what he will.

A top national security official told lawmakers on Tuesday he had not been directed by Donald Trump to disrupt Russian efforts to meddle in US elections, and that Vladimir Putin had come to the conclusion there was “little price to pay” for such actions.

Adm Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and chief of US Cyber Command, told the Senate armed services committee: “Clearly, what we’ve done hasn’t been enough.”

Asked if he had been granted the authority by Trump to counter Russian cyber-attacks at source, Rogers said: “No, I have not.”

He added: “I need a policy decision that indicates there is specific direction to do that. The president ultimately would make this decision in accordance with a recommendation from the secretary of defense.”

Trump has dismissed investigations into Russian interference in the US election – and potential collusion between Trump aides and Moscow – as a partisan exercise.

Rogers cited Trump’s decision in January to delay the implementation of new sanctions against Russia that Congress passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis last year.

“I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there’s little price to pay here, and that therefore I can continue this activity,” Rogers said.

“Everything, both as the director of NSA and what I see on the cyber command side, leads me to believe that if we don’t change the dynamic here, this is going to continue and 2016 won’t be viewed as something isolated.

“This is something that will be sustained over time.”

(click here to continue reading NSA chief: Trump ‘has not ordered disruption of Russia election meddling’ | US news | The Guardian.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 28th, 2018 at 10:43 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Foreign Nationals Manipulate Kushner With Ease

The Sound Was Sweet And Clear
The Sound Was Sweet And Clear

If there was ever a candidate who should have his citizenship stripped, and should be sent to Gitmo, or Yemen, it’s Jared Kushner. Well, maybe he wouldn’t be alone, and would be joined by his wife, his brothers-in-law, and a few others in the Trump circle…

Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.

Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said.

It is unclear if any of those countries acted on the discussions, but Kushner’s contacts with certain foreign government officials have raised concerns inside the White House and are a reason he has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance, the officials said.

Kushner’s interim security clearance was downgraded last week from the top-secret to the secret level, which should restrict the regular access he has had to highly classified information, according to administration officials.

H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report. The issue of foreign officials talking about their meetings with Kushner and their perceptions of his vulnerabilities was a subject raised in McMaster’s daily intelligence briefings, according to the current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

Within the White House, Kushner’s lack of government experience and his business debt were seen from the beginning of his tenure as potential points of leverage that foreign governments could use to influence him, the current and former officials said.

(click here to continue reading Kushner’s overseas contacts raise concerns as foreign officials seek leverage – The Washington Post.)


You know, Hillary’s emails…

Kushner has been Trump’s designated reader of the highly classified Presidential Daily Briefing for over a year now, without appropriate security clearance. Isn’t that disturbing to you? It is to me. These foreign nations who laughingly considered Kushner easy to manipulate were very interested in information discussed in the PDB. How do we know Kushner wasn’t trafficking it to the highest bidders?

If Kushner can read the PDB, why can’t I? I bet I’d pass an FBI security investigation within 2 months, if not sooner. Sure I was born in Toronto to Vietnam War draft-dodgers, but my ancestry can be traced back to Jamestown in the 1600s, and elsewhere in Colonial America, plus no member of my family has been jailed for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering. Maybe the PDB should be available to every voter who can pass an FBI check? We are still, allegedly, a democratic nation, theoretically, the citizen is in tenuous charge of the government.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 27th, 2018 at 10:03 pm

Shocker: Democrats’ predictions about the GOP tax cut are coming true


We Pronounce Joy Like A Word Of Our Own
We Pronounce Joy Like A Word Of Our Own

It is strange that one party in our two party system doesn’t believe in facts, nor seemingly pays much of a penalty for blatant lies about a plethora of topics. Climate change, immigration, gun control, trickle-down1 economics; the list of Republic falsehoods injected into the public discourse could go on for hours, if one were so inclined.

Even worse, in my estimation, is that much of the corporate media does what Paul Waldman of the Washington Post calls out in his column -by reducing GOP falsehoods to “critcs say”, aka “both sides” aka “false equivalency2, the GOP’s non-factual assertions are treated as serious, when they really are not…

Among the things Democrats pointed out was that even before the tax cut, corporations were making near-record profits and sitting on mountains of cash; if they wanted to invest, create jobs and raise wages, they already had the means to do it. They also observed that even before the tax cut passed, corporations were saying publicly that they intended to use the money for stock buybacks.

But what about those bonuses that companies announced and that Trump kept touting? It’s true that some companies did give workers one-time bonuses. But it was essentially a PR move. Take Walmart, for instance. It made a splashy announcement that it would be giving bonuses of up to $1,000 to workers, which sounded great. But then it turned out that you’d only get that much if you’d been working there for 20 years, and the average worker would get around $190. Which is better than nothing, but it isn’t exactly going to transform your life.

And as ThinkProgress noted, the total value of Walmart’s bonuses was $400 million, which seems like a lot until you learn that over 10 years the value of the tax cut to the corporation will be $18 billion. In other words, about 2 percent of its tax cut is going to workers, at least in the short run.

How many times do we have to play this game? When a new policy debate emerges, Democrats try to make an argument that has some connection to reality, while Republicans make absurd claims in the knowledge that even if they get debunked in the occasional “news analysis” piece, on the whole they’ll be treated with complete seriousness, no matter how ridiculous they are.

It’s in part because lies about the future — and that’s what they are when you know that what you’re saying is utterly bogus — will not be policed with nearly the same vigor as lies about the past. If Trump claims that he had the largest inaugural crowd in history, it will immediately get shot down and subject to mockery even from neutral reporters. But if he says that all the benefits of his corporate tax cut will flow to workers, which is no less a lie, it will usually be met with “Critics question whether there is evidence to support his assertion.” When Republicans said that their tax cut wouldn’t increase the deficit because it would create so much economic growth that revenue would actually increase, it was treated as a questionable claim, not an assertion on par with “If I flap my arms, I can fly to the moon” or “With a week of training, my dog will be able to do a perfect rendition of ‘Enter Sandman’ on the electric guitar.”

(click here to continue reading Shocker: Democrats’ predictions about the GOP tax cut are coming true – The Washington Post.)

The Illustrated Police News  October 17 1896
The Illustrated Police News – October 17,1896

In an ideal world, the same reporters and television talking heads would aggressively come after the GOP liars, quoting their words back to them and demanding answers, as if the journalists were high school children from Parkland, FL, or Dutch questioners of Ambassador Hoekstra. If only our corporate media courtiers were as persistent as the Dutch press, we’d all be better off.


Peter Hoekstra, the newly minted U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, held his first news conference with the Dutch media at his new residence in The Hague on Wednesday.

It did not go well.

Dutch journalists peppered Hoekstra with questions on unsubstantiated claims he made in 2015 about chaos that the “Islamic movement” had allegedly brought to the Netherlands.

“There are cars being burned. There are politicians that are being burned,” he said then, at a conference hosted by a conservative group. “And yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.”

The comments have widely been described as inaccurate, and seem to reflect certain conspiracy theories about sharia law that crop up in some circles of the far-right in the West. When pressed by the Dutch reporters, Hoekstra declined to retract the comments or give specific examples to back them up.

In fact, after saying that he would not be “revisiting the issue,” he simply refused to answer the question at all.


But the reporters were not done with the line of questioning. Instead of moving on, another reporter would simply ask a variation of the query again.

“Everybody there had one question: That crazy statement you made, are you going to withdraw it?” Roel Geeraedts, a political reporter at the Dutch television station RTL Nieuws, said in a phone interview about the event. “We were not getting answers, so we all kept asking it.”


(click here to continue reading Trump’s Netherlands ambassador Peter Hoekstra grilled by Dutch press over Islam comments – The Washington Post.)

I would so love if this style overcame the “access journalism” practices by many Washington-based journalists.

  1. Supply-side []
  2. as Jay Rosen often notes []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 27th, 2018 at 7:59 pm

Posted in News-esque,politics

Tagged with ,

Why more companies should hop on the anti-NRA bandwagon

Jesus gun
Jesus Lock-and-Load

A follow-up to the brewing NRA corporate backlash, which continues to grow…

Robert Reed of the Chicago Tribune writes, in part:

The biggest problem with this anti-NRA crusade is that more companies haven’t joined it.

In addition to acting as responsible corporate citizens, these companies are teeing up an important new business strategy. They’re aligning themselves with an emerging market of younger, more socially conscious consumers and financial backers who want to connect with companies that address big social justice issues, including a crackdown on gun violence.

The corporate backlash against the NRA and its approximately 5 million members shows no sign of abating. In addition to United Airlines, the anti-NRA crowd includes Delta Air Lines, Hertz, Avis Budget, Enterprise, Symantec (owner of the LifeLock identity theft protection company), SimpliSafe (home security), insurer MetLife and First National Bank of Omaha, which offered a branded NRA Visa credit card.

Amazon, Google and Apple are under pressure to stop offering an NRA channel through their streaming services.

That channel is sort of an ongoing infomercial, showcasing segments about various firearms and gun-related issues, including one about the difficulty of buying an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon in California because of red tape and a 10-day waiting process. The NRA’s correspondent boasted about getting the gun in time for Christmas.

Companies also are aligning with the multitudes of baby boomers, millennials and teenagers taking a stance against gun violence.

As more CEOs are discovering, customers prefer to patronize companies that are in sync with many of their broad social values— improving public safety, saving the environment, rationale immigration policies and more.

Increasingly, companies are being held accountable for their corporate behavior and often are blasted on social media when they disappoint. That may happen to FedEx, which on Monday decided to maintain its NRA discount program and is facing mounting criticism.

(click here to continue reading Why more companies should hop on the anti-NRA bandwagon – Chicago Tribune.)

FedEx in the snow
FedEx in the snow

And as I mentioned, I’m a long-time customer of FedEx, and opposed to the NRA. Since FedEx is telling me to take my business elsewhere, I shall oblige. I don’t receive any special discounts from FedEx, but they are saying NRA members should. 


FedEx said it was keeping a discount deal for NRA members while issuing a statement that tried to distance its views on gun policy from the group’s.


On Tuesday it clarified that the discount program it offers is for NRA members, not the organization itself. FedEx has never provided any donation or sponsorship to the NRA, the company said.



(click here to continue reading NRA: Companies sticking by the them a problem? FedEx poses test case.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 27th, 2018 at 7:26 pm

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,

Trump again overcompensates for cowardice

Bernie Scares Trump
Bernie Scares Trump

Trump is afraid of many things, among them, giving a full press conference1, or answering questions from the Mueller investigation under oath

Amusingly, Jennifer Rubin, once a stalwart GOP defender at all costs, has transformed into a never-Trumper. Today’s column covers the courage of Lord Little Hands of Orange…

President Trump is not known for personal courage. He used “bone spurs” to get out of military service in Vietnam. (He apparently is not scared of stairs, but is petrified of sharks and, by his own account, is revolted by the sight of blood. He’s also a germaphobe.) He’ll fire people, but not if he has to confront the person directly. (He sent an aide to fire FBI director James B. Comey; gave up trying to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — when White House counsel Don McGahn wouldn’t do it; and backed off trying to remove deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe when FBI director Christopher A. Wray threatened to quit.) When caught saying or doing something he shouldn’t (e.g., mocking a reporter with a disability, calling African countries “shitholes,” calling Democrats “un-American” and “treasonous,” etc.), he figuratively flees the scene by either denying what he said, or pretending it was a joke. And, for whatever reason, he will bend over backwards to avoid offending Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that Hillary Clinton sat stoically before the GOP-controlled committee charged with investigation the Benghazi tragedy for eleven hours, but Trump cannot muster up the nerve to talk face-to-face with Mueller? Some people, I suppose, are just naturally more stouthearted than others.

(click here to continue reading With ‘I’d run in there’ comment, Trump again overcompensates for cowardice – The Washington Post.)

  1. he hasn’t had one since February 16, 2017, over a year ago []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 27th, 2018 at 4:27 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with

How Facebook Enabled Trump

We Are What We Watch
We Are What We Watch (on Facebook)

More and more, Facebook seems to be the reason that Donald Trump’s traveling garbage barge won the 2016 election, without considering the substantial Putin assistance. Facebook was instrumental in Trump’s electoral college victory despite his popular vote loss.

Antonio García Martínez writes at Wired:

LIKE MANY THINGS at Facebook, the ads auction is a version of something Google built first. As on Google, Facebook has a piece of ad real estate that it’s auctioning off, and potential advertisers submit a piece of ad creative, a targeting spec for their ideal user, and a bid for what they’re willing to pay to obtain a desired response (such as a click, a like, or a comment). Rather than simply reward that ad position to the highest bidder, though, Facebook uses a complex model that considers both the dollar value of each bid as well as how good a piece of clickbait (or view-bait, or comment-bait) the corresponding ad is. If Facebook’s model thinks your ad is 10 times more likely to engage a user than another company’s ad, then your effective bid at auction is considered 10 times higher than a company willing to pay the same dollar amount.

A canny marketer with really engaging (or outraging) content can goose their effective purchasing power at the ads auction, piggybacking on Facebook’s estimation of their clickbaitiness to win many more auctions (for the same or less money) than an unengaging competitor. That’s why, if you’ve noticed a News Feed ad that’s pulling out all the stops (via provocative stock photography or other gimcrackery) to get you to click on it, it’s partly because the advertiser is aiming to pump up their engagement levels and increase their exposure, all without paying any more money.

During the run-up to the election, the Trump and Clinton campaigns bid ruthlessly for the same online real estate in front of the same swing-state voters. But because Trump used provocative content to stoke social media buzz, and he was better able to drive likes, comments, and shares than Clinton, his bids received a boost from Facebook’s click model, effectively winning him more media for less money. In essence, Clinton was paying Manhattan prices for the square footage on your smartphone’s screen, while Trump was paying Detroit prices. Facebook users in swing states who felt Trump had taken over their news feeds may not have been hallucinating.

One of the ways the Trump campaign leveraged Lookalike Audiences was through its voter suppression campaigns among likely Clinton voters. They seeded the Audiences assembly line with content about Clinton that was engaging but dispiriting. This is one of the ways that Trump won the election, by the very tools that were originally built to help companies like Bed Bath & Beyond sell you towels.

Unsurprisingly, the Russians also apparently made use of Custom Audiences in their ads campaign. The unwary clicker on a Russian ad who then visited their propaganda site suddenly could find yet more planted content in their Feed, which could generate downstream engagement in Feed, and thus the great Facebook wheel turned. The scale of their spend was puny, however, a measly $100,000, which pales in comparison to the millions Trump spent on online advertising.

(click here to continue reading How Trump Conquered Facebook Without Russian Ads | WIRED.)

Hit the Jackpot
Hit the Jackpot

or as Casey Newton writes at The Verge:


Did Facebook’s ad platform give Donald Trump an unfair advantage in the 2016 election?

To place an ad on Facebook, a political campaign has to win an automated auction. At any given time, millions of advertisers are competing to place ads in front of Facebook’s 2 billion-plus daily users. Advertisers can price their ads by the number of people who see it, the number of people who click on a link, or the number of people who engage with the ad, such as by watching a video or installing an app. Facebook averages out the cost of these various ads into a figure it calls an “eCPM” — the effective cost per 1,000 impressions.


The CPM is a standard measurement in the advertising industry. But Facebook’s ads differ from traditional ads in an important way: the company offers advertisers a monetary incentive to create more engaging ads. As users begin to click, share, and engage with an ad, Facebook begins showing it to more people. That lowers the eCPM, often allowing advertisers to reach a larger audience for the same amount of money. In some cases, Facebook’s automated systems will choose to display ads that had lower bids, if it believes the content of the ad will draw more engagement from users. The monetary goal of this system is to keep users scrolling through the News Feed, maximizing the number of ads that they encounter.

In my piece, I wrote about a senior Facebook employee who said Trump’s CPM was substantially lower than Clinton’s, according to communications I reviewed. At the time, I couldn’t find a second source for something else the employee said, which was that Trump’s effective CPM averaged $0.06, compared with $1.06 for Clinton.



(click here to continue reading Trump campaign gamed Facebook ads even better than we thought – The Verge.)

No wonder Facebook numbers for the politically aware ‘yout’ and the rest of us are falling off a cliff. Who wants to spend time with your Trump-loving neighbors and relatives?

On a personal note, I “unpinned” Facebook from my browser so that it wasn’t always open, and found myself visiting much less frequently. In fact, Facebook now is sending me emails trying to lure me back by telling me my grandmother has posted such and such (she probably hasn’t, she doesn’t post much), or so forth. 

Written by Seth Anderson

February 26th, 2018 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,