Censorship and Intimidation

  • “O Say Can You See”: Civil liberties in the crosshairs
  • Harassment and intimidation, American-style
  • “A traditional ACLU liberal… horrified”
  • Alan Knuckman: “Get mad or get rich”
  • Two states want to bet on scripted “faces” and “heels”… What the world needs now?… Light-beer gags… And more!

It sounds like the stuff of tinpot dictatorships: A government agency leans on a company to turn over the names of journalists working to expose government wrongdoing.

But as you’ve probably surmised already, we’re talking about present-day America. (Or as we’re seeing some wags call it lately, “Weimerica.”)

By now you probably have at least passing familiarity with the Twitter Files — a series of tweet threads and articles by a half dozen or so journalists, drawing on internal communications at Twitter during the years before Elon Musk bought the company last October. Musk and his team shared the memos, emails and chats with the reporters and writers.

The Twitter Files demonstrate a clear pattern of harassment and intimidation on the part of three-letter agencies — browbeating Twitter’s pre-Musk leadership to suppress speech that flew in the face of government-approved narratives.

For instance: “Hi team, can we get your opinion on this? This was flagged by DHS.” Or, “Please see attached report from the FBI for potential misinformation.”

In short order, these “flags” and “reports” would lead to the suspension of people’s accounts.

True, Twitter’s “woke” managers were frequently eager to cooperate — but many of the Twitter Files also show them frustrated with the feds’ demands they uncover evidence of, say, “a Russian op” when none existed.

Now in a blatant infringement on press freedom, the Federal Trade Commission is demanding Twitter disclose all the names of the journalists who were given the Twitter Files.

Specifically, the FTC demands that Twitter “identify all journalists and other members of the media to whom” it granted “any type of access to the Company’s internal communications” since Musk’s acquisition.

In addition, the FTC demands Twitter hand over all of Musk’s communications as well as discussions about plans for layoffs, the Twitter Blue subscription plan and more.

Yes, there’s bureaucratic pretense for this overreach: “The agency’s ostensible authority for these demands is a consent decree forged between Twitter and the FTC in 2011 and expanded in 2022,” explains Reason writer Elizabeth Nolan Brown.

“The 2011 consent order prohibited Twitter from misrepresenting how it employed user data. Last year, Twitter had to pay $150 million to settle an FTC suit saying Twitter had violated that earlier order’s terms by collecting user phone numbers and email addresses for account security purposes and then also using that information for advertising purposes.”

And so the FTC has, as they say in Washington, “plausible deniability.” No politically motivated witch hunt here, says FTC flack Douglas Farrar: “It should come as no surprise that career staff at the commission are conducting a rigorous investigation into Twitter’s compliance with a consent order that came into effect long before Mr. Musk purchased the company.”

Of course, the names of the journalists working on the Twitter files are already well-known, starting with ex-Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi — who covered more than his share of tinpot dictatorships back in the day.

So what’s the point of demanding the journalists’ names? Intimidation. Making it known that other journalists who take on topics like this are going to, at the very least, end up on a list.

And at worst? Well, intimidation is the rationale for the feds’ prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — starting under Trump, continuing under Biden.

The idea is not to bring Assange to America for trial — where his lawyers could invoke a host of constitutional issues in his defense. The idea is for Assange to rot in a high-security lockup in London, indefinitely, so that no one else even thinks about exposing Washington’s dirty laundry the way he did.

“The original promise of the internet was that it might democratize the exchange of information globally,” Taibbi said this morning in his opening statement to a congressional committee.

“A free internet would overwhelm all attempts to control information flow, its very existence a threat to anti-democratic forms of government everywhere.

“What we found in the Files was a sweeping effort to reverse that promise, and use machine learning and other tools to turn the internet into an instrument of censorship and social control. Unfortunately, our own government appears to be playing a lead role.”

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Matt Taibbi and fellow writer Michael Shellenberger — neither one of them expecting a decade ago they’d be testifying to something called the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government [C-SPAN screengrab]

And it’s not just freedom of expression at risk. It’s also the right to conduct commerce with whom you choose.

More from Taibbi’s testimony: “Ordinary Americans are not just being reported to Twitter for ‘deamplification’ or de-platforming, but to firms like PayPal, digital advertisers like Xandr and crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe. These companies can and do refuse service to law-abiding people and businesses whose only crime is falling afoul of a distant, faceless, unaccountable, algorithmic judge.

“As someone who grew up a traditional ACLU liberal, this mechanism for punishment without due process is horrifying.”

It’s in this fraught environment that the federal government is set to spring the final countdown to “Biden Bucks” — with a major announcement from Washington and the big banks likely next week.

It was a year ago today Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14067 — paving the way for an American central bank digital currency. It was last summer when Paradigm Press macroeconomics authority Jim Rickards started sounding the alarm.

“This programmable and trackable ‘spyware’ currency poses an immediate threat to your financial security and freedom,” Jim reminds us.

“Imagine,” he says, “a world where…

>>” They can force you to buy an electric vehicle, get vaccinated, use solar and eat fake plant-based meat

>> “A world where they control where you’re allowed to travel and what items you’re allowed to purchase

>> “An America where they control which candidates you’re allowed to donate to.”

And yet… Jim has just learned about a way to “opt out” of this tyranny even as it descends upon us.

After suffering a blow from Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell’s testimony to Congress earlier this week, the stock market is bracing for the next potential jolt tomorrow.

The Labor Department will deliver the February job numbers — a week later than usual owing to February being a short month and the wonks needing time to crunch the numbers from their midmonth surveys. A “good” job number will be bad news for stocks because it will firm up the Fed’s intentions to raise short-term interest rates a half percentage point later this month, and not just a quarter.

As for today, all the major U.S. indexes are in the green — the Dow up four-tenths of a percent but still below 33,000, the S&P 500 up a little less than half a percent and back above 4,000 and the Nasdaq up just over half a percent to 11,641.

Precious metals are trying to recover some of their lost mojo, gold up $14 to $1,828 and silver adding 13 cents to $20.15. Crude is up a half percent to $77.08.

Crypto has, not surprisingly, taken a hit from the news that the crypto-focused bank Silvergate Capital (SI) plans to shut down — although it promises that all deposits will be returned.

Silvergate couldn’t recover after the meltdown at FTX last November led to customer withdrawals totaling $8.1 billion, forcing the bank to unload assets at a steep loss.

And with that, Bitcoin sits very near the danger zone discussed here last week — $21,654. Much lower than this and Bitcoin’s recent trend of “higher highs and higher lows” will break. Ethereum is in the same boat at $1,536.

“Senior members of the executive branch — who have access to privileged information — shouldn’t be using it to get rich,” says Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri).

Hawley has drawn up a bill that would ban senior executive branch officials from owning or trading individual stocks.

If you’re wondering, yes, he has companion legislation that would apply to congresscritters and their spouses.

But it’s the executive branch bill that might get traction after a recent Wall Street Journal expose uncovered all manner of conflict of interest throughout the executive branch — including 2,600 officials who owned shares of companies overseen by their agencies.

Still, Hawley has an uphill climb. “Lawmakers in both parties have pushed in recent months to move forward on such legislation,” says the WSJ, “but have so far made little headway.”

As a reminder, this is one of those situations where our approach is “Get mad or get rich.”

It’s the mindset that Paradigm Press trading authority Alan Knuckman takes with his Profit Wire readers. Using a proprietary indicator called QIT-4, he unearths the activity of connected market insiders and shows readers how to piggyback their activity for money-doubling gains.

We have to give Alan a shout-out this week for a textbook trade on WW International (WW), the company formerly known as Weight Watchers. He recommended WW call options on Jan. 17. They almost instantly turned into a 102% gain two days ago — after WW announced an acquisition that gives it an “in” with the new breed of enormously popular weight loss drugs like Wegovy.

Somebody knew something and acted on it: That’s what the indicator detects. It’s a powerful tool — the kind all our editors work hard to develop on your behalf.

From the stuff-you-can’t-make-up department: Gambling regulators in two states might soon give the green light to betting on the outcome of… pro wrestling matches.

“WWE is in talks with state gambling regulators in Colorado and Michigan to legalize betting on high-profile matches,” according to CNBC, citing anonymous sources.

“WWE is working with the accounting firm EY to secure scripted match results in hopes it will convince regulators there’s no chance of results leaking to the public… WWE executives have cited Oscars betting as a template to convince regulators gambling on scripted matches is safe.”

Furthermore, “if WWE succeeds in its bid to legalize gambling on matches, it could open the door for legalized betting on other guarded, secret scripted events, such as future character deaths in TV series.”

Look, whatever consenting adults want to do, we’re fine with it. But that won’t stop us from once more summoning the asteroid invocation…

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Go figure, readers still aren’t done with the light-beer gags in our virtual mailbag…

“In the Midwest,” says one, “light beers are spacers… between good beers.”

“Your beer humor snippets,” says another, “reminded me of an old joke I heard while growing up in Montana. ‘What’s the difference between Moosehead in Canada and Moosehead in Montana?

“In Canada it’s a beer… in Montana it’s a misdemeanor.”

The 5: [rim shot]

Best regards,

Dave Gonigam

 

 

 

Dave Gonigam
The 5 Min. Forecast

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam has been managing editor of The 5 Min. Forecast since September 2010. Before joining the research and writing team at Agora Financial in 2007, he worked for 20 years as an Emmy award-winning television news producer.

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