|From: S. maltophilia||6/8/2021 1:36:21 PM|
|1999 was downright quaint compared to this:|
From a Bloomberg Money Stuff email
|MoviePassMoviePass had maybe the greatest business model of the 2010s venture capital boom. The model was:|
You paid MoviePass $10 a month.In exchange, you could see as many movies as you wanted, in theaters.MoviePass had no particular deals with the movie theaters; it just went out and bought whatever tickets you wanted at retail prices.The retail price for a movie ticket was about $10. If you saw more than one movie a month — as you probably did, if you bothered to sign up for this service — MoviePass lost money on you. But MoviePass supposedly collected data! Data is valuable! I don’t know.This all worked out extremely poorly, as you’d expect — MoviePass shut down in 2019 and its parent company filed for bankruptcy in 2020 — but it also became legendary. “ The Entire Economy Is MoviePass Now,” Kevin Roose of the New York Times said in 2018: Real-world services (car rides, food delivery, movie tickets) were being provided below cost by nominally “tech” companies, funded by venture capitalists who were flush with cash and valued user growth above all else. If you sell $20 worth of movie tickets for $10, people will sign up, you will have rapid user growth and you can probably get someone to think that that’s valuable, even though in fact every user that you add costs you $10.
But — unlike most of the “MoviePass economy” — MoviePass was not actually a venture-funded startup, did not raise piles of money, and was somewhat constrained by economic reality. So at some point the company looked for ways to make this insane business model work, and it found one. It’s pretty simple: What if MoviePass collected your $10 each month and then, when you asked it for movie tickets, it ignored you? Then it could keep collecting your $10 a month without spending money on tickets. Eventually you’d get annoyed by not getting what you paid for, and you’d try to cancel your membership and get your money back, but MoviePass could ignore that too and keep collecting the $10. Giving people unlimited movie tickets for $10 a month is a good way to get rapid customer growth; telling people you’ll give them unlimited movie tickets for $10 a month, but not actually doing it, is a way to pivot to profitability.
When I describe it like that it sounds bad, but it was actually much worse! The way MoviePass ignored its customers was by changing their passwords so they couldn’t log into their accounts. Here’s a passage from a 2019 Insider article about MoviePass and its chief executive officer, Mitch Lowe, which we discussed at the time:
Per Lowe's orders, MoviePass began limiting subscriber access ahead of the April release of the highly anticipated "Avengers: Infinity War," according to multiple former employees. They said Lowe ordered that the passwords of a small percentage of power users be changed, preventing them from logging onto the app and ordering tickets.So part of me admires the gumption, sure, but that seems like … super-duper fraud? But here’s a U.S. Federal Trade Commission action from yesterday:
The operators of the MoviePass subscription service have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations they took steps to block subscribers from using the service as advertised, while also failing to secure subscribers’ personal data.They really changed people’s passwords so they couldn’t use the service, and their punishment is that they have to promise not to do it again. The complaint is madness:
Under the proposed settlement, MoviePass, Inc., its parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics, Inc. (Helios), and their principals, Mitchell Lowe and Theodore Farnsworth, will be barred from misrepresenting their business and data security practices. In addition, any businesses controlled by MoviePass, Helios, or Lowe must implement comprehensive information security programs.
“MoviePass and its executives went to great lengths to deny consumers access to the service they paid for while also failing to secure their personal information,” said Daniel Kaufman, the FTC’s Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC will continue working to protect consumers from deception and to ensure that businesses deliver on their promises.”
In its complaint, the FTC alleges that MoviePass, Inc.—along with its CEO, Lowe, as well as Helios and Farnsworth, CEO of Helios—deceptively marketed its “one movie per day” service promised to subscribers who paid for its $9.95 monthly service. ...
According to the FTC, MoviePass’s operators invalidated subscriber passwords while falsely claiming to have detected “suspicious activity or potential fraud” on the accounts. MoviePass's operators did this even though some of its own executives raised questions about the scheme, according to the complaint.
Under Respondents’ password disruption program, Respondents invalidated the passwords of the 75,000 subscribers who used the service most frequently while claiming that “we have detected suspicious activity or potential fraud” on the affected subscribers’ accounts. …They had formal business meetings about this, where they discussed the pros and cons of hacking their users’ accounts:
The password disruption program impeded subscribers’ ability to view movies because MoviePass’s password reset process often failed. … Indeed, when discussing the password disruption program, a MoviePass executive acknowledged that subscribers using a common smartphone operating system would encounter technical difficulty in resetting their passwords.
When subscribers attempted to contact MoviePass’s customer service about their inability to reset their MoviePass passwords, Respondents often responded weeks later or not at all.
On April 11, 2018, an employee of Respondent Helios, writing from Farnsworth’s personal email address and expressly “on behalf of Ted [Farnsworth]” to Lowe and others, proposed a notice that informed subscribers that their account passwords were required to be reset due to “suspicious activity or potential fraud.”Bizarrely, MoviePass settled without paying a fine — apparently due to a recent Supreme Court decision limiting the FTC’s ability to extract money for stuff like this — and one FTC commissioner dissented even from making them promise not to do it again.
Lowe circulated the proposed notice to MoviePass executives for comment and personally ordered subscribers’ passwords to be disrupted in accordance with this plan. Lowe also personally chose the number of consumers who would be affected by the program. …
When Lowe and Farnsworth presented the disruption program to other executives of Respondent MoviePass, one executive warned that the password disruption program “would be targeting all of our heavy users” and that “there is a high risk this would catch the FTC’s attention (and State AG’s attention) and could reinvigorate their questioning of MoviePass, this time from a Consumer Protection standpoint.” (Emphasis in original).
Another executive agreed, warning of “FTC Fears: All [the other MoviePass executive’s] notes about FTC and PR [public relations] fire are my main concerns as I think the PR backlash will flame the FTC stuff.” (Emphasis in original).
In response to these concerns, Lowe responded, “Ok I get it. So let[’]s try this with a small group. Let[’]s say 2% of our highest volume users.”
Respondents MoviePass and Lowe tracked the effect of password disruption on subscribers’ use of the service. For example, Respondents MoviePass and Lowe found that only one-half of affected subscribers had successfully reset their passwords one week after they executed their plan.
Coincidentally, today Kevin Roose has a Times column about how the venture-subsidized MoviePass economy has disappeared and companies like Uber now charge almost the full cost of their services:
There is still plenty of irrationality in the market, and some start-ups still burn huge piles of money in search of growth. But as these companies mature, they seem to be discovering the benefits of financial discipline. Uber lost only $108 million in the first quarter of 2021 — a vast improvement, believe it or not, over the same quarter last year, when it lost $3 billion, and both it and Lyft have pledged to become profitable on an adjusted basis this year.
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|To: S. maltophilia who wrote (435870)||6/8/2021 2:20:34 PM|
|does that mean I should sell my house and buy Bitcoin?|
"To capture the financial reality of the richest Americans, ProPublica undertook an analysis that has never been done before. We compared how much in taxes the 25 richest Americans paid each year to how much Forbes estimated their wealth grew in that same time period.
We’re going to call this their true tax rate.
The results are stark. According to Forbes, those 25 people saw their worth rise a collective $401 billion from 2014 to 2018. They paid a total of $13.6 billion in federal income taxes in those five years, the IRS data shows. That’s a staggering sum, but it amounts to a true tax rate of only 3.4%.
It’s a completely different picture for middle-class Americans, for example, wage earners in their early 40s who have amassed a typical amount of wealth for people their age. From 2014 to 2018, such households saw their net worth expand by about $65,000 after taxes on average, mostly due to the rise in value of their homes. But because the vast bulk of their earnings were salaries, their tax bills were almost as much, nearly $62,000, over that five-year period."
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|From: Broken_Clock||6/10/2021 10:20:04 PM|
|New president...new allies!|
"A PBS Frontline special is the latest vehicle in a PR campaign to legitimize rebranded Syrian al-Qaeda, HTS, and market its leader Mohammad Jolani as a competent American “asset.”
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|From: Broken_Clock||6/11/2021 12:22:17 PM|
|Business as usual for the fascists|
Trump DOJ Obtained Data on Schiff and Swalwell, Two Long-Time Champions of Domestic SpyingThe two California Democrats join the long list of politicians who enable spying on ordinary citizens, then angrily object when they themselves are targeted.
: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) (L) and committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) return to a closed-door hearing at the U.S. Capitol March 06, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The Trump Justice Department in 2017 and early 2018 issued subpoenas to Apple to obtain the communications records of at least two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA). According to The New York Times, DOJ prosecutors attempting to determine who leaked classified information to the media about Russiagate suspected the two House Democrats were the culprits, and to prove that, they obtained their communications records as well as those of family members, including minor children.
A DOJ leak investigation aimed at sitting members of Congress is highly unusual. Both the Obama and Trump administrations, in a hunt for leakers, created controversy by obtaining the communications records of journalists, including — in the case of the Obama DOJ — the family members of those journalists. But investigating members of the House Intelligence Committee for leaking crimes — as opposed to corruption or other standard criminal charges — can present different dangers. Neither Congressman was charged with any crimes and the investigation reportedly bore no fruit.
The two House Democrats, among the most fanatical disseminators of baseless Russiagate conspiracies and long known to serve as anonymous sources of leaks to liberal media outlets, reacted with predictable outrage. “This baseless investigation, while now closed, is yet another example of Trump's corrupt weaponization of justice,” Schiff intoned on Thursday night. As difficult as it is, Swalwell, as he often does, found a way to be even more melodramatic than Schiff: “Like many of the world’s most despicable dictators, former President Trump showed an utter disdain for our democracy and the rule of law.”
Investigating possible crimes — such as leaking classified information — is the job of the Justice Department. To accomplish that, FBI agents and prosecutors often obtain personal communications records about their suspects. But invading the communications records of journalists, as both the Obama and Trump DOJ did, can create serious threats to press freedom and the possibility of abuse and retaliation. The same is true for invading the communications records of members of the legislative branch, particularly ones hostile to the president. An investigation is certainly warranted to determine the propriety of these subpoenas.
But like so many politicians before them, Schiff and Swalwell have zero credibility to object to this targeting. When it comes to ordinary Americans, both have been long-time champions of expanding domestic spying powers and blocking efforts at reform designed to curb abuses of the type they claim took place here.
From the start of the Trump administration, Schiff and Swalwell were among the lawmakers most shrilly depicting Trump as some sort of Nazi-like figure bent on fascistic control of the United States. Yet their actions were sharply at odds with that cable-friendly rhetoric, as they repeatedly voted to preserve and expand the military budget, war powers and spying authorities of the New Hitler.
Perhaps the most relevant example was a 2018 amendment introduced by then-Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), the long-time privacy advocate who had repeatedly sought to rein in the U.S. Government's domestic spying powers and impose safeguards as a way to curb abuses. Amash's amendment was part of a bill to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the NSA to spy on the communications of American citizens without a warrant as long as it can claim that their target is a foreign nation and that they only “incidentally” listened in on the calls or read the emails of citizens.
That 2008 law was enacted with bipartisan support to retroactively legalize the clearly illegal Bush/Cheney program of warrantless domestic surveillance. That law also authorizes the FBI to search NSA-collected communications of Americans without a warrant for use in its criminal investigations.
Amash's 2018 amendment was designed to prevent those abuses and rein in the power of the Executive Branch to spy on Americans. Its key provision was that it “required federal law enforcement agents [including those with the DOJ/FBI] to get a warrant before searching NSA data for information on Americans.”
It appeared that Amash had secured enough GOP votes to ensure passage of his reform bill. Fifty-seven House Republicans — part of the anti-spying wing of that party — announced their intention to support Amash's bill. Had the 193-member House Democratic caucus delivered its votes for Amash's amendment, it would have passed, and the U.S. Government's spying powers could have finally been reined in, with meaningful safeguards imposed.
Instead, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced her opposition to Amash's amendment. She then convinced just enough of her caucus — fifty-five members — to join with the GOP majority to defeat Amash's bill. Among those who joined with Pelosi and the pro-spying wing of the GOP led by then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) were Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell. In other words, while they were basking in the adoration of MSNBC and CNN hosts for calling Trump a dictator, they were joining with Pelosi and the GOP Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, to ensure that no limits were imposed on Trump’s powers of domestic spying.
Had Schiff and Swalwell been concerned at all with the privacy rights of ordinary citizens, they would have joined with the majority of Democrats in supporting Amash's bill. They sided with the U.S. security state (and the Trump White House) against the rights of ordinary Americans. When reporting on this repellent act, I wrote under the headline: “The Same Democrats Who Denounce Donald Trump as a Lawless, Treasonous Authoritarian Just Voted to Give Him Vast Warrantless Spying Powers.”
So stunningly craven was this vote from Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell that they were denounced even by the ACLU, which, during the Trump years, rarely criticized Democrats. Though not calling them out by name, the group clearly referred to them and others when expressing indignation about how the same Democrats who claimed to find Trump so dangerous just ensured the defeat of a bill that would have limited his powers, along with those of future Presidents, to abuse the government's spying powers against U.S. citizens.
The privacy group Electronic Frontiers Foundation described the bill that ultimately passed this way: “the House just approved the disastrous NSA surveillance extension bill that will allow for continued, unconstitutional surveillance that hurts the American people and violates our Fourth Amendment rights.” Meanwhile, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) praised the Republicans who voted to rein in spying powers even under Trump — an effort that would have succeeded if not for the pro-surveillance treachery of Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell — and pointedly asked:
Ro Khanna @RoKhanna
When @justinamash & @VoteMeadows, chair of the freedom caucus, vote against surveillance, but scores of Democrats vote for it, then its fair to ask what does our party stand for? If we can’t be unified around the principle of civil liberties, then what is the soul of our party?
January 11th 2018
753 Retweets1,936 Likes
Thus do we have Schiff and Swalwell joining the ranks of a shameful club: politicians — usually California Democrats — who cheer for and empower the spying state when they think it will be used only against ordinary Americans, but not important and upstanding figures such as themselves. They then become indignant when they learn that they themselves were targeted with the spying powers they enabled.
In 2009, another long-time pro-surveillance California House Democrat, Rep. Jane Harman, learned that her private communications with an Israeli government agent had been intercepted by NSA wiretaps as she was plotting to pressure the DOJ to reduce the criminal charges against two AIPAC officials. She was absolutely furious to learn of this, telling MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell:
I call it an abuse of power…. I'm just very disappointed that my country — I'm an American citizen just like you are — could have permitted what I think is a gross abuse of power in recent years. I'm one member of Congress who may be caught up in it, and I have a bully pulpit and I can fight back. I'm thinking about others who have no bully pulpit, who may not be aware, as I was not, that someone is listening in on their conversations, and they're innocent Americans.What Harman forgot to mention during her angry rant was that she had spent years — as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and Homeland Security subcommittee — doing everything possible to defend, justify and expand the powers of the U.S. security state to spy on ordinary Americans. Like Schiff and Swalwell, she was delighted to see ordinary serfs spied on by their own government, and discovered her passion for privacy rights only when it was her conversations that were monitored.
Exactly the same thing happened with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, yet another California Democrat who has long been one of the most stalwart defenders of the NSA and CIA. Feinstein, whose oligarchical husband made tens of millions as a military contractor, spent years as one of the security state's most loyal allies. She has been at the center of virtually every increase in NSA spying powers over the last several decades. Even in the wake of the Snowden reporting, she was fighting to preserve and even increase NSA domestic spying powers, vowing to block any reform efforts.
Yet in 2014, Feinstein learned that the CIA under then-Director John Brennen was spying on her and her Committee as it investigated the CIA's interrogation programs. And, like Harman before her and Schiff and Swalwell now, she was furious about it, demanding an investigation and warning: “this is plainly an attempt to intimidate these staff and I am not taking it lightly.” As Snowden himself put it at the time after expressing concerns over the Brennan-led CIA's spying on the Senate:
It's equally if not more concerning that we're seeing another “Merkel Effect,” where an elected official does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies, but suddenly it's a scandal when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them.And, needless to say, Feinstein, Schiff and Harman were all leading voices in maligning and demanding the prosecution of Snowden for blowing the whistle on the domestic spying abuses they supported against ordinary Americans. These political elites view revelations of illegal spying on ordinary Americans as a crime, but revelations of spying on themselves as a noble journalistic act that require immediate investigations and mass outrage.
NBC News, Mar. 11, 2014
There are few attributes more contemptible in a politician than placing themselves above the citizenry they are supposed to be serving, believing that they themselves should be immune and protected from the burdens they impose on ordinary Americans. That this DOJ investigation of Schiff and Swalwell was baseless or abusive may turn out to be correct: time will tell.
But few people have less credibility to express indignation over such spying abuses than these two House members. After playing such a vital role in ensuring that ordinary citizens are vulnerable to these vast and unrestrained surveillance systems, they now want everyone to denounce those same powers since they are the purported victims this time rather than the perpetrators.
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|From: Broken_Clock||6/11/2021 1:54:14 PM|
|a sobering reality(caveat: my home is 100% PV powered but still requires propane for cooking[a by product of the Oahu refinery])|
Column: Norway’s hydrocarbon consumption shows stark reality of energy transition – even for the filthy rich January 12, 20215:02 AM Terry Etam 13 Comments
For a long time, decades, when the world thought of oil they thought of Saudi Arabia or the Middle East. That made sense. The Middle East that brought ultra-cheap oil to the world, and it’s colourful cast of characters enjoyed jerking the economic world around by running out onto their royal balconies and shouting ‘Oil prices must go up’ or ‘Oil prices must go down’ or ‘We’re still thinking but we are going to do something big and we’ll get back to you’. An ever-thirstier world, high on petroleum, was held captive by these OPEC declarations. Wars were fought to ensure access to oil. Brutal government regimes around the world were deposed or supported, depending on their position in the petroleum chess match.
Fast forward to today. The word ‘oil’ itself is incendiary, and a very odd character has bumped Saudi Arabia off its perch as the world’s most interesting petroleum state. For a number of reasons, Norway has become the epicentre of oil talk.
With a population of about 5 million, it is shocking how much of oil’s narrative centers on Norway. One of the biggest reasons is that the country is at the forefront of the ‘energy transition’, at least with respect to electric vehicles, and nothing captures the world’s attention like that topic. But Norway is also, if anyone reads the fine print, perhaps the best example of how challenging that transition is going to be.29dk2902l
The Norwegian elephant in the room, the point that no one can ignore, is that those 5 million citizens are wealthy beyond belief. You think Saudi Arabia is wealthy? Last year, Saudi Aramco borrowed money to pay the dividend to the state to keep the wheels turning. Norway has over a trillion dollars in its savings account. Saudi Arabia has 34 million citizens, Norway 5. Those Norwegian citizens own 1.4 percent of global stocks and shares through the national sovereign wealth fund.
When the Saudis were in a similar position decades ago, they looked at their pile of cash and thought, you know what we really need here is a solid gold toilet. After that, how about a diamond-encrusted Mercedes, and a thirty-foot high version of a Dodge Power Wagon that weighed 50 tons and has a four-bedroom apartment inside.
The Norwegians were slightly more modest; they looked at their money mountain and decided to go green.
Now, the optics of that move require some careful explanations and finely-tuned bravado. It is not easy explaining to the world’s poorer countries (i.e., all of them) that Norway is lighting the path for others on the green trail with that trillion dollars of oil money greasing the way. The managers of that sovereign wealth money periodically make dubious, vainglorious stabs at righteousness by informing the world that those petro-dollars will not be dirtied by investing in foreign petro-companies (despite the fact that Norway actively continues offshore oil exploration). Everyone looks at them like they farted at the dinner table, so they move on to the next best plan – the EV revolution.
In 2020, Norway boasted that “Electric cars rose to a 54 percent market share”, up from about 45 percent in 2019. Another article noted that “Electric vehicles could finally be reducing Norway’s oil consumption”.
Here’s the catch, though. That latter article, about EVs finally reducing Norway’s oil consumption, was from 2018, referencing 2017 data. Furthermore, the same article noted that April 2018 total petroleum consumption was 10.9 percent higher than April 2017, and pure auto consumption was 3 percent higher.
It is true that gasoline consumption has finally started falling. From 2017 to 2019, motor gasoline consumption fell by about 8 percent. But this is as the headline EV market share rose from 20 percent to 45 percent.
There are, of course, other factors at play. Norway’s population rose by about 2 percent 2017-2020, but road traffic volumes also decreased by just over 1 percent 2018-19. There is a whole master’s degree in the data involved.
From a high level though, one statistic seems worth focusing on: From 2017-2019, total sales of petroleum products decreased by only 3.3 percent, while EV market share more than doubled from 20 percent to 45. From 2015-2019, total sales of petroleum products decreased by about 6 percent, while EV market share nearly tripled.
Norway makes it very, very attractive to buy an EV. Cities and bigger towns offer free parking. Tolls are reduced by at least half, and sometimes more. EVs are exempt from both road taxes and a 25 percent European VAT. Company EVs receive substantial tax breaks. Norway has 9 percent of the total charging stations in Europe, despite making up only 0.7 percent of the population.
Further cementing Norway’s role as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the green world, 96 percent of Norway’s power comes from hydroelectric, and 98 percent is from renewables (the two percent jump is largely geothermal).
This whole show is the result of Norway being one of the richest nations in the world. Oil money underpins everything, and the government uses a firehose to spread it over green initiatives.
And still, despite all that, total petroleum consumption has fallen by only six percent from 2015 to 2019.
And that’s not all. Norwegians themselves are starting to say “enough”. Resistance to new on-shore wind power is so strong that one government consultancy sees no new onshore wind projects being built before 2034; another says no more will be built ever. Opposition comes from startling sources also: those lined up against more wind power include the Socialist Party, the Green Party, and the Liberals.
Since everyone loves holding Norway up as an example of the green path forward, let’s make sure and look at that whole picture. The challenge of reducing hydrocarbon consumption in any significant way is daunting beyond belief. You may hear otherwise, but when the wealthiest, most hydro-rich, green-mandated country can’t reduce consumption faster than this, no one else is going to either.
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|To: Terry Maloney who wrote (435866)||6/13/2021 3:25:29 PM|
|Wouldn't it be strange if the Isles and Canadians played for the Stanley Cup? I think Vegas will beat Montreal easily. But who knows? As for the Isles, it will be tough to beat Tampa.|
BTW, I did root for Montreal over Toronto and Winnipeg.
Toronto has got to be one of the biggest chokes over the past 25 years.
I think Vegas wins the Cup.
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