Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Last Call For Everyone's Coming For Google

Every US state and territory -- with the glaring exception of California, of course, and for some reason Alabama -- is joining Texas to sue Google over antitrust violations for controlling 75% of the internet ad market.  It's about time.  Google doesn't need to be broken up, it needs to be shattered.

Attorneys general for 50 U.S. states and territories on Monday officially announced an antitrust investigation of Google, embarking on a wide-ranging review of a tech giant that Democrats and Republicans said may threaten competition, consumers and the continued growth of the web.

Appearing on the steps of the Supreme Court, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton charged that Google “dominates all aspects of advertising on the Internet and searching on the Internet,” though he cautioned that despite his criticism the states had launched an investigation for now and not a lawsuit.

Paxton said the probe’s initial focus is online advertising. Google is expected to rake in more than $48 billion in U.S. digital ad revenue this year, far rivaling its peers, while capturing 75 percent of all spending on U.S. search ads, according to eMarketer.

“They dominate the buyer side, the seller side, the auction side and the video side with YouTube,” he said during a news conference alongside officials from 11 states and the District of Columbia.

Some of those attorneys general appeared to raise additional complaints about Google, ranging from the way the company processes and ranks search results to the extent to which it may not fully protect users’ personal information. Their early rebukes raised the stakes for Google, threatening top-to-bottom scrutiny of its sprawling business beyond just ads. Paxton promised the probe would go wherever the facts lead.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a dominant player when it’s done fairly,” said Sean Reyes, the Republican attorney general of Utah. He said there is a “presumption” of innocence in such an investigation but still said there is a “pervasiveness” to complaints about Google’s business practices.

Jeff Landry, a Republican from Louisiana, added: “We’re here because there’s an absolutely existential threat to our virtual marketplace.”

Google declined to comment, pointing to its previous statements saying it will work with state officials.

The probe marks the latest regulatory headache for Google and the rest of Silicon Valley, which have faced growing criticism — and widening state and federal scrutiny — into whether they’ve grown too big and powerful, undermining rivals and resulting in costlier or worse service for web users. The Post first reported the states’ plans for a Google probe last week.

For Google, though, the states’ investigation comes more than six years after federal watchdogs wrapped up an antitrust investigation into its search and advertising practices and opted against bringing major penalties against the company, including breaking it up. Regulators around the world, meanwhile, have been more skeptical of Google: The European Union has issued the company $9 billion in competition-related fines over the past three years

The Obama administration really dropped the ball on Google and let them get away scot-free, the result was Google's internet ads being the tool of choice by Russian hackers to manipulate voters in 2016 to help Donald Trump.

As far as California not joining in, well the state's getting its taxes from Google. Alphabet, Google's parent company, paid $2.1 billion in state and federal taxes in 2018.  They're not going to cut the golden goose's throat.

California AG Xavier Becerra says the state is not joining in because of "potential and ongoing investigations" into the company but my guess is that he was told not to touch them...and oh year, Becerra like basically every other California Democrat, took Google money for his campaign when he was in the US House.

Hopefully this will lead to a crack-up.  Google made almost one out of every three global ad dollars on the internet in 2019.

It's got to go.

Spies Like Us, Con't

Yesterday's Russian spy story from CNN where the CIA pulled a key Russian spy out of the Kremlin because Trump was going to run his mouth and blow their cover has been confirmed by the NY Times late last night, and the details of the operation are far more damning of Donald Trump that originally reported.

Decades ago, the C.I.A. recruited and carefully cultivated a midlevel Russian official who began rapidly advancing through the governmental ranks. Eventually, American spies struck gold: The longtime source landed an influential position that came with access to the highest level of the Kremlin. 
As American officials began to realize that Russia was trying to sabotage the 2016 presidential election, the informant became one of the C.I.A.’s most important — and highly protected — assets. But when intelligence officials revealed the severity of Russia’s election interference with unusual detail later that year, the news media picked up on details about the C.I.A.’s Kremlin sources
C.I.A. officials worried about safety made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia. The situation grew more tense when the informant at first refused, citing family concerns — prompting consternation at C.I.A. headquarters and sowing doubts among some American counterintelligence officials about the informant’s trustworthiness. But the C.I.A. pressed again months later after more media inquiries. This time, the informant agreed. 
The move brought to an end the career of one of the C.I.A.’s most important sources. It also effectively blinded American intelligence officials to the view from inside Russia as they sought clues about Kremlin interference in the 2018 midterm elections and next year’s presidential contest.

CNN first reported the 2017 extraction on Monday. Other details — including the source’s history with the agency, the initial 2016 exfiltration offer and the cascade of doubts set off by the informant’s subsequent refusal — have not been previously reported. This article is based on interviews in recent months with current and former officials who spoke on the condition that their names not be used discussing classified information. 
Officials did not disclose the informant’s identity or new location, both closely held secrets. The person’s life remains in danger, current and former officials said, pointing to Moscow’s attempts last year to assassinate Sergei V. Skripal, a former Russian intelligence official who moved to Britain as part of a high-profile spy exchange in 2010.

The Moscow informant was instrumental to the C.I.A.’s most explosive conclusion about Russia’s interference campaign: that President Vladimir V. Putin ordered and orchestrated it himself. As the American government’s best insight into the thinking of and orders from Mr. Putin, the source was also key to the C.I.A.’s assessment that he affirmatively favored Donald J. Trump’s election and personally ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. 
The informant, according to people familiar with the matter, was outside of Mr. Putin’s inner circle, but saw him regularly and had access to high-level Kremlin decision-making — easily making the source one of the agency’s most valuable assets.

When it became clear that Putin ordered the hacking of the DNC and used WikiLeaks as a cutout to get that information to Roger Stone in order to help Donald Trump and hrt Hillary Clinton, the source was imperiled.  That's why the most valuable Russian asset we had (well, that we know of) in the Kremlin was pulled.  The information against Trump was too solid to not have come from anywhere else but a close source to Putin.

So yeah.  Donald Trump cost us a major Russian inside source, not because of his big mouth, but because he was taking help from the goddamn Russians and got caught.

And of course, now Trump is attacking the entire idea of foreign human intelligence.

President Donald Trump has privately and repeatedly expressed opposition to the use of foreign intelligence from covert sources, including overseas spies who provide the US government with crucial information about hostile countries, according to multiple senior officials who served under Trump. 
Trump has privately said that foreign spies can damage relations with their host countries and undermine his personal relationships with their leaders, the sources said. The President "believes we shouldn't be doing that to each other," one former Trump administration official told CNN. 
In addition to his fear such foreign intelligence sources will damage his relationship with foreign leaders, Trump has expressed doubts about the credibility of the information they provide. Another former senior intelligence official told CNN that Trump "believes they're people who are selling out their country." 
Even in public, Trump has looked down on these foreign assets, as they are known in the intelligence community. Responding to reports that the CIA recruited Kim Jong Un's brother as a spy, Trump said he "wouldn't let that happen under my auspices." 
These new details about Trump's approach to foreign intelligence follow CNN's exclusive report that the United States in 2017 removed one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government. CNN reported on Monday that the asset provided the US with insight and information on Russian President Vladimir Putin and that the extraction was driven, in part, by concerns that Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the spy.

Because foreign CIA apies "hurt" Trump's relationship with autocratic dictators like Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin.

Can we please impeach this cancer traitor monkey now?

BREAKING: John Bolton's Mustache Fired

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he has asked national security adviser John Bolton to resign, noting that he "strongly disagreed with many of his suggestions as did others in the administration." 
"I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning," Trump tweeted. "I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week," he added. 
The tweet came just one hour after the White House press office said Bolton was scheduled to appear at a Tuesday press briefing alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. 
Bolton tweeted minutes after Trump's announcement, "I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, 'Let's talk about it tomorrow.'" 
CNN reported last week that tensions between top figures on Trump's national security team had devolved into all-out hostility, creating a deep disconnect between staffers on the National Security Council, led by Bolton, and the rest of the administration, six people familiar with the matter said. 
Bolton was initially brought into the administration last year to replace HR McMaster partly due to his hawkish position on Iran -- supporting Trump's exit from the Iran nuclear deal -- but he soon began to clash with the President's vision for diplomacy in North Korea and most recently on Afghanistan.

Amazingly enough, Trump's malignant narcissism and refusal to give Bolton credit for anything, plus Bolton's own towering ego, is what probably stopped Trump from going to war with Iran so far.

I still think Trump is going to get there, especially as the 2020 election gets closer and it becomes more apparent that Trump will lose.

We'll see who follows this act.

Also, let's remember the Mustache is why Bolton wasn't hired in the first place.

Another One Bites The Dust

The retail apocalypse continues as the latest victim of a US economy driven increasingly by Amazon Prime purchases and dollar stores multiplying like rabbits is 72-year-old discount chain store, Fred's.

Fred's, a 72-year-old discount chain, is closing all of its roughly 300 remaining stores and going out of business. The chain had as many as 557 stores earlier this year. 
The Memphis-based retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday and said liquidation sales will take place at its stores over the next 60 days. 
"Despite our team's best efforts, we were not able to avoid this outcome," said CEO Joe Anto in a statement. 
In bankruptcy court, the company will seek a financing agreement that would inject up to $35 million in fresh funding into the business to ensure an "orderly wind-down of its operations." 
Fred's (FRED) sells a variety of items, such as food and household cleaning supplies. Stores are scattered across several US states including Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Florida and Texas. 
Fred's has been reporting yearly losses since 2015. It struggled to find a turnaround plan and had to make multiple rounds of store closures.  
It's still trying to get out of the pharmacy business. Walgreens (WBA) bought some of Fred's pharmacy patient prescription files and inventory last year. The company said that it will continue to fill prescriptions at its remaining pharmacy locations while it tries to find a buyer. 
Fred's opened its first store in 1947 in Mississippi. It later expanded its footprint across the United States with the idea of becoming a value-focused retailer and drug store. It sells both private labels and national brands. 
Fred's is the latest store to enter bankruptcy or to completely shut its doors. Forever 21, Barney's, Charming Charlie, Payless Shoes and Gymboree have all had reports of or confirmed financial difficulties this year.

Fred's has been wiped out in a matter of months, leaving shoppers in the South with even fewer options for general goods.  Pretty soon everything is going to be Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Walmart.


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