Tag: Fraud

Pass the Popcorn

A New York judge has ordered Eric Trump to give a deposition on the Trump Organizations’s business practices by October 7

Trump wanted it deferred until after the election, but the judge was not buying that sh%$.

Assuming that the deposition is leaked, and that is not beyond the realm of possibility, we will either see him incriminate himself, because he is very stupid, or constantly taking the 5th, because he understands just how stupid he is.

In either case, it’s pretty obvious that the Trump Org is a criminal enterprise, even if you ignore the obvious, that they are mobbed up as f%$#:

A state judge on Wednesday ordered Eric Trump to be deposed no later than Oct. 7 in the New York attorney general’s examination of the Trump Organization’s financial practices, rejecting a protest by President Trump’s son, who has said he is too busy to meet with investigators until after November’s election.

The ruling was handed down by New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron after nearly two hours of arguments in a lawsuit brought by state investigators conducting the civil investigation.

The president’s company is managed now by his two sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., both of whom have taken active roles in their father’s reelection efforts. An attorney for Eric Trump said during Wednesday’s hearing that the president’s son travels nearly seven days a week to make campaign-related appearances.

“This court finds that application unpersuasive,” Engoron said, referring to Eric Trump’s stated need to put off an interview until mid-November. He added that he felt Eric Trump’s attorney had cited no legal authority to support a bid to delay the deposition.


The probe is a civil matter, not a criminal one. James’s office has said the Trump Organization potentially misled lenders and duped tax authorities. The state attorney general’s office began investigating the company last year after the president’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, a former executive with the company, gave Congress copies of financial statements from 2011 to 2013.

This should be fun.

I’m Calling Political Ploy

The reports of an envelope sent to the White House containing ricin are highly suspect.

First, it’s been known for almost 2 decades, since the anthrax mailings, that ricin was one of the substances routinely scanned for in White House mail, and second, this is straight out of the Republican playbook.

After all, we do know that Karl Rove, the morning star for the current crop of Republican political consultants, once planted a bug in his own office for political advantage.

F%$# Zuck

In yet another case of wrongdoing, which they claim was a bug, Facebook has been caught spying on Instagram users though their phone cameras

Given that each time that this happens, it is an action that further reinforces Facebook model of stalker capitalism, I am not inclined to believe that this was an accident, and I am not inclined to accept their routine (and insincere) apology:

Facebook Inc. is again being sued for allegedly spying on Instagram users, this time through the unauthorized use of their mobile phone cameras.

The lawsuit springs from media reports in July that the photo-sharing app appeared to be accessing iPhone cameras even when they weren’t actively being used.

Facebook denied the reports and blamed a bug, which it said it was correcting, for triggering what it described as false notifications that Instagram was accessing iPhone cameras.

In the complaint filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco, New Jersey Instagram user Brittany Conditi contends the app’s use of the camera is intentional and done for the purpose of collecting “lucrative and valuable data on its users that it would not otherwise have access to.”  


The case is Conditi v. Instagram, LLC, 20-cv-06534, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Facebook is a criminal enterprise.

F%$# Zuck

We have yet another Facebook whistle-blower, this time they are claiming Facebook ignored fake accounts used from despots and foreign governments to harass opponents online and manufacture consent.

This is not a surprise.  Facebook has been ignoring fake accounts so that they can sell non-existent eyeballs to advertisers for years.

The former Facebook data scientist Sophie Yang thinks that Facebook is not taking the issue seriously.

I think that Facebook DOES take this seriously.  They simply CHOOSE to profit from it:

Facebook ignored or was slow to act on evidence that fake accounts on its platform have been undermining elections and political affairs around the world, according to an explosive memo sent by a recently fired Facebook employee and obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The 6,600-word memo, written by former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang, is filled with concrete examples of heads of government and political parties in Azerbaijan and Honduras using fake accounts or misrepresenting themselves to sway public opinion. In countries including India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, she found evidence of coordinated campaigns of varying sizes to boost or hinder political candidates or outcomes, though she did not always conclude who was behind them.


The memo is a damning account of Facebook’s failures. It’s the story of Facebook abdicating responsibility for malign activities on its platform that could affect the political fate of nations outside the United States or Western Europe. It’s also the story of a junior employee wielding extraordinary moderation powers that affected millions of people without any real institutional support, and the personal torment that followed.


These are some of the biggest revelations in Zhang’s memo:

  • It took Facebook’s leaders nine months to act on a coordinated campaign “that used thousands of inauthentic assets to boost President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras on a massive scale to mislead the Honduran people.” Two weeks after Facebook took action against the perpetrators in July, they returned, leading to a game of “whack-a-mole” between Zhang and the operatives behind the fake accounts, which are still active.
  • In Azerbaijan, Zhang discovered the ruling political party “utilized thousands of inauthentic assets… to harass the opposition en masse.” Facebook began looking into the issue a year after Zhang reported it. The investigation is ongoing.
  • Zhang and her colleagues removed “10.5 million fake reactions and fans from high-profile politicians in Brazil and the US in the 2018 elections.”
  • In February 2019, a NATO researcher informed Facebook that “he’d obtained Russian inauthentic activity on a high-profile U.S. political figure that we didn’t catch.” Zhang removed the activity, “dousing the immediate fire,” she wrote.
  • In Ukraine, Zhang “found inauthentic scripted activity” supporting both former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a pro–European Union politician and former presidential candidate, as well as Volodymyr Groysman, a former prime minister and ally of former president Petro Poroshenko. “Volodymyr Zelensky and his faction was the only major group not affected,” Zhang said of the current Ukrainian president.
  • Zhang discovered inauthentic activity — a Facebook term for engagement from bot accounts and coordinated manual accounts— in Bolivia and Ecuador but chose “not to prioritize it,” due to her workload. The amount of power she had as a mid-level employee to make decisions about a country’s political outcomes took a toll on her health.
  • After becoming aware of coordinated manipulation on the Spanish Health Ministry’s Facebook page during the COVID-19 pandemic, Zhang helped find and remove 672,000 fake accounts “acting on similar targets globally” including in the US.
  • In India, she worked to remove “a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence” the local elections taking place in Delhi in February. Facebook never publicly disclosed this network or that it had taken it down.


In her post, Zhang said she did not want it to go public for fear of disrupting Facebook’s efforts to prevent problems around the upcoming 2020 US presidential election, and due to concerns about her own safety. BuzzFeed News is publishing parts of her memo that are clearly in the public interest.


Zhang said she turned down a $64,000 severance package from the company to avoid signing a nondisparagement agreement. Doing so allowed her to speak out internally, and she used that freedom to reckon with the power that she had to police political speech.


A former Facebook engineer who knew her told BuzzFeed News that Zhang was skilled at discovering fake account networks on the platform.

“She’s the only person in this entire field at Facebook that I ever trusted to be earnest about this work,” said the engineer, who had seen a copy of Zhang’s post and asked not to be named because they no longer work at the company.

“A lot of what I learned from that post was shocking even to me as someone who’s often been disappointed at how the company treats its best people,” they said.


Still, she did not believe that the failures she observed during her two and a half years at the company were the result of bad intent by Facebook’s employees or leadership. It was a lack of resources, Zhang wrote, and the company’s tendency to focus on global activity that posed public relations risks, as opposed to electoral or civic harm.

No, it’s malice, and it comes from the top.

Expect an insincere apology from Mark Zuckerberg in 3………2………


Katy Pearce, an associate professor at the University of Washington who studies social media and communication technology in Azerbaijan, told BuzzFeed News that fake Facebook accounts have been used to undermine the opposition and independent media in the country for years.

“One of the big tools of authoritarian regimes is to humiliate the opposition in the mind of the public so that they’re not viewed as a credible or legitimate alternative,” she told BuzzFeed News. “There’s a chilling effect. Why would I post something if I know that I’m going to deal with thousands or hundreds of these comments, that I’m going to be targeted?”

Pearce said Zhang’s comment in the memo that Facebook “didn’t care enough to stop” the fake accounts and trolling aligns with her experience. “They have bigger fish to fry,” she said.


They said Facebook has at times made things worse by removing the accounts or pages of human rights activists and other people after trolls report them. “We tried to tell Facebook that this is a real person who does important work,” but it took weeks for the page to be restored.

Facebook is notorious for this, and they honestly don’t care.  If they did, they would change it.


Zhang outlined the political processes within Facebook itself. She said the best way for her to gain attention for her work was not to go through the proper reporting channels, but to post about the issues on Facebook’s internal employee message board to build pressure.

“In the office, I realized that my viewpoints weren’t respected unless I acted like an arrogant asshole,” Zhang said.

Surprising, a toxic founder created a toxic workplace.

Even by the psychopathic standards of Silicon Valley, Facebook is remarkably evil.

The Affluenza Defense

In the latest twist in the fraud case against disgraced former head of Theranos Elizabeth Holmes, it appears that she is bringing in a high priced psychologist in an attempt to get out from under the charges against her.

This is pretty clearly an Affluenza defense, “I’m to young, too pretty, and too white to go to jail.”

She has a right to this defense, but the judge has made what is a routine ruling, that the prosecution has the right to conduct a psychological examination as well, and that they can tape her sessions, and if the prosecution is not playing to lose, a big if will a well connected white defendant, then they should be able blow this defense out of the water.

Holmes spending at least 5 years, and better yet a decade, behind bars is the singles best thing that should ever do for society:  Be an abject lesson to others who would rely on privilege to defraud people:

Elizabeth Holmes—the disgraced founder and ex-CEO of the now-defunct blood-testing startup, Theranos—may use a mental condition as a defense against a slew of federal fraud charges, according to a court document filed this week. Holmes and Theranos’ former president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani were charged in June 2018 with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Federal prosecutors allege the pair—who were romantically involved during the alleged crimes—engaged in conspiracy to defraud Theranos investors out of more than $100 million and defraud doctors and patients into falsely believing the company’s faulty blood-testing technology could reliably perform accurate health tests with just drops of blood from a finger-prick.

According to the court document filed this week, Holmes—who is now being tried separately from Balwani—notified the court last December that she plans to submit “expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition” that has bearing on the issue of guilt. The expert providing such evidence was named in the document as psychologist Mindy Mechanic, of California State University, Fullerton.

According to Mechanic’s faculty website, she focuses on “psychosocial consequences of violence, trauma, and victimization with an emphasis on violence against women and other forms of interpersonal violence.” The site also notes that Mechanic “frequently provides expert testimony in complex legal cases involving interpersonal violence.”

The strategy here is clear, her legal team will assert that her former business partner, and former personal partner, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani is a darkly complected man of South Asian extraction, who worked some sort of “Voodoo” over an innocent white girl, and made her defraud stupid rich folks.


In response to Holmes’ plans to provide mental health evidence, federal prosecutors requested that they should also be able to examine Holmes’ mental state and provide their own psychiatric evidence in court as a fair rebuttal.

The judge in the case, US District Judge Edward Davila of the Northern District of California, agreed with the prosecutors. As such, he ordered Holmes to undergo up to 14 hours of psychological testing and psychiatric evaluation by two government-appointed doctors over the course of two consecutive days. Davila also ordered that the government’s evaluation of Holmes be recorded on video—over Holmes’ objections. 

It’s nice that the judge made this ruling, and I really hope that the prosecution is serious about calling bullsh%$ on this strategy.

Today in Prosecutorial Cluelessness

In response to stories noting irregularities at the now shuttered German credit card transaction firm Wirecard, regulators went to Prosecutors initiated an investigation ……… of the journalists.

Now that the firm has collapsed in an orgy of fraud, prosecutors are calling backsies:

The Munich prosecutor has dropped its investigation into two Financial Times journalists, who were accused by the German financial watchdog of potential market manipulation over their reports about accounting irregularities at payments processor Wirecard.

The criminal prosecution office in Munich said on Thursday it had “suspended the investigative proceedings” against the two FT journalists after they “did not reveal sufficient evidence to support the suspicious facts” raised by BaFin, the German watchdog.

BaFin said on Thursday that it had “no objection” to the prosecutor dropping its investigation into the FT journalists. It added that its parallel criminal complaint against short-sellers alleging market manipulation on Wirecard shares was still ongoing.

The move comes 10 weeks after Wirecard declared insolvency, having admitted that about €1.9bn in cash was missing from its accounts. Its collapse, which has turned into one of Germany’s biggest financial scandals, followed years of reports by the FT that Wirecard’s accounts were misleading.

The Munich prosecutor said its investigations found that the FT’s reports “are basically correct and at least from the point of view of the information available at the time, it was neither false nor misleading. There were no direct, concrete contacts with short-sellers.”

The criminal complaint against Dan McCrum and Stefania Palma was filed by BaFin in April 2019 after the FT published articles by the two earlier that year alleging that Wirecard had been inflating its revenues by using forged and backdated contracts that raised questions over the company’s accounting.

In case your are wondering, bank fraud, and regulatory capture are not exclusive to the “Anglo-Saxon” nations.

Not a Surprise

Is anyone surprised that,”Nearly half of Twitter accounts pushing to reopen America may be bots?”

The question is who, and who benefits?  (Cui Bono)

Kathleen M. Carley and her team at Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Informed Democracy & Social Cybersecurity have been tracking bots and influence campaigns for a long time. Across US and foreign elections, natural disasters, and other politicized events, the level of bot involvement is normally between 10 and 20%, she says.

But in a new study, the researchers have found that bots may account for between 45 and 60% of Twitter accounts discussing covid-19. Many of those accounts were created in February and have since been spreading and amplifying misinformation, including false medical advice, conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus, and pushes to end stay-at-home orders and reopen America.They follow well-worn patterns of coordinated influence campaigns, and their strategy is already working: since the beginning of the crisis, the researchers have observed a greater polarization in Twitter discourse around the topic.

They follow well-worn patterns of coordinated influence campaigns, and their strategy is already working: since the beginning of the crisis, the researchers have observed a greater polarization in Twitter discourse around the topic.

So, who is behind this?

We need to find these people, and expose them, and end their grip on power.

Tweet of the Day

Rancid lawlessness has been happening in the white collar world for twenty years with no handcuffs so it’s not a surprise to see it everywhere else. The trickle down theory works apparently.

I mean Elon Musk openly committed securities fraud.

— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) August 26, 2020

These days, it seems that about 80% of what goes on in Wall Street, and in Silicon Valley is unproductive bullsh%$ that is regulatory arbitrage at best, and more likely outright criminality.

As the saying goes, a fish rots from the head.

Did This Joke Did Not Age Well?

Folks, this really happened. pic.twitter.com/EviEJCGvs7

— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) August 21, 2020


So, a few months back, Steve Bannon joked about how he and his literal partner in crime at the “Build the Wall” crowd-funding campaign were taking all of the money and living large on a yacht in the Mediterranean:

Welcome back and this is Stephen K. Bannon. We’re off the coast of Saint-Tropez in southern France, in the Mediterranean. We’re on the million-dollar yacht of Brian Kolfage. Brian Kolfage — who took all that money from Build The Wall.

No, we’re actually in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

Now that Bannon and Kolfage have been arrested on fraud charges related to the effort, Bannon while he was LITERALLY onboard a plush mega-yacht, I’m thinking that this joke has not aged well.

Charlie, my son, and sometime standup comic, disagrees.  He thinks that this joke has aged like fine wine.

Maybe he and I should split the difference, and say that it aged like fine wHine.

Former Senior Trump Adviser Steve Bannon Charged With Alleged Fundraising Scheme

Kris Kobach is the general counsel of the Build the Wall PAC that Steve Bannon was just arrested for being involved in as chairman. The advisory board includes Erik Prince, former CO congressman Tom Tancredo, Sheriff Dave Clarke and former pitcher Curt Schilling.

— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) August 20, 2020

This is the Trifecta of Wingnut Scams

If you read Breitbart at all, or watch Fox News at all, or listen to Rush Limbaugh at all, it quickly becomes clear that a lot of the advertisers for these media outlets are out-right scams.

You see dodgy gold offers, income at home bunco, weight loss supplements, MLM programs, Green Card rackets, etc.

So it comes as no surprise that the private foundation raising money to build a southern border wall has turned out to be a scam, and its principals, including Steve Bannon.

I am not surprised that this was basically a scam, and the organizers were living the high life off the proceeds, but I am a bit surprised about the arrest.

I am surprised that there was an arrest though, and it has to be a let down to Bannon that the arresting officers did not come from the FBI, nor the US Marshalls, but the United States Post Office!

This sh%$ is going tinfoil hat quickly.

Former senior Trump adviser Steve Bannon was arrested and charged with fraud Thursday in connection with an alleged scheme to siphon hundreds of thousands of dollars from a crowdfunding campaign backing one of the president’s signature promises: building a wall along the southern U.S. border.

The We Build the Wall campaign raised more than $25 million, according to prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, which brought the case. The group, which isn’t connected to President Trump but was promoted by several people close to him, has spent less than half its funds on two short stretches of wall in New Mexico and Texas.

“As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss.

Ms. Strauss assumed leadership of the nation’s most prominent federal prosecutor’s office after Mr. Trump ousted former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman at the request of Attorney General William Barr in June. A law-enforcement official said Mr. Barr was briefed on the case before Thursday’s arrests but declined to elaborate.

My reaction to all this, “I’ll have what she’s having.” (Twice in a month, that’s a lot of schadenfreude)

Here is hoping that Bannon does not succumb to the delirium tremens before we have the spectacle of him breaking down in court.

Stock Options Don’t Exercise Themselves

Despite profits cratering like a Boeing 737 MAX with an Indonesian pilot, the captains of industry in the United States are continuing their stock buy-backs unabated.

This is not about preserving shareholder value, this is about keeping those executives stock options above water.  It is corrupt, and arguably fraud:

Corporate America is finding it hard to kick the share buyback habit, even after the US slipped into its worst recession in decades.

Total buybacks are expected to drop this year as the downturn caused by coronavirus saps corporate profits, prompting many US blue-chips to suspend or cut back share repurchases. Yet companies in the S&P 500 that have reported second-quarter earnings so far have reduced the number of their outstanding shares by an average of 0.3 per cent from the previous quarter, according to calculations from Credit Suisse.

Updates showed that some of the largest US multinationals continued to buy back their own stock or even accelerated stock repurchases.


David Lebovitz, global market strategist for JPMorgan Asset Management, noted that the buybacks were “not happening everywhere”, but were “driven by specific sectors and stocks”. He added that financial and materials companies were potentially more willing to engage in buybacks through the downturn, because their stocks have not advanced as much as companies in other sectors since the lows in March.

Mr. Lebovitz is lying, and he knows it.

This is about executives boosting their own bottom line, not the company’s.

AI Scams

In this case, it is food delivery robots known as Kiwibots, which, in addition to frequently blocking curb cuts in ways that threaten the lives of the disabled, lies about their use of artificial intelligence to navigate.

In reality, it uses remote operators in Columbia who are paid only $2.00/hour:

It seemed inevitable with the era of the autonomous car, ideas like the Kiwibots emerged. Small ostensibly autonomous vehicles that were in charge of food distribution, thus posing an alternative to courier services such as Glovo, Deliveroo or Uber Eats where deliveries are carried out by human messengers through the bike.

Everything seemed fantastic until it has been discovered that these vehicles have little of self-employed: an investigation has discovered that in reality these robots are remotely controlled by operators in Colombia who charge $2 per hour for this work.


This startup, called Kiwi Campus, launched small robots that looked like small carts with four wheels and a storage compartment at the top for orders. The robots became a sensation in the surroundings of that university, where the activity of the autonomous vehicles began.


The people in charge of the Kiwibots have several videos on their website that show how these messenger robots work: theoretically, the magic is provided by a complex artificial vision system that is able to recognize obstacles and detect when they can cross the street or not.


What was not shown to us as indicated in the San Francisco Chronicle is that they are remotely controlled by human operators who use the GPS sensors and cameras of these robots to send orders to the robots every 5 or 10 seconds.

On Kiwi Campus, they have recognized that there is indeed a part of human remote control, but for them, their service is a “parallel autonomy” system. The robots also circulate at a very reduced speed that goes from 1.6 to 2.4 km/h, which makes Kiwi workers have to pick up food orders from restaurants and go to the Kiwibots points of Departure to put the foods in the storage compartments of the robots and then make deliveries.

The model is unique, but it has more secrets than it might seem and much less autonomy than the robots seemed to raise – each of them costs $ 2,500 – initially. The ideal benefits from the low cost of the workforce that controls them: the operators that handle them in Colombia charge $2 per hour, a much lower cost than installing, for example, LIDAR systems – which would be difficult to integrate into these robots.

Seriously, why do we let fraudsters extract private profits from public space based on their lies?


The good folks at WeWork are predicting that they will be profitable by 2021.

Given the fact that they no longer have a nearly unlimited access to capital, and that there are already dozens, of companies providing exactly the same service, and they think that somehow or other they are going to be fabulously profitable.

They are just looking for their next bunch of marks to fleece:

WeWork is on track to have positive cash flow in 2021, a year ahead of schedule, after it cut its workforce by more than 8,000 people, renegotiated leases and sold off assets, its executive chairman said.

Marcelo Claure said in an interview that the SoftBank-backed office space provider had seen strong demand for its flexible work spaces since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In February, Mr Claure set a target of reaching operating profitability by the end of next year and he said WeWork remains on track to meet it.

The New York-based company, which aborted its hotly anticipated initial public offering last year, has moved aggressively to reduce its cash burn and shed costs. It has slashed its workforce from a high of 14,000 last year to 5,600 people, a figure that has not been previously disclosed.

“Everybody thought WeWork was mission impossible. [That we had] zero chance. And now, a year from now, you are going to see WeWork to basically be a profitable venture with an incredible diversity of assets,” said Mr Claure.

Seriously, why haven’t there been prosecutions over that sh%$?

Objectively Pro-Bigotry and Pro-Fascist

Clearly Fraudulent

I am referring, of course to Facebook.
It turns out that Zuckerberg’s monster is complicit in Ben Shapiro’s astroturfing to monetize false engagement.

You can be sure that if this were someone selling cheesecake, they would have been banned years ago.

From a more personal perspective, if I were to do this on my blog, I would be demonitized instantly.

In fact, if I were to make a post just SUGGESTING that you click through on the ads on my blog, I would subject to sanctions from Google™ Adsense™.  (Please see my disclaimer below)

I’m not sure if Zuckerberg is a wing-nut, or if he simply finds that it’s more profitable to sell whack-doodle conspiracy theories to the wing-nuts, and I don’t care.  The effect is the same:

The success of The Daily Wire, the website run by right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro, on Facebook is mind-boggling. The site has a small staff and primarily aggregates content from Twitter and other news outlets. Typically, its articles are very short, usually less than 500 words, and contain no original reporting.

And yet, last month, The Daily Wire was the seventh-ranked publisher on Facebook, according to the analytics service NewsWhip. Articles published in The Daily Wire attracted 60,616,745 engagements in May. Engagement is a combination of shares, likes, and comments, and is a way of quantifying distribution on Facebook. The reach of The Daily Wire’s articles was equal to the New York Times (60,722,727) and more than the Washington Post (49,219,525).

But that actually understates how well The Daily Wire does on Facebook. While the New York Times published 15,587 articles in May, and the Washington Post published 8,048, The Daily Wire published just 1,141. On a per article basis, The Daily Wire receives more distribution than any other major publisher. And it’s not close.

What explains The Daily Wire’s phenomenal success on Facebook? Popular Information revealed part of the answer last October. But the full story is much darker.

Popular Information has discovered a network of large Facebook pages — each built by exploiting racial bias, religious bigotry, and violence — that systematically promote content from The Daily Wire. These pages, some of which have over 2 million followers, do not disclose a business relationship with The Daily Wire. But they all post content from The Daily Wire ten or more times each day. Moreover, these pages post the exact same content from The Daily Wire at the exact same time.

The undisclosed relationship not only helps explain The Daily Wire’s unlikely success on Facebook but also appears to violate Facebook’s rules.


The network of large Facebook pages promoting The Daily Wire are all run by Corey and Christy Pepple, who are best known as the creators of Mad World News. Facebook pages controlled by the Pepples include Mad World News (2,176,003 followers), The New Resistance (2,857,876 followers), Right Stuff (610,809 followers), America First (577,753 followers), and American Patriot (447,799 followers).


Why do these toxic Facebook pages keep sharing content from The Daily Wire? Do the Pepples just really like Ben Shapiro’s site? The Daily Wire did not respond to a request for comment. But the behavior of these pages strongly suggests that The Daily Wire and Mad World News, LLC, the company owned by Corey and Christy Pepple, have a business relationship.

The Daily Wire is the only website outside of those owned by the Pepples that is shared by these five pages. And each of the five Facebook pages shares at least ten Daily Wire links every day. Conspicuously, the Facebook pages share the exact same links from The Daily Wire at the exact same time.


The pattern repeats over and over again, ten times or more every day. It’s behavior that strongly suggests that Mad World News, LLC is being paid to promote content from The Daily Wire.
If that’s the case, The Daily Wire could be violating Facebook’s rules. Facebook allows pages to be paid to post content, but the sponsorship must be disclosed using Facebook’s branded content tool.


The activity also appears to violate Facebook’s prohibition on coordinated inauthentic behavior, which includes a ban on activity to “artificially boost the popularity of content.”


There is no reason that the network of Facebook pages run by Corey and Christy Pepple should have flown beneath Facebook’s radar. Years ago, the Pepples became notorious for exploiting Facebook with poisonous content.


The Daily Wire’s apparent business relationship with Mad World News isn’t the first time the site has been caught flouting Facebook’s rules. Last October, Popular Information revealed a clandestine network of 14 large Facebook pages that purported to be independent but exclusively promote content from The Daily Wire in a coordinated fashion.


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a relationship with Shapiro, who Zuckerberg has hosted at his home. According to a source who has spoken with Shapiro, Zuckerberg and Shapiro remain in direct communication.

My standard disclaimer on any post about the aforementioned service applies:

Also, please note, this should be in no way construed as an inducement or a request for my reader(s) to click on any ad that they would not otherwise be inclined to investigate further. This would be a violation of the terms of service for Google™ Adsense™.

Here We Go Again

This is what took down the markets in 2008-09, and it’s not surprising that they are doing this again, since Barack Obama and Eric “Place” Holder, steadfastly refused to prosecute.

No consequences, so they went back to ripping of the rest of us:

Among the toxic contributors to the financial crisis of 2008, few caused as much havoc as mortgages with dodgy numbers and inflated values. Huge quantities of them were assembled into securities that crashed and burned, damaging homeowners and investors alike. Afterward, reforms were promised. Never again, regulators vowed, would real estate financiers be able to fudge numbers and threaten the entire economy.

Twelve years later, there’s evidence something similar is happening again.

Some of the world’s biggest banks — including Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank — as well as other lenders have engaged in a systematic fraud that allowed them to award borrowers bigger loans than were supported by their true financials, according to a previously unreported whistleblower complaint submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission last year.

Whereas the fraud during the last crisis was in residential mortgages, the complaint claims this time it’s happening in commercial properties like office buildings, apartment complexes and retail centers. The complaint focuses on the loans that are gathered into pools whose worth can exceed $1 billion and turned into bonds sold to investors, known as CMBS (for commercial mortgage-backed securities).

Lenders and securities issuers have regularly altered financial data for commercial properties “without justification,” the complaint asserts, in ways that make the properties appear more valuable, and borrowers more creditworthy, than they actually are. As a result, it alleges, borrowers have qualified for commercial loans they normally would not have, with the investors who bought securities birthed from those loans none the wiser.

ProPublica closely examined six loans that were part of CMBS in recent years to see if their data resembles the pattern described by the whistleblower. What we found matched the allegations: The historical profits reported for some buildings were listed as much as 30% higher than the profits previously reported for the same buildings and same years when the property was part of an earlier CMBS. As a rough analogy, imagine a homeowner having stated in a mortgage application that his 2017 income was $100,000 only to claim during a later refinancing that his 2017 income was $130,000 — without acknowledging or explaining the change.

It’s “highly questionable” to alter past profits with no apparent explanation, said John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School and an expert in securities regulation. “I don’t understand why you can do that.”


The complaint suggests widespread efforts to make adjustments. Some expenses were erased from the ledger, for example, when a new loan was issued. Most changes were small; but a minor increase in profits can lead to approval for a significantly higher mortgage.

The result: Many properties may have borrowed more than they could afford to pay back — even before the pandemic rocked their businesses — making a CMBS crash both more likely and more damaging. “It’s a higher cliff from which they are falling,” Flynn said. “So the loss severity is going to be greater and the probability of default is going to be greater.”


After lobbying by commercial real estate organizations and advocacy by real estate investor and Trump ally Tom Barrack — who warned of a looming commercial mortgage crash — the Federal Reserve pledged in early April to prop up CMBS by loaning money to investors and letting them use their CMBS as collateral. The goal is to stabilize the market at a time when investors may be tempted to dump their securities, and also to support banks in issuing new bonds. (Barrack’s company, Colony Capital, has since defaulted on $3.2 billion in debt backed by hotel and health care properties, according to the Financial Times.)


The notion that profit figures for some buildings are pumped up is surprising, said Kevin Riordan, a finance professor at Montclair State University. It raises questions about whether the proper disclosures are being made.

Investors don’t comb through financial statements, added Riordan, who used to manage the CMBS portfolio for retirement fund giant TIAA-CREF. Instead, he said, they rely on summaries from investment banks and the credit ratings agencies that analyze the securities. To make wise decisions, investors’ information “out of the gate has to be pretty close to being right,” he said. “Otherwise you’re dealing with garbage. Garbage in, garbage out.”

Once again, they are robbing us blind, and the response of the powers that be will be to bail them out.

To quote the late Paul Volker, “The only useful thing banks have invented in the last 20 years is the ATM.”

This is Flat Out Fraud

Yelp, which is in a partnership with Github, and hence shares a portion of the revenues, is publishing false phone numbers for a restaurants in order to generate promotional fees with Github.

This is flat out fraud. They are generating false calls to make fees for their partner, who kicks the money back to them.

It probably won’t result in criminal charges, but it really is Silicon Valley Douchebaggery in its truest form:

A few months ago, I opened the Yelp app, typed in the name of my favorite sushi restaurant, and clicked on the phone number. Two options popped up: “Delivery or Takeout” and “General Questions.”

That’s new, I thought. I dialed the number for “Delivery or Takeout,” which played a perky greeting—“This call may be recorded to ensure awesomeness”—before a woman at the restaurant picked up. I asked why they were recording the call for awesomeness; she had no idea what I was referring to. I asked about the number I had just dialed; she didn’t recognize it.


The Yelp app lists a restaurant’s direct phone number on the actual listing. That’s (212) 262-8300 in the case of Judge Roy Bean Public House. But when you click on the phone number, this dialogue shows up: Delivery or Takeout and General Questions.

When a user clicks on the “Call” button labeled “Delivery or Takeout,” they are taken to a different number, (646) 394-9837, which is owned by Grubhub.

The “Call” button next to “General Questions” leads to the restaurant’s real number.

Even though restaurants are capable of taking orders directly—after all, both numbers are routed to the same place—Yelp is pushing customers to Grubhub-owned phone numbers in order to facilitate what Grubhub calls a “referral fee” of between 15 percent and 20 percent of the order total, I learned while researching an episode for the podcast Underunderstood.

Yelp has historically functioned like an enhanced Yellow Pages, listing direct phone numbers for restaurants along with photos, information about the space, menus, and user reviews. But Yelp began prompting customers to call Grubhub phone numbers in October 2018 after the two companies announced a “long-term partnership.”

This is fraud.

State Attorneys General should be proffering criminal charges under fraud statutes against Yelp and Grubhub, and federal prosecutors should be pursuing them under RICO statutes.

Not Enough Bullets

Earnings in a free fall, laying of thousands, but companies are still paying large dividends, because canceling them would drive the stock down, and put senior management stock options under water.

This story is not mentioning the whole control fraud aspect of this, but that is the reality, one that the authors completely ignore:

Since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, Caterpillar has suspended operations at two plants and a foundry, Levi Strauss has closed stores, and toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker has been planning layoffs and furloughs.

Steelcase, an office furniture manufacturer, and World Wrestling Entertainment have also shed employees.

And as thousands of their workers were filing for unemployment benefits, these companies also rewarded their shareholders with more than $700 million in cash dividends. They are not alone. As the pandemic squeezes big companies, executives are making decisions about who will bear the brunt of the sacrifices, and in at least some cases, workers have been the first to lose, even as shareholders continue to collect.

Many large U.S. companies choose to issue a regular, quarterly dividend to shareholders, often increasing it, and they boast about these payments because they help keep the share price higher than it might otherwise be. Those companies might be reluctant to announce that they are cutting or suspending their dividend during a crisis, [deputy director of the Council of Institutional Investors Amy ] Borrus said.


William Lazonick, an emeritus economics professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, has been one of the leading critics of companies that distribute cash to shareholders through stock buybacks and dividends rather than reinvesting the profits into employees, innovation and production. For companies that are continuing to do buybacks and issue dividends during the crisis, he said, it is business as usual. The lion’s share of dividends goes to higher-income Americans, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service: about 69 percent of all dividends goes to taxpayers with incomes in excess of $200,000.

“In a downturn like this, the first thing a company should do is give up any distributions to shareholders,” Lazonick said. “But in a crisis, companies will differ. Some will care … and some will rob the workers, who should expect that their continued employment will be the company’s first concern.”

You cannot understand these actions unless you know that the senior management of these firms are rewarded almost entirely on the basis of stock price.

This is not a single minded focus on short term shareholder returns, which is bad, it is a single minded focus on THEIR returns.

They don’t carte if the company fails in 2 years, if they can cash in their stock options today.

Not a Surprise

It turns out that Harlem Success Academy, featured prominently in the pro-charter film Waiting for Superman is lying about all of its students going to college.

Instead, they are kicking out students before they fail, a classic scam of the charter school types:

98 Success Academy Students Accepted To College

But is that a lot?

The New York Post seems to think so. Three times in a recent article they suggest that this is 100% of the seniors. The title “Entire Success Academy senior class accepted to college” certainly implies it. The first sentence “Every senior in one of the city’s largest charter school networks has been accepted to a college this year, officials said.” reinforces it. And the second sentence “All 98 of the 12th graders at Success Academy’s HS of the Liberal Arts in Manhattan earned admission to universities — including Yale, Penn, Duke and Georgetown.” further drives the point home.

But a responsible reporter would ask the logical follow up question. Is 98 really all the students in the class of 2020?

The answer is, “No”.

There were 16 more students 6 months ago, and there were 48 fewer students the year before, and this is a school which purports to take the students from elementary school through  graduation from high school.

They cull the weak to juice their numbers.

Republicans Loot, Because Republicans Loot

Remember that Republican political operative who terminated his fund raising business to start selling overpriced Covid-19 supplies, likely trading on his political connections, has now had his contract with Maryland terminated, and there has been a criminal referral to the state Attorney General.

It’s pretty clear that this guy was profiteering off of his political connections, but his connections were not sufficient to acquire N-95 masks and ventilators, so now it is revealed that he sold stuff he did not have, and that, my friend, is fraud:

Maryland’s governor is asking the attorney general to investigate a politically connected company that contracted to provide the state with millions of dollars’ worth of medical equipment that never arrived.

The state signed a $12.5 million deal April 1 with Blue Flame Medical LLC for 1.5 million N95 masks and 110 ventilators. The masks and ventilators were supposed to ship April 14, according to documents provided by the state.

The state paid half of the money up front, according to the documents.

The goods never arrived, and Maryland canceled the contract Friday.

“Unfortunately, despite numerous requests for information and order status, Blue Flame Medical has yet to deliver any items under this order, or provide any pertinent data as to a pending shipment,” wrote Danny Mays, the state’s director of procurement, in a letter sent to Blue Flame on Thursday.

Blue Flame Medical was founded just weeks ago by Mike Gula, a former Republican Party fundraiser and consultant whose resume shows no experience in the medical field.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Brian Frosh confirmed receiving a referral about the contract. The office has a policy not to comment on pending or potential investigations.


Gula started Blue Flame in late March with John Thomas, also a Republican consultant and former candidate, according to multiple news reports.

When asked how political consultants could successfully switch to selling healthcare supplies in the midst of a global pandemic, Thomas told Politico in March: “It’s just relationship-based. I can’t say anything else.”

There really is no situation so dire that some Republican won’t look at finding a way to loot it.

Our society being what it is though, this guy will probably never see the inside of a jail cell.