Two Blondes, Two Fates

From the Slope of Hope: Earlier this week, my son asked me a sincere question: “How come Marissa Mayer got $200 million by screwing up Yahoo?”

It was a good question, and one I had trouble answering at first, because I’d like him to think that there’s some level of fairness, meritocracy, and sensibility to this world of ours. In Mayer’s case, however, there is none. Her entire massive fortune is due to being in the right place, at the right time, on multiple occasions. She is no more clever or shrewd than someone who won the mega-jackpot lottery

When I had time to discuss the reality of the situation with him thoroughly, I laid out the bare truth for him. It is as follows:

(1) Mayer was a senior at Stanford, trying to figure out which of her many job offers she would accept. A startup named Google was looking for a product manager, so they sent her an email. Seeing the subject line, she intended to press the Delete key, because she wanted to join Bain Consulting (a very typical place for a graduate of an elite school to begin their career), but she accidentally pressed the Space bar, showing the email’s contents. She was intrigued enough to read it and talk to the founders, and she took the plunge. Word on the street is she that was a Friend With Benefits to Larry Page during her tenure there, which didn’t hurt matters. Suffice it to say she made her first fortune by stumbling into Google the moment she left college and being real chummy with one of the Google guys.

(2) During this same time period, Yahoo couldn’t do anything right. They’ve always been a pretty crappy site, but they had the good fortune of being a “first mover” when the Internet first appeared, and their popularity fed on itself. They stupidly said no to a great buyout offer from Microsoft, and they kept lurching from one failed CEO to another, including, notably, Carol Bartz, who is basically an older, more pissed-off version of Marissa.

(3) In a perfect illustration of the Peter Principle, Mayer had risen to her own level of incompetence at Google, and she started getting sidelined. It slowly began to dawn on people that she wasn’t particularly good at anything, except narcissistically posing for magazine covers, and she started to be pushed farther and farther away from senior management. She was rich enough to never work again, but her glory days seemed to be behind her.

(4) Yahoo, desperate for a shot at rejuvenating itself, reached out to Mayer for the plum post of CEO. What I explained carefully to my son is that when a public company really, really wants someone, that “someone” can construct a deal so that they make a fortune no matter how badly they fuck up. And that’s precisely what Marissa did. She got a monster signing bonus and a pay package that was Gigantic if she screwed everything up and Super Gigantic if things went well. For a while, the world declared that, as with Steve jobs did with Apple in 1996, she was going to save Yahoo.

(5) In the five or so years that she ran Yahoo, she did just about everything wrong. She enriched friends by paying insane figures for their startups. She spent $1.3 billion in tumblr, which failed. She hired Katie Couric at $10 million a year to – – I dunno – – sit in front of a camera and show her big, white teeth. She wasted money like mad, didn’t turn the company around, and was essentially an epic screwup.

So how come Yahoo’s stock price didn’t reflect this? I can answer that with one word: Alibaba.

See, many years earlier, Yahoo put money into the tiny company Alibaba, and its 40% stake became very, very valuable. Indeed, Yahoo had a NEGATIVE enterprise value. The one and ONLY thing that preserved shareholder value was that it just happened to have a big stake in BABA whose share price just kept going up. That’s it. End of story. Dumb luck. And Mayer benefited from this happy accident more than anyone. She is, I assured my boy, creepily laughing all the way to the bank.

 

So why did I call this post TWO blondes? Because in sharp contrast with the dumb luck of Marissa Mayers is the rotten luck of someone who almost got away with it – – but didn’t – – good old “Crazy Eyes” Elizabeth Holmes, who had the gall to hold herself out to the world as the reincarnation of Steven P. Jobs.

You know the story well, so I won’t go into much detail. The thumbnail sketch is that she left Stanford at 19, put Theranos together, somehow convinced venture capitalists (distracted, I suppose, by her trim figure and fake blonde hair) into valuing her company at $9 billion, and then – – whoops – -it turns out that she hasn’t invented a goddamn thing, and that their technology doesn’t work. The result? Government investigations, investor lawsuits, employee suicides, and a net worth of Holmes collapsing from $4.5 billion to $dick.

The massive wealth she created for herself and others was as fake as that gorgeous blonde hair of hers.

Oh, you thought it was real? C’mon now. These women like to create an image. In spite of their post-feminist bluster, they will happily pander to whatever sexist notions they believe will garner them the highest paycheck. I offer you this tidbit of reality as well.

Pretty amazing what a lot of cash can buy in terms of a facade, isn’t it?

Same person. Honest. And maybe a touch of Photoshop.

So, in the end, you’ve got one woman who was able to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes and make a fortune of about a quarter billion dollars, and you’ve got another who almost pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes, but got caught before she got away with it, and is left with nothing.

Two fake blondes. Two different fates. There is no real sense to any of this. Right time. Right place. Luck of the draw. And a little helping of what the boys like, just to grease the skids.

Here’s Who NATO Will Probably Be Fighting If There’s A World War III

Authored by Darius Shahtahmasebi via TheAntiMedia.org,

Russia recently said it would support Iran’s bid to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an emerging economic and political alliance led by China. This Shanghai Bloc was originally formed in 1996 before it was rebranded in 2001. Its membership includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Last year, India and Pakistan also signed the memorandum of obligations and are expected to become full members sometime this year. The bloc has expanded into a military organization over the last few years and has run joint military exercises in the past.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Iran now fully fits the criteria for membership and that discussions on its bid to join will take place this summer.

“Next in line [for membership]…is Iran, which has resolved issues related to sanctions from the U.N. Security Council,” Lavrov told Russian state news agency Itar-Tass, as reported by Newsweek.

The country now “fully meets the criteria for membership,” Lavrov told journalists at the end of a meeting of the group’s foreign ministers.

Iran currently has observer status in the organization, meaning it can attend summits. As is quite clear, Iran and Russia already cooperate closely both economically and militarily, particularly regarding the Syrian conflict. What is especially notable about this alliance, however, is the fact that the U.S. was rejected from gaining observer status in 2004, which, as Newsweek reports, reinforces “the impression that its goal is to exist in opposition to Western political and military alliances.”

Further complicating this issue is the fact that NATO member Turkey expressed a desire to join this organization at the end of last year. As Turkey transitions from a so-called democracy to a nearly outright dictatorship, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan may find he has more in common with his eastern counterparts than he does his western ones.

If this scenario were to occur, it would place a NATO ally in direct alliance with NATO’s longtime arch-rivals Iran and Russia.

As the world is seemingly preparing for a third world war between NATO and the growing Eastern bloc, we are witnessing the strengthening of alliances as well as the switching of some very strategic ones. One can only hope that as alliances switch and strengthen, the balance of power could shift just enough to prevent the powers-that-be from launching this disastrous war in the first place.

You Can’t Buy Love… But You Can Rent It

According to the Digital Market Outlook (DMO) by Statista, the country with the largest share of adults paying for a dating service is the United States.

Infographic: Investing in Love | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista

As Statista’s Martin Armstrong details, at 26.4 percent, over a quarter of Americans are spending their money on trying to find love (or a sexual encounter).

The DMO analysts classified ‘dating services’ as either ‘matchmaking’, ‘online dating’, or ‘casual dating’. Making up the top three were the UK and Germany on 20 and 17 percent respectively.

ISIS Apologized To Israel For Attacking IDF Soldiers

In a curious incident that is certain to provoke questions about the proximity, not to mention fund flow, between Israel and ISIS the former Israeli Defense Minister, cited by the Times of Israel, said that  Islamic State terrorists have on at least one occasion “apologized” to Israel for mistakenly attacking IDF soldiers in the occupied Golan Heights. The disclosure may also provide some insight into why after reportedly attacking virtually every religion and ethnicity in the region, there have been virtually no documented attacks by the Islamic State on Israel or its citizens.

Discussing the wider Israeli policy of “neutrality” in Syria, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon accidentally admitted that Israel has an open communications channel with an Islamic State cell which operates in Gollan Heights.

“There was one case recently where Daesh opened fire and apologized,” Ya’alon said on Saturday, quoted by the Times of Israel.

Asked to expand on his controversial statement, Ya’alon’s office refused to elaborate. The IDF also declined to comment. Under Israeli law, any communication with terrorists is considered illegal, unless of course the Israel state covertly does not consider ISIS terrorists.

Ya’alon served as Israel’s Defense Minister from 2013 until his resignation in May 2016, and his comments were reportedly referring to the first direct incident involving clashes between Israel and Islamic State terrorists. In that incident which took place last November, the Shuhada al-Yarmouk cell, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS, exchanged fire with Israeli forces after the IDF’s Golani Brigade crossed the security fence with Syria to conduct an “ambush operation.”


Former Israeli defense minister Moshe ‘Bogie’ Ya’alon speaks at the Hebrew University

While the official Israeli position is pursuing neutrality in the Syrian conflict, Tel Aviv has on several occasions engaged Syrian military targets in Syria – most recently on Wednesday – usually under the pretext of preventing the alleged transfer of weapons to Hezbollah, considered a terrorist group by Israel. Last month, Tel Aviv confirmed conducting airstrikes on several targets in Syria, after Damascus activated its air defense system against the IDF jets.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has justified the repeated incursions, explaining that IDF planes targeted a Hezbollah weapons convoy, Damascus has said that the Israeli strikes only benefit the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. Earlier this month the Syrian President Bashar Assad once again blamed Israel of helping militants terrorizing his country.

“You can assume that these terrorists are fighting for Israel. If they aren’t part of the regular Israeli army, they’re fighting for Israel. Israel has common goals with Turkey, the United States, France, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries,” Ynet quoted Assad as as saying.

“Israel is working on helping these terrorists wherever the Syrian army is advancing. It attacks in one form or another to provide them with assistance, and to stop the Syrian army’s momentum in the face of the terrorists,” the Syrian leader added.

In light of Ya’alon’s comments, Assad may have been right.

Will Trump Release The Missing JFK Files?

Authored by Philip Shenon via Politico.com,

The nation’s conspiracy-theorist-in-chief is facing a momentous decision. Will President Donald Trump allow the public to see a trove of thousands of long-secret government files about the event that, more than any other in modern American history, has fueled conspiracy theories – the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy?

The answer must come within months. And, according to a new timeline offered by the National Archives, it could come within weeks.

Under the deadline set by a 1992 law, Trump has six months left to decide whether he will block the release of an estimated 3,600 files related to the assassination that are still under seal at the Archives. From what is known of the JFK documents, most come from the CIA and FBI, and a number may help resolve lingering questions about whether those agencies missed evidence of a conspiracy in Kennedy’s death. As with every earlier release of JFK assassination documents in the 53 years since shots rang out in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, it is virtually certain that some of the files will be seized on to support popular conspiracy theories about Kennedy’s murder; other documents are likely to undermine them.

There is no little irony in the fact that decision will be left to Trump, long a promoter of so many baseless conspiracy theories about everything from his predecessor’s birthplace to the notion that the father of one of his campaign-trail rivals was in league with JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

For the first time, the Trump White House is acknowledging that it is focused on the issue, even if it offers no hint about what the President will do. A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Politico last week that the Trump administration “is familiar with the requirements” of the 1992 law and that White House is working with the National Archives “to enable a smooth process in anticipation of the October deadline.”

Under the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Collection Act, the library of documents about Kennedy’s death must be made public in full by the deadline of this October 26, the law’s 25th anniversary, unless Trump decides otherwise. It is his decision alone.

The prospect of the release of the last of the government’s long-secret JFK assassination files has long tantalized historians and other scholars, to say nothing of the nation’s armies of conspiracy theorists, since no one can claim to know exactly what is in there.

Martha W. Murphy, the Archives official who oversees the records, said in an interview last month that a team of researchers with high-level security clearances is at work to prepare the JFK files for release and hopes to begin unsealing them in batches much earlier than October – possibly as early as summer.

Beyond releasing the 3,600 never-before-seen JFK files, the Archives is reviewing another 35,000 assassination-related documents, previously released in part, so they can be unsealed in full. Short of an order from the president, Murphy said, the Archives is committed to making everything public this year: “There’s very little decision-making for us.”

Many of the documents are known to come from the files of CIA officials who monitored a mysterious trip that Oswald paid to Mexico City several weeks before the assassination – a trip that brought Kennedy’s future killer under intense surveillance by the spy agency as he paid visits to both the Soviet and Cuban embassies there. The CIA said it monitored all visitors to the embassies and opened surveillance of Oswald as soon as he was detected inside the Soviet compound for the first time.

Other documents are known to identify, by name, American and foreign spies and law-enforcement sources who had previously been granted anonymity for information about Oswald and the assassination. At least 400 pages of the files involve E. Howard Hunt, the former CIA operative turned Watergate conspirator who claimed on his deathbed that he had advance knowledge of Kennedy’s murder.

The documents were gathered together by a temporary federal agency, the Assassination Records Review Board, that was established under the 1992 law. In an interview last month, its former chairman, Judge John R. Tunheim of the Federal District Court in Minnesota, said he “wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something important” in the documents, especially given how much of the history of the Kennedy assassination has had to be rewritten in recent decades.

He said he knew of “no bombshells” in the files when the board agreed to keep them secret two decades ago, but names, places and events described in the documents could have significance now, given what has been learned about the assassination since the board went out of business. “Today, with a broader understanding of history, certain things may be far more relevant,” he said.

Murphy, the Archives official, said she, too, knew of no shocking information in the documents – but she said her researchers were not in a position to judge their significance. “As you can imagine, we’re not reading them for that, so we’re probably not the best people to tell you,” she said. “I will say this: This collection is really interesting as a snapshot of the Cold War.”

The Review Board, created by Congress to show transparency in response to the public furor created by Oliver Stone’s conspiracy-minded 1991 film “JFK,” did force the release of a massive library of other long-secret documents from the CIA, FBI, Secret Service and other federal agencies, as well as from congressional investigations of the assassination.

Many showed how much evidence was withheld from the Warren Commission, the independent panel led by Chief Justice Earl Warren that investigated the assassination and concluded in 1964 that there was no evidence of a conspiracy in Kennedy’s death.

The documents showed that both the CIA and FBI had much more extensive information about Oswald—and the danger he posed to JFK—before the assassination than the agencies admitted to Warren’s investigation. The evidence appeared to have been withheld from the commission out of fear that it would expose how the CIA and FBI had bungled the opportunity to stop Oswald.

Under the 1992 law, agencies may make a final appeal to try to stop the unsealing of specific documents on national security grounds. But the law grants only one person the power to actually block the release: the president. The law allows Trump to keep a document secret beyond the 25-year deadline if he certifies to the National Archives that secrecy was “made necessary by an identifiable harm to military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement or conduct of foreign relations” and that “the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

Both the CIA and FBI acknowledged in written statements last month that they are reviewing the documents scheduled for release; neither agency would say if it planned to appeal to the White House to block the unsealing of any of the records. “CIA continues to review the remaining CIA documents in the collection to determine the appropriate next steps with respect to any previously-unreleased CIA information,” said agency spokesperson Heather Fritz Horniak. The FBI said it had a team of 21 researchers assigned to the document review.

According to a skeletal index of the documents prepared by the Archives, some of the files appear to involve, at least indirectly, a set of conspiracy theories that Trump himself promoted during the 2016 campaign – about possible ties between Cuban exile groups in the United States and Oswald. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly promoted an article published last April in the National Enquirer that suggested a connection between Oswald and the Cuban-born father of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, one of Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination. The article was based entirely on a 1963 photograph that showed Oswald, a self-proclaimed Marxist and champion of Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution in Cuba, handing out pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans with a man who, the tabloid suggested, was Cruz’s father, Rafael.

The Cruz family denied that the senator’s family was the man depicted in the photo and that Rafael Cruz had any connection to Oswald; there is no other evidence of any connection.

The National Archives index shows that the documents to be released this year include a 86-page file on a prominent CIA-backed anti-Castro exile group that Oswald appears to have tried to infiltrate in New Orleans, his hometown, in order to gather information that might be of use to the Castro government.

Judge Tunheim said that Oswald’s trip to Mexico City in September and October 1963 figures directly or indirectly in many of the documents that remain under seal, including the internal files of CIA operatives who worked at the American embassy there.

Historians agree that the trip, which Oswald apparently undertook in hopes of obtaining a visa to defect to Castro’s Cuba, much as he had once tried to defect to the Soviet Union, has never been fully investigated.

“I still think there are loose threads in Mexico City that no one has ever explored,” Tunheim said. “It was a bizarre chapter – there’s no question about it.” Previously declassified CIA and FBI documents suggest that Oswald openly boasted to Cuban officials there about his intention to kill Kennedy and that he had a brief affair with a Mexican woman who worked in Cuba’s consulate. The American ambassador to Mexico at the time of the assassination said later that he believed the woman had probably been working for the CIA.

Tunheim said the Review Board agreed to keep the Mexico-related documents secret in the 1990s at the request of the State Department, the CIA and other agencies that warned that their release could do damage to relations with the Mexico government, which worked closely with the CIA and FBI during the Cold War. “Mexico City was where everybody spied on everybody else,” the judge said.

But given the chill in relations between the United States and Mexico following Trump’s election and early moves by his administration to build its long-promised wall along the Mexican border, a similar plea to keep the documents secret may not go very far with the new president. Said Tunheim: “I guess we don’t have much of a relationship with the Mexican government to protect anymore.”

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