LittleSis: Profiling the Powers That Be
At www.LittleSis.org, social networking has taken on a whole new meaning. Instead of developing a network about its users, such as Facebook, Myspace or online dating sites have done, LittleSis, according to their own slogan, profiles the powers-that-be.
By tracking the key relationships of politicians, business leaders, lobbyists, financiers, and their affiliated institutions, LittleSis brings transparency to government and private power centers, while attempting to answer such questions as:
Who do the wealthiest Americans donate their money to?
Where did White House officials work before they were appointed?
Which lobbyists are married to politicians, and who do they lobby for?
LittleSis brings already public information together in one place. The website gathers data from government filings, news articles, and other legitimate sources. Some data sets are updated automatically, but most is filled in by the site’s user community.
Who are the personalities behind the bailouts, government contracts and new policies?
In partnership with Alternet, the site is home to a number of investigations, among the newest being composed of “bubble barons.” Over 250 citizen journalists have teamed up to research information on approximately 67 bubble barons. In under a week, the researchers made more than 500 edits to the LittleSis database from family ties to investments and donations of the Barons.
How does one become a bubble baron? Co-founder Kevin Connor used three main criteria when making this particular list. According to LittleSis:
1. Billions (plural). The bubble barons are all worth $2 billion or more (they are multi-billionaires), according to Forbes’ estimates. These estimates can’t be counted on as 100% accurate, but they are the best source for US wealth rankings. It’s pretty simple: like the robber barons before them, the bubble barons are wealthier than everyone else.
2. Big bubble gains. The bubble barons all saw substantial increases in wealth from the height of the last bubble (the dot com bubble) in 2000 to 2009, according to Forbes data. If an individual made billions during the housing bubble and lost it all by the end, they didn’t make the list. Similarly, tech billionaires whose gains were flat since the dot-com peak did not make the list.
3. FIRE. The bubble barons are all active in the Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate industry – an approximation for the bundle of industries that benefited most from the Wall Street-fueled housing boom.
Over time, will LittleSis evolve to catalogue of the world’s most powerful, all-encompassing of their entire social network—that is, the email, home address, and sensitive details of their friends, and therefore, their friend’s friends in an immense interlinked web? What if, like Facebook, it went on to archive all of their personal preferences regarding everything from books to movies to music, including political views, club associations, previous jobs, educational background, and who they’re dating?
How would these profiles read? Here are a couple possible examples:
Status: I think the only way that the world can become unified in some sense is through technology: Technology is driving us towards a single, seamless humanity.” Updated: 2-24-2004
Occupation: founder of Paypal, former columnist for the Wall Street Journal
School: Graduate Stanford University
Author of The Diversity Myth
Donated $21,200 to Arnold Schwarzenegger campaign for governor
Political Views: Neocon/Globalist
Status: “Such laws constitutionally could be very broad. Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society.” Updated: 1977
Occupation: Science and Technology Advisor to Obama, Ecoscience author, Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard University
Author of Ecoscience
Acquaintances: Bush Science and Technology Advisor John P. Holdren
Political Views: eco-fascism /Globalist
For those of us who are not used to thinking of social networking sites as political tools, the concepts behind LittleSis might be foreign. But, the value of sites like Facebook, Myspace and online dating sites, where users feature themselves on detail rich, personal pages, is clear in scope. Science has taught us about the predictability of individuals.
Although American Online writes that physicist Albert-Laszlo Barabasi work “shouldn’t be cause for alarm so much as existential distress,” his ability to predict a persons location at any time, based on enough data, 93 percent of the time implies a strange social paradigm in which the movements of homebodies and movers and shakers alike follow patterns.1
The data used was from 50,000 anonymous cell phone users to study human mobility; that is, where we are and when.
“The surprise was that we couldn’t find unpredictable people,” Barabasi says. “We are all boring.”
The study, most certainly, could result in beneficial and hazardous results, depending on the policies pursued. For example, the study of mass human mobility could lead to improved urban planning and traffic engineering while also enabling scientists to predict the spread of viruses and disease all the way at the micro level. That Barabasi interprets the study as proving we are all boring, is merely a symptom of his objectivity heavy education in science.
This objectivity, all too often, leads to a cold-science in which the feelings and thoughts of human beings are not taken into consideration; rather, a dedication to social engineering towards managerial efficiency greases the wheels of applied science and technology. Landscapes high on public nature parks are sacrificed for an affluent sort of Stalinism, with individuals concentrated in major regions or agglomerations.
Once Barabási and his group applied data-mining algorithms and advanced mathematicians to a large set of people, provided by an undisclosed European mobile phone carrier, “the people the study tracked [were] effectively like particles in a gas that move and interact.”
The scientists found that most people stay close to home, and that the workweek was as random as the weekends.
With individuals so predictable, then so too must be the macro pageant of history. One must then conclude that, as Mark Twain might put it, the future use of innovation, technology, and invisible services will rhyme with the past. A complex of cameras will chart our transportation, auto and otherwise, not merely to identify where we are, but to confirm oft accurate predictions. Through Facebook, our on-display philosophies allow a personalized and narrow world of advertising content to be built up around us, separating us from those around us—our friends, family and acquaintances.
LittleSis flips that paradigm on its heads; the surest way to incite the prior paradigm’s fall. At LittleSis, the online community rallies around an activist cause: identifying and investigating those who cause them harm.
Although the powers-that-be might not happily divulge their information, as the general public does through Facebook—some of whom update their profile everyday with their most recent personal details—the public criminality of robber baron work does expose them to widespread and, quite possibly, fruitful inquiries. (fruitful: see below)
Although LittleSis is a relatively new site—coming online in January 2009—it is a quickly growing interactive community, with a number of features.
Among a list of associations featured at LittleSis are the United States, all members of congress since 1981, Obama Administration officials, and both Bush Administration officials. Even Goldman Sachs, the multinational banking investment and securities firm, has a couple of lists dedicated solely to it. What can one find out about this financial institution through LittleSis?
Maybe one day, the LittleSis community will introduce a way in which to hang the profiled-powers-that-be for their terrorist crimes; those especially of the last year-and-a-half. Somewhat similar to Facebook’s Farmville, where users woolgather about non-existent storages of wealth they’ve saved online, we can—as so many have suggested doing—march up the steps of the capital, pitchforks in-hand, for the age-old tradition of beheading. Maybe virtual-reality, just as it has helped to quell (or foster) our primal instincts through violent video games, will help to satiate the public’s innate yearning for justice and a good-ole’ hanging.
In the “Orgs with Common People” feature on the website, the Goldman Sachs list illuminates: Former Goldman Sachs associates Robert E Rubin, Marti Thomas, Mark Patterson, Robert K Steel, Henry Deranged Fish-Eyes Paulson Jr., Robert Zoellick, Gary Gensler, Neel Kashkari, and Karthik Ramanathan, at one time, worked for the Treasury Department; Robert E Rubin, James A Johnson, Stephen Friedman, Robert J Hurst, Diana Farrell, Bob Hormats compose Goldman Sachs associates at the Council on Foreign Relations, one of the most powerful policy-dictating think tanks in the world; and Robert Zoellick, Bob Hormats, Reuben Jeffery III, John Whitehead, Pete Coneway worked for the Department of State.
Delving further, some of the most influential Goldman Sachs associates attended some of the most prestigious schools in the country, such as Lord Lloyd “Doing God’s Work” Blankfein—a Harvard Graduate—whose wife balks at waiting in shopping lines with “people who spend less money than me.” Stanford, Yale, and University of Chicago all educated alumni working for Goldman Sachs. By the way, that’s the start of two more profiles on the country’s elite.2
Not to be found at LittleSis, but certainly implicit of the company’s allegiances, is Goldman Sachs’s public contribution to the 2008 Obama campaign of $994,795, making Goldman Obama’s second largest campaign contributor behind the University of California.
The website, moreover, helped to break the story that Goldman Sachs helped the Greek Government understate hugely that country’s deficit, resulting in the austerity measures and the subsequent social dislocations, protests and riots.
Connor posed the question of just what Goldman Sachs was up to in Greece. More specifically, was Goldman Sachs not only helping to understate the country’s deficit, but also speculating against Greek debt? What tipped Connor off were articles in the Greek press of John Paulson operating in Greece, along with a team of 20-30 traders working on the Greek situation. The Financial Times reported that during a visit to Greece, Goldman Sachs worked as the Paulson’s tour guide. Paulson was the hedge fund manager who made massive bets against the sub-prime market, making millions. Basically, Paulson and Goldman conspired in order to devise securities designed to fail.
The New York Times reported that banks, including Goldman Sachs, backed a company which set up an index in September, that helped financial institutions bet on the likelihood of Greek debt default. The company, Market, set up a similar index on sub-prime trades in 2005 and 2006.
If Goldman Sachs, clearly a clouted organization, follows such extreme policies, waging economic warfare on the populations of many countries across the board, then their influence on the domestic security state must be comparable. In fact, that CIA agents are moonlighting in the corporate world might lead us somewhere: the firm, Business Intelligence Advisors, has among its clients, indeed, Goldman Sachs.3
On Russia Today’s The Keiser Report, LittleSis co-founder Connor explained how the website helped:
The fact that there is this revolving door between political institutions and financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and other powerful corporate institutions… also a sort of ethos in the media where rather than o the hardwork of digging through data and trusting critical instincts, there is a certain respect given to powerful people and wealthy people who are supposedly very savvy, as our president recently called them, rather than a critical understanding of how these players operate; how they come to their wealth and power and its really something that we need to focus more attention on…[building] critical narratives rather than ones that worship the wealth of people like John Paulson… these people own our media institutions and our media narratives.4
Gregory Mone. “Study Makes it Official: People are so Predictable.” AOL News, February 18, 2010. [↩]
“Goldman Sachs Wifes Hate to Wait.” New York Post, August 5, 2009. [↩]
Eamon Javers. CIA moonlights in corporate world. Politico, February 2, 2010. [↩]
Keiser Report, Episode 21. [↩]