Tag Archives: Amazon

The Tech Giants Are a Conduit for Fascism, by Michael Krieger

The tech giants are aiding and abetting the government’s ever-increasing repression and curtailment of liberty. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

A second former Amazon employee would spark more controversy. Deap Ubhi, a former AWS employee who worked for Lynch, was tasked with gathering marketing information to make the case for a single cloud inside the DOD. Around the same time that he started working on JEDI, Ubhi began talking with AWS about rejoining the company. As his work on JEDI deepened, so did his job negotiations. Six days after he received a formal offer from Amazon, Ubhi recused himself from JEDI, fabricating a story that Amazon had expressed an interest in buying a startup company he owned. A contracting officer who investigated found enough evidence that Ubhi’s conduct violated conflict of interest rules to refer the matter to the inspector general, but concluded that his conduct did not corrupt the process. (Ubhi, who now works in AWS’ commercial division, declined comment through a company spokesperson.)

Ubhi worsened the impression by making ill-advised public statements while still employed by the DOD. In a tweet, he described himself as “once an Amazonian, always an Amazonian.”

– From the must read ProPublica expose: How Amazon and Silicon Valley Seduced the Pentagon

That U.S. tech giants are willing participants in facilitating mass government surveillance has been widely known for a while, particularly since whistleblower Edward Snowden risked his life and liberty to tell us about it six years ago. We also know what happens to executives who don’t play ball.

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The Real Big Brother, by Eric Zuesse

Jeff Bezos is a prime exponent of US interventionism. He’s got a lot a ways to make his views known, and a very receptive audience in Washington. From Eric Zuesse at consortiumnews.com:

It’s a billionaire’s world and the biggest of them all is in the thick of it, as Eric Zuesse explains.

Jeff Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post, which leads America’s news-media in their almost 100 percent support and promotion of neoconservatism, American imperialism and wars. This includes sanctions, coups, and military invasions against countries that America’s billionaires want to control but don’t yet control — such as Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, Libya, and China.

These are aggressive wars against countries which have never aggressed against the United States. They are not, at all, defensive, but the exact opposite. It’s not necessarily endless war (even Hitler hadn’t planned that), but war until the entire planet has come under the control of the U.S. Government, a government that is itself controlled by America’s billionaires, the funders of neoconservatism and imperialism — in both major American political parties, think tanks, newspapers, TV networks, etcetera.

Bezos has been a crucial part of neoconservatism, ever since, at the June 6-9 2013 Bilderberg meeting, he arranged with Donald Graham, the Washington Post’s owner, to buy that newspaper, for $250 million. Bezos had already negotiated, in March of that same year, with the neoconservative CIA Director, John Brennan, for a  $600 million ten-year cloud computing contract that transformed Amazon corporation, from being a reliable money-loser, into a reliably profitable firm.

That caused Bezos’s net worth to soar even more (and at a sharper rate of rising) than it had been doing while it had been losing money. He became the most influential salesman not only for books, but for the CIA, and for such mega-corporations as Lockheed Martin. Imperialism has supercharged his wealth, but it didn’t alone cause it. Bezos might be the most ferociously gifted business-person on the planet.

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How Amazon and Silicon Valley Seduced the Pentagon, by James Bandler, Anjali Tsui and Doris Burke

Big Tech’s relationship with the Pentagon and intelligence agencies is the very definition of crony socialism. From James Bandler, Anjali Tsui and Doris Burke at propublica.org:

Tech moguls like Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt have gotten unprecedented access to the Pentagon. And one whistleblower who raised flags has paid the price.

From left: Eric Schmidt, the former chairman of Google’s parent company, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, and Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. (Nate Kitch, special to ProPublica)

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published.

This article was co-published with Fortune.

On Aug. 8, 2017, Roma Laster, a Pentagon employee responsible for policing conflicts of interest, emailed an urgent warning to the chief of staff of then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Several department employees had arranged for Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, to be sworn into an influential Pentagon advisory board despite the fact that, in the year since he’d been nominated, Bezos had never completed a required background check to obtain a security clearance.

Mattis was about to fly to the West Coast, where he would personally swear Bezos in at Amazon’s headquarters before moving on to meetings with executives from Google and Apple. Soon phone calls and emails began bouncing around the Pentagon. Security clearances are no trivial matter to defense officials; they exist to ensure that people with access to sensitive information aren’t, say, vulnerable to blackmail and don’t have conflicts of interest. Laster also contended that it was a “noteworthy exception” for Mattis to perform the ceremony. Secretaries of defense, she wrote, don’t hold swearing-in events.

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Amazon is developing high-tech surveillance tools for an eager customer: America’s police, by Jon Schuppe

Amazon and your local police are taking out a few more of the last remaining vestiges of personal privacy. From John Schuppe at nbcnews.com:

Dozens of law enforcement agencies have used Amazon-powered technology to modernize crime fighting — but critics raise fears of privacy abuses.

On July 12, a few hours before dawn, a man in Chandler, Arizona, was jolted awake by an alert on his phone. It was coming from his Ring security camera, which had detected movement outside his home.

The live feed showed a group of young men breaking into cars. The man hollered at them through his front door, then called the police.

As an officer arrived, the men sped off in a car, leaving behind cellphones, tools and other things they’d taken during their interrupted burglary spree. They abandoned the getaway vehicle in a housing complex and turned themselves in later that morning.

By then, the homeowner had showed police his camera footage and posted it to Neighbors, an app run by Ring, which is owned by Amazon. Ring doesn’t just make the wireless security cameras — it also accesses police data to alert residents of potential crimes, encourages users to share their recordings of suspicious behavior, and connects them with law enforcement.

“Thank goodness for the Ring!!!” the man wrote on Neighbors.

“Thanks for posting,” a Chandler police officer responded.

The exchange was typical of the way police are using Ring, helping it spread its business while using it to detect and investigate crime. The arrangement in Chandler is among dozens of such partnerships around the country, and part of a much broader effort by Amazon to deepen its reach into law enforcement — which critics say is expanding the government’s surveillance of Americans.

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Amazon Gets Booted by FedEx, by Wolf Richter

Like Walmart, Amazon’s sales are usually at ultra-thin margins, and suppliers and other vendors are often pressured for rock-bottom rates. That’s not playing too well with FedEx. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Ecommerce is drawing up new battle lines – in the transportation sector.

Amazon is aggressively butting in on freight carriers with its own planes, trucks, and delivery infrastructure, and is at the same time aggressively pushing for faster and cheaper service from freight carriers such as FedEx, UPS, and the US Postal Service. And FedEx has had it with Amazon, announcing today that it was dumping Amazon as customer of its Express division.

“FedEx has made the strategic decision to not renew the FedEx Express U.S. domestic contract with Amazon.com, Inc. as we focus on serving the broader e-commerce market,” it said in a surprise statement. The current contract ends June 30.

Its other units that do business with Amazon and its international services with Amazon are not impacted by this decision, FedEx said.

FedEx is not overly dependent on Amazon – unlike some other freight companies that now have come to grief under Amazon’s boots, including New England Motor Freight, a less-than-truckload carrier that “stunned” the transportation world when it filed for bankruptcy in February.

Interestingly, FedEx chose to address this point explicitly in the statement:

Amazon.com is not FedEx’s largest customer. The percentage of total FedEx revenue attributable to Amazon.com represented less than 1.3 percent of total FedEx revenue for the 12-month period ended December 31, 2018.

Amazon is trying desperately to speed up shipping and keep its shipping costs low. Being so immense, it is able to throw its weight around and negotiate very demanding contracts – that can be too demanding, as New England Motor Freight found out.

NEMF was ranked No. 18 by revenue in the less-than-truckload sector in 2017, with FedEx being ranked No. 1, YRC Worldwide No. 2, and UPS No. 5. When it filed for bankruptcy in February and said that it would go out of business, it blamed a host of reasons.

Industry insiders at the time added a reason: Amazon’s demanding contracts. Amazon accounted for less than 6% of the company’s revenues, according to these estimates, but was low-margin business that required a lot of company resources and was expensive to deal with.

“Multiple industry insiders pointed to NEMF’s over-exposure to a very large online retailer, where volumes may have been high but margins very thin,” Seaport Global Securities analysts wrote in a note, alluding to Amazon. During holiday season, the analyst wrote, “surges in volumes can disrupt current operations, customer service levels, and therefore margins.”

A few weeks after the end of the last holiday period, MEMF was done and threw in the towel.

And so FedEx said it is going to “focus on serving the broader e-commerce market” — more profitable customers that don’t eat up so much of its resources:

There is significant demand and opportunity for growth in e-commerce which is expected to grow from 50 million to 100 million packages a day in the U.S. by 2026. FedEx has already built out the network and capacity to serve thousands of retailers in the e-commerce space. We are excited about the future of e-commerce and our role as a leader in it.

This “opportunity for growth” would be less gigantic shippers that don’t have the margin-crushing power of Amazon.

In addition, there is the issue of growth for FedEx, with regards to Amazon. Amazon is aggressively building up its own delivery capabilities, from cargo planes to last-mile delivery services, and in the process has become a logistics giant in its own right, as it is trying to get control of its shipping costs and move business away from FedEx and others.

So for FedEx, Amazon is no longer a growth opportunity. It’s just a low-margin cost-intensive and perhaps shrinking business.

We can only imagine what happened during the negotiations between Amazon and FedEx as they were trying to renew the contract that will expire on June 30.

Amazon must have tried to cut its cost further and speed up deliveries further, at the expense of FedEx. And FedEx must have done the math that it would be better off chasing after less costly business. Ecommerce is growing in leaps and bounds, powered by countless large and small players – and Amazon is not the only one.

 

Vicious Cycle: The Pentagon Creates Tech Giants and Then Buys their Services, by T.J. Coles

How the military-industrial-intelligence complex works. From T.J. Coles at counterpunch.org:

Photograph Source: DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force – Public Domain

The US Department of Defense’s bloated budget, along with CIA venture capital, helped to create tech giants, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and PayPal. The government then contracts those companies to help its military and intelligence operations. In doing so, it makes the tech giants even bigger.

In recent years, the traditional banking, energy and industrial Fortune 500 companies have been losing ground to tech giants like Apple and Facebook. But the technology on which they rely emerged from the taxpayer-funded research and development of bygone decades. The internet started as ARPANET, an invention of Honeywell-Raytheon working under a Department of Defense (DoD) contract. The same satellites that enable modern internet communications also enable US jets to bomb their enemies, as does the GPS that enables online retailers to deliver products with pinpoint accuracy. Apple’s touchscreen technology originated as a US Air Force tool. The same drones that record breath-taking video are modified versions of Reapers and Predators.

Tax-funded DoD research is the backbone of the modern, hi-tech economy. But these technologies are dual-use. The companies that many of us take for granted–including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and PayPal–are connected indirectly and sometimes very directly to the US military-intelligence complex.

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Whole Foods’ Existential Threat? by John McNellis

Is Amazon destroying what made Whole Foods special to its legions of fans? From John McNellis at wolfstreet.com:

“Amazon’s plunge into the $800 billion US grocery industry posed an existential threat to rivals”: CNN, August 2018. So let’s see.

A couple questions remained in the wake of Whole Foods’ announcement last week that it was dropping prices on over five hundred items by twenty percent. Is this Amazon’s long-awaited spring offensive or is the grocer playing defense, treading water, simply trying to keep its market share? Stretched over a broader canvas: Is Amazon truly the existential threat to the grocery business the click-baiters would have you believe?

Before we get to existentialism, let’s consider a smaller question. Was it really a price reduction at all? Maybe not. The New York Times sent a couple reporters to shop their local Whole Foods for a basket of identical items before and after the ballyhooed price reduction. The total post price-cut savings was five cents on a fifty-five dollar purchase. The paper also used a Morgan Stanley study to report that Whole Foods prices are fifteen percent higher than those at a typical supermarket.

Even the kale and quinoa crowd can add, eventually. To keep paying a fifteen percent premium, they need to feel special about themselves and their supermarket. They need to know that their market is buying sustainably, doing business with the little guy, choosing only pesticide-free truck farm vegetables, wild salmon that have never seen a hatchery—let alone a fish farm—and so on.

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