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Tag Archives: Microsoft

How NeoCon Billionaire Paul Singer Is Driving the Outsourcing of US Tech Jobs to Israel, by Whitney Webb

Big tech in both the US and Israel and the US and Israeli government have all become deeply involved with each other. From Whitney Webb at mintpressnews.com:

Several U.S. tech giants including Google, Microsoft and Intel Corporation have filled top positions with former members of Israeli military intelligence and are heavily investing in their Israeli branches while laying off thousands of American employees, all while receiving millions of dollars in U.S. government subsidies funded by American taxpayers.

WASHINGTON — With nearly 6 million Americans unemployed and regular bouts of layoffs in the U.S. tech industry, major American tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Intel Corporation are nonetheless moving key operations, billions in investments, and thousands of jobs to Israel — a trend that has largely escaped media attention or concern from even “America first” politicians. The fact that this massive transfer of investment and jobs has been so overlooked is particularly striking given that it is largely the work of a single leading neoconservative Republican donor who has given millions of dollars to President Donald Trump.

To make matters worse, many of these top tech companies shifting investment and jobs to Israel at record rates continue to collect sizable U.S. government subsidies for their operations while they move critical aspects of their business abroad, continue to layoff thousands of American workers, and struggle to house their growing company branches in Israel. This is particularly troubling in light of the importance of the tech sector to the overall U.S. economy, as it accounts for 7.1 percent of total GDP and 11.6 percent of total private-sector payroll.

Furthermore, many of these companies are hiring members of controversial Israeli companies — known to have spied on Americans, American companies, and U.S. federal agencies — as well as numerous members of Israeli military intelligence as top managers and executives.

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Microsoft’s ElectionGuard a Trojan Horse for a Military-Industrial Takeover of US Elections, by Whitney Webb

First it was NewsGuard, the establishment’s tool to guard us all from improper news. Now it’s ElectionGuard, their tool to guard us all from improper voting. From Whitney Webb at theburningplatform.com:

ElectionGuard | Voting Machines

Earlier this month, tech giant Microsoft announced its solution to “protect” American elections from interference, which it has named “ElectionGuard.” The election technology is already set to be adopted by half of voting machine manufacturers and some state governments for the 2020 general election. Though it has been heavily promoted by the mainstream media in recent weeks, none of those reports have disclosed that ElectionGuard has several glaring conflicts of interest that greatly undermine its claim aimed at protecting US democracy.

In this investigation, MintPress will reveal how ElectionGuard was developed by companies with deep ties to the US defense and intelligence communities and Israeli military intelligence, as well as the fact that it is far from clear that the technology would prevent foreign or domestic interference with, or the manipulation of, vote totals or other aspects of American election systems.

Election forensics analyst and author Jonathan Simon as well as investigative journalist Yasha Levine, who has written extensively on how the military has long sought to weaponize public technologies including the internet, were consulted for their views on ElectionGuard, its connections to the military-industrial complex and the implication of those connections for American democracy as part of this investigation.

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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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The Snowflake Barons Are Eating Each Other, by Mytheos Holt

Things aren’t going so well for the social media and tech barons. From Mytheos Holt at spectator.org:

In 2008’s iconic superhero film The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger’s Joker barks at Christian Bale’s Batman:

Don’t talk like one of [the cops]; you’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me. They need you now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out like a leper. See, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke, to be dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you, when the chips are down, these civilized people? They’ll eat each other.

He might as well have been talking about Silicon Valley.

Twenty-eighteen was a bad year for the totalitarian titans of tech. Faced with one scandal after another, the industry retreated behind a wall of lobbying money, hoping their bank accounts would shield them from their increasingly ugly image in the public eye as politically bigoted, misanthropic, overgrown children, incapable of following rules, norms, or even laws.

Twenty-nineteen doesn’t look to be much better. European governments, and the European Union itself, have begun sharpening their swords for the industry, albeit sometimes in ill-advised ways. California has passed a brutal consumer protection bill that opens big tech to a host of lawsuits for privacy-related offenses. President Donald Trump’s own son has raised stern alarms about the industry’s power and “gross hypocrisy,” as he put it. Publications formerly friendly to the industry are blasting it for betraying the creators who sustain its business. Like bad imitations of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, the industry finds itself surrounded by filth, with the walls closing in. But, their research into AI withstanding, there is no Threepio around to save them, and unlike Han, Leia, and Luke, Big Tech are the evil empire.

As a result, the industry is doing what any group of cornered predators does, and eating each other to try to stay alive. Thus, a piece in Forbes magazine informs the reader that:

Microsoft, the industry’s journeyman of governmental warfare, is cleverly advocating regulation of a narrow slice of potentially creepy technology: facial recognition. Apple is pointing fingers, suggesting its data-privacy stance is holier than Facebook’s and Google’s. Facebook, in a preview of how the industry will battle its adversaries, has simultaneously called for some form of regulation while darkly warning of the unintended consequences of the wrong kind. (One argument certain to get Donald Trump’s attention: Regulate us too severely, and you’ll only empower our Chinese competitors.)

Probably the most encouraging development listed is Apple’s turn against Facebook and Google. Where once Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google were regarded as an impregnable block of interests, nicknamed (with predatory appropriateness) FAANG, now the only fangs involved are being stuck in each other.

Politically, they may be the only ones left to care about those fangs. The industry’s pervasive, irrational, and wild hostility to Republicans has converted even the stodgiest establishmentarians, including current (and former) Attorney General William Barr, into vocal public critics of tech. And the aforementioned California privacy law represents a complete failure of the industry’s political power even within its effectively monopartisan own backyard, which suggests that Democrats are no longer willing to carry water for the most vicious monopolists this side of Cornelius Vanderbilt, no matter how performatively “woke” they are.

Indeed, that California law puts tech between a rock and a hard place, as other business interests — and even some tech companies — seem to be anxious to pass a (presumably less stringent) national privacy law aimed at pre-empting the California law before it goes into place. Due to the support of big business, that national plan has the support of Republicans, but that is cold comfort for the biggest tech companies, seeing as debating a national consumer privacy law forces them into a conversation they’ve wanted to avoid for ages: namely, how much consumers’ privacy — in other words, their data — should be protected. What’s worse, having that conversation at the national level may well lead to regulations as strict, or stricter, than California’s being imposed on the entire United States. And even if the regulations aren’t as strict, the days of hoovering up data and violating privacy without anyone’s batting an eye are unquestionably over. Heads, the American people win. Tails, tech loses.

Hence, the nattering nabobs of the net, caught in a trap built from their own missteps, are trying frantically to chew through each other to escape. It will not work. Accountability has come for the snowflake barons, and while defection from the whole may spare some of them the same pain as others, there is no doubt that all of them will be put through pain. It’s about time. After all, their morals, their code, and especially their terms of service are a bad joke to be dropped at the first sign of trouble. And the more Americans realize this, the more they will be ahead of the curve.

 

 

FANGMAN Stocks Plunge 4.4% Today, Down $905 Billion, or 20%, since Aug. 31, by Wolf Richter

The so-called FANGMAN stocks are having a rough go of it recently. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

It gets costly when the entire market depends on a handful of over-hyped mega-caps.

For the beginning of Thanksgiving week, it was a little messy today in the stock market, with the Nasdaq dropping 3% to 7,028. It’s down 13.6% from its peak at the end of August. But it’s still up 1.8% year-to-date, so nothing serious has happened yet, just some of the gains this year have turned out to be head-fakes.

Folks who went through the wholesale Nasdaq destruction of 2000-2002 will just smile mildly because that’s when the Nasdaq, as the dotcom bubble imploded, lost 78%. Given our Everything Bubble is even bigger and crazier, the Nasdaq’s current sell-off barely registers on my own Richter scale, so to speak.

The Dow fell 1.6%, is down just 7.2% from its peak, and for the year is clinging to a 1.2% gain.

And the S&P 500 dropped 1.7% today and is down 8.5% from the peak. It too remains, if by the thinnest margin, in the green for the year.

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Tech talent balks at government work, by Ali Breland

Almost everything governments do is immoral, so the reluctance to work on government projects is understandable. There are still some honest people left in the world. From Ali Breland at thehill.com:

Workers at Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies are increasingly questioning their employers on the ethics of their work, in some cases leaving jobs and publicly rejecting recruiting offers to make a stand.

The pushback comes as tech companies have expanded into controversial projects, taking big-dollar contracts to provide services to the government and military. That work touches on a range of contentious issues from surveillance, intelligence and data collection to military weaponry.

The highly public protests are raising worries that the industry’s business dealings with government could make it harder to recruit and keep top talent.

In one high-profile example, Matt Meshulam, a software engineer based in Chicago, received an email from an Amazon recruiter in August. But instead of setting up a time to speak, he sent back a quick note explaining why he had no interest in working at the tech behemoth.

“I am not willing to consider opportunities with Amazon as long as it sells facial recognition technology to law enforcement agencies, and enables ICE’s separation of immigrant families by providing technology to Palantir,” he wrote, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Meshulam even shared parts of his letter on Twitter.

Meshulam is one of a number of engineers who have publicly turned down recruiters from high-profile tech companies under the hashtag #TechWontBuildIt.

Their reasons range from corporate efforts to thwart unionization, such as Tesla, to concerns over Facebook’s data privacy practices.

 

 

Jumping The Great White Shark Of Bubble Finance, by David Stockman

David Stockman has hated Amazon all the way up. Nevertheless, he’s got some pertinent things to say about what he calls “bubble finance.” From Stockman at davidstockmanscontracorner.com:

Wall Street has now truly jumped the shark—the one jockeyed by Jeff Bezos.

Last night Amazon reported a whopping 41% plunge in free cash flow for the March 2018 LTM period compared to prior year. Yet it was promptly rewarded by a $50 billion surge in market cap—-with $10 billion of that going to the guy riding topside on the Great White Shark of Bubble Finance.

That’s right. Amazon’s relatively meager operating free cash flow for the March 2017 LTM period had printed at $9.0 billion, but in the most recent 12 months the number has slithered all the way down to just $5.3 billion.

And that’s where the real insanity begins. A year ago Amazon’s market cap towered at $425 billion—meaning that it was being valued at a downright frisky 47X free cash flow. But fast forward a year and we get $780 billion in the market cap column this morning and 146X for the free cash flow multiple.

Folks, a company selling distilled water from the Fountain of Youth can’t be worth 146X free cash flow, but don’t tell the giddy lunatics on Wall Street because they are apparently just getting started.

Already at the crack of dawn SunTrust was out with a $1900 price target—meaning an implied market cap of $970 billion and 180X on the free cash flow multiple.

At this point, of course, you could say who’s counting and be done with it. But actually it’s worse—-and for both Amazon and the US economy.

That’s because Amazon is both the leading edge of the most fantastic ever bubble on Wall Street and also a poster boy for the manner in which Bubble Finance is hammering growth, jobs, incomes and economic vitality on main street.

Moreover, soon enough a collapsing Wall Street bubble will bring the already deeply impaired main street economy to its knees. So Amazon is a double-destroyer.

In this context, Bezos e-Commerce juggernaut racked up $174 billion of sales during the March LTM period, which represented a massive $45 billion or 35% gain over prior year (both figures exclude AWS). By way of comparison, that one-year gain is nearly double Macy’s total annual sales!

Even when you adjust for the Whole Foods acquisition that was not in the 2017 LTM numbers, the sales gain was about $35 billion or 27%.

Either way, the robo-traders got damn excited, scooping up AMZN’s shares hand-over-fist on the back of its “great sales momentum”. But as we said yesterday, headline reading algos don’t get far below the surface, and in this case they didn’t even break the skin.

Fully 96% of Amazon’s $5.0 billion of  LTM operating income was accounted for by its cloud services business (AWS).

To continue reading: Jumping The Great White Shark Of Bubble Finance

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