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Amazon is Far More Dangerous and Powerful Than You Want to Admit

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is on a board advising the Pentagon and Amazon has a $600 million contract with the CIA.

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Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog:


The sneaky thing about Amazon’s increased dominance in so many key aspects of our lives is that much of the perniciousness is hidden. No one’s going to tell you about all the retailers who have gotten pressured or destroyed via its tactics while you’re happily clicking “add to cart” and smiling about 2-day free shipping. In this sense, it can be best compared to the evils of factory farming. Most people just simply have no idea about the immense damage going on behind the scenes as they indulge in incredible convenience and what looks like a good deal.

– From my November 15, 2017 post: Amazon Poses a Serious Threat to Freedom and Free Markets

Today’s post should be seen as an update to last year’s article referenced above. In the months that have followed, I’ve been consistently frustrated by the lack of interest when it comes to the dangers presented by Amazon and its richest man in the world ($165 billion as of last count) CEO Jeff Bezos. The following Twitter exchange is a good example of what I mean:

I’m not trying to pick on Bill here. He’s been a reader of my work for some time, and I consider him an intelligent person who genuinely cares about having a positive impact on the world around him . This is precisely why this sort of thing is so frustrating to me. There seems to be a gigantic society-wide disconnect between people’s perception of Amazon and the reality.

Rampant ignorance has plagued the U.S. population when it comes to the deployment of technology, which has allowed the platform monopolies of Facebook, Google and Amazon to rise to dominance with disturbingly little scrutiny. Specifically, these companies have been able to take advantage of a massive knowledge arbitrage between themselves and their users. In other words, these companies have been so far ahead of the general public when it comes to technology, they were able to create incredibly profitable surveillance companies without anybody noticing or caring until very recently.

People were so thrilled about the ostensibly “free” product of Facebook when it first came out, virtually nobody wanted to know how the company operated under the hood. How was it able to generate such an enormous amount of revenue with a “free” product? Nobody wanted to know.

It took over ten years since the founding of Facebook (and the election of Donald Trump) for people to even pretend to care on a meaningful level. As I noted in the post, The Only Reason We’re Examining Facebook’s Sleazy Behavior Is Because Trump Won:

Trust me, there’s nobody more thrilled to see Facebook’s unethical and abusive practices finally getting the attention they deserve from mass media and members of the public who simply didn’t want to hear about it previously. I’ve written multiple articles over the years warning people about the platform (links at the end), but these mostly fell on deaf ears.

That’s just the way things go. All sorts of horrible behaviors can continue for a very long time before the corporate media and general public come around to caring. You typically need some sort of external event to change mass psychology. In this case, that event was Trump winning the election.

The more I read about the recent Facebook scandal, it’s clear this sort of thing’s been going on for a very long time. The major difference is this time the data mining was used by campaign consultants of the person who wasn’t supposed to win. Donald Trump.

This is why willful ignorance is such a pernicious thing, and I’d argue Jeff Bezos and Amazon are riding a similar wave of willful ignorance towards dangerous levels of market dominance and power concentration. Although public opinion is starting to turn on Facebook and Google, public opinion on Amazon remains far behind the reality curve.

As Stacy Mitchell noted in her excellent article, Amazon Doesn’t Just Want to Dominate the Market—It Wants to Become the Market:

By the fall of 2016, the share of online shoppers bypassing search engines and heading straight to Amazon had grown to 55 percent.

Since many people start and end with Amazon’s portal for all their online shopping, it is through this narrow experience that public perceptions of the company are formed and it’s almost impossible to imagine online shopping without it. But the reality of the situation is Amazon is far more than a retail shopping website — it has extensive and growing ties to the military-industrial-survelliance complex.

It’s important to have this sort information at your fingertips the next time someone describes Amazon in warm and fuzzy terms, so here are few examples:

1. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has a major financial relationship with the CIA. 

A 2017 article in Business Insider summarized some of what’s going on:

2. Jeff Bezos was named to the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Advisory Board back in 2016.

3. Vanity Fair recently reported on how Amazon and its lobbyists have seemingly rigged the process of awarding a $10 billion Pentagon contract in favor of the company.

 “We recently became aware of serious and possible criminal violations related to the Amazon cloud DOD contract process,” says a high-ranking congressional staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We are concerned about the implications of the appearance of conflicts of interest and impropriety related to how Pentagon personnel with close ties to Amazon may have influenced multi-billion-dollar cloud contracts.”

4. Amazon is selling a creepy and dangerous facial recognition product known as “Rekognition” to police departments across the country (see the following from the ACLU: Amazon Teams Up With Government to Deploy Dangerous New Facial Recognition Technology).

Given the clear links between Amazon and the surveillance state, am I the only one who finds it mind-boggling that so many people are willing to place an Amazon created “virtual assistant” named Alexa into their homes and treat it as part of the family?

Those are just a few points highlighting Amazon’s deep ties to the military-surveillance state, and we haven’t even discussed its perverse impact on competition in the free market for goods. As Stacy Mitchell notes:

Amazon has also used below-cost selling to crush and absorb upstart competitors. In 2009, it acquired the popular shoe retailer Zappos after reportedly losing $150 million selling shoes below cost in order to force the rival company to the altar. Likewise, when Quidsi, the firm behind Diapers.com, emerged as a vigorous competitor, Amazon offered to buy it; when Quidsi’s founders refused, Amazon slashed its diaper prices below cost. Bleeding red ink, Quidsi eventually agreed to Amazon’s offer. Over time, this behavior has had a restraining effect: Start-ups intent on challenging Amazon are unlikely to find investors and so never get off the ground. “When you are small, someone else that is bigger can always come along and take away what you have,” Bezos has said.

Many Americans have started to recognize the dangers of Facebook and Google over the past year, partly as a result of the companies’ increasingly sloppy use of censorship, yet the public remains in complete denial when it comes to Amazon and Jeff Bezos. I suspect this will change in the years ahead, and I hope my articles on the topic will serve as useful resources for those who care. The sooner we admit what’s going on the better.

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john vieira

Never even gave Amazon a thought…the very way they are set up…is worse than the fast food franchises employee wise…put it this way…an old friend went to a teller in his bank branch to withdraw some funds…and she told him “Sir, you could use the ATM” and he replied if I and everyone else did as you requested you would NOT have a job!!!!

Anthony Papagallo
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Anthony Papagallo

21st Century Pharaohs.

Olivia Kroth
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Jeff Bezos – a friend of the CIA. We should all boycott Amazon!

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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