Wednesday 18th of September 2019

snookering himself...


Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, who led the tech giant as it cozied up with US authorities to develop surveillance tools, is now complaining that his privacy has been violated.

Bezos revealed he was blackmailed by the National Enquirer, which threatened to leak his nudes. The threat came in retaliation for unfavorable coverage in the Bezos-owned Washington Post, according to the messages.

The affair prompted speculation that the alleged blackmail – and the whole ongoing spat between Bezos and the Enquirer – might have been “politically motivated” and that a certain “government entity”might have been involved.

Surely, leaking one’s nudes – or merely threatening to do so – is disgraceful, yet Bezos who is moaning about invasion of his privacy has been at the forefront of developing surveillance technologies – from facial recognition to cloud-service databases for the US intelligence agencies.

“There’s real irony in this if he’s been caught hoisted on his petard as we say. Bezos and his organization have a very tight link with the NSA – the National Security Agency – and has been helping them with their surveillance techniques,” RT has been told.

RT’s Donald Courter looks at the whole Bezos nudes affair.

absolving the robber barons...


Capitalism in America: A History, Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge, Penguin Press, 496 pages

“I hear America singing…the United States is the greatest poem” — Walt Whitman

It’s not often that I read a book, mark it up on every page, and listen to the audio recordingto boot. Capitalism in America is a delightful romp through the 400-year economic life of America from agricultural giant to industrial juggernaut to information/technology revolutionary. Stories and statistics sparkle on every page.

But the book is more than a history. It is a policy guide to make sure capitalism in America flourishes like never before.


Even the tycoons of the Gilded Age, known as the “robber barons,” are largely applauded: “For the most part…these businesspeople were neither ‘robbers’ nor ‘barons.’” Vanderbilt, Carnegie, and Rockefeller didn’t inherit wealth, but came from humble circumstances. In their chapter “The Age of Giants,” the authors declare, “The titans prospered by exploiting economies of scale rather than by price gouging. They prospered by creating markets…with ever-cheaper products.”


What is forgotten in this analysis of the book by Alan greenspan — the fellow who sweet-talked presidents when the GFC was looming large  — by Mark Skousen (a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University, recently awarded the Triple Crown in Economics) is that WAR AND THE ENDLESS PLUNDER OF THE MIDDLE EAST (and other countries) plus the exclusivity of the DOLLAR (Annuit coeptis [meaning "favours our undertakings"] and Novus ordo seclorum [meaning "new order of the ages"]) through the (PRIVATE) Fed Bank, funded a lot of this "prosperity".

At this stage we cannot leave aside the then new sermons on the mount of consumerism: ADVERTISING — in which our Mr Gundlach was an expert at, including satirising his own trade.

investing in tax deductible merry-go-rounds...

Amazon, the e-commerce giant helmed by the world's richest man, paid no federal taxes on profit of $11.2 billion last year, according to an analysis of the company's corporate filings by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).

Thanks to a variety of tax credits and a significant tax break available on pay handed out in the form of company stock, Amazon actually received a federal tax rebate of $129 million last year, giving it an effective federal tax rate of roughly -1 percent.

It is the second year in a row the company has enjoyed a negative federal tax rate on a multibillion dollar profit. That would place the company's effective federal tax rate below the rate paid by the poorest 20 percent of American households, which had an effective federal tax rate of 1.5 percent in 2015, according to the Tax Policy Center.

"Amazon pays all the taxes we are required to pay in the U.S. and every country where we operate, including paying $2.6 billion in corporate tax and reporting $3.4 billion in tax expense over the last three years," said an Amazon spokeswoman, Jodi Seth, in a statement. "We have invested more than $160 billion in the U.S. since 2011, building a network of more than 125 fulfillment and sortation centers, air hubs and delivery stations as well as cloud-computing infrastructure and wind and solar farms."

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.


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the lazy way...

As you know, Aussie Telcos have to keep your records of your transmission of insane emails, naked pics, tricks to con old ladies to give up their cash and your boring e-conversations for at least two years for the government to study the stuff you drop in your toilet bowl in detail. 

Overall this could seem like hard work. Fear not. Not only the Telcos can easily keep the record of your outgoing and incoming emails, they can also record YOUR DRAFTS. How do they do that? Simple. Instead of the old protocols that used to work well in doing "secrecy", they have created a new "protocol" between their storage and your computer. Whatever you do, the new protocol steals from your desktop "secretly". No need for anyone watching — it's done automatically. 


I won't tell you how to bypass this abomination (this would reveal the loopholes), but it's possible... Find your own way. Good luck.


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the waposnafu is a megacockup...

Between the total collapse of the Covington Catholic story and the embarrassment of the Jussie Smollett hate hoax, 2019 has been a rough year for America’s embattled mainstream media.

Now, the hostility toward these supposed guardians of democracy that provided some of the energy behind Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign is about to get its day in court. Nick Sandmann, the 16-year-old Covington student who was accused of willfully intimidating the Native American activist Nathan Phillips at this year’s March for Life, has filed a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post, requesting $250 million in damages.


The court filing, which is available online, is a fascinating read. My first question was how Sandmann’s lawyers came up with the figure of a quarter of a billion dollars, and the document duly provided an answer: it is “the amount Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, paid in cash for the Post…in 2013.” This lawsuit is not about Sandmann’s lost opportunities or mental anguish. It’s about “punish[ing], deter[ring], and teach[ing] the Post a lesson it will never forget.” That kind of rhetorical melodrama seems aimed at journalists, not judges. The goal, quite literally, is to take the paper for everything it’s worth, and make a big splash doing so.

Nor does the combative language end there. Sandmann’s attorneys accuse the Post of “wrongfully placing the anti-Trump, anti-Catholic, and [pro-choice] agenda over the harm its False and Defamatory Accusations caused to Nicholas” and of ignoring “contrary information in favor of its pre-conceived false narrative against President Trump and his supporters.” Sandmann’s name might be at the top of the complaint, but the attorneys who authored it clearly imagine their lawsuit is carrying the banner for every single victim of anti-MAGA discrimination.

Most of the complaint is devoted to listing and refuting all of the “False and Defamatory Accusations” in an exhaustive and highly repetitive manner. Taken together, the evidence is damning, even if it seems a bit exaggerated at points (such as the insistence that the Post’s seventh article on the incident, which seemed fairly balanced to me, was still defamatory).

Yet the complaint’s bellicose and overtly partisan language, as well as its reliance on the right-wing persecution complex, made me uneasy. So I decided to re-read the Post‘s first story on the Sandmann-Phillips incident. After all, it couldn’t be that bad.

Oh, but it was. Even the headline—“Native American drummer speaks on the MAGA-hat wearing teens who surrounded him”—was false, and has since been updated to say that Phillips “speaks on his encounter with MAGA-hat-wearing teens.” The version of the story currently available on the Post’s website also includes a correction, acknowledging that they made a mistake in publishing Phillips’ misleading statement about having served in Vietnam.

Both of these factual errors are unforgivable. As the court filing points out, unedited video of the event was available at the time the story was published. The reporters who wrote the story simply didn’t bother to look for it. Even after the corrections, the updated version of the story still describes Sandmann’s expression as “a relentless smirk” and retains several of Phillips’ statements, such as his claim that the students blocked his way and chanted “Build that wall.” They also include the sappy and totally irrelevant detail that, as he beat his drum, Phillips was “thinking about his wife, Shoshanna, who died of bone marrow cancer nearly four years ago.” The roles of hero and villain were already cast.

From there, the article degenerates into a something akin to the murder of Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, as people and groups come forward one by one to sink their knives into Sandmann. Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, Covington Catholic High School officials, the Diocese of Covington, the mayor of Covington, the guy who started an online petition to fire the principal of Covington Catholic (for God’s sake!), and the Indigenous Peoples Movement all get their turn. And, for good measure, we also get a paragraph about Trump’s taunting of Senator Elizabeth Warren and a Post denunciation of the March for Life.

From the sheer scale of this pile-on, you’d think Sandmann had shot up a school.

If there was any attempt by these reporters to get Sandmann’s side of the story or talk to anyone who was with the Covington group, the article gives no indication of it. This is shoddy journalism, pure and simple, and it’s especially disappointing coming from a paper still basking in the light of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Meryl Streep.

By the seventh article, Sandmann was quoted and the story was becoming more balanced, but the damage was already done. For so many readers, the nuances and even the truth of the story don’t matter. If the MAGA hat is indeed the new white hood, then any attempt to be evenhanded is tantamount to offering aid and comfort to the enemy. One Twitter user summed up this opinion nicely: “Oh yes the kid who was marching against women’s reproductive rights while wearing a hat promoting an evil homophobic racist misogynistic sociopath was TOTALLY misrepresented.”

The details aren’t important when you can simply weigh the race, gender, class, and sexual identities of the parties involved and thereby come to an arithmetical solution. And that’s exactly what Sandmann’s lawyers accuse the Post of doing. The duty of a journalist is to explore every aspect of the story without prejudice, not to paint in broad, politically convenient strokes. That method is best left to the Soviets, as evidenced by a 1918 article in one of their newspapers:

It is not necessary during the interrogation to look for evidence proving that the accused opposed the Soviets by word or action. The first question you should ask him is what class does he belong to, what is his origin, his education and his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused.

Trump, despite his bluster, has made no real attempts to muzzle the “fake news media,” but he is cheering on this lawsuit. Now it looks like the Post‘s hatred of the president and his supporters could lead to disaster to the tune of $250 million. Either way, this has the potential to be the biggest court case of the Trump era.

Grayson Quay is a freelance writer and M.A. student at Georgetown University.


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the saudis did it...

An investigator for Amazon boss Jeff Bezos says that Saudi Arabia hacked Mr Bezos's phone and accessed his data.

Gavin de Becker was hired by Mr Bezos to find out how his private messages had been leaked to the National Enquirer tabloid.

Mr de Becker linked the hack to the Washington Post's coverage of the murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia has not yet commented on the allegation.

Mr Bezos owns the Washington Post. 

Mr de Becker said he had handed his findings over to US federal officials.

"Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos' phone, and gained private information," he wrote on the Daily Beast website.

Mr de Becker's findings come after Mr Bezos in February accused the National Enquirer's parent company American Media Inc (AMI) of blackmail, saying it had threatened to publish his intimate photos unless he said that the tabloid's reporting was not politically motivated.

Mr de Becker said that AMI had also demanded that he say his investigation had concluded that AMI had not relied upon "any form of electronic eavesdropping or hacking in their newsgathering process".

He alleged that the Saudi government had targeted the Washington Post - for which Mr Khashoggi had been writing.

"Some Americans will be surprised to learn that the Saudi government has been very intent on harming Jeff Bezos since last October, when the Post began its relentless coverage of Khashoggi's murder," Mr de Becker said.


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bonus and stock options included...

The shady details on the lucrative job offer, which included a signing bonus and stock options for the Pentagon official, were provided by Oracle, one of the other companies involved in bidding for the so-called Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing project.

In a 31 May court filing, tech firm Oracle alleged that a former defence official involved in research on the JEDI contract before resigning and going to work at Amazon, had secretly negotiated with the tech giant, which was involved in the bidding for the Defence Department contract.

Amazon Web Services "(during JEDI and with full knowledge) made a hidden job offer to [Mr. Deap] Ubhi, to include a massive [redacted] immediate signing bonus payment, a second [redacted] bonus payment after year one, [redacted] shares of Amazon stock (roughly $950-$960 per share in the relevant period), and a [redacted] salary," the court document, made public by the Daily Caller, stated.

According to Oracle's lawyers, Mr. Ubhi "spent weeks as a DoD official, downloading the JEDI Google drive to his laptop, meeting with [Amazon Web Services] competitors as a DoD official, requesting and participating [in] cloud meetings…and obtaining submissions from JEDI competitors," without recusing himself from involvement in JEDI even after accepting a job offer from Amazon.

Oracle filed a similar case in December, attempting to block the $10 billion Pentagon contract from being awarded until further inquiries into the suspected conflict of interest were made and the conflict resolved. US law prohibits government officials who are offered employment by companies bidding for government contracts from accepting such contracts, or it requires them to reject the employment offer and recuse themselves.


Mr. Ubhi remains employed with Amazon Web services. The defence department and Amazon have not commented on the developing story.

Amazon and Microsoft are now the two finalists for the JEDI contract, with IBM and Oracle also making bids.

Earlier this year, Amazon surpassed its closest rivals, Microsoft and Apple, to become the most valuable public company in the world, with a market capitalisation of approximately $797 billion.


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