Hack List 2017: Jeff Bezos, Modern Day Pinkerton Head Cracker, and the Washington Post


[Note: I’m not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting stories about all the finalists and then I’ll milk all this for another easy post where I rank them. I’m not sure how long this process will take but it will surely be done by the end of the year. You can read the last installment, “Why the New Yorker Sucks, In One Annotated Story,” here. Other candidates thus far are New York Times, The Intercept and Vox.]

Like many of his fellow tech billionaires, Jeff Bezos looks Blandly Evil, not Snidely Whiplash Evil. But make no mistake about it, Bezos — the Amazon.com CEO who recently purchased Whole Foods and who runs the Washington Post and his other properties like slave camps — is both.

“When the financial markets opened on July 27, 2017, Bezos briefly surpassed Bill Gates to become the world’s richest person, with an estimated net worth of just over $90 billion. He lost the title later in the day when Amazon’s stock dropped, returning him to second place with a net worth just below $90 billion,” according to Wikipedia. I’m not sure which of those assholes is richer now, but Bezos netted another $8.6 billion yesterday.

Admit it, you’d like to punch him in the face before ordering him up the stairs to the guillotine. And who could blame you?

Bezos gets remarkably, or perhaps not, good press in the U.S. media — especially the Post — which invariably describes him as a “philanthropist.” Sure he is, just like noted breadcrumb distributor Marie Antoinette.

Bezos doesn’t exactly treat his employees as serfs nor does he typically bring in goons to crush heads and murder them, like the oligarchs of the Industrial Revolution era, with their Pinkerton National Detective Agency, called in by the Carnegie family to break the Homestead Strike, and other private police/military forces.

No, Bezos just kills them with kindness, or as this excellent report says:

As Amazon expands and takes over more of the economy, it’s driving many
alarming trends affecting working people: fewer reliable jobs, more temporary work
arrangements, declining wages, and high-stress conditions.

When shoppers interact with Amazon, they see an innovator. Yet behind the scenes,
across the corporation’s vast network of fulfillment facilities, Amazon relies on a
regressive labor model designed to maximize its power and profits no matter the
cost to our communities.

And suffice it to say that Amazon.com employees abroad get fucked even worse. In short, Bezos is the very personification of modern monopoly capitalist. Don’t ask me why, because the person who noted this wants to remain off the record for some mysterious reason, but I’m somehow reminded of Upton Sinclair writing in The Brass Check, “The people I have lashed in this book are to me not individuals, but social forces.” And Sinclair also wrote that his general thesis was, “American newspapers as a whole represent private and not public interests.”

Keep in mind that Bezos’ companies started out by lowering prices, thereby suckering in consumers, and then raised them as they gained control over their markets on the way to becoming monopolies. Whole Foods consumers take note. Bezos lowered prices, very selectively, after he took over the chain. Just wait and see what your chia seeds cost next year. Never forget, shoppers, that Amazon.com’s success has been predicated on razing a rainforest of small business across the globe.

How, you might ask, does this impact Washington Post coverage, other than ensuring that Amazon.com, Whole Foods and other of the boss’s properties get blown on a regular basis (metaphorically speaking)? Well, I’m the first to admit that the Post still periodically commits important works of journalism. But these are few and far between.
More often the Bezos Times is retracting one of its idiotic Russiagate stories (while pretending in the headline it hadn’t reported the story the day before) or winning a Pulitzer Prize for its dull, boring, earnest series about the Trump Foundation by dull, boring, earnest David Farenthold (not to be confused with annoying, whiny, nasal David Folkenflik of NPR).
The Trump Foundation series was OK, but it deserved a Pulitzer the way Dogshit Dances With Wolves deserved an Oscar. And the worst part was that everyone knew it was mediocre but it was preordained to win the Pulitzer — more on those stupid awards below — because it was blandly anti-Trumpist and journalists and their corporate masters wanted Hillary Clinton to win because she was seen as a safer guardian of their riches, rightfully, compared with the reckless, unpredictable nut job who now occupies the White House.
(Oh yeah, I should probably mention here that I have a Trump story coming out next week that would win the Pulitzer next year if I had written it for the New York Times or Washington Post or any number of other lame mainstream newspapers.)
As to the Farenthold “epic,” David called something like all 400 donors to the Trump Foundation and more or less discovered what many other reporters, including me, had discovered long before him:
I smell Pulitzer. Photo and all other credit and blame: Ken Silverstein.
Namely, that the Trump Foundation is a penny ante racketeering operation, highly unattractive and sleazy but paling in comparison to the ghastly corruption and influence peddling practiced by the Clinton Foundation before Hillary lost the election and there was no more access to peddle. (See here, among other stories I wrote.)
By the way, the Pulitzers are a total scam and entirely political. To take one example, in the late 1970s, the Chicago Sun-Times bought its own tavern and exposed, in a 25-part series, gross corruption on the part of city inspectors (such as the fire inspector who agreed to ignore exposed electrical wiring for a mere $10 payoff). During that same decade, the Chicago Tribune won several Pulitzer Prizes with undercover reporting and “60 Minutes” gained fame for its use of sting stories.
Those were the days. Anyway, then Post editor Ben Bradlee was on the Pulitzer committee and made sure that the Sun-Times amazing series didn’t win, because he questioned its…..ethics. Jesus Christ. Let bar-goers die in a fire but for god’s sake, don’t let reporters go undercover. Or, to take another example, let lobbyists whore for dictators but don’t let a journalist go undercover to expose them. Jesus Christ.
By the way, if you care to read a story about Sally Quinn, who perhaps was the worst columnist in history — perhaps; stiff competition from the appalling Post op-ed page, among others — click here. Sally was married to Ben.
(When we conclude with the 10th and final entry of Hack List 2017 — still applying are Mother Jones, BuzzFeed/Buttboy Ben Smith, The Atlantic/Jeffrey Goldberg, MSNBC/Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow, and one more — we’ll mock the Pulitzers with our new “Hack List 2017 Prizes.”)
Getting back on point, concerns about Bezos’ potential conflicts of interest with the Post swirled around the CIA’s $600 million contract with Amazon Web Services (AWS). It’s a little bit puzzling because the Post is the CIA’s unofficial house organ anyway, along with the New York Times and a few others. (The State Department got stuck with the New York Review of Books.)
The point here is that I don’t remember the last time the Post actively opposed the type of policies the CIA and the Pentagon push. Guys like William Blum have been writing about this stuff for years now. Nobody gives a shit, though I think that’s finally changing.
I’m a complete tech dunce, but it sounds like the CIA is paying to use AWS hardware. One immediately wonders how anyone in their right mind would consider ceding national security to a third party like this to be good strategy. It’s mercenary in both senses of the word.
The Post‘s conflict of interest problem is rather embarrassingly expressed in the newspaper’s own statement on conflicts of interest. “Connections with government are among the most objectionable.” Oh well, fuck that thingy.
But, you might want to argue, Bezos may not be perfect but he bought a newspaper because he believes in free speech and freedom of the press. Right? Wrong. Robert McChesney has this to say:
They still have great political value, monopoly newspapers, especially the Washington Post, in the nation’s capital. It might not be a commercially viable undertaking, but it still has tremendous political power. And I think when we understand it that way, that’s the appeal of these remaining legacy monopoly newspapers, like the Chicago Tribune, he Washington Post, he Boston Globe, to wealthy people, is that it won’t make them money in the short term on that exact investment, but it gives them great political power to advance their political agenda, which, in the case of someone like Jeff Bezos, could give him a great deal of money down the road…What we have is a plaything for these billionaires that they can then use aggressively to promote their own politics.”
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I don’t know if you’ve ever seen — years ago, they came out with The War Room, how the Clintons fought back in 1992 against George Herbert Walker Bush, very insightful. It gives you some insight, by the way, into your friend George Stephanopoulos. I don’t know if you’ve seen that, but we know about the Clinton machine, we know they play dirty. We know they’ll say and do anything to get elected. Between that and The Washington Post announcing that they have put 20 people to dig into every single phase of your life, are you prepared for what’s coming? It’s not if it’s coming, but when it’s coming.
DONALD TRUMP: Yeah. It’s interesting that you say that, because every hour we’re getting calls from reporters from The Washington Post, asking ridiculous questions, and I will tell you this is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos, who controls Amazon. Amazon is getting away with murder, tax-wise. He’s using The Washington Post for power, so the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed. He’s getting absolutely away — he’s worried about me, and I think he said that to somebody, it was in some article, where he thinks I would go after him for anti-trust, because he’s got a huge anti-trust problem because he’s controlling so much.
Amazon is controlling so much of what they’re doing, and what they’ve done is he bought this paper for practically nothing, and he’s using that as a tool for political power, against me and against other people. And I’ll tell you what, we can’t let him get away with it. So he’s got about 20, 25, I just heard they’re taking these really bad stories — I mean they’re, you know, wrong. I don’t even say bad, they’re wrong. And in many cases, they have no proper information and they’re putting them together, they’re slopping them together, and they’re going to do a book.
And the book is going to be all false stuff, because the stories are so wrong and the reporters, I mean, one after another — so what they’re doing is he’s using that as a political instrument to try and stop anti-trust, which he thinks I believe he’s anti-trust, in other words what he’s got is a monopoly. And he wants to make sure I don’t get in.
TRUMP: So, it’s one of those things. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, what he’s doing’s wrong and the people are being — the whole system is rigged. You see a case like that, the whole system is rigged, whether it’s Hillary or whether it’s Bezos.
HANNITY: That’s a good point.
TRUMP: No, no he’s using — let me, he’s using The Washington Post, which is peanuts, he’s using that for political purposes to save Amazon in terms of taxes, and in terms of anti-trust.
(Note: Substitute the names Robert McChesney and Amy Goodman there and you have a liberal rapture. No offense intended.)
Trump’s intriguing take is that the main thing is Amazon’s tax-dodging, but he’s perhaps even more on point when it comes to the anti-trust threat. Not that I’d take any of what he says seriously. The Donald would shave his head and go chromedome like Bezos before he’d resuscitate serious anti-trust law.
Which leads to Lina Khan’s very excellent work, for example this. And even better, this article she wrote, which says: “It is as if Bezos charted the company’s growth by first drawing a map of antitrust laws, and then devising routes to smoothly bypass them. With its missionary zeal for consumers, Amazon has marched toward monopoly by singing the tune of contemporary antitrust.” (Recall here that Khan and the entire team she was part of were shitcanned by the New America Foundation because of their work on anti-trust, which pissed off Google, the think tank’s biggest donor.)
OK, I seriously have to run but here are a few other things that make the Post a Hack List 2017 finalist:
—Check out these two articles, one which reads: “Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America and author of The Business of America is Lobbying, said that “It’s pretty rare for a megalobbyist to have a gig as a columnist in such a prominent venue.” He added that while it’s hard to quantify how much the Post column helps his lobbying business since Rogers “has plenty of influence with or without his columns … it almost certainly helps him. I can’t imagine his gig as a Post columnist isn’t part of his pitch to potential clients.”’
—Here’s an eye-dropping but kind of routine-by-now story about Mad Dog Mattis touring Amazon’s HQ.
From the more-or-less left-wing Frankfurter Rundschau, via Google Translate, we learn: “Underwear, cosmetics, kitchen utensils, accessories for almost everything: Amazon is not just in the mail-order business, but produces goods too. Already, the list of unknown brands is a long one. Insiders say the US trade group wants to bring to market sportswear and fill in a market blank. Amazon didn’t comment…In the US, Amazon is an much bigger player in several areas. The retailer hides behind 800 different private brands, all registered at the local trademark and patent office, according to a recent US magazine article. Including several laundry and model boards such as Arabella, James & Erin or North Eleven for different target groups.”

—Finally, how fucked-up is this?

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