Friday, February 17, 2017

Amazon, the Deep State, and More

Hello my friends!

I hope you are striking today.  If you are not, I hope you are having fab day regardless.

I have time for a little more total blog than I normally do, so I'm going to try to treat you to something good.

First of all I want to talk Amazon.  There's been a lot of talk amongst Trump opponents about how Amazon should be boycotted.  There's actually a lot of talk amongst Trump supporters that Amazon should be boycotted as well!  Business Insider lays it all out here, but in a nutshell, Amazon sued in Washington state to shut down the "Muslim Ban," which is why Trump supporters are mad, and meanwhile, Trump opponents are mad because Amazon still carries Trump brands (Ivanka's fragrance is doing quite well regardless).

There's a much better reason to boycott Amazon, and it goes back years before anyone ever heard of "President Trump."  And that reason is that Amazon's white collar workplace is cruel and punishing and its blue collar workplace is even worse.

I challenge you to read the two articles linked-to in the paragraph above (please do, I'm begging you) and ever use Amazon again.  I'm not big on "consumer activism"; I feel it is the role of the government to step in and legislate away cruel labor practices, not the role of working class people trying to live their lives with convenience to be personal saints and angels.  Relying on voluntary collective actions to get the trick done is fool's errand, and besides, the imposition of laws from above are why we have a government, are they not?  If we didn't need the government to impose rules on us, we could happily live in anarchy.

Still, for Amazon, I will happily engage in a little consumer activism.  I can get my books and diapers elsewhere.  Here are some highlights from Amazon's labor practices:
  • Warehouse employees' every single movement monitored for efficiency; bathroom breaks discouraged; overtime not necessarily optional nor paid out at overtime rates.
  • People worked so hard they develop ulcers.
  • Women with children criticized for leaving work early to pick up their children at 4:30 pm and resume working from home after their child had been picked up.
  • Brutal warehouse heat that was treated not with air conditioning but with Gatorade.
  • Constant threats of termination; frequent "trials" of coworkers deemed to be producing insufficiently.
  • Temps lured in with promises of permanent jobs, worked relentlessly, and let go on highly specious grounds to prevent Amazon from having to take on the financial burden of paying them benefits.  (As a former long-term temp, this item in particular makes me furious).
I could go on at great length.

Read about those warehouse conditions.  That is not acceptable.  Pardon my language, but that is 19th century bullshit.  This is not a company whose business practice should be in any way legal, and yet here we all are, ordering diapers via drone.  America will not be Made Great Again by companies such as Amazon.  One last quote (from the article describing white-collar conditions) and then I'll move on.  Emphases added mine:

A woman who had thyroid cancer was given a low performance rating after she returned from treatment. She says her manager explained that while she was out, her peers were accomplishing a great deal. Another employee who miscarried twins left for a business trip the day after she had surgery. “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,” she said her boss told her. “From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.”

Good lord.

It goes without saying that Amazon is extremely hostile to unions, and has used management to lie to workers about being abandoned by unions and so forth.  Extremely scummy stuff.

On another subject, let's discuss the "Deep State" vs. Donald Trump.

I don't want to wade too heavily into borderline conspiracy-theory talk here (having just typed that sentence, I can visualize some of you rolling your eyes already, but bear with me!), but there's no denying that the "deep state" is a known factor in American history, and while I would hardly say the CIA, NSA et al. are orchestrating every event in American history like some sort of genius The Matrix-meets-the-Rothschilds supervillains, there's no denying that these powerful organizations do not hesitate to screw around with elected administrations when they see fit.

As such I present more as "food for thought" than as something I necessarily subscribe to this Glenn Greenwald analysis of the "deep state" vs. Donald Trump.   It's a very interesting read, but for you TL;DR types, here are some highlights. Emphases added mine:

Trump’s agenda [on Syria] that he ran on was completely antithetical to what the CIA wanted. Clinton’s was exactly what the CIA wanted, and so they were behind her. And so, they’ve been trying to undermine Trump for many months throughout the election. And now that he won, they are not just undermining him with leaks, but actively subverting him. There’s claims that they’re withholding information from him, on the grounds that they don’t think he should have it and can be trusted with it. They are empowering themselves to enact policy.


Even if you’re somebody who believes that both the CIA and the deep state, on the one hand, and the Trump presidency, on the other, are extremely dangerous, as I do, there’s a huge difference between the two, which is that Trump was democratically elected and is subject to democratic controls, as these courts just demonstrated and as the media is showing, as citizens are proving. But on the other hand, the CIA was elected by nobody. They’re barely subject to democratic controls at all. And so, to urge that the CIA and the intelligence community empower itself to undermine the elected branches of government is insanity. That is a prescription for destroying democracy overnight in the name of saving it. And yet that’s what so many, not just neocons, but the neocons’ allies in the Democratic Party, are now urging and cheering. And it’s incredibly warped and dangerous to watch them do that.


[T]he idea that Donald Trump is some kind of an agent or a spy of Russia, or that he is being blackmailed by Russia and is going to pass secret information to the Kremlin and endanger American agents on purpose, is an incredibly crazy claim that has been nowhere proven to be true. It reminds me of the kind of things Glenn Beck used to say about Obama while he stood at his chalkboard and drew those—those unstable charts that he drew, these wild conspiracy theories that are without evidence.


I think that what you’re seeing here is this really disturbing double standard, that all we’ve heard since the war on terror is that classified information is sacred and anybody who leaks it is treasonous and satanic and belongs in jail for a really long time, and now classified information seems to be something that’s just a plaything, like something that we just toss around for fun if it serves a certain agenda. And I think that that’s one of the issues that’s bothering me about the way this discourse is unfolding.

If you don't like to read (in which case, what are you doing here, my friends?) here's Dennis Kucinich laying it on the line.  There plenty of good reasons and ways to oppose the Trump administration while not inadvertently doing the bidding of the "deep state".

(DISCLAIMER, because I know people get very worked up about conspiracy talk one way or another: I am not endorsing the prospect that a grand conspiracy is underway to undermine Donald Trump.  I am stating that in light of American history, it is not unreasonable to suspect that the CIA and friends may be screwing with the Trump administration, trying to throw some gears in the works to hobble the administration.  As much as any of us might oppose the administration, that is not something we should cheer on.)

On yet another topic, yesterday was an immigrant's strike.  I'm disappointed it didn't get more coverage, but I say good for these folks for standing up for themselves. 

I'm Irish-American, I would not be here if my forebears had not immigrated here, and I stand with these immigrants.  I understand that illegal immigrants compete for Americans in the construction industry, but I feel the answer should not be to kick them out of this country but to bring them into the union, and good on those unions who realize that the immigrant is not the enemy but is a fellow laborer.  Our Irish, Italian, Polish, etc. forebears faced considerable hostility when they came to this country and those of us descended from them should not now turn on the immigrants of today with the hostility our family once faced.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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