Leaving Amazon

“Even though it is indeed not true that success also justifies the evil deed and the reprehensible means, it is similarly out of the question to regard success as something that is ethically wholly neutral. It so happens that historical success creates the ground on which alone life can go on. The question remains as to whether it is ethically more responsible to go to war like Don Quixote against a new age or, conceding one’s defeat and freely consenting to it, finally to serve the new age. Success, after all, makes history, and the One who guides history always creates good from the bad over the head of the men who make history. It is a short circuit when the stickler for principle, thinking ahistorically and hence irresponsibly, simply ignores the ethical significance of success. It is good that for once we are forced to engage seriously the ethical problem of success. As long as the good is successful, we can afford the luxury of thinking of success as ethically irrelevant. But the problem arises once evil means bring about success.” 
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, On Success

The other day, I had a negative experience with Amazon customer service. I had no prior problems with the company and so I hadn’t earlier given it much thought. But this recent experience left a bad taste in my mouth. I wasn’t dealt with honestly. It took me by surprise, as I didn’t expect such treatment. I’m used to customer service, in any business, treating me the customer as if I mattered. This has led me to question my use of Amazon and to think more carefully about what kind of company it is.

It’s not that I’ve been clueless and unaware of certain aspects of Amazon that are less than optimal, such as their refusal to pay local taxes and their practice of underselling brick-and-mortar bookstores for years at a profit loss. I’ve never liked these the anti-competitive tactics. It’s been sad what large businesses in general have done to small businesses, local economies, and once thriving downtowns. But Amazon has gone beyond the standard problems of big biz.

As I looked around, it became clear that many people have had difficulties with Amazon. With or without warning and explanation, Amazon takes actions that can be frustrating or even harmful. They regularly suspend accounts of third party sellers and, in many cases, this forces those sellers out of business because of how much Amazon’s platform dominates the online market. Customers can even get lifetime bans on making purchases or making comments. For some people, they’ve eliminated all Kindle ebooks from their accounts. There is little an individual can do. Getting a repeal or even just a fair response from a private bureaucracy can be challenging, assuming you can get a response at all. You can hire an arbitration company or something, although in many cases that isn’t successful either.

I’ve come to realize that Amazon isn’t a company I can depend upon and trust. Worse still, Jeff Bezos sounds like a psychopath. This wouldn’t be surprising, as studies have shown that psychopaths are common among corporate executives (one study showing that more than one in five, about the same percentage as found in the prison population); and others have noted that, if we take seriously corporate personhood, corporations fit the description of a psychopath. The way Amazon is run is more than a bit sociopathic with heavy leaning toward authoritarian-style Social Darwinism. Employees are treated like crap with one of the highest employee turnover rates.

Bezos is well known for publicly screaming at and demeaning people. He even has a highly disturbing evil laugh. He once bizarrely demanded that employees act with empathy or else they’d be fired, it not occurring him that such a demand was the complete opposite of empathy (his emotions mattering while the employees emotions not so much) Employees are encouraged to report on each other and that means they have to be constantly on the defense to protect themselves from anonymous complaints, sometimes without being told exactly what is the complaint. It’s a fairly common practice to receive an email from management or from Bezos himself with just a single word in it or just a question mark, apparently with the expectation that employees can read minds.

Working there would leave a normal person in a constant state of anxiety and paranoia, which is to say that to succeed in such an environment would require you to be extremely abnormal in the psychological sense. But that is the point. Bezos doesn’t want normal people working for him and because of how he dominates the online market he can demand almost anything he wants, burning through employees as if they are of little value. It’s a situation of severe inequality of power where employees have no leverage and have no union to turn to.

There is a large community of ex-employees that share horror stories. One guy a while back attempted suicide by jumping off one of Amazon’s buildings, after sending Bezos a scathing email. In the warehouses, employees are constantly monitored by a camera about every ten feet and are expected to work at high speed for long hours and for little pay and benefits. During a heat wave, employees were forced to continue working without air conditioning until they dropped from heat exhaustion and were carted away by a waiting ambulance. One employee talked about his hearing being damaged from the loud machinery, even with wearing ear protection, but the company doctor denied that it was work-related so that their insurance wouldn’t have to pay for it.

On top of all that, Jeff Bezos has become the poster boy of Friendly Fascism by hiding his company’s dark side. He is a wealthy and powerful man with proven ability to influence political outcomes. Using the pseudo-libertarian rhetoric of corporatism, Bezos likes to push the standard plutocratic worldview of school privatization, anti-labor organizing, tax cuts for the rich, tax avoidance/exemptions for big biz, etc. He has expanded his business through entering numerous new markets, by buying the Washington Post and Whole Foods, and by getting a highly lucrative contract with the CIA. Unsurprisingly, his acquired newspaper has used anonymous CIA sources and he kicked Wikileaks off Amazon’s servers.

Amazon was troubling enough in the past. But it feels like the company has moved into a new stage of dominance. That is why many people are once again talking about anti-trust laws, specifically in relation to Amazon. Trump has been threatening Bezos which makes for an interesting dynamic, two plutocrats challenging each other’s power. I guess we can count our blessings that at least the rich and powerful are somewhat divided at the moment. That often happens before major societal changes, if not reform then possibly revolution. Nick Hanauer, an early investor in Amazon, has since come to warn of the pitchforks coming for the plutocrats. One might note that the corruption and oppressiveness of big biz corporatism was a major reason for the American Revolution which, after the country’s founding, caused the founders to narrowly define corporations as being required by law to serve the public good.

I’ve done a lot of business with Amazon over the years. Maybe I shouldn’t have. I regret having recently bought a new Kindle. I didn’t realize how bad it was getting, but now my conscience is bothering me. I feel compelled to begin the process of separating from Amazon. I’ll look around for new companies to do business with. It won’t be easy. The first step is that I won’t buy any further content from Amazon. I presently cancelled my Amazon Prime membership and Audible membership. Maybe this means I’ll have to go back to reading physical books and become reacquainted with the local bookstores.

In the long term, this will be a good thing. I don’t want to personally participate in the further decline of America, as we head into a dystopian future. I’ve been told that I should vote with my dollars, which always seemed like an idiotic thing to say when plutocrats control so much of the world. It’s about impossible to avoid big biz these days. Still, I don’t like the feeling of being complicit in these problems. I suppose my small actions might mean little, but we each have to start somewhere. Thomas Paine, for example, took his first step toward revolution simply by writing a petition that by itself meant nothing for it had no hope of influencing the British Empire. Yet after losing his job over that incident, it eventually led Paine to meet Benjamin Franklin who invited him to the colonies.

So, let me take my first step toward wherever it will lead. I can hope that others will head in the same direction.

 

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The Man in the High Castle: Amazon Pilot

Over at Amazon.com, they just put out a bunch of pilots. I only watched one of them, “The Man in the High Castle.” All the other pilots were either mainstream trash tv or kids shows.

I really want “The Man in the High Castle” to be made. It is based on one of my favorite novels by my most favorite writer, Philip K. Dick. There have been a number of movies based on his fiction, some better than others, but there has yet to be a tv show.

I was surprised to see the pilot. I hadn’t heard anything about it. I’m so freaking excited about it right now.

Please go watch the pilot. Then take the survey. Make your voice heard, if you like the pilot, as I’m sure you will. This show needs to be praised to the high heavens so that the Amazon gods will hear our plea for an awesome PKD show.

If the show ends up not being produced, I may throw myself off the nearest parking ramp or tall building. Lives are at stake. Take pity on us PKD fans. May VALIS have mercy on all of our souls!

Truth Can’t Be Silenced: A Public Shaming

I was having a discussion with B Hector of Eureka, California. The discussion was in the comments section of his Amazon.com review of the book Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power by Craig Unger.

I disagreed with him and he disagreed with me. It is a normal debate. We both presented facts and analyses in the attempt to prove our respective perspectives. All that was fine. I don’t mind disagreement and I was feeling halfhearted about the entire argument.

In my mind, it isn’t for those involved to declare a debate victor. The point of book reviews and comments sections is so that anyone can come along, listen to all sides, and decide for themselves. That is the heart of democracy: open and honest discussion.

However, B Hector felt like I had “hijacked” his review. I had offered facts he couldn’t refute. It annoyed him that I wouldn’t just give up and admit he was right. In his own head, he knew he was right. It frustrated him that outwardly he couldn’t prove to others that he was right, at least not anyone who didn’t already agree with his view.

In his last comment, B Hector wrote that he wished I would just delete my comments and go away. Realizing I wouldn’t willingly silence myself, he deleted his review and hence deleted the entire comment section with it. That demonstrates a low moral character. He dishonored himself with such intellectual dishonesty and weakness. By that action, he inadvertently admitted he lost the debate.

He should feel ashamed and so I write this post in hope of publicly shaming him. I will post a link to this post in the comments of all of his Amazon.com reviews and anywhere else I can find his writings online. B Hector will think twice before ever trying to silence someone again. This is is what is called a learning opportunity.

By the way, he immediately re-posted his review on Amazon.com.

He thought he was being sneaky. I just now finished linking to this post on all of his Amazon.com reviews. I’d like to see him delete them all in trying to destroy all evidence of his shame. If he does and posts them once again, I shall comment on all of them again. There shall be no escape from public shaming for B Hector. The only way he can silence me now is to completely silence himself.

Ah, sweet Justice!

This bothers me because of the principle of it.

I would never do this to anyone else. I’ve never deleted an Amazon.com review because I didn’t like the comments. I will always own up to what I write and defend it fairly. If I turn out to be wrong, I’ll own up to that as well.

Even in my own blog, I rarely delete comments. I occasionally delete someone’s comments for their acting troll-like or just being annoying, but even that is extremely rare. I even allow many obvious troll comments because it is obvious what they are and so no harm can come of them. Most of the comments I delete are spam and I delete them because they have even less value than the most irritating comments of a troll.

The comments I will never delete under any circumstances are those that are part of a serious discussion, even when it turns into an ugly argument. I might get mean in response, but I won’t silence my opponent.

Out of curiosity, I looked at B Hector’s Amazon.com profile.

Let me show you a comparison between his quality as a reviewer and my quality as a reviewer. On all profiles, it has a section titled: “Helpful votes received on reviews:” which is followed by a percentage and the precise number of helpful votes vs total votes. In B Hector’s profile, it shows “40% (89 of 222)” which means that most people who vote on his reviews don’t find them helpful. In my profile, it shows “73% (235 of 322)” which means that most people who vote on my reviews do find them helpful, almost 3 out of 4 in fact.

I highlight that piece of data as it demonstrates a simple point. I strive my best to offer quality in all that I write, whether reviews or comments on reviews. Just the other day, someone (going by the name of Nancy Talbot Doty) wrote the following in response to one of my comments:

“Actually, I think I’d prefer to read a book by Benjamin D. Steele–whoever that is.”

I looked further at B Hector’s profile. There is another section titled “In My Own Words”. Here is what he wrote of himself:

I like a lot of things in this life: Books, Games, Friends, Family, Computers, Finance, Travel, and much more. I’m a passionate person who puts 110% percent into anything I do. I’m a slow starter but I’m great under pressure. I have a talent for analyzing things and this is why I excel in finance. Competitive to a fault, sometimes winning seems more important to me than breathing. Sharing ideas is like heaven.

Did you catch that telling detail? He said that he was:

“Competative to a fault, sometimes winning seems more important to me than breathing.”

That is the the type of thing I would never write because it goes against every bone in my body. If I had to rewrite that sentence to apply to my self, I’d have to state it thusly:

Truthful to a fault, sometimes truth-seeking and truth-telling seems more important to me than breathing.

B Hector thought he could silence me, but I refuse to be silenced.

I was able to save his review from disappearing by way of a cache found on both Google and Yahoo. Unfortunately, the cache only has the first page of comments and so the last two pages are permanently gone, the second page being where I made a long comment listing the data, quotes and links that I used to back up my argument. Even the remaining first page of comments will eventually become inaccessible as cache, but the following will forever remain on my blog, a testament to truth not being silenced.

Review:

Rove is what is wrong with Republicans, October 31, 2012
By B Hector

This review is from: Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power (Hardcover)

Karl Rove represents everything wrong with the Republican party. While Reagan proved the efficacy of conservatism in practice and in the war of ideas, people like Rove and the Bush’s have taken the Republican party back to the pre-Reagan era where Republicans meraly offer a slightly left-wing alternative to the Democrats.

I know Democrats will scoff at this idea but let’s look at Bush’s major policy achievements.

He passed a tax cut. That’s conservative.

Now let’s look at his other domestic achievements.

Medicare Part D
Ethanol Subsidies
TARP
Stimulus
No Child Left Behind
Amnesty
5,000 new regulations.

None of that is even remotely conservative and add to that the failure on the debt and you have a president who in a lot of ways was left of center and in a few ways was right of center. I would also like to point out that he attempted to put 2 Texas cronies on the supreme court and it was conservatives who stopped him.

Rove is the ‘architect’ of this modern flavor of Republicanism and until our party tosses people like him overboard, we’re never going to be able to make an effective argument for limited constitutional government.

More specifically, this book offers a clear example of how people want to win elections a lot more than they care about a particular ideology. Rove is powerful insomuch as he is able to assist these people with winning. It’s really quite disgusting. Even Rush Limbaugh regurgitates Rove’s talking points because he believes it’s going to help win elections.

Comment Section:

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Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion

Initial post: Nov 28, 2012 12:54:17 PM PST
Joe Bagadonuts says:

This is a concept that I have tried to explain to Democratic voters since the day the Democrats started vilifying G.W. Bush. Bush’s time in office, with the prodding of Rove, did more for the liberal agenda, than even the 8 years of Clinton! So why did Democrats hate the Bush administration? Because their party leaders told them to. Simple as that. If Karl Rove would of been advising Clinton during his presidency, the liberal agenda would of been more predominant in the 90’s. Karl Rove is a RINO.
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 2:37:04 PM PST
B Hector says:

Joe, you know more about this crap than 99% of the country. These people know superficial and empty cliche and nothing more. Just trying to get people to stop looking at politics like it’s the NFL is impossible. Yay, go Blue team! Boo Red team! It’s disgusting.

Posted on May 19, 2013 5:12:39 PM PDT
Benjamin D. Steele says:

Reagan and Bush used deficit spending to grow the military. Both cut taxes, although Reagan also increased taxes numerous times. Using Starve the Beast strategies, Reagan created the permanent debt and Republicans have grown it since. Only Clinton left a surplus which Bush jr wasted with tax cuts to the rich which exacerbated the economic crash.

I recently wrote about the ideological confusion of Americans, especially partisans:

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/ideologically-confused-partisans/

Part of the problem is that most people are utterly ignorant about liberalism and conservatism. Liberalism doesn’t mean being for all big government and conservatism doesn’t mean the opposite.

If Republicans were for small government, we wouldn’t now have the permanent debt we have. So, any rational and informed person wouldn’t assume that Bush was promoting a liberal agenda. The question wasn’t big government as even Reagan promoted big government. The question is what kind of big government. Reagan and Bush pushed for big military. Bush also pushed for government money to support abstinence-only sex education. Furthermore, conservatives in general love to spend money on prisons and the alphabet soup agencies. They might use anti-government rhetoric to privatize much of this but this just funnels our tax money into the private sector. These are part of big government including the privatization with its often no-bid contracts, but they aren’t part of standard liberal ideology.

I say all of this as a non-partisan. I hate party politics. But I also hate ignorance (including in myself which is why I’m constantly reading about and researching topics to educate myself). Nonetheless, I can’t blame most Americans for being ignorant (for I also spent most of my life ignorant about ideologies, parties, demographics and public opinion). The MSM and Washington politics doesn’t represent the American people, actually they regularly misrepresent the majority. Research has shown that most politicians don’t even know what their own constituents want for the American public is far to the left of the ruling elite.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/political-elites-disconnected-from-general-public/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/government-spending-budgets-deficits-debt/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/us-demographics-increasing-progressivism/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/liberalism-label-vs-reality-analysis-of-data/

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2013 1:28:56 PM PDT
B Hector says:

Benjamin,

Reagan believed in small government. It’s bizarre to me that anyone even believes otherwise. You even admit that his defense spending increases were undertaken for the express purpose of weakening the financial stability of the welfare state. That does not make Reagan a believer of big government. That makes Reagan a practical person. As far as his tax increases go, come on…..you separate yourself from the so-called ignorant, but you name tax increases while ignoring the massive tax decreases. So either you’re guilty of ignorance, or you’re dishonest.

At the end of the day, the president is not a dictator. The president has to work with a whole host of people all of whom have a thousand different opinions on a thousand different subjects. To this end, you have to credit the person with what they are trying to do. Did Reagan attempt to pull the country toward principles of smaller government? He clearly tried and succeeded. Did Reagan try to make significant spending cuts? Yes, he definitely did. He failed because he didn’t have the support of people like the Bush’s and Dole.

This is my problem with opinions like yours. You parade around as if you’re somehow more enlightened than other people but you’re really just parroting left-wing misrepresentations. Either way, does it matter? There are millions and millions of regular people in the Republican party who truly believe in limited constitutional government. Those people understand that they must fight their own party in many cases. That’s why you have a Grover Norquist and his pledge.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2013 5:04:38 PM PDT
Benjamin D. Steele says:

I was merely sharing facts. Everything I stated was true. As a famous person once said, facts are stubborn things.

There is a difference between political rhetoric and political action. Reagan chose to grow big government by growing the military. In fact, he personally pushed to give the military more funding than the Pentagon even requested. If not for this political action, the permanent debt wouldn’t have been created under his watch. No one forced him to do it. It was a choice based on Starve the Beast ideology. The problem is the administration didn’t have the foresight to see the possibility and subsequent consequences of a permanent debt.

The Reagan administraton also aligned itself with Pinochet, a fascist dictator. Furthermore, many scandals happened under Reagan’s watch, such as the Iran-Contra Scandal.

The problem wih people like you is that you offer speculation and excuses in place of facts. If someone was genuinely a proponent of big government, they wouldn’t vote for a party that has a history of growing the government and growing the debt. They’d instead vote third party. I vote third party. Why vote for the lesser of two evils when you don’t have to vote for evil at all?

You can make excuses all you want, but actions (and their results) speak louder than words. But if you’re satisfied with a lack of results, more power to you.

I’ll make a last comment about Reagan as a great conservative president. Ike was a better example of a conservative.

Reagan was a Hollywood elite who was the head of the actors’ union. As governor, he passed the most liberal pro-choice bill prior to Roe v. Wade. As president, he was the first to invite an openly gay couple to stay over night at the White House.

Reagan was a liberal progressive who became a cynical neocon. Not much of a conservative, certainly not a great conservative. He talked a good game. He knew how to give a speech. He was an actor, after all. He played a role well, but it is hard to know what he actually believed.

By the way, I would criticize Obama for similar reasons.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2013 5:21:11 PM PDT
B Hector says:

You stated it was done for the express purpose of shrinking other parts of the government. So yeah, I agree, he was trying to kill the beast. That doesn’t prove he was some form of neocon. If he was attempting to grow the military solely for the sake of growing the military I would agree with you. But that wasn’t the only purpose as you yourself stated.

I’m not offering speculation at all. There are many many examples where Reagan tried to cut spending and fought for it only to have his own party standing with his opponents. This is historical fact so there’s no speculation required. He shut down the government fighting for budgets that never passed. He made deals for spending cuts that Democrats reneged on.

Sadly these things are lost to history and you get people (like you)arguing baseless talking points. As previously stated. You don’t know as much as you think you know. If you did you wouldn’t base your opinions on the altered Reagan narrative the modern liberal loves to regurgitate.

“Reagan was a liberal progressive who became a cynical neocon”

That’s only true if everything is black and white.

Let me guess. You’re one of these crackpots who thinks Obama isn’t an extreme leftist because we’re not all driving solar-powered cars, we don’t have single-payer health, and the top marginal tax rate isn’t 80%.

I’m guessing you’re a fan of Gnome Chompsky, too.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2013 5:40:56 PM PDT
Benjamin D. Steele says:

You have to be truly deluded to tbelieve Reagan was a conservative and Obama is a left-winger. You may personally like the former and personally dislike the latter, but that isn’t the issue. You never even tried to disprove the facts I shared. Like a good partisan, you simply ignore the inconvenient. Your nly argument is that Reagan really wanted to be a genuine conservative, but no one would let him. I say this as someone who respects an old school conservative, that which Reagan was far from being.

The two things Reagan tried to accomplish and succeeded is grow the military and grow the debt. No speculation is needed to state what he did accomplish. A lot of speculation is required to argue what he might have actually wanted to accomplish, beyond mere speechifying.

You believe Reagan meant every word he said, despite his failing to live up to his own words in real world deeds. I’m not as generous and forgiving or, one might say, not as naive.

In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2013 10:26:27 AM PDT
B Hector says:

Your hypothesis only makes sense if you view the world through the lens of your extremist mind. Again, I’m guessing you’re a fan of the gnome.

In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2013 3:40:57 PM PDT
Benjamin D. Steele says:

Your hypothesis only make sense if you only care about words rather actions, claims rather than facts, promises rather than deeds. Contrary to your hypothesis about my hypothesis, I’m not an extremist. I’m actually a moderate. Most of my political opinions are in line with or not far off from the majority public opinion. It is because I’m a moderate that I have little interest of most left-wing radicals and right-wing reactionaries. Reagan actually was fairly moderate by today’s standards, but he has oddly been coopted by the far right. I’m no fan of Reagan and don’t wish to claim him. I only wish to have discussions based on objective appraisals. But each to their own.

In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2013 3:54:11 PM PDT
B Hector says:

You don’t know as much as you think you do. You’re buying into a narrative that’s a complete lie. If you want facts all you have to do is look at tax reform. What Reagan did was as conservative as you can possibly get. Reagan also continued the deregulation efforts of the latter half of the 70’s which is also conservative. Increasing the size of the military is also very conservative. He was also a major social conservative. He wanted to abolish the department of Education, only to be shot down by Republican moderates.

It’s just funny because your beliefs don’t stand up to anything and that’s because they’re baseless. You’re buying into a fictional narrative expressly intended to portray modern Republicans as extreme. All you have to do is look at Reagan’s views on school prayer and abortion to understand you’re mindlessly buying into a narrative. All you have to do is research what Reagan had to do to flatten the marginal tax rates. That was not an easy thing. It took a few years of battling to get that bill passed.

Reagan’s administration also invented the modern methodology used to ensure that liberal justices could not sneak their way into the supreme court during a Republican presidency. For someone who prides himself as being somehow more enlightened than your average American voter, you’re really failing by buying into propaganda. The guy wanted a constitutional amendment that would have made it legal to pray in public school. Sorry, but he would be considered a right wing extremist or as you say, reactionary and the fact that so many people like you can be so easily duped by some talking points is pretty pathetic.
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