Author: Chris

Lyrics: Leave This Mess Behind

I had a revelation
that everything’s not fine
we’re not this sovereign country
and we’re running out of time

we’re in the grips of maniacs
they don’t care about the rest
they think they’ve fooled us with their acts
they think that they’re the best

I have some aspirations
on how to treat this malaise
if you happen to agree with me
then repeat this little phrase:

let’s start a revolution
of the heart, soul, and mind
let’s start a revolution
we’re killing our own kind
let’s start a revolution
before we lose our minds
let’s start a revolution
and leave this mess behind

let’s prosecute the bankers
that wreck our currency
they steal from our neighbor
and everyone can’t you see

I ain’t got 10 billion bucks
and I owe my life in fees
but I’d rather stand up to you fucks
than be down on my knees

can’t trust the politicians
can’t trust the police
can’t trust the judges or the courts
and i can’t afford my lease

it’s time that we the people
reclaim our dignity
fight back with our hearts and minds
fight for humanity

let’s smash up all the gadgets
and get out in the streets
these useless games and websites
they make us weak

Big Bro is watching you
he records what you type
he knows where you’ve been and gone
he watches while you Skype

while all this happens
you sit down with a beer
flip on the NFL
and hear them roar and cheer

it’s just a corporate spectacle
that markets to your fears
brought to you my Mastercard
“we’ll see you all next year!”

Verizon’s got the cellulars
Citibank has got your loans
Comcast owns the Internet
Wells Fargo takes your home

ConAgra owns all the food
Bud Light has got the booze
Bud, Busch, Becks, Coors, Michelob
which poison do you choose?

Monsanto’s making all the seeds
Dick Cheney’s got the bombs
Goldman Sachs owns all the stocks
Obama bombed your mom

Wal-Mart owns all the retail
Pfizer’s got your pills
don’t you read those side effects
they won’t make you ill

Apple’s got technology
and Disney stole the show
Starbucks has its coffee shops
everywhere you go

Raytheon flies all the drones
and FedEx sends your mail
the CCA will rob you blind
by sending you to jail

let’s start this revolution
we’re going so insane
let’s start this revolution
so much suffering and pain
start this revolution
quit playing their little game

let’s start a revolution
of the heart, soul, and mind
let’s start a revolution
we’re killing our own kind
let’s start a revolution
before we lose our minds
let’s start a revolution
and leave this mess behind

© 2020 Chris Paulus

Amazon’s Underbelly 4.0: Consumer Data Harvesting Has Gone Too Far

Originally published on Occupy.com

This is Part 4 in a series looking at the impacts of Amazon on government, surveillance and the democratic process. Read the first partsecond part and third part.

Amazon has formed an uncomfortable, yet formidable, relationship with the government by creating surveillance technology, providing cloud storage for the government, and using its excess wealth to inordinately influence politics and policy.

On top of this, the company strives to intimately understand its customers by harvesting consumer data at unprecedented levels – ironically, without the consent or the acknowledgement of its customers.

One of Amazon’s newest privacy-shattering fetishes is developing artificial intelligence in order to enhance the shopping experience for its customers.

Amazon has developed its own search engine, A9, in order to expedite this endeavor. Like it or not, if you’ve done a search on Amazon then you’ve used the search engine. A9 claims to create a simple and convenient shopping experience for its customers.

It uses data from customers’ previous purchases and offers suggestions when users enter their queries. A9 also uses ranking algorithms to present the most relevant results to the user. It can remember everything that you’ve ever searched for, and it has the right to share that information with its retail sector. The A9 website proudly states:

“Our work starts long before a customer types a query. We’ve been analyzing data, observing past traffic patterns, and indexing the text describing every product in our catalog before the customer has even decided to search. As soon as we see the first keystroke, we’re ready with instant suggestions and a comprehensive set of search results.”

A9 is looking to expand its search capabilities to include visual searches. Amazon bought out a small startup called Snaptell to embark on its visual search journey. The visual search works by “overlaying relevant information over camera-phone views of the world around [our customers].” In other words, it allows customers to take pictures of CDs, DVDs, or video games and the app will identify the product and provide ratings and pricing information.

Amazon also acquired the website Goodreads in 2013. Amazon regularly reviews a customer’s highlighted words and notes in order to figure out what interests them. The company then sends suggestions to the person’s Kindle for e-book recommendations. It provides the same function when items are added to their cart using a collaborative filtering engine (CFE).

Even more troubling, in a letter to shareholders in 2017, CEO Jeff Bezos describes how Amazon Web Services (AWS) clients would potentially have access to these AI learning frameworks.

Many data collection schemes like clickstream analytics, data warehousing, recommendation engines, and fraud detection are all done through cloud-computing. Developers from other companies that do business with Amazon may have the ability to use the same deep-learning tracking software because of their adoption of AWS.

The companies already using AWS run the gamut, from McDonald’s, Netflix, Adobe and Capital One to GE and Pinterest. All of these companies have a vested interest in tracking the habits of their customers and will likely, and gladly, pounce on the opportunity.

Amazon candidly talks about its approach to gathering information about its customers. In fact, the company even compare its collection of information to a partner who learns more about you as your relationship grows. Of course, in this case it’s a one-way interaction: You don’t get to learn anything about how Amazon operates.

In the letter, Bezos candidly referenced the underbelly to which this series has referred: “Much of what we do with machine learning happens beneath the surface. Machine learning drives our algorithms for demand forecasting, product search ranking, product and deals recommendations, merchandising placements, fraud detection, translations, and more.”

“Though less visible,” he continued, “much of the impact of machine learning will be of this type – quietly but meaningfully improving core operations.” The type of AI to which he’s referring is focused on human behavior and habit.

That’s right: much of what they do with machine learning happens beneath the surface, so the general public has no idea of the company’s newest initiatives to expand its power.

If A9 and its counterparts represent such a glorious, reputable and helpful piece of technology, and if its intentions are truly noble and pure, then why are the majority of Amazon customers blissfully unaware of its existence? Amazon continues to be opaque about its involvement in our government and in our lives: in its sale of facial recognition technology to our government, in its supply of clandestine cloud service to national security agencies and local municipalities, in its manipulation of our political process, and our private data as well. Amazon should at least make its intentions and its actions transparent to its customers.

Amazon has access to a troubling amount of industry information: lucrative private contracts with local governments; private consumer data; financial resources to lobby political leaders; business deals to sell surveillance technology; and a massive fortune and wealth to boot. Amazon remains one of the most powerful and influential companies on Earth, and Jeff Bezos the richest man in history. He and the company have the ability and influence to change our world for the better. But instead this empire continues to consolidate power and wealth for itself.

Amazon’s continued occult actions must be brought to light so that a true examination of its power can continue.

Poem: Surreptitious Usurpers

Surreptitious Usurpers

these surreptitious usurpers –
sneakily stealing
slickly seizing
swiftly swiping
slowly sucking
like a brazen, sepulchral, slimy squid

these surreptitious usurpers –
are secretive and prodigious
grotesquely suspicious
subliminally vicious
sickeningly supercilious
conceitedly superior and vacuous

these surreptitious usurpers –
with uncompromising ruthlessness
with staggering thoughtlessness
with rapacious ravenousness
distressingly remorseless
act secretly behind subtle veils of seduction

and these surreptitious usurpers,
with silvery scales of a basilisk
with hearts, souls, and spirits of stone
with slithering tongues

spew slim veils of supposed reality
spread darkness and perplexity
sell story after story
send missiles for perverted glory
consolidate their ascendancy
praise their own pathology

these surreptitious usurpers
submerging us in seas of deceit
severing off our self-sustaining feet
subjugating and coercing as they cheat
stomping swiftly up the staircase to our defeat
almost complete

and the stupefied slaves –
slumbering and primitive
docile and submissive
stolid and passive
yet massive

soon the scales will slide from our eyes
the stupefied slaves will start to realize
and we’ll take you by surprise
overcome your lies
and send you to your demise

© 2020 Chris Paulus