It’s as if Anti-Trust never existed

We have a handful of transnational corporation more powerful than almost every single government in the world. Amazon, Google, Facebook (I refuse to call them by their wannabe name), not to mention Vanguard and Blackrock, the ginormous hedge funds that control most of the real estate in key markets.

Now, Amazon is buying iRobot, which makes the Roomba. Ron Knox’s thread on this is important. Amazon doesn’t just want the vacuum, they want the data. They want to know how big your house is, where your furniture is, and to spy on you even more than they already do. Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, probably know more about you than most authoritarian governments know about their citizens. That’s why there are 1000s of backroom deals between tech companies, governments, militaries, and other big brother networks. It’s all one big mafia, or as Lewis Mumford called it, Megamachine. It’s impossible to know where one ends and the other begins, they’re all so dependent on one another.

Amazon also wants to kill competition. Their profile is to buy a leading product and then undercut the market. “It can predatorily price its competition out of the market, gaining a monopoly in the process. It’s the Amazon way.”

Jeff Bezos has said that Amazon wants to buy its way to dominance. By snatching up Roomba and pairing it with its vast monopoly power fueled by its Prime system, it would do just that.

https://twitter.com/ronmknox/status/1555563768796647425

Privacy and anti-trust go hand-in-hand. That we even have companies as big as Amazon shows a total failure of government and law. We need to do what the US government did to Big Ma Bell back in the 20th century, and split it up into many different companies. Otherwise, we’re living in a less and less competitive world. For a bunch of capitalists who say they like competition, few of our politicians actually act like it.

But this is only the prelude. The main act is Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical, the competition to the extremely affordable Costplus Drugs started by Mark Cuban.

Amazon will likely with One Medical attempt to create a monopoly, by short term hemorrhaging money by bringing down prices below market price, until their competition is dead. Then, they’ll jack up the prices in order to gouge us. Hell, it’s the Pharma Bro way.

Public Citizen tells us why allowing this deal is a horrible idea:

  1. Amazon may gain an unfair competitive advantage in the health care market. There is good reason to fear that Amazon will leverage its dominant role in the online retail market to gain unfair advantage in health care delivery, for example, through bundling Amazon Prime and One Medical memberships.
     
  2. Amazon may misuse patients’ health data. The personal medical data that One Medical routinely accumulates would be of enormous value to a marketing company such as Amazon, which will have an undeniable and inherent interest in trying to gain access to that most personal of data. Moreover, there are good reasons to worry that Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protections will be inadequate to prevent Amazon from vacuuming up One Medical patients’ data.
     
  3. The merger may exacerbate health care inequalities. Amazon-One Medical is likely to disproportionately serve healthier and wealthier patients. This will leave other health care providers with sicker and less profitable patients – raising overall costs, and worsening health care disparities already experienced by vulnerable populations.
     
  4. The merger could worsen Medicare overbilling. Amazon, through its acquisition of One Medical, would likely build out a primary care network across the country that inflates Medicare payments as part of its business model.
     
  5. The merger may undermine the quality of health care. Amazon’s online business model could deeply erode the quality of primary health care – including preventative, acute, and chronic disease management care. While some virtual visits can enhance consumer access, overly aggressive substitution of in-person medical encounters with virtual visits can work directly against the proper provision for needed in-person care. Relatedly, Amazon’s demand for robot-like efficiency among its employees may well conflict with the imperatives of providing quality health care. And finally…
     
  6. The merger may undermine worker rights at One Medical. Amazon has a well-documented history of hostility to workers exercising their right to form unions. Similarly, One Medical workers have reported being rushed, pressured, stretched out, and unable to deliver the quality of care they believe patients require. Amazon seems likely to worsen these issues.

It makes no sense to give the world’s most powerful company another monopoly on drugs. Drugs themselves have eclipsed healthcare, and steals money that should be going to public health. This is bottom-feeder bonanza at its worst. Instead of fixing health problems at the societal level by creating a world more conducive to health, instead, we’re addicting people to drugs they need to save their live – at a price. Stop paying (for whatever reason – job loss, tragedy, etc) and you’re dead. This is not healthcare – this is a death sentence.

Alienation’s Apotheosis

There are some presentations at our second cohort at the biomedical ethics residency today that made me queasy because of how backwards causation they were. The whole point of having biomedical ethics is to avoid blinding ourselves to the various factors that create the need for medicalization and individualization of the common(s) problems we face with health and illness.

I’m going to say something that might be hurtful to people’s feelings because it might undermine a large part of their career as fruitless or misguided. If you look at East Germany how child rearing was done, you don’t need to imagine how artificial wombs may make people’s lives better – you just need policies that support women. It’s pretty simple.

Some people actually believe that artificial wombs would be more ‘just’ for women. Your ‘product’ would no longer be a human being. And you would no longer have a mother. Is this really the only direction science can take us? Towards dehumanizing ourselves (biologically, ecologically, socially)?

The problem is of course that so many people believe that it’s impossible to actually have a political and social system that supports women that instead they are going to blow up the entire earth in the whole universe in order to make that work around. This logic of the workaround which is so central to most of our technological developments is an industry ploy to not confront that which needs to be confronted, whether it’s perversions of religion the state or our dysfunctional social system.

Unless and until we re-gain a sense of the sacred in our lives and in life, we will not be able to make good decisions, but will keep on doubling down on suffering in ways that we can’t even be aware of. Instead of throwing technology at our problems, as if this technology didn’t arise from our own twisted mentality, and could somehow break free from our own contorted mind, we need to work on addressing the traumas and us individually and collectively which gave rise to the problems for which that technology would have been desired in the first place.