Posts tagged ‘Amazon’

Straw Men and Mad Dogs

Straw men are usually figuratively meant to assign a false argument or proposition to your opponent and then attack them for it.  But here the straw man I am talking about is just a false premise to begin with. The mental picture here and the analogy are just too rich. President DFF tells us that we are going to deploy the military to the border, you know those masses of immigrants coming to ruin our country. Except that is the straw man. We have the lowest level of illegal immigration since 1971. So the argument for the army is that the Democrats, oh those evil, vile Democrats, have been so lax that we are swimming in illegal immigrants eating up all our food, taking our jobs, and swamping our welfare rolls, except it is all a lie. There is no data or even anecdotal evidence of this. So where do the wild dogs come in? That would be the base that President DFF, the Right wing media, and Fox News plies with these lies. So for them it is true. And like rabid animals attack wildly.

But you want to know the best part of this nonsense? Visualize the mad dogs attacking the straw man and ripping it apart. Frenzied dogs ripping and tearing with straw flying everywhere. But the straw man is not real and they have exhausted themselves tearing apart a fantasy of a real man, or in this case issue. And they might have bitten a few bystanders in their frenzy. That is what is going on today.

There is no illegal immigration problem. We do have a drug problem, demand. We do have a shortage of field labor. We do have jobs that go wanting, but the only immigration problem is that we don’t recognize how badly we need them, or our roots themselves and how we were they not so many years ago, looking for a fair chance at life for ourselves and our children. Now we just turn our backs and send them home.

Tariffs and trade is another straw man. Sure there are problems and unfairness in the system. But we also need that trade to spur our own industries. Job loss in Middle America was not caused by unfair trade, but by globalization and the very nature of the almighty gods of Republicans, Capitalism and profits. The money/jobs went were the most profits could be made, be that overseas or to automation. Those that adapted well and found good jobs were the well educated and those who were not well educated suffered. But the straw man is Tariffs and unfair trade so attack it mad dogs. Rip it to shreds. Straw everywhere, but nothing is changed. Oh, wait, things are getting worse because friends of that straw man are cutting off our supply of straw. Hmm. Oh, and just as an aside, think about the well educated. Which states again are gutting their education systems to afford tax cuts so they will be in a worse position as the global economy evolves? They are circling the drain.

Attacks on Amazon are another straw man. Do we really think that retail was not in trouble before Amazon came along? What about Wallmart or Costco? Are they next? What we have found as shoppers is we can find what we want in our size on line. Capitalism is supposed to be about the better mouse trap and the wonderful ability of the Wall Street to find and provide the capital for these new ideas. Well, it worked and you don’t like it? Oh, and lets not forget the lie about the Post Office.  They, already make a profit, not a loss from this business and sure they can raise their rates, at which time Amazon is free to move all its shipping to cheaper private shippers.  But let’s attack Amazon for beating up on the Post Office which of course they did not.

Then there is the straw man about the wall and drugs. Add to that the Senate getting rid of the filibuster so legislation could be passed (I am actually all for that). The trouble is the majority drugs are not coming in via mules of illegal aliens. “The majority of the illicit drugs enter the United States through legal ports of entry, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Traffickers conceal the drugs in hidden compartments within passenger cars or hide them alongside other legal cargo in tractor-trailers and drive the illicit substances right into the United States. Increasingly, traffickers are using more sophisticated methods such as dissolving methamphetamine and cocaine into innocuous liquids.” So what good is a wall? Oh, and Republicans cannot pass the wall vote on a simple majority vote. The filibuster argument is once again another straw man. Rip it apart mad dogs. It will change nothing.

The last example I will leave you with is the Sinclair News fiasco. Another straw man from the conservatives, fake news. News, like capitalism, only works well if there is competition to counter group think. So along comes Sinclair New that may own almost 40% of the TV news affiliates in the country with a message on beware fake news. Okay, I can buy that except it is setting itself up to be the only mediator of what is fake and what is not. The straw man is that CNN, NBC, CBS, and other networks are not the purveyor of fake news, they are the guard against it. The Sinclair group is in fake the wolf in sheep’s clothing. So attack the mainstream news media mad dogs and when you get done, straw everywhere, all you have left is fake news.

That is where we are right now with an ignorant and dangerously narcissistic man in charge of the country, the swamp (see Pruitt) rapidly expanding, and the mad dogs attacking everything that might help. But what might give us hope is that maybe we are not seeing the forest for the trees. There just may be a giant, but unspoken, rebellion against the mad dogs. November will tell. Otherwise we will continue to trash ourselves as a nation.

President DFF Had a Fine Day

Well let’s see if I have this straight:

  1. President DFF beats up on Amazon (Jeff Bezos) as an example of gross abuse of Presidential power and he has his facts wrong, probably from some of his cronies at Margo Lago. Amazon does pay state taxes (third-party sellers don’t, but they are supposed to) and Amazon is in favor of a federal regulation to make just one rule regarding the collection of taxes, instead of the mess from state to state. That is probably too much information for President DFF. Oh and the Post Office is giving away the delivery of packages, except it is a negotiated deal, is reviewed each year, and the Post Office by law cannot not make a profit on these contracts. Again, probably too much information for the dimwit and his followers. Besides this is really about an abuse of Presidential power to go after the Washington Post for, oh my god, publishing the news and investigating President DFF. Reporting his lies is a mortal sin in his little mind, if it exists at all.
  2. President DFF is at the annual Egg roll today with all the kids and he launches on Democrats and immigration, oh, and all the great things he is doing for the country. Maybe he doesn’t know 8-year olds can’t vote and he will be long dead before they do. Oh, and they could give a shit. They really were there for the eggs.
  3. President DFF starts a Tweet storm on DACA, the mass of refuges coming across the border, and how Democrats have opened our border. All those people are coming North to take advantage from DACA. Methinks this is his cronies again that are as stupid as he is. DACA does not apply to anyone after 2007, Obama was tougher (to his discredit) than any other President on deporting illegal immigrants, and illegal immigration is way down from even the Bush years. So what the hell is he talking about? They just love to hate and blame. It is what they are really good at. Not much else.
  4. The stock market cratered about 2% today, you know that economy that is better than ever before and getting better and better. And Why? Because of his attack on Amazon that cost the company billions (and by extension what could happen if he attacks other companies for political purposes) and his trade war he has started, with China responding accordingly. See my earlier blog. The market is sensing he is a bull in the economy shop. Who needs stable markets?
  5. Finally, in Oklahoma and in other red, red states teachers are walking out because while those states were cutting taxes in their Republican way for business, they were gutting their schools and not paying teachers a living wage. Funding tax cuts on the backs of kids, kind of like the federal Republicans, gutting kid’s futures on their college loans so they can also cut taxes for their business cronies. What one might want to think about is who needs smart citizens if to be President you can be a walking talking moron? Oh, and the necessary voters to sustain President DFF can’t be too smart, right? Finally teachers have had enough. We are eating our young and they are done with the martyr thing.

So how is this all working for you President DFF supporters? Getting a hint you might have made a catastrophic mistake? Not yet? Okay, it will be coming.

Really?  Is That What We Are About?

On Saturday there was a story in the NYT about the work experience and dedication required to work for Amazon.  To wit:

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

… The company’s winners dream up innovations that they roll out to a quarter-billion customers and accrue small fortunes in soaring stock. Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff — “purposeful Darwinism,” one former Amazon human resources director said. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.

… However, more than 100 current and former Amazonians — members of the leadership team, human resources executives, marketers, retail specialists and engineers who worked on projects from the Kindle to grocery delivery to the recent mobile phone launch — described how they tried to reconcile the sometimes-punishing aspects of their workplace with what many called its thrilling power to create.

Even many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends.

… One ex-employee’s fiancé became so concerned about her nonstop working night after night that he would drive to the Amazon campus at 10 p.m. and dial her cellphone until she agreed to come home. When they took a vacation to Florida, she spent every day at Starbucks using the wireless connection to get work done.

In 2013, Elizabeth Willet, a former Army captain who served in Iraq, joined Amazon to manage housewares vendors and was thrilled to find that a large company could feel so energetic and entrepreneurial. After she had a child, she arranged with her boss to be in the office from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, pick up her baby and often return to her laptop later. Her boss assured her things were going well, but her colleagues, who did not see how early she arrived, sent him negative feedback accusing her of leaving too soon.

“I can’t stand here and defend you if your peers are saying you’re not doing your work,” she says he told her. She left the company after a little more than a year.

Well you get the gist.  A incredible driven culture to innovate and succeed, but at a cost not worth paying.  If you are rich and alone, what’s the point?  And is winning everything? I could get it if it were a rover on Mars or cure cancer, but just-in-time toilet paper?  Yes some indicated that they became addicted to the creative environment, and my own experience has told me that sometimes conflict is necessary to get to the right solution.  But collaboration is also necessay and when you create an atmosphere that is so highly competitive, maybe good ideas are withheld because of the fear of piracy.

Amazon is my idea of hell.  It, to me, is a symptom of what our warped sense of success is.  There is great incentive in success, but is your success creating more stuff to eat up the planets resources while the planet heats up and you are too busy at work to care.  Because the rabble wants to buy it, does that make it “good”? Is the work environment becoming your life, and kids and significant others just a distraction?  I have worked long hours for important things.  One was the Vietnam war, and the other was being part of our nuclear deterrent.  I could justify being away and the long hours because it was important to the nation (maybe not Vietnam in retrospect).  

And now as I approach 70, I think I know what is important and it had nothing to do with work and money.  It has to do with family and friends, and the lives you touched bringing a little kindness into what is becoming a very unkind world.  And what I see at Amazon is what they call Amabots.  You are part of a system and will be replaced as soon as there is a better part.  And there always will be a better part.  

What can I tell you?  Watch a sunset.  Fall in love.  Drink an exceptional glass of wine. Look at a great painting or read a great work of literature.  Watch your child grow.  Somebody else can come up with just-in-time toilet paper for that apartment with no storage space delivered by a drone.  I can guarantee you one thing.  I know who will be happier. A wise person once commented, … Few tombstones display the epitaph, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

The Free Ride Syndrome

Amazon takes on California in a dispute over collecting state taxes:  “Amazon said this week that it would push a voter initiative in California that could eliminate sales tax for virtual sellers with only a modest physical presence in the state. Its move instantly escalated the company’s long-running battle with many states over collecting sales tax, taking the question directly to voters. And it has sharply intensified its dispute with physical retailers like Wal-Mart Stores and Target, which have vowed to fight the measure.”

Needless to say, California is hurting and they saw the money they were losing on internet sales that were avoiding sales tax (current law requires citizens to report and pay it).  So like New York they passed a bill that requires Amazon to collect the tax at the time of sales and pay it.  Now there are several arguments for doing this besides the lost revenue in sales tax and goes to the heart of stimulating businesses resident in the state.  But the most important is that on big ticket items or large purchases, in-state sellers can’t compete on price.  Amazon is hoping to stir up opposition to taxes much as Proposition 13 gutted state coffers back in the 80s.

“The referendum is a response to a California law, passed last month, that requires Internet retailers to pay sales tax if they have affiliates or subsidiaries in the state. State officials estimate Amazon will owe $83 million in taxes this year, nearly half of the $200 million the state estimates Internet retailers owe over all.”

But there is no free ride.  Government services that we all want like a good school system (presently being gutted), affordable education (CSU has raised tuition 22% in the last year), good roads, parks, police, fire, and other services cost money.  Traditionally most of this has been paid for in part with sales tax in a booming economy.  So you may want cheap stuff so you buy from an internet seller, but you are hurting local businesses who can’t compete in that environment, and you are gouging your state coffers.

Personally price is not the driver and convenience is.  If I can find what I want without driving all over the State, that is my determining factor.  My time and gas are valuable.  And then there are just many things that you have to see and feel so internet buying is not an option.  So if Amazon really thinks the tax thing will crimp their sales, it is like banning smoking in bars:  Everyone said business would falter.  It actually grew as those of us who hate smoke actually went out more.  Internet sales must meet the same standards as our local businesses or we are putting them out of business. If some of us buy more on line, in state on line sellers should be on equal ground.   And for you market place folks, with a level playing field and more competition, maybe the prices will actually fall.

Think about it this way:  Corporations are off-shoring their businesses to avoid paying taxes to the federal government (along with jobs and investment in America).  How is this any different?