B12 Solipsism

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Corporate news from all over

Google expanding space in Fulton Market, this time on Randolph St

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 All That False Instruction

Chicago Tribune reports:

Google is planning a two-level store in Chicago’s Fulton Market district, its first known location for a retail flagship.

The technology giant is close to finalizing a lease for almost 14,000 square feet on the first and second floors of several connected, two-story brick buildings between 845 and 853 W. Randolph St., according to sources.

If completed as expected, Google’s deal will represent another milestone in the evolution of the longtime meatpacking district west of the Kennedy Expressway, where Google already has its Midwest office headquarters and more than 900 employees.

To date, Google’s only retail spaces have been pop-up stores and small shops within other stores.

Google’s lease will include former spaces of longtime area restaurants Jaipur and Perez.

Behind the connected buildings, an alley forms a pedestrian walkway between Peoria and Green streets. The property is directly across the street from the Nobu Hotel that is under construction.

(click here to continue reading Google expanding space in Fulton Market, this time with a flagship store – Chicago Tribune.)

I am very curious as to what exactly Google wants with a storefront. Are they planning to launch some new product? Expand the Next line? A new phone? Obviously, Alphabet has plenty of cash to throw around, but I’m puzzled as to what the point of this new endeavor is, other than being in the Hot West Loop1

Stoic Delicacy

Urban Melodrama

Footnotes:
  1. a phrase I hear too frequently []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 21st, 2018 at 10:39 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with , ,

The Internet IS The Public Square

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Can t Remember What I Was Thinking Of
Can’t Remember What I Was Thinking Of

Brent Simmons writes about something I’ve been thinking about for the last few months:

My problem with Twitter remains the same: centralized social networking concentrates way too much power in one place.

Twitter is awful in other ways, sure, not just for that reason. (The issues with Nazis and harassment and abuse. The way it treats third-party Twitter developers.)

And Facebook, too, is awful in its own ways.

But, even if it were well-run, centralized social networking is still a deeply bad and unhealthy idea. Josh Marshall writes that we should be concerned about

…ceding so much of the public square to private platforms which really aren’t about free speech in any way and don’t have free speech in any way. They’re all ordered by algorithms designed to maintain time on site and service ad sales. In no sense are they open or free.

Twitter is not the public square. It just wants you to think it is. The web itself is the public square.

(click here to continue reading inessential: The Public Square.)

Ghosting all of my social media accounts is very, very tempting. Especially Facebook and Instagram which I care less about. I’ve already started the process of culling my interactions with both of those platforms. I only log in to Facebook using my Mac’s alternative browser, and since I have two-factor authentication turned on, it is even more time consuming to log on, thus I log on once or twice a month. I am considering removing most of the ephemeral contacts there as I have already done on Instagram. I deleted the Instagram app from my phone, and don’t miss it yet, and maybe never will. 

Defunct Tweets
Defunct Tweets

Twitter is slightly different, as I mostly use my Twitter account as a microblog. I’d guess that 90% of my posts contain URLs linking to a news story, or to my own photographs. If there was a quick, painless way to delete every Twitter post that didn’t contain a URL, I’d do that right away, but I’m not sure if that is possible, or tbh, even really worth it. I’m low profile enough that I don’t interact much with strangers on Twitter, nor do I seek out heated political arguments with the mouth breathers; so I’ve yet to encounter that toxic part of Twitter.

I never found a good method to integrate Twitter with my blog, perhaps I should look for a solution to that. My tweets1 are archived in a Google Doc spreadsheet; if I use Buffer, my tweets are also posted to my Tumblr, yet I’d rather there was a place on my own domain which hosted this running link history. 

Perhaps the microblog tool will work2.

I don’t miss the amount of fiddling Moveable Type required, Twitter’s main attraction for me is the ease with which I can create a link to something interesting I’ve encountered, Twitter is integrated into iOS and MacOS in a way that self-hosted WordPress blogs are not.

 Frostpocket Kitchen

To the bigger question, I miss the character of the web before Facebook et al existed. I doubt we can return to those days. It sort of reminds me of the back-to-the land movement of the last century: folks like my parents eschewing the technologies of the day to go to farms and communes and try to exist with one foot in the future and one foot in the past.

Footnotes:
  1. using the magic of IFTTT []
  2. though I’m unclear at the moment if I can quickly integrate it into this blog, and whether or not I’d have to pay for use for the tool []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 19th, 2018 at 8:37 am

Posted in Blogtopia,Business

Tagged with , ,

Death to The Bullshit Web

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Weaving Your Spells
Weaving Your Spells…

Nick Heer writes about a topic near and dear to our brains, albeit from the web developer side: why do websites load so slowly? And why is our personal data being sold without our informed consent?

The average internet connection in the United States is about six times as fast as it was just ten years ago, but instead of making it faster to browse the same types of websites, we’re simply occupying that extra bandwidth with more stuff. Some of this stuff is amazing: in 2006, Apple added movies to the iTunes Store that were 640 × 480 pixels, but you can now stream movies in HD resolution and (pretend) 4K. These much higher speeds also allow us to see more detailed photos, and that’s very nice.

But a lot of the stuff we’re seeing is a pile-up of garbage on seemingly every major website that does nothing to make visitors happier — if anything, much of this stuff is deeply irritating and morally indefensible.

Take that CNN article, for example. Here’s what it contained when I loaded it:

Eleven web fonts, totalling 414 KB

Four stylesheets, totalling 315 KB

Twenty frames

Twenty-nine XML HTTP requests, totalling about 500 KB

Approximately one hundred scripts, totalling several megabytes — though it’s hard to pin down the number and actual size because some of the scripts are “beacons” that load after the page is technically finished downloading.

The vast majority of these resources are not directly related to the information on the page, and I’m including advertising. Many of the scripts that were loaded are purely for surveillance purposes: self-hosted analytics, of which there are several examples; various third-party analytics firms like Salesforce, Chartbeat, and Optimizely; and social network sharing widgets. They churn through CPU cycles and cause my six-year-old computer to cry out in pain and fury. I’m not asking much of it; I have opened a text-based document on the web.

An actual solution recognizes that this bullshit is inexcusable. It is making the web a cumulatively awful place to be. Behind closed doors, those in the advertising and marketing industry can be pretty lucid about how much they also hate surveillance scripts and how awful they find these methods, while simultaneously encouraging their use. Meanwhile, users are increasingly taking matters into their own hands — the use of ad blockers is rising across the board, many of which also block tracking scripts and other disrespectful behaviours. Users are making that choice.

They shouldn’t have to. Better choices should be made by web developers to not ship this bullshit in the first place. We wouldn’t tolerate such intrusive behaviour more generally; why are we expected to find it acceptable on the web?

An honest web is one in which the overwhelming majority of the code and assets downloaded to a user’s computer are used in a page’s visual presentation, with nearly all the remainder used to define the semantic structure and associated metadata on the page. Bullshit — in the form of CPU-sucking surveillance, unnecessarily-interruptive elements, and behaviours that nobody responsible for a website would themselves find appealing as a visitor — is unwelcome and intolerable.

Death to the bullshit web.

(click here to continue reading The Bullshit Web — Pixel Envy.)

All that “surveillance” stuff and related files are an abomination, and pleases no-one. I’ve heard anecdotal reports that even marketing savvy companies don’t frequently use all the data that is collected on their behalf. So who wants it? Unclear to me. I guess the third party data collection industry is happy to vacuum up this data because they can subsequently re-sell our information to the highest bidder, but that’s not a good enough reason to continue making web pages cumbersome.

And as I’ve blabbed about repeatedly, I swear by the script-blocking capabilities of Ghostery, but that is a half-measure, and doesn’t apply to the web-surfing of the vast majority of the populace.

You should read Mr. Heer’s entire post, it is worthy of your time…

 

Un Deletable Cookies  Safari
Un-Deletable Cookies – Safari

Written by Seth Anderson

August 2nd, 2018 at 8:39 am

Trump’s trade war is hurting the dairy industry

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CE Zuercher  Co Wholesale Cheese
CE Zuercher & Co Wholesale Cheese

As part of our continuing mocking of Trump-voting industries being screwed by Trump, Slate reports:

As the Wall Street Journal reports Thursday, Mexico and China have decided to target up to $986 million worth of American dairy exports with tariffs as retaliation for the Trump administration’s protectionist moves. Mexico is increasing its duty on cheese, while China is hitting cheese and whey. With their growing middle-class populations, both countries have become important markets in recent years for the U.S. dairy industry, which has found itself struggling with overproduction in the face of declining domestic milk consumption. Milk futures for July are down since Mexico announced its tariffs earlier this year—the last time the country imposed similar tariffs on U.S. cheese, shipments fell by 26 percent—and companies are already fretting. The president of Wisconsin’s BelGioioso Cheese called the situation “a nightmare.”

This is part of a larger pattern for the Trump administration, which the New York Times documents at length. So far, the administration’s efforts on trade and regulation have ended up hurting the very industries they claim to be helping. The 10 percent tariff Trump placed on aluminum, for instance, has made raw materials more expensive for most of the companies that actually produce aluminum products in the U.S., since they’re generally in the business of importing those raw materials and shaping them into more valuable upstream products. Steel tariffs have made pumping crude more expensive for oil companies by adding to the cost of building rigs and buying equipment. Soybean prices are crashing in response to Chinese tariff threats. Detroit’s car-makers are worried about potential tariffs on foreign autos, with executives warning about possible retaliation. The law of unintended consequences is playing out, or about to play out, in sector after sector of the economy.

(click here to continue reading Trump’s trade war is hurting the dairy industry..)

I would guess many dairy company owners and employees in Wisconsin are starting to regret voting for the Trump trauma train… 

Global Cheese
Global Cheese, Kensington Market, Toronto

WSJ:

 Cheese makers that rely on foreign sales are suffering as China and Mexico raise tariffs on U.S. mozzarella and provolone.

 BelGioioso Cheese Inc., a second-generation family company in Wisconsin, has seen sales to Mexico drop since officials there implemented tariffs of up to 15% in early June on most U.S. cheese. The levies were a response to tariffs the U.S. placed on Mexican steel and aluminum.

 On Thursday, Mexico was slated to raise its levy on most U.S. cheese to as much as 25%, while China on Friday is implementing tariffs on $34 billion of U.S. goods, including cheese and whey, a dairy byproduct often fed to livestock.

 “It’s a nightmare,” said BelGioioso President Errico Auricchio.

The Trump administration’s trade agenda is threatening that growth, dairies say. The Mexican tariffs affect as much as $578 million in U.S. dairy goods, while China’s duties could hit $408 million of cheese, whey and other products, according to U.S. Chamber of Commerce data.

July milk futures have dropped 12% since Mexico announced May 31 that it would strike back with tariffs. The price for a barrel, or 500 pounds, of white cheddar last week hit its lowest level since 2009. More cheese is in cold storage in the U.S. than any time since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began keeping track in 1917.

U.S. dairy exports last year totaled $5.5 billion, including $1.3 billion to Mexico, the top market, according to the Export Council. China, meanwhile, bought more than $577 million in U.S. dairy products last year, nearly half of it whey. (The recent tariffs don’t affect all dairy exports to Mexico and China.) Almost half of U.S. whey sales went to China last year, the Export Council said. The threat of the Chinese tariffs that take effect Friday has already hurt those sales. 

 

(click here to continue reading Take Our Cheese, Please: American Cheese Makers Suffer Under New Tariffs – WSJ.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 5th, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

How Trump’s Policy Decisions Undermine the Industries He Pledged to Help

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Trump As Joker
Trump As Joker (source unknown)

As part of a continuing series about Trump supporters who have gotten screwed by Trump’s erratic trade policy pronouncements, the NYT reports:

In late March, the Trump administration began imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum from countries including Russia, China, Turkey and Brazil. On June 1, it expanded the levies to include Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

While the steel industry supports the tariffs, the aluminum industry is mostly opposed. The tariffs raise prices for aluminum, which helps smelters, the companies that make raw aluminum here. However, only a handful of smelters still operate in the United States.

The Aluminum Association, which represents the bulk of the American industry, says that 97 percent of American jobs in aluminum are at what are called “downstream” businesses that shape the metal into things like auto parts or other goods. Those companies are hurt by Mr. Trump’s tariffs, because they must now pay higher prices for their raw materials.

(click here to continue reading How Trump’s Policy Decisions Undermine the Industries He Pledged to Help – The New York Times.)

It turns out electing a president who gets all his policy ideas from Fox News maybe isn’t such a good thing for the nation. Who woulda guessed?

Storing Wheat  Agfa Scala 200
Storing Wheat / Soy – Agfa Scala 200

And yet, despite all the evidence of Trump’s incompetence, and indifference, some Trumpsters remain on the Trump train:

“I would like to tell the president, ‘Man, you are messing up our market,’” said Kevin Scott, a soybean farmer in South Dakota and the secretary of the American Soybean Association. The idea of changing Nafta, he said, “gives us a lot of heartburn in farm country.”

 At the same time, Mr. Scott said, China’s threat to impose tariffs this weekon United States soybeans — in direct response to Mr. Trump’s tariffs on other Chinese-made products — is already having a negative effect on the prices farmers see. In recent days, Canada imposed its own retaliatory tariffs against the United States. And on Friday, General Motors warned that Mr. Trump’s threat of tariffs on imported cars could backfire, killing American jobs and leading to “a smaller G.M.”

Mr. Scott voted for Mr. Trump, and he approves of administration efforts to roll back environmental regulations, “But if we lose those Chinese and Mexican markets, it will be hard to get them back,” he said. China and Mexico are the two biggest markets for American soybean exports.

Richard Newell, president of Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, described the administration’s overall approach as “whac-a-mole policy” that suggests a lack of appreciation of the complexity of global commerce. “The law of unintended consequences abounds,” Mr. Newell added.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 5th, 2018 at 6:58 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,

Facebook conducting mass surveillance through its apps

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Surveillance Society  Halsted and Division Edition
Surveillance Society – Halsted and Division Edition

The Guardian reports:

Facebook used its apps to gather information about users and their friends, including some who had not signed up to the social network, reading their text messages, tracking their locations and accessing photos on their phones, a court case in California alleges.

The claims of what would amount to mass surveillance are part of a lawsuit brought against the company by the former startup Six4Three, listed in legal documents filed at the superior court in San Mateo as part of a court case that has been ongoing for more than two years.

A Facebook spokesperson said that Six4Three’s “claims have no merit, and we will continue to defend ourselves vigorously”.

The allegations about surveillance appear in a January filing, the fifth amended complaint made by Six4Three. It alleges that Facebook used a range of methods, some adapted to the different phones that users carried, to collect information it could use for commercial purposes.

“Facebook continued to explore and implement ways to track users’ location, to track and read their texts, to access and record their microphones on their phones, to track and monitor their usage of competitive apps on their phones, and to track and monitor their calls,” one court document says.

(click here to continue reading Facebook accused of conducting mass surveillance through its apps | Technology | The Guardian.)

This is Facebook’s business model though, so what exactly are they going to argue? No, we don’t collect data on our users and then use this information to sell advertising to corporations? 

The one detail that is the most disturbing1 is that Facebook did this for people who weren’t Facebook users. How did these people consent? How do they request their data? How do they update their privacy settings?

Footnotes:
  1. and we’ve noted it previously []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 30th, 2018 at 9:06 am

Vermont passes first law to crack down on data brokers

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Data Dump
Data Dump

TechCrunch reports:

While Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are hogging the spotlight, data brokers that collect your information from hundreds of sources and sell it wholesale are laughing all the way to the bank. But they’re not laughing in Vermont, where a first-of-its-kind law hems in these dangerous data mongers and gives the state’s citizens much-needed protections.

Data brokers in Vermont will now have to register as such with the state; they must take standard security measures and notify authorities of security breaches (no, they weren’t before); and using their data for criminal purposes like fraud is now its own actionable offense.

If you’re not familiar with data brokers, well, that’s the idea. These companies don’t really have a consumer-facing side, instead opting to collect information on people from as many sources as possible, buying and selling it amongst themselves like the commodity it has become.

This data exists in a regulatory near-vacuum. As long as they step carefully, data brokers can maintain what amounts to a shadow profile on consumers. I talked with director of the World Privacy Forum, Pam Dixon, about this practice.

“If you use an actual credit score, it’s regulated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act,” she told me. “But if you take a thousand points like shopping habits, zip code, housing status, you can create a new credit score; you can use that and it’s not discrimination.”

And while medical data like blood tests are protected from snooping, it’s not against the law for a company to make an educated guess your condition from the medicine you pay for at the local pharmacy. Now you’re on a secret list of “inferred” diabetics, and that data gets sold to, for example, Facebook, which combines it with its own metrics and allows advertisers to target it.

(click here to continue reading Vermont passes first law to crack down on data brokers | TechCrunch.)

Exactly why I wish the US would implement its own version of the GDPR that we’ve discussed. Corporations that mine our digital data, and sell it, and resell it, without oversight, or without giving “a taste” to the consumer are corporations that need to be regulated and watched by a consumer protection agency of some kind. Not every consumer is savvy enough to obfuscate their tracks, and honestly, even somewhat savvy consumers are no doubt caught up in these nameless corporations’ databases. Corporations like EquifaxQuotient and Catalina Marketing and a few thousand others don’t really need to use browser cookies anymore, they also use the unique ID of your devices, they track your IP numbers down to your block group, and can track you at home, at office, via phone, via credit card, via geolocation and via other means. I find it Orwellian and creepy.

My sincere wish is that Vermont continues on this path of regulation of the wild, wild web of data brokers, and that other states and the entire country follows suit.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 28th, 2018 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Advertising,Business,government

Tagged with , ,

Trump Tells Congress it Has Deal to Help Out ZTE

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Up To 10 1 11 Number of People Dump Chinese Communist Party
Up To 10-1-11, Number of People Dump Chinese Communist Party

The New York Times reports:

The collapse of ZTE would be an embarrassing outcome for China and the company’s fate has become a hurdle in trade negotiations between the two countries. President Trump directed the Commerce Department to re-examine ZTE’s penalty based on a personal request from Chinese president Xi Jinping, triggering a fierce pushback from some of Mr. Trump’s national security advisers, as well as lawmakers from both parties.

Mr. Trump, however, has appeared unmoved by those concerns and has been pushing to reach some type of trade resolution with China, which has so far proved elusive. The administration wants to cut a deal on ZTE in exchange for trade concessions from China, including purchases of American agriculture and energy products, people familiar with the discussions said.

Such an agreement is likely to face fierce resistance on Capitol Hill. Top lawmakers, including Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic senate leader, and Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, have urged the administration not to bend on ZTE, which they consider a law enforcement and national security issue.

“ZTE presents a national security threat to the United States — and nothing in this reported deal addresses that fundamental fact,” Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said in a statement. “If President Trump won’t put our security before Chinese jobs, Congress will act on a bipartisan basis to stop him.”

(click here to continue reading Trump Administration Tells Congress it Has Deal to Revive ZTE – The New York Times.)

Make China Great! Isn’t that what the Trumper hat said?

Pope Doesn t Want to Wear Her Make Donald Drumpf Again Hat for some reason
Pope (RIP) Doesn’t Want to Wear Her Make Donald Drumpf Again Hat for some reason

Especially because the reason why ZTE was penalized is such a talking point of the right wing, trade with Iran and North Korea:

 

 

Last year the US imposed a trade ban on American companies supplying equipment to Chinese telecoms giant ZTE Corp. Now, it appears the two countries are trying to work things out. According to sources briefed on the confidential negotiations, there has been a “handshake deal” between US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He which will lift the ban that effectively crippled ZTE’s operations.

 

The ban was imposed after ZTE was found to be illegally shipping US goods to Iran and North Korea. The US hit the company with a $1.9 billion fine, and originally agreed to suspend the ban for a three-year probation period. However, after the company was then caught lying about the way it punished those involved in the scandal, the ban was revived.

 

 

(click here to continue reading The US will help save ZTE even though it broke international laws.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 25th, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,

U.S. Websites Go Dark in Europe as GDPR Data Rules Kick In

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Keystone Chicago Tribune
Keystone – Chicago Tribune

Speaking of the GDPR, the WSJ reports:

Europe’s new privacy law took effect Friday, causing major U.S. news websites to suspend access across the region as data-protection regulators prepare to brandish their new enforcement powers.

Tronc Inc., publisher of the Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News and other U.S. newspapers [Chicago Tribune], was among those that blocked readers in the European Union from accessing sites, as they scrambled to comply with the sweeping regulation.

“We are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to the EU market,” the company said in notices it displayed when users attempted to access its news sites from the EU on Friday morning.

Others U.S. regional newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises Inc., as well as bookmarking app Instapaper, owned by Pinterest. Inc., were also blocking access in the EU.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation foresees steep fines for companies that don’t comply with the new rules, aimed at giving Europe-based users more control over the data companies hold on them.

(click here to continue reading U.S. Websites Go Dark in Europe as GDPR Data Rules Kick In – WSJ.)

Tronc and many other digital news organizations are among the worst offenders of collecting information on consumers. Using this article at the WSJ as an example, Ghostery reports 24 different cookies/trackers being served to a reader, from Facebook, Google, DoubleClick, and so on. I’m a subscriber, and WSJ still allows companies like Bombora to shovel my information into their corporate maws.

Going to a random Chicago Tribune article, say for instance “Let’s hear it for Memorial Day weekend at the beach. Oh, but the litter …”, and Tronc is serving me, a subscriber, 18 cookies/trackers from various entities, like Amazon, Google, and a plethora I’ve never heard of. My print newspaper doesn’t track me like this.

So, I’m not surprised that many news organizations are not in compliance with the new GDPR regulations, I’m only saddened that the US doesn’t have a similar protection for consumers. Savvier consumers can install anti-tracking services, like Ghostery, but what about everyone else?

Written by Seth Anderson

May 25th, 2018 at 9:16 am

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with ,

EU Privacy Law Enters Into Force

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Faux Vintage photo of a real vintage digital camera
Faux Vintage photo of a real vintage digital camera

The NYT/Reuters reports about the GDPR:

New European privacy regulations went into effect on Friday that will force companies to be more attentive to how they handle customer data.

The ramifications were visible from day one, with major U.S.-media outlets including the LA Times and Chicago Tribune were forced to shutter their websites in parts of Europe.

People in the bloc have been bombarded with dozens of emails asking for their consent to keep processing their data, and a privacy activist wasted no time in taking action against U.S. tech giants for allegedly acting illegally by forcing users to accept intrusive terms of service or lose access.

“You have to have a ‘yes or no’ option,” Austrian Max Schrems said before filing complaints in European jurisdictions. “A lot of these companies now force you to consent to the new privacy policy, which is totally against the law.”

(click here to continue reading EU Privacy Law Enters Into Force, Activist Takes Aim – The New York Times.)

Amazing really the number of these emails I’ve received. Several are worded in such a way that I did not accept their terms, and assume my account will become dormant. If it was a company I cared to still do business with, I might look a little deeper, but mostly I just shrug and delete.

We first heard about GDPR late last year and only wish the US took consumer privacy as seriously as the EU.

Dreaming Has A Low
Dreaming Has A Low

From December, 2017:

 

Almost a fifth of companies in the marketing and advertising sector would go out of business if they were to be hit by a fine for non-compliance of the new GDPR legislation.

 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in less than one year and covers everything from a consumer’s ‘right to be forgotten’ to data breach notification and accountability. At the heart of the reform in how companies must handle customer data is a fine, standing at €20m or 4% of an company’s global revenue, if they are found to be falling foul.

 

But, in a survey of 187 marketing and advertising companies conducted by YouGov on behalf of law firm Irwin Mitchel, 70% said they wouldn’t be certain of their ability to detect a data breach. Meanwhile, just 37% said they would be equipped to deal with it in the required timescale of three days.

 

 

(click here to continue reading 17% of marketing and advertising agencies would go under if hit with a GDPR fine | The Drum.)

Extraordinary Measures
Extraordinary Measures

A privacy regulation with teeth:

 

With 200-plus pages of regulation set to come into force in May 2018, it formalizes concepts like the “right to be forgotten,” data breach accountability, data portability and more — and is arguably the biggest disruption in the digital space in recent years.

 

Potential fines

 

Simply put, the regulations are being put into place to give individual more rights to their data, but brands and marketers need to get on board beforehand in order to avoid hefty potential fines – up to $24m, or 4% of annual turnover (whichever is the greater sum). Some of the requirements include:

 

  • Requiring consent for data processing
  • Anonymizing collected data to protect privacy
  • Providing data breach notifications
  • Safely handling the transfer of data across borders
  • Requiring certain companies to have a data protection officer to oversee GDPR compliance

 

 

(click here to continue reading What does the EU’s privacy reform mean for US marketers? And what should you do now? | The Drum.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 25th, 2018 at 8:17 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,

China has called Trump’s bluff

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Storing Wheat  Agfa Scala 200
Storing Soy – Agfa Scala 200

The NYT reports:

China has called President Trump’s bluff.

Chinese negotiators left Washington this weekend with a significant win: a willingness by the Trump administration to hold off for now on imposing tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese imports. China gave up little in return, spurning the administration’s nudges for a concrete commitment to buy more goods from the United States, and avoiding limits on its efforts to build new high-tech Chinese industries.

China’s propaganda machine took a victory lap after the talks, proclaiming that a strong challenge from the United States had been turned aside, at least for now. “Whether in Beijing or Washington, in the face of the unreasonable demands of the United States, the Chinese government has always resolutely fought back, never compromised, and did not accept the restrictions set by the other side,” the official Xinhua news service said in a commentary on Sunday.

In a cheeky expression of China’s rising power, two juxtaposed photos were widely circulated on Chinese social media, a post that was shared (but later deleted) by the Communist Youth League. One photo was taken during the trade talks in Washington, appearing, if somewhat biasedly, to trumpet the youthfulness of Chinese delegates compared to American lawmakers. Another, dated from 1901, showed the opposite as representatives from China and colonial powers signed an accord to end the Boxer Rebellion, considered a national humiliation.

(click here to continue reading Trump’s Charm and Threats May Not Be Working on China. Here’s Why. – The New York Times.)

Like so many of the other self-given descriptions of the Orange Dotard, the Best Negotiator is a lousy deal maker. 

China gave up nothing, and Russian farmers got a big sale of soy beans that American farmers lost. Heck of a job, Trumpie…

Wheel of Life
Wheel of Life

As Bloomberg reported:

 

China, the world’s biggest soybean importer, almost tripled purchases from Russia amid a trade dispute with the U.S., the biggest producer.

 

Russia sold about 850,000 metric tons of soybeans to China from the start of the 12-month season in July through mid-May, according to Russia’s agriculture agency Rosselkhoznadzor. That’s more than during any season before and compares with about 340,000 tons sold during all of the previous period, Chinese customs data show.

China has already canceled several shipments from the U.S. in anticipation of tariffs on the country’s products. While Brazil is expected to take much of that market share, Russia is also benefiting.

 

 

(click here to continue reading China Buys Record Amount of Russian Soy as It Shuns U.S. Growers – Bloomberg.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 21st, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon

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Post Office Gilbert Ark
Post Office Gilbert Ark

The Washington Post reports:

President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.

Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery.

Few U.S. companies have drawn Trump’s ire as much as Amazon, which has rapidly grown to be the second-largest U.S. company in terms of market capitalization. For more than three years, Trump has fumed publicly and privately about the giant commerce and services company and its founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who is also the owner of The Washington Post.

Trump’s attacks on Amazon date to 2015, when he accused Bezos of using The Post as a tax shelter to allow Amazon to avoid paying taxes, a false accusation. (Amazon is a publicly traded company, and The Post, wholly owned by Bezos, is private. The companies’ finances are not intermingled. The Post’s editors and Bezos also have declared that he is not involved in any journalistic decisions.)

Bezos responded to Trump’s 2015 attack with a tweet.

“Finally trashed by @realDonaldTrump. Will still reserve him a seat on the Blue Origin rocket. #sendDonaldtospace,” Bezos, who owns a space company, tweeted in December 2015.

This angered Trump, who at the time was fighting for credibility during the GOP primary.

(click here to continue reading Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms – The Washington Post.)

It isn’t that Amazon irks Trump, it is that the Washington Post is reporting on Trump’s (mal)administration, and by the transitive property, since Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, and is a majority owner/founder of Amazon, Trump is angry at Amazon. 

Bezos is no saint, the USPS certainly has issues, the Washington Post has published plenty of ignorant or misleading articles over the years, but there is no reason Trump should be foaming at the mouth like this towards a corporation, much less a journalistic institution like the Washington Post.

The Irony of Freedom
The Irony of Freedom

Written by Seth Anderson

May 19th, 2018 at 7:49 am

Posted in Business,government

Tagged with , , ,

Illinois Supreme Court to weigh tax exemption for not-for-profit hospitals

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Window Washers at The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning
Window Washers at The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning

The Chicago Tribune reports on a story we’ve been following for a while:

The state’s highest court will weigh the constitutionality of a law that lets not-for-profit hospitals skip paying property taxes — a question with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.

Current law says that not-for-profit hospitals in Illinois don’t have to pay property taxes as long as the value of their charitable services is at least equal to what they would otherwise pay in taxes. About three-fourths of the state’s more than 200 hospitals are not-for-profit.

But a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of that law has been working its way through the courts and will be heard Tuesday before the Illinois Supreme Court.

It’s an issue that’s stirred debate in Illinois and across the country, with some saying not-for-profit hospitals operate more like businesses and should have to pay taxes.

(click here to continue reading Illinois Supreme Court to weigh tax exemption for not-for-profit hospitals – Chicago Tribune.)

My position is the same as in previous blog posts: wealthy non-profits shouldn’t be able to avoid paying taxes simply because they sometimes do charitable work. If 100% of a particular hospital’s clients were not required to pay for any services, than perhaps I’d change my opinion. Wealthy non-profits shouldn’t be leeches on society.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 19th, 2018 at 7:19 am

Posted in Business,government,health

Tagged with ,

Trump cuts to H-2B guest worker visas hurt small business

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Stark beauty of snowy cemetery
Stark beauty of snowy cemetery

There’s an evergreen news topic: Trump voter screwed by Trump. It’s almost a joke, but certainly real for the people and business screwed by Trump and the GOP.

The Lexington Herald Leader reports:

Eddie Devine voted for President Donald Trump because he thought he would be good for American business. Now, he says, the Trump administration’s restrictions on seasonal foreign labor may put him out of business.

“I feel like I’ve been tricked by the devil,” said Devine, owner of Harrodsburg-based Devine Creations Landscaping. “I feel so stupid.”

Devine says it has been years since he could find enough dependable, drug-free American workers for his $12-an-hour jobs mowing and tending landscapes for cemeteries, shopping centers and apartment complexes across Central Kentucky.

Devine says he lost a $100,000 account because he didn’t have enough men to do the job. He’s worried he may be out of business next year if things don’t improve.

He isn’t alone. Cuts in H-2B visas are hurting small businesses across the country that can’t find Americans willing to do hard, manual labor: Maryland crab processors, Texas shrimp fishermen, and Kentucky landscapers and construction companies.

But what makes him most angry is that Trump’s properties in Florida and New York have used 144 H-2B workers since 2016. “I want to know why it’s OK for him to get his workers, but supporters like me don’t get theirs,” Devine said.

(click here to continue reading Trump cuts to H-2B guest worker visas hurt small business | Lexington Herald Leader.)

Do I have sympathy for Eddie Devine? Not much. Trump’s anti-immigration stance wasn’t some secret, only known to Steven Miller and John Kelly, no, Trump led chants of “Build the Wall” at seemingly every rally. Perhaps in the future, Trumpers might think a little bit harder about what they are really voting for, instead of becoming part of the Fox News mob. I doubt it, though. 

Fading One By One
Fading One By One

Thomas Frank wrote a book about this phenomena, even before Trump made this worse:

Wikipedia:

 

What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004) is a book by American journalist and historian Thomas Frank, which explores the rise of populist anti-elitist conservatism in the United States, centering on the experience of Kansas, Frank’s native state. In the late 19th century, says Frank, Kansas was known as a hotbed of the left-wing Populist movement, but in recent decades, it has become overwhelmingly conservative. The book was published in Britain and Australia as What’s the Matter with America?.

Frank applies his thesis to answer the question of why these social conservatives continue to vote for Republicans, even though they are voting against their best interests. He argues that politicians and pundits stir the “Cons” to action by evoking certain issues, such as abortion, immigration, and taxation. By portraying themselves as champions of the conservatives on these issues, the politicians can get “Cons” to vote them into office. However, once in office, these politicians turn their attention to more mundane economic issues, such as business tax reduction or deregulation. Frank’s thesis goes thus: In order to explain to the “Cons” why no progress gets made on these issues, politicians and pundits point their fingers to a “liberal elite,” a straw man representing everything that conservatism is not. When reasons are given, they eschew economic reasons in favor of accusing this elite of simply hating America, or having a desire to harm “average” Americans. This theme of victimization by these “elites” is pervasive in conservative literature, despite the fact that at the time conservatives controlled all three branches of government, were being served by an extensive media devoted only to conservative ideology, and had won 6 of the previous 9 presidential elections.

 

 

(click here to continue reading What’s the Matter with Kansas? – Wikipedia.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 15th, 2018 at 10:41 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,

Maryland seafood industry loses 40 percent of work force in visa lottery

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Claw
Crab Claw

The Baltimore Sun reports about another industry who voted for Trump with no regrets, yet is now feeling the effects of Trump’s campaign promises:

Maryland’s seafood industry is in crisis: Nearly half of the Eastern Shore’s crab houses have no workers to pick the meat sold in restaurants and supermarkets.

They failed to get visas for their mostly Mexican workforce, including many women who have been coming north to Maryland for crab season for as long as two decades. The Trump administration for the first time awarded them this year in a lottery, instead of on a first-come, first-served basis.

Maryland’s 20 licensed crab processors typically employ some 500 foreign workers each season, from April to November, through the H-2B visa program, Seiling said. The visas are for seasonal workers in non-agricultural jobs. Pickers are paid by the pound of meat they produce, and the most productive ones make up to $500 a week.

“Nobody wants to do manual labor anymore,” Seiling said. “Its just a very, very tight labor market right now, particularly in industries that are seasonal.”

(click here to continue reading Crab crisis: Maryland seafood industry loses 40 percent of work force in visa lottery – Baltimore Sun.)

Hmm, the best, most productive, hardest workers get nearly $500 a week ($2,000 a month). I’m guessing there aren’t many benefits included: no healthcare, no pension, and probably not including taxes. Doesn’t sound a great job for most.

And then there’s this:

“I voted for Donald Trump and I’d vote for President Trump again,” he said. “But I think in small rural towns in America, we’re getting the short end of the stick on labor.”

Personally, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for this dude. Trump repeatedly sneered loudly of his plans to stop immigration, but crab man decided   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ the racism and Hillary bashing and so on was enough to earn his vote.

I Am Going To Eat You - Paul Noth 

King Crab Stuffed Tuna  Kamehachi
King Crab Stuffed Tuna – Kamehachi

The Guardian/Observer followed up:

Nearly half of the Eastern Shore’s crab houses have lost the temporary workers, mostly from Mexico, who come every season to pick crabs, The Baltimore Sun reported last week. The businesses couldn’t get visas for the crab pickers because the Trump administration awarded them by lottery this year, instead of on a first come, first served basis.

Just one month into crabbing season, everyone here is feeling it. The guy who builds the crab pots, the bait fishermen, the crabbers, the crab house suppliers, the little roadside crab shack, the local general store, the waterman’s wife who can’t afford to stay home with the kids anymore – all of them are in trouble thanks to the fear of immigrants that helped elect President Trump and is now shaping the administration’s hardline approach towards legal and illegal immigration.

Harry Phillips, owner of Russell Hall Seafood, understands that. Like his neighbours, he voted for Trump and supports him. But he believes the president has been misinformed on the seasonal H-2B worker visas and would see the devastating results in one quick visit to the island.

“We’re 15 minutes away from Washington by helicopter,” says Phillips, whose crab house was quiet Sunday morning, with empty bushel baskets stacked high because the crab pickers aren’t coming. “There’s a landing pad for the helicopter, and we would welcome him here. If the president could just come and see what’s happening to American workers, he could see it right here, the effects of all this.”

 

(click here to continue reading Trump’s tighter immigration restrictions causing ‘crab crisis’ in Maryland | The Independent.)

Yeah, that’s not happening. Trump doesn’t give a shit about anyone other than himself. You were just fooled. Were you one of those chanting “build the wall”? What did you think that meant? Keep those other immigrants out, but not the ones you need for your business?

World Without Borders
World Without Borders

Personally, I have no problem with as many immigrants coming to the US as can make it here. Money doesn’t have to respect borders, why do people? Have you ever driven in rural America? Say Iowa, or South Dakota? Or West Texas? There’s a lot of empty land out there. I think the US could continue to grow and thrive by going back to an open door immigration policy. 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 13th, 2018 at 9:36 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,