Whale Oil, Horse & Buggies Will Never Again Be The Driver of US Economy

Tourist Trolley Ketchikan

Coal mining, lumber, whale oil extraction: none of these industries are going to be resurrected to save the working classes of the United States, those eras are over, and are not returning. No amount of new regulation or removal of existing regulation is ever going to bring those jobs back.

Sadly for all of us, many Trump voters expect him to be able to magically recommission steel plants, to make coal a cost efficient means to create energy, and so on.  

To see where things get more tangled, head into the damp woods of the Cascade Range in central Oregon, and the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, where a long economic decline began in the late 1980s as international trade shifted timber markets to places like Canada, and automated mills eliminated tens of thousands of jobs. Those computer-run mills are not going away even if more logs start arriving.

“We really don’t have a clear and easy path to go back to the good old days when natural resource extraction was driving our economy,” said Sean Stevens, the executive director of Oregon Wild, a conservation group. “It is not as easy as just logging more,” he said.

But the hopes, and the fears, about how that system might now change are boundless.

“My big hope is that people would be able to go back to work in San Juan County and these rural areas,” said Phil Lyman, a county commissioner in southern Utah, where antigovernment feelings run as deep as the slot canyons. “You just feel like everything has been stifled with regulations.”

Robot, living in the future
Robot, living in the future

Republicans in Congress have proposed bills weakening federal laws that protect wilderness, water quality, endangered species or that allow presidents to unilaterally name new national monuments. Some conservatives hope Mr. Trump will support their efforts to hand federal land over to states, which could sell it off or speed up drilling approvals.

Uranium mines around the Grand Canyon. Oil drilling rigs studding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. New coal and timber leases in the national forests. States divvying up millions of acres of federal land to dispose of as they wish.

To environmental groups, it would be a nightmare. To miners, loggers, ranchers and conservative politicians in resource-dependent areas, it would be about time. Either way, Donald J. Trump’s election presages huge potential change on America’s 640 million acres of federal public lands, from the deep seas east of Maine to the volcanic coasts of Hawaii.

(click here to continue reading Battle Lines Over Trump’s Lands Policy Stretch Across 640 Million Acres – The New York Times.)

 This Tree Is Older Than You

This Tree Is Older Than You

and on that topic from D Watkins:

A common theme that’s being tossed around is that Trump’s election was the white working class’ chance way to say “F**k you!” to the political elites who forgot about them, sucked up their factory jobs and left them out to dry. I take issue with this for a number of reasons.

The first and most obvious reason is this: How do you buck a system ruled by elites by electing a billionaire who was born rich, employed the Mexicans he blamed for taking jobs away and could never possibly understand someone else’s struggle? Next, I don’t fully understand the term “hard-working whites.” I come from the blackest community in one of the blackest cities, and I don’t know how not to have 10 jobs. Everybody I know has 10 jobs, even the infants. Black people, Asians and Mexicans alike work their asses off, so why is the “hard-working white” class even a voting bloc?

What’s sad is that these angry, hard-working white people don’t understand that they saw more economic gains under President Obama than they did under George W. Bush. Unemployment went down across the board except among African-Americans — the rate actually doubled for us — so those folks should be praising Obama, not championing Trump or subscribing to all this alt-right B.S.

Then there’s the myth of returning factory jobs. It’s not a real thing! And trust me, I used to subscribe to the same ideas, all caught up in the nostalgia of the old dudes from my neighborhood. My friend Al’s grandpa used to park his Cadillac on Ashland Avenue, hop out and roll up on us nine-year-olds like, “Finish high school, get a job at Bethlehem Steel and your future is set!” He’d spin his Kangol around backwards, pull out a fistful of dollars, give us each a couple and continue, “I made so much money at the steel factory, my lady ain’t worked a day in her life! I bought a house that I paid off and that shiny car right there! Yes sir, life is good!”

 Those jobs were long gone by the time we came of age, at Bethlehem Steel and almost every place like it across the country. They weren’t taken by Mexicans or sent overseas — industries changed, new products were made and robots were invented that could do the job of 10 men and work all night without complaining. Those beautiful factory positions for uneducated hard-working whites (or anybody else) aren’t coming back, and I don’t care what Trump says. What’s even weirder is that we have created a generation of people complaining about jobs that they have never had and will not see in their lifetime — and again, for what?

(click here to continue reading Dear hard-working white people: Congratulations, you played yourself – Salon.com.)

Satanic Gift
Satanic Gift

AT&T and Verizon collude to keep you from switching cellphone carriers–allegedly

 Zoey Getting Ready to Vote in the Nature Photo Contest

The Washington Post reports:

The Department of Justice is investigating potential efforts by AT&T and Verizon to hamstring a technology that could someday make it easier for consumers to seamlessly switch their wireless carriers, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The probe appears to focus on whether those companies — perhaps in a bid to stop their subscribers from jumping ship to rivals — colluded to undermine so-called eSIM cards, a technology that could someday allow the owners of smartphones, smartwatches or other devices to change their service provider on their own, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak freely about the probe, which has not been made public.

If the U.S. government ultimately determines that AT&T and Verizon harmed competitors or consumers, it could result in major fines or other penalties.

(click here to continue reading Did AT&T and Verizon collude to keep you from switching cellphone carriers? The Justice Department is investigating. – The Washington Post.)

Operative word being “if”…

In the Trump/GOP era of government, corporations are encouraged to run rampant over any rules or laws they don’t like, all that is needed is a nice campaign contribution, and issues miraculously vanish! Poof! 

Equifax to Pay Some Fines and Laugh All The Way To The Bank

Safe - Chicago Board of Trade

 The New York Times reports on the latest slap on the wrist regarding corporate malfeasance and indifference:

The credit bureau Equifax will pay at least $650 million … to end an array of state, federal and consumer claims over a 2017 data breach that exposed the sensitive information of more than 147 million people. The breach was one of the most potentially damaging in an ever-growing list of digital thefts.

The settlement, which was announced on Monday and still needs court approval, would be the largest ever paid by a company over a data breach. The deal requires Equifax to put a minimum of $380.5 million into a restitution fund for American consumers who file claims showing that they were financially harmed.

A portion of that money will pay for lawyers’ fees, but at least $300 million must go to victims, according to settlement documents filed in federal court in Atlanta. If the initial cash is depleted, the company will add up to $125 million more to settle consumers’ claims, bringing the total fund size to more than $500 million.

Equifax will pay an additional $175 million in fines to end investigations by 50 attorneys general. Forty-eight states — all except Indiana and Massachusetts, which separately filed their own lawsuits against Equifax — are part of the deal, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico

(click here to continue reading Equifax to Pay at Least $650 Million in Largest Data-Breach Settlement Ever – The New York Times.)

So the government gets a ‘taste’, but individual consumers get spit in their eye. $300,000,000 to be distributed to a portion of 147,000,000 people who Equifax screwed. $2 each. Whooo hooo! Lawyers get plenty of money, average people, not so much.

The fine print is that you have to prove that Equifax harmed you by giving away your social security number, bank info, drivers license, date of birth and whatever else. 

You Wanted Some Privacy

Fortune reports:

Equifax will also pay $20,000 to consumers who can prove that they suffered “fraud, identity theft, or other misuse” because of the data breach. Equifax will also pay them $25 per hour for up to 20 hours of time they had spent trying to safeguard their data. Equifax will also reimburse them for out-of-pocket losses and up to 25% of the cost of Equifax credit or identity monitoring. Exactly how Equifax will require consumers verify their costs is unknown.

 

(click here to continue reading Equifax Settlement: How to Get the Money You’re Owed | Fortune.)

What are the odds that 10% of the consumers who lost their data due to Equifax’s negligence will be able to jump through the proper hoops and reclaim any cash? 

Why Can’t States Just Say No to Corporate Giveaways?

Crop Circles in Colorado

The New York Times reports on a topic near and dear to our interests:

No place better illustrates the absurdities of the proliferating use of tax incentives for job creation than the Kansas City metro area, which straddles the Missouri-Kansas state line.

Over the past decade, Missouri and Kansas have offered more than $330 million in tax breaks to lure companies back and forth across State Line Road. More than 100 companies and more than 12,000 workers have moved to new offices, some headed east, some headed west. Missouri poached Swiss Re and Applebee’s; Kansas got JPMorgan Chase and AMC Entertainment.

The net result? No increase in economic activity; no improvement in the lives of workers. Just a few more jobs in Kansas, a few less in Missouri — and a big loss of tax dollars.

Corporate tax incentives are a dubious business. The giveaways frequently serve no higher purpose than rewarding businesses for moving where they already plan to move or creating jobs they already plan to create. And even when incentives prove motivational, there is often reason to question whether governments are getting value for the money.

The black comedy of corporate relocation across State Line Road is an extreme example, but it is by no means unique. Half of the nation’s 10 most populous metropolitan areas — New York, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia and Boston — include portions of multiple states. So do smaller metro areas such as St. Louis; Charlotte, N.C.; Portland, Ore.; Cincinnati; and Memphis. And all are struggling to limit a practice that amounts to paying your furniture to rearrange itself.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | Can States Just Say No to Corporate Giveaways? – The New York Times.)

Fog Over Boeing HQ

A variant of the sports ball stadium boondoggle which we’ve also covered ad nauseam, corporate tax giveaways rarely, if ever, make sense in the long term. The politicians who vote for the tax giveaways are usually long gone, but the bill remains, payable by taxpayers. Consultants have raked in their consulting fees, businesses continue doing what they would have done, albeit with a slightly improved quarterly profit for a several years.

Salugula Pool

Not to mention, sometimes the corporation moves to somewhere else:

But the success stories tend to be celebrated while the failures are forgotten — and studies find that over time, the recipients of tax incentives are no more likely to create jobs or to drive investment than companies that don’t get a break. The plain truth is that governments have no special ability to predict which companies will thrive. Recipients of tax incentives aren’t even guaranteed to stay put. Missouri used $12.9 million in tax breaks to lure Applebee’s corporate headquarters from Kansas in 2011. Four years later, the company moved to California.

Why do politicians still lavish money on corporations for dubious reasons? Who knows, perhaps there should be a study of how many people involved in these sorts of decisions directly benefit from them within a decade. 

Hedge-Fund Ownership Cost Sears Workers Their Jobs. Now They’re Fighting Back

Valleys outside of Neptune

The Nation reports:

The bill, introduced by State Senator Joseph Cryan, a Democrat, aims to bolster financial security for employees in the state by making them less disposable. Currently, there is no law anywhere in the country that guarantees severance for workers after a layoff. His bill would mandate that laid-off employees of large companies in the state be paid a severance equal to one week of wages for each full year of employment. “It is critical for holding Wall Street accountable…to the retail employees they take over,” Ryan told assembled media and lawmakers, sporting a purple vest with the Babies “R” Us logo stitched in yellow.

The bill would also require companies to give employees more notice before layoffs, including at least 15 days’ warning ahead of a bankruptcy filing or change in ownership, and would prohibit mass firings for 180 days after such an upheaval. It would ensure that Wall Street firms—like KKR, Bain, and Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund—are responsible for severance claims by classifying them as joint employers along with the executives who run their portfolio companies, and would classify severance as wages so that such payments would get top preference in the bankruptcy process alongside creditor claims.

“The genesis point for this legislation,” Cryan said, “was me standing with hundreds of Toys ‘R’ Us workers, listening to stories of folks who dedicated 27, 28, 31, 32 years and were basically getting nothing.” Democratic State Senator Nellie Pou, who backs the bill, noted that when Toys “R” Us laid off employees with little to no warning and refused to give them severance, it wasn’t “doing anything technically illegal, but they did something I believe to be reprehensible.”

The measure would be “game-changing,” said Carrie Gleason, the policy director of United for Respect. It would mean more than giving workers money to help after a layoff. It could change the calculation that companies make when deciding to cut workers in the first place, by putting a price on it. Right now, it’s “virtually costless” to fire employees, Appelbaum said. Private-equity firms in particular tend to turn to layoffs quickly after taking over a company. “Squeezing labor is the fastest way to increase cash flow to be able to make payments on the debt,” Appelbaum explained. This measure could “cause companies to think twice about whether laying off workers is their go-to solution for every problem that they face.”

(click here to continue reading Hedge-Fund Ownership Cost Sears Workers Their Jobs. Now They’re Fighting Back. | The Nation.)

I don’t know what the chances are of this bill passing, but I whole-heartedly support it. Hedge funds bleeding a company dry of its assets then laying off employees is a frequent occurrence, it isn’t right.

Even better would be a national bill with these same general parameters. Maybe Elizabeth Warren could propose it? 

Two is a Magic Number

Trump Crackdown Unnerves Immigrants, and the Farmers Who Rely on Them

!!!PMURT KCUF

The New York Times reports:

Last fall, Victor Pacheco, the foreman on Ms. Raby’s family farm for 23 years, was detained by ICE agents and deported to Mexico.

Ms. Raby has struggled to find a foreman skilled enough to manage her vineyard, where the grapevines are now dusted in a light coat of snow and in need of winter pruning. This has left her uncertain about the future of their family farm and the president she helped vote into office.

“I still agree with Trump in a lot of ways, but I’m more on the fence about him now,” Ms. Raby said. “I don’t want to lose the immigrants who are working here and growing our food.”

(click here to continue reading Trump Crackdown Unnerves Immigrants, and the Farmers Who Rely on Them – The New York Times.)

I hope someone is planning on writing a book based on the numerous Trump voters who ended up getting screwed by Trump-enabled GOP orthodoxy, like this woman. It’s basically a cliché by this point.

I Am Going To Eat You - Paul Noth

But I’m also firmly of the belief that Trump-bots like Ms. Raby don’t deserve much sympathy. Trump isn’t subtle, he said what he was going to do, and then he did it. His announcement that he was running for president was built upon racist demagoguery, but Ms. Raby was ok with that, and all the subsequent racism was fine, up until her own business got decimated. Then she has doubts.

As to the bigger story, American agriculture depends upon low paid workers from other countries, mostly Mexico. If Trump and Stephen Miller get their way, we won’t be able to eat anything other than processed meat from McDonald’s because there won’t be anyone to pick the crops.

HOMER, N.Y. — The fears weigh on Mike McMahon: If one of his undocumented workers gets a traffic ticket, it could prompt an immigration audit of his entire farm. If another gets detained by immigration agents at a roadside checkpoint or in a supermarket parking lot, the rest may flee. And if his undocumented work force disappears overnight, there is no one to replace them.

“It keeps me up at night,” said Mr. McMahon, who owns a dairy farm south of Syracuse. “There are people out there who just say, ‘Send them all back and build a wall.’ But they would be facing empty shelves in the grocery store if that were to happen.”

It has long been an open secret in upstate New York that the dairy industry has been able to survive only by relying on undocumented immigrants for its work force. Now, this region has become a national focal point in the debate over President Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants and their role in agriculture

Poster Child For Corporate Welfare was uploaded to Flickr

Boeing depends upon taxpayer dollars more than most corporations.

See for instance:
The top welfare recipient of them all is aerospace giant Boeing, which has operations spread all across the country building aircraft and working on numerous Department of Defense projects. The amount of work Boeing does for the federal government no doubt plays a part in the amount of subsidies the company has been able to secure, but Boeing has also played hardball with local jurisdictions to get enormous tax breaks. With more than $13 billion coming in from 148 handouts, Boeing has thoroughly entrenched itself in the interest of the government and taxpayers.

Despite the immense amount of money the company receives, it has still gone on to hold cities hostage in tax negotiations, threatening to remove jobs and open up shop in friendlier climates. In 2013, Boeing secured the highest ever tax break at the state level when it cornered the Washington legislature into ceding to its demands, lest it move its production plants to another part of the country. The legislature granted Boeing its wish, but Boeing went on to announce drastic layoffs anyway, angering many locals.

Boeing has become the king of corporate handouts, and other corporations have a long way to go to catch up.
via
www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/high-on-the-hog-the-top-8…

embiggen by clicking
https://flic.kr/p/T5QzU3

I took Poster Child For Corporate Welfare on March 02, 2018 at 05:07AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 17, 2019 at 12:24PM

The Loophole That Lets Boeing Get Cozy With Congress

Boeing - El Segundo

The New York Times reports:

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, its decision was based solely on its evolving understanding of the evidence. But critics have suggested that the delay in joining the international consensus may have been the result, at least in part, of the close relationship that Boeing, a major political force in Washington and a large government contractor, has with American officials.

Boeing receives more federal money than any corporation other than Lockheed Martin, its main competitor in the defense contractor industry. Boeing took in over $23 billion in con tracts from the government in the 2017 fiscal year — near its annual average. (Just this fall, the company won a $9.2 billion contract to make a new generation of jets for the Air Force.)

Senator Elizabeth Warren publicly questioned whether the government had “put lives at risk” to protect Boeing’s bottom line. She and a bipartisan group of her colleagues requested congressional hearings to investigate.

In the Turning of the Twilight

In 1940, Congress passed a law barring individuals and firms from making federal campaign contributions while they negotiate or perform federal contracts. The intent was to prevent companies from trying to bribe politicians for lucrative deals and to prevent lawmakers from extorting money from companies with business before the government.

So how do campaign donations that appear to be connected with Boeing manage to avoid violating this law? The answer is a loophole, cemented in the law in the 1970s, that permits government contractors to set up “separate segregated funds,” or political action committees, to make political contributions using money typically pooled from the contractors’ executives and major shareholders. Such funds are legal even if the parent company pays for their operating and fund-raising costs. This exemption — whose ostensible justification is the free-speech rights of contractors’ employees — is why political action committees like Boeing’s can exist.

“It’s a huge loophole,” said Craig Holden, a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen who has helped states write pay-to-play laws more restrictive than the federal-level bans.

There is also, in effect, another even larger loophole for contractors looking to influence national politicians: the inaugural committee for a president-elect. Because inaugural committees are technically not connected to the political campaign, “all bets are off,” as Mr. Fischer put it. Boeing gave a million dollars to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee — a giveaway now under scrutiny as a possible conflict of interest for the president.

Thanks to this maze of loopholes and legal niceties, federal contractors are able to effectively spend or direct the spending of money on political campaigns, despite the original intent of the law against contractor contributions. One clear result of this system is the widespread suspicion, warranted or not, of the government’s initial decision not to ground Boeing’s plane.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | The Loophole That Lets Boeing Get Cozy With Congress – The New York Times.)

Boing and Lockheed Martin and similar companies slurping up tax payer dollars is why Flint still doesn’t have clean water, why college education isn’t basically free, why millions of people don’t have health insurance, and so on. Corporate welfare is like a black hole, distorting our entire economy.

Wintry Moon Rise over Boeing

How Amazon could change the country’s grocery game

 Bok Choy and Shanghai Bok Choy

The Washington Post reports:

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon plans to open its first grocery store in Los Angeles, possibly by year’s end. The Journal reported that Amazon had signed leases for at least two other grocery locations that could open early next year. Sources told The Journal that the company was looking into locations in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Amazon is also reportedly looking to buy regional grocery chains.

The Journal reported that the new Amazon grocery stores wouldn’t compete directly with Whole Foods stores, and that they would sell a wider selection of products.

(click here to continue reading How Amazon could change the country’s grocery game – The Washington Post.)

Whole Foods, even though owned by Amazon, still doesn’t sell a lot of products that Amazon would sell in a differently oriented mass-oriented grocery chain. Products like Coca-Cola, Kraft American Cheese, personal grooming products that contain all sorts of chemicals, and so on. Amazon.com sells these items, so they have data regarding how popular cases of Cheetos would be. 

I was amazed (and pleased) that these kinds of items did not suddenly appear at Whole Foods once Amazon bought them, actually. 

Acxiom supports Tim Cook’s call for strict U.S. data laws

Apple Store in Soho

So Tim Cook called for better privacy regulation in the US. Maybe he reads this humble blog.1

Tim Cook:

In 2019, it’s time to stand up for the right to privacy—yours, mine, all of ours. Consumers shouldn’t have to tolerate another year of companies irresponsibly amassing huge user profiles, data breaches that seem out of control and the vanishing ability to control our own digital lives.
This problem is solvable—it isn’t too big, too challenging or too late. Innovation, breakthrough ideas and great features can go hand in hand with user privacy—and they must. Realizing technology’s potential depends on it.

That’s why I and others are calling on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation—a landmark package of reforms that protect and empower the consumer. Last year, before a global body of privacy regulators, I laid out four principles that I believe should guide legislation:

(click here to continue reading Apple CEO Tim Cook: It’s Time for Action on Data Privacy | Time.com.)

 Eye see u Willis

Fast Company adds:

Acxiom, like Mr. Cook, also supports a national privacy law for the U.S., such as GDPR provides for the European Union. Acxiom is actively participating in discussions with U.S. lawmakers as well as industry trade groups to help ensure U.S. consumers receive the kind of transparency, access, and control Acxiom has been providing voluntarily for years,” the company said. “We believe it would be universally beneficial if we were able to work with Apple and other industry leaders to define the best set of laws that maintain the benefits of data in our economy while giving the necessary protections and rights to all people.”

In its statement, Acxiom said it is working with lawmakers to build a “singular, united set of policies across the U.S.” What it does not want, according to the statement, are “multiple and independent state laws” making it onerous to comply.

Of course, it behooves Acxiom to seem amenable to such legislative moves. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the tide is shifting in the U.S., and more people want better safeguards over their data. Cook called for not just stricter data regulations, but a federally controlled data broker database that would make it possible for citizens to know exactly what information the companies have on them and which companies transacted with these data firms. While Acxiom is saying it’s open to new regulation, it’s unclear what exactly the firm will agree to.

(click here to continue reading Acxiom supports Tim Cook’s call for strict U.S. data laws.)

America does need to reign in the multitude of personal data brokers, and the GDPR is a decent model to work off of. 

Footnotes:
  1. kidding, of course []

As Big Retailers Seek to Cut Their Tax Bills, Towns Bear the Brunt

There Is More Than One Way To Stop 

The New York Times:

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — With astonishing range and rapidity, big-box retailers and corporate giants are using an aggressive legal tactic to shrink their property tax bills, a strategy that is costing local governments and school districts around the country hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

These businesses — many of them brick-and-mortar stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Target, Kohl’s, Menards and Walgreens that have faced fierce online competition — maintain that no matter how valuable a thriving store is to its current owner, these warehouse-type structures are not worth much to anyone else.

(click here to continue reading As Big Retailers Seek to Cut Their Tax Bills, Towns Bear the Brunt – The New York Times.)

Corporate welfare, alive and well, decimating American communities one by one…

Michael Ferro Is A Horrid Human Being, Part the 454,239th

The Perfect Way to Unwind

I always thought that Sam Zell was the worst owner the Chicago Tribune ever had, but Michael Ferro seems much worse.

NPR reports:

Several months after taking control of the troubled Tribune Publishing Co. in 2016, Chicago investor Michael Ferro convened a session of corporate leaders from within his own news empire, including chief news executives from such storied papers as the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun.

The group of about 20 people trooped from Chicago’s iconic Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue to an upscale restaurant nearby. In a private room, participants dined on seafood and steak while Ferro, then the company’s chairman, held forth on his plans.

His own net worth was newly in the nine figures. Associates and peers say Ferro held ambitions that were wide-ranging, even audacious, given the newspaper industry’s stiff headwinds.

At the dinner, as at other moments, Ferro railed against those who he felt were impeding him — including perceived rivals and competitors. Among them: the Southern California billionaire and civic leader Eli Broad, whom Ferro called part of a “Jewish cabal” that ran Los Angeles.

(click here to continue reading Tribune, Tronc And Beyond: A Slur, A Secret Payout, And A Looming Sale : NPR.)

You Gave Without Taking

Yeah, and this:

Early this year, however, Tribune Publishing made the first in a series of secret payments to total more than $2.5 million to avert a threatened lawsuit filed by a fired newspaper executive, according to three people with knowledge of the deal. That had the effect of keeping Ferro’s anti-Semitic slur out of the public spotlight.

The company agreed to secretly pay Maharaj more than $2.5 million, in installments, according to three people with knowledge of the pact. That financial obligation was not disclosed in corporate filings to shareholders and analysts. The payments started in the first quarter of this year, for which Tribune Publishing reported a net loss of $14.8 million. The loss was attributed to the company’s decision in December 2017 to pay Ferro $15 million in consulting fees even as he served as chairman and was the company’s controlling owner.

Even as the company cut back jobs in traditional newsrooms, Levinsohn and other executives acted to create a separate staff apart from the LA Times and its other newspaper properties. He planned to draw upon outside writers, some uncompensated or who would even pay for the privilege of being associated with the newspapers’ brands. Plans included a consolidated entertainment website called LA.com and the outsourcing of Washington coverage to the digital news service Axios. Neither of those initiatives came to fruition. (LA.com still says “coming soon.”) But the digital strategy, gravitas with scale, sparked distrust among journalists.

The kicker is Michael Ferro still owns 25% of the Tribune, or what’s left of it as Ferro’s hand picked lackies furiously fire writers and jack up executive compensation to pull whatever profits they can off while the Tribune still exists.

Why Amazon’s HQ2 Search Backfired

 More Spare Change

WIRED posits:

The search was largely a success for CEO Jeff Bezos, who can use valuable data from the losing cities to inform Amazon’s business and future expansion. But in at least one respect, Amazon’s Hunger Games-style civic competition backfired: It’s shined a spotlight on how Amazon and companies like it have benefitted enormously from taxpayer funds.

Each year, local politicians spend up to an estimated $90 billion to lure corporations like Amazon to their states, which The Atlantic points out is “more than the federal government spends on housing, education, or infrastructure.” Most companies broker these deals in private.

In the end, Amazon says it will collectively receive $2.2 billion from the three cities where it plans to open offices. In an unusual move, the company disclosed that figure in its own press release. Information about incentives typically comes from government, not the corporations awarded the funds. Others have noted that Amazon might also benefit from existing tax credits, like a New York City program worth up to an additional $900 million, which were not part of the deal.

Over the course of Amazon’s year-long pursuit of new offices, researchers and journalists intensified their examination of not just the money Amazon might receive, but also what it has collected already. The company regularly receives public incentives to open facilities like warehouses and data centers, which Good Jobs First estimates have totaled $1.6 billion. An investigation from the nonprofit New Food Economy found that some Amazon warehouse workers are paid so little that they often qualify for another type of public benefit: food stamps. In some cases, taxpayers may even be subsidizing Amazon’s electricity costs, according to a Bloomberg report from August.

(click here to continue reading Why Amazon’s HQ2 Search Backfired | WIRED.)

Corporate welfare is certainly a drag on the US economy, but I’m not so sanguine as to think it will end anytime soon. Sad. I would guess that the $90 billion number cited above is a bit low.

Not to mention that $3,100,000,000 is a lot of money for a government to shower on to a rich, successful corporation like Amazon. Money that won’t be spent to improve roads, infrastructure, help with college debt, pay salary of teachers, police, EMT, etc. A lot of taxpayer money thrown at Jeff Bezos so he can have a helipad…

I’m so glad Amazon didn’t choose my city. 

Google Exposed User Data, Feared Repercussions of Disclosing to Public

Expanding the Parameters
Expanding the Parameters

WSJ:

Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network and then opted not to disclose the issue this past spring, in part because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage.

A software glitch in the social site gave outside developers potential access to private Google+ profile data between 2015 and March 2018, when internal investigators discovered and fixed the issue, according to the documents and people briefed on the incident. A memo reviewed by the Journal prepared by Google’s legal and policy staff and shared with senior executives warned that disclosing the incident would likely trigger “immediate regulatory interest” and invite comparisons to Facebook’s leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica.

(click here to continue reading Google Exposed User Data, Feared Repercussions of Disclosing to Public – WSJ.)

The cover-up is always worse. Google could have admitted to this during some Trump-Tweet-Tempest, and nobody would have paid much attention. 

Emanuel, aldermen block attempt to cut hours of troubled North Side scrap shredder

Cans HDPE Pet

Chicago Tribune:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration and a group of aldermen vigorously defended a clout-heavy scrap yard on Tuesday, brushing aside neighbors who shared stories about noxious pollution and loud noises from one of the last industrial operations in a fast-gentrifying corridor along the North Branch of the Chicago River.

One of the neighborhood’s elected representatives, Ald. Brian Hopkins, 2nd, introduced a measure months ago to revoke a special waiver that allows General Iron Industries to collect flattened cars, used appliances and other scrap metal around the clock and operate massive shredders from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

City rules normally restrict scrap yards to operate from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

(click here to continue reading Emanuel, aldermen block attempt to cut hours of troubled North Side scrap shredder – Chicago Tribune.)

If I lived near here, I’d be really pissed too. 5 in the morning is way too early to be making such a racket. 

The place sounds like a menace anyway. 

After Hopkins forced colleagues to call his measure for a vote, Tuesday’s long-delayed hearing quickly devolved into heated personal attacks from a former federal prosecutor hired by the company’s owners, and repeated interruptions of neighborhood residents by Ald. George Cardenas, 12th, chairman of the city’s Health and Environmental Protection committee.

Hopkins, Ald, Michele Smith, 43rd, and community groups in Lincoln Park and Bucktown contend the scrap shredder is a menace to the public, citing clouds of metallic pollution that routinely waft into nearby residential areas and three crackdowns on General Iron by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the latest of which came in July.

Georgia Nicholson, who lives across the street from General Iron, says she hoses metallic particles off her patio several times every day. “I don’t know why the city doesn’t see these things,” she said.

“My job is to represent the people of my neighborhood who have been telling me since before I got elected about the explosions, about the noise, about the dust, about the oily film that they find on their cars, on their sidewalks, on their wading pools,” said Hopkins, who along with Smith and Ald. Scott Wauguespack, 32nd, is calling for the city to turn the site into a new park. “There is absolutely no question that General Iron is a nuisance and is a health hazard to the neighborhood.”

Metal Only - Slayer