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Archive for the ‘government’ Category

Our government in action, for good, and mostly for worse

Why Amazon’s HQ2 Search Backfired

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 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. 

Written by Seth Anderson

November 14th, 2018 at 9:51 pm

Texas voting machines changing some straight-party selections

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Tomorrow We Vote
Tomorrow We Vote

ABC reports:

Texas voting machines changing some straight-party selections.

Voters are reporting odd problems on both the Republican and Democratic side of straight-party voting in Texas.

Mickey Blake was one of the voters in those early voting lines in Houston earlier this week.

“I hit straight Democratic ticket,” Blake said.

She says she expected all Democrats to come up on her screen, especially Rep. Beto O’Rourke, but when she got to the last screen to review her choices, she noticed a problem.

“It’s all Democratic except for Ted Cruz was checked,” Blake said.

So she backed up and did it again. And again.

“I tried it a third time and the same thing happened,” she said.

(click here to continue reading Texas voting machines changing some straight-party selections | abc13.com.)

Fired up and ready to vote
Fired up and ready to vote

Anecdotal evidence, sure, but enough people are complaining that the Texas Secretary of State issued a statement.

It’s popped up across Texas often enough for the Secretary of State to put up a statewide advisory on Monday to every Texas election advisor.

The Secretary of State calls it ‘operator error.’

A little disturbing, but perhaps the short term answer is don’t use electronic ballots, if you have a choice, and don’t vote straight ticket even though it is more convenient.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 27th, 2018 at 8:40 am

Posted in government

Tagged with , , ,

Where Chicago Trounces New York: Fixing Mass Transit

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Waiting For My Connection Back To You 

The New York Times:

Like New York’s subway, it is another century-old system struggling to keep up with the transit demands of a booming city. It, too, has been plagued by crumbling tracks, antiquated signals and unreliable trains that turn routine commutes into nightmares.

But the difference is that Chicago’s L has made a comeback, reversing decades of cost-cutting and neglect.

Today, nearly one-third of its tracks have been rebuilt for faster and smoother rides. Rail cars from the 1970s have been replaced with the latest models. More than three dozen stations have been overhauled, many rebuilt into sleek, steel-and-glass outposts. There are new elevators, wider platforms, high-definition security cameras and works by Chicago artists.

“We’ve had a pretty impressive turnaround,” said Joseph P. Schwieterman, a professor of public service at DePaul University. “It’s still an old system — and we still have delays — but the problems are staying out of the headlines and that’s quite an achievement.”

(click here to continue reading Where Chicago Trounces New York: Fixing Mass Transit – The New York Times.)

Government investing in infrastructure?! What a novel idea!

Chicago’s public transit is not the best in the world by a long shot, but it is certainly among the best in the US. Better than Austin, better than NYC, better than Dallas. Instead of tax cuts for billionaires, the federal government ought to invest in transportation infrastructure. I assume the impediment is Koch Brothers related, and that urban environments are more liberal than rural areas and thus the GOP mouth-breathers don’t want to divert funds from air craft carriers and the like.

Chicago is not Toronto, or London, UK, but it is possible to live in Chicago without having to own a car.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 18th, 2018 at 3:34 pm

Posted in government

Tagged with , ,

With Illinois medical pot market poised to expand, high-profile national chain is buying Oak Park dispensary

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Best Buddies
Best Buddies

MedMen buying into Illinois.  But to me the bigger story is that the upcoming gubernatorial race is about cannabis legalization in Illinois…

Chicago Tribune:

The sale is timely because Gov. Bruce Rauner last month signed into law a measure allowing any patient who would qualify for an opioid painkiller prescription to also qualify for medical marijuana. The new law also eliminated requirements for fingerprints and criminal background checks. Those changes are expected to greatly expand a market that had about 44,000 certified customers and $12 million in monthly sales as of August.

In addition, industry leaders expect Illinois lawmakers to legalize marijuana for recreational use next year if Democrat J.B. Pritzker wins this November’s election for governor. Pritzker supports allowing and taxing adult use, while Rauner, a Republican, opposes it.

(click here to continue reading With Illinois medical pot market poised to expand, high-profile national chain is buying Oak Park dispensary – Chicago Tribune.)

J.B. Pritzker is not my favorite politician by any metric, but Rauner is horrible, and he doesn’t deserve another term.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 3rd, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Posted in government,health

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Canadian cannabis workers targeted by U.S. border guards for lifetime bans

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Henry Anslinger
Henry Anslinger was an evil man

The Star reports:

As tensions between Canada and the U.S. have risen in recent months, a quieter, slower-burning conflict has been developing along the border: Canadians associated with the cannabis industry — even if they have never used the drug — can be banned for life from America.

Despite Washington State legalizing cannabis within state boundaries, the border is under federal jurisdiction. And since cannabis, along with drugs such as heroin and cocaine, is a Schedule I substance, past or current association with the drug is considered a federal crime in the U.S.

In addition to those who have used marijuana, Canadians who are involved with the cannabis economy have been labelled “inadmissible” because they are considered to be living off the profits of the drug trade.

A Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs press officer for the U.S. State Department told The Star via email that “admission requirements into the United States will not change due to Canada’s legalization of cannabis.”

(click here to continue reading Canadian cannabis workers targeted by U.S. border guards for lifetime bans | The Star.)

Grade A bullshit. What about the CEOs of multiple American multinationals who have invested in the Green Rush, are they to be banned too? And when other nations realize that cannabis is not the scourge the DEA claims, and remove it from their banned substance list as Canada has, what then? Seems like an unsustainable policy. But then logic and precedent to legal norms have never been a hallmark of the Trump administration and mouth-breathers like Jeff Sessions.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 13th, 2018 at 4:24 pm

Posted in crime,government

Tagged with , ,

Rauner vetoes bill that would set minimum teacher salary at $40,000 within five years

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Erected by the Board of Education 1892

Chicago Tribune reports:

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Sunday vetoed legislation that would have raised the minimum salary for an Illinois teacher to $40,000 within five years, putting the re-election-seeking Republican at odds with teachers unions once again.

The bill approved by lawmakers in the spring would make the minimum teacher salary for next school year $32,076. The number would rise to $40,000 for the 2022-23 term and grow with the Consumer Price Index after that.

“Refusing to guarantee professional educators a livable minimum wage is no way to lure more teachers to Illinois,” Democratic state Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill said in a statement. “I’m disappointed in the governor’s veto, and I know thousands of dedicated, hard-working, creative educators throughout the state are too.”

Rauner has feuded with labor since his first campaign, including teachers unions that backed the minimum salary proposal.

(click here to continue reading Rauner vetoes bill that would set minimum teacher salary at $40,000 within five years – Chicago Tribune.)

Why would any teacher vote for Bruce Rauner? Why would anyone with a child in the Illinois school system vote for Bruce Rauner? Why would anyone with a relative in the Illinois school system vote for Bruce Rauner? Why would anyone who thinks an educated society is a better society and thus teachers should be paid as if they were an essential part of the community vote for Bruce Rauner?

Struggling to think of anyone who would vote for Bruce Rauner, other than people with a financial motive.

Illinois law currently lists the minimum salary for a teacher at $9,000, a level that took effect in July 1980.

Yeah, that will attract the best and the brightest…

Written by Seth Anderson

August 27th, 2018 at 7:36 am

Posted in government

Tagged with ,

Trump Keeps Trying to Kill the Agency That Investigates Chemical Plant Disasters

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Crippled WIth Self Confidence
Crippled WIth Self Confidence

Mother Jones reports:

Earlier this month, after a three-month probe, the investigators from the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board concluded that a faulty valve at the plant caused the explosion. The board plans to issue recommendations that aim to prevent such an accident from happening again at a refinery.

But despite the warm welcome in Superior—and wide recognition of its expertise in chemical plant disasters—this small, independent federal agency is teetering on the brink of elimination.

The Trump administration has twice in its budgets attempted to shut down the Chemical Safety Board; so far, Congress has rejected the attempts. For the 2019 fiscal year, both the House and Senate have proposed restoring full funding.

But the assaults appear to be taking a toll. Hostility from the Trump administration and disarray from its efforts to eliminate the agency follow years of leadership turmoil and high turnover that started during the Obama administration. In 2015, its chairman, who was embroiled in a congressional investigation into poor management, resigned under pressure—yet leadership problems remain.

Combined, these problems threaten to cripple the agency’s investigations of chemical plant disasters

(click here to continue reading Trump Keeps Trying to Kill the Agency That Investigates Chemical Plant Disasters – Mother Jones.)

yayyy, Hillary’s emails!

Written by Seth Anderson

August 20th, 2018 at 10:33 am

Pope’s Death Penalty Stance Won’t Stop Execution, Nebraska’s Death Penalty Governor Ricketts Says

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Fading One By One
Fading One By One

Via the NYT:

“No one’s happy a man’s life is going to be taken,” said Michael Fischer, 35, a Republican and a financial planner in Omaha who, like many along the streets here, said he supported capital punishment. “But if you take the death penalty off the books, the fear is there won’t be strong discouragement for people to commit crimes.”

(click here to continue reading Pope’s Death Penalty Stance Won’t Stop Execution, Nebraska’s Catholic Governor Says – The New York Times.)

Uhh, it obviously didn’t work so well for the guy on Death Row, did it? How many people are murdered every day in states with death penalties on the books? Dozens? More? Specious reasoning. No, the reason for the death penalty is to take revenge for the cruelty of the universe by killing someone. Revenge killings are bad enough for individuals, but revenge killings by the state is not solving anything.

Should Have Been You
Should Have Been You

On a related point, if one is a Cubs fan, one is also supporting the Death Penalty Governor, Peter Ricketts, in his mission to kill as many humans as he can. 

When Nebraska lawmakers defied Gov. Pete Ricketts in 2015 by repealing the death penalty over his strong objections, the governor wouldn’t let the matter go. Mr. Ricketts, a Republican who is Roman Catholic, tapped his family fortune to help bankroll a referendum to reinstate capital punishment, a measure the state’s Catholic leadership vehemently opposed.

After a contentious and emotional battle across this deep-red state, voters restored the death penalty the following year. Later this month, Nebraska is scheduled to execute Carey Dean Moore, who was convicted of murder, in what would be the state’s first execution in 21 years.

The prospect has renewed a tense debate in a state that has wrestled with the moral and financial implications of the death penalty for years, even before the 2015 attempt to abolish it. Protesters have been holding daily vigils outside the governor’s mansion to oppose Mr. Moore’s execution.

Complicating matters, Pope Francis this week declared that executions are unacceptable in all cases, a shift from earlier church doctrine that had accepted the death penalty if it was “the only practicable way” to defend lives. Coming only days before the scheduled Aug. 14 execution here, the pope’s stance seemed to create an awkward position for Mr. Ricketts, who is favored to win a bid for re-election this fall.

Mr. Ricketts, scion of the TD Ameritrade family fortune and an owner of the Chicago Cubs, has made the death penalty a signature issue as he seeks a second term as governor. In the past, he has repeatedly said that capital punishment deters violent crime. He contributed $300,000 to help with a petition drive that led to the restoration of the death penalty by voters.

Mr. Ricketts declined requests to be interviewed for this story, but in an interview in The Omaha World-Herald in 2015, the governor said that his position in favor of executions was in keeping with the tenets of his faith.

“As I’ve thought about this and meditated on it and prayed on it and researched it, I’ve determined it’s an important tool.”

Executions are in keeping with the tenets of his faith. Hmmm. Wonder what religion that is exactly? Sounds barbaric. 

Written by Seth Anderson

August 4th, 2018 at 2:23 pm

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 , ,

Three Reporters Are Turned Away From an E.P.A. Event

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Fiji Over Lake Michigan
Fiji Over Lake Michigan

The NYT reports in disgust:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday barred reporters from three news organizations from an event on the impact of toxic chemicals on drinking water at the agency’s headquarters.

The event, during which the E.P.A. administrator Scott Pruitt declared that addressing the impact of a class of man-made chemicals was a “national priority,” came at a time when Mr. Pruitt is the subject of at least 12 federal investigations.

Among those denied entry from the morning session of the planned two-day event was a reporter from The Associated Press, Ellen Knickmeyer. When she requested to speak to an E.P.A. public affairs official, she was “grabbed by the shoulders and shoved out of the building by a security guard,” according to a report from the wire service.

Also turned away were Corbin Hiar, a reporter for E & E News, and Rene Marsh, of CNN, along with a camera operator and a producer from the cable network.

(click here to continue reading Three Reporters Are Turned Away From an E.P.A. Event – The New York Times.)

How is that even acceptable behavior for a thug like Scott Pruitt? In a normal administration, Pruitt would have resigned in disgrace as soon as this despicable action became public, but then in a normal administration, Pruitt would have been fired long ago.

 

Pruitt

via
https://www.gocomics.com/nickanderson/2018/05/23

What was the topic that Pruitt wanted hidden? How polluted our national water supply is, specifically in this case by perfluorinated compounds (PFAS), used mostly in teflon and fire-fighting foam.

As Politico reported:

Scott Pruitt’s EPA and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a “public relations nightmare,” newly disclosed emails reveal.

The intervention early this year — not previously disclosed — came as HHS’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was preparing to publish its assessment of a class of toxic chemicals that has contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia.

The study would show that the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe, according to the emails.

“The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge,” one unidentified White House aide said in an email forwarded on Jan. 30 by James Herz, a political appointee who oversees environmental issues at the OMB. The email added: “The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”

More than three months later, the draft study remains unpublished, and the HHS unit says it has no scheduled date to release it for public comment. Critics say the delay shows the Trump administration is placing politics ahead of an urgent public health concern — something they had feared would happen after agency leaders like Pruitt started placing industry advocates in charge of issues like chemical safety.

(click here to continue reading White House, EPA headed off chemical pollution study – POLITICO.)

MAGA, I guess. Probably good news for Nestlé ?

Written by Seth Anderson

May 23rd, 2018 at 9:39 am

Posted in environment,government

Tagged with , ,

House Farm Bill Collapses Amid Republican Disarray

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Smiling Tractors Sometimes
Smiling Tractors Sometimes

The NYT reports:

The factional rancor threatening Republicans heading into the midterm elections this fall erupted into the open on Friday when a slugfest among moderates, hard-line conservatives and House leaders over immigration and welfare policy sank the party’s multiyear farm bill.

The twice-a-decade measure — which would have imposed strict new work requirements on food aid recipients while maintaining farm subsidies important to rural lawmakers — failed on a 213-to-198 vote. It was a rebuke of Speaker Paul D. Ryan by a key bloc of conservatives over his refusal to schedule an immediate vote on a restrictive immigration bill sponsored by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Republican moderates, for their part, were moving in the opposite direction, shrugging off the pleas of their leaders as they worked toward forcing votes on legislation to protect from deportation young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

The fights were striking, not only because of their intensity but also because of the participants. Capitol Hill has grown used to altercations between Republican leaders and their adamant right flank — showdowns that have shut down the government and edged the government toward defaulting on its debt. But in past fights, the party’s moderates have proved compliant.

This time, with their districts dominating the Democrats’ target list for the coming midterm races, the moderates are holding firm to their own demands.

(click here to continue reading House Farm Bill Collapses Amid Republican Disarray – The New York Times.)

More Congressional disfunction, and with no easy solution, at least until the 2018 elections. Paul Ryan has no “juice” left, as he’s a lame duck. He actually should go ahead and resign his Speakership now.

Hay Bales
Hay Bales

Tom Philpott of Mother Jones adds a little context:

 

Back in 2016, the Republican Party won the presidency and both chambers of Congress with strong support in rural areas, particularly among farmers. But since that triumph, the Grand Old Party hasn’t exactly been a champion of rural interests. As I’ve written in recent months, President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration is essentially an attack on the workers who keep America’s farms and many rural towns humming. And his trade belligerence with China and Mexico amount to near-surgical strikes against farmers who supported him in California, the Southeast, and the Midwest’s corn and soybean belt.

 

In the middle of this drama, Congress is tasked with renewing the farm bill—twice-a-decade legislation that shapes US agriculture and food-aid policy. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), chair of the House Agriculture Committee, hopes to bring his version to a vote on the House floor this week. Let us count the ways it would bring pain to the US heartland:

The US House of Representatives voted down the farm bill this morning by a margin of 198-213. The Washington Post called it a “major embarrassment to GOP leaders” like outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who had hotly promoted the bill. In a Thursday Twitter thread, I laid out the political dynamics that ultimately killed the bill. It remains unclear whether the House Agriculture Committee chair, Rep. Mike Conaway (R.-Texas), will attempt to bring it back to the floor for another vote. House Democrats, who universally opposed the bill, hailed the failure as a victory for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which the bill would have effectively cut. Here’s Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.)

 

 

(click here to continue reading The House Farm Bill Just Failed – Mother Jones.)

Wisconsin countryside
Wisconsin countryside

and from that referenced WaPo article, the bill is dead anyway, as the Senate is not even close to accepting the House version:

 

 

A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a blow to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservative lawmakers demanding commitments on immigration.

 

The House leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus up to the last minutes.

 

But their gamble failed. The vote was 213 to 198, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in defeating the bill.

 

The outcome exposed what is becoming an all-out war within the House GOP over immigration, a divisive fight the Republicans did not want to have heading into midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress.

The House farm bill would have been a non-starter anyway in the Senate, which is writing its own farm bill. Any legislation that ultimately makes it to Trump’s desk will have to look more like the version in the Senate, where bipartisan support will be necessary for anything to pass and there is not sufficient support for the food-stamp changes.

 

 

(click here to continue reading In blow to GOP, House fails to pass massive farm bill in face of conservative Republican showdown – The Washington Post.)

Sad that these are the supposed leaders of our country, and they can’t get anything accomplished. I blame gerrymandered districts…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 20th, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Food and Drink,government,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 ,

Idiot Illinois governor wants the state to revive its death penalty

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The government should not be in the business of revenge killings.

Dance of Death
Dance of Death

The Washington Post reports:

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday called for reviving the death penalty in his state, which banned the practice in 2011 and has not carried out an execution in nearly two decades.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D), the House majority leader, dismissed Rauner’s call to reinstate the death penalty with a brief statement Monday.

“On its merits, the governor’s proposal is a terrible idea,” she said.

Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton (D) also was critical, noting that prior issues with capital punishment prompted lawmakers to abolish it years earlier.

“The death penalty should never be used as a political tool to advance one’s agenda,” Cullerton said in a statement. “Doing so is in large part why we had so many problems and overturned convictions. That’s why we had bipartisan support to abolish capital punishment. I’ve seen nothing from today’s announcement to suggest that lesson has been learned.”

(click here to continue reading Illinois governor wants the state to revive its death penalty for mass murderers and people who kill police – The Washington Post.)

Yet another reason not to vote for Rauner, as if there were even any room left on the column.

Rauner’s cynical move is solely about the election, shoring up support with the right-wing which is rightfully suspicious of Rauner’s conservative credentials, and should be seen as such. 

Illinois banned its death penalty in 2011, but the state had halted executions long before that. In 2000, then-Gov. George Ryan (R) declared a moratorium and decried the death penalty as “fraught with error.” He then commuted all of the state’s death sentences in 2003, an unprecedented move.

One of his successors, Pat Quinn (D), signed legislation that abolished the death penalty entirely in 2011. He also pointed to the risks of executing a potentially innocent person, saying: “If the system can’t be guaranteed, 100-percent error-free, then we shouldn’t have the system.”

Written by Seth Anderson

May 15th, 2018 at 10:08 am

Posted in crime,government

Tagged with

Advertisers Are Salivating About 5G-Fueled Marketing

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Calumet 5 6969
Calumet 5-6969

Adweek reports:

Kevin Crull, chief operating officer at Sprint, envisions a world in the coming years where his phone is able to automatically book an Uber ride from an airport based on a calendar reminder that he created about an upcoming flight. The calendar reminder feeds real-time travel stats to his device and then recommends a meal for his Uber driver to pick up on the way based on what items he has previously ordered through Uber Eats.

“I can see in the future where it brings in information from other devices and third-party services to get much more predictive and successful in how we’re targeting people,” he said.

Crull’s futuristic scenario isn’t just wishful (or hungry) thinking. It’s the product of 5G technology that constantly pings data back and forth between smartphones and connected devices, making it possible for devices to essentially predict what actions a consumer takes. At its core, the widespread rollout of 5G promises to increase connection speeds by up to 10 times while cutting latency by a factor of five, he said. Videos—and commercials—powered with 5G will stream faster and look crisper on smartphones. And with more data flowing quickly between networks and devices, the so-called Internet of Things will take a bit more shape for marketers who have long strived to ping a user’s smartphone with a relevant message as he passes a billboard or store.

(click here to continue reading With Faster Speeds and Connections, Brands Are Planning for 5G-Fueled Marketing – Adweek.)

Here’s the nub: 5 G as a technology is not necessarily better for average users, but it sure is for the industries that want to monetize your information and sell it, and you, to corporations.

Jogging After the End of Times
Jogging After the End of Times

For instance: Augmented Reality, and self-driving cars – with television screens…

By the middle of next year, Sprint plans to have 5G up and running “in many markets,” while AT&T plans to equip 12 markets including Atlanta and Dallas with mobile 5G this year. T-Mobile says that it’s on track to have 5G rolled out to 30 cities such as New York and Los Angeles in 2018, and Verizon is also enabling five markets including Sacramento, Calif., with the technology.

For advertisers, 5G opens up new video opportunities with formats like virtual reality and interactive clips that require hefty amounts of data to view today. Sprint’s Crull said he also expects for advertisers to play with dynamic creative and video lengths that are customized to users depending on how much content they typically watch on their phone.

And as Apple, Facebook and Snapchat invest in augmented reality, expect for 5G to open up more detailed AR experiences for marketers to experiment with, said Malmad.

“In a world of 5G, you aren’t going to be constrained by [bandwidth]—you can showcase whatever you like and have a rich, deep experience, so I do believe that augmented reality will benefit greatly from 5G,” he said.

Malmad said that 5G will also make it easier for marketers to target ads to connected cars, particularly once autonomous driving becomes more mainstream. For example, self-driving cars are expected to free up people’s time and attention so that they can watch TV or stream programs, meaning that automakers may build screens into seats.

No wonder telecoms are forcing municipalities to install 5G towers, whether or not communities want them, with the help of the Republican FCC chairman, Ajit Pai.

Come Rain Come Shine
Come Rain Come Shine

The NYT reported a few months ago:

The future of cellular service is coming to a neighborhood near you.

But who gets to decide when, where and how it gets delivered is still a heated fight.

The new technology, known as 5G, delivers wireless internet at far faster speeds than existing cellular connections. But it also requires different hardware to deliver the signals.

Instead of relying on large towers placed far apart, the new signals will come from smaller equipment placed an average of 500 feet apart in neighborhoods and business districts. Much of the equipment will be on streetlights or utility poles, often accompanied by containers the size of refrigerators on the ground. More than 300,000 cell stations now provide wireless connections, and 5G will bring hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — more.

The prospect of their installation has many communities and their officials, from Woodbury, N.Y., to Olympia, Wash., insisting that local governments control the placement and look of the new equipment. They say that the cell stations could clutter neighborhoods with eyesores and cost the communities a lot of potential revenue. “Residents across the country are just now beginning to understand the harms that hasty and insensitive small cell deployments can inflict on their communities,” said Jim Baller, the president of Baller Stokes & Lide, a law firm in Washington that represents municipalities on communications issues.

But telecommunications companies — hoping to cash in on what is predicted to be $250 billion in annual service revenue from 5G by 2025 — are pushing to build the system as quickly and cheaply as possible. And they have the federal government on their side.

(click here to continue reading 5G Cell Service Is Coming. Who Decides Where It Goes? – The New York Times.)

City of Lights
City of Lights

Some states have preemptively stopped municipalities from having a say in the matter, or in receiving fees for these 5G poles:

And the F.C.C., under the leadership of Ajit Pai, its Republican chairman, has strongly encouraged weakening regulations to accelerate the deployment of new 5G technology — including reducing the role of local governments.

Texas cities can’t negotiate rates. Last year, the State Legislature passed a law pushed by AT&T that allows cities to charge carriers no more than $250 per pole each year. Before the law, cities often charged $1,500 to $2,500 a year per pole, and the change will cost Texas cities as much as $1 billion over eight years, the Texas Municipal League estimated.

A group of Texas cities led by the city of McAllen, near the Mexico border, filed a lawsuit last year against the state, arguing that the new cell-site law violated the state Constitution, which prohibits the Legislature from forcing cities to grant something of value to corporations.

Talk about Big Government…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 15th, 2018 at 9:25 am

Posted in Advertising,government

Tagged with , , ,