Tag Archives: Amazon

Seattle Council votes to repeal new business head tax just weeks after they approved it

re elections meme

Did you know seven of the nine Seattle City Council members’ terms expire next year?

In early May the Seattle City Council approved a new business head tax to combat the homelessness crisis. From my post:

“The tax is an amount businesses pay per employee ($275 per year), with a sunset clause of 2023. The head tax was approved by a unanimous vote.

The main target of this new business tax was Amazon, which was not pleased with the tax. “Amazon had strong words for the Seattle City Council as it questions its future in the city. “We are disappointed by today’s City Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs,” Amazon Vice President Drew Herdener said in a statement.”

Immediately after the tax passed, a group calling themselves “No Tax on Jobs” gathered enough signatures to put the matter on the November ballot and let the voters decide. They needed 17,000 signatures by June 14 and surpassed that amount.

On Monday, Council President Bruce Harrell announced that he had called a special meeting for the council to discuss repealing the head tax. (Harrell’s term expires next year.) They already had a draft bill prepared for the repeal.

Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a statement regarding the consideration of the repeal. Excerpts from her statement:

Over the last few weeks, these conversations and much public dialogue has continued.  It is clear that the ordinance will lead to a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis. These challenges can only be addressed together as a city, and as importantly, as a state and a region. 

We heard you. This week, the City Council is moving forward with the consideration of legislation to repeal the current tax on large businesses to address the homelessness crisis.”

Less than a month later the council has voted to repeal the head tax.

The council yesterday repealed the head tax by a vote of 7 to 2. More details from MyNorthwest.com:

“Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold said the opposition to the tax was just too great. The opposition, she said, has “unlimited resources.

Teresa Mosqueda, one of two council members to vote against a repeal, said she is concerned that a repeal will result in months of inaction and more regressive taxes. The process to implement a head tax took months, she pointed out. And, if the city wants to continue getting people off the streets, it will need additional funding. She called on businesses who opposed the head tax to come to the table with progressive ideas.

Numerous people in support of the head tax expressed similar concerns as (socialist) Councilmember Sawant, who accused her peers of making a last-minute decision and “caving” to Amazon. “Backroom betrayal” and “caving” were thrown around frequently.

“Jeff Bezos is our enemy, he is our enemy,” Sawant said before the council voted.”

Read the whole story here.

I can’t believe the Seattle citizens are putting up with this clown council with a socialist member who is calling the owner of one of their largest employers an “enemy” in a public forum.

Yet I gather from the comments on this article and also at the Seattle Times that some proggies in Seattle are finally waking up to the madness they elected as the majority have had it with the council members. Next year’s re-election cycle is bound to be a hoot.

DCG

PS: Jason Rantz from KTTH Radio tweeted from the repeal meeting (see his Twitter timeline here). A bunch of socialists/proggies were there to support the crazy council member Kshama Sawant. A few of Jason’s tweets:

  • “Lunatic just claimed the Council is pushing “the Trump agenda.”
  • “Priest is mad that Christians don’t ideologically agree with him and now claims you can’t call yourself a Christian if you support capitalism. This guy is a lunatic.”
  • Sawant activists in the crowd shouting down speakers whom they disagree with. But remember: they’re fighting fascism or something.”
  • “We’re done with Trump tactics,” said one lunatic at the meeting.”
  • Crazy women being removed by security now but because she’s a Progressive activist, the crowd doesn’t mind and she’s getting a pass from the crowd.”
  • “Socialists think the couple hundred of them that worked to pass the Seattle head tax is more important than the 45k who signed on to repeal the . They don’t know how numbers works: it’s why they’re Socialists.”
  • “Sawant said she’s now talking as an economist and some in the crowd just laughed at her. Loudly. That annoyed her.”
  • “CM Sawant – “I’m speaking as an economist….” People in chambers break out in laughter….”

Sounds like the meeting was a whole lotta crazy!!

Bezos says we need to leave Earth in order to survive

jeff bezos

You go first, Jeff.

From Fox News: The recently anointed richest person in the world, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, says we need to colonize the moon — and time is of the essence.

“We must go back to the moon, and this time to stay,” he said.

Speaking at the Space Development Conference in Los Angeles over the weekend, Mr. Bezos made the argument that in order to protect Earth and allow the human species to continue growing, we need to move much of our industrial activity to the moon, or even asteroids.

The 54-year-old billionaire said moving heavy industry into solar-powered space outposts is the only way to ensure that our planet can cope with the rising demand for energy and the stresses of a growing population.

“We will have to leave this planet,” he said, according to Geek Wire. “We’re going to leave it, and it’s going to make this planet better. We’ll come and go, and the people who want to stay, will stay.”

Mr. Bezos believes it will happen in our lifetime because the human race has little alternative. “The alternative is stasis,” he said, adding that without space settlements, societies around the globe “will have to stop growing” due to environmental and other constraints.

“That’s not the future that I want for my grandchildren, or my grandchildren’s grandchildren.”

The US government has stated it wants to pursue sustainable outposts in space and the Trump administration has shown renewed interest in returning to the moon. The Amazon CEO expects US government funding taxpayers to play a vital role in efforts to build habitats in space but said his rocket company, Blue Origin, would push on with its mission even if it doesn’t receive funding help from NASA.

“It won’t be done by one company” or by NASA, he said but by “thousands of companies working in concert over many decades”.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has previously outlined his idea for sending humans to colonize Mars but Mr. Bezos clearly thinks our planet’s moon is a better option for an initial outpost. As he pointed out during the conference talk, the moon is more conveniently located and reachable in just a couple of days with the right rocket.

The e-commerce entrepreneur also seems excited by the fact that in the past decade scientists discovered the existence of icy water near the poles that could theoretically be converted into hydrogen and oxygen and used for drinkable water, breathable air and propellants for reusable rockets.

“It’s almost like somebody set this up for us,” Mr. Bezos said.

If you’re a billionaire leader of industry, it’s become rather fashionable to use your means to push humanity towards the final frontier.

Jeff Bezos previously said he sells about $1 billion a year in Amazon stock to pursue his plans for space tourism and called his rocket company “the most important work I am doing”.

Read the rest of the story here.

DCG

Amazon’s Alexa recorded and shared a conversation without consent

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Alexa: Always on and always recording…

Another reason why there will never be an “Alexa” in my home.

From Seattle Times: An Amazon device powered by the Alexa voice software recorded a couple’s private conversation in their home and sent it to someone in their contact list without their knowledge, KIRO television reported.

A Portland woman told the TV station that two weeks ago, one of her husband’s employees called to say he had received audio files containing recordings of a conversation inside their house.

“I felt invaded,” said the woman, Danielle, who didn’t want KIRO to use her last name. She said every room in her house had been wired with Amazon devices to control things like the heating, lights and security system.

“A total privacy invasion,” she went on. “Immediately I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again, because I can’t trust it.’”

An Amazon spokeswoman didn’t immediately comment on the KIRO report.

In a statement to the TV station, KIRO reported, Amazon called the event “an extremely rare occurrence,” without elaborating on what had caused the files to be sent. It added, “We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future” and said Amazon takes privacy very seriously.

Alexa, the voice-activated software that resides primarily in Amazon’s Echo speakers, is an increasingly popular tool people use to play music, and to toggle wirelessly controlled home appliances. That popularity is predicated, in part, on customers trusting Amazon — and rival smart-device makers like Google and Apple — enough to invite a powerful array of corporate-controlled microphones into their home.

Earlier this year, some Alexa users were unnerved by what seemed to be spontaneous laughter from the devices. The company suggested people triggered the laughter by accidentally requesting it, and subsequently changed the prompt to make such unintended requests less likely.

See also:

DCG

Thursday funnies!

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h/t @CloydRivers

DCG

Is the City of Seattle going to ruin their economy with the new head tax?

government solve all problems

Last week the Seattle City Council approved a new head tax on big businesses. The tax is an amount businesses pay per employee ($275 per year), with a sunset clause of 2023 (don’t hold your breath that this tax will actually cease to exist at that time). The head tax was approved by a unanimous vote.

I’ve told you what has led up to this head tax vote. See the following:

Amazon had strong words for the Seattle City Council as it questions its future in the city. “We are disappointed by today’s City Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs,” Amazon Vice President Drew Herdener said in a statement.

More from King5 News:

“Herdener said Amazon, which had paused planning on two downtown Seattle office towers pending the outcome of the vote, would resume construction planning on one of them — Block 18. The 17-story building, which will have 1 million square feet of office space, is meant to house between 7,000 and 8,000 new employees.

But he said Herdener then went on to suggest Amazon’s expansion in the city may be curtailed.“While we have resumed construction planning for Block 18, we remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here.”

Herdener then turned the tables, suggesting the people holding the city’s purse strings are the problem.

“City of Seattle revenues have grown dramatically from $2.8B in 2010 to $4.2B in 2017, and they will be even higher in 2018. This revenue increase far outpaces the Seattle population increase over the same time period. The city does not have a revenue problem – it has a spending efficiency problem. We are highly uncertain whether the city council’s anti-business positions or its spending inefficiency will change for the better,” Herdener said.”

Starbucks also wasn’t too happy and had harsh words for the city:

“The company released this statement, attributed to John Kelly, senior vice president of Global Public Affairs and Social Impact at Starbucks:

This City continues to spend without reforming and fail without accountability, while ignoring the plight of hundreds of children sleeping outside. If they cannot provide a warm meal and safe bed to a five year-old child, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction. This City pays more attention to the desires of the owners of illegally parked RVs than families seeking emergency shelter.”

Author Travis H. Brown, MBA (read about his background here), predicts that the council just voted to ruin their economy. Travis is the author of several books including “How Money Walks.”

Travis wrote an opinion on Saturday entitled, “How Seattle’s new tax to fight homelessness could ruin its economy.”

Travis describes the city’s actions as shortsighted and a zero-sum game that will do more harm than good.

Excerpts from his piece at MSN:

“These are laudable aims (end homelessness and build affordable housing), but it’s hard to imagine a more destructive strategy for realizing them. The potential damage to Seattle’s economy from this blunt instrument runs into the billions of dollars. Some may believe that California businesses could still flee their high-tax environment for Seattle, but in reality, Seattle is competing with many other cities for this income. One example is Phoenix, which has posted the best income growth of any Metropolitan Statistic Area (MSA) since 1992. Phoenix has capitalized on its proximity to California by luring businesses and people with a low-tax environment that nets them $1,539 in income every single minute. Compared to Seattle, this is nearly $1,200 more per minute, or $70,348 more per day. The numbers are staggering, and Seattle can’t risk putting itself further behind.

Seattle’s $20 million benchmark for the new tax refers to gross receipts, not income, meaning it will hit high-volume, low-margin businesses (think grocery stores or construction wholesalers) just as hard as more lucrative counterparts, promising price increases for consumers as businesses pass along costs. Service industries with big headcounts are firmly in the crosshairs, threatening this key employment category for young and low-skilled workers.

Amazon isn’t the only big employer eyeing the exits. Real estate portal Zillow, another new economy trailblazer, faces millions in additional tax burden. Alaska Airlines, Expedia, PayScale, Whitepages Inc., and Coinstar opposed the tax in vain, pleading in an open letter to the city council and mayor that taxing companies for creating jobs is like “telling a classroom that the students who do the most homework will be singled out for detention.”

Perhaps the most frustrating part of this exercise in illogic is the city government’s failure to enact other commonsense measures to combat homelessness: zoning reforms and infrastructure improvements to facilitate construction of affordable housing; shifting funds from underperforming shelters to ones that deliver; and coordination of the city’s homeless strategy with other municipalities in King County.”

Read his whole opinion piece here.

The background of the Seattle council members:

  • Lisa Herbold: Has been working for government politicians and government agencies since 1997.
  • Bruce Harrell: An attorney who began working in “public service” in 1979 by working for the Seattle City Council.
  • Kshama Sawant: A SOCIALIST.
  • Rob Johnson: A progressive urban planner and transportation advocate who spent ten years working for a statewide nonprofit coalition before working for government agencies.
  • Debora Juarez: A lawyer who concentrated on providing legal and financial counsel to Native American tribes.
  • Mike O’Brien: Served as CFO for a law firm prior to election to city council in 2009. He likes to silence constituents.
  • Sally Bagshaw: First elected to the council in 2009. She began her legal career by working for government agencies and has been working in the public sector since.
  • Teresa Mosqueda: Came to Seattle City Council following a long career effectively advocating for working families.
  • Lorena Gonzalez: Came to Seattle City Council with a decade of experience as a civil rights attorney and community advocate.

Somehow I don’t doubt that business leaders at Amazon, Starbucks (and all the other businesses against this head tax) and Travis know more about Econ 101 than any of the professional advocates/public servants and taxpayer money grabbers on the Seattle City Council.

DCG

Irony alert: Seattle socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant selling her book on Amazon

kshama sawant book

Socialist Kshama Sawant has a new book coming out (well, you have to wait until September 2019)! Price is only $9.99!

From her Amazon book listing:

“In 2013, Kshama Sawant became one of the most unlikely and most exciting politicians in the United States not only because she grew up in Mumbai and earned a PhD in economics, but also because she ran for Seattle City Council as a militant socialist, basing her campaign on a bold push to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than double the national minimum wage. She won the election, and in 2014, Seattle’s mayor signed into law a $15 minimum wage.

This is the story of how Sawant toppled a sixteen year incumbent who was backed by a powerful Democratic Party establishment, and reshaped Seattle’s political culture around demands for economic and social justice, reviving national debate around municipal socialism in the process.

This is an inspiring call for more movements to speak to the scores of young and old people who are looking for alternatives to capitalism.”

More irony:

Sawant has been spearheading the call for the “head tax” on big Seattle businesses, and has been very vocal against Amazon (the Seattle City Council approved the tax on Monday). She says that Amazon contributes to the city’s rising real estate prices and income inequality.

Sawant led a march at Amazon headquarters calling for them to pay the tax for affordable housing.

Sawant called Jeff Bezos a “bully” for threatening to take his business expansion elsewhere if the city approves the new head tax.

So in looking for alternatives to capitalism, this socialist is now selling her book on “Bully” Bezo’s web site, the largest internet retailer in the world?

You can’t make this stuff up!

DCG

Amazon launches model “smart homes” across the US so customers can try out Alexa

big brother

That device is ALWAYS listening and recording you. It won’t be doing that in my home.

I get that people enjoy new technologies but are you so lazy that you can’t get up to turn off  the lights?

From Daily Mail: Amazon.com has set up model ‘smart’ homes across the United States for shoppers to experience what it’s like for voice aide Alexa to dim the lights, turn on the TV or order more laundry detergent.

The rollout underscores how Amazon aims to make Alexa and the company’s growing list of services, from shopping and entertainment to home security, an everyday part of consumers’ lives.  It also steps up competition with retailers such as Best Buy Co Inc that focus on showcasing technology and advising shoppers.

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, said it has partnered with Lennar Corp to convert some of the home construction company’s model homes into showrooms for Alexa.  The so-called ‘Amazon Experience Centers’ are now open near 15 cities including Los Angeles, Dallas and Washington, with more to come.

‘Today, the choices open to customers are, you can go to a brick-and-mortar store and you can see devices on demo tables. You go online and do your research. But you fundamentally are left to imagine what an integrated home would look like,’ said Nish Lathia, general manager of Amazon Services, in the company’s Vallejo, California experience center outside San Francisco.

The centers are ‘intended to educate and inspire’. 

‘On the secondary benefit, yes, if it drives sales, we’re not complaining,’ he said.

David Kaiserman, president of Lennar Ventures, said the centers should increase traffic to Lennar’s model homes and spark ideas for potential home buyers. Lennar will get a standard commission for Amazon sales to customers it helped acquire, too.

The global smart home market is expected to reach an estimated $107.4 billion by 2023, according to market research firm ReportLinker.

Best Buy is betting big on this trend. It has expanded its In-Home Advisor program to all major U.S. markets and employs more than 350 advisors under the initiative, its most recent annual report said.

Experts visit customers’ homes and consult on issues from increasing appliance efficiency to setting up connected gadgets – similar in nature to Amazon’s 1.5-year-old ‘Smart Home Services,’ which is poised to gain from the new experience centers.

‘We’re excited about Best Buy’s program,’ said Amazon’s Lathia. ‘The more customers that get educated about smart home, the better it is for everybody.’

Philippe Ferrey, an Amazon Expert present at the Vallejo center, previously worked five years for Best Buy as a Geek Squad agent, he said.

DCG