Tag Archives: Jeff Bezos

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The council yesterday repealed the head tax by a vote of 7 to 2.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

amazon alexa

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

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 warehouse workers pee in bottles to avoid being punished for taking breaks

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, may be the world’s richest person, with a net worth of about $112 billion. But workers in his warehouses are so desperate to keep their jobs that they don’t even take time to use a restroom, but pee in bottles instead.

Jeff Bezos

The UK Times Union reports that author James Bloodworth went undercover at an Amazon warehouse in Staffordshire, UK, for a book on low wages in Britain. He found that the warehouse’s fulfillment workers, who run around Amazon’s cavernous warehouses gathering products for delivery, had a “toilet bottle” system in place because the bathrooms were too few and too far away to get to quickly. Bloodworth told The Sun:

“”For those of us who worked on the top floor, the closest toilets were down four flights of stairs. People just peed in bottles because they lived in fear of being ­disciplined over ‘idle time’ and ­losing their jobs just because they needed the loo.”

Bloodworth’s contention is consistent with a separate survey of 241 Amazon warehouse employees in England, which was released yesterday, April 16, 2018. The survey found that:

  • Almost three-quarters of UK fulfillment-center staff members were afraid of using the toilet because of time concerns.
  • The survey anonymously quoted one person as saying targets had “increased dramatically” and “I do not drink water because I do not have time to go to the toilet.” Another said: “The target grows every year. I do not have two more legs yet to make the 100% to pick, where you actually need to run and go to the toilet just during the break. Packing 120 products per hour is terribly heavy. You have to pack two products per minute. You do not have time to drink water because you go to the toilet after every evening sends messages to the scanner with the target and tells you to hurry.”
  • Respondents said they felt considerably more anxious after joining Amazon.
  • Some workers who reported feeling sick — even through pregnancy — said they were penalized for missing work or taking breaks. One employee said she was ill while pregnant and was given a warning. Another said: “I turned up for my shift even though I felt like s—, managed 2 hours then I just could not do anymore. Told my supervisor and was signed off sick, I had a gastric bug (sickness and diarrhea, very bad) saw my doc. Got a sick note with an explanation, but still got a strike.”

Amazon is known to track how fast its warehouse workers can pick and package items from its shelves, imposing strictly timed breaks and targets. It issues warning points for those who don’t meet its goals or who take extended breaks.

But the company denies the survey findings and Bloodworth’s allegations. Amazon says it does not time toilet breaks and that its performance targets are based on previous worker performance. In a statement to Business Insider, the company says:

“Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We have not been provided with confirmation that the people who completed the survey worked at Amazon and we don’t recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings. We have a focus on ensuring we provide a great environment for all our employees and last month Amazon was named by LinkedIn as the 7th most sought after place to work in the UK and ranked first place in the US. Amazon also offers public tours of its fulfilment centres so customers can see first-hand what happens after they click ‘buy’ on Amazon.”

The company insists it uses “proper discretion” when it comes to sick leave and absences from work, and that it provides coaching to help people improve, on-site occupational health and physiotherapy support, as well as legal, financial and workplace guidance.

See also:

~Eowyn

Another lecture from Bill Gates: He and other rich people should pay significantly higher taxes

bill gates and bill clinton

Hey Gates: Good luck convincing your buddy Bill that he and Hillary need to give the government more of their money!

Bill knows darn well he doesn’t need the federal government to tell him to give the government more money. He can make a donation to the US Department of Treasury any time he wants. And he can convince his super-rich buddies to do the same.

From Yahoo: Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has said wealthy individuals such as himself should be made to pay substantially higher taxes.

Mr. Gates, who is worth over $90bn, said despite the fact he has “paid more taxes…than anyone else” he should be required to fork out more by the government.

Speaking to CNN in an interview on Sunday, he said: “I need to pay higher taxes. I’ve paid more taxes, over $10bn, than anyone else, but the government should require the people in my position to pay significantly higher taxes.”

He criticised the Republican sweeping $1.5 trillion tax reform bill which Donald Trump signed into law at the end of last year.

The measure constitutes the most profound changes to tax laws since the 1980’s and slashes taxes for corporations while providing most Americans with only temporary relief.

Mr. Gates, the second richest man in the world after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, argued the greatest benefits of the bill would be reaped by the super rich. “It was not a progressive tax bill. It was a regressive tax bill,” he said.

He argued the biggest advantages would be felt by the wealthiest in society despite the Republicans’ assertion their first major legislative victory would help America’s working and middle classes.

“People who are wealthier tended to get dramatically more benefits than the middle class or those who are poor, and so it runs counter to the general trend you’d like to see, where the safety net is getting stronger and those at the top are paying higher taxes,” he said.

While Mr. Trump has drawn attention to the magnitude of the tax cuts and branded the legislation “a bill for the middle class and a bill for jobs”, Democrats have labeled the measure a “monumental con job” that will benefit the rich at the expense of America’s poorest.

The bill slashes the corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 21 per cent.

It also raises the threshold for the estate tax, a levy that applies to property passed down when a family member dies which only affects a few thousand ultra-rich families each year. This change predominantly benefits the upper echelons of earners, including Mr. Trump himself.

Asked about his view on “rising inequality” in the US, Mr. Gates said: “All advanced democracies have to think about that.”

He added: “You still have about a sixth of the population living in conditions that should be very disappointing to us, and government policies need to really think, ‘Why aren’t we doing a better job for those people?’”

Mr. Gates has donated more than $40bn of his personal wealth to charitable causes. He founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the US, with his wife in 2000. The organisation aims to improve healthcare, cut extreme poverty and expand educational opportunities and access to information technology.

See also:

DCG

10% of Amazon workers in Ohio are on food stamps

On January 9, 2018, CNBC reports that Jeff Bezos (né Jorgensen) — founder/chairman/CEO of Amazon and the owner of Washington Post — surpassed Microsoft mogul Bill Gates to become the world’s richest man, with $105.1 billion in wealth.

Gates, once the world’s richest man, is now worth “only” $93.3 billion.

17 days later, propelled by the launch of Amazon Go, Bezos’ net worth increased another $2.8 billion to a total of $107.9 billion. (CNBC)

So it’s a downright disgrace that 10% of Amazon’s workers in Ohio are on food stamps (SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) — the working poor in America. Amazon is one of the largest employers in Ohio, with more than 6,000 workers and thousands more to be added soon at three new big warehouses.

But Amazon is also one of the largest employers in Ohio of workers who need food assistance to get by.

A study by the think tank Policy Matters Ohio found that according to the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services, as of last August, as many as 10% or 1,430 Amazon employees or family members in Ohio were getting food stamps. That places Amazon 19th among all Ohio employers in the number of employees receiving SNAP. Just months before, Amazon didn’t even rank in the top 50.

The Amazon employees on food stamps include both full- and part-time workers, but it is likely mostly part-time workers require food assistance. Amazon operates data centers, wind farms, and Whole Foods outlets in Ohio, but the largest number of employees are at two big warehouses near Columbus.

While more than one in every ten Amazon employee in Ohio are on food stamps,  Amazon gets millions of dollars in state and local subsidies at its warehouses, including (Bloomberg Businessweek):

  • $17 million in tax incentives from the state of Ohio,and over $1.5 million in cash from JobsOhio, the state’s private economic development agency, as part of a two-warehouse deal — all funded with income from the state’s liquor monopoly.
  • At least $123 million in tax breaks and $2.9 million in cash grants in four deals with JobsOhio since 2014.
  • A 15-year exemption on state and local property and sales taxes, and $1.4 million in cash, in a 2014 deal with JobsOhio for Amazon spending $1.1 billion to build three data centers and a promise of 120 jobs.
  • No property taxes to Licking County for 15 years, a deal that Amazon negotiated in 2015 with local officials and JobsOhio.

At the same time, Amazon‘s new facilities in Ohio, totaling almost a million square feet, make use of public services like the fire department and emergency responders. At least once a day, a medical unit from West Licking Fire Station 3 makes a run to the Amazon warehouse 3.1 miles away, in the township of Etna, about 20 miles east of Columbus. Steve Little, the fire district administrator, said the calls for routine medical issues that occur in grueling warehouse jobs come at all hours, including shortness of breath, chest pains, and myriad minor injuries. During the busy holiday season, the warehouse sometimes issues multiple emergency calls a day. Little said, “We have to protect, but we get no extra money. We have no voice in these deals, and we get no cash. Our residents are being forced to pay instead.” In November 2017, voters in Little’s district were asked to approve a five-year, $6.5 million property tax levy to keep the fire department operating.

The deals Ohio made with Amazon create surprisingly few jobs. Ohio’s Republican state auditor David Yost says: “$123 million is a lot of money, and you ought to get a lot for that. It’s really hard to know how much the state of Ohio paid per [Amazon] job.”

Ohio’s job-growth rate has trailed the U.S. average for 57 consecutive months; in August it was an anemic 1.1%, compared with the 1.5% national rate. In 2013, Yost threatened to compel JobsOhio to be more transparent by showing him more numbers. So Governor John Kasich pushed a bill through the state legislature stripping public officials of the right to audit JobsOhio’s books. A private auditor now conducts an annual review, which is partly redacted before publication.

I thank God John Kasich didn’t win the GOP primaries and wasn’t elected POTUS.

See also:

~Eowyn